Author's note: For those who enjoyed 'Beloved Master' and 'The Journal of Samwise Gamgee', I hope you enjoy my third LotR story I've written so far. This is different and so I really need lots of feedback about this one. Again, constructive criticism is always appreciated. Please let me know what you think and if I should continue this :-)

Disclaimer: I don't own Tolkien's characters. The Puddifoot family belongs to him, but I own Tansy

Warning: There are several AU themes in this story. If you aren't comfortable with AU fics, don't read this one.

Pairing: Frodo/ OC

Other characters: Sam, Merry, Pippin, Rosie, The Gaffer and Bilbo

Category: Drama, Romance and Angst

Rating: G

Fragile Choices

By

Maddy Lake Deep

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Chapter one: A party fit for a gardener

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Frodo Baggins stood outside the green door of his comfy hobbit home. Spring visited Hobbiton once again, and it brought a pleasant smile that formed in the corners of Frodo's lips. His hands were tucked comfortably in the pockets of his chestnut trousers while he stared at a busy Sam tending the garden.

Samwise Gamgee, very skilled he was at making sure Bilbo's garden boasted the most beautiful flowers in Bag End.

Frodo trotted down the steps and hesitated on one of them. His presence caught Sam's attention, beckoning him away from the shrubs he was trimming.

"Good Morning," Mr. Frodo, said Sam with a polite smile. "You're off to your morning stroll again, Sir?"

"Yes, I am, Sam."

"Well, it sure is a lovely morning for a stroll."

"Indeed, it is. Uh, Sam..."

"Yes, Sir?"

"I'm going to the Green Dragon tonight. Would you like to come along?"

Sam's face brightened. "Yes, yes I would!"

"Splendid. We'll leave together. Merry and Pippin will meet us there."

Suddenly, the grin faded from the stout hobbit's face. "Mr. Frodo?"

"Yes?"

"Uh...nothing, nothing, Sir. I'm sorry. I'll let you get on your way."

"Are you sure everything is all right?"

Sam nodded. "I won't keep you any longer."

A soft smile graced Frodo's lips. "All right, then, Sam. I'll see you later."

As he continued down the steps, Frodo noticed Sam's puzzled expression. And when Sam didn't see him, Frodo's smile had now stretched into a mischievous one as he went on his way.

_____________________________________________________________

Frodo and Sam headed for the Green Dragon Inn. When they arrived, outside, one could hear the sounds of boisterous laughter, music and the clinking of mugs.

Sam stopped a few feet from the inn. He turned to face his master, bewildered as to why he was so quiet during their trip.

"Mr. Frodo, do you know what day it is?"

"Of course, it's the sixth day in April."

"And?"

Frodo shrugged. "And?"

Flustered, Sam sighed and shook his head. "Nothing. Let's go in."

Frodo laughed silently and followed Sam inside the Inn, and when they were seen, a sudden silence lulled over the crowd.

Uneasy, Sam glanced at Frodo. "Sir," he whispered, "There's been some strange going's on this day."

Following those words came an unexpected roar...

"Happy Birthday, Sam!" the crowd cheered in unison.

Frodo watched Sam and his heart rejoiced at seeing the huge grin that chased away the sadness he conveyed earlier.

Many of the folk rushed up to Sam, including the Gaffer who gave him a hearty hug. Three other hobbits weaved through the crowd, Merry, Pippin and Bilbo certainly did not want to miss out on wishing Sam a happy birthday.

"Well, Sam," Merry remarked cheerfully, "You didn't think we'd forgotten your birthday. It was all Frodo's idea."

Sam eyed Frodo with a wry smile and then everything made sense to him.

"That's why you were so quiet," said Sam.

Frodo chuckled. "With all your questions, I wasn't sure if I could keep it a secret for long."

He led Sam through the crowd and when they neared the bar, Frodo could not help but notice the way his gardener stared at Rosie Cotton. He often talked about Rosie and knew his affections for her were very deep. The barmaid spotted them, leaned over the bar and flattered Sam with one of her endearing smiles.

"Happy Birthday, Sam!"

Sam blushed. "Thank you, Rosie."

Frodo whispered in Sam's ear, "When are you ever going to ask her to dance?"

"I will, Mr. Frodo."

"Uh-huh," a skeptical Frodo remarked as he continued to guide Sam over to the table that had awaited them with a birthday feast.

A feast that was a delectable sight to any hobbit's eye, and what hobbit's stomach could resist chicken, pork, mushrooms, potatoes, seed cakes and other delicacies strewn across the table.

They sat down along with Merry, Pippin, Bilbo, the Gaffer and other folk.

And when the fiddles were played, the celebration began.

Rosie served plenty of ale. Rowdy laughter thundered around the bar. Many ate heartily and couples waltzed into each other's arms in a jaunty hobbit dance on the floor.

Sitting beside Merry was Pippin Took. He laughed and peeked around at Sam, pointing a finger at him.

"I wish I could have seen your face when you thought everyone forgot your birthday."

Merry joined in Pippin's jest and snickered with him.

Sam smirked. Ignoring them, he pressed the brim of the mug against his lips and drank more ale.

Frodo smiled a little, but when his summer sky blue eyes drifted toward the couples dancing, for a moment he was lost in the dance, lost in the joy they shared. Thinking it ridiculous to be caught in a daydream, Frodo jolted himself out it. He stood abruptly, grabbed his mug and raised it in the air.

"A toast!"

Everyone at the table grew silent and listened.

"To Samwise Gamgee--," He looked down at his gardener. "My friend...I wish you many more birthdays and a prosperous life here in the Shire."

Mugs clanked together.

Sam gazed at his master, touched by the words he uttered. He showed his appreciation with a grateful smile and clanked his mug lightly against Frodo's mug.

Frodo smiled back, keeping his eyes locked on Sam while he sipped the rest of his ale.

______________________________________________________

After the party, Frodo, Sam and Bilbo returned to Bag End.

Clambering the steps, Bilbo patted his stomach.

"A splendid feast it was." He stopped at the front door and turned to face Sam. "I hope you had a wonderful time, my boy."

"Oh yes, I did! I'll never forget this night."

"Well, I'm tired now and off to bed. Good night."

"Good night, Sir."

There was silence while Bilbo went inside, closing the door behind him.

Sam turned, smiling humbly at his master. "And I'll never forget what you've done. Thank you, Mr. Frodo."

"You deserved it, Sam."

Frodo extended his hand and placed it lovingly on Sam's shoulder.

"Goodnight," he said to him.

"Goodnight, Mr. Frodo."

__________________________________________________________

Inside his meticulous bedroom, Frodo had undressed into his nightshirt. On the bed lay the clothes he wore earlier. He picked up the brown vest along with the trousers and white shirt. The white shirt he tossed into a basket that was used for dirty clothes or linen. He took the basket, sliding it underneath his bed until tomorrow's wash. Frodo strode over to the wardrobe, opened it and hung the vest and trousers up on the rack. He rummaged through several of his aristocratic attire until he stopped at one particular shirt--one of his favorites among many. It wasn't white like some of them, a bit darker, like vanilla creme. And it had a slight satiny touch to it.

*This is what I'll wear tomorrow*

Frodo closed both doors. He yawned and turned toward his desk where the lantern sat. Frodo picked it up and carried it over to the table beside his bed. He blew out the flame, then tucked himself under the covers. In the darkness that didn't frighten him, Frodo was still awake, but not for long. Before he surrendered to sleep, he thought about Sam's party. They had so much fun together. He wanted to make sure his gardener had a special birthday. And it pleased him greatly to see Sam happy on a day that was indeed special.

Barely able to keep his eyes open, Frodo drifted into unconsciousness of sleep.

_________________________________________________________________

There wasn't a time when business was slow on Market Day in Town Square. Expect a crowd of folk from Bag End, Bagshot Row and even folk visiting from other parts of Hobbiton.

Frodo snaked through the crowd and glanced at what the vendors were selling. He searched for a gift for Sam, and yet something seemed odd. He thought he had already given him a gift at the party last night. If he didn't, Frodo hoped Sam would forgive him for his improper manners.

He sauntered near one of the vendors selling baskets of various fruits: Apples, cheeries, oranges and strawberries. Several children stood with their mother, excited about the fruit she was buying and would be stuffed into pies, or served on a platter to eat separately. When the mother bought what she needed, her children followed her, but one remained behind.

Frodo wondered why the young lass didn't follow her mother. And when her bright, wide eyes met his, she was no stranger to him.

"I know you," said Frodo, trying desperately to remember where he had seen her before.

Frightened and confused, the lass shook her head.

"Yes," he insisted, "I know you. Don't be afraid."

She shook her head again, stumbling backwards.

Frodo eased toward her. "I won't hurt you."

Although Frodo spoke as gentle as he could, she turned and dashed away from him.

Fear, disappointment and anger wrenched his heart at the sight of her running away.

"Wait! Please!"

She continued on until her small frame disappeared in the crowd.

Solemnly, Frodo whispered, "It's not my imagination. I know you..."

His eyes fluttered open. Everything had been a blur at first until sunlight peeked through the window and cleared the fog from Frodo's eyes. He slowly rose from the pillow.

Strange, he thought and shrugged it off as being just what it was...a dream.

____________________________________________________________

After taking another one of his morning strolls, Frodo nestled himself on the branch of his favorite oak tree. While reading a book, in his right hand was a wooden pipe he contently smoked. He blew out tiny smoke rings that grew into larger ones until they were swept away by the tender, warm breeze.

He took a break from reading and let his head fall back gently against the tree. Frodo closed his eyes, savoring the pipeweed that had been a comforting mid-day treat, and the aroma of fresh grass wafted under his nose.

Suddenly...

"Mr. Frodo!"

The familiar voice startled him out of his brief afternoon reverie.

He smiled and mumbled to himself. "Sam..."

Frodo peered down to see his gardener looking up at him and panting.

*He couldn't have walked but ran all this way to see me. Why?*

"Sam, what's wrong?"

"Begging your pardon, Sir. I don't mean to bother you, it's just--well, it's best you get back to Bag End."

Now that prompted Frodo to close his book, giving Sam his undivided attention.

"What's happening in Bag End?" Frodo asked curiously.

"Nothing. It's Bilbo, he wants you to come home."

Intrigued by Sam's baffling news, Frodo hopped down from the tree.

"All right, Sam," said Frodo firmly, but gentle. "Enough of your riddles. What's going on?"

"I don't know. All I know is that Bilbo sent me here to find you."

"If there's nothing going on in Bag End, what is it so important that I must go back now?" Frodo shook his head. "Uncle Bilbo is acting mysterious again. I wonder what he's up to?"

Sam frowned, as if he wanted to say more. And Frodo knew his expressions very well, especially when it seemed he was hiding something.

"Samwise Gamgee, you're not telling me everything."

"Mr. Frodo, I--," he faltered and sighed. "Okay. There's nothing going on in Bag End, and that's the truth. But I'll tell you this...There's something going on all right."

Impatient, Frodo answered, "Sam, where?"

"At Farmer Cotton's home."

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TBC

A/N: I know it's a short chapter but let me know what you think and I'll add more :-)