FrodoBaggins1982 - Glad you found Bargo and Reginard's punishment fitting. One more chapter to go, and we'll end as we began, with Frodo, Sam and Merry at Bag End.

Gayalondiel - Hope you enjoyed Bargo and Reginard's comeuppance as much as I did! We have a few loose ends to tie together here, and then soon it will be time to start the sequel!

Midgette - I don't know why, but suddenly the site doesn't like my documents! I tried re-saving chapter 26 as a web page format, and the preview looked better. I've uploaded it again, and hopefully it will take care of the problems.

Pebbles - Here's the last chapter, and hopefully the goofy symbols are gone. I have no idea what all that was about!

Iorhael - Frodo's experiences have shown him that he is a survivor. The folks at Brandy Hall were quite shocked at what happened, but for all their dismay, they still can't entirely grasp what it was like for Frodo. It would be interesting to see Bargo and Reginard years later and find out where their heads are about all this.

Bookworm2000 - I enjoyed writing the last chapter and giving those naughty hobbits what they deserved.

Aelfgifu - Frodo got his chance to get a few parting shots in, and he earned it! Go Frodo!

Shirebound - Bargo and Reginard got theirs! If you like the things I've written here involving Bilbo, please stick around for the sequel. He's one of the leading stars of the story.

GamgeeFest - I think Bargo and Reginard will think twice before they bully someone again. Glad it left you grinning!

Tavion - Glad Bargo and Reginard's punishment lived up to expectations. Sequel is coming soon!

Fool of a Took - Remind me not to make trouble at Brandy Hall! Saradoc took care of those boys, sure enough. Boys will be boys, won't they? Falling asleep during lessons and brawling in the courtyard. Ahhhh, youth!

Aratlithiel - Everyone seems to be pleased with Bargo and Reginard's punishment. Can you imagine the ride home on that bumpy road with a sore backside?

~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Chapter 27 - Bag End

"Wake up, my boy," Bilbo said, shaking Frodo gently to rouse him. "We've arrived. You're home, lad."

Frodo sat up in the seat of the cart and looked around with the dazed expression of one still half in dreams. Bag End stood before him, the windows looking out from the Hill invitingly, and Frodo wondered if he was indeed still dreaming.

Bilbo extended a hand and Frodo grasped it, steadying himself as he climbed down from the cart. It was dark out, and most of the surrounding area was hidden in the shadows. Even so, what Frodo could see of his new home left him awestruck.

"This is Bag End?" he breathed, letting his gaze rove from the gate up the path that led to the round, green door. "It's enormous!" Bag End was nowhere near the size of Brandy Hall, but Brandy Hall was home to many hobbits. For the dwelling of a single - no, two hobbits, Frodo reminded himself - Bag End was indeed quite large.

"There is room to spare, certainly," Bilbo replied as he urged Frodo toward the gate. "Inside with you now. It's late and we must get you settled in." The elderly hobbit opened the door and shooed Frodo inside. The driver would bring their bags in for them.

"There are several empty rooms, Frodo," Bilbo informed the tween. "Take whichever one suits you, and we'll get your things arranged." Bilbo left Frodo standing in the parlor as he stepped back outside to speak with the young driver once more.

Frodo had been frozen in place in the parlor as Bilbo spoke, unsure of what direction to take. The parlor itself was large and comfortable, and he could see the kitchen and hearth beyond it. Several hallways branched off from the main one, leading deeper into the large smial, and Frodo was unsure which was the proper one.

The young hobbit moved slowly down one of the hallways, stepping into each room in turn. They were all more spacious than his accommodations at Brandy Hall had been, and all were furnished with comfortable - looking beds, dressers, and other necessary items. One room had a window facing the sprawling garden, and it was this one that Frodo chose. He could imagine the heady scent of wisteria drifting into the room on a warm breeze.

Bilbo had returned and came to stand behind Frodo. "An excellent choice," he said, looking around the room as if seeing it for the first time. "Let me see. Bed, dresser, wash stand - " He took a quick inventory of necessary furnishings. "You'll be needing a bookcase, I imagine," Bilbo said as he surveyed the room.

"But Uncle, I have only a few books of my own," Frodo protested quietly.

"At present, that may be so, lad," Bilbo acknowledged with a grin, "but you will undoubtedly acquire many more in the days to come. Books are like rabbits, Frodo. They have a curious tendency to multiply."

Frodo laughed at the statement, trying to imagine his few leather bound volumes turning into several shelves' worth.

Although he had slept during the journey from Buckland, Frodo found he was quite tired. He made a futile attempt to conceal a yawn, and Bilbo, sharp - eyed as ever, caught him in the act. "Enough conversation for now, lad," he said as the driver of the cart appeared in the hall behind him with Frodo's pack. "You go on and get some proper rest, and we shall finish getting you settled in the morning."

"That sounds wonderful," Frodo agreed as another yawn threatened. "Thank you, Uncle - for everything." Frodo hugged Bilbo with heartfelt gratitude and Bilbo returned the embrace, his eyes misting slightly.

"Pleasant dreams, dear boy, for you surely deserve them," he said softly. The elder hobbit broke away from the embrace reluctantly and left the room, intending to get the young lad who had driven the cart settled in a guest room and catch up on a few things in his study before retiring for the night.

Frodo pulled a nightshirt from his pack and stowed the rest of the contents in the armoire. He was glad he was so tired, otherwise he felt certain he would not sleep at all for his anticipation of the day to come. The morning would bring his first opportunity to explore his new home, and he couldn't wait to see Bag End and its surroundings in the full light of day.


Bilbo dipped the quill in the inkwell and began to write a message. He scrawled a few lines, then stopped to do some figuring in his head. That should do nicely, he decided, and signed his name with a flourish. He pulled a small wooden box from behind some books on a shelf and opened the brass lock. He counted out a number of coins, then added a few for good measure, and returned the box to its former place. He then bundled the coins into a small pouch and attached the note, addressing it to a location in the Southfarthing.

On another piece of paper, he began a second message, this one as warm and personable as the last had been short and businesslike. Frodo would surely want to add his comments as well, Bilbo thought, and he would have the chance to do so in the morning.

Bilbo relaxed and lit his pipe, thinking about his new responsibilities as Frodo's guardian. He was now responsible for Frodo's education, health and happiness, and he realized that he felt no apprehension regarding any of them. He felt only gladness, and he savored the feeling as he planned all the things he and Frodo could do and see together.

He rose and padded lightly down the hall to the room Frodo had chosen as his own, and pushed the door ajar carefully. Frodo was already asleep, his features relaxed and calm, his breathing measured and even. He looked comfortable, happy, and safe.

"Welcome home, Frodo," Bilbo whispered as he softly closed the door and sought his own rest.

~*~Two weeks later in Bree~*~

"It's good of you to join me for tea," Aiden said pleasantly as he took Mira's cloak and hung it on the peg by the door. He did his best to conceal a small wince as he raised his left arm in the process. The wound was healing nicely, but some stiffness lingered still.

Mira smiled, although she had seen the fleeting look of pain cross his features. "It was good of you to ask me," she replied. "My family is looking forward to your joining us for supper on the morrow."

"As am I," Aiden said as he poured tea into two cups. He truly was looking forward to the event, although nervousness was beginning to creep over him. It had been some years since he had asked another man for permission to court his daughter.

Just as he had seated himself across from his guest, the doorbell sounded. "Now I wonder who that could be?" he mused as he excused himself and rose to answer the summons. He opened the door to find an unfamiliar hobbit standing before him.

"Master Aiden, I presume?" the hobbit asked.

"Yes, I am he," Aiden replied, looking a little confused. The hobbit peered over the top of the stack of small, wrapped packages he was holding in his hands.

"I have an order to be delivered to you from Master Shadybanks. He sends his greetings to you, " the hobbit said politely as Aiden's look of confusion deepened.

Jeb Shadybanks was one of the Southfarthing's most successful pipeweed plantation owners, and one of Aiden's personal favorite business associates from the Shire. But Aiden hadn't ordered any pipeweed from him recently, and he usually journeyed to the Shire himself to replenish his supplies. So where had this sizeable shipment of Old Toby come from?

"I thank you, good sir, but there must be some mistake. You see, I haven't placed an order recently," Aiden explained as he silently reckoned the size and weight of each of the packages. There was enough pipeweed there to supply his customers for months to come.

"Oh, we know," the hobbit answered briskly. "This order was paid for and sent to you by Bilbo Baggins of Hobbiton. He has a message for you as well." The hobbit pulled an envelope from his pocket and handed it to a thoroughly dumbfounded Aiden.

Mira stood beside him as he read Bilbo's missive.

'My Dear Friend,

It is with our greatest appreciation and deepest gratitude that we send you greetings and a small token of thanks for all that you have done for us in recent days. It was a remarkable series of events that brought you and young Frodo together, and it is clear that you are a remarkable individual as well. Frodo was blessed by the Valar indeed to have found himself in your company while in Bree.

I am aware that it was at considerable personal expense that you came to Frodo's timely assistance, and it would please us both very much if you would accept this gift we send you. You risked and freely sacrificed much on Frodo's behalf, and this is the very least we can do to thank you. Frodo wishes to add his greetings as well, by the way.

Best regards,

Bilbo Baggins'

The writing on the page changed from Bilbo's slanting script to Frodo's flowing, more rounded letters.

'I hope all is well with you and that your shoulder does not trouble you any longer. I am very sorry you were injured on my account.

I shall treasure our friendship always, and I will never forget the kindness you showed me when I thought there was none left to be found in the world. If you should find yourself in the Westfarthing, Uncle Bilbo and I would be pleased if you would be our guest. If we should not be destined to meet again, please know that I wish you happiness and long life, peace and prosperity.

Your Friend Always,

Frodo Baggins'

"How remarkable," Aiden said as he carefully folded the letter and replaced it in the envelope. "Thank you for the delivery," he said, addressing the hobbit once more. He held out a few coins to the hobbit as a tip for his efforts.

"You're quite welcome, Sir," the hobbit answered, handing the packages to Aiden. "I must be off now, or I shall be late in arriving home, and that wouldn't do at all," the hobbit said with a polite bow. He waved again as he strode off down the street whistling a tune.

"Well that's something you don't see every day," Mira remarked. "The little folk seem to have been quite impressed by you and your deeds," she teased him.

"And I should hope your father is equally impressed, else he may send me packing," Aiden answered wryly. "I should be quite unhappy in such circumstances."

"As would I," Mira answered. Since their meeting at the Prancing Pony, the two had been spending more and more time together. It was clear that something was developing between them, something beyond the care of a healer for her patient.

"To think I owe our meeting to having befriended a frightened young hobbit," Aiden said with a shake of his head. It was interesting, the circumstances in which one could find onesself, and the way one thing affected another. The making of a single decision could change everything, setting in motion events that would alter the lives of many.

"It sounds like he is no longer frightened, but in good care and keeping," Mira remarked, thinking of the young hobbit whose injuries she had tended. "May he remain so," she wished aloud as she took Aiden's hand and led him back inside to where their tea was waiting.

~*~Bag End, present time~*~

Merry gazed into the fire, his expression unreadable, his thoughts distant. Sam stared at Frodo, shocked and dismayed by much of what he had heard, but also heartened and warmed by some of the story. "Mr. Frodo, why did you never tell me?" Sam asked, a little breathlessly.

"It's the past, Sam," Frodo said softly. "None of it can be changed, so why dwell on it?" He stood and walked to the hearth, extending his hands to warm them. "Even so, I'm amazed to think that a single message that wasn't sent might have made everything so different."

"Very different indeed," Merry remarked. "If your father's message had reached old Rory, You would never have experienced all those awful things in Bree, or been tormented by Bargo and Reginard."

"I would not have lived with you at Brandy Hall and had the opportunity to be your friend as well as your cousin, either," Frodo answered, smiling at Merry fondly. "Nor would I have met Aiden, and learned that there are good people to be found among the big folk as well as evil ones."

"What ever happened to him, Mr. Frodo?" Sam questioned curiously. He wished he could have met Aiden himself and thanked him for being so kind to Frodo. "Is he still in Bree?"

"I think so. I haven't heard from him in some time, but he is busy, you know." Frodo grinned widely. "A wife and children seem to have that effect on a person."

"What about those two scoundrels from the Hall?" Sam asked with a scowl. "I wish I had been there! I'd have shown them a thing or three!" Sam stood with his arms crossed and a stern look on his face. His eyes flicked to Merry and he said apologetically, "Not that you didn't take as proper care of Mr. Frodo as you could, Mr. Merry."

Merry grinned. "They were a little bigger than I was, it's true. They would have been a bit for you and I to handle, but perhaps between the two of us we could have taught them a lesson."

"I don't know where they are now," Frodo said as he searched his memory for some mention of the boys. "I know they were sent from the Hall following their punishment." A smile spread across Frodo's face, followed by a laugh. "I don't think their journey home was pleasant. As I understand it, they weren't too inclined to sit down for a little while." Merry and Sam snickered as Frodo continued. "I'm certain their families were none too happy to have them returning home in disgrace."

"Did those nasty ruffians get theirs too?" Sam surely hoped they did. When Frodo had told of his treatment by them, Sam had nearly dashed across the room to pull Frodo into a protective embrace. He had held back and listened, turning his face away so Frodo wouldn't see his tears.

"I never learned what happened to Dolan," Frodo said with a shake of his head. "Perhaps he saw the error of his ways and went back to trading in proper goods. He certainly attempted to redeem himself in the end."

Frodo's brow furrowed as he thought of Gavin and Fergus. He had buried the memory of them, and digging it up had cost him some effort. "The others were taken into custody by the constable. They tried to pin blame on Dolan, but he wasn't to be found anywhere about Bree. Fergus also tried to have Aiden charged with trafficking in slave labor for purchasing me from him at the inn. Of course, that failed entirely when respectable citizens came forward in Aiden's defense. He is quite well thought of, you know."

"And well he should be," Merry said, remembering the kind voice and smile of the man who had risked his life to save Frodo's.

Frodo crossed the room and opened the shutters of one of the windows. "The storm has passed," he announced, gazing out at the sky that was beginning to lighten in the east. "We've talked the entire night away, it seems." He turned to face Sam and Merry. "I don't really even feel tired at all," he mused. "Just hungry."

"I could do with an early breakfast," Merry agreed. Sam was already on his way to the kitchen, intent on preparing bacon, eggs and fresh potatoes, browned in a skillet and seasoned with salt and chives from the garden.

"I'll take care of that, Mr. Frodo!" Sam called brightly from the kitchen. That and more, he vowed. Perhaps Frodo would have missed some good things by coming to Bag End sooner, but Sam would have given anything to spare him the pain and fear he had seen in his friend and master's eyes during the telling of the tale.

Frodo was right, there was no changing the past. Sam was reasonably certain that even Gandalf couldn't do something like that. There was only the future to consider, moment by moment. Whatever the future brought, Sam vowed he would do his part to keep Frodo safe from anything that sought to harm him, and he knew Merry would too.

A short while later, memories and tales were laid aside as three hungry hobbits sat down together to enjoy a hearty breakfast and each other's company while the sun rose over the peaceful lands of the Shire.


Author's note - As has become my habit lately, I have a sequel in the works. "Baggins of Hobbiton" will explore Frodo's arrival in Hobbiton and his efforts to adjust to life at Bag End. I know this theme has been done many times, but I hope to add some new twists.

The agreement between Bilbo and Saradoc stated that if Frodo did not find himself happier at Bag End within 6 months, he could return to Brandy Hall. Bilbo intends to adopt Frodo formally and name him as his heir if all goes well during that time. Lotho learns of the plan, and he figures he has 6 months to get Frodo to back to Buckland!