9. A last childish act
By the time they reached the top of the competition field, Merry had arranged for platters of food to be laid out on trestle tables and a couple of dozen hobbit children were waiting impatiently. They were greeted with a hearty cheer and as soon as they were seated, the lunch began.
A little way down the table, Pippin could overhear the animated conversation between Goldie and Faramir. "But why didn't you tell me about my name?" Goldie was asking. Farry was saying something about Elvish words for golden.
He turned back to the adult conversation only to discover that Rosie, Diamond and Sam were also watching the two youngsters. "I think we might have to have words about those two in a few years time," said Rosie.
Sam paled and almost choked on a mouthful of food, making Rosie and Diamond laugh, Pippin was momentarily puzzled by the reaction. "What do you - oh - but they're just children."
"And they grow up so fast," added Rosie, grinning. Sam, however, was still frowning.
"My lad not good enough for your Goldie, eh?" Pippin teased. He regretted it a second later though as Sam went a dark red and stared at the table.
"Of course, but." The mayor looked miserable.
"Oh Sam, she'll be your little girl for years yet," said Diamond. "And it's really not such a bad fate to be the wife of the Thain. The Took men make very good husbands."
It was Pippin's turn to blush. He decided to change the subject, after checking that the four elves were all deep in conversation with Merry and Estella. "So, after lunch I was thinking of introducing Elladan and Elrohir to some of the Shire's best ales."
"Do you think that's wise?" asked Sam. "Remember Legolas at your coming-of- age Pip?"
"Oh, that was only because he was trying to keep pace with Gimli. He should have known better."
As the laughter at the memory subsided, Pippin glanced along the table again, to where Pippin and Hamfast Gamgee and Theo Brandybuck were holding an urgent whispered discussion. 'Hmm,' he thought, 'there's mischief afoot there.'
46 years earlier.
Late in the afternoon on the day of a long expected double birthday party, Frodo Baggins wandered through the crowds of partying hobbits, drinking in the sights and sounds.
A gaggle of children scampered around the tables, showing off their new toys to anyone who would stop and look. Among them, Frodo recognised Hamfast Gamgee's son Sam beating out a rhythm on a small drum. He smiled at the children a little absently, his mind taken up with the confused and complicated thoughts that tended to overtake a hobbit at such a point on his coming-of-age day - which is to say the point when he's had a couple more beers than he's used to.
A small part of him was jealous of Sam and the other children and their new Dale-made toys. Another part was contemplating whether to join Balko Burrows and the other confident young bachelor hobbits who would be lounging somewhere in the party field smoking pipeweed.
And finally he was preoccupied with Bilbo's plan - though perhaps the old fellow wouldn't go through with it after all.
Frodo's wanderings eventually brought him to the entrance of a small pavilion containing Gandalf's firework supplies. Having never seen fireworks before, he was impatient for the display to begin. When he was tiny, Bilbo had told him tales of showers of golden stars and fountains of colourful flowers and butterflies that had made him gasp. Now at last he would see for himself.
An absurd curiosity grabbed him and he poked his head inside the tent, knowing full well that this was the sort of Tookish foolishness that would lead to some kind of trouble. There were dozens of boxes of coloured containers and tubes. He picked up a small green cylinder and turned it over in his hands.
There was a footstep outside and a tall shadow blocked out the light from the lanterns outside. Panicked, Frodo stuffed the tube into his pocket.
"Ah, young Frodo," said Gandalf, walking into the tent and not looking remotely surprised to see him. "Help me carry some of these outside, I'm about to begin."
It was only much later; after Bilbo's disappearing act, after night had come and gone, after even the last stragglers had stumbled home, that he realised he still had the firework in his pocket.
He sat on the doorstep of Bag End, squinting in the early morning light. He felt leaden with weariness and his childish curiosity about fireworks seemed a very long time ago indeed. At least there had been no trouble as a result of his theft.
He rose and went inside, tucking the firework onto a shelf as he walked through the parlour and into the kitchen.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.