Summary: Frodo asks Bilbo about an interesting object in Bag End. No slash, sex, profanity, or violence.
Author's note: This one-shot came to me as I was planning a quilt for my grandma, may she live for another eighty years. It's meant to be a cute and simple diversion, nothing more.
This is basically child-friendly, but there is a non-graphic mention of the loss of a child. Please read with discretion if the subject is distressing to you.
Frodo had visited Bag end many times before his adoption, but now that he was living there, he was occasionally reminded of how fine everything was. Oh, he had always known that Uncle Bilbo was wealthy; even living in Buckland, he couldn't escape the stories of gold and silver that Bilbo had found on his Adventure.
But there was one thing that intrigued Frodo. In the living room, across the back of Bilbo's favorite overstuffed chair, lay a folded quilt just the size for a hobbit child. The quilt was obviously ancient: the colors had faded and there were splotches of dirt that even the most dedicated laundress couldn't remove. It had been torn and patched many times, though it was kind of hard to tell because the whole thing had been made from seemingly random scraps of cloth in the first place.
Why was such a sorry-looking quilt given a place of honor in such a fine home as Bag End, Frodo wondered. Bilbo was always very careful with it, keeping it clean and dusted, and replacing it immediately if it happened to be knocked askew. Finally, one evening, when Bilbo was sitting in his chair mulling over some poetry and Frodo was studying, he worked up the courage to give voice to his question.
"Bilbo, can I ask you a question?"
It was better to begin that way. Bilbo could get somewhat lost in his poetic endeavors and wasn't always happy to be dragged out of whatever bit of verse he was puzzling over. This time, his uncle looked up and said, "Of course, my boy, what would you like to know?"
"Where did that old quilt over your chair come from? It's like nothing else at Bag End," Frodo asked.
Bilbo's eyes twinkled and he replied, "You mean, it's not as nice as most of my things," though he looked pleased by the question.
"Well, I suppose so. But, you seem very fond of it. I was wondering if there was a story behind it."
"Of course; everything has a story. But this one is special. My mother made me this quilt when I was a baby. It kept me warm when I was cold and was my cape when I searched for adventure as a boy. Now that my parents are gone, it reminds me of them, though my father was quite skeptical of the idea when my mother started making it. Shall I tell you The Story of the Quilt, as my mother used to tell it to me?" At Frodo's eager nod, he began. "Long ago, before I was born, my mother, Belladonna Baggins, began to sew…"
Belladonna hummed to herself as she threaded her needle. Well, she supposed, the baby could probably hear her as well, but he wasn't about to pass comment on his mother's vocal talent. Or lack of vocal talent. It was well known throughout the family that she'd always had a voice like a frog.
But no matter. She had other skills. Like sewing. She had always been good with a needle, whether it was embroidering a fancy handkerchief or darning a shredded trouser leg.
This particular project was somewhere between the two extremes. She was currently midway through a baby quilt, the perfect size to keep her little one nice and warm. And with any luck, she would be finished with it by the time he arrived. It would be just perfect, even if it was made of scraps of whatever was lying around the sewing room, because, as she had explained to everyone who asked, a scrap quilt would be more interesting to a small child, and no one would mind overmuch when it was inevitably worn to pieces.
And worn to pieces it would be. Belladonna fully expected her child to love this bit of cloth to death. After all, she had put all of her love into it, hadn't she? It didn't matter what everyone else thought of it.
Her mother had scoffed at the idea from the beginning. As the daughter of Gerontius Took and the wife of Bungo Baggins, Belladonna's station in life was comfortable enough that it wasn't necessary to help make the clothing and linens for her baby. But Belladonna couldn't explain why she needed to do this. Maybe it was her own way of trying to ensure that this one would survive, as if her industry would somehow give strength to her unborn child.
Anyway, it wasn't as though she had to make or even buy everything that her child would need. Her sisters had given her ample clothes and linens that had been used and outgrown by their own children. Poor Bungo had watched with mild alarm as the nursery filled to overflowing with all the things that the ladies insisted were necessary for a child.
Belladonna gratefully accepted their help with most of the work, but insisted that the baby's quilt would be her own task, and only hers. The look on her face dared any one to argue.
Because she was the only one working on the quilt, it progressed slowly. She carefully trimmed the scraps of cloth so that the seams would lie evenly and stitched them together to make the quilt top.
By the eighth month of her pregnancy, she had found a large piece of cloth for the back of the quilt and an equally large piece of felt to put between the top and the backing. Now came the difficult part. All three layers had to be sewn together to make a quilt sandwich, as her mother always called it. It would take time to do this, but Belladonna had more than enough of that on her hands.
Bungo hadn't quite forbidden her from doing anything more strenuous than making a cup of tea, but she could feel his disapproval whenever he came upon her engaged in any kind of physical work. Finally, after a few small tiffs- Bungo wasn't nearly foolish enough to actually argue with his pregnant wife- she agreed to indulge her nesting instincts with sewing and other light tasks. She didn't tell Bungo that this was no hardship as she was growing so big that moving was becoming difficult.
Just before the child was due to be born, Belladonna finished sewing the layers of the quilt together. Next came the edging. She worked faster now, and vacillated between wishing that he would come sooner and worry that he would be born before everything was prepared.
Belladonna's favorite workspace was in the living room, since it had the best light and, on this particular day, she had been hard at work for about an hour. The baby churned in her belly, so she sang softly to calm both herself and the child. When Bungo came into the room, she stopped singing and looked up. He wandered over to her side and looked at her work. "Bella, that child is going to be rather confused at this thing," he teased gently. "If there's a pattern, I can't make hide or hair of it."
Belladonna smiled complacently. "There isn't a pattern. It's completely random, just right for a Tookish imagination. Our baby will find his own patterns in the scraps," she replied.
Bungo considered this. "Hmm, but what about his Baggins side? We've always been practical, you know."
She couldn't hold back her laughter. "You, practical? Which one of us told ghost stories to my little brothers just before bed so they were afraid to sleep for the next week? And weren't you the one who nearly set off Gandalf's entire stock of fireworks last summer because you were looking at the stars and holding the match at the same time?"
Bungo couldn't exactly argue with either of these accusations, so he ducked his head sheepishly, and trudged over to his own chair, apparently chastised. But Belladonna saw the corners of his mouth twitching, and before long, both of them were roaring with laughter.
"I did no such thing," Bungo said with mock indignation, when he could speak again. "I was merely trying to amuse the children. Things simply got out of hand. And as for the fireworks, that was entirely Milton's fault, not mine."
"Oh, so that's what happened." Belladonna wiggled her eyebrows playfully and smirked. She picked up her needle again and continued to stitch, trying to hide a wince as the baby drummed his little feet against her ribs. He had been doing this for the past few days off and on, and it was starting to become annoying. She liked being able to breathe, honest.
"Bella? Are you all right?" Drat, Bungo had seen her flinch. Now he was going to be insufferable. It was just a kick, for goodness sake. Belladonna opened her mouth to tell her husband to stop being such a mother hen.
She didn't get the chance, as her words were stopped by a deep spasm in her back. She held her breath as the muscles clenched tight for a few seconds, then released. In the tiny lull that followed, she tried to collect herself. The baby was coming early! Only by a week, but still, she wasn't ready. Neither was Bungo, if the pole-axed expression on his face was any indication.
Belladonna took a deep breath. Panicking wasn't going to help. First things, first. "Bungo, can you go fetch my mother and bring her to our bedroom. She'll probably tell you to find the healer, as well."
Bungo shook himself out of his wide-eyed stupor. "Of course, Bella! But, are you sure you don't need help? What if-?" He was promptly cut off by his wife.
"Go! I can walk down the hall on my own. The pains have only just started. I just want Mother to make sure there isn't anything else I should be doing. Make sure you tell her that it's not an emergency." Bungo leaped out of his chair and bolted for the door. Belladonna just smiled and began to put her sewing things away. It didn't look like she was going to get any more work done on the quilt, not for a while anyway. When things were neat to her satisfaction, she made her way to her bedroom, strangely enjoying the next few minutes of peaceful anticipation, since she had a feeling that her home was about to become decidedly un-peaceful in very short order.
The next morning, little Bilbo Baggins was born. His proud parents both cried from sheer relief at their healthy child, and the boy's grandparents immediately began planning an enormous party to welcome the new addition to the family. Even if he was a week earlier than anyone had expected...
"Mother always used to say that that was the first and only time I was early for anything," Bilbo reminisced fondly. "And even then, I was interfering with her plans," he continued happily.
Frodo had remained silently engrossed by the story, but he couldn't help asking, "How old were you by the time she finished the quilt?"
Bilbo smiled and considered for a moment. "Oh, I was probably still a babe in arms; she never told me exactly when it was finished. But I can't remember a time when it wasn't on my bed. Except when I used it as a magic carpet or in some other childhood game, of course." He shifted slightly in his chair. "So, now you know The Story of the Quilt. It's not quite as exciting as the Lay of Lúthien, but it'll do very nicely, don't you think?"
Frodo nodded and returned to his books, but his thoughts were not on the proper forms of poetry. Rather he wondered what other secrets lay hidden in Bag End, just waiting for the right time to have their stories heard.
Author's note: So, what do you think? This was meant to be about half this length, but it got away from me. I can't imagine anyone is going to complain about extra hobbity cuteness, though. This offering is un-beta'd, since my usual reader is feeling a bit under the weather, so if you see any glaring mistakes, please point them out to me so I can edit and re-post the story. Any suggestions on inserting scene breaks would also be helpful, since keeps deleting mine.
On a different note, would anyone read a series of one-shots called Games in Middle-earth, if I were to actually write them? Each story would consist of Middle-earth characters playing a sport or game that doesn't exist in Middle-earth canon, such as Dwarves playing rugby, or something like that. If that's up your alley, please let me know, and feel free to give me suggestions. Who knows, this could become a world-famous phenomenon…