15. Chapter 14 - June 1420
“There’s my sweet girl!” Esmeralda Brandybuck swept into the Master’s parlor and plucked her granddaughter up off the floor. “My but you’re getting big!” she said, before smothering Ivy with kisses. Then she turned to her son. “How are you, Merry?”
“Oh, you noticed me!” Merry said, laughing. “I thought I was just Ivy’s transportation nowadays.”
“Oh, you!” his mother scoffed, giving him a gentle cuff on the head. She leaned down and kissed him. “I love to see you both. I wish I could see you more. Ah! I know. But you want to live at Crickhollow.”
She seated herself on the small couch next to Merry, settling Ivy onto her lap. She kissed Ivy’s brow. “She’s been eating all right, since you’ve started weaning her from her bottle?”
“Yes, Mum. She likes her vegetables and we’ve even started teaching her to drink from a cup.”
Esmeralda nodded and smiled at Ivy. “You’re getting to be a big girl,” she said, bouncing Ivy on her knee. “And where is that cousin of yours, Merry? I’m not used to seeing one of you without the other.”
Merry chuckled. “He’s staying at the Smials until my birthday, if you can believe that. His mum’s convinced him to try to work things out with his dad.” Merry coughed. “We’ll see.”
“Yes, well...” His mother set a squirming Ivy on the floor. “My brother is stubborn and his son equally so. Unfortunately, they just don’t see eye-to-eye on anything. Pippin takes after your Grandfather Adalgrim, having a rather relaxed outlook on life. He and your Uncle Paladin didn’t get along so well, either. Pal... he just worries so much. He’s only had a few years to get used to being Thain and, well, he’s not getting any younger. He worries that Pippin isn’t serious about the responsibility.”
“Mum! Pippin’s changed--”
“I know, Merry. I know Pippin is a changed hobbit. But he’s not exactly showing that to his father now, is he? Running off out of the Shire and making us worry? Twice! He keeps avoiding talking to his father. And then living at Crickhollow... I know he’s helping you, Merry, but Pippin’s got other responsibilities he’s going to have to accept, too.”
“I know, Mum,” Merry mumbled.
Ivy crawled over to him. “Da!” She grabbed his trouser leg and pulled herself up on wobbly legs to stand next to him.
“Clever girl!” Esmeralda exclaimed. Ivy grinned up at her grandmother and Esmeralda patted her soft curls. “How long has she been doing that?”
“Just a few days now.” He picked up Ivy and cuddled her on his lap. “We’ll surprise your Uncle Pippin when he gets home, won’t we, love?”
“Da da da!” she yelled happily.
“We think she’s trying to say ‘dad’,” Merry said, grinning quite proudly.
“She is getting to that age,” Esmeralda said. She leaned over to smile at Ivy and tickle her granddaughter’s nose. “Aren’t you, sweet one?” She looked back up at Merry. “Does she only say it to you?”
Merry shrugged. “For the most part. I’ve tried to get her to say ‘Pippin’, but it came out as ‘pee’. Pippin wasn’t too happy with that. I thought it was funny.”
He snickered and his mother rolled her eyes. “How old are you two, again?” she asked.
Merry just grinned at her.
“So,” Esmeralda said, slapping her hands on her knees, “what’s this I hear about Estella Bolger?”
“Oh.” Merry felt his cheeks warm. “Well. I’ve...um...I’ve been kind of seeing her... a little. Nothing serious, really. You know.”
“Hmmmm.” Esmeralda gave him a pointed look. “You’ll have to get a better story than that. I am your mother, after all.” She chuckled and patted his leg. “From that look on your face, I believe you are quite taken with Estella.”
He shrugged. “Maybe.”
“Well, I think she is a lovely girl. You should invite her here for tea sometime soon.”
“Mum! It’s not like that. Not yet. I mean...” He sighed. “I don’t want to rush anything. I’ve known her all her life, but only as Freddy’s sister, not... you know.”
“A potential wife?”
Merry rested his cheek on Ivy’s head. “Maybe.”
“Well, there’s no rush,” his mother said. She leaned over and kissed his cheek. “But I still think you should invite her to tea.”
Merry chuckled. “Yes, mum.”
Merry startled when the front door slammed open, making him spatter ink on his page. He turned in time to see Pippin disappear up the hallway. Merry groaned and set his pen down. Pippin was supposed to be staying at the Smials until his birthday party next month. It had only been a week.
He got up, gave a quick glance to make sure Ivy hadn’t woken when Pip had stormed in, and went out in the hall, closing the bedroom door behind him. He heard clanging and muttering in the ktichen.
He stopped in the doorway to the kitchen. Pippin was digging through the pantry, pulling out what was most likely both a dinner and a supper missed while he was on the road.
“What are you doing home?” Merry asked. He knew the answer but thought he should ask, just to get Pippin to talk about it and cool down.
Pippin looked up at him and gave him a forced smile. “Hello, Merry! How was your week? Mine was just lovely, considering my father has completely lost his mind.” Pippin tossed the bread he was holding onto the table and went back into the pantry.
Merry sighed and reached up on a shelf for a bottle of whiskey. He suspected this was going to be a long night.
Pippin came back with with a block of cheese and slammed it onto the table.
“Hey!” Merry said, setting bottle and glasses on the table. “Ivy is sleeping, you know.”
Pippin stopped in his tracks and his face fell. “I’m sorry, Merry. I forgot. I...” He slumped down into a chair. “It’s been a horrible week.”
Merry filled a glass and pushed the amber liquid to Pippin. Pippin took a huge gulp, wincing a little. “Thanks.”
“So what happened?” Merry asked as he poured his own glass.
“More of the usual. He was after me to move back to the Smials and be a ‘proper heir’.” Pippin snorted and took another swig. “He started in on me settling down and I had to entertain three different very boring lasses.” Pipipn waved his glass at Merry. “You know, I wish he’d make up his mind whether I’m a child or not, because for treating me like one he certainly wants to get me married awful quick.” He took another drink.
Merry cut some bread and cheese and put it on a plate. “Here. Eat something before you drink anymore.”
“Thanks.” Pippin said, attacking the food. “I didn’t stop to eat. I just wanted to get away from there and get home.”
Merry got up and found him a few apples in a basket near the door. “There’s some ham in the cellar from dinner. Do you want some of that?”
“That’s a silly question, Merry!”
“I know, I know.” Merry set the apples on the table and went to the cellar. He came back with the platter of ham and found Pippin had Ivy cuddled in his arms.
“She woke up.” Pippin said, a little guiltily.
Merry could have pointed out that she would have gone right back to sleep, but maybe it would help Pippin calm down if he held Ivy for a while. Ivy seemed wide awake, anyway. He set the platter on the table.
“Oh, thanks Merry!” he said, and dug into his supper.
“So how is everyone else in Tuckborough?” Merry asked, picking out a few slices of ham for himself.
Pippin frowned. “Mum and my sisters are all peeved with me for coming back here.” He shrugged. “They’ll get over it.” He gave Ivy a little piece of cheese to chew on. “After the first big blow-up with the Thain, I spent most of my time out hunting with Reg and Ferdy. Which was nice, although Reg has a lass, so I had to listen to him go on about her.” He rolled his eyes.
“Jealous?” Merry smirked.
“Right, Merry. Like I want to bother with a lass now. No matter what my father thinks, I’m only thirty! I’ve got plenty of time. Look at you, you waited until you’re nearly thirty-eight! Well, nearly thirty-seven if you count Éowyn.”
Merry was about to protest, that there wasn’t anything with Éowyn to count, not really, but Pippin cut him off.
“Did you see Estella again?”
Merry couldn’t help the smile. “Yeah. Mum made me invite her to tea at the Hall.”
Pippin laughed. “She’s got her daughter-in-law all picked out then?”
Merry shrugged. It certainly seemed like his mother had her heart set on Estella for a daughter-in-law. They got along wonderfully and his mum was already making noise about inviting Estella’s family to dinner soon. And his mother seemed not to hear him when he said he didn’t want to rush into anything.
Pippin frowned at him. “What’s wrong?”
“I don’t know, Pippin. It’s just that my mum and dad, and you...you’re all expecting me to propose to her tomorrow or something. We just started seeing each other!”
“Sorry, Merry,” Pippin said. “It’s just that when you look at her...well, it’s hard not to notice what you feel about her.”
“But I don’t know what I feel about her.” He sighed and rubbed his brow. “Not yet, anyway.” He slouched back in his chair and glared at the floor. He wished...he wished everyone would leave him alone and let him work this out on his own.
“I thought I was supposed to be the one in the bad mood tonight, right Ivy-lass?” Pippin turned her around to kiss her cheek. She giggled and patted his face and he laughed. “How was our girl this week,” he asked. “Did you miss me, Ivy?” He hugged her.
Merry frowned as he watched Pippin and Ivy. That little nagging hint of jealousy reared up and his mood was just bad enough that he couldn’t push it away. “I think it’s time for Ivy to go back to bed,” he said. He got up and went over to Pippin, holding out his arms.
“All right,” Pippin sighed. He kissed Ivy’s brow. “Good night, Ivy-lass,” he said and handed her to Merry.
“Can you put this away?” Merry asked, a bit shortly, gesturing at the food on the table.
“Sure, Merry,” Pippin said. “I’m not really tired yet anyway.” He frowned up at Merry. “Are you all right?”
“Yeah, Pip. I’m just...tired.” He sighed, angry at himself for letting his worries about Estella and his own irrational jealousies make him get angry at Pippin. “We’ll see you in the morning.”
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.