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Many Happy Returns  by Grey Wonderer

Chapter 14 "First Meetings"

Merry was laughing so hard his whole bed was shaking. “Oh, Pip!”

‘That’s fine, blame it all on me,” Pippin sighed, giving Merry a long-suffering look. “Never mind that your lass was trying to kill me.”

“From where I was standing, it looked as if both of you were trying to kill each other,” Frodo said, rubbing his head. “Later, I thought that your intentions might be to finish off your dear, older cousin.”

Merry laughed a bit harder and managed to ask, “Are you all right, Frodo?”

“Do you truly care?” Frodo sniffed. Now he was trying to look injured and both Pippin and Merry were laughing at him.

“For a sick room, sure is loud in here,” Sam said, as he came in. “I’d have knocked like a proper hobbit, but I didn’t figure you’d hear me over all of that laughin’.”

“Come in and have a seat, Sam,” Merry said. “Frodo and Pip are just filling me in on the party.”

“From all o’ this laughin’. I’d say that they’ve gotten to the good parts,” Sam smiled.

“Oh, it’s been very good,” Merry said. “Did you get to see the dancing?”

Sam grinned as he sat down in the remaining empty chair. “Your father and I came in on the last o’ that. Just a bit before Mister Pippin and Miss Estella fell on Mister Frodo.”

“Yes, and just why didn’t you or my dear uncle Saradoc come over and rescue me from all of that weight?” Frodo asked, teasingly.

“I suppose I should have, Mister Frodo,” Sam began. “But Miss Nell told us what you and Miss Estella were up to and I didn’t want to meddle in other folkses business if you get my meaning?”

“Indeed I do, Sam,” Frodo laughed. “I think that I am through meddling also.”

“A good sharp rap on the noggin’ and some sense has been knocked into you,” Merry said.

“How did Nell know what you and Estella where up to?” Pippin asked. “Did you tell the entire group of party guests?”

“No, Pippin,” Frodo smiled. “Nell was to wait until she saw that I had secured a dance with Diamond and then she was to have the band play the Springle-ring. Silly me, I thought it a perfect choice as it would be easy to switch partners during.” Frodo rolled his eyes and sighed.

Merry laughed again. “I believe I’m enjoying this party more than any of your others, Pip,” Merry said.

“You didn’t even come to this one,” Pippin objected.

“Exactly,” Merry teased. “I may make this an annual tradition. I may just lay up in the bed each year and have all of you bring me reports, and food, of course.”

“I may join you next year,” Frodo said, rubbing his head again and grinning at Pippin.

“Besides, I won’t have a lass to go with,” Merry said. “I doubt that I will be able to get Estella within a hundred miles of Pip’s birthday party next year. Poor lass.”

“All I did was dance with her, Merry,” Pippin said. “She led half the time which isn’t proper at all, you know.”

“Still, she is my lass and it’s my duty to protect her from everyone, even younger cousins,” Merry smiled. “You do have to get over this, you know.”

Pippin plopped against his pillow and sighed, folding his arms over his chest. “I can’t help it if she doesn’t like me, Merry.”

“You could try being nice to her. That might help some,” Merry suggested, poking Pippin in the ribs.

“I would, but she’s not nice to me,” Pippin said, sounding five.

Merry snorted. “I give up. Tell me what happened with Diamond. I don’t know if I shall like her, you know.”

“Why not?” Pippin asked, distressed. He sat up and waited for Merry’s reply.

“Well, she might not be nice to me,” Merry said, seriously. “I hate when a lass isn’t nice to me, don’t you, Frodo?”

“Yes, Merry, I do hate that,” Frodo agreed.

Pippin sighed and leaned back against the pillows. “Fine, tease if you want. Maybe I just won’t tell you what happened with Diamond.”

“Well, it is your business and if you don’t want to tell me then I suppose that’s up to you,” Merry said. “Tell me where Fredegar got off to, Frodo.”

“Honestly, Merry,” Pippin interrupted. “You know I can’t not tell you!”

Merry, Frodo, and Sam all laughed. “Well, then tell me.” Merry said, grinning. “Frodo can fill me in on Fredegar’s doings later, I suppose.”

Pippin groaned. “I came up here just to tell you, you know. It just seems that other things keep coming first and I never get to.”

“Pippin, tell me what happened with Diamond Took before I explode,” Merry said.

Pippin grinned, a bit shyly. “Well, if you insist, Merry.......”

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

Pippin accepted the offered hand and got to his feet. He couldn’t stop looking at her. She was beautiful and he was holding her hand. Diamond returned his look and then glanced down at their hands, not sure what to do. Pippin wasn’t letting go.

Frodo stood behind them and sighed. Of all times for Pippin to be struck speechless! Nell had led a fuming Estella over to a group of lasses who were now complimenting her on her dancing skills. It seemed to be softening her mood somewhat from all Frodo could tell. In front of him Pippin continued to stare goofily at Diamond. Her hand was still in his grasp and he seemed unable to let go.

“I’m going to see about my head,” Frodo said, smiling at Diamond and unsure as to if Pippin had even heard him. “Why don’t you two have a dance?” No movement from Pippin and a small smile from Diamond. Frodo put his hand firmly on Pippin’s shoulder in an effort to bring the Took back to earth and said, “Peregrin Took, this is your cousin, Diamond Took of Long Cleeve..”

As if by years of training, Pippin said, “Peregrin Took at your service and that of your family’s.” He still had her hand.

“Good luck,” Frodo said, and shaking his head, he left them.

“I’m most pleased to make your acquaintance, Peregrin,” Diamond said.

“You are?” Pippin said, surprised.

Diamond giggled a bit. “Did you think I wouldn’t be?”

“W-w-well, I did, ah, well there was that bit earlier with all of that water,” Pippin said, looking down at his feet and away from her face for the first time since she’d helped him up.

“I see,” Diamond said. “That may explain why you’re still holding my hand then. You think I might run off.”

“Oh, I am so sorry, I forgot I, well, I just,” Pippin released her hand and backed up a step. “You must think I’m an idiot.” He was blushing a bit now as he looked back at her.

“I don’t know you well enough to determine that, Peregrin Took,” Diamond said. “So far, I don’t believe I’ve seen you at your best this evening.”

Pippin swallowed hard and sighed, “Yes, you have. I’m mostly just like this all the time, only I talk more.”

“Do you ever ask a lass to dance when you are talking more?” Diamond inquired, still smiling at him. He was rather cute in an awkward sort of way. He did seem to like her too, or he was afraid of her. It had to be one or the other.

“I have before,” Pippin said. “I’m not very good at that, but I have asked before.” Pippin looked over at her and smiled. “I’m sorry about the water. I never meant to do that. Some folks will say that I do things like that as pranks all of the time, but that wasn’t a prank at all. I didn’t mean to drench you at all. I just fell.” He rushed through this apology before he could lose his nerve. She was so very pretty and she was standing there looking at him as if it mattered what he might say.

“I didn’t think it intentional,” Diamond assured him. “I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to do a thing like that. It looked to me as if you lost your footing.”

She was nice too! She wasn't at all angry with him for what had happened. “I hope I didn’t ruin your frock. It was a lovely color. Oh, but you look very lovely in my sister Nell’s frock too,” Pippin said.

“How did you know this was your sister’s dress?” Diamond asked, smiling.

“I just notice that sort of thing, I guess,” Pippin said. “I’ve seen it before, on Nell and in her closet. Not that Nell was wearing it and standing in her closet, I mean it was just hanging there when she wasn’t wearing it and I-“ Pippin stopped. He squeezed his eyes shut and tried to breathe. This was no way to talk to a lovely lass. Not if he ever expected her to speak to him again.

Diamond was trying hard not to laugh. She didn’t want to hurt the lad’s feelings. This was the strangest conversation she’d ever had. She wasn’t trying to make him nervous. It just seemed to be working out that way.

“I don’t suppose any of that is awfully important, is it?” Pippin said. “I really did want to say how sorry I am is all.”

“Apology accepted,” Diamond said, smiling at him. “Are all of your birthday parties this interesting? If they are, I shall have to make an effort to attend more often.”

“You’d come again? Even after all of this?” Pippin was frankly amazed.

“Yes, I believe that I would,” Diamond said. Then after a slight pause she said, “Your cousin, Frodo is a very good dancer.”

“Frodo is mostly good at everything and very nice as well,” Pippin agreed.


“I’m afraid I didn’t get to finish my dance with him earlier,” Diamond said. “We both got caught up in watching you and that lass that you were dancing with. You are both quite good.”

“Thank you,” Pippin said.

“Is she a close friend?” Diamond asked.

“Oh, not really,” Pippin said. It was hard to think of Estella as a friend, much less a close friend. “She is my cousin Meriadoc’s, well, they see one another is all. I just know her.”

“You must enjoy dancing a great deal to be that accomplished,” Diamond said. It was becoming a game for her now. How long would she have to hint around before this lad asked her to dance? Could she even get him to ask her? Did he want to ask her?

“My older sisters taught me to dance,” Pippin said. “I like it well enough.”

Diamond smiled. “Well, it’s been very nice meeting you and being a guest at your birthday party. I do have to say that I have enjoyed myself and have met quite a few very nice hobbits.” She extended her hand to him and he took it. At least he didn’t have any trouble doing that.

“I’m awfully glad that you’ve had a nice time,” Pippin said, looking at her as if he’d never seen a lass before in all of his thirty years of life. “I hope that you will come again next year.”

“I’d like that very much,” Diamond assured him and squeezed his hand lightly. “Now, I think I shall go in search of a dance partner. The music is lovely this evening.” With that, she turned and walked into the crowd, leaving Pippin staring after her.

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

Merry groaned and poked Pippin in the ribs. “You mean after all of this, you let her slip off? Why doesn’t anyone look out for you when I’m not around?”

“I did my best,” Frodo said.

“Someone does, Merry,” Pippin said, grinning over at his older cousin.

“Yes, well, they don’t do a very good job of it,” Merry said. “I would have come over there and talked some sense into that stubborn little brain of yours if I’d been there.”

“It was a bit like you were there, Merry,” Pippin smiled. “I hate to admit it, but that pushy Estella Bolger just may be the right lass for you.”

“What does Estella have to do with this?” Merry said. “Oh, and she’s not pushy.”

“She is too,” Pippin objected. “And I can prove it.....”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Across the room, Frodo and Nell had been watching the exchange. They couldn’t hear anything that was being said but they were both hopeful when the conversation lasted so long that Pippin might be doing well. When they saw Diamond making her exit, they were a bit confused.

“What do you suppose has happened?” Nell frowned.

“I don’t know,” Frodo admitted. “It seemed to be going well enough from over here at least.”

“Oh, the poor lad,” Nell sighed. “I wonder what he’s said to her?”

“When I left them, he was having trouble saying much of anything,” Frodo laughed. “Either that changed, or she ran out of things to say while waiting for him to get up his nerve.”

“Well, I suspect that we should go over and get him,” Nell sighed. “If not, he’ll stand there all night looking lost.”

“Wait a minute,” Frodo said. “It looks as if Estella is going to go and get him.”

“That can’t be good,” Nell objected, but Frodo took hold of her arm. “Let’s wait and see.”

Across the room Estella Bolger joined Pippin on the dance floor amid the couples who were dancing and tapped him on the shoulder. He jumped as if she’d slapped him and turned to look at her. “Oh, Estella. You’ve come to yell at me haven’t you?”

“I have, but not for what you think,” Estella said. “Did you ask that lass to dance?”

“No,” Pippin said, softly. “She was very nice about the water and accepted my apology and she said that she’d come to my party again next year, but no, I didn’t ask her to dance.”

“Why not?” Estella demanded, hands on her hips.

“She wouldn’t want to dance with me,” Pippin said.

“Then she’s a smart lass, but she didn’t look that clever from where I was standing,” Estella said. “In fact, she looked as if she might just like you a bit.”

Pippin sighed. He then brightened a bit and said, “Well, then I shall have to ask her when she comes to my party next year. Maybe you’re right and she will dance with me.”

“Honestly, Pippin!” Estella said. “I don’t know how Merry has managed to get you this far in life. If she likes you, then she might dance with you now, if you’ll ask her. If you wait an entire year, she might find someone else that she enjoys dancing with and not give you a second look you silly Took.”

“Why do you care?” Pippin asked, cocking his head to one side and eyeing her suspiciously.

“You know very well why I care,” Estella said. “I would like for you to do something beside follow Merry about so that I might get a chance to see just how much I like him. If you don’t dance with this lass, that may not happen.”

“Merry wouldn’t want you to give up on him,” Pippin said. “For some reason he seems to fancy you.”

“And I fancy him,” Estella said. “But we aren’t talking about Merry and me, we are talking about you and Diamond Took. You seem, in your own rather odd way, to fancy her. Am I wrong?”

“No, you aren’t wrong,” Pippin said.

“Then find her and ask her to dance,” Estella instructed.

“What if she was only being polite before and she doesn’t really want to dance with me?” Pippin asked, worriedly.

“Then she’ll say so and you’ll be no worse off then you are now,’ Estella advised. “I don’t think anyone will be able to stand it if you moon about over this lass until your next birthday. Now, ask her.”

Pippin sighed, “I suppose I could.” He turned and began to walk in the direction that he’d seen Diamond go while Estella, exasperated, watched. How did Merry do this all of the time? Why did he bother? This was just far to much work is what this was.

He found her standing alone near an open door with her back to him and nearly lost his nerve again. Her dark curls hung to the middle of her shoulder blades and white ribbons were hanging all through them. He cleared his throat and she turned to face him and smiled. “I wanted to aks you something,” Pippin began, gathering his nerve.

She walked over to meet him and smiled a bit more. “What was it that you wanted, Peregrin?”

“Would you do me the honor of allowing me to dance with you?” Pippin said, looking into her dark eyes.

She took his hand. “I would be delighted, though I thought you might never ask.”

Pippin smiled, “It was a bit difficult for me, but I’m very glad that I managed it.” He led her onto the dance floor and they began to dance.

Across the room, Nell put her hand on Estella’s shoulder and asked, “What did you say to him?”

“I think I used Merry against him,” Estella said.

Frodo laughed. “You’re learning.”

Nell smiled and watched her younger brother lead Diamond along the floor. “They look suited to one another.”

“Now, Nell,” Frodo cautioned. “It’s only one dance.”

“Yes, but still,” Nell smiled. Frodo followed her gaze and watched Pippin dancing with the object of his affections. He could she that Pippin was saying something to her and Diamond was laughing. They both seemed to be enjoying themself a great deal. Still, it was only a dance.

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

Sometime later, Saradoc Brandybuck came into the room to check on Merry. All of Merry’s guests were gone except one. Pippin lay sound asleep next to Merry on the bed, still in his party clothes. Merry was also asleep. His son had draped a protective arm across his younger cousin and both were snoring lightly.

Saradoc smiled to himself. Here he’d been worried that both lads had grown up during the quest and had returned to the Shire completely changed. He had worried that his Merry would never be able to return to a normal life. He had watched Pippin jump at the slightest sound and reach for a sword that he wasn’t wearing. He had watched Merry leave a lantern lit in his room at night and wondered if his only son would ever sleep peacefully in the dark again. They were, both of them, changed. That was true enough, but there still remained a great deal of the two lads that he had watched grow up.

He laid a blanket over Pippin who was just resting on top of the covers and holding a white strand of ribbon in one hand. He pushed a stray lock of Merry’s hair out of his eyes. They were going to be just fine. It would take some time, but these two, at least, would be fine. "Good night, my dearest Merry and many happy returns of the day, Pippin," Saradoc whispered as he left them.






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