Author's Note: An update is never late. Nor is it early. It arrives precisely when it means to.
A Very Long Day
Pippin couldn't believe his good fortune. Denethor had gotten arrested for trying to burn down his neighbors' homes, which meant that Gondorian Motors had been temporarily shut down, which meant that Pippin didn't have to leave the apartment early (which often interfered with second breakfast) and go to work every morning. Of course, his parents and sisters would still consider him a Disgrace to the Family Name since he was employed by a psychopath, but Pippin was too busy imagining an endless amount of second breakfasts to care.
Except he still had that bet with Merry hanging over his head, and if he didn't get a date with Diamond before midnight, he would be out of second breakfast for a month. It was times like these when Pippin wondered if he really was a Fool of a Took.
He sat on the living room couch with a bag of potato chips in his lap, watching the food channel because he hoped it would motivate him to keep his second breakfast, when a knock sounded at the door. "I'll get it!" Pippin called out to wherever Merry was (probably in his room agonizing over his stolen wallet).
He opened the door and found a hobbit-sized figure wearing sunglasses, a hat, and gloves standing in the hall. "Um, I think you might have the wrong address?" he said, gazing at this strange person worriedly. Merry always told him not to talk to strangers.
"Pippin, it's me," the ambiguous figure whispered.
"Shh!" Frodo hissed, looking nervously to his left and right. "You have to call me Mr. Underhill in public, all right? I'm trying to keep a low profile."
"It's a long story. Sam is off on a nature hike with Legolas and I don't feel safe staying at home by myself. Can I hide out here with you and Merry for a while?"
Pippin secretly wondered if it was time to send Frodo to Rivendell Acres Retirement Facility. At the rate he was going, Frodo was likely to become as senile as Bilbo in just a few short weeks, and Pippin had been around Denethor long enough to recognize the signs of dwindling sanity. "Uh, sure," he said, shuffling out of the way so that Frodo could enter the apartment. "Why are you wearing gloves? It's warm outside."
"To hide my missing finger," Frodo replied. "It's more noticeable than you think, especially among my devoted readers."
Pippin was glad he wasn't famous, though he did wonder if sudden fame would earn him a date with Diamond. Perhaps he could write a book titled How to Survive a Crazy Boss Who Likes to Set Things On Fire: 10 Easy Steps From a Real-Life Survivor! Except he would probably have to bribe Frodo to write it for him, and he couldn't imagine anything Frodo could possibly want aside from a new finger and a less stressful life.
"Do you have any tea?" Frodo asked as he busied himself with closing all of the drapes.
"We have tea flavored ale. Is that good enough?"
"Ale is bad for my nerves."
"Well, do you want to sit on the couch with me and watch the food channel?"
Frodo shook his head. "TV distresses me. I think I'll sit in a quiet corner and read a nice book."
Pippin stared at him for a moment, then shrugged his shoulders. "Suit yourself then. I'd better tell Merry he has another house guest."
Merry's bedroom door stood ajar and Pippin could hear his cousin talking on the phone, sounding frustrated. "What do you mean, you released her and told her to see a therapist? She has my wallet, with my ID card! How am I supposed to prove that I'm legally old enough to purchase alcohol?"
Pippin barged into Merry's room, completely ignoring his phone conversation. "Frodo's here."
Merry swatted him away and continued talking on the phone. "Well who's her therapist?"
"Frodo's here!" Pippin repeated loudly.
Merry grabbed a pillow off his bed and threw it at Pippin. "I'm on the phone," he whispered. "If that hobbit girl doesn't return my wallet I will sic Eomer on her, and I won't regret it. Tell Mr. Gandalf to keep her in his office until I get there."
Pippin kicked the pillow away completely undeterred, since he and Merry had a long tradition of pestering each other when one of them was on the phone, and he resorted to tugging on Merry's shirt sleeve. "You really should talk to Frodo. I don't know how to deal with him."
Merry ended his phone conversation with a sigh and tossed his phone onto the bed. "Pip, what are you talking about?"
"Come and see for yourself."
Pippin led the way back to the living room, Merry following behind him, and discovered Frodo sitting on a chair with a book in his lap. Frodo was not reading the book, however, since his eyes were riveted upon the television that Pippin forgot to shut off. A commercial advertising dog food blared on the screen and Frodo sat there with tears rolling down his cheeks as a puppy frolicked around in a grassy backyard.
Merry raised a concerned eyebrow at this scene. "Frodo?"
Frodo sniffled as more tears fell from his eyes. "Just look at that innocent little creature. So full of joy and hope! Such a sweet, pure little soul!"
Pippin had seen a lot of strange things since he started working for Denethor, but nothing could prepare him for the sight of Frodo Baggins weeping over a puppy commercial. He nudged Merry and whispered, "He's gone off the deep end a month earlier than you predicted. That means you owe me twenty bucks."
Merry handed over the money without argument and approached Frodo's chair, noticing the hat, sunglasses, and gloves that were sitting in a pile on the coffee table. "If there's anything wrong, Frodo, you can—"
"Mr. Underhill," Frodo corrected, looking alarmed. "Call me Mr. Underhill from now on. You don't know who might be listening." Having composed himself, he wiped away his tears and looked about shiftily, as if expecting an ambush to come out of nowhere. "I think I'll hide out in your bedroom closet, if you don't mind. The elves will never find me there."
Merry was rendered speechless, and Pippin wondered why he always got stuck with the oddballs. It was going to be a long, long day.
Mr. Gandalf, the city's most highly rated therapist, took a drag on his pipe and blew smoke rings towards the ceiling of his office. "I assure you that these sessions are strictly confidential," he said. "No matter what you say in this room, I'll keep it secret, and I'll keep it safe."
Estella felt uneasy as she sat across from the wizard, wondering if jail was actually better than telling a stranger about herself. She still had that police hobbit's wallet in her pocket and she pulled it out, going through the credit cards, driver's license, receipts from Mushroom King, and membership card from Ales R Us, the alcohol superstore. Mr. Brandybuck may have arrested her, but the contents of his wallet would certainly be useful.
"What are we supposed to talk about?" she asked Gandalf, briefly looking up from a picture of two hobbits, one of them with a missing finger and the other one with a pipe in his hand.
"Judging from the fact that you swiped a paperweight from my desk when you thought I wasn't looking, I would say you have a case of kleptomania," Gandalf said after blowing another smoke ring. "Many that steal deserve plenty. Some that have plenty deserve to steal. Can you give it to them?"
Estella looked confused. "What?"
"When did this problem of yours start?"
"Well, I think it started when I was just a hobbit lass and took a basket of mushrooms from the grocery store. After that I couldn't stop, and now I just grab everything that isn't tied down, like this wallet I've got."
"I think you've had that wallet quite long enough," Gandalf said sternly.
Estella glared at him. "You want it for yourself!"
"ESTELLA BOLGER," Gandalf thundered, suddenly looking tall and ominous. "Do not take me for some giver of cheap advice! I am not trying to rob you! I'm trying to help you."
Personally Estella wondered if Gandalf needed some help of his own. She also wondered if he knew about the pens she had stolen from the receptionist's desk. Bored with the session already, she got up from her seat and tried to leave the office, but discovered that the door had been barricaded from the outside.
"You shall not pass," said Gandalf, chuckling warmly over his pipe.
Sam tried to be in a good mood after Legolas' delightful nature hike, but something at the back of his mind had been bothering him for days. He really ought to check on poor Mr. Frodo, but Frodo was bound to be fine as long as he had plenty of tea and sodium-free crackers at his disposal, and Sam caught a bus into downtown. The moment he arrived at his stop he found Gollum crouching on a street corner with a dead fish in his hand, using the animal as a microphone as he sang (or croaked, really).
"The fish goes ever on and on, down from the riverses where it begans!"
A donation box sat on the sidewalk next to a cardboard sign with the words WILL SING 4 FISHES scrawled on it in black marker.
"That hopeless creature," said Sam, shaking his head.
"We'd like to see fat hobbit try our songses, precious!" said Gollum, shaking a fist at Sam. "Oh, yes. Fat hobbit thinks he can judge us!"
Sam ignored Gollum and headed on up to an office located on the fifth floor of a nondescript building, then sat around reading an issue of Better Holes and Gardens until the elf receptionist poked her head into the waiting room. "He's ready to see you, Mr. Gamgee."
Sam shut his magazine and entered the office of Glorfindel, the elf who got him started on doing commercials for Wal-Mart. Glorfindel lounged behind his desk wearing a flashy checkered suit and idly threw a dart at the dwarf-shaped dart board that hung on his wall. "Bulls-eye!" he said triumphantly. "Right in the middle of the beard!"
Sam cleared his throat. "Um, Mr. Glorfindel, sir?"
"Oh, hey there, Sammy my boy!" said Glorfindel. His grin was so bright that his teeth practically sparkled. "What can I do for you? Just give the word and it's all yours!"
"Well, I don't mean to sound ungrateful or nothin', and you've been a real fine manager and all, but I haven't been paid for none of them commercials I did."
Glorfindel's sparkly white smile began to falter, but he quickly hid it with a laugh. "Oh, Sammy boy. You hobbits are always dreaming up the most ridiculous things. Too much ale and pipe-weed, you know."
"Mr. Glorfindel, I don't think—"
"Now if you followed my diet of mineral water and cucumber sandwiches, you would always have a clear head on your shoulders!" Glorfindel interrupted. "I didn't want to be rude when we first met, but you could lose a little weight. The camera adds pounds, after all!"
"I don't have an ale and pipe-weed problem, sir. I know you ain't been payin' me and I—"
"Oh, you crack me up, little guy!" Glorfindel cut in again, chuckling loudly. "Have you ever thought of becoming a stand-up comedian? I know a place where I could hook you up on Tuesday nights."
"Now you listen here, you—"
"Oops! Got a busy day ahead of me! Where does the time go? You have a nice day, Sammy boy, and let me know if you want that comedy gig."
"I'll tell you where you can shove that comedy gig," Sam muttered to himself as he marched out the door. "Who does that elf think he is? Not givin' a poor, hard-working hobbit decent wages. Why, I oughtta..."
Sam trailed off as he exited the building and stepped out into the street. Men, elves, dwarves, hobbits, and even a couple of orcs of all ages marched down the street carrying picket signs. One sign said, "Do the write thing, Frodo!" while another said, "Get Baggins out of retirement!" Another sign simply portrayed a heart ripped into two pieces, with the initials F.B. written above it.
"Frodo Baggins broke my heart!" said the elf carrying the sign. "If he doesn't start writing again, I'll have nothing to live for!"
Sam found that to be ridiculous, since the sign carrier happened to be an elf, but he was too distraught to spend much time shaking his head over the signs. "By the Gaffer's cabbages!" he exclaimed. "Mr. Frodo is in trouble and I'm the only one who can save him!" Forgetting all about his troubles with Glorfindel, he hopped onto the nearest bus and headed for home.