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Flowers and Flaws

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This is what you get for taking a stroll down memory lane, Bilbo thinks.

A stiff collar, a posh tie, and twenty-four kids looking at you as if you were sprouting two heads - it’s just a waistcoat has been on Bilbo’s tongue innumerable times today, but he has managed to avoid an open confrontation about his outfit so far. He fears it would not fare well for him after all, while pretending to be perfectly comfortable in his clothes may be the only dignified way out of this school-sized personal hell of his. Except for the fact that he may be forced to keep up with such a farce for the rest of the year, buying ties in town and ironing shirts at night hours, and getting to wear short sleeves only in incognito - Bilbo cannot stifle a groan at the thought.

“I may have forgotten to mention that we encourage a more informal attitude here,” Gandalf comments, not even trying to hide his amusement at Bilbo’s awful predicament - trust the old man to let you embarrass yourself on your very first day.

“Yes, you may have bloody forgotten to mention it,” Bilbo snorts, sending a couple of passing girls into giggles.

Gandalf pats his shoulder.

“My dear Bilbo, I’m sure that your pupils have appreciated your effort to look your best on your first meeting.”

“I must have failed to notice their appreciation, what with the staring and the sniggering.”

“You must know that you’re the first new teacher appointed in the last five years,” Gandalf reminds him, for what sounds like the umpteenth time. “Our students as well as their families are naturally very curious about your person and they will be watching you closely.”

“If this is your idea of a motivational talk, it’s quite appalling. I’ve never reacted very well to other people’s expectations, I’m sure you remember,” Bilbo murmurs, moving his gaze to the high stained glass windows looking down the cloister.

“I know you used to have a lot of peculiar ideas about other people’s expectations,” Gandalf comments, slowing down his pace as if to allow Bilbo to linger.

“It’s funny to hear the word peculiar used by a man who has devoted the last decade to turning some false-gothic mansion in a school - you know, that frenzy for turrets and gargoyles was already stale in the Nineteenth century and hardly looks better nowadays,” Bilbo says, without taking his eyes off the apple tree gleaming bronze and red down there. He knows there is also a stone well, though he cannot see it from the windows on the first floor for it is hidden under the fan of leaves.

The picture is cheap enough as it is, Bilbo thinks, trying to shrug off the soft feeling stirring in his chest at the sight. He has decided that he will not be satisfied with this new life of his and he will not take the bait - oh, he does know that Gandalf has brought him here because at this hour the small enclosed garden shows itself at an advantage from the upper floor’s windows.  

“I’m surprised that parents want their offsprings to grow up in such an outdated setting,” he comments.

“You’ll be more surprised to learn the sort of people who happen to like it,” Gandalf replies, leaving Bilbo with the impression that he has just read his heart. “Give yourself time, my friend. You may still find yourself very glad of your choice.”

Gandalf’s tone has not changed. It’s still the ever-teasing voice of reason; it brings Bilbo straight back to his childhood, and that is not the route his mind can take right now - he just cannot stand it.

“I have no choice,” he answers curtly, hurting himself on the sharp edges of his own tone.

Gandalf says nothing to that and they just keep looking at the apple tree while kids swarm out of the classrooms and down the stairs, swinging their schoolbags and hollering, exchanging invitations for a party or notes from their lessons; some of them call Bilbo Mister - and that’s just the most depressing thing.  

 

*

 

“What do you think you’re doing?”

Kíli’s eyes grow large and alarmed at being caught, then his expression brightens as he offers his best charming grin while he leans against the counter.  

“Doing my homework in the back?” he offers lightly.

“You could do it at home, couldn’t you?”

“I suppose I could...” Kíli drags his right feet on the floor, his grin slowly turning into a pout. “But Fíli has invited his new girlfriend home and I cannot concentrate as long as they keep kissing,” he confesses, pronouncing the word kissing with equal part fascination and repulsion, as can be managed only at thirteen.

It strongly reminds Thorin of his sister Dís, who probably accomplished ruining Thorin’s first love with her habit of glaring at the poor girl - though Thorin’s preference for males (undeclared then, but hardly less affecting) may have played a bigger role in the debacle.

Not only had Dís been clearly disgusted with the smooching part - and Thorin will admit that it had been awkward indeed, given both his inexperience and unwillingness - but she had suffered out of jealousy for her brother. Kíli will never say it out loud, obviously enough, yet it’s clear that he feels like he’s losing Fíli to the mysterious ways of love.

The thought is enough to soften Thorin.

“There might be some cake left back there,” he grunts.

“You’re the best, uncle,” Kíli replies - you’re the best being Kíli’s current favourite endearment, equally applied to people, things, and animals alike.

As if energies rushed back to him at the mention of the cake, Kíli hurries to the back of the shop, almost knocking down a vase of tulips in his haste. Thorin sighs and checks on the tulips, glancing suspiciously at the door behind the counter. He does not hear any sound coming from the small television he keeps there to convince Dís than he does not spend all his time brooding upon the flowers (Dís’s words), but keeps in touch with the world out there. The fact that no one but Kíli ever cares to turn the television on is well-known to Thorin and Dís, though they both pretend that Thorin watches the news from time to time, and also some cooking program to improve his skills - turning out a proper hard-boiled egg would be improvement enough, Fíli often reminds them.

Anyway it seems that Kíli is actually doing his homework or at least is pretending quite convincingly, so Thorin feels allowed to go back to his flowers. It is not that he minds Kíli’s presence in the back of the shop, Thorin likes having his nephews around and he has not entirely given up hope that they will inherit his passion for flowers - despite the fact that between them Dís, Kíli, and Fíli have managed to kill dozens of plants, frustrating Thorin’s attempts to smuggle even the most unpretentious flowers into their home.

But things may change - yes, they will surely grow into florists overnight, Dís’s voice sneers into Thorin’s head, despite the fact that Kíli’s two-week-old great passion is Astronomy and Fíli - well, Fíli is in love.

Still, Thorin will always grudgingly admit that his affection for his nephews is unaltered by their clear disregard for plants, and that’s something since Thorin can be quite passionate (borderline fanatical) when it comes to flowers. It is not just that he likes them. Liking flowers comes easy to most people; no, Thorin respects them, loves them, adores them. He’s definitely and (almost) shamelessly head over heels for them, and there’s no record that he has ever bestowed such fondness upon any boyfriend - this may account for how short-lived Thorin’s relationships tend to be.

There’s an amount of greediness to Thorin’s love for flowers and Dís has always pointed out that he loves flowers far more than being a florist, if the way he’s inclined to scare customers away is anything to go by. For a man who can handle flowers with the utmost consideration and talk to them in purrs (oh, he will deny this, but Dís just knows), Thorin can be surprisingly grumpy and has taken the art of frowning to such a refinement that one of his scowls will send a too-petulant customer scuttling back out the door in no time at all.

Customer care has never been Thorin’s strongest point as a florist, and Dís suspects that he would be quite glad to tend to flowers and plants without the interpersonal communication - though he would have less chances to practice his glaring and sulking then.

Yet he has to make a living somehow and being a florist is good enough for him. Dís thanks every god she can think of that things have turned out better than she expected - five years ago she was not so sure that Thorin would have accepted the quiet, retired life they have cut out for themselves in Derbyshire, but there they are and Dís has started to think in terms of happiness rather than survival.

So she does not really care if some customers are intimidated by Thorin’s attitude, for his talent with flowers has already made him a local celebrity and people from the neighbouring villages and little towns come to Hobbiton to buy from him. Thoroughly satisfied with their purchases, some frequent customers have gone as far as to throw some awkward praise in Thorin’s direction; since no one could really commend Thorin’s manners and expected to be believed, they have tried to compliment him on his eyes or the deep rumble of his slight Scottish accent. Thorin’s stony countenance at such attempts has already dissuaded most of his admirers, with the remarkable exception of a few old ladies nearing a century who are too short-sighted or too bold to give up their flirtation.

“I have made it through a war, my dear. I can manage a boy,” one of the said ladies declared once, then proceeded to eye Thorin from head to foot until even Dís felt compelled to blush.     

The point is that Thorin is quite good-looking, in a rugged, slightly menacing sort of way. This Dís reminds herself as often as not, for it rekindles her hopes for her brother’s love life - otherwise she would have to rely on his character or his attitude, and that would not fare well. Thorin’s style of courting may be one of the most painful things she has ever seen; even Fíli, who is but sixteen, is better at it. Therefore Dís always hopes that the right guy will be so smitten with Thorin’s blue eyes and large shoulders to ignore the rest for the first two or three months, giving Thorin some time to overcome his sullen moods and show his most darling self - the part of him that usually turns up only with his family and his oldest friends.

And flowers.  

 

“You bright thing, aren’t you growing very well?”

Thorin’s thumb runs on the smooth long stem, then it lightly presses the earth in the vase to ascertain its dampness. He hums to himself and the flowers, the yellow of the daffodils blooming all around him in the little hothouse he has built himself soon after buying the shop. Daffodils have a special place in Thorin’s heart for he loves to see them growing wild along brooks and through woods and meadows, their golden heads nodding when caught in the breeze as if they were whispering secrets to the water and the grass. He has been trying to grow them in the hothouse for some time now and these are the first batch he feels proud of, as they are most similar to their wild cousins flowering in Spring.

Even Kíli has been impressed.

“Wow. They look like G-stars.”

“What?”

“Like the Sun, uncle. Big, giant yellow stars.”

Kíli has also taken a picture with his mobile phone and sent it to Dís. Thorin is still checking on the hothouse heating system when he feels his phone buzzing in the pocket of his jeans. He finds a text from Dís, instructing him to take one vase of daffodils into the shop - she’s sure that customers will adore the flowers and Thorin should not keep them hidden in the hothouse all the time. Thorin snorts but does as he is told, for he knows from experience that Dís must have already sent another message to Kíli with orders to check on his uncle and report back to her.

And sure enough Kíli is waiting for him, perched on the counter - no matter how many times Thorin has told him that sitting on the counter will get his trousers damp, and plaster leaves and petals to his back.   

“Mum says that it would be better in the shop window, to catch the customers’ eyes,” Kíli pipes up.

Another buzzing informs Thorin that a second text from Dís has arrived, probably with the amendment about the shop window.

“Haven’t you got any homework to do?” he asks Kíli, while he carefully places the vase on the wooden desk used as a display for the shop window.

It was an old scratched thing left by the previous owner, who had clearly used it as a work bench. Thorin and Fíli spent an entire afternoon in Dís’s back garden sanding the splintered wood and painting it periwinkle blue. It’s the only ornament Thorin has ever allowed in his reign, for he thinks that the sight of flowers should be enough for his shop windows; he does not care for festooning and baubles, and neither should his customers.      

Still he has to admit to himself that the daffodils look marvellous there, their yellow emphasized by the contrast with the periwinkle blue of the desk.

“...lot of things to do for the Geography class,” Kíli is saying, though Thorin has missed the beginning of his answer. But now that the daffodils are in place, he turns back to Kíli and gestures him to get down from the counter. Kíli does it, without interrupting the flow of his narrative. “He’s weird, I think...not properly nuts, just a little batty. He says he comes from London, but he doesn’t look like someone from London. And he comes into the classroom like that, with this thing on, this waistcoat all green and flowers over it...”

“Wait, who?” Thorin asks, scratching his beard and feeling vaguely lost in Kíli’s ramblings.

His nephew gives him the same annoyed look Dís uses when he doesn’t listen to her.

“The new teacher, uncle. This Mr Boggins, the Geography one. He’s just arrived here from London.”

“A new teacher,” Thorin repeats, more than a little surprised.

It’s not as if Hobbiton gets a new inhabitant every day, let alone a teacher from London. He idly wonders where Gandalf may have found him and promises himself he’ll inquire about it as soon as he meets Gandalf again - Thorin will have obviously forgotten his intention by then.

“He said a lot about places to visit and leaving home to become a wanderer...” Kíli carries on, causing Thorin to frown at the idea that this new teacher has been entertaining a bunch of kids with poetic ideas of adventures rather than solid notions of Geography - like parallels and meridians, and all that stuff about continents drifting and changing names.  “...then he talked about maps and said he has a degree in drawing maps. Or collecting them, I’m not sure.”

“You mean that he has a degree in Cartography?”

“Yep, that,” Kíli shrugs. “And Headmaster Grey said my old friend when he introduced him, and I thought that maybe you know him, you being friends with Mr Grey and all..speaking of which, could you ask him to exempt me from French class? I hate French, it’s really stupid..”

“French is not stupid Kíli, though your teacher...” Thorin stops there, before saying anything about Mr Greenleaf.

He has never liked the man since the day he walked into his shop and called his lavender withered and slightly odourless; plus Thorin suspects Mr Greenleaf disfavours his nephews to slight him - this may be connected to the fact that Thorin replied to the words about his lavender with a comment about Mr Greenleaf’s nose being stuffed as well as his arse.

“Anyway, the answer is no Kíli, I won’t ask Mr Grey,” Thorin huffs, deciding to be adult about it. “But I can teach you some pranks your uncle Frerin experimented on me with. Don’t tell your mum.”

“Obviously,” Kíli answers, rolling his eyes. Then he grins and repeats: “You’re the best, uncle.” Thorin thinks it must count for something, twice in a day. At least until he hears Kíli saying while he returns to the back of the shop: “Mr Boggins may be the best teacher ever, I think. He might be really nutty and take us wandering instead of staying in class. Like being in scouts but without the oaths.”

“I don’t think he really means that,” Thorin replies, hoping he won’t be proved wrong.  

No one needs a pack of kids ambling up hills and through fields led by a stranger from London who probably doesn’t even know North from South - notwithstanding the fact that Thorin’s sense of direction is infamous.  

After Kíli has gone back to his homework and Dís has stopped texting him - not before she has received a pick of the daffodils in the shop window, Thorin returns to the hothouse. He’s perfectly absorbed by his flowers and his calculation about the right temperature to keep in the hothouse, when he hears the bell ring announcing that a customer has entered the shop. Thorin frowns and distractedly cleans his hands on his jeans, before taking a look at his watch - it’s almost closing hour and he feels vaguely annoyed at such a late customer.   

 

Thorin would be lying if he said that the first thing he notices are the tattoos.

Actually it takes him a considerable amount of time to even perceive them, though they should be almost impossible to ignore as they cover the stranger’s arms from wrist to elbow - and probably go even higher under the rolled-up sleeves of the stranger’s shirt, maybe as far as to travel over his shoulders and down his back.

Still, Thorin doesn’t see them at first.

He’s too indignant at the way the customer is leaning over the daffodils, clearly disregarding the normal boundaries between the customers’ space and the owner’s space, and stepping right into the shop window area. Thorin’s temper flares when he notices the customer touching his daffodils, as if Thorin’s shop was one of those places where you can go around fiddling and meddling just for the idiotic pleasure of it.

This is one of the reasons why Thorin takes the stranger for some sly kid who has happened to feel bored and has thought to enter the first place on his way to make mischief. The fact that the stranger is quite small and his face is half-hidden behind fashionable sunglasses contributes to deceive Thorin about his age.

“You, kid,” Thorin grunts, marching toward him.

Only when the stranger turns around and takes his glasses off does Thorin realise his mistake. He sees the light wrinkles at the corner of the guy’s eyes and the offended look he now wears - he’s not a kid, though he’s certainly a little man and younger than Thorin. Not too much younger however, he must be thirty-something and Thorin is nearly forty - ok, forty, but it doesn’t matter.

Along the sight of the man’s eyes alight with what may be annoyance and amusement in equal parts, also comes the consciousness that the stranger’s arms are tattooed in a swirl of black lines and patches of colours, and Thorin can already follow the patterns to discover flowers, a myriad of flowers patiently inked on the man’s skin. Air may have left Thorin’s lungs at the sight, but the guy’s words slam it back into them.

“Yes, old man?”

Thorin is many things at a time - irritated, suspicious, and fascinated. Fascinated with the tattoos and not with the man sporting them, though he has to concede that the guy looks nice (plump, brown-haired and grey-eyed sort of nice). Comely is the word which comes to Thorin’s mind and he knows too well that no one uses it for strangers walking into your shop and intruding upon your flowers.

“We’re closed,” Thorin says, resorting to such a defence against the man’s little smirk.

“Are you?” the stranger asks lazily, as if he was not very impressed with Thorin’s downright lie. Then his shoulders sag a little and he loses some of his smugness. “Sorry, I was just taking a look.”

“We’re not entirely closed,” Thorin feels compelled to amend, before he remembers the daffodils. “Still, we have a no touching policy here.”

“Wait, this shop has a policy? One forbidding me to...what, contaminate the flowers?” the stranger asks, regaining some of his boldness and showing a mocking contempt for the mere idea that a little florist shop in Derbyshire may have something like a policy.

Such a tone, and the traces of a posh, BBC-like accent are enough to tickle Thorin’s pride.

“My shop, my rules,” Thorin grits through his teeth, knowing he sounds ridiculous.

Thank heaven Kíli is still in the back.

“So, King of Flowers,” the stranger mocks him, “what other rules are in force?”

Entrance forbidden to strangers with beautifully crafted tattoos, Thorin thinks.

“Oh. Thanks.”

Wait, has he said that aloud? He has, damn him, judging from the surprised look on the guy’s face. Soon enough the surprise melts into self-satisfaction and Thorin just thinks that the stranger must be used to receiving compliments on his tattoos - in other words he has just made a fool of himself. And it’s strange considering that usually Thorin has to force himself to speak, rather than struggle to keep his mouth shut.

“I just happen to like flowers,” the guy adds, massaging his left wrist and looking around.

Thorin makes a noncommittal noise, for the statement affects him more than he cares to show. Get a grip, you moron, he repeats to himself before speaking.

“That’s fine,” he concedes with some difficulty, “do you mean to buy something?”

The guy looks at him as if he may give an impertinent answer to that, but he only shrugs.

“Taking a look, I don’t know yet. I may like those narcissus in the shop window.”

“The daffodils you mean.”

“Wouldn’t a rose by any other name...” the guy begins, eyes crinkling with mirth.

“I happen to prefer the common name and..”

“And your shop, your rules,” the stranger concludes in Thorin’s place. “My mother...” he starts with some energy, then he stops in his tracks. He gives another shrug and tilts his head to peer up at Thorin. “Give me a good reason to call them daffodils.”

“Narcissus was an idiot,” Thorin states, before even thinking.

“Oh, well, drowning himself for vanity does sound stupid,” the stranger admits, chuckling.

The sound catches Thorin by surprise, it is soft and vaguely silly, yet it makes him feel vulnerable. Words roll out of his mouth before he can swallow them. 

“No, because he was so engrossed in himself he was unable to notice that someone loved him, or at least respect that love.”

The stranger’s eyes grow larger and he stares as if Thorin might be somewhat dangerous. What’s even worse, Thorin agrees on the subject - he’s being a danger to himself and his dignity and he would take back his words if he could.

Thorin generally disregards how people may react to his attitude, and never has he wished to drastically change his manners to please others; he’s too proud and brutally honest to be ingratiating, and too stubborn to accept that human relationships live on daily compromises. So his efforts to be nicer have become fewer and fewer over the years, to the point that he usually prefers the company of flowers to that of human beings. Flowers at least reward Thorin’s attentions as humans do not; the time and feelings he pours into them are seldom wasted. He feels clever and capable around flowers, well-repaid of his love, whereas he’s as graceless and pitiful as a stranded whale when it comes to people.   

Still, he has always been able to count on the fact that most of the time the problem is that he talks too little and frowns too much - this is the refrain of Dís’s reproaches and Dwalin’s taunts, and a recurring complaint among his ex-partners. But this thing going on between him and the tattooed stranger is a disaster on a whole new level; this time the frowning is all right, but the non-talking part has short-circuited and Thorin has found himself talking to the stranger. And not the usual how much, which one, come back on Thursday for the composition rite reserved for customers, but an actual conversation where he talks about his preferences - like those for daffodils and small guys with gorgeous flower tattoos turning up in his shop.

What has possessed him to express his opinion about Narcissus’s myth and end up musing about love and rejection? Even one so ill-versed in engaging with the public as Thorin is knows that one doesn’t talk to customers that way; one does not talk love with customers - they were not even flirting, damn him, and suddenly Thorin’s tone has become too intimate and personal.

No wonder the guy has been unexpectedly reduced to silence.    

Thorin feels that he will just explode if he stands still another moment. He must do something, and that something is reaching the shop window in a couple of angry strides and grab the vase of daffodils. A moment later he’s pushing it against the stranger’s chest, regardless of the dirt crumbling out of the vase and the slightly panicked look that has appeared on the guy’s face at his approach.  

The daffodils’ petals tickle the stranger’s nose and for a moment Thorin thinks he’s going to sneeze, but something on Thorin’s face must convince the guy to hold it back.

“What, no, I cannot...” he squeaks instead.

He staggers, head tilting back to avoid the petals, with his arms awkwardly wound around the vase - Thorin is still holding it though, because he fears that the stranger may let it fall at any moment. They sort of fight for the vase - whether to keep it or to push it into the other’s hands is uncertain, and the stranger is puffing and blushing while Thorin - well Thorin can’t help noticing the freckles dusting the guy’s nose and cheeks.

“Seriously, I can’t just...”

“Ten pounds,” Thorin growls.

The stranger blinks.

He looks relieved - now that Thorin has stated a price there’s no way this guy could mistake this for a gift, and that would be just embarrassing, wouldn’t it? Thorin’s words have brought them back to their expected roles of florist and customer, and now the stranger’s grip on the vase seems a little firmer.

“Sure,” he nods, then bits his lower lip. “Can you hold it? Just have to reach for my wallet.” Thorin grunts and takes the vase from his hands, stoically pretending not to notice that his shirt’s front is a little damp. “Thank you...” the man mumbles, reaching for his wallet in the back pocket of his brown trousers. “Here.”

Thorin takes the ten pound note, while keeping the vase with one hand, and pushes it into his pocket. A half-smile appears on the stranger’s mouth.

“Shouldn’t you give me the daffodils now? And a receipt, thank you very much.”

When Thorin does that, the stranger smiles at him over the cash counter. It’s the swift, perfunctory smile usually reserved for this occasion, yet it kindles something in Thorin’s chest.

“Have a nice evening,” Thorin croaks - Dís’s lessons in politeness speaking through his mouth.

The result is unexpected though, for the stranger seems to think about it rather than accepting the bidding for the stock phrase it is. Thorin finds himself wondering what kind of evening is waiting for the stranger, and before he can check his thoughts the guy nods, just once.

“You too,” he says, taking the daffodils away with him.

When the door close behind him, Thorin is left with the ridiculous notion that he should have offered a shopping bag to the little man to carry the daffodils and he almost rushes to the door to call the stranger back.

 

*

 

Sitting on Lobelia’s couch, Bilbo feels drained.

This day is taking its toll on him - too many new beginnings he thinks, and they all feel like moving backward rather than forward. Now he would like to stretch on the couch and take some rest, just like that. He doesn’t though and even nods politely in time with Lobelia’s ramblings; funnily enough, the daffodils happen to be of some comfort. He has carried them into Lobelia and Otho’s home and placed them at his side on the couch, indifferent to Lobelia’s condescending smile as well as to Otho’s shocked expression - some flowers cannot really worsen their opinion of him and Bilbo has found out that daffodils are exactly the sort of company he can appreciate today.

It’s strange, since he did not even mean to buy them. Even stranger considering that he stepped into the shop with the firm intention of hating the man, not buying from him. Yet all Bilbo’s plans are going astray as of late, so it shouldn’t be surprising.

He can’t even remember the man’s name, but it must be somewhere in the sale documents; at least Bilbo is sure they have never met before, since he arranged the sale of his mother’s shop through an agent so as to avoid going back to Derbyshire. Neither can he fathom why he wanted to see the shop after all these years - whether to see it changed or to find something unaltered, surely he didn’t go there to meet the owner. He just didn’t think that he would be there, realising too late that the tall, dark, admittedly handsome guy was not a clerk but the very man Bilbo has sold his mother’s shop to out of grief and bitterness.

“Listen, I don’t want to seem pushy but I haven’t got all evening,” Bilbo says suddenly, interrupting Lobelia. For a moment she looks ugly, her eyes full of spite, then she smiles sweetly.

“Oh deary, of course you haven’t. Tired, yes. All the way from London...but you know, Otho is up there talking to him, explaining who you are and why you’re here. It’s not the sort of thing you can do lightly. Taking care of a kid is a huge responsibility, Bilbo.”

He would like to say I know, but he can’t - he doesn’t know actually, and he didn’t even want to find out.

“But you can count on us. After all the kid has been living with us since - well, you know. A darling child, though you’ll find him a little stubborn, a little wild at a times. You would be surprised by the sort of silly things going on in his head, but I think he can be corrected as long as you use a firm hand with him. Oh, there he is!”

There he is, Frodo Baggins, eleven years old and an orphan.

He stands by Otho’s side at the bottom of the stairs. Otho clearly means to push him toward the couch, but the kid must be one step away from running out of the door - a feeling Bilbo can relate to right now.

His resemblance to Drogo is striking - the Baggins’ look Bilbo’s mother would say. Small and brown-haired, with a fine round face and a mop of unruly curls which clearly displease Lobelia - she’s talking about his need for a cut - Frodo reminds Bilbo of Primula with his bright eyes.   

He’s clearly afraid of what is coming his way and Bilbo does not feel reassured, since he’s probably even more frightened than the kid is.

“Bag End is truly too big for you two, I’m sure that such a large house will not fit your needs. But Otho may help you with finding other accommodation, something more fitting,” Lobelia keeps on, as if she didn’t notice that Frodo has not spoken a single word, neither has Bilbo. “All those years while you were away Bilbo, I have always said to Otho what a pity that Bag End should remain empty, when surely there are some fine families around here who would gladly take care of it - it just needs some minor adjustments, and you know how your mother never really cared for modernization. Now, if you would just think...”

Frodo’s resemblance to Primula suddenly appears more vivid when his blue eyes soften unexpectedly - his gaze has just fallen on the daffodils at Bilbo’s side. Something stirs in Bilbo’s heart at the sight and his mind becomes a little clearer.

“Bag End won’t be empty anymore,” he says, feeling a little more confident about it for the first time in the last month.