Time For a Change by Golden

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Story Notes:

Theme: young/old
Elements: tricky, blissful, fluffy, raspy, euphoric
Author's Notes: Rated G


t was a sunny morning when Eglantine Took stepped into the front door of Bag End. She was on her way home from a visit with Esmeralda Brandybuck in Buckland and was going to spend the afternoon and evening in Hobbiton. She had Merry accompanying her, for her nephew was to spend a long summer visit at the Took farm in Whitwell. Also with Eglantine was her own young son, Pippin. The small, twenty-month-old Hobbit lad had been enjoying this trip immensely and had, to Tina’s despair, not seemed to close his bright green eyes for even a single moment of peaceful slumber on the buggy ride from Buckland to Hobbiton.

However, now his mother was looking forward to a child-free afternoon in Hobbiton before continuing the journey with the lads to Whitwell the next day. Bilbo had agreed to keep an eye on the children. Everyone was happy with this arrangement, especially Merry, because he would get to spend some time with his dearest older cousin, Frodo. Bilbo also liked the younger lads and he knew that it was a joy for Frodo to have his cousins around.

Eglantine gave some baby care supplies and instructions to Bilbo, who nodded now and then, but really only listened with half an ear.

“What trouble could that smiling little lad be anyway?” the old bachelor thought. Even if there was a problem, with his Frodo-lad there, he had sort of a baby expert, hadn’t he? After all, he had lived at Brandyhall for many years and Merry had been like a brother to him from the day the little Brandybuck was born. And even more to the point, Merry, at his young age of 10, already knew a lot about keeping Pippin happy; or so Bilbo assumed.

The old Hobbit smiled. It would be a nice afternoon. The children would be playing outside and tiring themselves out. Then at teatime he would give them some biscuits and tea. That sounded like a manageable job.

“Don’t you worry, Tine.” Bilbo said as he shooed the fussing mummy outside. “We lads will manage it fine all by ourselves, won’t we lads?”

Bilbo turned around to look at a smiling Frodo, a grinning Merry, and a giggling Pippin, who was bouncing up and down in Merrys arms.

The older lads nodded. “Of course Uncle Bilbo,” they said in unison.

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

Two hours later all had happened as Bilbo had foreseen it. Frodo, Merry and Pippin were outside in the garden playing while he was standing in the kitchen baking biscuits for tea. Now and then he looked outside the window to make sure everything was alright. His eyes always met happy scenes.
One time Frodo was whirling Merry by his arms threw the air while Pippin sat off to one side, giggling and clapping his hands. Another time the older lads, on their hands and knees, were chasing the crawling baby over the soft grass, making the little lad believe he was so much faster then them. Pippin was very delighted by this game. When Bilbo looked a third time the lads were taking a small rest under a tree near the kitchen window and Frodo was telling them a story about Buttercup, the fluffy sheep who wanted to be a sheepdog.

Bilbo smiled and shoved the baking sheet with the biscuits on it into the hot oven. They would need fifteen minutes to bake and that was enough time to have a nice pipe of Old Toby.

Just as Bilbo sat down on the small bench outside his door to enjoy his pipe, a raspy voice spoke up.

“ May I join you, old friend?”

Bilbo jumped, startled, but then a wide grin formed on his face.

“Gandalf! What a pleasant surprise! Sit down dear friend. What can I do for you?”

“ Oh, I just came for a pipe or two and to see how you and Frodo are doing.” The wizard puffed blissfully at his pipe and smiled. He loved this peaceful, green land with its charming inhabitants. It was his sanctuary, for a few days now and then, from the complicated business he attended to in the rest of middle earth.

“We are doing fine.” Bilbo answered. “Frodo is such a fantastic lad. I can’t imagine anymore how it was to live here without him. He loves to learn, he is a big help and such a joy for me. At the moment he is in the back garden with his young cousins, Meriadoc and Peregrin. You remember Merry, don’t you? The little Brandybuck lad?” Bilbo paused and Gandalf nodded to indicate that he remembered the lad. “However you still have to meet Peregrin, or Pippin, as he’s called. He is Paladin’s youngest. He is still a baby, but already as charming as any Took can be.”

They talked for a bit more, finishing their pipes then going inside. Bilbo took the nice smelling biscuits from the oven and put them on the table to cool down, then he started with the other preparations for tea. Gandalf helped setting out the plates and listening. He chuckled softly now and then with an amused glimmering in his eyes as Bilbo told him about the goings on in the Shire.

“Well,” Bilbo finally announced. “Tea is ready. I will get the lads. They will be delighted to see you Gandalf.”

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

When the children’s first excitement about the wizard’s visit had died down, the Hobbits and Gandalf sat down at the table in the parlour.

“Pippin likes you!” Merry said to Gandalf and pointed at the baby, who was sitting in his high chair and reaching his arms out in Gandalf’s direction, his face beaming.

Gandalf had to admit that the little lad was indeed very charming and an absolutely beautiful baby with his big green eyes, reddish curls and freckles on his small pointed nose.

“You want a biscuit, don’t you?” Gandalf said in a tender voice to the child who, in response, clapped his little hands together and babbled some nonsense words.

Soon everyone was eating, or in Pippins case sucking, their biscuits and having a lively conversation.

“… and then my papa grabbed the pony’s reigns to steady it, so that Aunty Petunia could get down and….” Merry stopped in his dramatic telling, when he saw a certain look on Pippins face. “Oh no, he thought, Frodo and I have to get out of here and fast.”

“Eh . . . well,” he continued loudly, “she had quite a shock but was well otherwise. Frodo don’t you think we should start cleaning of the table. I assume Uncle Bilbo would very much welcome a bit help, wouldn’t you Uncle Bilbo?”

Both Frodo and Bilbo looked astonished at the small lad. “Well, uhm..Yes, Merry-lad, that would be most kind,” Bilbo answered, causing Merry to jump up and immediately start stacking the dishes together. Frodo, not wanting to seem impolite, also stood up and, moving more slowly, helped clear the table. He kept looking at Merry with a puzzled look on his face.

“Now, what’s this about Merry?” Frodo whispered to him when they were on their way to the kitchen.

Merry grinned up at him. “I just saved you, cousin. Didn’t you see the look on Pippin’s face? He is just about to ….” Merry held his nose closed with his fingers and made a disgusted face. Frodo’s eyes went wide as a look of realization came to his face.

“So,” Merry said as he removed his fingers from his nose, “we had better take the dishes to the kitchen and then make ourselves invisible as fast as we can, otherwise it’s you for sure who will have to deal with it.”

Frodo scrunched up his nose. “Yes we’d better hurry!” he said and then laughed. “You are such a tricky lad Merry. I wonder where you learned that?”

Merry patted his beloved elder cousin on the arm. “I’ve had a good teacher!”

Giggling they put the dishes in the sink as Frodo quickly formed a plan in his head. He and Merry needed to be far away, when Pippin was finished with his…business. Frodo looked about the kitchen then grabbed an empty basket which was standing next to the door.

“Merry, don’t you think that some berries for afters would be great this evening?”

“Oh yes, Frodo, that would be lovely!” Merry said, still giggling.

Quickly they ran to the parlour door. “Uncle, Merry and I are going to pick some berries for afters.” Frodo announced and before the old Hobbit could answer the two lads were already out of sight.

“All right lads!” Bilbo called after them. “They are such good lads aren’t they Gandalf? So polite and ….”

“Clever…” Gandalf finished for Bilbo.

“Oh yes, they are very clever lads. They….”

Bilbo stopped and stared at Gandalf, who was shaking his head and chuckling while his gaze was fixed on the baby. Pippin had his thumb in his mouth and looked back at the wizard with big innocent eyes.

“Gandalf?” Bilbo asked. “Is everything alright with you?”

Slowly Gandalf turned to the old Hobbit. “My dear friend, your so polite and so good lads have outwitted us.”

“What do you mean?” Bilbo asked.

Gandalf turned back to Pippin, picked him up and carried him over to where Bilbo was standing.

“Oh, he smells dreadfully!” the Hobbit exclaimed and scrunched up his nose.

“Those rascals!” he thundered. He ran as fast as his nearly one hundred and two year old legs could carry him to the front door. He opened it and looked outside. He could see Frodo and Merry walking along, already well down the road.

“Lads get back here at once!” he shouted.

Frodo and Merry turned around, waved, and then vanished from view. Bilbo could picture their grinning faces as he walked back to the parlour, grumbling as he went. Gandalf was still standing there holding the stinky baby at arm’s length.

“Well, “ Bilbo said determined. “ Give him to me. It can’t be so difficult to change a nappy, can it now?”

He looked Pippin in the eyes as if he expected an answer. But the lad just smiled sweetly at him and made a bubble with his salvia. “Plop” it went as it burst.

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

The dinning table had been cleared off and all the supplies Eglantine had left with them were set out and ready for the “great nappy change”. Bilbo went through everything he needed for the changing again, so that he would not forget something important whilst in the middle of the operation.

“I have a new nappy, warm water with soap and a cloth, a towel, baby powder and lotion, a bucket down on the floor for the soiled nappy . . . Yes, that should be all,” the Hobbit mumbled.

Gandalf sat, with an amused look on his face, in an armchair some feet away observing the scene.

Bilbo now looked at the baby, who was already wearing nothing more than his dirty nappy and lying peacefully on the table atop the blanket that had been in with the changing supplies.

“So young one, be good now and let Uncle Bilbo change your nappy,” he said in a sing-song voice while smiling a silly smile.

He opened the nappy and . . . took a quick step back.

“Puh! That is . . . that is not a nice view.”

Trying not to breathe in, Bilbo again neared Pippin. Through clenched teeth and still trying to keep a smile on his face, he said to the little one, “ We will have it off in a minute, Pippin-lad. See, we just take this off and . . .”

Just at this moment, feeling the nappy fall away from around his hips, Pippin decided it was the time to get lively again. He threw his arms and legs in the air, laughing and squealing delightfully.

“Ahhhh! Gandalf, hold his legs!” Bilbo shouted in near panic as little feet came very close to the messy nappy.

Gandalf jumped up from his seat, ran over and grabbed one small foot in each hand. Now that he had been made the nappy changer’s assistant he did not look so amused anymore. This was all much more entertaining from the armchair. With some effort he tried to keep Pippin still while Bilbo dropped the soiled nappy into the bucket then cleaned the baby’s bottom with the soapy water and cloth. Had Bilbo had been less focused on his task, he would have heard the wizard grumble something about the Took family tree, stating it must not have only had a fairy on it but also at least one polecat*.

After what seemed like an eternity the Hobbit finally announced, “The hard part is done!” and both adults sighed in relief.

“So little lad, now you are smelling nice again.” Bilbo said to Pippin, who was happily naked and giggling. “Now let’s see, how the rest works.”

Bilbo picked up two squares of cotton, one was soft and thick, the other thin and oiled.

“Alright, the soft one goes on the inside and the oiled one on the outside.” Bilbo said knowingly to Gandalf. Then his look turned quizzical. “The question now is, how?”

The wizard rolled his eyes and took the cotton squares from his friend’s hand. “Didn’t you notice how the old nappy was folded?” he asked. Nudging Bilbo aside, Gandalf now took the charge.

With what seemed like an experienced hand, he folded the oiled cloth into a triangle and set it near the baby’s behind. He did the same with the nappy, putting it on top of the oil cloth, then he placed Pippin’s wee bum on top of them, so that the shorter point was showing between the lad’s legs, while the two longer points were coming out at his sides. He put some lotion and powder on the baby and folded the nappy and oil cloth around him, then he pinned it all in place with a safety pin.

“Done!” he said euphorically, a proud expression on his old face. “Now, that wasn’t so difficult, was it?”

Smiling the wizard lifted up the little Hobbit and inspected his work at arm’s length. He looked smugly down at Bilbo, who nodded his approval.

But just at that moment several things happened at the same time.

Eglantine stepped into the room, followed by Merry and Frodo who were carrying a basket full of tasty, ripe berries.

Pippin, seeing his mother, cousins, and the berries started to wiggle and squeak in the wizards hands and the nappy just slipped off of his hips and legs. Gandalf’s astonished eyes followed the falling nappy to the floor.

“You don’t seem to have done as good a job as you thought, Gandalf,” Bilbo said, chuckling.

Pippin in his joy however chose that moment to become a fountain, wetting all over Gandalf’s beard and robe.

The room was silent for a moment, while everyone stared at the wizard, who himself stared in disbelief at the sweet smiling Hobbit lad in his hands.

Then, as if a dike had broken, they all burst into a roaring laugher and Gandalf thought, and this not for the first time nor for the last, that no matter how many hundreds of years he knew Hobbits, they always managed to surprise him again.


- The End -



 


Chapter End Notes:

* editor’s note: Golden had used “skunk” here, but it has come to the attention of some of us that England has no skunks. While doing some looking about online, I found they do have “polecats”, which are of a similar family to skunks and also have anal musk glands and a strong odor.



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