A Sheep With Green Eyes - A Hobbit Story
A/N- Hi all! This is my first submission to TORC and I'd be grateful for any comments on it. It is a non-slash, one chapter piece about how Merry and Pippin met, when Pippin was just born. It is early November in the year 1390 SR. Merry is 8; Merimas and Berilac are 9 and 10, respectively; and Pimpernel and Pervinca are 11 and 5, respectively. It seems there is an argument erupting at Brandy Hall...
A Sheep With Green Eyes
"Rim! That's mine!"
"Nuh-uh, Merry! I found it first"
"On my plate," Merry snarled back at his older cousin Merimas, who was dangling the younger hobbit's last biscuit out of his reach. Merry jumped, trying in vain to reach it, but Merimas just held it higher and laughed.
"Oi! Berilac, catch!" And away flew Merry's biscuit. Before he could run to save it, it disappeared with a few quick bites from Berilac.
"Berilac!" shouted Merimas.
"Ril!" Merry shrieked at the same moment.
Merry's "That was my biscuit!" was drowned out by Merimas's "You were supposed to throw it back!"
Berilac shrugged nonchalantly. "Oh, well. Too late now."
Merry exhaled loudly in frustration as he stormed out of the great dining room of Brandy Hall. Oh, but he hated his cousins. All of them. Except for Frodo, of course, but Bilbo Baggins had taken him away to Hobbiton, and that was very far away. His other cousins were all taller and stronger than he was - though he would never admit it to any but to himself. 'And meaner,' he mentally added, glaring back at his now laughing relations. 'And with harder names. I can't even say them!" Why couldn't he be the older cousin for once? Then maybe he'd actually get to finish his first breakfast, instead of having to wait for his second for more biscuits.
He was so busy plotting what he would do to Merimas and Berilac if he were the eldest cousin that he completely missed his mother walking down the hall to him until she spun him completely around. "Mum!"
"Hurry, Merry, we're to go to the Great Smials as soon as we can."
Merry scowled. The Great Smials meant more cousins. "Why?"he asked plaintively.
Esmeralda hurried him along the Hall's complex passageways until she came to his room. "Your Aunt Eglantine is going to have her baby soon, and Uncle Paladin wants me to be there."
Merry's scowl deepened. A new baby just meant more cousins. "But why do I have to go?"
"Because, dear, don't you want to see all of your cousins in Tuckborough?"
"No," Merry muttered as she shoved him in his room.
"Now be a good lad and change into something warmer. Get a few sets of extra clothes in case we have to stay there for a few days," Esmeralda instructed, ignoring his pleading looks as she shut the door. Merry glowered at it as he grabbed a jacket and scarf out of his bureau.
* * *
"How much farther is it?" Merry complained. He, Esmeralda, and a few more ladies of the Hall had been riding in a carriage toward the Tookland for a very long time, according to the young hobbit lad.
"Merry, dear, we haven't be traveling an hour. We're not even to Woodhall yet." Merry groaned and slid down in his seat. His mother shook her head disapprovingly at him. "Merry, where's your ink set Frodo gave you?"
"Oh!" Merry exclaimed, sitting back upright and rummaging in the bag of his belongings. He emerged after a few moments, triumphantly holding a piece of paper and the kit of four colored inks Frodo had presented him with on the older hobbit';s birthday. He filled the quill and paused thoughtfully. "Mum, what should I draw?"
His mother looked at the blank sheet and then gestured to the window. "Why not what you see in the clouds?"
"Good idea," Merry agreed, and set to his task while his mother resumed her conversation with the other lady hobbits. After a few minutes, he tapped Esmeralda on the shoulder. "I can't make a sheep."
With an exaggerated sigh (at which Merry giggled), the hobbit woman accepted the proffered paper and quill and sketched a fluffy ball with four legs, a head, and a curly tail, then handed it back to him, noting the color of the ink he had given her. "Did you really want a blue sheep, lad?"
"I like colorful things," Merry replied simply as he busily filled in the animal's fuzzy body in yellow and tail in red. As he was coloring the legs (also in red), the coach gave an abrupt jolt that made its occupants jump a small distance into the air.
"Oh!" exclaimed all the female hobbits.
Merry gasped as he looked at his picture. The bounce had caused his red ink to make a large dot beside his sheep. He frowned at it. His stomach growled, and his thoughts flew back to Brandy Hall, where Merimas and Berilac were probably sitting down to a nice meal with lots of his favorite foods. Like pie, and sausages, and cookies, and biscuits, and apples. The red blot suddenly recalled his light blue eyes, and he worked quickly, turning it into an apple. 'At least my sheep can have an apple, if I can't," he thought. He looked at his sheep, and realized the head was still uncolored. The only color he hadn't used was green, so he made two large green circles for its eyes and a smiling red mouth. "There!" he said with an air of finality. He waved the paper in front of his mother's face.
Esmeralda grabbed the drawing. "Merry, stop that." She looked at the vividly colored sheep and smiled. "Oh, how cute! A pip for the pretty sheep."
"He's not pretty, he's handsome," Merry responded indignantly. He peeped over his mother's elbow to better see his picture. "What's a pip?"
Chuckling, the older hobbit gave him the paper and pointed to the apple. "That's a pip, silly goose."
"But Mum, that's an apple!" Merry argued.
"An apple is a pip, love. It's just a Tuckborough expression."
"Oh." Merry thought this over for a moment. "What's a 'pression?" he asked, yawning.
Esmeralda noticed the yawn and felt him lean against her tiredly. "A way of saying something. Go to sleep, Merry."
"'M too old for a nap," the young Brandybuck mumbled before his thoughts flitted away to wander lightly in the clear pools and shady meadows of the fantasy-world of dreams.
* * *
"Merry. Dear, wake up. Merry," a voice whispered. "Mer-rrry."
"What?" he mumbled groggily, reaching out with his left hand to shoo away the intruder.
The voice laughed. "And he says he's too old for naps! Merry, we're at the Great Smials. Time to get up."
Slowly, Merry's head cleared and his eyes opened. His mother's smiling face greeted him. "We're there?" he yawned, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.
"In about two seconds, we will be," Esmeralda answered. Right on cue, the carriage stopped.
Merry hopped out of the coach, still clutching his drawing, all thoughts of sleep forgotten. "Pimmie!" he yelled as his cousin swept him into a hug. "Leggo!"
Pimpernel dropped him unceremoniously on the ground and hugged his mother. "Aunt Esmeralda! We've been looking for you all day - it's expected any minute - Da's been so worried, he's probably pacing in front of Mother's room right now--"
"Lead the way," Esmeralda commanded, and with a swirl of brightly-colored skirts, the ladies of Brandy Hall followed their mistress and the young Took.
"Wait for me!" Merry cried, running to catch up. "Oi, Pimmie! Look at my picture! Pimmie!"
Merry's pleas were not answered until Pimpernel had led them through the corridors of the Great Smials - as confusing in their own right as Brandy Hall's - where she halted, gesturing down the passage. "Mother's room is down there." Ignoring the group of male hobbits that lingered outside of the door, Esmeralda knocked once and entered, shooting her brother a smile as she closed the door behind her company.
"You could've waited," Merry grumbled as he reached the older hobbit. He thrust the paper toward her. "Look. He's a sheep."
"So I see," returned Pimpernel. Her eyes scanned the picture. "What's his name?"
Merry blinked. He hadn't thought of a name. "Er... Pip!" he exclaimed, remembering his mother's story. "His name is Pip."
Pimpernel smiled broadly. "Charming. Well, I must be off." She gave back the paper and turned to go.
"Where?" Merry said curiously. "And why's Uncle Pal not--" But his cousin was gone. Sighing with an air of long-suffering, he trudged down the hallway. "Uncle Pal," he called, wondering what they were all doing. His favorite uncle was slowly wearing a circular hole into the floor in front of the door, his face tight. "What's the matter, Uncle Pal?"
Paladin stopped mid-step, looking at Merry in surprise. He had not seen the young hobbit come up. "Nothing, Merry-lad. What's that you've got there?" he asked, noticing Merry clutching his picture.
Merry beamed. "Look at my sheep, Pip!" He pushed the illustration into his uncle's hands and rocked back and forth from the heels to the balls of his furry feet, waiting for Paladin's verdict.
Paladin considered it for a moment. Slowly, the tense lines of his face smoothed and the corners of his lips turned upwards, albeit a rather small amount. "Pip, eh, lad? What does that stand for?" he asked, knowing his nephew's habit of shortening names to make them easier to say.
"Nothin'. That's his full name: Pip the Sheep!" the lad replied proudly.
His uncle ruffled his curls as he handed back the drawing and Merry laughed. "That's very nice, Merry-lad>"
"Uncle Pal?" Merry queried, looking up at his uncle with a suddenly serious face.
"You look scared. Why are you scared?"
Paladin's eyes drifted toward the closed door as he replied. "I'm not 'scared', Merry. I'm just very nervous about your aunt and the baby."
"Why are you nervous 'bout Aunt Tine and the baby? It's not even borned yet."
"That's exactly why I'm nervous."
Before Merry could question this very strange answer, there was a piercing cry from within the room. Merry jumped and faced the door with wide eyes, as if he expected a monster to come from it. Most of the male hobbits looked up from their conversations, and a few came over to Uncle Pal and talked to him softly. Merry looked at his uncle in surprise; the older hobbit was only a few inches from the room's entrance, body rigid. There was another scream, louder than the first, and then a softer wail, as of a baby crying. Paladin's hand hovered between knocking on the door and knocking the door down, and he started when it suddenly opened of its own accord.
Esmeralda beamed at him. "Come in, Paladin." Her brother nearly ran into her in his haste, and as she began to close the door, a little voice stopped her.
"Mum, is the baby borned?"
"Yes, Merry. He's here."
'He,' Merry thought. 'I wonder what his name is.' So he asked his mother.
"I don't know, love. He was just born less than a minute ago."
"Oh," Merry replied. He thought it over for a moment, then said, "Can I see him?"
"Not yet, dear. Give his parents some time. And see if you can find his sisters, hmm?"
"But Mum, I--" Too late. The door was shut. Merry frowned at it, then turned to face the assembled male hobbits, who were apparently taking bets on whether it was a lad or a lass babe. "It's a boy," he informed them. There were cheers and whoops (not to mention several exchanges of money), and another cousin, Adelard Took, brought out a bottle of champagne from somewhere and they toasted the new baby. "Do any of you know where Pearl an' Pimmie an' Vinca are?" All those who heard Merry's quiet question shook their heads.
The lad sighed and plopped himself on the floor, back resting on the door. For a while - he couldn't tell how long - he thought about everything and nothing, entertaining ideas ranging from what meal they were having at Brandy Hall to what his cousin Frodo was doing to why some of his various relations had begun singing a horribly off-key song, glasses waving in their hands.
* * *
"Oh, how cute," Esmeralda cooed over the tiny baby in her brother's arms. The small hobbit over whom all the fuss was being made wrinkled his nose and yawned.
Paladin said proudly, "He's the spitting image of his father."
"Aye, and more's the pity," Eglantine commented from the bed. The two women laughed as Paladin looked down and spoke to the bundle in his arms.
"Always remember, son, women are strange creatures. You should be smarter then your da and never get married."
Eglantine hit her husband's arm lightly. "Stop that, you! Now, where are the girls?" she asked as he handed the baby back to her.
"I told Merry to get them," Esmeralda replied.
Paladin waved his hand. "Pimpernel is probably still greeting guests, Pervinca is taking her nap, and I haven't seen Pearl for a while. Let Merry come in and see his new cousin."
"Are you sure? Shouldn't his sisters see him first?" Esmeralda asked.
"If they're not nearby, then it's their own fault. They should be waiting patiently, like young Merry is,"Eglantine answered.
Esmeralda responded dryly as she walked to the door, "I know many things Merry could be called, but patient doesn't spring to my mind." She opened it and her son fell backwards, landing with surprise on her feet.
"Hello, Mum!" he said cheerfully from his position on the floor.
With a sigh, his mother said sternly, "Get off the floor, Merry. Honestly, whatever am I going to do with you?" But she gave him a quick kiss on his cheek and he knew she was only joking.
"Can I see the baby now, Mum?"
"Yes, dear, you may."
Merry hurried into the room, but slowed hesitantly as he approached the bed. With a smile and a wave of her hand, his aunt called him closer. "It's all right, Merry-lad. We won't bite."
Encouraged, he stepped up to the baby and peered eagerly into the blankets Eglantine held out to him. The baby was little and red-cheeked and nearly bald, except for two tufts of wispy curls on the very top of his head. His eyes, which had been closed, opened slowly, regarding this new person. Merry gave a low yell. "He's got green eyes! Just like Pip's!" He waved the paper as proof.
The baby scrunched up his face as if he were about to cry. "Don't do that, Merry," his aunt cautioned him, but then the babe's face relaxed and he blinked. "Now, what's all this about a Pip? Who is he?"
"My sheep," Merry told her, displaying his picture.
Eglantine and Paladin's eyes met over the top of his drawing and some sort of agreement seemed to take place, because Paladin said, "Merry-lad, do you know what we decided to name him?"
"No. What?" Merry asked, wondering how the conversation could have taken this turn.
"Peregrin." Merry nearly groaned; not another hard name to pronounce! And he had been going to like this baby, who had the same color eyes as his wonderful sheep picture. "But," Paladin continued, and the young lad looked up at him hopefully, "we could shorten it to something that would be easier for you to say, couldn't we? So, how about Pip, then?"
A tired voice from the doorway asked, yawning in the middle, "Who's Pippin?"
Merry turned to see his cousin Pervinca, clutching her beloved stuffed rabbit as Paladin smiled. "Pippin. That's even better, Pervinca. What do you say, Merry?"
Merry looked at his uncle. He was getting to decide the baby's name? "That's a very good name, Uncle Pal. Pippin," he repeated, looking at the baby in the blanket. The baby smiled up at him and he smiled back, gently stroking the little curls on the babe's head with one finger.
"That's nice," Vinca murmured, shuffling over to the couch and curling into a ball, the rabbit held tightly in one hand.
Merry yawned as well. It had been a long and eventful day, and he didn't argue when his mother picked him up and put him down beside Vinca. He looked over to the bed and his new little cousin and whispered as his eyes closed, "Pippin." Maybe his relatives weren't so bad, after all.