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Pippin is 10 in hobbit years, around 6 1/2 in man years.
“Shhhhh! He’s asleep, finally. Don’t you dare wake him up,” Merry warned as he plopped down onto the couch with a sigh of relief.
Frodo joined him. “And do you honestly think I would do such a thing after the day we’ve had? Coming up with ways to entertain him and keep him out of mischief has taken all of my energy.” Frodo drew his legs up and tucked them underneath him.
“I suppose not,” Merry admitted grumpily, reaching for his book. “But the door to his room creaks. You know it doesn’t take much to wake him.”
“I was very quiet. I peeked in to make certain he was still in bed. He had his little piglet scrunched up against his ear. Perhaps she sang him to sleep,” he chuckled.
Merry rolled his eyes. “When will Bilbo be home?”
Frodo shrugged. “Soon, I think. Perhaps he and Paladin stopped off for a pint on their way back. I’m glad that Pad brought Pippin with him on his trip to Hobbiton. He may be a handful, but you must admit, he’s a very charming one.”
Merry snorted knowingly. “I’ll bet Aunt Eglantine is happy Uncle Pad brought Pip along, too.” Frodo eyed him reproachfully. “You know I’m only jesting. There’s never a dull moment when he’s around. Besides, I’ve missed his friend too.”
Frodo joined him in a chuckle. “Quite a little character!”
Merry grinned. “Who, Pippin or Tulip?”
“I remember the day Mum taught him how to knit. He was staying at the Hall while all his sisters were ill with a fever. Mum had tried all day to keep him under her watchful eye, but Pip got away from her and she caught him trying to sneak away into the mathom room.”
“Oh, he could get lost in there very quickly.”
Merry nodded. “She was at her wits end. That’s when she decided he was either going to sit with her and knit or be put to bed for a nap.”
“And of course, he chose the knitting.” Frodo grinned.
“Actually, he had more fun at it than anyone thought he would.” Merry snickered, “And I recall Aunt Tina saying how happy she was that Mum had taught him a quiet activity.”
“I can only imagine how pleased she must have been.”
“And the next time I visited the farm he had his knitted friend and it seems she’s not been far from him since.”
“Yes, he does take her everywhere,” Frodo mused, rubbing his chin thoughtfully, “and insists that she talks to him, and looks out for him. He said that his mother knows it’s true because she knitted Tulip especially for him.”
“Well…there was that odd little adventure he had last summer. Remember when he got himself lost in the woods and it took us days to find him?”
“How could I ever forget? Poor Pad and Eglantine were frantic with worry during the search. We all were. And of course, we could do nothing but keep looking while imagining the worst had happened, although nobody talked about it. I hate to recall the kinds of thoughts that were going through all of our minds.” Frodo frowned at the memory.
“Uh huh, and then here comes Pippin at last, and telling all kinds of stories about faeries, and saying that Tulip looked after him the entire time. And just as happy as you please, as if nothing had happened and he hadn’t worried us all half to death! Perhaps we should enlist his piglet’s help next time we have to watch him for a whole day?”
Frodo laughed at Merry’s suggestion. “A knitted piglet as a nursemaid, hmmm. Well, obviously something looked out for him. Or someone. Just think of a lad his age lost in the woods alone for days. He looked remarkably well for his experience.”
A slight creak caught their attention at the same moment and they turned as one. A giggle drifted from behind the couch. Merry got up on his knees and looked over the back. “Pippin!” Green eyes and an impish grin met his, and Merry couldn’t stop himself from chuckling.
Pippin scrambled from his hiding place and climbed in between his cousins. Tulip was nestled inside of his nightshirt collar. “You were talking about us,” he crowed, bouncing up and down until Frodo reached over and plunked him down on his bottom.
“Yes, and just what are you doing out of bed?” Frodo favored him with a mock frown and Pippin giggled again, throwing a hand over his mouth.
“I’m not sleepy anymore.” He pulled Tulip from underneath his thick hair and placed her on his lap. “We want to hear a story,” he declared firmly.
“Pippin, if your father and Bilbo return and find you still up we’re going to get into trouble. Do you want that to happen?” Merry admonished him.
Pippin stuck his tongue out at him. “We want to hear a story before bed. You promised us earlier but you didn’t tell one.”
“That’s because you fell asleep, you rascal,” Frodo placed an arm around his little cousin’s shoulders.
“Well, Tulip woke me up and reminded me that we didn’t get our story.” Pippin looked up at Frodo with pleading eyes and snuggled in closer.
“Pippin, you are so obvious it just isn’t funny,” Merry scolded.
“It’s all right, Merry. He is right, after all. I did promise.”
“See? He’s charmed you to get his way again. The little scamp always gets his way,” Merry grinned as he said it.
Pippin stuck his tongue out again and then waggled the piglet in Merry’s face. “Tulip says you’re being very unreasonable and that you should always listen to Frodo.”
“Oh, she does, does she?” Merry took Tulip from him and placed her at his ear. “What’s that you say, Tulip? Oh, really? I’m not surprised. Not at all.”
“What did she say to you?” Pippin watched him wide-eyed.
“She said,” Merry plunked the toy down onto Pippin’s head, “that she told you that you were not supposed to get up, because she knows your elder cousins have had a very trying day.”
Pippin snatched Tulip off his head and looked at her. “She did not. Did you Tulip?” Embroidered green eyes and a pink button nose regarded him innocently. He frowned. “Did you?” Pippin placed Tulip on his shoulder with her snout up to his ear. His eyes widened. “But, I thought you were on my side! You were the one who reminded me of Frodo’s promise and it was you who woke me up to tell me!” Pippin narrowed his eyes and looked from Merry to Frodo. “Honest, she did! I’d still be sleeping if she hadn’t.” He looked back at Tulip and continued chattering away at the knitted piggy.
Frodo and Merry exchanged knowing looks of amusement across the top of his curly head. “I can’t wait until he’s old enough for me to tease him about this. Oh, I can think of the perfect time to bring up the knitted piggy story - in front of the first lass he courts,” Merry chortled. Frodo smacked him lightly on the back of the head.
“Ow! What’d you do that for?” Merry rubbed his head indignantly.
“You won’t do that, Merry, cause I’m never going to court lasses, ewww!”
“Well then, what exactly are you going to court, knitted piglets?”
Pippin rolled his eyes at Merry as if his cousin had just made the most ridiculous statement ever. He shook his head firmly. “No, I’m just going to have friends like my dog and kitty, Dizzy and Lily. And I’ll have a pony named Stars, and Pansy the goose, oh and Orangeblossom – she’s my favourite cow, you know,” he confided, before continuing his chatter without taking a breath, “And then there’s Cheeter, the red squirrel who lives in the great oak tree out back of our barn, and talks to me whenever I climb his tree--”
“That you’re not supposed to,” Merry added.
Pippin nodded and started ticking off his animal friends one by one on his fingers, “Of course, I’ll still have Tulip, and maybe a big raven like Great Auntie Pringle’s, and a little calf, because Orangeblossom started to freshen just a few days ago, so it won’t be long now until she has her baby, and…”
Frodo stifled a laugh and waited for his little cousin to wind down. He winked at Merry. “But,” Frodo said, when Pippin finally paused to take a breath, “what about Sam’s little sister, Marigold? I thought you liked her, and very much! Why, I even overheard you telling Bilbo you were going to marry her some day.”
“Oh, that was last year, when I was only nine. I’ve grown up a great deal since then, Frodo,” Pippin informed him without missing a beat.
Frodo was certain for a moment even Tulip raised her brow at that. “Ah. I see. So, now that you’re a very grown up lad of ten, you have other ideas? You’re not going to get married, you’re simply going to live on the farm forever and play with the animals.”
Pippin frowned at Merry’s derisive snort. “That’s right. Of course, I’ll have lots of folks come to visit me, and Mum and Da will always be there, and maybe Pimpernel and Vinca. Pearl will probably get married though, she’s already being courted, you know,” his voice dropped to a loud whisper as he shared that bit of information with them, “But I’ve heard Da say that he won’t part with all his lasses, so some of them better be planning on staying home forever--” Pippin stopped abruptly and tilted his head in thought. “Probably Vinca will, because she’s too bad-tempered for any lad to want to court her anyway…”
Merry stuffed a fist in his mouth to keep from laughing and Frodo wiped at his eyes, suppressing his amusement as much as he could so as not to offend his young cousin while Pippin chattered on, happily unaware of the exchange.
“Oh! And there’s the wee owl that came to live in the barn last week, only Da hasn't noticed him yet.” He lowered his voice again and said in a conspiratorial whisper, “Da doesn’t like owls, you know. Ever since what happened last summer.”
Frodo wrinkled his brow in confusion. “What are you talking about, Pip?”
“Well, after I got back from being lost in the woods that time Da has been very, umm…” Pippin wrinkled his own brow trying to think of the appropriate word. “He’s, umm…over…over, ah…what did Mum call it again, Merry?”
“How should I know, Pip? I don’t know what you’re even talking about right now! I lost track of the conversation some time ago.”
“I believe the word you’re searching for is likely ‘overprotective’,” Frodo said mildly. “And I don’t blame him after what happened.”
Pippin scratched his head. “Yes, that sounds right. But, Da said he’s had very bad dreams about owls since then, so that’s why I think he doesn’t like them.” Pippin thought hard for another moment. “That’s odd, though. I don’t remember him ever being afraid of them before.”
Frodo knew that Paladin’s bad dreams were more likely caused by a fear that Pippin might have been scooped up by a large owl while he was missing in the forest. He shivered as he recalled his older cousin talking about the incident afterwards. His arm tightened around Pippin at the horrifying thought.
“Frodo? What’s the matter?” Pippin studied him curiously.
Frodo smiled and shook his head. “It’s nothing, my dearest. Nothing at all for you to worry about.” He smoothed the unruly hair back from Pippin’s forehead.
“So, I won’t tell him about the owl and maybe he just won’t notice, what do you think, Frodo?”
“I’ll tell you what I think, Pip.” Pippin swung around to look at Merry. “I think that if Uncle Pad finds out there’s an owl roosting in the barn that owl probably won’t be around for long.”
“Merrryyy! I like the wee owl! Please don’t tell Da he’s there,” Pippin wailed.
Frodo promptly smacked the back of Merry’s head again, only a little harder this time.
“Oww! Frodo, will you please stop doing that?” Merry scowled as he rubbed his head.
“Then kindly don’t upset your little cousin, please.”
Merry rolled his eyes. “I’m sorry. I promise I won’t tell Uncle Pad there’s an owl in his barn! All right?” Merry muttered under his breath about the unlikelihood of the owl going unnoticed in the first place.
Pippin sniffed and nodded, wiping his eyes with the sleeve of his nightshirt. He turned his head and listened, then scooped Tulip up and held her close. “It’s all right, Tulip. I won’t let anything hurt you. She’s frightened of the owl too,” he explained.
“Ah,” Frodo nodded in understanding.
“Then maybe you should tell Uncle Pad--” Merry laughed and ducked before Frodo could pop him on the head once more.
Pippin spared a moment to frown at Merry before returning to his chattering. Tulip watched them peacefully and Frodo couldn’t resist giving her a pat on the head. Frodo’s eyes grew heavier while he listened. After a time, he noticed that Merry’s head tipped towards Pippin’s, and the younger lad now rested his head on Merry’s shoulder. Tulip was snuggled in between them. Frodo smiled and he, too, closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep to the tune of gentle snores.
A short time later, Bilbo opened the door to Bag End and noted three slumbering lads and one knitted piglet tangled together on the couch. He turned to Paladin and grinned. “Now, is that not a sight for sore eyes?”
Paladin’s expression was gentle. “It is indeed.” He bent and scooped his son into his arms, then planted a light kiss on top of his head. Pippin stirred just a little. He still clutched Tulip in one hand. Paladin turned towards the bedrooms. “I’m going to put him to bed.”
As Paladin closed the door very softly Pippin opened one eye and met Tulip’s. He listened, and then nodded his agreement. “You’re right. We never did get our story!”
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