Written for the "Waymeet" community on LiveJournal for "The 12 Days of Christmas" challenge. Each story was to incorporate a "gift" from the song (as an actual gift, or used in any number of other ways – as a metaphor, a plot device, a symbol, part of a narrative event, etc). My ficlet was to in some way include "six geese a-laying".

DISCLAIMER: Professor Tolkien's wonderful characters don't belong to me, I just get to think about them day and night

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WHAT EVERY PARENT KNOWS

"And what have we here?" Gandalf asked quietly as Frodo gently parted the reeds.

"See?" Frodo said excitedly, his eyes shining. Six geese sat in their comfortable nests, looking supremely contented. "The eggs will be hatching soon. Their mates leave them only to find food and bring it back."

"Not a very difficult task, I would think," the wizard said as he and Frodo backed carefully away from the nursery. "You do spoil them dreadfully, dear boy."

"We certainly do," Frodo admitted. Sam was sitting nearby in the grass that edged the beautiful lake, and Frodo plopped down next to him. Two geese paddled over to shore and walked over, inspecting a covered bowl resting between their hobbit friends.

"Good heavens, Merry," Frodo addressed the nearest goose, "how can you be hungry again? Didn't I find you in the house just this morning, pecking at the sack of sunflower seeds?"

The sleek, healthy goose just nuzzled Frodo under the chin until the hobbit relented and began to stroke him under his long neck.

"It's a never-ending job," Frodo complained good-naturedly as the wizard sat beside them. "Every morning the house is surrounded by dozens of these insufferable creatures, each wanting attention. Until we greet each goose individually, and assure every single one that we love them, they don't give Bilbo, Sam, or me a moment's peace the whole day."

"He's right, Gandalf," Sam agreed. "This lot is much smarter and more sensitive than Shire geese. You should've seen the mess Fredegar made in the kitchen yesterday when he felt ignored."

"Isn't that just like a hobbit family?" Gandalf teased. "Always hungry, getting into mischief, and bothering one just when you wish to rest." Butterbur began to peck at his arm. "Give them more corn, Frodo."

"Isn't that just like a wizard? Needing a job done, and looking to the nearest hobbit to do it." Frodo pushed the bowl of seed-corn into the wizard's hands. "Feed them yourself, lazy."

Gandalf uncovered the bowl, and the two geese converged on him.

"And here come the rest," Sam pointed. A number of geese, upset that their companions on shore were receiving all the attention, were swiftly paddling their way across the lake to where he, Frodo, and Gandalf sat.

"Lady Arwen said I might dwell here, until all my wounds and weariness are healed," Frodo mused. "I will be here forever, burdened with such wearying charges!" He smiled at the thought.

"You certainly have acquired many mouths to feed," Gandalf agreed, "and quite a relentless group of individuals to love and discipline."

"And Rosie and I thought 13 kids was a handful," Sam chuckled.

"I know this is child's play to you, Sam," Frodo said, "but you have to admit that they've all grown to depend on us so much." He turned a serious face to Gandalf. "Sam is trying to teach me about livestock, and how to help care for the chicks when they hatch. But I worry about all of them; how will I know if I'm doing everything right?"

"I believe that---"

"Lobelia! Strider!" Frodo cried out suddenly as two geese slipped stealthily inside the house. "Stay away from there! Bilbo's trying to nap." He glared at Merry and Butterbur. "I believe these two were acting as decoys so I wouldn't notice their thieving cousins." He stalked toward the house, muttering to himself.

"Don't let that grumblin' fool you, Gandalf," Sam grinned at the wizard. "Mr. Frodo loves fussing over 'em all."

Gandalf laughed, and scattered some corn for the delighted geese. "He wonders how he'll know if he's doing everything right. I suspect he'll learn the same lessons I learned with hobbits."

"And that I learned with my little ones," Sam agreed, laying back in the soft grass.

"Indeed. Eventually, children grow up and find their own way. But until then..."Gandalf smiled fondly in the direction of the house. "...we do the best we can."

"Exactly," Sam said calmly, smiling up at the wizard. "Parents all have to learn the same thing, don't they?" He sat up suddenly, as the sounds of a pleading hobbit and several excited geese emanated from the house. "Maybe I'll just go give him a hand," he said, getting to his feet. "Mr. Frodo's come a long way, but he still needs a bit o' help from time to time."

END