1. The Problem

'Why does this sort of thing always seem to happen to me?' Pippin asked querulously.

'What sort of thing?' Diamond asked gently, stroking his hair back from his forehead.

You know perfectly well, his look told her.

She laughed, 'I have no idea what you're talking about!'

'You know!' he insisted. 'Falling trolls, flash floods, ice storms, stable fires, runaway ponies...'

'O those runaway ponies,' Diamond answered. 'You've had trouble with them more than once.' She kissed his forehead. 'Let's banish all ponies from Tookland.'

'I'll get right on't,' Pippin promised. He went back to his grumbling. 'I have to be the unluckiest hobbit in the Shire...'

'O no, not the unluckiest,' Diamond murmured. 'You married me, after all; didn't you tell me then that you were the luckiest hobbit in the Shire?'

'O, you're right,' Pippin conceded. 'What, then?'

'Careless?' Diamond suggested.

'I'm never careless,' Pippin said, stung.

She chuckled. 'You're right. Impulsive, but never careless.' She caressed his forehead as a grimace crossed his face. 'Mmmmmm, perhaps we should just say "accident prone".'

'O aye,' he said, mollified. He gave a sigh. 'I tell you...'

'What?' Diamond asked.

'If Frodo were writing this in a book, I'd tell him to put in lots and lots of boring pages filled with routine happenings.'

Diamond's laugh rippled over him. 'We have had lots and lots of boring pages filled with routine happenings,' she said. 'You just tend to skip over them without noticing, is all.' She kept her tone light, hiding her worry from ten-year-old Faramir.

Just then Ferdibrand came up from his inspection of the overturned coach. 'All right,' he said. 'I'm going to try to pull you out from under. Still wish we had some rope, though.'

'I think we left it back at the Ford, when we helped that stalled wagon,' Pippin said. 'I should have made sure it got put back into the coach. You know what the Mayor always says.'

' "I always like to keep a bit of rope handy," ' Ferdibrand, Diamond, and Faramir recited along with him.

'Well, it certainly would be handy right about now,' Ferdibrand said. 'All right, then, Faramir, you take hold on that side, I'll take hold on this, push down as hard as you can on your branch. It'll act as a lever and hopefully lift the coach just a little bit. And you, Mistress, try to pull him out from under when I say "three". Are we ready?'

'Right,' Pippin answered. Ferdibrand gave the count, and the four strained at their appointed tasks. Pippin gave a yelp as the coach settled further.

Ferdibrand rose, shaking his head. 'It's too dangerous without a rope, cousin,' he said. 'If we move it the wrong way it'll crush you. Right now something's holding it up, I can't see what.'

'So what are our options?' Diamond said, settling back, one hand on her belly. The contractions hadn't stopped. At least they were irregular, probably just false pangs. She fervently hoped they were.

Ferdibrand gave her a sharp look. 'Are ye all right, Mistress?' he said.

'Never been better,' she said lightly, shooting him a quelling look. Her husband had enough to worry about at the moment. 'So what are our options?' She took off her cloak, rolling it up and tucking it beneath Pippin's head.

'Either we wait for someone to notice our ponies running merrily down the road...'

'Merrily?' Pippin asked. 'Panic-stricken, more like.'

'...panic-stricken down the road, or I walk to the nearest dwelling to get help.' He looked at Diamond. 'I don't like to leave you here alone, Mistress.'

'Alone? With two fine hobbits to watch over me?' She smiled at her husband and son.

'Too bad the coach had to overturn in such a deserted stretch of road,' Pippin said.

'Yes,' Diamond agreed. 'On second thought...'

'What?' he asked.

She kissed him again on the forehead. 'Perhaps you are the unluckiest hobbit in the Shire. Aside from being married to me, that is.'