7. Chapter Six - Scamp
Frodo thought that he was going to starve while he waited for Bilbo to check on him. It seemed endless, lying there in his bed through the warm spring morning, listening to Sam and the Gaffer out in the garden. Endless because he could hear a change in Sam's song today. It was different. It was no longer the simple, carefree tune of yesterday. It was more intense. Less innocent. He closed his eyes and shivered at the thought.
Frodo could imagine Sam's face as he sang. The distant look in those eyes, the odd distracted quirk of that mouth, the dreamy expression. He could easily imagine it because he had seen that look on his own face in the mirror just this morning. He could even hear a change in Sam’s voice when he spoke to the Gaffer. Or perhaps it was just because the sound of that voice throbbed through Frodo and left him shaking. When they finally moved to another part of the garden, he breathed a sigh of relief mingled with frustration. He wanted so badly to just...
The knock on his door interrupted his thoughts. Bilbo had waited until it was almost time for lunch before worry overcame consideration.
Frodo checked quickly. His hair was suitably damp, his nightshirt was thoroughly soaked, and the bedclothes were twisted around him. He grimaced and grabbed a specially prepared dish full of chopped onion and pepper from his nightstand. He held the onion up to his eyes warily until he just couldn't stand it, then dipped his fingers into the spice, dusted it off, and barely touched his eyelids. He nearly yelped at the sting, but managed to bundle everything quickly into the towel and under his pillows, curling into a tight ball under the covers to wait.
“Frodo?” came Bilbo's tentative call.
He didn't respond.
He heard the door click open and swing inward.
“Frodo? Lad, are you all right?”
He tried to imitate a pile of covers.
Bilbo approached tentatively. “Frodo?”
Bilbo circled the bed. “This is getting to be a bit of a habit, lad.”
At that moment, Frodo lifted his head and looked blearily at Bilbo. He watched Bilbo blanch at the swollen eyes and obvious evidence of crying, the soaked nightshirt and twisted sheets, then buried his head back under the covers, turning away from his cousin.
“Leave me alone, Bilbo,” he mumbled in a hitching voice.
“Frodo, lad, what... What's happened? What's wrong?” Bilbo's tone was worried now. He circled the bed.
Frodo turned back over. “Noth...ing.”
Bilbo edged to the end of the bed, choosing a neutral location.
“Frodo, obviously something...”
Frodo sat straight up in bed. “Leave. Me. Alone.” he gritted out, and twisted back into the covers.
Bilbo stood for the longest time at the end of the bed. Frodo wondered if the Took or the Baggins would win this argument.
“No, I'm not leaving. Not until I know what's happened, lad.”
The Took. Curiosity over politeness every time.
Frodo let him wait for a bit, then struggled to the side of the bed and sat up with apparent effort. Bilbo circled to that side warily, but Frodo stuck out one hand.
“If you won't leave, I will,” he managed, standing up on wobbly legs. It wasn't difficult to feign, considering how long he had lain there.
Frodo managed to grab his carefully positioned backpack on his way to the wardrobe, swiping at his eyes as he went, avoiding Bilbo's gaze. He changed his plans at the last moment, dumped the bag at his wardrobe door and headed for the washstand, desperate to wash the spice off his eyes.
As he splashed water on his face and reached for the towel, he felt Bilbo's hand touch his shoulder.
The tone almost undid Frodo, but he steeled himself. Just a little longer.
Frodo turned away, grabbing his small clothes and breeches and pulling them on. He stripped off his nightshirt and shrugged into a shirt while Bilbo stood behind him, wringing his hands.
“Frodo lad, we've always been able to talk.”
Frodo buttoned his shirt and shoved it into his breeches, fastening them quickly and pulling up his braces, glad to finally get dressed.
“Yes, we have,” he gritted out.
“Things went badly then? With Samwise?”
Frodo didn't respond. He started stuffing clothes from the wardrobe into his pack randomly.
“What are you,” Bilbo kept trying, “Where are you going lad?”
“Perhaps to Brandy Hall.”
“To...for a visit?”
Frodo went around him, laying the pack on his bed and turning to his bedside table. “I don't know yet.”
“But, Frodo, Bag End is your home. You can't...”
Frodo ignored him, but his stomach was starting to twist into a knot at the desperate tone in his cousin's voice. This was much harder than he had thought it would be. Bilbo followed him as he began stuffing odds and ends off the table into the pack. His voice was quiet when he finally said the words that Frodo was waiting for.
“You're my heir, lad. You can't just walk away without...”
“I'm your heir? Not yet, not until next September, I think.”
Bilbo waved his hand. “That's just a formality.”
“No it's not. I am not an adult until then, am I?” Frodo retorted.
“Well, no, not officially, but,” Bilbo seemed lost.
“But you... We... I've treated you as an adult for a long time now.”
“Have you, really?” Frodo turned and took a step forward, effectively backing Bilbo into the corner.
“Yes, of course. I have never...”
“Meddled in my business? Interfered in my life? No, Bilbo, you have always let me clean up my own messes, make my own mistakes, decide how and when and on what terms I confront the difficulties.”
Frodo crossed his arms. “Until yesterday.”
Bilbo's eyes widened and he went pale.
“So, obviously you don't really think I am a suitable heir. If I can't manage my own life, how could I possibly manage Bag End?”
“I... Certainly you can manage your own life.”
“So, yesterday was an exception?”
“Yesterday...yesterday, I...” Bilbo looked stricken. “I just want you to be happy, lad. I only gave him a tiny nudge. That's all.”
“A nudge?” Frodo countered in disbelief.
“I only said you were talking of leaving, going to Brandy Hall. Which was, by the way, true.”
“You went to the Green Dragon specifically because Sam would be there, didn't you?”
Bilbo looked shamefaced and gazed at the floor.
Frodo turned back to packing.
“I don't know what to say Frodo. I...I thought one of you needed to make a move.”
“And you didn't trust me to do it myself, in my own time. Now we will never know, will we?” Frodo shot back.
“So things did not go well, then? I was so sure. I was absolutely certain that Sam.” Bilbo shook his head. “Oh my. I am... I don't know what to say, my boy. What can I do? I know that you... I...” Bilbo stepped forward and put his hand on Frodo's arm. “I am so very sorry my boy. I just wanted you to be happy.”
Frodo turned to face him, unwilling to twist the knife any further. “I didn't say I wasn't happy Bilbo,” he said softly.
“Upset with you for meddling? Yes. Angry at you for pushing Sam even a little bit? Yes. But not unhappy.” He smiled.
Bilbo was gazing at Frodo’s face in disbelief.
“Actually, I am in such high spirits that I can't stay annoyed with you at all,” Frodo said, then grinned broadly.
Bilbo grabbed Frodo's arms and gazed into his face closely, a delighted smile slowly breaking across his face. “You scamp! You...”
“Baggins?” Frodo offered, smirking.
“Why I should... You had me frightened within an inch of my life. You young scallywag!” Bilbo shook him with a mock scowl. He placed his hand over his heart dramatically. “Scaring an old hobbit like that!”
“You deserved it, you old scamp!” Frodo shot back. “Scaring a young hobbit like that.”
“So. Things with Sam?” Bilbo's smile grew tentative.
“Things with Sam will be fine.” Frodo gripped his cousin's shoulder gently. “Thanks to you, Bilbo. I shouldn't have...”
Bilbo suddenly pulled Frodo into a quick, fierce embrace, then pushed back, holding him firmly by both arms. “No, my boy, don't apologize. It was well deserved. I know better than to interfere. You have to make your own decisions, live your own life.” He stood there for a moment as if he were about to say something else, but thought better of it.
Frodo touched his cousin's wrinkled cheek, “Dear Bilbo. Don't worry about me. I think I can manage this part of my life on my own.”
Bilbo grinned, “I trust you will, lad, and quite well, too.” He smacked the side of Frodo's head playfully. “This calls for cracking open a bot...”
Frodo grimaced. “Oh no. No more alcohol, please Bilbo. I have had my fill.”
Bilbo smiled knowingly. “Tea, then?”
“Yes, lots of tea. Tea would be wonderful.” Frodo moved back to the bed and began pulling things out of his bag and placing them back on his bedside table.
“Well, I have some nice stew and fresh bread on the table. I was coming to drag you out of bed.” Bilbo paused and looked around the room. “You were lying in wait for me weren't you? All this time?”
“That was a quite good one, lad. Very well done. You've paid me back quite well, I would say.” Bilbo leaned forward to peer closely at Frodo's face. “But your eyes look quite red and puffy. Are you sure?”
“Just a little bit of pepper. But I think I overdid it.” Frodo went back to the washstand and splashed more water in his eyes.
“And fresh cut onion,” Frodo offered as his face dripped over the basin.
Bilbo shook his head and laughed delightedly. “You are a Baggins through and through, boy. Through and through.” He walked toward the door. “I'll get things set up. Just come on when you are ready.” He went toward the kitchen, still making amused noises to himself.
Frodo scrubbed his face with the towel and looked after his cousin. Strangely enough, despite all the frustration and anxiety, he couldn't remember many days better than this one. He grinned at the room in general and went to find a decent waistcoat.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.