For Dreamflower for her birthday, with much love and many thanks. Thanks as ever to RiverOtter for the beta.
“Well, so this is where you are!”
Frodo twisted his head slightly to smile up at Bilbo as the older Hobbit reached the crown of the Hill. He lay on his back in the grass near the rooftree, his hands laced behind his head. “It was so busy and noisy at the Free Fair it was hard to enjoy the stars. I’m glad to be home again, is all.” So saying, he returned his attention to the glory overhead.
Bilbo had come with a rug in hand that he rolled out upon the ground before settling himself to lie beside his ward with a series of wordless grunts. “I suppose that Menegilda would accuse me of having taught you bad habits,” he commented, once he was comfortable.
Frodo shrugged a shoulder. “I spent my share of nights atop Brandy Hall when I was a younger lad,” he said. “She didn’t approve, but couldn’t find a good reason to object most of the time, and especially on hot nights during the summer.”
Bilbo nodded his understanding. They were quiet for a time. At last he murmured, “There are few places where the stars seem as fair, not as far as I’ve been across Middle Earth. Oh, perhaps they might have seemed brighter in Rivendell, not that I spent much time outside at night. And I must say that during our return to the Shire, mine and Gandalf’s, they seemed especially close when we camped in the mountain passes. But for sheer comfort, they are best viewed from right here, I think.”
“I suppose you are right,” Frodo said softly, his eyes reflecting the sparkle of the river of glory overhead. After a time he added, “They make me think of the Elves.”
“They do? I suppose that’s only to be expected. After all, the Elves awoke under the light of stars, there by the Waters of Beginning.”
Frodo smiled his acknowledgment, returning his attention to the skies once more. “I would have loved to have seen that awakening,” he whispered. “And to awaken to so much beauty!”
“Indeed.” Another silence. And then: “Lad, if you could ever see the stars from any place you have ever heard of, where would it be?”
Frodo turned his head to share a glance, then looked up again, clearly pondering. “I’m not certain,” he answered at last. “Well, if it could be anywhere at all, I’d truly love to see them from the Elven Lands, perhaps Elvenhome itself! To stand upon the hill of Tirion and see them from there—they must be spectacular there!”
“My heavens, but you did choose quite the spot! Not that any Hobbit will ever see them from Aman itself!”
Frodo laughed easily. “Well, you didn’t stipulate the viewing must be from here in Middle Earth, after all.”
“No, that I didn’t. I’m only sorry I can’t promise you that you’ll ever reach your ambition.”
He could see that his lad was smiling. Frodo responded, “I don’t mind that. For now, I’m contented to see them from here, here in the center of our beloved Shire, atop the Hill itself, with the breeze rustling the leaves of midsummer and the sound of the Water below us and the creak of the Mill’s wheel. That’s pleasure enough for now.”
Pleasure enough for now. Yes, it would be that for his dear boy. He’d been contemplating begging the lad to come with him when he left the Shire, but now he knew that Frodo’s heart belonged here—at least for the time being. He’s still in love with the ways and fields and the beauty of our own land, Bilbo thought. He’s not ready yet to walk outside its borders. And when at last he does, it will not be as it was with me, going out of misplaced pride, but due to the love he holds for the very folk he so often grows impatient with for their unwillingness to see beyond themselves and their current concerns. He’s fiercely loyal to his own, our Frodo.
With that he reached out, allowing his hand to rest against the lad’s shoulder. The need to get away and to see the wide world at least once more before the end was growing strong within him, but he felt better, knowing that Frodo Baggins would remain behind to guard the integrity of the Hill and the Shire itself.