15. Chapter 15
The front door opened and Eomer nearly dropped the tray in surprise when said girl rushed in, looking very windblown and disheveled. “Where is he?” Rose asked.
“In his room,” Eomer said slowly, shocked by her sudden appearance.
She gave a weak smile and turned toward the hallway. Then she came back and kissed Fari’s cheek. “Thank you,” she said. She smiled at Eomer and hurried down the hall.
Eomer looked over at Fari. Fari’s hand was on the spot Rose had just kissed. “Well,” Fari said, rubbing his cheek, “I guess it’s just the two of us again.”
“Yeah.” Eomer looked down at the tray of food. “Do you suppose I should still take this to him?”
Fari raised an eyebrow at him. “Are you sure you want to go in there right now?”
Eomer snorted. “Right.” He shrugged and turned toward the kitchen. “Well, we shouldn’t let this go to waste.”
Theo heard the light knock on his door and ignored it. He didn’t know why Eomer suddenly felt he had to be polite. His brother had been barging in and out of here all day, trying to get him to talk or eat. He didn’t know why Eomer bothered with the food. He wouldn’t be able to keep it down anyway, so why waste it?
The knock came again, a little louder. It must be Fari, then. Eomer wouldn’t have knocked twice. “What do you want, Fari?” he called.
He heard the squeak of the hinges as the door opened. Then a quiet voice. “It’s me.”
He turned in his chair, heart pounding. Rose stood just inside the door. Her face was streaked with dusty tears, her hair was a wild mass of untamed curls, her cream-colored skirt spotted with dirt. She took a deep breath. “Hello,” she said.
“Um...hello,” Theo stood up, going lightheaded for a moment. He grasped the back of his chair. “What are you doing here?” he asked. He thought he knew the answer, but he had to hear it from her.
Rose closed the door, then walked towards him. “I needed some help with something,” she said. She reached into her pocket and pulled someting out, clasped in her hand. She stopped about two feet away and held out the fist, palm down. He put his hand out and she dropped something into it. He didn’t look at it, keeping his gaze on her face, but he felt the feather-light chain. “I was having trouble with the clasp and I thought you’d be able to help.” She turned her back to him and lifted her curls to reveal her neck.
Theo’s hands were shaking as he opened the clasp. He brought his arms around her, not touching her yet, to put the necklace on her. When the clasp was joined, his hands dropped to her shoulders.
“Rose,” he gasped, unable to say any more because he was suddenly out of breath and the world was going gray. He sank back into the chair and it took him a moment to realize that Rose had collapsed, too. She was kneeling in front of him, her cheek on his thigh, chanting ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry.’
He reached out to touch her hair, a part of his mind still wondering if this was real. His fingers touched silky red curls and Rose looked up at him, her face wet with tears. “Can you forgive me?” she begged. “I was so stupid, Theo, so stupid and a coward and Fari was right, I lied to you, and to everyone, and poor Fari, to have to tell me those things after all he’s been through...” She was sobbing now, her whole body shaking.
Theo leaned forward, taking her hands and pulling her up into his lap where she curled up in his embrace. He touched her face, guiding her to look at him, and he kissed her. It was the sweetest kiss he’d ever had and when it ended he looked in her eyes. “You turned back,” he said and smiled.
She cocked her head, puzzled.
“What made you come back to me?” he asked.
Rose looked down at her hands. “I love you. I’ve always loved you, and I only thought I was saving us both hardship. And I did like Mattas...”
Theo scowled at that, jealousy rising up. But, then again, it was his lap that Rose was sitting on now.
“He asked me to marry him, a few days after your birthday, and I thought I was making the right choice. But when the betrothal was set, when the plans were finally being made...” she stopped and took a deep breath. “I realized what I was doing, what I was giving up.” She met his gaze and touched his cheek. “But then I felt I had to go through with it, because I’d agreed to it and so many people--our families--were involved by then in the planning and I’d be disappointing them.”
She wiped at her eyes with her sleeve. “This morning, before the ceremony, Fari came to see me and...” She bowed her head. “And I was angry at him, for saying those things in front of my sisters and cousins, but then he looked at me and...” She closed her eyes. “He looked so hurt... and... he asked me not to blame my children for my unhappiness.” She gave a choking sob, her hand going to her mouth. Theo rubbed her back until she was composed again. She opened her eyes to meet his gaze. “And I thought about that, the whole time I was standing there with Mattas and our families, and his father was making a speech about us joining and having children, and I thought about having babies and how they’d be Mattas’ babies and not yours, and would I hate them for it, like Diamond hates Fari?”
She started sobbing again and Theo pulled her into his embrace, her head resting on his shoulder. “You could never hate your babies, Rose. Never. No matter who their father was. It’s not in you. You’re not like her.”
She shook her head. “You don’t know that. And I didn’t want to find out. Fari was right, it would all have been a lie, like Uncle Pippin’s marriage to Diamond. And I couldn’t do it.” She looked up at him. “I realized that as much trouble as the truth would cause, it was better than the lie. So I ran.”
Theo raised his eyebrows. “You just ran off in the middle of his speech?”
Rose nodded. “I took off down the hill towards home. Goldi was sitting on the bench in the garden. I didn’t even realize she wasn’t at the ceremony. I ran past her, down to the stable. And Frodo was there and he already had a pony waiting for me.” Theo made a mental note to come up with some way to thank Frodo.
Rose wiped at her tears again. “Goldi told everyone I was hiding in my room and she brought me this.” She touched the pendant. “They knew. Frodo and Goldi. They knew I couldn’t do it, even when I didn’t. I think of all the times Frodo tried to talk to me and I pushed him away and all this could have been avoided if I’d only listened to him.”
“We’ve got a lot of people to be thankful to,” Theo said. “Frodo and Goldi. Fari and Eomer. Queen Arwen.” He took back his earlier thought. He didn’t hate the Queen anymore. Then he chuckled. “I still can’t believe you just ran off in the middle of the ceremony.”
Rose touched her forehead to his. “I am in so much trouble,” she groaned. She kissed his nose and smiled. “It must be your bad Brandybuck influence.”
Theo laughed. “I seem to be a bad influence on Gamgee children. First Frodo, now you. Next thing you know, Mer and Pip will be running off to join the Rohirrim!” They laughed and Theo’s stomach chose that moment to growl quite loudly.
“Oh!” Rose said, “I think I interrupted Eomer bringing your supper. I wouldn’t want you to miss a meal.” She stood up and pulled him to his feet. “Let’s go and we’ll get something from the kitchen. I know I’m starved.”
They met Eomer and Fari in the hall. “We’re off to the kitchen,” she said. “Would you like to join us?” Theo thought that was a pretty silly question to ask Eomer and Fari.
“Good!” Eomer said. “Maybe you can stuff him full because I haven’t been able to get him to eat all day.” Rose threw Theo a look and he cringed. He was in trouble now.
“When did he last eat something?” Rose asked, still glaring at Theo.
“Yesterday. Lunch time, I think,” said Eomer. Theo traded glares with him.
“Yesterday?” Rose exclaimed. She looked at Theo and for a moment he thought she was going to cry again. But she just squeezed his hand. “Well, come on then, you’ve got a lot of catching up to do.”
The kitchens were empty. Supper was over and the staff had gone home. Rose sat Theo down at the table and looked around the kitchen for a moment. Then she sent Eomer to the cellar for ale and enlisted Fari to help her search the pantry. They came out with armfuls of bread, cheese and fruit. As they stood at the side board, cutting the bread, Theo saw they were whispering together. Then Rose leaned over and kissed Fari’s cheek, and Fari wrinkled his nose and made a gagging noise at Rose, making them both laugh. Theo sighed happily. It seemed they had put aside the harsh words said that day.
Eomer returned with four mugs of ale and they settled around the table and their little feast. It wasn’t until the food was right in front of him that Theo realized just how hungry he was.
Rose explained everything to the other two, often in tears, and she broke down into sobs, clinging to Theo, when Eomer and Fari said they wouldn’t hold it against her. They were just happy she came back to Theo.
Once Theo felt he couldn’t eat another bite, Eomer and Fari said they’d clean up and shooed Theo and Rose out of the kitchen. The halls were thankfully empty of relatives, so they made it back to his room unseen.
Once inside, Theo pulled Rose into his arms and kissed her. Then Rose backed away. “We should get some sleep,” she said. “Eomer said you haven’t been sleeping well and neither have I. We can talk more tomorrow.” She took a step back toward the door. “Any particular room I should take?”
“Stay here with me?” he asked impulsively.
Rose blushed and shook her head. “No, Theo. I can’t. Not now. Not yet. I’m not...”
“No,” he said, taking her hands. “Just stay here with me. Nothing else. I don’t want you to leave. Please.” He couldn’t bear the thought of being separated from her, even by only a few rooms, now that he had her back.
She shook her head. “But, what would everyone think if I...?” She sighed. “That’s what got us into this mess, isn’t it. Worrying about what others would think.” She squeezed his hands. “I’ll stay,” she said, then shook her finger at him, “but if you try anything, I’ll kick you somewhere very unpleasant and go to a guest room.”
Theo nodded and laughed, so happy to have Rose back. He gave her a kiss and then she pushed him away. “Now turn around. I can’t be sleeping in this dusty dress.” He turned to face the door and heard a rustle of fabric that set his imagination in motion. He couldn’t believe she had actually agreed to stay and now she was going to be wearing... well, less than she started with apparently. He heard the creak of the bed and the sound of blankets being arranged. “You can turn around now,” she finally said.
She was lying on the far side of his bed, the covers up to her chin. Her dress was draped over a chair. She was most likely in her chemise, which was still a modest covering, but it still have Theo a little thrill. He blew out the candles that Eomer had lit earlier that evening and climbed into bed next to her, still fully clothed.
They lay side by side for a moment before Theo turned to her. “I love you,” he said, reaching out to touch her.
“I’m so sorry, Theo,” she whimpered. She slid closer to him and lay her head on his chest. He put his arms around her, holding her tight while she wept.
“Shh. Don’t cry, Rose. It’s all right now.” He pressed his nose into her hair and kissed the top of her head.
“I love you,” she mumbled into his chest. “I’m so sorry I hurt you.” She sniffled and sighed, and after a moment’s silence, she asked, “You never answered me before. Do you forgive me?”
“Of course I do,” Theo said softly. He ran his fingers through her curls, trying to soothe her. “I can see why you thought what you did, that you thought you were doing the right thing.” He shrugged and chuckled. “I didn’t agree with it.”
Rose gave a laugh that was part sob, then scooted up so her head was next to his on the pillow, their faces together. “Does this mean you won’t be a bachelor anymore?” she whispered, a hint of amusement in her voice.
Theo snorted. “You knew about that?”
She nodded. “Willow told me.” She traced a finger around the buttons of his shirt. “She wasn’t too happy with me, that I made her Uncle Theo sad.”
Theo grinned. “Well, she won’t have to be upset with you anymore. You’ve made her Uncle Theo very happy.” He kissed her again, then they both sighed and for the first time in a long time, they each slipped into a worry-free sleep.
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.