82. Chapter 81 - March 1437
Her father and Estella were back at Great Smials. Ivy’s dad had wanted to come with them, but Estella took him off ‘for a little talk’ and when he came back he grudgingly agreed that Everard would make a suitable chaperone. Ivy was very grateful to Estella. She didn’t really want her dad watching over them on their first outing as a courting couple.
Pippin opened the door for her, then followed her in, his hand on the small of her back. Ivy hesitated when everyone in the common room looked up at them. Pippin took her hand and led her into the smoky room.
She sat at the table and tried to ignore the eyes that watched them. It was hard enough dealing with relatives having opinions on your courtship. After her birthday party, it was the topic of discussion throughout the Shire. Elanor had assured her that most of the hobbits she knew thought it was a good match. Of course, many of the hobbits in the ‘lower’ classes despised Diamond. The Thain could be courting a goat and they’d think it was an improvement.
She spotted Elanor’s Cotton uncles seated on the other side of the room. Jolly had a farm near here, between Whitwell and Waymeet. He nodded a friendly greeting and his brothers turned and did the same. Ivy relaxed a little, happy to see familiar, friendly faces.
“I’ll get us some ales, then,” Everard said. He glanced at Ivy then looked at Pippin. “Four?”
Ivy bristled a little. It wasn’t considered appropriate for 17-year-old hobbits to be drinking in pubs. But it was perfectly acceptable for a 17-year-old in Rohan or Gondor. Once again, she was on that edge between ‘child’ and ‘adult’.
Pippin glanced at her with a crooked smile, his eyes sparkling, then looked back at Everard. “She’ll have a cup of apple cider”.
Ivy frowned at him. That’s what he’d always said when she was five. “I’ll have an ale,” she snapped.
Pippin looked at her with that exasperating raised eyebrow. “I’m just joking, love.”
She shrugged and ground her teeth and looked away from him.
Everard furrowed his brows, looked like he was going to say something, then just nodded and turned away to go to get the ales. Pippin sighed and touched her arm.
“Are you mad at me?” he asked.
She shrugged again. She really didn’t want to talk about it here in front of everyone. He slid over a little on their bench and put his arm around her. “I’m sorry,” he whispered into her ear.
She looked up at him. He looked very sorry. “It’s all right,” she said. She made herself smile at him. She didn’t want to fight with him on their first outing.
He smiled back and kissed her cheek and then Everard was back with the ales.
“Thanks, Ev,” Pippin said. He slid a mug over to Ivy. “Now, don’t drink too much or your dad will have my hide.” He looked serious this time. Ivy sighed and took her ale.
“I hear you’re traveling to Rohan soon,” Poppy said cheefully.
Ivy nodded. “We’ll be leaving the first week of April,” she said, grinning. She and her brothers had talked her dad into a trip to Rohan this summer. Not that they had to try very hard. Her father--and Pippin, too--missed their friends in the south. The whole family would go this time, along with Pippin and Fari.
She told Poppy all about Rohan and her Big Folk family and then two ales later, she really had to use the privy.
She threaded her way, just a little unsteady from the ale, through the common room to the back door and eyes were on her again. And this time she heard some of the whispers.
Scandalous! And she bein’ only seventeen and all!
She don’t look seventeen. She’s looks more like thirty! Odd, that one.
She went off to those foreign places, Gondor and the like. They must have done something to her.
Nibs Cotton slammed down his mug and stood up, his end of the bench grating across the floor. He turned on the gossiping table behind him.
“Are ye daft? She’s one o’ the Big Folk! They come of age sooner than hobbits! And ye’d best mind how ye talk about Master Meriadoc’s girl. If our Sam hears yer talk, ye’ll be in for a thumpin’! Or maybe I’ll give ye one myself!”
The whole room went silent. Poor Nibs looked around, turned bright red, and slumped back onto his seat. Jolly and Nick clapped their brother on the back and threw their own threatening glares at the now quiet gossipers.
Ivy bowed her head and ducked out the back door. She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Nibs was always the quiet one! And he’d stood up for her! At least someone understood she was grown up now! That thought hung over her as she used the privy. Don’t drink too much, Pippin had said. Like he was talking to a young tween cousin sneaking ales at a party, not an adult. Well, nearly adult. And she didn’t think he’d been joking that time.
The common room was back to normal conversation when she returned and this time no eyes followed her. She smiled at the Cottons as she passed, then went back to her table.
“Did you say anything?” she whispered to Pippin, nodding back towards the rest of the room.
Pippin shook his head. “Didn’t have to. Rosie’s brothers had everything under control.” He grinned at Everard.
“We did have a word with the proprietor,” Everard said, grinning, “and we’ll be picking up the Cotton’s bill this evening.” He tapped mugs with Pippin.
“Are you all right?” Pippin asked her, rubbing his thumb over her hand. “They didn’t upset you or anything?”
Ivy shrugged. “It doesn’t bother me, Pippin. I’ve heard it my whole life, remember.” She sighed. There had been just a little bit of bitterness in her voice. “I’m fine,” she said. “I’m just happy to be with you. I don’t care what anyone thinks of it.”
She gave a defiant glance to anyone who might be watching and kissed him. Then she peered into her empty mug. “I need another,” she said.
“You’ve had two. I think that’s quite enough for you,” Pippin said and he slid her mug away from her.
Ivy glared at him and she felt the wave of anger rise up. How dare he treat her like this?
“Well,” Everard said suddenly, clapping his hands together. “It’s getting late, so we should probably be going.”
“Fine with me,” Ivy snapped. She got up and stalked out of the pub. Pippin caught up with her halfway to the stables.
“What are you doing?” he asked indignantly. “You made a bit of a scene back there.”
“Is that my fault?” She yanked her arm from his grasp. “Why are you acting like my father?”
Everard coughed behind them. “Actually, Pip, you are.”
Pippin turned on his cousin. “What?”
“You’re supposed to be trying to get her drunk,” Everard said with a little chuckle.
“You’re supposed to be chaperoning, Ev,” Pippin scolded.
Poppy nodded. “That’s why we’re here,” she said cheerfully. “The whole point of a chaperone is to make sure you don’t go too far.” She winked at them.
Pippin just gaped at them. Ivy gave a grateful smile to Poppy.
“Look, why don’t you two go for a walk and work things out,” Everard said, gesturing towards a path that ran along a stand of trees next to the pub. Ivy remembered seeing couples coming from that path when she was young, giggling and blushing and their hair tangled with leaves. She’d never realized what it meant then. Now she did. She blushed and got that fluttery feeling in her stomach.
“I am not taking her back there!”
“Why not?” Ivy asked, crossing her arms.
“Do you know what they do back there?” Pippin asked her, like she was too young and stupid to figure it out.
“Nothing we haven’t done before,” she shot back at him.
Pippin blushed a furious shade of red. Everard and Poppy cringed.
Ivy smiled smugly at Pippin. “So are we going for a walk?”
“No, we are not! We can talk about this later, not in the yard of a pub or down some path--.”
“Maybe I don’t want to talk about it.” She turned on her heel, flinging back her hair, and continued on to the stable.
“Ivy!” Pippin’s voice was strained, frustrated. “Grow up!”
Her steps hesitated for a moment, she was so shocked by his words. Then she kept going.
She heard the hurried steps behind her and she quickened her own pace. But he caught her anyway, near the door to the stable. He took hold her arm and pulled her to the side. “I’m sorry,” he said.
“No you’re not,” she whimpered, hugging herself and keeping her head bowed so she wouldn’t have to look at him. He still thought she was a child.
“Ivy...” he pleaded. He embraced her, but she kept her arms around herself. She sniffled and watched Everard talking to the stablemaster while their cart was being readied.”We’ll talk when we get home, all right?” Pippin whispered into her ear.
“Fine,” she said and pulled away from him. The cart was ready. She just wanted to leave.
Poppy climbed up to sit next to Everard on the driver’s seat, which meant she had to sit in the back with Pippin. He helped her up, then got in himself and sat next to her on the back seat of the cart. He scooted closer and put his arm around her, but he didn’t say anything.
She thought about pulling away from him. She was still angry. His words had hurt. Grow up! But she stayed where she was. He’d probably accuse her of being a child again if she moved away from him.
She kept her attention on the passing trees, trying very hard to ignore the thumb that was brushing lightly over her shoulder. The soft strokes made her feel tingly and it infuriated her that he could have this affect on her, make her body betray her when she was mad at him.
She jumped down from the cart as soon as it stopped in front of the Smials’ stables. She heard Pippin say something to Everard and Poppy, and then his footsteps were padding after her.
“Ivy!” he called and she stopped. He caught up with her and took her hand. “We’ll go talk,” he said. They walked around to go in the garden door--the best route to avoid relatives--and directly to his study. He closed the door behind them.
“What is the matter, Ivy?”
“You were teasing about my age,” she said. She crossed her arms and slumped down onto a couch. “And then you were treating me like a child, with the ales and... and when you told me to ‘grow up’.”
“I didn’t know it bothered you... the teasing,” he said. “I was just...” He sighed. “Never mind. I won’t do it anymore. But I do have a responsibility to watch out for you, Ivy. Your dad trusts me to--”
“Can you forget about my father for one night!” she yelled, standing up again and glaring up at him. “Just because my father isn’t around doesn’t mean you have to take his place and treat me like a child!” She didn’t want to deal with this anymore tonight. She turned and headed for the door.
She ignored him.
“If we’re going to make this work, you need to stay here and talk to me,” he shouted. “If you want to be treated like an adult, then quit running away!”
She turned to him. “You sound like my father,” she complained.
Pippin tensed, drew in a deep breath, then let it out. “Well maybe he’s right,” he said, an edge of impatience in his voice.
She reached for the door. “Then maybe you need to find someone who’s grown up,” she said coldly.
He frowned at her. “Maybe I should.”
She ran out, slamming the door behind her. She nearly plowed into Everard, her vision blurred by tears. “Sorry,” she mumbled and she ran down the hallway to her guest room.
She kept her hand over her mouth to cover her sobs as she walked passed her parents’ room. There was still a light under the door--they were still awake. She didn’t feel like dealing with her dad right now.
She flung herself down on her bed and buried her sobs in her pillow. She’d been so happy this morning, looking forward to going to the pub with Pippin--not a crowded party or chatting in the family’ parlor, but a real outing together. And now it appeared they were no longer courting.
She should have known it would happen. She should have known this was too good to be true, that she could be with the one person she loved with all her heart, who made her happier than she’d ever been. Maybe I should. She felt sick. She wondered which girl he’d pick for his next wife. Not Flora’s granddaughter, certainly, but most likely one of those other girls. One of the older girls. Some other girl would marry him and make love to him and have his babies. It didn’t really matter which one. All that mattered was that it wasn’t going to be her. She wouldn’t stay around for it, to see him happy with someone else. She’d go back to Ithilien. She could just as easily be miserable in her mother’s house.
She tugged at her constricting bodice and got out of bed to change into her nightgown. She flung her dress across the room. Estella had helped her make it--a little fancier than her everyday dresses, but not so fancy as her Gondorian dresses--to wear on her outings. She wouldn’t need it anymore.
She climbed back into bed and curled up under the blanket, hugging her pillow. She’d brought this on herself. She had been stupid tonight, running off like that. But she had just gotten so mad and... She sniffled and wiped her nose on her sleeve. It didn’t matter. Pippin didn’t want to deal with her.
She wondered if Pippin and Fari would still travel to Rohan with them. Fari was so excited about the trip. It was all he seemed to talk about, that he’d get to go see the Big Folk and meet Faramir. She hoped she hadn’t ruined it for him. She sighed and wiped at fresh tears. Fari didn’t need to be hurt by this. She’d stay home if she had to, so they could go.
She rolled over at the knock on her door. She hesitated. She didn’t know if she was up to talking to anyone. But it was most likely Estella. She probably realized they were home and had come to see how her evening had gone. Ivy sniffled. Maybe she needed to talk to Estella. Estella always made things better.
It was Pippin. “Can I come in?”
“I don’t think my father would like that very much,” she muttered.
“I already talked to your dad. He...well, Estella really...” He smiled slightly. “They said I could come talk to you.”
She nodded and stepped back, letting him pass, then closed the door. She paused for a moment, her hand on the door’s handle. If her dad was all right with him coming into her room, that must mean this was over. She went back to sit on the bed, expecting the worst.
Pippin sat next to her. “Everard had a talk with me after you left.” He sighed and bowed his head. “He reminded me how childish and temperamental a certain Thain of the Shire was when he was a tween, prone to running off in a snit when things didn’t go right for him.” His voice was quiet, shaking slightly. “And that lad can’t really say anything about ‘growing up’, because he never did fully grow up himself. When things got bad for him, he drank too much to escape his problems though it hurt his family and friends.”
“Pippin...” Ivy pleaded. It hurt to hear him talk like that about himself. She reached for his hand and he took hers, squeezing tight.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I was an idiot and I wish I could take back things I said tonight.”
“Me, too,” she whispered back and the tears came, because maybe things weren’t as bad as she had imagined. As if to prove it, he slipped his arm around her and pulled her close.
“I love you,” he mumbled into her hair, then he tipped her chin up and kissed her. She wrapped her arms around him and melted into his embrace, relaxing from the worry and tension she’d been carrying. He pulled away and looked into her eyes. “Ev said we should try again tomorrow night, and this time I’m supposed to get you tipsy and take you for a walk down the lane and then try to get you into the woods so I can put my hand up your skirt.” Ivy clapped her hand over her giggle. “However, Poppy said you’re supposed to put your knee somewhere unpleasant if I try anything.” He winked at her and she laughed and hugged him, laying her head on his shoulder.
“So you still want to try to make this work?” she asked.
His arms squeezed her a little tighter. “I wouldn’t consider anything else.”
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.