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Many Happy Returns  by Grey Wonderer

"The Patient"

"More tea?" Saradoc asked, taking the empty cup from his sonís hands.

"No," Merry sighed, and leaned back against his pillows. "I think Iíve had quite enough tea, thank you." He sighed again and glanced around the large room, taking in†the nice warm blankets on the bed, the small fire, the big over-stuffed chairs that were placed on either side of the rather large bed and then his father who was returning the tea cup to the tray.

The tea tray was very ornate with an amazing amount of gold filigree and delicate flowers covering its surface. The tea cups were also delicate and fragile looking and the entire set matched perfectly with the tea pot which stood steaming in the middle of it all. Merryís father looked even larger than he normally did holding one of the cups and sipping from it. Merry smiled.

"Well, then thatís better, though I have no idea why," Saradoc said, returning the smile. "Are you sure you donít want another cup of tea, Merry?" He sat in the large chair next to Merryís bed now.

"No, Doc," Merry grinned. "I am enjoying watching you drink from the Tookís fine china."

"Yes, well, too many lasses about a place and no cups of proper size," Saradoc agreed. "It would seem that everything in this Smail is designed to please the eye of a lass."

"I donít know how Pippin stands it all," Merry said, shaking his head. He gave the room a look again. It was Pippinís room. His younger cousin had insisted that he use it while he was recovering. There were signs of Pippin everywhere he looked. On the mantle above the fireplace there was a large tin of Old Toby and Pippinís favorite pipe, several large, carved, wooden boxes that Pippin stored things in, junk mostly, a clock, a painting that someone had done of Pippinís three sisters and Pippin together, and a stack of books that leaned slightly as if they might fall at any moment.

Pippinís coat was hanging on a hook on the back of the door along with his scarf and on a second hook there hung several of Pippinís shirts which heíd never gotten around to putting in his closet. In the corner by the door leaned Pippinís fishing pole and sitting beside of it was his pack which was probably still full from their last fishing trip. Pippin rarely remembered to unload things. More books covered the top of Pippinís desk along with scraps of paper covered with notes that Pippin had written and half-finished letters. Pippin was not much for corresponding and often started letters only to forget about them completely.

"I hope the party is going well," Merry said, frowning again.

"I am sorry that you are having to miss it, son," Saradoc said, sitting the small tea cup on the table beside of his chair. "I am sure youíll be up and around in another day or two."

"I know," Merry said, glumly. "I just never miss Pippinís birthday parties. He counts on me being there, you know. He really hates all of the formalities."

"Well, heís older now and I am sure that he is doing just fine," Saradoc assured his son. "How is your leg feeling?"

"It isnít hurting right now," Merry said. His left leg was propped up on some extra pillows and resting comfortably. There certainly were a great many pillows in Pippinís room. "I think that the stitches are beginning to itch a little. Mum always says that means that they are healing."

"Yes," Saradoc said. "The healer said that your wound was much better this morning when she re-dressed it. I think youíll be about in no time."

"I hope so," Merry sighed. "I am very tired of just laying here all day." Merry looked over at his father. "I donít suppose you would go and steal me some of the party food, would you?"

"I most certainly will, if you promise me that you wonít try to get up while Iím gone," Saradoc said. He had been very worried about Merry for the first few days after the accident. His son had lost a great deal of blood and the healers feared that an infection might set up in the wound. Merry had been very lucky. The wound was not infected and he was regaining his strength quickly. The color had come back into his cheeks during the last couple of days and his appetite was good.

"I promise, Doc," Merry said. He was very tired of Pippinís bed, but he knew that his father would not suffer any nonsense at this point. Merry was aware of just how worried everyone had been. In fact, though heíd never admit it, heíd been a bit alarmed himself when heíd first come to. Having oneís leg sliced open by a shard of glass was a very frightening event indeed. Merry still shuddered inwardly when he thought of it.

"Iíll be back shortly, then," Saradoc said.

"Say happy birthday to Pip for me, will you?" Merry added, as his father started to leave.

"I will, but I am sure that Pippin will be in to see you as soon as he can get away," Saradoc smiled.

Sometime later, Merry woke and found that he was looking over at Sam Gamgee. Sam was now sitting in the chair that his father had occupied earlier. Merry had been sleeping quite a bit lately, but the healer said that was good for him and to be expected. Any time a hobbit lost as much blood as Merry had, rest was the best thing for them. "Hullo, Sam," Merry said. "Why arenít you at the party?"

"Oh, itís all a bit too grand for me, Mister Merry," Sam smiled. "I feel like a fish out oí water in there. I thought your father might like to spend some time at the party and so I volunteered to come up and sit with you. He sent some food, but you were asleep when I got here."

"I donít really need a nurse-maid," Merry growled. "I wish all of you would go and help Pippin celebrate."

"Oh, thereís plenty oí folks doiní that, Mister Merry. I wonít be missed," Sam said. "And I wonít miss it." He arranged a tray with party foods stacked high on it in front of Merry as he spoke.

Merry smiled. "I suspect that Frodo will be looking for you at some point, Sam."

"Well, Iím sure your father will tell him what Iím doiní," Sam grinned. He was very glad of an excuse to miss the party. He didnít really know many of the guests and he felt self-conscious here in the great Smails at a party†for the Thainís son. He liked Mister Pippin, but he did feel uncomfortable around the youngsterís family. Mister Frodo had insisted that he come along when he found out that Mister Pippin had sent Sam an invitation. He didnít like refusing Mister Frodo because Mister Frodo did so many nice things for him and so he had agreed to come. They had arrived two days ago and Sam had been very nervous the entire time that they had been here.

"Is Pippin having any fun at all?" Merry asked, as he began to eat.

"Well, itís hard to tell," Sam said. "I think they were getting ready to start the party games when I left."

Merry groaned. "What sort of games? I mean, Pippin is a bit old for party games."

"Oh, not childrenís games or anything, Mister Merry," Sam said. "I think they were going to bob for apples and play mimes."

Merry chuckled. "Pippin is terrible at games. If he isnít careful, heíll drown himself while trying to get an apple."

Sam smiled. "Oh, Iím sure heíll win at something. It is his birthday and so someone will see to it."

"You donít know Pip like I do," Merry grinned. "He excels at losing. The lad has made an art of it over the years. Iíll never forget the first birthday part that Pippin attended."

"Sounds like a story," Sam said.

"All right," Merry said. "Iíll tell you about it while I eat. I donít think Pippin would mind too much as it was a while ago. He was just five at the time and his mum had brought him to Buckland to the Hall to attend a party for one of my young cousins who was turning seven."

Sam smiled and settled into his chair to hear the story. Merry was good with a story, as most hobbits were. He wasn't as skilled as Mister Bilbo had been, but still, Mister Merryís stories were nearly always amusing.

Merry†finished chewing† and then began his tale.†

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