1. Usurpers and Adventurers
Bilbo and Frodo spent the Yule of 1390 at the Great Smials, staying for a whole month to enjoy the Thain’s well-laden table and the ever-festive atmosphere of the Took ancestral home. This was Frodo’s first stay at the Smials as a tween-ager, and he soon found that Took tweens were fond of staying up too late and playing too hard, then napping in the afternoons. He and Bilbo were in some of the finest guest quarters, just around the corner from the Thain’s own apartments, and when he lay down during the day, Frodo often could hear Paladin’s rather rambunctious brood playing and squabbling through the walls.
But today it was wailing. Full-volume, angry, distressed wailing from the newborn that did not let up for even a moment. Interspersed with the wailing was defiant shrieking from Pervinca, who did not want to take her nap, and crying from Pimmie, whom Pervinca had sunk her sharp little teeth into a short while before. The grumbling and sharp orders of their nurse ran undercurrent to it all.
“All I want is a simple nap!” Frodo moaned, pulling his pillow over his head as the baby’s pitch took on new heights. Frodo had stayed up well past midnight with Reginard and Isemgold, and had imbibed more ale over the course of the evening than he had to date in his young life. The result had been a scolding from Bilbo when he had come back to their quarters swaying on his feet, and a glorious headache in the morning. He had managed to eat a little something at luncheon, but now more than anything, he wanted some rest.
The pillow did nothing to stifle the uproar from down the hallway, and Frodo finally tossed it aside in disgust. “That’s enough,” he announced firmly to the empty room, and got up from the bed to stride into the hallway with determination.
The door to the Thain’s apartments was open, as usual, and Frodo let himself in. It was easy work to find the wailing child, in a basket in his mother’s parlor where poor Briony had deposited him while she did battle with Pervinca. The baby’s face was bright red, and he kicked his legs with all his might while waving small, clenched fists in the air.
“Peregrin,” Frodo said, “that is quite enough.”
Peregrin glared at Frodo with narrowed eyes and shrieked his displeasure with the world.
Frodo sighed heavily. It seemed he had no choice but to pick up this screaming child, or allow his head to split right in two from the force of the wailing. A bit nervous, for he had never handled such a tiny baby, he reached out and scooped Pippin up.
The baby promptly kicked him right in the chest, hard, and swung his little fists in the direction of Frodo’s face.
“Hoy!” Frodo scolded, nervousness forgotten. “What in heaven’s name can you be so unhappy about? And there’s no need to treat guests that way.” He put Pippin’s head on his shoulder and patted the baby’s back. “Really, I simply don’t see the call for such behavior,” he added.
Pippin took a deep breath that seemed aimed for another shriek, but changed his mind at the last minute and instead let out some heartfelt sobs and grumbling noises. Encouraged, Frodo added a slight rocking motion to the back-patting, and was rewarded when Pippin subsided to sniffles and hiccups.
“Oh, that is so much better,” Frodo said in relief. He patted and rocked for a few moments, until he felt eyes looking up at him. Pimmie stood at his side, cradling her wounded arm.
“He cries ever so much,” she told Frodo solemnly. “I can’t imagine what Father and Mamma wanted with him.”
“That is a horrid thing to say, Pimmie,” Frodo retorted, though he had just been entertaining much worse thoughts about the baby back in his room.
“I know,” his cousin sighed, reaching up to cradle a tiny foot. “He can be a very nice baby sometimes. But you would think that Pervinca would be enough to convince anyone not to have more babies.”
Frodo made a strangled noise as he choked on laughter, wondering if Pimmie was repeating something she had heard her elders saying or if this was her own wise observation. It was difficult to contradict, though, when he could hear Pervinca a few doors down pounding the soles of her feet in an angry rhythm against her footboard.
“So here’s the magic-worker! I thought Master Meriadoc must have come back from his walk with Mr. Bilbo,” came Briony’s crisp voice behind them. “Ah, my wee lamb, are you happy now that you have someone’s undivided attention?” she asked Pippin as she reached out for the baby. Frodo happily turned his burden over and then turned to go back to his room.
Pippin shrieked at full volume, planting one of his hands in his nurse’s hair and yanking as hard as he could. Pimmie shook her head sagely. Briony cooed and rocked, and was hit in the chin with a flailing fist as her reward.
“Briony, my arm,” Pimmie whined, holding her injury aloft.
“In a minute, love,” Briony answered, jiggling Pippin.
“It hurts, Briony!” Pimmie said, allowing her voice to rise in pitch and volume.
“Ach!” Briony said in exasperation. “Here, Master Baggins, don’t you go runnin’ off now. Hold your cousin for a moment more and see if you can’t work that magic again. Come along, Pimpernel, let us see the damage. Oh, now, this isn’t so bad.” And before he knew what was happening, Frodo found he was holding the screaming baby again while Briony led Pimmie away with a comforting arm about the lass’ shoulders.
“Oh, stop it,” Frodo said crossly to Pippin, and the baby stopped screaming and stuck his fist in his mouth.
“I do believe you understand everything that is happening perfectly,” Frodo told the infant, part in exasperation, part in amusement, and part in growing fondness. Pippin gummed at his fist and stared in fascination at Frodo’s eyes.
Frodo rocked and patted and thought wistfully about his inviting bed and a long nap. Eventually, the sound of Pervinca’s kicking died out. He heard Briony enticing Pimmie to lie on her bed and read a book during naptime, and then he heard the unmistakable noises of straightening up in the playroom. “Briony,” he called hopefully.
“In just another minute, my helpful lad,” came the answer (which seemed more of a command than an entreaty to Frodo). Pippin sighed deeply and rested his head against Frodo’s chest.
The apartments grew very quiet. “Briony,” Frodo called again, and finally ventured to walk and hold the baby at the same time.
Briony was in the playroom, in the rocking chair, fast asleep. “Oh, no,” Frodo muttered. He looked down at the baby. “What now?”
“Phft,” Pippin said.
“You are most unhelpful,” Frodo answered. He shifted the baby little in his arms and thought longingly of sleep and quiet. “Don’t you need a nap, too?” he asked Pippin, then, “Would you like to nap with me?”
In short order, Frodo was on his back in the middle of his bed, the baby lying, frog-like, on his stomach on Frodo’s chest. “There,” the elder cousin said. “I suppose I shall notice right away if you fall off. But be a good lad, and just stay put, would you?”
“Beh,” Pippin answered, still chewing his fist busily. He watched, enthralled, as Frodo’s eyes finally lowered.
He hadn’t slept nearly long enough, Frodo was certain, so why was he waking? A finger jabbed his shoulder again, and he groaned and opened his eyes. A solemn face alongside the bed regarded him.
“Frodo,” Merry asked, “what are you doing with my baby?”
“Eh?” Frodo asked, then stirred and felt the weight on his chest. Looking down, he saw that Pippin had indeed stayed where Frodo had put him, and was fast asleep, drooling on Frodo’s shirt.
“He is my baby now,” Frodo said. “I am sorry, Merry-lad, but I have decided to usurp you.”
“What does usurp mean?” Merry asked.
“It means to take a position meant for someone else,” Frodo answered, yawning.
“You can’t have my baby, Frodo,” Merry stated unequivocally, then crawled up onto the bed.
“Oh, really?” Frodo let his eyes shut. “Well, then take him away and let me sleep.”
Merry leaned over to stroke Pippin’s hair and kiss one tiny pointed ear. “We are going to have great adventures together when he is bigger,” he informed Frodo.
“Without me? Hardly seems fair,” Frodo said drowsily.
“Maybe you can come with us,” Merry said, and lay down beside Frodo.
“How generous of you to consider my request,” was the dry answer. “You had best let me nap then, so I can keep up my strength for all of the grand adventures.”
Merry was quiet for several moments, slipping a finger into the baby’s hand and fiddling with the edges of Frodo’s shirt. “But you mustn’t forget that he is my Pippin,” he added finally.
“That is all right,” Frodo said, “so long as you are still my Merry.”
“Of course,” Merry agreed, and snuggled into Frodo’s side. Frodo put one hand on the baby’s back and the other around Merry’s shoulders, and joined his cousins in sleep.
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.