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Fear  by Ariel

Warnings: This fic is rated for graphic medical details, contains some violence (fights) and hints at darker themes, but contains no slash.  This chapter contains some references to sex between a married couple and is somewhat explicit in it's description, but I hope readers will understand why it is placed where it is.


Fear Chapter 10 - Family

Dody slunk to the side of the tool shed and glanced around.  His home was along the southern facing slope of the main hill that housed most of Brandy Hall.  It was a house, of sorts, built half into the hill and half out of it, and the main entry faced somewhat easterly.  A small garden, where the family vegetables were grown, wrapped from the front of the home up along the southern side.  No one was visible in the garden and one couldn't see the shed from any of the house's round windows.  Dody sighed with relief.  He had every right to be there; it was his father's shed, but he was not interested in answering any questions his family might ask.  The necklace's retrieval had to be quick and secret.  No one must ever find out where it was and how he got it back.  With any luck, he would even be able to return it to Marietta's jewelry box before it was missed.  He crept around the corner and opened the shed door.


Dody's heart stumbled and he felt the liquid ice of panic chill him.  Even when guilt was not ripping his insides out, the sound of his father's voice was enough to bring his heart into his throat.  Dodinas was rarely pleased with him.  Even when Dody had done everything that was expected of him, his father could find something to criticize, something he had done wrong, some way in which he had failed.  He was so used to it that the criticism didn't even affect him anymore.  These days, it was the odd and unpredictable swings of temper he tried to avoid.  He did his chores quickly and efficiently, but it was never to curry favor or gain reward; it was to avoid Dodinas' specific attention.  That was the safest way to deal with his father; make yourself so unobtrusive that you escaped his notice.  One could never tell what mood the mercurial Dodinas would rise to once you brought yourself under his scrutiny. 

"What're you slinkin' about here for, boy?" the older hobbit called as he strode up the hill from the side garden.  Dodinas Brandybuck was a powerfully built hobbit, with thick, muscular forearms from which the sleeves were nearly always rolled up and an unruly mop of reddish curls that might have looked endearing had there not been a pair of cold, almost black eyes peering out from beneath them.  He must have been in the front of the smial, out of Dody's sight - either taking the air after luncheon or specifically waiting for his son's return.  Perhaps he already knew about the necklace's theft and had deduced that Dody was the likeliest culprit.  Perhaps he was just toying with his son before meting out what punishment he deemed such a theft merited.  Dody froze, unable to meet his father's scowl, but he warily observed Dodinas' body from the corner of his eye.  The boy's carefully schooled dispassionate expression hid neither his sudden pallor nor the tenseness of his muscles. 

"I've come for a saw," he said softly.  "Saradoc's got some apple trees he's wanting me to prune." 

The lie was undetectable, by tone or fact.  It had to be.  Dodinas frowned, his small, dark eyes darting over his son's features doubtfully.  Dody offered no outward sign of either spirit or deception.  Long years of terror and pain had taught him how to lie very well.  Finally, Dodinas huffed and turned away.

"You might show such industry to your own family's trees."  Dodinas scoffed, but the heat was going out of his voice. 

Dody maintained his carefully contrived submission as his father walked, faintly victorious, back to the smial.  Dody waited through a precisely judged pause before continuing into the shed.  He knew better than to seem too eager to be away from his father.  The saw was hung off a rafter and the boy's hand shook as he reached for it.  Dodinas did not know about the necklace.  From the way he acted, Dody was sure of that fact.  Marietta either hadn't noticed it yet, or perhaps she had finally gotten a taste of his father's true nature and was afraid to speak.  The second thought gave Dody a vicious thrill.  Dodinas had never been as cruel to his daughters as he was to Dody.  There was, perhaps, enough of Lacy's looks and manner in them to stay his hand, or it might have simply been that the older hobbit did not deem it proper to treat his lady-folk so.  Whichever were true, Dody's hatred of the usurper Marietta made him wish for once that some other creature besides himself knew some of the anguish that had been his life. 

He chose the most direct path back to the Hall, in full view of his home's small windows, and a stately, if resigned pace.  It wasn't until he had crossed the fold in the hill that he began to run down to the slope towards the river path.


Drogo didn't recall how he got through the dark maze of Brandy Hall's tunnels to Rory and Menegilda Brandybuck's apartments.  The Master and Mistress's rooms were stately and in one of the brightest sections near the main hall.  Even the tunnels here had openings to let in the light.  In a daze he knocked on the round door and was admitted to the chambers by Menegilda’s maidservant. 

Doctor Clearwater still sat in the elegantly appointed parlor comforting Menegilda, who had apparently been crying.  Glass bottles of assorted colors sat on the low table before them and Menegilda clutched a rumpled and soggy handkerchief.  When she spied Drogo, some of her composure and detachment returned and she sat up in the richly upholstered chair. 

"She is still resting," the matron told him.  "And the doctor advises me that waking her for any further stresses would be decidedly unhealthy."  Her voice was high, nearly to cracking. 

Drogo could tell she was desperate to find out what news he might have brought but was too proud, or disdainful, to ask outright.  He briefly considered withholding tidings of his son's condition, but that would have been a petty gesture.  Drogo disliked her, but her concern was genuine.  Frodo was her nephew, after all, and despite the fact of his, to Menegilda's eyes, unfortunate parentage, she loved the child almost as dearly as her own.  Drogo sighed and ran a weary hand through his dark curls.  "Frodo lives," he assured them first.  "And it appears the surgery was successful - or so Daisy tells me.  Quite honestly, I didn't see much of what she did, I hadn't the stomach for it, but he was patched up and his color was returning when I left."

The doctor nodded gravely, all the while studying Drogo's face intently.  Drogo frowned, feeling oddly irritated at the examination and wondering if the Doctor didn't think he was telling the truth about the matter.  Menegilda remained erect and proud for a moment and then, turning away from Drogo, broke down and wept into her handkerchief. 

"There, there, Mistress," the old doctor assured her.  "This is the best of all possible news."  He put a comforting hand on her back and looked up at Drogo.  In a subtle instant, his manner changed from consolatory to subtly calculating.  "What did she tell you afterwards?" he asked.  His tone suggested he didn't expect to agree or approve of it. 

The younger hobbit bristled and at that the doctor looked faintly pleased.  Clearwater had the ability to irritate and unsettle him simply by his manner and Drogo realized, with irritation, that he had fallen for the bait again.  This was only a game Clearwater played.  The doctor was miserly with any emotion, friendship or despite, expending them only where they would give him advantage.  The fact that he used aggravating Drogo as no more than a passing amusement made it clear he found no benefit to either befriending or loathing the middle son of the poorest branch of the Baggins' family.  That was irksome in its own right.  Even being hated by the good doctor would have been less grating than being summarily dismissed. 

"Perhaps you should ask her yourself, doctor, as I am sure any answer you would desire would have been quite beyond my comprehension."  Drogo didn't curb the bite in his response.  He was in no mood to deal with this enigmatic hobbit.  "Now, if you will direct me to my wife and excuse me, I will leave you to your business."  He inclined his head cordially to the both of them.  Menegilda, still hiding behind her damp handkerchief, sniffed at him but that was apparently enough to let her maidservant know what was desired.  The young lass appeared at Drogo's elbow and directed him towards the spacious tunnel that led off of the sitting room. 

"If you would follow me, Mr.  Baggins?" she suggested sweetly.  Drogo did as he was bid, grateful to get away from what he perceived as hostile company. 

Brandy Hall was an old smial - far older and more 'lived in' than any of the dwellings of his own folk.  Though the Baggins' were a respected family, and wealthy enough for the most part, they weren't nearly as well to do as the Brandybucks were.  However, Drogo mused, though rich farmland and trade might have brought the larger family wealth, it had never settled propriety or the mantle of respectability on them.  Living on the edge of the wild was not what proper, sensible hobbits did.  They were a queer folk in Buckland, to be sure, and Drogo could never in his wildest imaginings have seen himself married to one of them. 

Primula was different than most of her clan.  In her, the fair Took features shone most seemingly.  She was slim, unlike Drogo, who was a properly filled out hobbit, and her eyes were as bright as stars.  Her hair was a dark mass of unruly curls that never managed to stay where she'd put them and her lips were the fine red of the ripest berries.  Drogo remembered the first time he had ever seen her.  It was at a Yule feast for his uncle Bungo.  She was a cousin of his aunt's, and in her bright green and gold dress, she stood out from the other hobbit lasses who milled around waiting to be asked to dance.  He had felt compelled to take her hand and pull her into the reel. 

Throughout the lively dance, he had had eyes only for her slim, graceful form as it darted and wove among the other dancers.  It stirred him to see her move.  Her white arms gleamed in the torchlight, her feet moved in perfect rhythm to the ebb and sway of the music, her gracefully curved back arched as she reached up to touch the unseen stars.  Even the way she wrapped her hands around her cup as they'd sat in the chilly garden sipping mulled wine had captivated him.  It wasn't as if she possessed a grace that surpassed that of the other lasses, nor was she fairer of voice than those around her, it was simply that HER movements, HER voice struck a chord deep within him that none had ever touched before.  He was smitten from the first, and through his patient persistence, had convinced her to let him court her.  My, but those were fine days!  Drogo had never in his life felt so alive as when he was courting Primula Brandybuck.  Days and nights traveling to Buckland, sleeping under the stars, dreaming of her dark hair and bright eyes glittering in the vast canopy above him.  The intoxication of those times would fill his soul forever.

"The doctor said he gave her quite a dose," the young maidservant was saying.  "She's sleeping still, but if you want I can bring some strong tea to help rouse her."

Drogo shook his head as the girl opened a richly varnished round door.  "She'll need sleep.  Best not to wake her.  I just need to see that she is all right."  The hobbit lass nodded and stepped aside to allow him to enter alone.

"Ring for me if you need anything," she added indicating the pull cord by the bed.  Brandy Hall was indeed provided with every amenity.  Drogo nodded tersely but did not spare the girl a glance.  He heard the door click shut behind him.

Primula lay on her side, covered with a light throw and sleeping peacefully.  Just the sight of his lovely wife moved him.  She was calm for the moment, at peace.  Drogo was glad of it.  No dark vision of her only son lying pale, bruised and motionless with blood streaming from his head would cloud her dreams.  Drogo wished he could rid his own mind of the grisly image.

It hadn't seemed too much to ask for: a wife and family.  Most who wanted them were granted the boon, but it wasn't until the birth and death of his first-born, that Drogo had realized how precious these things were. 

Primula hadn't had the heart to name the little lass, but Drogo had done so in secret.  'Primrose' he called her, and had held her as long as he'd been allowed.  She had looked more like him than Primula.  Her features coarser and plainer than might have been expected from the Tooks or Brandybucks, and her hair was a soft down of chestnut curls.  Drogo had stared into her tiny, quiescent face for as long as he could, memorizing every feature.  She had been born here in Brandy Hall and the folk who had attended the birth thought Drogo was very odd for dwelling so long on a dead child.  Perhaps he was, but he would not have traded those precious memories for anything he owned.  He lived in Brandy Hall, ate their food, stayed in their home, lived with one they considered their daughter more than his wife but in that tiny bundle was the one thing that was well and truly his.  Even if her tiny spirit had already passed the confines of this world, he could not yet part with what remained.  Primula could treasure the memory of this child kicking within her, but for Drogo, that all too brief meeting was the only part of her he would ever have. 

There was a sad ache that always pierced his heart when he thought of that lost child.  Rory called him a 'romantic' and scoffed at his melancholy, saying that such reflections were a waste of the time he could have put to better purpose; namely in the making of future children.  A wink and nod generally followed such advice and that always got the desired grin and chuckle.  The Master of Buckland treated him as well as Rory's father had and despite his uncouth manners, Drogo could not help but like him.  But Rory was a hobbit with a head for business and little else, who deemed matters of the heart a puzzling mystery.  How could Drogo explain to someone like him that the memory of that sweet Baggins babe was what made him treasure the family that was left to him?

Drogo sat beside Primula on the bed and stroked the dark curls from her face.  She was indeed deeply asleep, and dreamt on as he softly caressed her cheek.  That such loveliness was his astounded him.  After all these years, he could still look upon this delicate creature and be amazed that she stayed with him.  What talent could he possibly possess that could bind him to such an ethereal being?  She was too lovely to be believed.  Slowly he bent and placed a feather soft kiss on her lips.  She stirred slightly but did not wake.  She even tasted different than other hobbits.  Although their kind had always dwelt beneath the earth, on her was the essence of light like airy days in a sunlit meadow.  Drogo loved her so desperately it hurt. 

The pain of remembered loss and the stress of the past few hours came back to Drogo like a sudden, unexpected blow.  His daughter was long gone and now his son lay on a sickbed he might never come whole from.  Was it so much to ask for a family?  He lay down beside his wife and ached to take her into his arms.  Would this tragedy be too much for her to bear?  If Frodo, upon whose features Drogo's mark had been thinly spread, never recovered, would Primula, to whom the child was inextricably bound, die of a broken heart?  There were too many questions, too much at stake and Drogo's head swam with doubt. 

He needed something to hold onto in this maelstrom - one firm truth that would remain.  He needed to know in the depths of his soul that Primula at least was his and would be his no matter what else was lost.  He needed her like a green growing thing needs rain.  She was the only anchor left to him.  He longed to bury himself deep within her warm body, to feel her arch against him and welcome his seed with happy, sated cries.  Only an act of iron will kept him from reaching for her.  No.  It was not the time for lovemaking.  But this was not about passion.  It was about survival.  There might have been a time when he could be happy alone, but that time was long past.  Without his beloved and the remaining child she bore him, Drogo Baggins would have been a shell of a hobbit, his heart forever shattered, his spirit broken.  Frodo had to recover, because Primula could not survive the loss of two children, and Drogo could not live without her.  He stretched out on the bed and pulled her sleeping form to his chest.  She snuggled closely against him, an automatic habit, and Drogo sighed as he felt some of the tension leaving him.  He was asleep before he knew it.


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