"Bye, Mumma! Bye-bye, Da!" Not quite two-year-old Frodo cried as he waved one small, chubby hand from the comfort of his Uncle Bilbo's arms.
The mid-morning sun, filtered as it was through the breeze ruffled leaves of the trees, made ever shifting patterns on the tile floor of Bag End's front hall as an anxious mother stood surveying her baby with doubt written on her face. The little family had arrived at Bag End not more than an hour before, with intention of dropping off it's littlest member into the care of the master of Bag End, Bilbo Baggins.
It seemed an all day party which would begin as a barbecue and cumulate into a ball of sorts in the evening, was taking place, some miles away near Tuckborough. Bilbo Baggins had, of course, been invited and, truth be told, had planned to go, but when he heard of Primula and Drogo's intention to attend, with their little lad in tow, he had changed his mind post-haste. He would never let them know, of course, that he had ever intended to attend, for he didn't wish for them to think he was being put upon in any way. Indeed, Bilbo did not in the least feel he was put upon. He had really only intended to go to the party out of a sense of obligation and duty. A party, with a barbecue would be good fun for anyone, but an evening ball, Bilbo felt, was for lovers. When he thought of Drogo and Primula trying to attend such a party with one so small as Frodo along, well, his heart just went out to them. Bilbo had it from a reliable source that the couple had not had a night to themselves since Frodo had come along some eighteen months hence. While this little one's arrival had been long anticipated (some had actually given up hope that Drogo and Prim would ever be parents), still, Bilbo reckoned, every couple needed and deserved a night to be lovers every now and again. With this in mind, Bilbo had offered his baby minding services to the couple. They argued at first, that they would be fine, even with Frodo in tow and that Bilbo simply must attend the party. They had finally been won over, however, as Bilbo explained his intention to go only out of obligation and that they would quite be doing him a favor by offering him an excuse as to why he could not attend. Now that it had come to it, though, the anxiety in Prim's eyes told of second thoughts.
Primula leaned in to give the toddler one more kiss (bringing the kissing tally up to a total of twelve times in as many minutes) on his flushed and rounded cheek. "Bye, my sweetling! Mumma loves you so much! Mum and Da will be back very soon. You be a good lad for Uncle Bilbo and don't give him any trouble, all right?"
" 'Es, Mummy! Wub 'ou , too! Fwo be dood! Pay wiv Unga Bee! No twouba!" The little hobbit in "Unga Bee's" arms declared with a grin and a shake of his dark and curly head.
The enormous blue eyes that looked at her were utterly innocent and devoid of malice, but Primula knew her son well enough to know that "no twouba" was not a likely thing. A sweeter, more loving (and loveIable/I) child was not to be found anywhere in the Shire, but Frodo's bright and curious mind often got him into situations his eighteen and one quarter months of living had not prepared him to deal with.
"Bilbo, are you sure you'll be all right? We could take Frodo with us if you think you might not be able to ---." Primula started for the third time that hour, but was cut off by Bilbo. She hadn't much experience in leaving her baby for more than an hour at a time and this was proving more difficult than she had imagined. More and more, Prim was beginning to think that attending this party without the encumbrance of her child was not worth the pain of separation it was causing her.
"Now, Prim! You know as well as I do that Frodo and I will be just fine. Why, we get along splendidly, don't we Frodo?" Bilbo winked conspiratorially at the toddler in his arms.
" 'Es! Spin-did, Bee!" Frodo punctuated his "Unga's" statement.
As Primula made to protest, she was cut off once more - this time before she could get the first word out.
"And besides - I do have some experience taking care of little ones, you know. Why, I practically raised some of my cousins! I tell you we'll be fine. Now you two go on. Go to your party and have a wonderful time!" Bilbo commanded the pair.
"Well…if you really think so." Primula was not convinced. "It's just that, well, Frodo is a wonderful baby, but he can be a handful at times."
"Well then, it's a good thing I've got itwo/i hands, isn't it?" Bilbo grinned. "Now, shoo! Off with you both! The party is waiting!"
"Bilbo's right, Prim!" Drogo interjected. "He and Frodo will be just fine - won't you, my little lad?" Frodo's Da leaned in for a kiss of his own, and as he did, he nuzzled the baby's neck with his nose and made a soft mock growl, eliciting a squeal from the small imp.
" 'Top, Da! Tickles!" Frodo giggled warding off his Da with a small hand laid upon the offending nose.
Drogo captured the hand in his own and tickled it's palm with his lips. His eyes were still locked with his son's as he said, "Come Prim. It's time we were off."
Returning the hand to it's owner Drogo turned and placed an arm about Primula's waist, leading her out the door of the smial. Ever the gentlehobbit, Drogo assisted Prim into the small pony trap that had borne them from their home this morning. With one last wave to the pair left standing on the step, Drogo touched off the pony and the cart began to roll slowly forward with his methodical, plodding steps. From the trap, Primula turned to wave to her baby for as long as she could see him as tears stood in her eyes at the parting – brief though it would be.
Back on the steps of Bag End, however, no tears were to be found. The pair stood watching the pony trap slowly disappear over the small rise, Frodo periodically waving to his mother in return and calling, "Bye-bye, Mum-mee! Wub 'oou! Bye-bye!"
When the trap was finally completely out of sight, Bilbo turned his eyes to the small charge who's bottom rested against his forearm as he sat perched upon his uncle's hip. For a moment, their eyes locked and a twinkle of excitement appeared in both pairs of blue eyes.
"Well, now! It looks like it's just you and I, Frodo, my lad. Whatever shall we get up to, hmm?" Bilbo queried as he turned back toward the smial.
"Dus' Fwo an' Unga Bee!" Frodo agreed with a grin that lit his whole little face even as it showed off the rows of new white teeth he had recently acquired. "Wha' do now, Unga Bee?" Little hands made the questioning sign as they were held palm up in front of their inquisitive owner.
"Well, little one, I'll bet you are getting a bit hungry by now, aren't you?" Bilbo asked.
Frodo seemed to consider the question for a moment, then answered emphatically in the affirmative. "Oooh…'es, Unga Bee! Fwo hundwey!" The baby's face was very serious as he shook his little head.
"Why then, we must get some food into you, mustn't we? Come along then. We'll just head to the kitchen and Uncle Bilbo will whip you up some second breakfast faster than you can say "Gandalf the Grey"!" Bilbo assured his little charge.
"Dan-dan…Dan-dalp? Dan-dalp da gwey?" Frodo's brow furrowed as he tried with mighty effort to form the words properly. "Wha' Dan-dalp, Unga Bee?" Frodo's little head moved around to be more completely in front of his uncle's line of site, the big blue eyes locked with 'Unga Bee's', the tiny button of a nose almost touching Bilbo's. Soft, dimpled hands clasped Bilbo's face, making certain that the owner of those hands had his full attention.
The sweet babyness of this little one suddenly overcame Bilbo's heart and he gave his nephew a squeeze and a quick kiss into the short, silky curls at the side of Frodo's head as he began walking back up the steps to the hole. The toddler was a bit surprised at the gesture, but not at all un-approving or unwelcoming of it. Little arms wound around the collar of Bilbo's shirt as Frodo hugged him back and lay his head against his uncle's shoulder, catching a scent of the pipeweed and ink aromas which Frodo would later always associate with the comfort of his 'Unga Bee".
"Unga Bee?" Frodo asked with his head still laid against Bilbo's shoulder, the little arms still wound about his neck, fingers twined gently in the curls at his Uncle's collar.
"Yes, dear lad?" Bilbo answered his query.
"Wub 'ou." The toddler said simply never lifting his head from his uncle's shoulder.
Bilbo hugged the little lad in his arms even closer and pressed another kiss, this time landing it on the sweet softness of Frodo's little neck, which made him squirm from the tickle just a little bit. "Oh, my sweet lad. Your Uncle Bee loves you, too."
As the pair made their way back to the smial, Bilbo began telling Frodo, in his soft, storytelling voice all about Gandalf the Grey. And thus, their early adventure began.