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Many Happy Returns  by Grey Wonderer

"Another Visitor"†

"I am sure youíll get the chance to tease him," Sam smiled, trying to cheer Merry up a bit. He knew how rough this past week had been for his friend. Merry was hardly ever ill and so he wasnít used to staying in bed, inactive. The healers had insisted that he do so in order to allow his leg to fully heal. They refused to take a chance on the wound reopening and bleeding again. Merry could not afford to lose any more blood. It was very unfortunate that Merry was missing Pippinís party, but it couldnít be helped.

"I suppose so," Merry said, still looking a bit depressed. "Was the lovely Estella Bolger having a grand time at Pippinís party?"

"I saw her with one of Mister Pippinís sisters early on," Sam said. "She looked a bit lonely if you want my take on things."

Merry laughed. "Just the perfect thing to say, Sam," Merry said. "If sheís with the other lasses while Iím laid up then I can rest a bit easier. I donít mind the idea that she might be missing her favorite dance partner either." He took another bite of his dwindling supply of party food and winked at Sam.

"Are you planning on marrying that lass?" Sam asked.

"Who, me?" Merry said, feigning surprise. "I donít know that Iím ready to settle down just yet, Sam. Do you suppose sheíd simply agree not to look anyone else or dance with anyone else until I am?"

"I suspect from the way the two oí you look at each other when youíre together that she might wait on you for a while," Sam grinned. "Oí course she is a lass, and so I donít think sheíd wait for over-long if you get my meaning."

"I do, Sam," Merry said. "Speaking of marriage, just how did you manage to get a night or two away this close to your own marriage? Why didnít you bring the lovely Rose Cotton to Pippinís birthday celebration?"

"Sheís a bit like me," Sam confessed. "Thought it a bit grand and was nervous about it all. I donít think nothingís too grand for my Rosie, but she was uncomfortable with it all. Mister Pippin invited her, but she was just too nervous to come."

"So, Frodo didnít insist on her coming the way that he did you?" Merry teased.

Sam blushed but said seriously, "I worried a bit about Mister Frodo coming on his own. I thought he might get in one oí his moods and need some help. I knew Mister Pippin would be busy with his party and I figured you might be with Miss Estella. I just felt better about coming along."

Merry looked thoughtfully at his friend. "Not much better then?"

"It comes and goes," Sam sighed. Both of them had been worried about Frodo since they had returned to the Shire after the quest. Sam still hoped that Frodo would recover completely, but Merry was beginning to doubt this was possible.

Just then, the door to the room burst open and Pippin, dripping wet, rushed in and closed the door behind himself with a huge sigh. Merry and Sam looked over at their young friend and Merry smiled, "Did you win?"

"Oh, shut up, Meriadoc," Pippin hissed, pulling a dry shirt and some trousers†off of the back of the door and disappearing into a small dressing area off of his room.

Merry and Sam laughed. "How bad was it?" Merry asked, raising his voice so that his cousin could hear him.

For an answer, Pippin tossed his shirt and trousers out into the room, but said nothing.

"Did you manage to get an apple out of this adventure†or did you†just sort of fall into the water?" Merry asked, with a grin at Sam who was trying hard not to laugh.

"Oh, you know me," Pippin sighed, as he came back into the room, blushing, and drying his hair on a towel. "What do you suspect?"

"I suspect that it isnít as bad as you think it is," Merry said, hopefully.

"You would be wrong, then," Pippin sighed, tossing the towel over onto his other wet things and taking†several biscuits†from Merryís tray. He then proceeded to bend down and climb underneath the bed. "If anyone comes looking, Iím not here."

Sam looked at Merry and then down toward the floor. "Mister Pippin, you canít spend your party up here underneath the bed. Whatíll your guests think?"

"They shall think that they are safe from any further embarrassment," Pippin said, from underneath the bed.

"Your mum wonít allow this," Merry said, still smiling. "Also, I believe when one turns thirty, that they are considered too old to hide underneath their bed."

"My mum is busy trying to dry off my guest just now, Merry," Pippin said, flatly. "I donít think she has time to look for me at present."

Merry snorted. "Sheís drying off the guests? †Pippin, what did you manage to do?"

"I donít want to talk about it," Pippin said, sharply.

"Well, I do and so does Sam," Merry said. "Weíre bored. Come on Pip, tell us a story," Merry teased and grinned over at Sam.

"Just continue what you were doing, Merry and pretend that Iím not here," Pippin said, grumpily.

"Come on, Pip," Merry said. "Iíd tell you a story if you were sick. I have before. I think you owe me." Merry bounced the bed a bit, though not much as he didnít want to get his leg started hurting. It had been behaving fairly well this evening.

"Ouch," Pippin groaned. "Donít do that, you great, huge Brandybuck. Youíll crush me."

"Then tell me a story, Pippin," Merry whined. "Iím sick."

Sam snickered a bit but said nothing.

"Fine, if youíre going to take on so, then Iíll tell it," Pippin said, chewing one of the biscuits that†heíd taken under the bed with him. "Everyone else in the Shire shall know it. Why not you and Sam?"

"My point exactly, Pip," Merry said. "Now, come out of there and give us a tale, Master Took."

"Iíll tell you the tale, but Iím not coming out," Pippin answered.

Merry rolled his eyes and grinned at Sam.

"Donít roll your eyes at me, Merry," Pippin warned. "And try not to laugh too much. Youíll open your stitches and bleed again."

"Oh, this will be good," Merry said, settling back against his pillows as Sam removed the mostly empty tray and settled into his chair again. Only Mister Pippin would tell a story from under a bed. To think, this was the future Thain of the Shire!

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