"Bilbo, we're in here..." Frodo's voice was soft. He'd heard his cousin enter, out of breath and trying to explain to the doctor why he'd brought him to Bag End. The calm statement from the fifteen-year-old brought both older Hobbits to a sudden halt in the study door.
With a moan, the doctor rushed forward, seeing Samwise Gamgee's limp body in the older boy's arms. "Too late... the boy's..."
"He's not dead," Frodo interrupted, swiveling in his chair to give the physician better access to the worn-out toddler. "He's sleeping." At a curious look from the doctor, Frodo continued. "He was having troubles breathing but I slapped him once across the face and he started breathing fine again. Then he fell asleep." He winced as the doctor and Bilbo studied Sam's chubby face and the red welt forming there from having been slapped hard.
The doctor prodded Sam awake and started studying the child, leaving him in Frodo's arms. Sam was tired, drained from his fit. He didn't want to be prodded by this stranger. Whimpering, he raised his eyes to Frodo, tearing up once more.
"Enough. He's breathing fine, right?"
With a nod, the doctor backed off. "Yes...." He spoke slowly, hesitant to claim the child as healthy after the description Bilbo had given him about the fit he'd had. "But he could have another... spasm. Not many Hobbits stop breathing when they cry. Might be a lung problem."
"No!" Frodo gasped and cuddled the sleepy toddler. "He can't be sick... he's just tired from crying. He wanted to see me was all; he's fine now."
"Hmph... I want to see the child's parents. Where're the Gamgees?" He crossed his arms, glaring at Frodo as if the boy had done something offensive by contesting him. The doctor had decided that the teen had no idea how serious this toddler's condition really was. He'd get the child taken back home.
Bilbo looked at Frodo then put a gentle hand on the doctor's arm. "Come along. He's outside." Opening his mouth to protest leaving the two children alone once more, the doctor was rushed out the door.
Frodo cuddled the sleepy child, holding him securely. "You're okay, right Sam?" Despite his words to the doctor, he really had been terrified by the fit. After all, when someone started crying so much he stopped breathing it was serious. "Wanna sit and listed to some more Elvish?"
The little boy lifted half-closed gray-green eyes to study his friend's face. "Uh huh." He nestled closer into Frodo, content to be right where he was. One small hand crept up to tangle in Frodo's shirt.
With a sigh, Frodo dropped a kiss to Sam's strawberry-blond curls. He settled back onto his chair, making sure the boy wouldn't unbalance when he turned pages. Softly, evenly, Frodo started practicing his letters once more. He couldn't resist a small smile when he felt Sam's head return to his shoulder, eyes closing slowly.
"Gamgee! That boy's a menace. What do you mean by leaving your child in his care?" The doctor strode purposefully across the lawn, determined to be heard. He wasn't a stupid Hobbit, after all; he knew Bilbo was trying to humor him. It galled the man that neither Baggins was willing to believe him.
Gaffer looked up. He didn't say a word, nor approach the physician, making the rather rotund Hobbit come all the way to him. Instead, he turned back to trimming the side-lawn.
With a huff, the doctor stopped next to the gardener.
"I'm speaking to you Hamfast Gamgee. You can't tell me the life of your son don't mean anything to you. Leaving him with that boy's a bad idea. Why, Frodo Baggins isn't anywhere near his majority... not even halfway there. He's trying to say your boy ain't sick. Thinks I'm exaggerating how serious Samwise's condition is. But I'll tell you, when a body stops breathing, there's damage. The boy's brain won't be right if it happens again. I need to see to him and give him the right medicine..."
The gardener stopped trimming, straightening slowly to look at the doctor. "Sam's breathing right now?" He sounded like he expected he already knew the answer.
"Of course he is. I wouldn't be out here if he wasn't. What do you..."
"He's not crying or sobbing or gasping?"
"Well," the doctor paused then shook his head, "no... he's calm actually. Real quiet and sleepy. I know that ain't like your boy, though. That child's boisterous and loud. When a child goes quiet, it's a sure sign of sickness. Why just last week..."
Gaffer interrupted a third time. "He ain't changing colors or clutching or struggling?"
Frustrated, the doctor raised his voice slightly. "No! I tell you, Hamfast, he's calm and fine. But that's all the more reason to fret. He ain't playing, just lying there looking half... half dead." There, he'd said it. That oughta scare some interest into the parent.
With a nod, Gaffer turned back to his trimming. "Thank you for checking my boy. I'll see you get your fee. Good evening to you, now."
"What!" Anger seethed through the man and he straightened indignantly. Turning quickly, he called out, "I'll just talk to Bell Gamgee about her littlest. We'll see if she's so calm about her son not breathing!" He started off, Bilbo hurrying to keep up, trying to calm the other Hobbit.
Gaffer looked back up, frowning. He thought a few minutes about his obligations then decided. Putting down his sheers, the gardener headed over the side-lawn, cutting over the neat grass, towards his home at number three Bagshot Row. He'd get there first, as the doctor would be going by the road. No need having the doctor scaring Bell, after all, especially as she'd only just told him she would be having a baby come the end of the year.
Once at his own hole, Gaffer paused long enough to catch his breath. He wasn't often running about like that. He put a hand on the side of the hill encompassing his hole, bending over to breathe. "Bell..." he slowly stood and started around the hill.
"Gaffer?" Bell looked up from the table she was scrubbing. Puzzled, as her husband never came home early, she headed towards the door, drying her hands in her apron. "Hamfast? What is it? What's happened?" She reached for the door.
It was opened before she could touch the knob, and Gaffer stood there still panting. "Bell, doctor's coming to talk about Samwise..."
Bell frowned, instinctively looking for her youngest child. The beginnings of alarm started coursing through her when she didn't spot the boy. "Gaffer? Where's Sam?"
"With... Fro... do... Bag...gins..." He panted, looking up at her. "Had a... tantrum..."
"And you gave in to him?" That didn't sound like her husband. He was normally so good at control.
The Hobbit shook his head. "No," he was catching his breath now, "Didn't give in. He had such a fit crying... stopped breathing, Bell."
"What!" Bell threw her hands up to her cheeks in shock then picked up her skirts and started out the door. Gaffer's hand on her shoulder arrested her movement.
"He's fine now. Master Frodo got him breathing again. He's watching him now. Right smart youngun that Frodo Baggins."
The woman turned slowly and frowned. "You tell me everything that happened, Hamfast Gamgee, and you tell me right now! What in the world stopped Samwise from breathing?" She crossed her arms and tapped her foot.
He nodded. "Samwise wanted to play and was screaming and fussing up a storm. I..." he sighed, growing ashamed at his part in Sam's fit, " I lost my temper and told him to stop or we wouldn't come back to Bag End. He lost it, Bell... started crying so hard he couldn't breath right. Master Frodo came out and slapped him. That stopped the fit. Master Bilbo went and got that old doctor."
Slipping her hands to her hips and looking rather disgruntled, Bell tossed her dark blonde curls. "That old... Oh... and what's he think?" She threw up a hand, "let me guess. Sam's about to die of consumption? He's one of those Hobbits who can't breathe right so he's not allowed to play? The world's gonna come to an end and Sam's got a hand in it?" She really disliked that man which was why she'd gone to her own family to confirm her pregnancy.
"Something like that," Gaffer smiled at her, relaxing a bit. Trust Bell to put things in perspective.
The doctor huffed his way over, throwing an annoyed glance over his shoulder at Bilbo, who'd insisted on following him. "Bell Gamgee... oh! I see your husband's come rather than staying back and keeping an eye on your son."
Gaffer took off his cap, bowing his head to Bilbo in respect; he frowned at the doctor, fingering the worn cloth in his hands. Bilbo smiled at Gaffer then took Bell's hand in pleased greeting. "Bell my dear. So good to see you again. Frodo wishes to assure you that Sam's calm and enjoying listening to my boy recite his lessons."
With a loud harrumph, the physician glared at Bilbo once more. "You son stopped breathing. Mister Baggins thought it serious enough to come for me, which is quite right. Now your husband and the Bagginses refuse my counsel on the matter. Little Samwise is ill, can't be exposed to chills or such. He needs careful attention and strong medicine..."
"Oh, dear. Samwise? Perhaps I should go up to see him? Come, Hamfast, Mister Bilbo. I'd appreciate the support, as I feel faint." She threw a worried look at the doctor who seemed pleased by her apparent concern.
"Doctor! Doctor come quick! Young Tom Cotton's gotten hurt falling off the pony. He needs you!" A young man was running over, worried.
"Hurt? I'll be right there!" The doctor threw a hasty look at Bell. "I'll be by later, ma'am, to check on you and Samwise. Good to know some people know sense when they hear it. I'm coming!" And the fat Hobbit shuffled off, huffing once more. Bell, Gaffer, and Bilbo watched the man leave.
"Bell? What're you doing?" Gaffer was surprised. Bell was removing her apron, folding it neatly and retrieving her shawl.
She turned to her husband with a calm smile. "I'm going to check on Samwise, Hamfast. After all, I'm the boy's mother. Whether I think the doctor's a doomsayer or not, I still worry about my child." The Hobbit woman smiled at Bilbo and took his arm. "Shall we check on the boys, Mister Bilbo?"
With a soft laugh, Bilbo patted the small hand clasped to his sleeve. "Of course, my dear. Let's go surprise the boys." He threw a reassuring smile to Gaffer and started guiding the pair back up to Bag End.
Gaffer followed silently, frowning.
After perhaps half an hour of simply reciting the Elvish alphabet over and over to the toddler ensconced on his lap, Frodo was getting bored. He checked the quiet child and was satisfied to see Sam's eyes opened wider than before. "Hey, Sam... you like Elvish? Why don't I tell you about Elves, then? Since I'm studying the language, Bilbo's teaching me all about them so I understand them." He cuddled the boy who smiled.
"Uh... oh! Story! Of course, Sam, I'll tell you a story." The teenager stood up and headed for the kitchen. "But first, let's get some second breakfast. You missed yours." He looked around the neat kitchen, frowning softly. "I'm not very good at cooking, Sam, so let's get some cheese and apples, okay?"
"K." Sam sat up in Frodo's arms, legs wrapping around his older friend's hips. Food sparked his interest, lulling him out of the contented stupor the Elvish letters had helped induce. "Appas..."
Frodo laughed and cuddled him again. "Yup... apples."
Looking around, Frodo spotted what he wanted. He moved towards the sideboard, sliding Sam onto the counter as he reached for a paring knife. "You stay still, okay, Sam? If you don't, you might fall and get hurt."
"No hut." Sam nodded decisively. He then proceeded to wiggle around to catch a better glimpse of what Frodo was doing. In his wiggling, he started to slip, grabbing Frodo, who threw out an arm to catch the boy.
Unfortunately, in the process, Frodo sliced the small blade across his palm. He started in shock as red seeped over his hand. Shaking himself, Frodo grabbed out his handkerchief and covered his palm, squeezing tightly.
Sam's eyes widened, a horrified green color. "Oh uh!"
"S'kay Sam. I'm fine."
In truth the teenager felt a bit light-headed. He didn't like the sight of blood one bit. "Now, stay still this time, Sam. I need to..." he fell silent as he took part of the kerchief in his teeth, wrapping the rest around his hand. Struggling carefully, he managed to tie off the kerchief, though the business was awkward.
The little boy hadn't moved at all. He watched, fascinated, as his friend worked feverishly to bandage his hand. "Fodo? Fodo hut?"
Frodo looked up. His skin was a bit paler than his normal. "Uh... yeah, Frodo's hurt. But, it's okay Sam. I'll be fine. We've got to get your second breakfast." He reached for the knife again, wincing.
"Fodo hut?" Sam reached out both chubby hands and took the teenager's hand in his. "No hut!" His tone was commanding. Then, softly, the toddler kissed Frodo's hand. "Bettee?"
The lad blinked. "Uh... yeah... much better, Sam... thanks..." his voice was dazed, tears coming to his eyes. Blinking furiously to clear them, Frodo suddenly scooped up the child and hugged him fiercely. "I love you Sam!"
"Sam uv Fodo." The chubby little boy patted Frodo's dark curls, smiling.
"Frodo? We're home, my boy... where are you?"
Frodo looked up, wiping his bandaged hand across his eyes. Refusing to put the boy back down, he called out with a slight catch, "In the kitchen, Uncle Bilbo!"
The three adults walked in, looking relieved that nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Bell immediately hurried over to take her son from his friend. Sam didn't protest, willingly hugging his mother.
The Gaffer sighed and ran a hand through his auburn curls. "Thank you for caring for the boy, Master Frodo..."
With a shake of his head and a soft smile, Frodo claimed, "Hey, I don' mind. It's okay, sir. I love taking care of Sam." He looked around and grabbed the knife up. "We were going to have apples and cheese for second breakfast... uh... want to join us?"
Bilbo laughed. "Second breakfast sounds very fine, my boy. Let me help you." He took the knife and frowned, stopping. "Why... you've been hurt, Frodo."
The adults turned to look at the teen and he shrugged in embarrassment. "I was cutting the apples and the knife slipped. I'm fine, really."
Bell walked over, frowning. "Might I check it, Frodo?" She had Sam on her hip, little legs curled around her waist, bouncing him slightly. "Can't let it get infected and you may need stitches; knife cuts can be nasty in hands."
Frodo nodded, holding out his hand. He gasped in pain when she reached out and started unwrapping it. Stopping, she softly ordered, "Hamfast, take the boy, please. Frodo hold your wrist right here so it won't bleed." She handed her son to his father and continued her work on the older boy, nodding as he obeyed her instructions.
After unwrapping the hand, she checked it quickly then washed it. "No stitches, but it'll hurt for sometime, Frodo. You've a quick head to have wrapped it so quickly." She started wrapping it in soft linen, which Bilbo provided for her. Looking up, she leaned forward and softly spoke again. "And even quicker thinking to have gotten my son breathing again. Thank you." She kissed his forehead.
Surprised, Frodo blinked huge cerulean eyes at her. "Um..." he flushed. "It was... well... he needed a shock... I..." Frodo looked at his feet, shuffling one big toe across the stones of the floor. "I needed to help Sam. He needed me."
"Of course he did. You need each other." She smiled and kissed him again. "And for that bond, though I barely understand it, I am eternally grateful, Frodo. Someday it may save your life as it saved his today."
Frodo didn't quite understand how loving Sam could save his life, but he just shrugged and nodded. "Okay. Can... can I hold him again?" He looked at her hopefully.
"Yes, Frodo, yes you can hold Samwise."
Gaffer stepped forward at Bell's words. He held out his son who happily held out chubby little arms and laughed, "Fodo! Me Fodo!"
Gruffly, Gaffer agreed. "Yes, Samwise. It's your Frodo."
Everyone was stunned when Frodo buried his face in Sam's strawberry-blond curls and burst into quiet tears. He couldn't even explain it himself, but somehow that day he'd nearly lost a friend... and gained something infinitely more precious, even if he couldn't find the words for it.
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