Author Notes :I know Frodo was supposed to be in his tweens and not his teens when he came to Bag End, and that he didn't move there immediately after his parents died, and I apologize for screwing around with the timing like that. None of these characters belong to me, and the Professor is probably rolling in his grave with what I've done to them, bless his Catholic heart. Anyway, I know this, too, has been done before, but please read and review ! I really, really appreciate reviews ! I'll review all your work if you take the 2 minutes to type out something nice about mine… cough So, onward and upward.
It was midsummer, and the sun shone brightly down on the Shire. There were a few scattered clouds, teasing the farmers with empty promises of rain, and a faint, warm breeze whispered across a meadow. The weather was beautiful, the scents of summer strong in the air, and elsewhere in the Shire, young hobbit lads and lasses were stripping down to their underclothes and splashing about in ponds. (The Brandybuck clan was even swimming in the river, much to the disapproval of those outside the family. ) The farmers tended the fields, their wives tended their smials, and, in general, there was a peaceful, contented air about the land.
In the meadow, however, there was neither peace nor contentment. The meadow itself, with its long, soft grasses, wildflowers, and the trees that ringed it, was the very picture of serenity. Its occupant was not. Frodo Baggins, aged 16, sole occupant of this lovely meadow, was lying face down in the middle of it, almost hidden by the tall grasses. He had come here to be alone, and he had gotten his wish, for the meadow, however lovely, was a rather lonely place. He wanted to be alone so I can think, as he put it to himself. What he really wanted was to get away from all the sympathetic comments, questions, and glances he had been receiving for the past month.
A little more than four weeks ago, Drogo and Primula Baggins (née Brandybuck) had drowned in a tragic boating accident on the Brandywine. The talk had yet to die down. Their teenaged son, Frodo, had been sent to live with his uncle Bilbo (well, really his cousin, but that doesn't matter) in Hobbiton. « And it's a good thing, too, » said some of the old Gammers, discussing the matter at the town well. « Rescuing him from that Brandybuck rabble. Maybe he'll settle down, now, and not come to such a terrible end as his parents ! » They all nodded sagely, and cast the young Brandybuck (for they would not think of him as a Baggins) pitying glances whenever he passed by.
Frodo had been in a state of shock, the first week. He clearly remembered the evening it happened. He had been playing in one of the back rooms of Brandy Hall with several of his cousins, leaping about on the furniture and throwing cushions at one another. There had been a knock on the door. « Come in ! » Frodo shouted. « It's not locked ! » An elderly hobbit stepped in. « Uncle Fastolph ! » Frodo had cried joyfully. « Oh, do join us, uncle ! We're having ever so much fun ! » Frodo's faced was flushed with exertion and he grinned at his uncle, who, under normal circumstances, would have grinned back, grabbed a cushion, and reveled in the chaos along with them, never mind his age.
Uncle Fastolph did not join them, and he did not return Frodo's smile. In fact, he looked very worried, and very grave. « Frodo-lad, » he said quietly, and his voice was so serious that the grin faded from Frodo's face, and he jumped down off the bed and came over. « Frodo-lad, » Fastolph said again, looking even graver than before. Frodo's blue eyes filled with apprehension, all traces of merriment banished under that somber gaze. « What ? » he said warily. « What is it, uncle ? »
« Now, I know you're going to take this like a man, nephew, » said Fastolph, laying his hands on Frodo's shoulders. Something twisted inside Frodo, and he felt sick.
Take it like a man, Frodo, a man.He swallowed hard, met his uncle's eyes, and nodded. All the other children in the room had fallen silent, knowing, with the instinctive knowledge of children, that something was very, very wrong. They watched anxiously from the corners of the room.
« Frodo-lad, there's been an accident. Your parents… » Fastolph trailed off.
« What sort of accident ? » whispered Frodo, turning pale.
« On the river. They went boating after supper, the current must've been too strong – I'm sorry, Frodo. »
« Are they… ? » Frodo choked. Fastolph nodded, tears in his eyes. Frodo swayed suddenly, and his uncle caught him as he fell.
The next day had been all confusion, as the women wept and the men looked grim and the children stayed silent and out of the way. Everyone was trying to comfort him, console him, and express their own grief for his loss, while, at the same time, trying to figure out what it was they were going to do with him. Being half-Brandybuck, he could have simply stayed on at the Hall with some of his innumerable relations. But the general feeling was that he needed to get away after such a terrible shock. Where to, though ? Some suggested Tuckborough, others said Hobbiton, still others claimed that distant relatives in the West Farthing would take him in.
Alone amidst all the noise and confusion sat Frodo. He was pale, drawn, and silent. He would have wept, but he was too shocked for tears. To lose one parent is a terrible thing, but to lose both ? And in the same night, and to the same fate ! Frodo was numbed by the pain of it, and the suddenness. Which was worse, he wasn't sure. He had the peculiar feeling of being behind a glass wall. He could see all the others, and hear them, but he couldn't touch them, nor they him. He was alone. Alone. All alone, he thought. His uncle Fastolph had gone off early that morning, so Frodo was left even without him. He sat quietly on a chair in the Great Room, staring blindly into the space in front of him. Gone ? How can they be gone ? he thought dazedly. And then, What will become of me ?
Fastolph came back that afternoon, bringing with him a relative Frodo had only met a few times before. « Frodo-lad, » said Fastolph gently, waking him from his trance. « This is your cousin Bilbo. Bilbo Baggins. » Frodo lifted his blue eyes to his cousin's dark ones. So this is 'Mad Baggins' ? Doesn't look very mad to me.
« Hello, » he said dully.
« Hello, cousin » said Bilbo. He smiled down at Frodo sadly. « I'm sorry to hear about your loss. » He did indeed sound genuinely sorry for what had happened, and Frodo found a small measure of comfort in those dark eyes. He nodded.
« So is everyone else » he said.
« And you, my lad ? » asked Bilbo softly. « What do you feel ? »
Frodo looked into Bilbo's eyes for a long moment. « Lost » he whispered forlornly. Tears had come to Bilbo's eyes, then, and he had embraced Frodo tightly.
« Not to worry, lad. We'll find you again. »
« What will become of me ? » Frodo asked with sudden anxiety.
«We've decided that, » said Fastolph. « You're going to live with your cousin Bilbo. »
And so he left with Bilbo the next day, after the funeral. The summer weather was soft and beautiful as they rode in a carriage to Bag End. It's obscene, Frodo thought harshly. My parents are dead, and the weather is beautiful. I hate it. Heads turned as they rode past, and expressions grew somber. I can just imagine what they're thinking. Morbid old crows. He did not meet their eyes.
At last, they reached Bag End. Bilbo walked him down a hallway and showed him his room. « There you are, my boy. You'll probably be needing some sleep, so I'll leave you to it… » he said, and closed the door softly behind him. Frodo slowly got undressed and clambered up into the bed. He had been exhausted by all the events of the past two days. Before he knew it, he was asleep a deep, dull, dreamless sleep, borne of grief and pain. He slept late into the next day, when Bilbo awakened him to breakfast.
« Come on, lad. You need to eat something keep your strength up » he had said with forced (Frodo thought) cheerfulness. « I'll show you around the place later, and Hobbiton, too, if there's time. »
So he had eaten, though he was not hungry, and been 'shown around' Bag End. It was a nice place, Frodo realized, a little surprised that he could think anything was nice at a time like this. Very nice gardens, he thought. Pretty. Well-kept. He had met Bilbo's gardener, Hamfast Gamgee, working in the vegetable plots pulling up weeds. He had paused in his work to be introduced to Frodo, who put his small, pale hand in the gardener's larger, work-roughened one. « I'm sorry, son » he had said quietly, and at the word 'son', tears rose up in Frodo's eyes, and the lump in his throat threatened to choke him. He nodded, and walked on quickly. Take it like a man, Frodo, a man, he told himself.
Bilbo had then taken him around the village and the surrounding area. « You can explore this for yourself, these next few weeks » Bilbo had said, and it sounded like a command more than a suggestion. Frodo nodded again. Nodding was safe, non-commital. He didn't have to trust his voice when he nodded. He managed to keep his tears under control for the rest of the day. But his sleep betrayed him. He dreamed of his parents of kissing his mother and tussling with his father, of picnics and outings and family gatherings, holding their hands and falling asleep in their laps. It all seemed so real, that when he woke the blow was all the more bitter. They're gone. They're *gone*. The shock had worn off, and the truth seared him like acid. And now the tears came, in wild, anguished sobs, and he could not stop them, try as he might. Bilbo had come in and lifted him gently, rocking him and stroking him as he wept hour after hour. Finally, towards dawn, he fell asleep. He slept till noon, when Bilbo woke him and again had him eat something. After that, all he wanted to do was crawl back into bed and cry, but Bilbo had gently and firmly pushed him out the door.
« Go explore, cousin Frodo. The fresh air'll do you good. »
Do me good. Right,he thought cynically. He seriously doubted that anything could do him good. But as he had been practically ordered to do something, he began to walk. He came into the village, where he found that wherever he went, conversations stopped and people looked at him with a mixture of pity, curiosity, and fear. He met no one's eyes and stalked on resolutely. Oh, honestly. Drowning's not contagious. Fools, he thought bitterly. The way they all shut up when I come near, they have to be talking about me. Look how nervous I make them. Well, I don't care ! It's free air, I can breathe it if I've a mind to! I'm glad they don't talk . If they did, it would be all stupidities.
Frodo wandered about for a while and finally came back to Bag End, feeling both pitied and pitiable. Bilbo asked him how it went, and he lost his tenuous self-control. « It was awful ! » he cried. « They all stared at me like I was cursed! And the way they kept whispering - well I don't care what they think ! They can all go hang ! » he said, with tears streaming down his cheeks.
« Frodo, cousin… » Bilbo began, but it was too late. Frodo ran to his room and slammed the door with a resounding crash. The sound of his weeping echoed in the house, tight and pained. Bilbo winced, and waited a few moments before knocking softly. « Can I come in ? » he asked gently.
« No ! Go away ! » came the muffled reply. Bilbo sighed and waited another moment before entering. Frodo was lying with his face buried in his pillows, weeping as though his young heart would break. Bilbo sat down on the edge of the bed, and Frodo stiffened.
« Leave me alone ! » he said into his pillow.
« Frodo, my lad. You can't let them get to you this way » Bilbo said.
« Why can't they just mind their own business ? » asked Frodo, not lifting his head.
« People will be people, cousin. It can't be helped. Step lightly, hold your head high, and cry in private. The whispers will die down in a few weeks. Until then, you must be strong. Do you understand me ? Strong. » He waited for a moment before Frodo's head nodded. He patted him on the back and left the room.
A/N: What'd you think? Should I go on? Please review! Thank you!