75. Chapter 74 - July 1436
Merry slammed his book down and glared at Estella. “What’s there to talk about? She certainly doesn’t seem to want to come to me about her problems.” Any attempt to reason with Ivy these past two months had been met with angry outbursts that ‘he didn’t understand’ or sullen silences before running off to her room in a huff. “I’ve tried talking to her, Estella. She refuses to listen to me.”
“Perhaps you should try talking to her, rather than at her.”
“Would it matter?” Merry asked angrily. “She doesn’t want to listen. She’s already made up her mind that I’m wrong. There’s no talking to her.”
“I wonder where she got her stubborness from?” Estella asked sweetly, raising an eyebrow at Merry.
He frowned, not amused at all by her little jibe. “You know I’m right on this, Estella.”
“On some things, yes,” Estella said. “And Ivy knows that. She knows she made a mistake.” Estella sighed. “But you’re not listening to her Merry. You’re not listening to why she decided to do what she did.”
Merry huffed in frustration. “Why are you taking her side? Do you actually approve of this?” He couldn’t believe Estella would agree with Ivy on this.
Estella shook her head. “I’m not taking her side, Merry,” she said. “I’m not taking anyone’s side. And no, I don’t approve of what they did.” She pursed her lips thoughfully for a moment. “But I do not disapprove of them.”
Merry gaped at her. He couldn’t believe he was hearing this. “You approve of her and Pippin?”
“Ivy is right, Merry. She’s going to have a hard time finding anyone else. You know how she’s been treated in Gondor and here.” Estella leaned forward in her chair to touch his arm. “What if Pippin is her only choice?”
“No,” Merry said, shaking his head. “You’re talking about a sixteen-year-old and a forty-six-year old! A married forty-six-year old, I might add. She may be maturing like one of the Big Folk, but she’s a hobbit as well!” He picked his book back up and flipped through the pages to find his place. “She just hasn’t found the right lad yet. She’s got plenty of time for that.” He couldn’t find his page, the words were a blur to him. He slammed the book shut in frustration. “Is there anything wrong with her waiting until she’s officially of age!”
“So she should wait until she’s thirty-three to get married?” Estella asked, her voice raising a little from its usual calm. “Then what, Merry? One, maybe two, children? You know she loves children. Would you deny her the family she wants?”
Merry waved his hands in the air, confused. “What are you talking about?”
Estella sighed and bowed her head. “You haven’t thought about it, have you?” she asked softly.
Merry shook his head. What was she talking about?
Estella looked at him and it almost looked like pity on her face. “Ivy told me that Éowyn had been worried about her pregnancy with Théodwyn. Because she was getting too old to have children. She was thirty-five, Merry. Is that what you want for Ivy? To be too old to have a family?” She sighed. “Ivy and I talked about this. It’s something she’s wondered about since she’s matured early like the Big Folk. We don’t know how much extra time her hobbit blood will give her for bearing children, or even for living.”
Living? Merry felt a stab of fear in his heart. “What are you saying?”
“Merry, your daughter may die of old age before you do,” Estella said sadly. “Pippin may outlive her. Their ages aren’t so important when you consider that.”
Merry went cold. This was insane. How could he outlive his daughter?
Estella took his hand and squeezed it. “Merry, she is not a hobbit. Not completely. You have to let her do what is right for her.”
This was too much for him to handle, he couldn’t deal with what Estella was telling him. He stood up. “I need to go for a walk,” he said and headed for the door.
Merry ignored Estella and kept going, out to the hallway and out the back door to the garden. He had to be alone. He had to think. He had to try to make sense of what Estella was telling him. Ivy could die of old age before you do. He shook his head. No. It couldn’t be true. They were wrong. Ivy was a hobbit and she’d live to a ripe old age for a hobbit, after she found a nice lad her own age to have a family with, and nothing would convince him otherwise.
Ivy didn’t think she’d ever been as miserable as she was at her father’s fifty-fourth birthday party.
Her dad had been watching her like a hawk ever since Pippin arrived. And when he wasn’t watching her, he was glaring at Pippin. She was surprised Pippin had even been invited, but she supposed it would have been a cause for gossip if the Thain didn’t come to the Master’s birthday.
He was doing a good job of pretending nothing was wrong, occasionally chatting with Pippin like nothing had ever happened if they ended up in the same group of guests. She was tired of her father’s public pretense that they were still friends. She could tell it hurt Pippin. Of course, her dad was doing the same to her. In front of the guests, he talked to her more tonight than he had in the past two months.
She crossed her arms and looked around the garden. At least her father was occupied now, talking to Uncle Freddy. Her eyes wandered more, to the other side of the garden, where she found Pippin talking to Uncle Sam.
She felt the familiar flutter and tingle when she looked at him. He looked better now. He didn’t look worn anymore. Estella had heard from Pippin’s sisters that he’d stopped drinking. He’d even locked up the bottles and given his cousin Reg the key. If he had guests who required a drink, Reg got it for them.
He still looked sad, though, and she knew it was because of her father. Because of her. Because she was the one who’d messed things up between them. She wished she could change things, take it back to the way it was, make it so her Dad and Pippin were best friends again.
Pippin laughed at something Sam said and Ivy smiled. She wished she could hear him laugh more. She wished she could see him more. She missed him, as her friend just as much as her... lover? Her cheeks burned at the thought.
“You look like you need a drink!” Estella said cheerily, grabbing her arm and steering her towards the drinks table. Estella leaned in close as they walked. “You’ve got to pay attention, Ivy,” she whispered. “You can’t be standing around blushing over Pippin. What if someone noticed, or your father saw you?”
“Sorry,” she mumbled. She supposed it was a little obvious what she was thinking. Her cheeks were still warm. She took the cup of wine from Estella and was careful not to look in Pippin’s direction anymore.
“Mum!” Theo ran up to Estella, followed closely by Fari. “Can Fari stay with us this week?”
Estella put her hands on her hips. “Have you asked his dad?”
The boys looked at each other. “No,” they said in unison. They turned and scurried away into the crowd.
Estella chuckled as they watched them go, weaving between guests towards Pippin. “Fari stayed with us quite a bit while you were gone,” Estella said.
Ivy nodded. “I know. Theo told me in his letters.” She still felt sorry for Fari, for what he had to go through.
Estella raised an eyebrow. “You and Theo wrote a lot to each other.”
Ivy shrugged. “I had to find out what was really going on somehow.” She gave Estella an innocent smile.
Estella chuckled. “So we do have you to thank for Theo’s nosiness and gossiping.”
Ivy’s smile faded. “You could have just told me the truth.”
“Yes, well... Your father thought it better not to tell you. He didn’t want you to worry.”
“That’s right. I’m just a child,” she said bitterly.
They were interrupted by the return of the boys. Fari had Pippin by the hand, dragging him over to Estella. “Dad says it’s all right!” he said happily.
Ivy didn’t notice what Estella said, because she suddenly found herself next to Pippin. Today was the first she’d seen him since he’d left her that day in May. She glanced over at him, but he was keeping his eyes on Fari and Estella. He wasn’t as pale as he had been, and he looked like he’d put on a little weight. If the only thing this whole mess had accomplished was to get him to stop drinking, she would accept that.
“What’s going on?”
Ivy bowed her head. She didn’t want to look at her dad right now.
“We’re just arranging Fari staying with the us for a week,” Estella said quickly. Ivy felt sorry for Estella, always being caught in the middle like this.
“Faramir is always welcome,” her father said coldly.
“Yes, well, it’s all arranged,” Pippin said, his voice a little shaky. “I have some things to do, so I’ll have Ferdy come get him next week.”
Ivy looked up sharply at her father. The tone of her father’s voice said exactly what the word didn’t say. Good, you won’t be coming back. Why did he have to be so stubborn about all this? Why couldn’t he accept that it was her fault and Pippin was sorry?
“I should...” Pippin bowed his head. “I need to talk to Freddy. Excuse me.” He hurried away.
Ivy glared at her father. He glared back at her. She slammed her cup down on the table and stalked away across the garden, making her way to the path to the stables. She needed to be alone and the stables had always been a favorite place to hide. Stables were quiet, cozy places that smelled of hay and horses. Was there anything better? Besides, she was getting sick of her room.
First she stopped to see Star. She hugged the pony’s neck, burying her face in the coarse mane. She’d considered more than a few times just getting on Star and running away to Rohan. But Uncle Éomer would probably send her back. Her mother probably would, too, just to make her work things out with her dad. She sniffled into Star’s mane, then patted the pony’s velvety nose before making her way down to the tack room. It had always been her favorite refuge as a child. She lay herself down on a pile of blankets and wept.
She couldn’t handle her dad not speaking to her, how he looked at her in anger and disappointment. She couldn’t handle not being able to see Pippin, just to talk to him. Estella seemed to understand her, but she hated putting Estella in the middle. She had no one to talk to. No one else could know. And who would she tell anyway? All her friends in the Shire were too young. Theo knew what was going on, but he certainly couldn’t help her with this. She had written to her mother, but she would probably just tell her the same things as Estella anyway. She’d really messed up, when all she’d wanted was to make things better.
Ivy sat up. Pippin was in the doorway. She had never heard him come in.
“What are you doing here?” She sniffled and wiped her eyes on her sleeve.
“I was planning on going home, but I heard you crying. What’s wrong?” he asked.
“Dad...” she said, and wept again. Pippin came in and sat next to her. He put an arm around her, but she pulled away from him. “Don’t, Pippin. If Dad finds out...”
He handed her his handkerchief for her sniffles and smiled at her. “No matter what, I’m still your friend, Ivy. Do you want to talk about it?”
Ivy let loose then, sobbing, because he still wanted to be her friend, and this time she let him put his arms around her. When she could catch her breath, she told him of her problems with her Dad, that he wouldn’t listen to her, that he wouldn’t understand. Then he held her as she cried into his shoulder, rubbing her back and murmuring in her ear that things would be all right. She wished she could believe him.
She wrapped her arms around his waist. “I miss you,” she whispered. She rested her head on his shoulder. He didn’t say anything, but he tightened his hold on her slightly. She sighed, comforted just by being close to him.
“Get away from her, Pippin.”
Ivy startled and looked towards the door. Her father was here.
Pippin straightened, but he didn’t let go of her. “Merry...”
Her father’s face was red, his eyes narrowed in anger. “I figured this would happen. Someone said you had left and then Ivy was nowhere to be found. You can’t control yourself for one night?”
“You’re not drunk, so what excuse are you going to use this time to bed my daughter?”
Ivy felt sick. Her father’s words had cut her. He didn’t trust her. He thought they only wanted sex. She buried her face in Pippin’s neck and sobbed.
“Look what you’ve done to her!” Merry shouted. “She’s mooning over a hobbit nearly old enough to be her father!”
“This has nothing to do with me!” Pippin said angrily.
“Oh, really? Then why are you here with her, alone in the stable? Planning to ‘comfort’ her again with a roll in the hay?”
Ivy pulled away from Pippin and ran, pushing past her father. She just couldn’t deal with him anymore.
They both watched Ivy run out of the stable, sobbing. Then Pippin clenched his fists and stood up. He couldn’t take this anymore. He couldn’t take Merry being a bloody stubborn ass and hurting Ivy like this. He walked towards Merry, more angry than he’d ever been in his whole life, and backed his cousin against the wall. Merry actually looked shocked and a little scared.
“How dare you talk about her like that?” Pippin shouted. “You have no idea what is troubling her and then you go and make it worse! I don’t care if you hate me, but I do care about what you’re doing to her!” Pippin got right into his face. “She wasn’t crying over me! She was crying over you!” He punctuated the ‘you’ with a finger stabbing Merry’s chest. He stepped back. “Maybe you should try talking to her for once.” He turned and left the room, angrily pulling on his riding gloves as he stormed through the stable and out to the yard. He curtly dismissed the stableboy holding his mare and kicked her into a gallop towards home.
It wasn’t until he was past Stock that he realized it was the first time in his life he’d really blown up at Merry. Pippin had always been on the receiving end of his older cousin’s scoldings. Merry certainly seemed surprised by it. He hadn’t said a word, just gaped wide-eyed at him as Pippin unleased his anger. He gave a wry smile. With any luck, maybe it would shock Merry into talking to his daughter.
Ivy lay on her bed, clutching Pippin’s handkerchief. Why did her father think like that about her? Why couldn’t he understand how much Pippin meant to her?
She heard a knock on her door. She guessed he had gotten Estella to come deal with her again. “Go away, Estella!” she yelled. The door opened anyway.
She sighed. It was her father. Just what she needed right now. She rolled away from him.
“I’m sorry, Ivy. I’m sorry about what I said.”
He actually sounded sorry. She rolled back to face him. “But it’s what you think, isn’t it? You don’t trust me. Or Pippin. Do you really think that all I want from him is to get him into my bed?”
He flinched a little at her words. “I’m sorry, but I was angry. I feel like he’s betrayed me. It’s not easy to find out your best friend has bedded your daughter.” He sat down on the end of her bed. “I’m sorry, Ivy. I shouldn’t have blamed you for this.”
She ground her teeth. She wanted to yell at him that she was to blame and why wouldn’t he listen to her, that it wasn’t Pippin’s fault, but she also knew she had to fix this. If she didn’t repair things with her dad, there was no way she’d convince him to make up with Pippin. And after seeing how hurt Pippin was today, she knew that needed to happen. She swallowed her anger and sat up. “Do you realize that he’s my best friend, too? He’s always been my friend, Dad. When the other children avoided me because I was different, he was there for me.”
Her father rubbed his temple. “He’s almost thirty years older than you, Ivy.”
“And Frodo was twenty years older than him. Are you saying Pippin and Frodo weren’t truly friends?”
That gave her Dad a pause. “No,” he said quietly, shaking his head.
Her breath gave a surprised hitch at this sudden turn. Her father was actually listening to her! She decided to push things a little. “Pippin’s always been my friend, Dad. And now that friendship has turned to love.”
He looked at her, nose slightly wrinkled in disgust. “But how can you love him like that? He helped raise you.”
“But it’s different, now, Dad. I’m different.” She took a deep breath. How could she explain? “I was three years old when you married Estella. I don’t really remember when he lived with us. You may see him as some sort of parent to me, but I’ve only ever known him as my friend.”
Her father nodded and looked down at his hands. Ivy crawled over to him and sat next to him. She put her arms around him.
“I’m sorry this happened this way. I know what we did was a mistake. Neither of us were ready for it. But I do love him and I won’t apologize for that.”
He hugged her back. “I’m sorry I was so angry with you, Ivy. But I am still angry. I’m still angry with Pippin. He should have known better.”
She swallowed the retort and nodded. “He knows that, Dad.”
“And I still don’t approve of you being in love with someone who is not only much older, but is married as well. I still can’t allow you to see him. I’m sorry, Ivy, but I think you should find someone else.”
Ivy pulled away, anger replacing hope. “You find someone who can accept me and I’ll consider it,” she said coldly. She lay back down. “You should probably get back to your party.”
Her father sighed, then nodded and stood up.
“I’m still glad you talked to me,” she said.
He leaned over and kissed her brow. “I’m glad we talked, too. We’ll have to do it again.” He gave her a weak smile and left.
Ivy let out a deep sigh after the door closed. She hoped this meant things would get better.
The Master and Thain finished their discussion on repairs of Stock Road and Merry stood up to leave without any word of farewell. Pippin sadly watched him go, regretting that things had ever come to this.
Halfway to the door, Merry stopped. “Pippin?”
Pippin dropped his pen in surprise, splattering ink on the page and his shirt. Merry hadn’t addressed him directly since May. He never talked to him outside of business or social necessity anymore.
“I talked to her,” Merry said, still facing away from Pippin. “I still don’t approve. I’m still angry. But we’re working things out.”
“That’s good, Merry,” Pippin said, but Merry was already on his way out the door. Pippin sighed. At least Merry was fixing things with Ivy.
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.