Life is a riot; bloom accordingly. (cpsings4him) wrote in madbagginses,
Life is a riot; bloom accordingly.

Fwo & Unga Bee Universe: "A Part To Play" - Adventure on the Side

Plot bunnies are rampant little creatures. They hide in places you would never expect to find them, then jump out and bite you and hang on with surprisingly strong, sharp teeth. I was ambushed and attacked by one just yesterday as I was reading an entry on my F-List, in which maudelynn told this story...which inspired the story I have written. So, everyone blame thank maudelynn for this one! :p

A word about the story:

Though it is written in the "Fwo and Unga Bee" "universe", this story should not be read as part of the original, main story. It is a bit of a side adventure...a detour if you will. It takes place a bit later than the original fic, early September I should think, just before Bilbo and Frodo's birthdays. I have no idea why Frodo is staying with Bilbo, but he is (hey, this if fan fiction, just go with it - maybe Prim and Drogo needed a short vacation from the little tyke and decided to leave him with Unga Bee :p). So, anyway - I guess you could say it's a little AU of my AU! :p Although, when I think about it, I'm not so sure my story IS AU...for there's no logical reason (that I know of that it COULDN'T have taken place) - but that's a whole other post for another day. Anyway, I present...

"A Part To Play"
~Fwo And Unga Bee Universe Detour story~

Summary: In which, Bilbo cares for a very wee (just under 2 years old) Frodo as well as a MOUSE; Mr. Peeper is being himself; and Frodo becomes the "cream Nazi" (think "soup Nazi" from "Seinfeld")

Rated: G, I should think - please! There's a baby hobbit present, for goodness sake! :p

Warnings: A tad of life-like animal behavior that might squick the squickiest among us. Nothing too graphic, though.

A/N: Also - a wee bit of Book (and Movie) canon foreshadowing of themes of compassion, mercy, grace and everyone - good and bad - having a role to play in the story are touched upon (almost by accident!:p).

As per usual - no beta. Look out for typos, boo-boos and other grammatical atrocities. If you find 'em, gently point them out and I'll fix 'em. :) Otherwise, ENJOY!

Fwo and Unga Bee Universe: "A Part to Play" - A Side Adventure

He almost had it. It was just beyond his reach. If he could lean over just a little further, the pen nib he had dropped beneath his desk would be back in his possession. However, an ample meal at elevenses as well as the long overdue task of letting out the waist of his breeks just a bit were making the maneuver difficult. His hand trembled with the strain and effort, just a hair's width above the fallen nib.

"Almost..." Bilbo grunted. "Just a little more and -" His words were cut off suddenly when a shrill cry rang out, startling him enough to cause him to bolt upright and strike the back of his head against the underside of his desk top.

"Ohff!" Bilbo exclaimed, extracting himself from beneath the desk top, one hand on the back of his head.

Fortunately for him and his head, he was fully emerged when the second cry rang out. Bilbo stood stock still and listened.

"Unga Bee!! Unga Bee! He'p! Tome twick! Un-ga BEE!" Cried the small hobbit lad at the other end of the smial.

Frodo! What in Middle Earth? Bilbo had put him down for a nap not more than half an hour before and the child had been sleeping peacefully when he had pulled the door closed all but a small crack. Bilbo began to run to see who had gotten in without his knowing and was by the sound of things, murdering his nephew right at this very moment.

"Coming, Lad!" Bilbo yelled as he ran. "I'm coming!"

Frodo continued yelling in apparent protest, anger and a bit of fear. As Bilbo drew nearer he was able to make out bits and pieces of Frodo's words.

"No-no!! 'Top it!! Bad tee-tat! Bad! Unga Bee!" He yelled.

Bilbo burst through the door of his bedroom, where he had put his nephew down such a short time before. Quickly surveying the room, Bilbo searched for the source of his nephew's obvious distress, but could find nothing amiss. Frodo was crotched down low facing the far corner of the room and in front of him, Bilbo could just make out Mr. Peeper's swishing tail, but could still see no cause for alarm.

"Frodo, what's the matter lad? What's all the yelling about?" Bilbo asked coming further into the room.

"Unga Bee!" Frodo cried. "Tome twick! Tee-tat hoating him! Ma'e him 'top!"

Quick as lightening the hobbit toddler bounded up from his position on the floor and running to Bilbo, took the older hobbit by the hand, pulling him as best he could toward the corner where Mr. Peeper's tail still swished.

"Make who stop what, Lad?" Bilbo asked, but reaching the corner and standing directly over his cat, he suddenly knew what all the fuss was about.

Mr. Peeper, all feline that he was, had caught a mouse and was now taking his pleasure with it. The poor creature was caught in the corner. Playing the deliberately negligent guard, Mr. Peeper allowed the mouse to wobble away only far enough to need to be brought back in to captivity with a swat of one paw. At the moment, the tiny, gray ball of trembling fur only sat, twitching it's whiskers spasmodically and peering with it's bright frightened eyes for a way of escape.

"Pwease, Unga Bee! Ma'e tee-tat 'top! He hoating mouze!" Frodo continued to yell, beginning to cry as though he were the one in the corner injured and frightened.

In preparation to pounce once more, Mr. Peeper's back end came slightly off the floor, twisting from side to side as his front end was made as low as possible. Seeing this, Bilbo seized the feline by his scruff, lifting him off the ground in a manner any cat would find completely devoid of dignity.

"All right, now! That's quite enough! Run along." Bilbo said, setting the cat outside the bedroom and closing the door.

Behind the door, Mr. Peeper added his yowls at being so unceremoniously put out and removed from his prey to the cacophony of protest. One white paw thrust beneath the door punctuated his meaning. Knowing how well fed he was, and that he couldn't have possibly been hunting for food, Bilbo ignored the pleas and returned his attention to the scene in his room.

Bilbo half expected the mouse to be gone when he turned back to the corner, but his nephew was crotched there once more, continuing to cry out his distress.

"Oh, Unga Bee! He bweeding!" The hobbit toddler cried, tears of horror and sorrow flowing down the small cheeks. "Wiw he die?" He snuffled with an agonized look.

"Shh, now. Calm down and let's see what we've got here." Bilbo soothed, kneeling down and wrapping one arm around his sobbing nephew as he peered down at the small creature still hunkered in the corner, trembling.

His nephew was right. The mouse was bleeding, from the leg it appeared - but it didn't seem to be too terribly bad. Still, the creature looked quite addled and senseless. Perhaps it had suffered some type of head injury and would be better served to be put out of it's misery.

"Tan 'ou he'p, Unga Bee? Pwease? Don't wan' Mouze to die!" Frodo plead, large blue eyes still filled with tears as he looked beseechingly up at his uncle and plucked at his weskit with one small hand. "Pwease?"

'One of these days, I really must learn to resist this lad,' Bilbo thought. 'But it won't be this day.'

With a deep sigh, Bilbo explained. "I don't know, Frodo. Mouse may be too badly hurt to help. It might be nicer for him if put we him out of his misery." Bilbo's voice was gentle and he tenderly stroked his nephew's back as he explained.

Frodo only hiccupped and gave his uncle a quizzical look. Oh, dear. How did one explain to a hobbit toddler, especially one of Frodo's sensitivity the intention to kill the very creature one had just heroically saved from the jaws of death? Well, he didn't know and, looking for a long moment into Frodo's eyes, decided he was not going to find out any sooner than he had to.

"I can't make any promises, Frodo, but I will try. And I'll need your help, hm?" Bilbo smiled gently and was rewarded by an enthusiastic nod from the still teary toddler.

"All right, then. Let's see what we've got here." Bilbo pulled himself off the floor and over to the wardrobe to find a wash cloth to wrap the poor creature in and to save his hand from being bitten.

Cloth in hand, Bilbo returned to the scene of the assault and deftly lifted the mouse into the folds of the blue flannel. Quickly he began to look about the room for something to place the poor little beast in. Under the corner of the bed he could just spot a small crate the would work perfectly.

"Frodo, reach beneath Uncle Bilbo's bed and pull out that crate, Lad." Bilbo said, then watched his nephew race to obey even as he felt the mouse's tiny heart racing in his hands.

In the matter of a few seconds, Frodo was on his knees tugging with mighty effort at the wooden crate that was rather heavy for one so small as he, but his desire to help the little creature in his uncle's hands drove his determination to accomplish the task. Finally he managed to pull it from under the bed and, being that it was far to heavy for him to lift, scooted it, measure by measure toward his uncle.

"Heah doe, Unga Bee." He panted proudly.

"Thank you, lad." Bilbo smiled at his nephew.

The little mouse was set, cloth and all, down into the small crate. It made no move of effort to escape and, in fact, seemed to half faint, weather from injury or sheer relief at being released, Bilbo did not know. He only hoped the mouse would not die before Frodo's very eyes.

As evenly as he could manage, Bilbo lifted the crate, bidding his nephew follow. As he opened the door, Mr. Peeper, still positioned just out side the room darted back in and back to the corner from which he had been removed. Bilbo smirked as he watched his cat's whiskers twitch, trying with mighty effort to sniff out his lost prey. Quietly, and before the cat could work out that he was being trapped away from his quarry once more, Bilbo closed the door behind him. Too late Mr. Peeper realized his error and made his distress and frustration known with a series of loud and long meows.

Bilbo made is way down the hall with the crate and his small nephew following at his side to the privy. Inside, Bilbo sat the crate upon the vanity by the wash bowl.

"Wha' he doin', Unga Bee?" Frodo asked worriedly, unable to see the mouse in the crate far above his small head.

"He's just resting, lad. Uncle Bilbo's going to fix a warm water bottle so that he can get warm and feel safe." Bilbo explained looking worriedly at the creature who seemed to be near death now, laying perfectly still with small pink paws curled. If it weren't for the tiny rapid breathes shuddering the small body, Bilbo would have thought him dead already.

"Mouze told, Unga Bee? We ma'e him warm?" Frodo asked, standing on his tip toes as he grasped the edge of the vanity in an unsuccessful attempt to see what was going on.

"Yes, lad. We must make him warm." Bilbo answered a bit absently as he fumbled for and finally found the hot water bottle.

Un-corking the vessel, Bilbo held the water bottle's open neck beneath the spigot of the hot water copper. To his dismay, turning the copper's tap produced only a small trickle of water. Apparently it had not yet refilled after being emptied from the morning's activities in the kitchen.

"Drat! It's empty. I'll have to boil some water. Come along, Frodo. I'll need your help more than ever, lad." Bilbo said, lifting the crate once more and carrying it and its contents toward the kitchen.

The mouse had begun to shiver violently and Bilbo feared for it's little life. He hoped it would survive long enough for the water to boil. Gently Bilbo placed the crate upon a small, low stool that was really more of a step-ladder and was always kept beside the stove. Quickly Bilbo retrieved the kettle and began to fill it from the pump with water to be warmed, then lighting the fire in the stove, set the kettle to heat.

Mouse, when Bilbo looked was still huddled pitifully in one corner, still but for the occasional spasmodic twitching. Bilbo wondered once more if he truly had made the right choice in attempting to save this little creature. The irony was not lost on him of all the hustle to save this one mouse when hundreds had been killed with his blessing, and sometimes even his assistance with the use of traps in his food cellar - and fairly recently as well what with the autumn hay cutting bringing them into his hole in droves as their homes were disturbed. It wasn't that he held any malice or hatred toward the creatures...just that he knew how too many of them could be a problem if they weren't kept in check. Bilbo was brought from his thoughts by a small tug on his pant leg.

"Wha' me do, Unga Bee? Fwo he'p." Frodo asked.

"Yes, yes, Lad. I do need your help." Bilbo answered, lifting the crate off the stool and sitting it on the hearth beside the stove. He sat himself upon the stool, then gestured that his nephew should join him. "Come now. Uncle Bilbo has a job for you."

Frodo wasted no time in climbing into his uncle's warm lap and waiting for his task to be given to him.

"Now, Lad," Bilbo began, stooping to lift the injured mouse, along with the cloth from the crate. "Hold out your hands just like Uncle Bilbo's." Bilbo's hands were slightly cupped, palm up with the mouse wrapped in the cloth resting in them.

Frodo studied his uncle's hands for a moment then held his in near perfect, careful imitation.

"Very good, my boy, very good." Bilbo praised. "Now, sit up straight with your back against uncle Bilbo so you'll be nice and stable and keep your hands right over your lap, all right?" The old hobbit instructed.

"Wike dis?" Frodo asked, leaning his back against Bilbo's chest and centering his small hands over his little legs.

"Yes! Just like that! Very good! Now, I'm going to place Mouse in your hands so that you can help to keep him warm while we wait for the water to heat - but you must be very careful not to squeeze. Do you think you can do that?" Bilbo asked seriously.

Frodo nodded emphatically, obviously proud to have been given such an important task. "Fwo tan do'et! Fwo no sweeeeze!" He exclaimed excitedly.

"Shhhh!" Bilbo shushed gently. "Another important part of your job is to be as quiet as you possibly can. You don't want to frighten Mouse, do you?" Bilbo asked very quietly.

Frodo looked stricken at the very thought of frightening Mouse, his eyes huge and worried. His little head shook til his curls bobbed. "No, Unga Bee! No fwigh'en Mouze!" He whispered, looking to his uncle.

"All right, then. That's a good lad. Here you go, now." Bilbo spoke quietly, finally placing the mouse into his nephew's hands which were barely big enough to receive the small bundle.

When Frodo had the mouse gently but firmly in his hands, Bilbo fully let go of the animal and cupped his own larger hands around his nephew's creating a sort of cradle. Mouse was fully ensconced in the cloth, covered from tail to ears with only a wee whiskered nose and bright, rather stunned looking eyes peeking out of the folds. Frodo stared at the mouse as if it might disappear if he blinked. Silently, he and his uncle sat holding the mouse as they waited for the water to boil.

After several moments of listening to the sound of the water beginning to slowly heat, Frodo finally whispered. "Wiw he die, Unga Bee?" The little hobbit's voice was sad and full of worry as he looked at the wee beast still ensconced in his own warm little hands.

"I don't know. I hope not, Lad. We shall see." Bilbo answered as truthfully as he could and gave his nephew a gentle kiss on the temple simply for being so full of compassion. 'It will serve him well one day', Bilbo thought, 'that compassionate heart of his'.

As though hearing the conversation about himself, Mouse suddenly twitched his whiskers at the creature who now had him in his, admittedly gentle, grasp. It's big, blue eyes were riveted on him - but they didn't look menacing. Still, it was so hard to tell with these big creatures what they might do. This one seemed smaller than most of the others he had seen about and so far, had not harmed him. But you just never knew. Suddenly, Mouse was all out of energy to consider the matter any further and, hoping for the best, fell into a deep sleep.

Frodo watched the twitching whiskers and the curious look he was getting from Mouse. He was trying his very best to be still and quiet as Uncle Bilbo had said. It was very hard. He wanted very badly to wriggle about excitedly and to ask lots of questions without having to whisper, but he knew he could not. Mouse's whiskers grew still once more and he watched as tiny eyelids closed and Mouse seemed to relax even more in his hands. Frodo's eyes shot up to his uncle's face questioningly.

"I think he's just asleep, Lad." Bilbo whispered hoping he was right.

Just then, the kettle began to sound her low whistle. As quickly as he could without jarring the poor creature, Bilbo took the animal from his nephew's small hands and placed it, still wrapped securely back into the crate beside the stove. Bilbo cautioned Frodo to stand back, lest he be splashed and scalded as he began to fill the water bottle with the heated water. He poured a quantity of it into the bottle, then not wanting to burn the poor creature, added a bit of cool water to make it more temperate. With the bottle full and the cork replaced, Bilbo wrapped the water bottle in a bit of toweling and laid it in the crate next to the still sleeping mouse. Frodo watched every move and when the task was completed, knelt beside the crate and gazed worriedly down at the wee bundle.

"Now then, Lad, let's cover this crate a bit so that Mouse feels more secure and doesn't catch any drafts, hm?" Bilbo said, laying yet another length of toweling over the top of crate and leaving only one corner open for air.

"Mouze doe nigh-nigh, Unga Bee?" Frodo asked, peering into the one open corner at the sleeping mouse.

"Yes. Mouse went to sleep. Now, lets let him rest, hm?" Bilbo answered with a smile, taking his nephew by the hand to lead him away so that the poor creature could rest undisturbed by well meaning hobbit lads.

"Wai', Unga Bee." Frodo whispered and ran back over to the crate to peer in once more. He cupped his small hands around his mouth and whispered, "Nigh-nigh, Mouze. 'Weet dweams. Peel bettaw soon!"

With that, Frodo ran back to his uncle who took him into his arms instead of by the hand and headed back down the hall toward the privy. There was a small hobbit lad, as well as a considerably bigger hobbit who were both in need of a good hand washing. By this time, sufficient water to wash one large and one small pair of hobbit hands had heated in the copper. After filling the wash basin with the warm water, Bilbo lifted Frodo to sit upon the vanity in front of the wash basin. Bilbo helped his nephew unbutton and roll up his sleeves and allowed Frodo to place both hands in the warm water (as he was just dying to do). Then taking a handful of the soft, brown soap in the dish by the basin, Bilbo slathered his nephew's damp hands with the rather slimy mixture until the tiny fingers were completely buried in fluffy suds. Bilbo's hands engulfed each of Frodo's and he helped him rub his hands together to better cleanse them. Bilbo had really plied the little hands with soap and the two of them had worked up quite a lather.

"All right now, lad. That ought to do it. Let's get them rinsed." Bilbo said, reaching around his nephew for the pitcher of water to pour over the newly cleaned hands.

But, before Bilbo could pour the water, Frodo began clapping his hands just to watch the suds fly.

"Whee!" He cried. "Wook, Unga Bee! It 'nowing! He-he!" Frodo giggled, thoroughly enjoying himself.

"Yes. Snowing. I see." Bilbo couldn't help but laugh with him.

He was making a terrific mess, but Bilbo, remembering what it was like to be a hobbit lad, did not stop him, at least not right away. He let him continue to 'make it snow' until most of the suds had been beaten off. Bilbo finished the rinse job with water from the pitcher as he had intended, then dried them with the towel hanging from the hoop on the wall. With his nephew's hands clean, Bilbo turned the lad around to face away from the bowl and toward him as he washed his own hands. Frodo sat with his legs dangling over the edge of the vanity playing with the buttons on his uncle's weskit as he waited for Bilbo to finish his own wash up. Quickly bored with the buttons, Frodo's hands began to seek out naughtiness, reaching up to try to get his uncle's nose while his hands were conveniently occupied in the wash bowl.

"Hey! That's no fair!" Bilbo protested as his hands were still thick with lather.

"He-he! Dot 'ou noze, Unga Bee!" Frodo cried delighted to get to be the one who 'got' the nose for once, rather than the one it was taken from as this game usually went.

"You give that back right now, naughty hobbit!" Bilbo pretended annoyance, but grinned in spite of himself.

Frodo grinned back, his eyes twinkling with mischief, but he pretended to try to put it back where it belonged. As he was pulling his hand away however, his uncle startled him by pretending to bite at the little hand as it went by his mouth. Frodo squealed in both surprise and amusement, then buried his face, giggling into his uncle's soft belly as his arms went around Bilbo's middle. Bilbo couldn't resist leaning forward to kiss the curly head. Frodo looked up with shining eyes at his uncle who was now drying his hands.

"Aww cwean, now Unga Bee?" Frodo asked.

"Yes. That's better. Now we're all clean and perhaps we won't get -" Bilbo paused dramatically and whispered. "Mouse pox!"

"Mouze pops?" Frodo's eyes were wide and quizzical. "Wha' dat, Unga Bee?"

"Mouse Pox. Yes. Terrible ailment, that." Bilbo shook his head sadly. "Causes all sorts of odd and dreadful things to happen. I do hope you don't get them, Frodo." Bilbo tried his best to look worried.

"Fwo no hab mouze pops!" The child exclaimed.

"NO? Well I hope not. You will tell me if you have any sudden cravings for cheese, won't you?" Bilbo's face was very serious.

"Cheeeeeeeze?" Frodo asked.

"Yes. It's the first sign of mouse pox. Craving for cheese. And then, well - other things start to happen..." Bilbo trailed off mysteriously.

"Wha', Unga Bee? Wha' habben nest?" Frodo's asked.

"Well, once the cheese craving starts, everything else starts to happen all at once. For instance, your - are you sure you really want to know?" Bilbo asked.

Frodo nodded hugely, never taking his eyes from his uncle's face.

"For instance, on each side of your nose, long, bushy whiskers begin to grow that twitch and fidget about." Bilbo nearly laughed aloud as he watched Frodo's little hands go immediately to the vicinity of his nose, checking for newly grown whiskers.

"Den wha', Unga Bee?" Frodo's voice was low with intrigue.

"Well, once the whiskers are in, something begins happening to your front teeth. They grow long and hang over your lip a bit, like this." Bilbo demonstrated mouse-like teeth.

He was hard pressed to hold in the giggle that nearly came out when Frodo's little red tongue began probing, of its own volition, at his front teeth - to see if they had grown any since elevenses.

"Of course when the teeth grow out, there's only one thing left." Here he paused for dramatic effect. "A long, skinny tail sprouts!" Bilbo concluded his description of the dread 'mouse pox' with a whisper.

Frodo's head swiveled about, trying to see over his shoulder to make sure he had sprouted no tails in the last few moments.

"Unga Bee, wass Fwo han's a'din! No wan' mouze pops!" The hobbit toddler's face was dead serious and a bit worried looking.

Bilbo held up the little hands into the light and surveyed them for a moment. "Oh, I think we got all the mouse off. But Frodo, you must be very careful, my lad. Anytime you touch Mouse or anywhere Mouse has been, you must tell Uncle Bilbo so that he can wash your hands, all right?" Bilbo asked. Of course the story about 'mouse pox' had been a bit of made up silly fun, but Bilbo was glad to see that Frodo was taking the hand cleaning business seriously enough that he might not have to worry about real ailments a child might get from touching a mouse.

Frodo nodded hugely in the affirmative.

"Good!" Bilbo punctuated his statement with a kiss to his nephew's nose as he lifted him down from the vanity.

As the pair were making their way back down the hall to the kitchen, they were suddenly sharply reminded of someone else in the smial with whiskers and a tail. Mr. Peeper was making his presence known with a long, plaintiff series of yowls.

"Mrreoooooww!" He cried pitifully from behind the closed bedroom door.

"Oh, dear. Nearly forgot he was still in there. Well, there's nothing to be done. He simply can't be allowed to run around the smial with Mouse still in there. We'll just have to keep him where he is for now. At least we can make him a bit more comfortable and happy, though." Bilbo said, bending over to scoop Frodo into his arms and give him a bit of a hug in the process. "Let's take him a saucer of cream, hm?" The older hobbit said, already reaching into the cupboard for the special saucer used only for Mr. Peeper.

"No." Frodo said with a rather disagreeable look.

"No? No what, lad?" Bilbo asked confused.

"No cweam! Mistah Peepah bad tee-tat! Hoat Mouze! No cweam fo' him!" Frodo crossed his little arms defiantly across his chest and set his face in a scowl so terrible it was nearly amusing.

"Frodo, Mr. Peeper's not 'bad' - he's just a kitty cat. And...I'm afraid that one of the parts of being a kitty cat is chasing, and catching mice." Bilbo tried to explain, but Frodo was clearly un-swayed by the argument.

"No cweam. Bad tee-tat." He repeated stubbornly.

"But he isn't bad, or even naughty. He's just doing what cats do. It's what you call his 'instinct'." Bilbo explained.

"In-sing?" Frodo asked, trying to understand the new word, if not pronounce it.

"Yes, his 'instinct'. The things he does just because he's a cat - and something inside of him tells him to do them. It's nature's way, Frodo - of balancing things. Nature makes sure there are just enough of everything. If there were too many mice, you might really get sick because of it - and from things much worse than 'mouse pox'. All things, good and bad, have a role to play in the tale of Middle Earth, Frodo. Mr. Peeper was just playing his. You see, I know this is hard for you to understand right now, dearest, because you're so young. But one day you will understand. For now, will you just forgive kitty and believe Uncle Bilbo when he says Mr. Peeper isn't bad?" Bilbo asked, looking into his nephew's eyes.

Frodo looked back at his Uncle, clearly torn between not understanding and just accepting. "'Es, Unga Bee." Frodo said quietly as trusting acceptance, if not full understanding, finally won out.

Though Frodo did not really understand what his uncle meant that day, he never forgot those words.

"That's my little lad!" Said Bilbo proudly. "Now how about that cream?" He asked, giving his nephew a wink.

"Aw wight. Cweam fo' Mistah Peepah." Frodo agreed.

Frodo and Bilbo did give Mr. Peeper the cream, and it went far to make it up to him that he had lost his quarry. The fact that he got to spend the rest of the day lazing about upon Bilbo's big bed (a place he was not allowed under normal circumstances) placed the pair firmly back into his good graces.

All the rest of that day, Bilbo and Frodo kept a watchful eye on Mouse, who had settled right down to sleep beside the water bottle. It seemed the poor creature was more shaken and exhausted than hurt and the two Baggins' went to bed with hopeful hearts.

Next morning, sure as anything, when Bilbo and Frodo pulled back the towel to check, there was Mouse sitting up on his hind quarters, licking his forepaw. When he saw the pair, he was frightened for a moment, but sniffed hungrily at the wedge of cheese Bilbo placed in the crate. He and Frodo stepped back and (after a good hand washing) had their own breakfast. After first breakfast, when Bilbo pulled back the toweling to check on mouse once more, she had eaten the whole wedge of cheese and looked at Bilbo with twitching whiskers to see what else he might bring. A small saucer of water was then placed in the crate and Bilbo watched with his nephew as she drank her fill.

"Frodo lad, I believe our Mouse is on the mend." Bilbo declared.

"Mouze bettaw?" Frodo asked.

"Yes. Much better I think. In fact, I believe we can let him go as soon as it warms up a bit outside. We'll let the dew burn off, anyway." Bilbo mused, looking out the window at the day that was turning out to be quite lovely.

"Wet mouze doe? No! Mouze 'tay wiv us!" Frodo declared.

"Frodo, Mouse can't stay with us." Bilbo relpied.

"Why?" Frodo demanded, his lower lip already beginning to protrude.

"Well, he wouldn't want to, for one thing. And, Mr. Peeper can't live in Uncle Bilbo's bedroom forever, for another." Bilbo reasoned.

"Wet Mistah Peepah doe!" Frodo suggested, still a bit put out at the feline for his predetory behavior.

"I can't do that! I'd never admit it to him, but well, I've gotten quite attached and I'd miss him if he were gone. Besides, Mr. Peeper is my pet - that means I take care of him. He doesn't know how to care for himself. It wouldn't be right to turn him out on his own now that he's used to being cared for by me. When you have a pet, Frodo, you make a commitment to take care of them - however long they may live." Bilbo tried to explain.

"Bu', Unga Bee - who wook aftah Mouze?" The hobbit toddler asked worriedly.

"Mouse knows how to look after himself, Frodo. Why, I bet he might even have a family somewhere, wondering where he is right now! He must get back. They probably miss him!" Bilbo told his nephew persuasively.

"Mouze famwy?" Frodo asked. "Wiv a mummy an' da, wike Fwo?" The baby's face was thoughtful.

"Yes. With a Mummy and Da - and maybe he is a Da. Or, at least, an Uncle. I'm sure they must miss him very much." Bilbo said pointedly.

"Unga Mouze dus' wike Unga Bee!" Frodo exclaimed.

"Yes. Just like your "Unga Bee"." Bilbo mimiced his nephew's pronounciation.

Frodo's face was thoughtful before he spoke. "Fwo miss Unga Bee if he doe 'way." He said.

"Aww...and I'm sure I would miss my little lad, too." Bilbo squeezed the little one who had climbed into his lap by this time.

"Mouze dotta doe home." Frodo said authoritatively.

Bilbo squeezed his nephew once more, then kissed his hair. 'What a gift this one is!' Bilbo thought. 'He'll change the world one day.'

Right after elevenses, almost a full day since Mouse had been rescued, Frodo and Bilbo made their way out of the smial with the wooden crate in tow. The sun was warm and bright over head in the sky that was a shade of blue only seen in the autumn as they trekked through the grass to the edge of the small pasture they hoped was Mouse's home. There they sat the crate upon the ground and said their farewells.

"Well, you are. Back at home! It was lovely to have met you and had you in my home. Sorry about that cat! I hope you find your family soon and live happily ever after - to the end of your days." Bilbo smiled down at the little mouse who was sniffing fiercely, obviously assessing where he now was.

"Bye-bye, Mouze. Sowwy tee-tat twy ea' 'ou up. He nah bad. Dus' his in-sing. Wight, Unga Bee?" Frodo asked, looking to his uncle who nodded in the affirmative and Frodo continued. "Fwo miss 'ou whe' 'ou doe bye-bye. Hab a dood 'venture!" He finished.

With their good-byes said, there was nothing more to do than gently tilt the crate over on its side and allow the mouse to escape. At first, he just sat there, sniffing and looking out over the pasture. Then, as though realizing exactly where he was and that he was now free, Mouse darted out of the box and scurried away. Only only once did he look back to the pair on the hill, glad to be free and thankful that they had done him no harm. Then, turning back, Mouse hurried on, for - oh, my! What a tale he had to tell!

~The End~
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