Part One: Silent Nightfall

It is my duty, Diamond told herself. It was at times a sharp reprimand when she found herself longing for the breathless beauty of the cold Northern moors or the comfort of family. It was also a reminder of the debt she owed to those same people who had raised her. It was an obligation, a payment. A responsibility.

Bound to her family.

Of course, she counted herself lucky among hobbits. Peregrin was a fine hobbit, with a wealthy, prestigious family and a reputation among the more romantic hobbit-maids as a dashing young fellow whose good looks and charm could soften any lass's heart. But more importantly, he was rumoured to be possessed of boundless generosity and an sweet kindness born from a heart of pure gold. Nonetheless, Diamond dreaded her engagement to the famed Peregrin Took, knowing little of him besides his prominent family, his skill in battle that had been proved by he and Captain Meriadoc's resistance of the ruffians, and his long journey south. She resented her elders for arranging a marriage with someone she hardly knew. What was the point, anyway? To settle an ancient feud between the North-Tooks and the Tooks of Great Smials. The cause of the strife had been long forgotten, but the rivalry—if one could call it such—still existed strongly in the brash youngsters and bitter ancestors. Disagreements led to arguments, prejudice turned arguments to heated disputes, and sometimes—mostly by the actions of the younger, hot-headed relatives—disputes went as far as brawls. The Thain and the leaders among the North-Tooks had decided to attempt an end to this continuous conflict and resolved that the best way to carry through with that was to devise a marriage between the Thain's son and a young North-Took lass.

Duty.

Diamond had never asked to wed the distinguished Peregrin Took, but nor had she complained when this responsibility was laid upon her. Duty, she told herself. That was how she bore the sleepless nights troubled by a fierce dread in the pit of her stomach. That was how she bore the endless congratulations of her family and his, even when she wondered why they were congratulating her. She feared wedding Peregrin—he was born into an illustrious family, noted for his remarkable defeat of the ruffians in the Shire with the aid of Meriadoc and Samwise, and revered for his knowledge in battle and his courage. Why would he think much of a poorly bred, meek hobbit-maid from the backward Northfarthing? She wondered how she would ever please him, much less understand him.

She hardly even knew Peregrin. They'd met once before the wedding formally, and then countless times to make arrangements and to dance together briefly at parties before rejoining their friends and family, and Diamond and Peregrin had scarcely exchanged ten words during this course. Their conversations, quick and trivial, never extended beyond polite greetings, a few awkward comments about the weather or the harvest that year, and ended abruptly with excuses and apologies. It wasn't that Peregrin was particularly shy around lasses—quite the opposite, indeed—but Diamond was never sure how to behave around him, so she spoke little and kept her eyes downcast. He, in return, tried to be as considerate and gracious as their few discussions allowed and privately wondered what to make of her. From first impression their match was poorly formed, but as both the Tooks and the North-Tooks hoped, perhaps Peregrin and Diamond would grow to love one another. This alliance was essential to keeping the peace between the two clans, and whether they liked it or not, Peregrin and Diamond were tools, instruments, at the hands of their families to regain good relations.

She remembered their wedding day. Diamond had been increasingly anxious the days before, and that day was certainly the longest and most fearful of her life. She fretted over the lace on her wedding gown, she fussed over the food and other such arrangements, she squirmed under the itchy material of her bodice and anxiously checked the mirror every few minutes to flatten stray hairs into place with irritation or smooth an imaginary wrinkle in her skirt. But most of all, she dreaded the very hour that her life would be joined with that of Peregrin Took's forever, when she would be whisked away from the stormy moors and heath and highlands of the land that she loved like an uprooted flower and dumped carelessly to grow new roots here in an unknown place.

The wedding ceremony was even worse. Diamond's heart thudded with painful force, and she gripped Peregrin's hand tightly as the mayor Samwise Gamgee performed the wedding rituals. She once dared a glance at him and realised with an odd sense of comfort that he was sweating, maybe nervous she was. Diamond drew a deep breath and wished with her whole heart that one day she could learn to love him, and he her.

After the wedding, weeks passed before Diamond could speak to Peregrin without blushing or looking down. When first she acted uneasy with him, he worried that perhaps she had been attached to another hobbit before she wed him. Once Peregrin finally found the courage to suggest such a thing to his wife, Diamond fervently assured him otherwise. After that, he couldn't tell whether things were better or worse between them.

There were a number of things that convinced him that she did not yet love him. Peregrin often insisted that she call him Pippin, but the fond nickname felt so awkward and foreign from her lips. At times when Diamond was addressing him, she would begin to call him 'husband', but decide halfway-through that 'Peregrin' was more suitable, then remember his instructions to call him 'Pippin' and somehow would stumble through an odd combination of all three, blushing furiously. Their conversational skills gradually progressed beyond paltry remarks about the weather and occasionally extended to the beginnings of a serious discussion, but Pippin's hopes of such were always dashed when Diamond would shy away from his attempts to get to know her, preferring solitude to his company. And because Diamond was relatively busy during the day, wandering Great Smials or helping in the kitchen or attending to the children, the only time of the day that Pippin had the time to be with her was in the evening after supper. But Diamond always seemed so reserved, so reluctant to speak with him, and usually she simply curled up in bed and stared out the window of their apartments that faced north. Pippin supposed she missed her home, just as he had missed his after departing on the great Quest for all those months, but he felt somewhat hurt that she wouldn't open up to him.

As much as Diamond held Peregrin in the highest regard as a warrior and a leader, she felt so insignificant beside him as an individual. Diamond was always nervous and almost tense when speaking to him. She didn't know what to say. She wanted him to like her, at least, but she had no idea how to convince him to do so. She was unfailingly polite and obliging, but always so detached from him. In those days, Diamond was increasingly lonely, and while she held her thoughts and words inside instead of sharing them with Pippin, she longed for comfort, a husband's tender comfort that she had always dreamed of. Diamond was continually plagued with homesickness, a yearning for the solace and familiarity of how things used to be. It was always harder to bear when she thought of what she'd left behind. Peregrin was a fine gentlehobbit, with refined manners yet a certain boyish daring and charm, and Great Smials was a beautiful region of the Eastfarthing, but at night she rolled over in bed to face the window that looked north, seeing the same glimmering constellation of stars that she used to admire back in Long Cleeve, and the ache in her heart was sharp and painful. Homesickness was always something that Diamond, shy and quiet, knew she would suffer from.

She missed her old life, her friends, her home, her family, with a deep regret. She missed tramping through the moorland with her brother. She wore breeches then—it was impossible to wander through thicket and swamp with the long, wet weeds and the muddy hem of her skirt tangling her steps. She missed the warmth of her mother's embrace and how she always smelled of cinnamon and rosemary; she missed her sisters and brothers and how they always seemed to understand her; she missed her abundance of aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents who always used to tease her about settling down. Diamond missed gazing upon the mirror-smooth lake Evendim; the mysterious, soft calls of the owl that lived in the gnarled, twisting oak tree beside her home; the wide grasslands and gusty highlands of the Northfarthing; the mourning whispering of the wind in her ear and caressing her face; the soft call of the raven to its fledgling. But most of all she missed huddling close to the cheerful fire on stormy nights, listening to the soft rise and fall of her father's voice as he told her wonderful stories of courage and heroes and battles, gently lulling her to sleep with quiet words and gestures. She remembered being draped across her father's lap as he absently stroked her hair, and she remembered staring up at the vast expanse of stretching darkness above—the evening sky, with the fading light of the sunset slowly slipping beyond the horizon and pure, deep blue of the sky above her. Home was where she belonged, not here in this lavish estate with farms and strangers and servants. Why was she here, anyway?

Duty.

It was, then, as much a comfort to her as Peregrin was.

Diamond tried to settle herself at her new home, but growing roots in a land where she felt so lonely and out-of-place was so hard. Diamond had an intense desire to please her new relatives, and she strove to satisfy everyone, wanting to fulfill their expectations of the future Thain's wife. Diamond tried too hard, perhaps, in her struggle to conform to everyone's hopes of her. She did everything she could to help the running of the household—assisting the nurse-maids with the children, tending the garden, seeing to it that everything ran smoothly. Diamond even went as far as to help the servants prepare the meals. Word spread that the future Mistress of Great Smials, an uneducated and unrefined girl from the coarse North country, was disgracing herself by lowering herself to the level of servants. Rumours were whispered and began to circulate; Diamond felt the haughty glares of her elders and the sniggers of others as she passed by them, her cheeks burning with shame.

Peregrin heard the rumours by nightfall and sternly hushed them. Knowing full well that Diamond was aware of the gossip also, after dinner when they were left alone in their apartments, he approached the subject as cautiously as he could.

With Peregrin's kind words, Diamond found herself bursting out with everything she had kept within all that time—her homesickness, her loneliness, the faraway memories of her old life, how she was struggling so hard to fit in because she feared no one would accept her, that she was trying and trying to belong but nothing seemed to work.

Peregrin, overwhelmed by the emotions his wife had kept locked within her, took her in his arms and tried to give her the comfort she had been so afraid to seek.

"Diamond, hush. It's all right. It's all right, really. Oh, my dearest Diamond, don't you see? Everyone here loves you. You don't need to try so hard to please everyone. You need to be yourself, and that's all they need of you to accept you. Hush, now, don't you worry. Don't you see? Don't you see, Diamond lass? You're giving too much of yourself away to others. You must keep a part of yourself for you."

Something changed in her then. Something changed in her perception of him. Diamond found his arms so calming around her, as if he felt a genuine tenderness for her. She loved how sweet and gentle and kind he was to her and realised that if she but let him treat her with such dashing gallantry and devotion, he would be glad to. She saw that he cared for her, maybe even loved her, and she wished with all her heart that she could love him too.

He held her in his long, strong arms, an embrace that stirred a kind of warmth in her, to her surprise, yet summoned fear to her all the same. She wondered if she would ever grow to love him. Diamond, like most hobbit-maids, had dreamt of love. She had wished for true love as a precocious child, hoped for someone to cherish her when she was a naïve teenager, fantasised about her future husband as a lovestruck tween, and now, hardly thirty-two, she realised how silly and impractical all of her dreams now seemed. Diamond knew that she was to spend the rest of her lifetime in Tookland and she would one day rule over the clan with her husband as Thain, and she recognised that she needed to learn to love Peregrin if she was to be happy with her new life.

But he frightened her—his immense height, his repulsive Mannish muscles, his terrible scars—mere traces of the wounds they had once been—and the experience, the pain in his pale face as he remembered that fateful war. Sometimes, early into their marriage when she was yet unnerved by him, she reflected that he seemed only half with her, the other half was distant, detached, like the faraway look in his eyes as they strayed south. South. South to unknown lands. Lands where danger grew steadily and ruled, lands once battle-torn as the Shire had hardly known, lands of darkness and evil and fear. The lands that had branded such memories into his soul that he woke at night screaming and shaking, with tears running down his face, battling an inexplicable evil in the darkness of the night and of his mind. Shadows lingered on his soul, a deep wound that would never really heal. His peculiar habits, his bravery and fierceness in battle, his understanding that extended far beyond the Shire and its peace and disregard for all that lay outside it, and everything about him was so new and unknown and terrifying at first.

She knew she needed to love him. She knew the purpose of their marriage, to bind the Tooks and North-Tooks together by joining two of their most beloved youth in wedlock, but also to produce an heir that would seal the pact between the clans. Diamond hoped that soon she would grow to love Peregrin, that soon she would be able to bear his child, but she knew she could not do this unless she truly loved him.

One dark, clear night, as the stars swung brightly in the inky sky above, Diamond lay huddled on her side of the bed, staring longingly out the window. Pippin, on his side, quietly rolled over to face Diamond. He knew she was awake, although she was silent. Pippin softly touched her shoulder.

"What's it like, Diamond? What is it like up north at your home?"

She turned over to meet his gaze, her deep-set grey eyes shadowed with sorrow. Diamond drew in a heavy breath and found herself staring back at him as his hand gently slid into hers. She began to speak softly, telling him of the howling gales that swept across the moors and the trees that swayed trance-like in the dark of the night and the gentle wind that whispered secrets to her as she listened. As she spoke, she became almost entranced, lost in her memories, and Pippin as well was mesmerised by her soft voice speaking so lovingly, so longingly of the harsh Northern country where she had grown up. He realised that Long Cleeve still held a part of her heart, a piece that he had once thought to claim, but never again. She had grown up amongst the moorland and heather and shrieking winds, and each memory was as much a part of her life as the Great Quest was of his. Peregrin knew then that she would never truly belong in the green hills and farms of Tookland, and that she would never truly belong to anyone or anything so long as she still could remember the sudden storms and the secrets of the wind of the Northfarthing. But he was determined then that he would do anything, everything, to make Great Smials and himself a part of her also.

"Sometimes," Diamond said softly, gazing outside at the stars, "when I was just a small lass, I'd go outside after everyone else was asleep. The night breeze was cool against my face, and the crickets chirped quietly around me. I would look up, up into the starry sky, and try to find different constellations. The night sky was so vast and bright and it was so endless above me. I wondered if, in the ancient cities of Men or the distant forests of Elves, they could see the same stars that I saw." She stretched out a hand and pointed out the window to a small cluster of stars. "See that one, there? That was my favourite. I don't know if it has an actual name, but I always called it the Bullroarer because of how it's shaped. See, there's his mighty sword, and there's his horse over there. Those bright stars there are his belt. And there are his eyes… I always thought it was odd that there are those two stars right where his eyes should be." She looked up hesitantly and met Pippin's gaze with solemn grey eyes. "I thought it was such a comfort that I can see the same stars here that shine over the Northfarthing and the valley of Long Cleeve."

"I'm sorry," Pippin whispered, struck by the loneliness in her eyes and voice. "I'm sorry that we had to do this. I wish you could be happy here."

Diamond lowered her gaze. "Don't be sorry," she murmured. "Please understand, it's not you. I…I think I've grown quite fond of you, Pippin."

Pippin. It was the first time Diamond had managed to call him that without blushing or stammering. He was filled with hope. Pippin knew then that one day, perhaps not too far away, he and Diamond would love each other. She would bear him an heir and they would bring happiness and warmth to each other and to those around them. And maybe, all it would take was simple hope and faith in each other.

And then, for the first time since their wedding day, Pippin kissed Diamond. He kissed her gently, softly, as if she was a frightened deer that might bolt at any moment. But after she recovered from the sudden warmth of Pippin's lips against hers, Diamond would not have moved for the world. How could she have ever feared this embrace? How could she have feared this gentle giant who would sooner lay down his life than harm or frighten her?

Pippin felt her response, felt her move closer and relax in his arms, and he realised that maybe he was falling in love already.

Everything was different between them after that. It was a sudden change from the polite, distant behaviour that everyone was accustomed to seeing between the future Thain and his rustic wife. Diamond gradually settled comfortably into life at Great Smials, befriending all that she could and gaining the respect of even the most grudging hobbitesses. She was warm and friendly, finding her way into the hearts of all, and she laughed more and withdrew herself less. She reserved only her most tender smiles for her husband and called him Pippin, and in turn, he was at ease with her and often took the time to express his gratitude—a simple smile or a kiss on the cheek was all it took. Eventually, their marriage acquired a close peacefulness, a tenderness and affection that was sweet and pure, but not yet love. But Peregrin and Diamond both knew that love would come. They would wait.

There was a change, one day, that Diamond realised. There had once, she remembered, been such an unknown element about Pippin. He had seemed so distant and strange and unfamiliar to her. She remembered her anxiety to please him, and her fear of him. Her fear of his size and of his skill in violence. She had been unnerved by how much he knew, by what he had seen and done in the years before. She had been frightened by him because he was unknown to her.

But in the months they had been married, she had grown familiar with his gentleness and his kind heart, with his long-fingered, callused hands that touched her so lovingly, so sensitively, with the absent gaze Southward that spoke of longing and memory and devotion, not of ambition. She grew to admire his courage and his loyalty, to cherish his generosity and gallant treatment of her, as if she were some beloved queen of a great kingdom, not a simple hobbit-maid from the boorish Northern moors. Once she found herself staring at him, unaware of doing so, until he looked up at her with wide, dancing green eyes and smiled. She realised she was falling in love with him, with his merry laugh and his tenderness and his warm cheer. She knew she could never understand him fully, but she was untroubled by this so long as she had his love like a shield around her.

She still missed the wonder and awe of the lightning that split the dark storm-clouds above her, missed her owl-friend and her family and missed wandering the vast moors, never knowing where the rough path would take her. She loved the Northfarthing, loved the hillocked valley of Long Cleeve, loved the heather and the highlands and the snow that fell so heavily there. But Great Smials was her home now. The Tooks were her family. Peregrin, whom she had once dreaded, was her husband, her best friend, someone she had at first not wanted nor needed. But he had taught her more than he knew. He had taught her to lead a people, to never fear what feared not her, to gradually adjust to change and time. He taught her wisdom and respect and forbearance. But most of all, he had taught her to love. He had taught her to love the Tooks and the earth beneath her and the sky above her, regardless of her what she was wont to. He had taught her to love him. Or had he? Perhaps she'd loved him all along.

But she knew she had learned a love as vast as the Sundering Seas, as boundless as the sky above her, as great and beautiful and powerful as the devotion that reigned in his heart.

:III:

A/N: A Pippin/Diamond romance in three parts. Part II is likely to be delayed for a while, due to reasons I am not allowed to explain to you in such a public place. Questions, comments, thoughts, etc. please express in a review. Thank you.