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Just to be With You
A/N: This is my Merry and Estella Bolger fic. Despite Pippin being my absolute favourite character of The Lord of the Rings, it would be impossible for me to even try to write a Pippin and Diamond story, since I have read two of the most beautiful epics concerning this couple and would be completely unable to compete (Holbytla by Auma, and Peregrin and Diamond by Pearl Took). Even if I did try, I’m sure I’d end up copying at least one of them at some point. Merry is actually my second favourite character (along with half the other characters), and I haven’t read all that many stories deeply involving he and Estella, so I thought I would be better at trying my hand at that.
The timeline of this story will range a fair bit. It starts at the time of Merry’s coming of age, and will continue through the years of the Occupation of the Shire, the Year of Plenty to some years later (haven’t decided precisely when yet). I do try to stay as close to the works of Tolkien as possible, but if you do find any striking deviations, please let me know (but in the nicest possible way!). And now onto the story…
“It’s enough for this restless warrior
Just to be with you”
- Tim Rice, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?”
1: The Coming of Age
In the April of 1415 it was announced that the Brandybucks would be holding a grand party for the coming of age to the son and heir of the Master of Brandy Hall, Meriadoc Brandybuck. Many of the hobbits of the West Farthing snorted in disgust at this.
“Remember what happened last time those Brandybucks came to a party?” they said, for many of them blamed the family for the strange disappearance of Bilbo Baggins, a completely unfair and untrue accusation.
The Brandybucks hardly cared, of course, for most of the people who thought this were not to be invited. The party would be for the family and close friends of Merry and a select few families who lived near to Brandy Hall. Being their only son, Merry was quite spoilt by his parents, and they left the guest list for him to decide. He, in turn, had enlisted the help of his cousin, Berilac, or Berry, as he was better known, to assist in the decisions.
Though Merry and Berry were first cousins, Berry was not as close to Merry as Pippin was. During their youth, Berry’s father, Merimac, had refused to allow Berry to see his cousin at all. As the youngest son of Old Rory, Merimac was intensely jealous of Saradoc, the eldest son and heir. His jealousy had turned to dislike when Merry was born, for Merimac secretly hoped that Saradoc would be without and heir and the title of Master would fall to him when his brother died. Berry, was thus, forbidden to spend any time at all with his younger cousin.
It had taken a near-death experience for Merimac to realise the foolishness of his ways. While riding in the fields of Buckland, Merimac’s horse was startled and bolted. Merimac was thrown from the beast and into a tree, hitting his head. It was Saradoc who found him and nursed him back to health. When he finally came to, Merimac apologized for his actions and was forgiven. Merry and Berry were finally allowed to meet and form the bond that cousins should. But it remained only the bond of cousins, not the bond of brothers that existed between Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took.
“You are inviting the Thain and his family, are you not?” Berry asked, almost hesitantly.
“Oh, no, not at all,” Merry replied, sarcastically. “Pippin is just like a brother to me, and Pervinca like a sister, but I do not think I shall invite them to my birthday. Why would I do something like that?”
“There’s no need to be rude, Merry. I was just asking.”
“And why would you want to know about that?” Merry grinned at his cousin. “It wouldn’t have anything to do with wanting to see one of my pretty cousins, would it, Berry? You do know that Pervinca is to be betrothed to Everard Took?”
“Oh, I’m completely over her!” Berry declared. “I only have eyes for Pimpernel now. Never will I ever see anything as beautiful as her.”
Merry snickered. This was not the first time that he had heard Berry declare his undying love for a hobbitess. Angelica Baggins had been the first, a very lovely, but rather conceited young lass. Pervinca had followed, but Merry had sensed Berry’s affections had been waning since Pervinca started to show an interest in Everard. And now it seemed Berry had fallen for Pervinca’s older sister. Merry could hardly blame Berry for falling for any of the Took sisters – they were all very fair, almost as pretty as Rose Cotton, widely known to be the fairest lass in the whole Shire. Pearl and Pimpernel, the eldest sisters, had once been dull and silly, in Merry and Pippin’s opinions, and they were often quite horrid to Pervinca. But they had grown up a lot in the past few years, especially since they came of age. Pearl was married now, but Pimpernel was not, though she had more than a few suitors.
“Well, good luck to you cousin,” Merry said. “Would you like me to put in a good word in for you to my lovely cousin?”
“Would you really, Merry? That would be wonderful!”
Merry shook hands with Berry to make it a deal, then returned to his list. There were a great many Brandybucks and Tooks, several Bagginses, one or two Boffins, a Gamgee and one Bolger family. Merry stopped at the Bolgers. Fredegar was one of his closest friends (aside from Frodo and Peregrin), but Fredegar’s younger sister Estella was known to decline every invitation she received. She seemed to detest social events of any kind. Merry wondered if it was worth even inviting her, but then realised this was terribly rude. He was sure that she would feel disliked if he did not invite her.
“There aren’t enough lasses on that list, Merry,” Berry stated, peering over his cousin’s shoulder to read the list.
“What do you mean?” Merry asked. “And why would you care anyway? I already promised that I would talk to Pim about you. Do you want me to speak to all of my female cousins about you? Are you trying to set up your own little harem?”
“I didn’t mean for me, dear cousin. I meant lasses for you. You are coming of age after all, it’s time to start thinking about settling down.”
Merry screwed up his nose. He was getting quite sick of all this talk about “settling down”. It was true that the Coming of Age was the time at which many hobbits chose a wife and started a family, but it was not uncommon to wait several years to do this. Saradoc had been thirty-eight when he started courting Esmeralda Took, and they had not married until he was forty. Merry was certainly not ready to begin life as a family-hobbit. Some probably would have blamed his close relationship with his young cousin Peregrin for that. Others would have blamed it upon spending too much time with Frodo (and Bilbo, before he left), who was a perennial bachelor.
“Do you really think I wish to spend my party being presented with hundreds of silly lasses? I will settle down when I choose to!”
“If you say so, cousin,” Berry sighed. “But don’t complain to me when you do decide that it is time, and all the good lasses have been taken.”
* * * * * *
The first of the guests arrived two days later, despite the party still being a week away. The family of the newly declared Thain would have spent the time of Merry’s birthday in Buckland, whether there was a party or not. Merry was Paladin and Eglantine’s only nephew and they spoiled him almost as much as his parents did.
Crickhollow had been set up for their stay in Buckland, since Brandy Hall was already over crowded with Brandybucks. The Tooks were to share the cosy guesthouse with Frodo Baggins and the Bolger family, both of whom would be arriving in the next few days.
Since he had been excused from too much organisation for his party, Merry was able to spend much of his time at Crickhollow with some of his favourite cousins. Pearl had been unable to come, since she was heavily pregnant with her second child to Orlando Burrows. But Pippin, Pervinca and Pimpernel were more than happy to see their cousin again.
Pippin had greeted Merry with a huge hug when they had arrived. “So, Merry, how does it feel to be old?”
“He’s not ‘old’ yet, Peregrin,” Pimpernel said with a smile. She had come of age several years previously. “He has a week yet to be irresponsible and immature with you.”
A cough from the shadows that sounded a lot like Berilac Brandybuck reminded Merry of his promise. “Oh, Pimpernel, would you mind if I had a quiet word with you.”
And with that, he led his cousin away, speaking quietly to her. Pervinca and Pippin were left to ponder what in the world Merry would have to talk to Pimpernel about.
Whatever Merry had said seemed to have fulfilled his promise, for the next day, Pimpernel had excused herself from having a picnic with her brother, sister and cousin. She stated that she had promised to spend some time with Berilac, and not without blushing ever so slightly. Paladin looked at Merry suspiciously when the young Brandybuck snickered, but Merry put on his best innocent expression.
“What was that all about?” Pippin demanded, when he, Pervinca and Merry had found a pleasant spot for their picnic.
“What?” Merry asked, still feigning innocence.
“Don’t pretend that you know nothing, Meriadoc,” Pervinca warned. “I know Pim’s strange behaviour has something to do with whatever you discussed with her yesterday.”
Merry gave in. “My cousin Berilac has taken a fancy for Pimpernel.”
“I thought he liked Pervinca,” Pippin said, and Pervinca kicked him.
“He did, but since she’s with Everard now, he’s moved onto Pimpernel.”
“She’s older than him.”
“Yes, I know, but only by a few months. Besides, it’s not completely unheard of for a hobbit to choose a wife that is older than him. My mother is a good four years older than my father.”
“I suppose so.” Pippin grinned. “I say, won’t it be funny if Pim does marry Berry. She’ll be Pimpernel Brandybuck!”
“And just what’s funny about that?” Merry huffed. “We Brandybucks are one of the most respectable families in the Shire!”
“Of course you are, Merry,” Pervinca laughed. “Almost as respectable as we Tooks, and let’s not even start on those Bagginses…”
“Oh, please do start on the Bagginses, Pervinca,” a voice said from behind them. The three hobbits turned to see Frodo Baggins standing behind them, grinning broadly. “I certainly hope you didn’t have anything horrid to say about my family, dear cousin Pervinca.”
Pervinca returned his grin. “No, not at all, cousin Frodo. I mean, despite the way they seem to run off, and their strange resistance to aging, not to mention their uncanny wealth, what at all could be wrong with them?”
“Watch it, Pervinca. I know more about your family than you do, and you would not appreciate many of the things I might have to tell you.”
“Hullo Frodo, when did you arrive?” Merry greeted.
“Just now. Paladin and Eglantine told me where to find you. I’m glad that they did, otherwise I might have gone to Brandy Hall and not escaped for several days.” Since he had spent his childhood at Brandy Hall, Frodo was well known and loved by many of its inhabitants, especially Esmeralda Took Brandybuck. As much as he adored his cousin’s wife, Frodo had wanted to see Merry and Pippin before anyone else.
“Well, sit down. We still have plenty of food to share,” said Merry, ignoring the glare Pippin had shot at him. “I invited Sam, too. Did he come?”
Pervinca choked on her drink a little. Frodo and Pippin looked at her and exchanged knowing looks. Merry had no idea what was going on, so he pretended that it hadn’t happened. He knew that Pervinca had become quite good friends with Sam, and Rosie Cotton too, over the past years, something he thought a little strange considering their differing family statuses.
“No, he could not make it,” Frodo replied, sitting between Pervinca and Pippin. “He said that with me not at Bag End, someone had to stay and make sure Lobelia didn’t come to try to steal it again. And I think he would have felt out of place, with our families and all. He doesn’t mind small parties, when it is just you three, or Fredegar, but I’m sure a whole hoard of Tooks and Brandybucks would be a little overwhelming for him.”
“I suppose it would,” said Pervinca. “But it is a shame anyway. If Mother and Father don’t mind awfully – and Everard for that matter – I might come back to Hobbiton with you after Merry’s birthday.”
“Me too!” Pippin cried.
Frodo laughed. “And what if I mind? I might not want to have a couple of Tooks running around my house.”
“Well, in that case,” said Merry, “I should come too. Everard might as well come, that way he shan’t mind if Pervinca does. And then of course there’s Pimpernel and Berilac…”
“Now it’s strange that you should mention those names together. Have I missed something?”
Merry grinned broadly. “Oh, you have no idea, dear cousin.” And he proceeded to inform Frodo the full details of the Pimpernel and Berilac situation.
* * * * * *
A/N: Well, there’s the first chapter done. Estella will make an actual appearance in the next chapter. I think I may even write a spin-off story from this one about Pimpernel and Berilac. Oh, and just a note about Pearl’s husband. As far as I know, Tolkien never wrote who any of Pippin’s sisters married. While I have chosen existing characters for Pervinca and Pimpernel, Orlando Burrows does not exist in Lord of the Rings. He does, however, come from The History of Middle-Earth: V6 – The Return of Shadow. Orlando was the hobbit who received a gold fountain pen from Bilbo – in LotR it was Milo Burrows. I suppose Orlando could be his nephew or cousin or something.
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