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TheTheft of Pippin's Heart
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My elements for this story were: a wizard, a rope, and Diamond

Many thanks to Llinos for the beta.

The Theft of Pippin's Heart

Pippin stood in a dark corner of the room, watching the pretty hobbit lass with the black hair and deep blue eyes dancing with Berilac Brandybuck. Normally, he would not be by himself like this at a party; Pippin loved to be the centre of attention, and he was usually surrounded by all sorts of lasses begging for the attention of the future Thain. Tonight, however, was not a normal night. It was his cousin Merry's 38th birthday party, and Merry was the one tonight who was the centre of attention. Fortunately for Merry, he was already taken; he was in a group at the far side of the room with Saradoc and Pippin's sister Pearl, and the lovely Estella Bolger on his arm. Merry and Estella had just become betrothed a week ago, so now the future Master of Buckland was taken. Now all of the lasses that would normally be swarming all over Merry were looking for Pippin. But tonight, Pippin wanted to remain out of the limelight. There was only one lass Pippin had his eye on, and it was one that didn't seem the least bit interested in him.

Pippin realized he couldn't stay hidden forever. He sighed as he contemplated his situation. Not too long ago, Pippin and Merry were the most eligible bachelors in the Shire, and they had both revelled in it. They loved tromping from one end of the Shire to the other dressed in their finery; Pippin in his dashing black and silver, Merry in his green and white. They were tall and handsome, and not to mention famous heroes from the War. But soon Estella had caught Merry's eye, and it hadn't taken long for him to start courting her exclusively. Pippin had been sad at first to lose his partner in crime, but soon he himself had become attracted to a certain North-Took cousin whom he had never before even noticed. The irony of the whole thing was that, although 90 percent of the unmarried lasses would have latched onto Pippin at the first sign of attraction, Diamond of Long Cleeve seemed to have no interest in him at all.

Diamond was a young seamstress whom Pippin had met through his mother, when Eglantine had commissioned her to sew a few formal dresses for her. She came highly recommended, as she had been trained by her own mother, the renowned Violet Took, who had made Eglantine's own wedding and maid-of-honour dresses. During the few times she had visited the Great Smials, Pippin had become positively enamoured of her. Not only was she beautiful, but she was also very intelligent and funny. The only problem was she didn't seem very impressed by the Thain's only son. Well, he knew that he had a reputation for arrogance, but he thought he had reined that in fairly well while in her presence. It would figure that the only lass who didn't seem air-headed or shallow would be the one who would spurn his advances.

Pippin sighed, and stepped out of the shadows. He glanced in Merry's direction, and saw that Gandalf had joined their little group. Gandalf was the only Big Person in the room, and had garnered a lot of attention from the hobbits, although his presence in Buckland wasn't all that uncommon since the Quest. Pippin made his way towards them, hoping no lasses would notice him and bar his way.

"Damn," he swore under his breath as he saw Iris Proudfoot make her way boldly over. "If it had to be anybody...." Why didn't someone just give him a rope so he could hang himself now, and get it over with?

"Peri!" Iris shrilled. "Peregrin Took, as I live and breathe! I didn't even know you were here, you've been keeping such a low profile. Did you know that my daughter, Pansy, is here tonight? She would just be thrilled if you were to ask her to dance, Peri, I know it. She may play hard to get, but she's just dying to talk to you. She's shy, you know, poor girl. She doesn't get courted very often, poor thing. Would you be so kind as to dance with her? She's standing over there with her friend, Opal, who I KNOW that you know, " she said rather disapprovingly. Opal Boffin had been one of Pippin's interests several years ago.

"I was just on my way to do that, Mrs. Proudfoot," Pippin lied, then veered in the direction of Pansy. Pansy was a nice hobbit lass, she just didn't hold any interest for Pippin. Well, he'd get this one dance out of the way, at least.

As he twirled Pansy around the dance floor, he kept an eye on Diamond out of the corner of his eye, keeping up a steady stream of small talk. Pippin was quite gifted at giving his tongue free rein while his mind was elsewhere. Diamond was very popular with the lads, he noticed; now she was dancing with Jolly Cotton, Rose Gamgee's twin brother. He seemed enchanted with her, from the looks of things, and she seemed so with him as well. Pippin scowled.

After seeing Pansy to the refreshment table, he was waylaid by three other lasses who were chomping at the bit to dance with him. When he finally finished, he glanced around and noticed that Merry's small group had broken up; he didn't see any of them anywhere. Grumbling, he made his way to the exit for a smoke. As he stepped outside, he caught sight of Merry walking along the pathway with Estella. The happiness on his face was there for all to see, and Pippin gave a little sigh of jealousy.

"What's the matter, Pippin?" Pearl asked. She was sitting on a bench under one of the many oak trees surrounding Brandy Hall. Pippin made his way over to her and sat down, fishing out his pipe in the process. "You're heartsick, aren't you?"

Pippin gave her a smile that looked more like a grimace. "How can you tell?"

"Well, you won't get anywhere with her if you don't ask her to dance, that much is certain."

"She won't be interested."

"Oh? And how do you know this? Have you already asked her?"

"No, but..."

"Well then, "Pearl said, as if that ended the discussion. "Ask and see what she says."

"I already know what she'll say, Pearl. She'll just turn me down. She hasn't shown any interest in me up to this point, what makes you think she'll start now?"

"Are you serious?" Pearl turned so she was facing Pippin. "Pippin, that girl is head over heals for you. It's obvious to anyone with half a brain. And besides, you're all she talks about when she's at Great Smials."

Pippin gave a look of utter shock. "What?"

"Well, why are you surprised? She's a lovely girl, Pippin, and she thinks the world of you. She always brings up your name in conversation and asks about you, how you're doing, what you've been up to, what kind of mischief you and Merry are getting into. Oh yes, we've told a good many stories about you that would make you blush, I imagine. You know, the kind of things big sisters like to spread around about their annoying little brother?" She smiled at him. He couldn't help but smile back. Pearl had always been his favourite sister; she would always stand up for him as a child whenever he got into trouble, and she had been like a second mum to him, being 14 years older.

"Then why does she always answer in monosyllables when I try to engage her in conversation? I've had my eye on her for a while now, but I've always sensed an air of dismissal about her whenever I try to talk to her. She doesn't seem the shy type, so what have I been missing?"

"She may not ordinarily be shy, but after she heard all the stories we told about what you did during the War, she seemed to become a bit insecure around you."

Pippin blushed a deep red and frowned. "What kind of things have you told her?"

"Only the truth. How you, Merry and Sam risked your lives to accompany Frodo on a Quest to destroy the Enemy's weapon, and that you saved an important man of Gondor from a certain fiery death. How you killed a troll and almost died because of it. I think she was quite impressed. She probably is indulging in a bit of hero-worship."

"Wonderful, Pearl." Pippin was feeling a rush of anger. "I don't want some starry-eyed lass who can only see the supposed 'hero'....I want somebody who's confident and sure of themselves, and isn't impressed with all that stuff and nonsense. Now I find out that she's just like every other lass around here. She just wants to snag the Thain's son, doesn't she?"

"No, no, Pippin! It's not like that at all." Pearl was alarmed; she thought her attention-seeking brother would be pleased. "I think she's impressed with your loyalty towards your friends; that's very important to a lass, it is." Pearl backtracked as hard as she could; this was not turning out the way she had wanted at all.

"Oh just forget it Pearl," Pippin snapped. He got up and strode back to the entrance of the hall, his fists clenched in frustration. He almost ran into Merry who was returning with Estella.

"Pippin!" Merry grinned. "How many lasses have you danced with so far?"

"Sod off, Merry!" Pippin shouted. He spun on his heel and walked in the opposite direction, towards the Brandywine, leaving Merry and Estella standing there in shock.

Thoroughly miserable, Pippin headed towards the lazy winding of the River, waters glistening silver in the moonlight. He was disgusted with himself, yelling like that at Merry, and on his birthday! He was a poor excuse for a best friend. Sighing, he walked along the river bank away from the lit-up Hall from which sounds of music and gaiety were emanating. He certainly wasn't feeling like himself tonight; Pippin would usually be in the thick of the celebration, especially at his best friend's birthday party.

As he walked, Pippin caught sight of Frodo out of the corner of his eye. Unlike Pippin, Frodo was known to wander off from large gatherings, especially since returning from the Quest. His melancholy had settled like a cloak over him, and it seemed to be a permanent part of him these days. He was standing at the edge of the river; pipe in hand, gazing across to the other side. He seemed a thousand leagues away, lost in thought.

Seeming and reality, however, can be two different things. "Hello, Pippin," Frodo said without turning around. "What are you doing out here? Why aren't you inside dancing, charming your way through broken hearts?"

Pippin cringed. "I'm just not in the mood, I guess, Frodo."

Frodo turned to look at Pippin. "Not in the mood? Well, there's a first time for everything, I suppose," Frodo smiled. "What about the young North Took...Diamond I believe her name is?"

Pippin's jaw dropped. He had never told Frodo about Diamond; how could he know about her? Then again, Pippin remembered that Frodo had foretold the birth of Rosie and Sam's child, and Rosie WAS currently with child. He had said that the first one would be a lass, and the second a lad, so everyone was now waiting to see if he was right. Could Frodo have a touch of the Tookish sight? It was possible.

"What do you know about Diamond?" Pippin asked warily.

"Well, I haven't talked to her myself, but I sense that she's a lass with a good head on her shoulders, and that she knows a good thing when she sees it. Perhaps she just needs time to process all you've been through. I DO know she's not like every other lass; she's exceptional, in that she sees to the heart of a person almost instantly. She isn't impressed by outward trappings at all. The fact that you're the Thain's son holds no appeal to her, but the fact of your unswerving loyalty towards your friends... that appeals to her greatly. The fact that she doesn't seem very friendly; that's just her way of keeping her distance so that she can sort through her feelings. Before you left on the Quest, you were a different person; now the fact that you've grown up has left her at loose ends, so to speak."

"You mean she was aware of me before the Quest? I didn't even know who she was before she started making dresses for my mum."

"Oh, she was most definitely aware of you. Not impressed, but aware." Frodo chuckled. "You were quite the unmanageable young hobbit, you know. I think sometimes being the only son of the Thain did you no favours. But you have grown up, Pippin; you're a different hobbit than you were. We all are."

Pippin grew solemn. "Yes, we are, aren't we? Which brings us around to you, Frodo. How are you doing? Are you enjoying yourself?"

"Oh yes, I'm feeling fine tonight. It's grand watching Merry go forward with his life, and Sam too. They have both found wonderful lasses. And you have too, Pippin. You just have to give it time. The first step would be asking her to dance."

"How do you know all this, Frodo? Is it your drop of Tookish blood coming to the fore lately?"

Frodo smiled. "I'm not sure; I just seem to know certain things, and I'm not sure how I do. For example, I know that you will be the finest Thain the Shire has ever seen. And I know that Merry will become known as the Magnificent when he becomes Master of Buckland. And I know that Sam and Rosie will have at least seven children, if not more. He'll also be mayor more than once. Good old Sam...he'll become more than he ever dreamed of being. His life will be rich and full."

"And what about yours?" Pippin asked quietly. "Will your life be rich and full?"

Frodo looked at Pippin sadly. "I don't know, Pippin. I can't see anything about my future, isn't that strange? I feel that I will gain healing, I'm just not sure how. But it's enough for me to know that I WILL gain it, and that the ones I love will as well. So, what do you say? Are you going to find that young lass and ask her to dance?"

Pippin smiled. "I think I may just do that, Frodo. First, I have to apologize to Merry; I bit his head off for no good reason. Then, I shall see what I can do about the lovely Miss Diamond. I hope that you're right about her, Frodo."

"I am, never doubt it. Now off with you!"

Pippin smiled as he headed back to the Hall. He found Merry sitting under the same tree Pearl had been, so he first made his apologies, which Merry readily accepted with no questions asked. Pippin was grateful to have a friend like him. Then, screwing up his courage, he set out to find a certain North Took that had stolen his heart, and apparently was in no hurry to give it back... But that was more than satisfactory with him; everything would turn out all right; after all, Frodo had said it would, and that was good enough for Pippin.


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