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Many Happy Returns  by Grey Wonderer

Chapter 12†††††††††††††† "Dance With Me"

"Now," Merry said, as his mum closed the door behind herself. "Tell me about Diamond Took."

†"Wouldnít you rather hear about my dance with Estella first?" Pippin asked.

†"I think you should hear that first, Merry," Frodo said, agreeing with Pippin and enjoying Merryís impatience. "After all, we must begin at the beginning."

†"Fine then, one of you begin," Merry said. "But be warned, I do not plan to wait all evening for this story. I donít care if you have gone and turned thirty, Pippin. I will still expect all the details of this evening and most especially anything involving you and a lass that you seem to fancy."

†Pippin blushed a bit. "I was hoping youíd be awake so that I could tell you, but your mum was here and we got off on the cake incident and this part with your poor Estella does come first."

†"Yes, it seems that Estella did a favor for me this evening and I am very sure that she is going to expect someone to compensate her for her efforts," Frodo laughed.

†"Now, this story is starting to sound interesting to me," Merry grinned. "What have you two done to my best lass?"

†"Well, I was trying to think of a way to help Pippin get acquainted with Diamond and I got the idea to enlist Estellaís help," Frodo said. "Pippin didnít know what I was up to and so he made things a bit difficult for Estella."

†Merry frowned at his younger cousin who was still laying beside him propped up on some pillows on the bed. "What did you do?"

†Frodo laughed, "Well, I went over to see if I could convince Estella to help me and......."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sam and Pippin watched as Frodo escorted Estella Bolger out onto the floor for a dance.

As he put an arm around her waist, Frodo leaned in and asked, "Estella, would you mind helping me with a project?"

†"What are you up to, Frodo Baggins?" Estella sighed, as they danced easily together.

†"Well, I have a plan that needs a lassís touch," Frodo said, smiling.

†"Really?" Estella smiled. "You have my attention now. Is this something to do with Merry?"

†"No, this plan involves Pippin," Frodo said, as the music swelled and he turned his partner easily. Estella was a very good dancer and if Frodo hadnít been seeking her assistance, he might have allowed himself a minute or two to enjoy her company. Merry was right about this lass.

She was frowning at him now. "Anything that involves Pippin is bound to be trouble," Estella said, slowing their dance a bit. "I think you might do well to look else-where for aide."

†"I think you might want to reconsider. At least hear me out, Estella. You may be surprised,"Frodo said, grinning at her. Merry had also been correct in his assumption that Estella and Pippin were not terribly fond of one another as of yet.

†"I will listen, but Iíve no intention of involving myself in anything that involves that crazy cousin of yours and Merryís," Estella warned him. "Go ahead and explain yourself, Frodo Baggins."

†"Well, let us look at this from all sides, Estella," Frodo began. "You see, all I want you to do is to ask Pippin to dance."

†"You want me to dance with Pippin?" Estella asked. "I am quite sure that there is far more to this than you are telling me." She glanced over Frodoís shoulder at Pippin now and saw that he was dancing with Bluebell Banks, a distant cousin of his on his motherís side. "He seems to have a dancing partner."

†"Yes, well, I am sure that while he is enjoying the dance, that is not the partner that he is interested in dancing with," Frodo smiled.

†Estella stopped dancing and glared at Frodo. "You are not going to tell me that Pippin wants to dance with me are you?" She put her hands on her hips and sighed. "I wonít believe thatís so even if you swear to it. I am in no mood for practical jokes."

†Frodo took her by the arm gently and led her over to the table where the punch bowl was. "No, I am not going to tell you that you are Pippinís heartís desire as a dance partner," Frodo said,offering her a cup of punch. "I simply want you to dance with him while I engage the true object of his affection in a dance."

†"Are you trying to annoy Pippin at his own party, Frodo?" Estella sighed. "I donít get along with Pippin, but I do believe that he has suffered enough for one evening. Besides, he did save Merryís life and I am grateful to him for that." Before Frodo could speak, she continued. "It isnít that I donít like him, itís only that I wish Merry liked him a bit less. Pippin is forever with Merry and where does that leave me?"

†"I am trying to tell you that I might have a way to remedy your problem," Frodo laughed. Estella continued to stare at him but said nothing so he continued, "If Pippin had a lass of his own, then you might see less of him and more of a certain Brandybuck. I should think you might be willing to help me, help Pippin, because if I am successful, then I will be helping you also."

†"What is this plan of yours and what must I do?" Estella asked.

†Frodo smiled at her. Now she was in the proper frame of mind to be of assistance. He only hoped that what he was about to do didnít make things worse. He began to explain what was needed while Estella sipped her punch and listened.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Merry laughed. "So you wicked Baggins, you," Merry said. "You used her own desires against her? Poor darling Estella. I thought it was Pippin who gave her a hard time."

†"Weíre coming to that," Frodo said. "But I do think that Pippin should tell you that part of the story."

†"I was there," Pippin said. "It was rather funny, really, Merry. You see..."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The evening was not a total loss, Pippin thought. He was enjoying the dancing and every once in a while he managed to catch sight of Diamond Took as she danced by with one of the other lads at his party or chatted with some of the lasses. Once, he thought she might have looked in his direction but he wasnít completely sure of this. Another time, heíd made up his mind to go over and ask her for a dance, but couldnít think of how to begin.

†He wasnít very at ease when it came to speaking with lasses. He would have thought that having so many sisters would have helped with that problem, but it didnít. Real lasses, the pretty ones that he found himself longing to speak to or dance with, were very different from his sisters. Oh, he supposed that his sisters were very pretty, but they were his sisters. Heíd grown up with them. Diamond Took was an entirely different matter. She did something to him for which he had no explanation. She made his palms sweat and his stomach ache but he was enjoying it. Was this what Merry felt for Estella Bolger?

†"Pippin, I think I owe you a dance." Pippin turned and there was Estella Bolger. How had that happened?

†"Did you just ask me to dance?" Pippin asked, looking confused.

†"Yes," Estella said, thinking that Frodo had better be right about this. "I think that I owe you a dance for saving Merryís life."

†"Oh, that," Pippin smiled. "Merry has saved my life many times. No one owes me anything. Iím just very glad that Merry is going to be fine now."

†"All the same," Estella said, becoming somewhat exasperated. "I would like to dance with you."

†Pippin continued to smile. "Did Merry put you up to this, because if he did I wonít tell him that we didnít dance. I know how Merry thinks we should get on together, but I know that you donít want to dance with me, Estella."

†She wanted to scream. Now, she would appear to be begging Peregrin Took to dance with her. Why didnít he just graciously accept her offer, be glad that someone was willing to dance with him, and allow her to get through this favor to Frodo with a small bit of dignity. "Pippin, Merry has no idea that I am asking you to dance, I-"

†"Frodo then," Pippin said. "This is Frodoís idea isnít it? He has decided to help Merry out a bit by making friends of us."

†He was too close to the truth now. Estella sighed, "Look, Pippin, does it truly matter that much who is responsible? Canít we just dance and get it over with?"

"Donít worry Estella," Pippin said. "I will tell Frodo that you asked and that I refused. Then you wonít have to dance with me."

†"You will tell Frodo that you refused to dance with me?" Estellaís eyes widened. This was too much. "You will do no such thing, Peregrin Took or I will tell Merry that you refused to dance with me. Now, you are going to dance with me and you are going to like it." She said this between clinched teeth. She felt terribly sorry for this Diamond Took lass. Frodo was about to make the poor lass miserable and sadly, she was going to help him. The things that I am willing to suffer through for you, Merry Brandybuck. She grabbed Pippinís wrist and fairly drug him out onto the dance floor.

†Pippin put his arm around her waist, amused by her anger. "This is getting a bit desperate, donít you think? I know you miss Merry but forcing me to dance with you is-ouch donít bend my fingers back. It hurts," Pippin objected, as Estella began to lead in their dance.

†"Then close your mouth and dance you vile, annoying, pest or I will break several of your fingers,"Estella assured him.

†"Fine, but Iím leading. Iím the lad," Pippin said, and he began to move her expertly around the floor amid the other couples. "Poor, Merry. You are so pushy."

†"And you are not worth what Frodo is trying to do for you," Estella snapped.

†"What is Frodo trying to do?" Pippin asked, slowing down a bit, but still managing to keep his partner moving with the music. "What is going on?"

†Then the music stopped and from the band stand a voice announced. "All of you lads†come to the center of the floor with†your favorite lass because we are now going to dance the Springle-ring!"

†Pippin looked at Estella and wrinkled his nose a bit. "Just pretend, Pippin," Estella growled and they joined the others.





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