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In which Christopher Robin has a Birthday, and returns to the Hundred Acre Wood

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Christopher Robin sat in his rocking chair and rocked. There was little else to do, these days, after all. Ro-ock, ro-ock, ro-ock.

He looked out over the forest. The French windows were slightly open; it was a pleasant day.

They had been saying that he'd become distant, of late. Vague. Absent-minded. Perhaps it was true. But then again, there wasn't really much in life these days to be absent from, if one were to really look at it. It wasn't so much that he was absent, more that everything else was.

He allowed the thought to roll around in his head for a while, in time with the steady rocking. Ro-ock, th-ink, ro-ock, th-ink, ro-ock... Everything swayed backwards and forwards - and as it did, Christopher Robin felt that he might be on the cusp of something, but he wasn't sure what.

The rocking and the thinking were interrupted and all put to an end, though, by a cry from the French windows. "Christopher Robin!"

He turned to look down to where the voice had appeared. Christopher Robin blinked. He widened his eyes, and blinked three times more, for good measure. "Pooh?!"

"Yes," said Pooh.

"But..." The words seemed to peter out, so he said it again: "Pooh?"

"Yes," said Pooh, and nodded. "Might you have a little smackerel of something for your old Bear, Christopher Robin? It's been an awfully long time since breakfast."

Christopher Robin rootled around in the drawer by his chair, and extracted some biscuits. He offered them to Pooh, who came inside.

"Thank you, Christopher Robin," said Pooh, and began to munch. "I don't suppose this is the sort of place that runs to hunny on biscuits, is it?"

"I'm afraid not," answered Christopher Robin, and he was sorry for that. He was sorry, but also confused. "But... what are you doing here, Pooh?"

Pooh looked up into his eyes, while wiping away some crumbs. "We came to find you, Christopher Robin. It's time for your Birthday Party."

Christopher Robin was quiet for some time. "My... Birthday Party?"

"Yes," said Pooh. "I promised, you see. That I would never forget you, ever. And I haven't, of course. Even when you didn't come to see us for such a very long time. But as today is such a Special Occasion... well, we needed to set out on an Intrepid Expotition to bring you home."

Christopher Robin breathed out for a very long time. It was a breath he had not known he had been holding, and it seemed all the longer for it. "I'm a hundred today, aren't I, Pooh?" Maybe that was the thing that he had thought he was on the cusp of. He opened his arms, and Pooh rushed into them, holding him tight.

"Yes," rumbled Pooh, "and I'm ninety-nine."

Christopher Robin grinned, twirling Pooh by the paw. "Silly Old Bear... Happy Birthday to us both, then! So, where do we need to go?"

"Eeyore's house," declared Pooh. "Eeyore is planning the Party."

"Eeyore?" asked Christopher Robin, in the tone of one who did not quite believe what he had heard, "Planning a party?"

"Yes," said Pooh. "Eeyore insisted - because of the time you made such a nice Birthday Party for him, and he wanted to make a Birthday Party for you, in return."

"I remember that day!" cried Christopher Robin, and he did - all of the balloons and streamers and cake came flooding back, like the stream in the river after a really big rainstorm.

"So do I!" squeaked a very small voice from the French windows.

"-Piglet?"

"-Well obviously, we all do," said a voice from just behind Piglet's round, floppy ears.

"-Rabbit?"

"-Indeed, my ancestors were known for their exceptionally long memories, so there is no chance that I would fail to," added a voice from just behind Rabbit's tall, fluffy ears.

"-Owl? How wonderful to see you all!"

"And it is wonderful to see you, too, Christopher Robin," said Pooh, seriously. "Most wonderful indeed."

There came a rapping at the door. "Mr. Milne! Mr. Milne?"

Christopher Robin put on his best Composed voice. "Yes, Nurse Amy?"

"Are you alright in there?"

"Why yes Nurse Amy. Couldn't be better."

"It's just that - I thought I heard - talking. Lots of voices. Are you talking to someone in there?"

Christopher Robin made a shushing sound to Pooh. Then Pooh shushed Piglet and Piglet turned around and was about to shush someone, but Rabbit took it upon himself to Shush everyone Very Loudly.

"Talking?" called Christopher Robin. "Oh, no, not talking. Humming, maybe." He glanced at Rabbit. "And running some water. Yes, that's it, just running the tap."

"Al-right," said the Nurse, somewhat doubtfully. "I'll leave you be, then."

"Thank you, Nurse Amy. A good day to you."

They all listened to retreating steps down the hallway, then drew a breath.

"I observe that we are in need of a Grand Escapation Plan," declared Owl.

*****

The Escapation Plan was Grand, indeed. Christopher Robin hid in a tea trolley under its lace tablecloth, while Pooh and Owl pushed him downhill along the garden path toward the wood, and Piglet kept watch. His knees creaked and cracked and crooked as they folded beneath him, but the grin on his face had never been broader. When they were safe, he pulled away the cover, and straightened himself up, like a Thing That Was Not Very Straight At All But Would have To Do.

"That was marvellous!" Christopher Robin exclaimed.

"Indeed," agreed Owl. "It reminds me of the time when my great-great uncle Oswald escaped from a leash of foxes in an underground burrow, using only the cup of haycorns and a feather from the tip of his right-hand wing. For many years after the event, he claimed that-"

~-Growl~ said Pooh's tummy, prompting Pooh to say, "I do think it's time for Birthday Cake, don't you?"

They led Christopher Robin through trees and glades and thickets and clearings. Some of the trees seemed familiar, from years and years ago – but some were young and bold and growing in places that were not really intended for trees, at all. Woods were funny like that, Christopher Robin supposed. You never can tell with woods.

They walked and they walked and they walked. And then, finally, they came to it: a little house made from sticks, with bunting, balloons and blankets all set outside. Eeyore was there, too. He was adding some thorny green things to the large collection of other thorny green things that sat on plates at the outdoor table.

“Well, Christopher Robin,” said Eeyore, in mild surprise.

“Eeyore!” exclaimed Christopher Robin.

“Yes, it’s me,” said Eeyore, “Still here.” He turned around and looked at Christopher Robin squarely. “You came. I didn’t think you would. What with all the trouble I’ve been to, it would stand to reason that you wouldn’t come. But you did.” He paused, and put his head on one side. “I’m glad for that.”

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

“Umm…” said Pooh, in the style of one who really wants to interrupt but is not quite sure how to go about it, “this is all very nice. But isn’t it time for a little something? Now that we’re all here?” He looked up pleadingly to where he thought a Birthday Cake would sit on the table, if it were the kind of table upon which Birthday Cakes sat.

“Yes, gather round, everyone,” agreed Eeyore, “Here you go; take a plate. I’ve been collecting thistles all morning, especially.”

Piglet gave a Concerned Glance to Pooh, and Pooh furrowed his brow. Owl was fluffing up his feathers in Eeyore's direction and Rabbit was drawing himself up to his full height as if about to launch into a now, see here, Eeyore – when Christopher Robin stepped forward and said, "All morning? That really is very kind of you, Eeyore. Yes; please do pass me a plate. Come along, everyone; let's have some of this lovely tea that Eeyore has made for us."

So they did. Gingerly, it is fair to say. And thornily. And, truth be told, just one or two or a dozen thistles ended up snuck back onto the forest floor when Eeyore wasn't looking – but, most importantly of all, Eeyore looked around at them all having tea together at his house, and he smiled.

~-Growl~ said Pooh's tummy.

"Oh, another bushel of thistles, Pooh?" offered Eeyore, "I have plenty just-"

"- Hello, Dears!" A voice came from just outside the clearing. It was a lovely motherly voice, which Christopher Robin recognised immediately as-

"Kanga!"

What rounded the corner next was not Kanga, however. Instead, in came bouncing a wonderful tall Birthday Cake, filled with cream and fruit and honey and topped with icing flowers and a hundred candles. It looked magnificent.

It was bouncing because Tigger and Roo were holding one side each, while Kanga was following behind, supervising the bouncing as much as she could.

"Oh, Christopher Robin!" chorused Roo and Tigger – and then Christopher Robin found himself thoroughly BOUNCED, but he didn't mind at all.

He lay amid the long grass, looking up at the sky, the leaves, and his friends. It was perfect.

"Please stay with us, Christopher Robin," said Pooh, and extended a paw to nestle in his hand.

"Yes, please stay, please!" agreed Piglet, Eeyore, Rabbit, Kanga, Roo, Owl and Tigger.

"I think I shall never go back, declared Christopher Robin.

And as it happened, he never did.