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Fate and the High King's Falcon  by Baylor

Day 11 of the New Year (April 5 SR)

The big excitement of the next day was a bath -- a real bath, in a tub, not a sponge bath. Pippin was gleeful, and Legolas and Gimli soon discovered that hobbit bathtime (or at least Took bathtime) involved a great deal of splashing, sloshing, kicking and rather loud singing.

Merry was highly amused by their reaction, and so pleased to see Pippin in good spirits that he encouraged him in the bath play by splashing water in Pippin's face and prompting "Next verse!" until a large wave came over the edge of the tub and drenched Gimli. Legolas, choking back laughter, handed the dripping and sputtering dwarf a towel and then plucked the not-terribly-repentant hobbit from the tub and began drying him off.

"I think you are quite clean by now," he said when Pippin protested.

"I think we all are quite clean by now," said Merry with a grin, more than a little damp himself. He grabbed a towel with his left hand and began rubbing Pippin's hair with it.

There was more protesting when Legolas attempted to dress him in a fresh nightshirt, causing the patient to declare that he wanted real clothes today, but all three caretakers were firmly agreed that real clothes would make sneaking out into camp entirely too easy. Pippin seemed ready to dig his heels in on the issue and cause a ruckus, but the arrival of luncheon shifted his interest.

He ate with relish, seemingly trying to make up for days of little nourishment as quickly as possible. The others were glad to see it, having just observed scrawny limbs and protruding ribs and hipbones during the bath. Pippin also talked between each bite about the upcoming feast and his intended role of serving Aragorn with great enthusiasm. His caretakers worried that he was building himself up for disappointment, should Aragorn not let him attend after all, but Pippin dismissed their gentle warnings.

"I can't not go," he said decisively. "It's a feast to honor Frodo and Sam! They will miss me if I'm not there." And he determinedly tucked another sausage into his mouth.

Pippin's burning desire to attend the feast was excellent leverage in securing his cooperation for any number of behaviors, and Merry wielded it expertly after lunch to convince Pippin that some quiet time was in order.

"I won't nap, though, Merry," Pippin said as he acquiesced to reclining in the bed.

"Then just close your eyes to rest them," Merry encouraged him as he tucked the blankets around his younger cousin.

Pippin sighed, but obediently closed his eyes. "I really don't see how just lying here helps me get better, though," he said after a moment.

"Perhaps if you closed your mouth and rested that," Legolas suggested. Pippin cracked open an eye to glare at him as Merry reprimanded, "Not really very helpful, are you, Legolas?" Properly chastised, the elf subsided, and after a few moments of true quiet time, Pippin's features eased out in sleep.

Merry yawned and put his feet up on the cot. "I could not nap for a bit, too," he commented.

"Go ahead -- Gimli is," Legolas answered. Merry turned to look and sure enough, Gimli was nodding into his beard at the table.

"How can he sleep like that?" Merry marveled as he slouched into his own chair to find the best position.

"How can you sleep like that?" Legolas countered. "I have never met such people for sleeping in chairs. Lie down with Pippin -- there is room enough."

"I don't want to jostle him," Merry answered, crossing his ankles and folding his hands on his stomach. He was asleep a moment later, and did not wake for a good hour, when he heard Pippin suddenly exclaim, "Beregond!"

The nappers opened their eyes to find the soldier looking abashed and regretful. "I am sorry to wake you all, truly," he said. "I just hoped to find Pippin awake."

"Oh, I was not sleeping, Beregond," Pippin assured him. "At least, not much. And I would have been angry with Legolas if he'd let you go again without waking me up. I have missed you twice now because of everyone making me sleep all the time. But how splendid you look! I was worried, you know, because I knew you were hurt, and Legolas found you himself, didn't he? It is so good to see you!"

During his rather lengthy greeting, Pippin had climbed carefully to his feet atop the cot, putting him at the perfect height to hug Beregond, who returned the embrace gently. The soldier's expression was an odd mix of concern, amusement and bewilderment when he pulled away.

"You look much better, yourself, than you did when I was last able to come to visit you," he told the hobbit, eyeing him critically. "I am glad to see you so well. I was quite worried for you."

"Oh, we hobbits are tough," Pippin scoffed, plopping back down to sit on the bed. "Will you be going to the great feast, Beregond? I'll be serving Aragorn, of course, if I have to do it standing on only my right foot and pour his wine with my left hand, and Merry will be serving omer. Frodo and Sam won't know us, we'll look so grand in our uniforms!"

"So you are going?" Beregond asked, gratefully accepting the chair Gimli brought over. "The king will allow you abroad by then?"

"Well, I am almost completely better," Pippin said, dodging the question. The others noted that Beregond had also avoided answering; no doubt there were many things still uncertain about his future.

"Yes, of course," Beregond said tactfully, then leaned forward a bit closer to Pippin. "I have been wanting to thank you, Pippin. You saved my life, you know. I was certain I had met my end when that evil beast bent over me. I will never forget the valor and skill of arms you displayed in my defense. It would have been a near-incomprehensible feat for a man of great stature, but that you alone slew that monstrous creature -- well, in addition to my thanks, I will give you my apologies for underestimating you. I knew you were a marvel, and had braved many dangers, but even so, I did not do you justice. I, and my family, are ever in your debt."

Pippin appeared a little overwhelmed by Beregond's words, and looked away when he mentioned the troll. His three companions noted it immediately; Pippin had not spoken seriously to anyone about the battle, and brushed it aside whenever it came up. He was smiling and looking at Beregond again by the end of the soldier's heartfelt speech, though, and reached for his hand.

"You do not have to thank me, Beregond," he said sincerely. "You were so kind to me when I came to the City and was so all alone. And you owe me no debt whatsoever; you are my friend, after all, and I have no doubt that you would have done the same for me."

Beregond's smile was so joyous that it spread to everyone in the room. He took Pippin's small hand in both of his. "Well, then, consider this an act of friendship, and not of gratitude, if you will. I also wanted greatly to speak with you regarding another matter. You have met my son, Bergil, of course, but my wife and I also have two daughters, and we are to have another babe this midsummer. Should it be a boy, I would very much like to name him Peregrin, with your permission, of course."

Pippin's mouth dropped open for a moment in astonishment, then it curved into an enormous smile. "You want to name your baby for me?! Truly?! No one has ever been named for me, ever! How wonderfully splendid that would be! Did you hear, Merry?" Here Pippin whipped his head around, searching for his cousin. "Beregond is going to name his new baby Peregrin! Did you ever think when you named me that someday someone else would name somebody for me?" He paused, reviewing his last sentence. "Well, you know what I mean," he added, grinning proudly.

"I never doubted it, Pip," Merry said, emerging from a corner to come stand beside the bed. "How could you have grown up to be anyone but someone people would want to name their children after?"

"Well, I certainly never thought it," Pippin said, looking at Beregond with glowing eyes. "That is the most splendid gift ever, Beregond, truly!"

Beregond laughed, though he looked a little startled by the enthusiasm with which his announcement had been met. "Of course, there is my wife to convince, but I am certain I will have Bergil on my side. And mayhap soon you will meet the rest of my family for yourself, and then she will be certain to agree."

"Oh, I can help there, Beregond," Pippin assured him. "I can be very persuasive."

Gimli coughed, and the noise sounded suspiciously like a chortle. Legolas was managing to look serenely innocent. Merry, uncertain if Gimli had laughed and distrustful of Legolas' countenance, scowled at them both for good measure before turning back to his cousin and Beregond with a smiling face.

"That is a truly splendid gift, Beregond," he said. "I have not seen you to tell you, but Bergil was most attentive to me in Minas Tirith. He is a kind, brave lad, and it is a nice thought that he may have a Pippin of his own some day soon, provided the baby is a lad."

Beregond returned the smile. "I hope you will be kind enough to grant him some advice on helping to raise a Pippin, seeing as how you have done such a admirable job in that field," he said, and Merry flushed in pleasure and modesty.

"It has had more to do with the Pippin than with me," he said in a low, sincere voice, reaching out to stroke Pippin's curls affectionately. Pippin beamed back at him.

"You've had something to do with it, Merry," he said with a mischievous grin. "After all, how else would I know how to get into the pantry unnoticed? Or where the loose plank is in the fence at the Bracegirdle farm? Or which inns serve the best ale, and which ones have the prettiest serving-lasses? Or --"

"Yes," Merry cut him off, "I suppose I have had something do to with it, most of it best left unmentioned, thank you very much."

Pippin subsided and did not mention the rest, but after Beregond left, he whispered in his cousin's ear, "And where all the creaky floorboards are en route to the cellar kegs at Bag End. I never would have known that without you there to teach me, Merry."

Merry just covered his face with his hands and muttered, "And to think, someone is being named in honor of you, Pip. Who would have thought we'd see the day?"

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