S.R. 1316

"Come on, Bilbo! Hurry up!"

Panting as he raced after his little cousin, Bilbo Baggins rolled his eyes in an almost genuine sense of irritation. He was the tween, but she was certainly having a better go at it that day. How did she never trip with as pell-mell as she was leading him through the trees? He swore she should just live out with all her animals sometimes… Skidding to a stop as he released her smaller hand, eyes wide with surprise, he demanded, "What do you mean 'hurry up'? I'm not following you over that!"

"Oh, come along," she chided affectionately, deftly holding out her arms while swiftly turning herself around upon the damp log she was running on. "The moss shan't turn your toes green."

Folding his arms and raising an eyebrow in a way that said he was attempting to be more mature than her, Bilbo tried again, "I'm talking about how this bridge of yours is rotting from the inside out and is consequently suspended fifteen feet over a stream that I have no desire to fall into!"

Sighing, she plopped down in the exact center, folding her arms identically to his. At her actions, he groaned, throwing his hands up to the sky. With arms again crossed, he began tapping a large hobbit foot. He raised an eyebrow; smirking, she raised one of hers. He raised a finger to point it at her accusingly; she did the same.

Finally, unable to hold back a smile, Bilbo laughed, using her given name instead of the pet one he and her mother used, "Poppy, you are infuriating. Have I ever told you that?"

Leaping up, she grinned, "Every time you come to see me, Bilbo. Now come on, this is the fastest way back to the house. I thought you might want to be there quickly for dinner. Mother made cake."

Walking back more carefully, the younger hobbit took her cousin's hand and quickly but delicately guided him over her improvised bridge. The fallen tree was old, but she'd looked and it was still fairly sturdy. Given the stream beneath wasn't kicking up mist because of a waterfall or the like, the rot had been kept at bay. However, she knew that he didn't know that and took care to his hesitance because of it.

Willingly following her lead again, Bilbo had to smile. Poppy was one of the most caring, most curious, most adventurous hobbits he'd ever had the pleasure of knowing and being related to, no matter what he actually told her. While she sometimes had a subtle way of showing it, her intentions were always for his benefit in some way. Usually that care was just buried beneath an exasperating delivery and quite openly spoken words.

There were fifteen years of difference between them but they got along remarkably well. He wasn't quite ready to grow up and she had the insight of one older, truly making any gap moot. For all intents and purposes, he was her protective big brother and she his doting and excitable little sister. But then, what else was to be expected of the only children of Belladonna and Belinda Took? With mothers who were sisters closer than twins, the cousins saw much of each other and had found the same kindled spirit of curiosity in one another.

There wasn't an inch of the small wood, the hills, the sheep meadow near her home, or Greenfields that they had not ventured through during some invented quest. He'd lost count of the number of times they'd spent a positively wonderful day fighting the Battle of Greenfields. Bilbo wouldn't go quite so far as to call it adventurous on his part, but they were certainly never bored when together.

Of course, they were usually never completely out of trouble, either.

While it seemed that every animal that walked Middle Earth loved his little cousin without question—whether it was as docile as a sheep or milk cow or as skittish as a sparrow or hare—he had no idea how her family's many sheep put up with them using their flock as a roiling ocean or how the songbirds didn't fly away when their calls were loudly deemed signals of the enemy. Imaginations and the books to fuel them were two things he and Poppy weren't lacking in the slightest.

Though their fathers were both stout, sensible Hobbits—hers was a Gamgee and his a Baggins—who didn't believe in adventures or doing anything unexpected, their mothers were healthy in the famous Took oddity. Belladonna and Belinda were not going to head off on an adventure one day, but they firmly believed their children should be able to imagine as many as they wished while still young.

As the two young Hobbits hurried back through the small wood near Poppy's home in the North Farthing, Bilbo declared animatedly, "You'll never imagine who came to visit Hobbiton the day before yesterday!"

Recognizing the pure excitement in his voice, she turned her large blue eyes to him with equal delight, "Who? Someone interesting? Someone from outside? Was it a Dwarf? Mother says they're terribly talented folk. It couldn't have been an Elf…but was it?"

Laughing as her age revealed itself in the very speed of her questions, Bilbo shook his head, "No to the last and no to the one before. But…you're right on the second count."

"Someone from outside the Shire, then! Who was it and why ever did they come here?" she asked with clear wonder. While she loved her home, her family, and her animals, there was always a part of her that wondered why others would visit the slow-paced, simple land that was the Shire. The rest of the world always seemed so much more exciting, as did the people who lived out in it. She couldn't understand what would draw them away from that.

"Do you remember a few Midyear's Days ago there were fireworks and a wizard who came?" At her nod—how could she forget the wizard and fireworks that had showed up on her birthday?!—he continued, "Gandalf, that wizard arrived! He spent most of the day at our house. You'll never believe all the things he knows! I asked him about Hildifons Took, the one who went on an adventure... Mother invited him here with us today. He should have arrived by now."

"Run faster, Bilbo!" she laughed, pulling him along and forcing him to talk at the same time. Poppy listened with a wide smile, enraptured as Bilbo recounted all that Gandalf had told him of their singularly interesting relative.

As they approached her home, a hobbit hole of smaller and simpler proportions than Bilbo's, large smoke rings could be seen floating lazily into the sky. Smiling widely, Poppy began to run faster. "Master Gandalf!"

It had been a few years, but the wizard clearly remembered the dark-haired hobbit lass who had been the birthday girl on his last visit. Returning her wide grin, he rose and caught her as she launched toward him, "Little Anna, how are you? It is still Anna to your friends, is it not?"

Nodding vehemently, she replied, "Of course. How are you? Why have you come? Have you done anything interesting?"

Laughing at her questions not unlike Bilbo had, the man smiled as he set her down, "May you never change, little hobbit. The world would be a darker place without your exuberance to light it." Reclaiming his seat and refilling his pipe, he pondered what story to first tell the two cousins who had eagerly sat at his feet, their dinner forgotten…

A/N: Why hello there everyone.

So, over here in The Hobbit land, there's been a population explosion in the last month and I decided, why not get in on it. I know there's a good many stories up and I've come across ones with a general idea similar to mine (Bilbo's got a cousin, she winds up going along, and likely falls for a dwarf along the way-though I haven't decided which one personally). I'll say upfront that I even follow some of them because they're wonderful. However, I promise, promise, promise that what follows is from my head and has been bungling about in there since I walked out of the theatre at 3 in the morning in December. I'm not trying to take anything from anyone, though if one of you other wonderful ladies out there decides mine makes you uncomfortable, I'll take it down with complete understanding. I don't want to step on anyone's toes and felt it necessary to cover my bases.

On that note, JRR Tolkien is an incredible man, literary genius, and owns positively everything from the universe of Arda: I do not. I wish I could have picked your brain, good sir. Many thanks for reading and drop me a line if the desire takes you.