10. Chapter 9 - March 1420
"Thanks, Pip," said Merry. He shuffled off to his room, yawning. Merry looked terrible. Pippin had quickly learned not to comment on it though. Merry acted like it was his fault Ivy kept her father up all night. He had offered to help out, by keeping Ivy at night sometimes, but he just didn't wake up at her cries. He sighed. He couldn't help he was a heavy sleeper.
Pippin sat in the rocking chair with Ivy, propping her up a little in the crook of his arm. He couldn't wait until she was older. He had always wanted a little cousin, someone to look up to him like he looked up to Merry and Frodo. His sisters had children, but it wasn't really the same. He was really their uncle, so he was expected to make them behave. Where was the fun in that? Besides, he didn't really see them that much now that he lived in Buckland.
"We're going to do all sorts of things when you're older, Ivy-lass," he said, smiling at her. She was watching him with her bright blue eyes. "I'll teach you to steal goodies from the kitchen at Brandy Hall and the Smials, and vegetables from Farmer Maggot, and we'll go riding and I'll tell you about how I fought orcs and trolls and maybe we'll go on adventures, although not as dangerous as the one your dad and I went on." He bent down to her ear, whispering. "We probably shouldn't tell your dad, though. Fathers aren't too happy when you go on adventures, believe me."
Pippin frowned. The Thain had certainly been upset about his son's adventures. Saving the world was apparently less important than being home to supervise the harvest.
Ivy squirmed in his arms, kicking her legs and craning her head around to look around the parlor. She was starting to get a lot more active now that she was nearly three months old, wanting to move around and look at the world.
Pippin was still amazed by her. That she had come from Merry. And Éowyn. All right, so he still had trouble with the entire concept of Merry and Éowyn, but that they had made this beautiful little girl was wondrous.
Ivy looked up at him and Pippin smiled. He let her grasp his finger. "We're going to be best of friends, Ivy. I know it."
A heavy rapping on the door surprised them both. Ivy squirmed around to see what was happening. Pippin got up and made it to the door just as Merry came out of his room. Merry got to the door first.
Freddy was standing there, looking a little worried. "I just heard it from Folco," he said, "and I thought you'd want to know. Frodo's been ill."
"How is he?" Merry asked, rushing in as soon as Sam opened the door to Bag End. Pippin was right on his heels.
"A little better, I think, Mister Merry," Sam said.
Sam sounded exhausted, like he hadn't slept in days. He probably hadn't, Merry thought.
Sam took their cloaks and Merry made his way to Frodo's bedroom. It was dark. Only a candle on the bedside table lit the room. Even in the dim light, Merry could see how ill Frodo looked. Almost like he'd looked in Rivendell after the attack by the wraith.
"Merry! Pippin!" Frodo said weakly. He shifted, trying to sit upright. Sam was instantly at his side to adjust his pillows for him.
"How are you?" Merry asked. He sat on the edge of the bed and took Frodo's hand. Only three fingers rested on his palm. He ignored the sick feeling that gave him.
"Freddy had heard from Folco you were sick," Pippin said, sitting on the other side of the bed. "We came right away."
Frodo shrugged. "You didn't have to."
"Of course we did!" Merry scolded. He squeezed Frodo's hand, making his cousin look at him and meet his eyes. Frodo's blue eyes were dark and sunken. He looked nothing like the cheerful hobbit who had left the Shire what seemed like ages ago, bearing a terrible burden.
Frodo turned his eyes from Merry's gaze. "I've got Sam to look after me," he said, looking at Pippin instead. "And Rosie." He suddenly gave a brilliant smile that looked out of place on his haggard face. "They're betrothed now, you know. They're not even going to wait the proper year. The wedding's this May."
Merry and Pippin both looked up at Sam. "A reason for the rush, Sam?" Merry asked. He figured he, of all people, could ask. There certainly wasn't anything wrong with having babies before marriage. Not to him anyway.
Sam blushed bright red. "Oh, no, Mister Merry, it's just...well..." He shifted uncomfortably under their eyes and stared at his feet. "Rosie said I've made her wait long enough to even speak up about us," he mumbled.
Merry and Pippin both laughed. "Good for Rosie!" Pippin said happily. He reached out to grab Sam's hand. "Congratulations, Sam!" he said.
"Thank you, Mister Pippin," Sam said, still blushing.
"What are you going to do without Sam here to pick up after you," Merry said lightly, patting Frodo's hand.
"Oh, I've got that worked out," Frodo said. He looked up at Sam. "Sam and Rosie are going to live here at Bag End. This is their home now."
Sam blushed again and said somthing, but Merry didn't hear what it was. He was too distracted by Frodo's words. This is their home now. Not 'this is their home, too'. Frodo said it with a finality, like he was now only a guest in Bag End. Merry got a sick feeling in his gut, that Frodo knew something that he wasn't letting them in on.
Frodo turned to look at him, laughing at something Pippin said. Their eyes met again and Frodo squeezed his hand. "Everything's fine, Merry," he said. Frodo could always read him like that, ever since he was very small and Frodo still lived at Brandy Hall. Frodo had been like an older brother to him until he'd moved away to Hobbiton.
Frodo sighed and pulled his hand from Merry's. "So where's our lovely Ivy?" he asked.
"I left her with Mum," Merry said. "I didn't think you'd be up for a baby in the house."
Frodo pouted. "She would have been fine, Merry. Sam's sister Marigold brings her little ones by all the time, doesn't she Uncle Sam?" He winked at Sam.
Sam rolled his eyes. "Only because you spoil them and they insist on coming to visit Uncle Frodo!"
It took a moment for Merry to realize Sam had let his guard down, had relaxed in his banter with Frodo. He wished their friend would do the same for Pippin and him.
Merry nudged Frodo's leg. "I bet you don't spoil them nearly as much as you spoiled Pippin!" he laughed.
"Hey!" Pippin made a face at Merry.
Merry reached over to give Pippin's shoulder a little shove. "You had Frodo wrapped around your finger!"
"Merry's just jealous because I was no longer spoiling him all the time after you came along," Frodo said, winking at Pippin.
"True," Merry said, with an exaggerated sigh. They all laughed. Frodo looked happier now than when they'd arrived. Merry hoped and prayed that he'd get better, that Frodo would be able to put his hurts behind him. He wanted his daughter to grow up being spoiled by Frodo, to hear fantastic stories in front of the Bag End fire and to go on walks in the forest to look for elves. But something in his heart told him that Ivy would never know these things.
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