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Many thanks and a shirtless Faramir go to Melyanna for her incredibly helpful suggestions, and for reminding me yet again that Pippin really needs to land one on the lips. ;)
Chapter 13 - Dusk to Dawn
* * *
The sun had set long before Pippin reached the North-took smials and came to the small grove on the outskirts of their property. He tethered his pony to a tree and hurried towards the clearing where he and Diamond had spent so much time together.
She was already there waiting for him, her face glowing in the light of the full, bright moon.
All pretenses forgotten, Pippin ran forward and embraced her before she had even seen him. She gave a small yelp of surprise that quickly turned to a delighted laugh as she eagerly returned his embrace. He lifted her up and twirled her about, laughing merrily.
“Oh, Pippin, I’m so glad you’ve come, I’ve missed you so much...”
“Here.” He pulled away and brought his hands to her face, stroking her cheeks gently. “Here, let me look at you...” He grinned and whispered reverently, “Still a vision.”
She blushed and rested her head on his shoulder. “As are you.”
He held her close, running his fingers through her curls. After a few minutes, Diamond pulled away slightly; she reached up timidly to run her fingers lightly across his chest, tracing the silver tree that was emblazoned on it.
“I’ve never seen you wear this before,” she remarked softly, looking up to meet his gaze. “It’s the same tree that’s on your seal, isn’t it?”
Pippin nodded, pulling his cloak back so that she could better see what he wore. He had decided not to wear his mail, as it was rather heavy and would have been somewhat superfluous, but he was wearing the rest of his Gondorian garb.
“Don’t get me wrong,” he said quickly, “I didn’t wear this just to show off.”
“I know,” she said softly, regarding his attire with a small smile. “I like it. Silver on black is a beautiful combination.” When she realized that she was still stroking the tree on his chest, she blushed and pulled away from him slightly. “In my opinion, at least.”
He smiled and took her hands. “And your opinion is important.”
Her blush deepened, but she drew closer to him, and he wrapped his arms around her again. She pressed her forehead against his chest and sighed contentedly.
“Are you going to tell me about it, then?” she asked softly.
“Hm? About what?”
She giggled, looking up at him. “About your tree, Pippin.”
“Oh, right!” He grinned sheepishly, and Diamond seated herself on the ground; as he joined her on the grass, he noticed that her sketchbook was laying beside her. Nodding at it, he said, “Have you been drawing more, then?”
“A little,” she replied, picking the book up and setting it in her lap.
Pippin scooted closer to her, smiling enticingly. “May I see?”
Diamond gazed at him with the shy smile that he found so lovely. “Well, certainly, but... I was sort of hoping that I could hear your story first, if that’s all right.”
He grinned in response. “I could never refuse you when you smile at me like that, love.”
She blushed again and looked down, and Pippin’s grin widened. “Now then,” he said, appearing quite cheerful. “It all started with this old ring that belonged to my cousin Bilbo...”
At first, Diamond wondered what on earth this complex tale he wove had to do with the silver tree on his chest; but she was soon so immersed in the story that all thoughts of the tree fled her mind. It was around the time that Strider and the four hobbits arrived in Rivendell, and Pippin began to describe the beauty of the Elf haven, that Diamond found herself opening her sketchbook. Her charcoal pencil flew across the page as he told her of tall trees and grand halls in a land of eternal autumn. She turned to a fresh page when the Fellowship entered Moria, and she sketched the columns of the city that the Dwarves had built long ago. But as Pippin spoke of Gandalf’s fall, his voice faltered, and he paused.
“Pippin?” she prompted, frightened at seeing him in such a state.
He sniffed and let out a shaky breath. “I’m sorry, I just... I know that everything worked out in the end, and I’ll tell you how later on, but I...” He bowed his head, squeezing his eyes shut.
She timidly reached up and ran her fingers through his hair soothingly, her heart wrenching to see him in such pain. “I didn’t know that this would be so difficult for you,” she whispered. “You don’t have to keep going if you don’t want to.”
But Pippin shook his head firmly. “No, I’m all right.” He took a deep breath and continued the story. Diamond listened with growing wonder as he began to describe the Elven wood of Lothlórien, and her pencil moved fervently to draw the mallorn trees that he spoke of.
“It all sounds so breathtaking,” she said, her voice filled with awe.
“Oh, I wish you could have seen it,” he replied, eyes shining. Without thinking, he put his arm around her shoulders as he went on with his descriptions, his face alight as he recalled the beauty of Lórien and its people. Diamond hardly noticed this herself, so caught up was she in taking in all that he said. She was almost reluctant to hear of the Fellowship’s departure from Lórien, but she stopped her pencil and listened to the events of their journey on the river. When he spoke of the attack of the Orcs, she saw that his hands began to tremble.
“And then Boromir came, and...” His entire body was shaking now with repressed tears.
“Pippin,” she whispered, unconsciously bringing her hand to his face. Something dawned on her then, and her eyes widened. “You once said that if Merry’s next child is a boy, he’s going to name him Boromir, as a... a tribute.”
Pippin nodded, closing his eyes too late to hold in the tears. “Merry said it was the least he could do, in repayment for what Boromir did for us...”
“No,” she gasped in horror.
“Three arrows,” he said, meeting her gaze. “That was what it took to finally bring him down...”
She once again ran her fingers through his hair, tears spilling down her face. She listened with horror as he told her how he and his cousin had been captured by the Orcs and forced on the long march towards Isengard, and then of their escape into Fangorn Forest. Here she once again put pencil to paper, idly sketching the image of two hobbits in the middle of a dark wood. Pippin fought back a sudden smile, wondering if Diamond would enjoy the artistic challenge that Treebeard would bring.
Indeed she did; in fact, she drew several representations before finally settling on one she must have felt came closest to Pippin’s description. She laughed softly as he struggled to describe the eyes of the old Ent even as she struggled trying to draw them.
He then told her of the Entmoot, and the Ents’ decision to march on Isengard. He could see her shudder slightly as he recounted their war song to her. A few minutes later, more images had appeared in her sketchbook, this time of the crumbled walls surrounding the tower of Orthanc. He smiled at the joy and relief in her eyes when Gandalf arrived at Isengard, soon to be followed by Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas.
All too soon the time came for him to tell of the incident with the Palantír. He paused for a moment, shifting restlessly as he thought of just how much he should tell her. He could see by the look on her face that she was already frightened, frightened of what he would say.
Sensing his apprehension, Diamond took his hand tentatively. “Please tell me,” she pleaded softly. Looking into her eyes, Pippin could see that she desperately wanted to comfort him, to know what he had been through.
“Right,” he said. “Sorry.” He let out a deep breath and proceeded to tell her everything that he had seen and heard and felt in the Palantír. He avoided her astonished gaze until he had finished speaking on the subject, up to when Gandalf had set out with him for Minas Tirith.
“Pippin,” she gasped. She slowly wrapped her arms around his shoulders, burying her face in his neck. “Oh, Pippin, I had no idea you went through all that...”
He rubbed her back, nuzzling his face into her hair. “It’s all right.”
“No, it’s not,” she muttered. After a moment, she whispered, “It must have been terrible for you to leave him like that. Your cousin, I mean.”
Pippin held her closer. “Yes. Until then Merry had always been with me, and that made things so much easier. But at least Gandalf was still there. And besides, we hobbits can overcome things quickly, can we not?” He smiled and pulled away reluctantly. “Now then, there’s still a bit more to tell, so you’ll just have to listen a while longer.” He went on to describe in a breathless tone the White City of Minas Tirith. So vivid were his recollections of the city that Diamond’s depiction on paper was almost perfect.
His face became pensive when he started to speak of Denethor. In the many years since his return to the Shire, Pippin had always tried to avoid thinking about the old man he had first sworn allegiance to.
“I suppose I felt sorry for him,” he said softly, his brows furrowed. “He had lost so much, and yet he didn’t see what he still had - namely, his country and his younger son.” Pippin sighed. “And Faramir tried so hard to obey him, and to please him...”
“Faramir... you’ve mentioned him before. Is this when you first met him?”
“Yes. Well, not yet. A few other things happened before I met Faramir.” He told her how he had sworn fealty to the Steward of Gondor and been given the armor he now wore, as well as the name Ernil i Pheriannath.
Diamond raised her eyebrows at this. “What kind of name is that?”
Pippin shifted, his face reddening. “It’s Elvish. It means...”
“Prince of Halflings,” he mumbled sheepishly.
She giggled, bringing her hand up to cover her mouth and her grin. Pippin’s blush deepened, and he spoke with an embarrassed smile, “Oh, be quiet.”
“Well...” She cocked her head to the side, regarding him thoughtfully. “I think you do look rather prince-like.” It was then her turn to blush, and she decided to change the subject. “So is the tree a symbol of Gondor, then?”
“Yes, only the tree at this time was no longer alive, and not very impressive, to say the least. It wasn’t until Strider came-- but no, I’m getting ahead of myself.” He continued with the story, his face growing darker as he came closer and closer to events he was not eager to relive. But he left nothing out, feeling that Diamond deserved a complete telling, no matter how horrific it was. He told her of the terrible siege, how Faramir had returned to the City on the edge of death, how Denethor had finally succumbed to madness and taken his youngest son to the House of the Stewards to be burned alive.
Diamond’s eyes were wide with horror, and she leaned closer to Pippin, once again taking his hand. He trembled violently as he recounted seeing Denethor holding the Palantír, then lying on the pyre, flames all about...
“Fire...” Pippin closed his eyes, his breathing ragged. “I can’t look at fire anymore. Whenever I do, I always see...” Diamond brought her hand up to caress his cheek as he struggled to find his voice again. “I’ve tried hating him for what he did, for not loving Faramir as he should have, for nearly killing his own son, for making me afraid to look at a fireplace. But I just can’t hate him. All I can do is pity him.” He met Diamond’s gaze, looking mournful and weary, and her heart broke at seeing him so filled with sorrow.
She spoke softly, “I don’t think you could hate anyone, Pippin. Not with that sweet, gentle heart of yours.”
He smiled weakly, squeezing her hand, then continued with the tale; how he had finally been reunited with his beloved cousin when he found Merry wandering the streets of Minas Tirith, covered with blood, sweat, and tears.
“I was so scared that I would lose him,” he whispered. He wiped his eyes, taking a deep breath. “But Merry’s too strong for that. And old Strider was there, and he saw to it that everyone was healed.”
Pippin recounted the departure from Minas Tirith to the Black Gate, and the final battle. Diamond gasped, horrified, as he told her of the troll and how he had blacked out at the end of it all. He told her of his awakening in Ithilien with Merry standing beside him. Tears of joy shone in his eyes as he spoke of seeing Frodo and Sam honored at the Field of Cormallen. Then came Aragorn’s coronation, and his wedding to Arwen the Elf.
“Aragorn found and planted a sapling of the White Tree in the courtyard of the Citadel, and it grows there still, and oh, Diamond, it is simply glorious.” He turned his shining eyes on her, grinning so brightly that she could not help but grin in return.
The story continued as the remainder of the Fellowship left Minas Tirith and came to Edoras, Isengard, Rivendell, and Bree before the four hobbits finally returned home to a ruined Shire.
“But I suppose you already know what happened then, with Sharkey and the ruffians.”
“Well, yes,” she said, leaning forward intently, “but never from your point-of-view.” Pippin looked up to find her gazing at him with admiration, even adoration. “I know there was a battle and that you are considered a hero for all that you did in it; but I want to hear the story from you. I want to know what you saw, what you felt.”
He furrowed his brows for a moment, surprised by the eagerness in her eyes. It had been a long time since he had met someone who was genuinely interested in his past experiences, in what he had to say.
But Diamond seemed to think she had been too bold; she moved away and sat back on her heels, pulling her knees to her chin. “But you don’t have to if you don’t want to,” she muttered quickly.
His heart swelling with love for this meek, gentle girl, Pippin reached out and lifted her chin so that she met his gaze. Words failed him for a moment, so he simply leaned in and brushed a light, tender kiss against her brow. When he pulled away, he smiled softly and said, “I shall tell you anything you wish to know, dearest.”
She returned the smile and moved closer to listen to his account of the Battle of Bywater and the final defeat of the ruffians. His expression became melancholy when he told her of Sharkey’s death in front of Bag End.
“It broke Frodo’s heart,” said Pippin sadly, “for it all to end right there on his doorstep.”
Diamond bit her lip, laying her hand over his. “What ever happened to Frodo?” she asked in a hushed, almost frightened voice.
With a sigh, he rested his head on her shoulder. “He went westward over the Sea, to a place called Valinor... where he could be healed.”
She soon felt something wet on her shoulder, and looking down, was shocked to find Pippin’s face contorted with a suppressed sob.
“Oh, Pippin!” she murmured, putting her arms around him. She stroked his hair as she held him close, allowing him to weep onto her shoulder.
“I’m sorry,” he mumbled, pulling away. “I’m sorry, I just... I know that it’s better for him there, but...”
She gently wiped his face dry. “No, don’t apologize, darling, I understand. You love him, and you miss him being here with you.”
He smiled at her. “Thank you, Diamond.”
“For what?” she asked, tilting her head to the side.
He took her hands, pressing them between his. “For understanding me. For just being so wonderful.”
She looked away, smiling shyly. But the smile slowly faded, and she spoke in a voice so soft that he could barely hear her. “I love you, Pippin.”
“I love you too, Diamond,” he replied with a slight frown. “So why do you look so upset?”
Squeezing her eyes shut, she responded, “Because you’ll be gone in the morning.”
Pippin’s heart threatened to drop like a stone, but he forced his sorrow away, smiling brightly at Diamond. “In the morning. Meaning we have the rest of the night to spend together, and I’ll not be wasting one breath of it.” She met his gaze again, and he was pleased to find her face was alight with happiness.
“Not one breath,” she agreed.
“Now then,” he said, squeezing her hands tightly. “May I see these new drawings of yours?”
* * *
It was only several hours later, when Diamond had nearly nodded off to sleep three times, that she agreed to be led back to the smials. They walked slowly, arm-in-arm, counting every last second in each other’s presence as a blessing.
When they reached the window of her bedroom, Pippin opened it for her, taking her sketchbook and reaching inside the room to lay it on her bed. They faced each other in silence for a moment, wishing the seconds could crawl by like years.
“Will you come back soon?” she asked with tears in her eyes.
“Of course,” he replied, bringing his hand up to caress her face.
She smiled at him and whispered, “I love you, Pippin.”
Pippin moved forward and embraced her. “I love you, Diamond.”
He felt a deep sigh shudder through her as she buried her face in his chest. He knew he could have stood there, holding her in his arms until the end of time, and so with great effort released her and pulled away.
“I’ll write to you as soon as I get home,” he said softly.
Diamond nodded, turning to face the window. She stood still for a moment with her back to him, as though collecting the strength to return to her room. Finally she turned again and approached him, her eyes shining in the moonlight. She gingerly placed her hands onto his shoulders, stood on her toes, and kissed his cheek.
“Good night, Pippin,” she said, stepping away.
His throat tight, he responded, “Good night.”
As Diamond backed away from him, Pippin gathered his strength and turned, walking towards the horizon where the sun would rise in a few hours time.
* * *
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