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Written for the Baggins Birthday Mathom Exchange on Livejournal.
ONCE UPON A TIME
As the gentle years passed, it became a tradition for the two hobbits to spend their birthdays simply, and with only one another for company. Someone always seemed to remind the elves what day it was (Frodo suspected Gandalf), and baskets of cakes, fruit, smoked fish, and savory breads (as well as small wrapped packages) would appear on their doorstep in the week leading up to what would be – in Middle-earth – September 22. Frodo would ask Bilbo to pick one of his favorite places, and there they would picnic and talk, nap and dream, for several days and nights. This year, Bilbo had spoken longingly of the grove of the White Tree, and its clear blue lake where at night the stars glittered so brightly on the waters.
Elrond and Erestor took them there on their horses, and would return to bring them home.
A blanket was spread beneath the Tree, after which the two hobbits waded into the lake to see the fish. Covered baskets stood ready, brimming with delicacies... and gifts that would remain a surprise until opened. Now they sat together, hand in hand. There was one more tradition to be observed.
“Are you ready, uncle?” Frodo asked. A breeze ruffled their long curls, and Bilbo nodded with a smile.
“Once upon a time…” Frodo began softly, in that familiar way that Bilbo so loved. The old hobbit closed his eyes, his head resting against his nephew’s shoulder, the soft Elvish tunic gently brushing his cheek.
Frodo spoke of a wanderer named Strider, whose courage, noble spirit, and strength of will brought him the kingship of an ancient land and the lady of his heart’s desire. It was Bilbo’s favorite story, and every time Frodo told it, it seemed to grow more exciting -- the mountains higher, the deeds more daring, the end more joyous. Frodo played a part in the story, as did the Gaffer’s son, and their cousins, even Lord Elrond and others he cherished. Oh, it was a tale well told, sometimes even beginning with Bilbo himself, an Adventure from long ago when he was young and foolish and dreamed restless dreams. Life was peaceful now, his days calm and every moment treasured, here in this land of light and color and no visitors who were unwelcome or wearying.
“And the king and his lady lived happily ever after,” Frodo finished, stroking Bilbo’s hair.
“Thank you, dear boy,” Bilbo murmured. “That was lovely. Perhaps we should have our luncheon now. Would that be all right?”
“Yes, uncle,” Frodo smiled. “Everything’s ready; you don’t have to worry about a thing. Ever again.” And we lived happily ever after, he thought contentedly, breathing in the fragrance of elanor blossoms that dotted the soft grass on which they sat, and the sweet scent of the Tree rustling gently above them. And when the stars came out, one by one, he and Bilbo called them by their Elvish names, and rejoiced in their beauty.
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