FIC: MATHOM 1/?

AUTHOR: Lily Baggins

RATING: PG

Disclaimers. The usual. I make no money off of this and do not own these characters, much to my chagrin. They belong to Tolkien Enterprises and New Line Productions, and I only give them interesting---and usually unpleasant---ways to spend their time. This fic contains no sex, no slash, and no profanity.

In this fic, Frodo is 22, just a few months shy of turning 23. And while Frodo and Bilbo are cousins, since Bilbo referred to Frodo in FOTR as his "favourite nephew," I may occasionally refer to them as
such . . .

**

Frodo yawned as he woke up and turned over in bed, looking out his window into Bag End's lush garden. The snap-dragons and sunflowers were blooming and it was wonderful, the tweenager thought to himself,
to be back in his own room again after his two-week-long visit to Brandy Hall.

A soft knock at his door. "Frodo! Breakfast, lad! Wake up!" came Bilbo's voice, and Frodo could hear footsteps as the older hobbit retreated back to the kitchen. He smiled---while he loved his relatives at Brandy Hall and had especially enjoyed seeing cousin Merry---he had missed Bilbo greatly. Yawning again, he sat up and put his feet on the floor, grimacing as he felt sore muscles protesting---he must have overworked himself keeping up with Merry the past week.

"Frodo---"

"Coming!" Still in his nightshirt, the young hobbit dug out a clean pair of breeches and a shirt, pulling them on hastily before grabbing his braces and heading to the kitchen.

Bilbo smiled at him as he came through the door. "Eggs and bacon and cinnamon buns for your first day back, Frodo." He paused, then tousled his nephew's already-rumpled hair. "Now eat and then wash up
and comb your hair quickly---Drasco and the others will be here before too long and you don't want to be late."

"Yes, Bilbo." Frodo was excited enough about the day head to ignore Bilbo's good-natured chastising. He and a few friends his age were headed to Michel-Delving for the Free Fair, one of the biggest parties of Mid-Year's Day during Lithe. Full of exciting things to do, the Fair's number one attraction was food---the type of food guaranteed to rot out a small hobbit's teeth quicker than he could say, "Bucklebury." The type of food Frodo loved. It was also the time of the annual mayoral election, and Bilbo was planning to go later in the day to partake in that.

Frodo had just finished half the food on his plate when the doorbell rang. Immediately he sprang up, grabbing his cloak and pack.

"Lad, you've wasted half your breakfast," Bilbo chided, "and you need the nourishment. Take a cinnamon bun with you."

Shaking his head, Frodo shouldered into his cloak, going to the door. "I'm really not that hungry, Bilbo." His eyes were sparkling with excitement and he was eager to get going. "And there will be plenty of food at the Fair. I've the money you gave me still."

"All right, all right---be off with you then. Have a good time---now don't stay out too, too late. We might have storms later tonight."

"I won't."

"And don't eat too many sweets and upset your stomach, now."

"I shan't."

"And . . ."

"I'll be fine, Bilbo---just fine," Frodo teased, too happy to have a guardian who so obviously loved him to be much irritated. "I'm sure I'll be back in time for a late supper." And with that, he slipped out the door.

***

Many hours later, as the sun was just setting on the horizon, Frodo waved goodbye to his friends and climbed wearily back up the steps into Bag End. He'd not seen Bilbo all day---the Free Fair had been jam-packed with hobbits from all four Farthings. It was easy---very easy---to lose someone in such a crowd.

It had been a glorious day . . . well, almost a glorious day. *Bilbo is going to kill me,* Frodo thought to himself as he strode in. There was no way to get around it. *Maybe he has already taken to his bed
for the night.*

But the moment he had closed the door Frodo knew it was of no use. Bilbo was still up---writing in his book in a chair by the fireplace. He turned and glanced at Frodo as the younger hobbit came in. "Well, my boy, did you----" Immediately Bilbo stopped, setting his book down carefully and rising to get a better look at his nephew, an expression of concern marring his features.

"Frodo, whatever happened to your face?"

The tweenager winced. He had peeked in a looking glass and knew he had a very large, quite dark bruise covering part of one cheekbone and the next morning would very likely have a black eye. And he still felt rather achy---no doubt he looked a sight.

"Um . . . Bilbo, I didn't mean to get into a tussle, honestly . . ."

Sighing, the older hobbit frowned. "Let me get you a cool rag for that. Don't even tell me, Frodo. It was Lotho Sackville-Baggins, wasn't it? What happened?"

His nephew nodded. "I promise I did *not* start it, Bilbo---truthfully. I was just talking to Freesia Smallburrow when Lotho came up and started insulting me. He . . . he called me a `mathom,' and told me to leave, and when I refused, he hit me. I think he must be sweet on her."

Bilbo grinned slightly as he held a cool rag to Frodo's face. "Mmm-hmmm. And are *you* sweet on her?"

Frodo blushed and ignored the question. "I have the right to go where I want. And so I hit him back---I do believe I got in a good blow. I'm sorry, Bilbo. No doubt Lobelia will be here in the morning, screaming."

"No doubt. Now you know I'm not one for fighting. But you do have to defend yourself, I suppose, if he started it. Especially in front of a lass. I just hope it won't happen again," he finished in a stern voice. "Now, how was the rest of your day?"


"Oh, it was very exciting. Wonderful."

"Good, good. How about a late supper, then?"

Frodo winced at the sound of food. Truthfully, he'd not been able to eat as he had anticipated at the Fair---the smell of the food had turned his stomach a bit. "Thank you . . . but I think I'll just read for a bit and then go to bed."

"As you like." Taking the wet cloth away from Frodo's face, Bilbo felt the bruised skin carefully to make sure no bones were broken. "You feel a bit warm. Are you quite certain you're feeling all right? No headache?"

"Mmm-hmmm. Nothing some rest won't cure, Bilbo. Good night. And . . . and I'm sorry for fighting."

"I know, lad. Next time I hope it can be avoided. I'll come in and check on you later." He paused a moment. "And you know you are anything but a mathom, dear boy. Why, what would I do without you?"

"Thank you, Bilbo." After giving his uncle a brief hug, Frodo turned and went to his room.

To be continued