DISCLAIMER: Professor Tolkien's wonderful characters don't belong to me; I just get to think about them day and night.

xxxx

FOND MEMORIES

"Bear! Bear! Bear!" Frodo shouted with glee. He reached out for the garments Bilbo had found in one of his old trunks.

"Not a sheep?" Bilbo asked. He held up the hooded cape, covered in the curly wool of a black sheep, along with matching mittens.

"Bear," said Frodo stubbornly.

"Very well, you shall be a bear, if your mother approves," Bilbo chuckled. His thoughts flew back to Beorn, the shape-shifter. As always, when he remembered his Adventure, a sparkle came to his eyes and a strange longing filled him.

"Do you know what a bear sounds like, Frodo lad?"

"Like a piggy!" Frodo started oinking enthusiastically. Bilbo had taken him for a walk that morning, introducing him to the neighbors... and to Cauliflower, the Twofoots' enormous, prize pig.

"And how about a dragon?" Bilbo asked, highly amused. He knew that the youngster had never seen a bear or a dragon, and hopefully never would, but his imagination always filled in any missing details.

"Sounds like dis!" Frodo said excitedly. He began to stalk around the room, making loud snuffling noises, and Bilbo burst into laughter. A better imitation of poor Drogo's snoring he had never heard.

It was nearly All Hallows' Eve, which meant that the fenceposts and trees along Bagshot Row were decorated with carved pumpkins, straw-hobbits, and lanterns. The air was growing crisp, and Primula and Drogo's visit was nearly at an end. Although young Frodo was an inexhaustible bundle of energy, Bilbo had found that he rather enjoyed the lad's company.

"Here, let's put this on you and see how it looks," Bilbo said, capturing the boy in his arms. He fastened the cape around his shoulders and pulled the hood over dark curls, then slid the furry mittens onto tiny hands. Nearly a perfect fit. "These were mine, you know," he said softly. "My mother made them for me long ago."

Frodo pushed the hood off his ears. "Hot, Uncle Bo," he pouted.

"Indeed, these are very warm," Bilbo agreed. "But you will be glad of them this evening, when the Gamgee lads take you around to get sweets."

At the thought of sweets, Frodo smiled, his bright blue eyes dancing. Bilbo helped him remove the furry garments, then set them aside. He turned back to the boy in time to see a large yawn.

"Your mother would not thank me if you missed your nap," Bilbo said. He lifted Frodo into his arms and settled into his favorite chair. Frodo gasped with joy, because this was Uncle Bo's story chair! He spent every evening after supper in this chair, safe in his uncle's lap, listening to wonderful tales. Was there going to be a before supper story?

"Close your eyes, and I'll tell you a story about bears, and a most delightful party." Bilbo let his mind roam free, and a gentle tale that might please the boy came to him almost instantly. "Bears use plates made of spun sugar, you know," he began, "and goblets carved from hollowed-out apples from which they sip the most delicious juice. It's difficult for animals to bake cakes, but these are very special bears, and are used to having company."

Primula tiptoed into the parlor just then, and Bilbo winked at her. She walked quietly to the chair and sat on the rug at Bilbo's feet. Frodo's eyes were closed, but he smiled. He knew his mama's scent.

"A wonderful spell had been laid on the bears long ago," Bilbo continued, "and they could speak and weave cloth, and make magical toys..." Frodo yawned again, his fingers slowly loosening their hold on the gold buttons of Bilbo's waistcoat. Finally he fell asleep, and into lovely dreams of bears who danced, and stars that flew down to earth to sing.

"That was delightful," Primula said. "Wherever do you get such tales?"

"I really don't know," Bilbo said thoughtfully. He had often wondered the same thing. "Do you still enjoy them?"

"I always have, and always will," Primula said. Bilbo was 30 years her senior, but didn't look any older than he ever had. It was at times like this, sitting by his chair as she had as a tween, that she marveled at how nothing ever seemed to change at Bag End.

"What are you thinking about, my dear?" Bilbo asked gently.

"Nothing important," Primula smiled. She got to her feet, and picked up Frodo. "I'll settle him down for his nap. Did you find a suitable costume?"

"Apparently so," Bilbo replied. "Your lad will be the fiercest bear in all of Hobbiton this evening."

"My little bear," Primula murmured. She left the room, whispering softly to her sleeping child.

Alone in the parlor, Bilbo's eyes fell on the bits of cloth lovingly sewn for him so long ago. He was glad to still have so many things from his childhood – books and toys and chests full of 'treasure' – for Frodo to discover and enjoy. He usually had little patience for his relatives, but Drogo and his family were rare exceptions. He would invite them back soon, he decided. But for now...

Bilbo got to his feet and strode toward the kitchen. There were fruits to dip in sugar, and tiny cakes to ice for the children. He rarely appreciated it when his front bell rang over and over, but there were a few special nights – like this one – when he didn't mind a bit.