Chapter 6

Drafty Rafters

A/N: As always, I don't own them, just wish I did! I'm sorry it took so long. Try not to hate me too much!

I sat in my bedroom, looking into the backyard. The light of the nearly full moon bathed it with a cool, blue tinted light. What was normally a cheery, tree strewn space was turned into an area of wonder and mystery by the subdued lighting. I sipped at the hot tea in my hand trying to unwind from the stresses of the day.

A particularly sour note drifted from the shower, distracting me from my thoughts. Steve had his method of unwinding, and I had mine. His involved lots of hot water and singing, mine involved cuddling up with a hot drink and a blanket in front of my window.

I sighed, pulling my blanket closer around me. What an evening. We'd stood in the doors, paralyzed with shock at the sight of Merry huddled on Lily's bed. Pippin pushing past us into the room had been the action that broke us from our stupor.

"Merry! I've missed you so much!" Pippin threw himself on the bed and hugged his cousin.

Frodo walked toward Merry, carefully avoiding the large chunks of ceiling on the floor. "Merry, are you alright?"

Merry slowly turned his face toward Frodo. "Frodo?" he asked in a bewildered voice.

"Merry, are you hurt?" Frodo clambered up on the bed and gently removed the tinsel from Merry's ear.

"No, I don't think so."

By now the children had joined us in the doorway. JJ and Brittany froze, staring in shocked silence at the mayhem in the room. Lily, on the other hand, stormed into what was left of her room.

"Look at my bed," she wailed, stopping by the bed and glaring at the hobbits on it.

Uh oh. I could see she was working herself up for a truly impressive explosion, and moved quickly to try and head it off.

"Lily, it's nothing that can't be fixed. You and Brittany wanted to repaint the room anyway, right?"

She nodded her head absently as her eyes inspected the rest of her room. I knew we were in trouble when I saw her eyes narrow as she leaned around Pippin to look at her night table.

"Oh NO!" Lily scooted past Pippin and scooped something off the floor on the other side of her bed. "Mom! Look what they did to my picture!"

Lily waved a framed picture in front of my face as she spoke. I felt my heart sink as I recognized the frame. Oh dear.

"Wait, Lily, stop waving it around, I can't see it!" She thrust the picture into my hand and turned to glare at Merry, who was still sitting on her bed. Lily had been a devoted Legolas fan since Fellowship of the Ring came out, and had been lucky enough to have a grandma in the right place at the right time to get her an autographed picture of Legolas. It was her most prized possession, and now the glass was cracked beyond repair.

"It's RUINED!" Lily plopped on the floor and started to cry.

"No, it's not, look, the glass can be replaced, and the picture isn't ruined." I held the frame in front of her, intending to show her that the picture wasn't even scratched, only to have Frodo intercept it and examine it closely.

"Legolas? Has he been here too?"

"No Frodo, he hasn't been here. This is one of those things we'll have to explain to you later."

By now Steve had moved to the edge of the bed and was looming over the hobbits as he peered up into the attic. "What did you do to my house?"

"I...I...I...I'm sorry." Merry said, an expression of fear on his face as he stared up at Steve.

"You may be sorry, but that's not going to fix the hole in the ceiling. Why didn't you step on the rafters, that's what they're there for! Any idiot knows you have to step ON the rafters, and not in between them!" By this time Merry had scooted back as far as he could and was huddled against Frodo. Pippin appeared frozen in fear on the other side of the bed. "Do you know how long it will take to fix this?"

"Steve."

"If you don't know how to treat someone's attic, you shouldn't go up in it!"

"Steve!"

"What!"

"He didn't go up there, that's where he came in."

"No, he just came in that way." It made perfect sense to me.

"What?" Steve sat on the bed, staring at me in bewilderment. "You mean to tell me there's a hole in the roof too?"

Oh how I wished I had my camera. Once Steve had stopped looming over them, and had quieted down somewhat, the hobbits had relaxed. They were lined up in a row on Lily's dust covered bed, almost identical expressions of bewilderment on their faces.

"There's not much we can do with the hole right now. Why don't we go downstairs and eat the pizza before it's totally cold. I'll explain what I mean over dinner."

I should have known. The whole day had been nothing but one mix up, surprise, and disaster after another. By the time we got back downstairs, Midnight had managed to get himself onto the table and was industriously trying to nip open one of the pizza boxes.

"Midnight!" Brittany shrieked as she ran toward him.

Midnight gave a startled yelp and skidded on the table as he tried to get off before Brittany could get to him.

"Eww, dog slobber," JJ exclaimed as he examined the box Midi had been working on.

"Brittany, would you please put him out back. I don't think we want any interruptions. Oh wait." I grabbed the dog's collar as he ran by and was nearly jerked off my feet. "Merry, come here please."

Merry eyed the dog, and me too, with misgiving. Obviously Steve's little tirade had impressed him. Frodo gave him an encouraging nudge and nodded his head. Merry slowly came toward me, still covered in dust, but thankfully unwound from the Christmas lights.

Midnight stared at the approaching hobbit, his nostrils picking up the unfamiliar scent. He bared his teeth in a silent snarl, and Merry froze.

"It's ok Merry, he won't hurt you if we introduce you to him." Merry stared at Midnight, seemingly afraid to come any closer.

"See Merry?" Pippin, eager to help his older cousin, jumped off the barstool he'd been sitting on and hurried over to pet the dog. Midi closed his eyes and huffed happily as Pippin hit a particularly itchy spot.

Merry watched them for a moment, and slowly crept forward. I took his hand and said "Friend Midi. Give him a pat." Merry gently rubbed Midi's head and he leaned forward to press against the hobbit's tummy. For the first time, as he patted the dog's head, it looked like Merry was relaxing.

"Why don't you take him out back Brittany," I said as I released my hold on Midnight's collar. "Oh, and JJ, could you please show Merry to your bathroom so he can clean up some?"

JJ nodded and grabbed Merry's hand as he walked by. I could hear him saying "I'm JJ, and that's my mom and dad. That was cool the way you fell through the ceiling. Can you do it again?" I shook my head and watched the little procession wandered off toward JJ's bathroom. Pippin and Frodo had apparently decided to go along.

"Mom, where am I going to sleep?" Lily had collapsed on the floor in front of the fireplace.

"In your bed. It's not damaged, we'll put clean sheets on it after Daddy covers the hole with something."

Lily huffed in annoyance before standing up and moving to where the plates were stored. "Paper or real?"

"Paper. You might as well get the cups out too."

Watching the hobbits eat the pizza had been a revelation. Once they were convinced that it was edible, they more than did their part to demolish them. In fact, given the enormous amount of food they consumed, I was surprised we had anything left to put in the refrigerator. Luckily I had room in the refrigerator for the two boxes full of assorted odds and ends of pizza and bit of salad that was left over.

I sighed again as I rocked in my chair. At least the evening had wound down fairly easily. While Steve, ably helped by JJ, had put some spare boards over the hole in the ceiling of the girl's room, The girls, hobbits, and I picked up the pieces of ceiling, dusted the furniture, and ran the vacuum cleaner. That had been a revelation to the hobbits! I forgot to warn them that it was noisy before I started it, and they, not expecting the loud sounds, had immediately crawled under the bed. It took some coaxing, but we finally convinced them to come out. By the time I was done with half the room, Pippin had edged to my side and was watching in fascination as it sucked up debris from the floor. The three hobbits took turns finishing the room, while Lily, Brittany, and I watched in amusement.

Thank heavens we'd decided to go with a king sized bed in the guest bedroom. It was easily large enough to accommodate the three hobbits without being cramped. At least they didn't require bed time stories to go to sleep!

"What's on the schedule for you tomorrow?" Steve had entered our bedroom, hair still wet from his shower.

"I don't know. I'll probably take our visitors to the store, JJ doesn't have enough clothes to outfit all three of them for very long."

Steve grinned at me. "I don't envy you on that trip. I can't imagine trying to keep all three of them in line."

"Oh, I don't think it'll be any harder than keeping our kids under control. I figured I'd have Frodo hang on to either Merry or Pippin, and I'd hang on to the other one."

"Good plan." He moved to the window and stood staring out for a minute. "Suz, what's that out by the fence?"

I got out of my chair and came to stand next to him. "Where?"

"Over on that side of the yard." I looked where he was pointing and could see an odd shaped .... hill for lack of a better word....by the fence, near the vegetable garden.

"I have no idea. it doesn't look quite like an armadillo." We watched in silence for a few moments more, before turning to our bed to get some much needed sleep.

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