"Oh, Peregrin, what strong arms you have!" Celandine Brandybuck cried.

Pippin pulled away for a moment to examine them. He flexed his muscles in a masculine manner. "Well, from all of the work with swords that I did--"

Celandine cut him off, pulling him into another passionate kiss. Pippin kissed her back. It had been a long time since he had felt this good.

"Pippin?"

Upon hearing the voice, Pippin jumped so high that he hit his head on the bush's branches above. Celandine ignored him and tried to pull him toward her again.

"Shh!" Pippin hissed, grabbing her hands before they could reach him. "It's Diamond--she's looking for me." I have to get home, Celandine." He quickly kissed her, said, "Not a word," and crawled out from under the bushes.

When he thought it was safe, he stood up and tried to make himself look slightly less suspicious. Diamond appeared to be gone and he decided to head back home...home to his wife and four-year-old child, Faramir.

When Pippin finally opened the door, he found that Diamond wasn't there either. Feeling a twinge of guilt when his son walked in, Pippin knelt down and softly kissed his head.

"Da, Mama was angry," Faramir said, toddling about the room.

"She was?" said Pippin, trying to sound innocent.

Faramir crawled onto the arm of a chair to fully imitate his mother. "She said if Da comes home one more time with rouge on his face, she'd send him out the door!" Faramir giggled.

Pippin smiled weakly and retreated to the bathroom, where he subjected himself to a harsh scrubbing. By the time he had gotten into his clothes again, he heard the door slam. Diamond was home.

"Da's home, Mama!" Faramir squealed.

"Where is he, Faramir?" Diamond asked in the sweetest tone she could muster.

"Right here, love," Pippin said, emerging into the foyer. "Merry kept me--that's why I was so late."

Diamond walked straight past him. "Come with me," she ordered. Pippin followed her into their bedroom and shut the door when she directed him to. "I went to Brandy Hall--you weren't there."

Pippin smirked. "Did you talk to Merry?"

Diamond looked taken aback. "Well...no, I couldn't find them."

"Well, there you go."

Diamond sniffed the air. "You smell like perfume," she observed accusingly.

"Estella," Pippin replied. "I keep telling Merry to make her stop. It bothers little Faramir, you know."

She stared at him for a long time, then said calmly, "I don't want you to go to Brandy Hall anymore."

Pippin's eyes widened. "Diamond! Look, it's not your place to be telling me what I can and can't do."

"Your place is here with your son!" Diamond argued. "You spend so much time with the Brandybucks that he hardly sees you at all." She sighed. "Please, Pippin, if no for me, then do it for your son."

Pippin looked down at his feet. "All right, Diamond, I'll stay away from Buckland. But you must permit me an occasional visit."

"Occasional," Diamond said firmly. Then she smiled and exited the room. "Supper will be on the table in a few minutes!"

Pippin sat down on the bed gloomily. "Yes, Diamond."

~

"Can I help you, my lord?"

"My good lady," said the young messenger, "I bring word from King Elessar: Thain Peregrin Took has been named a Counselor of the North-kingdom.

Diamond stared up at the man, her eyes wide and her mouth open. "I will tell him at once!"

"My lady, he is to report to the city of Minas Tirith as soon as is possible." The messenger bowed and turned to leave.

When he was out of sight, Diamond rushed back into the house. "Pippin! Pippin, where are you? Something's happened!" She threw open the door to his study, where he had entered earlier. "Something's--Pippin?" He was gone. The window was open, papers were blowing about...he had snuck out. Not knowing what else to do, she sat down on the floor and sobbed into her hands.

Evening approached swiftly and soon after, Pippin climbed back into his study. He sat down at the desk and took out a pen.

"I knew it," Diamond said.

Pippin, who had not even noticed her presence, turned around wildly and met Diamond's hand as it came swiftly across his face. Rubbing his cheek, he said frantically, "Look, Diamond, it's not what you think!"

"Who is she?" Diamond cried furiously. "I demand to know who she is!"

"Diamond, please," Pippin said. "I'm so sorry."

"Sorry?" Diamond exclaimed through angry tears. "Sorry? Well, sorry isn't good enough this time. I don't want to see you again."

"Diamond," he protested. "I made a mistake! Please don't send me away!" He thought a moment. "Don't tell me you've never looked at another hobbit."

"Our marriage vows actually meant something to me, Pippin. Apparently they meant absolutely nothing to you."

"If I didn't love you, I wouldn't have asked you to be my wife," Pippin said truthfully. "Nor would I have had a child with you. I love you, Diamond, I just...lost sight of things." He looked at her pleadingly. "I won't do it again...I promise."

"You've been named a Counselor of the North-kingdom. They want you to go to Minas Tirith," Diamond explained quietly, without even looking at him.

"Minas Tirith?" Pippin repeated. She glanced up at him and he said, "Come with me. I want my friends to meet you...and Faramir."

"We can't bring Faramir," Diamond stated. "It is too long a distance."

"Then we'll leave him with my sisters," Pippin said. "I want you to come," he repeated.

Diamond turned and left, and closed the door behind her. Pippin sighed. It had only been a little fling...Then he reminded himself how many "little flings" there had been. And each time Diamond had forgiven him. But he had crossed the line with this latest hobbit lass. Would she ever forgive him? Or would she turn him away and never take him back?

~

Pippin figured it was the latter when he arose the next morning. "Diamond?" he called. She wasn't in the bedroom, nor was she in the bathroom or the kitchen. He started down one of the vast corridors connecting the residences of the Great Smials. "Diamond?"

Pippin slowly walked back to his house. When he closed the door, however, and was tucking his shirt in, Diamond appeared before him. "I thought you left," he said quietly.

"I almost did," she replied coldly. "The ponies are ready. We'll have to decide what's to become of us later..." She looked away from him, unable to face him. "King Elessar has done so much for our people--it would be rude not to attend."

"Where is Faramir?" Pippin asked.

"I've already left him with my mother and father. He doesn't need to see us like this, Pippin...it isn't fair."

"I'm sorry, Diamond--for everything I've put you through."

"Don't say something you don't mean, Pippin," she stated softly. "I could always tell when you were lying."

"I'm telling the truth, Diamond," Pippin protested. "Why can't you believe me?"

There was a sharp knock at the door. It was Merry Brandybuck. Samwise Gamgee was close behind him, stroking his pony's white mane. "Are you ready, Pippin?"

Diamond pushed past Pippin before he could reply. "We certainly are."

Merry waited for Diamond to be out of earshot before asking, "She's coming? Pippin, she'll complain the entire way! Why did you let her?"

"I'll explain later," Pippin said, tying his bag to the pony's already heavy load. And without another word the hobbits set off. They took the Old South Road until it dissipated and turned into mere grass. From there, they planned to take the Gap of Rohan to Minas Tirith.

~

"You never told me you were doing that, Pippin," Merry said, taken aback. "How could you do something like that to her? What were you thinking?"

"I don't know," Pippin replied truthfully. "I don't know what I was thinking."

"I hope that's the case, Pippin," Merry said. He thought a moment, warming his hands by the fire. "You dishonor her by doing this, you know."

"I don't need a lecture from you, Merry," Pippin said defensively. "I only told you because I thought you would help. If I had wanted a tongue-lashing, I would've told Sam!"

"All right," Merry ceded, not wanting to argue any longer. "I'm sorry I brought it up."

"No, I brought it up," Pippin said. He sighed heavily. "I think it's Faramir."

"What?"

"Ever since Faramir came along, we haven't been on the right foot...if you get my meaning." Pippin glanced at Diamond, who was engrossed in a conversation with Sam. "I just feel so...trapped. I can't do anything I want because I always have to be home to watch him, or to play with him, or feed him."

"Why don't you tell her that?" Merry asked.

"Because that's no excuse for what I did," Pippin muttered. "I wasn't thinking about the consequences--I thought I could do it and she wouldn't find out."

"If there's one thing I know about women," Merry began, "it's that they always find out."

"I'd better talk to her," Pippin decided, getting to his feet and walking over to where Diamond was resting. Sam instinctively left the area and Merry watched Pippin animatedly repeat the previous discussion.

He saw Diamond jump to her feet, shout, "Trapped?!" and march off in the opposite direction.

Pippin ran after her and soon he was out of sight. "Diamond, don't run off!" He stopped suddenly, and then dashed off in another direction. "Don't, he wheezed, "go running off like that again."

She turned around angrily, her arms tightly folded across her chest. "Why? You don't need me when you have all of those mistresses at the Green Dragon," she snarled.

"Well, I wouldn't have to if we'd do something once in a while!" The words burst out of Pippin's mouth before he could stop them.

"So that's it, then?" Diamond paced furiously before him before she stopped directly in front of him. "Because I won't give myself to you every night, you'll seek some loose tweenager to satisfy your needs!"

"It isn't like that at all," Pippin shot back. He was trying not to become angry with her--she at least had reason to be. "Look, I didn't mean that, I spoke rashly."

She ignored his comment and demanded, "Then what is it like, Pippin? Perhaps you'd like to enlighten me on the details of your--"

"I've never made love to any of them, Diamond," Pippin cried. He was now close to tears. "I wouldn't. You must know that! They meant nothing to me." He stumbled slightly, nearly toppling over. "What can I do to make you forgive me?"

"I--I don't think I can...forgive you," Diamond murmured. She walked away.

"Diamond, what...?" With the tears in his eyes brimming over, Pippin slid to the ground.

***

Diamond threw all of Pippin's belongings off the pony and climbed atop. She dug her heels into its sides until the pony started to trop briskly.

Merry stood up. "Diamond? Where are you going?"

"Home!" she cried.

~

The three hobbits traveled nearly in silence until they reached Minas Tirith, where they were greeted by a host of elegantly dressed lords and ladies. The hobbits bowed low as King Elessar and the Elf Queen Arwen approached.

Elessar smiled. "I would not have you bowing to me, my lords, for on this day, it is you who will be honored." He led them into one of his great halls, where a ceremony was held that continued long into the night. Merry and Pippin had had much to drink--too much, if truth be told. They stumbled together down one of the long marble halls, leaning on each other for support.

A pair of men--as far as they could tell--suddenly emerged from a connecting corridor and before the hobbits could stop, they all collided into each other.

Pippin heard a clatter and saw a long, pale, slender hand reach down and pick the golden circlet up.

"Well, if it isn't Master Meriadoc Brandybuck," came a woman's soft teasing voice. "Congratulations on you r position as Counselor of the North-kingdom. And to you as well, young hobbit."

A pair of rough hands pulled Pippin to his feet and helped to steady him. "Lord Faramir!" he cried, stumbling.

The tall, red-haired man laughed heartily. "Calm down, Master hobbit. You need not use formalities with me. If not for you, I would not be standing here right now."

Pippin smiled up at him, then looked to Merry. "My lady," he said, addressing Éowyn, the lady of Ithilien.

"My lord," she replied, smiling. "Tell me, what news comes from your homeland?" "It is as green and fertile as it has ever been," said Merry simply. "The flowers are in full bloom, the crops ripe..."

"I have yet to reach the Shire," Éowyn admitted. "But someday, Master Merry, I shall turn up on your doorstep and you must be ready to receive me."

"And the same to you, Peregrin Took," said Faramir. "Did you enjoy the ceremony?" He looked both hobbits up and down. "I'd think yes, but from the manner of our meeting, it seems you enjoyed the festivities much more."

"Are we that transparent?" asked Merry, changing his footing drunkenly. "As I can hardly stand on my own two feet anymore, I think it best that I take some rest."

"And in that we have long since forgotten the way to our room, perhaps you might show us the path?" Pippin suggested.

Éowyn laughed. "I would be happy to." She put a hand on each hobbit's back and led them to their room. There they both had a very restful sleep and departed the next morning, saying short farewells to the king and queen and to Faramir and Éowyn. It was a long journey back to the Shire, and it felt even longer for Pippin, who was dreading seeing Diamond again. He arrived at the Great Smials in the late hours of the afternoon. When he entered his house and didn't immediately see Diamond, he wasn't worried. He assumed she had been out or visiting her family. But as it turned out, Pippin discovered a note written in haste from his wife. She had left him ("for now," Diamond had said) and she was living with her parents. "For now," she had said. What did that mean, anyway? Would he see his son again or would she take him away from him forever?

The End