Baggins of Hobbiton

By Mbradford

Summary - Sequel to "On the Banks of the Brandywine". The story begins as Frodo is settling in at Bag End. If all goes well and Frodo is happy at Bag End after the first six months, Bilbo will adopt Frodo formally and name him as his heir. When Lotho discovers the truth, he plans to make sure Frodo goes back to Buckland.

Author's note - This story will be able to stand alone, but it is based on events in the previous tale. As to the ages of the hobbits, I'm working with movie canon. For the purpose of this story, it works best that Merry and Sam are still younger than Frodo, but that the three are closer in age than in the book. Frodo will refer to Bilbo often as his uncle, although it is noted that Bilbo is in fact his cousin. In "On the Banks of the Brandywine" it is explained that as a youngster, Frodo developed the habit of calling Bilbo' Uncle' because most of the elder adult hobbits around him were aunts and uncles, and Bilbo didn't correct him because he rather liked the sound of it.

Rating: PG

Warnings - Some violence and dirty tricks, hobbit injury and illness.

Disclaimer - The characters and places are the property of the Tolkien Estate. I'm just borrowing them for a short while.

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

Chapter 1 - A New Beginning

Sunlight peeked in around the edges of the wooden shutters, and birdsong followed it blithely into the room where a tweenage hobbit still lay abed well past first and second breakfast. Frodo stirred slightly, waking slowly from a deep and restful sleep.

He had been at Bag End for less than a week, but already it seemed a fine place to live. It was a large dwelling with many rooms, and Frodo was still getting his bearings. Just the day before he had wandered down the wrong corridor on the way to his room, and ended up amid empty guest quarters. He was sure he would get used to it, however, since Brandy Hall had been much larger and he had come to know every inch of it in his time there.

Yawning and stretching, Frodo sat up in bed and noted the thin rays of light working their way insistently around the closed shutters. He stood and walked to the window, throwing the shutters wide and opening the window to breathe the fresh, brisk morning air. The sun was quite high, he mused, suddenly abashed that he had slept so late. Bilbo had not insisted on waking him since his arrival, but instead had allowed him to lie in as late as he pleased. It seemed strange to do so. At Brandy Hall, oversleeping meant going hungry until the next mealtime. If one was absent at breakfast, there was no going into the kitchen and preparing one's own repast. One ate when everyone else did, or one did not eat!

Frodo tugged on a pair of breeches and pulled a shirt from the armoire. It was the same attire he had worn in Buckland, and there hadn't been time for procuring anything new as yet. He scrubbed his face and smoothed his unruly curls into place, striving to make a decent appearance, if a late one.

Sounds came from the kitchen as Frodo approached, and he recognized the tune Bilbo was humming. It was a popular air often sung at gatherings in Buckland, and the familiarity of it brought a smile to the lad's face. "Good morn - I mean, it is still morning, isn't it Uncle?" Frodo stammered uncertainly.

"Barely so, Frodo, lad," Bilbo replied lightly as he stirred something in a large bowl. "Nigh on luncheon, to be truthful."

"Oh, but I am a lazy hobbit!" Frodo berated himself. "How could you let me stay abed so late, Uncle? Surely there's much to be done today," Frodo prompted. He hoped there would be some chores he could assist with. He had been given his share at Brandy Hall, and it felt wrong somehow to just be sleeping the morning away rather than engaging in productive activity.

"Nothing pressing, my lad," Bilbo responded. "You will find that here in Hobbiton, life proceeds at a different pace than it did in Buckland." He eyed Frodo knowingly and continued, "At least that is true of things at Bag End."

Frodo nodded as he sat down at the table. He supposed that Bilbo was right. Brandy Hall was a huge place with many hobbits about, and a lot of work was required to keep things running smoothly. They all labored together for the good of the Hall, even the Master and his family. Here, Bilbo and he would be supporting only themselves with any labor they undertook, and much of that seemed already to be done by the Gamgees.

Hamfast Gamgee, Bilbo's aging gardener, had made the garden of Bag End the envy of Hobbiton. He had been employed by Bilbo for a long time, and was paid a wage that allowed him to support his family quite properly, though not in extravagance. Number Three Bagshot Row was not a large or luxurious dwelling, but the entire Gamgee clan lived there in good health and harmony, having no complaints.

"Perhaps after luncheon we could study Elvish together for a while, " Frodo suggested. He was learning the language quickly, and their daily sessions were something he quite enjoyed.

"A fine idea, my boy," Bilbo answered crisply. "Your education at Brandy Hall was quite thorough, however one is never at the end of the learning process," Bilbo lectured. "It stands to reason that you should have some command of the language if you are ever to journey to Rivendell with me."

Frodo's eyes lit visibly at the suggestion. "Rivendell? Uncle, will you take me to meet the Elves?"

Bilbo chuckled. "Perhaps sometime in the future. For now, Frodo lad, we will be too busy settling you here in Hobbiton. In fact," Bilbo said thoughtfully, "I had wondered if we might have a gathering here at Bag End to introduce you to the folk who live nearby."

"Hmmm. A large gathering, Uncle?" Frodo tried to sound enthusiastic, but Bilbo was too sharp to miss the apprehensive tone in the response.

"If you're not keen on the idea, we can wait," the elder hobbit said patiently. "I know you've just arrived and rather unexpectedly at that, and besides, we've not long to wait for the Yule celebrations."

Frodo nodded, thinking that he might be more comfortable in Hobbiton by Yule. It would be almost two months before that time, and that would be time enough for him to become more settled. His thoughts were interrupted as Bilbo continued speaking.

"We've much to do before then as it is," he explained. "We will have to see a tailor regarding some new clothes for you, my boy." He gave Frodo a conspiratorial wink. "In case you haven't noticed, you seem to have stretched your arms and legs just a bit recently."

Frodo thrust both arms out in front of him and was surprised to see that the cuffs of his shirtsleeves rode a little higher up his forearms than was quite proper, and it did seem as though a little more of his shins were showing beneath the hems of his breeches.

"What's more, you must have some proper attire befitting your status as a young gentlehobbit," Bilbo told him.

Frodo examined his apparel anew and felt rather embarrassed. Compared to the fine linen shirt and brocaded weskit Bilbo wore, his own clothing now seemed rather shabby. He supposed it wouldn't do for him to be seen about Hobbiton looking like a Buckland stable boy.

He was startled from his reverie by the sound of the front doorbell chiming stridently. Bilbo's brows drew together in a frown as he stopped stirring whatever was in the bowl and set it on the table. "Now who can that be, I wonder?"

Frodo remained seated while Bilbo moved to answer the door. The voices of Bilbo and his visitor were quite audible from where he sat, but Frodo still felt uncomfortably like he was eavesdropping.

"Ahh, Lobelia. To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?" There was something in Bilbo's voice that gave Frodo the impression that he was not really especially pleased to see this particular caller. The fact that Bilbo did not readily invite the visitor to enter was also rather telling.

A somewhat abrasive, shrill voice answered Bilbo. "Bilbo, you know very well that we have not been invited to tea at Bag End for some time. You have been invited to our home on many occasions, but have declined to attend."

"I have had more urgent matters to deal with, Lobelia," Bilbo said as politely as he could. "I have been away and have only recently returned. As to my having declined previous invitations, I apologize. I have been hard at work on my book, and there has not been time for socializing."

Lobelia made a sound that was almost a derisive snort. "Only you would neglect your social obligations in favor of a book, Bilbo," she said condescendingly. "At any rate, you had better make amends. Folk are talking, you know."

Yes, Bilbo thought to himself. Of course they were talking, and they would talk a great deal more when Frodo's presence became common knowledge. He sighed and addressed Lobelia again. "You are quite right, Lobelia. I have been remiss in my duties to social convention, and I shall seek to rectify the situation. Will you and your family join us for tea tomorrow afternoon?"

Lobelia opened her mouth to accept the invitation, but closed it as Bilbo's words registered. Us? What in the Shire was Bilbo on about? "What do you mean, 'us'?" Lobelia questioned sharply. "Surely that Wizard isn't about again?"

"No, Lobelia, Gandalf is not here," Bilbo said patiently. "I am speaking of Frodo. The lad is here from Buckland, and will be joining us as well."

Lobelia's face scrunched up in concentration as she sought to recall the owner of the name. It took a moment, but it came to her. "That little orphaned cousin of yours? Primula's child?"

"The very same," Bilbo responded, his voice tight with restraint. The nerve of the old bat, referring to Frodo in such fashion!

"How interesting," Lobelia answered, in a tone that implied less than a keen interest in Frodo's presence. "We shall see you tomorrow afternoon, Bilbo. Good day."

"Good day, Lobelia." Bilbo closed the door, then turned to lean with his back pressed against it and his gaze cast skyward. "Blasted relations," he muttered as Frodo stepped into the parlor.

"Uncle, who was that?" Frodo questioned, disturbed by the look of consternation on Bilbo's face.

"That, my dear boy, was someone I had hoped to spare you from for a short while yet. Lobelia Sackville - Baggins, to be precise."

"Oh," Frodo said simply, recalling comments Bilbo had made about the Sackville - Bagginses in the past. Lobelia had been referred to in less than flattering terms, and even Saradoc had rolled his eyes at the mention of the name. "So we're having tea together tomorrow, then?"

"I'm afraid so, Frodo." Bilbo stopped leaning against the door and straightened his weskit. "It pains me to have to subject you to the Sackville - Bagginses so early in your residence here, but perhaps we should get it over with."

"Why are they so unpleasant, Uncle?" Frodo asked, regarding Bilbo curiously. Had there been a long feud between them? Some past misunderstanding that still stood between them and engendered this animosity?

"They are not happy with me, Frodo," Bilbo answered, scrubbing his hand across his face wearily. "You see, they are my closest relations in Hobbiton - besides yourself, now, of course - and they want what they feel is their due for being such. I have lived far longer than they anticipated, and they expect to have Bag End for themselves when I am gone." He looked up and his eyes blazed with feistiness. "But I haven't gone, and I hope I live for a dragon's age to come, if for no other reason than to spite them!"

"How horrible!" Frodo was shocked that Bilbo's own kin would want him gone just so they could move into his home. "Haven't they a home of their own? Why do they want Bag End so badly?"

Bilbo smiled. It was just like the lad to not understand the grasping, greedy natures of creatures like Lobelia. So much was shared between so many at Brandy Hall, it was an alien concept to Frodo to want more than what he truly needed.

"They have a home, and there's nothing wrong with it, either," Bilbo stated firmly. "Bag End is much larger and finer than their present dwelling, and they are of the mind that they are fine enough to have it as well. They look down their noses at those who are of lower station than themselves, and they want their perceived social status to be painfully obvious to all who know them."

Things were certainly different here in Hobbiton, Frodo mused. The Master of Buckland and his immediate family were treated with the respect due them at Brandy Hall, but they never held it above anyone else. The Hall was supported by the efforts of all, from the youngest stable boy to the Master himself. Saradoc had never been anything but respectful to everyone, regardless of his or her station.

"I'm sorry they've troubled you, Uncle," Frodo said quietly. It bothered him to see Bilbo in distress about such a thing. "I hope you live for a dragon's age as well, whether to spite them or no," Frodo announced, hoping to raise Bilbo's spirits.

"Thank you, dear boy. Your support is noted and very much appreciated," Bilbo said wryly. He laid a hand on Frodo's shoulder and guided him back toward the kitchen. "Let us not concern ourselves further with the matter. We have luncheon and an Elvish lesson awaiting us, I believe, so let us not dawdle."

~*~

Bilbo closed the book and sighed contentedly. "Good work today, lad. You're making excellent progress." He beamed at Frodo, who was seated on the floor before him.

"Thank you, Uncle," Frodo responded happily. "Elvish is such a lovely language, isn't it? It makes the common tongue seem almost harsh by comparison."

"The speech of the Fair Folk is among the most pleasant sounds of Middle Earth, young Frodo," Bilbo acknowledged. "I myself am not entirely fluent, largely due to lack of practice." Indeed, there was not much practice to be had with the language in Hobbiton, as most hobbits were not the least bit concerned with knowledge of such things.

"It isn't fitting for a lad of your age to spend all his time cooped up indoors, especially on a crisp, sunny Autumn day," Bilbo admonished his young charge. "Why don't you step out into the garden for a little bit of fresh air while I prepare our tea?"

"I think I shall," Frodo answered happily. It was a rather nice day outside, and he'd not done much exploring in the garden as yet. He rather wished he had arrived in springtime, for now much of the garden was readied for winter, and only some of the flowers still bloomed. The pumpkins should be impressive, though.

Frodo rose from the floor and made his way out the door and into the garden, walking slowly and breathing in the scent of fallen leaves and chimney smoke. He stopped and closed his eyes as he inhaled deeply. When he opened his eyes again, he was looking into the faces of two other hobbits, one aging though not as old as Bilbo, another younger than himself, but more sturdily built.

"Well you must be Mr. Frodo," the older hobbit said cheerfully. "Bilbo has been talkin' a right streak about you these past two days or so," he said. "I'm Hamfast Gamgee, and this is my son, Samwise." Sam smiled shyly and leaned on the rake he was holding. "Pleased to meet you, Mr. Frodo," Sam said politely.

"Oh, I'm pleased to meet you," Frodo said, stammering slightly. No one had ever addressed him so formally before, and it sounded quite strange to him. He had also not thought to see anyone in the garden so late in the afternoon, and was rather startled by meeting up with the other two hobbits. "I didn't mean to disturb you," he told them, feeling rather out of place.

"There's naught to disturb, young master," Hamfast assured him. "We're just cleanin' up a few of these leaves before we go home to tea." Hamfast resumed raking as he spoke, his somewhat gnarled hands gripping the handle of the rake and guiding it deftly over the ground.

"The garden is beautiful, Master Gamgee. You must be the best gardener in Hobbiton," Frodo said as he looked around him. It must have taken considerable skill and care to keep so many of the plants green so late in the year.

"Oh, he is, Mr. Frodo, no mistake!" Sam said with enthusiasm.

"Mind yourself, Samwise," Hamfast said sternly but with obvious fondness. "Samwise here is my youngest boy. He seems to take a likin' to gardening and he's learnin' fast. When I'm no longer able, he'll be comin' to work for Mr. Bilbo in my stead."

"I'm certain the garden will continue to be in the best of hands then," Frodo said politely. "Please pardon my intrusion. I'll leave you to your task. It was very nice meeting you both," Frodo nodded to both Gamgees, and waved over his shoulder as he followed the path back to Bag End.

Hamfast and his son waved back, then bent to their raking once again. "He seems right friendly," Sam commented as he piled more leaves in a heap for burning. "He's a shade on the thin side, though, ain't he Da?"

"Don't go gossiping about gentlefolk, Samwise. In need of a proper feeding he may be, but he's gentry just the same," Hamfast admonished. "He's come from Brandy Hall, and there's such a large bunch as live there, it's a wonder he ever got his proper share at mealtimes," the aging gardener said by way of explaining Frodo's lean appearance. "We're to make him welcome here, as best we can by being neighborly."

"I will, Da. And I won't gossip about him to no one, I swear it." There was something rather different about the newcomer, though. "I'll bet he's right smart and all, being Mr. Bilbo's kin."

"He just may be at that, lad. Wouldn't surprise me a bit if he's got his letters in the common tongue plus more besides." Hamfast brought out his tinderbox and lit the piles of leaves, watching them with a keen eye as they burned. "Mr. Bilbo is a scholar in his own right, he is. But that ain't our concern, my boy. Our care is for things that grow, and you'd best be payin' attention to all your old Da has to say to you about it, if you're to work for Mr. Bilbo."

"Yes, Sir," Sam answered as he stirred the burning leaves with his rake. He would indeed pay close attention to his father's teachings. Working for Mr. Bilbo would be the most splendid thing he could imagine doing, as Bag End had by far the largest and best garden in Hobbiton. Sam intended that when folks said 'gardener' they would mean 'Gamgee', as the Gamgees would be the best to be found.

~*~To Be Continued~*~