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“Partners in Crime”
For Golden, in thanks for her ever present plot bunnies (no, it's *still* not the one you're waiting for, but I hope you like it anyway!).
And for Dreamflower, in the hope it gives her a good chuckle!
“It’s all your fault, you know,” Pippin muttered into the corner, his sharp nose almost touching the wall.
“It is not! It’s yours,” Sancho’s voice was muffled because his nose was buried in the corner across the room from Pippin. “You know it is.”
The room was quiet for a moment before the smaller of the two lads whispered, “Is not.”
“Yes, it is.” Sancho added a firm nod for emphasis, although Pippin couldn’t see him do it.
“It wasn’t my fault, was it Tulip?” Pippin whispered again, this time addressing his knitted piglet, who occupied the corner to his right. Pippin frowned when Tulip chose not to answer. He squirmed, waiting for her to make up her mind but still she remained silent. Pippin sighed, addressing Sancho without turning, “Tulip’s upset with me. She won’t answer.” Sancho didn’t bother answering either; he simply rolled his eyes while Pippin continued chattering.
“I never meant for you to get in trouble too,” Pippin offered finally, hoping to get Tulip out of her bad mood.
Sancho snorted. “Of course you did.”
“No, I’d never do anything to get Tulip in trouble. She’s the one who always tries to keep me out of it.”
“WHAT?” Sancho whirled and stared at his friend’s back, his mouth dropping open in disbelief. “I thought you were talking about me!”
“Huh?” Pippin turned around slowly to gape at him. “You’re the one who started everything! I didn’t get you into trouble you got me into it! And Tulip.” Pippin turned back to his corner with a disdainful sniff.
Sancho stared at him for another moment before facing the wall again. “You’ve quite the selective memory, Pip.” His voice sounded muffled.
It was Tulip’s turn to roll her satin green eyes. How irritated she was with both of them. A selective memory? She reckoned both boys had a pretty good one. She ought to remind them just who the mischief-makers were, and how they had got her into this mess in the first place. Why, what was Eglantine going to think? She knew Esmeralda would tell her all about it, and Tulip didn’t know how she was going to stand the shame. Imagine, here she was in the corner right along with these two young rascals! The very ones she was supposed to have been keeping out of mischief. Oh! my lad, how could you do this to me?
Pippin looked at Tulip in surprise. “But…I said I was sorry.”
“No, you didn’t. But feel free to say it if you like. I’m listening.”
“Whatever are you going on about, Sancho?” Pippin glanced over his shoulder. “I was talking to Tulip.”
“Well how am I supposed to know that? Besides, talking to stuffed animals is dim-witted.”
“It is not! I talk to her all the time and--”
“Aye, and don’t I know that. She answers you, too, isn’t that right?”
“That’s right, she does.” Pippin turned around long enough to stick his tongue out. “Tulip says you’re a ninny hammer.”
Sancho spun to face him, his scowl deepening. “Oh she does, does she? Well, tell her I said she’s fat!”
Pippin covered his ears at the expected indignant shriek of protest. “Now see what you’ve done?” He rushed over to where his little friend sat with her snout pressed against the wall, and scooped her up. “Come on m’lass, you can share my corner. Hmph!” Tossing a grunt of irritation in Sancho’s direction Pippin returned to his spot and placed the fretting piglet on his shoulder. “Shh,” he comforted, patting her reassuringly, “he didn’t really mean it.” Tulip quivered with annoyance before calming ever so slightly while the pair of lads remained silent. She was just about to offer a few words of wisdom to them when Sancho spoke up again.
“Yes I did.”
Tulip puffed herself up and released a long, scolding rant in Pippin’s ear. The youngster winced, wishing Sancho could hear her too. “Stop being so mean, Sancho. I told you before you’re hurting Tulip’s feelings.”
“What about my feelings? You’re both responsible for my having to spend an entire hour with my nose stuck in this stupid corner!”
“No, we’re not. We’re here because you didn’t know when to shut your big mouth and quit teasing her. I told you, Tulip has her ways of getting you back, but would you listen? Noooo, of course not. So, here we are. And it’s all your fault.”
“I’m getting tired of hearing you say that, Pip. Besides, if she was trying to get me back for anything how come you’re right smack in the middle of it, hmm?” Sancho smirked at his friend. “Especially when you already know whose fault it really is – you and your daft piggy.”
Pippin made a face at Tulip’s howl of protest. “Now you’ve done it. You don’t know what it’s like to have her truly annoyed with you, but you’re going to find out very soon.”
Sancho rolled his eyes at the ceiling. “My knees are simply knocking together in fright.”
“All right, but I warned you. She’s very upset, and she’s worried about what Mum is going to think. You’ve really hurt her dignity, getting her into trouble the way you did, and then calling her fat—oww!” Pippin grimaced and rubbed his ear where Tulip had pinched it with her tiny hoof. “You didn’t have to do that!”
“Oh my stars, you are impossible, Peregrin.” Sancho couldn’t keep himself from roaring as he watched the amusing spectacle. He leaned against the wall gripping his sides while he shook with laughter.
Pippin turned all the way around, scowling at his tormentor. “Don’t call me that. People only call me ‘Peregrin’ when I’m in trouble.” He continued to rub his ear.
“Well, guess what? You are in trouble. That’s why you’re standing in the corner, remember? And it’s because of your blunder that I’m standing here too! Sheesh, Pip, I wish you’d just leave me out of your foolish tricks next time.”
“What? You’re just as much to blame. More, even.”
“WHAT? How did you come to that long-winded conclusion? I wasn’t even near you when--”
“Yes, you were! If you hadn’t been trying to snatch Tulip away from me I never would have broken Auntie Esmie’s favourite flowerpot and ruined her day lily.”
“I was halfway across the room when it smashed to the floor. It was you and your ridiculous larking about with the talking pig that caused you to fall--”
“Because you pushed me and then ran when I wouldn’t let go of Tulip!”
“I didn’t want your stupid toy. I just wanted you to stop waving her about in my face. That really is quite annoying, you know. And actually, you should be thanking me right now.”
Pippin eyes grew wide with disbelief. “What? However did you come to that conclusion?”
“Because I kept you from getting into even more trouble by telling on you, of course! Before you could break anything else.”
“Oh, I see. I think your plan backfired else you wouldn’t be standing here with me right now.”
Sancho’s face reddened. “You’re daft. You do know that, don’t you? And clumsy. That’s why the flowerpot got broken.”
Pippin jabbed his finger into the other boy’s chest. “You take that back! You pushed me when you grabbed for Tulip and that’s why I fell against the table.”
“I won’t, because it’s true.” Sancho struck a defiant pose, crossing his arms and sticking out his lower lip.
“But--” Pippin paused to listen. “What, m’lass? Really?” Pippin sucked in a sharp breath.
“Oh no, here we go again,” Sancho snorted with a shake of his curly head.
“Tulip, is that true? No, of course I know you wouldn’t fib to me, but…it just seems so…so…”
“So…WHAT? What are you talking about? Really Pip, you’re going to send me ‘round the bend if you keep this up much longer.” His only answer was a giggle from the smaller boy. Sancho sighed heavily in defeat and slumped against the wall. “My legs are tired.”
“Tulip says ‘good.’ She hopes your feet are too. Oh, and she wants me to remind you whose fault that is.” Pippin snickered at his jest before he leaned his ear towards Tulip to listen. “What? Well, I thought it was rather amusing. Aye, I realise you didn’t. What? Why do I have to mind my manners? It’s only Sancho, and he was being boorish. Oh, all right, if you insist.”
Pippin twisted his head around and eyed Sancho with a frown. “Tulip wants me to say I’m sorry for being so…so…what did you call it? Oh, right, for being so impertinent. Why can’t I just say I was cheeky?” He giggled as Tulip whispered in his ear again. “Oh, that’s another word for it?”
“There’s a word for it all right, Pip. Actually there’s more than one that would fit. Daft. Dotty. Dim-witted. Mad. And if you keep talking to stuffed animals, folks are going to start using those words whenever they see you coming.”
“I am not daft. Or dotty. Or mad, either, for that matter.”
“Yes you are.”
Brief silence, then, “Tulip says I’m not.”
Sancho answered with a snort.
The room fell quiet again. They listened to the ticking of the clock on the mantle as the minutes crept slowly by. The sweet aroma of pastry baking in the oven drifted in and tickled their noses; occasional rumbles from two hungry tummies joined in harmony with the clock. At last, Esmeralda appeared in the doorway of the parlour to release them from their corners. She called them to her as she took a seat on the couch and then looked them up and down. “Well, have you each learned your lesson?” Two curly heads bobbed up and down.
“Tulip too,” Pippin offered, waggling his toy at his aunt.
Esmeralda smiled, tilting their chins up in order to study their faces. “There will be no more teasing?” Both of them shook their heads. “Or name calling?” Another shake of their heads. “No more trying to one-up the other with tomfoolery, and no more insults?”
“No, Auntie Esmie. Tulip and I promise.” Pippin looked at Sancho, barely resisting the urge to stick out his tongue.
“Me either,” Sancho promised with a suspicious frown at Pippin.
“All right.” Esmeralda rose and placed an arm around each of their shoulders. “Why don’t you come with me to the kitchen? Pervinca and Merry are helping me make apple pies for dinner. Doesn’t that sound good?”
Pippin bobbed his head up and down, grinning sheepishly at Sancho, who couldn’t help grinning back at the mention of sweets. “We could smell them all the way in here.”
“Come along then, children.” Esmeralda made her way ahead of them, anxious to check on her pies.
“Say, Pip?” Sancho hung back, gesturing at Pippin to stop.
“What?” Pippin adjusted Tulip on his shoulder, waiting.
“Umm…just what did Tulip say a moment ago? About not fibbing?” Sancho looked uncomfortable but in truth, he couldn’t resist the question.
“Oh!” Pippin’s green eyes twinkled with mischief. He leaned over to whisper in his friend’s ear. “Tulip said we were all responsible for what happened, not just one of us, and so we should stop arguing and make up.”
Sancho’s eyes widened. “Really?”
Pippin nodded his head firmly. “But she says she still thinks you’re a ninny hammer,” he crowed, and then darted for the kitchen with Sancho hot on his heels.
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