13. Chapter 12 - May 1420
Ivy was curled up on Frodo’s lap, playing with the Elven pendant that hung around his neck. Frodo was smoothing her hair, lost in thought.
Merry walked over to them, finally able to breath now that he’d found his daughter. “I was wondering where she got off to,” he said and Frodo looked up at him. Although his health had improved since Merry had last seen him, Frodo’s blue eyes were still dark and sunken.
“Hello, Merry,” Frodo said. He sounded tired. Frodo smiled at Ivy. “We’re just getting to know each other better, right Ivy-lass.” Ivy looked up at Frodo, the jewel clasped tightly in a pudgy fist, and grinned at him. A single tooth showed and a bit of drool appeared at the corner of her mouth.
Merry pulled out his handkerchief and wiped her face. “She’s not too much trouble for you?”
“No, Merry. We’re fine.” Frodo sighed. “I actually feel better when I hold her. She’s a bit of light in the dark.” Frodo kissed her head. Ivy laughed and patted his cheek.
Merry crouched down to rummage through the bag next to the chair. “Do you need me to help with anything?” he asked. “Her bottle? A clean diaper?”
“No,” Frodo laughed, “Pippin has already showed me how to feed her and change her and gave me all sorts of instructions, even made me recite it all back to him before he would entrust her to me.”
Merry laughed. “Yeah, he’s a good mum, isn’t he?” He looked over his shoulder to where Pippin was telling stories of his travels to a group of doe-eyed lasses, resplendent in his Gondorian armor.
Frodo nudged Merry’s shoulder. “You should marry him before someone else snatches him up.”
“Ha, ha.” Merry said and gave him a withering look. Frodo was never going to stop teasing them about those rumors.
“Anyone else in mind, then?” Frodo asked slyly.
Merry sighed and sat back on his heels. He was too busy with Ivy and the work restoring the Shire to worry about courting. “No. I just don’t have the time to find anyone,” he sighed. He shrugged. “I really don’t think I’m ready to get married anyway.”
He stood up and turned directly into the path of someone who gave a surprised squeal as they both fell to the ground. He found himself lying on his back underneath a pretty hobbit lass with chestnut hair and dark brown eyes. It took him a moment to realize it was Freddy Bolger’s sister.
“Estella?” he asked.
“Oh, I’m so sorry Merry!” she said and scrambled to her feet. “I was just coming over to see the baby and I wasn’t watching where I was going.”
“That’s all right, Estella,” he said as he got up. “I wasn’t watching, either.”
She smiled at him, then turned away and knelt in front of Frodo. “Oh, she’s adorable!” she cooed. “Freddy told us about her, but I haven’t had a chance to visit.”
Merry was barely listening. He stared in wonder at the girl, wondering how she had changed so much since he had last seen her, a few weeks before leaving on their Quest. She’d transformed from a scruffy tomboy, who had insisted on tagging along after her brother and his friends, to the pretty lass now in front of him.
Frodo caught his eye and gave him a meaningful wink. Merry felt his cheeks warm.
“Can I hold her?” Estella asked.
“Certainly!” Frodo said and he passed Ivy over. Having lost the Evenstar, Ivy turned her attention to Estella’s necklace.
Frodo coughed and stood up. “I’m going to go get a drink,” he said. He grinned at Merry and walked off.
Merry watched Estella play with Ivy. They were giggling at each other and Merry was surpised to find that he was very happy that Ivy liked her. When she grew bored with the necklace, Ivy stuck her fingers in her mouth and started to fuss.
“She’s hungry,” said Merry. “I can take her now.”
“I can do it!” said Estella. “I mean, if it’s all right.”
Merry smiled. “If you’re prepared to deal with the mess.” He pulled out the little crock of mushy carrots and a spoon and handed it to Estella. He sat on the ground next to them, ready to take Ivy is she made too much of a mess, but Estella quite deftly balanced baby and crock on her lap.
“You’re good with babies,” Merry said. “She usually puts up a fuss and spits it all out.”
“I love babies,” Estella said, never taking her eyes off Ivy. “I’m learning to be a midwife.” She looked up and smiled at Merry. “I’m impressed with how well you and Pippin have done with her. Fathers aren’t usually this involved.”
“Well, I don’t have a wife to take all the responsibility,” he said. “So I have to do it myself.”
Estella pursed her lips, started to say something, stopped, then spoke in a low voice. “Is it true her mother is one of the Big Folk?”
Merry nodded. The current round of rumors couldn’t decide whether Ivy’s mother was one of the Big Folk or an elf. It was obvious she wasn’t fully hobbit. She was much bigger than other babies her age. His parents, Pippin, Frodo and Sam were still the only ones who knew the whole truth.
“I won’t say anything,” she said, her cheeks going pink. “I’ve heard all those rumors going around and I won’t have anything to do with them.”
She smiled back at him, her cheeks flushing a little darker, nearly red now. Merry felt his stomach flutter.
Estella turned back to Ivy and Merry looked out at the crowd. He saw Frodo, Pippin and Sam huddled together, watching him, with goofy grins on their faces. When they saw him looking back they all turned away. He felt his face grow hot. He turned back to Estella and Ivy.
They sat quietly while Estella finished feeding Ivy, the silence just a little too awkward.
“You look nice in your armor,” Estella finally said.
“Oh. Thanks.” Merry could feel himself blushing again and the armor was suddenly feeling a bit warm.
The awkward silence returned. Merry kept stealing glances at Estella. She was now teaching Ivy to play pat-a-cake. Estella laughed and kissed Ivy’s brow. Merry’s stomach fluttered again.
“Would you like to come over some time. For dinner,” he asked. His heart leapt into his throat. Did he really just ask her to...? He coughed. “Um, to see Ivy? She really likes you.” Estella looked up at him. Merry wondered if his face was as red as hers.
“Sure, Merry, I’d love to come see Ivy,” she said.
“How about tomorrow?” he asked.
She nodded, then gave him a sly smile. “But on one condition?”
“I get to see you, too.”
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.