An Heir for Bag End by Lbilover

A sort of fractured fairy tale retelling of 'The Princess and the Pea'. Originally written for the Hobbit_Smut 'Express Train to Hobbiton' challenge in which we were assigned an anachronism to include in our story. Mine should be readily apparent.

~*~

Once upon a time, there was a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins. Bilbo lived alone in a beautiful smial known as Bag End, and he was both fabulously wealthy and undeniably eccentric. The tunnels behind his beautiful home were filled (reputedly) with gold and priceless jewels, and the smial itself (undoubtedly) with the finest furniture and artwork and books. 


Bilbo had everything his heart could desire, except for one thing: he did not have an heir. Or rather, he did not have an heir of his choosing. His cousins, the Sackville-Bagginses, stood to inherit Bag End and his fabulous wealth when he was gone, and it was a thought that troubled Bilbo greatly. For one thing, they had no interest in books or adventures; indeed, as far as Bilbo could tell, he had not a single thing in common with them. For another, the S-Bs had no respect for Bilbo's property. Every time they visited (which was as infrequently as Bilbo could make it) they walked about the smial examining things surreptitiously, as if in anticipation of the day they would own them. Lobelia Sackville-Baggins went a step further: at every visit she stole one of Bilbo's best silver spoons, and he was very much afraid that, before too long, he would be unable to invite anyone over for tea unless they took it black.

But despite this annoyance, there seemed no great rush to find an heir, for Bilbo didn't look like handing in his parchment and quill for quite some time yet. 

So the years passed, and pleasant years they were, until one morning Bilbo awoke and made a startling discovery: he was lonely. 

His adventuring days were nearing an end, and it would be pleasant, he decided, to have company of an evening by the fire in the sitting room, or in the morning over the breakfast table. To have someone with whom he could go for a ramble across the countryside or hold an intelligent conversation about subjects of mutual interest. Someone, in short, like himself, only younger- for Bilbo found older hobbits stodgy and set in their ways and absolutely no fun at all.

At about this very time, it happened that Bilbo's good friend, the wizard Gandalf the Grey, arrived for a visit. As they sat together in the garden one sunny morning, puffing on their pipes and blowing smoke rings in the greatest contentment, Bilbo broached the topic that had been occupying his mind of late.

"Gandalf, old friend," said he, "I think it's about time I settled on an heir. I'm not getting any younger, you know."

"I'm glad to see that you are finally ready to take my advice, Bilbo," replied Gandalf, who had been urging Bilbo to do this very thing for years (having met the S-Bs on a number of occasions). "Have you anyone in mind?"

"That's just the problem, don't you know," Bilbo complained. "I don't have anyone in mind. There are a few of my younger cousins of whom I'm quite fond, but how do I know any of them will fit in here at Bag End? I'd hate to settle on someone and find out too late that they have a taste for love stories or insist on slurping their soup." He sighed. "I wish there was some sort of test I could use to help me find the perfect heir."

"A test..." Gandalf murmured. "Perhaps I could help you with that, Bilbo." His eyelids half-lowered, and he appeared deep in thought.

Bilbo watched him, but didn't say a word. He had learned long ago that the wizard could not be rushed- unless one had a desire to have one's head snapped off, that is.

"Have you the paperclip?" Gandalf suddenly asked.

"The paperclip?" echoed Bilbo, bewildered. "Do you mean my mithril paperclip that Thorin gave me on my Adventure?"

Gandalf's bushy eyebrows bristled. "Yes, that is the one."

Bilbo began patting the pockets of his satin waistcoat. "I know I've got it here somewhere... I always keep it about me... no good burglar goes anywhere without a paperclip, Gandalf. Very handy for picking locks if the occasion arises. Not that it often does, of course, but one ought to be prepared..." 

His fingers dove into his right waistcoat pocket and emerged holding a gracefully curved silver object that shone and sparkled in the sunlight. 

"Here it is!" exclaimed Bilbo. "Isn't it beautiful, Gandalf? And so useful, too. Far superior to those trumpery copper ones I used to buy at Harbottle's stationery shop in Bywater- always breaking, don't you know, and at the most inconvenient times. This paperclip never shows the slightest sign of wear, no matter how many pages of manuscript it has to hold together, and I've yet to discover a lock it can't open."

"Indeed?" commented Gandalf as he held out his hand. "A very useful paperclip indeed, but it has other uses, my dear Bilbo, of which you might not be aware." 

"Really?" Bilbo dropped the paperclip onto Gandalf's palm (a tad reluctantly; he was very fond of his paperclip). 

Gandalf examined it closely, his eyes glinting. "Yes, this should do the trick nicely, I think." 

"Do the trick nicely?" asked Bilbo. "Whatever do you mean?"

So Gandalf explained. 

Bilbo looked quite struck. "Bless me, Gandalf, if you haven't hit on the perfect answer."

"We wizards have our uses," Gandalf said modestly as he returned the paperclip to Bilbo. 

"But it will be a great nuisance, you know," Bilbo added gloomily as he tucked the paperclip back in his waistcoat pocket.

"You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs, Bilbo," Gandalf advised.

"I suppose you're right."

A cheerful whistling caught their attention, and a moment later a sturdy, sunny-haired young hobbit appeared pushing a wheelbarrow loaded with gardening tools. "Morning, Mr. Bilbo, Mr. Gandalf," he called as he trundled past.

"Good morning, Sam," Gandalf replied, smiling, for it was impossible not to smile in the presence of Bilbo's gardener, Sam Gamgee.

"How is young Sam these days?" asked Gandalf when Sam had disappeared from view behind a clump of peony bushes.

"A treasure, Gandalf, a true treasure." But Bilbo looked unhappy. "I fear some lass will snap him up one of these days, and then where shall I be? He'll be off making babies and whatnot, and I shall lose the best gardener and cook in the Shire."

"Now, now, you mustn't look on the gloomy side, Bilbo. Life is full of surprises, you know."

***

When the invitations began to arrive in the post, hobbits all over the Shire started buzzing like a hive of curious bees. Bilbo Baggins had always been free enough with his money, especially to those less fortunate than himself, but he had never been fond of entertaining his relations, especially in the matter of allowing them to stay overnight at Bag End. Indeed, access to the smial's charming guest bedchambers, with their elegant appointments and thick feather mattresses, had seemed a privilege reserved solely for such queer folk as Dwarves or that wandering conjuror Gandalf.

Now suddenly, out of the blue, Bilbo appeared to have had a complete change of heart! Every male Baggins, Boffin, Took, Brandybuck, Grubb, Chubb, Burrows, Hornblower, Bolger, Bracegirdle, Goodbody, Brockhouse and Proudfoot (and even Sackville-Baggins) under the age of fifty received a letter inviting him to spend a night at Bag End as Bilbo's guest. 

If this was not enough for the astonishment of his relations, when those fortunate souls compared their invitations (which were very elegant indeed, being written in gold ink on cream-coloured parchment) they discovered that they had each been invited to visit on a different, and successive, night. 

"How odd." "What can he mean by it?" "Mad Baggins is at it again," said the hobbits to one another as they puzzled over this latest eccentricity of Bilbo's. But each and every one of them intended, of course, to accept his invitation, and to arrive promptly at five o'clock in the afternoon of his appointed day, as requested. For no one would dream of turning down an opportunity to experience for himself the comforts of Bilbo's luxurious smial, not to mention the cooking of his servant, Sam Gamgee, who was reputed to be the best cook in the Shire.

***

Bilbo watched as Sam made up the bed in the best guest bedchamber. The first of Bilbo's relations to receive an invitation, young Mosco Burrows, was arriving that very afternoon, and Bilbo wanted everything in readiness for his guest. 

When Sam had finished smoothing the thick feather comforter and arranging the pillows just so, Bilbo nodded with approval. "Thank you, Sam," he said. "Now you take yourself off to the kitchen and make the tea, there's a good lad."

The moment Sam disappeared from sight Bilbo sprang into action, and hurried over to the bed. Taking the mithril paperclip from his waistcoat pocket, he carefully lifted up the mattress, slipped the paperclip underneath it, and lowered it into place. Then he smoothed out the wrinkled comforter, rearranged the pillows, and left the room, wondering if Gandalf's plan could possibly succeed. He half suspected the wizard of playing a little joke on his old friend. Bilbo was quite fond of his paperclip, but expecting it to pick out an heir for him seemed a very tall order indeed.

The true heir to Bag End, Gandalf had told Bilbo solemnly that sunny morning in the garden, will not sleep well on a mattress that has this paperclip underneath it, no matter how thick or comfortable the mattress might be. When he joins you at the breakfast table looking wan and sore, and complains that he couldn't sleep a wink all night, you shall know that you have at last found the one you seek. 

Mosco Burrows dutifully arrived that afternoon, and was welcomed by Bilbo with mixed emotions. While Bilbo was eager to discover his heir and get the whole vexatious business over and done with, he had never particularly cared for young Mosco. Perhaps the lad had unsuspected depths, but somehow Bilbo doubted it. Mosco found the very idea of having an adventure to be frightening; and he knew not a single word of Elvish- nor did he evince the slightest interest, when Bilbo quizzed him on the matter over dinner, in learning it.

Therefore Bilbo was rather relieved the next morning, when he asked Mosco if he had enjoyed a good night's sleep, to be assured by the lad that he had never slept so soundly in his entire life.

But so did Fredegar Bolger, Merimas Brandybuck, Ferdibrand Took, and every other Baggins, Boffin, Took, Brandybuck, Grubb, Chubb, Burrows, Hornblower, Bolger, Bracegirdle, Goodbody, Brockhouse and Proudfoot (as well as Sackville-Baggins).

Not a one of Bilbo's relations, it appeared, slept less than soundly and well despite the presence of the magical mithril paperclip, and they all came to the breakfast table next morning looking wide-eyed and alert.

***

So the days and weeks passed until the last of Bilbo's male relations under the age of fifty, Sancho Proudfoot, had spent the night at Bag End with predictable results. Bilbo shooed him out the front door after breakfast with some difficulty (for the lad had a remarkable appetite and there were still several scones left on the table) but even as Bilbo was closing the door in his face, Sancho was assuring him yet again that he had passed an extremely comfortable night and any time cousin Bilbo wanted to invite him for a meal, he'd be delighted to accept.

"Over my dead body," muttered Bilbo, locking the door. Then he sighed. 

"Well, that's that," he said aloud to the empty front hall. "It looks as if the S-Bs will inherit Bag End when I am gone after all." In truth, Bilbo felt rather resentful of Gandalf at that moment. The wizard's plan had been a complete failure, and Bilbo had had to endure day after day of his boring relations nattering on about matters of no interest whatsoever to Bilbo. Not a one of them knew so much as a single word of Elvish, and only young Merry Brandybuck and Peregrin Took had evinced the slightest interest in adventures. And he was quite sure that Lotho Sackville-Baggins had stolen a fork. It seemed the outside of enough that the S-Bs should be starting yet another collection of Bilbo's cutlery.

"I shall have a word or two or three to say to Gandalf when I seen him next," Bilbo thought as he wandered back into the dining room to enjoy a scone and a cup of tea in peace and quiet. "Paperclip, indeed!" 

As he seated himself at the table in a disconsolate manner, Sam Gamgee came into the room. "Mr. Sancho gone then, Mr. Bilbo?" he asked.

"Blessedly, yes," replied Bilbo in heartfelt tones.

"I take it he ain't the one, sir?" For Bilbo had told Sam that he intended to choose a new heir for Bag End, though, of course, he had not told Sam the whole story. The mithril paperclip was a secret even from Sam, who assumed that Bilbo's plan consisted solely of grilling prospective heirs over the dinner table (so to speak), and observing their manners (or lack thereof).

"Blessedly, no," Bilbo said in answer to Sam's question. "Sancho hums, Sam. Hums. In the morning. At breakfast. Can you imagine? There is a proper time and place for humming, but it is most certainly not over one's morning cup of tea."

Sam began to clear away Sancho Proudfoot's place; his plate was so clean it looked as if it had already been washed. "Well, Mr. Bilbo, if it ain't Mr. Sancho, who is it to be then? He was the last candidate."

"A fact of which I am, alas, quite well aware, Sam," Bilbo said. He gave Sam a hopeful look. "I don't suppose you'd reconsider...?" It wasn't the first time that Bilbo had suggested to Sam that he consider becoming the heir. The lad might not be a Baggins, or even distantly related to the Bagginses, but he loved tales about the Elves, never tired of hearing Bilbo talk about his Adventure, and what's more, he had even learned a few words of Elvish, and was eager to learn more. Not to mention that Bilbo would no longer have to worry about losing the best gardener and cook in the Shire to some lass who would never appreciate this jewel of a hobbit.

Sam shook his head, a bit regretfully (or so it seemed to Bilbo). "My old dad would never approve, Mr. Bilbo," he said. "He wouldn't hold with me getting above my station that way."

"Pity," Bilbo replied, and tried to resign himself to the idea of the S-Bs someday inheriting his beloved smial. At least, he thought with morbid satisfaction, he would not be around to witness the sad day.

***

That very evening, a great storm blew up. Thunder boomed, lightning flashed, the rain poured down in buckets, and the wind howled, rattling the shutters and whistling down the chimneys.

After a pleasant supper alone, Bilbo retired to his study. Sam had built up the fire to a cheerful blaze and brought in a bottle of wine and some biscuits, and Bilbo settled in his comfiest armchair with a favourite book, planning to read, sip and nibble to his heart's content. No confounded relations to entertain, no meaningless prattle to bore him to tears... He stretched out his toes toward the fire, wriggled them contentedly, and then lifted his wine glass to his lips. He paused. Was that the sound of the front doorbell being rung? He strained his ears. A faint tinkling sound came again, nearly drowned out by the sound of the rain lashing against the windows. It was indeed the doorbell.

"Sticklebacks!" Bilbo muttered. "If that is young Sancho returned, I shall have Gandalf turn him into something unnatural next time he visits." He raised his voice and called out, "Sam! There's someone at the door. Send them away, there's a good lad." 

"Right away, Mr. Bilbo," Sam called back. Bilbo smiled. Such a reliable lad, young Sam. He'd take care of any importunate relation hanging on the bell. If only... but he would not dwell on might-have-beens. Bilbo opened his book and began to read.

It was some time later that Bilbo wondered why there was suddenly a cold draught in his study, causing the pages of his book to riffle in a distracting manner and the candles to flutter wildly. "Sam?" he called out, a trifle annoyed. "Did you forget to close the front door? Sam?" 

Receiving no answer, Bilbo set aside his book and went to investigate. He discovered that the front door had indeed been left wide open, allowing in the wind and rain. The floor just inside the door was positively swimming with water. Tut-tutting over this evidence of Sam's carelessness (which was in truth completely unlike him), Bilbo pushed the door shut, after engaging in a brief tug-of-war with the wind for possession of it. 

As he turned back, Bilbo saw Sam emerge from the kitchen, staggering a little under the weight of a large tray piled high with food. 

"Sam!" he said, "What are you doing? Where are you going with that tray?" But Sam appeared not to hear him, and Bilbo was forced to trot after him, running him to ground in the best guest bedchamber. A best guest bedchamber that was, to Bilbo's stupefaction, occupied- and by a complete stranger at that.

***

As Bilbo stood in the doorway staring at this most unexpected sight, the strange hobbit in the bed- a hobbit, Bilbo realised, who was wearing his favourite nightshirt, the pale blue one made of real Elvish silk that he had brought back with him from Rivendell- opened his eyes and uttered, "Oh! Where am I?" He began struggling feebly to sit up.

At once, Sam abandoned the pouring of tea and flew to the hobbit's side, sliding one arm around him to support him while he piled up pillows behind him with his other hand. "You're safe, Frodo," Sam said reassuringly. "You're with me and Mr. Bilbo, here in Bag End. I won't let nothing happen to you."

"Sam," the hobbit named Frodo breathed, "Oh! I thought I dreamt you."

"I'm no dream," Sam reassured him tenderly. "Now don't you fret yourself, Frodo dear. You rest easy while I fix you a plate of food and a cup of tea."

Bilbo, recovering from his astonishment, cleared his throat. Loudly. When Frodo saw him, he started, and his pale face grew paler, but Sam smiled broadly at Bilbo and said, "Hullo, Mr. Bilbo. This is Frodo. Frodo, this is Mr. Bilbo Baggins, my employer."

"How do you do, Frodo," Bilbo said politely, placing his hand on his breast and bowing slightly as the proprieties demanded, even though his head was spinning with confusion. "Are you a friend of Sam's? I've never heard him mention you before."

"We've only just met, Mr. Baggins," said Frodo. He glanced shyly up at Sam, still sitting with his arm about his shoulders. "But I feel as if I've known Sam forever." 

Sam gazed down at Frodo with a look on his face that Bilbo had honestly believed only existed in the pages of books- the sort of maudlin tales that had never much appealed to him. Moonstruck, that was the word. Sam looked moonstruck, like every hero in every fairy tale who had ever set eyes upon a beautiful princess (or prince, in this case) in distress. Hmm, Bilbo thought. Perhaps there was something to those tales after all.

"I opened the door, Mr. Bilbo," Sam said without taking his eye's from Frodo's face, "and he fell, right into my arms. 'Oh, who are you?' he asked me. 'I'm Sam,' I said. 'I'm Frodo,' he said. And then he fainted." Sam tore his eyes away from Frodo and looked apologetically at Bilbo. "I carried him in here, sir, and I know I ought to have asked your permission, but what else could I do?" he pleaded. "I couldn't turn him out into the storm, Mr. Bilbo, I just couldn't."

But did you have to give him my best silk nightshirt to wear? Bilbo wanted to ask, although in truth, the shirt became the lad. Frodo appeared to be taller than some, and fairer than most, and had an almost Elvish air about him, with his pale skin and large blue eyes. 

Frodo clung to Sam, and his eyes (and they really were quite astonishingly large, and remarkably blue) filled with apprehension, as if he expected Bilbo to order Sam to carry him back to the front door and toss him outside. 

"Oh Mr. Baggins," said he, "I don't mean to impose upon your hospitality. I was making for Bywater, you see, hoping to find work there, when I lost my way in the storm. I wandered and wandered until somehow I ended up outside your smial. I didn't know what else to do but ring the bell and beg for shelter and perhaps a bite of food." The lad's soft voice trembled with emotion. "Please don't be angry with Sam. I'll- I'll go if you want me to."

But he and Sam clung to each other, and Bilbo had a shrewd suspicion that if he ordered Frodo to go, Sam would go with him, without so much as a backward glance. Remarkable, he thought. It seemed that love at first sight really existed. Well, well.

"Now, now," said Bilbo aloud. "Don't get yourself into a taking, young Frodo. I shan't turn you out into the storm. You may stay." 

Frodo and Sam both began thanking Bilbo in a fervent, if incoherent, fashion.

Bilbo waved away their thanks. "But I'm afraid I must ask you a few questions. What is your last name? And where are your family and what are you doing wandering about the Shire all alone?"

Frodo's curly head drooped. "I- I haven't any other name," he confided in a low voice. "I'm an orphan, you see, and never knew my parents. I've been left to make my way in the world alone, and, well, I'm afraid I haven't been very good at it so far." 

Tears were rolling down Sam's cheeks. Bilbo felt quite choked up himself for a crusty, unsentimental old bachelor. 

"I reckon that you were meant to end up right here at Bag End, Frodo dear," said Sam, "'cause now you won't never have to be alone again." He wiped his eyes on his sleeve. "Ain't that right, Mr. Bilbo?"

Bilbo was not perhaps quite so ready as Sam to gather this lost waif to his bosom permanently, but he only said, "A most affecting story, Frodo. But we'll wait until tomorrow to discuss it further, shall we? It's growing late, and," he looked pointedly at Sam, who still had his arm wrapped snugly around Frodo's shoulders, "I daresay Frodo would like to eat some of that feast you brought him, and then get some rest."

Sam, blushing with embarrassment, dropped his arm, jumped to his feet and hurried to the food tray.

"Well, I shall see you in the morning, Frodo. Good night, and sleep well." Bilbo nodded at him. "Sam," he added sternly, though there was a decided twinkle in his eyes, "don't forget to mop up the front hall before you leave for home. And be a dear boy and try to remember to close the door behind you when you leave."

"I'm that sorry, Mr. Bilbo. I promise not to forget again."

It wasn't until Bilbo was climbing into bed later that evening that he remembered his mithril paperclip. He'd forgot to remove it from under the mattress after Sancho had departed that morning. Oh well, he thought, it's not as if it matters. I'll get it in the morning. Frodo certainly won't notice it; no one else did. The paperclip-under-the-mattress idea was, as Bilbo had suspected, a little joke of Gandalf's. The wizard always had had an eccentric sense of humour.

As Bilbo blew out the candle on his bedside table and composed himself for sleep, he thought that young Frodo had looked quite fetching in the Elvish nightshirt (for the pale blue silk brought out the colour of the lad's beautiful eyes and the ivory sheen of his skin). There definitely was an Elvish air about him... Sam certainly thought so at any rate. Bilbo smiled. He'd had no idea the lad's inclinations ran that direction. Perhaps he needn't worry about Sam marrying and leaving his employ after all. If Frodo were to stay... he seemed a nice enough lad... Bilbo mused.

Yes, the Elvish nightshirt suited Frodo far better than it did an old hobbit like Bilbo. I shall give it to the lad, he decided, and fell asleep.

Once or twice during the night Bilbo awoke briefly, thinking he heard a muffled cry. But it was probably just the wind.

***

Sam was already in the kitchen, standing at the stove frying sausages, when Bilbo entered the room next morning.

"Good morning, Sam," Bilbo said as he sat down and pulled a teacup toward him. "Did you make it home all right last night? That was a terrible storm."

Sam cleared his throat, and said, in the manner of one reciting a rehearsed speech, "Well, sir, it was raining that hard, not to mention the thunder and lightning, that I decided I'd best stay the night. I hope you don't mind, Mr. Bilbo."

"Not at all, Sam. You know I've told you many a time that you're welcome to stay over when the weather's bad. There are spare rooms enough in Bag End. I hope you made yourself at home in one of them." 

Sam made a slight choking noise, and busied himself with the frying pan.

"And how is young Frodo this morning? Is he up?"

"He's getting dressed, Mr. Bilbo. I had to fetch him some of your old clothes to wear, seeing as he had naught but the clothes on his back and they're fair ruined."

"That's fine, Sam. We certainly can't have Frodo walking about the smial naked, now can we?"

"N-no, sir," Sam said, and Bilbo glanced at him. The tips of his ears were bright red. Bilbo smothered a grin. The poor lad was embarrassed.

"Good morning," said a hesitant voice from the doorway. It was Frodo. His eyes flew at once to Sam and the two hobbits stared at each other in that moonstruck fashion that Bilbo suspected he was going to have to grow used to, if Frodo stayed for any length of time.

Bilbo coughed loudly several times. He suspected he was going to have to grow used to doing that, too, if Frodo stayed.

"Good morning, Frodo," he said when he finally had the lad's attention, and then added, after taking in Frodo's appearance, "Did you not sleep well? You look rather peaked, my boy."

There were dark smudges under Frodo's eyes, and he was shuffling a bit as he made his way to the table, as if he felt sore. At Bilbo's question, he turned scarlet, and with a quick, panicked glance at Sam, stammered, "I'm afraid I didn't sleep a wink, Mr. Baggins. Th-the mattress was very hard, you see, and it, um, left me feeling, um, a bit bruised."

Bilbo stared, teacup poised in the air. His heart began to pound. Could it be...? Was it possible...? Had the paperclip actually worked? Gandalf, my friend, I think I shall have to take back every rude thought I've had about you lately.

"But I do have sensitive skin," Frodo added, sitting down at the table very gingerly, and shifting about in his seat as if trying to find a comfortable position. 

Sam came over to the table with two plates of sausages and eggs. He set one in front of Bilbo, and the other in front of Frodo, who looked up at him with a dewy smile and murmured, "le hannon, meleth-nin."

Bilbo set down his teacup in the saucer with a clatter, heedless of the tea that splashed onto the tablecloth. "What did you say?" he gasped, wondering if he was hearing things.

Frodo blushed. "le hannon, meleth-nin. It's Elvish, Mr. Baggins. Sindarin. It means..." He hesitated.

"I know what it means, Frodo: Thank you, my love," said Bilbo impatiently. "But how in Middle-earth do you know that? Can you- can you actually read and write Sindarin?"

"A little," Frodo confessed as if it was something of which to be ashamed. "I used to work in a bookshop in Bree, Mr. Baggins, and they had a few books on Sindarin. I started to teach myself, for I always wanted to learn it, but my employer didn't approve. I kept forgetting to attend to the customers, you see. So I was fired. I'm afraid he was right and I'll never amount to anything." He sighed.

"But my dear Frodo, I own the largest collection of Sindarin books and manuscripts west of Rivendell!" Bilbo exclaimed. "Forget what that fool of an employer said. You shall stay here at Bag End with me and Sam, and study Elvish to your heart's content, and we shall all be very comfortable and very happy."

"Oh Mr. Baggins, do you really mean it?" Frodo clasped his hands at his palpitating breast. "I can stay here with you and Sam, and learn Elvish, too?" 

"Call me Bilbo, dear boy," Bilbo said jovially. "After all, you are going to be my heir."

"Your- your heir?" 

Sam caught Frodo as he fainted.

"I wonder how he feels about adventures," mused Bilbo.

***

Some months later, Bilbo and Gandalf sat together in the sunny Bag End garden, puffing on their pipes and blowing smoke rings with the greatest contentment.

"I don't know how I can ever thank you, dear friend," said Bilbo as he watched Sam pruning the rose bushes. Frodo, now officially (with seven signatures of witnesses in red ink, much to the disappointment of the S-Bs) Bilbo's adopted heir and a Baggins to boot, sat nearby reading to Sam from one of Bilbo's Elvish books. A love story, no doubt. Bilbo found he was growing rather fond of love stories.

"Then you are content with the heir your paperclip chose?" asked Gandalf.

"I am indeed," Bilbo patted his waistcoat pocket with affection. "Although poor Frodo does seem to have the most unfortunately sensitive skin. As many mornings as not he appears quite stiff when he first gets up, even though there is no longer a paperclip under his mattress. But it doesn't seem to bother him. A very tough lad, that Frodo. A Baggins through and through, even if he is only a Baggins by adoption," Bilbo said proudly.

"And what about Sam? How do he and Frodo get on?"

"I don't think," replied Bilbo on a happy sigh, "that I shall ever have to worry about losing Sam now that Frodo is here."

"Didn't I tell you life is full of surprises, Bilbo?" Gandalf smiled.

"You did, and as usual you were right." Bilbo listened to the sound of Frodo's soft voice. He frowned. "I'm not quite happy with his pronunciation, don't you know." Bilbo got up and went to Frodo, and settled down on the grass beside him. Soon they were deep in conversation over the book.

"And they all lived happily ever after to the end of their days," murmured Gandalf, watching them.

And so they did.

~end~