The Dress Code
Beta: Pipspebble
Disclaimer: The Shire and everything else in Middle Earth belongs to Tolkien. I just get to visit from time to time.

A/N The line in italics is a quote from Return of the King, chapter: The Field of Cormallen

"Now, who do you suppose that is?"

Sam reddened miserably as Pippin smirked at him. This was all Aragorn's fault and Sam would have dearly liked to speak his mind to the new King of Gondor. That not being proper, he was trying to bear this with as much grace as he could, but it was difficult.

It had started off innocently enough. "What shall we wear?" he'd asked, upon awakening in Ithilien to learn that he and Mr. Frodo were summoned by the King. Gandalf had made some ridiculous statement about honoring the orc rags they'd worn on the last leg of that horrid trek, but had promised that some suitable garments would be found for them. They had been given some lovely linen things to wear for the feast and Sam had been content with that.

Upon arriving in Minas Tirith, the hobbits took several days to settle themselves into the house they shared with Gandalf, Legolas and Gimli, and to explore the city. On the second day, Aragorn paid them a visit, accompanied by a fussy little Man carrying a large satchel.

"Gandalf has reminded me that none of you have enough proper clothing for the banquets and parties that you will be invited to while you are here," the King explained in response to four sets of raised eyebrows. "I have brought with me Master Lindir, who will rectify this situation. I am told he is the best tailor in the city." With this, he begged their leave, claiming matters of state required his attention.

Master Lindir beamed at his King's high praise, and set his satchel down on a nearby table, moving in rapid jerks and starts which reminded Sam of nothing so much as a busy little bird. He opened the clasp and began rooting through the satchel, eventually pulling out a tape measure and turning to the hobbits.

"His Majesty has described what sort of garments would be most appropriate for you," he informed them, fiddling with the tape measure. "If you will first let me just get your measurements, we can discuss what you each would prefer in terms of colors and fabrics."

Merry and Pippin, having recently been fitted for their uniforms, found this procedure very amusing, especially when it was Sam's turn to be measured. The gardener had been content with the few simple things he'd acquired for himself while in Ithilien and didn't feel the need of anything else. He was also uncomfortable at the prospect of having to attend lots of parties and banquets.

"I'm just fine with what I've got, thank'ee very much," he mumbled, turning red.

Frodo eyed him knowingly. "Nonsense, Sam," he declared with a laugh. "If I have to go through this, then so do you."

That put an end to any protest Sam wanted to make. If his beloved master said he had to do it, then it had to be done and there was nothing for it. Sending one reproachful look in Frodo's direction, he sighed and submitted to the indignity. His mother had made all of his clothes until she died and Marigold had taken over the task of mending and sewing for himself and the Gaffer since then. He'd never been measured by a stranger before and found the whole affair unpleasant. Finally, the ordeal was over.

"There, Sam, that wasn't so bad, was it?" Frodo asked as Lindir turned away from him to jot down the last measurements in a small notebook. Caught between lying or saying something improper to his master, Sam just looked down at the floor and managed a slight shake of his head.

Lindir turned to Mr. Frodo next, who, more accustomed to this sort of thing, did not seem at all bothered by the hands laid upon his person. Sam was able to relax a bit now, thinking the worst of the ordeal was over. But then Master Lindir delved into his satchel one more time, coming out with several swatches of fabric.

The tailor consulted with Mr. Frodo first, followed by Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin. Each of the hobbits seemed to enjoy picking through the swatches, debating the relative merits of this fabric and that color, until each had been satisfied with their choices. Finally, Master Lindir returned to Sam.

"Now then, Master Gamgee. Let us decide upon the fabrics for your wardrobe." That startled Sam. He'd been thinking in terms of one outfit, not an entire wardrobe. Squaring his shoulders for this unwelcome task, Sam obligingly looked at the small swatches.

"Hi, now, you've made a mistake, sir," he exclaimed. Lindir looked between him and the fabrics, clearly uncertain as to the problem. "These here bits of cloth, they're the ones for Mr. Frodo and the others. Where are the ones for me to look at?"

"I can assure you, these are the proper fabrics, Master Gamgee," Lindir answered patiently.

Sam looked in dismay at the selection of silks, velvets and brocades. "But these things are much too fine for me," he protested. "I'm a gardener, not a fancy lord. A fine looking fool I'd be, in sommat like this." He held up a swatch of fine blue silk.

"Oh, Sam," Mr. Frodo shook his head fondly. "I don't think Aragorn expects you to be working in the garden while we are here.

"I have an idea, Sam," Pippin intervened. "Why don't you let us pick some things out for you?" That didn't seem quite proper, either, but Sam was in a quandary and no mistake, so he reluctantly nodded.

"Well, if you're sure it's not a bother," he mumbled, unhappy about the entire situation.

"A bother?" Merry laughed, before Pippin could reply. "You clearly don't know who you are talking to. Pippin, here, is the worst poppinjay in the entire Tookland, aren't you, Pip?"

"Oi! I resent that, Meriadoc Brandybuck. As the son of the Thain, I have a certain dignity that must be maintained at official functions. I cannot show up looking like a ragamuffin." Pippin smirked at his cousin. "You, on the other hand, are quite simply a dandy, and everyone in the Shire knows how you like to show off in your finery."

Merry smacked Pippin upside the head. "Do try to not be a fool, Pip," he retorted genially. "I'm going to be Master of Buckland one day, you know, and I have an image to maintain as well."

"Come, Sam," Frodo touched his arm. "The Poppinjay and the Dandy can look over the fabrics. Why don't we go investigate that pub we saw this morning?" So saying, he led the overwhelmed gardener away from the arguing cousins and out into the fresh air of a lovely May afternoon.

That had been a week ago and Sam had quickly put the whole incident out of his mind, until this afternoon. They were expected that evening at a banquet in their honor and Master Lindir had just arrived with several assistants, all carrying numerous parcels.

"I do wish there had been time for a proper fitting," the tailor fussed as he sent the hobbits off to their rooms to try on their new garments. Sam assisted Mr. Frodo before retiring to his own room to don the garb Master Lindir had prepared for him. Then he stood in front of the full-length mirror, a luxury in and of itself, and cursed Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin with every foul term he had learned while on this Quest. He should have known better than to trust a Brandybuck and a Took.

The clothing was beautiful, and no mistake about it. But it was far too rich and, well, beautiful, for him. The shirt was the softest thing he'd ever worn, a pale creamy color in some fabric that he couldn't identify. There was a great deal of embroidery on the collar and down the front, done in vivid shades of green and yellow. Accompanying this was a silken waistcoat that reminded him of Mr. Bilbo, in a rich green color with much needlework on it. His breeches and jacket, cut in a style unfamiliar to him, were a lovely deep blue velvet. All in all, he barely recognized himself, and wondered what his old Dad would have to say if he could see his Samwise now.

A gentle tap on his door startled him. "Come out, Sam, and let us have a look at you."

"I can't, Mr. Frodo, sir," Sam answered in dismay. "Folks'll think I'm trying to rise above my station in this get-up."

"Don't be a ninnyhammer, Samwise Gamgee." Mr. Frodo sounded quite stern, although Sam thought he might have detected a hint of amusement in his master's voice, as well. "Open the door and come out here at once, or I'll send Master Lindir in to help you." That got Sam moving, and quickly. Giving a deep sigh and squaring his shoulders, he opened the door and walked past Mr. Frodo, into the parlor where the others waited, determined to get the worst over with as quickly as possible.

"Now, who do you suppose that is?" Mr. Pippin asked, with a look of innocent confusion on his face and laughter in his voice.

Mr. Frodo followed Sam into the room in time to hear the comment. "Honestly, Pippin," he reprimanded his cousin. "If you can't recognize your own friend, I'll have to pack you off to the Houses of Healing. I'm sure Warden Faragut would be more than pleased to have you under his care for a time, until your memory improves."

"Honestly, yourself, Frodo," Pippin responded. "Sam knows I'm only teasing, don't you, Sam?" He gave the gardener a warm smile. "And here comes the Dandy," he continued, as Merry entered the room to show off his own finery.

"Hullo, to you, too, Poppinjay," Merry replied, seemingly unperturbed by Pippin's jibe. "Well, Sam, what do you think? Does it suit you?"

Sam shook his head at these three cousins. Clearly none of them thought he was behaving improperly. Of course, they were all a bit cracked, so he didn't suppose their opinions would count for much when they got home. Still, when all was said and done, they were the only ones whose opinion counted with him, anyway, and if they thought it was proper for him to dress this way, then he would just have to get used to the idea.

"It suits me just fine, Mr. Merry," he smiled. Indeed, he was beginning to realise something. While it was still true that he was a gardener, not a fine lord, he now counted several of those fine lords as dear friends, and if this was how he needed to dress to show them the proper honor, then it was no impropriety for him. With this all settled in his mind, he turned to his master. "Begging your pardon, Mr. Frodo, sir, but it's time to get going, if we don't want to be late."

Sam followed the three cousins out of the house, feeling confident in his place for the first time since waking up in Ithilien.