For GamgeeFest and FEBOBE for their birthdays.
Everard Took looked up as the door to the Mayor’s office opened, admitting Samwise Gamgee. It no longer seemed odd to see the gardener here, although Ev suspected that Sam had probably never been inside this room in his lifetime prior to that mysterious adventure that he’d undertaken at the side of his Master, Merry Brandybuck, and Paladin and Eglantine’s Pippin.
The four of them had all come back changed—that was certain. The rather shy gardener’s lad whose attention was ever caught by Bilbo’s tales and who had always idolized Frodo Baggins showed no awe at all for the Mayor’s office in the Council Hole. Of course, if what Pippin and Merry told even pretended toward truth, it appeared that Sam, along with the rest, had become familiar with Kings’ courts; and what was the Council Hole in comparison with that?
Frodo looked up, and smiled. “Welcome Sam! You’re looking very well today!”
“As are you, sir,” Sam answered, smiling with approval. Which was true enough. Frodo had been eating more lately, that Everard could attest to, and his color was much better than it had been at times since he’d taken over Will’s duties. “A new scarf, then?”
Frodo actually laughed. “Yes—a gift from Dianthus, Will and Mina’s granddaughter. She thought my others might just prove insufficient, or so she told me. And since her mother’s been teaching her how to knit, she set out to knit me the most colorful scarf she could think of, to remind me of how beautiful the garden will be once Spring comes again, she said when she gave it to me.” He lifted one heavily tasseled end that had been hanging down toward his hip. “It rather reminds me of that shawl my cousin Estella knit for me some years ago—once she got started she found that although she’d learned well how to cast on stitches, she was nowhere as good at casting them off. It does appear to go on forever, doesn’t it?”
“It looks good on you, I must say, although I suspect that it would do well even on Lord Strider.” Both laughed easily.
“And what brings you here today, Sam?” Frodo asked.
“Well, I was pullin’ down another of them pesky sheds, don’t you know, Master—” Sam began, and Everard saw that imaginary shutter Frodo had to him anymore beginning to swing shut. Sam, however, had also seen Frodo’s expression beginning to close up. “Now, what’s the matter?” the gardener demanded. “You don’t have to look at me like I was one of Lord Strider’s hangers-on comin’ at you with all that ‘my Lord Iorhael’ business.”
“Sam—once and for all, I am not your Master. And particularly not after what we went through together. You are my friend, my closer-than-brother. I’d not even be here now if it weren’t for you! So when are you going to quit using terms that aren’t true anymore?”
Sam’s face flushed as he sat down hard in the chair in front of the desk. “Lords and Ladies, Frodo Baggins!” he exclaimed, although he kept his tones low. “We’ve not all that to go through again, have we?”
Everard stopped and looked at the two of them directly. Had he just heard Samwise Gamgee address Cousin Frodo by his given name?
Sam, however, had his attention fully fixed on the deputy Mayor. “First of all,” he said, quietly but firmly, “I’ve never thought of you as if I was a slave and you the one as owned me. And I know well enough that since we woke up in Ithilien, if’n I still do the gardens of Bag End it’s only ’cause I want to, not ’cause I have to to support myself and my family. I know as I ain’t no servant—not now, and not ever again. But there’s masters and masters, don’t you see? Them Elves in Rivendell as call Mister Bilbo ‘small Master’—they don’t do so ’cause him’s their lord or nothin’ like that—they do so ’cause they respect him true, and you know that. And that’s why I call you Master. You and Mr. Bilbo—you two taught me most of what I know, and when you did that, you and him was equally my masters—my teachers. And you’ve kept teachin’ me all through everything, even all through the journey to Mordor and back.
“And then,” he added, leaning back in the chair and with less intensity, “there’s the fact as it’s almost impossible for me to change what I call someone once it’s fixed in my head, and that’s a fact. You know it, Merry and Pippin know it—even old Strider knows it! Why else would him have told me I could go on callin’ him Lord Strider till the day I die? You found out his right name, and you changed over right quick, although I note as even you have difficulties referrin’ to him as ‘my Lord Elessar,’ too.”
Frodo gave a weak laugh, then sighed and shook his head.
“So, you don’t intend to change what you call me, either?”
“Like I said, it’s almost impossible for me to do so anyways, so why bebother myself?”
Frodo shook his head, his expression rueful. “I see.”
“And I don’t mean nothin’ but love and respect by it, you know that.”
“Yes, I know. Not that I deserve all that much respect, and certainly not from you.”
“But I couldn’t of gotten that there, not by myself. No, that took all the stubborness and strength of the most responsible of all stubborn Bagginses, and you know that, too. And you know full well as nothin’ could of stopped It takin’ you at the end, so just be glad as you stopped me from killin’ that villain as I’d wanted to, as it took the three of us to get rid of It.” Again Sam leaned forward, fixing a stern stare on Frodo. “Just remember—it was you as taught me just how powerful and needful mercy is—mercy and forgiveness. So you work on forgivin’ yourself. You know as no one else blames you for nothin’. And—and—well, and thank you for bein’ you.”
Frodo suddenly began to laugh, loud and clear. “Ah, Sam—what would I do without you? Come to the inn with me and we’ll have a mug of light ale and some of their seed cake. It’s not as light as Bilbo’s, but it’s toothsome, at least.”
“Certainly, Master.” They both rose to their feet, and Frodo wrapped another length of scarf about his neck to keep it from dragging on the floor. Sam, smiling and shaking his head, commented, “I just hope you don’t trip over the tassles sometime.”
“When I leave Middle Earth, see to it’s sent off to Minas Tirith for Aragorn’s use—he’ll need reminders to be a person first, you know.”
“Oh, Mr. Pippin—he’s seen to it as old Strider don’t forget that—you can count on that for true!”
Frodo caught up one of his water bottles and the two of them headed down to the front door to the Council Hole. “All right—just what did you find in this shed, Sam?”
Everard was left watching after the two of them, wishing he knew more about just where they’d gone, and what It could have been.