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Many Happy Returns  by Grey Wonderer

Chapter 5††††††††††††††††††† "Out of Hiding"

When Merry was able to stop laughing, he looked over at Sam and asked, "So, have I broken my stitches open, Sam? I must have because I havenít laughed this hard since I got myself into this fix."

Sam was wiping his eyes and grinning. "I donít think youíre bleeding, Mister Merry, but I may have cracked a rib."

"Thatís right, go ahead and laugh, everyone else will," Pippin sighed from his hiding place. "I shall be hearing about this until my next birthday and now that lass will never dance with me."

Merry and Sam exchanged sympathetic glances and Sam said, "Now, Mister Pippin, you donít know that she wonít dance with you. You still havenít asked her."

"You really should give the lass a chance to turn you down before you assume that she will," Merry suggested.

"Thank you both, but Iíve had enough humiliation for one evening. I suppose someone else will have to dance with her and tell me what Iím missing," Pippin said, dejectedly.

"Iíd love to help you out, Pip, but Iím not allowed to walk at present, much less dance," Merry said.

"Is it hurting Merry?" Pippin asked, concerned. Merryís accident had frightened him and everyone else. In fact, Pippin had wanted to cancel the birthday party until Merry was recovered, but it just wasnít possible. Too many arrangements had been made and too many folks had been invited. Pippin missed the small parties that he used to have on their farm in Whitwell. Now that his father was the Thain, everything that they did had to be so grand and so big. A good deal of it was more for other folks than for them. It would have been nice to have turned over all of that water in front of a smaller group of friends, Merry among them. If Frodo hadnít rescued him, he might still be sitting there in all of that water.

"No, strangely, it isnít hurting just now, Pip," Merry said. "I think I might be on my way to getting out of this bed and back on my feet."

There was a knock for politeness and then the door to the room opened and Frodo came in. Smiling, he walked over and sat down in the empty chair. "Hullo, Sam. Hullo, Merry. Hullo, Pippin," Frodo said, smiling.

"Hullo, Frodo," Merry said. "How are things going down at the big party?"

"Has Pippin told you about the apple bobbing incident or has he just been hiding quietly under the bed?" Frodo asked.

"Wait a minute," Pippin objected. "How did you know I was here?"

Frodo laughed. "Because, Pippin, I have known you all of your life and I know where you go to hide. I am supposed to be looking for you right now in fact."

"This may also explain why you always lose at hide-n-seek, Pip," Merry said. "Everyone knows where you hide."

"Thanks, Merry," Pippin grumbled. "I need to hear about other games that I donít play well just now."

"You have to excuse Pippin, Frodo," Merry said. "Heís feeling sorry for himself at present."

"Come out from under that bed, you silly Took," Frodo said.

Pippin crawled out and stood up, brushing the dust off of his clothing.

"Nice to see you again, Pip," Merry grinned. "Have a seat." He gestured to the foot of the bed.

"I better not sit there, Merry," Pippin said. "I night get your leg started hurting again. Iíll just stand." He looked down at his feet.

Frodo sighed and stood. "Lets get you put together a bit better so that you are presentable." He slipped an arm around Pippinís waist and began to steer him toward his wardrobe.

"Iím not going back in there, Frodo," Pippin said, stubbornly but he continued to let Frodo lead him to the wardrobe, where Frodo opened the doors and began rummaging about in search of something for Pippin to wear.

"Whatís wrong with what Iím wearing?" Pippin asked.

"Well, it looks like something youíve worn several times already this week and itís a bit dusty now," Merry offered.

Frodo handed Pippin his selections, and gave him a nudge in the direction of the dressing area. "Iím going to change, but Iím not going back to that party," Pippin growled.

"Just change," Frodo suggested. Sam and Merry were grinning at one another and Frodo winked at them.

There was another knock on the door and Fredegar Bolger came in. "Gentlemen," he said. "So, did you get Pippin out from under the bed, Frodo?"

"Does everyone know?" Pippin asked, still in the dressing area.

"Yes," Merry, Fredegar, and Sam answered.

"You really do need a new hiding place, Pip," Merry suggested.

Fredegar Bolger came over and sat in the chair that Frodo had vacated. "Your mother wanted me to see how you were holding up, Merry. She thought that you might be lonely," Fredegar chuckled.

"Not so far," Merry grinned. "In fact, I am beginning to think that the party is being held in this room."

Pippin came out of the changing room at that point straightening his collar.† Just as he was glancing into the mirror to straighten his hair his mother,†Eglantine Took, came into the room without knocking and surprised them all. "You are needed at the party, Peregrin," she said, firmly.

"But," it was all Pippin got to say.

"No, nonsense, Pippin," she said. "There isnít time. You have gifts to give out and you need to do that now. You also need to apologize to several of your guests†for that interesting accident."

Pippin looked over in Merryís direction in search of help but Eglantine clutched his arm and began leading him from the room.

Frodo grinned over at Merry as the door closed behind Pippin. "I think Iíll go down and lend some support as you seem well looked after, Merry. I hate to leave Pippin alone with all of those slightly damp females. Besides, I might just get an interesting gift."

Merry grinned. "Yes, go cousin. Sam, Fredegar, and I shall expect a full report."

"You shall have it," Frodo assured him and turned to leave. "I only hope no one has been going through the gifts."

Merry laughed. "I think it makes it more interesting if someone has gone through the gifts."

"What does he mean?" Fredegar asked. "Who would go through the gifts?"

"I think Frodo is referring to one of his and Bilboís parties," Merry said.

"Was I there?" Sam asked.

"Oh, yes Sam and you were there too, Fredegar, though I doubt that you know the entire story." Merry said.

"Well, I could use a story about now, Merry lad," Fredegar said. "Why donít you tell it? It will pass the time until Frodo gets back."

"Alright," Merry agreed. "I am sure both of you will remember it once I start."





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