Walking in the Dark

by Auntkimby

This story takes place in the autumn 1401, shortly after Bilbo’s departure from the Shire, and inspired by Frodo’s comment to Sam and Pippin at the meadow gate in FOTR the book: “We all like walking in the dark…”
Thanks to Shirebound for the beta.

The dark is bigger and scarier at Bag End, 11-year-old Peregrin Took thought as he shivered and burrowed more deeply under the quilts Frodo had piled on his bed. The dark was big and scary at home, too, but there, at least, were familiar, comforting nighttime sounds to eventually soothe him to sleep-the crackle and pop of the fireplace in his room; his sisters’ late-night whispers and giggles in their bedroom next to his; and the family’s two cats playfully wrestling and chasing each other up and down the corridor. Here, the sounds were unfamiliar and not comforting at all, and in between it was too quiet for Pippin’s liking. Frodo had invited him for his first solo visit, as compensation for not allowing Pippin to stay with him and Merry the night after Bilbo’s birthday party six weeks earlier. Frodo took him riding that afternoon, and prepared a splendid supper that evening, followed by a game of draughts, a game Pippin had just begun to learn. At seven-thirty, Frodo declared, “Growing hobbits require an early bedtime, and before that, a bath. I know you are put to bed at eight-thirty at home, Pippin, and so we will keep to your schedule here.”

Pippin’s heart sank. “B-but I’m on holiday,” he protested. “Couldn’t I sit up later, Frodo, please?”

Frodo laughed. “Yes, you are on holiday, dearest. However, your mum and da allowed you to sit up far past your bedtime the nights before and after the Party, and as a result, you were irritable and sleepy for the rest of the week. With that in mind, your mother made me promise that I would not spoil you by allowing you to sit up later than your bedtime at home. However, morning will be here before you know it, and I can promise you as excellent a breakfast as you would get at home.”

Pippin tried to delay the inevitable as long as possible by dawdling in the tub, eating his bedtime snack of pie and milk much more slowly than usual, and pleading for an extra-long version of a story he had already heard many times. Frodo finally sternly ordered him into bed, and Pippin meekly hurried to obey. Frodo took extra quilts out of a wooden chest at the foot of the bed, and drew the covers up to Pippin’s chin.

“Pleasant dreams, my dear; I’ll leave a lamp lit in the corridor in case you need to get up in the night.” He kissed Pippin and left him alone, taking the candle with him. Even though Frodo left the door slightly ajar, the scant light in the corridor was not enough to provide comfort to the lad. Pippin reminded himself sternly that he was no baby; he was almost twelve years old, and the son of the future Thain- too old and too brave to be afraid of the dark. If he crept into Frodo’s room, trembling and afraid like his four-year-old second cousin Brindulas during a thunderstorm, Frodo would think he was too young to come on his own anymore, and he might even find it amusing and tell Merry about it, and Pippin would never live it down. So Pippin just swallowed hard, placed his pillow over his head, and waited for morning.

“Surely my company is not so dull that you cannot stay awake, Pippin?”

Pippin’s head jerked up, and he stared blearily at Frodo. “Oh, no, of course not,” he stammered.

“There’s dark circles under your eyes, dear Pip; didn’t you sleep last night?” his cousin inquired, concerned. “I gave you the most comfortable of the guest beds.”
“Oh, the bed was just fine, Frodo,” Pippin assured him in mid yawn as he reached for the platter of scrambled eggs.

“Then why couldn’t you sleep? It wasn’t my cooking, I hope,” Frodo added teasingly.

“Supper was delicious,” Pippin declared earnestly. “Your fried apples and onions are just as good as Mummy’s, and so were the sausages. I hope you make them again while I am here.”

“Well, if it wasn’t the bed, and it wasn’t an upset stomach, then what was it?” his cousin pressed as he passed the toast to Pippin. “I want you to be well-rested and happy during your visit here, Pip, so tell me why you couldn’t sleep so I can help make it so.”

Pippin pressed his lips together. It did no good to lie to Frodo; his elder cousin had a disturbing way of finding out the truth, just as Cousin Bilbo always had.
“There were too many strange noises in the dark, and it was too quiet the rest of the time,” he admitted.

Frodo smiled. “I thought the same thing, the first time I spent the night here by myself,” he said.

“You did?” Pippin asked, relieved that Frodo didn’t laugh at him.

“I came here for my first ‘on my own’ visit the summer after my parents died. I was used to the noise and activity at Brandy Hall, which is never completely quiet even at night, as you know. There were also many rooms at Bag End, but all of them were so quiet, big, and empty at night, and I lay in my bed all wide-eyed and wished I could hear something, even a mouse skittering about. Several times I was tempted to get up and go to Bilbo’s room, but I didn’t want to him to think me too young to stay for a visit, so I stayed right in my bed with my pillow on my head and wished that morning would come more quickly.”

“That’s exactly what I did,” Pippin said with wonder in his voice.

“And Bilbo and I had almost exactly the same conversation at breakfast the next morning, when I nearly fell asleep with my face in my scrambled eggs and toast. He told me”- Frodo affected Bilbo’s speech-giving voice- ‘Frodo my lad, you aren’t afraid of the dark, you’re afraid of what’s IN the dark. And I know exactly how we can get you over that fear.’”

“How did he do that?” Pippin asked with a trace of worry in his voice. He had loved Bilbo, but the old hobbit had had some unusual ideas of how young hobbits ought to be raised.

Frodo smiled mysteriously. “You’ll be here for a whole week, Pippin, and I promise you, you won’t be afraid of the dark anymore by the time you go home. Would you like some more eggs?”

Later that morning, Samwise Gamgee was trimming the grass along the hedge when he heard Mr. Frodo call him. The tweenager hastily mopped his face on his sleeve, ran his fingers through his hair, and brushed the grass clippings from his clothing before hurrying up the garden path to meet his master. “Good mornin’, Mr. Frodo!”
Good morning to you too, Sam. I wondered if you might be free for a walking-party tomorrow.”

Sam’s face brightened. “A walkin’-party you say, Mr. Frodo? I’ve nowt been on one with anyone save my family, when we get together an’ make a day of it goin’ to my aunt’s place in Overhill. Where would this walkin-party be goin’, and what can I do to help?”

Frodo smiled. “Well, this is a slightly different sort of walking party, Sam- this one will take place at night.”

Sam blinked. “At night, sir?”

“It would be you and me and Pippin, who as you know is staying with me for a week. We will leave tomorrow night at dusk. Three or four miles is far enough to walk one way, as Pippin is so young; once we have gone that far, we could have a campfire with a light meal, coffee for you and me and sweet tea for Pippin. After that, we will walk back and be home by daybreak. You are far more skilled at building campfires and cooking over one than I am, and would be invaluable to such a venture. What do you say, Sam?”

Sam tried to process this information. “Well, I’m more than willin’ to come with you and do that of course, but beggin’ your pardon, Mr. Frodo, why are we takin’ young Master Pippin on an all-night ramble around the Shire?”

“I discovered that my young cousin is afraid of the dark, and this method is how Bilbo cured me of the same fear. He reasoned that I was not afraid of the dark, but what is in the dark- and by exposing me to the sounds and sights of the world at night time, I would learn not to be afraid. I am hoping that works for Pippin as well.”
Sam said somewhat regretfully, “I think I would have liked that better than my Gaffer’s solution to the same problem; he jus’ told us not to be ninnyhammers and to get back to bed straightaway. All right then, Mr. Frodo, I’m willin’. I’ll get the gear together tonight, and pack what provisions we will need tomorrow afternoon.”
“And be certain to have a rest before we set out; I’ll speak to your Gaffer and make sure he or one of your brothers takes over your afternoon duties so you can have a nap. I certainly don’t expect you to be up all day tomorrow and then the whole night after that. Pippin and I will do the same. Thank you, Sam. I know this is a bit above and beyond the call of a gardener’s duty but I appreciate it very much.”

Sam smiled back. “I’m glad to do it, Mr. Frodo. I’m not in the habit of walkin’ at night, myself, but I often looked out my window at night when I was a lad an’ saw how silvery and pretty everything looked in the moonlight an’ wished I could go out for a closer look. It’s how I pictured Rivendell from Mr. Bilbo’s stories- all soft and silvery and shimmerin’, with the Elves movin’ about all quiet.”

“That’s a lovely picture, Sam,” Frodo said softly and sincerely.

Sam blushed at the praise. “I’ll be gettin’ back to work then, Mr. Frodo. I’ll be around later to chop some firewood an’ do a few other things after the gardenin’ is done. Give my greetin’ to young Master Pippin, sir. My sister is makin’ the applesauce he likes this afternoon, if he’d like to come down for a bowl of it-with your leave of course, sir.”

Frodo nodded and smiled, and Sam started to turn away. He hesitated, and turned back around. “Mr. Frodo?”

Frodo looked back at him. “Yes, Sam?”

“I think it’s a good thing you’re doing, sir. It’s no wonder young Mr. Pippin loves you so.”

Frodo asked, “Pippin told you that?”

“Not about the walking-party, sir, he told me the other part just last night, when I led the ponies back to the stable after your ride an’ he walked along with me. He told me that that he was glad to have you all to himself for a week, because he loves you so.”

Frodo swallowed. “Thank you for telling me that, Sam,” he said quietly.

“Have a good afternoon, sir,” Sam said, and whistling returned to his work.