"Is that a new dress?" Pippin asked, a bit uncertain of what to say.
"No, silly! It's one of Estella's dresses from when she was pregnant."
"Shouldn't we be buying you your own dresses?"
"You are a dear," Diamond laughed softly as she hugged Pippin then tip toed to kiss his cheek. "Maybe I'll let you buy one for me. But truthfully, mostly we Mummies just share with each other. We need them for such a short time."
"A short time? Is that what it is? Seems forever to me."
"It's one of your charms, dear," Diamond said cheerily. "You're like a young lad; nothing ever happens quickly enough for you." She turned back to the bacon she was frying. "Estella says there will come a time that I will feel carrying this child will never end, but for now I don't see how I'll possibly be ready in time. There are all of those everyday garments to sew, although Estella said our wee one can wear some of the little things that Theodoc has out grown. Babes do make a mess of themselves. "
Pippin groaned, "I know. At times changing Theo's messy clothes seems an endless occupation for Merry and Estella."
"And there needs to be little knitted things and flannels for chilly days. Even a summer baby like ours needs to be kept warm." Diamond placed the bacon on a plate at the back of the stove to keep warm and started cracking eggs into the pan. She grinned as she thankfully remembered that she was no longer so sensitive to odors and that the smell of eggs was once again appealing.
Pippin came up behind her and wrapped his arms around Diamond's round tummy, rubbing it gently with his right hand. "I had no idea at all that babies were so complicated." He nuzzled her neck and kissed ear. "Comes of being the youngest, I suppose. I doubt Merry would have known much about it all if he hadn't treated me like his own special present, spending as much time as possible at our farm in Whitwell when I was a babe and such. Mum loves to embarrass us both by telling everyone that he even changed my nappies. Nothing new for you, this taking care of babies, after helping with Addy and Bandy and raising little Opal from birth."
"I doubt it will be the same, Peregrin love. It will be so very different that this little one is my very own." She reached up to hold his head against hers and wiggle her fingers in his warm hair. "Our very own, I should say. Our little one, Peregrin! Our own extremely Took little Took," she said giggling.
"I know," Pippin laughed in response. "The lad doesn't stand a chance. He'll be mad as a loon!"
"The babe. Is that better, my love? The wee babe doesn't stand a chance."
Diamond slipped the eggs from the pan onto a plate, then she turned inside Pippin's embrace to finally return his hug and lay her head against his chest. "That is much better." She gave him a squeeze then tipped her head back to look at him while giving him a firm smack on the rump. "Now, go and see where the Brandybucks are loafing and let them know they shall get no breakfast if they aren't here when it's ready."
Pippin's grinned mischievously, "We could just say we couldn't find them and eat it all ourselves."
"Peregrin Took! Go find your best friend and his wife and child and get everyone in here before everything is cold," Diamond laughed as she turned Pippin about and smacked his rump again to send him on his way before turning back to the stove to start frying the mushrooms.
That afternoon found Merry Brandybuck quietly closing the backdoor of Crickhollow to sneak off for a walk in the fields. A pleasant pattern had developed in the lives of the household: baby Theodoc took a nice nap every afternoon, his mummy took a nap every afternoon and a certain expectant mummy napped along with them. The perfect time for Merry and Pippin to have some peace and quiet, have a good chat or a game of chess. But the last few days Pippin kept mysteriously disappearing, leading his cousin to decide that if Pip could leave the house to the nappers, then so could he.
At first he hadn't thought much about Pippin's vanishing act. Although Pippin was very much a social creature, he did like to be alone from time to time. But after it happened four days in a row, Merry began to wonder what was going on.
"Nothing. Nothing at all, Merry," had been Pippin's answer when Merry had finally asked after him. "Been too cooped up. You know, Merry, I just need to get out to . . . ah . . . get some fresh air. Good for me, you know." Pippin had given Merry his brightest smile, a solid thump on the shoulder and then hurried out the back door once again. This time, Merry thought, it wouldn't hurt for him to get some fresh air as well, and if he just happened to come upon his younger cousin in the process, all the better.
The day was chilly and breezy, so Merry decided to visit the stable and say hello to the ponies. He was standing so he could scratch the foreheads of both Pippin's Blaze and his own Copper when he heard a shriek followed by words that weren't usually heard in the Crickhollow household interspersed with more shrieking. Merry ran to the end of the barn where the door into the work room was. The door was locked.
"Pippin! Is that you, Pippin?"
"No, 'course not! Ow! Drat! Get in here, Merry!"
"I can't. The door's locked."
"Then . . . Ouch! I'm bleeding! Kick the damn thing in, Merry! I'm bleeding in here!"
Merry needed three solid kicks at the door before the door jam splintered and the door swung free. Pippin stood at the workbench, bent over it at an odd angle. Merry ran to Pippin's side and quickly assessed the situation. Pippin had his head tight up against a piece of wood that was in the treadle-powered lathe. A bit of blood was showing at the top of his scalp. As Merry followed the line of his cousin's hair, he finally realized that a rather good-sized hank of the golden brown stuff was wrapped tightly around the piece of wood. Merry choked a bit on the laugh that rose in his throat.
"Oh, yes, that's right! Laugh at me!" Pippin howled with embarrassed frustration. He tried to kick Merry in the shin, but that caused him to tug on the trapped hair. "Ouch! I can't even kick you. And now you're laughing even harder, you wretch," Pippin yelled. "You're disowned, do you hear me, Meriadoc Brandybuck! You are disowned!"
Merry was now laughing so hard that his eyes were watering. He turned on his heel and started towards the workroom door.
"NO! Merry! Come back! Come back, please!" Pippin pleaded. "I take it back. You aren't disowned. Favorite cousin still. Best Friend? Brother?" A note of desperation had crept into Pippin's voice while the pitch of it was getting higher. "Merry, you can't leave me like this! You can't. Laugh all you want but, please, please come help me!"
"And just how many times have I told you that if you are going to try using the lathe you must tie that long hair of yours back first or wear a cap down over it? Or not stick your fool head so close to your work. Eh, Pip? How many?" Merry had come back and was starting to examine closely exactly how Pippin's hair was wound around the wood.
"Alright, Merry, a lot. You have told me every blasted time we have come into this workroom. 'Remember, Pip, don't go near the lathe without tying back that foolish long hair of yours; unless you want it ripped out of your foolish head.' Was that it? Did I remember it well enough for you, Merry?!"
Merry bent over so he was looking Pippin in the eyes. He tapped him on the end of his nose to emphasize his point. "You didn't remember it well enough, obviously, or you wouldn't be stuck like this, now would you?"
"Merry, it hurts. My back is getting sore. I feel stupid enough as it is."
It was amazing how quickly the years could fall away from Pippin; he suddenly was Merry's very young cousin again. His green eyes were large with pain, and a few tears dripped down into the sawdust on the floor. Merry gently touched Pippin's shoulder.
"I'm sure it does hurt, Pip. Let's get you out of this, shall we?"
Pippin started to nod but yelped a bit as that, of course, pulled on his tangled up hair. Merry took his time looking over the mess. He knew Pippin would not want to have the hair cut off if it could be avoided, so he was trying to see if the hair could be unwrapped.
"Well, let's get this so you aren't all bent over first," Merry finally said. He undid the release on one end of the lathe and worked the wood free of the mounting. He had expected Pippin to straighten up, but instead he started sinking to the floor. Merry managed to let go of the wood before it pulled on Pippin's sore head again. Pippin just sat there, looking forlorn and funny with piece of partially lathed wood hanging from the side of his head.
"Why didn't I think to do that?" Pippin's voice still sounded much younger than his years. "Will I ever stop being the fool, Merry?"
"Yes. You already don't get into messes nearly as often as you used to, Pip. You courted and won a delightful lass and you've been a wonderful husband to her. You've been a big help to me whenever I'm doing work for my Father." Merry patted Pippin on the shoulder. "You really are much better than you used to be, though, now that I think about it, I doubt if you will ever get over it completely, Pip."
Pippin looked up at this, a deeply hurt expression in his eyes. Merry held out his hand to him. Pippin took it, and Merry pulled him to his feet.
"I really don't want you any other way, Pippin. You wouldn't be you if you never did anything foolish."
Pippin turned his eyes to look at the piece of wood dangling from his hair. He shrugged and huffed a bit. "Yes. Wouldn't want you to lose such a good source of entertainment. My child will probably be like you and grow up thinking Da's a right good joke." He huffed again then wiggled his head enough to make the wood sway back and forth with Pippin wincing a bit as it did. "And now, oh wise elder cousin, what about this? Have you figured it out yet?"
"Of course!" Merry said cheerfully as he dug around in the tools on the bench, finally coming up with a pair of scissors.
Pippin's eyes went wide again. "Oh, no! Not that!" He backed up a step. "It will look horrid, Merry."
"And this," Merry tapped on the wood, "looks good?"
"Can't you just unwrap it?"
"I could, if all it was was wrapped around it. It's all knotted up, Pip. It would take forever to figure out, and even then I might still have to do some cutting. No, I am afraid it is either the cutting or wear that into the house for Diamond to get a laugh."
"No! No, can't do that! No. Diamond can't know about this."
The intensity of Pippin's reaction surprised Merry. He looked at him seeking further explanation. Pippin did not say a word but pointed to a drawing that lay off to one side of the workbench. It was a well done drawing of a cradle. It had graceful spiral-shaped spindles on all four sides, but the top rail on the sides and the cap pieces at the head and foot had straight lines and angles that were adorned with straight-edged carvings in geometric designs.
"Dwarf designs," Merry said as he tapped the head and foot boards on the drawing. He saw a slight swinging of the wood hanging from Pippin's hair and heard a soft "Ouch!" as Pip nodded in reply. "And the spindles are Elven."
"Yes." Pippin chose to answer verbally this time.
"It is a lovely design, Pippin. How many years were you allowing yourself to finish it?" Merry looked over at his cousin.
Pippin looked ruefully at the barely lathed spindle that still hung in his hair then started to grin. "I am quite sure nowhere near enough. Maybe in time for the great grandchildren."
"You're no carpenter, Pip. Whatever made you think you could make something like this? Isn't there some ancient Took cradle laying about that you can use?"
"Well, yes, there is. Since my Father is the Thain and I'm heir to the title, if this is a male child, he will spend his first few weeks in the Thain's cradle. Rather a wretched old thing at this point. It might have even come to the Tooks from the Oldbucks when they gave over the Thainship. You don't dare have the child in it more than a few weeks as any older or stronger than that and he shall wiggle and kick the thing to shreds." Pippin looked at his drawing reaching out to brush over it with his finger tips. "No. The babe will need something better built. And right away if she is a she. That, and I want to make something for my baby."
"Well, at least you have designed this." Merry looked over at Pippin. "What about a cradle from your part of the Took family? Isn't there . . ." Merry's words faded off as Pippin shot him a scathing look. Merry himself remembered what happened to the cradle from Pippin's family. Pippin had been six years old at the time.
"I shan't do it, Vinca! I shan't, and you can't make me!" Pippin stood as tall as a six year old hobbit who was a bit small for his age could stand and stomped one of his furry feet. "I'm not a baby, Vinca!"
"It's just playing, Pip. Pretend. I'm not saying you really are a baby, though you are acting like one."
"He is a bit old . . ." Merry had tried to get a word in but it was no use. His cousins were at it full force.
Ever since the infant Pippin finally had been deemed sturdy enough for his sisters to handle him, they had used him as their baby whenever they played house. He had not objected until he turned four at which time he declared himself to be "all growed up" and refused to scrunch himself into the cradle. But Pervinca and the older Pimpernel found that their little brother was easily bribed with sweets. So for two more years Pippin submitted to being the baby. But now, so big that no matter what he did his legs and arms no longer could be made to fit inside the cradle and a full six years old, Pippin had decided the end had come. Pervinca had other ideas.
"You will do this, Peregrin Took! Mummy said we have to play together. And I wish to play house, and we can't play house without a baby!"
"Cannot! The Mummy has to have someone to take care of!"
"Maybe the baby has gotten a bit older?" Merry put in.
"NO!" Vinca turned on him, her eyes flashing with anger. "No! There has to be a sweet wee baby to be loved and cuddled and such." She turned back to her brother. "Little boys are mean and naughty and won't play properly." She shoved her face at Pippin's. "There has to be a B-A-B-Y!! Not some snotty nosed little boy!"
"I'm not a snotty nosed little boy!" Pippin yelled, having just wiped his nose on his sleeve. "And I'll play nice, and I'm not mean and naughty!"
"You are! You already aren't playing nice or you'd be the baby and not argue with me!" Vinca moved in a step closer.
"You're not playing nice!" Pippin yelled back and shoved his sister away.
"You can't shove me, Pippin Took! Mummy said you're not to shove." Pervinca yelled as she shoved her brother.
The wrestling match that ensued ended when the two combatants both fell over sideways and landed on the cradle that had been in their Father's branch of the Took family for several generations, smashing it to bits beneath them. After having their hurts tended to, both Took children were soundly paddled and sent to their rooms. Merry spent that night in a guest room instead of sharing Pippin's room then was sent home the next morning. He didn't see Pippin for several weeks afterwards.
"Yes, well . . ." Merry cleared his throat then looked from the drawing to his red-faced cousin and then back again. "No family cradle then. And you want this to be a surprise, I gather?"
Pippin drew a deep breath and let it out slowly, losing some of his tenseness as he did. "Yes, that was the whole point to working on it only when our good wives and your wee son are napping. If I hire it done everyone in Buckland will know, including Diamond."
"Not necessarily, Pip! I think I know just the hobbit for the job."
Pippin's face brightened. "Truly?"
"Aye, old Farmer Maggot's eldest son. He is a farmer, like his father, but he's a good carpenter too. Always been the quiet sort. Never said a word to anyone when I had him make that jewelry box I gave to my Mum for Yule that one year."
"I remember that box, Merry. Lovely work! And you say he kept it quiet?"
"Not a word to anyone."
"Perfect then." Pippin's smile lit up his face. "We'll go and see to it tomorrow. Best get in before the lasses wake up from their beauty sleep." Pippin turned and started for the door.
"Pippin!" Merry hollered. Pippin turned, and Merry held up the scissors, opening and closing them as he did so.
Pippin glanced over at the spindle and laughed. "I've got to where I'm used to it hurting. Guess the wives might wonder where I got such a fancy hair decoration." He had walked back over to Merry but put out his hand to stop his cousin from beginning the removal. "Just you mind what you are doing, dear cousin."
"Oh, I will, Pip. I think you'll find the bald spot quite becoming."
Later, when Diamond asked what had happened to his hair, Pippin told her Blaze had taken a liking to it and bit a chunk out. His only comfort in it all was that Merry hadn't had to make a bald spot after all.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.