Frodo picked up first one knickknack, then another, at a loss. It had been so easy to pack his clothes in trunks, crate up the books, but these? What was he to do with these?

The answer would have been easy if he were simply moving from one home to another, but he was all too aware this house in Crickhollow would not be his home. He wouldn't even be there a week before he departed the Shire entirely. So why clutter it with mathoms that his cousins would then, in their turn, be forced to discard or re-purpose when he did not return from his dread journey? He would not burden them with the decisions he could-and should-make about his incidental belongings.

In fact, most of them were only his by virtue of him being the inheritor of Bag End, and it would not surprise him if some were left to Bilbo by his parents. There was an entire room devoted to housing this clutter, the small, usually useless gifts so often passed between hobbits. Frodo had been guilty of choosing gifts from these remnants for certain relatives not particularly deserving of any greater thought or effort.

Those certain relatives were now going to reside in Bag End . . . perhaps it was only fitting to give them these mathoms along with it. Yes, that was the answer. The mathoms would go to the Sackville-Bagginses.

Satisfied, Frodo closed the door to the storage room and turned his attention to the rest of the bedrooms. Merry had said there were two bedrooms, so he would take sufficient linens for two sets per bed, but he had far more than that, Bag End having more bedrooms, and he steadfastly refused to allow his relatives to soil his sheets.

He began a heap in the bedroom closest to his own of sheets, blankets, quilts that he could not see taking but did not want Lobelia to have. The extra furniture was a puzzle; he would have to see what Merry and Pippin thought he should do with that. Same with the good china, the fine table linens-he saw no need to bring those when the everyday linens would suit him just fine-and much of Bilbo's clothing.

The old hobbit hadn't taken much, and while Frodo could wear most of his shirts and waistcoats, the trousers were a tad short, and there were some items that Frodo would never consider wearing, whether due to color, style, or a combination of both. He already felt the amount of clothing he was taking was ridiculous-he would need hardly any of it on the road-but taking only what he would need for traveling would arouse the suspicions of his cousins, to be sure. He'd kept it a secret this long, it wouldn't do to reveal himself now.

For that reason he found himself packing many of the paintings, vases, and other ornamental pieces that he knew his cousins would look for when they helped him unpack. And part of him wished to make the Crickhollow house as familiar as possible, just in case he might return.

After three days of wading through the many belongings that had accumulated, Frodo began to find homes for some displaced things by giving them away. Linens he gifted to the newly married Chubb couple, a stack of quilts went to the Cottons under the argument that they needed repair anyway, and who better to do it than Lily Cotton? Most of the gifts were well-received, though he had to convince some to take it as a farewell gift from the Master of Bag End rather than as charity.

Four days before Merry and Pippin were due to arrive with the wagon, Frodo began to sort through the pantries. He'd allowed many things to simply run out, but there was still far more there than he could see taking with him. To start he put aside anything he was sure to need before his departure-bread, cheese, honey, apples, potatoes, flour, and the like-and anything that would hold up to the journey-dried meat, seedcakes, nuts, and so forth.

Then he had no time to be melancholy, for Bag End was overrun with younger, exuberant hobbits. Merry and Pippin were bad enough as a pair; adding Fatty and Folco made it a wonder that they got anything productive accomplished. But Frodo couldn't pack it all by himself, and he wouldn't have wanted to, not with the truth of his destination looming over his head.

When it came down to it, Frodo's four helpers turned the place upside-down and managed to corral much of it into the yawning boxes and trunks that Frodo had retrieved from Bag End's many storage rooms. Merry was a great help in deciding what to do with the furniture and other goods that couldn't fit in the house but shouldn't be left to the mercy of the Sackville-Bagginses; there were a number of families nearer to Buckland that would have use for the furniture, for instance, and Bilbo's clothes went to the Mathom House in Michel Delving.

They loaded two carts with furniture and boxes and trunks. With that done, the smial nearly echoed in its emptiness. His footsteps sounded loud when he wandered the hall, the bedrooms were almost stripped bare, and, when the other four were piled in the kitchen preparing their meal, the stillness was disturbing. His study, formerly overrun with crates of books and any other packages that he'd needed out of the way, was completely bare, and he stood before the window, gazing at nothing in particular. He mused that it would have been far simpler to up and vanish like Bilbo, despite the talk such an occurrence would have caused.

"Are you all right?"

Frodo jumped and turned quickly; it was only Merry, who looked concerned. "Yes, I'm fine, thank you."

"You seem preoccupied."

"Yes, well, packing up everything you own and having it carted across the Shire is a task that requires some thought," Frodo said wryly.

Merry crossed his arms and waited patiently.

"And I wonder if I'll ever be back here again . . . oh, don't look at me like that, I know it's foolish."

"Not at all," Merry countered. "You've lived here for most of your life. Of course leaving is making you sad. It just seems like you think you're abandoning everything you know for a place where you know no one, and nothing could be further from the truth. You have friends in Buckland-mostly me, of course-and it's not so far that you'll never see Fatty or Folco again."

"I know that," Frodo said impatiently. "You don't understand."

"Maybe I don't," Merry said lightly. "But remember that we're your friends and you're stuck with us, no matter where you are."

"Fair enough," Frodo conceded. "So did you come in here to bother me?"

"No, I came to tell you that dinner is ready. Maybe if we hurry, there will still be some left."

Frodo laughed and followed Merry to the kitchen, inexplicably feeling a little lighter at heart.