Frodo Baggins sat next to his Uncle Saradoc Brandybuck in the living room. Saradoc wasn’t actually his uncle. They were, in fact, cousins, but Saradoc had been Frodo’s guardian for more than a year and it made the lad more comfortable to call him ‘Uncle’. The thirteen-year-old looked up at his cousin. “Uncle, will Aunt Essy be alright?”
Saradoc smiled at the boy. “She’ll be fine, lad. Hobbit lasses have been having babies for years. This one is no different.”
Frodo sighed and leaned his head on Saradoc’s shoulder. “It’s cold in here, Uncle. Can we make the fire bigger?”
Saradoc sighed. “It is February. Go right ahead, lad.”
The healer, Hilga Grubb, appeared in the doorway. “Saradoc?”
He got up and went over to her. “How is Essy? Is she alright?”
“She’s fine, sir. And so is your lad.”
“It’s a boy?” Frodo asked as he ran to Saradoc’s side.
“Yes, he is. A strong boy at that.” Hilga turned to Saradoc. “You can go in and see her.”
“Would you like to come as well, Frodo?”
“Oh, no, thank you, Uncle. I’ll see him later.”
Saradoc looked at Frodo. “If you’re sure, lad.” He left the room with Hilga leaving Frodo alone in his thoughts.
He sat in a chair near the fire. He was happy Saradoc had a son, but he couldn’t help feeling as though he would be pushed to the side. After all, he wasn’t their real son. Frodo curled himself up in the chair and fell asleep.
Saradoc left his wife’s side to get his younger cousin. He stopped when he say the boy sound asleep in a chair. “Frodo,” he whispered. He brushed back the dark curls. “Frodo, wake up, lad.”
Frodo stirred. “Uncle?”
“Wake up, lad. I want you to met your cousin.”
Frodo rubbed his eyes. “Alright. What did you name him?”
“We decided on Meriadoc.”
Frodo got up and followed Saradoc into the bedroom. Esmeralda lay in the bed, a small bundle in her arms.
“Frodo-lad. Come here and meet your cousin.”
Frodo walked over and kissed Esmeralda on the cheek. “Hello, Aunt Essy.” He looked down at the little hobbit baby. He wasn’t entirely impressed.
“Isn’t he beautiful, Frodo?”
Frodo thought he was rather ugly, but he couldn’t tell Essy that. “Yes, Aunt Essy. I’m very happy for you.”
She reached up and caressed his cheek. “You’re a good lad. I’m sure you’ll be a wonderful example for my little Merry here.”
Frodo just smiled before swiftly leaving the room. The sound of a door banging closed echoed through the hallway.
Essy and Saradoc exchanged a look. “Saradoc, something’s wrong with our Frodo-lad.”
Saradoc nodded and followed the lad’s footsteps. He came to Frodo’s room. He could hear a sniffling noise and what sounded like sobs. “Frodo,” he said as he entered the room. The boy lay flat on his bed, head buried in his pillow. Saradoc sat beside him and ran his hand over his curls. “Frodo-lad, what’s troubling you?”
Frodo sniffled before picking his up and looking at his cousin. “I don’t want to be left behind again.”
Saradoc frowned. “Left behind? Wherever did you get such an idea?”
Frodo looked away from his cousin. “My parents left me behind.”
Saradoc sighed and hugged the lad tightly. “They didn’t mean to, Frodo-lad. Just as Essy and I won’t leave you either.” He pulled the boy away so he could look into his eyes. “Why would think we’d leave you behind?”
“You have your lad now. You don’t need me anymore.”
Saradoc pulled the boy into his lap. “Yes, we have our lad now, but I think you’d find it hard to get away from us, Frodo.” He kissed the boy’s dark curls. “If you ever think we’re ignoring you, I want you to tell us, alright lad?”
Frodo nodded and clung tightly to his cousin. “Can I still call you ‘Uncle’?”
“Do you want to?”
“Yes. It suits you.”
Saradoc laughed. “Then so it shall be. Uncle Saradoc to you, my lad.”
“I’m sorry for causing such a bother today.”
“‘Tis no bother, lad.” He kissed the boy’s head again. “Now, it’s growing late. Why don’t you get some sleep?” He laid the boy back into the bed and tucked him. “I need you around, Frodo-lad. My son will need someone to watch over him.” He kissed Frodo’s brow and left the room.
Frodo barely slept that night. The cries of baby Merry echoed through Brandy Hall, keeping the young hobbit awake. He arrived at breakfast the next morning, half awake, his hair up in all directions.
“Oh, my...” said Saradoc. “Frodo, you couldn’t sleep last night?”
The boy shook his head. “No, Uncle. I kept hearing the baby cry.”
Saradoc smiled. “Yes, he kept half of Brandy Hall up last night, the little scamp. I’m sorry, Frodo.”
Frodo nodded and sat down to breakfast. He ate his meal slowly, too tired to notice it got cold.
His sleepless nights continued for a week before he got used to the cries and slept right through them.
When little Merry was a month old, Frodo and Saradoc made plans to travel to Tuckborough. It was Pimpernel Took’s third birthday and, as her aunt and uncle, Saradoc and Essy were invited. Saradoc, however, didn’t want his wife to make the journey so soon after having the baby.
“Essy, Merry is only a month old. That’s far too young to be taking on a journey from Buckland to Tuckborough!”
“We traveled there before I had him to Pearl’s birthday, we can travel there now.”
Saradoc sighed at his wife’s logic. “Maybe none of us will go now.”
Frodo, who hadn’t been listening to the conversation too closely, perked up at those words. He leapt up from his spot by the fire and ran to Saradoc. “Please, Uncle. I want to go.”
Saradoc sighed. It was two to one. “Alright. We’ll go.”
The next day, they traveled down the road to Tuckborough. Frodo sat silently in the back, not paying attention to Saradoc and Essy’s conversation.
“Frodo...Frodo-lad, are you sleeping?”
“Oh, no Aunt Essy. I’m sorry.”
Essy smiled. “Would like to hold Merry the rest of the way?”
Frodo scowled inside. He didn’t really want anything to do with the lad, but he couldn’t upset Essy. “Alright, Aunt Essy.”
He was handed the sleeping babe. He looked down at the lad. Merry didn’t nearly as ugly as he had that first night. “Hello, Merry,” he whispered. “You know, I think I do like you, when you’re sleeping.”
Merry opened his eyes and looked around, his eyes not fixing on anything until they landed on Frodo. He held his gaze at the older hobbit before cooing softly. He began to wave a fist in the air.
Frodo looked down at the baby and smiled. He held out a finger to lightly brush the lad’s cheek but the little fist got to it first. It gripped the finger tightly. Frodo smiled. Merry’s skin was very soft and he found it hard not to gently rub the small hand around his finger.
Essy looked back at the boys and smiled. “Looks like our boys are bonding, Sar.”
“Our boys?” he asked turning his head slightly to Essy.
“Yes. I do think of Frodo as ours.”
Saradoc smiled. “As to I. Ah. There’s Paladin, waiting for us.”
Frodo stood carefully after the wagon came to a stop. He handed Merry back to Essy before hopping out of the back. “Hello, Paladin!”
“Frodo! Look at you.” Paladin hugged the lad close. “Got a new young friend I see.”
Frodo thought for a moment. “Yes. Yes I do. Merry and I are great friends.”