A Most Peculiar Thing


~ Lost ~

Toby sipped at his tea from where he sat on his designated tree stump, and adjusted his feathered hat. All was quiet in Hobbiton that night, although it virtually always was. Work as a bouncer wasn't really work at all when there was nothing to do.

Toby didn't mind. In fact, Toby was glad. Only the other day he'd had to escort a group of dwarves onto the road after a visit to Bag-End. Outsiders only ever came for Mr Baggins, and by the way those dwarves were talking, they received a very merry welcome indeed. Toby would eat his shoes if it meant he could have a mug of Mr Baggins' ale. Old Gaffer said he got it imported from the Big Folk.

For now though, it was quiet, and Toby happily swung his hairy feet where he sat, glancing around every so often. Wouldn't do to let a fox slip past and eat someone's chickens.

But it wasn't a fox or a dwarf that came stomping round the corner, but rather, one of the Big Folk. Toby stared at the woman, who stared right back at him with wide brown eyes. He saw her turn to take in the wonderful view of Hobbiton from this perch, saw her staring at a few hobbits milling around the entrance of the Green Dragon, wonderfully clear in the golden light that spilled from the door.

Then the woman blinked, and was out like a light.

Toby watched her for a second, mildly startled, and wondering if he should leave her to sort herself out. Then he remembered himself and hopped to his feet, carefully balancing his tea on the tree stump, before carefully and cautiously making his way over to the woman.

She was a pretty thing, he supposed, in a Big Folk sort of way. Her hair was very dark and curly, quite black against the paleness of her face. She was freckled, which was endearing, with a small round nose and heart-shaped face.

She was young too, very innocent looking, and not nearly as big as he'd expected of one of the Big Folk. Toby could feel his initial wariness melting away a little, and finally reached out to shake her shoulder. He took in her attire while he did. She wore a hat and scarf, which he found sensible, and a brown skirt that was just above her knees. That was a little odd, although she was wearing thick black stockings of some sort. Maybe this was what the Big Folk wore? He'd never seen a female one, so who could he know?

The woman, or perhaps girl, began to stir, dark brows furrowing, groaning slightly. Toby took a tentative step back as she opened her eyes, dazed and unfocused. She looked confusedly down at herself, before her head jerked upwards to stare at him. A look of complete and utter despair appeared on her face that Toby found mildly insulting and more than a little melodramatic.

"So it wasn't a dream," she mumbled, and her eyes fell to her lap again, brows furrowing.

To Toby's alarm, tears welled in the girl's eyes and she began crying quietly into her hands.

Pity overtook his brief offense, and he patted the girl's shoulder.

"There, there, milady," he said cheerfully. "What's the matter now, are you lost?"

The girl sniffled and pulled a tissue from her pocket to wipe her tears (very sensible of her to have one on hand, Toby thought), and eventually, rose her head to look at him with big sad eyes that reminded him faintly of his little niece begging for a biscuit before tea time.

She nodded miserably.

"Well, we'll sort you out just fine," he said kindly. "You're in Hobbiton now, and I expect you've heard of Mr Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps that's who you're looking for?"

The almost desperate look of confusion was answer enough for him.

"Well, no matter," he said brusquely. "We'll take you to him anyway- it's him that deals with all the Big Folk. He can point you the right way better than anyone, except maybe Gandalf."

He held out a hand and she took it, rising clumsily to her feet. She seemed to fully realise the height difference and opened her mouth, only to close it again hesitantly.

"I suppose I'm as new to you as you are to me," Toby said wisely, reading her face. "I'm a Hobbit, Shire folk some call us. You Big Folk seem to think us incredibly short, although I think it's you that's tall."

She smiled a little, despite herself.

"I've never been called tall before."

He laughed a little at that absurdity, and stuck out his hand.

"I'm Toby, the local bouncer. One of the best in the Shire, my Ma says, but I suppose she's biased."

She shook it.

"I'm Dahlia," she said softly. "Just Dahlia."

He nodded with a grin, and began leading her down the path to the town proper.

"I don't suppose," she began cautiously hopeful. "I don't suppose that by the Shire you meant Lincolnshire?"

He shrugged as he circumvented a cabbage patch.

"Never heard of it," he said mildly. "Just the Shire, it's called."

"Yes of course," she whispered, and if he hadn't been so busy stepping around a pumpkin, he would have seen how hopelessly she followed.

Dahlia's eyes were like saucers as they entered the town square, staring around at the little houses beneath the ground (their inhabitants stared right back), with their brightly coloured round doors and cheerful gardens, and couldn't help but mourn how very unfamiliar it all was. She'd never seen anything like it, outside of Beatrix Potter books.

Where was the post office? Where were the telephone lines? Where were the street lamps, and cars, and kebab shops? The paper shops, and newsagent, or hairdressers or even a pub.

Oh wait, she realised, peering back at the Green Dragon as they passed. Something's were universal, it seemed.

But a pub wasn't enough, and she could feel a wave of terror wash over, churning in her stomach and raising the hairs on her neck as she realised with absolute dread how very far from home she was.

By the time Toby had led her to a particularly nice hobbit-hole (apparently that's what they were called) Dahlia was one unkind word from throwing up. She was an unflattering shade of green as Toby knocked on the door and another hobbit answered, barely registering as the stranger introduced himself and gave her a concerned look.

Luckily, Dahlia would never hear an unkind word from Bilbo Baggins.

As he ushered her in, sending Toby on his way, her hands were shaking violently and her breathing shallow. He helped her out of her coat and shoes, forcing on her a cup of hot chocolate (wonderfully familiar and fantastically normal) and tucking her into a bed.

She gazed up at him, no longer shaking but instead overwhelmingly tired, and the kind, old face smiled gently at her. Her bottom lip wobbled.

"I just want to go home," she whispered.

"I know, dear. But for now, get some sleep."

When she woke, Dahlia was feeling much better, and with the bright daylight streaming through the window, far less vulnerable. She examined the room from where she lay.

It wasn't medieval, that was for sure. The walls were panelled wood, a lovely red-brown colour, and the room well dressed in oak furnishing, all solid and good-quality. The pillow under her head was softer than hers at home, and the blanket warm and cosy.

But she could have been in Buckingham Palace for all it was worth. At least she knew the way home from London.

A smell wafted through the door, which she noticed was slightly ajar as if someone had checked on her whist she rested, and the smell helped ease her worry better than the room had. It was the very familiar smell of a good English breakfast- bacon, eggs, and tea.

She tentatively lifted the covers and got up, looking down at her clothes with a frown. Her shirt was creased and her skirt rumpled, but it wasn't as if she had clothes to change into. Sniffing hesitantly at her armpits, she was glad that at least she didn't smell.

Foregoing her shoes, Dahlia folded her arms about herself and stepped out of the room, peering down the corridor, as homely and surprisingly normal it seemed, with paintings on the walls and coat pegs, umbrellas, and boots scattered about. Slightly more confident, and encouraged by the smell, she followed her nose to the kitchen, ducking so as to not hit her head on the door frame.

"Good morning," Mr Baggins said, from where he stood at the stove.

She replied in kind and hovered at the door.

"Would you like some help?" she asked at last.

"No, no, no," he said, scandalised. "You're a guest! Sit down, dearie, and have some tea whilst I finish up."

She obeyed, sitting down and looking around. Everything she spotted gave her a little heart. In all honesty, it was like her home, but without electricity.

"So," she began nervously, as he laid the food on the table. "Do you know how I might get home from here? Where even is here?"

"No questions till after breakfast, that's what I say," he said seriously, tucking a napkin into his collar. "We're all a lot more sensible after a breakfast or two."

Dahlia blinked but nodded, helping herself to a little toast and eating as quickly as she could. Then she realised that it didn't matter how little or quickly she ate, she'd still have to wait for Mr Baggins to finish, who seemed to be eating for ten and talking for twenty, so she piled some bacon and eggs on her plate, and poured a generous cup of tea.

She did feel better by the time they were done, more solid with something in her belly. And tea always helped. Mr Baggins permitted her to help tidy up, and as she washed the plates in the sink, she felt almost okay. This wasn't so different, was it?

Finally, he led her to his study, and she sat down beside him, restless. He rustled through endless scrolls at his desk, finally returning with what was unmistakably a map in a glass frame. She took it gratefully and rested it on her lap, looking down at it in shock.

It was a world that she didn't know.

On and on Mr Baggins went, pointing out all the ancient kingdoms, something about horse lords and hidden cities and islands sinking into the sea, every coast and river and forest and the tiny speck near the top of the map marked 'the Shire'.

The more he spoke, the angrier and angrier she got.

Unceremoniously, she dropped the map onto the table, ignoring Mr Baggins' indignant squawk, and rose briskly to her feet.

"This is simply ridiculous," she said sternly, as she strode through Bag-End, Mr Baggins hurrying to follow. "There is no such thing as moving forests and trolls and dragons and it's absolutely pathetic that you insist that they exist. Life isn't a story!"

She had turned to glare at him as she aggressively yanked on her coat, grabbing her bag and hefting it onto her shoulder.

"My house is not five miles away, my school is another twenty after that, and all my family, friends, and the village, and the town, and everything," she said fiercely. "This is England!"

"My dear, you cannot pretend you haven't stumbled into something entirely different," Mr Baggins begged. "Life may not be a story, but it is an adventure!"

"I," she said furiously. "Don't want an adventure!"

With that, she flung open his door and stormed out.

If she hadn't been in such a temper, she would have stopped short at the sight of Hobbiton in the bright light of day, like a cheerful cartoon village, but as she was, she instead stomped down the path Toby had led her down, resolutely ignoring Mr Baggins who had scrambled to follow her.

It wasn't long till she was marching past where she had met Toby (a different bouncer today), and was back in the woods.

Despite her longer legs, Mr Baggins managed to keep up, and over the next silent hour, her fury dripped away, and by the time 5 ½ miles had most definitely been and gone, she was more defeated than she had ever been in her life.

She stared desperately down the wooded path, further from the end, it felt, than she had been at the start. She felt Mr Baggins' kind hand on her elbow, steering her around, too tired and miserable to protest as he led her back to Hobbiton.

For the rest of the day, and the next, Dahlia locked herself in the room she'd slept in at Bag-End, burrowing under the covers, not even rising at the temptation of food or when Toby came to visit.

Finally, after she hadn't eaten for almost two whole days, Mr Baggins almost knocked the door down in forcing it open, positively aghast at her lack of appetite. He forced a meal down her throat, despite her protests, and proceeded to make such a fuss over the state of her greasy hair and days old clothes that she was sufficiently shamed enough to take a bath.

The hot water helped ease her gloom a little, but she was still scowling at her reflection as she put on a clean cotton shirt and green, ankle-length skirt that Mr Baggins had provided (apparently he couldn't find any dresses her size- Men rarely visited, let alone women) and combed out her damp hair.

When she tried to go back to her room, she found the door locked and a stern Mr Baggins standing in front of it.

"Go in there before dark and I'll throw away the key, understand?" he threatened, waggling his finger at her.

She'd sulked for a bit after that, loitering around the sitting room (she refused to go near the study and the dreaded maps), until she decided to do her homework.

Gathering her school things from her bag and trying desperately not to think if she'd ever have the opportunity to hand any of it in, she sat down at the table and began working on her French essay, letting herself be immersed entirely.

It was tea time by the time Dahlia was forced back into the kitchen, and she'd finished two more papers. She was in a better mood, and conversed with Mr Baggins a little, thanking him for the food and even managing to apologise for her rudeness the days before and since. He was gracious and understanding, as ever, and forgave her instantly. They conversed for a while, on various things, like the state of his garden and what flowers he was considering growing this spring and how unbearable Lobelia Sackville-Baggins was, and his nephew Frodo- all normal ordinary things, carefully chosen. And it worked, for a little while.

"What's that you were writing?" Mr Baggins asked as he passed her the gravy.

"Oh," she said, and she smiled a little. "It was my French essay."


She looked up and her smile faltered a little, feeling the fragile normality they had carefully crafted slipping away. As if he didn't know what French was.

"From France," she said hesitantly.

"Don't know the place," Mr Baggins said, with an apologetic wince.

"Right," she cleared her throat and smiled shakily. "My Grandparents were French. It's a beautiful language."

For a moment she was overwhelmed with memories of their house in the south of France, by the sea, and she could almost smell the salt and feel the sand between her toes and hear her mother calling her in for dinner. Her brothers would race back to the house, shoving and laughing, but she always took a moment to stop and stare and memorise the view, the green trees and white beach and gentle blue sea hitting the rocks. Tears welled in her eyes and she dropped her knife and fork to put her face in her hands. It was an ache, like a real physical pain in her chest- what if she never saw it again?

"Oh, dear, don't cry…"

She heard Mr Baggins get up and round the table, his gentle hand falling on her shoulder and giving it a squeeze, and the tears seemed to fall all the more, and she sobbed quietly. She felt paralysed by fear.

How was it that every time she had sat in the grass of that house, staring hard at the view, capturing every little thing to memory, she had felt afraid, even then, that it was all too beautiful and all too perfect, that it might be snatched away, that she must take it in whilst she could, and now, and now…

As if hearing her heart break, Mr Baggins gently pulled her hands from her face, and smiled kindly at her, his own eyes shining.

"Come now," he said. "Now matter how lost we are, home is always right there with us, in our hearts, isn't it Dahlia, dear? It's like your right there, isn't it, because a part of us always is. Don't cry, not when you aren't nearly so far from home as it seems."

"But what if I never see it again?" she wept. "And my family? My Mama? My Papa?"

"There's always a way," he reassured her. "And, in the end, the ones we love never truly leave us."

When her tears began to abate, she felt exhausted, drained, and he led her to an armchair before the fire. She grabbed his hand as he turned to sit down, and squeezed it gratefully.

"Thank you, Mr Baggins," she said softly. "You have been so kind, though I have given you no reason to, and asked for nothing in return."

He patted her hand, eyes twinkling.

"Perhaps a song in that pretty French you mentioned."

She smiled, although her heart clenched.

"I can do that," she said, as he sat down.

She had always had a good singing voice, sweet and clear and simple. So she started singing, a song her grandmother had always played on record, that reminded her of home when she was away. Mr Baggins watched with a smile, and began to hum along when he caught the tune.

"Il est entré dans mon cœur

Une part de bonheur

Dont je connais la cause

C'est lui pour moi, moi pour lui dans la vie

Il me l'a dit, l'a juré pour la vie..."

And though her eyes were mercifully dry, her voice shook on the last note.

But the song seemed to have blown away the terrified fog that had descended over her, had woken her when before it sent her to dreamless sleep. A little peace, just a little, but she clung to it, and hummed the tune with Mr Baggins, and for the first time, did not feel so alone.

The song is La Vie en Rose, check it out :)