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A hopefully-brief note: After much deliberation, I have decided to up the rating to PG-13. Not necessarily because there will be explicit material, but because there will be discussion of things that younger readers might not understand or be comfortable with. Nothing major, this is mainly just to "assuage my conscience," as Mel put it. The romantic scenes themselves will probably stay PG rated.
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Chapter 15 - Gifts
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The light of the crescent moon could only hint at the vibrant autumn colors which now filled the grove where Diamond waited. She sat on the ground, her heart fluttering with anticipation, wishing the moon was brighter so that she could see the reds, yellows, and oranges of the leaves.
She watched as one leaf broke away from its branch, her gaze following its slow, erratic path down towards the grass. As it neared the ground, she saw beyond it a figure moving amidst the trees. A grin came to her face, and she leapt to her feet and hurried into Pippin’s awaiting arms.
“I love you,” were the first words he spoke to her. “I love you, and I’ve missed you, and I love you, and I don’t ever want to let go of you, and I love you.”
Relief was evident in her joyous laugh, relief to once again find herself in his warm embrace. “Pippin, oh, Pippin, I love you too.”
He pulled back and smiled brightly at her. “I have something for you.” He then reached into his pocket and pulled out a small rock. Diamond took it with raised eyebrows, a somewhat bemused smile touching her lips. “It’s from Lily,” he explained. “Merry’s daughter.”
Diamond’s eyes lit up suddenly, and she laughed. “Oh, that’s adorable!” She looked at the rock for a moment, then smiled at Pippin. “Well, tell Lily that I said ‘thank you.’”
When she moved to pocket the rock, he said, “You don’t have to keep it if you don’t want to. She’ll likely have forgotten it by now anyway.” But Diamond simply smiled at him again, dropping the rock into her pocket. Pippin returned the smile, and taking her hand sat down with her on the ground.
For a long while they lay on their backs, their hands twined together, talking about nothing in particular. As the moon rose higher in the sky they fell silent, content to simply be in each other’s company, a rare and blessed moment where parents and illnesses and the coming of dawn were given no thoughts - when all was right in the world.
Diamond turned her head to look at Pippin, wondering if there was any way she could express what she was feeling to him in words, and saw that he had fallen asleep.
He must be exhausted, she thought, feeling suddenly guilty. Spending all day riding to see me, then riding back, with hardly any rest in between...
A gentle breeze ruffled those light brown curls that Diamond was so fond of. The moonlight illuminated that handsome face that she could barely keep her eyes from. His nose, his lashes, his lips - they came together perfectly to form the most beautiful face she had ever seen, and yet she knew that his physical appearance did not come close to doing justice to what an incredible person he was.
She released his hand and shifted so that her face hovered above his. Barely aware of her actions, she leaned in closer and closer until her lips were directly above his. His breath was warm against her mouth, and in the moonlight she could faintly discern several thin scars scattered across his handsome face, tokens of his service in war. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and brought her lips down to his, allowing them to linger for a moment; and in that short moment, she felt his mouth moving beneath hers. Realization struck, and her eyes flew open to find Pippin gazing up at her. She immediately pulled away, fear and shame evident in her face.
“I’m sorry,” she muttered, unable to meet his gaze. “I’m so sorry, Pippin.”
“Why?” Pippin asked softly.
Diamond shook her head. “I don’t know why I did it, I didn’t mean to--”
“No, not that,” he said, and she looked up at him with surprise. “Why are you sorry?”
“B- because, I...” She looked down at her hands. “It... it was very silly of me, very inconsiderate--”
“How so?” Pippin’s voice was filled with shock and amazement, but was without a trace of anger. “By letting me wake up to something so wonderful?”
She had certainly not expected that sort of reaction. “You mean... you aren’t upset with me?”
“Of course not!” Pippin said, smiling. “Diamond, I couldn’t be angry with you if I wanted to be, and besides...” He moved closer to her and brought a hand up to caress her cheek. “It was a very lovely experience indeed.”
“So, if it were to happen again,” she said slowly and with a shy smile. “You wouldn’t mind?”
Pippin moved even closer to her, so that their foreheads were touching. “Not in the least.” And he tilted her chin and kissed her.
Diamond had never been kissed before, so she was by no means experienced. And yet she knew that what she was experiencing was the best kind of kiss there could ever be; because it was Pippin’s skin she felt, Pippin’s breath she tasted, Pippin’s lips that caressed hers so lovingly. And inexperienced though she was, she knew without a doubt that no other lips could have possibly compared. It was comfort, it was bliss, it was everything Pippin was to her.
He broke the kiss and pulled away slightly, gazing into Diamond’s eyes. He cupped her face with his hands and brushed a gentle kiss against the tip of her nose. She smiled, wrapping her arms around his neck and running her fingers through his curls.
“That was nice,” she whispered.
“It was,” he murmured, kissing her forehead tenderly as he stroked her cheek. When a tear slipped beneath his fingertips, he pulled back in surprise. “Diamond? Are you all right?” His eyes widened. “I didn’t hurt you, did I?”
She shook her head quickly. “I’m fine. It’s just that...” She squeezed her eyes shut. “I know that you’ll have to leave soon, and... and it’s becoming harder and harder to say goodbye to you.”
He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close. As she wept softly onto his chest, he rubbed her back and whispered, “Shh... I know. It’s becoming rather unbearable for me as well.” She trembled in his arms, and his eyes burned with his own suppressed tears. He wasn’t sure if he would be able to release her at all that evening; how could he let go, having seen and shared her pain? How could he, when it felt so right to hold her?
She let out a deep breath, forcing back her tears. “But it’ll be all right in the end.” As though seeking affirmation, she looked up at him, her bright eyes wide.
Pippin smiled, using his thumb to wipe away her tears. “Yes. We’ll find a way.” He lowered his voice to a reverent whisper. “I love you, Diamond.”
Diamond leaned against him and sighed, fresh tears streaming down her face. “I love you too, Pippin, I love you so much...”
Burying his face in her hair, Pippin breathed deeply and held her tightly against him. “Don’t cry, dearest. It won’t always be like this. You said so yourself, it’ll be all right in the end.”
“Pippin, will you...” She met his gaze meekly. “Will you kiss me again? Please?”
He was all too eager to comply; but still he kept his movements slow and careful. She began to tremble in his arms, overwhelmed by the tenderness of his touch. A muffled sob escaped her, and Pippin started to pull away, thinking he had harmed her. But she tried to follow his lips, and before either of them knew what was happening, he lost his balance and toppled backwards, Diamond falling on top of him.
They stared at each other, eyes wide with surprise at their sudden change in position, and simultaneously burst into a fit of laughter.
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The couple had departed their grove and returned to stand outside of Diamond’s bedroom window, preparing themselves once more to say goodbye. Pippin held her close, running his hand slowly up and down her back, gazing regretfully at her bedroom window which they now stood before.
“I don’t know when I’ll be able to see you again after tonight,” he said softly. “After the babe is born...”
Diamond nodded, lifting her head from his chest to look at him. “Your cousin will need you there. I understand.”
Pippin smiled, bringing his fingers up to her face. He leaned in timidly, unsure as to whether his advances would be welcome. But when he saw the hopeful expectancy in her eyes, his smile widened, and he brought his lips down onto hers in a slow, lingering kiss.
He broke away with a sigh, setting his arms about her shoulders and closing his eyes. “Mmm... you have no idea how badly I’ve wanted to do that these past few months.”
Diamond laughed, a shy smile gracing her face. “Really?”
Opening his eyes, he replied, “Really.” He kissed her again, his heart swelling with euphoria at the feel of her mouth moving against his.
Hours later, as Pippin rode through hidden paths towards Buckland, the memory of Diamond’s touch remained, warming his lips for many days afterwards.
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Hearing the front door open and close, Merry looked up from the papers on his desk. A few seconds later, he saw Pippin walking up to the open doorway of his study. The young hobbit took hold of the door frame with one hand, slowly swinging himself to face the inside of the room. He leaned the front of his torso against the doorframe, regarding his cousin with an extremely satisfied smile.
“Why Pippin,” said Merry, setting down his quill. “You’re looking quite pleased with yourself. Did you commit some sort of heinous act on your way home?”
“Oh, I just wanted to let you know...” His voice was slow and cheerful, and there was a mischievous glint in his eyes. “...That I have put an end to that ‘cheek’ nonsense.”
Without another word, Pippin pushed away from the doorframe and sauntered off, leaving a very amused Merry in his wake.
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