Walk On

Part 9: Comfort

Notes: I am so..exceedingly.sorry.for the wait. I really am. I feel really bad about making all of you wait a long time to wait for this. But I'm promise that it'll be worth the wait. It's no longer seventeen chapters - it will be twenty-three. Also, I have a sequel in mind. I don't know why I was gone so long. I still love writing. "But...uh...I forgot." -My frequent excuse as to not handing homework in. ;)

"In your endless summer night, I'll be on the other side. When the water is too deep, I will ease your suffering." -Hole

The door opened after only one knock, and Frodo stumbled into the warmth, unaware that he was even falling.but he was caught by something. Confused, he looked up. It was his dear Uncle Bilbo.

"Bilbo?" he muttered, feeling slightly confused. He had almost convinced himself he had knocked on the wrong hole. He thought he would be looking up at Griffo's horrible, oily face. But he wasn't.

"Frodo, my lad!" he heard Bilbo say shakily - or perhaps it was just his mind going in and out of focus. "I'm so glad you're here. I've been expecting you."

"Expecting me?" he asked blearily. "Why would you be expecting me?" He felt Bilbo pick him up and walk.

"Why, people have been knocking at my door all night," he replied. They entered the study - a warm room piled with books. But, above all, it contained several squashy armchairs centred a huge, crackling fireplace. Bilbo placed him in one of them, and hurriedly waddled across the room, in search of something. "They've been looking for you."

"Me," Frodo stated rather than asked. "I suppose Griffo has shown up."

"No," Bilbo said shortly. "Not yet, at least." He found a blanket on one of the other chairs, and brought it back over to Frodo's chair. Bilbo wrapped it around Frodo's small, shivering body. Suddenly, Frodo realised that he was soaking wet. He would ruin Bilbo's chair if he just continued to sit. He immediately tried to hoist himself out of the chair.

"My dear boy, what in Middle Earth are you doing?" asked Bilbo as he watched Frodo attempt to lift himself from the chair.

"I'm wet," Frodo said in explanation. "I'm going to ruin your chair!"

Bilbo snorted. "Apparently, Griffo has taught you to be skittery, if nothing else." Frodo frowned.

Seeing the look on Frodo's face, Bilbo let his bitterness toward Griffo fade. "Don't fret about the chair," he said softly. "But I probably should find some warm clothes for you to change into."

Silence fell over the room. Frodo's ankle throbbed with pain, though he was sure it would heal with just a little rest. The bruises on his back from Griffo's most recent punishment throbbed too. But, other than that, he felt fine. He was warm - a little wet - but at least he had a place to sleep that night. He had definitely been in worse conditions than this.

"I don't want to leave the house," Bilbo continued after a few minutes of silence. "I don't want someone to show up while I'm gone and see you in here. Otherwise I'd fetch you some clothing from the Gamgees. They have a boy just around your age."

"Who would come?" asked Frodo in some alarm.

"Oh," Bilbo said. "One of Griffo's cronies, perhaps. As I've said, they've been showing up all night."

"They're here?"

"I'm afraid so."

Frodo sighed. "I can't escape from him... no matter where I go."

"Frodo..." Bilbo said, his voice trailing off. He inhaled deeply, feeling a deep twang of remorse in his heart. Why should this boy - so young - suffer so much? He had already lost his parents. He had been shuffled around to various homes, like a worthless piece of trash. He ended up in the home of a complete monster. What else could possibly happen?

"I'll go to my room," he said finally, "and see if I have any night-shirts that will fit you." He somehow doubted he would, for he was about two times bigger around the waist than Frodo. "I'll only be gone a minute."

"All right," agreed Frodo, and Bilbo trotted out of the room. Frodo groaned. He hoped Bilbo wasn't too ashamed in him. He had seen the look in his eye earlier when he called him 'skittish.' He was skittish. And weak. He felt burning humiliation in the pit of his stomach. He imagined, suddenly, what he must look like. He was dirty - he could feel it in his hair and on his body. He probably stunk. His right ankle stuck out in a grotesque direction. He was awful.

Bilbo returned a few minutes later. He was carrying a long, white nightshirt probably made of a very fine material.

"Here you are," he said, attempting a cheerful tone. "This may be a little big on you, but it was the smallest I could find in my own closet." He handed it to Frodo. Frodo took it.

"Now, for getting it on," Bilbo said.

"I can do it myself," Frodo said quickly. Bilbo raised an eyebrow and took a swift glance at one of Frodo's hairy feet, which stuck out awkwardly from underneath the thick blanket.

"Are you sure?" Bilbo asked suspiciously.

"Yes, Uncle," Frodo said.

"All right then, lad," Bilbo replied. "I'll go in and fix you some tea, then. I think after that you should get off to bed. You've obviously had a long day." He looked at Frodo awhile, as if unsure that he could even move. Finally, he walked out of the room, graciously allowing Frodo some privacy.

Frodo made sure Bilbo was completely out of sight. After a few moments, he rose slowly from the chair, steadying himself with its two arms. His ankle throbbed even harder. He eventually stood up completely and let go of the armchair. He swayed violently, but managed to stay upright. He unbuttoned his shirt - which was muddy, wet, and torn in several spots. He threw it onto the polished floor. He unbuttoned his breeches and let them fall to the floor as well. He took the smooth, white nightshirt off the chair and slid it over his head. It probably was made of the finest material, and Frodo would probably soil it.

Once he was dressed, he fell back into the chair, exhausted. His ankle felt as if it was going to fall off. That, of course, was an exaggeration, but it did hurt terribly. He hadn't had a worse sprain in his life.

Bilbo soon came back in with a steaming mug of tea. He handed it to Frodo, who sipped in the delicious liquid greedily. He hadn't drunk anything in - well, a long time. His mouth greeted it eagerly, and his stomach even more so.

Bilbo sat in the chair next to Frodo. "We'll have to do something about that ankle tomorrow," he said, eyeing Frodo's now-exposed ankle. "I'll call for Dr. Bolger first thing in the morning."

"I'm sure it will be fine by morning," Frodo replied. "You needn't trouble yourself, Uncle."

"Nonsense." He said snappily. "You're injured, and I won't just let you sit back and take the pain."

"But, Uncle..."

"End of discussion," he said. His voice was stern, but his eyes twinkled slightly. The minutes passed, and Frodo continued to sip the hot tea. Finally, his voice softened from the eariler order, he said, "I think it's time for you to go to bed."

"Yes," Frodo replied. His tea was nearly gone, and his eyelids felt heavy upon his eyes.

"And tomorrow," Bilbo continued, "I will send for Dr. Bolger. After you see him, we will talk about your life at the Boffins. I will also be contacting Saradoc Brandybuck concerning this matter." Frodo's heart leapt. He wouldn't have to go back to Griffo. Was it possible? Was he finally free?

"Yes, Uncle!" Frodo said happily. Bilbo chuckled. He picked up the boy and headed toward Frodo's favourite guestroom. This time, Frodo did not resist the help, for he had already fallen asleep.

~*~

Frodo awoke slowly the next morning. He had dreamt last night, though everything had been bleary and vague. He heard a voice in the kitchen, and wondered whom Bilbo could be talking to at such an early hour.

He felt a dull pain in his ankle, but it had subsided from the incessant throbbing of last night. He, in fact, felt much better than he had felt in many days. He had actually slept last night. It was completely uninterrupted and undisturbed from any nightmares.

He heard the voices coming closer to his room and curiosity rose in him. He wondered who it was.

The door opened, and in stepped Bilbo and a fat (well, fatter than most), joyous-looking hobbit.

"Good morning, Frodo-lad," Bilbo said cheerfully. "I trust you slept well."

"Indeed I did," Frodo said.

"Excellent," he replied. He gestured to the fat hobbit. "This is Dr. Bolger. I sent for him early this morning, but I did not have to, apparently. You slept through first and second breakfasts...and elevenses."

Frodo laughed. "I'm sorry," he said.

"Don't be," said Dr. Bolger. He had a booming, kindly voice. "The sleep probably did you good if the story Bilbo told me is true."

Frodo felt a little uncomfortable. He hoped Bilbo wouldn't tell too many people about his experiences at the Boffins. Now Bolger would think of Frodo and weak and childish.

If Frodo showed his uneasiness, neither Bilbo nor Dr. Bolger noticed. Bilbo dragged the rocking chair by the window to a position closer to the bed. Bolger set his bag onto the floor and said, "Now, Frodo. Let's see that ankle."

Frodo shrugged the blanket off his legs and exposed the injured ankle.

Bolger peered down at it. He took it in his hands and examined it carefully. He felt around it, which caused Frodo to cry out in pain.

"The swelling isn't as bad as it was last night," Bilbo noticed.

"It doesn't hurt as much as it did," added Frodo.

Dr. Bolger nodded. "It doesn't seem to be broken," he said. "And the excess pain you felt last night was likely caused by over-usage. I suggest that you stay off your feet as much as possible for at least a week."

Bilbo nodded. "He'll move only when necessary." He glanced quickly at Frodo. "Right, my lad?"

"Of course," he said.

"I could give you a draught to be taken two times daily," Bolger said. "It would wean off some of the pain."

Bilbo nodded again. "Please do," he said.

Bolger stood up and covered Frodo with the blanket. "Now, get some rest," he said as he left the room.

"I'll be right back with some food, Frodo," Bilbo said. He followed Dr. Bolger out of the room.

Frodo fluffed his pillows up and propped himself against them. He felt wide awake, and didn't feel like sitting around. He wished he had a book.

He sat in comforting silence for quite awhile; finally, Bilbo came back into the room, with a tray filled with toast, eggs, and bacon.

"Here's your breakfast," said Bilbo needlessly. "Though it could be considered more of a lunch."

"Thank you, Bilbo," Frodo laughed, and accepted the tray contentedly. His face fell seriously and he added, "I don't know how I'll ever be able to thank you for all you've done for me."

Bilbo smiled and stroked Frodo's dark curls. "You don't need to, my boy,

he said lovingly.

TO BE CONTINUED