Rating: PG
Summary: Merry deals with various crises—both internal and external—while entertaining his wife's guests for a day.  Pippin (eventually) comes to the rescue, though the only person who can truly help Merry is Merry himself.
Feedback: Constructive criticism is welcome. I attempt to keep as close to book canon as possible. Ideas on how to improve in this area are particularly welcome.
Disclaimer: The places, situations and characters of The Lord of the Rings belong to the Tolkien Estate. This work contains no original characters. No money is being made from this work.

"The Doorman of Buckland"

Chapter One: Morning Tea

On a lovely, sunny morning, Mistress Estella informed Master Meriadoc that she was ill, and would not be available for guests to call upon her during the day. She told him that he would have to handle her scheduled appointments for the day; there were approximately three or four of these. Although Merry was in the mood to write, he could not neglect his responsibilities toward guests. Guests. No doubt there would be many, both expected and non-expected, for he lived at Brandy Hall, and at Brandy Hall, guests were the way of the world.

Looking in Estella's appointment book, he saw that her morning tea appointment was with two of her good friends: Melilot Brandybuck and Angelica Baggins. Merry had the rather sinking feeling they would consider him an acceptable substitute for her company, and that he would be joining them for tea instead of researching herb-lore. He was quite fond of Melilot, his grandfather's youngest brother's great-granddaughter, and he generally liked Angelica Baggins, though she fussed over him—in a motherly fashion—whenever she saw him, so he resolved that tea with the two ladies was no real punishment.

Before he could look at the rest of the appointments, the bell indicated that there were people at the main door. Merry walked past a mirror, and it occurred to him that he was wearing one of his nicest waistcoats: black with pipe leaf pattern embroidery in gold thread, along with his nicest black trousers and jacket. 'You look ready for guests and tea, not writing, you fool,' he thought to himself as he advanced toward the door.

"Miss Baggins and my dear Melilot. How lovely to see you both!" said Merry, as he effortlessly swung open the great door of Brandy Hall. "I am sure you are quite disappointed to see me instead of Mistress Estella (of course, the smiles of Miss Baggins and Miss Brandybuck indicated otherwise), but I am afraid the Mistress is ill, and cannot take calls today." Here he paused, hopeful that his formality would make them less likely to stay.

"Well, Merry, shan't you let us in? It is really very nice of you to offer to join us for tea in Estella's stead," said Melilot.

For a flash, Merry regretted not pursuing Estella's suggestion of a doorman. "Well, of course, ladies. I would be honored and pleased to do so.  Brandy Hall is not exactly on your way, and I would be greatly distressed if any guest who stands on the Hall's stoop should have an unsatisfying visit. Speaking of being satisfied, let us retire for tea and cakes." With this, Merry took their cloaks and hung them properly.

When he returned to them, he said, "Ladies?" and offered an arm to each of his guests. They both blushed and giggled quite a bit, each eagerly taking an offered arm. In this way, they proceeded toward the tea room.

Merry was turning a bit pink himself; he hoped they weren't getting any ideas. He wished Estella could be there. He understood her, and she didn't giggle at his habits—and Merry was very self-conscious about the giggles. Estella was forever telling him that other hobbitesses would not act so silly around him if he would stop being so, as she put it, "charming."

'I'm not trying to be charming,' thought Merry, 'I'm trying to be a good host.'                 

His father had felt it important to instruct him in the way of greeting and hosting guests. He had particularly emphasized the need to be polite to lady guests. As a little boy, Merry had watched his father escort ladies through Brandy Hall just as he was doing at that very moment, and he could not remember anyone giggling at Saradoc. Merry wondered where he was going wrong in his hosting. Meriadoc did not lack pride—he was extremely proud of his skills with horses and weapons, but he was unaware that even though he wasn't 36 anymore, he was dashing, handsome, delightfully polite and respectful, wealthy and powerful, and thus every hobbit-lass from eight to eighty—more and less—still mooned over him as though he had just returned from Minas Tirith dressed in the livery of Rohan.

He made sure that Angelica and Melilot were comfortably seated on the couch, and went to fetch tea and cakes. When they figured he was out of earsight, the two ladies began to talk softly.

"I do say that Estella is the luckiest lass in the Shire," said Angelica breathlessly.

"Though Master Peregrin would look a touch nicer in that dark-colored outfit, what with his hair being quite a touch darker than Master Merry's," replied Melilot. She hastily added, "Not that Master Merry doesn't look right handsome in it himself."

Both of them giggled again, but sat up bolt straight and proper when Merry came through the swinging doors.  He, of course, suspected nothing.  He presented the tray to Angelica and then Melilot, and was utterly confused by their smiles—they seemed to be suppressing laughter, but laughter at what?  He was snapped back to the parlor by the sound of open laughter from both his guests.  He looked at them, and his expression betrayed confusion and cried out for help.

"Merry!" exclaimed Melilot, "are you ever going to put that tray on the table and seat yourself?  It would be frightfully rude for us to begin while you simply stand there."

Merry once again took control of his facial expression and placed the tray on the table.  "Where are my manners?" he said, with a sheepish grin.  Neither hobbitess replied; they simply beamed.

Merry ended up in the unfortunate position of being seated between Angelica and Melilot as they chatted. They mostly talked as if he was not there, though they would occasionally look to his opinion (usually on matters that he was completely unaware of), and he would be forced to nod yes or no, and chip in some sort of small comment. He was always polite, and always kept his eyes on the person who was talking, so his head would go back and forth and back and forth and back and forth as Angelica and Melilot discussed happenings in Hobbiton and Michel Delving. 'I was better qualified to speak in a battle council!' thought Merry to himself.

Unexpectedly, the bell rang again. Merry looked to the appointment book to see if there was a caller scheduled. He opened the book and then closed it almost immediately.  The sound of the book being slammed shut echoed in the hallway outside the parlor.