By Anne Marie Gazzolo
Word Count: 3372
Summary: Newly orphaned, Frodo Baggins spends his first Yule at Bag-End
A/N: This is my Christmas present to my dear Queen Galadriel, but since it deals with Frodo’s first Yule at Bag End, it’s being posted today. A sort of sequel to “Brother of My Heart”. Fluff and more fluff. Happy Yule everyone! 🙂
Bilbo peeked into his nephew’s bedroom after dinner. The lad was just getting over a nasty cold that had put him in bed for the last four days which, the hobbit thought, wasn’t really all that bad since the weather was awful. He shivered a little to hear the ice storm outside. Frodo was very careful to follow all the directions his uncle and his new friend, Sam, gave him to get well as quickly as possible, for his seven-year-old cousin, Merry, was expected in two days for Yule. The two hadn’t seen each other since Frodo had come to live with Bilbo three months earlier, and the tween sorely missed his young cousin. Missives had flown back and forth between Bag End and Brandy Hall on a daily basis, and nothing excited Frodo more than to get a note from there. As Bilbo peeked in, he saw that Frodo was re-reading the latest letter. Frodo leaned forward slightly as Sam fluffed up his pillows and smoothed out his blankets. “Thank you, Sam,” the tween said as he sat back and continued to read.
The eldest hobbit smiled at the two. Frodo was nearly over his cold, having been under Sam’s expert care from the start, just as the child had taken charge after the tween arrived on his birthday with an even nastier cold. Bilbo watched as Sam moved the night table a little closer to his best friend and future master, so Frodo could more easily reach the glass of water on it, and then he adjusted the oil lamp so it was in the best position for reading.
“Looks like you two are set for the evening,” Bilbo said. The two looked up at him and smiled. “Now, I don’t want you going down to Number Three in this storm, Samwise. Your parents will know well enough where you are.”
The two lads beamed. “Yes, Sam,” Frodo said. “You must stay. What fun! This cold is not nearly as horrible as it would have been if you had not been here to aid me. I hope your parents will forgive me for stealing you away.”
“Don’t you fret about that, Mr. Frodo,” the child assured. “They want you to get better, too.”
And indeed, Bell Gamgee was most solicitous. Each day, Sam brought up from Number Three many of the home remedies that had worked wonders on all her children’s colds.
“But I do wonder about that,” the elder Baggins said. “Frodo never got so many terrible colds before he came here. Perhaps he’s allergic to you, Samwise.”
The child looked up, horrified. “Oh, no, Mr. Bilbo! I hope not! That would be just awful!” Then he saw the mischievous twinkle in his master’s eyes.
Frodo smiled and took his friend’s hand. “Of course, I’m not allergic to you, Sam,” he assured. “I could never be. It would be like being allergic to myself.” He looked up at his uncle with the same teasing smile Sam saw on Bilbo’s face. “Maybe it’s you, Uncle,” the tween said.
“Now that would be awful,” Bilbo replied with his own look of horror.
“I’d be willing to endure it, though,” Frodo said.
Bilbo smiled as he looked at his nephew’s sweet, bright face with its red nose, pink cheeks and luminous eyes. His heart swelled with love for him, and he wondered for the millionth time how he came to be so blessed to love and be loved by someone so special. “Thank you, my boy,” he said softly.
Frodo looked at his uncle for a few moments more. The light within him nearly made him glow, making him look particularly Elvish.
An Elven Hobbit, Bilbo mused, the best of both worlds in one beautiful lad. “Don’t pay any mind to me,” he said. “I don’t want to interfere with tale time.”
Frodo gave his uncle an affectionate smile, then patted the covers beside him and looked at his new friend. “Climb on up, Sam-lad, and get the reward for all your efforts.” He scooted over as the child scrambled up beside his future master.
Sam sat with a bright, enraptured face as Frodo began to read a tale of the Elves he and his friend so loved. Bilbo’s smile widened. He couldn’t tell if the child was more enthralled with the story or with Frodo. He guessed them to be about equal, and Frodo clearly adored “his Sam.” The two had been inseparable since they met, and their spirits shined brightest in each other’s company. Bilbo had never seen two lads take to each other so quickly, since Frodo and his young cousin, Merry. Bilbo was glad that Frodo had two “brothers”, as the tween called his friend and his cousin, to pour his love into after his heart was so wounded by his parents’ sudden deaths nine years previously. Bilbo could have watched those two youngsters forever, but he turned away for his own bed. Lost in the tale, Frodo and Sam didn’t even notice.
After Frodo finished the tale, he helped Sam practice writing his letters as he had done the last couple of months. The tween wrote out several sentences for the child to copy into the journal the two kept, first in Westron, then in Sindarin. The Gaffer had just shaken his head after he learned that his son was learning to write not only the Common Speech, but Elvish as well. As far as that old hobbit was concerned, merely knowing how to write one’s own name was enough, but Samwise had always wanted to learn more because of his association with Mr. Bilbo and now Mr. Frodo. The Gaffer didn’t think it his place to say anything to his employer or his son’s future master, but he had grumbled about it to his wife, worried that it would ruin his son’s practical side.
Bell did not agree. It did her heart good to see their lad, who had always had a cheerful disposition, nearly glow whenever he came home. She pointed out more than once that despite any ‘queer’ ideas (as her husband called them) that Sam absorbed, he remained just as industrious and dutiful as ever. The Gaffer had not denied it, and thereafter only mumbled to himself. Bell smiled and hugged her son and listened happily as he babbled about what he learned each day. She had no more understanding of it all than her husband, but she knew it meant everything to her son; and Samwise, like all her children and her husband, meant everything to her.
Frodo squeezed his friend’s shoulders as they finished that night’s lesson. “Very good, Sam! You’ll be just as good as a real Elf soon. I hope we see them one day. Imagine talking to them in their own language! Won’t they be surprised!”
The child beamed and blushed under the praise. “Do you think we ever will, Mr. Frodo?”
“Of course we will, Sam. Just you wait. Bilbo has seen them as they travel through the Shire from time to time on their way to the Havens. Someday it’ll be our turn.”
“That would be so wonderful,” the child said dreamily.
“Wouldn’t it? Well, maybe tonight we’ll dream of them.”
Frodo put the journal aside and lay down.
“Do you need anything else, Mr. Frodo?” Sam asked.
“No, thank you, I’m fine, Sam. Are you?”
“Yes, Mr. Frodo.”
“Good night then, Sam. Sweet dreams.”
“Good night, Mr. Frodo.”
The child changed into his nightshirt, then carefully extinguished the lamp and curled up next to his friend under the warm covers. They were soon both asleep, heads touching. Identical, soft smiles graced their faces.
* * *
The next morning was Frodo’s first day out of bed. That evening, he and Bilbo sat alone in the parlor, by the fireplace. The tween was wrapped in a blanket, with his hands around a mug of hot cider. His head was buried in a book on his lap as he sounded out the Sindarin words that were alongside a text his uncle had translated. The old hobbit was content just to watch and listen, loving the lilt in his nephew’s voice, and marveling anew at the beauty and light that shined forth from him. Deeply moved, he came over, gently took the mug from his nephew’s hands and pulled him into his lap, book, blanket, and all.
Frodo smiled and rested his head against his uncle’s chest where he could listen to his heart. “I’m so glad I’m getting over this cold. Uncle Sara would have my head if Merry got it from me. I thought of writing to tell them not to come, but I just couldn’t. I miss Merry so much. And it’s been so wonderful to have Sam here, too. Is it so very selfish of me to want them both beside me even when I’m sick?”
Bilbo stroked his nephew’s curls gently. “No, my boy, of course not. You don’t have a selfish bone in your body. You are full of love, and you need to express that. And besides, you are nearly better. Sara would never harm such a beautiful head as yours, in any case. More likely, he’d have mine, and who’d miss a cracked old head like mine?”
Frodo wrapped his arms around his uncle and snuggled closer. “I would,” he said softly. “And you’re not cracked. Who says you are?”
Bilbo grew still. “Oh, just certain individuals.”
Frodo raised his head. “Who, Uncle? Tell me and I’ll give them…”
Bilbo saw the fire in the lad’s eyes that had made him a terror in Buckland. The old hobbit touched the tween’s cheek and smiled, then placed his nephew’s head back against his chest. “Don’t you fret over it, my boy. You are far too lovely for anger to mar those wonderful features of yours.”
“It’s the S-B’s, isn’t it?”
Bilbo continued his stroking. “I don’t want it bothering you, my boy, what anyone says about me. They’ve been saying it for decades now, and I can truthfully say that I even sometimes enjoy the reputation of being a little eccentric. Dreamers and adventurers always are. And you, dearest, will have the same things said about you in your time. You mustn’t let that bother you. You are special.”
“So are you, Uncle,” Frodo said softly.
The two Bagginses sat silently for a few moments, then Bilbo suggested, “Why don’t you keep reading, lad?”
Frodo opened the book and started again. The old hobbit watched and listened to that beloved voice sound out the words as though he was an Elvish child learning his letters. When, however, the tween yawned three times in five minutes, Bilbo knew it was time to get him to bed. Gently taking the book from Frodo’s lap, he carried the nodding lad from the room. He laid him under the covers, kissed his brow, and said, “Goodnight, my boy. Sleep well. I love you.”
“Love you, too, Uncle,” came the drowsy reply before Frodo fell contentedly asleep.
Bilbo stood watching him for a while more before he retired to his own chambers.
* * *
It began to snow heavily late the next morning, and by early afternoon all of Hobbiton was covered in white. Frodo waited anxiously for Merry to arrive, wondering if he was all right, or if it had snowed so much in Buckland that they had not even left the Hall. He often looked out the window, hoping each time to see his cousin and aunt and uncle coming up in their cart. He ran to the door after he heard a loud pounding against it, opened it, looked down, and was greeted by…
“Have they arrived at last?” Bilbo called from within the smial.
Frodo turned his head. “No, Uncle,” he called back. “There’s no one here but a very large snowball.”
“I’m not a snowball!” the snowball cried.
The tween looked back down at the snowball. “You’re not? Then what are you?”
The snowball shook itself, shedding flakes everywhere. “It’s me, cousin! It’s your Merry!”
Frodo’s eyes widened in wonder. “My Merry? Truly? Under all that snow?”
The hobbity snowball giggled. “Yes, Frodo, truly!”
Frodo stepped aside. “Well, come on in then and melt away by the fire and become my Merry again. I have missed him so.”
The red-cheeked seven-year-old rushed into his cousin’s arms. Frodo held him tight and spun him around as they laughed in joyful reunion. Bilbo came up with a big welcome, a blanket, and a handful of Merry’s favorite sweets.
“Come on, Merry!” Frodo said and tugged him toward the parlor. “Come sit by the fire and get yourself warm again. It’s so wonderful to see you!”
Frodo took off his cousin’s damp cloak and placed it on a peg near the door. The bright red stocking cap, scarf, and mittens, he placed out to dry as well. Then his aunt and uncle came through the door. Frodo hugged his aunt tightly, then he hugged his uncle and looked into Sara’s face. “Was the trip terrible?”
“The snow started after we were too far along to turn back,” Saradoc said as he returned his nephew’s embrace, “but we would have come, nonetheless. Merry has talked about nothing else for weeks. It would have broken his heart if we stayed home.”
“His wouldn’t be the only one,” Bilbo said, as he hung up his visitors’ cloaks. They walked into the parlor together. “Frodo has been counting off the days!”
Merry looked up. “Have you truly, Cousin Frodo?”
“Truly,” Frodo smiled. “I can even show you. I have my own room, you know.”
The lad jumped up from his seat. “Can I see it? Can I sleep with you tonight? Mama and Papa said I can stay a whole week! Isn’t that wonderful?!”
Frodo smiled down at his young cousin. “Very wonderful, dearest. It will probably take that long just a dig our way out, if this snow keeps up.”
“Then maybe we can stay even longer!” the child cried, and they all laughed.
Frodo hugged his little cousin. “Oh, my Merry, I’ve missed you so,” he murmured.
Merry buried his head in the tween’s chest and reached as far around his body as he could. “I missed you, too, my Frodo. I’ve kept all the letters you’ve sent very neatly, in a box Papa gave me.”
“And I’ve kept all of yours, dear heart. I’m going to keep them forever.”
Merry raised his head. “Truly?”
Frodo smiled and kissed the top of his cousin’s head. “Truly.” He took Merry’s hand. “Come on, my Merry, and I’ll show you my room. And yes, I’d be more than happy to share my bed with you.”
* * *
The snow stopped during the night, and the next morning, Merry shook the shoulder of his still slumbering cousin. Frodo startled awake when the lad’s cold feet struck his.
“Happy Yule, cousin!” the child cried.
“Merry, your feet are freezing! Did you decide to sleep outside instead?”
The child giggled. “No, I just went out for a minute to see how deep the snow was. It’s wonderful, Frodo!” He tugged at his cousin. “You have to come and see it! I could be here until the spring! Wouldn’t that be wonderful?!”
Frodo got up and looked out the front window. The snow was indeed deep.
“Oh, Frodo, we can have so much fun!”
“Breakfast first, my lads?” Bilbo called, and the child was off like a shot to the dining room.
Afterwards, Merry tugged his cousin outside to play in the snow. It was there that the heir to Brandy Hall met Sam coming up the hill. Frodo introduced the two brothers of his heart to each other, who continued to play together after Frodo came in. He spent only an hour outside, but in that time managed to have a snowball fight, build a fort, and dig a path to the Row, so Merry’s parents could leave and visit others in Hobbiton during the Yuletide. Frodo sneezed twice when he returned, and Bilbo was concerned that it was too much for him to be out in the cold so soon, but the tween’s face shone with joy at the grand time he had with his brothers.
After dinner, Bilbo put his hands on the shoulders of Sam and Merry and looked over at his beloved nephew. “Now, if you’ll excuse us, Frodo. We have a little planning to do. Perhaps you could be so kind as to wait in your bedroom?”
Sam and Merry gazed up at the old hobbit as curiously as Frodo did. The tween raised an eyebrow at his uncle and smiled, then did as he was told.
“Come on, my lads,” Bilbo said, and steered the two boys out of the room. He took them far enough away so that Frodo could not hear, then leaned down to speak to them. “Can I trust you two lads to help me make Frodo’s first Yule here something he’s never going to forget? It’s a little dangerous, but if we are very careful, it’s also going to be wonderful.”
Sam nodded cautiously. He was a little nervous about the dangerous part, but there wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for his Mr. Frodo, and he knew Mr. Bilbo wouldn’t do anything that could harm either of them.
Merry’s eyes glowed as he quivered with excitement. “Of course, Cousin Bilbo!”
Bilbo put a hand on his shoulder to still him. “Steady, my lad.”
“What are we going to do?” the child whispered.
Bilbo looked around him and then leaned in a little closer, and the children leaned closer to him. “This is what I need you to do…”
Twenty minutes later, there was a loud knock on Frodo’s bedroom door, then a giggle that the tween instantly recognized as his cousin’s, as well the patter of little feet running away. Amused, he opened the door. The smial was almost completely dark. All the lamps were doused, but pale moonlight shone through the windows.
Frodo stepped out and cautiously made his way forward. A light appeared in the hallway, just as he was about to pass. He smiled in understanding. This was a Yuletide tradition the Hall observed, but this was the first time it was being done at Bag End. His heart and breath quickened just a little in anticipation. He remembered all the times he had participated with his parents holding his hands, and the wonder of it all. He remembered all the times he had done it holding Merry’s hand.
Sam stood by Frodo now, very carefully holding a lamp that illuminated only his face. “Happy Yule, Mr. Frodo,” he said softly.
Frodo looked into his friend’s eyes shining with love, and wanted nothing more than to hug him, but restrained himself for fear of upsetting the lamp. He smiled instead, tears of love and joy bright in his eyes, and placed his hand gently on the child’s curls.
“Happy Yule, my dear Sam,” he replied with a soft kiss to his head, then moved on.
As Frodo kept walking, another light came on ahead of him, this time held by Merry.
“Happy Yule, Frodo!” Merry said in a quiet but excited murmur.
Frodo smiled, exercised the same regretful restraint, brushed Merry’s curls, and kissed his head. “Happy Yule, my Merry.”
The tween moved on and came to the parlor, and there the last light lit, held by Bilbo. “Happy Yule, my dear lad,” the elder hobbit said softly.
Illuminated only by the lamp light, Frodo seemed to glow. For a moment, Bilbo could not tear his eyes away from the beautiful sight, but then he put his lamp down and held his nephew tightly.
“Happy Yule, dearest Bilbo,” Frodo said quietly, as he held his uncle in a fierce hug. “Thank you.”