119. Chapter 118 - September 1444
Autumn came earlier in the Shire, arriving in a riot of color that took Éowyn’s breath away. No tree in Ithilien could match the rich reds and golds of Tuckborough. It grew colder earlier as well, even earlier than she was used to in Rohan. Ithilien tended to stay warm even into November, but the Shire had already had its first frost. Brandy Hall was starting to bustle with preparations for harvesting and storing crops.
She’d tried to make herself useful, finally convincing Merry’s cousins that she wasn’t an ordinary guest and was quite happy to help in the kitchen. She had enjoyed their hospitality long enough and wanted to help out, to earn her keep while she lived at Brandy Hall. Her plans to return to Rohan weren’t so certain anymore.
She was finally getting used to everything being smaller. Her gaze tended to rest lower now as she walked the halls, to make eye contact with passing hobbits. She was able to gracefully sit in a smaller chair, folding her legs to the side, and dipping her head to walk through doorways had become second nature.
Today she was enjoying a visit from Ivy and the grandchildren. Éowyn watched as Fari, Theo and Eomer led Bori, Willow and Ari around the paddock on ponies. She was delighted to see that all of Ivy’s children had inherited a natural ability to ride. They looked like normal Hobbit children, but there was a bit of Rohan in them after all. Especially Ari. He was happiest on the back of a pony and would ride all day if they let him. Éowyn smiled. She’d heard stories that her brother had been the same way.
Ivy sat beside her, running her fingers through Éoleof’s hair to pull the tangles out. Éoleof had the unruly curls of a hobbit, though her hair was as soft and fine like her mother’s and grandmother’s. Which only seemed to make the tangles worse.
“How are you doing, Ivy?” Éowyn asked. It had been a while since she had last seen her daughter. Ivy had responsibilities at the Smials, especially as it was getting close to harvest.
Ivy looked over at her. “I’m good.” She brushed her hand over Éoleof’s head, the curls now free of tangles. She rested her cheek on her daughter’s head. “I’m thinking about having another baby.”
Éowyn studied her for a moment. After their previous conversation about babies, Ivy had seemed quite determined that Éoleof would be her last. “Do what’s right for you, Ivy. Don’t do it because you think others want you to.”
Ivy nodded. “I know.”
Éowyn didn’t think Pippin would pressure her about it, but... “Have you discussed it with Pippin?”
Ivy shook her head. “Not yet. I want to be sure I’m ready first. I know he’ll be excited though.” She smiled, relaxing, and Éowyn saw that underneath her daughter’s worries and doubts, perhaps Ivy really was ready to have another child. “I think deep down he feels a need to compete with Sam,” Ivy said. “Ego and all that.” She chuckled. “I haven’t the heart to tell him Sam has already won.”
They laughed and Éoleof joined in, giggling and clapping. Éowyn pulled her granddaughter into her lap and hugged her.
“How are you and Dad doing?” Ivy asked.
“We’re enjoying each other’s company,” Éowyn said. She ran her fingers through the soft curls that Ivy had just untangled and kissed her granddaughter.
“Have you bedded him yet?”
“Ivy!” Éowyn looked up sharply at her daughter. Her cheeks were warm and she knew she must glowing red.
Ivy grinned at her, that cheeky grin she’d gotten from her father. “Is that a ‘yes’?”
Éowyn gave her daughter an exasperated look and shook her head. “No. We haven’t. It’s not something either of us want to rush into.” Not that she hadn’t thought about it.
Ivy leaned over and kissed her cheek. “As long as you’re enjoying each other’s company. It’s good to see you both happy again.”
Éowyn nodded and hugged Éoleof. She was happy again. And she didn’t even feel guilty about it anymore.
“You managed to go a whole afternoon without one dirty look at Éowyn. I’m proud of you.”
“Leave me alone, Theo.” Eomer turned his back on his brother, concentrating on brushing the pony. He’d been avoiding his brother--and his father--for the past month. He’d only come outside with them today because Willow had begged him to.
He’d gone back to the farm right after his row with his dad last month, but both his grandmother and Uncle Freddy had insisted he couldn’t hide there forever and made him come back to Brandy Hall again. They said he had to stay at here at least a week.
He glanced up when he heard whispers and laughter. Theo and Fari were over by the tack room, heads together, obviously plotting something. Eomer turned back to the pony. Fari was more like Theo’s brother than he was. They fit together, just like their fathers. Just like Fari was the image of Pippin, Theo was a nearly perfect copy of their dad--his looks, his voice and--according to the old aunts--his behavior.
He, on the other hand, took after his mother’s side. His name may be Brandybuck, but he was a Bolger through and through. Sometimes he wished he would have been Uncle Freddy’s son. He had more in common with his uncle than with his father. And he’d always been closer to his mother...
He bit his lip hard, trying not to cry. He thought he’d gotten over this. It’s been three years, after all. And he had been over it, until Éowyn showed up...
Eomer buried his face in the pony’s neck, his fingers fisting the mane, not wanting Theo or Fari to see his tears. “Go away,” he mumbled.
He heard whispers, then the sound of footsteps trotting out of the stable. He felt a hand on his shoulder and tried to shake it off, but it wouldn’t let go.
“Eomer?” Theo’s voice was different. It wasn’t the cheeky, laughing, irresponsible voice he was used to, but calm and serious and very grown up. “Tell me.”
“I miss her.” And with those words everything he’d been trying to hold in let loose and he was sobbing and Theo was pulling him away from the pony and into an embrace. Eomer didn’t even have the will to fight him, he let Theo hold him as he sobbed into his brother’s shoulder.
Theo murmured comfort into his hair and rubbed his back and Eomer found his arms going around around his brother, holding tight. When the tears ended, Theo led him over to sit on the farrier’s bench.
“What is this all about? Is it about your argument with Dad?” Theo asked, keeping an arm around Eomer as he sat next to him. “Is it me? I’m sorry, Eomer, I haven’t been a very good brother, have I?”
Eomer shrugged. “It’s both of you, really.” He took a breath against the sob threatening to choke him. “How can you forget Mum so easily?”
“We’re not forgetting her, Eomer. We’ll never do that.” Theo leaned over to look in his brother’s face. “I know it’s hard. It’s been hard for me, too. But we have to let go. Mum would want us to move on and be happy. She’d want Dad to be happy.”
Eomer squeezed his eyes shut. “I don’t know if I can, Theo. I thought I had moved on, but when Éowyn came here... It felt like you didn’t care about Mum anymore. You were happy to have Éowyn replace her.”
Theo put his arm around him and touched their heads together. “I think you need to talk to Éowyn. She doesn’t want to replace Mum.” Eomer felt Theo sigh into his hair. “She understands, you know. She knows how you feel, because Ivy’s sister feels the same way you do. And it hurts Éowyn. And it hurts Dad. And they don’t want to hurt either of you, but they can’t help how they feel about each other.” Theo pulled back. “Will you try talking to her? I think it will help you.”
“I don’t know.” Eomer didn’t really want to talk to her, but he didn’t know if it was because he was still angry about her or embarrassed by his own behavior.
“Just think about it, all right?”
Eomer nodded. Then he sniffled and wiped his eyes on his sleeve. “I suppose you and Fari will have a good laugh about me crying like a lass,” he mumbled.
“Gods, no, Eomer! I would never do that to you. And Fari wouldn’t laugh at you, either. If anyone knows about feeling hurt, it’s Fari. Our mum may be dead, but at least we know that she loved us.” Theo gave a glance towards the empty doorway, the way Fari had left. “He didn’t have a mother because Diamond never loved him,” he said quietly. “Fari misses Mum, too, Eomer. The closest he’s ever had to a mother was her and Aunt Rosie. Even Ivy is still more like his... sister, I suppose.” Theo wrinkled his nose. “Wait, that doesn’t sound quite right, does it?”
Laughter burst out of Eomer and he clapped his hand over his mouth. Theo elbowed him, grinning. “Why don’t you quit sulking and come with Fari and me. We used to be a trio until you decided you’d rather spend all your time in Bridgefields playing gentleman farmer.”
Eomer opened his mouth to protest. He had a lot to learn about farming. Clara and Chloe had no interest in the farm, so he would be inheriting it from Uncle Freddy someday. But then again, Theo and Fari were going to be inheriting a lot more responsibilities than him and they didn’t seem concerned about it. And he realized just how much he missed them.
“All right,” he said.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.