Rating: G
Summary: The Tooks, with their six-month old son Peregrin in tow, visit Frodo and Bilbo at Bag End. Saradoc Brandybuck and family are also invited, and Merry meets his new cousin for the first time.
Feedback: Constructive criticism is welcome. I attempt to keep as close to book canon as possible. Ideas on how to improve in this area are particularly welcome.
Disclaimer: The places, situations and characters of The Lord of the Rings belong to the Tolkien Estate. This work contains no original characters. No money is being made from this work.

Author's Note: The assignment of Merry and Pippin's birthdays is decision made by the author and has no canonical basis. However, Merry's February birthday is consistent with another piece of mine: "Presents."

"Baby's First Trip"

Paladin II was greatly relieved when he and his wife Eglantine received their fourth child into the world. Paladin was relieved because the child was a boy. Because the current Thain of the Shire had no wife, and therefore no blood heir, he had designated Paladin as his heir. Paladin, happy that he would one day have the title of Thain, wanted to make sure it stayed with his blood relatives. The birth of young Peregrin was a double blessing to him, though it did create some rumblings in other branches of the Took family, where a claim to the Thainship might have existed if Paladin were not to have a son.

At any rate, Bilbo Baggins, Master of Bag End, and a fairly close relation to the Took family, wished to have the (very) young heir and his family visit Hobbiton. Bilbo, perhaps because he was a bachelor, and not aware of timeliness when it came to babies, issued an invitation almost immediately after the birth of the child. Eglantine had to decline the immediate invitation, but assured Bilbo that she would bring her son to visit him after a few months. To accommodate Frodo, who had been at Bag End for about two years, Bilbo also decided that it might be a good idea to invite Saradoc and Esmeralda Brandybuck, who had raised Frodo after the death of his parents and before he came to live in Bag End. Esmeralda was also Paladin's sister, and therefore the aunt of little Peregrin. He insisted that Saradoc bring his only son, Merry, who had been one of Frodo's friends at Brandy Hall.

Finally (and as Saradoc would later comment to Bilbo, not a day too soon, for Merry had pined and pined to see Frodo every day since the invitation arrived), the most illustrious members of the Took and Brandybuck families arrived at Bag End. Bilbo and Frodo had spent days making sure everything was in order and that the finest food and china were being used. Bilbo's normally fastidious nature rendered most of these preparations superfluous—Bag End was always ready for guests—but their home glistened all the more as the sun rose on the day the guests were scheduled to arrive.

Of course, word got out in Hobbiton about the gathering, and many of the local residents just happened to be milling about ("just on my business," said Ted Sandyman--though his business was proceeding rather slowly) when Paladin, Eglantine and Peregrin arrived. Peregrin's three older sisters were visiting relatives of their mother and therefore unable to attend. While many of the Hobbiton residents stood in quiet awe of the Tooks, they could not stay quiet when Saradoc, Esmeralda and Merry came up Bagshot Row. Of course Saradoc, who was a most outgoing hobbit, was shouting greetings at everyone he could see (furthering the Hobbiton stereotypes of the Brandybucks) and doing his best to make sure the Brandybucks were noticed.

As the Brandybucks pulled up in front of Bag End, Paladin was waiting to greet his sister. Esmeralda hugged him, and immediately asked about Peregrin. She had seen him before, having made a trip from Buckland to Great Smials almost immediately after his birth, but she was most excited about seeing him again. She started grilling her brother about Peregrin's behavior on the trip, asking if he had been OK, since this officially marked his first excursion from the Smials. Paladin answered question after question, but was starting to get a somewhat helpless look on his face. He was quite thrilled when the little hobbit who had been clutching Esmeralda's skirt could keep quiet no longer:


"MOMMY, I WANT TO SEE FRODO!"

"Saradoc," said Esmeralda, in a very calm voice, yet with a tone that conveyed an expectation that she would be obeyed without question, "go find Frodo and leave Merry with him." Saradoc complied eagerly, for he had always liked Frodo, and also wished to see him. Merry was bouncing up and down like he had been stung by a bee, but he would not let go of his father's hand, so Saradoc's arm was swinging up and down and up and down. Esmeralda and Paladin both chuckled.

Bilbo had been keeping Eglantine company, but came out to greet Esmeralda. "Bag End, at your service, my lady," he said with a grin and a deep bow.

"Thank you, Master Baggins," she said, trying to sound proper, and trying not to laugh.

"I received no such welcome," said Paladin, with a twinkle in his eye.

"I know where the real power in the House of Took lies," said Bilbo. It was a jest that few hobbits would have dared make, but Paladin admired Bilbo for it.

Frodo emerged from the round door, and ran to Esmeralda, giving her a very warm hug. "Look at you Frodo," she cooed, "more and more handsome by the day." She then jerked her head up with a start. "Oh dear, I've sent Saradoc and Merry in the opposite direction looking for you---"

"FRODO!"

Merry sped to where Frodo was standing, and tried to tackle him, but ended up bouncing right off him and landing in the grass (despite what he would later become, Merry was a slight little hobbit-lad). "Frodo! Frodo! I'm going to be TEN YEARS OLD in...in...how many months, Daddy?" He whispered the last part to his father, and Frodo pretended not to hear.

"Nine," whispered Saradoc (Pippin was born in November of 1390, and Merry in February of 1382, so by the time this visit came about, with Pip being six months old, there were indeed only nine months 'til Merry's 10th birthday).

"Nine months!" said Merry, very excited.

"That's wonderful!" said Frodo. "You are growing up and getting bigger and bigger. One day, you'll be bigger than me."

Merry laughed. "No I won't, Frodo. You're the biggest and bestest hobbit ever." He then attached himself to the younger Baggins, fussing at his mother when she tried to extract him. Frodo laughed, winked at Esmeralda, and walked away with Merry.

****
As Esmeralda had tried to extract Merry from Frodo, so Saradoc tried to extract Esmeralda from Peregrin. "Dear," he said, "let Eglantine hold him."

Eglantine laughed, "Saradoc, you silly thing, she may hold him as much as she likes. I have had my fill and then some of holding him in the last few months!" Indeed, Esmeralda's attraction to the child could be easily understood. Peregrin was adorable, wrapped in the finest swaddle clothes that could be had in the Shire. When he wasn't napping, he looked at all the adults with twinkling eyes and a huge smile. He made noises, and loved the bright designs on Saradoc's waistcoat. He did, however, spend most of his time sleeping, his fuzz of hair nestled on his mother. At times, he would make a small yawn, or a little sneeze. Each occurrence of that nature brought incessant oooh-ing and aaah-ing from Esmeralda and Eglantine. Saradoc, Bilbo and Paladin stood slightly apart, pretending to pay attention to the ladies and the baby, but really talking about food. Bilbo excused himself to prepare the meal (one of them, anyway), with Saradoc and Paladin right on his heels.

Peregrin's slumber was disrupted by Frodo and Merry barging through the door. The baby opened his eyes very wide and opened his mouth, which sent both ladies into hysterics about what a precious child he was.

Frodo said, "I'm sorry to interrupt, but Merry wants to see."

Eglantine leaned over so that Merry could have a look at Peregrin. After a few minutes of examination, Merry asked, "What does it do?"

Esmeralda put her hand over her face in embarrassment, but Eglantine laughed. "Well Merry, he cries, he sleeps, he eats, and that's about it."

"He's not very useful, is he?" said Merry nonchalantly. Esmeralda looked like she was going to climb out the window, but Frodo quickly said, "Neither were you, little Merry, when you were a baby."

"I was not like that!" exclaimed Merry. Now Esmeralda and Eglantine were laughing. Frodo replied, "Oh yes you were! I remember carrying you around when all you would do was cry and eat!"

Merry's face was in total shock. He looked to Esmeralda. "I...I...I was like that?" he said, pointing at Peregrin. "Yes you were," said Esmeralda. Frodo used to carry you everywhere. You were not as well behaved as your cousin Peregrin either."

Merry wrinkled his nose and said, "If Frodo carried me, then I want to carry the baby."

Eglantine blinked slowly, but her facial expression didn't change. Again, Frodo saved the day, saying, "Merry, you can help me carry the baby, OK?" This satisfied the young Brandybuck, and Frodo relieved the two ladies, who summoned the men to bring them bread and tea, and continued chatting.

Frodo carried Peregrin as he walked with Merry. Merry kept hopping up and down so that he could get a better look at the baby. Finally, Frodo spread out a blanket on the lawn, so that he could sit with Peregrin and Merry. Merry was studiously looking Peregrin over, which amused Frodo to no end.

"Frodo, since I am almost ten years old, and becoming a grown up, can I hold the baby? Not carry it, but hold it?"

Frodo saw no reason to deny this request, and placed the baby in Merry's lap. Merry held little Peregrin's hands, and tickled his feet, which the baby rather liked. He played with his hair, and talked to him, and was quite mesmerized by his new cousin. Frodo was very pleased by all this, but he simply could not have imagined what would happen next.

Merry was leaning down toward Peregrin, and brushing nose to nose, which had the little baby very pleased. However, on the fourth or fifth pass, the baby's hand flew up and swatted Merry across the face. Merry screamed, and jumped up, which caused Peregrin to roll onto the blanket. Merry was running back toward the house, screaming for his mother, and Frodo's face was frozen in complete horror. Luckily, Peregrin did not roll far, and a quick check revealed no damage (in fact, the baby was rather happy). Quickly rolling up the blanket, he walked slowly back to the house, baby in hand.

When he walked in, Esmeralda had calmed Merry down. Frodo walked in with a giggling Peregrin, and began apologizing to both ladies profusely. Eglantine told Frodo to calm down, and took her son back to her lap. Peregrin waved his hand at Merry again, which caused Merry to resume crying and bury his face in his mother's dress. Esmeralda had one hand on his head to comfort him and the other over her mouth so that no laughter would escape.

Once again, Frodo came through. "Merry, shall I read you some books in the next room away from the baby?" Merry nodded from inside Esmeralda's dress, and Frodo led him away.

When it came time for dinner, Pippin slept in the room next to the dining area, and Merry ate at a small table next to the adults and Frodo. As the adults chatted with Frodo (Esmeralda wanted to know every detail of his life since leaving Buckland), the night went on, and Merry got very bored. He left to go look at the books again.

When it came time to go, Eglantine and Esmeralda went to collect their sons. However, Esmeralda could not find Merry in the book room. She found him with Peregrin. Apparently he had worked up his courage again to go and see the baby.

"Look what I've done, Mother!" Esmeralda gasped and braced herself for the worst.

"Peregrin, touch my nose!" said Merry, and the baby swiped his hand in the general direction of Merry's nose. Esmeralda resumed regular breathing again. "That's very nice of you Merry."

"Yes," chimed Eglantine, "it is good to see you playing with your cousin." As she scooped up the bassinet, Peregrin smiled and gurgled toward Merry, which made Merry quite pleased.

Everyone else was ready to ride off, but Merry was still clutching Frodo. "Frodo," he said, "I think Peregrin is very nice--won't he be even better when he can walk and talk?"

Frodo laughed and said, "Walking is well and good Merry, but as for talking, it shall depend on whether he talks more or less than you do!"

The subtle joke went flying over Merry's head, and he gave Frodo one last hug. Before going to his parents, he dutifully gave Paladin and Eglantine a good-bye embrace. Then he tried to give Peregrin a hug. The baby looked at him with his big, sparkling eyes, smiled, and smacked him on the nose again.

Defeated, Merry walked back to his parents, trying to act as grown up as possible. Bilbo and Frodo waved goodbye to the entourages, and retreated back inside.

"Uncle Bilbo," said Frodo as he closed the door, "I have a feeling those two are going to be something."

"Indeed," said Bilbo.