A/N: I want to give a shout out to the FrodoHealers yahoogroup, for their inspiration, support, and encouragement. Thanks also to Brildagniriel for listening to me talk endlessly about this fic, proofreading and giving me a few helpful suggestions. :)



Chapter 1

Frodo was not in the best of moods as he stepped out of Bag End to a cold, grey morning. He reached the gate before he remembered he needed to lock the door. It was a delay that would not have bothered him much under normal circumstances, but today he was already later than he'd intended and even the few moments it took to go back and lock the door seemed an unnecessary, and therefore grudged, use of his travel time. Ordinarily, Hamfast Gamgee or his son Sam would have been happy to lock up Bag End when they came to work in the garden, but the Gamgees had left yesterday on a well-deserved vacation to visit relatives for the Yule holiday.

He also had plans for the holiday, the purpose of his trip. Still adjusting to Bilbo's absence, he'd decided to take advantage of his standing invitation to stay at Brandy Hall with his mother's family. His primary reason was rather selfish- he didn't want to spend his first Yule without Bilbo completely alone- but he was also sure his cousin Merry would welcome his company, especially since his other cousin (and close friend) Pippin and his family wouldn't be visiting until the second week of Afteryule.

Frodo was still stewing as he passed the outskirts of Hobbiton. Insomnia until the early morning hours had caused him to sleep until it was almost time for second breakfast. He had planned to leave right after first breakfast so he could make it as far as possible before camping for the night; then he could be in Buckland about midday, giving him a couple of days to readjust to the hustle and bustle of the large smial before all the extended relations poured in the day before Yule. But now he didn't think he'd get there until at least dinnertime tomorrow. It wouldn't really be a problem: he hadn't told the Brandybucks he was coming, much less when to expect him, but when Frodo bothered to make plans, he hated seeing his careful planning ruined. The wind grew stronger, whistling through his clothes in spite of his cloak and winter coat, as if reminding him he was also at the mercy of the weather.

He groaned inwardly as he tried in vain to wrap his cloak around him more tightly, hurrying on in spite of the chill to make up for lost time. Everything seemed to be conspiring against him: oversleeping, his current lethargic mood, burning himself as he made breakfast- and then not even eating it when he realized he wasn't hungry, his pounding headache, the grey sky, and now the biting wind making his entire body feel like a stiff block of ice. Perhaps he should just turn around and go back to bed and try again tomorrow. It was still four days until Yule, so he had plenty of time, especially since they didn't even know to be expecting him.

Stopping in the middle of the road, Frodo considered this new idea. Bed sounded very inviting, given the howling wind and the low grey clouds seeming to press down upon his head. But he was torn, wanting to reach Brandy Hall and the company of his relatives as soon as possible. His mental debate had reached a draw when small flakes of icy snow pelleted his face, driven into his skin by the sharp wind. The clouds seemed to grow even more dark and menacing.

He made up his mind. Frodo turned around and went back the way he came. It wouldn't be too long before he could be back at home, curled up in bed with a warm pot of tea and a raging fire, he thought wistfully. He would try the trip again tomorrow.

By the time Frodo reached Bag End, it had stopped snowing but the temperature dropped and the wind was howling. His bones ached from the cold and he couldn't feel his feet. He sighed in relief as he closed the round green door behind him. The air of his smial was by no means warm, all the fires having been extinguished or burned out, but it felt wonderful on his frostbitten skin. He dropped his pack and cloak, too exhausted to care that he left them in the middle of the hall, and headed to the kitchen.

In a very short time, Frodo was in his room, sitting wrapped in a blanket in an armchair, facing a raging fire. He gratefully soaked in the warmth as he sipped his tea, having brought the whole pot to his room. Soon his contentment gave way to weariness, his eyes slowly drooping shut. He fell asleep curled in his armchair, heedless that it was not yet even suppertime.