11. Chapter 10 - April 1420
He went into the kitchen. Pippin was making breakfast, Ivy perched on one hip, and singing.
"Hey! Ho! To the bottle I go,
To heal my heart and drown my woe!
Rain may fall, and wind may blow--
Oh, good morning, Merry!" Pippin grinned at him.
Merry relaxed a little at the sight of Ivy, happily nestled within Pippin's arm. However, his momentary panic at where his daughter had gone still made him snap at Pippin. "What are you singing to her? Don't you know any nursery songs?"
"Nursery songs?" Pippin scoffed. "What good will those do her? She'll be able to use a good drinking song the rest of her life!"
Merry shook his head and took his daughter. He kissed her chubby cheek. "How about we go visit your gran today and she'll teach you some proper songs."
"Mine are more useful," Pippin muttered, putting the sausages on the table.
"Are you coming with us today?" asked Merry. He set Ivy into her baby chair and sat down.
Pippin sat across from him. "No. The Thain is supposed to arrive at the Hall today. I'm assuming he's going to come here to check up on me, so I thought I'd go stay with Frodo until he goes back to Tuckborough."
Merry stopped transferring sausages to his plate and looked up at Pippin. "You really do need to deal with him, Pip."
Pippin wrinkled his nose. "No I don't! And I'd appreciate you not telling him where I've gone."
Merry sighed. "Fine. I'll tell him you've run off with some elves on an adventure."
Pippin grinned at him. "Thanks, Merry!"
"Oh, she's so sweet!" Pimpernel Took squealed and took Ivy from Merry. Pearl and Pervinca gathered on either side of their sister, cooing over Ivy. Ivy giggled and stared up at them, basking in the attention. Merry shook his head. Girls. And they weren't even girls anymore. Pearl and Nel were married, with children of their own--Pearl's oldest was fourteen already! But they were still all giggly over their new cousin.
"Where's my son?"
Merry turned to face a scowling Paladin Took. He shrugged, trying to look innocent. "Um, don't know. I think he's gone off with some elves somewhere."
His uncle glared at him. "He's off to Hobbiton to hide out with Baggins, you mean?"
Merry shrugged again and tried to figure out how to get away. He really didn't blame Pippin for hiding. Pippin's father was what could be called a 'forceful personality'. He wasn't a bad person. He just needed to be in control all the time. He and his son were complete opposites, which only deepened their troubles.
Paladin looked over at his daughters, still cooing over Ivy. "So that's your daughter?" he asked. Although Pippin's mum and sisters had come to visit soon after they returned with Ivy, Pippin's father hadn't yet seen her.
Merry nodded. He wondered where his own father was. Probably hiding from the Thain as well.
Paladin frowned at him. "Taking up with Big Folk, were you? Not natural, that."
"Oh, leave him be, Paladin! It's none of your business!"
Merry sighed in relief at the sight of his mother. The one person who could put Paladin Took in his place.
"Really, Esme. I would have thought you'd care what your boy has been up to--"
"He's a grown hobbit. He can do what he wants." She glared at her brother and Paladin muttered something and stalked away.
"Thanks, Mum," Merry whispered.
"Your father had to leave suddenly. He had some urgent business to attend to in Stock. I'll watch Ivy today if you'd like to go help him." Esmeralda looked at her son meaningfully.
"Oh, yes. I remember. I think he will need my help." Help getting home, thought Merry as he made his exit, after sampling a bit too much of the ale at the Golden Perch.
Pippin returned to Crickhollow a few days later. Merry could tell something had happened when the front door slammed and Pippin stomped into the kitchen with a stormy look on his face. He slumped into a chair at the kitchen table.
"He found me," Pippin muttered. "Came out to Bag End. Started yelling at Frodo for being a bad influence on me. You got blamed as well."
Merry chuckled. "That's nothing new."
"After all I've been through, he still treats me like a child, Merry."
"Well, you are--"
"Merry, don't you dare!" Pippin scowled at him.
"I'm just saying, Pippin, that you aren't even of age yet and he doesn't know what we've been through. He probably doesn't really want to know. Mum said you scared him."
"Ha!" Pippin rolled his eyes.
"Really, Pip. You've changed, and more than just in height. He's seen your scars. And you're not the same happy-go-lucky troublemaker who left the Shire to chase after his odd, trouble-making cousins!"
Pippin sighed, then turned his attention to Ivy, sitting in her chair. "Hello, Ivy-lass." He picked her up and kissed her. "Did you miss me?"
Merry sighed, too. There was no making Pippin deal with something if he didn't want to. Unfortunately, the only thing he had in common with his father was stubbornness.
A frightened cry from the next room startled Merry from his reading. He sighed and put his book down. Pippin was having a nightmare. At least they weren't as frequent as they had been. They had been a nightly occurrence in Minas Tirith. Now he only had them when he'd had something stressful happen. Like his confrontation with his father.
It wasn't long before his bedroom door opened and Pippin peeked in. "Merry?" Pippin asked, his voice a shaking whisper. Merry just turned back the blanket next to him and Pippin came in and crawled in next to him. "Thanks," he mumbled. It embarrassed Pippin that he couldn't sleep alone after a nightmare.
Merry watched him. Pippin was huddled under the blanket, eyes wide in fear. He hated that his cousin had to go through this, that he couldn't do anything to help him. He reached over and stroked Pippin's hair to comfort him, the same as he always did ever since Pippin was a little boy. After all they'd been through, sometimes it was easy to forget that Pippin was only twenty-nine. He'd had the responsibilities of an adult--of a Man--thrust upon him when other lads his age were only concerned about how many ales they'd had or which lass to sneak a kiss from.
"It was the palantir again," whispered Pippin. "He saw me." A tear rolled down his cheek. "Why did I have to look at it?"
"Pip." Merry lay down and pulled him into an embrace. Pippin clung to him, fighting tears. "It's all right now. It's over. He's gone."
Pippin gave a shuddering sigh. "Do you still have nightmares, Merry?"
Merry thought about it. He'd had nightmares almost as often as Pippin at first. But he hadn't had one in a while. He tried to remember when he'd last had one.
"I don't think I've had one since Ivy was born," he said. He chuckled. "Maybe she exhausted me so much, I don't have the energy for nightmares." He was hoping to get at least a smile out of Pippin, but Pippin just lay there.
They lay quietly for a while, Merry still stroking his hair. "She was something good to come out of it," Pippin finally said. "If you hadn't been in the battle with Éowyn, you wouldn't have gotten her. Ivy made it worth it. Maybe that's why your nightmares went away." He sighed. "I wish I had something like that."
"Maybe," Merry said. Then he smiled. "Pippin, if you hadn't looked in the palantir, we wouldn't have been split up and I would never have been with Éowyn. So Ivy's something good to come out of that, too, right?"
Pippin brows furrowed in thought for a moment, then he cracked a smile. "I never thought of that," he said. He sat up and looked over at Ivy's crib. His face softened, losing some of the tension and fear from the dream. "Thanks, Merry," he said. Then he frowned and looked away, embarrassed. "Can I still stay here tonight?"
"Sure, Pip," Merry said, ruffling his hair. "But if you steal my blankets, I'm going to kick you out. Literally."
Pippin grinned and lay back down. Merry leaned over to blow out the candle. He glanced at his sleeping daughter. He hoped Pip was right and she could stop the nightmares.
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