For PearlTook's birthday, as well as that of Frodo and Bilbo.
Pippin stopped short just inside Bag End, his mouth open in dismay, his gaze fixed on Bilbo Baggins as he came from the back of the smial with his filled pack in his arms, barely keeping his grasp on his favorite walking stick. Bilbo looked up at the loudly indrawn breath the young Took gave, his expression at once guilty and menacing.
“What are you doing here now, Peregrin Took,” the Baggins demanded.
“I came to refill the pitcher with water,” the child explained defensively. “It’s not like I’m spying on you or anything like that!” He looked at the pack. “You’re going to go now--before the party starts, I mean?”
“What do you need with water?” Bilbo asked, ignoring the question as he came to set the pack in the corner by the door, then dropping the walking stick into a prominent position in the umbrella stand. “There are at least twenty-five kegs of ale and beer down there, and the Ivy Bush is to send up five more this afternoon--plus old Rory and Sara have promised to bring a couple of casks of brandy with them from Buckland.”
“Frodo won’t allow us to open the ale as yet--not that he’ll let me have any,” Pippin said, pouting slightly and turning to keep his attention on his elderly cousin. “Why do you have your pack?”
Bilbo gave him a sharp glance, then deflated slightly, answering in a softer tone. “Merely getting ready, my lad. There’s no sense to waiting until the last moment, you know. If I waited till tonight to pack Lobelia would find me before I could get away, most likely.”
“But I don’t want you to go!” Pippin said after a moment, his lip quivering slightly, although he was making a brave effort to keep the tears gathering behind his eyes from falling. “What will Frodo do without you here to take care of him?”
Bilbo waved his hand, shrugging one shoulder. “Pippin, Frodo is now fully of age, and can definitely take care of himself. I’ve seen him take on Lotho Sackville-Baggins and other bullies from Brandy Hall, as well as managing to put even Lalia in her place with a few sharp words. I’ve done the best I can to make certain he’s fully prepared for anything life might throw at him, have seen to it his intelligence and curiosity are honed and ready, have taught him all I know of both the Shire and the outer world--it’s now up to him to make the best of them.”
He stepped toward the child and put his hand on Pippin’s shoulder. “I’m old, Peregrin,” he said gently, stooping slightly to look the lad in the eye. “It’s my eleventy-first birthday, and I am old. How I’ve managed this long, considering many of the absurd and sometimes dangerous things I’ve done in my life, I couldn’t begin to say. I most likely won’t remain in this world much longer--that’s just the way of the world, as Eru designed Hobbits. I refuse to become a burden on the one Hobbit I love more than all others, the one who has stood as a son to me, the one whose father was as my own younger brother. He should shine before the Shire and the world, not have to hurry home each night to give a bed bath to a decrepit old thing as I’ll likely be all too soon. a creature without the good sense to die a timely death.”
He straightened and became solemn. “I’m charging you, Pippin, to keep an eye on our Frodo for me, to make certain he doesn’t grow too solemn or stodgy--doesn’t become another boring, dull, predictable Baggins such as my father was. Will you promise me that?”
“You want me to take care of Frodo?”
Bilbo gave a short laugh. “No, you won’t have to take care of him--from what I’ve seen of Sam, he’ll see to it Frodo’s clothes are clean and that he doesn’t allow all his meals to burn or go cold when he’s distracted with a book or translation or work, and that he gets proper exercise and all. No, not that. But what you can do for him will be to see to it he never forgets how to laugh and enjoy life. Can you do that, as my special, secret birthday present to him?”
This idea was so novel Pippin forgot his dismay. “You want me to be your birthday present to him?”
“Oh, yes! Who better than a Took to keep the Tookishness in him alive and vital, Pippin? We must not allow the Baggins part to become too predictable, or he’ll cease to be our Frodo! Do you understand?”
Pippin nodded. Then he gave one more look at the battered old pack that leaned against the corner. “But you’re not going now, right this moment?”
“I swear, Peregrin Took, on my honor as a Baggins and a Took.”
Relieved, Pippin nodded. “All right, as long as you don’t break that promise. You won’t hurt Frodo any sooner than you must.”
Apparently finally satisfied Bilbo meant what he said, Pippin at last headed down the passage toward the kitchen to refill the water pitcher. Bilbo looked after him thoughtfully. It appeared that he was leaving his beloved heir in the best of hands. Then he turned decidedly away to straighten the walking stick somewhat. Yes, he was ready for his holiday.
Unseen, Gandalf stood just inside the parlor, a look of sad pride on his bearded face. He watched as Pippin came from the kitchen, carefully carrying his filled pitcher, and as Bilbo opened the door for him and accompanied him out.
“Wonderful, amazing creatures, Hobbits,” he murmured to himself as the door closed behind the two, old and young.