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Many Happy Returns  by Grey Wonderer

†††††††††††††††††††† †††††††† "Water, Water, Everywhere!"

Pippin frowned at his older sister. "What do you mean, I should be dancing more? Why arenít you dancing instead of annoying me?"

Nell laughed and led her younger brother out onto the dance floor. "I was waiting for you to ask me, but as you have no manners, Iíll take matters into my own hands."

Pippin smiled down at her, something he wasnít used to just yet, and put his arm around her waist. "I would be honored to dance with you, Nell."

"I Ďm glad because†now you are†nice and tall and you make me look petite and feminine," Nell grinned. She was a tall lass and towered over many of the lads at the party.

Pippinís recent experiences had caused him to go from three-foot-four and a half, to three-foot-eight and for the first time in his life, he was taller than all three of his older sisters. Before he had drank the Ent Draught, he had only been slightly taller than his sister, Pervinca. He had begun to fear that he would always have to look up to Nell and Pearl.

"I like being taller, but it is taking some getting used to," Pippin admitted, as he and Nell moved across the dance floor. "I keep bumping my head on things and tripping over my own feet."

Nell giggled. "Now you know how it was for me when I suddenly shot up at fifteen.

Youíll get used to it, Pipsqueak."

"Oiy, I donít think you can call me that now," Pippin frowned. "Iím taller than you by two full inches and Iím thirty."

"Ouch, easy, you are also stepping on my foot," Nell giggled as Pippin blushed.

"Besides, I am still eleven years older than you and so I shall call you anything that I like."

"I was afraid of that," Pippin moaned. He turned and glanced over toward a group of lasses standing near one of the tables.†

†Nell noticed this. "Which one of those lasses has caught your eye?" she asked.

"I donít know what youíre talking about," Pippin objected, looking back at his sister.

"The dark-haired one in the lavender gown," Pervinca said as she came up behind them and pinched Pippin on the arm.

Pippin let go of Nell and turned to his other sister and frowned. "How would you know?"

"I just know is all," Pervinca smiled, smugly. "She seems to be your type and you have been mooning over her all evening. Why donít you just ask her to dance?"

"I donít have a type, Vince," Pippin objected. "And I canít just go over there and ask her to dance. What if she says no?"

"What if she says yes?í Nell asked from behind him and Pippin turned to face her.

"She doesnít even know me, Nell. Why would she agree to dance with me?" Pippin sighed.

"Because youíre tall and youíre the son of the Thain and itís your birthday," Nell said. "Once she dances with you she might even like you."

"You have to ask her first, though," Pervinca said, firmly. "Now go over there and ask that lass to dance."

"I donít even know her name, Vince," Pippin said. "And sheís with all of those other lasses. What do I do if she says no?"

"Ask one of the others?" Pearl suggested, as she joined them. The four of them were now standing in the middle of the dance floor while others dodged them.

"Oh, lovely," Pippin sighed. "More help from yet another sister."

"Oh, go on and ask her, Pippin," Pearl teased, pinching her brotherís cheek.

"Donít, Pearl. Iím trying to turn thirty here," Pippin growled.

"Her name is Diamond Took. Sheís your cousin from Long Cleeve, a North Took, and sheís not promised to anyone," Pervinca said.

The other three looked at her wonderingly. "How do you know all of that?" Nell asked.

Just†then, Pippinís Aunt Esmeraldaís voice filled the hall as she announced that they were all going to bob for apples which made asking the lass from† Long Cleeve for a dance,†out of the question for the present.

Esmeralda Took Brandybuck was standing in front of a rather enormous wooden tub filled with apples and water and giving instructions. Merryís mum had the sort of voice that could carry throughout a large room well. If she chose to make herself heard, then there was no ignoring her. Merry and Pippin knew that only too well. Both had been caught at mischief by her and both had listened to that voice reprimand them many times.

Esmeraldaís Tookish accent was very apparent tonight since she was in a Smial full of Tooks. After years of living in Buckland with Merryís father, she often sounded like a Brandybuck, but put her in a room full of Tooks and it all came back to her.

Pippin hated party games and had hoped that he would be spared this now that he was thirty, but sadly, it seemed that someone thought that dancing and eating was not enough entertainment and so now they would be bobbing for apples. Pippin stared at the large tub of water and apples that was sitting on a very sturdy, rather low table and wondered how awful this was going to be. He was never very lucky with party games.

"Pippin, since itís your birthday, why donít you go first?" Esmeralda suggested, breaking into his thoughts and several hands pushed him forward toward the tub.

"Well, someone else could go if they want," Pippin objected, reaching his Aunt who stood next to the tub, smiling at him.

"Itís your birthday, Pippin. You should be first," Esmeralda said. "Now put your hands behind your back and no cheating." The other hobbits that were gathered around laughed at this and Pippin obeyed his auntís instructions and placed his hands behind his back.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

At this point in the story, the door to the room opened and Merryís father stuck his head in the room. "Have either of you seen Pippin?"

Sam and Merry both looked at each other and Merry said, "He changed clothes in here a while ago."

Pippin was no longer speaking from his hiding place beneath the bed. He hoped that Merry and Sam wouldnít give him away. He couldnít go back to the party now. It would be only slightly less painful then having a troll fall on him had been. Please, Merry.

Saradoc looked down at the wet things on the floor and then looked over at Merry. "And then?"

"I havenít seen him since," Merry said. He hadnít after all. He couldnít see Pippin while his cousin was under the bed.

"Well, if he comes back in here, tell him that he is to get himself back to his birthday party," Saradoc advised.

Merry smiled, "Iíll tell him."

"You need anything, Merry?" Saradoc asked.

"No, Doc," Merry said. "I have Sam for company and Iím full of party food."

"Right, then," Saradoc said, and left, closing the door behind him.

"Heís gone, Pip," Merry said. "Get to the good part."

"There is no good part," Pippin growled, but he continued the tale anyway.

He was relieved that his Uncle hadnít found him. Merry had done a great job of covering for him and so he would reward him with the rest of the story even if it did make him feel like an idiot.

~~~~~

Just as he began to lean forward toward the huge tub of water, he noticed the dark-haired lass standing just on the other side of the tub and smiling at him. At least, she seemed to be smiling at him. She was looking right at him and she was smiling about something. She certainly had a lovely smile, and that hair!

"Come on, Pippin, you arenít getting any younger," Fredegar Bolger called out, pulling Pippin back to the party. "Take your turn and then give someone else a chance."

Pippin gave another glance at the lass and then started to lean forward. It was a bit further down than heíd thought it would be. Probably his extra height was making it seem so. He bent a bit further and then suddenly he lost his balance and began to fall forward toward the water. The apples seemed to be rushing up to meet him as he went. All of the party guests that were planning on playing this silly game had moved forward to watch Pippin have his turn. The last thing Pippin noticed before he fell face first, hands locked behind his back, into the cold water, was Diamond of Long Cleeve who was moving forward for a better look.

There was a splash as Pippinís face made contact with the water and the apples and then his feet slid out from under him and he did a sort of somersault over the tub turning it and all of itís contents out toward Diamond and those standing nearest her. Water went everywhere. There were apples rolling across the floor in all directions and Pippin could hear shrieks and yells from his guests as his landed on his backside amid the apples in a huge puddle of water. The tub was on its side behind him and there was complete confusion. He could hear his Aunt Esmeraldaís voice rising above the din and saying, "Everyone calm down. Iím sure it was just an accident."

Pippin shook the wet curls from his eyes and looked up at her, meekly. She was wet also. "I donít know what happened. It was an accident, honestly."

He then caught sight of Diamond who was also dripping wet and she was not smiling at him anymore. If looks could kill then he could quit worrying about facing the rest of his family and friends after this. Her icy stare left little doubt what she now thought of him.

He tried to gain his feet and slipped on the water, sitting down on several rolling apples and crushing them into the floor and the seat of his trousers. From above him a hand with only four fingers on it appeared and he reached up and allowed his older cousin, Frodo to help him to his feet.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A word from the author!

I do need to say that I used the height that Pippin grows to in the movie version again on this one.† So, I do realize that he was a bit taller than 3"8".† I just like that version.†

G.W.†††† 6/20/04





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