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A/N: For Golden, whose bunny inspired this tale. I know this isn't exactly what you had in mind, but I hope you enjoy it anyway!
And for Dreamflower, whose love of the bathtime song inspired me to love it too - I hope you enjoy this!
“Pippin and the Incredible Shrinking Piglet”
“Sing hey! For the bath at close of day, that washes the weary mud away! A loon is he that will not sing: O! Water hot is a noble thing!”
Pearl chuckled as she listened to her little brother sing at the top of his lungs while splashing around in the tub. She folded towels and placed them in the cupboard outside the bathroom, pausing with an ear to the door for a moment. Her smile grew when she heard Pippin chattering away to his knitted piglet before starting the song again. Pearl rattled the doorknob to get his attention.
“O! Water hot is—what?”
“Pippin, it’s time to get out of the bath.”
“Not yet, I want to sing the bath song one more time.”
Pearl waited, enjoying the sound of her brother’s clear voice as he went through the entire song one more time.
“O! Water is fair that leaps on high in a fountain white beneath the sky; but never did fountain sound so sweet as splashing Hot Water at my feet!”
Pearl could hear water sloshing onto the floor with Pippin’s grand finale chorus. No doubt he was imitating said fountain as he usually did every time he had a bath, and she cracked the door open to have a look. The action was met with a shriek of dismay. Pearl glimpsed a pair of sopping wet, rosy cheeks as Pippin dove back into the bath.
“Pearl!” he scolded, “We were getting out of the tub!”
“We?” Pearl wrinkled her brow and then laughed. “Oh, you and Tulip, you mean?”
“Yes, and you needn’t be peeking in at us when we’re both in our birthday suits.”
Pearl snickered at her little brother’s indignation. “Well, Tulip is a lass, so what’s wrong with me seeing your bum too?”
The voice behind the door summoned up a tone of stiff dignity as he addressed his undoubtedly daft sister. “I made Tulip turn her back, of course!”
“Ah, I see. But you still need to be getting out now m’lad, else your skin is going to wrinkle up like a prune.” There was another sound of splashing water and then a pair of feet thumped to the floor.
“Pearl!” Pippin howled, “There’s no towel in here! I thought you left me one?”
“Just a minute, I’ve been folding them.” She held one out to him, rolling her eyes at the sound of a mad scramble as Pippin grabbed for it, then fell against the door to push it shut.
“Peregrin Took! You nearly caught my fingers in the door jamb with that little antic.”
A small, contrite voice spoke through the keyhole, “I’m very sorry. I only wanted some privacy.”
Pearl stared at the closed door in amazement. She couldn’t ever remember Pippin saying such a thing before. Her brother was always as comfortable with his state of undress as he was with having company in the bathtub. She scratched her head, puzzled, and decided he must be going through another one of his quirky phases. “All right. I won’t come in but you do need to dry off and get into your nightshirt before you catch a chill.”
“I will!” The voice sounded annoyed this time and Pearl rolled her eyes before resuming her task. A few moments later, the door opened again and a towel-clad form streaked down the hallway towards his room, Tulip tucked underneath one arm and wrapped in her own semblance of a bath towel. The door to Pippin’s room slammed shut with a ring of defiance.
Shaking her head, Pearl approached and rapped lightly.
“What?” The voice was muffled and Pearl guessed Pippin likely had the towel wrapped around his head while he tried to dry his thick hair.
“I just have one question.”
“What is it?” Pippin’s voice was clearer now and Pearl pictured him standing there puzzled, head tilted to one side, mulling over her question while he continued to drip all over his bedroom floor.
“You remembered a towel for Tulip…” Pearl’s voice trailed off and she tried not to laugh.
“Yes? So?” Pippin sounded impatient.
“But not for yourself?” Pearl lost her battle and gave in to a fit of giggles. Her laughter only increased when the door opened and one green eye peered at her through the crack.
“I don’t understand what’s so funny. She had to have something to cover up with after her bath. I was only thinking of her comfort.”
“Of course, dear. I’ll let you get dressed then. Both of you.” As she turned away the door opened wider. Pearl saw her little brother standing in the doorway wrapped in his towel, wet footprints surrounding him, hair dripping, and clutching a wet knitted piglet under one arm.
“Pearl?” The voice was small now and she turned back to him immediately.
Pippin held Tulip out and frowned. “She fell in the bathtub.”
“Ah. Well, she’ll dry out, just like you!” She paused with hand extended to pat his head when she noticed tears rolling down his cheeks. She knelt down in front of him. “What is it? Why, whatever is wrong?” Pearl was somewhat taken aback when Pippin threw himself into her arms. “Shh, now. Tell Pearl what’s wrong, hmm?”
“I don’t want Tulip to shrink until she disappears,” he wailed.
“What are you talking about?” Pearl peeled him away from her damp bodice and looked him up and down.
“Mum scolded me yesterday when I dipped her in the tub and told me not to put her in the hot water because…because she’d shrink. Maybe even all the way until she disappeared completely, if I’m not careful!” Pippin gave a great gulping sob on the last word and Pearl gathered him in her arms again.
“Oh my. Pippin, listen to me. Mum meant that hot water shrinks wool, and that’s what Tulip is made out of. Isn’t that right?” Pippin bobbed his head up and down firmly, and Pearl reached out with the back of her hand to wipe some of his tears away. “She didn’t mean that Tulip will disappear, only that putting her in hot water isn’t good for her. That’s all.”
“Really?’” Pippin gave a dramatic sniff and rubbed the corner of the towel over his reddening nose. He patted Tulip’s face with it after his own tears were dry.
“Yes, really!” Pearl stood and tapped him on the tip of his sharp nose. “It wouldn’t do to have her stay in the water, but a wee dip won’t hurt her, I’m sure.”
“Oh!” Pippin began to grin and then to shiver.
Pearl turned him back to his room. “Go on now and get dried off and into your nightshirt. Then come to the kitchen, all right? I have a surprise for you.”
Pippin brightened immediately. “For Tulip too?” He grinned up at his beloved sister. “Did you make something for her again?”
“You’ll just have to wait until you’re dressed, young sir! Now hurry up before you catch a real chill.”
Pippin scrambled back into his room and clicked the door shut. Pearl smiled when she heard him start chattering away to his toy. Shaking her head, she headed towards the kitchen where she found her mother making a pot of bedtime tea. “Mum, Pippin is all astir because he dropped Tulip into his bath again.”
Eglantine frowned. “I told him to be more careful before he does something I can’t repair.”
“He’s under the impression she will shrink up until she finally disappears.”
“Oh, mercy! That lad.” Eglantine shook her head fondly and hurried back to the stove where the kettle now sang out a merry tune of steam. She moved it to the table and fussed with setting out the cups. Pearl settled onto one of the chairs and picked up her sewing basket, setting it on the table next to her. She rummaged in its depths, at last pulling out a rose-coloured item that she set aside before reaching into the basket again.
Eglantine watched with interest, a smile beginning to turn up the corners of her mouth. “Are you spoiling him again?”
Pearl grinned and gave a sheepish half-shrug. “It’s easy enough to do, I suppose.” Just then Pippin tumbled into the kitchen, the sodden piglet on his shoulder, and Pimpernel and Pervinca at his heels.
“What’s that?” Pippin plopped down next to his eldest sister and beamed at her, eagerly reaching for the item in Pearl’s hand.
Pimpernel slid into the chair next to him and laughed. “Yes, whatever have you created for Tulip this time?”
“That piglet soon is going to have an entire wardrobe!” Pervinca snickered.
Pearl held up a tiny, pink flannel and a matching square that was slightly larger and obviously meant to represent a towel. Each had a finely stitched pink and yellow tulip on one corner. Pippin squealed with delight and flung himself onto his sister’s lap. “Easy, Pip!” Pearl laughed, catching hold of him.
Pippin waggled his toy at her. “Look what Pearl made for you, lass! Your very own bath time things!” He threw his arms around Pearl’s neck and squeezed her hard. She laughed and eased him back onto his feet.
“Wait.” She reached into the basket again.
Pippin’s eyes widened. “There’s more?”
Pearl withdrew a little dressing gown and nightshirt and blushed when her sisters chuckled. Eglantine laughed heartily. “Why, it’s perfect! A wee bedtime ensemble for Tulip.” She took the items from her daughter and inspected them. “Oh my, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, my love. Your work is exquisite!” She held up the pink gown for Pimpernel to see. “Look, at this, m’ lasses!”
“Oh, it’s lovely, truly. Why, you’ve embroidered tiny pink and yellow tulips all around the lace collar!” Pimpernel nodded, her admiration apparent.
Pippin was tapping on both sisters’ elbows as he stood on tiptoe to see over their arms. “Let me look! It is for Tulip, after all!” Pippin’s eyes lit up with delight when Nell handed the dressing gown to him. “Look Tulip! It’s all your very own!” He held the piglet to his ear and his grinned widened. “She loves it Pearl! And she says to say thank you very much!”
“Let’s try it on her.” Nell scooped her brother up and sat him on the table. The tea was forgotten as they set about dressing the knitted piglet in her finery.
“Ah, well now it looks like she’s all ready for bed,” Eglantine said at last when they were done and her beaming son held up his prized possession. She set him on his feet and steered him towards his room. “Come, my little one. It’s time for all young ones to be asleep.” Pippin obligingly took his mother’s hand but stopped, as they were about to pass through the door. “Thank you so much, Pearl! We love everything!” He trotted back and gave his sister a huge hug. “And we love you!”
Pearl kissed him on top of his still damp curls. “I love you too, you little scamp.”
“What about me?” Pimpernel held out both arms and Pippin happily scooted into them to collect anther hug and kiss. “Off with Mum you go now,” she laughed and nudged him. Pervinca stuck her tongue out and Pippin sniffed indignantly. He caught his mother’s hand and trotted off.
After hobbit lad and knitted piglet were tucked safely in bed, Eglantine sat beside him, brushing his hair away from his eyes. “Pearl told me you thought that Tulip was going to shrink away, m’lad. That’s not going to happen.”
“It isn’t?” Pippin stared up at his mother with a trusting smile, and then yawned.
“No, it isn’t. But you still have to take good care of her and keep her out of your bath next time.” Eglantine rested the soggy piglet on a dry towel and placed her next to him. “We could put her by the fireplace so she’ll dry faster.”
“No, I want her next to me, Mum. I sleep better that way.”
“All right, dear.” Eglantine rose after kissing the top of his head. She planted a kiss on the tip of her finger and placed it gently against Tulip’s snout. “Good night to you both. Sleep well, my little love.”
“When he was alone at last Pippin cuddled the wet toy to his chin. “I’m very sorry I dropped you into the tub, lass.” Tulip replied that it had been a close call, but she was fine. And by the way, she adored her new belongings.
“I’m glad. Pearl is very nice to make such wonderful things for you, isn’t she?” Tulip heartily agreed.
Before long both were drifting in peaceful slumber as the soft night folded its arms around them. Pippin began to dream. He was walking down a long tunnel at Brandy Hall, trying to escape his teasing cousins. But, something was wrong. Where was Tulip? Where had she gone? He felt of his shoulder but it was bare of its constant companion. Pippin meandered through the tunnels until he was certain he would collapse in exhaustion. Just as he was about to slump down against the wall in sheer despair he heard a tiny, high-pitched voice calling out his name from somewhere far away. He paused, straining his ears to listen. The sound came again and he knew it was Tulip.
“I’m coming lass! Where are you?” Pippin peered into the darkness ahead of him and felt a prickling of fear. Tulip called again and he didn’t hesitate. He took off running full tilt down the long corridor, calling her name.
Pippin! Come and get me before I disappear or you will never see me again and it will be all your fault!
“What? No! Tulip? Where are you?” Pippin scanned the area desperately. “Oww!” A sharp pinch from a tiny cloven hoof got his attention quickly. He stared down at the floor and there was Tulip, standing upright on her hind hooves. Her frilly new nightgown was still damp from her bath, and she regarded him with displeasure. Her front hooves were perched haughtily on both plump hips, and she looked him up and down speaking in her miniature, scolding voice. Pippin had to lean closer to hear what she said. Tulip pointed at him with one front foot and shook her head while she geared up for a proper telling off.
If you hadn’t made me turn my back I never would have fallen into your bath! Mercy, m’lad, it’s not like I haven’t seen your wee bare bottom before! What in Middle-earth has got into you lately? Why, you were never the shy one. And now look at me! For all your silliness I’ve shrunk, and now I just may disappear entirely!
“But, but…Mum said you wouldn’t! She said just a wee dip wouldn’t hurt you, and so did Pearl. Please Tulip, don’t disappear!”
Then you need to get me dry, and I don’t mean maybe! Well? Pick me up, lad! And do hurry. I’m about to freeze my tail off here! And I’m getting smaller by the minute so you’d best get a move on.
Pippin scooped her up and started back to his room at a dead run. “Don’t shrink any more – please! I don’t want to lose you and I’m very sorry I made you turn your back and you fell into the tub. Please forgive me!”
Ahhh, hurry faster Pippin! I’m shrinking, I can feel it! I’m shrinking more! Help me!
Pippin’s squeal of dismay matched Tulip’s and he moved faster than he ever had before, but felt like he was running through butter. The faster he went, the more he fell behind, until…
Ahhhh! I’m shrinking…shrinking…nooo…nooo…nooo…help me…
Pippin jerked awake with a start and catapulted out of bed, looking about the room wildly until his eyes adjusted to the darkness and he realised he had been dreaming. Heart pounding, he perched on the side of the bed and cuddled Tulip to him, rocking back and forth in relief. “Oh…don’t ever go away and leave me Tulip. I couldn’t bear it.” Tears flowed again and Pippin looked up startled. Tulip was patting his cheek with her little hoof. Don’t cry, Pippin. I won’t ever leave you, I promise. We will always be together.
“Yes,” Pippin whispered, and hugged her tighter.
You are my hobbit lad. I told you that didn’t I?
“Yes, you did. Right after Mum made you for me.” Pippin giggled softly.
It was only a dream. Let’s go lay next to the fireplace and go to sleep, shall we? I’ll dry out better that way and we’ll both be warm and comfortable.
“All right.” Pippin opened the door and padded on quiet feet to the front parlour, then settled down with his friend on the rug in front of the fireplace. Tulip continued soothing him, patting his cheek with her soft hoof as Pippin drifted off to sleep once more. Then the knitted piglet crawled into the collar of his nightshirt and settled contentedly beneath his curls. When he emitted gentle snores at last, Tulip made another promise. I will be with you on your great journey as well, m’ lad. The perilous quest you know nothing of as yet, and rightly so. Rest easy, my wee one. I will always look after you. I promised your mother, and she is part of me now. ‘Tis her breath of life, her love, that follows you in me. And I am honoured to have this part to play in your life.
Soon, the knitted piglet added her own knitted snores to those of her lad, and the Took family rested peacefully in the old farmhouse, safe and without care. Without the knowledge of the hardship that was coming their way one day not so far in the future. Without the awareness of the impending grief that would try all their spirits sorely, without the solace that their youngest would indeed return safely, but no longer a youth in his heart, nor by experience, though still one in years.
Rest easy. I didn’t disappear, and you will not either. Tulip patted Pippin’s nose in her sleep and her hobbit lad grinned in his dreams.
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