(Author's Note: This little story was written in celebration of Kit/Kimby/Pippinswolf's birthday on September 23. Kit has been so encouraging in her reviews and so wonderful that I wanted to thank her, and when she casually mentioned that her birthday was the day after Frodo's, I saw an opportunity. Kit is the author of those delightful rhyming ditties that so amaze us, as well as the extremely well written Pippin story "Greyling," among others. Kit is a Pippin-fan and once made the suggestion that since I had done everything else to the poor lad, I might as well toss him out of a window. The opening of a chapter of "Greyling" gave me just the impetus I needed. My thanks to Marigold, who was kind enough to beta this story. Happy Birthday, Kit!)
(And Marigold says Happy Birthday too!)
Disclaimer: The Lord of the Rings and all its characters and settings are the property of the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. These works were produced with admiration and respect, as fan fiction for entertainment purposes only, not for sale or profit.
Pippin's Little Experiment
Bree was altogether a marvelous place, Pippin thought. His father had been promising for years now that he would take his son to see the great town of Men; the Thain had been there several times arranging shipment of supplies or on trading ventures with the Big Folk. Had probably stayed at The Prancing Pony, too, though Pip didn't recall his da ever mentioning the inn by name.
The young hobbit's initial exhaustion had been eased by a quick nap and his hunger by an excellent dinner and now he and one of his cousins and Sam were enjoying a smoke in the common room, watching all the Big People with quiet astonishment. Frodo had seen Big People before several times, Pippin knew, but Pippin had seen only a few (save Gandalf) and he realized he was probably gawking like a yokel at his first midsummer's faire. Well, Sam was too, so Pippin did not feel so out of place.
He pulled the pipe out of his mouth and leaned over to Frodo. "Shame Merry didn't want to come with us. He could go for a walk anytime! Can't see much of the town at night, anyway."
Frodo nodded absently. The mug of ale at his elbow seemed forgotten as he turned his pipe upside down and tapped the bowl on the scarred wooden table. Burn-marks and scratches and ambiguous carvings already marred the rough planks, so Pippin decided that Frodo's little tapping wouldn't hurt the inn's furniture.
"Miserable thing," his cousin muttered. "Can't get it – oh, drat!" The dark tobacco had mashed together into a soggy clump and was refusing to draw properly. At Frodo's last annoyed tap, the entire wad had oozed out of the pipe's bowl and now steamed gently on the tabletop.
"Ick," Pippin observed succinctly.
Frodo sat back and regarded the clump with disgust. "That's the last pipe-weed I buy from the Sackville-Bagginses," he muttered under his breath. "Lotho said it was Old Toby but I very much doubt that… I should have known better." He stuck the clump with the stem of the pipe and flicked it over disdainfully.
Sitting next to Frodo, Sam drew deeply on his pipe and exhaled a sweet-smelling smoke ring. "Told you, sir. Them leaves just didn't look right nor smell right."
Frodo glared at the clump. "Yes, all right, you were right, Sam." Sam hid a smile and winked at Pippin lackadaisically.
Then Frodo looked up. "Pippin-lad, would you be good enough to run to our room and fetch my other pipeweed-pouch? I know that's decent Longbottom Leaf."
Naturally Pippin would – the tweenager had been getting restless anyway – but he saw no reason to run an errand free for his cousin if he could turn some profit off it. So he hooked up an eyebrow and stared at his cousin over his almost-empty mug. "I'm awfully comfortable, Frodo. Why don't you go?"
"I'll get it, Mr. Frodo," Sam offered and started to rise, but Frodo shook his head in amusement.
"I know a shake-down attempt when I see one, young sir. What do you want for saving your tired, elderly cousin some steps?"
Pippin grinned at his cousin. "I saw a sweets-vendor's shop on the way to the inn. May I have some money to buy some?"
"It would be closed by now, Pippin." The young hobbit noted with silent glee that his older cousin hadn't actually said no.
"But it will be open tomorrow morning before we leave. It will still take the stables an hour to ready all the ponies. And we have to eat breakfast, after all. We could stop on our way out of town."
"All right, all right…" Frodo leaned sideways and pulled his purse out of his jacket, counting out several copper coins to give to the tweenager. After a moment's consideration, he added a silver to the pile. "Don't make yourself sick," he grumbled good-naturedly. "We have a long way to go, no need to eat it all at once."
Pippin swept the little pile into his own flat purse with a grin. "Thank you, oh most generous and excellent cousin. One pipeweed pouch coming up!" He was gone in a flutter of jacket and trailing scarf.
"You spoil that lad, Mr. Frodo," Sam remarked when Pippin had left.
"I know, Sam. But he's growing up so fast…" Frodo sighed, his gaze wandering over the rough-looking Men at the bar and seated at the tables. "I really am torn about he and Merry coming with us. We don't even know where Rivendell is. East is all I know. I wish I had gotten more specific directions from Gandalf."
Sam leaned back and produced another smoke ring, watching as it drifted away to merge with the general haze of the close room. "Seems 'ta me that where we're going isn't as important as getting as far away from the Shire as we can. For now, anyway."
Frodo rubbed at his eyes wearily. "Yes, you're right. We can only hope that Gandalf will meet us on the road. He's never broken his word to me before. I can't imagine what's keeping him."
Sam said nothing, but his stomach churned a little at the possibilities.
* * * * *
Pippin paused in the corridor. The hallway to the hobbit rooms led off to his left, the hall to the rooms for Men was up the stairs. The young hobbit had never seen so many stairs. Three stairs, four – even five, yes. He wished he had thought to count the stairs that led down into the cellars at the Great Smials and Bag End and Brandy Hall. But here … there must be twenty. Twenty! And so steep! Unable to resist, he put a hairy foot on the first and started climbing.
There were twenty-eight! What an astonishing thing. Pippin turned at the top of the stairs and looked down. The stairway was dim, the candles in the high sconces scarcely illuminating it. He was as high above the ground as if he were in the crown of a tall tree. How exciting! But he really should go back. Frodo was waiting for his pouch. But he was so curious about the rooms for Men. The furniture must be huge.
Pippin crept along the hallway until he came to an open door. Unable to resist, he peered in. A candle flickered in a high wall sconce across from the door, providing him just enough light to see into the room. There was a washstand and a bed. A brick buttressed up one leg of a water-spotted nightstand. A chair was propped against the window shutters, keeping them open to admit the cool night air. A rag-rug on the floor that had seen better days. Everything was enormous. Why, four hobbits could fit into that bed. Consumed by curiosity, Pippin edged into the room.
There were no signs of occupancy. Perhaps the room had not been rented for the night?
Well then, surely no one would mind. With a giggle, Pippin backed up, took a running start and threw himself on the bed, using the headboard to tug himself up on the vast expanse. The bed was soft and he dug his toes into the mattress until the quivering stopped, bouncing slightly to keep his balance.
Just a quick bounce, he thought. A little experiment. Just to say he'd done it. The enormous bed stretched out beneath him like a field of soft grassy hillocks. Pippin crouched and jumped for all he was worth. He came down and was propelled upwards again, perilously close to the ceiling. Stifling shrieks of delight, he bounced and bounced.
One bounce too far. He'd had to land sideways to keep his balance and came off the bed at an angle. Before he could register it, the window shutters were flashing past him and he was out of the room. He was out of the building!
Pippin scrabbled desperately for the sill. The wood caught under his fingers and his hand clamped around the frame with such strength that a splinter was torn loose and driven into a finger. He resisted the natural impulse to let go and stick the finger into his mouth.
His small body came down hard against the outside of the window, fetching up against the exterior wall with a thump! that rattled Pippin's teeth. Hands clamped into rigid vises, he hung there, his heart hammering.
He dangled limply while the initial terror passed. He had not fallen. Yet.
Unwisely, Pippin braced his feet against the wall and pushed a little so that he could look down. The ground was very far away. Two stories. Twenty-eight steps, plus the three to enter the inn itself. Stone cobbles on the street and a hard wooden boardwalk around the inn. He would certainly be killed if he fell. Pippin felt a whimper rising in his throat and ruthlessly squashed it down.
Right. He had control of himself now. Pull himself up. That's the ticket. "Uuugghhh." Furry feet scrabbled against the rough boards, trying to gain a purchase. Pippin released the breath he had been holding with an explosive gasp. That hadn't worked. And now he had a few splinters in his toes as well. Try again, then. "Uuunnnnggggggghhhhh!"
How did he get himself into this mess? It had just been a bit of fun. He could hang here until he starved. Or more likely, died of embarrassment. No, he couldn't. By the tiniest amount, he had felt his fingers slip.
Perspiration was slicking his hands, despite the cold night air. Oh stars, what would his father say when Frodo told him his son had been killed when he'd accidentally tossed himself out a window by bouncing on a bed?
Pippin almost let go, so startled was he by Merry's shout. He struggled to look over his shoulder and beheld his cousin, hands on hips, staring up at him.
"Pippin, stop that immediately! Get inside that window at once!"
Pippin clamped down on his tongue as firmly as his hands clamped the windowsill. Did Merry think he was doing this for his own enjoyment? Memories of other regrettable incidents flashed across his mind and he felt his cheeks heat. Swallowing the reply that rose to his lips, he turned his head as far as he could and yelped, "Help!"
"What?" Evidently it had not occurred to Merry that Pippin might be in trouble.
"Just help!" squeaked Pippin in a strangled tone. "Merry, help!"
Merry was past the door and racing through the inn into the common room before Pippin could draw another breath. Faintly, Pippin could hear shouts and curses and then Frodo's voice, raised in an unintelligible question. Merry bellowed something back and then feet, many feet, were pounding up the stairs. Pippin heartily wished he could turn invisible, as Bilbo had when he and Merry had seen the old hobbit put on the Ring.
"Pippin! Pippin, where are you!" Merry shouted, then a door flew open and Pippin winced as it crashed against a wall somewhere inside, its force shaking the sill on which he was hanging. A shrill feminine scream followed it. "Sorry, ma'am! So sorry! Wrong room!" Another time, Pippin would have laughed at the horror in his cousin's voice.
Then Merry's curly head emerged from the window in the room next to where Pippin hung like a ham tied up to cure. "What are you doing, you idiot?"
Pippin kicked at the outside wall in frustration and fear. "I'm falling, thank you very much! Would you mind giving me a hand in?"
Merry's head had already disappeared from the window. A heartbeat later, hands were fastening on his wrists and he was being dragged ignobly over the windowsill. A second set of strong hands caught his braces and the seat of his breeches and lifted him into the room. Shaking out his numb hands, he looked up into Frodo's terrified eyes, with Sam staring from behind him.
Merry skidded into the room and tackled all of them in a flying leap that knocked Frodo and Sam off their feet and carried them to the floor. Nice soft rag-rug, thought Pippin, struggling to inhale with Frodo and Sam on top of him. Coughing, the two slid off just as Merry seized Pippin in a fierce hug then grabbed his shoulders and shook him.
"Wait until I tell your Da what you've been up to! How did you get out there anyway? You could have been killed! I ought to take a strap to you myself –"
Frodo cut off Merry's tirade with a gentle hand on his shoulder, pulling him off his younger cousin. Sam was rubbing his midsection, where Frodo's sharp elbow had caught him as Merry crashed into them all. Frodo coughed, fighting for breath. "Calm down, Merry-lad. He's all right. Aren't you, Pippin?"
Pippin wasn't so sure about that. He had collected several more splinters and the feeling was returning to his hands in an agonizing rush. He became aware that several Men were grinning at them from the doorway until they were pushed aside by the innkeeper, Butterbur.
"What's all this, then?" the portly inkeep demanded. "May I ask what you were about, Master Took?"
Oh, it was all too embarrassing. Pippin climbed slowly to his feet, head hanging. Various explanations passed through his quick mind, but any he came up with were quickly put to the lie by the indentations of dirty hobbit feet on the bedspread.
Frodo had seen them, too. He covered his eyes for a moment, slender shoulders slumping. Was he laughing or contemplating the murder of his youngest cousin? Pippin didn't dare venture a guess. He watched as Frodo drew Butterbur aside and Pippin heard the soft clink of coins changing hands. Oh, stars.
"Well, all's well that ends well," the inkeep said levelly, with a glare at the mortified young hobbit. Then he turned to the group of amused guests and barflies. "Off you go. Nothing 'ta see here. There's mugs of ale to be drunk down in the common room … that's right … it's all over, it is…" Shepherding the Men down the stairs, he turned back to the hobbits. "I hope your party doesn't plan any more acrobatics tonight, Mr. Underhill?"
Frodo hastily assured him that he had nothing else in mind, then faced his kin when they were alone. "Merry, why don't you continue your walk and calm down? No harm done, really."
Merry growled something and gave Pippin a glare that promised strong words when he returned, but he obeyed his elder cousin. With a glance at the carefully blank-faced Sam, Frodo guided the subdued tweenager to the door and down the twenty-eight stairs. Once seated again, Pippin stared intently at the scarred tabletop for some time before daring to drag his gaze up to his older cousin's.
Frodo looked back at him calmly. "Right, then," he said briskly. "Where's my pipeweed pouch?"