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When the King Comes Back ( Brandy Hall )  by Dreamflower

Hensday morning, Berilac noticed that Merry seemed abrupt and embarrassed in his presence. He felt hurt that the camaraderie they had begun to share since Merry’s return seemed to have vanished. Frodo noticed.

“Berilac, don’t let Merry bother you this morning. He’s sorry you had to see him like that. It’s different for us, we’re all in the same situation, and know what it’s like. But Merry has too much sense to let this affect things for long.”

“I hope that’s true, Frodo. I’ve only just begun to realize what a great hobbit Merry is; I’d like us to be friends again. I’d like to be friends again with you as well. Merry wasn’t the only one who missed you when you moved away to Bag End. But you, Merry, Pip and Sam seem to be so sufficient to yourselves, I wonder that you would even need any more friends,” he said wistfully.

Frodo’s whole face lit up with a genuine smile. “Berilac, I can never have too many friends. I had become used to the idea that Merry, Pip and Sam were the only ones in the Shire who cared anything about me. It‘s very gratifying to be wrong, sometimes.” They both laughed.

Frodo was quite right. By lunchtime, Merry had regained his usual good spirits and even temper, and no longer tried to avoid meeting Berilac’ eyes.

They were spending the day much as the day before, working on the restorations. Today they were in Bywater, restoring The Green Dragon, and stories were flying about the various happenings that had taken place at the inn. Merry told how he and Frodo had introduced Pippin to ale with uproarious results when the young Took did his first table dance. And Frodo recounted the one and only time Bilbo had persuaded Gandalf to accompany him there, to the consternation of the innkeeper, as half the regular customers left in a huff. But it had turned out well, as twice as many new folk came in to gawk at the Wizard, who gamely sat upon the floor next to Bilbo’s table and nursed his ale and muttered imprecations upon Bilbo’s head.

Only one incident marred the pleasantness of the day. The group of workers had taken a break and were enjoying a picnic luncheon brought by some of the wives and daughters and sisters. Suddenly the laughter and chatter stopped, as Ted Sandyman approached. Silence. Backs were turned. No one would look at him, except for Berilac, who did not know him and was thoroughly confused, and Frodo who gazed at him with infinite sorrow and compassion; but even he did not speak, it would have served no purpose.

The unwanted interloper stood for a moment, looking defiant, then his shoulders slumped, and he went back the way he had come.

The conversations all started up again as he departed with no more acknowledgement than Jolly Cotton muttering “good riddance,” and Frodo shaking his head sadly.

Berilac looked at Merry and Sam, who sat by him. “I say, what was that all about?”

Merry shook his head. “He made the mistake of being one of Lotho’s supporters. I suppose he thought it would make him wealthy and important, but he badly miscalculated.”

“Ted Sandyman always was a fool,” added Sam in disgust, “he planted this row, and now he has to harvest it. No more than he deserves, really.”

Frodo got up and walked away.

Sam shook his head. “Mr. Frodo’s not happy with me right now; he’s that kind-hearted, I think sometimes he’d even feel sorry for Sauron himself.”

“He probably does,” replied Merry. “But isn’t that one of the reasons we love him?”

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