TITLE: "Brandywine"

AUTHOR: Mainframe


PAIRING: None so far

Disclaimer: The Hobbits belong to J. R.R. Tolkien and are not of my creation and I make no money from this or other stories involving them, this is purely a non-profit fiction of my creation in honour of the book & movies. However this storyline is mine.

SUMMARY: It's been raining none stop for over a month in the shire and Bilbo is being driven mad by three young hobbits with too much energy to spend. But is his solution to the problem a wise one or could it lead to disaster?

NOTES: A huge, huge thank you to Llinos for beta-ing these last two chapters and for taking the time to leave me some excellent feedback! I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Anglachel for pointing out my MANY mistakes and ways to improve them. I owe the two of you much, as my improvements are mainly due to both your much appreciated observations and feedback.


JastaElf has updated 'Dark Leaf' and it is truly the most powerful chapter yet.

Llinos has updated 'Recapture' some wonderful reading for all those Merry and Pippin fans! And big congratulations are in order as she has passed the 1000 review marker in flying colours. And very well deserved they are too! If you haven't started to read this epic yet...then you're in for a long haul.

Xenobia as proved that ya just can't keep a great writer down, she's back and sports several NEW fic's at her new site: http://www.freewebs.com/ninthwave

Daisy Gamgee was updated her beautiful Merry and Pippin romance novel 'The History of Us: Part 12' can be found at: http://www.livejournal.com/talkread.bml?journal=thousupport&itemid=22605#cut id1

http://www.livejournal.com/talkread.bml?journal=thousupport&itemid=22469#cut id1

Ice Princess has updated 'Ghost in the Night' MANY times and the tension is mounting definitely a fic for all those fellow hobbit fan's out there who love a challenge, for there are so many twists and turns in this plot line I now have no nails left to bit.

Rufferto has created a new series 'Reflections in the Dark' and it's already got its hooks into me!

Kookaburra and Llinos have updated 'Moria's Revenge' and I am issuing a tissue warning with this one, Pip's troubles are far from over!

Lobelia Sackville-Baggins has updated the wonderful, the brilliant: "Rain, part 2" over at: Nindaiwe.

Niphredil of Doriath has created 'Frodo And The Immaculate Conception' over at Nindaiwe. Now for those of you who know me, I don't tend to lean towards parodies...but this one has had me in hysteric's from start to finish. Hat off to the author, they really know how write humour!

Melodysongsinger has updated 'Only the Very Best' several times, more hobbit angst!!!

Dana-chan and Belle has written a very, very NC-17 fic called 'Darkness Calls' and if you like Frodo and nasty things happening to him, this is a fic for you!

Anemone Frost has created the long awaited follow-on from 'The World We Lost' with 'Last Hour' oh boy is there a tissue warning I send to you with these two.

Andraste has created 'Embers' and it's set just after Merry and Pippin return to the shire after escorting Frodo to the Grey Haven's. But how do they cope with their grief? Good reading!

BellaMonta has got me chomping at the bit with her latest chapter of 'Treasures', poor little Frodo *Sniff, sniff*

Diamond has created 'Of Hobbits and Men' I can hardly wait for the next chapter (hint, hint).

And I don't think I could get away with mentioning anymore. Fear not this segment will continue in 'Silence' and chapter one of that is already complete, just needs a tweak here-and-there.


Chapter 17: 'When all is said and done'

As Laura predicted Frodo was not up to having visitor's that day or the next, he had expended too much precious energy since awakening; his recovering body was easily exhausted.

Bilbo came to see Frodo that evening when Laura informed him that the lad had overdone things. It petrified Bilbo to see severe fatigue once again cloud those big lapis depths robbed of recognition once more.

It was a set back that Laura in truth had been expecting ever since she'd heard about Frodo's antics in the kitchen, though she hoped that he would be spared this relapse. His fever, which up until that point had been all but vanquished, had returned, though nowhere near it's former savagery.

After a further two days of near continuous sleeping Frodo awakened feeling much more refreshed than he had the night before. But upon a quick conversation with Laura, was dismayed to discover that he had in actual fact lost two whole days since Sam and Merry's visit.

"How is this possible?" He uttered in shock.

"Well sir, it's not uncommon for someone who's been as sick as ye've been to sleep longer" She answered as she rearranged and fluffed his pillows and checked his temperature.

"But two whole days! Sam and Merry must be beside themselves...to say nothing of Uncle." He said whilst settling his aching back gratefully into the pillow-nest she'd just made for him.

"Yes ye did give them a bit of a fright, I had to let them in here ta see ye, the two of them refused food till I did! But once they saw ye were only sleeping and nothing worse they were all right. Here drink this, it'll help yer throat...how is that feeling now?"

Frodo pulled a face as he swallowed the dark brown, foul tasting, liquid and handed her the empty glass. "It feels a lot better thank you Miss Go.."


He chuckled. "My apologise, Laura. It feels much better"

She grinned at him as she checked his temperature again. "Well you certainly sound a lot more like yerself."

She listened to his chest instructing him to breathe deeply as she pressed her ear against him and concentrated, then asked him to hold the breath he had just taken. She could hear a whispered rumbling still remained. As he released it and the air whooshed from his mouth it caught on the way out and caused him the cough. She was relieved when he quickly managed to control it and cleared his throat with ease. Good. His lungs were fighting the sickness; he would recover.

She moved on to check his eyes. Their delicate depths were clear and open as she continued her scrutiny, the only thing marring their beauty were fading shadows beneath each eye. But that was to be expected, she was sure it would be several days yet before rest completely washed that away.

And last of all she checked the most minor of his ailments. Peeling back the light bandage from his knee to reveal a rather large, light brown scab over the joint.

"Well we'll soon have ye singing again," she chirped as her well-muscled fingers continued to roam. "An this looks wonderful! Ye'll be happy to hear that there's nothing else ye'll be needing from me."

Frodo grimaced as he saw, for the first time, the week old scab and wondered how in all the Shire he had not seen or felt it before.

Laura chuckled catching his expression and ruffled his freshly washed, silken curls affectionately. She watched the tween gingerly explore the injury, running his slender fingers probingly over its rough surface, acquainting himself with its texture, tracing where it stood proud of his undamaged flesh.

"It was done the night ye were found. Yer Uncle reckons you may have scrapped it on the bank as ye climbed out the river...or as ye fell in." She came over and sat by the bed, smacking his hand away as he unconsciously began to pick at its brittle edge.

He flushed as he realised what he had been doing in front of her and stammered an apology.

"No harm done. I'll never understand lads and things like that, they never seem able to leave scabs alone, always have ta scratch and pick!" She laughed. " Best let that breathe now, mind ye don't break it open. It's healing nicely and won't even scar if ye don't pick."

She crossed the room briskly and, with Frodo's leave, picked out a set of warm clothes from his wardrobe. However she soon discovered that an awake Frodo was much shyer than she could ever have imagined.

Laura placed the finely tailored clothes at the end of the bed and perched herself directly in front of Frodo, automatically reaching out and pulling the feather soft drawstring at his delicate throat and working the lacing loose enough to pull the garment over his head. She felt him stiffen under her fingers as she concentrated on spreading the lacing as wide as it would allow. She frowned and flicked her eyes back up to his inquiringly, he quickly grabbed the lacing and clutched it tightly to his chest and pulled back from her.

"W-what are you doing?" He cried, throat gone dry and eyes impossibly wide.

Laura's frown deepened as she withdrew her hands that were still suspended in midair and set them to rest in her lap. He stared back at her in abject horror. "If ye want to be allowed up for a short time today sir I must get ye dressed up nice and warm. It's either that or ye'll not be allowed up at all." She continued to hold his gaze. "You'll feel much better once yer back on yer feet again...I thought ye were looking forward ta seeing Mr Merry and Sam?"

When Frodo's breathing managed to calm he tried to explain that he was perfectly capable of dressing himself and that if she just allowed him a little privacy he could get the job done a good deal quicker than with her help. Laura was having none of it after the amount of energy it took him to lift a kettle he would easily exhaust himself dressing. Especially in the thick, bulky winter attire she had placed on his bed. A full-blown argument soon blossomed with Frodo stubbornly clutching the bed sheet to himself as Laura won her battle to remove his loose fitting shirt.

Bilbo walked in to one of the most comical sights his old eyes had seen in years. Laura stood at the end of the bed holding a very damp, limp nightshirt in one hand whilst her other firmly grasped her hip in a clear sign of agitation as she tried to explain to Frodo again that he HAD to have help and that was the end of the matter.

Frodo was leaning so far back against his headboard that the old hobbit wondered whether it might break. Frodo held the only thing he had managed to grab before Laura had resorted to ripping his bedding to the ground; a thin white sheet was bunched tightly around his middle as he glared at Laura and tried to cover his modesty.

Bilbo chucked alerting the squabbling pair of his presence. "Now, now! What's all this then? You two look more as if you're to do battle." He laughed and looked to Frodo "Should I bring 'Sting' lad?"

"Uncle!" Frodo instantly brightened and allowed himself to ease off the headboard a little. The look of pure relief was not lost on Bilbo as he quickly assessed the situation.

"Mr Bilbo, Sir. We're having a bit of a...disagreement about Mr Frodo needing help ta dress" Laura was quite flustered and was too tired to care whether it showed or not.

Bilbo observed how her hair hung limply over her shoulders, it's fringe loosely pulled back into a small tail. Her eyes, though angry, sported dark circles to match his nephews. In that moment she looked so much older than a hobbit lass not long passed her majority.

"I understand Laura, calm yourself. My Frodo can be very stubborn when he puts his mind to it. Can't you lad?" Bilbo threw him a stern gaze.

"But Uncle! I.... She..." He dropped his gaze back to the bed and turned redder than one of the Gaffer's prize beetroots and went still.

"Now Frodo Laura is only acting on my strict instruction that you are not to over-exert yourself, especially after the toll it took on you last time you were up"

Frodo merely nodded defeatedly refusing to raise his head to meet his Uncle's kind, but firm gaze. "Yes Uncle"

Bilbo softened as he observed his nephew's flushed and embarrassed state of undress, head hung low hiding his face, curls poking out in all directions, pale shoulders drooped in defeat and slender hands gripping the rucked up sheet. Bilbo cleared his throat diplomatically finding an alternative.

"Laura may I ask whether you have any brothers?"

Laura thought it a strange question but answered anyway. "No Sir, just girls"

"Ah! I thought so." He looked back down at Frodo who had used the moment's distraction to hastily pull more of the sheet around himself, cheeks flaming and still refusing to meet either gaze.

"Well Laura young hobbit lads are a bit...eh...private at this age you might say, hormones and what-have-you."

"Well I can understand that sir, but I've been doing a sight more than dressing Mr Frodo since I've been here! Why it was only this morn that I gave him a bath, this can't be worse then that?"

Bilbo watched as Frodo's head snapped up to stare open-mouthed at that last statement, if the old hobbit didn't know any better he'd say the boy looked faint as he swayed slightly, pulling the sheet from his waist all the way up to his neck.

"I'll make a deal with you Laura, Bell has just served second breakfast and Sam and Merry are already seated. Why don't you take your place and tell them to start without us and I'll help Frodo get ready. Will that do?"

Laura was very hungry; if Poppy hadn't been so busy in town with the epidemic, she could have used her extra pair of hands to deal with the three lads for the last eight days. She was exhausted but allowed herself a small smile of satisfaction as she watched Frodo pulling at his sheet in front of her; she had at least managed to save one life that week.

She pushed a stray ringlet of hair back behind her ear and nodded picking up the bedding she had managed to wrestle free and closed the door quietly behind her.

Frodo breathed a deep sigh of relief as Laura's footsteps grew distant, he smiled up at his saviour, but before he could speak Bilbo cut him off. "Now no more of this nonsense! I trust my presence will be much more tolerable than Miss Goodbody's?"

Frodo's smile faltered for a moment before he saw the irrepressible twinkle in Bilbo's eyes, he allowed the sheet to fall back and bunch at his waist. Raking his fingers through his hair as he allowed his muscles to relax. He stretched across the bed to retrieve the clothes laid out for him and wrinkled his nose at the selection. They were quite heavy and he felt sure that they would be too hot. He decided to keep those thoughts to himself.

"I'm sorry to cause such a fuss."

"Well, no harm done. Now sit still while I help you with that...no, no other arm, that's it."

Bilbo carefully worked through the pile of clothes, mindful of all of Frodo's hurts, in particular his scraped knee. The breeches were last and as Bilbo helped snap the braces into place he stepped back to inspect his handiwork. Never was it more obvious than then just how much weight the lad had lost in such a short space of time. His beautifully tailored breeches gaped at his belly and the small of his back, Bilbo tisked at the sight for it made Frodo appear to be the same age as Merry rather than a lad into his tween's (with the exception of the obvious height difference). He was broken from this train of thought by Frodo, who until that moment had sat in silence on the end of the bed.

"Uncle, did Laura really ...give me a bath?" He could barely finish the question.

"Yes. I was busy with Merry and Sam this morning and it needed to be done."

"Oh. I don't think I shall ever be able to look her in the eye again." He stammered.

Bilbo laughed heartily. "Don't worry yourself, Laura is a healer, be she a relatively young one. She has seen everything there is to see of a hobbit, it is nothing for her to look upon an unclothed body. It's part of her job." He couldn't resist ruffling Frodo's curls one last time as he finished dressing his nephew who was still red-faced and flustered.

"Honestly Frodo! I have never known a lad as shy as you, I have no idea how you survived Brandy Hall!"

Frodo accepted Bilbo's arm to lean on as they walked slowly across the room together, he still felt a little fragile even after all the rest he'd taken.

"Timing Uncle, timing," was all he'd say on the matter as they headed towards the kitchen, the smell of fried eggs and bacon wafting through the air.


It was another two days before Frodo was able to last a whole day without needing a nap in-between, much to his annoyance Laura enforced these rest periods and not even his silver tongue could talk him out of them, a fact that made Merry double over in hysterics.

For Laura, her work at Bag End was done, save for a check-up visit arranged in a week's time, and it was time to leave. Sam was now well enough to travel the short distance back to Bagshot Row and Bell and Hamfast had spent most of the morning gathering up his things and taking advice from Laura.

Laura gave Merry and Sam one last examination before she deemed them fit and healthy but not to overexert themselves too soon. She had to informed Sam's parents that she would still need to pay him weekly visits for a good month regarding his wrist.

"But, ye said it would heal Miss Laura and Bell said it looked a sight better."

"Yes, Mr Gamgee, it will and it does, but not without careful handling and gentle exercise. And this I have ta watch close."

Hamfast frowned, what they had all thought was a simple case of a sprained wrist had turned out to be more serious. Laura had warned Bell that she suspected there was damage deep in the flesh around the bone and sinew and that unless exercised lightly, would stiffen and lock the joint in place.

Hamfast watched as Sam struggled into his thick, woollen coat and cloak, failing to do the buttons up on the coat and leaving it hanging wide open, until Bell spotted the situation and much to Sam's embarrassment did it for him.

The scene played before him disturbed Hamfast. His son was strong, stronger than he himself had been at that age and to suffer an injury that could limit the use of his hand would be crippling. Not just to the lad and his profession, but the ripples would continue into all aspects of his adult life. No father would agree to their daughter wedding a hobbit who would struggle to provide for her and any bairn's that were bound to come along sooner or later.

Laura watched Hamfast grow silent and contemplative as he stared at his son clutching his useless wrist to his front as his mother negotiated the last of his buttons and pinched his cheek earning her a 'Maaaaa!' before she set about making sure she had gathered all his things.

Hamfast felt eyes watching him and turned to Laura. She drew closer to make sure her voice didn't travel, a sympathetic look on her face; it wasn't hard to deduce his train of thoughts.

"It will be fine, I'll see ta it that he's as good as new in no time. Though I'll be honest with ye, the injury will trouble him for the first winter or two, but, being the age he is it won't trouble him after that. Ye have my word." She finished.

For a hobbit, any hobbit to give their word was not a thing to be taken lightly. Laura as a healer had more to loose if her word was proved false, reputations had been broken over lesser things.

Hamfast smiled warmly at her then, allowing the taught muscles in his shoulders to relax a little. "I would like ta thank ye Miss Laura for all ye've done for me boy. Whatever it costs ta make him right I'll pay it"

Laura took the hand he offered her and shook it warmly. "Yer welcome Sir."

She pulled her cloak on and grasped her bag firmly and slowly made her way to the door as Ham followed and held the door open for her. The sudden rush of cooler air and bright sunshine drew Bilbo's attention and he quickly made his way toward them. But before Bilbo was in earshot she informed Hamfast that as far as the three boy's combined expenses went, Mr Bilbo had already taken care of her bill and the salve Samwise would need, Frodo had already packed amongst Sam's possessions.

She left Ham chewing on that new and unexpected piece of information whilst Bilbo thanked her kindly and Bell gave her a hug goodbye. Laura had already said her goodbyes to Merry and Frodo who stood talking quietly with Samwise, giggling every so often in hushed tones. She caught enough of the conversation to know they were speaking about Bilbo and the tea incident. She winced and wondered for the hundredth time what possessed her to do such a thing.

Bilbo's eyes sparkled with amusement as she looked to him and knew he too had heard. He shook his head and chuckled as he showed her out.

"Right I think that's everything!" Bell announced, more to herself than anyone else and breathed a sigh of relief.

"Come on Samwise, it's time." She caught the torn look in Sam's eyes as he obediently, yet a little reluctantly came to stand at her side. She leaned down to him and whispered that Mr Bilbo had said any time he wished to visit he was more than welcome and that he could use his time to study alongside Frodo if he wished.

Bilbo came and ruffled his curls as the Gamgees stepped outside.

"Thank you Mr Bilbo, Sir!" Sam squeaked in delight.

Bilbo smiled affectionately at the lad as Sam hopped back and forth on the spot. "Well then I take it I shall see you in a few days time Sam. Provided your parents don't mind and can spare you for a bit."

Bell nodded and after Merry and Frodo said their goodbyes, she and Sam made their way down the path and disappeared round the corner. Bilbo stared at Ham questioningly as he made no move to follow his family.

"Frodo, Merry"

"Yes Uncle?" They chorused.

"I think it time you both had a rest and retire to Frodo's room. The fire is still lit and it's the warmest room in the smial" He silenced their protest before they could utter the first words "Come, come. You have BOTH done far too much dashing around and are paying the price now. Frodo you are as white as a sheet and Merry you have been yawning for the better part of twenty minutes. Off with you!"

When they had retreated to Frodo's room Hamfast finally spoke, he had that stubborn look in his eye and Bilbo knew instantly what this was about.

"I'd just like ta thank ye for all yer generous hospitality Master and I'll be by tomorrow ta start plantin'."

"It was my pleasure Master Hamfast, Sam is a wonderful lad and I know Frodo and Merry have enjoyed his company...But there really is no need to bother with the garden just ye..."

"Yes. There. Is." Hamfast's tone was strained. He did not want to enter into an argument that could be avoided with his employer, but there was a debt that needed to be paid and he would work for as hard and as long as it took until he had cleared it.

Bilbo sensed Ham's struggle and sighed heavily, silently cursing (not for the first time) the strict class system in place in Hobbiton that had prevented he and Hamfast from openly being friends for many decades and his friend's dogged determination to keep that wall in place.

Bilbo and Hamfast stared at each other before Bilbo schooled his face "Very well Master Hamfast, I look forward to seeing you bright and early!"

"Thank ye Sir, that ye will." With that said he gave a nod and was gone.


The next day Saradoc Brandybuck, Master of Buckland arrived to collect his son. He stayed long enough to enjoy lunch and dinner at Bag End thanking Bilbo for taking such good care of Meriadoc.

Frodo helped Merry pack and assured his despondent cousin that he would see him again soon and to pass on his regards to their young cousin, Pippin, whom they were both very fond of, knowing that Merry was more likely to see the young lad before he did.

"Come along now Meriadoc, the road is long and it's already later then I had planned to leave. Say goodbye to Frodo and your Uncle and hurry to the cart."

"Yes Sir"

Merry gave Bilbo a hug and thanked him properly for inviting him to stay and for taking care of him while he was ill. A long thin wrap of cloth was pushed into his hand as the embrace ended. Bilbo smiled and gave a nod, as Merry opened it, the cloth revealed a medium size assortment of sugar and peppermint sticks. Merry's favourite as well his uncle knew. Carefully rolling them back up he placed them in his pocket and thanked his uncle again, somehow Bilbo always seemed to know how to make him happy.

"We look forward to seeing you again soon lad. Don't be a stranger, for I don't think Frodo could stand to wait another six months for your next visit." He gave him a good-natured wink as Merry smiled sheepishly.

"I won't stay away that long again. I promise."

Saradoc drew the cart to a halt at the end of the gate and waited expectantly as Bilbo came down the path to meet him, leaving Frodo and Merry standing opposite each other on the doorstep.

"I'll miss you cousin." Frodo murmured past the lump that rose in his throat. He really was going to miss Merry terribly and the prospect of having to wait until Pippin's birthday in August was hard to bear. If no arrangement could be made beforehand then that would be the next time they met.

Merry trembled under Frodo's intense gaze, he opened his mouth to say something but found he couldn't speak past the lump that was forming in his throat. He shook his head and embraced Frodo fiercely instead, allowing a few tears to fall on his cousin's neck as he buried his face in that comforting warmth.

"I-I'll miss y-you too" He managed between sobs.

When they pulled apart Merry refused to let go of Frodo's hand as they walked down the cool stone steps and through the cheery, bright green gate. Frodo gave him a concerned look as Merry refused to meet his eyes until he was hoisted up next to his father and enveloped in a thick winter quilt.

"Goodbye!" Frodo and Bilbo shouted and waved as Saradoc urged the pony on and waved over his shoulder to them. Merry didn't wave back but kept his gaze locked on Frodo, his chin trembling and eyes shimmering with unspilt tears, until the cart turned and took him out of sight.

When Bilbo ushered Frodo back indoors and set about making a pot of tea he noted how quiet Frodo was, the lad was sat at the table in deep, troubled thought by the knitting of his brow, hands clasped and oblivious to Bilbo's chatter.

Bilbo settled himself opposite Frodo and waited patiently for him to speak, however when Frodo failed to register that his uncle was even in front of him Bilbo reached out and stroked his thumb in soothing motion across Frodo's frown. The creased skin smoothed as Frodo looked up into his uncle's concerned, questioning face.

"Don't worry lad, Merry will be back to visit again soon I'm sure of it. He might even bring that troublesome Took with him next time." It was Bilbo's turn to frown then. "But he would have to give me some warning so that I can stock up the pantry, honestly I don't know where Pippin puts it all...or maybe I'm just not used to how much the average growing lad puts away? Hummm?"

It was a dig and Frodo knew it, he gave Bilbo a small smile but a faint remnant of the frown remained in place. Bilbo laced his fingers together and waited patiently as Frodo gave him a considering look before speaking, as if he were trying to piece together a very complex puzzle and had discovered a bit missing.

"I'm worried about Merry," he stated at last looking to his hands again.

"Yes, he concerns me also. Has he said anything to you?"

"No. But that also worries me" He sighed in exasperation "Uncle, for as long as I can remember Merry could talk the hind leg off a donkey and out- eat a horse, but not this time. He was so tense those first few days, very standoffish and even today it was almost as if I was speaking to someone else."

Bilbo sat silently digesting this, so he had not been the only one to feel a change in Merry. Bilbo was far from blind and had seen the white knuckled grip Merry had on Frodo at the gate, nor had he been oblivious to Merry's silence soon after Saradoc's letter arrived the other day informing them when he would be able to collect Merry.

Bilbo often wondered if Merry received enough attention from his father, the job of Master of Buckland was a backbreaking responsibility and took Saradoc away from his family too often. Especially this last few years as the numbers at Brandy Hall soared. He also suspected that part of Merry's disquiet might be because the lad was reaching an age where he realised that one day he would be Master and have to deal with all the responsibility that went with that title. A job that would make even a grown hobbit tremble. Yes, poor Merry's life was already mapped out for him, that was why Bilbo saw it as so important that Merry have as much fun now as possible, for there would be little room for manoeuvre when he came of age.

It was the only thing that Bilbo and Saradoc ever disagreed with; Saradoc imposed a strict education programme on young Merry. And whilst Bilbo had to admire the vast amount of progress he had observed in the quality of letters he and Frodo had received from Merry, all beautifully scripted in a bold flowing hand, grammar and punctuation almost perfect and not an ink blot in sight, he would rather Merry found his own pace. That had been his handling of Frodo's education; Frodo set his own pace with his gentle, yet firm, encouragement.

*I warned Saradoc not to push the lad too hard too soon. I shall speak with Esmeralda when next I'm in Brandy Hall*

"Did he say anything about home? You know a fight or a lass perhaps?" Bilbo asked hopefully.

"Barely. Unless it was to talk about Pippin of course."

"Ah now. I wouldn't worry about it too much Frodo. He's reaching that age where his hormones will be up and down, I'm sure if there was something really wrong he would have told you by now, after all he always has."

Frodo smiled in relief, of course Merry would tell him. He and Merry told each other most things. "You're right Uncle, as always."

"Of course I am!" He chuckled, rising and returning to his previous task. "Now how about that tea?"

Later that evening after they had both enjoyed a good supper they sat in the living room round the fire in comfortable silence. Bilbo smoked his pipe, deep in thought over a verse to his new poem while Frodo thumbed through one of his old diaries from when he first moved to Bag End.

Bilbo became aware that the atmosphere had changed somehow, he looked over to Frodo and discovered him staring off into the fire; he had turned very pale.


Frodo did not respond. Indeed Bilbo was able to kneel right in front of him and check his brow for fever before Frodo blinked and recoiled in surprise at finding Bilbo magically in front of him.

"Uncle!" He breathed. "I didn't know you could move that fast!" He joked.

Bilbo didn't move nor did he speak, instead he gently took Frodo's diary from the lad's lap and turned it so that he could read the page. Frodo's fingers dragged over the page as it was taken from his grasp but he didn't stop his uncle as Bilbo turned it and noted the date, his eyes grew sad with remembered loss.

Bilbo stayed frozen in position in front of Frodo's chair staring at that page for long moments as he remembered the day Frodo came to live with him. The diary had been a present on his arrival, but it had been given on suggestion from one of the healers at Brandy Hall that if Frodo would not talk or cry about the loss of his parents then perhaps he would find peace writing it down instead.

The before Bilbo pages were completely blank save for the date. In fact, unbeknownst to Bilbo, most of the first three months of Frodo's first diary were merely blank sheets of paper with the date neatly written in Frodo's, elegant, steady hand.

Bilbo had never read the diary and respected Frodo's privacy too much to ever snoop, but he couldn't stop the slow sad sigh that issued from him as he closed the book and handed it back to Frodo. He rose and resumed his place by the fire puffing slightly more vigorously than before on his pipe.

Frodo looked at the black leather diary in his trembling hands and then back to Bilbo who was lost in thought and did not look back when Frodo's gaze burnt into the side of his face.

Bilbo ignored his nephew; he was too tired to get into another argument about 'opening up' and 'needing to talk'. What was there left to say that he had not said already? He could not force the issue, past experience had taught him that, but he would be lying if he didn't admit that he was angry and dreadfully worried.

The book, he had always thought, was his only triumph on the whole matter for Frodo usually took care never to leave it lying around and therefore Bilbo had assumed that the reason behind it was that he was using it to vent some of his pent-up emotions and did not want anyone to read it. Silly, he should have known better by now.

*Your Uncle is very old, though he does not seem it.and he loves you very much. I don't know what he would do if he lost you, you're all he has in this world*

Primula's words floated back to Frodo across the great barrier and set his young heart pounding as he looked to his uncle. The flames from the roaring fire bathed Bilbo in warm autumn tones that contrasted sharply with the shadows, he realised that ever since he had agreed to live with his uncle at Bag End he had been pushing the old hobbit away from him.

He loved Bilbo dearly. Of that he was certain, he had always loved Bilbo, even when his parents were alive. He knew just how much Bilbo was sacrificing in bringing him up, his own freedom as well as denying the call of the open road and his thirst for adventure. Bilbo had made his choice with what time remained to him on Middle Earth and he had chosen Frodo.

This revelation startled Frodo, he had never thought of it like that. As Frodo scrutinised the contours of Bilbo's face he realised his mother was right, his uncle did not reflect his years. Something the town folk often remarked upon, usually in a resentful way and always out of Bilbo's earshot, only his hair had changed in all the years Frodo had known him. The rich chestnut brown locks had slowly given way to grey and more recently the odd fleck of white.

*He's more fragile then he seems.*

Sometimes he forgot just how old Bilbo was, fooled by his outward appearance, yet his eyes told a different story. As he watched Bilbo gaze mesmerised into the fire he noted their hazel depths, almost black in the light of the room, seemed to dim with the weight of his years. Frodo knew that his own silence had played a hand in that process.

The lines on Bilbo's face seemed greater as Frodo watched the transformation take place the deeper Bilbo sank into his own thoughts. Frodo felt himself choked by years of suppressed emotions, most of which he didn't know how to identify let alone deal with. Others he didn't even know existed. Bilbo had tried to help him. They had ALL tried to help him but he had refused everyone.

Bilbo shot back in his seat and let out a startled cry as something heavy was thrown into the fire, rudely awakening him from his thoughts. As the fire licked at the dark object before it started to consume it, he realised what it was. Frodo's diary!

He looked to Frodo and all he could see were two large pools of shimmering blue as Frodo stared back. He sat rigid in the high-backed chair and dug his fingers into the arms until they turned white, Bilbo heard the leather creak and groan in protest. Frodo's chin trembled as he continued to stare at Bilbo with such raw open need that it took Bilbo's breath away. It was happening, at long last after so many years it was happening. Bilbo was scared, he did not want to do or say anything to stop Frodo and he may not get a second chance at this.

As it transpired he had no need to worry about Frodo shutting down as before, for Frodo's sweet face crumpled into silent pain and utter misery. Bilbo moved forward and gathered Frodo to him before the fire, his arms locked around Frodo's slim frame, which shook violently in his grasp; Frodo's face burrowed into Bilbo's shoulder clutching at his back as if his life depended on it.

"Let it out my lad...let it all out" Bilbo whispered as he started to gently rock them both, Frodo complied.

A ragged breath turned into a soft moan that grew and grew until Bilbo feared he would be deafened as the keening echoed through Bag End and out into the starlit night. Bilbo held him tight and never ceased the comforting rocking motion as Frodo found his voice and howled about how unfair it was and how angry he was with his parents for going out onto the Brandywine at night and leaving him alone forever, until his voice became broken and his eyes ran dry. Once again all Frodo could do was hang limply in Bilbo's strong embrace and whimper like a wounded animal in-between breaths.

Bilbo rose, lifting Frodo with him and settled back into his chair with Frodo curled up under his chin, long legs draped over the opposite arm, he only just fitted. Frodo was exhausted, too tired to do anything except sit and listen to the steady thump of Bilbo's heart against his ear and feel his uncle rubbing some warmth back into his arm. Strange the room had been so nice and warm not ten minutes ago.

Frodo sniffed loudly and was rewarded with a handkerchief thrust into his limp hand. He blew his nose and jammed the soiled cloth into his pocket and then lay back against Bilbo's chest and closed his dry, aching eyes. Frodo awoke with a start as Bilbo started to speak and realised that he had actually fallen asleep and judging by the embers of the now dying fire that had been many hours ago. He coughed and sat up scrubbing at his face, everything ached and he was still tired.

Bilbo smiled fondly at his dishevelled appearance and pulled a curl making him giggle despite himself. It broke the ice at any rate.

"Thank you," Bilbo said simply.

"What do you mean? I should be thanking you ...for putting up with the mess I've made of everything." Frodo sighed and looked away, unsure and embarrassed at his outburst.

Bilbo took a firm grasp of his chin and pulled him back to face him "I thank you that you trusted me enough to let go. I have been so frightfully worried for you all these years...so worried" He whispered as he stroked Frodo's velvet soft cheek.

Frodo worried his lower lip and decided to tell Bilbo about what happened to him in the river and what his mother asked of him. By the time he had finished Bilbo was sat in shocked silence before him.

"Do...do you think me mad uncle? I'm-I'm not mad, am I?"

Bilbo slowly shook his head and drew his gaze back to Frodo. "No lad, no. Not at all! If you say you saw Primula then I believe you. After all some of the things I have seen on my travels seem pretty unbelievable but that does not mean that they didn't happen."

Bilbo's eyes stung but he was determined not to cry in front of Frodo right then. His cousin needed him to be strong for him right now, there was always time later.

"I am very glad you decided not to leave me... it would have been more than I could bear. You do know how much I want you here with me, don't you?" A hint of uncertainty crept into Bilbo's question.

"Well at first...I thought, maybe you were doing it because no one else would," Bilbo was appalled but Frodo held up his hand and Bilbo allowed him to continue. "But then as time went by I realised...that is it felt...I knew it was more than just obligation. I am very grateful to you for this lovely home, really I am...I don't know where I would be now if not for you...Brandy Hall, maybe."

"Now then, enough of that talk. You're a Baggins and my favourite cousin; your home is Bag End. I never had a family Frodo, as you know...I never felt the need to after..." He breathed hard before he continued, ..."after you were born. Did you know I was there the day you arrived?"

Frodo shook his head, soft curls bouncing as Bilbo grinned at the memory of the tiny bundle of dark curls Primula lovingly entrusted to him as she lay back and fell into an exhausted sleep.

As Frodo lay back against Bilbo once more, he allowed his uncle to comb through his curls as Bilbo remembered that special day that changed his life for ever.

"You were so wanted. You see your mother had been told she could never bear a child..."

"Oh!" He interrupted. "I didn't know that, what happened?"

"A childhood illness that nearly clamed her life took that gift from her, or at least so we all were informed by the healers in Buckland. But she proved them wrong when she became pregnant with you." He chuckled then as an image of a radiant Primula and a beaming Drogo turned up on his doorstep unannounced and surprised him with the wonderful news.

"Your father was driving your mother mad I tell you, the poor lass couldn't so much as lift a teacup without being asked if she was all right or did she have enough to eat and not to lift anything too heavy." He did laugh then and felt Frodo grin against his chest as he continued. "Your mother clouted him right there in front of me and threatened she would walk back to Buckland that very night if he didn't stop behaving like that. Oh and when you were born, well..."

"Well what? Please tell me, I haven't heard these stories before."

Bilbo chuckled "Well you were supposed to arrive around September the 12th but you were having none of that, you seemed determined to arrive on my birthday! I received a letter three days beforehand telling me your mother had gone into labour and I rode straight there. Your father was a nervous wreck and I must confess I was not that far behind him. We got through quite a lot of Brandy between the two of us as we waited and he told me about various names they had thought up for you. If you were a girl your mother had her heart set on several of the old flower names. Drogo was convinced you were a boy and following with tradition wanted a name similar to his own, yet individual. You were their miracle child, the one that they dared not hope for and your name was to reflect that. He looked into your face for the first time as you were nestled in your mother's arms, not even an hour old, Drogo smiled and said 'Frodo'."

"How do you know all this uncle?" Frodo felt warm to his toes as he soaked up all this information and wondered sadly why they had never done this before.

"I was there. Before you say it I know it was not proper and heard so at the time. The midwife was in an uproar I can tell you, voicing loudly that it just wasn't right for another man to be visiting mother and child so soon."

"What did Papa and Mama say?"

"Primula was in no mood to have Violet, she was the midwife, spoil her moment, Drogo diplomatically thanked her for her work and asked her to leave."

Frodo covered his mouth as he giggled at the image Bilbo painted.

"Oh yes, your father could be quite blunt with people when need be, usually if they upset Primula or you. Besides, your mother argued that because it was my birthday and now her son's I could stay and meet my new cousin!

"After your mother fell asleep, Drogo took you to where everyone else had to wait and I can still recall the shouts and cheers as he unwrapped you enough for everyone to get a peek."

"Who was there?"

"Oh far too many to recall everyone right now...let me think. There was Esmeralda and Saradoc of course, Esmy wanted to kidnap you all night you know, even Saradoc was reluctant to return you. Paladin and Eglantine were there, Ferumbras, Milo and Peony, Rorimac, oh the list was endless."

"But why were so many people there, I don't understand why another lad was so important?"

"Another lad? Another lad indeed! Frodo you're a Baggins! And not just that you're also a Brandybuck, you are the combination of two of the strongest bloodlines, not to mention respected families in the entire Shire. Add to that the fact that we all never thought we would see the day Primula became pregnant and there you have it! Half of Tuckborough, all of Brandy Hall and a handful of Bagginses were waiting for you. Never think for one moment Frodo that your arrival was not a joyous one, we threw a party as soon as Primula was well enough and it lasted four days!"

Frodo was silent for a long time churning over all these new stories, Bilbo felt the front of his shirt dampen and knew its cause. He hugged Frodo and asked him if he was all right.

Frodo gave a breathy laugh and nodded scrubbing at his eyes with the back of his cuff much to Bilbo's dismay. His handkerchief was still clutched in Frodo's other hand but he seemed to have forgotten that. Never mind.

"I wish I could stop crying, but now I've started I don't seem to be able to. I wish we had done this before, I never knew half of what I have heard tonight."

"I didn't want to upset you my boy."

"I understand. Can we talk about this some more tomorrow...I really would like to hear more, my heart doesn't hurts so much when I hear this, but right now I'm so tired." He chewed his lip and climbed off Bilbo's lap.

Bilbo had to rub his old legs to get the circulation flowing again before he rose and escorted Frodo to his room, tucking him in and informing him that there were plenty more tales to tell and that if he felt ready to hear them, then he would gladly oblige.

For the first time in many years both Frodo and Bilbo slept long and peacefully, safe in the knowledge that the real healing had begun.


A week later.

The day was bright and warm when Frodo awoke to find he had slept late, again. It seemed that since his 'breakthrough' as Bilbo called it, he slept a lot longer than he used to. After a quick wash and dressing he headed toward the kitchen where he found his breakfast already cooked and cooling on the table, along with a short note informing him that his uncle had to go into town and would not be back until luncheon. Should he need anything Hamfast was in the garden and Bilbo had asked him to look in on him later in the day.

Frodo busied himself with his studies, which he had fallen behind with over the past few weeks. It was almost time for Bilbo's return when Frodo emerged from his room; an ink stained hand and cramp were his reward for the morning's effort to catch up on some of the harder elements of elvish written language. Samwise was due to start visiting tomorrow for his resumed lessons and Frodo wanted to get as much of it done and out the way as possible for he knew that he would not be able to concentrate enough to absorb anything while Sam was watching him make the elven marks on his page. It wasn't Sam's fault; Sam had fallen in love with all things elvish years ago thanks to Bilbo's stories and watching Frodo write elvish was one of Sam's favourite pastimes (although he didn't know Frodo knew this).

Just as he was about to wash his hands and start preparing lunch for himself and his uncle he heard a soft, hesitant knock at the front door. When he opened it, to his surprise there stood May Gamgee in her pretty red cotton dress, which she only wore for special occasions. He smiled at her and was about to invite her in when something solid and wrapped up in cloth was pushed into his chest; reflexively he caught it and stared at it then back to a furiously blushing and slightly shaking May.

"May, are you all right? What is this?" No answer. "Do you want me to open it?"

May nodded and kept her gaze firmly on her skirts. Frodo watched her for a second, unsure what had caused the usually very chatty lass to behave so meekly, and with him of all people? She had never been outright rude to him before but she had come close on several occasions and he knew that some of the rumours flying around about him could only have come from either Merry's family or Sam's. Their information was just too accurate for it to have been a good guess, he was certain she had been the source.

As he unwrapped the bundle to reveal the achingly familiar silver pendant he gasped and popped it open to reveal the only two images he possessed of his mother and father. He hadn't even known it was missing, that in itself troubled him. When he could form proper thought again he turned to May, who hadn't moved at all, and asked the obvious.

"Where did you get this?"

When she didn't answer he stepped forward, she shrank back afraid in his temper he would strike her knowing that she was a thief and deserved nothing less.

"I'm sorry!" She squeaked.

But when she met his eyes she froze in confusion, there was no malice there, only confusion and deep sorrow. In a way she almost wished he were angry with her, anything but the look he was giving her now, so open and tragic.

"I-I was told t-ta set a fire in yer room t-t-the night ye were missin. I- I...." She trailed off unable to continue and desperately fending off tears, she would not cry. Not over something she had done to herself.

"You...found my pendant, and borrowed it?" He was offering her a way out.

She watched as his brow smoothed and his face became blank, she could not read what was happening beneath its surface but she steeled herself and stood a little straighter. She was a Gamgee, and she would accept whatever her punishment was, she only hoped that it would not endanger her father or brother's job at Bag End.

"No sir. I was..." She gulped again and licked her suddenly dry lips before she could continue. ... "I was pokin my nose where I had no right ta and I dropped it when I was lookin at it."

Frodo frowned and ran his fingers searchingly over the pendant but found no damage...aah! The glass was new; a light yellow tint to it was the only give away.

"You took it to have it mended."

She nodded and looked to the ground once more, she felt her face was burning and rubbed her sweaty palms down her skirts and was mortified when she heard Mr Bilbo's whistle as he rounded the corner and approached the gate. If things weren't bad enough Hamfast had also come over to investigate, having been attracted when he recognised his daughter's voice float round into the garden.


Hamfast rubbed his mucky hands on his handkerchief and frowned at her as he appeared from the back gardens. Something was not right that was for sure and whatever it was it had started not long after the boys fell in the river.

"What are ye doin here May? Don't ya know Mr Frodo's still recoverin' from that fever an here ye are having him stand..."

"It's all right Mr Gamgee really. I asked May if she would mind running an errand for me a while ago and take my mother's pendant to have the glass replaced." He held up the pendant for Hamfast to see.

Ham eyed his daughter suspiciously; she was staring open-mouthed at Frodo like he had just sprouted two wings and a tail.

"May? Close yer mouth girl, by the Shire Mr Frodo'll think I raised ye with no manners!"

She obediently snapped her jaw shut and shifted uncomfortably under his gaze. Why was Frodo helping her after what she had done? Not that she was complaining.

"Hello there May, I haven't seen you here in a while. To what do we owe the pleasure?"

"I invited her round for lunch Uncle, I had a little accident with mother's pendant and May kindly took it to the menders for me."

Bilbo frowned; it was not like Frodo to be clumsy especially with his mother's possessions.

"Well be a little more careful next time, there's my lad. After all you cannot replace that. Now lunch! What a splendid idea, Frodo show May where she can wash her hands, Hamfast would you please join us?"

Ham was just about to politely decline his offer as he always did when he caught the uneasy look May was giving him; she was actually sweating. He smiled at her and winked.

"Thank ye Mr Bilbo I'd like that very much."

Bilbo nearly dropped the documents he was carrying; Hamfast had never taken him up on his numerous offers for tea, luncheon, or dinner at Bag End.

He grinned and slapped him on the back. "Frodo, Master Hamfast knows the way to the washroom so he can guide May while you can help me in the kitchen, yes?"

"Yes, I'll just put this in a safe place first." Frodo dashed off towards his room as Bilbo ushered the Gamgees in and set about boiling water for tea and cutting bread. He could tell they were uncomfortable having Bilbo and him wait on them.

Frodo returned to the kitchen a moment later, his mother's pendant now safely returned to its box. Bilbo was standing with Hamfast near the stove, it appeared that Hamfast had not been able to able to allow Bilbo to wait on him and had started to retrieve crockery while Bilbo placed cheeses and thickly sliced bread on the table in front of May. She sat rigid and blushed when Frodo brought the tea over and sat next to her. She stared at him questioningly as he poured everyone a cup.

"Sir, I must know why...."

"Because...because I know you didn't mean it to happen. Everyone makes mistakes." He gave her a mischievous grin that she couldn't help but mirror. "In Brandy Hall my name is infamous." He chuckled. "Poor Uncle Saradoc used to tear his hair out at some of my antics. Farmer Maggot has a pitchfork with my name on it to this day."

"No! You mean you..." She trailed off in astonishment. The real Frodo Baggins was not at all what she had expected.

"I'm sorry for all the trouble I've caused ye. I don't just mean the pendant...I said some things I wish I ha..."

"It doesn't matter. Just...don't do it again. Shall we start over? Bargain?"

She breathed a deep sigh of relief and nodded. "Bargain!"

"What are you two whispering about?" Bilbo arched his eyebrow at them as he and Hamfast placed the rest of the food on the table and took their seats.

"Nothing!" They both chimed then grinned at each other.

Hamfast frowned and Bilbo chuckled. It was good to see everything back to normal and better than ever before. Frodo was happy again, and more open than he had been in years laughing and whispering something to May that made her, to Hamfast's dismay, almost spit her mouthful of cheese back out.

*Little rascals! I wonder what they're up to?*

Hamfast loosened up enough to enjoy their meal and a good smoke whilst conversing with Bilbo on the finer points of herb lore and what he himself had discovered. Bilbo sat back listening to all that the Gaffer had to say and voicing his own views here and there.

Yes this definitely seemed the year for great change.

The End

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who was kind enough to leave me feedback both on and off Fanfiction.net. Without your support I would not have continued with this story, so thank you once again. And I hope that most of you will enjoy my next work.

'Silence' is to follow soon:

SUMMARY: The Brandybuck temper was legendary throughout The Four Farthings and even stretching as far a field as Bree. So it came as no surprise to those who had cause to visit Brandy Hall, that young Meriadoc Brandybuck was a 'dark horse' of late. But is the change in his temperament purely teenage hormones or something altogether darker?

NOTES: This story is a follow-on from "Brandywine" and is based in Buckland, Brandy Hall. This story is quite a dark one and will vary in rating so I ask you not to read it unless you are prepared for this fluctuation. As always I am eager for constructive feedback, no flames please. Enjoy!