Well, here it is, the promised story. Many thanks to Marigold who made it that much better. I hope you enjoy, and hopefully there will be more where this came from.
A Taste of Strawberries
Spring was slowly turning into summer in the Shire, the air warm and fragrant with the smell of flowers and fresh fruit coming into its fullest. Nine-year-old Merry sprawled lazily on the rich grass of Bag End, listening sleepily to the sound of birds serenading each other and crickets chirping among the hedges. The sky overhead was the kind of clear, cloudless blue that only comes along on the most perfect of summer days, and he was happily enjoying the peace and quiet.
Until a shrill wail tore through it all, jerking him up from his near doze.
“Oh, Pip-lad, hush,” Frodo’s aggrieved voice floated out to him from inside the cozy confines of his cousin’s smial, the windows having been thrown open to allow the cool breeze free entry. “Your mother and aunt will be back soon. I hope. So long as Bilbo doesn’t keep them in the market.”
Merry sighed, closing his eyes for a moment before slowly dragging himself from his comfortable spot. Just as he had pushed himself to his knees, preparing to stand and enter the hole, Frodo came out, looking slightly ruffled and panicked.
“Oh, Merry,” he breathed when he saw him, visibly relaxing. “Thank goodness! You can usually get him to hush for a bit, would you mind holding him?” There was a note close to pleading in Frodo’s voice, and Merry suddenly realized that his older cousin had fallen out of practice of dealing with squalling babies and wet nappies since leaving Brandy Hall.
“Of course,” Merry agreed, smiling as he took the screaming child from his flustered kin, rocking him slowly while making soft cooing noises. After a moment the baby’s cries died down to sniffly whimpers, and then to just a few hiccupping snuffles.
“Amazing,” Frodo whispered, watching in something close to awe as Merry continued to gently rock his charge. “How do you do it?”
“He just likes to be held, is all,” Merry said, suddenly shy. “I’m sure that you could do it, too. He just needs to know that he isn’t alone.”
Frodo looked at the two of them thoughtfully for a moment, then smiled. “Would you like some strawberries? Sam has just brought some by, and they look absolutely delicious.”
Merry felt his mouth begin to water.
“With cream?” he asked hopefully, and Frodo laughed good-naturedly.
“Of course,” he agreed, smiling indulgently. “Wait out here and I’ll fix us a plate, it is too nice a day to be stuffed inside the smial.”
So Merry walked slowly in little circles around the grass, rubbing Pippin’s back and singing nonsense to him. Pippin gurgled happily up at him, his bad temper of just a few moments before forgotten.
His bright green baby eyes stared adoringly up at Merry, one fist tucked firmly in his mouth, and the other felt his heart melt under that look. “Here, now, you are absolutely going to be a troublemaker when you are older, aren’t you, my little Pippin?” Merry whispered.
The only reply he received was a wet giggle, green eyes dancing as if to say, “You think I’m a handful now, wait until I start walking!” A feat that was not far away, really, as he had been pulling himself up more and more in the past few weeks.
Before long Frodo reappeared, a bowl overflowing with large, brilliantly red strawberries in one hand and a smaller bowl full of thick white cream in the other. They settled themselves down, Merry still holding his tiny cousin as he eagerly took one of the large fruit, dipped it almost reverently into the cream, and put it to his mouth. His eyes closed in bliss as the sweetness filled him. Frodo, watching as he himself ate his first bite, laughed out loud at his reaction.
Pippin watched his two cousins eat in fascination, eyeing the strawberries in the bowl curiously.
“Would you like to try one?” Merry asked the child in his arms, having noticed his rapt attention. Pippin blinked at him, smiling.
“Oh, Merry, he’s too young for strawberries,” Frodo protested.
“Not if we give him just a little. On a day like this, one simply must have strawberries,” Merry retorted, picking up one of the smaller fruits and biting the very end of it off. Juice filled his mouth and he grinned. “Here, now, Pip, just suck on this and see if you like it.”
He placed the bitten off end up to the baby’s mouth, who obligingly removed his fist, and both watched in awe as the tiny lips parted and accepted the offering, gumming the berry as he would a bottle. Pippin closed his eyes in a reaction startling similar to Merry’s, and Frodo found himself laughing in delight.
“I do believe he likes them,” Frodo whispered, smiling as the little bundle of energy settled down, cheek nestling into Merry’s shoulder, eyes drooping, one small hand clamped firmly around his prize as he continued to savor the new taste.
Years later, as he lay on a cot in a strange land surrounded by his odd assortment of friends, too weak and in pain from nearly being crushed by a troll to even feed himself, he smiled up at his cousin faintly as Merry bit the end off of a slightly green strawberry and placed it to his Pippin’s lips, allowing the sweet juice to ease a troubled and sore throat.
Legolas, Gimli and Aragorn watched in almost reverent silence, tears dampening their eyes as they watched their little Pip close his eyes in seeming peace, and drift off to untroubled slumber.