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.

Author's Note: In an earlier presentation of a draft of this story, it was agreed that it was possible to go between Brandy Hall and the Smials in one day, if one moved at a quick pace.  If any reader can present credible information to the contrary, please let me know so that I may adjust the timeline accordingly.

"The Doorman of Buckland"

Chapter Three: Great Smials

Through sheer luck, the messenger had discovered another shortcut that allowed him to arrive at Great Smials well before dark. He rode through the gate at the great fence that surrounded the property, and handed his very tired horse off to the barn hand so he could be cared for properly. He went straight for the main door, and told the doorman that he had business with the Thain, and a message from the Master of Buckland to relay.

He was soon shown in to one of the drawing rooms, and told that the Thain would be there as soon as possible. The wait allowed him to soak in the hustle and bustle that was Great Smials. It was very different from Brandy Hall under Meriadoc, but it did resemble Brandy Hall under Saradoc. Thain Peregrin had more in common with his uncle than he probably knew. As had once been the case at Brandy Hall, the corridors of Great Smials (which were slightly smaller, yet more numerous than those at the Hall) were packed with hobbits—servants, family members, guests, both wanted and unwanted—and you practically had to scream to be heard over the din. The messenger thought he saw some of Mistress Diamond's more obnoxious relatives, who had been excused by the Thain a week ago, going down one of the corridors. Much like Saradoc, however, Thain Peregrin could not have recited the list of guests actually at Great Smials if his life depended on it.

The noise in the corridor began to quiet, which could only mean one thing: the Thain was approaching. Surely enough, he gallantly strode into the room. The messenger beamed—it was impossible not to beam when in the gaze of the Thain—and bowed. As he straightened up, he quickly bowed again, for the lovely Mistress Diamond had accompanied him. A right King and Queen of the Hobbits (or was it Prince and Princess?) did these two make. Thain Peregrin radiated the joy he found in every situation: in responsibility, in accomplishment, in time spent with family and friends, and in the goodness of the land of the Shire. He wore finely made plain black trousers and waistcoat, and quite frankly, the ladies were right: he wore dark colors better than Master Meriadoc, what with his dark, dark hair and all. The Mistress Diamond was arrayed in pale yellow, and copper hair fell about her shoulders. Eyes greener than the Thain's danced with happiness. Warmth filled the room.

The messenger spoke his piece concerning Master Meriadoc's thoughts on the borders; these were of no special importance, the two hobbits just liked to keep each other up to date on the events occurring near the outskirts of their land.

"I do have more news to report," the messenger continued.

"Please, go ahead then, good man," commanded Pippin.

"Mistress Estella is ill—"

Diamond gasped and Peregrin's expression was filled with concern.

"Nay, it is not serious, but it has left the dear Master in a rather strange predicament. He is entertaining his wife's guests."

Pippin had to stifle a laugh. "And those guests include?"

"When I left, he was engaged in conversation with Melilot Brandybuck and Miss Angelica Baggins. I'm afraid he looked rather miserable."

"Poor Merry is rather uncomfortable in those situations without Estella or you with him," said Diamond to Pippin.

"I do believe I shall ride to the Hall and save my dear cousin, Witch-King Slayer, from the Foes He Cannot Conquer: the Hobbitesses of the Shire!"

Pippin was grinning, and obviously very amused and excited about a chance to ride to Brandy Hall and show off to Merry's guests. Whereas Merry would rather hide from most hobbitesses other than his wife, but felt obligated to bow and be respectful to them, Pippin would bow and wink and compliment every single lady, young or old, that came across his path on a given day. His greatest charm was, of course, reserved for Diamond, who did not mind her husband's antics at all. The Thain was non-discriminatory and very harmless in bestowing his affections, and Diamond had seen how on more than one occasion, a wink or compliment from Pippin had vastly improved the spirits and confidence of a hobbit lass.

Though Merry and Pippin had many similarities, some of which quite frankly disturbed Diamond and Estella, who of course talked about these things at length in private, there were differences in the way they were treated, and this situation showed one of them. Pippin was loved for his constant energy, his amazing presence, his boldness, and his skills in conversation, among other things. He exuded charm on his own terms. He had a control of his life and situation that had not been seen in the Shire since the days of his great ancestor the Old Took. Thain Peregrin was truly an extraordinary hobbit in every sense of the word.

Merry was loved for his quietness in everything: his demeanor, his charity, his dedication to keeping up the defenses of Buckland, the way he showed affection for friends and family and his scholarship. He also exuded charm, but it was not on his own terms. The hobbitesses found him to be charming, because it was painfully obvious that he was constantly worried that his hospitality would be interpreted as attempting to charm. He did not want anyone to believe that he even thought of other lasses besides Estella (and he truly didn't), so he was always falling over himself trying to make the point that he was merely being hospitable and not trying to charm or make passes at anyone. No hobbitess could resist the draw of his awkward expressions, more suited for a little boy than the Master of Buckland, and they always followed him around, giggling like schoolgirls.

It was those giggles that worried all who loved him, including this messenger. Turning back to his thoughts on Pippin and Saradoc, the messenger realized that these two exuded the same confidence and gregarious nature. No one would dare laugh at either hobbit. Merry had more in common with his grandfather in that both hobbits were quietly everything. None of these young ones knew, but the lasses had giggled at Rorimac much as they giggled at Merry, and it had negatively affected Goldfather's personality. Merry seemed more willing to suffer the slings and arrows, as it were, but still, the messenger was worried. Something about the lad was not right.

He wanted to discuss these impressions with Peregrin, but the Thain and the Mistress had taken leave. Out of nowhere, a horn-blast (certainly nothing on the Horn Call of Buckland) rang out, which signaled that Peregrin was to ride. The messenger looked out the window and saw him mounted on his favorite grey pony. He had changed to dark brown riding trousers and overjacket, and the messenger could see that he had selected one of his favorite waistcoats: brown to match the trousers, with copper threads the color of Diamond's hair (Peregrin declared that he had this waistcoat made so that whenever he wore it, he would be reminded of the loveliness of Diamond, and indeed, whenever he planned to be away from the Smials, he would wear this waistcoat on the journey) woven throughout. In the sun, he gleamed.

"Has the Shire seen anything like him before? Will it ever see anything like him again?" the messenger said aloud to himself in wonderment.  His reverie was disturbed by the sound of hooves as Pippin left the Smials, with the sun setting on the horizon.