Nothing of Note

by Primula

47: Prolonged Vigour

The following morning dawned clear and sunny with a small breeze that toyed with the leaves outside his window. Bilbo was already in the kitchen getting breakfast ready before Frodo came in, tousled with the shadows of sleep still in his eyes.  He was dressed, but somewhat rumpled. Bilbo eyed him questioningly.

"Need more sleep?"

Frodo ran his hands through his tangled hair apologetically. "Sorry. I guess I'm not quite awake yet."

"It's all right. It's just the two of us, after all. No reason to stand upon ceremony. After you get a bit of breakfast inside you, you can heat some water and wash up. I'm sorry I didn't think to set any water heating last night, we were talking so late..."

Sitting at the table, Frodo rubbed at one of his eyes then smiled. "As you said, it's all right. It's just the two of us."

Bilbo set the platter of pancakes on the table and sat down beside him, stabbing three on the top with his fork and transferring them to his plate.  Steam rose up invitingly from rest. Frodo didn't wait for any urging, but quickly helped himself to a similar share.

Bilbo slathered his cakes, then passed the butter. "Are you content with the room you have? You could shift to the other guest room..."

Frodo took the butter from his hand. "Very! I'm sure I'm only tired from being up so late, not from any lack in hospitality, never fear. I admit it does feel strange to have such a big room to myself, but I like it."

"Here, have some syrup. It's strawberry. Made it myself!"

"Made it yourself? You'll have to teach me someday. The only time I tried to make syrup it ended up too thick, like jam. I could never get it right. What? Why are you looking at me like that?"

Bilbo smiled then turned his attention to his plate. "Nothing."  He poured on some of the 'syrup' himself. "I was just thinking how many things we seem to have in common. Don't you think it strange that we do, when I'm so much older than yourself?"

"No." Frodo seemed surprised at the idea. "I don't see how age has anything to do with what a person likes, or who they are. I mean, once they're old enough to think for themselves and all. " 

"True, true. I suppose age isn't a hindrance to enjoying someone's company then, is it?"

"No, at least I don't think so." Frodo filled his mouth with pancake and spoke around it as he chewed. "Do you think so?"

"No. Of course not." Bilbo took a bite also. There was a comfortable silence as they ate for a while, then Bilbo carefully extended another idea. "I'm glad you're comfortable here. Have you given any thought to having your own place someday?"

Frodo speared two more pancakes from the platter and slipped butter pats between them where the heat would melt them quickly. "I don't know. Sometimes, but only in a childish, dreaming sort of way."  He drizzled a fat Z of syrup over them. "When I was smaller, I wanted to live in the stables with the ponies for a while, then I dreamed of tunneling into the river banks and making my own smial that way." He smiled reflectively. "I tried once, a friend and I tunneled all day and came home covered in mud, head to toe. The next day when we went back it had all collapsed in. That was long ago...I was very young."

Bilbo pressed a little harder. "What about now? What sort of home do you see for yourself?"

Frodo thought about it as he added another dollop of syrup and began cutting them up. "Well, if I stay in Brandy Hall that will be my home, so I'm already there."

Bilbo felt his throat constricting, but tried to sound unconcerned. "Are you planning on staying there, then?"

"Where else can I go, right now?"

Bilbo picked up his tea and drank the entire mug in one long gulp.

Frodo continued. "Maybe when I'm older, if I saved up for a while I could get a small place, I suppose. I'm not much of a hand at farming... it would depend on what I'm doing. I don't think I could afford a nice smial, but maybe a house of some kind, or a bit of land I could build something on. Maybe I could go in together with someone else to get one and we could share it or something. " He chewed thoughtfully. "How did you get Bag End?"

"It was given to me. That is, it was my father's, and I inherited it when he died."

"That's kind of sad then, isn't it?"

"Not really. It already felt more like home than any other place. It's full of good memories, and after all, no one lasts forever. There's always been a Baggins in Bag End, Underhill. It's just my turn this time."

Frodo considered as he mopped his plate with a wedge of pancake. "I like that. It's a more pleasant way of looking at it, just seeing it as being your turn."

"It was strange at first, but I guess I just... adjusted. Being the Master of Bag End could be very pleasant, after all."

"It's pretty big."

"It is, but also very comfortable. And there's plenty of room for my books and such..." He paused, gazing toward the window. Frodo finished off the last of the pancakes then rose and started gathering up the dishes.

"It's nice only having two hobbit's worth of dishes to wash." he commented, taking the stack over to the sink. "Doesn't seem like much at all."

Bilbo fingered his empty mug. He cleared his throat. "What...ahem...what did you inherit from your parents?"

He was quiet a moment, pouring the steaming water over the dishes, but when he spoke his voice was steady enough. Bilbo remembered years past when he would have never even asked such a thing; time was a great healer and gentler of wounds. It was long ago, now.

Frodo picked up a dish cloth. "A few things - most of it went to the Master to pay for my upbringing of course. Most of the other things were my mother's so they went back to the lasses in her family. A son has little use for petticoats. The Postal things my father had were returned to the Post. He wasn't a very practical hobbit..."

Bilbo considered, then carefully ventured. "I thought your mother had some jewels, a necklace, wasn't it?"

Frodo was silent as he looked over at Bilbo. His eyes showed a brief shadow and he bit his lower lip a moment, but it passed. He took a breath. "They were buried with her."

"I see. I'm sorry."

"It's all right. It was a long time ago."

Bilbo let the topic go, turning to speaking of his garden, the sunny weather, the berry harvest. Frodo seemed willing and glad to follow him to these simpler things. Going out to cut some fresh flowers for the table a while later, Bilbo mused on what he had learned and was heartened by it. The lad seemed to have no particular plans, or really anything he had mentioned that would hold him to Buckland. He liked Bag End, and felt no barriers about their age difference in their friendship. He had no employment, no apprenticeship...

He went back into the smial, trimmed the flowers and filled the vase with water. Frodo was in the parlour, looking at the fountain.

"Now, show me your map book." Bilbo said, clearing a place on the table beside the fountain.  He set out a bowl of fruit and breadsticks to snack on."And after we've had a bit of a look at it, I've something to show you also."

Frodo went to the guest room to fetch his book from his pack. "Here it is," he said returning almost as quickly as he had left. "And see, here's the one for Buckland now!" He eagerly lay it out on the table, flipping it open. "I've added in the trees over here, see, and this place here where those rocks are."

"And Crickhollow, I see."

"Of course!" he grinned. "First thing I added. I just wish I had better tools. I'm afraid I smudged it, and the trees look like broccoli to me. Perhaps you can teach me how to make them a little better."

Bilbo leaned over to take a closer look. "Hm. I see what you mean. Well, I have better pens here, and many colors of ink. Perhaps you can make some progress on inking in these charcoal marks... while you're here."

"Thank you. I was thinking of asking you just that. I was hoping you could help me fill in the rest of them too."

"In time. This can wait just a little. Now. I have something I would like to show you.... just wait here." Bilbo pushed away from the table and went to his study. He opened the desk and delicately pulled out the thick scroll with its ribbon, weighing it in his hands, which he now realized were shaking a little. "Stop that, you old fool," he quietly chastised himself. "You've faced down a dragon. What's to fear from a hobbit?"

Tucking the scroll under his arm, he turned and almost marched back into the parlour. Frodo watched, bemused, as he wordlessly lay it down on the table and undid the ribbon.

"A new map?"

He was almost brusque with nervousness. "No, not a map. Here. I want you to see this."

He stepped back slightly, weighing down the edge with the bowl of fruit to keep it from rolling back up. Frodo came close beside him and leaned over the document on the table. He glanced over at Bilbo questioningly.

"Yes, go ahead and read it. I know it's a bit wordy, but it concerns you."

"Me? Why should it..."

"You'll see soon enough. Go on."

Mystified, Frodo turned back to the waiting sheaf. Bilbo watched as the bright eyes began scanning over the writing, widening slightly as realization that it was a Will began to dawn. Frodo looked up at him again, a flash of blue, then back to the paper at a gesture to continue.  Bilbo waited. The clock ticked. It was near the lower third of the page that he would know. Never had anyone seemed to read something so slowly. He felt as if it had been hours, not minutes.

A pause. An intake of breath... then silence.

Bilbo felt like his head was going to explode if he didn't hear something soon.

"I...I hardly know what to say..." Frodo had gone past the part that named himself and obediently read all the way to the end. He looked up from the paper with strangely unfocused eyes and blinked several times, like something young come into the sunlight for the first time.

Bilbo felt faint and realized he had forgotten to breathe. His own eyes needed a little blinking. He took a breath and desperately hid behind a rapidly constructed wall of gruffness. "Well. I hope you approve?"

"Approve?" Frodo didn't seem to understand. He looked a little dazed.

"Of the Will. My Will. Does it meet with your approval?"

"I... I ....but, Bilbo...."

Bilbo's heart squeezed, flip-flopped and braced to be struck. "But what? Is something wrong?" His voice sounded sharp in his own ears.

"This... this makes me your heir." Frodo was still looking at him unbelieving, as if he expected to have this mistake corrected once he pointed it out.

"Yes. It does. It makes you my heir. Didn't I say a Baggins had always been in Bag End?"

Frodo suddenly broke, like a dam giving way before a pressure too great to resist he turned and clasped Bilbo in a strong embrace, then held him out at arm's length. He had tears in his eyes, but he was smiling tremulously. 

"I'm... I don't know what to say. I'm... overwhelmed. You are too generous by far..."

"Nonsense." Bilbo fished out is handkerchief and handed it to Frodo. "Here. I'm not going to last forever and do you think I want those... the Sackville-Bagginses to be in here, pawing through all of my effects and squabbling over my silver? You are saving me many a night of worry, that's all. I'm really quite selfish."

Frodo accepted this. "It would be a shame to see this lovely Hill fall into their hands.I'm glad to help you - but I am all in a muddle. I can't tell whether I should be pleased about it or not."

"What do you mean?"

"That, well, that it's double-edged. I just wanted to spend some time with you here... and the thought that someday I might be here, but you might not... isn't it a little... morbid? "

Bilbo looked at him as sternly as he could manage, which from behind his crumbling wall of reserve wasn't very stern at all. "Now none of that! I have no plans to be going anywhere at all for quite some time, and you'll have to wait. I've been told I have a 'prolonged vigour' and I intend to use it."  He spoiled the effect of the scolding with a smile.

Frodo just looked at him.

"Come on. You can't tell me you had no notion at all what I was up to?"

"None. And I don't mind waiting at all! In fact I hope I shall have to wait for many, many years more. You just keep prolonging along."

"I shall. Vigourously. So, you do accept?"

"Well, I guess that... I mean, if you are really sure it's what you want..."

"None of that either. It's a simple yes or no." And you're going to kill me soon, right where I stand if you don't tell me for certain, he thought.

"I... "

A strange numbness seemed to be congealing his brain. Speak, blast it, speak...

"Yes."

Bilbo stabbed his finger at the bottom of the Will, as if afraid he would change his mind if given another moment to consider. "Then sign here. The lawyer fellow thought it would be good to have your own signature on it as well." He held out the quill.

"There's so many others already here... Oh, Mr. Cotton! I remember him...." Frodo took the quill from Bilbo's hand and after a long pause, suddenly and firmly signed it. He handed the quill back and grinned.

"Now what?"

"I have no idea." There was a sense of unreality about it. As if they were only play-acting setting up a Will, a rehearsal before the real thing.

"None?"

"I hadn't really thought beyond your seeing it. I suppose. Now don't just stand there and look at me that way. We'll both appear to be fools. I'll have to let the S-Bs know eventually; not a pleasant thought, that part."

"I suppose." Frodo seemed to be waiting for him, to do what he didn't know.

Still, he felt as if a great load had suddenly slipped away from his shoulders. "We really ought to have a little something special, eh?"

"Like what?"

"A cake or something!" Bilbo rubbed his hands together like a little lad. He felt almost giddy after all his worries, and a little foolish for having had them in the first place.

This brought a laugh. "As you wish! Lead the way!" Frodo cheerfully stood aside and bowed, sweeping his arm toward the kitchen.