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Inklings

1380 One Summer Evening by Overlithe

Frodo stood once again in the garden near the small path in Buckland. It was the summer of his twelfth year. The place should not have been so familiar to one so young, and yet it seemed the quiet beauty and the rows of white markers had always been part of his life.

Indeed, he had been coming here since he could remember. Even before he knew what death was, before he knew what or who a sister was...

She lay here in the garden, his “twin”, whom he had never met except in his dreams. He wished that she were alive; he always did, but never more than today. Today he was truly alone.

He fell to his knees as the magnitude of the past few days' events finally sank into his heart. He felt for his parents, for he now knew the depth of the anguish they had borne over the loss of his sibling. He knew, because he felt it : a gnawing disbelief and denial, tainted with the frankness of reality. He was alone... his life would never be the same.

--------

It was a fair July morning, and Primula and Drogo Baggins had left early for an outing. Frodo they had left in the care of Esmeralda; this was to be a day to themselves.

They crossed the river near the ferry using a small boat -- the kind used by all the Brandybucks -- and though Drogo was not as adept at boating as they, he had grown accustomed to the craft. Primula had always enjoyed a short trip up the river, and it had taken her years to get Drogo to even try. Now it was one of their favorite things to do together. The trip upstream was pleasant, and the stand of trees and privacy were well worth the struggle against the current.

They had pulled the boat ashore and picnicked in their favorite spot. The tree under which they sat was the very tree where Drogo had asked for her hand, and high on the trunk their initials could be seen carved into the bark of the tree. It was a permanent testament to their love for each other. They always looked at the tree lovingly when they came here; it was an unspoken joy they shared. The sun was warm, and the food was plentiful, and as they finished the meal and drank a bottle of Old Winyard together, they laughed and smiled and sat closely together.

“One day we shall have to bring our dear Frodo with us,” said Drogo unexpectedly. This trip had always just been their special getaway; it had never occurred to Primula to bring Frodo along. They took him everywhere else with them... indeed, he rarely left them. Only this trip and this little secret they withheld from their beloved son.

Primula looked at him in question. Why had he thought of this now? she wondered to herself. She took a deep breath and knew Frodo would love it here, as did the two of them. He was like neither of his parents, but was an interesting combination of both. Drogo had commented many times on how fortunate they were to have a child that had the best qualities of both parents.

She smiled at the thought of him; she always did. Her son was the smartest, most handsome, sweetest, most considerate hobbit she knew. And then she laughed in spite of herself, and thought, 'a completely unbiased opinion,' and she giggled again.

“Yes”, she said aloud, “I think he is old enough to appreciate it here”. It seemed to her his childhood was fleeting. Frodo always seemed much older and more independent than she remembered being at his age. He was still only twelve, and yet it may be time, she thought again.

A sudden regret hit her then, and she wished he was with them today -- that today should have been the day that young Frodo had seen the place his parents had promised their love forever. So much of his life had been of sharing the grief and remembering his sister. She wondered at herself that she had not thought to share this subtle joy with the lad. He was so serious and somber at times; he needed to know that along with the great sorrows, there was also great joy.

Primula shook the regret away. Of course, he knew that already, she smiled. Every day with Frodo was a great joy, and she was in no hurry to see her only son grow into a tween.

-----

Frodo awoke suddenly from a sleep he had not intended. He looked around desperately, trying to remember where he was and why. His eyes fell upon the grave of his sister and the memories flooded back. The grief that stuck him was overwhelming, and he bowed his head to the ground, his body wracked with great sobs. He was alone...

The afternoon had passed quickly, and Drogo and Primula Baggins had wandered far through the wooded area just north of Farmer Maggot's property. They were late, very late, and they walked quickly, trying to get to the river before nightfall.

“Drogo, love, let's leave the boat and take the ferry back across the river.” As comfortable as she was in boats, the river was swift and could be dangerous in the dark. Drogo did not wish to travel so far out of the way, and so they were in a race against the Sun.

It was nearly eight o'clock in the evening, and the Sun was riding low on the horizon, when they pushed forth from the bank. Primula was laughing at Drogo, who was quite winded after their dash to the river. Their mood was light; it had been a lovely day.

There was not a breath of wind; all was calm, and the sound of summer insects was music in their ears. Drogo gently steered the craft with the oars. There was no need to row; the current did all the work. Dusk had fallen, and fireflies lit the banks. The lights were coming on in the distant homes of Buckland, and sounds of soft laughter floated out to them.

Perhaps the calm of the night or their relaxed state had caused it. There was no indication of a problem, nor should there have been -- it was a trip they had made hundreds of times. The oar slipped from Drogo’s hand, and he reached to grab it. Primula saw it fall and gently leaned to retrieve it. And then they were gone: into the waters in the center of the river, they fell. A small exclamation of surprise and a soft splash were the only sounds as the couple went under.

Neither could swim, of course -- most hobbits could not, and even the few who could would have been no match for the swift undercurrents of the river. The boat floated on, half-filled with water, and came to rest just short of the landing. No one had seen a thing.

Primula knew as she went under that she would never see him again. She struggled to reach the boat, but it was far from her reach, and there was Drogo -- she could see him, dimly, just within reach. She grasped his struggling hands with her own and they passed out of this world together. Their last thoughts were of their son; their beloved, special son. It would be a sorrow to him, they knew. And then they were gone.

---

He sat staring straight ahead. He could not look to his right. The markers were there, but his parents were not. They were missing, not dead -- it could not be. Yet Bilbo had come and told him it was so. Esme and Saradoc had been there also -- they had all been crying. He held to Esme, but he had refused to believe; it could not be... if it was, he was alone. Why?

He cried aloud, "Why them, why me?" He whispered to the air. "They were so good, and kind -- why? Why?" He broke down into sobs yet again.

A soft voice spoke behind him. He had known that eventually Bilbo would come to find him. He knew it would be Bilbo, not Esme or Saradoc. For though he loved them, they did not understand him, not the way old Bilbo did. Bilbo spoke again, softly, soothingly; wisely.

“There is no reason, son”, the voice said.

Frodo did not respond or lift his head.

"Things happen, and there is no one to blame and nothing to fix... nothing to do but to go on."

The small bitter voice that responded was not the voice of a twelve year old child. “I should have died with them,” he said.

Bilbo reeled at the thought. Could he live in a world without Frodo in it? As heartbroken as he was over the death of his cousin Drogo and his lovely wife, it was nothing compared to the pain that had shot through him at the thought of losing Frodo.

“No, lad, no..." And Bilbo wept.

Bilbo could think of nothing to say. He could find no words. He had been staying with him since he had broken the news to him, and never had he seen Frodo in such a state. He wondered when the last time he had eaten or bathed had been. No one had the heart to be firm with him, and he had refused the gentle advances of Esmeralda. The day the news was broken to him he had retreated to his room and had remained there. No one had any idea that Frodo was so strong-minded. Bilbo was sure to make food available, and he was a fine cook; he made all of Frodo’s favorite dishes. But he only picked, when he even came to the table at all.

Now, this... for the last two days, he had found him at the grave of his sister, little Primrose. The markers for his parents stood there also, but they were not there. They were lost, and chances were they would never be found. It made the reality more difficult for Frodo.

Just the night before, Frodo had told him they would be back, but the tears that poured from his face gave away his uncertainties. “But Bilbo, they said you were dead, and *you* came back."

Bilbo didn’t quite know how to answer. It was, after all, all too true... all of Hobbiton had thought him dead. They were auctioning off his things when he returned, for heaven's sake. How to explain? He shook his head. It was rare that Bilbo was at a loss for words.

He walked over to Frodo, who remained crumpled in a heap, and picked him up. He did not respond; he lay in his arms, neither resisting nor submitting. His eyes had begun to take on a far-off glaze, and Bilbo was worried. Just when he thought Frodo was improving, he slid down another slope into a deeper despair. It was so unnatural to see him like this; and Bilbo wept as he carried him down the hill and back to Brandy Hall.

-----

Frodo awoke slowly with a clarity he dreaded. From the moment he opened his eyes, he knew; he remembered. This was the first day he had awakened this way. He had no doubts left. He remembered vaguely talking to Bilbo, and crying himself to sleep. His eyes felt sticky and swollen.

He sat up somberly, and pulled his knees to his chest and took a deep shuddering breath. Bilbo was right. There was nothing to be done for it. He blinked, and slow tears trailed down his cheeks and soaked his nightshirt. They were gone. Somehow, after all these days of denial and uncertainty, he now knew. It was true... his beautiful mum and his kind da had drowned in the river, and they would never return to him.

The naked reality of it was laid bare before him and Frodo cried now in earnest. He had loved them more than he could explain. He missed them and he needed them. Alone; he was alone. There was a dark voice in his mind that had been beckoning to him since that day. It told him he could join them, and that to remain would be too painful. It told him to die. It reminded him every moment that he was -- an orphan. He was alone, all alone.

He heard the faint stirrings of the others as dawn broke in the Shire...

His room, in Esme and Saradoc’s, he thought. He hadn’t taken note that he had slept in their rooms, rather than his own home. This room was a place of adventures and of fond memories. They had put it together for him shortly after they had married. Frodo loved to visit with them, and so they had surprised him with a place to call his own in their home. He looked around and realized that many of his things were here now, and he wondered if it was expected that he would now live here permanently.

But what of his home, his room, and his mum’s things? Could he bear never to live there again? Living in Brandy Hall had always been difficult... he was a Brandybuck by blood only. His heritage was mixed, as were most hobbits, but he was a Baggins by name, and Baggins meant odd. He had known this from an early age. He was just not quite a Brandybuck, and not quite a Took. His home was his parents, were they were -- he was happy, and comfortable... now they were gone. He wondered; without his mum, would he really be home here in Buckland?

Without his mum... it rang strange in his ears. What would become of him? He wondered where he would stay. Here, with Esme and Saradoc, or in his own room? Or would he be sent from Buckland forever?

He wondered if Bilbo would take him away to Hobbiton. It really didn’t matter, he decided, for nowhere would ever be home to him again.

He rose and went to the privy to get a bath. The coppers were full and always hot in the mornings. He lifted the heavy pot and poured the steaming water into the tub, then the cool water, to make it bearable. He climbed in with the bar of soap and began to scrub.

He tried to remember the last time he had taken a bath. It was the morning that his parents went 'away'. His mum had poured the water for him, telling him they were still too heavy for him to lift. He supposed now he would always pour his own. The tears filled his eyes again, and he wondered -- would everything he did, every day, be so painful? He stared at the water, and the tears fell softly, dripping off his tiny nose and into his bath.

Part of his mind told him that the water had grown cold, yet he did not move. He sat staring at the ripples. Other folks must have come in; it was a large bath, divided into small private rooms. But he remained alone, thinking, staring; wondering what he would do, how he could go on.

Indeed, why he should go on at all?

It was Saradoc who came for him. He heard him speak, yet he still did not move, though he was shivering violently. Finally he felt himself lifted from the tub and wrapped carefully in a towel and carried away.

Saradoc carried him back to his rooms but as they got to the door, Frodo began to struggle and cry.

"No, I want to go home..." He was kicking and struggling, so that Saradoc had to put him down. Frodo hit the floor running and left his towel behind. Esme simply put her hands over her mouth and began to cry. She couldn’t stand to see the lad in such a state.

The hallway was empty and Frodo ran down to his own home, his parents' home, and into his room. 'My room,' he thought. He pulled on some mismatched clothing and climbed up into his bed. 'My bed,' he thought. And he lay down on his pillows.

After a few moments, he saw Saradoc peek in and check on him, then quietly leave.

Saradoc wasn’t sure what to do, but the lad seemed content where he was, and so he left him. He was dressed and warm and clean for the first time in several days. Perhaps it would be good if he were left in his own rooms for a bit. He slowly walked back to tell Esme that Frodo was safe and to let Bilbo know what had happened.

Frodo heard the door close and he sat up. He wiped his eyes and nose with his sleeve and then remembered how his mum scolded for that and vowed never to do it again. He climbed out of bed and wandered around the place he had lived all his life.

It was different, somehow -- it was empty -- it was no longer home. He walked though to his parents' room and walked in... Almost he knocked, as he always did, the habit so ingrained that he had to will himself not to do it. He stood staring at their bed; many mornings he would knock and then push through the door and jump into bed with them. He turned from the sight of it.

A strange thought came to him then, and he went to his da’s chest of drawers. He picked up the clothing that was laid out just as always, and he held it to his face. Faint traces of his da’s smell remained, and he pulled the far too big waistcoat on over his own clothing.

He went to his mum’s closet then, and touched all of her things, fingering them lightly and lovingly. She had a kerchief that she wore almost every day. He picked up the soft worn cotton. It had been washed recently, but he held it against his face and he could smell her hair. He tied it around his neck loosely. He got a drink and a piece of cheese that was still in the pantry, and sat down in his da’s chair.

Bilbo found him sleeping there hours later, the half-filled juice glass teetering on the edge of the chair, and bits of cheese scattered over his chest and the chair. Bilbo gently took the cup from him and then stood looking at him, watching him sleep.

He was simply glad to see that the lad had thought to feed himself. Then he noted the waistcoat and the kerchief and his smile faded a bit, though he was glad Frodo had found some sort of comfort. He doubted the child would want to live in the place without his parents.

His own eyes were swollen, as he had managed to find some time to himself, and found the loss of Drogo and Primula had hurt more than he had thought. It was a grief he would carry for some time. Drogo had been a favorite cousin.

He put his own feeling aside, and focused on Frodo. What would be done with Frodo? What could be done? His heart told him that Frodo was his child. Hadn’t he thought as much when he was a wee babe in his mum's arms? He had loved him from the moment he saw him, so pale and tiny and frail. Yet his practical hobbit sense told him he was not equipped to handle a lad Frodo’s age. He needed the guidance of two. He wondered if Esmeralda and Saradoc would consider it, or if they assumed he would take Frodo with him.

All the potential problems began to flit through his mind. The lad may feel rejected if I do not take him, yet he needs the security of being where he is familiar. And I am just not able to care for his needs myself, he finally thought.

“I must discuss this with Saradoc at once,” he whispered to himself. He took one last look at the dear lad sleeping in the chair, and went to find Saradoc.

Saradoc, Esmeralda and Bilbo sat in the parlor room of Drogo and Primula’s home. It was a small but efficient grouping of rooms, and neat as a pin, as Prim always left it. Esmeralda looked around, despairing for her friend.

Primula Baggins had been one of the gentlest folk she had ever known. Her death was a great loss to all of Buckland, but no greater to anyone than the dear lad in the next room. He still slept in his da’s chair, wearing his old waistcoat and his mum’s kerchief. The sight of him had nearly broken her. Esmeralda loved the lad, and Bilbo had brought them all here to see him as he lay and to discuss the fate of Frodo Baggins.

Frodo was a bright lad and no doubt the questions had arisen in his mind -- who would care for him, and where would he live?

Bilbo loved him, it was true; but during their long talk it became apparent that Bilbo did not feel up to the task. He brought up many good arguments. He desired to adopt Frodo one day as his heir, but did not wish it to be public for many years. As a bachelor he felt ill equipped to handle a 12-year-old lad alone. He felt that if Frodo could remain in his usual environment that, for now, it would be best.

It was Saradoc at last who tried to sum up what Bilbo was trying to say. “He cannot go with you now, you say. And better he remain in his home. But who will be the lads' guardians, and would he wish anyone other than you, dear Bilbo?”

Esme bowed her head, knowing the answer before the question could be asked.

“We will take him,” she whispered. Saradoc and Bilbo looked to her. “I love him as a child of my own already. If Frodo will consent he will stay with us until he is old enough to go with you, Bilbo.”

Saradoc smiled gently at his wife. He too had known that her words were the only real solution. They would not adopt the lad; they would simply care for him as they always had. Then, without any entanglements, he would be Bilbo’s adopted heir when he no longer needed them.

Bilbo smiled too, and it was settled; an agreement among family and dear friends. It was an agreement to protect and care for a lad that they all considered a son. All that was left was for them to talk with Frodo and help him understand.

Esme went to the kitchen and put the pot on to boil for afternoon tea. She hummed a tune as she worked and put out some cakes. Saradoc and Bilbo remained in the parlor, working out details. She heard the rush and pattering of his feet first and smiled to herself. Frodo was awake and from now until he was grown, she would care for him. She turned toward the door just as he arrived.

His face was alight with joy and excitement, then dark, and forlorn. The light left his eyes. He moaned softly and collapsed in a heap on the floor.

“Frodo!” She screamed, and rushed to him. She slid to her knees beside him. She lifted his slight body to her lap and cradled him as she had when he was a wee lad. She rocked, calling him softly out of his faint. Bilbo and Saradoc found her there, cradling him, and weeping for his loss.

Frodo groaned. His intense blue eyes fluttered open. There was little recognition there; and then he came to himself. She saw the thoughts race through his mind. Then the utter despair returned.

“I thought you were Mum,” he cried.

Esme held him close. “I am so sorry, Frodo.”

“Esme? Whatever am I to do?” he whimpered, and snuggled close to her.

“Oh Frodo, love... I don’t know. Just don’t ever forget them, lad. They loved you so.”

“I won’t forget... I loved them too.” He broke down into a new wave of tears. Grief took him once again. Esmeralda looked up at her husband and Bilbo and shook her head. Now was not the time to discuss his new arrangements. It could wait, after all. The lad was already home; he just didn’t know it yet. Bilbo would be an almost constant part of his life, visiting, and schooling him, and sharing Birthdays; but his home for now would be as it always had been: Buckland.

“Shhhhhh, Frodo, hush lad," she soothed, and rocked, until he cried himself to sleep yet again.

“Rest, Frodo; you are home.”

------------------

The days turned into weeks. Bilbo had gone back to Bag End and returned several times, still not willing nor able to separate himself completely. The time was fast approaching, however, that he dreaded. As painful as it was, life had to go on, and Bilbo had been neglecting matters at Bag End. Esme and Saradoc knew that the time was coming soon; Frodo would be their sole responsibility.

Frodo had adjusted reasonably well to Bilbo’s short returns to Hobbiton. He wept and fretted the first time, but when Bilbo came back, he seemed to relax. They supposed it was normal for him to react so. They had already told him he was staying on in Buckland, but he asked no questions; he only nodded and accepted the news.

The most difficult decision had been whether to move Frodo into their rooms, or for them to move into the Baggins' rooms. Finally it was decided that Frodo would move to Saradoc and Esme’s rooms, but that Frodo’s room and his home would remain untouched. Today would be the day that the three would tell him, and help him with moving his things.

It was a lovely early September day, and Drogo and Primula had been gone almost two months. Frodo was recovering. His episodes of sleeplessness and sadness were few, and he was actually seen laughing at one of Bilbo’s old travel stories. The first time Esmeralda saw the lad smile, a real smile, she had to turn away and cry. Perhaps he would be all right... she had doubts, early on. Every day now, though, she saw him return to himself. The pain was still there, yet it did not overwhelm him as oft.

So it was on a beautiful day they sat down with Frodo for a serious talk. “Frodo, my lad,” Bilbo began. “This is an important day. You know of course, by now, for we have told you; you will be staying here with Esme and Saradoc.”

“Yes, Bilbo, I know," he smiled, and looked to Saradoc. He really did love them; all of them. He was so glad they had made this choice for him. He didn’t know how to choose between them.

“Right, lad, but today we will help you move your remaining things to your room with Saradoc and Esme.”

Bilbo watched the lad pale before him. “Frodo, my boy, it’s all right... No one is going to move anything you don’t wish us to. Your home will always be there, as long as you need it to be. But lad, you need to know your new home as well. No more sleeping cold and alone in an empty place, thinking and pining about 'what ifs' and 'why me'.”

Tears formed in his eyes, but he nodded, and smiled through them. “And," Bilbo added, "I need you to pick out some things to send to Bag End for your room there. I would hope you would visit me from time to time.” At this news Frodo beamed, as Bilbo knew he would. “And your first visit will be for our Birthday in a few weeks.”

“Our Birthday,” he whispered, and looked up at Bilbo. "Will you teach me to read for my birthday, Bilbo?”

Bilbo looked stunned but quite happy. “Of course, lad; we can start your lessons! I am sure you will be a marvel.” He grinned and tousled Frodo’s hair. “Right! So let's get going, then... I’ve a box to put things in to send with me. The rest we will sort and move, or store it.”

They set to the job, at first all of them, but Esme and Saradoc went to make more space in Frodo’s new room, leaving the two Bagginses alone.

Frodo slowly went through all his things. Clothing was easy; it all went to his new room, except for a few extras he put in the box for Bilbo. His playthings were more difficult. He pined and remembered playing with them with his mum and da. Some of the more special things he put in the box to be with him when he visited.

But it was the little things that caused him great distress. A cloak his mum had made for him, now too small for him; yet he was unwilling to part with it. Finally Bilbo went and found another box for such items; one day, perhaps, he could bear it, but for now it was too much for a 12-year-old.

Finally the room was bare of all significant items. Frodo looked around at the room that had been his own for all 12 of his years. He turned and walked out, carrying a box, turning only once for a look back. The rest of the place looked as it always did; it was even dusted -- but as the weeks had passed he depended on it less and less. It was not home without them being there with him, but it was a comfort to know it was still there.

“We’re done, Esme!” Frodo bounced into his new room and climbed on the bed with the box. He looked around, wondering just where to place everything. The special box Bilbo had closed, carried to a closet, and placed where Frodo could reach it. He knew it would be important for him to have it with in his own reach.

The unpacking went quickly, and Frodo seemed little affected by the change. Perhaps they had made the right choice, after all. Saradoc called to them when supper in the main hall was announced, for they would join the throng this night.

Bilbo was leaving in the morning. Frodo sat closely by his side through the meal, quiet and subdued. Yet he ate, and he ate well, an unusual occurrence of late.

He slept fitfully as Bilbo sat by his bed most of the night, wondering whom the separation would be harder on. He loved Frodo dearly -- as his own, in fact. He truly wished things were different just now, and that he might take him with him to live. When he woke in the morning Frodo was draped across his lap in the chair.

“Bilbo," he said as he woke, "it will be all right. Really, I will come and visit, I promise; don’t be sad.”

“My dear boy."

Bilbo pulled him close and kissed his forehead. "Here I am worried about you, and it is you who comforts me. You are an amazing lad, Frodo. You will visit me, and I you. There is much more left to our story. This is certainly only the beginning..."

He placed him on the floor, and rose to pack and ready himself for the journey. Frodo watched, a thrill creeping through him; was it true? Was it only the beginning? Bilbo’s words would stay with him forever.

“There is much more left to our story, Frodo... much more.”

Frodo awoke. It was the morning of September 22, 1380.

It was his birthday; he lay awake looking up at the rich beamed ceilings of *his* room. His own room, in Bag End; he found he needed to repeat it over and over to believe it was indeed true. It was a dream, yet one that felt right. He knew that Bag End was not his home, at least not now, but he wondered if one day he would spend more than just birthdays and a few days a year in this place.

The lad looked around the room again. It was thoughtfully and lovingly arranged. Bilbo must have spent hours on it, he thought. It was just past dawn, and he could hear the stirrings of the adults. They no doubt were preparing breakfast and would be expecting him soon. Esme would be checking to be sure he was up any moment.

They had arrived while he was in the bath the previous night. He heard them speaking in the room down the hall. They spoke in hushed tones, yet Frodo’s keen ears had heard them. They were concerned for him; their worry was a shadow over him. He did not like to think that they would worry over him all day today.

And yet there was reason to worry; he was sure of it. If he were left to sit and sulk he would no doubt fall into despair. It was, after all, his first birthday without -- them. It also angered him, a feeling he was unaccustomed to, until this summer. It angered him that he would not be ‘allowed’ to spend the day as he saw fit. Was it not his right to grieve his parents? He knew the answer already; Saradoc had pointed it out to him. The difference between nostalgic remembrance and self-pity. He struggled with it; the understanding of it was difficult, but he tried. He knew his parents would not want him to sink into despair.

Daily he was reminded of the love that surrounded him. It was not a replacement for his parents' love, for it had existed before they were gone. It was simply the gentle reminder that he required that he was not alone, nor would he be, ever.

Frodo sighed and smiled to himself. He tried to live and enjoy each day. “But it's so hard sometimes, Mother," he said aloud. He closed his eyes against the burning that had begun there. Most every day began this way; it was rather a ritual for him. He would remember his loss, then place it aside, and go on. It was more difficult today, but he would do it, as he did yesterday, and would do again tomorrow.

He sat up and pulled his knees up to his chest and looked at his surroundings again. He was glad for the loving touches, the mixture of memories mingled with the promises of the future. They spoke of his life and whispered excitement and learning and adventure. Indeed, he would find it hard to be sad this day. His parents would understand and he knew they would have it no other way. His mum had never been happier than when he was joyous.

Frodo suddenly sat very straight as if he had been prodded in his back. The thought occurred to him that he should indeed be prepared to give his parents a gift for his birthday. His smile reached to his eyes and his face lit with an inner light. He would give his mum the greatest gift of all; he would be completely joyful all day. It would be his gift to her and his da. He hugged his knees in closely and laughed. Such a joy had indeed entered his heart; he could not contain it. The giggle echoed through Bag End, a sound of pure mirth and unconcealed happiness. Frodo hopped out of bed and grabbed his dressing gown and headed off to wash. He sprang down the hall, ready for the day to begin.

Esme and Bilbo had heard the sounds from Frodo’s room and at first had thought the worst. 'The lad will have troubles today,' they thought. They had discussed it the previous night, but they could come to no real way to prevent it. In the end they just decided to keep him as busy as possible.

Moments later they heard him. The distinct sound of Frodo laughing -- it was not just a chuckle, but a full rich sound. The two looked at each other and wondered. They listened further, and looked to the door to the kitchen as Saradoc entered. No one spoke; they knew by his face he heard it also.

They sat down and listened. No greater gift could Frodo have given any of them. The high clear voice they heard from the washroom sang a familiar tune. It was full of happiness and joy. They heard snatches of the words, but they did not need to hear to know that the singer was a very happy hobbit lad. Bilbo shrugged and poured the tea, and sat down across from Esmeralda and Saradoc. Esme closed her eyes and listened.

"Hey, ho to the bottle I go...

To heal my heart and drown my woes..."

Esmeralda laughed as she realized that Frodo was singing the old drinking song that his da used to sing in the Hall. The tune was common, but Drogo Baggins loved to make up words, and this was a particular favorite. She had no idea Frodo knew it, and it sounded odd coming from his clear high voice. Bilbo and Saradoc looked at her and joined her in her laughter.

The tune continued for some time and then got louder as Frodo returned to his room. He had stopped singing by the time he reached the kitchen, but he hummed, and was beaming.

“Good morning Frodo, and happy birthday!” Bilbo greeted him. Esme ushered him to a seat with a gentle hand and a kiss on his cheek. She placed his breakfast before him. He was still grinning as he devoured his meal. Another gift for his mum and for Esme -- they all loved it when he ate well.

The day was planned out ahead of him and it had begun beautifully. He wondered if he would see the little Gamgee lad today. He hoped so. The little lad with the dirty hands was so... He found he was at a loss to describe what he felt. He shrugged to himself and thought about the day ahead. The music began again. He hummed a little tune as he finished eating. Surprised at the quiet in the room, he looked at the adults who sat staring raptly at him, smiling. Frodo favored them with his crooked grin, a smirk that threatened to break into a laugh.

“What?" he asked, giggling anew.

“Nothing lad, nothing... I guess we’d best get the day started, then.” Bilbo said. Esme and Saradoc were up and off to run some errands, the fears they had earlier erased.

Bilbo and Frodo had plans; it was, after all, their birthday.

-----

Frodo found himself in the garden, again. It seemed he ended up there whenever he visited Bag End. The two days following his birthday had been unseasonably hot and the moist gardens on the hill were cool and inviting. He sat and watched the Gaffer weeding and planting bulbs for hours. He was fascinated by the things required to keep the place so perfect, so beautiful. He supposed it was such with all things; things that lasted and that were beautiful took work.

The Shire was simply peaceful and wondrous and the inhabitants all did their parts to keep their own little portions picture-perfect. Frodo sighed and rolled over onto his back, looking up at the bright blue of the sky. He blinked back a few tears of sadness. His mum and da had both loved gardens, and sitting looking at the beauty for so long reminded him of them. It was, however, a good reminder; happy summer days and lovely picnics came to mind, and he grinned as he blinked in the warm sun.

“What in tarnation!"

Frodo was startled by the Gaffer's sudden outburst.

“Samwise, what are you up to now?”

Frodo at first thought the Gaffer angry, but as he sought out his face he saw that he looked amused, perhaps proud...

Frodo turned to his left, where the Gaffer looked, and there sat little Samwise. He was covered in soil as he sat in the middle of a flower bed. Frodo chuckled and wondered if the child was ever clean. He certainly had never seen him not covered in dirt. He wondered what the lad was up to, and watched for a moment before he realized...

He stared in amazement as it sank in -- what it was that the toddler was doing. He watched as this small lad who could not even yet speak and could barely walk was pulling up plants in the garden. Not just any plants; he was selecting only the weeds that had managed to escape his Gaffer’s eye. He did not touch a single blooming plant. The Gaffer knelt beside him, speaking quietly to him. Frodo heard the pride and praise in his voice as Sam’s da instilled into him the love of all things green and good and the joy of a hard day's work and a job well done. “One day, Samwis, my lad, all of this will be yours to tend.”

It was true... he knew it to be so. Indeed it should be no surprise Sam would most likely follow his da in his work. But it seemed so right, so perfect. Frodo saw it to be true in a sudden vision. He saw Sam working the gardens at Bag End for a very long time...a very long time.

He rose and went to stand nearer to the Gaffer and Sam. Sam looked up and smiled, a silly grimy grin, and Frodo smiled and looked deeply into his eyes. Yes, he thought, yes. He closed his eyes, frowning, his brow creased in concentration. But the feeling was gone -- for a moment he thought he could see himself and Sam and a connection between them. It was gone, but a strange feeling stayed with him, and ever after, he knew Sam would be someone in whom he could trust.

Frodo shook himself from his thoughts. The Gaffer was speaking to him again.

“He will be a fine gardener someday, Master Baggins; all the best gardeners love to play in the dirt.” Then he laughed.

Frodo nodded, smiling at the lad as he continued his task. He sat down to watch him for a while longer until finally the Gaffer collected him and took him back to his home across the field and down the hill.

Frodo looked at the westering Sun and wondered where the time had gone. He had missed at least one meal, perhaps even three. He was ravenous.

As if in response, he heard Bilbo call to him.

"Frodo... Come on, lad, it’s supper.”

Frodo hopped up and headed for the door. It was his last night at Bag End, and he and Bilbo had some lessons to do before bed.

But for now, the delectable smell of mushrooms wafted through the air.

He ran. He couldn’t wait to get started.

---------

This is the end of “Frodo -- 1380 One Summer" ~~ so ends the recounting of the passing of Primula and Drogo Baggins.