Young Frodo

by Overlithe

1386

Chapter 45: An Unexpected Journey


He was on his way to Hobbiton, the question was why; he'd been to BagEnd before, many times in fact.  Old Bilbo had him up more and more frequently it seemed.  Yet this was different, he was one moment playing with Merry and the next had been informed that he had an hour to pack and would be gone for two weeks.  His Aunt had seemed more than usually abrupt and he had been unable to pry any information from her or dissuade her from sending him off so suddenly.

It wasn't so much that he did not wish to visit Bilbo; in fact it would be a welcomed diversion.  Farmer Maggot's fields were loosing their attraction and not only because one of his dogs had finally caught up to him.  He absently rubbed the healing nip wound on his calf.  It was just that it bothered him that he could be packaged and shipped at any time with little to say of it for himself.  He couldn't really complain however, Esme and Saradoc rarely did this to him, and he knew he had been pushing things a bit with his aunt.

***
Esme watched the cart go, Frodo was going, she had a momentary pang of regret. Yet she knew it was for his good; Frodo too easily ran over her, in the politest way he always managed to turn things to his own agenda.  He was not a bad lad, not by any definition, but it was time he learned some responsibility, time he learned who he was.  For he was searching, she felt it in her heart, Frodo was lacking something and she hoped that Bilbo could provide it.

Merry stood beside her, unshed tears in his eyes. The attachment there was also of concern, the child listened to Frodo's every word, never doubting nor questioning his older cousins word.  Merry did whatever Frodo asked of him and it occasionally irked her that someone other than herself had such sway over her only child.  Merry would miss him, it was but two weeks parting and it would seem to Meriadoc as if a year had gone by.  She took his hand and brought him into Brandyhall.

***

Frodo leaned back in the cart, he watched the clouds overhead in the crystal blue sky.  His Uncle was not one to be very talkative and so he occupied himself with his own thoughts.  He wondered about the clouds and there ability to change shape in a moment as he watched.  They had no bounds they did what they chose no one stopped them or held them in place they simply were.  Where did clouds go when they could no longer be seen?  What lay beyond the edges of the Shire?  He knew the tales of course, but hearing a tale and actually seeing what there was to see were two different things.  One day perhaps he would travel, it was an idle thought one he had many times since he was old enough to even entertain the idea.

The thoughts he had always stirred a myriad of emotions.  Longing, fear, excitement all coalesced together in a great jumble that he described as nervousness.  He usually pushed the idea way into the back of his mind, yet he was on his way to see Bilbo and there was no point in pushing it aside now.  Whenever Bilbo was near his mind inevitably turned to adventures and travel, Elves and Dwarves.  It was all too big to imagine to huge to comprehend, the wide world lay just beyond his grasp and it both frightened and fascinated him.

***

Saradoc looked down at his cousin, Frodo was a dreamer it was plain to see.  Why Esme could not get a grasp on the situation baffled him.  It was so very obvious that this "Baggins" was for the most part a "Took".  The name Baggins just allowed him greater latitude.  Saradoc smiled, he would get on just fine as Bilbo's heir when the time came.  It would be not long now, Bilbo had not told Frodo of his plan to adopt him as heir but they as his guardians had known for many years.  He had pined over it for sometime as his love for the lad grew, he had been a bit reluctant to hand him over.  As the years passed it had grown more and more obvious that the lads Brandybuck side was just a bit overrun by the Took and Baggins.  He smiled down at him as Frodo dozed in the sun, he wouldn't change a thing about him.

He was an unusual hobbit to say the least, a strange chance of mixing of families with a stray ancestor thrown in here and there. As a result Frodo looked like no other living hobbit.  His light eyes and pale skin with the strange oddity of his raven dark hair was a rarely occurring thing.  Bilbo alone could remember his own grandmother who indeed had such a look no one else did.  There were tales however of her unrivaled beauty and spirit from the North Farthing to the South she had been known as exceptionally rare and beautiful. 

"Rare indeed," he muttered, and they would always love him like there own no matter what Bilbo's papers would one day say and no matter where he hung his cloak in the years to come.

"Frodo…  We're here."  Saradoc reached down and touched his shoulder shaking him, and Frodo stretched and yawned as he sat up.  His cheeks were sun-kissed red from his nap, he smiled at Saradoc and climbed up into the seat next to him.  They were just passing the Bywater pool and heading up the lane toward BagEnd itself.  The locals stopped and looked acknowledging the Master of Brandyhall as he passed through.  Frodo politely acknowledged them also and Saradoc patted him on the shoulder.  "Good Lad," he whispered and Frodo grinned as he looked up into his eyes.

"You know why it is that you have been whisked away don't you lad?"

Frodo looked up surprised and shrugged; he really didn't have any idea, not for sure at any rate.

"Your Aunty seems to think you are going a bit wild," Saradoc ruffled his hair and smiled at him.  "Perhaps it's true, or perhaps your Esme just has no idea what to expect from a lad your age. Either way lad you've earned yourself a 2-week vacation from the hall and your Uncle Bilbo is to straighten you out in that time."  Saradoc laughed genuinely amused.

Frodo choked back a laugh as well.  Bilbo was going to straighten him out?  Who he wondered was going to do what to whom.  He looked up at Saradoc with a smile that bordered on a smirk, "I'll do my best cousin, but two weeks may not be enough time for me to, I mean; for him to get me back in order."

Frodo did laugh then and Saradoc right along with him.  Frodo would be fine he thought he just hoped Bilbo survived the visit.


  ~~~ At Bag End ~~~~


His conversation with Saradoc had put Frodo in a mischievous mood.  He could scarcely contain his mirth over the thought of dear Bilbo trying to straighten him out. Truly he could think of nothing he would enjoy more than Bilbo trying to be firm with him.  It just wasn't possible, he tried to recall if Bilbo had ever tried before and his memory came up with nothing.

For as long as he could remember Bilbo would come and distract him or he would be sent for a visit with Bilbo.  It was never a punishment and it was never unpleasant.  He loved the old Hobbit as much as he did Esme and Saradoc.  The three had been a constant through his entire life, never could he recall a time without all or at least one of them being there for him.

He was restless he had been for at least a year, there was little for him to do in Buckland.  He had explored all he could, seen what there was to see.  He had even snuck into the edges of the Old Forest, just the edge, mind it was enough, and he had thought better of the adventure and left.  Farmer Maggot was on to him by now and so that adventure had played its course.  He could not go back into his fields, in fact nothing could make him go back across his property again, wild horses couldn't drag him near those blasted dogs again.

The Cart pulled to a stop and Frodo bounded from his seat.  He stretched with his arms pulled back and over his head.  It was a long ride from Buckland, always longer for the longing to arrive quickly.  It had been a long while since he had been to visit Bilbo, longer than usual.  Things had just not worked out for a visit earlier and so Frodo was very willing to accept his banishment.

He never saw what hit him.  Frodo was on the ground his face in the soil of the garden; he shook his head and sputtered clearing the dirt from his nose and mouth.  The weight on his back was the first clue as to what had happened, the second was the contrite apology that sprang forth as the weight suddenly removed itself.

"Oh, I am such a ninnyhammer, my gaffers gonna tan my hide.  Clumsy fool that's what he should call me and he'd be right!  Can I help you up sir?  Here, let me…"  He pulled at Frodo's hand trying to assist him. 

"What Happened, Sam, is that you?  My goodness you've grown."  Frodo rose from the ground and brushed himself free of the loose soil.

"I happened sir, if you take my meaning."  Sam blushed and toyed with the dirt at his feet.

"No I don't take your meaning," Frodo laughed good-naturedly.  "In fact I have no idea what you're trying to say at all."

"Well sir, I was so surprised to see you I well I left go of my little cart, you see and it rolled away and before I could stop it, well it near ran you over, but I jumped and knocked you over as so it wouldn't."

"Nearly?  I feel like it did run me over."

Saradoc gave Sam a stern look,  "run along Samwise, you'd best report yourself.  You've done enough here today."

Sam's eyes grew large and fearful; he looked as though he may cry.  "Ye…Yes sir right away sir…" He turned and ran for the row as fast as his young legs would carry him.

Frodo found himself suddenly annoyed with his cousin and guardian.  "Why did you do that for?  You scared the life out of him."

Saradoc turned surprised at Frodo's angry tone.  "That boys got to learn his place."

"His place!" Frodo sputtered as he raised his voice. "It was an accident!"

"Frodo!"

He cringed at the volume of the voice behind him.  It was Bilbo; he had never heard him raise his voice like that except at the Sackville-Bagginses.  He whirled around to face his Uncle.

"That will be enough of that disrespectful tone, go inside at once."

Frodo swallowed past the lump forming in his throat, he thought he might be sick.  He rushed past Bilbo and through the door he did not stop until he was in the privy.
Saradoc watched as Frodo paled and ran for the door.  Bilbo remained behind, as soon as Frodo was out of sight Bilbo released the breath that he held.  He wondered if this was the sort of behavior that Esme was describing when she said Frodo was running wild.
Running off at the mouth seemingly he thought to himself. 

Saradoc and Bilbo quietly conversed for long minutes.  "I am sure Samwise didn't mean to sound forward, after all he is but a lad, he just started helping in the Gardens just this year and he is fond of Frodo and of tales."

"Nevertheless," Saradoc continued, "He needs to learn; I wasn't harsh with him but he did seem to take it to heart so to speak.  I hope I've not overstepped my bounds, but Frodo doesn't understand these things either or he chooses to ignore them and no good will come of it."

Bilbo stared at the ground,  "I can't believe I yelled at him like that," he whispered.  "I've never hollered at him in all these years, not once."

"Nor I", Saradoc pondered for a moment more.  "Perhaps that is part of the difficulty my friend."

They thought about it and agreed that Frodo had never needed much discipline.  Now as his tweens were in full bloom, Frodo was looking for boundaries and he had just found his first one.  It would be a painful process setting the limits that were needed and Bilbo wondered if he was capable of it.

**

Frodo wretched a final time, his stomach empty, he felt weak and dizzy.  He was covered with Garden soil and now he was sweating.  He felt truly horrible and he wasn't even sure why.  The thought of Bilbo being angry with him made him physically ill and as he thought again he felt another wave of nausea hit him and he swooned.

He sat on the floor in the doorway of the little bath.  He leaned his head against the wood of the doorframe and tried to collect his thoughts.  He would never speak like that again to anyone, he vowed.  The fears of a child began to creep into his heart, as absurd as it seemed he was afraid, he feared Bilbo would no longer wish him to stay.  What if they all decided he was far too much trouble, what if he was alone. The tears welled up and he wept, he shuddered at the intensity of the feelings that he felt and he rocked as he clutched his knees to his chest.

 Bilbo finally entered the smial; Frodo remained huddled in the hall his stomach continued to rebel.  The tears had stopped but he felt they could start again at any moment.  He was so confused; he didn't know why he felt so strongly, he was far from being a little child anymore.  And if he felt this wretched then how must Sam feel?

He heard Bilbo approach and his insides quivered in irrational fear.

"What's this about then?" he said, his voice sounded normal, no longer angry.

Frodo looked up and Bilbo gasped,  "Lad, what is it?"

Frodo had no answer, he just stared, and the tears passively flowed over his high cheekbones as he looked up at Bilbo.

Bilbo turned away as he recognized the look in Frodo's eyes; it was one that he never wanted to see in any whom he loved. And yet there it was in the eyes of the one he held most dear in all of Middle Earth, Frodo was afraid of him.

"Frodo, no, don't."  Bilbo turned again to him and reached a hand out to the younger Hobbit.  Frodo paused, then reached out and took the proffered hand.  Bilbo pulled him into an embrace.

The fear disappeared as Bilbo hugged him then held him at arms length.  "You are a sight my boy.  And I am so very glad to see you Frodo, very glad."

Frodo sighed and smiled.  Perhaps it would be all right, the nausea was gone and his shaking had stopped.  "I was afraid you were going to send me away," he whispered.

Bilbo frowned and shook his head.  He took Frodo by the shoulders and looked him in the eyes.  "Just because I raised my voice at you?  Frodo dear boy, I was angry, and you needed to know, you can't speak that way to an adult, least of all your guardian and the Master of the Hall.  But, Lad I will always love you, mark my words, you have no idea how much you are needed and loved."  Bilbo pulled him in again for a quick, solid hug.  Then sent him off for a bath…it seemed Frodo could never manage to arrive at Bag End with out being in dire need of a bath.

Frodo turned and walked into the bath.  And Bilbo felt relief if only for a moment, his assignment was going to age him years for a day.  Saradoc and Esme were right, they had all let Frodo run wild and now it was his turn to try to set him straight.


~*~*~*~*~


The rest of the day at Bag End had gone well; still he felt a vague sense of anxiety over having angered Bilbo.  Saradoc and he had frequent words and disagreements, nearly on a daily basis.  Through years of experience Frodo knew Saradoc did not love him less due to his opinionated ways.  Saradoc's punishments were strict and brooked no argument but he was fair.  He had no experience however with Bilbo's anger and the days events had unnerved him more than he cared to admit.

True Bilbo had made light of the incident in fact it seemed there would be no punishment at all.  Frodo wondered if the lack of punishment was what was making him feel so odd.  After supper he sat quietly in front of the fire reading.  At least he gave the pretence of reading, he really was staring at the flickering fire, thinking.

It came to him then and he understood, Bilbo had no ties to him, only his perceived connection bound them.  He did not have to have Frodo visit, he did not need to teach him to read and write.  He did these things because he wanted to; and how tenuous that seemed to Frodo now at the moment.  What if Bilbo simply did not want him to visit any longer?  The though sent a strange ache through his chest, he didn't know what he'd do if he lacked this escape.


Chapter 46: Camping in~~the Gathering~~


A “camp in”, Bilbo had called it. Frodo wasn’t sure what it was but it sounded like a chance for some fun. Samwise already sat nervously in the kitchen of Bag End looking as if he was waiting to be sent on his way. They waited for Merry, Frodo sat at the table a book in front of him, and he stared at the words with out reading. He was thinking of his friends, Sam was quickly becoming someone he considered a friend regardless of his gaffers’ admonitions about class and appropriateness. And if Frodo heard the word “proper”, from Sam’s mouth one more time he thought he would scream.

Proper was not something Frodo liked to think of. To him it was stranger that he, as an 18 year-old nearing his tweens would consider two young lads as his best friends. Merry was barely old enough to be parted from his Mum and he knew the only reason he was permitted to was because ‘he’ was there. Esme trusted him even with Merry, her only child. Frodo sighed, he loved the lad like a brother in fact they had thus far been raised as brothers; and though Frodo enjoyed his visits with Bilbo, it was usually a longing to see his “brother”, that beckoned him home to Brandyhall.

This would be a rare treat and the first time that Frodo and Merry had visited Bag End together outside the company of his parents. Sam’s voice pulled him from his thoughts; he turned and smiled at the still anxious appearing lad.

“Master Frodo?”

“Sam, just call me Frodo I am no ones master, I never will be.”

“My Gaffer will tan my hide if’n I’m not proper like sir.”

Frodo grit his teeth, there was that word again. “Sam can’t we just pretend while no one is around? I certainly am not going to report you to your Da.”

“I’ll try master, Uh, I mean Frodo. Anyways what’s a camp-in?”

Frodo smiled, “I’m not sure I know myself, except I presume that it is like camping out. You know, Sam, stay up late, and tell stories, eat lots of, bad for you, food and scare each other; then sleep late in the morning.”

“Tales! Frodo, will there be tales about elves?” Sam’s eyes shone with a light that shown his obvious excitement.”

“Elves, and adventures, and creatures, and dangers all sorts of tales Sam, tales until you can’t keep your eyes open any longer.”

“I won’t never fall asleep during such a tale sir, never.”

Somehow Frodo believed him, he thought back to all the times Sam sat fixed on Bilbo’s every word, and realized he had never so much as nodded in all that time. Sam surely did love his tales, an oddity he was no doubt to his family. Sam was a dreamer, his head in the clouds at times and yet he was deeply rooted to the land, more so than anyone else he knew.

“How big is master Merry now, Frodo?” Frodo beamed at Sam.

“Near as big as you Samwise Gamgee so you’d best mind yourself. Meriadoc Brandybuck is a stout fellow for a four year old. And mind he will be the next Master of the hall in Buckland. So watch you self Sam.”

Sam’s eyes grew round and he whistled through his pursed lips. A real “Master” to be sure Sir, I’ll be right respectful of the lad as long as he don’t try anything.

Frodo choked on a laugh when he noted that Sam was serious. He just couldn’t see it yet Merry was too young to feel a threat; he was just another small lad. Merry indeed would one day inherit his Da’s title and he would be of great importance, yet Sam would treat him like another lad on the block. The young Gamgee treated him with deference; Frodo didn’t understand the inequality, especially since all he wished was to be treated like Sam’s friend and not a master.

He felt rather than heard Merry arrive. Something told him deep with in himself that his dear friend and cousin were near to Bag End. Frodo rose with out a word and headed for the door; Sam followed him curious were he was off to. Sam stopped beside the door as Frodo opened it he could hear the wagon, and the calls to Frodo. He stayed safe inside out of Frodo’s Uncles view. Bilbo walked past him and ruffled his hair, understanding his hesitance.

Bilbo waved to Saradoc who shook his head as he watched his two charges together. They had been separated for only a matter of days and yet, Merry acted as if it had been an eternity.

Frodo braced himself for the impact, he saw Merry coming. He launched himself from the cart with a cry. “Frodo!! I MISSED YOU!” He ran full steam and wrapped himself in Frodo’s arms.

Braced as he was Frodo still teetered on loosing his balance, he rocked back on his heals and somehow managed not to fall backward.

“Nice catch Frodo,” Saradoc laughed as he waved to him. “Well, Bilbo I leave my only child in your care, don’t go spoiling him before morn.”

“I’ll do my best, he should survive I’m sure Frodo will take good care of him.”

“Frodo! Of course Frodo will take care of him, it you I’m concerned about. Don’t go filling his head with all your Traveling fantasies, you’ve already captured Frodo’s heart, I’d prefer to keep Meriadoc as my own.” Saradoc sneered at Bilbo good-naturedly then chuckled. Have fun Merry don’t believe a word that Old Bilbo tells you…He’s cracked you know.”

“Yes Da”, Merry called over his shoulder.

Frodo choked on a chuckle and looked a Bilbo who seemed to be taking the ribbing exceptionally well. Still it was amusing to listen to the older adults banter like children, and the best of friends.

“Come on then Merry, lets go inside.”

“Frodo!” He turned in time to see Merry’s pack flying his way. It hit him square in the chest and he fell over backward with the bag on top of him.

“Frodo, be careful with my stuff.” A very indignant Merry stood over him grabbing up the bag. Frodo vaguely heard the chuckles of the adults and he smirked at Saradoc got up and followed Merry into Bag End.

It was the beginning of a night to remember.