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Wee Ones  by cathleen

Thank you to Pearl Took for allowing me to borrow one of the Old Took's limericks, which appears only in part in this story.

A/N: This chapter will be continued in Dreamflower's "Shire Kitchen Recipe Challenge" next week!

“A Merry Surprise”

 

Pippin allowed the door to slam shut behind him, shoving Tulip carelessly into his shirt and scattering chickens as he ran across the farmyard. The knitted piglet sputtered indignantly and Pippin paused to make amends for his incredibly poor manners. “Sorry,” he said as he scooped her back out and placed Tulip in her favoured perch on his shoulder. “I didn’t mean to give you such a bumpy ride, m’lass. But you didn’t have to pinch me!” Tulip retorted that it had got his attention fast enough, hadn’t it? The youngster rolled his eyes in defeat. There was simply no winning whenever Tulip got it into her head that she was right and he wasn’t.

Pippin chuckled and Tulip insisted on knowing what he was laughing about? Pippin reached up to pat her snout. “You! How come you always have to be right?” Tulip sniffed and told him she couldn’t help it that she happened to be right more often than she was wrong. Pippin rolled his eyes again and didn’t argue. “Whatever you say. Anyway, I want to hurry and find out where Merry’s taking us. Isn’t it lovely to have a nice surprise to look forward to?”

Tulip had to admit he was right about that and she was enjoying his cousin’s visit as much as he. She tapped his shoulder with her soft hoof and he stopped again. Tulip whispered something in his ear and Pippin’s eyes widened. “What? I told you to go before we left!” Tulip drew her dignity about her like a cloak against foul weather, puffing her knitted self up into an indignant ball of pink felted wool. Her lower lip quivered, completing the imposing pout. Pippin knew better than to argue whenever she did that. He sighed and turned back the way they had come.

Tulip spoke into his ear again and Pippin stopped in his tracks. “No, I don’t have to go…what? Tulip, you’re going just a wee bit too far now, m’lass! What? Oh yes, there is such a thing as you going too far! I mean, really, just because you decided that you suddenly have to use the privy doesn’t mean I need to! I know I didn’t go before we left, but I didn’t have to…well, yes, I admit it’s a good idea but…” He plucked his little friend off his shoulder and held her at arm’s length. “You think I’m getting too big for my britches? What in thunder is that supposed to mean? You sound like Mum! I thought you were supposed to be on my side?”

Tulip’s expression softened at her lad’s incredulous air. She chuckled indulgently and patted him on the nose, reminding him she was always on his side. Pippin placed her back on his shoulder and she nudged his ear, making him giggle, as he started trotting back. Tulip leaned down and whispered something again.

“What? You’ll let my impertinence go this time? I don’t even know what that means!” Tulip calmly informed him it meant he was being cheeky again, and then reminded him she still needed to go, and the matter was most urgent now so would he kindly hurry it up? Pippin wasn’t often speechless but at the moment he found himself in just that position. Shaking his head in disbelief he plodded back through the kitchen.

Eglantine spied her son as he came back in. “Why, I thought you and Merry had already left to go see your surprise?”

“Ahem…Tulip needs to use the privy before we leave.” He stood up on tiptoe gesturing to his mother to lean over. She did, and he whispered, “I told her to go before we left but she wouldn’t listen.”

Eglantine studied her small son’s sincere face before flicking her eyes over the knitted piggy. Clearing her throat, she nodded in the direction of the bathroom. “Perhaps you’d best be doing the same then, eh?”

Pippin sighed dramatically, shuffling out of the room with a careless wave of his arm. “I suppose that wouldn’t be a bad idea after all. I may as well, seeing as how I had to come back for Tulip’s sake anyway.”

Eglantine barely held her amusement in check until Pippin was out of earshot. She then shared a look with her eldest daughter and they both burst out laughing. “Oh, mercy, Pearl! What have I created by making that piglet for him?”

“Pip’s always had quite the imagination, but I believe it has reached a high point ever since Tulip came into our lives,” Pearl said as she wiped the tears from her eyes. “Oh, my, he’s simply too comical, isn’t he Mum? But, I’m afraid I’m guilty of feeding into his pretense too. Just yesterday I made a wee apron for her.” Eglantine raised her eyebrow in question. “Pippin asked me to. He says Tulip is most anxious to show off her skills in the kitchen and cook dinner for us one evening!” Both of them broke down in helpless peels of laughter again.

“Well, perhaps she can bring it along on our trip to Hobbiton and enter the pie contest at the Faire,” Eglantine said. “I’m sure t’would be the very first time a knitted piglet entered the competition!”

******

The urgent call of nature had been answered and the pair was once more on their way out to the farmyard in search of Merry. Tulip spied him first and pointed a tiny hoof in his direction. Pippin got a huge grin on his face and trotted towards him, waving. His cousin was lounging against the fence, sharing a conversation with Tomias Hornblower, one of the young farmhands.

“Pippin, where have you been, I’ve been waiting here forever,” Merry scolded, the grin on his face contradicting the tone of his voice.

“So, where are we going? Can you tell me now?” Pippin bounced up and down on his toes and favoured his older cousin with his most engaging look, the one that usually won people over and got him his way. Merry however, was all too familiar with the expression and would not be swayed. He nudged the younger lad’s shoulder to get him moving.

“You’ll see. You have to wait.”

“Why? Why do I have to wait?”

“You just do, that’s all.”

Never being one to give up easily, he tried a new tactic. “Can’t you tell Tulip then?” Pippin thrust the knitted piglet in Merry’s face. “She won’t tell – promise!”

Merry grinned as they hurried along. “Why should I tell her? No, you both will have to wait.”

Pippin grumbled about the unfairness of older cousins keeping secrets from their younger cousins, but stopped pleading and skipped along happily. Tucking Tulip into his shirt, the little lad bounded ahead, then whirled to walk backwards as he chattered away. A small brown rabbit caught his eye and he bolted after it, pausing only long enough to snatch up his toy when Tulip tumbled out of his shirt with a squeal of dismay.

Merry watched him go, wondering if Pippin would always be so restless. He tried to picture an adult version of his young cousin and decided that it wasn’t likely he would ever calm down – not by much, at least. He smiled to himself. No, a stodgy, slow Pippin just didn’t seem plausible, and a chuckle escaped his lips.

“What are you laughing about, Merry?” Pippin had already raced back to hop at his side.

“Never mind. Whatever are you doing now?”

“I’m a bunny, Merry! And Tulip is just a wee bunny lass who got lost from her mama and now I have to help her find her way home, and then she’ll invite us in for tea and we can – oh, look!” Pippin pointed to their left and took off again.

“Pippin!” Merry cupped his hands to his mouth and shouted. Pippin had already made it to the big, gnarled thorn tree that grew amongst a field of buttercups and wild daisies.

“What’s taking you so long?” Pippin ran back and tugged on Merry’s sleeve. “Hurry up, I want to find out where we’re going!”

Merry rolled his eyes as he picked up his pace. They were nearing the water and he automatically became more vigilant of his charge’s whereabouts. Pippin ran up to the tree and pointed up into the lower branches, his impish face alight with a grin.

“It’s a baby bird,” he crowed. “Look, Merry! His mama is teaching him to fly!”

“I see. It’s a sparrow’s nest--”

“It is! And there are three baby birds inside. See them sticking their wee beaks out? There’s a nest just like this one in the apple tree at home, you know, the one behind the big barn. Look,” Pippin waved his arm at the sky, “they’re flying, they did it!” Pippin was quiet for a moment, looking thoughtful. “Merry? Why can’t I fly too?”

Merry laughed aloud at the question. He recalled asking the same one a long time ago and now he gave Pippin the answer his own father had given to him. “I guess because if we could, then we’d never get anything else done because it looks like flying is so much fun, eh Pip?” The youngster considered Merry’s answer with all the seriousness of a ten year old who wasn’t quite certain if he was being teased. At last, Pippin shrugged and grabbed Merry by the hand.

“Come ON!”

“Pip, do you always have to be in such a hurry?”

“Aye!” The youth panted with the effort of trying to drag his older and larger cousin along.

“How come?”

 “Because I don’t want to miss out on anything!”

Merry sincerely doubted that would ever happen, but decided to indulge Pippin’s wish for speed. “Ah. Well, neither do I. Race you to the crabapple tree!”

Pippin shrieked with delight as Merry tore ahead of him. He wasted no time in hurrying after him as fast as his shorter legs would go. Finally, they collapsed beneath the tree, quite out of breath, with Pippin falling on top of his cousin on purpose, enticing him to wrestle. Merry obliged, letting Pippin think he was winning for several moments, and then pinning him down and tickling him mercilessly.

“Eeek! Merrryyy! Stop, STOP!” Wild giggles filled the air as Pippin kicked and squirmed. “Stop it, I’m gonna pee my pants!”

“Oh!” Merry released him and sat back against the tree. “Don’t want that to happen, do we?”

Pippin didn’t answer. He was too busy lying back in the grass, clutching his sides and laughing.

Merry grinned at the person he spied coming towards them, three fishing poles perched across his shoulder, picnic basket swinging at his side. He waved their visitor forward with a gesture of impatience, then leaned over and whispered in Pippin’s ear. “I have a surprise for you, Pip!”

“What?” Pippin’s eyes were closed. “You’ve been teasing me all morning, so now I’m just going to lie here and have a nice dream.”

“Well, all right, if you’re really that tired.” Merry gave a snort of disapproval. “Lazy bones.”

The youngster bolted upright at the sound of another voice.

“Peregrin Took! Sit up and say hello, lad!” Frodo dumped his burden on the ground and plopped down between the two.

“FRODO!” Pippin shouted and threw himself bodily around his cousin’s neck, holding on for dear life.

“Erk, Pippin, easy. I need to breath, you know!” Frodo laughed and peeled the youngster off him, holding Pippin out at arm’s length and inspecting him up and down. “I haven’t seen you in months and I do believe you’ve grown. Let me look at you.”

“When did you get here? How come I didn’t know you were coming?” Pippin practically tripped over his questions as they poured out of his mouth in a steady stream. “Why didn’t anyone tell me? Oh! We are on our way somewhere but Merry won’t tell me where, but please come with us, Frodo, so we can - but were you going fishing? I know! We can all go fish--”

“Come up for air, lad.” Frodo patted his shoulder.

“This is where we were headed. Frodo is your surprise, Pip.” Merry laughed at Pippin’s astonishment.

“Oh! You are my very own surprise then, Frodo?”

Frodo nodded. “I am indeed. Bilbo and I arrived very late last night and I believe he is still sleeping.”

“But why didn’t anyone wake me up?”

“Because your mother would have had our heads,” Frodo told him, one hand resting on Pippin’s slight shoulder. He plucked the stuffed toy from his little cousin’s shirt. “I see Tulip has accompanied you on today’s adventure.”

“What? Oh, sure, she goes everywhere with me.” He held the toy to his ear and then giggled. “Tulip says ‘of course’ she does. And she’s very happy you’ve brought along a picnic for us!” Pippin leaned forward and eagerly lifted the tea towel that covered the basket.

“Yes, your mother both packed it full of goodies for us. Wasn’t that thoughtful of her?” Frodo watched with amusement as Pippin rifled through the contents, plucking out an apple tart and popping it into his mouth with one hand, while plunging the other back inside for more. Frodo swatted his hand away. “Those are for afters.”

“Yes, Pip, keep your grubby little paws out of our food. You haven’t even washed your hands yet,” Merry pretended to be stern, and Pippin stuck his tongue out.

“You sound like Mum.” He thought for a moment before adding, ”and Tulip.”

“Merry’s right.” Frodo caught Pippin’s waving hands up in his own. “Look at how dirty they are. Come, let’s all go have a wash before we eat.”

“You’ll not get any argument from me.” Merry rose and tugged Pippin along. “It’s been two hours since first breakfast.”

After washing their hands at the riverbank, the threesome sat back to enjoy their picnic luncheon. Frodo spread the cloth on the grass and laid out the food, which amounted to a veritable feast. In addition to the apple tarts, there were cherry and strawberry-rhubarb ones. Thick sandwiches of leftover chicken from supper the night before were added to the makeshift tablecloth, along with wedges of cheese, slices of ham, and a container filled with sweet tea, plus some carrot sticks and a few apples to ‘fill up the corners.’ It looked like Eglantine had thought of everything.

The trio enjoyed their food and one another’s company for the next hour, gazing out at the slowly moving river and watching a small family of ducklings swimming after their mother near the riverbank. Tulip rested on the grass, occasionally reminding Pippin to share his sweets with her.

“That was wonderful,” Pippin sighed finally, slumping against Frodo’s side and releasing a loud belch.

“Excuse you!” Frodo chuckled and nudged the youngster in the ribs. “Where are your manners?”

“I think he left them back at the barn,” Merry said, stretching out on the grass to relax. “Let’s have a short nap before we go fishing.”

“Good idea,” Pippin murmured, already nodding off.

Frodo watched them with a fond smile and then settled in to do the same. “I did promise to bring back some fish for dinner, though.”

“We’ll help you,” Merry assured him and soon he was snoring.

******

A few hours later they headed back, each of them carrying a string of catfish. Merry began humming a limerick under his breath and Frodo raised an eyebrow when he recognised it. “There once was a hobbit from Bree, whose mem…what?” Merry looked up innocently at the sharp poke in the ribs.

“I believe our cousin is a little young to hear that one just yet,” Frodo nodded at Pippin.

“What? No I’m not! Merry, tell me the rest! Everyone always says I’m too young!”

“Umm, never mind.” Merry choked back his laughter at Pippin’s indignation. “Frodo’s right. You are too young.”

Pippin sighed in disgust and bent to retrieve a stone to fling. “Tulip says you did that on purpose, Merry.”

“Who, me?” Merry was grinning ear to ear.

“I think he did too, Pip,” Frodo leaned down and spoke in a loud whisper.

“Hmph. That was nothing. How about this one? There once was a…oww!” Merry batted at Frodo after his older cousin’s light cuff to the back of his head.

Pippin giggled. “I guess you’re too young too!”

“I am not.”

“Yes you are,” Frodo nodded. “Particularly when you keep doing it after being told to stop.”

Merry rolled his eyes. “Hurry up. We need to get these fish home.”

He sprinted off ahead of them, waving at them to follow.

“I think Merry’s upset with you for hushing him up,” Pippin said.

“He’ll get over it,” Frodo said with a shrug of his shoulder.

“Cousin Bilbo!” Pippin brightened when he spied the old hobbit standing outside the pony stable drawing on his pipe, and sprinted towards him.

“Ah, m’lad, how are you? My, how you’ve grown since our last visit.” Bilbo gathered the youth in his arms and squeezed as Pippin immediately started to babble about their morning. “Yes, yes indeed, it sounds like you all had a marvelous time.” Bilbo pointed over Pippin’s shoulder. “Now, you’d best get those fish inside, eh?” Pippin nodded vigourously.

“Come on Pip, we’ll do it together,” Frodo smiled down at the curly, disheveled head of curls. “Because we have another surprise to tell you about, don’t we Merry?”

“Another surprise? What? What is it?” Pippin jumped up and down causing his string of fish to swing back and forth. Frodo nodded at Merry to tell him.

“You’re coming with us tomorrow to spend a week at Bag End!”

“What? I am?”

“Everyone is coming, Pip,” Frodo said. “To attend the Faire. Your parents and sisters--”

“Tulip too!”

“Of course, Tulip too.” Frodo smiled.

“Umm, couldn’t we just leave Vinca here? She’s always teasing me.”

“No, Pip, we can’t leave your sister behind,” Frodo told him as he opened the door.

“Not just this once?”

“Not even just this once.” Frodo nudged the youngster through the door after Merry, with Pippin still chattering up a storm.

“Can I take Lily?”

“I don’t know, Pip,” Frodo took Pippin’s string of fish from him as they entered the big kitchen.

“How about Dizzy?”

“Probably not.” Frodo handed the strings of fish to Eglantine.

“Can Tulip bring her new apron?”

“Huh?” Merry looked at his aunt for an explanation. “His knitted piggy has an apron now?”

“Why not? She has a scarf,” Pippin giggled, “and a bonnet.”

“Ah, it’s a long story, lad.” Eglantine patted her nephew’s back. “Pippin will tell you all about it on the way to Hobbiton tomorrow.”

“I can’t wait,” Merry mumbled.

 





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