AUTHOR'S NOTE: This was written in 2005 for a challenge for the hobbit_ficathon, on LJ.

This was meant to be a crossover, but I could not find the other category in the list. I don't suppose it will be too hard for the reader to figure out.

A GIFT FOR FRODO

They had walked for several hours into the dark which was Moria, before Gandalf allowed them a brief stop for rest.

The four hobbits had collapsed, exhausted, backs against a wall, leaning into one another for warmth and comfort, and soon were fast asleep. They slept hard, not moving or shifting except for the occasional jerks and twitches of Pippin's feet.

Gandalf watched them, and murmured finally to Aragorn "I suppose we should let them have their sleep out. We shall move the more quickly for it afterward, if they are not so weary."

Aragorn nodded, relieved that the Wizard had come to that conclusion on his own. He had been prepared to argue on the hobbits' behalf. So Legolas watched and the rest of the Company disposed themselves to rest as well as they could.

Some five hours had passed when the hobbits began to stir. Merry and Sam woke at almost the same moment; they were on the outside of the group, and exchanged a glance. Frodo still slept, leaning against Sam who did not move, lest he wake his master. Merry shifted Pippin slightly, so that the youngest hobbit leaned more towards Frodo, and got stiffly to his feet.

Aragorn, Legolas and Boromir were looking to their weapons; Gimli was going through one of the packs, retrieving the little bundles of dried sweetened grain, mixed with nuts and dried fruit, that usually served for a breakfast when the Company had made a cold camp. He handed four of them to Merry, who sighed. The hobbits had at first thought this mixture a treat, but as a meal it left something to be desired, especially with nothing to wash it down with but water.

Pippin had begun to wake, blinking owlishly, yet, like Sam, he stayed tucked against his older cousin's side, shifting slightly to get even closer.

Gandalf studied the peaceful face of the sleeping Ringbearer. He looked calmer and more rested than the Wizard had seen him since his wounding on Weathertop. Regretfully, he leaned forward with the intention of gently waking Frodo, and found himself looking into the stony glares of three pairs of hobbit eyes.

Merry shook his head. "Please let him sleep, Gandalf. He needs the rest more than any of us."

Gandalf sighed, but before he could bring himself to argue, Frodo said clearly "Well, good-bye, then," and opened his eyes.

He blinked a couple of times, put his hand to his shirt where hung the Ring, and sighed.
"That was the strangest dream I have ever had! It seemed so very real!"

Gandalf looked interested. He knew that Frodo, had, on more that one occasion, dreamed true. "Well, then Frodo, you must tell us about it as we walk, if you can remember it."

Everyone now was afoot, and ready to go on, munching on their dry breakfast as they went. As Gandalf had requested, Frodo began to tell his dream...

The first thing I was aware of was that I did not have the Ring. This should have upset me, but instead all I felt was a profound sense of relief. Then I realized I was treading water. I looked up, and saw a circle of daylight above me, and I knew that I had somehow fallen into a well. I felt no fear, however, for in some way I knew that help was coming soon.

I heard the sharp barking of a dog, and then two worried faces looked down upon me. It was two Big Folk, whom I had never before seen. A man and a woman.

The man said "We'll have you out of there soon, son." And he lowered a rope, which I tied about my waist, and he began to haul me out. He drew me dripping from the water and gave me a fierce embrace, and then handed me to the woman, who held me as though I were a small child. She began saying, "There now, son, you just relax, and we'll have you home in no time."

I began to realize that these people had somehow taken me for their child. I tried to protest, but the woman just shushed me. There was a dog with them, a beautiful creature with a long silky coat, a narrow pointed face, and intelligent eyes. Apparently she had led the people to me.

They took me to a house. It did not look like any house of men such as I saw in Bree, yet it seemed homely and familiar all the same.
When we entered, the woman said, "I am going to draw your bath, now. You go get ready."

I just stood there for a moment, wondering where I was to get ready and how. The woman gave an exasperated sigh, and said "Go on, now Timmy!"

I looked at the dog, and she looked back at me, just as if she were saying "I know perfectly well you are not their Timmy, but just go along with it for now."

She led me to a small room, and there was a child's dressing gown laid out on the bed which fit me just fine.

I undressed and put it on, and went to take a bath. Afterwards I was treated to a fine meal during which conversation made little sense to me. I discovered that the dog's name was Lassie, and that we lived on a farm. The father's name was Paul, and the mother was named Ruth.

It seemed that I spent several days there with them. Any attempt on my part to explain that I was a hobbit and not their little son gained me only pats on the head and praise for my vivid imagination, so eventually I gave it up. The dog was a wonderful companion, and I found I had no fear of her at all. She seemed to be the only one who knew I was not this "Timmy".

It was so nice and restful, Gandalf, to just play at being a child again, with no Ring and no responsibilities. I was quite enjoying myself, and only sometimes did I wonder about the Quest.

Then one afternoon I was walking in the woods with Lassie, and she began to bark, and to lead me on. She took me back to the well where I had first found myself, and I hear a young voice calling "Lassie! Lassie!"

She put her front paws up on the rim of the well, and gave a few sharp barks, and then ran off.

I looked down, and there, where I had been once before, was a young boy. I don't know much about the ages of Man children, but if he had been a hobbit lad, he would have been about twelve or thirteen.

"Shall I help you out of there?" I called.

"No, Lassie's gone for help. She'll bring my parents."

"Are you Timmy?" I asked.

"Yes, and I'm ready to go home now, please."|

I nodded. I could hear the voices of Ruth and Paul hurrying in our direction. So I told him "Good-bye" and I was suddenly awake.

It was such a real dream. It seemed like I really had spent the better part of a week in another place...

Frodo stopped speaking for a moment, and then the other hobbits began to ask him questions, and they dropped back a bit.

Aragorn looked at Gandalf. "What do you suppose that dream meant?"

Gandalf smiled, and shook his head. "I do not suppose that this one meant anything. I think that it was a grace of the Valar, to allow Frodo to spend some time unburdened in another time and place. He was made a part of a loving family for a while, acting as a child, as though he could retrieve a little bit of what he lost when his parents drowned."

"Why, then, did he not simply dream of his parents?" asked Legolas.

"Because that would have been too painful when he had to leave them. He might not have wished to return to us."

They turned to look back where the Ringbearer walked with his friends, and noted the happiness and animation in his face, that had not been there for a while, and were grateful.

"What I can't imagine, Frodo," Merry teased, "was that you of all people had a dog!"

Frodo smiled. "She was more than just a dog. She was my Lassie for a little while."