Frodo sat on his bed, not knowing if he should be angry or sad. He had pulled his legs close and wrapped his arms about them. His head rested on his knees, as he looked out of the window. The rain had stopped for the time being. Some lonely raindrops were dripping from the window frame.Frodo sighed. He felt like one of those raindrops. Being among so many other hobbits and still feeling lonely. Falling, like the raindrop from the window frame, not knowing when and where he would reach the ground.
'Everything will be alright', she had said in what now seemed like long ages ago.
Nothing was alright. Nothing. He had been looking forward to returning to Hobbiton again. Back to his friends he hadn't seen for so long, back to his own cosy little room where he had spent many a night imagining going on an adventure like Bilbo did.
But his relatives had decided different. He should spend the rest of his life in Buckland, being the foster son of Saradoc and Esmeralda. He shuddered. Foster son, foster parents, foster family; all these words tasted as bitter as orphaned did.
Frodo suddenly felt cold and grabbed for the blanket, wrapping it about his body. If only he could turn back time. Back to the evening after they had picked mushrooms, the evening when the world still was alright. Only this time he would not propose to go boating, but to go home, leaving Buckland as quick as they could. They would leave behind everything: the river, the pain, the fear, the sorrow; and words like orphaned and foster parents. He would be happy, holding his parents tightly and never letting go of them again.
But he could not do this. He suspected that even a great wizard like Gandalf could not turn back time. Why did she not promise? Maybe everything would have turned out different if his mother had promised him to come back.
Wrapping his blanket closer, Frodo snivelled. Someone knocked at the door.
"Frodo, may I come in?" it was Bilbo's voice.
"No," the boy answered being not in the mood for talking.
The door opened anyhow and Bilbo's curly head appeared. He smiled.
Frodo eyed him suspiciously."I don't want to decide anything," he said. "So you need not talk to me about it."
"That's alright, for I don't want to talk," Bilbo answered.
The lad frowned, watching the old hobbit as he came closer.
"I just thought I may sit with you for a while."
Frodo's brow knitted even more."Just sit?" he asked hesitantly.
Bilbo nodded. Frodo sat quiet for a moment, but finally he moved over a bit. He didn't look at Bilbo as the old hobbit sat down beside him, but ever and anon he sneaked a glance at him curiously. The room was silent expect for Frodo's sniffs every once a while. Bilbo handed him a handkerchief (which the boy gladly accepted) to wipe his nose. Frodo tugged at the waistband of his shirt nervously.
"You do wish to speak, am I right?" he suddenly said.
Bilbo shrugged. "Maybe. Do you?"
Frodo stared out of the window, pretending not to be interested. There was a long pause."I don't know," he said, shifting uncomfortably, peering at Bilbo, but averting his eyes after recognizing that the old hobbit was observing him closely.
Bilbo bit his lip, to keep himself from talking. He knew Frodo would talk sooner or later, he just had to wait. For if he began to speak, everything would be in vain, he wouldn't get a word out of Frodo. So he waited, calmly, observing the lad with a keen eye.
Frodo suddenly seemed very busy with his blanket. He kept unwrapping it, only to snuggle himself in again. Also his room had become very interesting, for he was looking into every corner, always casting a quick sideway glance at Bilbo, who pretended not to notice it.
The boy was nervous. Bilbo could feel it clearly. Frodo wished to speak; only he was not sure if he should dare it. Was he afraid or didn't he want to discuss matters like this with him or anybody else? He decided to wait a little longer.
Silence, except for the rustling of the coverlet with which Frodo still fumbled restlessly and the hushed murmurs of some hobbits who were passing the room. Finally Bilbo couldn't wait any longer. He drew a deep breath and then, to his surprise, Frodo was speaking.
"I can't go back to Hobbiton, can I?" he looked at him for a moment, then lowered his eyes again. "I mean, back home. I can't go there all alone."
Bilbo felt a sting in his heart, as he heard Frodo's voice. This was not the sullen, stubborn tone the lad had used before. Now his voice was incredibly sad with a touch of fear in it. He reached out his hand, to lay an arm about the little one's shoulder, but he drew away. Withdrawing his hand, Bilbo sighed. It made no sense to lie to the boy. "I fear not, my lad."
Frodo nodded, fighting back his tears bravely. "I knew that," he said, swallowing hard. "I mean without my parents I can't go anywhere. I don't have any choice but to stay in Brandy Hall." Frodo looked out of the window again, clutching his blanket tightly. A shiver ran through the small body.
Bilbo closed his eyes for a moment. If only he could wrap his arms about the child and tell him that everything would be alright. But he knew that nothing would be alright, at least not for Frodo. As he opened his eyes again, Frodo was looking at him questioningly. "Brandy Hall is not that bad a place to stay. You have many opportunities here that you wouldn't have if you stayed in Hobbiton with Dora or me."
"What kind of opportunities do you mean? Other children? There are plenty of them all around Hobbiton and I know almost everyone there. Books? You have many books at Bag End so why… why can't I stay in Hobbiton? With you, maybe, if it's not possible to go to my own home." The big blue eyes glistened with unshed tears, as he looked at the old hobbit pleadingly.
Bilbo, again, reached out his hand, but remembered that Frodo didn't whish to be hugged. "I can't," he whispered sadly.
A single sob escaped Frodo's throat and the boy immediately bit his lip to keep from crying. Bilbo looked at him, his eyes almost as sad as Frodo's were. "You see, my lad, you're still so very young. You don't need some…" he managed a small smile, "…old bachelor like me. You need someone like Esmie and Saradoc to care for you…"
Frodo glared at him angrily. "How do you know what I need? You don't know! No one does!" There was a short pause. "Not anymore."
The last words he whispered so quietly that Bilbo barely heard them.
"You should go now," the boy said sulkily, fighting back his tears so hard that his body trembled.
"I won't," Bilbo said determinedly. "Give me just a few more minutes to speak and if you then still wish me to leave, I'll go."
Frodo looked at him with a stunned expression, but said nothing. He stared out of the window, where the rain had started again.
"You may be right that I don't know what you need," he began "In fact, I'm sure you're right. I don't know much about raising children and that became clear to me when we talked before in Rory's study. That is also the reason why I think it's better for you to stay in Brandy Hall. They know how to care for you, whatever happens. And folk here love you, Frodo. Especially Esmeralda. You haven't seen her, when she spoke before; you haven't even heard what she said."
"I did," Frodo said, forgetting that he had been there in secret.
Bilbo raised an eyebrow, but didn't show any more interest in it and kept talking. "She loves you dearly, Frodo. I think she would do anything to see you laugh again." He waited a moment before adding: "And so would I."
Frodo's face wore a surprised expression. Bilbo could see that the boy was tempted to look at him again, but he didn't take his eyes away from the falling rain outside.
"I know, foster parents will never take the place of real parents, but I think Esmie and Sara would try their best to come as close to a parent as possible."
Frodo shuddered. There it was again. Foster parents. He wouldn't come round to having foster parents. Another sob escaped his lips and finally he couldn't hold back his tears any longer. "I don't want to forget them," he whispered, clutching his blanket so tightly that his knuckles turned white.
Bilbo looked at him with a mixture of pity and surprise. "Forget? Who?"
"My parents!" Frodo cried out and stared at him with a despairing glimmer in his eyes.
Bilbo took a deep breath in reached out his hands once more. This time Frodo sank gladly into his warm embrace.
"Why do you think something like this?" Bilbo whispered, unable to believe what he had just heard.
Frodo gasped for breath.
"I will get foster parents," he sobbed "Saradoc and Esmeralda will … will …" he gasped again, "… they will become my parents and I… I," sobbing, he buried his face in Bilbo's shirt. "I will forget about who my real parents are… I … I will forget Mama and Papa!"
Bilbo closed his eyes, swallowing his own tears."No, Frodo. You mustn't think that. You will not forget your parents. Esmie and Sara will never take your parents' place, they just want to care for you like parents would."
"But…" Frodo gasped "… but my parents are gone. I… I've lost them." He lifted his head to look into Bilbo's dark eyes. "They will never return to me." "My dear boy," Bilbo whispered close to tears, stroking the child's dark curls. "They may've died, but they're still with you."
"With me?" Frodo sobbed, swallowing hard, looking at the old hobbit questioningly. "Where?" He looked about, as if expecting to see his parents standing by his side.
Bilbo took one of the child's small hands in his own and placed it on Frodo's chest, right where his heart lay. "They are right here, here in your heart. And there they will always be. Never will anyone take their place. You will not forget them."
Frodo swallowed, looking at his hand, then at Bilbo and finally at his hand again. "I will not?" he asked hesitantly.
Bilbo shook his head and tried to smile a little, while he stroked Frodo's wet cheek with the back of his other hand.
"No, I'll not," Frodo reassured himself, snivelling as a last tear dripped down his cheek.
Time passed, while Frodo took comfort in Bilbo's arms. They had spoken about coming to Hobbiton again, but didn't talk very much now. Frodo had closed his eyes and would have seemed to be asleep if not for his hand. From time to time it wandered to his heart to ensure himself that he would never forget those who were dearest to him.
As Bilbo stroked the lad's dark curls he remembered what Menegilda had told him about the boy's aversion to bathing. Maybe he should try to show the lad that there wasn't any peril in taking a bath, for now that he looked more closely, he could see that the little one's hair looked as if it badly needed to be washed. "What do you think of a good, hot bath now?" he asked cheerfully.
"A bath?" Frodo looked up frowning. A shiver ran through his body and he shook his head determinedly. "I don't think I need one."
"But you do, my dear lad. I think it won't do any harm," Bilbo winked.
Frodo eyed him suspiciously, not sure what he should think of all this.
"Come," Bilbo suddenly said, standing up and taking him by the hand "We'll see what we can find."
Frodo followed him hesitantly into the bathroom, where Bilbo immediately put on some water. The old hobbit prepared a basin and filled it with a little bit of the cold water. He splashed his hand into it and chuckled. "A bit cold, maybe, but that will change soon."
Frodo stood in the corner of the room and watched him suspiciously.
When the hot water was finished Bilbo poured it into the basin and tested the temperature with his hand again. "Wonderful," he sighed, as he put some soap in it and then, looking at Frodo, he asked: "Won't you try it?"
Frodo shook his head. "If it's so wonderful you should bathe yourself."
Bilbo chuckled. "That I could do, but I want you to bathe." Frodo paced back towards the door, preparing to leave the room. Bilbo was by his side with swiftness Frodo didn't believe him to be capable of.
Frodo backed away. "Don't make me go into the water!"
Bilbo sighed. "I don't want to make you go into it, but I want you to step into the water out of your own will."
"I won't!" the boy exclaimed, a touch of fear in his voice.
"Why not?" Bilbo wanted to know.
Frodo said nothing, but lowered his eyes. For a moment Bilbo feared the boy would stop speaking to him, but then Frodo looked at him again, if only for an instant. "I will drown," he whispered.
It is so very cold and dark. Black spots are dancing before his eyes as he can't hold his breath any longer. The cold arm of fear clutches him and makes him feel sick. He is drowning. He knows there are tears burning in his eyes but he doesn't feel them due to the water all around him.
A shiver ran through the boy's body and he gasped for breath.
"Frodo, no!" Bilbo cried, as he kneeled down and grasped the boy's shoulder.
Frodo's eyes opened wide and he jumped back. He shuddered and looked at Bilbo, his eyes wet with tears.
"You won't drown," Bilbo assured him. "I'll stay by your side and, if anything happens, you can come out immediately."
Frodo shook his head.
"I give you my word," Bilbo said.
The boy didn't answer, but looked at Bilbo thoughtfully. His gaze wandered to the basin and then back to Bilbo. "I … I might try…" he stammered after a long while.
Bilbo smiled and led him to the basin, when Frodo suddenly stopped. "But you, you have to stay with me."
"I will," Bilbo promised.
Carefully Frodo tested the water with his fingers and after a while he dived his whole arm into the basin. Still it took some time until he finally decided to take off his shirt and bid Bilbo to turn around so he could also undress his breeches. Warily he stepped into the water and sat down, clutching the basin with both his hands.
Bilbo sat by his side, a sponge in his hands which he used to drip some water over the boy's shoulder to show him that there was nothing to be afraid of. Frodo was very tense all the time, but the memory of the joy of bathing soon returned to him. Still he didn't want to plunge his head under water, but even that he managed after some time of waiting and fighting fears and memories of the past days.
It was evening, when Frodo and Bilbo stepped out of the bathroom together. Esmeralda was crossing their way, as they headed for the kitchen. She stared at them in amazement.
"Have you two been bathing?" she asked, smelling the fresh odour of mint.
"He has been," Bilbo said, pointing at Frodo.
Frodo grinned and ran into the kitchen.
Esmeralda still could do nothing but stare. "How have you done this?" she asked utterly surprised.
Bilbo just shrugged and followed Frodo.
"Will you tell me a story?" Frodo asked Bilbo, after they had eaten their dinner.
Bilbo chuckled. "Of course, my boy!"
Frodo smiled happily, a light twinkle in his eyes. "One with Elves and Dwarves? And… and Gandalf?"
"Everything you wish," Bilbo laughed, glad to see those eyes shine again after so long a time. He hoped their light would never fade again.
Esmie and Saradoc looked at him, bidding him good night.
Frodo looked at Bilbo for a moment, then turned to face the two of them."Good night, auntie Esmie. Good night, uncle Saradoc."
Frodo lowered his eyes, thoughtfully placing his hand upon his heart. Then, taking a deep breath, he suddenly hugged Esmeralda, kissed her cheek and whispered: "Thank you." With that he turned and dashed away, shouting for Bilbo to follow him.
Esmeralda looked at Bilbo, stunned. "What have you done with him?" she asked, her voice full of wonder and joy.
Bilbo shrugged. "He is marvel."
"He is indeed," Saradoc said, also completely surprised
Bilbo chuckled and turned to follow Frodo. "Well, there's a story to be told!"
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.