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(Written for LJ hobbit_ficathon)
A PURPOSE IN LIFE
Nibs sighed as he went into the stable with the broken hoe. There’d be another one here, somewhere. He really needed to get one and get back to his father and brother in the field. Now that Jolly was gone South, and Nick was working at The Green Dragon, his father and Tom needed him more than ever. But somehow he didn’t *feel* needed. Sure, and they needed his hands and his strong back, but they just didn’t need *him*. That was a daft thing to think, truly it was, he knew his family loved him, that wasn’t what bothered him.
Tom and Jolly--they’d been old enough to do their part during the Troubles, being part of Captain Freddy’s band of Rebels, though luckily they’d been spared capture with the rest--having come home with foodstuffs they had taken back from the Ruffians, and bringing it to their father to see that those as needed it got some. Even Nick had been of some use then, being lookout for their father, and taking messages from time to time.
And Sam--Rosie’s Sam, he’d gone off with Mr. Frodo, and come back a shining hero, him and Captain Merry and Captain Pippin just slinging them Ruffians out of the Shire, and then he’d gone about with his magic box of Elven dust, and made the Shire bloom once more.
But what had Nibs ever done, he wondered? Too young by half, his father had said, and his mother wouldn’t let him have no part in the dangerous doings.
He quickly located the new hoe, and then thought to go into the farmhouse. The morning was right warm, and he could get a jug of cider to take back to the fields with him to share with his father and Tom.
He came up from the cellar beneath the kitchen, and heard a voice calling.
“Hoy! Mistress Cotton?”
He went out, and saw Captain Pippin there, standing by the door as though he’d been knocking. The Took was all got up in his shiny armor and his Outlandish uniform, as he still travelled about in, and he had a rather bulky cloth bag dangling from his hand. Nibs noticed his beautiful black pony standing near the farmyard gate. Looking at him, so tall and proud and fierce looking, it was hard for Nibs to remember that he was a whole year older than the Captain.
“Hullo, Nibs!” he said pleasantly, “I was looking for your mother.”
“Ma’s over to Tom and Mari’s cottage, helping out with putting up some pickles.”
“As I was passing in this direction, your sister asked me to return your mother’s cake pans.” He held out the bag he was carrying.
Nibs rolled his eyes. Just like Rosie to get one of the gentry to do her errands for her. He was glad his Ma *wasn’t* here to take them. She’d be right upset at that. He took the bag.
In spite of the need to get back to the fields, he knew that hospitality was more important. His parents would both tear a strip off him if they thought he had not even *offered* refreshment. “Would you care to come in from the heat, Captain Pippin, and take some cold cider?”
Pippin grinned, and his whole face lit up. “I would indeed. May I bring Sable up to water him, and tether him in the shade of your yardtree?”
Nibs quickly assented.
A few moments later in the Cotton’s spacious kitchen the two young hobbits sat at the large oak table with mugs of cold cider. “I thank you very much, Nibs. I’ve water in my waterskin, but in this heat, it’s neither cold nor refreshing. How have you been? I’ve not seen you since Frodo conducted Tom’s and Mari’s wedding?”
Nibs shrugged. “I can’t complain.”
Captain Pippin cocked his head, and those green eyes of his seemed to look right through Nibs. Nibs was reminded of the way his cousin Mr. Frodo could do the same thing sometimes with those blue eyes of his. But Mr. Frodo’s eyes always seemed to look sad behind it all, and Mr. Pippin’s was just a look of curious concern.
“Is there a problem, Nib?”
The Cotton lad sighed. “I don’t really guess there is, Captain Pippin. It’s just things is kind of different around here now. I’m the only one to home now, and it sort of chafes.”
“Well, I know that Tom moved into his own cottage after the wedding, and Jolly’s gone off with the embassy to Gondor, but where’s Nick?”
“Oh, he’s been stepping out with Master Toby’s daughter Clover, and so now he’s working at The Green Dragon. If they wed, the inn’ll someday come to Clover, so Nick needs to learn the workings of it.”
“Ah.” Pippin took another sip of the cider, and looked at Nibs with interest. “It’s hard not to be of age yet, isn’t it?”
Nibs started, and then swallowed. How could he be thinking of complaining. If it was hard on him, just think how it must chafe Captain Pippin, who’d already seen and done so much more than many a hobbit of thrice his years. “It’s the way things are,” he said.
Pippin nodded. “It is. Doesn’t make it any less hard.”
“It’s just--I don’t see where I’m to fit in, you see. The farm’ll come to Tom one day. And Jolly’ll come back next year, and--and he’ll be all changed, like--” He stopped and blushed, realizing what he’d almost said.
“Like Sam, and Merry, and Frodo, and me? I hope not, Nibs. This trip should not be so dire or dangerous, and there is no War. The Evil in the East has been destroyed.”
For an instant Nibs thought he saw the glint of tears in Captain Pippin’s eyes, but he blinked, and there was no more sign of them. He remembered when Mr. Frodo was staying at the farm, his awful nightmares sometimes waking the household. He shuddered. He certainly hoped Jolly would not see nothing that would do that to him.
“But he’ll see things and do things, important things.”
“Yes, he will.” Pippin smiled. “He will meet the King, you know. He‘s a wonderful person.” Pippin leaned forward. “I won’t say that you will ever get the chance to do or see the things that Jolly will, but you are just as important to your family and friends, you know. And who knows what someday might bring? I am quite sure that you will find a way to fit in, and find your place in the world.” He nodded confidently. “Well, I am afraid I need to get on my way. I’m heading home for a couple of weeks--I’ve a new little neice and nephew to spoil.”
Nibs nodded. He had heard that Captain Pippin’s sister had given birth to twins. He stood up and walked out with his guest. He watched him trot off down the lane, and then retrieved the hoe and the jug of cider.
Whatever his place came to be someday, right now his Dad and his brother needed his strong arms and back.
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