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22 Halimath 1420
Bilbo looked down at the sleeping son of his heart. He was alone with Frodo in the room the Elves had given to the Ring-bearer and his companions. The bed was big enough for the four of them, yet by himself Frodo seemed almost overwhelmed in it. The ancient hobbit’s cheeks were wet with tears as he gently stroked his beloved lad’s curls. This was a very bittersweet birthday for him as while he rejoiced to see his boy with him once more, he grieved to see how terribly wounded that dearest of all hobbits was, in body and spirit. Each wound Bilbo saw was a separate stab to his heart, a heart so swollen with love and pain which broke even as it surged with pride that Frodo had acquitted himself so very well, enduring unspeakable suffering and willingly so out of love.
“I’m so glad you are here, my lad,” the old hobbit murmured as he continued to stroke Frodo’s curls. “I kept hoping and never once did I not hope. I stared up each night at Elbereth’s stars and asked that she keep you safe. I tried to follow you in my heart which has held you since first I saw you as the smallest babe and you were shining even then. I have loved you ever so long and never more than now. I could never tell you how much. I am so proud of you, my boy, so very proud. And I am so sorry, so very sorry that you have all this pain. You gave me with your heart long before, trusting that I would ever keep it safe, and even now you don’t blame me that the Ring tore it apart. Amid all your agony I see that you hold only love for me. I know I don’t deserve that anymore, yet you still give it.”
“And why do you think that you don’t deserve it, my dear hobbit?” came a soft voice behind him.
Bilbo turned and looked up at his wizard friend who looked down at Frodo and then smiled at his old friend. The ancient hobbit saw the same pride, joy, love and some of the same sorrow in Gandalf’s eyes as he felt himself.
“Tis all my fault, Gandalf,” Bilbo said. “All of it. The wound that nearly turned him into a wraith, the terrible mark on his neck, the missing finger, the look in his eyes.”
“I don’t recall that you were there at any of those times to wound him so.”
“Yet it was my doing. None of it would have happened if I hadn’t picked up that confounded Ring and didn’t kill Gollum when I could have.”
“You are right, my friend, none of it would have happened.”
Bilbo looked up in surprise that he was being agreed with.
“Yes, Frodo wouldn’t have been hunted and stabbed by the Nazgul or stung by Shelob or suffered that tragic but necessary amputation of his finger, if you hadn’t found the Ring and pitied Gollum. No, something far worse would have happened. Need I remind you about the power of the Ring in the wrong hands? Why do you think it was you, and only you, that found it? Why do you think it was you, and not only you, but Sam, and Merry, and Pippin, who each gave Frodo’s heart a place to rest and grow, so he would be strong enough to set out to do what only he could do? Instead of blaming yourself needlessly for the agony that one hobbit willingly endured so others would not have to suffer so, you should know that had you not put your hand down in the dark to find that pretty golden ring, pitied a murderous enemy, and also not placed your hand around a young tween’s heart, then the torment that you see in Frodo’s eyes would be mirrored in all men, dwarves and hobbits and those Elves who could not escape over the Sea. You, my dear friend, helped bring the end to the greatest evil this age has known and helped ensure another age would come that would not be threatened by the Shadow that could have swallowed your whole world. Do not look to the darkness that came to be because of that Shadow’s touch, but look to the light that came because that Shadow can no longer touch anyone else now because Frodo took it all into himself. We all grieve for his pain, but we also honor it. Look at him, Bilbo. See how beautiful he is, amidst it all, and because of it all.”
The tears came harder now as Gandalf squeezed his shoulder, then left. Bilbo tried not to concentrate on the wounds that criss-crossed his heartson’s too-slim body and that battered heart, but on the light that still softly glowed, making Frodo seem more Elven than ever, but still very much a hobbit. Bilbo took his beloved lad’s maimed hand, kissed it and held it against his cheek. Frodo stirred but did not wake and Bilbo did not want him too. He just wanted to watch his beautiful boy sleep, a sight that had always given him joy which he had robbed himself of for too many years, yet now could behold again. The sweetness of that overwhelmed the bitterness that lingered. He decided it was a most special birthday indeed and this was the best way to celebrate it.
“Thank you for your presents, my dearest boy,” he murmured.
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