Disclaimer: I own nothing of the Hobbit. This is a non-profit work of fanfiction.
Every day, in that brief space between elevensies and luncheon, Bilbo Baggins would take a little time for himself. Sometimes, he would sit and read his book. Sometimes he would potter about the garden, or go for a stroll down to the town square.
Today, since the weather was fine, he sat in the sun on the bench that was situated a little in front of his house and had a quiet smoke.
Naturally, it was just after he had settled in that an old man in a shabby grey cloak, pointed hat and a rather impressive-looking walking stick paused by his front gate.
Bilbo was predisposed towards being in a good mood, so he offered a polite: "Good morning!"
"What do you mean?" the old man asked, brow creasing in a frown even as his eyes twinkled with mischief. "Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is morning to be good on?"
Bilbo was rather taken aback.
"All of them at once," he said after a pause, wishing he might of thought of something wittier. Still, this man seemed like he might have some interesting conversation to offer, so Bilbo continued. "And a very fine morning for a pipe of tobacco out of doors, into the bargain. If you have a pipe about you, sit down and have a fill of mine!" Then Bilbo sat down on a seat by his door, crossed his legs, and blew out a beautiful grey ring of smoke that sailed up into the air without breaking and floated away over The Hill.
"Very pretty!" said the old man, though Bilbo got the distinct impression he was being humoured. "But I have no time to blow smoke rings this morning," a pity, thought Bilbo. When the old man continued however, he started to feel a little uneasy. "I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it is very difficult to find anyone."
The old man then proceeded to look at Bilbo in a meaningful fashion.
Bilbo nearly choked on his pipe.
Had the old man lost his marbles? Maybe a few years ago Bilbo might have been at least tempted, but now? No. Best to nip this line of thought in the bud right now.
"I should think so - in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things!" He thought perhaps channelling his Uncle Bingo might get his point across. "Make you late for dinner! I can't think what anybody sees in them," he lied firmly, and moved over to his letterbox to sort through his mail. There had been a time when he might have been willing to be talked into such things, but he had responsibilities now. As much as it would be interesting to go travelling over hill and dale on some mad lark, even if he wanted to, he couldn't.
Having rather rudely ignored the old man for a good few minutes as he shuffled his letters, Bilbo was disappointed when he looked up and saw that the man was still standing there, just looking at him.
Drat, thought Bilbo. How to make the old codger go away?
"Good morning!" he said at last. "We don't want any adventures here, thank you! You might try over The Hill or across The Water." Anywhere but here, he thought, but didn't say.
"What a lot of things you do use Good morning for!" said the old man, thoroughly unperturbed by Bilbo's rudeness. "Now you mean that you want to get rid of me, and that it won't be good till I move off!"
Well if you understand my meaning, then why on Yavanna's green earth are you ignoring it? Bilbo wondered, thoroughly exasperated. "Not at all, not at all, my dear sir!" he said as insincerely as possible. As much as he might want to tell the old codger to move his ragged behind away from his front gate, he knew it never paid to be outright rude to people… although his display thus far would no doubt have had his father rolling about in his grave. "Let me see, I don't think I know your name?"
"Yes, yes, my dear sir - and I do know your name, Mr. Bilbo Baggins. And you do know my name, though you don't remember that I belong to it. I am Gandalf, and Gandalf means me! To think that I should have lived to be good-morninged by Belladonna Took's son, as if I was selling buttons at the door!"
Oh balrog's breath. He'd gone and been rude to a wizard. This could not end well. Still, he tried to salvage it with flattery.
"Gandalf, Gandalf! Good gracious me! Not the wandering wizard that gave Old Took a pair of magic diamond studs that fastened themselves and never came undone till ordered? Not the fellow who used to tell such wonderful tales at parties, about dragons and goblins and giants and the rescue of princesses and the unexpected luck of widows' sons? Not the man that used to make such particularly excellent fireworks! I remember those! Old Took used to have them on Midsummerís Eve. Splendid! They used to go up like great lilies and snapdragons and laburnums of fire and hang in the twilight all evening!"
Gandalf seemed to be significantly less miffed, which was good, but he was also starting to look rather smug, which, in Bilbo's opinion, was most likely not good at all. Especially if the wizard still thought he might be a likely candidate for adventuring. No. How could he convey this firmly?
"Dear me!" he went on. "Not the Gandalf who was responsible for so many quiet lads and lasses going off into the Blue for mad adventures. Bless me, you used to upset things badly in these parts once upon a time. I beg your pardon, but I had no idea you were still in business."
"Where else should I be?" said the wizard, clearly miffed again. Success! "All the same I am pleased to find you remember something about me. You seem to remember my fireworks kindly, at any rate, and that is not without hope." Without hope for what, exactly? "Indeed for your old grand-father Took's sake, and for the sake of poor Belladonna, I will give you what you asked for."
Oh sheep dung.
"I beg your pardon, I haven't asked for anything!" Bilbo insisted, not a little alarmed.
"Yes, you have! Twice now. My pardon. I give it you. In fact I will go so far as to send you on this adventure. Very amusing for me, very good for you and profitable too, very likely, if you ever get over it."
Great. Fan-bloody-tastic. He had offended the wizard, and now Gandalf thought he could make him go out and get himself killed for the sake of… profit and the wizard's own amusement. Bilbo was furious, and not a little frightened. Contrary to what this wizard seemed to think, he was no fool. He didn't need riches, he didn't need excitement, and above all, he could not afford to leave Bag End just now for the sake of someone else's entertainment, no matter how…
No. He had no regrets. Not a single one.
"Sorry! I don't want any adventures, thank you. Not today." Or ever. But how to make this absolutely clear- oh. Of course. "Good morning! But please come to tea - any time you like! Why not tomorrow? Come tomorrow! Good-bye!"
With that the hobbit turned and scuttled inside his round green door, and shut it as quickly as he dared, not to seen rude. Wizards after all are wizards.
Once inside, his knees gave out, and he sank to the ground. A different Bilbo, a Bilbo who was used to running only on his own schedule and living at his own rhythms might have then tried to put the whole thing from his mind, and carried on his day pretending that the last twenty minutes had never happened.
This Bilbo, however, had been forced to come to terms with the fact that ignoring problems not only didn't make them go away, it tended to make them snowball and then explode in all sorts of ways that could have been stopped if only he had acted a little quicker.
"Oh sheep dung and orc spit," he moaned to himself. "I suppose I had better go to the market and make sure I have a full larder. Knowing my luck, he'll bring some unexpected guests with him."
Because it was well-known that if you wanted to upset a hobbit (who all prided themselves as excellent hosts), unplanned for, and thus un-catered for guests was a well-known way to go about it.
Little did he know just how right he was.
He raked his fingers through his curls. "And I only have a little time before lunch, too, so I'm going to have to hurry. Oh botheration and drat."
With little time to lose, Bilbo went to the market and acquired several cheeses, a huge bag of flour, a large leg of ham, and all manner of greens and things for baking. He bought so much that in the end he needed to pay a few pennies to some of the local lads and lasses to help him carry it home.
Not even five minutes back in the door, and Mistress Proudfoot had dropped by, carrying what might have looked to the untrained eye to be a woolly cushion with muddy feet, but on closer inspection was a tiny sleeping hobbit-babe, no more than four years old.
"Oh good afternoon Mistress Proudfoot! Was he well behaved?" Bilbo asked in an undertone, all smiles as he took the precious bundle from her. Little Frodo snuffled slightly before curling a no-doubt sticky hand into Bilbo's waistcoat.
"Quite well behaved. He and my Timmo get on quite well as you know," Tansy Proudfoot smiled. "It was so good of you to take the little scamp in."
"Not at all," replied Bilbo. "Even if I wasn't head of the Baggins family, Drogo was one of my favourite cousins. He was always sure to have all his affairs in order, so I knew from before little Frodo was born that if anything were to happen to dear Drogo and Primula that I needed to step up. And I've not regretted doing so for even a moment," he said firmly. Confirmed bachelor he might be, but as far as he saw it, that had very little to do with whether he had the capacity to take care of a child.
It had taken the better part of a year before some of the nosier and more interfering hobbits had accepted this (or at least found fresher fodder for gossip) and he would be damned if he let even a well-meaning type like Tansy think for a second that he was not willing to take care of his little cousin.
Tansy, understanding the reasons for his firmness, and respecting them, took no offense at his tone.
"Peace, Mister Baggins. I meant no offense."
Bilbo sighed and were his hands not full of tiny sleeping hobbit, he would have raked his fingers through his hair.
"Sorry, I just…" Bilbo suddenly had an idea. "I had a run-in with Gandalf today."
"Gandalf…" Tansy tested the name on her lips, and then her eyes widened. "Not the wizard Gandalf?"
"The very same," Bilbo sighed. "He wants me to go on an adventure, apparently."
"But!" Tansy Proudfoot looked aghast. "You can't! What about Frodo?" she demanded in a whisper.
"I told him I wasn't interested," Bilbo replied firmly, "but I'm not sure if he was listening."
Tansy Proudfoot scowled. "Of course he wasn't. Dratted meddler."
"Either way," Bilbo continued, carefully hiding a smirk at her predictable reaction, "I invited him to tea tomorrow, in the hopes that if he actually sees why I can't go, he'll leave me be," he said, gently stroking a few errant curls away from Frodo's face.
Tansy Proudfoot watched this scene, and then nodded firmly to herself. "You leave it to me, Mister Baggins. I'll pass the word around. If you need any help turfing him out on his wrinkly behind, just holler, and I'll have half the Shire up in arms on your behalf."
Bilbo smiled genuinely. "Thank you, Mistress Proudfoot. You know I don't like to be a bother, but sometimes…"
"Sometimes you just need a little helping hand," she said. "Don't you worry Mister Baggins, I'll just go visit my good friend Bell Gamgee, and between the two of us, we'll get the word out. If nothing else, maybe some young buck will hear that there's an adventure to be had, and step up in your place. Those Tookish cousins of yours are usually looking for a bit of excitement."
Bilbo thanked her again, and then ushered her out the door.
He then moved to put little Frodo down on his bed, but naturally, it was then that little blue eyes popped sleepily open, to be rubbed with the back of one hand.
"Nuncle Bilbo?" Frodo mumbled.
"Yes, Frodo. I'm just about to put together some lunch. Are you hungry?"
Of course, the answer was yes.
"Alright then, let's get you a bit cleaned up first, and then you can watch your poor Uncle Bilbo cook for a horde."
Frodo blinked drowsily. "Wassa horde?"
"A large group of unwelcome people," Bilbo said, stretching the definition a little to keep it appropriate for tiny hobbit ears. "But you know, it's very important that guests are always received with courtesy, no matter how unwelcome they might be."
Frodo wrinkled his nose a little at that, but then toddled out to wash his hands and feet at the basin in the washroom.
Bilbo sighed a little at the mud that was being tracked across his floors, but it was nothing he wasn't used to. Having a small, curious (but nonetheless delightful) child about the place had quickly taught him to not fret about the small things like a bit of dirt that could be easily swept away, (unlike the ink that Frodo had managed to find, spill and make tiny handprints on the floor and wall of Bilbo's study, some of which Bilbo had been unable to remove and so had covered with careful placement of a rug and a bookcase,) and to keep valuables and breakables out of reach from tiny sticky fingers.
Frodo came wandering back into the room, now damp, instead of muddy, and looked at him accusingly.
"Nuncle Bil-bo," he said in an aggrieved sing-song. "You said there'd be lunch."
Bilbo snorted, and ruffled Frodo's hair on the way to the kitchen.
"Alright, don't get your toes in a tangle. Let's see if I can't rustle us up something. Then you can taste-test what I cook for our company tomorrow, and make some animals from dough for me. That sound alright?"
Frodo considered this, then nodded, thumb firmly in his mouth.
Bilbo smiled. "Alright then."
And then the two of them proceeded to have a lovely afternoon, completely free from wizards with upsetting ideas.