Just Your Typical Shire Romance...Or Not

Disclaimer: None of it is mine. None.

Author's note: I have been trying to write this story ever since I discovered Estella Bolger's existence, and here, finally, after several rewrites, is a first chapter. I'm not sure about the quality of this draft, so please review! Please, please, please. Tell me whether it was any good, what you liked, what you didn't like (I can take it, so be tough on me), if should continue, that sort of thing. I try to get canon right, but it's hard to choose between the books and the movies, and I haven't memorized every single word of all of Tolkien's books. Telling me I'm not canon enough is not the same as constructive criticism. So yes. Review! Also, thank you to everyone who's reviewed my other two Lord of the Rings stories, if you're reading this. Thank you! They make me want to write more about hobbits.

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Chapter 1: A Rather Large Mess

"Meriadoc Brandybuck!"

The hobbit whom occasionally went by that name (but more often by Merry) flinched. There had been pounding on the door for several minutes, but the hollering of his name was a new addition to the racket.

"Meriadoc, I've come all the way to Crickhollow to speak with you so you'd better open the door this instant!"

Merry knew the voice. He'd been trying to avoid the owner of it for months. Having Pippin, his cousin, on hand was best--he could simply say in that innocent, disarming way of his, "Merry? Oh, he's just up visiting Sam and Rosie and Gamgee." But Pippin wasn't there, and Merry was now faced with one of two choices: open the door, and probably die, or don't open the door, and probably die. It all depended on how much longer he wanted to live and how long it would take the door to splinter into a thousand pieces.

"Meriadoc! I know you're in there; I saw you duck when you noticed me coming!"

So that was it. There was to be no more skulking and cowering while the door shuddered with each angry pound on it. With a sigh, he walked down the hall to the door and swung it open; coming face to face with perhaps the last person he wanted to see at that moment.

"Hello, Estella," he said with a weak smile. She fixed him with a glare that quickly wiped it off his face, and he stammered, "It's…erm…nice to see you…"

"Invite me in, Meriadoc," she said in a dangerous tone.

He did so. There weren't many other options. And, having invited her in, he did the only sensible thing--made tea. While the water heated, Merry turned to Estella Bolger and questioned (in what he hoped resembled a stern tone), "Now, what can I possibly have done to make you so furious?"

She gave him a withering look. "I think the better question would be what haven't you done."

"All right, then," Merry replied uneasily. "What haven't I done?"

The kettle suddenly came to a boil and he busied himself with it, hoping Estella would vent her frustrations while he was only giving her half a mind.

But Estella Bolger was smarter than that. The most stubborn (not to mention sharp-tongued) lass in the Shire was not so easily deterred by the tasks of domesticity. She would wait until they were both properly settled at the table, when there would be no interruptions.

By the time that moment came, she seemed to have calmed down somewhat. At least, she wasn't quite so flushed with anger.

"Now, Estella," he began, "what…exactly…is the problem?"

Estella ignored her tea. "Is it just me, Merry, or have you gone out of your way to avoid seeing me these past couple months?"

"Er…"

"You don't have to answer that." She stared at him and went on, "And I know you've been getting Peregrin to send me away."

Merry was unsure of how to respond to this. His reasons for avoiding her like plague were many, and none of them were particularly good. After a second's thought, he decided on, "Your brother told me you're engaged."

Narrowing her eyes, Estella said, "That's utter drivel. Why would he say that?"

"Well, he said you should be engaged, and I should stay away from you."

"Merry Brandybuck, if you're lying to me--"

"I'm not," he replied emphatically. Fatty Bolger had been quite clear on that point--stay away from his sister. The elder Bolger sibling knew there had been something funny between them once, and he was going to see that it wasn't there again. It was one thing to befriend a Brandybuck, but quite another to have one in the family, after all. "He thinks you're too attached to me already."

At least Estella was no longer fuming by then. If anything, she looked rather puzzled. Leaning on the table, she asked, "Fatty's trying to keep me from seeing you?" Merry nodded warily, expecting another explosion at any time. Estella took a sip of her tea and said, "There was a Boffins lad who was quite hopeful, and my parents thought he was simply delightful." She rolled her eyes. "But I am not, and never was, engaged. I think all the pipeweed's finally gone to Fatty's head."

Merry marveled at the almost imperceptible changes in her mood. Estella would have been a terror to live with. "I only know whatever Fatty's told me."

Estella got to her feet and stared at him. "Merry, I thought you of all people would realize that I've got half a brain in my head. Do you really think I've forgotten the way you were acting before you left on your quest? All the flowers and calls you made?" Starting towards the door, she added, "My brother got it wrong. It's you that was attached."

At that moment, the door opened and a voice called, "Merry? Are you here?" Pippin Took stepped into the kitchen and started. "Oh. Estella…pleasure to see you…"

She brushed past him and mumbled, "Likewise, Peregrin."

The two hobbits heard the door slam and Pippin glanced at Merry, eyebrows raised. "What was that?"

Rising from his chair to pour his tea into the sink, Merry replied, "That, my friend, was a rather large mess."