'Peregrin Took, I am fine! Even though I look as though I've swallowed a sack of grain, there is nothing wrong with me!'
'You make a very lovely sack of grain, my dear,' he murmured, and Diamond laughed. Her retort was interrupted by cheers from the arriving young Gamgees as their wagon pulled up in the yard.
'Welcome!' Esmeralda called. Small hobbits poured from the wagon to gather round her, and she put out her hands to hug as many as she could at once. 'Oh, my loves, it has been too long!'
Samwise stepped down from the wagon, turning to help Rose down. As Rose joined the throng hugging Esmeralda, Saradoc took Mayor Samwise's hand in greeting. 'I'm afraid you're going to have to visit oftener than once a year,' he smiled. 'Otherwise my wife will be dragging me off to Hobbiton.'
Samwise grinned, 'Ah, well, we have all the comforts of home in Hobbiton.'
'It's not the home that worries me, it's the journey to get there.' He cocked an eye at Rosie. 'And the way your wife cooks, I might never want to go back to Buckland and then what would they do for a Master?'
'They'd just press Merry into the position, and he wouldn't have time to lie about and go fishing anymore. Be good for him! And you could come live with us; my Rosie would wait on you hand and foot, you know.'
'It's a tempting offer... why don't we discuss it over tea in the parlour,' Saradoc chuckled.
Watching her scapegrace nephew seating his wife in a chair with as much care as if she were made of rare Elvish blown glass, Esmeralda smiled. The lad had been raw indeed, like the new brandy produced at the Hall each year, nearly undrinkable when young but improving with age.
The Took, ever impatient and slow to see any virtue in his son, had poured out the unfinished wine on the floor and thrown the bottle away. She sighed, and Pippin looked up with a smile, some of the old impishness showing in his eyes.
'Do you think you could fill a generous plate for my wife, Aunt? She's eating for two, you know!'
'Only if you fill one just as generous for my husband!' Diamond broke in.
Pippin looked down in chagrin. 'It's the trial of my life,' he said, shaking his head. 'I must eat whenever my wife feels hunger!'
'Well, you don't show it!' Diamond retorted. 'I suspect you must be burying the food amongst the plants, for I see no sign that you've eaten as much as you say.'
'Ah, but don't the plants look fat and healthy, though...' Pippin smirked. He leaned down to whisper to his wife, 'Just don't look beneath the carpet...!'
'No, he just puts it on your plate when you're not looking,' Merry laughed.
Pippin looked indignant. 'Now don't be giving away my secrets, cousin!' he said sharply, then smiled down at Diamond. 'You don't believe him, now, do you, lass?'
'Oh, every word...' she pouted up at him. 'So that's why I look like a sack of grain and you hardly have any meat on you!'
Eyes on her nephew, Esmeralda thought of a long-ago conversation she'd overheard between her husband and her brother, on a rare trip to the Great Smials.
'Say you had an intelligent, but highly strung pony to train,' Saradoc was saying.
Paladin nodded. 'A difficult task, such a pony makes a fine mount but he'd be easy to spoil through wrong handling.'
Saradoc took a sip of ale. 'Aye. If he had a mind to dance a bit, you wouldn't jerk at the reins and then beat him about the ears when he threw up his head in protest!'
'Of course not, what kind of a fool would do such a thing? Such a pony needs a firm, steady hand. Jerk at his mouth, you'll ruin him, make him hard mouthed. He'd be good for nothing.'
'Aye,' Saradoc repeated, then raised his eyes to Paladin's. 'Just like you're bringing up your son.'
Paladin choked on his ale. 'You dare to tell me how to raise my son?'
Saradoc said calmly, 'I'm only telling you how it looks to me.'
The Thain snorted. 'He's not a pony, he's a lad, and a rascal at that!'
'And you would beat it out of him...' Saradoc pressed.
Paladin shouted in outrage, 'I've never laid a hand on him!'
'No, of course you haven't.' Saradoc shook his head, fixed his gaze on the ale he held, watched the bubbles rising while he mastered his temper. He would try one more time.
He forced himself to chuckle, 'You're right, he is a rascal, a true rapscallion.'
Paladin smiled grudgingly. 'He is at that. Keeps the Smials in an uproar most of the time.'
Saradoc kept his voice light, as if he hardly cared about the matter. 'Why don't you send him to the Hall? There's plenty of relations there to keep an eye on him, and he could follow Meriadoc about, stir him up a bit. That lad spends too much time in books.'
'Books!' Paladin snorted. 'And you try to tell me how to raise a son.' He gulped at his ale and chortled. 'He would plague the life out of his cousin!'
'Well, we could always send him back to you if he burns down the Hall,' Saradoc said easily.
'Done, then. Take him. And good riddance.'
'You don't mean that!' Esmeralda said, shocked. She had been following the conversation in bemusement, with the feeling that Saradoc was going to turn the Hall into a home for orphans. First young Frodo, and now this whirlwind nephew...
Sudden determination moved her to say, 'He's welcome at the Hall for as long as he wishes to stay.'
A knock at the parlour door interrupted her reverie, and the conversation. Celandine stuck his head in. Seeing Pippin, he said, 'I've got the early numbers on the winter barley harvest.'
Pippin nodded. 'Leave a note on my desk. I'll get to it soon.'
'Right,' and Celandine was gone again.
Pippin focused on Samwise. 'Why don't you turn your hand to doing something about the weather?' he said, and one might have thought him serious from his tone, but for the twinkle in his eye. 'Flood last year, and though this year is promising to be a fine one for crops, we'll probably have a drought next year. Now there's a problem your honourable mayorship ought to be able to sink your teeth into!'
'At the moment I'm sinking my teeth into some very good cake,' Sam said equably.
'I want to say hello to Frodo, Dad!' young Frodo's voice broke in.
Samwise put down his plate to lift his son up to the portrait. 'Hello, Frodo,' the lad said. 'You're looking as well as ever.'
'That he is, son,' Sam said, putting him down again. 'Go have some cake.'
When Esmeralda emerged from the kitchen the next morning, a mug of wildflowers stood at her place. She smiled at Samwise, but he shook his head with his own smile. Pippin was not at breakfast this morning, for Diamond had been feeling poorly. Puzzled, her eyes moved down the table, to rest on young Frodo's mischievous grin.
Pearl Took of Long Cleeve entered. 'Well, it looks like today will be the day.' Esmeralda half rose but Diamond's mother waved her back to her seat. 'It won't be long now. She's already said she's tired and Peregrin can take over the work, and she's called him all sorts of names in her frustration.'
Samwise chuckled. 'Oh, it won't be long, indeed.' He'd been through it with Rose five times now.
Rose struck him on the arm. 'Go on with you!'
'Well, I must get back. I'll let you know soon, Merry, whether you're to be an aunt or an uncle!' She exited, well pleased with herself, as laughter followed her from the room.
'Do you want to hold him?' Pearl whispered to her son in law.
Pippin raised wide eyes from the bundle in her arms. 'He's so tiny...' he whispered. 'I'm afraid...'
She chuckled low in her throat, 'Oh, you can't break him as easily as all that. Here, hold your arms so...' and she deftly guided the babe into his father's arms.
'Look at him, Diamond, just look at him!' he breathed.
Spent, but curiously energized, she beamed back at him. 'He's perfect!'
'I'm sorry, you won't be able to use the name you wanted. "Estella" would not fit this fine lad very well, I fear.'
Her laughter rippled around him. 'No. But Faramir is an equally fine name.' Pippin gently laid his son in his wife's arms and bent to encircle them both in his embrace.
Late one night, with the young Gamgees asleep and Rose nursing wee Pippin, Sam was restless. His feet took him down to the quiet parlour, and he found himself standing before Frodo's portrait. By the light of the low-turned lamp, the eyes seemed to stare into his, the mouth quirking as if Frodo were about to launch into one of his stories.
At a step behind him, Sam turned to see Merry, who smiled, and joining him before the portrait, laid a hand on his shoulder. They gazed together in silence, which Merry broke.
'I often come down here, when all is quiet, for a little chat with my cousin.'
'What do you suppose it's like, there in Elvenhome...?'
'I don't know. Beautiful, probably. It would have to be. Like Rivendell in the morning, or Lothlorien in spring.'
'We never saw Lothlorien in spring.'
'No,' Merry said, his smile wistful. 'I can only imagine how it looked.'
'Do you suppose he's ever lonely in that beautiful place?'
'Oh,' Merry whispered, 'I'd imagine he misses us, as we miss him.' He looked into Frodo's painted eyes. 'What I wouldn't give for another chat, a hug, a hike through midge-infested marshes, even... It seems as if all I need to do is ride over to Hobbiton and he'll be there at the door to greet me.' He shook his head. 'But of course I'll never see him again.'
The words struck Sam a bitter blow, and he bowed his head. Merry's hand on his shoulder tightened, and Sam looked up into the other's eyes.
'But you'll see him again someday,' Merry said softly. At Sam's questioning look, he continued. 'You were a Ring-bearer yourself, if only for a time. When nothing ties you here anymore, you can sail to where he's waiting.' He smiled. 'When you see him, give him my love, and a big hug from all of us.' Merry squeezed Sam's shoulder again, and left the parlour.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.