16. Chapter 15 - September 1420
They were having Frodo’s birthday lunch as a picnic in the garden, surrounded by Sam’s autumn blooms. Only Frodo’s closest friends had been invited to Bag End for the day: Merry, Pippin and Ivy had travelled from Buckland with Freddy and Estella, and Folco Boffin had come down from Frogmorton. Rosie and Estella were fussing over Ivy, who was proudly showing off her new skills at walking, though she still needed to clutch a hand for support. Merry smiled, watching his daughter stumble into Estella’s waiting arms. Ivy giggled and grinned at her audience as they clapped for her. She was aware of being the center of attention now, and she took every opportunity to show off.
“She’s getting big,” Frodo said, as Ivy tiptoed carefully from Rosie’s hands to Estella’s. “Pretty soon she’ll be walking on her own and before you know it, she’ll be chasing after lads.” Merry scowled at him, but Frodo just laughed and winked.
“Merry’s not ready to think about that,” Pippin said. “He had a hard enough time moving her into her own room last month.”
“You just wait until it happens to you,” Merry muttered. It had been harder than he thought, finally moving Ivy out of his room. They’d re-arranged their house, with Pippin moving to the third bedroom so that Ivy could have the room between them. Merry had a sleepless night that first night, wanting to be awake in case Ivy got scared on her own. He should have been happy she’d slept through the night, but instead he’d been saddened that she hadn’t needed him. At least his mum had reassured him that it was perfectly normal to feel that way. She said she had felt the same way when he’d been moved to his own room.
“Well, it must be hard when they grow up on you,” said Sam. He gave a little sigh. Frodo leaned over and whispered something in Sam’s ear, and Sam shook his head. “Oh, no, Mister Frodo. It’s your day today.”
“Sam.” Frodo glared at him, exasperated. Sam sighed again and nodded. Merry chuckled. Sam couldn’t refuse Frodo anything.
Sam got up and went over to Rosie. He leaned down and whispered something to her. Rosie face lit up in a smile. She stood up and took Sam’s hand.
“Well,” Sam said. He coughed nervously. “Mister Frodo says we should tell you all now, although it is his birthday today.” Frodo laughed, shaking his head, and Sam blushed. “Anyways, what I’d--we’d liked to tell you...” He looked at Rosie, his cheeks still bright red.
Rosie laughed and gave her husband a quick peck on the cheek. “What Sam is trying to say,” she said, beaming at the circle of friends, “is that we’re going to have a baby!”
Cheers erupted in the garden. The sudden noise startled Ivy and she burst into tears. Merry scooped her up and cuddled her.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Rosie said. She rubbed Ivy’s back. “I feel so bad that we frightened her.”
“I’ll just take her inside for a bit. She’ll be all right,” Merry said. “Babies are tougher than they look.” He smiled at Rosie and Sam. “You’ll learn that soon enough!”
He clapped Sam on the shoulder and turned to go up the path to Bag End’s back door. He’d get Ivy some apple juice. That usually calmed her down.
“I’ll come with you,” Frodo said. He got up from his chair, a little unsteady at first, then followed Merry into the cool burrow.
“If you could pour her a cup of juice,” Merry said over his shoulder, “I’ll go check her diaper.” He grinned at Frodo. “Unless you’d like to switch jobs?”
“No, that’s quite all right!” Frodo said, waving his hands and laughing. “I’ll leave the messy diapers to you and Pippin!” He smiled, his eyes twinkling. “And Sam.”
Merry patted Ivy’s back. She was starting to quiet now and was just sniffling into his collar. “How long have you known?” Merry asked.
“Rosie knew for sure just a little over a month ago.” Frodo said. He grinned. “Isn’t it wonderful?”
“Yeah,” Merry said, though he thought the most wonderful thing was seeing how the news of Rosie’s pregnancy made Frodo smile. “It is.”
Freshly changed and her recent fright a distant memory, Ivy sat happily on Frodo’s lap in Bag End’s kitchen, blowing bubbles into her cup. Merry sighed as he watched the sticky juice splatter her face and dress. Frodo had just taught her that trick. Sometimes he was as bad as Pippin.
“Rosie said you and Estella are officially courting now?”
Merry nodded. “I spoke to her mum in August.” It had been a nerve-wracking visit, though he knew that Mrs. Bolger was not going to refuse. He had to wonder how much of a wreck he would have been if Estella’s dad were still alive and he’d had to speak to him.
“She’s a wonderful lass, Merry,” Frodo said, smiling broadly. “I couldn’t think of a better girl for you.”
“Ivy likes her.” The words were colder than he meant for them to be. He had thought moving things forward with Estella would be easy--she was a wonderful lass. But when well-meaning relatives told him what a good mother Estella would be for Ivy, he couldn’t help but feel guilty about it, that if things worked out with Estella he would be replacing Ivy’s mother.
Frodo held his gaze for a moment. “Have you heard from Éowyn?”
The question didn’t surprise Merry at all. Frodo always seemed to know what was troubling him. Ever since he was a boy, it had been Frodo Merry had gone to with his troubles. He shook his head. “No. But I’ve heard from Éomer. He said it’s still hard for her and she’s just not ready to hear about Ivy yet.” He sighed. “I’ve sent letters to Faramir, about Ivy. When Éowyn is ready, he can give them to her.”
Frodo nodded and looked down at Ivy. She had finished her juice and was now patting at her sticky cheeks. “You are a mess, my girl,” Frodo said.
“Oh, and who’s fault is that?” Merry chuckled, getting up to get a wet cloth. “Teaching her things like that!”
“I taught your dad to blow bubbles,” Frodo said proudly to Ivy. “Your Uncle Pippin, too.” He tickled her stomach to make her giggle, then looked up at Merry and winked. “And I got the same scolding from Aunt Esme and Aunt Eglantine.”
Merry shook his head. “And it obviously went in one ear and out the other both times.”
Frodo laughed and took the cloth to wipe up Ivy. Merry watched them, smiling, his heart at ease again. Frodo’s weariness disappeared while he held the baby, dabbing at her messy face and whispering in her ear. Perhaps he was just worrying too much, and Frodo really was getting better.
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.