Of All The Inquisitive Tooks

Gandalf sat in Bilbo's drawing room, talking lightly of inconsequential things as the hobbit made some tea. Gandalf had been visiting for three days, and was finally getting used to rising late and spending most of the day watching his friend eat, plan meals, and try to feed his guests in-between meal snacks.

It was why Gandalf didn't visit more often; he was afraid he would grow too large to get back out the hobbit-sized door. But as long as he remembered not to overindulge, he enjoyed the comfort and domesticity of hobbit life. He idly made a few mental notes about things he'd seen so far, for his study of hobbits, even as he answered Bilbo's questions about a preference for sweet or spicy bread.

"I defer to your impeccable taste," he said, smiling. As he planned to have only a bite or two, it hardly mattered which was served.

"Right, fine. I think the sweet bread, then," Bilbo said, setting plates out on the cooking table. "Cousin Eglantine likes spicy bread, but Dwalin was going on about Daisy's sweet bread. Might as well keep serving it 'til either it's gone, or Dwalin decides to move in and hire her as his cook."

Chuckling, Gandalf suddenly felt a tug at his robe. He ignored it, knowing quite well what it was. "He might carry her off home," he said, gravely. Dwalin had spent a good hour, the night previous, talking about the hobbit lass who had provided the bread and desserts for their dinner. Had she been the slightest bit available, Gandalf was certain Dwalin would have offered to carry her home with him.

Two small hands landed on Gandalf's leg. He glanced down to make sure the child was in no difficulty, but the boy seemed to be doing a fine job of things. Gandalf was seated in a low, hobbit-height chair, but the size of a man even so, was large enough to seem like scaling Methedras to the tiny hobbit child.

With any other child, Gandalf would have reached down at the first tug, and lifted him or her into his lap. But with *this* child, Peregrin Took, Gandalf knew it was best to let him do it on his own. The longer it took for him to reach his destination, the longer it would be before--

"Gandalf, why do birds fly?"

Gandalf looked down at the small hobbit boy sitting in his lap. Huge blue eyes stared back, unblinkingly, and Gandalf was relieved that the first words out of his mouth had not been a demand for the sweets his mother had forbid them all to give him.

'Too young to be overfed with candied fruits and honey cakes,' Peregrin's mother had said the moment they'd stepped inside Bilbo's home. She'd gone on to give Bilbo firm instructions about the feeding of her young son, which Gandalf knew had been promptly ignored the moment Eglantine's back was turned.

Still, the wrath of a hobbit mother was not a thing to be trifled with. But he was also fairly sure that this particular child's entreaties would be very hard to resist.

"Birds fly because it is their nature," he began to answer, not sure what level of schooling children of his age would have had in such things.

"No," he shook his head so hard that brown curls flopped this way and that. He raised his arms and made flapping motions. "How come they *fly*?"

"Ah." Gandalf nodded and lent back. "You wish to know how it is they manage to fly?"

"Yes!" He nodded, happily.

"Well, birds are very light. And the wind carries them when they spread their wings." Gandalf mentally sifted through some of Radagast's lectures about bird anatomy and wind currents, trying to reword them for the hobbit toddler.

"I'm light," Peregrin said thoughtfully. "Momma says I only weigh as much as two apples."

His expression turned slightly more serious, and Gandalf could see quite clearly where the boy's logic was going. "You are quite light," he agreed. "But not as light as a bird. Too heavy for the wind to carry you."

"Even if I jumped out of a tree, like birds?"

"Even if you jumped out of a tree," Gandalf agreed. He caught Bilbo stifling a laugh behind his hand. He was glad there was a witness that he *had* tried to talk Peregrin out of leaping off roofs and out of trees.

Peregrin frowned harder at this piece of information, obviously not pleased with it. Then he looked up and asked, "What are the stars called?"

Gandalf blinked, not certain what he was being asked. Bilbo walked over, and handed Peregrin a cookie, which was eagerly gobbled up. "He wants to know their names," Bilbo explained.

"I counted them last night!" Peregrin added, his words muffled by cookie.

"You counted them?" Gandalf found himself intrigued.

Nodding proudly, Peregrin said, "There's twenty of them."

"Twenty? My. That is a lot, isn't it?" Gandalf glanced up at Bilbo, who was grinning.

"Yes. I counted too eight. I can't count more than that, and Merry says twenty is more than eight. So there must be *twenty* stars!" Peregrin looked extraordinarily pleased with his mathematics, as well as proud of knowing such a tremendously huge number.

"Merry is quite correct," Gandalf said. "Twenty is more than eight." He didn't know what to say about the actual number of stars. He did, in fact, know their number -- but he was fairly sure that it would mean nothing to the child. 'Twenty' seemed an impressive enough number, at any rate.

"Why are there worms in dirt?" came the next question, before anything more about stars could be said.

As he opened his mouth to answer, Gandalf heard Eglantine out in the hallway. Peregrin must have heard her as well, for he dove underneath the edge of Gandalf's sleeve. He was rather well hidden, Gandalf noted, and if he held his arm just right it would be impossible to tell there was a child lurking there.

"Oh, Bilbo, have you seen Peregrin?" Eglantine stepped into the room. "He was coming this way for a snack, then he didn't come back to our room."

"No, I haven't seen him," Bilbo said loudly, though he winked at his cousin and pointed to Gandalf. She looked, confused for a moment, then she grinned.

In an exaggerated tone, she said, "Oh, well -- it's just that it's time for his nap. If I don't find him, he'll miss it."

Gandalf heard Peregrin whisper, "I don't *want* a nap!"

His mother giggled silently, and then settled herself in a chair. "Well, if I can't find him, I might as well have a cup of tea. Dear cousin, that'll be lovely."

Bilbo handed her a cup, and went back to the fire for the kettle. He took his time with the tea, then Eglantine took *her* time sipping it. She and Bilbo traded light news about relatives they'd spoken of not hours before, when she and her son had arrived for their visit.

Gandalf sat quietly, being careful not to move. After another few minutes, he felt Peregrin shift a bit. Bilbo and Eglantine continued chatting, taking time to explain some of the names they were referencing.

Finally, Gandalf felt Peregrin's form go completely limp. He peeled up the edge of his sleeve to look.

"Ah, he's finally dropped off, has he?" his mother said, setting her tea down instantly and coming over.

"It appears so." Gandalf thought the child must have lost all bone structure. He picked the boy up, finding the arms and legs and head tricky to juggle with hardly any weight and no rigidity to speak of. He thought it wasn't such a far-fetched notion that Peregrin *would* fly, if he leapt out of a tree.

"Here, let me take him," Eglantine said, and she scooped her son into her arms with practised ease. Peregrin turned towards her, sighing in his sleep and sticking a thumb into his mouth. "Thank you, Mr Gandalf," she said, giving him a slight curtsey. "I hope he wasn't a bother to you. I tried to keep him in our room, but he simply had to come into the kitchen."

"Not at all." Gandalf waved his hand slightly, dismissing any nuisance the boy might have been.

Eglantine carried her son out, and Gandalf and Bilbo watched them go. When they were out of earshot, Bilbo laughed.

"You got off lucky, my friend."

"Indeed." Gandalf laughed, as well, recalling how, upon being introduced to the dwarf, Peregrin had peppered Dwalin with questions about his ax, his beard, his helmet, and pleaded with him to teach him how to work metal. Dwalin had put up with it with good-nature, but as soon as Eglantine had taken her son outside to play, Dwalin had retreated to his rooms for a nap of his own.

"He's an inquisitive one, that Peregrin," Bilbo said. "He'll make an excellent Thain someday." Bilbo grinned. "If he survives his elders."

"Nothing wrong with a bit of curiousity," Gandalf corrected him.

Bilbo gave him a look. "I'll remind you, you said that, one day. But -- now would you prefer tea or ale with your sandwiches?"

They ate, and talked, for nearly an hour before they heard a loud shriek, and the pounding of feet. They looked towards the doorway, waiting, until a tiny blur flew into the room and onto the bench.

"LUNCH!" Peregrin shouted. "LUNCH LUNCH LUNCH LUNCH!"

"Why, Gandalf, I believe it must be time for lunch. Why don't we let Eglantine prepare something while you and I go outside for a smoke?"

"That, Bilbo, sounds like a wonderful idea."