Cousins Part V - In Which All is Well-- For Now at Least

Merry made many visits to Bag End, and when he was 16, started going up by himself, sometimes driving, sometimes on his pony with Dash. The terrier still bore the scars of his assault, but by this time had grown into an accomplished ratter and Ted's mongrel steered well clear of him. Merry would stop at Tookland first and visit his relations there. Pippin thought he was a god, since he could dash about the countryside all on his own. But Merry had caught on to working and managing the Brandybuck holdings alongside of his father, and Saradoc thought nothing of allowing him his freedom.

Pippin grew into a great source of entertainment for Merry and his other relations, and needless to say, stopped smelling bad, except if he fell into a frog pond. Like all Tooks, he was utterly without fear of anything or anyone, and unfortunately had to be pulled out of many scrapes and escapades. He clamored to be allowed to go up to Bag End with his cousin, and since the Tooks were known for their adventurous spirit, when Pippin was eight, he was allowed to accompany Merry. He could often be seen riding on his own pony beside his older cousin, the scarf that Merry had bought years before with his 3 copper pennies wrapped loosely around his neck. When he was 11, and Bilbo had his famous Party, he took part in that celebration as well.

The next day, after Bilbo's disappearance, and after Merry had helped clear out the stray treasure hunters. and Gandalf had left, Merry poured poor, exhausted Frodo a cup of tea and brought it to him. Frodo had his feet up and was nursing a headache.

"So, you're on your own, cousin," Merry observed. "This will be your first night alone. Shall I stay a few days til you get used to the idea?"

Merry wasn't at all worried about Bilbo. Frodo didn't seem to be concerned and Merry suspected he knew where the old hobbit had gone to. As for disappearing, well, Merry knew about the Ring, having seen Bilbo use it one day some years prior.

"I'll be fine, if this head stops pounding," Frodo said. "Oh bother, - who is it this time?"

Another called yanked on the doorbell. It had been Merry's task to chase off intruders. But when he pulled the door open, it was Eglantine and Paladin, their three daughters and Pippin,.

"We're off home," Paladin Took said. "Does Frodo need anything?"

"Peace and quiet, I think," said Merry.

"Can I stay here at Bag End with Merry and Frodo?" Pippin wondered

"I don't see why not," Eglantine said. "Your grandmother is very upset about what you did to her flower garden so it may just as well you hide out here for a while. What does Frodo think?"

Merry looked into the sitting room. "You might like some company, old son," he said. "I can take his nibs back to Tookland when I go home. I'll send him off with Sam when he goes to work tomorrow and that should take some of the starch out of him." Sam helped his father and at 21, also had one or two clients of his own.

Frodo waved. "Probably just as well," he said. "He can stay."

Pippin continued his many invasions of Frodo's privacy, usually fleeing the wrath of an outraged relative. Still and all, though seemingly bereft of common sense, he had a good heart, was a quick thinker and Merry found his boldness to be a worthy asset. When Pippin was older, the two went about together, when Merry was not busy in the vineyards and fields of Buckland, and a publican was glad to see them coming for their opinion in the matter of drink and vittles was much sought after. A good recommendation from these lads meant good business.

Merry and Sam maintained their friendship, although Sam wasn't as free to partake of as many of their adventures as he would have liked, he having to work for his keep. Pippin hadn't a clue what real work was, though Merry tried to show him. Pippin was forever telling Merry he needed to relax once in a while and Merry was always telling Pippin there was more to being the Thain than drinking and smoking. All in all, the two balanced each other out - Pippin kept Merry from becoming too serious and a measure of responsibility and foresight leaked into Pippin's head, despite his best efforts to resist.

It was Pippin who brought to Merry's attention the idea that Frodo was planning on leaving the Shire that fateful autumn. Was it not he who overheard Frodo wondering if he would ever see the Shire again? Merry was in the middle of arranging Frodo's supposed retirement to Buckland and it dawned on Merry what was up. What had Frodo, who never worked a day in his life, to retire from? Why would he talk about leaving? Between them, they suborned Sam and the three conspirators laid their plot. It seemed harmless enough and of course they all felt they owed Frodo, who had been their very best friend from the first.

"We'll probably just go off to Rivendell and give that nasty ring to the elves and that will be that," said Merry. "It will be a nice adventure, we'll come home with some stories, and that will be the end of that. What could possibly go wrong?"

What indeed. But that is another tale, which has already been told.

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