Passing Regrets

By Ariel (

Summary: A fluffy little Bilbo - Frodo story.... by the angst maven.

Category: General

Rating: G

Author's Note: The dear cpsings4him was writing a piece with a very cute toddler Frodo and I suddenly got an impression of what the first meeting of Frodo and Bilbo might have been like. Now, I don't 'do' cute - even when I try to it comes out angsty - and if I were to write sucrose my little hands would probably wither, so while this is sort of cute, it's not going to force you to get your insulin shot. ;)

Disclaimer: This is a work of fan fiction, written solely for the love of the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and situations used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises. The author receives no money or other remuneration for presenting this work but the pleasure of enjoying the Professor's creations. This work is the intellectual property of the author and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.

Motherhood hadn't diminished Primula's beauty, or so Bilbo mused as he saw her curtsey gracefully on her husband's arm. She'd always been stunning, though there was a bloom to her cheek that he half fancied hadn't been there the last time he had seen her. Life seemed to agree with her and with Drogo who, perhaps answering his wife's vivaciousness also seemed to glow with life. They were happy - blissfully so - and Bilbo delighted to see it. There had already been enough unhappiness for these two. It was time good fortune visited them for a change.

He hadn't seen the cause of their gladness yet. Their son had been born several years before, but they had spent those years in Buckland, and for one reason or another, Bilbo had never found time to visit. To be quite truthful, he wasn't overly fond of the hustle and bustle of life in Brandy Hall. Bag End was a much more desirable location for a hobbit of his advancing years. Its quiet rooms atop the hill were a blissful retreat from the press of burgeoning hobbitry and Bilbo had grown so satisfied with his situation there that he found fewer and fewer reasons to leave it. At least, not for visits with his relations. He took his jaunts among the folk he wished to spend his time with - the elves who still traveled the forgotten byways to the south and the dwarves who stopped in to visit with him on their way along the Great East Road. They were the folk he felt closest to, his own folk still being uncomfortable with his adventurous proclivities.

Hobbits were greeting the newly arrived couple and evaluating Drogo's bride with barely contained inquisitiveness. The Bagginses had been none too pleased that their highly eligible son had gone away to Buckland to find his bride, but seemed less disapproving now that they could see her in the flesh. And who could disapprove of such a startlingly lovely thing? Her dark hair and bright eyes were captivating, and her demure manner had charmed even Drogo's spinster sister Dora, a notoriously particular hobbitess.

Bilbo overheard a call for the couple to bring forth their little boy for assessment and took his pipe from his mouth, his own curiosity stirred. Primula seemed hesitant, and looked up at her husband but Drogo nodded once and patted her arm comfortingly. She turned to a young lad who had accompanied them and, with a few quiet words, sent him off towards the heart of the village.

It was perhaps a quarter of an hour before Drogo's old nurse appeared with the child walking by her side. He was all of three, if Bilbo had done his math correctly, a fauntling, and just barely of an age to be out much in public. He walked very deliberately as he clung to his nurse's hand, tottering a bit as if he were still learning the craft, and drinking in the sights and sounds of the celebration. Primula gathered him up and straddled him expertly over her hip as she rejoined her husband at the edge of the circle of hobbits under the party tree.

The boy didn't make a sound as the Bagginses dutifully greeted him. His little face had a look, not of fear, but of serious deliberation, as if he were busily memorizing every name and face for later evaluation. Bilbo chuckled and rose lightly to his feet, setting himself in line to greet the newest Baggins lad.

Dora Baggins, Bilbo's nearest cousin in age and temperament, had once jokingly confided to him that she was actually quite fond of children…as long as they were cooked properly. Her biting humor had mellowed somewhat with age, but she was still audacious and bold, and none too shy about sharing her opinion. Even though he might not have voiced such a cheeky statement, even in jest, Bilbo had to confess he was not very interested in children either. Until a youngster was old enough to actually talk to and get an intelligent (or at least interesting) answer from, he had little time for them. Of course, once they had reached the age of maturity and could theoretically have interesting things to say, most of them had learned to speak like their parents, and Bilbo generally had little time for them either.

He stepped forward and bowed low before the little tyke. The boy's brow was crinkled in concentration and he had a look of polite wariness, but the very first thing Bilbo marked about him were his eyes. He hadn't noticed them from a distance but face to face, they were mesmerizing. They were quite possibly the most startlingly blue pair he had ever seen in his life. Not just sky blue but brilliant, like an October afternoon, and clear, with a sparkle of gravity and intelligence that made the older hobbit simply want to stop and stare.

"Why, Drogo..." Bilbo murmured. "He's a lovely child!"

And, in turn, the boy stared at him. Bilbo felt himself being weighed and measured, catalogued and judged by this studious little fellow. So intense was the feeling that Bilbo would not have been surprised if the boy had opened his mouth and spoken, in a clear and adult voice, the words of fair greeting.

But the child merely stared at him with his curious little frown. Then he did something that astonished Bilbo.

He smiled.

It was the merest hesitant flash of a smile, but it lit up his face like a beacon. Bilbo drew in a breath, surprised at the swell of feeling that took him. What a charming, delightful child! He was suddenly aware of the details that he had not bothered to note before. Light brown curls which would probably darken with age, a softly dimpled chin, cheeks rounded with the appropriate amount of baby fat and perfectly formed little feet, topped with a sparse coat of dove colored down. He was quite certain he had never seen a hobbit as lovely and compelling as this little boy. He was even more beautiful than his mother, if such a thing were possible. There was something almost otherworldly about him, as well. Elvish, perhaps, as if he were something finer and fairer than anything bound to the earth. Bilbo was struck dumb and the strange feeling returned to swell inside him. He had never felt anything quite like it before. It was like longing, and yet touched with regret. It was as if he had been shown something he had never realized he wanted, only to find it was already lost to him.

Even before his adventures, Bilbo had been a somewhat singular hobbit. He had never been averse to the thought of a family of his own, but he had never had enough of an inclination to actually get around to doing something about it. Life seemed comfortable to him and the older he had gotten, the less interested he had been in disrupting its flow. After his quest, he had become even less disposed to the idea and so he had simply accepted the fact that he would remain a bachelor the rest of his days. He had never regretted his decision, but as he gazed at that beautiful, quiet child, he wondered for the first time in his life what he might have missed.

The boy laid his head against his mother's shoulder and wrapped his arms about her neck. Bilbo watched the pair wistfully. Some long forgotten memory told him of the comfort they found in each other and the longing intensified.

"Thank you, Bilbo," beamed Drogo, guiding him away from the line of relatives that had queued behind him. "We could not be prouder of Frodo. Could you have believed an old rascal like me could produce a little prince like him?"

Bilbo laughed, shaking off his remorse. "With a wife like Primula, I can, indeed!" He clapped Drogo on the back. "Well done, my lad, well done. When you've finished the introductions, please come 'round to my table. I'm up there under the tree proper, in plain sight of everything but blessedly undisturbed." He winked at his cousin. "I think folk are afraid I'll tell one of my outlandish tales again and are steering clear."

Drogo laughed with him and nodded. "I think I'd like that, cousin." He looked up to where Bilbo indicated. "And I am sure Primula wouldn't mind a quiet visit. She's been on her feet all morning, being prodded, questioned and examined! Poor dear is run ragged. I think a peaceful retreat would suit us all nicely. Thank you."

"Oh, it is entirely my pleasure, my boy." He looked back at the mother and child as the attentive throng of Bagginses encircled them. "My pleasure indeed."

"Hello, Uncle." Primula curtsied with a flush-faced grin. Bilbo marveled that she could do it so gracefully while sporting a toddler on her hip. "I hope we aren't disturbing you?"

"Don't give it a thought, my dear," he chided. "I asked Drogo to see me so that you might have a moment's peace from the ladies. A new baby sets them into quite a stir. It's a wonder you've been able to keep hold of him so long! Beruca was itching to take him, you realize?"

Primula blushed prettily. "Oh, I saw her hovering and knew that was what it was about, but I shouldn't dare pass him off on anyone at present. He's not had his nap this afternoon and he can be quite a handful when he's cranky."

"That child? Oh, he's been as good as gold! Why, I give him full marks for behaving himself with all this commotion going on. He's been a perfect dear, from what I have seen."

Drogo and Primula exchanged knowing smiles and sat at the table. Frodo was placed on his mother's lap and reached instantly for a mug that sat there. Primula moved it aside and pulled a small wooden toy from her apron. Frodo seemed far more interested in the mug, but accepted the object for the moment.

"He's a darling babe, Primula. You two should be proud of yourselves," Bilbo continued, his attention focused on the child's intense examination of his plaything. "I've never seen a child who could sit so pleasantly through the Baggins' ladies pawing. If you consider him cranky, you should visit my gardener's brood. Solid folk, but they've two lads near your boy's age who are truly a handful. You should count your blessings, my dear."

Drogo chuckled. "I think Frodo is still taking it all in, cousin. Once he's gotten comfortable with his surroundings you shall see what a hellion he can be! Mark my words; he's quite a rascal when he's of a mind."

"I'll refuse to believe that of such a sweet child. You wouldn't pull the wool over your Uncle Bilbo's eyes, would you, Frodo?"

The boy looked up at his name and blinked, focusing again on Bilbo's face. Again, the tentative smile, but this time it broadened as if he knew they were talking about him. Bilbo couldn't help but beam back.

"I do declare I've never seen you so enamored of a child, Bilbo!" teased Drogo, filling his pipe. "You've never struck me as the paternal type in the least, so I must assume you are buttering us up for some dire request – like fending off the Sackville-Bagginses from you. I hear they've had a son and are touting him as the next heir of Bag End. As if you were past all hope of producing one of your own."

Bilbo shrugged. "Well, I am 80 years old now. Others have had children at such an age, but, well, I'm probably too set in my ways to consider such nonsense now."

"You can't mean you'd bequeath your lovely home to Lobelia and Otho! Oh, dear! That is unpardonable! Please, cousin, tell me it isn't so!"

"I may be too old to consider having any of my own, but I am still the master of Bag End – and I will decide who my heir is to be. If there is any other option, it won't be Mistress Lobelia's obnoxious bratling. Insufferable family and the child is no exception. That boy of hers is as unpleasant and coarse as your son is fine. No, while I live, I still have a say in who my heir is to be and if there is any other option, it won't be a Sackville-Baggins."

Drogo settled, reassured and Frodo, having become bored with his toy was reaching for the mug again. Primula narrowly missed scooping it out of the way of his clever, questing fingers.

"He's thirsty, Drogo," Primula sighed. "Would you get him some of that raspberry shrub, or even some water would do."

"As you command, my little prince," answered Drogo, rising with a flourish. He bowed merrily at wife and child and gave Bilbo a wink. "You see what a demanding thing he is? I tell you, he's got you deluded into thinking he's an easy child."

Bilbo scoffed. "Nonsense! That's not demanding, the lad's just thirsty. Why don't you get us all a round of ale as well. Primula? Ale?"

She shook her head. "None for me thank you, uncle. He still nurses at night and ale doesn't sit well with him. I'd best stick with the shrub."

Bilbo nodded. "Very well then, Drogo, my good sir, ale for me, and shrubs for your wife and child, if you would be so kind?"

"Certainly, cousin," and Drogo was off to find them refreshment.

"I'd love to sneak off and see if I couldn't get him down for a nap after this. He's going to be a holy terror if I don't, mark my words." Primula laughed. "I'd hate to see all the good impressions he's made this afternoon go by the wayside if he starts up."

"It might do the ladies good to see him that way. Perhaps they wouldn't be so eager to handle him."

Primula laughed and nodded and Frodo began to fidget in her lap. Bilbo tried not to stare but the child drew the eye as surely as a sparkling gemstone.

"Do you think, perhaps, that I might hold the lad for a bit? Perhaps a visit with his Uncle Bilbo will keep him occupied till Drogo returns?"

Primula pursed her lips in amusement. "And you were chiding the ladies? You may certainly hold him, if you like. Though I'll take him back if he gets too much. I know you aren't accustomed to children."

"Oh, I think I can bear it for a few moments." He stood and reached for the boy as his mother passed him over the table.

Frodo looked at him even more intently when he realized he was being handed over, his piercing eyes raking over Bilbo's frame. Whatever he saw seemed to satisfy him, however, and he settled against the older hobbit without a backward glance. Bilbo sat back down with the child nestled in the crook of his arm.

He wasn't as light as his small body suggested and Bilbo's respect for Primula's handicapped grace increased. He was a solid child for all his softly padded curves, and Bilbo could feel the surging mischievous energy that swirled just under the surface. Once in Bilbo's arms, Frodo seemed to realize he was once again within range of the mugs on the table and he reached for them.

"Oh, you are a thirsty thing!" Bilbo chuckled. "Here, this one has some cool cider left. Would that do you?" He reached for the indicated cup and gave it to the tyke. Frodo wrapped his small hands around it and began to drink with gusto. He paused once, seemingly to breathe, and then finished off the cup, panting afterwards as if he'd just run a race.

"Easy there! You were thirsty, weren't you! There now, Uncle Bilbo will have your father get you some more of this." He looked up, searching to where Drogo had gone to see if he could request a cider instead of the shrub.

"Beebo?" said the small voice and Bilbo felt a surge run up his spine.

The boy dropped the empty cup in his lap and reached up to touch Bilbo's face, exploring the laugh lines at the corners of his eyes and mouth. Bilbo didn't move, afraid to disturb the child's studious investigation.

His little hands were soft but clumsy and though they poked him once in the eye, Bilbo, at that moment, would not have traded places with the King Under The Mountain. What a blinding treasure this boy was! Bilbo could feel his sweet breath against his cheek and the shifting of his weight as he continued his examination. Next it was his cravat and the diamond stud that held it in place, and then the bright brass buttons of his waistcoat drew Frodo's attention. All the while, Bilbo sat perfectly still, letting the child inspect what he would and marveling both at the extraordinary boy and his own equally astonishing response to him.

He had never truly understood what it was about children that made old matrons want to coddle them. The appeal of a sweet face had generally been offset for him by the expectation that it was covered with something sticky. He'd always seen enough of what was unpleasant about even the most delightful hobbit baby to forgo any thought of handling them, but this child, Bilbo knew, he would want to be near no matter what mess he had gotten into. Was this what it felt like to have your own child? Did a parent know this intense joy every time they gazed upon him? Bilbo watched the boy in wonder.

"I don't think I have ever seen him quite so taken, Bilbo," murmured Primula smiling. "I think you've made a conquest."

"As has he!" agreed Bilbo. "Quite honestly, I am not one to fawn over infants, my dear, but this child! He is a marvel."

Primula's grin broadened and her eyes positively sparkled. "I know,…" she whispered, completely unheeded.

The inspection apparently satisfied little Frodo because he sat back onto Bilbo's lap and his intense eyes unfocused for the first time that Bilbo had seen. Then a cavernous yawn split his face and both mother and uncle grinned. Primula made to get up to come fetch him, but Frodo rolled into Bilbo's arm and curled up, his head resting on Bilbo's elbow and his small body laid across his lap. His eyes closed and his body relaxed. Primula, half raised from her seat, froze in surprise and sat back down.

"Oh, we have to get you to come to visit more often, Uncle! I have never seen him fall asleep so quickly! Or did you have something in that cider?" she teased.

"On my honor, it was nothing but the Baggins' charm that did it." He looked down at the little boy snuggled against his jacket. If possible, he was even more endearing asleep. His long lashes, like dark pen strokes, draped against his fair skin, and his small, pink mouth was squished, half open, against Bilbo's arm. In that instant, Bilbo felt a warm rush of love fill him without any hint of regret and he knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that this was what a parent felt. This utter contentment, this loving glow was their reward for all the scraped knees, spilled milk, or broken crockery one youngster could ever precipitate.

He could feel the child's warmth and his heart beating through the material of his finely woven shirt and marveled at the life in that compact shape; life that carried with it the blood of generations of his forbearers. A little one like this could have carried his blood had his fortunes been different. He stroked the child's back. No, not one like this. No child in a thousand was like this one. He looked up and surveyed the field and the mass of hobbits around him. His own would probably have been a typical Baggins; stout like Bungo and another generation removed from the Tookish Belladonna. He would probably have been dull, like the rest of his family, as he once was before Gandalf's fateful visit. Bilbo sighed and looked to his sleeping charge. He could not help the smile that sight brought him. There was no way of knowing what a child of his own might have been like and it was far too late to regret the path his life had taken, but he realized then that if he could have been assured of having a son as bright and singular as this one, he might very well have reconsidered his course.

"Now that you've done the hard work, I could take him off your hands," joked Primula. "You aren't required to play nursemaid for your cousin's son, though the skill you are displaying with him tells me you would be perfect for the position." She cocked an eyebrow at him. "Bilbo?"

"I am utterly enchanted, Primula," the older hobbit said after a heartfelt sigh. "You may take this however you wish, but in all my years I have never once thought I would envy the parents of a toddler…" He leaned down and kissed the top of the boy's curly head. "Until now…"

Primula was silent for a long moment, just staring at the two of them. At last she spoke.

"Then I am glad to have given you this," she said softly. "And when he is old enough to understand, I will tell him what you've said today. I think he will be pleased to hear it."

Bilbo chuckled, though quietly so as not to disturb the boy. "When he's old enough he'll probably want nothing to do with his odd Uncle Bilbo."

Primula shrugged. "Well, I will tell him anyway. Drogo has always been fond of you; I can't see why Frodo would not be as well."

"Ah, it is no great matter. I'm truly not cut out for children and I know it, but for the first time I can see the reason they say 'enjoy them while they are little'. You've given me a taste of a life I have forgone and for that I thank you." He smiled down at the sleeping babe. Frodo stirred a little and burrowed deeper against Bilbo's coat. The longing he had felt was gone and with it went even the rumor of his regret. He might never have a child of his own but for that moment he felt content to hold the radiant little boy and feel the ties of blood that bound them, however circuitously, together. Frodo was not his son, but somehow he felt greatly comforted that this boy would live and grow and carry on his name. The child had stirred in him a desire that all hobbits shared though it was one that Bilbo had long buried and forgotten; the urge for progeny, to pass on the blood and be remembered in those who remained. Yet he had not awoken that need in vain, for in his own bright person he had also provided Bilbo the answer to it.

"That is quite a gift to a stodgy, old bachelor," he whispered too softly for anyone but the sleeping child to hear. He drew Frodo gently closer. "Thank you, little one."

The End

Author's note: While many people relate human ages/development to hobbits, I have always considered the few tidbits of information from Tolkien himself to suggest that hobbits both lived longer and developed a bit slower than humans. The 'coming of age' age of 33 is the strongest suggestion of this – indicating to me that hobbit developmental milestones would occur at approximately 1.3 times the age that milestone would have been reached by a human child. Therefore, a hobbit coming of age at 33 would be roughly analogous to a human child turning 21 (or 22). Likewise, the following quote from 'Letters' – letter #214 to A. C. Nunn states:

It may be noted that Hobbits, as soon as they became 'faunts' (that is talkers and walkers: formally taken to be on their third birthday-anniversary)

The first walking for a human child can be as early as a year, and the first recognizable speech (recognizable by someone besides the parent) usually occurs sometime around age 2, hence my presenting the 3-year-old Frodo as one might a precocious 2-year-old human child.