7. Chapter 7
Theo slid off his pony as soon as they arrived at the Party Field for the Gamgees' birthday party. He handed the reins up to Eomer. "Could you take care of him for me?" he asked. Eomer nodded and Theo had to turn away from the look on his brother's face. Eomer felt sorry for him.
He trotted up the hill, searching everywhere a for glimpse of Rose. A flash of red caught his eye and his heart leapt, but it was only her mum. He sighed.
Frodo and Emerald were near the table laden with food. They were laughing together, their attention completely on each other. Theo wanted nothing more than for Rose to look at him like that again."Frodo!" he called. Frodo should know where to find Rose.
Frodo looked up. “Theo.” The smile fled from his face and Theo knew something was wrong. Did Rose stay in Greenholm? But she wouldn't miss a family party. Why...? He turned at the sound of laughter. Rose was walking up from Bag End--arm-in-arm with a handsome young hobbit. Theo felt like he was going to be sick.
“I’m sorry, Theo," Frodo said. "She met him out in Greenholm. A cousin of Fastred’s. I only found out when they arrived.”
Theo wasn’t listening anymore. All he could focus on was Rose’s smiling face, smiling at a lad who wasn’t him. He walked towards them. He had to talk to her. He stepped into their path. "Rose."
She startled and blushed bright red, averting her eyes away from his gaze. "Theo." She stepped closer to her companion. "Mattas, this is my friend, Theo Brandybuck." She lifted her eyes slightly to look at him. "Theo, this is Mattas Greenfield."
The lad stuck out his hand. "Glad to meet you."
But Theo ignored him, his eyes still on Rose. "Your friend?" he asked. She had said it like he was a casual acquaintance, like she had no more feelings for him than she had for Eomer or Fari.
"Yes." She looked away again. "You did promise." She took a deep breath and looked up at Mattas, a smile plastered on her face. "Theo and I have been friends our whole lives."
Mattas was frowning, obviously sensing that something more was going on. He just nodded.
"I need to talk to you, Rose," Theo said. He needed to find out how she could so easily forget him, how she could be walking around, smiling at this other lad.
She blushed. "I"m sorry, Theo. I can't. I..." She tightened her grip on Mattas' arm. "I promised Mattas a dance."
"Yes. You did." The hint of a smug smile appeared on the lad's face.
Theo had the urge to wipe that smile off the lad's face, preferably with his fist. It was probably a good time to leave, before he started a scene. He wouldn't do that to Frodo or his family today. "Fine." He turned away, heading... somewhere.
“Theo?” Frodo caught up with him, catching hold of his arm.
“I’m all right, Frodo,” he said. “I’ll, uh...” He didn’t know what to do anymore. It felt like his whole world had been ripped to shreds. “You go enjoy your time with Emerald.” He squeezed Frodo’s hand on his arm. “One of us should be happy, right?” He tried to smile. It didn't work so well. "Besides, I don't want to say anything that might cause trouble between us. The lad might be your brother-in-law someday, after all."
“Theo...” Frodo sighed.
Theo felt bad for sticking poor Frodo in the middle of this. “I’m all right, Frodo. Really. I just... I need to be alone for a while.” He turned away before his friend could see the tears. He'd lost her. He'd lost Rose! He made his way over to the ale casks, careful to avoid anyone who might try to talk to him. He filled a mug and promptly drained it.
“Hey!” Eomer was suddenly beside him, putting an arm over his shoulder. “We just saw Frodo,” he said. He didn’t say anything further, but he didn’t have to. Theo knew Frodo would have told him.
“Are you all right, Theo?” Fari asked from his other side.
Theo shrugged. He leaned down to refill his mug. “I think,” he said, closing the tap as the mug overflowed, “I would like to get drunk.”
“We’ll join you,” said Eomer, grabbing some mugs. Once armed with ales, two mugs in each hand, the three made their way down the path away from the Party Tree, on the opposite side of the hill from Bag End. There was a small grove of trees here, and they sat down in the shade.
Theo just stared into his first mug, his stomach suddenly too upset to drink anything more. He'd lost Rose. She was with another lad. Smiling at him...
“Well, look at it this way,” Fari said brightly. “You can be a bachelors with us!”
“Fari!” Eomer punched his cousin's arm.
Theo looked up, annoyed. Fari was rubbing his arm and exchanging glares with Eomer. Theo knew his cousin was only trying to cheer him up, but Fari could be awfully clueless about things. Like tact. “Fari, you can’t be a bachelor," he chided, suddenly angry at... well, everything. "We’re expected to produce heirs like a good little future Thain and Master, remember?” He'd have to make an heir with someone else. Not Rose.
“Eomer and I already thought of that,” Fari said, grinning, not seeming to notice Theo's harsh tone. “Ferumbras Took was a bachelor. He just passed the Thainship to my grandfather. We can do that, just pass it on to someone.”
Theo sighed. He certainly didn't want to marry anyone other than Rose. He'd rather be alone than have to pretend to love someone else. He shrugged. “To Ferumbras Took,” he said resignedly, raising his mug.
“To Ferumbras Took,” Fari and Eomer echoed, raising their own mugs.
Theo gulped down the ale and set down his empty mug. He was starting to feel a little dizzy from drinking two mugs so fast. He picked up another. That was fine with him. Maybe it would help him forget that Rose Gamgee ever existed.
“We have to do something, Merry,” Éowyn said, curling up next to her husband on the couch in his study. “He’s going to pine away.” They looked out the window to the garden, where Theo was slumped under a tree, staring into space, his book long abandoned.
“I don’t know what to do, except give him time to work through it.” Merry sighed. “Why can’t my children have normal, trouble-free romances? I hope Eomer will at least have an easier time of it.”
Éowyn smiled. “Bori told me Theo, Eomer and Fari took a vow to be bachelors, like Frodo and Bilbo Baggins and Ferumbras Took.”
“Yes, I heard." He snorted. "We’ll see how long that lasts. Being a bachelor may be all right for a Baggins, but it doesn’t work too well for us hot-blooded Brandybucks and Tooks.” He wagged his eyebrows at her suggestively.
She giggled. “But what about Ferumbras?”
Merry coughed, his cheeks growing warm. How could he explain? What did they think of of these things in Rohan? “Erm,... Well, the thing with Ferumbras was..." He coughed. "Rumor has it he was as hot-blooded as the rest of us, he just didn’t like lasses.”
Éowyn's eyebrows shot up. “Ah.” She pursed her lips in thought for a moment. “What about Frodo and Bilbo?”
“Oh, no,” Merry said, shaking his head and chuckling. “They liked lasses all right. They just preferred books and adventures to settling down.” He leaned over so his lips just brushed his wife's ear. “If you like,” he whispered, “I can show you just how hot-blooded us Brandybucks can be.”
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.