"The course of true love never did run smooth."
--A Midsummer Night's Dream (I, i, 134), William Shakespeare
And think not you can direct the course of love,
For love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.
--- The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran
"Your dad looks like he's going to pass out, and not necessarily from the ale." Theoden Brandybuck nodded towards the table where Sam Gamgee sat next to Theo's father, Merry Brandybuck. Sam was hunched over, head in hands. His father looked like he was consoling his friend.
Frodo Gamgee shook his head. "He's taking Elanor getting married a little hard. He would have hid in bed this morning, if Mum hadn't dragged him out." Frodo snorted. "Mum made your dad and Uncle Pippin promise to keep him sober. Don't know if that was too wise." He raised an eyebrow as Pippin Took gingerly set down three mugs of ale and sat on the other side of Sam.
Theo laughed. "No, not too wise at all." He sipped at his own ale and observed the gathering. They had come out to Greenholm for Elanor Gamgee's wedding, as that was where her new husband's family was from. Theo had rarely traveled farther west than Hobbiton, so there was a fair number of guests he didn't recognize.
He spotted the bride, standing near the arbor where she had been married just an hour ago. Elanor was talking with her sister, Rose, and Theo's sister, Ivy. Ivy had her youngest child, three-year-old Estella, perched on her hip. Theo smiled, watching Rose laugh at something Ivy had said. He'd have to ask Rose for a dance. Maybe a few dances.
He was startled from his contemplation of Rose's dimples when a body plopped onto the bench next to him, slopping ale onto the table.
"Hey, Fari, watch out!" Theo pushed away from his cousin before the stream of ale reached him.
"Sorry, Theo," said Faramir Took. He pulled out his handkerchief to sop up the spill.
Theo eyed him. Fari had only just turned twenty-one last month. Most lads weren't given free reign with ale until they were at least twenty-three. "How many of those have you had and does your father know about it?"
Fari leaned back and wrung out his handkerchief into the grass. "This is only my second one and Dad said I could have four." He stuck out his tongue at Theo and lifted his mug, gulping down the ale faster than was probably wise. He set the mug down, harder than necessary, and slopped more ale onto the table. "My teeth are numb," he announced, rubbing at his jaw and wrinkling his nose.
Frodo burst out laughing, but Theo rolled his eyes and pulled the half empty mug away."I think that's enough for now," he said. Fari was about to protest, but he was jostled by Theo's brother, Eomer, sitting down next to him. Mer and Pip Gamgee joined them on the other side of the table, next to Frodo.
Eomer eyed Fari. Fari was still rubbing his jaw and he was swaying a little. Eomer leaned back, looking around Fari at Theo. "Is he supposed to be drinking?" Eomer asked.
Theo shrugged. "His dad said he could." Theo didn't think Fari could handle the one and a half mugs of ale. He didn't know what possessed Pippin to allow him four.
"Aww, is our little Fari all grown up now?" Eomer ruffled his cousin's curls.
"Get off, Eomer!" Fari pushed away from Eomer, elbowing Theo in the process. He reached for his mug, but Theo slid it farther out of his reach. "I really think you need to slow down," said Theo.
"I'm fine! I'm not a child anymore, Theo!"
"That's as maybe, but you've never drunk so much ale before and I'm not having it come back out all over the table." The other occupants of the table voiced their agreement with that.
Frodo grabbed Fari's mug and drank the rest. "There, all gone," he said, thumping the empty mug back on the table. Fari hunched over in a sulk.
"Ho, lads!" Frodo's new brother-in-law, Fastred Fairbairn, approached their table. "Have you seen my lovely wife?"
Theo didn't think the grin on Fastred's face could get any wider. "She's over by the arbor with Rose and my sister." Fastred thanked them and hurried over to the lasses. Theo snorted. "Probably in a hurry to leave," he said, exchanging smirks with Eomer.
Frodo cringed. "Ugh. I don't need to be reminded of what he's going to be getting up to with my sister!"
"What's he going to do?" asked Fari, his alcohol-addled brain obviously not making the connection.
"Probably the same things Theo wants to get up to with their other sister," Eomer said. He grinned at Theo. Frodo, Mer and Pip all glared at him.
"Oh," said Fari, wrinkling his nose in disgust. "That."
Theo reached around Fari to punch his brother's arm, just as Frodo flung Fari's ale-soaked handkerchief at Eomer's face.
"Hey!" Eomer flung the sopping cloth back at Frodo, but it missed, sailing over Frodo's head and into the grass. He rubbed his arm. "I'm only telling the truth," he grumbled. Theo reached around to thump him again, but Eomer grabbed his arm and pulled. The shifting weight toppled the bench, landing Theo, Eomer and Fari in a tangled heap. Fari barely managed to escape the wrestling match between the two brothers.
"What is going on?"
Theo twisted around in Eomer's neck-hold to look up at the amused face of Rose Gamgee. She was looking down at them, hands on her hips.
Theo pushed away from Eomer and sat up. "We're, uh, just..."
"They're having a discussion," said Frodo, hiding his grin behind his mug of ale.
"About what?" Rose asked Theo, one perfect eyebrow raised in amusement.
The Gamgee brothers and Fari all snorted. Eomer looked up at her, a wicked grin on his face. "Well, if you must know--"
Theo clapped his hand over his brother's mouth. "He's an idiot. Ignore him." He gave Eomer a smack on the ear and stood up, trying to brush the dirt from his shirt.
Rose reached out and pulled some grass from Theo's curls. "Well, if rolling in the dirt makes you an idiot, then Eomer's not the only one."
Her brothers and Fari didn't try to hide their laughter this time. Eomer was rolling with laughter, too, clutching his sides. Theo scowled at them.
Rose smiled at him and patted his cheek. "Oh, I'm just teasing." She tossed her red curls and gave him a coy smile. "Now, I think you should leave the rest of the idiots and come with me. I've been wanting a dance." She grabbed his hand and pulled him away through the crowd towards the dancing.
"I don't really think you're an idiot," Rose said over her shoulder. She winked. "Most of the time."
Theo grinned at her. Had her eyes always been that blue?
They waited at the edge of the crowd for the current dance to finish. Theo sidled a little closer to her, until their arms brushed. He thought about reaching over to take her hand, but then the music stopped and Rose was clapping. He sighed at his missed opportunity. Then she was taking his hand anyway to pull him out to dance.
It was all he could do to remember the proper steps. He trod on quite a few toes as his eyes strayed to watch Rose twirl from hobbit to hobbit, his breath catching as she came closer, the dance bringing her back to him. Everyone always went on about how pretty Elanor was, but Theo didn't think she could compare to Rose. Rose mostly took after her mother, especially her red hair and dimples. But it wasn't just that Rose was the most beautiful lass he'd ever seen. They'd been friends their whole lives and she was fun and smart and, lately, just being near her made his stomach fill with butterflies and other parts of him... He stumbled, nearly knocking over the lass he was dancing with.
Finally Rose was back to him, and after few twirls in his arms the song ended. She turned towards the musicians, clapping and laughing, but Theo just stared at her, mesmerized. There was no doubt about it. He was completely in love with Rose Gamgee.
Well, here we go. The revision of The Course of Love. It won't be quite as extensive as the revsion for The Roots of the Ivy, but there will be some things fixed and some new material added.
I hope you like it,