A/N: Hello lovely readers and welcome to the beginning of part one of what will become a two part story! For those of you who are already following me, a little explanation might be needed since, well...Baylee's also in Azying/Finding Their Place. This story is essentially what would have happened if I had kept Baylee in her original incarnation, which was Baylee Baggins, daughter of Bilbo Baggins. I'm sorry if it makes reading this and Azying a bit confusing, so I don't blame you if you choose to only read one of them. But, if you do choose to read this one, I hope you enjoy it! It's proving to be quite fun to write~
As he stepped out of his bedroom, Bilbo was greeted by the scents of cooking bacon and warm bread. He breathed in deeply, the smells making his stomach growl with hunger and a smile come to his lips. Making sure the belt of his dressing gown was properly tied into place, he started down the hall, the smells getting stronger with every step.
Upon entering the kitchen, he was greeted by the sight of a hobbit lass at the stove, using a spatula to flip over some pieces of bacon. She glanced over at him and gave him a quick smile before looking back down at the frying pan.
"Morning, da'," she chirped. "You slept right through breakfast, so I made extra for second breakfast." Grabbing a cloth, she went to fetch the kettle from the hearth before pouring the water into a teapot.
He frowned slightly; no wonder his stomach felt emptier than usual. "Is that so? Explains why my stomach is so cranky this morning…Do you need help with anything, dear?"
She glanced up from filling the teapot. "I haven't picked out a jam for the crumpets yet, and I need about six eggs. Could you fetch those for me, please?"
"Do you have a flavor preference?" He walked out of the kitchen and into the hall, heading towards the pantry.
"Surprise me!" Turning back to the bacon, she scooped it up with the spatula and, after letting the fat drain for a few seconds, set the pieces onto a plate. She blew a lock of her ash-brown hair from her face and slid the frying pan off the heat. Turning around, she looked at the spread of food she had laid out for her and Bilbo. it would be more than enough for just the two of them, and the meal, thanks to her father waking up late, would be a bit of heavier than usual.
'Crumpets, fried potatoes, bacon, eggs, tea…' she thought. 'I feel like I'm missing something, though—Oh, that's right!' Her eyes widening, she hurried over to the oven and, standing off to the side, she opened the iron door and let the heat vent out for a few seconds. She then grabbed a wooden peel and retrieved a golden-brown loaf of bread from the depth of the oven.
"I'm afraid the jam surprise isn't a very good one," Bilbo said upon reentering the kitchen. He watched as she lifted the bread from the oven, moving to set it on a cutting board to cool. "We're all out—Ooh, is that a loaf of cranberry-orange bread I see?" He grinned, walking over and taking a whiff of the bread.
"It's not for us, I'm afraid," she told him, using the peel to close the oven door. As it shut, the latch fell into the place and she returned the peel to its hook on the wall.
"Oh? Then who's it for?" He set the eggs down in a bowl near the stove before moving out of her way. His brow rose slightly as he saw a bit of color come to her cheeks.
"Halfast Pott," she answered. "It's a thank-you for the cherrywood-smoked ham he saved us."
"Mhm," he chuckled, his brow rising in amusement. He moved to sit down at the kitchen table, grabbing a napkin and unfolding it with a flick of his wrist. "Just for the ham, I'm sure."
Her lips pursed in a small pout and her cheeks grew a bit darker. "Yes, just for the ham." Returning the frying pan to the heat, she cracked three eggs into it. She tossed the shells into a bucket on the floor before adding a bit of salt and pepper to the eggs.
"Most definitely not because you fancy him or anything." He grinned, watching his daughter stiffened slightly. As she glanced at him from over her shoulder, he wore an innocent smile and poured himself some tea. "Oh, come on, Baylee—half the Shire knows the two of you fancy one another. And the other half knows at least one of you fancies the other."
"I highly doubt both of those," she retorted. Sighing, she carefully flipped the eggs over before grabbing an empty plate. "For one, I don't even know a quarter of the Shire, let alone half." She used her wrist to wipe a bit of sweat from her brow; having both the oven and the stove heated up made the kitchen warmer than usual. "What flavor of jam did you say you brought?"
"I didn't. I was about to tell you that we're out of jam, actually, but you brought that bread out of the oven and I got distracted." He added a bit of honey to his tea before taking a sip. "One of us will have to pick some up when we visit the market."
Using the spatula to lift the eggs out of the pan, she plated the eggs before turning around and placing the plate in front of her father. "I can do it. I'll have to go there later, anyway." Facing the stove once more, she cracked the rest of the eggs into the pan before scrambling them together with a bit of salt and pepper. "Do you have any preference on flavors?"
"Hmm…Not at the moment, no. Though, don't forget to take the empty jam jars with you. You forgot to do that last time and I didn't hear the end of it from Mrs. Brownlock."
Her cheeks flushed again. "It was an honest mistake—and it's not like I wouldn't have remembered without her chiding." She shook her head, stirring the eggs around. "But yes, da', I'll remember."
"That's my girl," he chuckled. As badly as he wanted to start eating, he wanted to wait for her to finish cooking first. "Oh, speaking of the market…when's your next shift at the Green Dragon?"
"Tomorrow, actually. I'll be working from eleven until six."
Bilbo frowned. "That's most of the day."
"Yes, it is, but tomorrow is also the wake for Old Pearl Bracegirdle." She plated the scrambled eggs and, grabbing the plate of bacon, turned to finally join her father at the table. "The Bracegirdles have rented the common room for the day, so we're expecting plenty of them and even more plentiful amounts of Bolgers." She lightly shook her head.
"Is that so? I would have expected them to hold the wake elsewhere." He served himself some bacon and fried potatoes, as well as two crumpets. "But I suppose it's still a bit too early in the season to hold such an event out at the party tree, now isn't it?"
She nodded. "Priscilla says the ground's still a bit too soft in the field to hold any sort of event, unless it's a hog chase you're wanting." She poured herself some tea and sighed. "And I don't think any of us want another one of those on our hands."
He, too, nodded. "Especially if it's one of the Goodbody's hogs. Monstrously huge creatures, those hogs of theirs…but certainly some of the most delicious meat you can get."
"Especially when it's been cherrywood-smoked."
"By a handsome young butcher, no less." He grinned as Baylee's cheeks turned bright red.
"Da'," she pouted.
"Alright, alright, I'll stop teasing you," he chuckled, looking down at his plate. He cut open the yolk of one of his eggs, using a bit of crumpet to soak it up. Glancing at his daughter, his brow rose ever so slightly. "But if he ever asks you if you'd like to court him—"
Having been in the middle of taking a drink of tea, Baylee spluttered slightly in surprise. Luckily, she was still wearing her apron, so none of it got on her dress. "Da'!"
"—Then you have my blessing to do such," he finished. "But that's only if he speaks up. The two of you get so shy around one another, it's a surprise you've even spoken at all."
Her cheeks burning, she started to spread some butter on a crumpet. "We've spoken quite often," she mumbled. Once the crumpet was buttered, she scooped some egg onto it and took a bite of it.
"I'll believe it when I see it." He gave her a teasing smile. "Now, for your sake, I'll stop teasing you. Though I was serious—about you having my blessing, I mean." He added some extra pepper to his eggs and potatoes before taking a bite and chewing it. "Do you think you'll be going by the tobacco shop on your way through town?"
"More than likely," she sighed, scooping more eggs onto her crumpet. "I'm nearly out. Would you like me to pick you up some?"
"Yes, please. Anything works—though, no Old Toby."
Her head tilted slightly. "Why's that? Old Toby's your favorite."
"Well, spring is beginning to blossom and I think a lighter pipe weed would be best. Maybe some Longbottom Leaf."
At that, Baylee's nose scrunched up. "Blegh, Longbottom Leaf," she muttered.
His brow rose. "You don't like Longbottom Leaf?"
She shook her head. "Not at all. It's far too strong…and I don't like how it leaves my head feeling fuzzy after a few puffs. I prefer the fruitier ones, like Southern Star."
Bilbo rested his elbow on the table for a moment as he stared at her, his mouth slightly open. "You know, you are the first person who's ever told me they disliked Longbottom Leaf."
"Am I really?" she asked, a mixture of confusion and amusement in her voice.
"Yes!" Removing his elbow from the table once more, he shook his head. "My own daughter, disliking one of the best pipe weeds in the Shire…What is this world coming to?"
She snorted and rolled her eyes. "Da', it's not the end of the world if I don't like one strain out of dozens. Like I said, I prefer the fruitier ones."
"My own flesh and blood, saying it makes her head fuzzy after a few measly puffs!" he continued, his tone getting more theatrical. Shaking his head, he let out a 'disappointed' sigh. "What am I to do with you?" He glanced up in time to be hit in the face by a dishcloth.
"There you go, Miss Baggins—one pouch of Longbottom Leaf and one of Southern Star." An older hobbit held out the two tobacco pouches for her, a smile on his wrinkled face. "How is your father doing, by the way? Is he still fretting about his garden thanks to that late frost we had a few weeks ago?"
Taking the pouches, she tucked them away in her basket. "Oh, not anymore, thankfully. Before winter, he and Hamfast Gamgee made sure to prep the garden real well for the cold season. I guess he forgot, though, and that's why he worked himself up into a bit of a tizzy." She chuckled, tucking some hair behind her ear. "But, other than that, he's been quite well."
"Good, good…I only ask because I haven't seen him much lately." He let out a quiet, hoarse laugh and lightly shook his head. "I suppose since you've come of age, he's put all the shopping responsibilities on your shoulders now?"
"Oh, he wishes," she laughed. "I've only done the shopping the last few times because I had morning shifts at the Green Dragon."
The old hobbit nodded in understanding. "Well, don't let me keep you from your errands, lass," he said. "Tell your father I said hullo."
"Will do. Have a good day, Mister Proudfoot." She gave him a smile before turning to leave. 'That's a first,' she thought as she passed through the door. 'Normally, he talks my ear off for half an hour or more! Not that I'm complaining, of course. Though, his throat did sound a bit hoarse…maybe he's recovering from something?'
Making her way through town, she took in a deep breath; the air was heavy with smells from the bakery down the way as well as whatever foods were being cooked in the Green Dragon. Her stomach growled slightly, but she silently scolded it.
'I only just had second breakfast. I can last until elevensies or lunch!' Lightly shaking her head, she sighed. 'Anyway, I still need to get some jam from Mrs. Brownlock and then deliver this bread to Halfast…' Her cheeks grew ever so slightly warm at the thought of the handsome young hobbit.
Four doors down from the tobacco shop was the small general store run by the Brownlock family. She paused outside the door for a moment, pretending to look around in her basket for something. In truth, however, she was bracing herself for one of two things: Either she was about to receive a stern scolding for forgetting to return the jam jars the last time she visited or she was about to get a stern reminding about how, now that she was thirty-three, she needed to start putting some serious thought into potential suitors so that she could give Bilbo a legitimate heir to Bag End.
'Or, with luck, it'll be Mister Brownlock running the store today. Yes. Let's hope for that, shall we?'
Unconsciously, she held her breath as she finally pushed open the door, a bell ringing as she did so. She stepped into the shop and glanced around; it seemed that luck was on her side: Mister Brownlock was behind the counter, his pipe betwixt his teeth and a book in hand. He looked up as she walked in, using a bit of paper to mark his page.
"Ah, good morning, Miss Baggins!" he said, removing the pipe from his mouth. "How've you been, lass?"
"Good morning to you, too! I've been quite well, thank you," she replied. She hoped her relief at finding him instead of his wife wasn't too evident. "And yourself?"
"Can't complain, can't complain." His chair creaked loudly under his great girth as he stood up before he waddled over to the counter. "Merriweather's off visiting relatives down in the South Farthing, so I'm running the shop for the week. Been nice and slow." As Baylee set her basket on the counter, he couldn't help but catch a whiff of the bread inside. "Is that a loaf of your cranberry-orange bread you've got there?"
Her brow rose and she chuckled. "It is," she replied, beginning to pull out the empty jam jars, "though I'm afraid it's not for sharing today. It's a thank-you gift."
"Shame—well, shame for me, at least. A blessing for whoever's on the receiving end of this gift!" He lightly shook his head and chuckled. "By the looks of it, it's jam you'll be wanting today?"
"Yes, please. No preference on flavors."
Taking the four empty jars, he carried them over to the back counter, where he set them alongside a dozen or so other empty jars. "No preference for flavors, eh? Means I can pawn the gross ones off on you. Like this pickle jam and this jar of beet jam!" he joked.
She laughed, playfully rolling her eyes; she knew well enough that no such jams existed. "If there was such a thing as beet jam, I'm sure da' would be more than willing to try it out." Looking around at the shelves, she saw many different products aside from canned goods. There were boxes of teas, small casks of wine, various sizes of baskets…The store had plenty of things that were useful for everyday chores or for eating. But what caught her attention was the rack of ribbons near the wall.
"Your father does have a peculiar fondness for trying new foods, that's for certain." With four various flavors of jam in hand, he returned to the counter only to find Baylee missing. Looking around the store, he finally saw her over at the ribbons. "Ah, I see you found the ribbons! We got those in just yesterday. The rest of the lasses in town haven't discovered them yet."
"I don't know why—they're so bright and colorful!" She smiled as she looked over a bright yellow one that had tiny sunflowers embroidered into it. Then, picking up a second one—this one sky blue in color—she could see that little daisies were embroidered on it. This second one she returned; it wasn't quite her style. Instead, she plucked up a second sunflower ribbon and returned to the counter. "I'll take these two in addition to the jams, please."
Mister Brownlock nodded, a small chuckle leaving his mouth. "I had a feelin' you'd go for the sunflower ones, lass," he gently teased. "Being your favorite flower, though, you can't be blamed. That'll be seven copper for everything, lass."
"I'm sure once Prim sees these, she and her sisters will be in here to buy up the rest," she chuckled. Pulling out her coin purse, she fished the seven coins out, handing them to the older hobbit before starting to place the jars back into the basket. The ribbons she carefully tucked in the side of the basket, not wanting them to get stuck next to the tobacco pouches.
Especially the pouch of Longbottom Leaf.
"Oh, I'm sure those Lightfoot girls will—they really adore their ribbons," he chuckled. "The flavors I gave you are strawberry, blackberry, mixed berry, and rhubarb, by the way," he added. "I hope those'll be fine."
"They sound delicious, thank you," she grinned, lifting her basket. "I hope you have a good rest of your day, Mister Brownlock!"
He gave her a small nod, turning back towards his chair. "You have a pleasant day, too, lass. Say hello to your father for me, will you?"
"I'll do my best to remember." The bell rang again as she opened the door and stepped outside. 'Well, that was a pleasant surprise,' she thought, closing the door behind her.
'Now I just need to go to the butcher's to drop off this bread…' She felt her stomach do a small flip-flop in nervousness. 'Oh, stop that…you've been to the butcher's plenty of times in your life, Baylee Baggins. There's no reason you should be getting so nervous this time around.'
But, as she walked through the market to get to the butcher's, she was met by another surprise: Halfast himself, bargaining with one of many vegetable vendors over the price of some artichokes. She paused in her steps, her eyes widening in surprise. He was rather tall for a hobbit, being nearly four-foot-five, and his golden hair seemed to shine under the spring sunlight.
'He mustn't be working today, then,' she thought, swallowing hard. Her hands unconsciously wrung the handle of her basket. It took a great deal of willpower for her to start walking towards him, but she was stopped after just a few paces as he looked over and saw her. She watched as a smile came to his lips and a bit of color came to his cheeks. 'Well, I certainly wasn't prepared for this.' Swallowing hard a second time, she once more forced herself to walk towards him.
"Hu-hullo, Miss Baylee," he said, his cheeks a bit more pink now. "How're you today?"
"I'm f-fine," she managed to say without much stuttering. "And-and yourself? I'm surprised you're not at your shop."
"T-today's my day off," he chuckled, rubbing the back of his neck. "Dad's running it today, so I'm left to do the shopping."
She nodded in understanding. "I was just doing a bit of shopping myself," she told him, "though, um…I-I am glad to have run into you. I have something for you."
His eyes widened and his cheeks grew a bit darker. "Y-you do?" he squeaked. Realizing how silly he had sounded, he quickly cleared his throat and repeated, in a more normal voice, "I mean, you do?"
"Yes, I do," she replied, unable to keep herself from giggling. Reaching into the basket, she pulled out the loaf of bread, which she had wrapped in a bit of checked cloth to protect it. "Here. Th-this is to thank you for saving that ham for me and da'." Her cheeks grew warm as he took the bread from her. "We really appreciated it—we know cherrywood can be a bit hard to get this time of the year…"
"Is this what I think it is?" he asked, his brows rising somewhat. He lifted it up and sniffed it; his eyes widened and his grin grew bigger as the smell confirmed his suspicions. "W-well, if I had known saving you and your da' a ham would get me some cranberry-orange bread, I'd've started saving them for you a lot sooner!" Rubbing the back of his neck, his grin turned a bit bashful once more. "Thanks a lot, Miss Baylee! I'm sure this is going to go real good with the dinner I'm making."
Her cheeks grew even warmer and she shyly looked down at her basket. "I just hope it tastes as good as you're expecting," she chuckled. Her hands fidgeted with the handle of the basket slightly.
"Oh, I'm sure it will! Your breads always taste good, Miss Baylee." He rubbed the back of his neck again and glanced around. His cheeks burned as he saw a couple of older hobbits watching the two of them, knowing smiles on their faces. Clearing his throat, he looked back at Baylee. "W-well, I suppose I should let you get back to your errands…"
She nodded slowly, lifting her head to look up at him once more. "Alright…Well, I hope the rest of your day passes pleasantly."
"I hope yours does, too, Miss Baylee. And thank-you again for the bread!" He wore a large grin as he turned to head off further into the market.
Baylee let out a long, slow breath as she turned to go in the opposite direction. Her insides were all jittery, as if there were dozens of butterflies fluttering around inside of her. Pushing a stray lock of hair from her face, she started to make her way home.
Upon getting home, she found her father sitting in the kitchen, his cheek resting in his palm as he ate a seed cake. His eyes were also slightly wide as he stared at the hearth, seemingly oblivious to her presence. She frowned; he looked positively worried.
Bilbo let out a startled cry and spun around, his eyes even wider now that he was cognizant. "Baylee! You know better than to sneak up on someone like that!" he scolded. He wagged his finger at her before grabbing a mug of ale.
Her frown grew. "I thought you would have heard me close the front door," she said. She hadn't been very subtle about it, after all. "Is everything alright? You look like you just dealt with the Sackville-Baggins for an hour and a half." Setting her basket down on the table, she moved to sit across from him.
"No, no—I'm not sure if it was better or worse than them," he sighed. Plucking up the seed cake, he took another bite.
"There's something worse than them?" she half-joked. She started to empty the basket of its contents.
"There are, but like I said, I'm not sure if this was or wasn't." He let out a second, heavier sigh. "While you were gone, I was out, having a smoke as I usually do after second breakfast. Well, while I was smoking, a wizard came up and started talking to me!"
She paused, looking at her father with a raised brow. "A wizard?" she repeated. Her eyes then widened slightly. "Do you mean that Gandalf you've told me about? The one who had the most amazing fireworks?"
"Yes, him—only, he wanted nothing to do with fireworks!" He shook his head. "Oh no, he was rambling on and on about—about adventures and how he had been 'good morninged' by Belladonna Took's son…"
Baylee's head tilted a bit. "Adventures? Did he say what kind of adventures?"
Bilbo's expression fell somewhat and he looked at his daughter. There was a mischievous twinkle in her eye—the Took Twinkle, it was sometimes called, due to the Took clan's penchant for getting into trouble. "No, he didn't," he told her, his voice a bit stern, "and even if he did, no daughter of mine is going to go off galivanting with wizards!" He sighed, leaning back in his seat slightly. "You are a Baggins and we Bagginses are good, respectable hobbits."
She chuckled, her brow rising as she pulled the jams out and set them off to the side. "I'm only a quarter Baggins, da'," she reminded him. She knew that Gandalf must have really startled him if he was being this adamant about their respectability.
"Yes, well, you are my daughter who was raised among Bagginses and you are named Baylee Baggins—not Baylee Took." He gave her a very fatherly look. "Anyway, wizards are pesky folk. They get themselves into all sorts of trouble. And they bring all sorts of trouble, too! No, no, it's best you forget I even mentioned Gandalf and his arranging of adventures." Shaking his head, he grabbed his ale and took a drink from it. "Enough of that…How was your trip to town?"
"Uneventful." She pulled out his tobacco pouch and placed it in front of him. "Old Bolger and Mister Brownlock say hello. Mrs. Brownlock is off visiting relatives, so I didn't get a scolding about the empty jars last time."
He nodded slowly in understanding. Taking the pouch, he tucked it into the inside pocket of his vest while watching her pull the two ribbons from the basket. "I see you got yourself some ribbon for your hair."
"Yes; apparently, the Brownlock's just got these in. I was the first one to spot them, so I got the cream of the crop." She grinned cheekily, handing one over to her father so he could look at it.
"Ah, sunflowers. How very appropriate for my little ray of sunshine," he said with a small chuckle. "These are very pretty and will be even prettier once they're in your hair. Pretty enough that Halfast will get over his shyness and ask to court you!" A teasing smile came to his lips as he handed the ribbon back.
Taking the ribbon, she pouted at him.