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Stars May Collide  by Rose Gamgee

I'm afraid individual replies will have to wait; I'm beat right now. :-P But thank you all so much for reading!

Also, big thanks to my beta, Melyanna (who, by the way, has recently posted her wonderful Faramir/Éowyn story here and at FFN *hint hint, nudge nudge*) for helping me make this chapter much better than what I'd originally written.

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Chapter 9 - Realizations

* * *

When Diamond awoke the next morning, the first thing she felt was a hand gently stroking hers.  She opened her eyes and smiled when she saw Pippin sitting in a chair beside her.

“Good morning,” he said, returning her smile.

“Good morning.”  Noticing just how tired Pippin looked, Diamond furrowed her brows.  “What time is it?”

“About five thirty in the morning.”

Diamond sat up quickly.  “Oh, Pippin, you didn’t stay here all night, did you?”

He shrugged.  “I wanted to make sure you were all right.”  His smile faded, and he looked down at her worriedly.  “Are you?”

Diamond nodded.  “I’m sorry I caused such a fuss yesterday.  I really never meant to be such a burden to you.”

Pippin squeezed her hand.  “Burden?  Diamond, I will never consider you a burden, even if a time came when I had to carry you across the Shire on my back.”

She smiled and said softly:  “You’ve done so much for me.  I only wish I could give you something in return.”

“You’ve given me your company, and that’s all I need,” he said.

But as Pippin spoke this, Diamond thought she saw something flash across his face, some sort of hidden message that he longed to put into words.  It was nothing hostile or hateful, but it was something that Diamond simply could not recognize.  She had seen Pippin look at her in such a way before, but he was the first person to ever do so.  No one had ever looked at her the way Pippin did...

Diamond had a strange feeling that she looked at Pippin in the exact same way.

“Diamond?  Are you all right?”

Realizing suddenly that she had been gazing at Pippin for several seconds, Diamond blushed and looked away.

But Pippin smiled at her, setting his elbow on the bed and resting his chin in his hand.  “Have I told you how much I love your blush?”

“Once or twice,” she replied, blushing even more.

She wanted nothing more than to stay there with Pippin for as long as possible, but she felt far too guilty when she remembered how tired he must be.  She reluctantly got out of bed.

“You need to get some rest, Pippin,” she said.

Pippin sighed and nodded, and Diamond thought that he looked just as reluctant as she was.  “All right,” he responded, climbing into the bed.

Diamond pulled the blankets up to his chest.  “Sweet dreams.”

Before she could walk away, Pippin caught her hand and held it tightly.  “Sweet dreams will not be a problem,” he said, giving her a small smile.

Diamond was very reluctant indeed to let go of Pippin’s hand and walk out of the room.

* * *

Diamond sat at her vanity table, an object that, other than allow her to brush her hair in the mornings, usually did little more than accumulate dust in her room.  But she had been sitting there at the table for several hours, staring at her reflection and drumming her fingers on the dust-covered wood.

What does it all mean?

Diamond loved spending time with Pippin; he made her happier than she had ever been.  And yet she feared whatever it was that caused her heart to leap when she met his gaze, or when he spoke her name, or when he held her hand...

A knock at the door pulled Diamond away from those thoughts.  “Come in,” she called, turning to see who entered.  It was her sister, Opal.

“Hello, Diamond,” greeted Opal, a bit awkwardly.  “How are you feeling?”

“Fine,” she replied, her face reddening.  She wondered if the entire household knew about her fainting spell the previous evening.

Opal’s awkward manner dissipated suddenly, and she looked as though she was fighting an impish smile.  “By the way... I heard that Master Peregrin was rather nice about that whole thing.  Carried you into his room and everything.”

Diamond’s face reddened even more.  “You know about that?”

“Oh, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it,” she said, sitting on the bed.  “I think it’s adorable, your feelings.”

“My feelings?” Diamond inquired curiously.

Opal raised her eyebrows.  “About Pippin.”

“What do you mean?” asked Diamond, her brows knitted in confusion.

Opal smiled.  “You don’t have to play games with me, Diamond.  Besides, there’s nothing wrong with an innocent infatuation!”

Diamond’s eyes widened.  “Yes,” she said slowly and distractedly.  “Just an infatuation.”

Of course.  How could it have taken her so long to realize the truth?  All those weeks spent with Pippin, gazing up at him when he wasn’t looking, waiting eagerly for him to say something, it all meant so much more than what Diamond’s naïve mind had at first thought.  It was not friendship that made her heart swell whenever she was with Pippin.

“Diamond?” Opal prodded gently.  She knelt beside of her sister, placing a hand on Diamond’s knee.  When Opal saw the look on the younger hobbit’s face, she inhaled sharply and said:  “Oh my... it is more than just an infatuation, isn’t it?”

But Diamond shook her head quickly.  “No, you’re right, it’s only an infatuation.  Nothing...”  She lowered her head and closed her eyes.  “Nothing will come of it.”

Opal seized her sister’s hands and held them tightly.  “I’m sorry, Diamond, I didn’t mean to bring you down like that!  I didn’t think...”

“It’s all right,” said Diamond softly, standing up.  “I’m going to take a walk outside.”

Opal stood as well, wringing her hands.  “Do you want me to come with you?”

“No,” she replied dazedly as she turned away.  “I’d like to be alone for a while.”  Without waiting for a response, Diamond walked out the door and into the hallway.  Her pace quickened significantly as she neared the main door.

Diamond’s swift walk turned into a run as soon as she was outside, and she dashed towards the little grove where she and Pippin had spent so much time together.  Her raging emotions seemed to power her legs, moving her faster than she had ever gone.  Her thoughts blurred along with the trees and shrubs she was passing, bringing a blissful moment where she did not have to think about her newfound clarity.

When she reached the grove, Diamond dropped onto her side and curled up at the base of a tree; she pulled her legs up and buried her face in her knees, weeping onto her dress.

She had never expected love to be like this.  She had always thought it to be something grand and beautiful, not something to cry over.  But a terrible guilt had enveloped her; she felt as though she had betrayed Pippin by falling in love with him.

And besides, she thought bitterly.  Nothing will ever come from it.  He’s the son of the Thain, and a hero of the Shire.  I don’t deserve him anyway.

Several minutes passed, and a miserable Diamond still lay on the ground.  She did not notice that she had been joined until she heard Pippin’s voice from above, saying her name.  She gasped and looked up; when she saw Pippin standing there, his face filled with worry and pity, she could only cry harder.

Pippin knelt beside of Diamond as she buried her face in her hands.  He reached out and brushed a few strands of hair out of her face, then laid his hand against her cheek.  He didn’t say anything, and Diamond guess that he was waiting for her to start.

“I’m sorry, Pippin,” she said through her tears as she pulled her hands away from her face.  “I’m so sorry.”

Pippin lay down facing Diamond on the ground.  He smiled slightly, taking her hand.  “What hideous act have you committed lately that requires an apology?”

She squeezed her eyes shut, shaking her head.  “I can’t... I can’t tell you.  I’m sorry, Pippin.”

“You can tell me anything, Diamond,” he replied earnestly.  “Please, if something is bothering you, I want to know about it.  I want to help you.”

But Diamond only cried harder, and when Pippin reached out to wipe away some of her tears, she recoiled as though he was about to strike her.

Pippin drew his hand back immediately.  After watching her sadly for a moment he nodded.  “All right, Diamond.  I won’t force you.”  Sighing deeply, he released her limp hand and stood.  “I’ll leave you alone.”  There was a sense of reluctant finality in his voice.

It was only when Pippin began to walk away that Diamond could bring herself to look at him.  His shoulders were slumped as though in defeat.  More guilt swept over her when she recalled the pain that had been evident in his voice.

It may be wrong to be in love with him, but it is even more wrong to hide it from him.

The words fell from her lips before she had the chance to stop them, and her voice was desperate and sorrowful as she spoke: “I love you, Pippin!”

At her statement, Pippin came to a sudden halt.  Diamond clamped her hands to her mouth, horrified.  As Pippin slowly turned to look at her, she closed her eyes and leaned against the tree, her emotions overwhelming her to the point where she could barely breathe.

Only the touch of a hand on her hair caused Diamond to open her eyes.  She saw that Pippin had sat down in front of her and was gazing at her with wonder.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered mournfully, finally able to meet his gaze.

Much to her surprise, Pippin’s face broke into a delighted grin.  “My dearest Diamond, whatever for?”

Her eyes wide, Diamond stammered, “Wh- what do you mean?”

Pippin sat back for a moment, looking pensive.  “Now what would Faramir say at a time like this?  He was always good with this sort of thing...”  Pippin thought on this vague subject as Diamond wondered idly who Faramir was.  After a few seconds, he smiled and leaned closer to Diamond; he brought both of his hands up to cup her face gently as he gazed into her eyes.  “I have loved you, Diamond North-took, perhaps ever since I first saw you.  Every moment with you is a paradise.”  He frowned suddenly.  “Wait... except when you’re crying, like you were before.  That I could do without.  Ah, where was I...?”

Diamond laughed through her tears.  “Paradise,” she said.

“Yes, paradise!  Allow me to rephrase:  Every moment with you when you’re happy is a paradise.”

“Oh, Pippin,” said Diamond, still weeping but this time not with sadness.

Pippin put a finger to her lips, silencing her.  “I wasn’t finished!  If I am going to do this properly, as my friend Faramir would have done, then it needs to be grand and elaborate.”  He cleared his throat, and then lowered his voice to a tone that neared reverence.  “Diamond, I deem you to be the most lovely creature in all the Shire.  I treasure every smile you give to me, every moment you allow me to spend with you.  How you can manage to take my breath away with the slightest of glances I will never know.  But I do know that you are tender beyond words, patient beyond reason, beautiful beyond compare, and many other things that I cannot now describe, and that I love you with all my heart.”  He paused suddenly and whispered, “Have I swept you off your feet yet?”

Diamond laughed again, feeling as though she would burst with a joy she had never before known.  She threw her arms around his neck and replied, “Yes, Pippin, you have!”

Pippin smiled softly, wrapping his arms around her waist.  “I love you, Diamond,” he murmured, staring deep into her eyes, his gaze repeating without words what he had already spoken and leaving no room for doubt in Diamond’s heart.

“I love you, too, Pippin,” she whispered in response, nuzzling her face into his neck, reveling in how the saying of those words made her heart soar.

* * *

Pippin and his father had decided to set out for Tuckborough the next day.  It pained Pippin to leave Diamond so soon after they had both confessed their love, but he found it difficult to be sad when he had that love to think about.

Pippin already had his things packed onto his pony, and his father was outside saying goodbye to the North-tooks.  But Pippin tarried inside the smials for a moment, in a deserted corridor, to say his own special goodbye to one hobbit in particular.

Diamond looked up at him, smiling sadly.  Their hands were clasped together tightly, and both were reluctant to let go.

“Will you write to me when you reach Buckland?” Diamond asked hopefully.

“I’m afraid not,” Pippin replied.  When he saw the disappointment in her face, he smiled and continued, “I won’t be able to wait that long.  I shall write to you as soon as I reach the Great Smials.”

Diamond returned the smile even as a single tear rolled down her face.  Pippin brought a hand up to gently wipe it away, allowing his fingertips to linger on her soft skin.  He looked troubled.

“I don’t think writing will suffice for me, though,” he said.  “Would it be all right if... if I came here from time to time and visited you?”

“Oh, Pippin, that would be wonderful,” said Diamond sadly, “but I don’t think our parents would approve.”

“Yes, I thought about that,” he said, his brows furrowed.  “But they wouldn’t have to know.”  He gazed at her intently and lowered his voice.  “We could meet in secret.  The grove - no one else goes there but us - we could meet there.  No one would have to know but us.”

Diamond returned his gaze steadily and nodded.  “All right.  I would like that.”  She rushed forward suddenly and embraced him, breathing deeply in hopes of gathering as much of his scent as she could into her memory.  “I’ll miss you,” she whispered.

Pippin rested his chin on top of her curls as he stroked her back.  “I’ll miss you, too.”  He pulled away from her and tilted her chin up.  He leaned in slowly, hesitating a moment before kissing her cheek.

“But I will come back,” he said softly.

She smiled at him.  “I know.  I shall just have to be patient.”

Pippin returned her smile.  “Farewell, Diamond.”

He gave her hand one last squeeze before turning away and walking down the hallway.  When he had rounded a corner and disappeared from her sight, Diamond leaned against the wall, wiping away fresh tears that had spilled down her face as soon as Pippin had released her hand.  She waited a few minutes before following him outside, and saw that he and his father had already mounted their ponies.

Pippin gave a small, polite wave to the other North-tooks who were gathered outside.  His gaze passed over the group of hobbits, lingering for a moment on Diamond.  He gave the faintest of smiles that only she could see, a smile meant only for her.

As he turned and rode away, Diamond whispered, “Farewell, Pippin.”

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