Nothing of Note

by Primula

48: Have Your Cake

As the afternoon was waning, Bilbo and Frodo sat under one of the larger trees along the side of the Hill, the remains of the huge cake they had baked in ruins beside them. Their plates lay on the grass, the occasional ant scuttling across to lift and carry off a crumb or two.  In the distance the low droning of bees on the roadside clover lent a warm lassitude to the afternoon that made it difficult to think. Bilbo sat with his back against the trunk watching the few wispy clouds higher up, the flutter of the maple leaves slowly waving their green and silver in the occasional bit of breeze.

Samwise sat near them contentedly stuffing his cheeks with some of the extra cake, an invitation he had not hesitated to accept. His more fastidious sisters had taken their portions with many thanks and curtsies back to their home, but his quick eye had sized up the number of remaining slices and decided he would be better served staying nearby.  He had been right.

It was very peaceful, all of them lost for a time in their own thoughts as they were. Bilbo was pleased that so far everything had gone so smoothly. Frodo seemed to have accepted the idea of inheriting a home in Hobbiton instead of Buckland someday, with only a few misgivings,  and aside from occasional references to others back 'home' hadn't seemed to be feeling out of place at all.

Next to him, Frodo spoke to Sam, who by now had managed to get cake crumbs as far up as his hair. "You like the cake, Sam?"

"Yephhiuh!" Sam said enthusiastically, spraying crumbs on his questioner. He looked embarrassed, chewed rapidly and gulped to clear his mouth, then promptly began coughing until his cheeks turned red and his eyes watered.

Bilbo's eyebrows raised. "Hold easy, there! No need to hurry like that, Mr. Frodo can wait for his answer. Serves him right for asking you a question when your mouth was full, eh?"

Sam finished coughing, rubbed his sleeve over his eyes and nodded. "Sorry, sir."

"It's all right," smiled Frodo, "As Bilbo said, I should have timed my question better."

"I can write my name." Sam said abruptly.

Frodo has spent enough time in a household with young hobbits underfoot that he wasn't taken aback by the sudden change in topic."You can, can you?"

"Yessir! Mr. Bilbo taught me!..." Sam turned, hunting around on the ground nearby. Frodo, shot a mildly amused glance over at Bilbo, who strove to look innocent. Sam fished a stick out of the long grasses by the fence, shook off the dangling bits of leaf and came to Frodo with it. "See, sir? See? Like this..." The lad bent over and carefully scratched into the dirt S - A - M.  "That is an S!" he pointed out.

"Very impressive." said Frodo, humoring him. "Read it to me."

"Sam! It's my name."

"Yes, but from where I'm sitting it looks to me like it says wvs."

"What?"

"No, wvvvvs." Frodo drew out the v sound, enjoying the bafflement on Sam's face.

"It's upside-down for him," offered Bilbo, whose closed his eyes as he leaned back comfortably. "It looks different that way.  Look at it upside-down, Sam."

He heard a small shuffling sound in the grass.

"No, not that way!" said Frodo's voice. "He meant for you to come over here, where I am."  There was a pause as Sam came around to where Frodo sat.

"Do you see it?"

"It says Sam."

"The letters sometimes look like different letters if you turn them around."

"But I'm Sam!" he sounded determined. "And I'm even Sam if I'm upside down! See?"

Frodo laughed and Bilbo opened his eyes to find Sam attempting to stand on his head once again.

"Now, don't do that, you'll land in the cake." he admonished mildly. "Yes, I suppose you are still Sam, no matter what direction you are pointed. You'll always be yourself, no matter where you are or how you're standing."

Sam dropped his feet back to the earth, then scootched over in the grass and looked up at Frodo.

"Mr. Frodo?"

"Yes?"

"Have you ever gone West?"

Frodo looked slightly puzzled. "Yes, I suppose. I live East of here, so I've gone West."

"Do you know how to write, and read and talk in different kinds of words?"

"Yes... I suppose I do. Why?"

"Do you like bells and music and stars?"

"Bells and stars?" said Frodo, wondering where this was going. "I suppose so..."

Bilbo's smile flitted about his lips. He had an inkling where it was going. And while he had thought the idea ridiculous applied to himself, he rather liked it applied to his young cousin.  Sure enough....

"Well, I think you're Elvish." Sam continued, plowing right on even as Frodo drew a startled breath to speak.

"Mr. Bilbo says hobbits aren't Elves, but I think you are, like one, I mean, 'cause,  'cause... you're like an Elf, kind of. Mr Bilbo said they're not hobbits, and they're tall, but if you were tall I think you would be one. Are you grown-up?"

"Well...no," said Frodo still slightly confused on how to respond to this.

Sam continued in a determined voice. "Then you can go to school! Mr. Bilbo can teach you. And you might get taller. Then you can be an Elf when you grow up."

"Um...." Frodo looked over at Bilbo somewhat desperately and found him silently laughing. "Somehow... I think there's a lot more to it than just studying, Sam. A hobbit stays a hobbit, no matter how much he learns."

"You can study lots and lots!"

"No, Sam," said Frodo gently. "A hobbit stays a hobbit."

"Oh." Sam looked slightly deflated, and slightly stubborn at the same time. "Well. Maybe you could be an Elf's friend, then. You could talk to them..."

"Does Mr. Bilbo tell you a lot of stories about Elves?" Frodo interrupted.

"Oh yes! And I like them a lot, sir, even if I don't really understand 'em much."

"So I see." Frodo appeared to be at a loss as to how to continue.

Bilbo decided to rescue him. "Sam, look, there's your da waving to you, I think you better be going."

"Oh..." he looked over to where the Gaffer was, in fact, gesturing with a rake in his hand at something in the garden. "I'm sorry, Mr. Bilbo, I didn't finish all the leftover cake like you wanted me to. I'll try again tomorrow."

Bilbo waved him on his way, smiling. "I think it will be taken care of one way or another. Don't worry about the cake - we'll save you another piece. Go on now."

Sam reluctantly trotted off. Frodo sat back and gave Bilbo a flash of amused blue eyes.

"Never thought you'd have an Elf for your heir now did you?"

"I never thought I'd have an heir I liked at all, much less an Elvish one. That Sam, he's a real flatterer isn't he? He doesn't really know what a compliment he is paying of course. But I have to agree with him on one thing, you might do with a little more reading and studying, so you don't embarrass yourself if you do speak with them. Your accent is atrocious, but with a bit of work you'll make a good Elf yet."

Frodo rolled his eyes."No thank you. Not to the study, of course, but to the rest. I think I prefer just being a plain hobbit, in the Shire.  Nothing fancy, and it's so peaceful here... You know, I think I could travel to other places, someday, and even enjoy it. But only as long as I knew I could always come home again. I wouldn't want to really leave the Shire, I mean really leave it, not even to see Elves or any other wonder. At least not for too long."

"It is peaceful," agreed Bilbo. "Peaceful and calm. A bit placid and stagnant at times too, yes, but a fine place to live." He gestured toward the plate with the crumbs.  There are places where something like this cake would be an unheard of luxury; and there are places where this cake would be seen as far too humble to even be eaten. But here....hm."  He picked up his plate from the grass and brushed off a wayward ant. "Pass me that slice will you? No, the one from the other end, that didn't get stepped on."

He took the proferred slice and picked at the browned edge they had drizzled with sugar, his favorite part.

"Speaking of peacefulness, or lack thereof, I still have to figure out how to tell the S-B's about all of this. They're going to hear about it somehow. I just can't decide if it should be from me or from some neighboring gossip."

"How would a gossip know?"

"They always do. And remember there were several other signatures on that Will. I trust each of those hobbits well enough, but they each have families and I highly doubt with that many tongues involved..."

"I see what you mean." Frodo brushed crumbs off of his sleeve. "Well, I just hope you'll at least wait until I'm gone again. I don't want to be here for it, truth be told. They rather intimidate me."

Bilbo poked at his cake. "After you're gone?"

"Isn't Buckland far enough away?" he smiled. "They can't be that bad, can they?"

There was a pause. Bilbo looked out over the field. "You're welcome to stay as long as you like, I hope you realize."

Frodo looked at him, slightly puzzled at the change in his tone of voice. "Yes, and I thank you for it. Would you like me to leave sooner, if you need to deal with the S-Bs alone?"

Bilbo still did not meet his eyes. "No! No, no dear lad. Nothing could be further from my mind. Ehm. How much longer do you think you have?"

"A little over a month. But then I'll need to be heading back home, of course."

"Of course."

"Is something wrong?"

"No, no. It's nothing worth noting. I suppose there are times when I rather wish you could be... well. Both at your home in Buckland, where you are happy, and also...here."

"Where I am happy?"

Bilbo wasn't sure how to respond. He couldn't quite read Frodo's tone, to tell if he was serious, or just humoring him. For the time being he decided to avoid it altogether by changing the subject. He stood up and brushed his hands over his weskit. "Come now, let's see how that new trellis for the sweetpeas is coming along, shall we? It's an idea I had when I was traveling up by the marshes recently, using willow withies."

He was grateful as Frodo allowed him to move on.  He noticed him stooping to quickly stack the plates together and wrapping them all in neat a bundle with the tablecloth.  He led the way back up the Hill, knowing that his young cousin would follow without further questions. It was a great comfort to him, and something he greatly valued, to have that space to think and to simply sort things out. No, Frodo wouldn't be underfoot, he decided, and now he wondered what had ever made him think he would be.  He was unfailingly courteous in giving Bilbo the space and the silence that he needed when he needed it. 

Bilbo was pleased with himself for making this new observation, and heartened by it. Yes, he was making the right choice. Only time would tell how others would see it, of course, but time was something he seemed to have plenty of.  Yes, time enough for others to get used to the idea.  No matter how much it would take.