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Many Happy Returns  by Grey Wonderer

†††† Chapter 11††††††††††††††††††††††† "Birthday Cake"

Pippin slowly opened the door to his room, hoping not to wake Merry and yet wanting Merry to be awake. Frodo stood behind him, also hoping that Merry would be awake. The room was mostly dark save for the light from the fireplace. As Pippin slipped into the room followed by Frodo, his aunt spoke in a soft voice. "How did the party go, lads?"

Pippin grinned, walked over and knelt beside of her chair. "I suppose that it might have been worse," Pippin whispered. "I guess Merry is asleep, isnít he?"

Esmeralda smiled at her nephew. She could hear the disappointment in his voice. Frodo slid into the empty chair and looked over at Esmeralda.

"Not now that youíre here," Merry said, trying to sound annoyed. "You never could whisper."

"Sorry, Merry," Pippin said, though he wasnít really. He had wanted nothing more than to talk to his older cousin just now.

"Heís slept enough for the present," Esmeralda said, reaching over and ruffling Pippinís hair. "I suspect heís been looking forward to hearing all about the party anyway."

"Yes, Pippin, tell me, how was the cake?" Merry asked. "How many pieces did you eat this year?"

"Thatís not funny, Merry," Pippin sighed. "I only did that the one time you know."

Esmeralda chuckled. "From what I can remember of it, once was enough."

"Have I heard this story?" Frodo asked.

Pippin groaned. "If you havenít, then I suppose that someone here will be willing to tell it to you. My evening wonít be complete until Iím totally humiliated."

"Well, in that case, we had better get this one told," Merry said. "Climb up here and sit on the bed, Pip. I hate to humiliate you when you have no place to sit."

"Iím fine," Pippin assured him. "I donít want to risk hurting your leg."

"You wonít hurt me, Pippin," Merry said. "Come on up here and get comfortable. I may want to tell more than one humiliating story."

"If youíre sure," Pippin said, a bit worriedly.

"Iím sure," Merry said.

Pippin eased himself onto the bed next to Merry and leaned against an extra pillow while Merry raised himself up a bit. "Get comfortable, Frodo," Merry instructed. "It seems that Iím about to tell another story."

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

"There you are," Merry grinned as he entered his bedroom to find his younger cousin curled up on the bed. "Iíve been looking of you."

"Why?" Pippin asked, weakly, drawing his knees up closer to his chest.

"Pip, are you all right?" Merry frowned, moving closer to the bed. He looked at his cousin who was practically curled into a knot. Both of Pippinís arms were wrapped around his stomach and then his knees were pulled up tight against them. He could see that Pippin was trying hard not to move.

"Iím fine, Merry," Pippin mumbled. "Just go away and let me sleep."

Merry frowned and sat down on the edge of the bed. This caused Pippin to moan. "I canít go away, Pip. Youíre in my bed, remember?"

"Oh, well, you arenít sleepy yet are you?" Pippin asked, weakly.

"I wasnít really thinking about going to bed just yet," Merry admitted. "I was just looking for you. I missed you at the party and so I thought Iíd come and find you."

"You were busy with that lass when I left," Pippin mumbled. "I donít know how you had time to miss me." He tried to pull his knees in closer and turned his face away from his older cousin.

"Oh, now I get it," Merry sighed. "Youíre angry with me because I didnít spend as much time with you at the party as I normally do."

"Any," Pippin muttered.

"What?" Merry frowned, not sure heíd heard correctly.

"You didnít spend any time with me," Pippin said, and then he groaned.

"Well, I may have gotten a bit busy, Pip," Merry admitted. "I didnít mean to neglect you. Itís just that Iím older now and I do have to spend some time with my other party guests donít I?"

Merry had just turned twenty-two and there had been quite a few very pretty young hobbit lasses that seemed to want to wish him a happy birthday this evening. Merry hadnít minded this at all.

"I was a party guest," Pippin said, still not uncurling.

Merry sighed. When he and his mum had made the guest list, his mum had asked if maybe this year he shouldnít invite a few younger lads to the party so that Pippin would have someone to play with, but Merry had assured her that Pippin would be fine among the older crowd. "Iíll look out for him, Mum. He doesnít spend much time with the lads his age and so heíd only be bored with them. Thereís no sense in turning my twenty-second birthday party into a childrenís party." Maybe his mum had been right. Maybe Pippin had been lonely at the party. With the exception of Pippin, most of Merryís close friends were a bit older than he was. Merry had simply been busy and hadnít realized that Pippin was bored.

"You are right, Pip," Merry said. "You are a party guest too and I guess that I havenít been very nice, have I?"

Pippin burrowed his face into the blankets on the bed and mumbled something that Merry could quite hear. "What, Pip?"

"I said, thatís all right, Merry," Pippin said. "Iíll just sleep a while and you can go back to your party."

"Why donít you come with me, Pip?" Merry suggested. "I promise not to ignore you any more tonight. You can spend time with me and Frodo."

"Thatís all right, Merry," Pippin said. "I think Iíll just stay here and rest." He pulled his knees up again and moaned.

Merry frowned. "Pippin, are you feeling alright?"

"Iím fine." Pippin shifted slightly as if trying to get comfortable and then moaned.

"No you arenít," Merry objected. "Now, you tell me whatís wrong." He put his hand on Pippinís forehead to check for a fever, but the child didnít feel warm. Pippin continued to squirm uncomfortably. "Peregrin Took, donít make me get my mum in here."

"You can get her if you want to," Pippin moaned. "I think Iím going to be sick, Merry."

Merry popped up off of the bed and turned to the door of his room. He would go and get his mother. "Lay still, Pip. Iíll be right back."

When Merry returned with Esmeralda Brandybuck, Pippin was still in the same position on the bed. "I think heís feeling pretty awful, mum," Merry said, worriedly.

"You go back and see to your other guests, Merry," Esmeralda advised. "I will look after Pippin."

"But donít you think-"

"Go on, Merry," Esmeralda said, pushing her only child toward the door. "I will take care of Pippin."

"Merry? Donít tell, please?" Pippin begged, but he still didnít move. He didnít want the older lads and lasses to know that he was sick. He was embarrassed enough as it was that Merry knew.

"I wonít, Pip, I promise," Merry said and with one last look at his mum, he left, reluctantly.

"Peregrin Took, what have you done?" Esmeralda asked, sitting on the bed next her fourteen-year-old nephew.

"I donít think the cake agreed with me. My stomach hurts," Pippin admitted.

"I see, well, Iíll go and get you something for the pain," Esmeralda said, reassuringly.

"Hurry, please," Pippin whined. "It really hurts."

"I will," Esmeralda smiled. "How much of the cake didnít agree with you?"

"I lost count," Pippin admitted.

Esmeralda got up to go and get the child some medicine for his stomach. She personally, could remember giving Pippin two slices of cake during the evening. She wondered just how much heíd had altogether.

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

Pippin laughed, embarrassed.† "You see, Frodo, I had spent most of Merry's party conducting an experiment."

"Some experiment," Merry laughed.† "What you'd done was stuff yourself."

"Now, that is not altogether true, Merry.† I didn't stuff myself.† Others kept doing it for me," Pippin objected.†

"I doubt that you minded terribly," Esmeralda said.† "That is, until later, when you got the full affect of it all."† She smiled at her nephew.† "Why don't you continue telling it from here, Pippin?† I'm sure that Frodo would love to hear how the experiment went."

"Yes, Pip," Frodo said.† "What happened next?"

"Well," Pippin smiled and continued the tale.

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

Pippin was sulking. Merry wasnít paying any attention to him at all. His favorite cousin had spent most of the night surrounded by lasses. Then, when he wasnít with the lasses, he was with Frodo or some of the other older lads. Pippin was completely left out of things. Frodo had spoken to him a couple of times and had even given him the rest of his piece of cake to finish, but Merry had been too busy for him.

Well, then Pippin would just see who else was about and find someone else to spend time with. Heíd show Merry. Later, when Merry wanted to spend time with him, heíd be too busy. He scanned the room and saw Fredegar Bolger over by the food table. Fatty liked him alright. Heíd go see him.

"Hullo, Fatty," Pippin grinned. "What are you doing?"

"Well, hullo there Pip," Fredegar had grinned. "I was just going to go out and have a smoke."

"Oh,í Pippin frowned. If his aunt or uncle caught him outside with the pipe-smokers, heíd be in trouble even if he wasnít smoking.

Fredegar frowned. The poor lad looked upset about something. "Here, Pip, why donít you have some of this wonderful cake?" He cut a generous slice of the cake off and put it on a plate. He handed it to Pippin and smiled. "Now, that should make things better, shouldnít it? I know cake always makes me happy."

Pippin watched Freddy go and then looked at the cake. Oh, well, at least I got some cake out of that. Just as he was finishing his cake, his older sister Pervinca came over. Well, spending time with Pervinca might be alright. "Hullo, Vince," Pippin said, sitting down his empty cake plate. "What are you doing?"

"Shhhhh, Pippin," Pervinca hissed. "Iím trying to see who that lass is over there talking to Tobias Grubb."

Pippin raised up on his toes and tried to see where Tobias was. "Why do you care?"

"Because I, well, I just do, so there," Pervinca said, frowning at him. "Whereís Merry?"

"I dunno," Pippin admitted. "Last I saw of him, he was with some lass." He looked at his toes and then looked up at his older sister. "Want me to go over and see who the lass is with Tobias?" Maybe if he could help Pervinca out a bit, sheíd spend some time with him until Merry wasnít so busy.

Pervinca coughed. "No, not so loud, Pip," Pervinca said. "I donít want him to know that Iím checking, understand?"

Pippin considered this. "No, not really."

"Here," Pervinca said, reaching over to the table and beginning to slice a large piece of cake. "You take this and then promise me that you wonít say a word to anyone about what I just told you." She handed her brother the dish with the large piece of cake on it.

"Well, alright, Vince, "Pippin said. "Only Iím not really sure what it is that you told me."

"Even better, little brother, now enjoy your cake," Pervinca said, and then she turned and left.

That was strange to say the least, but then it was very hard to figure out what lasses were about, especially older sisters. Pippin wondered around eating the cake and trying to puzzle it out but getting nowhere. He was running out of things to do. Merryís parties werenít usually this dull. He sighed as he put his plate down on an empty chair.

"Pippin darling, are you having a good time at Merryís party?" Esmeralda Brandybuck asked as she came over with an arm full of clean plates for the table.

Pippin wasnít having a very good time except, of course, for the cake being very good, but he didnít want to hurt his auntís feelings or get Merry into trouble and so he smiled. "Oh, yes, itís a very nice party."

"Would you mind to be a dear and help me with these plates? If you do, then Iíll cut you an extra piece of cake," she winked and she handed him the plates.

All night long, Pippin found that it was remarkably easy to get all of the cake that he wanted. He couldnít seem to get anything else, well, except his Uncle Saradoc had given him a couple of hard rolls and some cheese, but mostly all heíd been able to get from anyone was cake. No one had time to spend with him but everyone had extra cake to give away. Funny, it was never this easy to get cake at home.

To keep from becoming too bored, Pippin tried out different methods of getting cake and found that only one of them didnít work. Pippin approached the serving table and smiled sweetly at Daffy Bolger and said, "May I have a piece of cake please?"

Daffy looked at him, frowning. "How much cake have you had already because I know Iíve seen you with at least three pieces this evening Peregrin Took."

"Well, a few, I guess," Pippin admitted.

"Then donít you suspect that youíve had enough?" Daffy demanded, her hands on her hips.

"I suppose I have," Pippin agreed and walked off. So far the only way that he couldnít seem to get cake was if he asked for it.

He then turned and saw Merry leaning up against the wall on the far side of the room and talking to Estella Bolger, Daffyís cousin. Maybe Merry could explain this cake thing to him. He was tired of waiting around to spend time with Merry at this birthday party. Heíd just go over and ask. Just as heíd made up his mind on this, he felt someone take hold of the back of his shirt.

"Hold on there, Pip," Frodo said. "Where are you off to?"

"I was just going to go over and see Merry," Pippin said.

Frodo smiled at him. "Well, Merryís a bit busy just now, but why donít you come with me and Iíll-

Pippin hardly had to listen to the rest of this because he knew what was coming. He accepted the cake from Frodo and began to eat. Having given up on the idea of finding out how this worked, Pippin decided that it was just some sort of lucky set of circumstances. Maybe they had made too much cake this year and had to try and get rid of it. Maybe he looked unusually thin just now or very hungry though he didnít think so. He wasnít really hungry in the least. In fact, he was extremely full and a bit uncomfortable, but a hobbit just couldnít turn down cake if it was offered.

Pippin smiled and paused in the telling of his cake story, "What would you have done in my place Frodo?"

"I suspect that at fourteen, I would have done exactly what you did, Pippin," Frodo laughed.

Merry smiled.† He was remembering coming back in to check on Pippin after the party and finding his mum sitting with his little cousin in much the same way as she was now sitting with him.† He remembered feeling very worried and a bit guilty because he'd neglecteed Pippin during the party.† Merry recalled the conversation that he'd had with his mum while a rather full, Pippin had slept.

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

"How is he, mum?" Merry asked, whispering as he entered his room a few hours later. All of his party guest were gone except the few that were staying over. He was very tired now, but also concerned about Pippin.

"Heíll be fine, Merry," Esmeralda smiled, pushing Pippinís curls back from his forehead. The lad was sleeping finally. "He was fairly miserable there for a few hours, but heís resting now."

"What was wrong?" Merry asked, still whispering.

"Oh, he just ate way too much cake," she said, smiling. "I donít know why the child stuffed himself like that."

Merry shrugged. "Pippin always has loved cake."

"Yes, well, next year, we are limiting his cake to three slices," Esmeralda said, firmly. "I donít know why little lads always think that they can charm everyone into extra cake."

"Apparently, he did a good job of it," Merry grinned. "I guess he had a better time than I thought he did. I thought heíd gotten bored, but it seems he was only sick from too much cake."

Merry grinned down at his sleeping cousin. "Seems no one can refuse you when you turn on the charm. When you get older, the lasses wonít stand a chance."

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

Merry was remembering this when Pippin nudged him gentle on the shoulder and said, "Merry, are you alright?"

"Oh, I'm fine, Pip," Merry smiled.† "I was just thinking is all."

"About what?' Pippin asked, hoping Merry wasn't feeling bad again.† He'd tried to sit still on the bed, but he wondered if he might have squirmed a bit too much and started Merry's leg to hurting.

"I was wondering about a certain lass," Merry said.

"Oh, you were thinking about Estella Bolger, I suppose," Pippin said, wrinkling his nose a bit and pretending to be annoyed.† "Don't worry about her because Frodo and I both danced with her."

"Did you?" Merry said.† "Well, I do want to hear about that, but she's not the lass I was thinking of at the moment."

"No?" Frodo said, curious now.† "What lass has taken your thoughts away from the lovely Estella, cousin?"

"I was wondering about Miss Diamond Took, Frodo," Merry said.† "I can't help but notice that Pip is in a much better mood and I was wondering if Miss Took had anything to do with this change of mood."

"What change of mood?" Pippin said, trying to hide his smile.† "Couldn't I just be relieved that I have gotten through another birthday?"

"I know you, Pip and that is not relief that I see in your eyes," Merry smirked.†

"I know all of you lads, and so I am leaving," Esmeralda smiled, getting up.† "If you need anything, Merry, you just send for me.† I shall leave you three lads to discuss this Diamond Took.† Oh, be warned, Peregrin, we Took lasses are not easily won."†

"I know," Pippin assured his aunt.† "I†grew up†in a house full Took lasses.† I suspect that I'm letting myself in for more trouble."

"So is she, I suspect," Esmeralda said, and turned to go, leaving the lads to their talk.






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