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This is my first offically beta-read chapter for this story. Big thanks to Melyanna, my wonderful beta!
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Chapter 7 - From Afar
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Diamond furrowed her brows as she stared hard at the page before her.
He walked stra... stra... She bit her lip fretfully. What sort of word was that?
Pippin set aside Diamond’s sketchbook, which he had been leafing through, and peered over her shoulder to look at the page she was struggling with.
“This word?” he inquired, pointing. Diamond nodded with embarrassment, and he smiled. “Oh, that is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. I’ve never understood that word anyway. Why, there’s a ‘g’ and an ‘h’ just randomly placed in it for no apparent reason!” He then proceeded to help her sound out the offending word.
Moments later, as Diamond was continuing with her reading, part of her mind was busy thinking about Pippin. It was a little over a week since he had begun teaching her all he could about reading, and according to Pippin, she was making excellent progress. Though Diamond couldn’t help but wonder if he was merely saying that to encourage her, she appreciated it nonetheless.
Diamond allowed a tiny smile to creep onto her face, and bowed her head to hide the smile from Pippin. Such smiles were appearing more and more since Pippin had so boldly entered her life. Never before had someone shown such determination in getting through the timid shell that Diamond presented to the outside world. And yet there was nothing overbearing about Pippin; he was cheerful, patient, encouraging, gentle...
With a barely perceptible intake of breath, Diamond felt Pippin bring his hand up to the back of her neck, where he began to gently knead her skin. Diamond fought to keep her smile from widening.
“You are far too tense, m’dear,” he commented with a smile as he slowly massaged her neck. “I thought we had agreed you would try to be less so, at least when you are around me.”
“I shall have to try harder, I suppose,” said Diamond, still looking down at the book but absorbing none of the words on its pages.
“This isn’t making you uncomfortable, is it?” Pippin inquired, pausing his fingers. Diamond shook her head quickly.
“It’s rather nice, actually,” she said softly.
“I find it quite enjoyable myself,” said Pippin cheerfully. Diamond blushed, but this time she decided not to hide her smile.
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As Pippin rubbed his fingers against Diamond’s neck, he found himself wishing the girl would speak again, if only so he could hear her voice. But he was content to simply watch her smile that beautiful smile that he had grown so attached to. And it wasn’t just her smile - it was her eyes, her hands, her laugh, her heart...
Pippin looked on as Diamond concentrated on the book in her lap. A particularly strong breeze blew the book forward several pages, and both hobbits reached out in unison to turn the pages back. Their hands brushed against each other, and they slowly met each other’s gazes. Pippin’s heart swelled when he saw how vulnerable Diamond looked at that moment. So timid, so delicate... he was overcome with the desire to hold her, to protect her, to shield her from those who might seek to bring harm to that tender soul she possessed.
Or, at the very least, to just hold her.
It took all of Pippin’s willpower not to reach forward and take her gently into his arms, maybe even to brush a kiss against her lips. To minimize the risk, he reluctantly removed his hand from her neck. His fingertips suddenly seemed much colder.
Judging by the look on her face, Diamond seemed to interpret his actions as being a result of some mistake she had made. It pained him to see her such.
“Are you having any troubles with the book?” he asked, somewhat awkwardly. Diamond shook her head and did not meet his gaze. “Oh. Well, if you need help, just let me know.” She nodded.
I wish she would smile... she has the most wonderful smile... I wonder if there’s a way I can get her to smile...
Eventually, Pippin’s desire to see her smile and his longing to reach out and touch her became too great to ignore. “Diamond?”
She glanced up at him timidly. “Hm?”
He pointed at her hand that was nearest to him. “Is that hand busy, perchance?”
Her eyes wide, she replied, “I... er... I don’t believe so. Why?”
Pippin gave her what he hoped was a winning smile. “Well, I was wondering if I might hold it.”
Diamond’s mouth dropped open slightly, but she quickly closed it, her cheeks a bright red. Quite flustered, she answered: “Oh, I-- yes, of course you may.”
Grinning broadly, Pippin took her hand in his; he wasn’t surprised to feel her trembling. His grin faded slightly at this, but he soon shook that feeling off.
Well, if I want to get her to be more comfortable around me, I shall just have to work harder at it.
Pippin then proceeded to gently rub Diamond’s hand until the shaking slowly ceased, but even then he could not bring himself to remove both of his hands from the softness of hers.
I love her hands...
I love her face...
Everything about her...
I love her.
Pippin tightened his grip on her hand ever so slightly. Yes, he loved her. He finally managed to form that thought, and it was firm, fearless, and leaving no doubt in its wake.
He loved Diamond.
But I can’t tell her, he thought disconcertedly. No, she’s nervous enough around me as it is. It would be wrong of me to throw this at her so quickly.
One day, though.
Pippin knew he would have to be content with loving her from afar.
For a while, at least. I hope.
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