Pippin sat on the floor in the hallway listening to the screams coming from Merry's bedroom. He rubbed his eyes and tried to stay awake; he'd been there for almost an hour and it was only now that the first signs of sunrise were yet to come over the horizon. He had wanted to be in there with Merry to help him through it, but the midwife had objected. Normally she was quite liberal when it came to allowing fathers into the delivery room, but she had made an exception in Pippin's case for ominous sounding reasons that had never been fully explained and Frodo had been instructed to keep Pippin as far away as possible from Merry when he was giving birth. He had argued that it would be educational, but it had been decided that it was an education he would be better off without. It was all definitely far too ominous for Pippin's liking.

Frodo emerged from the bedroom looking incredibly pale and shaking slightly, untold horrors visible in his deep blue eyes. He sat down beside Pippin.

"Oh, Frodo, is it really hurting poor Merry that badly? I heard him screaming, it sounds awful." Pippin started to subconsciously curl up self- protectively.

"No, that was me screaming, he keeps squeezing my hand. And there are things going on down there that you really don't want to know about."

"So Merry's alright then?"

"No, he looks even more terrified than you do, but the midwife should be here soon, so don't worry, he'll be fine."

"Really?" Pippin looked at Frodo in a surprisingly childlike way for someone about to become a father for the first - and soon after, the second - time.

"Yes, really. I have every faith in Miss Bracegirdle. I just hope she's a good nurse as well because I think Merry's broken my hand." Frodo looked at Pippin awkwardly and tried to smile, then put one arm around his shoulders in what he hoped would seem like a friendly way. "Why don't you go make some tea to take your mind off things and I'll go back in again and see how Merry is."

Pippin got up with a little difficulty as he was a little shorter and of a much lighter build than Merry and didn't carry it as well as him. This didn't seem to bother Pippin, however, as it was a perfect excuse to get sympathy and massages from Merry, not that that would continue when he – he corrected himself – they had a baby to look after. Two babies.

Pippin's increasingly worried train of thought was derailed right there when there was a knock at the back door. It was Anemone, apprentice to the terrifying Miss Bracegirdle.

"Morning, Mr Took, you're looking awfully miserable for someone who's just about to become a father."

Pippin just looked at her.

"Oh, come on, in a few years you'll look on this as one of the happiest days of your life. Now where's Mr Brandybuck, I'd best go and get things started before Miss Bracegirdle gets here."

"She's not coming yet?" Pippin dropped the kettle in panic.

"No, she's still out at another birth and has to wait until she's seen it through, so she sent me ahead to check on things here."

"Couldn't she have left you and come here herself?"

"I am nearly a fully trained midwife, you know," said Anemone, pulling herself up to her full and rather intimidating 3'8". "Last week I almost managed to birth one all by myself."

"Yes, but this isn't something many midwives see in their training, and Miss Bracegirdle's the only midwife in the Shire who's done it before."

"It's not exactly a normal case she's at right now. The poor girl's been at it all day yesterday and most of the night before. It's her first – twins as well – you wouldn't believe the amount of blood and yuck. And the screaming - it'll be a stitches case for sure. Are you alright, Mr Took? You've gone terribly pale."

"Yes, fine, I think I'll just go outside for a little air. Merry's in the bedroom at the very end of the corridor."

"You don't have to worry about him, you know, I'm sure he'll be fine. It'll all be over by lunchtime. Dinnertime at the latest."

****** ******

Pippin was sitting at the kitchen table finally drinking his cup of tea and not feeling that much calmer for it when Frodo came out of Merry's room again. Pippin looked up from swirling the tealeaves to see the suspiciously wide grin on Frodo's face.

"Is it going well?" Pippin asked hopefully.

"Oh, yes, definitely." Frodo paused for a second. "As well as could be expected anyway."

"What do you mean? Why are you grinning like that? Are you trying to hide something? Frodo, you would tell me if there was something wrong with Merry, wouldn't you?"

"There's nothing wrong with Merry, apart from the fact that he's male and pregnant, of course."

"Then why do you keep making all those faces?"

"No reason. Anyway, there was something Anemone wanted me to get something for her, we need some hot water and towels."

"Whatever for?"

"What do you mean, 'whatever for'? You always need hot water and towels at a birth."

"But why? What do you use them for?"

"You just need them, they're… useful." Frodo refilled the kettle and lit the fire to heat the water. "When the water boils, pour it into the basin for me and I'll go and find some towels. I'm not quite sure what we'll need them for, but I have got a pretty good idea that using the best ones might not be entirely sensible if what I've seen already is anything to go by. Not that you've got anything to worry about of course…"

Pippin curled up in the chair again making a face and intending to have a good long sulk. Frodo knew there wasn't any use in trying to talk to him when he was in a mood like this and went to find the towels. When he came back Pippin was staring out of the window and probably ignoring him, so he tiptoed out with the water and left him to it.

****** ******

There was a knock at the door and Pippin got up to answer it but Miss Bracegirdle stepped through it before he got there, armed with a sense of great purpose and a carpet bag full of instruments that Pippin had come to dread over the last few months.

"Well then, Peregrin, I believe things have started to get interesting around here in the last few hours."

Pippin mumbled something inaudible, but he was sure that Miss Bracegirdle would notice the overtones of cheekiness in it. Miss Bracegirdle chose to ignore this, even though bad manners in general were not usually something she had any tolerance for, and looked at Pippin critically. Almost looking through him, he thought.

"You're looking a little off-colour, are you sure you're alright?"

"Yes." Pippin returned to sulking in a chair in the corner of the room, trying to imply that he would rather be left alone.

"I suppose you're having trouble with that sympathy pain nonsense. I don't hold with woolly thinking like that, it never helped anyone."

There was silence, but she could tell from the back of Pippin's head that he was making a face; she might not have been a mother, but she had been around enough children over the years to evolve a better instinct for it than a teacher.

"Well, make yourself a cup of tea to take your mind off it, or go and do something useful, you're no good to anyone lurking in corners like that and making a nuisance of yourself."

Pippin made another face with the false sense of security that no one except him would know about it. Come to think of it, there might be something in 'that sympathy pain nonsense', but then it was probably just his imagination, and as he was too tired to get up and make any more tea, he drifted off to sleep with his head leaning over the arm of the chair at an uncomfortable angle.

****** ******

"Mr Took, Mr Took, wake up."

Pippin groaned and opened one eye slowly. He had been warm and comfortable and not getting in anyone's way and having a most interesting dream about sentient carrots that he was going to have to tell Merry about later and now someone was trying to wake him up. It was Anemone. Pippin was instantly fully awake.

"What's happening? Is the baby here? Is everything alright?"

"My goodness, didn't your mother teach not to ask so many questions, it'll end up getting you into trouble one day, you know. But everyone's alright, well, Mr Brandybuck and the baby are, but we need you to come and give us a hand with Mr Baggins." Anemone grabbed Pippin's hand and started pulling him out of the kitchen towards the bedrooms.

"Frodo? What's happened to him?"

"Well, things were just starting to get a bit messy when he fainted and hit is head on the bedside table on the way down. He gave us all a bit of a scare and at the moment we've got so many other things to do that we haven't got time to sit with him and make sure he hasn't done himself too much damage, so Miss Bracegirdle says you'll have to do it."

Anemone pushed open the door to reveal Frodo lying stretched out on the bed in the spare room, theatrically holding his handkerchief to his head just above his left eyebrow and looking deathly pale. She swept across the room and sat down in the chair beside the bed with a caring expression that Pippin thought she must practise in the mirror every morning. It was utterly sickening.

"Are you feeling any better?" asked Anemone, brushing Frodo's hair back from his forehead and lifting up the handkerchief.

Frodo nodded silently and looked up at her, blinking in an exaggerated way.

"Well, I'm afraid I can't stay here and look after you all morning, I have to get back to work but I'll be back later. You know where I'll be if you need any help, don't you, Mr Took?" Anemone gave him another concerned look and Frodo reciprocated with some more blinks.

When Anemone had finally finished dragging herself away from Frodo's bedside and waved from the other side of the room while offering reassurance for the last time, Pippin sat down in the chair. "She's gone now, you can stop faking."

"I'm not, really, I've seen horrors you can only imagine." There was a haunted look in Frodo's eyes.

"I'm not stupid you know, I know you can make yourself faint or go pale just by concentrating hard enough on it."

"And I'm not stupid either, if had know I was going to faint I wouldn't have stood so close to the bedside table because that bloody hurt."

"But you're deliberately making yourself look pale and vulnerable, aren't you?" Frodo looked guilty. "I can't understand why though, she's 20 years younger than you at least and it's not even as if you like girls. I think you're just doing it for the attention, which isn't very nice considering the day you've chosen for it."

"What do you mean, 'it's not even as if I like girls'?"

"Everyone knows, Frodo, you don't have to try and keep it a secret, especially not from me and Merry."

"I do like girls! I'd like to think that I'm pretty broadminded about the choices you and Merry have made, but really, I like girls."

"Then why aren't you married?" Pippin sat back in the chair looking smug; it wasn't every day he came up with arguments as good as this one.

"I don't know - they just don't seem interested in me. And exactly how many people 'know' I'm gay, anyway?"

****** ******

For the first time in months the hour for elevenses came and went without anyone so much as going to make a cup of tea. Pippin was utterly sick of tea and was sure if he tried to boil the kettle once more today the bottom would fall out. Frodo hadn't wanted anything to eat either; actually he was behaving rather strangely, seeming to alternate at high speed between feeling better and worse – the bad spells tending to correspond with Anemone's increasingly frequent visits to check on him. The two of them were having a suspiciously giggly conversation, given the circumstances and Pippin was having more and more trouble getting information about Merry out of Anemone. At least it couldn't be because there were problems she didn't want to talk to him about – Pippin was sure her mood wouldn't have been so cheerful if there was.

Pippin had taken to sitting in the corner of the room which he thought must be closest to where Merry was and stared at the wall cringing whenever he heard another scream. This time there was no doubt about whose screams they were. He couldn't remember having ever been this afraid in his life because he'd never had so many people to be afraid for before. He was afraid for Merry and for his, or rather, their baby, he reminded himself, but he was ashamed of how afraid he was for himself. He understood now that when Miss Bracegirdle had forbidden him from being present at the birth it had been for a very good reason, not just because she disapproved slightly of their relationship – if he had been in there he was sure he would have run off in fear of his life long before now.

Pippin smiled to himself; Merry had always screamed like a girl, ever since they were children and he made a mental note to tease him about this as soon as Merry was up to having visitors coming in to tease him. He hoped this would be soon because now the screams were coming closer together and sounding far more desperate when they did. Frodo even got up from the bed and perched on the arm of Pippin's chair to hold his hand as a silent gesture of solidarity.

Silence. The screaming had stopped altogether and then suddenly it restarted, but at a much higher pitch and a little quieter. Pippin stood up with his hand over his mouth in the shock of realisation, and then he grabbed Frodo, clumsily pulling him into a hug, laughing and crying at the same time.

Neither of them knew exactly how long they stood like that, but eventually there was a knock at the door. It was Anemone.

"Now before you go asking all your questions, it's a boy and they're both fine as far as we can tell. Congratulations."

"When can I go in and see them?"

Anemone looked almost a little disappointed that she still hadn't managed to stop Pippin asking questions. "In a few minutes, Miss Bracegirdle just wants to get things organised and, um, tidied up in there before you see them." She absentmindedly rubbed at a stain on her dress that Pippin thought looked a lot like blood, but right now he didn't want to speculate.

Pippin looked at Frodo. "You're not waiting for me, are you?" asked Frodo. "You're about to go and meet your son for the first time, I'm sure you don't need me cluttering the place up."

Pippin tried to smile, he was even more afraid now than he had been before, but he didn't want it to show. He got up and walked to the door, his feet feeling like they were wearing lead shoes. Halfway down the hall he stopped, he could still feel Frodo and Anemone's eyes on him even from here, but there was something else wrong with the situation. Oh yes, he was in complete, unbearable agony. His legs gave way from underneath him and the last thing he remembered was the sound of two pairs of feet running down the corridor in an attempt to catch him before he hit the ground.

Too late.

****** ******

A/N: Mwhahahahaha.