A/N: I just wrote this last night. I wrote it because I kind of felt like I needed to put some thoughts on paper, and I attempted to adapt them to suit to Frodo's POV. Basically, this mini-fic is a description of Frodo's memories from an early-fall day during his childhood/tweenage years.

I think that perhaps many people have such childhood memories similar to the ones I wrote for this. Times or days or even hours that we wish we could relive, even just once, because they were so wonderful or comforting while they lasted.

I was listening to the song "I Hope You Dance" just the other day, and for some reason it reminds me so much of things that have happened in the past (in my own life), and things that I wish had never changed. It sort of inspired me to write this, I don't know what it is about the song. Anyway, I hope you enjoy reading this mini-fic! :)

Disclaimer: I don't own any of this, I don't make any money from this. I only write fanfic because I enjoy trying to be creative, and hopefully I also entertain a few other people in the process.

Frodo gazed unfocusedly out of Bilbo's old bedroom window in Bag End. The sound of hobbit-lad's and lasses laughing outside had drawn his gaze to the open window, rousing him from his thoughtful reverie.

The former ring-bearer admonished himself for not realizing how beautiful the early-autumn day had been. One finger he still held to the Red Book, Bilbo's journal of sorts, which contained a detailed account of his adventures that had taken place so many years before.

Painful memories rose to the front of Frodo's mind as he let the finger trace absentmindedly over his elderly cousin's flowing script. The slant of the aged calligraphy brought tears to his eyes. The memory of his cousin, sitting at that same desk with that very same book compiling his tales for posterity, replayed in Frodo's head.

Frodo closed his eyes, feeling warm liquid begin trailing its way lazily down his ashen cheeks, then gliding thoughtfully over the rise of his now-prominent cheekbone. The hobbit longed to return to those days when he and Bilbo had shared so much. Such a carefree time it had been for both of them: Bilbo inherited an heir, and Frodo received a second chance at childhood.

The smells drifting in through the open window only served to increase the pain Frodo felt in his heart. He could still see it: himself and his cousins and friends, in the days of their carefree youth, oh how they loved the lazy late summer days. The time just after harvest, after the hay had been cut and lay piled in rounded heaps in farmers' fields. The mornings were so crisp; the air carried a hint of brush fire smoke and the sharp scent of green wood burning in newly re-lit fireplaces.

He missed it so much, and would have given anything to go back. The times the tweens' had seemed to pass slowly enough back then… yet time was responsible for fading the very memories that had seasoned for so long during those last, lingering days of summer.

Early in the morning, Frodo would step out onto the stoop in front of the main entrance to Bag End, then tentatively onto the grass, the feel of chill dew on the bottom of his hairy feet producing a slight gasp of surprise, immediately followed by a giggle. The lad had had to shield his eyes from the bright sun as it poked its head over the eastern hills, reflecting in a thousand tiny, glittering drops of freshly fallen dew that lay on the grass.

Upon reentering the smial, Frodo could always smell the beginnings of breakfast. The aromas of Elderberry jam toast, with cured bacon, eggs, and fried apples.

Such peace and comforts were taken for granted even by Frodo, someone who had gone without the homey touches that made growing up in the Shire so comfortable.

These were the days that determined the type of hobbit a lad would likely grow up to be. Consistency and security, the two crucial elements that Frodo's young life had lacked since he was twelve, were returned to him unexpectedly in the form of his dear Uncle Bilbo.

After first-breakfast there was ample time for studying. Bilbo saw to it that his Frodo-lad was learned in both reading and writing—Elvish and Westron.

In his minds eye, Frodo could still see it: his uncle bent over one of the lad's lessons, scrutinizing the spelling of a word, or the formation of an Elvish character.

The elderly hobbit's brow would furrow, and then he'd lean in closer to the paper, as though by doing so he would somehow see it differently. As Bilbo bent over the paper, light from the window streamed past unhindered, splashing Frodo's fair features and painting them with its radiance.

Light, light from the same window that he now stood in front of, alone, tracing his hand over and over a portion of dear Bilbo's book. The letters on the paper blurred. Frodo looked to the radiance of the early-autumn sun, the rays manifested themselves in a bewildering array of colors as the light refracted in the tears held by his eyes.

Frodo sunk back into his memories then, believing at that moment that perhaps if he focused hard enough and remembered every detail clearly enough—as clearly as though the same events had happened only a day before, rather than long years ago—then perhaps he could go back to that time.

He remembered venturing into the edge of the woods with Merry, or perhaps Sam. The found a small clearing and began spinning in circles, watching the whirlwind of colors stream together. The shades of the leaves that adorned the trees: orange, yellow, brown and red, blended into one seamless streak of merry colors. Then the lads would collapse in a fit of giggles, landing comfortably in a pile of earthy leaves. Frodo lay there, staring up at the cloudless, blue sky, watching as it spun, seemingly on its own accord.

Finally the world stopped rotating, and the lads breathed in deeply and enjoyed the scent of earthy, sweet-smelling, dry leaves crackling contentedly as they yielded willingly to the added weight of the two hobbits' presence.

Their last song, it was, no more whistling with the wind, or creating a gently pattering drum symphony as rhythmic summer rains beat down on them steadily from above. The last they had to give was for the simple amusement of hobbit children. Sometimes, in later fall, the hobbit-lads and lasses gathered great piles of the things and took turns jumping into the leaves.

If only he could have it back, just for a day. Just to forget the cares and evil memories that had been placed irrevocably on his consciousness, if only for a day they could be forgotten, cast aside, like a child would when weary of a familiar plaything.

Playthings, hobbit-lads and their playthings. Old cornstalks were their horses, a fair Palomino, or perhaps a rusty Roan with an unruly mane of corn silk. With bridles of twine, bareback they rode—"Elvish style" as Bilbo had so gaily called it. Some days, he and Merry would gallop across the rolling hills out in front of Bag End.

Merry being the younger of the two, suggested the game initially, though Frodo couldn't deny it's irresistible allure.

When the two cousins, Merry and Frodo, tired of being riders—great explorers, as they called themselves—they would have faux battles. Using mighty swords modified from small fallen tree-branches into gleaming weapons, they fought to the death (or rather, until the 'swords' broke) on the grassy knolls as they reenacted the great goblin-battles from Bilbo's stories.

Bilbo's stories, the same stories told to the lad's from the open Book that sat invitingly on the table, resigned to Frodo's defeated gaze. The book of adventures contained no such dark tales as those eyes that now gazed upon it had witnessed.

With the races run, and the battles won, the two hobbit-lads would retire to Bag End. In their games, they always seized the day, and there was always a comfortable chair and a hot meal waiting at the end of the fight.

Frodo chuckled bitterly aloud, how strange it seemed to him: children are so readily offered the opportunity to reenact these bloody scenes of death, how odd that these frightening circumstances, modified to things of friendly play, so often provide the greatest amusement for young hobbits. He knew, though, that it was the way of the world, one of the most basic and most important instincts bestowed upon all living creatures in Middle-Earth: self-defense. Though, the once "glorious" appeal of winning faux battles was marred for Frodo, as it was for Merry and Pippin and Sam. There was no glory in war, they now knew, there was no reason in war, no sanity, nor was there a cozy bed to fall into after the day's challenges have been met, no hot meal to eat after riding your cornstalk-steed in from the battlefield, triumphant again of course, as usual.

Frodo's memories drifted back once more to innocent times, when those battles had indeed been entertaining games and amusements for him and his cousins.

They rode their valiant stalk-stallions up to Bag End's door and hurried into the foyer, heedless of their muddy feet.

Bilbo's voice, containing a slight tone of annoyance, still rang so clear in Frodo's ears, the all-too-familiar phrase that was dreaded by hobbit-lads.

"Don't track mud in the house!"

He and Merry would reluctantly return to the entryway and wipe the bottoms of their thick-soled feet until the rug bore the blood—or mud—of the battlefield. Soon, any unpleasant memories of the day's fight were remembered only by the foyer rug, in the form of muddy streaks: dark blotches marring its once-fair color.

Ran, they did, to the table, in time for Luncheon. There was an abundance of baked rolls, corn pudding, and freshly made meat pies, even peach turnovers for desert; the scent of it all filled the smial.

These were the fruits of their labor in battle, quite a fitting reward for two soldiers, thought Frodo, at the time.

After Luncheon, back outside they went. The brilliant blue skies shone down pleasingly on the lad's shoulders. The warmth of the sun was just enough to ward off the chill feeling in the early-autumn air.

The hobbit lads walked on trails exploring, they called it, and discovering new paths and trails as they walked along. Brightly colored pieces of broken pottery and brass buttons were the treasures they found.

Frodo looked down with a feeling of bittersweet sadness on Bilbo's desktop as he studied the intricate inlayed mosaic, made from bits of old pottery and shiny buttons. The time capsule, such as it was, bought tears anew to his eyes.

To have it back, the unwitting time of his youth. He wished more than anything to return to those days.

The freedom from fear and want, the simple pleasures of feeling chill morning dew beneath his feet, the excitement of hunting for old bits of pottery and taking the new-found treasures to be washed in the cold water of a nearby stream, laughing as the bubbling water played at his feet like a gentle kitten.

Such times, he knew, were lost forever.

Some treasures, he knew, were lost forever.

Loss, life was loss; the ultimate being the loss of life itself—death. Those times, and those things, could never be had again. If allowed, life could lead a hobbit to be so bitter that even the scavenging worms would be loath to consume him after death.

Frodo bit his lower lip thoughtfully. What was there not to be bitter about? He had survived, yes. He had come home, yes. The Shire was safe, at last, now nearly restored to its former glory. But at what cost to him and his dear friends?

After having seen the light he knew he could never live comfortably or happily in the dark again; and after having experienced the dark, he could no longer live contentedly or normally in the light. He felt trapped. Trapped between the dark memories of his journey and the bright promises that had been spoken to him by the very object of his quest.

Indeed, self-sacrifice was the ultimate sacrifice, he realized.

The bliss of youth is fleeting for everyone, yet to have it stolen away so young, then restored unexpectedly, and taken away abruptly—so far removed from him that there was no hope of regaining even a small portion of it, was devastating to a soul, and Frodo knew his was no exception.

The crisp lazy early-autumn days were now no more than an ideal, a faded memory of what once was, and what ought to be, but never could again. The clarity with which he remembered every detail, every feeling, sight, sound, smell, and taste, gave him hope that perhaps… perhaps someday, over the Sea, he could remember all of his life from before with such clarity and joy as he did those blissful fall days.

If the Undying lands were truly undying, then his memory would surely be restored to him untainted. What was a life without happy memories?

He felt himself dying every day as the evil memories of his dark journey consumed the fair ones of his youth. He was dying with his memories. Nothing had changed, the autumn still came and went with all of its trappings… what had changed was him.

Though Frodo realized that what he had done to save the Shire, and all of Middle-Earth, ensured that the lads and lasses he heard playing outside would someday have the same fond memories of their youth that he had once enjoyed. That itself was enough to put a smile on his face and push aside the shadows that lay so heavy on his heart, for just a moment.

Frodo closed his eyes, blinking back bitter tears of regret, and opened them slowly. He cast his eyes back down to the words on the pages of the Red Book, tracing over the last line of text where Bilbo's flowing hand had ceased and where his own began. He knew it was time to leave,

"I am coming, Bilbo." He whispered under his breath.