1. No Relief
Frodo had so feared this hour. And now it was done. Just like that. Now where was the relief?
Merry was looking up at him, his face serious yet inscrutable. Frodo once again marvelled at his little cousin's ability to pull a completely straight face whenever he thought it best to hide his thoughts from others. He had acquired this ability at a very early age.
"Where to?" the lad asked.
"To Bag End." Frodo found it hard to speak, his tongue seemed heavy, even his brains felt somewhat numbed. Merry's eyes… "With Bilbo. I am going to live with Bilbo."
Merry's expression didn't change. "When are you coming back?"
Frodo couldn't look into those eyes, those dark brown eyes that, even at this tender age, were quite as piercing as Esmeralda's. He sat down on Merry's bed, feigning to brush some dust off the carefully folded blanket. "I don't think I—you know, Merry, it's not like—" He took a deep breath. "I won't be coming back."
Merry didn't answer for a while. When Frodo looked up, he was standing in front of him unmoved, but now Frodo could see that he was thinking hard.
Finally, the mask broke, and Frodo was looking into a face full of question, doubt, even fear. It was, after all, a seven-year-old child's face. Frodo had needed to remind himself of that fact more often during the last few weeks.
He told himself to concentrate.
"Let me explain it to you. You are a big boy, Merry, I know that you will understand. Bilbo is a very old hobbit, even if he doesn't look like it. Next year he will be a hundred. And, though it might not seem that way, he is very, very lonely living at Bag End all by himself. That is one reason why I'm going. And then there is another reason that is a bit more complicated. You see, Bilbo doesn't have children. And when he dies, which often happens with hobbits his age, all his goods cannot remain gathering dust inside an empty Bag End for all time. Now the rule in the Shire is that the greater part of a hobbit's money and things go to his closest relatives when he dies. But Bilbo's closest relatives are some hobbits that he, well, he doesn't like them very much. He wishes to give his possessions to me rather than to them. In order to do that, he has to adopt me, which means I am like his son to the law." He wasn't sure if Merry had understood that part. The lad's face was now perfectly indifferent again.
"And the third reason…" Frodo wagged his head. "Well, I like Bilbo, of course. I love him very much. Just like you do, don't you?"
Merry said nothing.
It was over now. Frodo had explained everything to a reasonable extent, he thought, and still he did not feel a bit of the expected relief. He swallowed. "I will visit you, of course. Every Yule, and on your birthday and Beri's birthday and your Mum and Dad's birthdays…and you can come to Bag End anytime you like."
Now there was a set to Merry's jaw. His eyes narrowed.
"Listen, Merry," said Frodo, turning his attention to the blanket again. "You are a big boy, and I can trust you. I might be leaving Brandy Hall, but I am not leaving you."
"That's not true," Merry said. His voice was quiet, but steady. Frodo had rather have him cry and shout at him. He bit his lip. You knew it wasn't going to go through that way, Frodo Baggins. It had been a mistake, hadn't it, to wait until the day of his departure to tell Merry. He could have prepared him better if he'd had more time.
He put a hand on Merry's shoulder. "Listen—"
But Merry jerked back as if Frodo's touch had burned him. "Go away!" he said.
Merry backed away from him. "Go away! I don't like you. Leave me alone!"
Frodo stood up. "Merry, please—"
"Leave me alone!" Merry shouted. "I don't like you, Frodo!"
Frodo swallowed again and had to blink a few times. Feeling like something was being ripped apart right underneath his ribs, he made one last feeble attempt. "Won't you—won't you see me off?"
"No," Merry snapped. "Go away."
And Frodo went.
I realise that this cannot be all there was to it… If you want to know the "end" of the story, read "Not a Matter of Sulking"! :)
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.