5. Chapter 5
Theo tugged at Rose’s hand. “Come on. No one’s in here.”
Rose followed him into an empty Brandy Hall. Theo closed the door, cutting off the music and noise of the crowd outside celebrating his twenty-eighth birthday. He smiled at Rose, who blushed so her face nearly matched her hair, and he pulled her after him down the hall to their family wing.
He led her to his room and Rose balked at the door. “I don’t think I should be in here, Theo,” she said, blushing again.
“It’s all right. No one’s around and we won’t be long.” He pulled her to him, holding her tight, and kicked the door shut. “I just wanted to get some time for this.” Theo leaned in and kissed her, tasting her last glass of cherry wine on her lips. After a slight hesitation, Rose responded to his kiss.
Theo pulled back to gaze into her eyes. “I’ve been wanting to do that all day,” he said, smiling at her. She seemed a bit... off today, almost on the verge of tears, and maybe with some time to themselves she’d tell him why. He brushed a red curl from her cheek. “I don’t get to see you very often!” he complained. “I didn’t see you all winter and then you had to go spend the whole spring in Greenholm--”
“My sister had her first baby!” Rose huffed. “I’m sorry if my niece coming into the world ruined your plans,” she said, her voice edged with sarcasm.
“I know...” Theo sighed. He supposed he didn’t have a chance of competing with Mallorn Fairbairn, who everyone said was as fair as her mother.
“I’ve missed you, too,” Rose said, then she sighed. “But I really shouldn’t be in here.”
“Why? Because I might do this?” He grabbed her and swung her around so that she landed on his bed. He dropped down next to her and cut off her squeal of protest with another kiss, his hand sliding up her side. She pushed him off. “Theoden Brandybuck! What do you think you’re doing?” She sat up and glared at him.
“Come on, Rose, you know I wouldn’t do anything you didn’t want me to do.” He gave her a grin and a wink. “Are you sure you don’t want to do anything?”
Instead of the expected blush or giggle, she pushed herself up off the bed and turned away. From the set of her shoulders, Theo could tell she was very upset.
“So, you think you can get a tumble out of me?” she asked, turning on him, bitterness in her voice. “Is that what all this is?”
Theo sat up, trying to figure out where it had all gone wrong. He’d only wanted a few kisses and to cheer her up. “What are you talking about?”
“Bringing me in here and asking me if I’d like to...” She waved her hand toward the bed. “I won’t be doing any of that, Mister Brandybuck.”
Theo nodded. Maybe this was starting to make sense. “I wasn’t serious, Rose. I realize you’ll probably want to wait until we’re older before we go that far.”
She leaned towards him, hands on hips. “And why are you so sure I’ll be going that far with you?”
“Uh...” Theo thought for a moment, trying to work out how to handle this as delicately as possible. Rose obviously wasn’t going to react well to him saying the wrong thing. “Well, it’s not really all that unusual. I mean, um... my sister bedded Pippin before--well, maybe that’s not such a great example.” Rose narrowed her eyes at him. Think fast, Theo! “I mean, lots of couples take a tumble before they marry. And--”
“And they all got married!” Rose crossed her arms, glaring at him. “Did you not think I would want to save myself for my husband?”
“Your...” Theo furrowed his brow. “I thought I would be your husband!” He snapped his mouth shut. Did he just propose to Rose?
She raised her brows at him. “You?” The anger disappeared from her face and she slumped down to sit on the bed. “But...” She looked down at her hands, which were clutching her skirt. “My uncle heard at the Green Dragon that you were going to be betrothed to Marla Bracegirdle.”
“What?” Theo exclaimed. “Marla? I barely know her. She’s one of Aunt Celandine’s cousins. I think her dad might have been trying to bring it up, but...” He leaned over and kissed her ear. “I’m certainly not getting betrothed to anyone,” he whispered.
Instead of responding to his kiss, Rose pulled away from him. “It doesn’t really matter, though. I still won’t be able to marry you,” she mumbled.
Theo just stared at her. She sniffled and it broke him out of his shock. He took her hand. “Why can’t I marry you? I thought you loved me.”
She turned to him, tears in her eyes. “I do. But we can only be friends, Theo. You’ll have to marry a gentlehobbit’s daughter.”
Theo sighed and gave a chuckle. “Rose.” He put his hand on her cheek and gazed into her eyes. “Dad told me I can marry anyone I want. He knows how I feel about you. He loves you, and your family, and he’s quite happy with the idea. There wouldn’t be any objections.”
She turned away from him. “There would be,” she whispered and wiped the tears from her eyes. “There already is.”
Theo put a hand on her arm. “Rose, did somebody say something to you?” She sniffled, then she nodded. He leaned forward, trying to see her face. “Who?”
“Everyone, Theo!” she said, looking up at him suddenly. “I hear it all the time! Oh, they pretend they’re having a private conversation, but it’s always just loud enough for me to overhear. That I’m after your gold or forgetting my place. Discussions over what girl would make you a proper wife once you tire of me. Or I just get told outright that I’m spoiled and I think I’m too good for a common lad.”
Theo was dumbstruck. “I...I didn’t know. I’ve never heard--”
“Of course you hadn’t heard anything! They’re certainly not going to say anything to the future Master of Buckland. The common folk want to stay on your good side and the gentlehobbits will be wanting you to court their daughters.”
“I’m sorry, Theo, but I can’t take anymore of it. I can’t take the whispers and the glares...” She hunched over, covering her face with her hands. “I’ve loved being with you, Theo, but you have to start thinking about your future. You won’t be able to find a wife with me in the way. The Master of Buckland has to marry better than a gardener’s daughter.”
Theo shook his head, not really believing this was coming from Rose, that she actually thought she wasn’t worthy of him. “My mum was a farmer’s daughter.”
“The Bolger’s own one of the largest tracts in the Shire and employ a good many of my relatives to work it for them!” She looked away, tears in her eyes. “I can’t be what you want me to be, Theo. I’m just a common lass from Hobbiton.” Theo tried to put his arm around her but she shook him off and stood up. “I think I should leave now.” She wiped at a tear on her cheek. “And I don’t think we should see each other anymore.”
“Rose.” He tried to reach for her but she backed away.
“I’m sorry, but I think it’s for the best. For both of us.” She went to the door and turned back to him. “I--” Her voice trembled and she choked back a sob. She turned and left, closing the door so quickly that it slammed. Theo startled at the sound, still stunned by what had happened.
For a brief moment, he thought about going after her but instead he rolled over and punched his pillow. The last thing either of them needed was a confrontation in front of half the Shire.
He stared at the ceiling, still stunned by what she had told him. He couldn’t believe he hadn’t known what people were saying. He was supposed to be the best gossip in the Shire! But he’d been so wrapped up in Rose, he hadn’t been visiting the maids to share news. He sighed. He’d like to strangle whomever started the rumor about his ‘betrothal’. But he also knew that was only one piece of the problem. It seemed as if Rose was actually believing the hurtful things that were being said.
He rolled over, burying his face in his pillow. Ivy was right. He was going to have a fight on his hands to win Rose Gamgee, and apparently one of the people he’d be fighting was Rose herself.
“I’m sorry, Mister Merry, but I can’t allow it,” Sam said with a tone of finality.
Theo’s first instinct was to protest, but his father placed a firm hand on his shoulder and he sat back, keeping his words to himself. He looked over at Rose, seated across the parlor from him, but she was staring at her hands. She hadn’t really looked at him at all since he and his father had arrived at Bag End, just a few days after his party, to ask permission for him to officially court Rose.
“Sam,” his father said, keeping his voice calm, “I know you’re concerned about...well, breaking certain social rules, but really, if they love each other--”
“I’m only thinking of Rose,” said Sam firml. “It would be nothing but trouble if she was to be courted by your son. You don’t know what gets said--”
Theo’s dad gave a heavy sigh. “I do. I know what gets said, Sam.”
“Then you’ll understand I have to protect my daughter. You should know about that, with the hurtful things that were said about Ivy and Mister Pippin.”
“I know Sam. But they got through it and Ivy was accepted by the Tooks--”
“Ivy is the daughter of the Master of Buckland and the niece of the King of Rohan. Of course she’d be accepted!” Sam looked over at his daughter, then back at Merry. “Do you think a gardner’s daughter will have it so easy? Can you promise that your people will accept a poor girl from Hobbiton as their future Mistress?”
Theo saw his father’s jaw clench. “I don’t know, Sam,” he finally mumbled.
“Then I’m sorry, but the answer is no.”
Theo jumped up, heart racing in panic. “Please, Uncle Sam, don’t...”
Sam put a hand on Theo’s shoulder. “I’m sorry, Theo. You’re a good lad, and if things were different I’d have no objections, but we must think of Rose.”
“Did you ask her what she wants?” Theo looked over at her. “Rose?”
But Rose didn’t look at him, just burst into tears and ran from the room. Her mother followed her out.
“I’m sorry,” said Sam, not meeting their eyes.
“All right, Sam.” His father stood and touched Theo’s shoulder. “Come on, Theo.”
“No, Dad! Wait! Please, let me talk to her, just...”
His father took his arm. “No, Theo. We have to go.” Merry nodded at Sam. “Good-bye, Sam.”
Sam forced himself to look in their eyes. “Good-bye, Mister Merry. Theo.”
Theo found himself being pulled out of the parlor and down the hall to the front door by his father. He tried to protest, which was met by his father tightening his grip on his arm until Theo nearly yelped with pain.
Once outside, his father let go. Theo stopped in the path. “Dad, we can’t just go!”
His father looked at him sadly. “I’m sorry, Theo, but it’s Sam’s decision to make. You’re going to have to accept it.”
Theo felt like he’d been kicked in the gut. He barely felt it when his father took his arm again, gently this time, and led him to their ponies.
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.