Nothing of Note

by Primula

38. Evening & Morning

Brandy Hall was a warm and welcoming place to be on a late Spring evening. The shutters and doors had been opened to the breeze through the warmth of the afternoon leaving a fresh scent throughout the rooms even after they were closed up against the night. Fresh flowers gathered by the children graced the well-scrubbed wooden tables, and a cheerful fire was snapping at a large resinous pine log in the dining-room fireplace. The room was cluttered with chairs and mismatched tables. Wading through the suppertime bustle, Bilbo finally managed to find the Masters (both Old and 'young') and extended his proper greetings to them.

Saradoc was pleased to see him but distracted with others calling for his attention and his young son clinging to his leg and howling. He soon left Bilbo with various polite 'excuse-me' variations to tend to his duties, walking awkwardly from the weight of little Merry who was still wrapped around his leg.

Old Rory held court over his assorted relatives from his overstuffed green chair at the head of the biggest table, his thinning white hair wisping around his head. Bilbo thought he resembled a bobbing, withered dandelion all gone to seed and found himself smiling at the mental picture of a gust of wind blowing the Old Master's hair off and around the room. He remembered Old Rory from before he had attained the title of "Old," yet found that title suited him somehow. Old Rory seemed to accept it as part of his name. Bilbo wondered how long it had taken him to become used to being called that - he knew he wouldn't care to have everyone calling him Old Bilbo all the time.  But then, he didn't have a younger one taking his place, either.

Bilbo found himself invited to sit near Old Rory as an honored guest, which he did. He enjoyed visiting with the old hobbit, even though Rory's hearing was going and the clinking of plates and clanging of pans made it difficult. Bilbo had just had a large platter of ham go by when he felt a light hand on his shoulder and looked up to see Frodo behind him.

"Ah, there you are!"

Frodo quirked a wry look at him. "I was conscripted to help in the kitchen for a bit. I've only now been able to pull away. Sorry."

"No, no - don't apologize. I just missed your company. Can you sit down now?"  Frodo's eyes went mutely to the filled seats on either side of Bilbo. "Ah. Hm. I see."  He turned to Old Rory to make a seating request but shut his mouth on the words unspoken. The Old Master hadn't eaten much himself but instead, after encouraging everyone else to eat heartily, had fallen asleep only partway through the meal.

Frodo smiled. "It's okay," he said in a low tone. "It happens all the time. He'll wake up in a little bit."

Bilbo was handed a bowl of baby red potatoes. He scooped some onto his plate and passed it on. "Aren't you going to have any dinner?" He turned to the hobbit on his right. "Excuse me, would you mind terribly if I asked you to scoot down just one chair, seeing as there's room? My young friend here...thanks so much."

Frodo hesitated, glancing around the room. "I don't usually sit at this table..."

"Nonsense. You're my guest now. Sit down." Bilbo patted the chair with authority. He turned to the snoring Old Rory. "May Frodo sit here? Snort once for yes. Very good." He turned back to Frodo. "See? Even he thinks its a fine idea."

Frodo had to stifle a laugh at that. "All right. If you insist."

It was late before they retired for the evening. As they helped close things down for the night, Bilbo noted how Frodo was spending a little time with some of the others close to his age at last. Unfortunately it seemed only to be defending his sitting at the Master's table earlier on, judging by the gestures and few words he heard, going by.  Coming in the little bedroom, Frodo shut the door a touch too forcefully.  The blue eyes flashed toward him with a spark of anger. 

"They think..." he started angrily then cut himself off. He stood a moment, his head down, his hand still on the door. He seemed to go somewhere inside himself, somewhere far away. After a moment, his voice came again more calmly "No... don't mind me. Or them. It doesn't really matter what they think anyway."

Bilbo looked up at him from where he sat at the edge of the narrow bed. While admiring the way the lad had reined in his temper, he didn't care for the slight note of defeat he heard. He had to quell an upsurging of anger in his own breast, a desire to find those who had hurt and angered his young friend, something to them. What, he didn't know. Something. Give them a piece of his mind. Teach them some manners...

He was surprised at his own thoughts. It reminded him of the sort of things his father would have once said, or his mother. Old recorded memories from his youth, parental phrases. He was unaccustomed to it and it confused him slightly. Get ahold of yourself, Bilbo. He's a tween and very capable of taking care of himself. He doesn't need some old relative doddering into his life and acting like a mother hen of all things.

Frodo silently dressed for bed and lay down among the blankets on the floor. Bilbo waited as there was only room for one person to move around comfortably at a time, then followed suit and pulled the cover back to climb into the bed.  He lay back, listening to the sounds of the slowly quieting household outside the door then sat up to blow out the lamp. He glanced at Frodo, but the long-lashed eyes were already shut.  He blew out the small flame. Night descended in the little room, its tiny window slowly fading in as a grey circle high up on the wall. 

Frodo spoke from the darkness as Bilbo lay there waiting for his eyes to adjust.

"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have spoken to them at all, I should have known they would..." he didn't finish the thought.

"I'm sorry also," replied Bilbo. "that they upset you. But it taught me something."

"What's that?"

"That I wanted to wallop them for it. It quite surprised me."

There was a soft sound of laughter. "That makes two of us. But we can't, you know."

"No, we can't."

There was a long pause, then Frodo's voice came again seriously. "Thank you. For wanting to protect me, even if it was just a thought. You have no idea how much that means to me. Dear Bilbo..." he trailed off.



"Were they harassing you about the dinner-table, or about me?"

The young voice was guarded. "Why do you ask?"

"So it wasn't really about the table. Not entirely."

There was no reply. Frodo shifted in his blankets.

Bilbo lay in the darkness, not knowing whether to press the matter or not. Did he really want to know what had been said?  What would a handful of irresponsible Brandybuck tweens have to say to one of their own who spent time in the company of strange Mad Baggins from Hobbiton? Who was related to the crazy old thing, even?  He frowned. Was he being more of a hindrance than a help, bringing a hardship down on Frodo, jeopardizing his friendships with the others?  He lay awake, worrying at the edges of that thought until it frayed. What of his half-formed plan?  Would it be a welcome change, or a tearing away from what he loved? Would he even want to come?  He lay so long he heard Frodo's breathing shift to sleep.

Bilbo looked up at the tiny window, which now looked quite bright with his eyes adjusted to the dark. He quietly sat up and looked over the edge of the bed again, to see if Frodo was really asleep.

The young hobbit lay on the blankets peacefully enough, his dark hair spilling out over his pillow.  He seemed to be asleep.  Bilbo studied him in the faint moonlight. Willful, intelligent, teachable, spirited. He was all those things and more. Quite a remarkable youngster. He didn't want to bring him trouble, but yet...

Frodo's eyes fluttered slightly. They glinted up at Bilbo as he turned his head and gave a faint smile. His voice came up, sleepy and soft. "Thank you again for coming... It's been so nice to have you here..." He trailed off, his eyes dropped shut again.

"Thank you," said Bilbo softly. "Yes, dear lad, thank you."

Morning came early again. Bilbo woke up slightly disoriented as to where he was and had to take a few moments to pull out of his confused dreaming and remember. It was a traveling day. He slowly sat up and looked up at the window, grateful to see it appeared to be clear.  Frodo was still asleep, cocooned in his blanket between the bed and the wall.  Bilbo swung a leg over the edge of the bed and nudged him with his foot.

"Good morning!"


He nudged a little harder. "Good morning!"

A hand shot out of the blanket's edge and grabbed his ankle.

Bilbo grinned and kicked himself free. "You'll have to try harder than that." He nudged him again, in the side with his toes.

Frodo's eyes didn't open but with unerring aim he pinned Bilbo's nudging foot against the side of the bed. "What's the time?"

Bilbo tried to pull his ankle free and failed. "I have no idea. Somewhere close to dawn."

Frodo sighed. "Are you sure you have to leave today?"

"Unfortunately, yes. And sooner rather than later if I'm to make it back to Frogmorton by tonight."

"You have a problem."

"I do?"

"Yes. You only have one leg."

Bilbo chuckled and tried again to pull his ankle free again, but Frodo's arm was surprisingly strong and the angle he had him at made any movement threaten to lever him right off the bed.

Frodo opened his eyes and grinned at him from the floor. "You should never try that with someone who used to bunk with three Brandybucks. I am an expert at Not Being Woken Up. It's a rare skill, only taught by the best in the field." He shifted and released Bilbo's foot. "But I'll forgive you. This time. I won't get my revenge the next time I find you asleep, like they would. See? If you would just move to Buckland, I could teach you all sorts of things."

Bilbo pulled his foot back up onto the bed lest he be pinned again. "I'm most grateful and forever in your debt, but I must pass on that offer. Now, what about breakfast? The stablemaster will have my pony ready soon and I don't want to keep the poor beast waiting in the cold."

Some time later later as his pony-cart rolled along the road he was still reflecting about his departure. The cart had been ready, he was well-provisioned and the weather was fair. But it had been surprisingly hard to leave Frodo standing there in the lane, watching him go. He had looked so small, and alone, though there were other hobbits about. Alone in the midst of a crowd.

When he had first come to the Hall he had expected a pleasant visit, some time with a friend, a chance to play the 'rich relative bringing a gift' again but not... what? He wasn't sure. A sense of leaving part of himself behind. An unfamiliar tearing away, an emptiness.

Still, he thought as he squared his shoulders and flapped the reins to keep the pony moving, there was business to tend to at home, and paperwork too. Visitors, correspondence, his pantries needed a good cleaning... And yet he still found himself thinking of Frodo, standing there in the lane, bidding him goodbye. 

His thoughts continued to circle. What about the idea of moving the lad to Hobbiton - Should he truly invite him to stay?  Was he just being selfish?  Where would the lad live? Would the two of them get along well enough to share a house, or should he find other lodgings nearby?  What if it didn't work out? He could still provide him with an allowance, surely... but he couldn't expect him to stay just because of money. That wouldn't be right at all, in fact it would be terribly wrong...

Too many questions, questions that needed answering. He was getting nowhere with it, and it was wearing him out. By the time he finally reached the Floating Log in Frogmorton that evening he felt none the wiser, but one thing he was sure of selfish or not, if things worked out with his lawyer this next week something would be changing.