Young Brandybuck-Part 4 - Confused At Bilbo's Party

QUICK OVERVIEW OF PART 3- Merry and Sam were made to watch Pippin for a few hours, but they got restless in the house. Merry took Pippin for a walk, but lost him. Frodo, Merry, Sam, and Daisy formed an impromptu search party to look for Pippin. Frodo and Merry found Pippin at the base of an oak tree, unconsious and bleeding from the head. And we pick up from there...

******

Merry gently rolled Pippin over, looking upon his bloodied face.

"Oh, Elbereth," Frodo murmered, horrified, "Tell me he's still breathing." Merry placed a hand in front of Pippin's mouth, relieved to feel small breathing brush against his fingers.

"He's still breathing," Merry said, "He's alive." Frodo breathed a sigh of relief, and looked heavenward.

"Evening approaches," he said, "We've got to get him back before Sam sends out a search party. Merry, his mum's going to curdle us..."

"Everyone's going to curdle us, Frodo," said Merry, lifting Pippin, gingerly, into his arms, "I can't believe I let this happen," He brushed the curls out of Pippin's face, "This is all my fault. I should have known to watch him more carefully."

"Don't be too hard on yourself," Frodo said, placing a hand on his shoulder, "Master Gamgee'll fix him up right. Let's just get him home."

They traced their steps back to The Water, finding that Daisy had waited faithfully for them. Her hand flew to her mouth when laying eyes on Pippin, and a mortified gasp escaped her throat.

"What happened?" she inquired.

"We found him at the base of a tree," Frodo told her, "I can only guess that he fell. We'll have to wait till he wakes up to know the whole tale." Merry looked down at Pippin, tears escaping his eyes. How could he let this happen? Pippin looked so small and fragile; Merry could hardly believe that this same hobbit child he had thrown over his shoulder and tripped over earlier that day. Merry know carried him as though he were made of glass.

"He will be alright, then?" Daisy was asking. Frodo looked her in the eyes, placing a hand on her arm.

"We can only hope."
******
The lights in the windows of Number Three never looked more inviting. Sam waited there with Bilbo and Master Hamfast and the other Gamgees in the warmth of the sitting room. Frodo opened the door for Merry and Daisy, allowing them both inside. Sam cried out at the sight of Pippin, and everyone shot to their feet.

"What is the meaning of this?!" Bilbo cried, "Merry, Frodo, what happened?!" Merry only looked sadly at Master Hamfast.

"Can you do anything for him, sir?" he asked, meekly. Hamfast walked over to him and glanced down at Pippin, nodding.

"Bring him back to Sam's room," he said, then to Sam and Marigold, "Bring me some hot water and those bandage strips we used when Halfred sliced his hand, but only the ones we washed. Bring me the solvent we mixed for that as well." Sam and Marigold nodded and darted out in different directions: Sam to the kitchen and Marigold out to the garden. Hamfast looked at Merry.

"He'll be all right, Merry, don't you worry," he said, "He'll be all right." Merry nodded, trying to smile.
******
Pippin healed well, and awoke the next morning with a racking headache. He did, however, find the gall to laugh at Merry for looking so solemn.

"You're a doleful as a funeral, Merry!" he exclaimed, "but I guess I wouldn't be here without you."

"You've got that right, Pip, and don't you forget it," Merry told him, "And if you ever do that again, I may have to just leave you there." Pippin only laughed again, pressing a hand to his head.

"I didn't mean to get hurt," he said, "I went off to hide and you were supposed to come find me. Then I'd scare you and we'd laugh, like when you dropped me earlier. But I guess I climbed too high, and I fell. That's all I remember. You're not going to tell my mum, are you?"

"Of course I'm going to tell your mum, Pippin!" Merry said, "And I hope your dad thrashes you for it, and thrashes you good, too. Pippin, we didn't know if you were dead or hurt or alive. And what if we didn't find you? What then? Pippin, my dad told me once that these games are only fun when no one gets hurt. Once that happens, it needs to stop. And it wasn't nobody but your own self that got hurt. I hope you've learned something, Peregrin Took." Pippin nodded, then pointed to the gash on his elbow.

"Did you see this?" he said, "Master Hamfast said it'll leave a scar. Isn't that just jolly? I'm gonna have a scar, Merry!" He grinned. Merry laughed, shaking his head.

"Pippin Took, you are the oddest, jolliest, irrepressible Took that ever walked the woods of Tuckborough," he said, "I commend you. Health and long life to you, and if you can't go to heaven, may you at least die in the Shire!" Pippin just laughed.
******
Pippin avoided tall trees after that, and his mum and dad did get after him for what he did. Merry was told that his bum hurt so bad, he couldn't sit down for a week. Merry felt sorry for him, but was also glad in a way. He had learned his lesson. The games and tricks they played now were only in good fun.

Years passed and once a month they came to visit Frodo and Bilbo. Sometimes Fatty and Estella visited, but only on occasion. And occasions there were to come, for Frodo was nearing 33 and Bilbo 111. Their combined party was to be the grandest the Shire had ever seen. During these days of planning the party, neither Merry nor Pippin was allowed up to Bag End. Bilbo was getting quite stressed over the whole matter, but Frodo did relay to them all that went on behind the great green door of Bag End.

During these days of waiting, the foursome of Merry, Fatty, Estella, and Pippin became a bit of a clique. They came up during the month to Hobbiton to visit just Frodo, but would often wander the streets and woods, talking and laughing. Merry had gotten used to Estella and found her quite jovial. She had gotten over her pickiness and primness, and all three of the boys watched out for her.

But it was in these days in Hobbiton that Merry came face-to-face with a rival of despicable character. His name was Manolo Proudfoot. He had a gang of three other hobbits of Hobbiton: a Bolco, a Boffins, and a Chubb. Merry never learned their names, but Manolo's name was imprinted into the corners of his brain. Rivalry had errupted in the lives of young Brandybuck, Bolger, and Took.

******

The day of the Party came and Merry's gang was ready for the festivities. They were all dressed in bright colors, and Estella had a crown of daisies adorning her dark curls. The day began with games, and Pippin won a brightly painted top that he and Estella played with during the first meal of the day. Merry noticed that Estella didn't seem to care that Pippin was years younger than her; the two had fun acting juevenile and spinning the top over and over again till all the colors on it looked like a blur, and Pippin would squeal in delight. Estella would laugh at him and spin it again. Merry smiled at her.

Merry finished eating and walked over to an archery contest in the far corner. All the young hobbits were trying it, and Merry had learned archery from his dad. He had chosen his bow and three arrows when a voice behind him made him stiffen.

"Merry Brandybuck, isn't it?" Manolo Proudfoot sneered, "Trying a soft hand at a hard game, Merry? You know, it is going to take more than a few archery games to win the heart of Estella Bolger." Merry turned, slowly.

"What did you say?" he asked, gritting his teeth.

"I saw you gawking at her in the pavilion, Merry," Manolo said, "Cute, isn't it, boys? Little Merry's found himself a girlfriend. Shame, though, I don't think Miss Bolger likes cross-eyed hobbit-boys, Merry."

"Then it looks like you'll never get her, will you?" Merry shot back, "And since when do you come off all nice and calling her `Miss Bolger'. If I recollect correctly, the last time we crossed paths, you pushed her in the mud."

"Did I? Aren't I a cad," Manolo shot an arrow and hit the target dead center. He sighed, contently, and turned back to Merry, "I'll stick around to see when I'm declared champion."

"Merry? Is everything all right?" Estella had approached Merry from behind. She must have seen the impending row brewing between Merry and Manolo, and stepped in to break up the fight before it began.

"Fine, everything's just fine," Merry mumbled, turning back to the archery range. Fatty and Pippin followed, in hope's of supporting their leader.

Merry remained silent as he nocked his arrow and took his stance, angling the arrow down and about 40 degrees to the right. He closed one eye as his fingers began to sweat. I'll show him, he thought, Let's see what he thinks of this. He narrowed his eyes, concentrating only on Manolo's arrow. There came a loud -TWANG!- and everyone looked to see where Merry's arrow had landed. There was an eerie silence. Merry's arrow had split Manolo's arrow, hitting the center.

A great roar of applause came up from the hobbits watching as Merry straightened himself, calmly, and returned his arrows and bow. Fatty and Pippin slapped him on the back and Estella hugged him tightly. With all the hubbub, Merry forgot to look to see how green Manolo's face turned, but he knew it would not be a pretty color.

He was awarded a small, gold-plated arrow, which he promptly handed to Estella, telling her to hold on to it for awhile. Although, he meant for her to keep it, but he wouldn't tell her that. Not yet, anyway...

******

Supper began at six o'clock, and Merry's gang had the chance, being relatives and close friends, to eat in the great pavilion under the great tree. Merry sat next to Pippin, in order to look after him. Estella was across from him, sitting next to Fatty. Merry couldn't believe his foolishness, for all throughout the meal, he found himself staring at Estella. He wasn't sure if she noticed, but certainly Pippin did, and maybe even Fatty.

Fireworks began at six-thirty, and Merry nudged Pippin. Pippin nodded, knowingly, and they both stood.

"Cover for us," Merry told Fatty and Estella. They nodded.

Merry and Pippin slipped out of the pavilion, unnoticed. Their eyes darted about for Gandalf's cart, finding all the way on the other side of the area.

"Merry, what's come over you?" Pippin asked, as they elbowed their way through the crowd, "You've gone all wishy-washy and staring at Estella. What's up?"

"Nothing, Pip, what makes you think something's up?" Merry asked, trying not to look at Pippin.

"Er, maybe because you were staring at Estella all through supper," Pippin suggested, "That was my first hint. Then you won an archery round, and didn't even boast about it. What's the matter with you?"

"Pippin, I don't really want to talk about it right now," Merry said, brushing him off, "Look out! Gandalf's coming!"

Pippin jumped into a tent as Merry crouched behind his cart. Gandalf was laughing to himself, grabbing a handful of elf-fountains and goblin-barkers and dwarf-candles, then he was on his way. Merry stood, slapping the side of the tent. Pippin emerged from the tent, and, with a boost from Merry, was thrown into Gandalf's cart.

Pippin fished around for a bit, then produced a backarapper. Merry shook his head.

"No, no," he said, rapidly, looking out for Gandalf, "Get the big one! The big one!"

Pippin pulled out a giant firework shaped like a dragon, and looked at Merry for approval. Merry grinned. That was perfect.

Pippin hopped out of the cart and ran around the tent. Merry followed, casually chewing at an apple as he went.

They took their prize into the tent, and before Merry could stop him, Pippin had lit it.

"You're supposed to stick it in the ground," Merry told him, shoving it to him.

"It is in the ground," Pippin answered, shoving it back.

"Outside!" Merry exclaimed, shoving it to Pippin.

"It was your idea!" But without another warning, the fire-cracker exploded, taking the tent up with it. Merry and Pippin were flat on their backs, watching it rise to terrible heights above them. Pippin gave an extremely feminine yelp, covering his face with his hands. Merry, on the other hand, watched it rise and burst into the shape of a dragon high above them. Every hobbit turned to look at the spectical as it turned and began to swoop down over their heads. Now the excitement turned to fear as the dragon, with its jaws wide open, came screeching down on the crowd of party-goers. People screamed and tried to run away, leaping over tables and falling prostrate on the ground. But the then the dragon took a higher flight again, growing very small and then suddenly bursting in great splendor and majesty over Bywater. The prostrate hobbits saw the greatness and cheered.

"That was good," Merry said, grinning mischieviously. Pippin nodded.

"Let's get another one," said he, but there was no time. Gandalf had found them, and, grabbing them by the ears, turned them both to face him. His eyebrows bristled outward in anger.

"Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took," he said, slowly, looking at each in turn, "I might have known." He shoved them towards a nearby tent, and, showing them the piles of dirty dishes, instructed them to wash and dry.

Merry could be angry, though. He had had his fun, and it was worth it.

******

"Merry, that was brilliant!" Merry turned. He had been washing for at least an hour, hardly even caring about his sooty face and hair. Bilbo had made his disappearance, but Merry had had some hint about that from Frodo. The dancing had continued, but Merry still continued to clean. He had wondered about Estella, but here she was now to congragulate him.

"That was the best firework of the night," she told him, "You and Pip pulled that off quite brilliantly."

"You were supposed to cover for us," Merry said, a little scornfully, but smiling in spite of himself. He nodded towards the mounds of dishes. Estella blushed a little.

"I was a bit distracted," she admitted, "That was quite a show." Merry shrugged, and nodded towards to the dishes.

"I guess somebody's got to do it," he said. Estella smiled, and took a good look at Merry.

"You're a mess," she told him.

"Gandalf wouldn't let me clean up," said Merry, but the next thing he knew, Estella had pulled out her hankie, dipped it in the dish soap, and began scrubbing the soot off his face.

"Stella!" he complained, "I've been washing dishes in that! That's rather nasty, don't you think?"

"And since when have you ever cared?" Estella asked, "You are an absolute mess! There is no way I'm going to let you out among respectable hobbits looking like that."

"And since when did you appoint yourself as my mum?" Merry asked, trying to grab at her wrist so she'd stop. Estella pulled her hand out of his reach and grabbed his ear.

"Stand still, Merry!" she exclaimed, "You're as bad as Pippin."

"I'd consider that a compliment, Merry!" Pippin called from the back of the tent.

"You would!" Merry shot back, but Estella turned him around and scrubbed at his face. Reluctantly, Merry stood still, allowing her to wash his face clean. It was rather nice, though, for she had a pretty face to look at: her hair was thick and black, cascading down her back in ringlets, her mouth was red, her cheeks flushed in a rosy pink, and her green eyes sparkled in the torchlight.

"What are you staring at?" Merry snapped back to reality, realizing Estella had finished and he was gawking at her like she had a bug on the middle of her nose. Merry shook his head.

"Nothing," he said, casually. Estella stood on her toes a bit, smoothing out the ends of Merry's hair. Merry hadn't realized before how much shorter she was than him. He suddenly felt rather tall near her.

"How is Manolo behaving?" he asked, trying to get a grip on himself. Estella rolled her eyes.

"He won't dance with anybody," she said, "He and his boys only stand off to the side, making cracks about Bilbo. I'd slap them myself if they weren't so big."

"I'll settle the score later," Merry promised. Estella laid a hand on his arm, pleadingly.

"Not tonight, Merry," she said, "Bilbo may not be here, but it is Frodo's birthday. His favorite cousin is in town, so let's not spoil this night for him, with him coming of age and all." Merry nodded. Frodo wouldn't be pleased with him if he started a riot now. It could wait.

"How much longer will you be, Merry?" Estella was asking. Merry looked back, surveying the piles of dishes.

"Maybe another fifteen to thirty minutes," he estimated. Estella nodded, and looked up at him with her green eyes. Merry thought for a moment that he might get lost in them if he didn't grab hold of something.

"Shall I save the last dance for you, then, Stella?" he asked, softly. Estella smiled, and Merry noticed that she had slipped her small hand into his. But only briefly.

"I'll wait for you," she whispered, then turned and left him to finish his work.

Merry sat down, rather shaken, and admitted out loud:

"I am so confused." From behind, Merry heard Pippin laugh. Merry turned.

"Pippin, pretend you didn't see that," he told him. Pippin grinned, widely. It was a familiar grin to Merry, saying that Pippin didn't care to keep secrets.

"I can try," Pippin replied, laughing to himself. Merry chucked his wet rag at him, provoking a wet rag fight in the dish tent. Well, boys will be boys.

******

To Be Continued...

Author's Note: I know on the last one I said there were only two posts left, but I lied. I'm having too much fun with this hobbit!! So, for those of you enjoying these, there are still
two posts left. I'm certain this time. ~Ainariel~

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