Clapping excitedly, three-year-old Samwise Gamgee started to toddle ahead of his father directly towards the faded green door. His mother had come home from visiting relatives the night before; after talking privately with the Gaffer, she had given permission for Sam to start working at Bag End. Of course, she was aware that there would be little in his capability, but she gave her permission none-the-less. Now the child couldn't wait to go play with his older friend, Frodo Baggins, not fully understanding the meaning of the word 'work', yet.
As the little Hobbit reached the door he jumped up and down, clapping and loudly calling, "Fodo! Fodo pay Sam! Fodo!"
Gaffer brought a gentle, yet firm, hand down on his son's shoulder, effectively silencing the boy. "Master Frodo's got his own work to do. You'll be working until luncheon then you can play. Come along, Samwise."
Sam's gray-green eyes widened in surprise. He guessed his father didn't understand so he pointed to the Hobbit hole and said, "Fodo pay..."
Gaffer shook his head. "No. Master Frodo is not coming out to play. Come along." He gently gripped the toddler's wrist and started pulling him towards the wide side-lawn.
Stunned, Sam struggled. "No! Gaff... Fodo..." His voice was insistent, as demanding as a child's could be. He tried to pull back, to get to the green door once more. He naturally wasn't strong enough to break his father's firm grip.
"No Frodo!" The Gaffer's voice was harsh, stubborn. "We'll be going if you yell at me again, boy." He glared at the toddler menacingly.
"No go..." Sam whimpered. He let his father tug him towards the side-lawn, looking over his shoulder with tear-filled soulful eyes.
Frodo stopped reciting his Elvish alphabet, pain filling his heart at the pitiful sound of Sam's acquiescence. He sounded so defeated and lonely. The fifteen-year-old closed his eyes, fists clenching, trying to keep control. He had to sit there and study this new language when everything in him screamed to go rescue Sam. "He's crying..." Frodo's voice was a bare whisper.
Bilbo, the teen's older cousin and adopted uncle, stopped the lesson, his hand gently covering Frodo's fist. He could see the struggle and pain his cousin was going through. Squeezing gently, Bilbo softly stated, "we've arranged for the both of you to have play and lunch together. The Gaffer thought that pushing all of Sam's playtimes together around his luncheon would be best. You'll have three hours to feed and change him, but whatever's left over of that time will be just for the two of you."
The teenager's head shot up, blue eyes widening hopefully. "Three hours, Bilbo? Just me and Sam? Truly?" He leaned forward, the beginnings of excitement radiating from the slender, pale body.
With a laugh, the older Hobbit nodded. "Yes, dear boy, three hours for you and Sam. That's made Gaffer have to stay late, but he's agreed. It means you'll have to stay indoors while they're working until Sam's used to his new routine, though."
"Oh, thank you, Bilbo!" Frodo threw his arms around his cousin in an affectionate hug. "I'd stay inside all the time just for time with Sam!" And with that, he started his Elvish alphabet with renewed energy.
Sam was crying, looking back towards the hole time and again. He totally ignored everything the Gaffer tried to gently explain. He wanted his Frodo. Slowly, as the Gaffer got more distracted with his work, the toddler formed a plan. He'd go to Frodo and Frodo would play.
The plan pleased him so much that he stopped crying. Quietly, ever so quietly so Gaffer wouldn't notice, Sam started moving off. He would go to the door and call for Frodo. The toddler smiled in anticipation and kept moving carefully.
When he was perhaps ten feet away, Gaffer's voice floated menacingly over. "Come back here boy or we go home. We go home and no Frodo!"
With an outraged scream, Sam stamped back towards his father, crying and stamping. He was being ignored, but it didn't matter. The little boy continued his tantrum. He stamped right up next to Gaffer and started screaming right at him, a wordless yell common to all thwarted young ones.
The older Hobbit hadn't gone through four other children without learning a trick or two. This one would give up on the tantrum soon enough. Thus, the man continued to tend the lawn, ignoring the painful screams in his ear and the feet occasionally stomping on his own.
Sam slowly quieted, sniffling and sobbing once in awhile. Gaffer didn't notice! He was frustrated, but an idea came to him. He'd go to Frodo now. If Gaffer hadn't heard him screaming, he wouldn't see him this time. Again, the little Hobbit tried to sneak off quietly towards his goal.
The little boy turned and screamed, tears instantly surfacing once again. He'd only gotten about ten feet again before his father had yelled for him. Stomping around in a circle, slowly getting closer and closer to his father, the boy screamed and cried, louder than last time. He was unaware and uncaring how painful his shrill yells were to his father and the two Hobbits in the hole.
Gaffer again ignored the tantrum, moving onto another section of the lawn he was trimming.
It took several minutes for Sam to calm down this time. He glared resentfully at his father and plotted. He had to go see his Frodo. Gaffer didn't understand! Maybe if he told the Gaffer what he wanted. He tugged Gaffer's sleeve, nearly causing the man to cut his own toes with the blade.
"What the blazes do you think you're at boy!" Gaffer turned angry eyes on the child, as frustrated as the boy with the development.
Sam gulped. He lifted large watery green eyes to his father and tugged his sleeve again. Pointing to the hole, he whimpered, "Fodo? Fodo now?"
"No! No Frodo now!" He pulled his sleeve from the tiny grasp and turned back to his blade, annoyed and seriously rethinking this plan. Most of the time they'd start the child when he was four... in the house with easy chores. What had he been thinking to agree to bring the boy up to start gardening at three?
Wait a minute... Gaffer frowned and looked around. It was too quiet. He spotted the reason rather quickly. While he'd been brooding, Sam had taken advantage and nearly gotten halfway across the yard. The older Hobbit threw down his shears and screamed at the top of his lungs, "Samwise Gamgee you get back here right now or we'll never come back here!"
The boy stopped dead in his tracks, turning around horrified. Standing there, struggling with the ultimatum, his eyes filled with genuine tears this time, not the babyish tears of a tantrum. He sat on his butt with a hard thump and wailed in misery at the threat. No Frodo... ever?
Gaffer sighed and shuffled over to his youngest son. He felt instantly guilty for losing his temper with the boy. After all, he didn't understand yet. Hamfast Gamgee squatted down and scooped the boy up, cuddling him. "Shhh... Samwise, calm now little one."
Sam burrowed into his father, whimpering and crying. He tangled his chubby fists in the Gaffer's collar, his wet face pressed to his father's neck, sobbing for all the world as if his heart was breaking. His body began shaking, the sobs changing to gasps for air.
That scared the adult.
"Breathe, Sammy... breathe..." he cuddled his son, genuinely worried that Sam might stop breathing in his fit. "Come on, son, breathe..." The fit wasn't lessening and Gaffer was becoming downright terrified. "Master Frodo!"
Frodo immediately dropped his books and ran out the door, Bilbo on his heels. They'd heard the entire debate between adult and toddler but had stayed inside as agreed. After all, Frodo knew the Gaffer would never hurt Sam no matter how frustrated he was. But when the man called out with such fear, neither scholar questioned the ethics of answering that call. It sounded like a very serious plea.
The teenager scanned the lawn for the pair, finally seeing them in the far distance. The Gaffer was kneeling on the ground, hugging his son and looking pale and shaken. Sam was beyond hearing, gasping for breath and clutching involuntarily at the cloth of his father's coat. That sight was the worse one Frodo had ever seen... next to the one of his parent's bodies three years ago.
Skidding to a halt, Frodo touched Gaffer's shoulder. "Give him to me, sir..."
The Gaffer didn't argue, didn't question, he obeyed. He turned and handed his precious little boy to the younger Hobbit, eyes wide and worried. "Please, Master Frodo... he ain't breathing right..."
Bilbo called out, "I'll get a doctor..." And off he sprinted, heading for town.
"He started crying, sir, and now he ain't breathing..." Gaffer looked terrified, wringing his work-worn hands and watching his child through fearful eyes. "Oh, Sammy... breathe, son..." The older man's voice was a plea.
The teenager studied the boy quickly. His hysterics had turned to spasms, and air wasn't getting through. How could he get him to breathe? A shock might do it. He lifted his hand and took a deep breath of his own.
Frodo slapped Sam across the face, shocking the child into a long breath. He raised his hand again, prepared, but hating to hurt the child. He just knew that his mother had once slapped him when he couldn't breath for crying so hard.
It worked. Sam was breathing again. He clutched blindly to this new person, not yet registering who held him. With a hiccuping gasp he looked up. His confused brain tried to comprehend what his huge green eyes were telling him. "Fodo..." It ended on a sob, his voice hoarse.
"Yes, Sam, it's Frodo. I'm right here." He cuddled the little boy, tears of relief coming to his eyes.
With a soft cry, Sam burrowed against his friend, whimpering and clutching. "Fodo..."
Frodo contented himself with a secure hug and plenty of gentle kisses dropped to the toddler's soft curls. "Yes, Frodo's here, Sam. I'm not going anywhere. I'm right here. You're gonna stay."
Gaffer wiped a hand over his face, feeling as if he'd aged about fifteen years in the last two minutes. Never had one of his children gotten so hysterical as to stop breathing. This was something out of his depth and he sorely wished Bell had come along to help out. He watched the teen with tired gray eyes.
What was it about Master Frodo that so called his little boy? May had gotten attached to Hamson but never acted this way when separated from her oldest brother. Why did Samwise suddenly go into hysterics, then?
Softly, hesitantly, he queried, "Master Frodo? What kind of spell do you have on that child?" He flushed as he realized just what he'd asked and how it sounded.
Frodo looked up. "I don't know... maybe the same one that he has on me." He stood, Sam's head on his shoulder, patting the chubby back. The boy still sobbed occasionally, but he was back in control.
"Sir, I'm real grateful that you were going to let me have three hours straight with him, but I don't think it's going to work." Frodo flushed lightly at questioning the man's rules. "Maybe if he could see me first thing for a few minutes? That might help keep him calm? You know: I come out every hour for a few minutes to say 'Hi' and give him something to look forward to? Then, maybe we get a couple of hours at luncheon instead? He might adjust easier that way." Biting his lip, Frodo watched the older Hobbit, wondering if he'd get in trouble for his suggestion.
Relief swept Frodo, however, when the Gaffer slowly nodded. "Yes..." he thoughtfully studied his now quiet son. "Seems you've got a good idea, Master Frodo. I'll... I'll talk to Bell tonight. Today, we'll let him sit with you while you study, if'n that's all right? I think he's had too much fresh air today..."
It was Gaffer's turn to look nervous. He was a good Hobbit who rarely ever questioned his betters. What was he doing telling Frodo what to do now? He took off his hat and kneaded it nervously between gnarled, dirt-stained fingers.
With a gentle smile, Frodo nodded. "That sounds fine. I'll make sure he sits quietly so he doesn't get overexcited again. I'll still be studying, but maybe... sir... maybe if he sits quietly, he'd be allowed inside with me some days?"
"Well..." that was pushing a bit, actually. Gaffer was thankful that Frodo had managed to end that frightening fit, but he couldn't change Sam's future just because of gratitude. Slowly, he twisted the cap. "Master Frodo, maybe for this first year, so he gets used to things, he could spend half a day with you... mornings like. Mind he'd have to play quiet while you do your things, but then he can come outside with me in the afternoons..." Gaffer looked around at the wide lawns and gardens then back at Frodo. "Then next year we can see how things go with changing around a bit?"
Instinctively, Frodo knew that pressing further would have Sam retracted completely, despite the hysterical fit he'd had. The teen wisely nodded, smiling. "I promise he'll be quiet and not bother me in the mornings, sir. And he'll go out to work with you in the afternoons. Thank you, Gaffer, sir."
Waving his hand, disgruntled suddenly, Hamfast turned his back. "I've got work, Master Frodo, if you don't mind?"
Without comment, Frodo let the gardener get back to tending the lawns. He brought the child inside, wondering if he should go after Bilbo to stop him. No; it was better if the doctor came to check Samwise out. That had been one scary fit. He wanted to be sure it wouldn't happen again... that it had just been the end of a bad temper tantrum or something.
Sam was strangely quiet as Frodo made his way into the study. The teen frowned and looked down at him, shifting the chubby little boy to better see his face. Sam was asleep. With a sigh of relief, Frodo sat down at the table and adjusted the pliable body in his lap. He softly started reciting his letters, waiting for Bilbo so they could discuss Sam's health and his new routine.
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