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Road Trip

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“We should go on a road trip,” he said.

“It’ll be fun,” he said.

He lied.

Now they were stuck in traffic, with four ten-year-old boys and a yapping chihuahua, and the next exit was miles away and on the other side of the road.

“Please, Merry, lower your voice,” Bilbo said, turning in the passenger seat to face the back. “Thorin needs to focus.”

Thorin’s hands tightened around the steering wheel, holding back profanity as yet another car cut in front of him. “And shut that dog up. Why did we bring him again?”

Frodo hugged Sméagol to his chest. “I don’t want him to miss out on the fun!” His book fell to the floorboards, and Sam dove down to grab it before Frodo could move.

“Here you go!” Sam said cheerfully as he handed the book over. Sméagol climbed into his lap, shutting up to lick at his face. “Ahh, your breath stinks!”

Thorin was seriously considering hitting his head on the wheel multiple times. “Just be quiet!”

Pippin hauled himself over the top of the seat. “Can we turn the radio on?” he pleaded, eyes wide.

Bilbo shook his head. “No, we need to be quiet. Put your seatbelt on!” He faced the front again, crossing his arms. “Frodo, dear, I’m so sorry your birthday trip isn’t turning out the way you wanted,” he said, voice low.

“It’s okay, Uncle Bilbo! I like it just fine!” Frodo said, sitting up straighter. “Besides, we can have loads of fun in the car!”

Merry leaned forward. “Do you have your DS on you?” he asked, reaching for Frodo’s bag. “Battle Royale!”

The other boys cheered at Merry’s statement, consoles appearing out of nowhere. Their voices overlapped as they figured out the rules, and soon they fell into laughter and boisterous claims.

“At least they’re not bothering me,” Thorin groaned, inching forward. He screwed his eyes shut as Sméagol began barking again, likely at Frodo’s sudden movement. His whoop of victory sent Sméagol into a rage, his barks growing louder.

“Someone shut him up!” Bilbo shouted over the din, digging in a bag for Sméagol’s treats. “Even I’m getting annoyed!” He shoved the Ziploc bag into Sam’s hands. “Please stop him!”

Sam quickly pulled out a few treats, and Sméagol immediately focused on wolfing them down. His loud crunching wasn’t any better than the barking, but at least it was easier to endure.

The traffic finally picked up. Thorin sighed in relief as he sped up, passing what looked like the site of a bad accident. “That’s what happened?” he said, trying to focus on the road. “I thought it was just rush hour.”

Frodo whimpered from the back seat. “I hope they’re okay,” he said. He looked at the skid marks on the road, shivering at the sight.

“I’m sure they are,” Bilbo reassured him. “Don’t worry.” He, too, shivered, remembering the bad accident only a few years prior that took Frodo’s parents and forced him to stay in the Durin household. He pushed it out of his mind as Thorin turned onto their exit.

“Almost there,” Thorin said in a semi-cheerful voice. “We’re starting up the mountain now. You boys ready?”

A chorus of “Yeah!” erupted from the back seat, all four boys lighting up in glee. They all began planning their next little game quietly as Thorin drove onto the forest road that took them to the park at the peak.

Frodo’s eleventh birthday was going to be the most fun he’d ever had.