July 2010: Story status remains as in-progress.
Notes: Thanks to the encouraging reviewers and their ideas, this fic—meant as a single piece—goes on. 11/22/02: The feedback from Anonymous made me correct a couple really embarrassing spelling mistakes. "Anonymous: No offense intended." None taken. Thanks! What can I say? Insane in the brain...
Chapter 2: Merry and Pippin Drop By
Frodo lay contently on the soft bed, finally drifting off to much needed sleep. Sam settled into a comfortable position in his chair. Judging from the uninterrupted peace, it seemed that Strider had kept his word and instructed others to let Frodo have his rest. As Frodo was taking even breaths, Sam allowed himself the luxury of closing his eyes for just a little while. He woke from his light sleep to find himself gazing at the eager eyes of Merry. Sam blinked and straightened up in his chair, to the utter enjoyment of Merry and Pippin, who had appeared on the bedside.
"Merry, Pippin, what in the world are you doing here? Mr. Frodo is sleeping," hissed Sam.
"See, we—" started Merry loudly, but he was silenced by Sam's hand on his mouth. Frodo stirred in his sleep, but kept on dreaming.
"Merry, please lower your voice. Frodo really ought to get some rest," begged Sam and moved his hand from Merry's mouth.
"That's what we're here about," whispered Merry with a bit too much enthusiasm for Sam's liking. "See, we met Strider, and he told us Frodo needs to rest. Naturally, we came here to help him relax a bit." An eager nod from Pippin confirmed the truth of the statement.
"What did you have in mind, then?" Sam asked, regretting his question immediately.
A simple question was all the encouragement Merry needed. He proudly presented a delicately carved elven flute and handed it over to Sam.
"This is truly beautiful, Merry. I had no idea you played the flute."
"There's a first time for everything, Sam," Pippin voiced his unique philosophy and snatched the flute from Sam. "We decided some nice flute music would cheer Frodo up."
"Help him rest, Pippin, not cheer him up. Strider only mentioned resting, not cheering up," reminded Merry.
"Did Strider actually ask you to come here and play flute to Mr. Frodo?" asked Sam incredulously.
"No, but we figured that's what he meant. He is just too modest a person to ask straight off," explained Merry.
"'Young Frodo needs plenty of rest. He ought to relax completely, and by no means be disturbed.' That's what Strider told us," said Pippin. "We, of course, understood that we shouldn't disturb Frodo by talking and fussing around, but who could possibly not relax when hearing melodious flute music?"
At that, Merry and Pippin glanced at each other and then nodded in unison. Sam was too terrified to even remotely appreciate the irony of the situation; his brain had frozen at the idea of Merry or Pippin, or possibly the both of them, playing flute to the defenseless Mr. Frodo. He could not allow that, but how could he possibly make them leave his master alone? Desperate times call for desperate measures, Sam decided quickly. He gathered his thoughts, took a deep breath, and turned to his young companions, hoping his face was conveying nothing but utter sincerity.
"I think it is a lovely thought, and I am sure Mr. Frodo would appreciate very much, but you see..." He paused, thinking of a good excuse. "My, isn't it time for the second breakfast? Lord Elrond would surely be offended if you were late for that."
"There's absolutely no need to worry, Sam. We've already eaten the second breakfast," Merry replied happily.
"At nine o'clock in the morning?" exclaimed Sam, causing Frodo to wake up. The latter cast murderous glances at the crowd gathered in his room. Sam was quick to apologize. "Sorry, Mr. Frodo, didn't mean to wake you up."
"Sam, how long—?"
"Less than an hour, Mr. Frodo."
"Good morning, Frodo!" Merry said with a happy grin. "See, we've already eaten second breakfast, so that we could spend the whole morning playing flute to you."
"How nice of you..."
Pippin was studying Frodo's drowsy face and bloodshot eyes with great intensity, and declared his findings with adorable certainty: "You know, Frodo, you really ought to rest more. You look like you didn't get an eyeful of sleep." He laughed heartily.
Frodo glared at him with barely hidden animosity. "You got that right," he muttered. Sam gave him a sidelong glance. Frodo shrugged and glared back at Sam without hiding his animosity. Sam shrugged in turn and turned to glare at the younger hobbits. Frodo joined his glaring, and together, they tried to discourage any musical plans the unwanted visitors might have. They had no success whatsoever, since the intruders blissfully ignored the quiet exchange between them.
The younger hobbits were currently arguing about who should get to start with the flute, but finally they decided it should be Pippin, the "mastermind" behind the idea. Frodo and Sam both failed to comprehend the gravity of the situation until it was too late. Pippin raised the delicate elven flute to his lips and blew. At first, there was only the sound of air flowing. Then, it began. Infernal shrieks, one after another, filled the air, causing Frodo to writhe in pain and Sam to cover his ears. Merry, on the other hand, listened admiringly to Pippin's virtuosity with the flute.
Those whose sense of hearing was still functioning could hear running steps from the hallway mere moments before the door was kicked open, and Aragorn stepped in with his sword drawn and combat readiness written all over him. Everyone in the room stilled, as the hobbits stared at Aragorn and Aragorn stared at the hobbits. After making sure there weren't any intruders in the room, he put his sword down and smiled uncertainly.
"Is everything all right, Frodo? I heard cries of pain..." Aragorn glanced suspiciously at the dumbfounded hobbits.
Merry was the first to open his mouth, since it seemed that both Frodo and Sam were too dazed to indulge in any actual conversation. "Actually, it was Pippin playing the flute."
Pippin glanced at Aragorn sullenly and retorted, "I might have played just a touch too loudly, but I don't think—"
"Pippin was playing the flute? Is that what it was all about?" he asked incredulously. I could have sworn the Ringwraiths were here.
Frodo and Sam had finally regained their senses, and Sam opened his mouth for further explanation. However, the truth had sunk in already, and Aragorn felt an overwhelming urge to flee from the room, or the torture chamber, as he now thought of it.
"I am very sorry, Frodo, my mistake. I should be leaving now." Aragorn turned hastily to excuse himself, but Frodo's sharp voice stopped him short.
Aragorn turned to Frodo with amazement, and Frodo realized he had been positively squealing. He lowered his voice, and tried to smile. "Please, wait. Before you go would you be so kind as to help me with something?"
"Certainly, Frodo. What can I do for you?"
"Just a small personal favor, if you don't mind," replied Frodo, indicating that he didn't wish to voice his request loudly. Aragorn stepped next to the bed and bent closer to Frodo. Before he even realized it, firm hands had grabbed his tunic collar and pulled his face only inches away from Frodo's mouth. "Make them go away. Now!" an extremely irritated hobbit voice hissed. The hands released Aragorn's tunic, and he turned to find Frodo lying on the bed with his eyes closed, teeth ground. He turned toward Sam, but Sam was inspecting an endlessly interesting spot on the wall. Aragorn cleared his throat, and turned to Merry and Pippin with what he hoped to be a benevolent smile.
"Merry, Pippin, why don't you come with me? Surely, you have not seen everything in the house, and I have just the time to give you a look around. Let's leave Frodo to rest here, shall we?" Let sleeping dogs lie, he added to himself grimly.
Merry and Pippin's eyes brightened at the idea of exploring Lord Elrond's house, and Pippin almost forgot the rude comments made about his ability to play the elven flute. The two gathered their belongings from Frodo's room and let the Ranger guide them out of the door. Aragorn nodded to Sam, whose eyes showed endless gratitude. As he stepped out of the door, he heard Frodo sigh deeply. He closed the door and set out to plan this newly-invented tour in Elrond's house. Aragorn picked up muffled sounds from the room, and assumed an argument was taking place there. He ignored them, though. A Ranger and a lost king could only be so bold, he mused, and led the happily babbling hobbits far away from the door.
Inside the room:
"Mr. Frodo, I'm—"
"Don't say it, Sam."
"But Mr. Frodo, I still feel it was my—"
"I'm not protecting you from danger too well, am I, Mr. Frodo?" asked Sam sadly.
"Nobody is all-powerful, Sam. You do just fine for me," replied Frodo.
"Thank you, Master Baggins."
"You are welcome, Master Gamgee."
Hearty thanks to Gypsie for the proofreading! (November 2003)
Published August 20, 2002.