Nothing of Note
Chapter 67: September 21st
The morning of September 20th crept in from the East in a grey sort of
way, heavy with clouds that threatened rain. Bilbo watched them slowly
scudding across the distant sky as he ate his breakfast and hoped that
Frodo had remembered to dress for wet traveling.
He waited and watched as the long morning hours passed, but no cart
appeared. The clouds rolled on past, dispersing into the southeast and
gradually the sun began to come out in fits and starts. Tea time
was spent alone, though he had an extra cup and saucer set out just in
case. In silence he ate both pieces of pie he had set out.
A windy afternoon rustled by uneventfully; the light faded off into an
early twilight and still he waited. As it began to grow dark, he placed
a candle in the front window and built up the fire slightly, listening
for any sound from the road outside. There was none.
He said he would be here in time for our birthday. He said he would.
It's only two days now... has something happened? Did he change his
mind? What if the cart lost a wheel? What if the pony bolted, and
there was no one around to help him... What if...?
He shook himself. "You're an old fool, Bilbo Baggins," he reprimanded
himself out loud. "He's quite able to care for himself, and he's on a
road that has plenty of other folk around, here in the Shire. He's
fine. Listen to yourself, fretting like some crotchety hen over an egg.
Wherever he is... he's fine. He's fine."
But still, he fretted. He read by the fire, startling at every small
everyday noise he heard outside, every dog bark, every loud creak of
the tree branches. The hour grew late, the small candle burned down
into a soft, warm pool and he was still alone. He finally had to
reluctantly retire to his bed where he flumped onto his pillow and
stared up at the ceiling for a while, disappointed and unhappy.
The following morning was brighter, though the breezes still blew
slightly chill. He couldn't help checking Frodo's room before he went
to the kitchen get some breakfast, hoping beyond hope the lad had
perhaps come in during the night and not woken him up. The room was
empty, just as he had left it. He sighed, and went to start some tea
and eggs....for one.
The morning slowly crept past, slower than the previous day if it were
possible. He checked his calendar to be sure it really was September
21st. It was. Tomorrow was their birthday...and Frodo had
not come. The morning became noon, the breeze stopped and the sun came
out with a vengeance as if to make up for the chill earlier on.
Bilbo changed from his warm coat to his light one and tried to find
things to do to pass the time, lest he merely pace. But Tea-time
found him once again sitting at a table with two settings, eating both
portions himself. He glumly stirred the sugar in his tea and listened
to the clock on the mantle tick. Tomorrow was their birthday. He had
promised... hadn't he? Had he been afraid Bilbo had changed his
mind? Had he decided to stay in Buckland after all? Bilbo drank
the last of his cup, and poured the rest of the now lukewarm tea-kettle
out on the plants in front. The road was empty.
He went back in, pried the last of the candle stump from the previous
night off of the candlestick and placed a fresh taper in it hoping he
wouldn't have to light it. He unhappily set it back in its place in the
window. He noticed the vase of flowers he had put out in the
hall the day before had gone completely limp; picking it up rewarded
him with a shower of petals littering the floor. Into the kitchen with
it then. He carried it in, dropping the spent blooms into the compost
bucket then rinsed the vase and filled it with fresh water.
It was over the sound of the water that he thought he heard something
else - a shuffling sound, out in the hall. He chalked it up to his
imagination, but just to be sure it wouldn't hurt to check. He
remembered Lotho's sneaking in, and had the strange sensation of a huge
chasm, of hoping for the best and fearing the worst at the same time.
Teetering on the bridge over that chasm, he peered around the corner,
but saw nothing out of place. But still... his heart pounded
slightly faster. He held the vase close and quietly walked to the
parlour, then the den. Nothing. His shoulders slumped. He sighed
and turned back to the hall table, sweeping the rest of the petals off
onto the floor where they wouldn't be as noticeable once they were
spread around on the rug. The vase needed fresh flowers. He would
need something to trim some new flowers with....
Swinging round the corner into the kitchen to fetch a knife, he ran
smack into Frodo. There was something like an explosion, both of
vase-water and emotion as he threw up his hands in utter astonishment
and delight. The wet vase shot out of his hand and bounced off of
Frodo's hand as he tried to catch it. Water flew everywhere and
all of the sudden Frodo was laughing and embracing him, water dripping
from both of their curls, dampening their sleeves and running down the
wall beside them. The vase clattered into the compost bucket, tipping
the tangle of wet stems and petals out onto the floor.
He gasped in amazement. "Frodo! How did you...when did you..."
That beloved, familiar laugh came again. "I've only just arrived. I thought I would surprise you."
"Well, you did!" he spluttered. "Hand me that dishtowel, will you?"
Frodo grabbed it off the counter and wiped his own face before handing
it over. "If I had known you would be armed, I might have been more
careful," he grinned. "It's so good to see you!"
Bilbo wiped his face, swiped the towel across his hair and set to
mopping up the pool at his feet. He found himself grinning in return.
Frodo took up a second towel and knelt with him, scooping the contents
of the bucket back where they belonged. He handed Bilbo the vase.
Bilbo turned it in the light. "It's not even chipped." he observed.
"Now there's a wonder, the way you shot it right at me." Frodo said,
"Really, just ask me to step aside next time instead of pitching
Bilbo cracked the wet dishtowel towards him, making them both laugh as
an arc of water smacked Frodo right across the face. He held up a
hand in surrender.
"I give up! I give up!" he laughed, wiping his eyes. "Have you any idea
how good this water feels after that drive? I thought I would never get
"Likewise. I was getting afraid that you would miss our Birthday after all..."
Frodo stood and offered him a hand up. "I'm sorry it was so close, dear
Bilbo - but unless my calendar is different from yours I am still in
good time aren't I? I wouldn't miss it for the world."
"I believe you," Bilbo smiled. "And now that you're here, all that
waiting seems like nothing at all. I'm just so glad to see you!"
"And I too!" Frodo said, giving him another brief embrace. He took the
towels and quickly wrung them over the sink, hanging them near the
stove to dry. "I can't believe it hasn't been longer than a month..."
"The time has been moving slowly here."
"It was a long month in Buckland as well." Frodo said, and gave him a look that went to his heart.
There was a pause, and something gave way. Suddenly, there was simply
no more words needed; any lingering doubts he had were laid to
rest. It had been a long month in Buckland as well...
"Well, then." he said after a pause. "There's warm water in the kettle. Why don't you go wash up."
While Frodo washed away the dust and weariness of the road, Bilbo saw
to the unpacking of the cart and stabling of the pony that he found
eating some of his flowers while it waited nearby. He had been
prepared to call in help to carry in Frodo's luggage, but found they
were few indeed: a satchel, a small trunk and a crate were all he found
in the back. It was hard for him to remember what it was like to
have so few things - but really, it was not unlike traveling. He knew,
and what hobbit better, how little a person could truly get along with.
"Nothing wrong with a few basic comforts, though," he grunted to
himself as he set the trunk down in the guest room...no, not guest
room. Frodo's room, he corrected himself. He plumped up the pillow on
the bed. "We'll have to be sure he has a good set of clean
pocket-handkerchiefs at the very least. With all these downs and ups, I
feel as wrung out as a pocket handkerchief hanging on the line myself."
"What about pockets?" came Frodo's voice behind him. Pillow still in
hand, he turned to find a towel being vigourously ruffled around. A
flash of blue peered at him from under darkly dampened curls. Frodo
pushed his bangs back out of his eyes. "Oh, you didn't have to carry
that in - I would have gotten it."
"It's all right. I'm not so old I can't carry a box or two. And I was just talking to myself."
"About your pockets?" Frodo slung the damp towel around his neck to
free his hands and began tucking in his shirt. He smiled at the elder
hobbit. "What have you got in your pocket?"
Bilbo gave a slight start at the phrase, given out so innocently. It
struck the chord of a memory whether he liked it or no.
Automatically his hand traced the light chain that went to the circle
of gold he nearly always carried with him, but with a small effort he
redirected it to his breast pocket instead.
"Ehm. If you must inquire, I do have something in my pocket. A letter
from a certain lad that I know. Perhaps you met him on the road?"
He pulled out the slightly rumpled, folded letter.
Frodo laughed. He dropped the towel to the floor and, reaching his hand
into his own pocket, pulled out a similar bit of folded paper. He
held it up.
"I don't know if I've met him, but I believe I may have a letter from a certain friend of his. His uncle in fact."
Bilbo went very still. "His uncle, you say?"
"Yes, that's what he signed it as." Frodo observed, unfolding it for
evidence. He gave Bilbo a half-smile and raised one brow quizzically.
"Well, now, isn't that odd?" said Bilbo, dissembling. "Why do you think he would do that?"
Frodo's eyes scanned the paper once more. He folded it back up and
leaned against the edge of the doorway. "I was wondering that myself.
Not that the lad minds, in fact I think he rather likes the idea."
"It suits him."
"Yes. Even when he's just standing there in the middle of a room with a
blank look on his face and a pillow under his arm. For two such
cousins, with one so much older than the other it seems a very proper
title for him to use."
"It does?" Bilbo repeated, feeling a bit silly.
Frodo leaned down and scooped up the wet towel. "And I suppose if that
were the case, that would make this certain lad his nephew, then,
"I... eh...Frodo... it..."
Frodo folded the towel over his arm and carefully met Bilbo's eyes.
"Even though they're cousins. The lad hopes... that he will be allowed
to use that title? To call him Uncle, now and then?"
Bilbo had to turn away and place the pillow on the bed, blinking to
clear his eyes. Why did it have such an effect on him, hearing it said
like that? It wouldn't do, no it wouldn't, if the lad found he
could have such an effect upon him with the speaking of a simple
word. He was supposed to be a good example. He needed to regain
his composure. He fluffed the pillow again, and straightened the
blanket for good measure. Only then could he turn back to the young
hobbit waiting behind him.
He lifted his chin. "And what if it were true?"
Frodo's brow furrowed slightly. "What do you mean?"
"What if... there had been a slight change.. a change in the matter of a certain Will..."
"A change?" Frodo looked worried.
"...one that truly made those cousins an Uncle and Nephew?"
"What do you mean?" Frodo repeated, his brow furrowing further in puzzlement. "Can they do such a thing?"
Bilbo's cleared his throat a bit nervously. "Yes, they can. Legally. It's called an... ad...adoption."
"Adoption?" Now it was Frodo's turn to stare blankly.
"Ad-option." Bilbo repeated firmly. It came out easier the second time.
"Adoption?" asked Frodo again, as if he didn't understand the word.
His eyes are as wide as an owls, thought Bilbo. "It makes
them...related. More closely than cousins. It makes the... Nephew the
Uncle's heir, in all ways. No matter what. An...adoption does that. But
Bilbo's voice faded to a whisper. "Only if the nephew says yes."
There was a space of heartbeats where neither of them moved, broken in
a sudden movement as Frodo leapt forward and embraced him; a rush of
"Bilbo! Oh, is it true? Would you really do this - for me? I don't deserve it, I really don't, I just... I..."
"I wasn't sure what you would..."
"...when you signed that letter that way I was..."
"...but I hoped that maybe you might..."
"...I didn't realize how lost I had felt until..."
"...understand, and besides, we both...."
"...you've already been so generous to me..."
"...need to call one another something." Bilbo returned the embrace
and patted the damp, dark curls comfortingly. "Oh, my lad, my dear,
dear lad. I was going to save it for a surprise, for our birthday, but
now you've gone and made me spill it all out already." He released
Frodo and straightened his shoulders. "Now, see, both of us are in need
of a good, clean pocket handkerchief. That's why I was just saying that
you will be in need of some."
Frodo's eyes were very bright, and he sniffled slightly, but he was smiling. "Yes, I will. To both."
Bilbo added another log to the parlour fire and dusted the bits of wood
off his hands as went back to the table where the papers lay.
Tilting the adoption papers near his eyes he checked to be sure the ink
was dry on Frodo's signature, and seeing no reflection from the fire,
began carefully rolling them back up. The ribbon was tied neatly.
He tapped the scroll of paper in his hands with thought as he walked to
Behind him, the sound of the supper dishes being washed up in the
kitchen was a comforting clatter and muted splash. Frodo had insisted
on doing them himself, and had all but shooed Bilbo out of the kitchen.
He probably needed a couple moments to just think, all by himself too -
just as Bilbo did. The scroll slipped back into its drawer and
the smooth wood shut over it. It was such a feeling of... of
what? Finality. And grateful wonderment, he thought. Grateful
wonderment that he had someone who understood him so well.
Well. Now for it then; it's done. Now we find out if we have done the
right thing or not, and only time will tell us. Now for another
He returned to the parlour to find Frodo swinging the kettle of water
over the fire to heat for after-supper tea. He had a paper in his
other hand, and looked up at Bilbo as he poked the fire and added one
more log. "Thanks for getting the fire going. It's getting chilly, with
the sky so clear now."
"I noticed that too - the stars are coming out already; the days are
getting shorter again. It always seems to happen so fast." Bilbo sat in
his chair and gestured towards the paper in Frodo's hand. "What have
"Just your letter. I was looking at what you said about having Sam bake us a cake."
Bilbo smiled and pulled out the letter that he carried too. He leaned
forward and ran his finger over a phrase in it. "I'm glad you mentioned
Sam also. I really can't make any guarantees about the edibility of the
cake, but his first one wasn't too bad..."
Frodo chuckled. "But it was so perfect that you'd already arranged for
him to bake it. I can just picture it." He stood and took two
mugs off the sideboard, setting them out with a waiting scoop of
tea. That done, he pulled the second chair a bit closer to the
fire and settled into it. "But really, was he very upset?"
"No, no not at all! He was just excited - he wanted to bake it..."
"No, not about the cake. I meant was he very upset that... I didn't say goodbye to him, when I left?"
Bilbo pursed his lips with thought, remembering. "Well, yes. Yes he
was, a bit. I'm sure he's well over it by now. I recall he wanted
to run after the cart: he was going to go right down the road, he so
wanted you to have that cake of his..."
"Did he really?"
Bilbo nodded. "He's a good lad."
"Yes, he is." said Frodo more softly. "I haven't many friends here yet,
so I count Samwise among the number I do have, in spite of his youth.
He is a good lad. And I hope he will still be when he's older
too." He smiled a bit wistfully, then took a breath and
brightened again. "Well. What time do we need to be ready tomorrow?"
Bilbo raised his brows questioningly. "Ready?"
Frodo raised his in return. "Aren't we having any sort of gathering? A party?"
Bilbo snorted. "Bother parties."
"Too many hobbits at a party. Too much noise, too much cooking, too
much cleaning up to do. I thought it might be nicer if we could just
have a pleasant day to ourselves."
"Are you jesting, or are you serious? I can't tell."
"Can't you?" Bilbo said, and folded up his letter, tucking it back in
his pocket. "Ah, Frodo. There have been times I thought you were seeing
right through me, clear down to my bones. It's nice to know that
I can still pull a little wool over your eyes."
Frodo looked genuinely confused. "What are you talking about?"
"You and I have much in common."
"Well, yes. We do seem to..."
"Have you ever felt that I might know what you are thinking, or what you are going to do before you do it?"
Frodo folded his hands together, puzzled, but thinking. He nodded.
"Yes. There have been. You're the only one I've ever met who seemed
that way to me, who seemed to..."
Bilbo returned the nod. "Yes. So, am I jesting or am I serious?"
"I can't tell!"
Bilbo smiled. "Then we'll get along just fine. What use is a friendship
where you always know everything about each other? I'm pleased to add a
"Are we having a party or not?"
Bilbo laughed. "No. No we're not."
Frodo got up briefly to add tea to the steaming kettle. "Are you serious?"
"Yes, I am. I thought about it, you know: about having quite a grand
party for us this year. I wanted to have, oh, half the Shire! I wanted
food and games and dancing and songs with all my friends and relatives
and acquaintances besides - but whose friends would they be? Mine or
Frodo looked uncomfortable. "Yours?"
"Yes, mine. Now, whose birthday is it tomorrow?"
"And?" he prompted.
"So. Why would you want a big party with a bunch of folk you don't
know? What sort of birthday is that, eh? Tell you what - we will have a grand party someday, I promise. But only when you can
invite as many hobbits as I can."
Frodo shook his head. "It might take me a long time to catch up!"
"But catch up you will, or you're no Baggins at all. I can wait."
"But what about Sam?"
"We'll eat his cake, of course. All by ourselves."
"I hope it's..."
"Edible? Me too. We better have a big breakfast just in case."
They sat in silence for a time, watching the fire. After a bit,
Frodo took a towel and picked up the steaming kettle to pour out the
tea. Bilbo accepted his mug from him and sipped and blew at it.
It was fragrant and strong.
"Thank you." said Frodo, sipping at his own.
"Eh? For what?" Bilbo winced at the heat of the tea and blew on it again.
"For having it be only the two of us. I have to admit, I wasn't looking
forward to a big party, but I didn't want to tell you that and have you
"I'm not disappointed. How could I be? I have you here, and that is enough."
Frodo looked down at his mug, swirling the bits of tea-leaf that
floated in it. He didn't reply - but then, he didn't need to. They were
both at peace. They finished the tea, allowing their talk to
wander as it would, speaking of the small doings and weather, of Brandy
Hall and Hobbiton and all the pleasant histories that so often make up
hobbit conversation, and then to other topics outside the realm of the
Shire. It was a balm to them both, that freedom to speak however
the heart wandered, knowing that in the other there would be no
condemnation or lack of understanding.
The fire-log burned down and was replaced by others and still they
talked, though their pauses grew longer as the hour grew later. Bilbo's
limbs began to feel very heavy, and he could see the shadows under
Frodo's eyes. He had been traveling that day, after all. But still...
he didn't want to end this.
The night was dark, studded with stars outside the window, flecks of white
fire beyond the black silhouettes of the trees. Bright. But it
was also bright inside, yes very bright. Bilbo felt as if no darkness
could ever enter his life again, as if Bag End were a haven, even as
the Shire was a haven from the outside world. He felt...whole.
More than he had in a long time. As if he had been in a darkened room
and only now come out into the sunlight. Though he had seen
enough of the night world to know that as long as there were stars, it
was never truly dark... even if the stars themselves weren't there, and
all he carried was the memory of them.
"It's late." observed Frodo, breaking a long silence.
"What are you thinking about?"
"About... darkness; the way it is driven out by light... about... you and I, and stars..."
Frodo's voice was quiet. "I have missed the way you speak when you are tired, Bilbo..."
Bilbo looked over at the dark head, leaning on the side of the
upholstered chair, the dark lashes closed against the warm firelight.
It was soothing, somehow. He continued. "It's reminded me of a
poem I once wrote. About a light that could be carried, so the
darkness could never come near again..."
"Would you recite it for me?" asked Frodo, his voice soft with sleepiness.
Bilbo thought for a moment, trying to remember how it started. "For the
darkness.. no, no that was the refrain of the piece. Just a
moment...Hm. Yes, I've got it now..." he leaned forward on his elbows,
gazing at the firelight as he settled into the piece. It had been a
song, though now he spoke it more than sung it. The music he had
imagined for it had never suited his own voice, at least not when there
were others to hear besides himself.
The day is done, the night begun,
My lantern flickers o'er the path.
The path is long, my weary song
May falter midst the shadowed grass.
Though steps are slow, and wind may moan
I will not fear the flame being blown,
For in the night I'll find no flight;
By stars I walk, I'm not alone.
For the darkness cannot touch me,
The light is in my heart,
From memories of starlight,
My mind will never part.
Beyond my hand there lies a land,
And 'neath my feet a path to stay -
A darkened cloak for other folk
But to my heart it's clear and plain.
This light in hand is merely sand,
The wind and waves could sweep away
But here I start, with star in heart
And to my eyes 'tis always day.
For the darkness cannot touch me,
The light is in my heart,
From memories of starlight,
My mind will never part.
If I could hold, though it be bold,
A star within my frail grasp,
The night would flee away from me,
And never dare again to pass...
Bilbo paused. Judging by the even breathing, Frodo had fallen
asleep. He slowly dropped down towards a whisper as he took up
one of the generous lap throws that lay warmed and folded nearby and
shook it out.
The sky ablaze, my face I raise
To diamonds fair in velvet sea,
And Middle-earth is but a berth
For starlit ships that come for me.
He gently laid it over his sleeping nephew and tucked the edges in.
Frodo stirred slightly and curled into the blanket with a small breath
like a sigh.
For the darkness cannot touch me,
The light is in my heart...
Bilbo settled back into his own chair, pulling the other throw up to
his chin. He sat there for a while, watching the fire slowly burning
down, the dying firelight playing over Frodo's curls. Of course
the proper thing to do would be to have him move to his room, where he
might be more comfortable. But when it came down to doing it, Bilbo
found a lassitude taking him over. His arms felt like lead, and
couldn't stir to do it.
Instead he slowly allowed himself to also drift into sleep in his
chair.It wasn't the first time he'd slept there, and most likely
wouldn't be the last. He shifted the blanket up over his shoulders and
turned to be more comfortable. The fire crinkled and hissed softly,
settling unheeded and untended as it's fading warmth and light
comfortably washed over the two Baggins of Bag End, asleep in their
chairs side by side.