2. Chapter 2
The sound of an approaching cart made Theo jump like he’d been stung. He hopped down from his seat on Brandy Hall’s front gate and walked out to the road. Eomer rolled his eyes as he watched his brother craning his neck to see who was approaching. Theo was supposed to be greeting the guests for his twenty-seventh birthday, but more often than not it was Eomer who said the greetings and presented the gift while Theo was distracted by the sounds of another approaching cart. When the new guests would prove not to be the Gamgees, Theo would visibly wilt. Eomer smirked. His brother was so lovestruck it was almost pathetic. He watched Theo heave a great sigh as the cart turned out to belong to Uncle Freddy and his family. Eomer snickerd. No, he thought, Theo was completely pathetic.
“Happy Birthday, Theo!” Uncle Freddy called as he climbed down from the cart. Theo nodded, but turned at the sound of another cart on the road. The enormous grin that spread on his face was all the evidence Eomer needed to know that it was the Gamgees. Theo went out to the road, ignoring the Bolgers. Uncle Freddy chuckled and turned to help Aunt Celandine down from their cart.
“Sorry,” Eomer said, shaking his head. He handed them the small packages containing their gifts.
“Oh, don’t apologize,” said Aunt Celly as she helped Clara and Chloe brush the dust from their dresses. “I remember quite well what it was like to be in love.” She giggled and shared a look with Uncle Freddy, who blushed. Eomer sighed. Did love always turn a person into a giggling idiot?
He busied himself handing out the gifts for the mob of newly arrived Gamgees. Uncle Sam and Aunt Rosie were chatting with Uncle Freddy and Aunt Celly while the stableboys busied themselves taking care of the carts. Eomer said hello to Frodo, Mer and Pip, handing them their gifts. Behind them, Theo and Rose were walking up to the house. Wait.
“Hey! Theo!” Theo turned, a dreamy look on his face. “Don’t you have something you need to be doing?” Eomer chided.
Theo looked at Rose. “Forgive my manners,” he said, in the same voice their father used to greet distant relatives, “Would the lady like a drink?”
Rose smiled at him and nodded, and they continued on to the house. The Gamgees and Bolgers followed.
“Have fun, Eomer,” Frodo grinned, patting his shoulder as he walked by. Eomer aimed a kick at him, but Frodo managed to dodge it. With a final wave he ran after his family.
Eomer crossed his arms and slumped against the fence. Great! I’m stuck greeting guests at my brother’s party.
A few more guests arrived and Eomer had to repeatedly explain that “No, it’s Theo’s birthday. I’m just...helping,” and when he grew tired of the confused looks, he just accepted their birthday greetings with as much grace as he could through a clenched jaw.
He was interrupted from his daydreams of revenge on his brother when Fari came down from the Hall, Boromir in tow. Twelve-year-old Bori was nearly as tall as Fari now. Although Bori had never been unusually tall as a child, a recent growth spurt seemed to be triggered by his Rohirric blood. It wouldn’t surprise Eomer at all if he grew to be as tall as Pippin, since he still hadn’t even reached his tweens yet, when hobbits did their final bit of growing.
Fari made a show of looking around the yard. “I take it Rose arrived?” he said, not even trying to hide his smile.
Eomer scowled at him. “Maybe I’ll leave you out here to hand out presents,” he grumbled.
Fari climbed up to sit on the fence and Bori climbed up next to him. “I’m just teasing. I saw Theo and Rose out in the garden and we thought we’d come keep you company.”
“Mum told Aunt Vinca that Uncle Theo is besotted,” said Bori. He furrowed his brow. “But I don’t know what that means.”
“It means his brain turns to mush whenever Rose Gamgee is anywhere close by,” said Fari.
Eomer cracked a smile at that.
Fari gave a dramatic sigh. “He doesn’t even have time for his best friend anymore.”
“I’ll be your best friend, Fari!” Bori said. Eomer turned his laugh into a cough. His nephew thought the world revolved around his older brother.
“Thanks, Bori,” Fari said, giving Eomer a wink. Eomer smiled at them. Must be nice to have a decent older brother.
Only one more guest arrived before lunch, an ancient Took aunt who thought Eomer was Theo and Bori was Eomer, which wasn’t really surprising since Bori was as much Brandybuck as Took and could have been Eomer’s brother as much as Fari’s. They didn’t argue with her, as Eomer thought she was lucky to find the party, let alone recognize great-grandnephews. Then Bori started whining about being hungry, so Eomer decided they were done and they went out to the garden. They found a spot to sit under an ancient oak to dig into their overflowing plates, and were soon joined by Frodo, Mer and Pip.
“Get all your presents handed out?” asked Frodo.
Eomer almost called Frodo something extremely rude, but since Bori was present he settled for a murderous glare. He didn’t need Ivy after him for teaching Bori new words.
“Well, consider yourself lucky,” said Mer. “You didn’t have to be here watching them.” He nodded towards the bench on the other side of the garden where Theo and Rose were having tea. Mer wrinkled his nose. “They’re all lovey-dovey and cooing over each other.”
Fari shook his head. “Pathetic.” He nudged Eomer with his foot. “Promise me you won’t turn into a besotted idiot when you fall in love.”
Eomer snorted. “If falling in love turns you into a besotted idiot, maybe I’d be better off without it. Maybe Bilbo and Frodo Baggins had the right idea, being bachelors.”
Fari nodded. “What is it with lasses that they make a lad do stupid things?”
Frodo chuckled. “You’ll find out when you get there.”
Fari shook his head. “Not me. No girl is going to make me do stupid things.”
It suddenly clicked with Eomer what Frodo had said. He groaned. “Not you, too?”
“He likes Emerald Fairfield,” said Mer, grinning.
“We saw him kissing her,” said Pip. He giggled as he ducked to avoid a cuff to the ear from Frodo.
“Who’s that?” asked Eomer.
“She’s a...um...girl from Michel Delving,” Frodo said, blushing furiously. “We...uh...met when we--my family--went out there when Dad had some mayor, um, stuff to do.” He shrugged and dropped his eyes, a goofy grin on his face.
Eomer stared at the blushing, stuttering Frodo. Bachelorhood. Definitely a good idea.
As evening fell, only a few guests remained at Theo’s party. Aunt Celly and Ivy were already supervising the clean-up, a job that usually fell to the Mistress of Brandy Hall, but Éowyn was spending a year in the south visiting her other children.
Theo glanced at Rose, sitting next to him on the garden bench. She caught his glance and smiled. He took her hand.
“I had fun today,” he said.
“Me, too.” She smiled. “I always have fun with you, Theo. You’re one of my dearest friends.”
“Well, I think we’re a bit more than friends,” he said, looking in her eyes and twining his fingers with hers.
“A bit,” she said, nearly a whisper. Theo leaned in to kiss her but was interrupted by a cough.
“Sorry to interrupt,” said Ivy, grinning at them, “but your family is getting ready to head up to Crickhollow, Rose.”
“Thanks, Ivy.” Rose smiled at Theo, then got up and hurried into the Hall. Theo watched her go and gave a sigh.
“You’re in love, aren’t you?”
He looked up at Ivy. She was grinning at him. “You should know,” he muttered, “I hear from Bori that I’m ‘besotted’.”
She laughed, then sat next to him and put an arm around his shoulders. “It is a little obvious.” She hugged him. “Just... be careful, all right?”
Theo pulled back and frowned at her. “What?”
“I don’t want you to get hurt, Theo.” She took his hand. “There’s lots of hobbits who are pretty set in their ways about what is proper, and who can marry who, and it’s not just gentlehobbits who can be that way.” She sighed. “Trust me. I know the cruel things people can say when you don’t fit into their view of the world.” She kissed his cheek. “If you truly love her, don’t give up. But you should be prepared for a fight.”
Theo nodded. He’d grown up hearing the occasional unkind comment about Sam Gamgee’s family being so close to the Master’s and Thain’s families. Usually comments about ‘forgetting their place’ or ‘lowering themselves’.
“Thanks, Ive.” He kissed her cheek. “You’re still my favorite sister, you know.”
“And Elboron’s still my favorite brother,” she said with a wink. She gave him another hug, then got up and went back to the clean-up.
Theo leaned back to watch the stars come out. It didn’t matter what anyone thought. No matter what happened, no matter what anyone said, there was no way he’d give up on Rose.
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.