Young Frodo

by Overlithe

Chapter 29

Frodo awoke slowly with a clarity he dreaded.  From the moment he opened his eyes he knew, he remembered.  This was the first day he had wakened this way.  He had no doubts left, he remembered vaguely talking to Bilbo and crying him self to sleep his eyes felt sticky and swollen.  He sat up somberly and pulled his knees to his chest and took a deep shuddering breath.  Bilbo was right there was nothing to be done for it he blinked and slow tears trailed down his cheeks and soaked his nightshirt.  They were gone somehow after all these days of denial and uncertainty he now knew.  It was true his beautiful Mum and his kind Da had drowned in the river and they would never return to him.

The naked reality of it was laid bare before him and Frodo cried now in earnest.  He had loved them more than he could explain.  He missed them and he needed them.  Alone, he was alone.  There was a dark voice in his mind that had been beckoning to him since that day.  It told him he could join them and that to remain would be too painful, it told him to die.  It reminded him every moment that he was… An Orphan.  He was alone, all alone.

 He heard the faint stirrings of the others as dawn broke in the Shire.  His room in Esme and Saradoc's he thought he hadn't taken note that he had slept in their rooms rather than his own home.  This room was a place of adventures and of fond memories they had put it together for him shortly after they had married. Frodo loved to visit with them and so they had surprised him with a place to call his own in their home. He looked around and realized that many of his things were here now and he wondered if it was expected that he would now live here permanently.  But what of his home, his room and his mum's things, could he bear never to live there again?  Living in Brandyhall had always been difficult he was a Brandybuck by blood only. His heritage was mixed as were most hobbits but he was a Baggins by name and Baggins meant Odd. He had known this from an early age he was just not quite a Brandybuck and not quite a Took.  His home was his parents were they were he was happy and comfortable now they were gone. He wondered without his Mum would he really be home here in Buckland?  

Without his Mum…it rang strange in his ears.  What would become of him?  He wondered were he would stay. Here with Esme and Saradoc or in his own room or would he be sent from Buckland forever.  He wondered if Bilbo would take him away to Hobbiton.  It really didn't matter he decided for nowhere would ever be home to him again.

He rose and went to the privy to get a bath.  The coppers were full and always hot in the mornings.  He lifted the heavy pot and poured the steaming water into the tub then the cool water to make it bearable.  He climbed in with the bar of soap and began to scrub.
  He tried to remember the last time he had taken a bath.  It was the morning that his parents went "away". His mum had poured the water for him telling him they were still to heavy for him to lift.  He supposed now he would always pour his own.  The tears filled his eyes again and he wondered would everything he did everyday be so painful. He stared at the water and the tears fell softly dripping off his tiny nose and into his bath.

Part of his mind told him that the water had grown cold. Yet he did not move he sat staring at the ripples.  Other folks must have come in it was a large bath divided into small private rooms.  But he remained alone thinking staring, wondering what he would do how he could go on. Indeed why he should go on at all.  It was Saradoc who came for him.  He heard him speak yet he still did not move though he was shivering violently. Finally he felt himself lifted from the tub and wrapped carefully in a towel and carried away.

Saradoc carried him back to his rooms but as they got to the door Frodo began to struggle and cry. No I want to go home, he was kicking and struggling so that Saradoc had to put him down.  Frodo hit the floor running and left his towel behind.  Esme simply put her hands over her mouth and began to cry.  She couldn't stand to see the lad in such a state.

The hallway was empty and Frodo ran down to his own home his parents home and into his room. "My room" he thought. He pulled on some mismatched clothing and climbed up into his bed.  "My bed" he thought. And he lay down on his pillows.  After a few moments he saw Saradoc peek in and check on him then quietly leave.

Saradoc wasn't sure what to do but the lad seemed content where he was and so he left him. He was dressed and warm and clean for the first time in several days. Perhaps it would be good if he were left in his own rooms for a bit. He slowly walked back to tell Esme that Frodo was safe and to let Bilbo know what had happened.

Frodo heard the door close and he sat up. He wiped his eyes and nose with his sleeve and then remembered how his mum scolded for that and vowed never to do it again.  He climbed out of bed and wandered around the place he had lived all his life.  It was different somehow it was empty it was no longer home.  He walked though to his parents room and walked in…almost he knocked as he always did.  The habit so ingrained that he had to will himself not to do it.  He stood staring at their bed, many mornings he would knock and then push through the door and jump into bed with them.  He turned from the sight of it.

A strange thought came to him then and he went to his Da's chest of drawers.  He picked up the clothing that was laid out just as always and he held it to his face.  Faint traces of his Da's smell remained and he pulled the far to big waist coat on over his own clothing.
He went to his Mum's closet then and touched all of her things. Fingering them lightly and lovingly.  She had a kerchief that she wore almost everyday.  He picked up the soft worn cotton it had been washed recently but he held it against his face and he could smell her hair.  He tied it around his neck loosely.  He got a drink and a piece of cheese that was still in the pantry and sat down in his Da's chair.  

Bilbo found him sleeping there hours later. The half filled juice glass teetering on the edge of the chair and bits of cheese scattered over his chest and the chair.  Bilbo gently took the cup from him and then stood looking at him watching him sleep.

He was simply glad to see that the lad had thought to feed himself.  Then he noted the waistcoat and the kerchief and his smile faded a bit. Though he was glad Frodo had found some sort of comfort.  He doubted the child would want to live in the place with out his parents.  His own eyes were swollen as he had managed to find sometime to himself and found the loss of Drogo and Primula had hurt more than he had thought.  It was a grief he would carry for sometime Drogo had been a favorite cousin.  He put his own feeling aside and focused on Frodo. What would be done with Frodo what could be done?  His heart told him that Frodo was his child.  Hadn't he thought as much when he was a wee babe in his Mums arms? He had loved him from the moment he saw him so pale and tiny and frail.  Yet his practical hobbit sense told him he was not equipped to handle a lad Frodo's age. He needed the guidance of two.  He wondered if Esmeralda and Saradoc would consider it or if they assumed he would take Frodo with him.

All the potential problems began to flit through his mind.  The lad may feel rejected if I do not take him. Yet he needs the security of being where he is familiar.  And I am just not able to care for his needs myself he finally thought.  "I must discuss this with Saradoc at once." He whispered to himself.  He took one last look at the dear lad sleeping n the chair and went to find Saradoc.

Chapter 30

Saradoc, Esmeralda and Bilbo sat in the parlor room of Drogo and Primula's home.  It was a small but efficient grouping of rooms and neat as a pin as Prim always left it.  Esmeralda looked around despairing for her friend.  Primula Baggins had been one of the gentlest folk she had ever known.  Her death was a great loss to all of Buckland but no greater to anyone than the dear lad in the next room.  He still slept in his Da's chair wearing his old waistcoat and his Mum's kerchief.  The sight of him had nearly broken her.  Esmeralda loved the lad and Bilbo had brought them all here to see him as he lay and to discuss the fate of Frodo Baggins.

Frodo was a bright lad and no doubt the questions had arisen in his mind.  Who would care for him, and where would he live.

Bilbo loved him it was true but during their long talk it became apparent that Bilbo did not feel up to the task.  He brought up many good arguments.  He desired to adopt Frodo one day as his heir but did not wish it to be public for many years.  As a bachelor he felt ill equipped to handle an 11-year-old lad alone.  He felt that if Frodo could remain in his usual environment that for now it would be best.

It was Saradoc at last who tried to sum up what Bilbo was trying to say.  "He cannot go with you now, you say.  And better he remain in his home.  But who will be the lads guardians and would he wish anyone other than you dear Bilbo?"  Esme bowed her head knowing the answer before the question could be asked.

"We will take him," she whispered.  Saradoc and Bilbo looked to her.  " I love him as a child of my own already. If Frodo will consent he will stay with us until he is old enough to go with you Bilbo."

Saradoc smiled gently at his wife.  He too had known that her words were the only real solution.  They would not adopt the lad they would simply care for him as they always had.  Then with out any entanglements he would be Bilbo's adopted heir when he no longer needed them.  Bilbo smiled too and it was settled an agreement among family and dear friends. It was an agreement to protect and care for a lad that they all considered a son.  All that was left was for them to talk with Frodo and help him understand.

Esme went to the kitchen and put the pot on to boil for afternoon tea.  She hummed a tune as she worked and put out some cakes.  Saradoc and Bilbo remained in the parlor working out details.  She heard the rush and pattering of his feet first and smiled to herself.  Frodo was awake and from now until he was grown she would care for him.  She turned toward the door just as he arrived.  His face was alight with joy and excitement…then dark and forlorn.  The light left his eyes he moaned softly and he collapsed in a heap on the floor.

"Frodo!"  She screamed and rushed to him.  She slid to her knees beside him.  She lifted his slight body to her lap and cradled him as she had when he was a wee lad.  She rocked calling him softly out of his faint.  Bilbo and Saradoc found her there cradling him weeping for his loss.

Frodo groaned his intense blue eyes fluttered open.  There was little recognition there then he came to himself.  She saw the thoughts race through his mind then the utter despair returned.  

"I thought you were Mum," he cried.

 Esme held him close, "I am so sorry Frodo."

"Esme? What ever am I to do?" he whimpered and snuggle close to her.

"Oh Frodo, luv…I don't know.  Just don't ever forget them lad, they loved you so."

"I won't forget I loved them too."  He broke down into a new wave of tears. Grief took him once again.  Esmeralda looked up at her husband and Bilbo and shook her head.  Now was not the time to discuss his new arrangements it could wait after all.  The lad was already home he just didn't know it yet.  Bilbo would be an almost constant part of his life.  Visiting and schooling him and sharing Birthdays but his home for now would be as it always had been, Buckland.   

"Shhhhhh, Frodo, hush lad", she soothed and rocked until he cried himself to sleep yet again.  

 "Rest Frodo you are home."