A/N: Attack of the plot bunnies! Well…I'm guilty…otay? Don't kill me for writing a girl-in-Middle-Earth story! It might turn out good…I *do* have a plan! It's canonical, too! No ten! No ten! *grin* Yes, self-inserted, but no, not Mary-Sue (at least, I hope so anyway.)

Disclaimer: LotR isn't mine, but I am. Bob is the bus company's, Jenny and Grace own themselves, and my parents have just finished paying off the mortgage on my house. Oh yeah, and Becky (Penn), Ari, Lee, and all my other amazing friends own themselves too.

There- And Back Again?

By Thalia Weaver

Chapter One: Stratford

The bus wheezed and choked its antiquated way up the hill to my house. And up…and up…and up…and then, the motor sputtered to a halt.

"Thaliaaaaaa," came a chorus of moans. The giant hill my house stood at the top of was famous for its girth and steepness, and often was the death of our ancient bus' fragile motor's most spectacular failures. This was one of the best of them- we were situated at about a right-degree angle.

"You know, this hill is a nuisance," was our bus driver's only comment as she hitched herself down gingerly onto the sloping asphalt. She and I both knew that I had no control over my parents' odd choice of locale, and it was too much effort to get angry when Bob (our affectionate nickname for the bus- also known as The Sputter Machine, Billy-Jo, and Evil Disgusting Piece of **&^*%#! when we were mad) had sputtered to a stop, especially on my hill.

Our driver, Jenny, was a large black woman with an unusual command of the English language. She had been brought up by an Oxford professor and had a distinct British accent, as well as an impressive syntactical deftness, not to mention the wonderful prolificacy of her cursing vocabulary. Listening to her describe a flat tire was very educational. Her skill with machinery was wondrous, and it was only a matter of seconds before she got the bus started again.

"You know, Thals, it's only two months into school and we've already broken down on your hill five times," said the girl sitting next to me, pushing her long, straight brown hair out of her eyes. Her name was Grace, and she was my very best friend in the world.

"What can I say? Old Bob is…well…my hill is more than a match for him," I responded, rolling my eyes.

Grace grinned. "What, Ol' Terror here? Your very own vertical highway?"

"Grrr…" I fake-punched her one in the gut, then turned away, whistling. We'd just reached my house. It figured that my parents were recluses; I had inherited the gene. Other than Grace, I had a few terrific friends in the world. There was Becky, the intrinsically fascinating poet, who I was convinced was the next e. e. cummings; Ari, the architect wanna-be; Lee, the medieval weapons fanatic; Christine, the general all-around awesome writer…person…, Mytsie, the anime/drawing-obsessed…and a few more.

Bob shuddered to a stop once we reached my house, his brakes groaning loudly with the supreme effort of halting. With a smile at Grace, I grabbed my pile of papers and notebooks, slung my messenger bag over my shoulder, and left the bus. The afternoon was sunny and sweet, and I was very happy indeed. In fact, I actually whistled on the way in, thumping my bag down on the floor of my home. Even older than Bob, my house (affectionately nicknamed "Things-Fall-Apart") was a converted colonial-era barn, ancient-looking, warm in summer, cold in winter and absolutely beloved by my entire family, myself included. Throwing off my shoes and socks, I wiggled my toes into the thick furry rug that covered the floor in the hall. Today was a good day to be alive, especially in Stratford, New Jersey in the fall.

I pattered upstairs to my room, which was once a tiny storage room off of the hayloft. It still smelled faintly of straw, which was fine with me. The walls were lined with bookshelves, which was even finer, and they were filled with books, the finest of all. I sank down on my bed, lying flat on my back and staring up at the large hole in the roof, which my parents had covered in glass. The sky was bright blue, and I noticed a cloud in the shape of a sword. Or perhaps it was a…well, something about it reminded me of Lord of the Rings, somehow. But then, most things did- that was the way it was when it came to obsessiveness with me, and I was definitely obsessed with Lord of the Rings.

I yawned, suddenly overcome with drowsiness. I'll do my homework later, I thought, and drifted off into a deep sleep…