Faint laughter penetrated the turf walls of Bag End. Bilbo glanced up and smiled. Frodo. The lad -- not truly a lad any more; he'd be of age in a few months -- was outdoors with that rascally young Brandybuck cousin of his, up to some mischief. If Bilbo craned his neck he could peer out his window to the garden, bright with green grass and yellow roses. Frodo and young Merry were nowhere to be seen.
Bilbo shivered. A good lad, he thought, blowing on his hands to warm them. A good lad, and good-hearted, too, for all his pranks. This little chore that Bilbo was about to undertake was for Frodo's sake, really. Now that Frodo knew the truth he should have a full account of it, laid out fair and square with no contradictions. Of course Bilbo needed no such thing for himself. He remembered everything perfectly. His memory was as sharp as a tween's, bright little pictures in his head from long ago.
Bilbo shifted in his chair and fiddled with one of the brass buttons on his waistcoat. This would be easy. It had to be. Really, he could not imagine why he had not done it before. It was all so very silly.
He picked up a pen. Closing his eyes, he stuck the tip of his tongue very slightly out of the corner of his mouth, as was his habit when composing. Yes, this would be easy, now that he had told Frodo the truth at last. His hand hovered above the page.
"Thief! Baggins! We hates it, we hates it, we hates it forever!"
Yes, that was it.
Bilbo's hand did not move, except to shake slightly. To his surprise, the page lay empty before him. He dipped his pen in the inkwell and began again.
Still the page stared blankly back at him, and Bilbo's hand did not write. Bilbo watched it, curiously, the way he would observe a baby bird, a tiny, helpless creature flopping about in an abandoned nest.
"O bother," Bilbo remarked to the empty air. He twirled the pen in his fingers, and a drop of ink, thick and black and gleaming, formed at the tip. He twirled faster and the drop trembled, dancing like a dark wet flame until at last it fell. So quiet was the study that Bilbo could hear the soft liquid thud as the drop struck the page.
Bilbo put the pen aside, folded the blotted sheet into perfect quarters, and placed it in the basket at his feet. He then opened the desk drawer and removed another fresh sheet. Laying it before him, he sat straight and tugged at his disarranged waistcoat. There, (Thief!) he thought (Thief!), picking up his pen. I am ready now. Without pausing to reason with himself any further, he moved his hand. The pen scratched rapidly across the page, scattering tiny droplets of ink.
Must we give it the thing, preciouss? Yesss, we must! We must fetch it, preciouss, and give it the present we promised.
Bilbo stared down at the page in dismay. That had not happened, no no no. That was what he had told the Dwarves; that was what he had put in his book, but it hadn't been that way at all. He looked at his hand, and at the page again. Really, such foolishness. He could not understand it. With an impatient exclamation he scratched out what he had written. Then he folded the page into quarters, placed it the basket, and fetched another.
The ingenious dwarvish clock in the hall chimed the quarter hour, and as always, its quiet ticking seemed louder after the clock had called attention to itself. Tick, tock, tick, tock: a dull monotonous measuring of moments, of hours, of days always the same. Bilbo craned his neck to look out the window again, and his garden was bright as always with green and gold. Tick, tock, tick, tock -- he glanced back down. As he did, something flickered at the corner of his eye: the colours of the garden vanished. Pale shadows flared under black light, quivering in a silent scream.
He glanced sharply up. The garden was as usual.
He leaned back in his chair. With trembling fingers he reached into his waistcoat pocket, pulled out snow-white handkerchief, and dabbled at his forehead. His breath came in gasps, as if he had been running. He looked out the window: all was well. He looked down, then back up again. The same.
"O bother these confounded dreams," he said. Perhaps, he thought, he needed more tea. Tea would be splendid. Another thing would also be splendid: just for a moment, to look at his ring. He pulled it from his pocket. How very bright it was, sitting in his damp palm: brighter than the hazy sunshine, brighter than the cheery little fire. As he stared at the pretty gleaming thing and circled its hardness with his thumb, the room about him faded to a circle of dimness pulsating around the ring's golden light. He stared and stared, until his eyes felt hot and dry.
The dwarvish clock struck the half hour.
Bilbo started. At this rate he would not have time to prepare elevenses, and he had promised those young rascals some of his seedcake. He looked at the blank paper and frowned, as if he could not quite remember what it was for. Then he thrust his ring firmly back into his pocket, straightened his waistcoat, and finger-combed his hair, pushing the silver curls neatly behind his ears. He cleared his throat. He picked up his pen, and thought Thief!, and wrote:
We meant to give it our only only pressent . . .
No, no, no. He crossed that out. No. This should be simple, this should be easy. He had told the truth to Frodo. Frodo had quirked his eyebrows, his expression hovering somewhere between a smile and a frown, and said, That does sound much more likely, Bilbo, adding for some reason, But what else could you have done?
So simple, this should be so simple. Many things were simple, Bilbo reminded himself; life itself was simple, really. So many good things. He pictured Frodo's face, Frodo's eyes, blue and open and free as the smiling sky over the Water; he pictured the Moon with stars arrayed about it like a sparkling silver crown; he heard elvish voices, singing and laughing high and clear in a green valley far away. He held his pen tight in his hand, tighter, tighter, as if part of him was falling through space, spinning like a dead leaf before the wind -- but this pen was his ground, his earth, his home and all good things: Frodo's eyes and the Moon and the stars and the sweet elvish voices. He clung to it and closed his eyes and thought: Suddenly Gollum sat down and began to weep, a whistling and gurgling sound horrible to listen to.
With enormous relief he felt his hand move across the page. He opened his eyes and looked down, trembling, at what he had written.
I don't know how many times Gollum begged Bilbo's pardon.
No. That had not happened.
Bilbo put aside his pen. He folded the paper in quarters and placed it in the basket. He pushed his chair deliberately back from the desk and stood by the window, bouncing gently on his toes and humming a wordless little tune.
He said, "I don't understand." He looked out into his garden, his garden that was not truly his any more, for the pale shadows and black light lay ever at the edges of his vision. They were waiting for him now, and someday, when he stepped out of his door, he would find himself naked under the dark sun and the dark stars.
Bilbo took a deep gasping breath. "I need a holiday," he whispered.
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.