The little house in Crickhollow was a busy place. Two couples sharing the dwelling ofttimes made it hectic enough. But when one of those couples has a baby, the energy level is pushed up that much higher. Merry and Estella had married only four months after Pippin and Diamond, on the 23rd of Astron. They were older, so had not wished to wait too long to begin their family. The Brandybucks would have had an addition to their family sooner, conceiving their first babe a mere month after they married, but their first little one miscarried in the third month of the pregnancy. The baby who now kept the adults of the house so busy, little Theodoc, was born in Afterlithe of 1429 a year and a few months after his parents nuptials. The anxiousness of watching so carefully over Estella was now happily replaced with the unending care that a new born demands. On this particular warm, early Winterfilth day, Merry and Estella were being shooed away from the house by their Took house-mates.
"You've scarcely taken as much as a walk alone together since Theodoc was born," Pippin chided Merry. "The weather won't be this grand and warm much longer. You two need to get out before winter starts to set in."
"And it has been . . . ," Diamond looked upwards as she thought a moment, "three months now." Diamond's eyes went back to gazing at the wee babe laying in the cradle that had been his Papa's and a good many Brandybuck's before him. She reached out and gently touched the soft brown curls that framed Theodoc's chubby little face. "He's just finished nursing," Diamond said softly. "He'll sleep at least two hours and then wake up and want to talk to Peregrin for a bit after that. He won't be any trouble, Estella."
Merry smiled at the part about little Theo "talking" to Pippin. His cousin could sit on the floor with the baby for the longest time, slouched against a chair or whatever was available, with little Theodoc sitting on his lower abdomen and propped up against Pip's bent legs. The two of them would gaze into each other's eyes, Pippin talking softly and Theo seeming to reply with noises that made it sound very much as though they were having the deepest of discussions. It was something Theodoc only did with his Uncle Pippin.
Estella's smile was awkward and tight. She had hardly let her babe out of her sight since his birth, the strain of it showing in the dark smudges under her eyes and the weight she had lost. Although she knew it was somewhat foolish, she feared that something would happen, something terribly bad would happen, if she was not with him. She looked at Merry, and her eyes begged him to refuse.
"Well, Pip," Merry said as he looked tenderly into Estella's wide eyes, "I think the two of you have a good idea." Estella caught her breath and slightly shook her head at this. Merry, however, held firm. "We could use sometime together, and we have to start realizing that we ought not hover over the lad constantly. It will only serve to drive him mad as he gets older." He smiled at his wife and drew her into a hug, holding her until he felt her begin to relax. With one hand he gently rubbed the back of her head while kissing the top of it. "Why don't we go into the kitchen," Merry whispered into Estella's ear, "and pack up a nice picnic luncheon of the most fattening treats we can find, then walk to the little waterfall and pond." The glen by the falls had been a favorite place of theirs even before they had married and Estella adored picnics. Estella had tears in her eyes but nodded her head.
"I worry about those talks Pippin has with Theo, Merry," Estella was saying as she and Merry headed for the kitchen. "Who knows what mischief he is teaching our son."
Pippin and Diamond stood on either side of the cradle looking at little Theodoc until they heard the backdoor of the house open and shut. Pippin stood watching Diamond carefully. She was still gently running the tip of her forefinger through little Theodoc's hair. A sparkling drop fell from her cheek to form another small dark dot on the baby's blanket. Pippin knew she would be crying.
"Why, Peregrin?" The sound of the words was tiny, but the pain they carried was huge. "Why?" Diamond asked again as a few more tear drops darkened Theo's blanket.
Pippin moved quickly around the cradle to hug his wife to his chest, purposefully turning her away from the cradle with it's infant occupant. Her aching heart gave way, and for a while she shook with sobs. When Diamond began to grow quieter, Pippin walked with her to a chair where he sat down, drawing her gently down onto his lap. He rocked her slowly, his arms wrapped snugly around her until her tears slowed, then she raised her head to look into his eyes. No physical pain he had ever endured hurt his heart as much as the look in his young wife's eyes.
"Why?" was all she spoke.
"I wrote to Mother. She and Pearl both answered," Pippin said as he gently guided Diamond's head to his dry shoulder. "All they could say is that it often takes time, that we needs be patient."
"We did wait as we had decided, Peregrin. Since then we have been patient. But it has been nearly a year now that we've been trying. And nearly two years have passed since our wedding." Diamond began to sniff again. "Nearly a whole year, Peregrin. Why, Estella conceived sooner than she and Merry had actually planned!" She shook her head out from under Pippin's hand to look at him with haunted eyes. "What is wrong with me?"
"No!" Pippin said more strongly than he meant to, causing Diamond to startle and begin crying again. He held her by the shoulders and shook her gently. "No," he said softly in a choked voice. "I will not have you blame yourself for this, Diamond. I asked Mother about that as well." He stopped to draw a shaky breath as tears began to slowly creep down his cheeks. "It could be something amiss with me as easily as with you, my love. I've suffered more than my fair share of high fevers throughout my life, then I was crushed nearly to death under a troll. It takes the husband and the wife both to make this work. Mother said 'tis only cruel hobbits that think it is always the lass's fault."
They sat clinging to one another, crying out the tears that had been building inside them both for several months. Each had been blaming him or herself while feeling a sorrowful pity for the other, keeping silent about the growing pain and guilt so as not to cause their loved one grief. But it was all out in the open at last. They sought each other's lips and began to kiss away the feelings of aloneness that had been starting to fill their hearts. After awhile they rested their heads on each other's shoulders with unison sighs.
Pippin gave Diamond a squeeze. "We will just have to be patient longer, my dearest." He turned his head to kiss her neck. "I love you, Mrs. Took," he mumbled through the kisses.
"And I you!" she squealed, as Pippin's kisses began to tickle.
They sat talking quietly about other things, the lovely autumn weather, how good the garden had been and their hopes for a mild winter until they heard the little heir of Brandy Hall stirring in his cradle. Diamond had Theodoc cleaned and changed in no time then they all headed to the kitchen. While she set about preparing a late luncheon for she and Pip, Pippin sat on the floor across the open doorway that led into the back garden to have his talk with his wee second cousin.
"Now, Theodoc," Pippin said in his quietest voice so that Diamond wouldn't hear. "Something is not right here, lad."
Theodoc softly cooed.
"That's all well and good, lad. But we had an agreement, you and I. You, young Master Brandybuck, gave me your word on this matter. A most serious thing for a hobbit. We don't go back on our word." Pippin narrowed his eyes to look sternly at the baby sitting propped up on his abdomen.
Theodoc's tiny mouth turned down a bit, and he whimpered.
"Yes, quite so," Pippin said in a lighter tone, while his stern look eased. "It is your first time giving your word, and you had only the once been told that it is a thing most serious, not to be done lightly. So I tell you again, Theodoc Brandybuck, a hobbit, young or old, does not give his promise and not make every effort to keep that promise. 'Tis a matter of one's self-respect, one's honor."
Theodoc murmured then squealed a little.
"Exactly. You are of a good family and therefore have a great deal at stake here if you should not keep your word. I know you do not wish to let the great name of Brandybuck down." Pippin planted a firm kiss on the babe's small soft forehead. "You won't, my dear little cousin, I trust you."
Theodoc smiled, while waving a tiny fist at some of his cousin's unruly curls that dangled temptingly near with Pippin having leaned over to deliver his kiss. Theodoc cooed and gurgled.
"Thank you," Pippin replied with a bow of his head before sitting back again to rest against the door post. "I am honored that you trust me, too. But back to the business at hand here, cousin." Pippin gazed intently into the baby's eyes.
Theodoc seemed at once to be absorbed into Pippin's bright green eyes, sitting motionless with his little lips slightly apart.
"That's right." Pippin's voice was thick and smooth as cream. "That's a good lad. You told me, you promised, that you would put in a word with Iluvatar. He made all life. I do feel it is he who must give us each our spirit . . . our "self" if you will. That it is he who gives to each living creature little ones of their own." Pippin's gaze went deeper, and Theodoc's bright baby eyes returned that gaze. "You said you would tell him, before you have come too far away from him into our Middle-earth, that two of his Hobbit children are wanting a babe of their own. That your Auntie Diamond's heart is yearning, near to breaking, for a wee lass or lad of her own."
Pippin blinked. His gaze faltered. He looked away from the innocent eyes and out to the wide world, up into the clear blue sky. "And my heart, too, Theodoc. My heart, too."