Chapter 26: My Favorite Fairy Tale

When both Brandybucks and Tooks arrived once again at Brandy Hall in the wee hours of the morning—each of them tired and lost in their own thoughts and feelings—they strode into the Hall to find Eglantine and her three daughters, Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee, Merimac Brandybuck, and a gathering of other Tooks and Brandybucks, all standing cramped in their marvelous front chambers. Eglantine Took, when she saw the angry countenance of Paladin and the amazed look on her son's face, strode forward and stood before the gathering. She scanned the faces of the hobbits in the hallway. "We have all come here today to stop a terrible injustice to all of us. Both Brandybucks and Tooks—and others, look, there's Frodo—are here to put up their arms and stop this feud." She paused, frowning at Paladin's smug look, before she continued. "I can't say I've been very helpful, either, and I'm very sorry Esmerelda, dear, for what I've said. You aren't a horrible cook or mother, really. But this feud started with my husband's temper and my child's tears, and that is where it shall end. Paladin—" She stepped forward and took Merry and Pippin by the shoulders and turned them to face Paladin Took.

"Children are the symbol of our beginnings, and these two have held our families together more than we had guessed. They've been together through thick and thin since they were crawling. I don't care if the rest of the Shire views badly upon it. I don't care if it gives our family a worse reputation, and I don't care if every time I go into market I get bad looks. What I don't like the most is when these good hobbits in this room start to fight each other. I don't like it when I can't speak to my own family. I don't like it when I see my son lonely because the best friend he's ever had isn't allowed to see him anymore. I don't blame them for scooting off in the middle of the night to see each other. These two need to be together, and I, for one, will not keep them apart."

There was an agreement and ten from behind her, and every hobbit in the hole stared at Paladin expectedly. Esmerelda smirked at her brother when he suddenly looked defensive and a tad frightened at the same time.

Saradoc put his hand on Paladin's shoulder, fully expecting it to be shrugged off, and was surprised when it wasn't. Paladin, instead, glanced at him and back to his wife.

"Well, you—y-y-you…. You all don't think I . . ." He sputtered and spat and looked dazedly at his wife, but it suddenly occurred to Paladin, after a while of glancing back and forth between Pippin and Merry and among the crowd and his wife and daughters, that he was sorely, very unmistakably outnumbered. And perhaps, just maybe, it was time to put a reign on his beyond-help temper. He looked back to his wife, and then to Esmerelda, to Saradoc, and finally Merry and Pippin. "Well," he started, softly, wistfully. "You win."

Who looked at the other first with the widest smile, no one could say, but Merry and Pippin, within seconds, were lodged in each other's arms. At the moment, no one was going to pull them apart.

Later, when the resulting noise of celebration and relief had settled down, Saradoc slipped off his coat and ran to grab wine and fizz and cordial for all his guests, and had servants pass around all the glasses until the cupboards were bare. Merry and Pippin sat together upon a couch near the center of the room, content to sit there and enjoy the moment, watching their families reunite and celebrate. Their glasses were filled, and before the eventual toast Saradoc was going to proclaim, Pippin leaned his head on Merry's shoulder and whispered, "You know, Merry, I think we should save this story for when we're older. Sort of a thing to tell all the little ones when we're eighty."

"Pfft." Merry smoothed down a nest of Pippin's curly hair and sighed. "It'll be a fairy tale to them. Just like Bilbo's stories."

Pippin shook his head and chuckled, looking around at his sisters laughing and pointing at Berilac, who was being reprimanded by his father, Merimac. "Well, if it turns out to be just a fairy tale," he began, sitting up and throwing his arm around Merry's shoulders, "it will be my favorite fairy tale." Merry gently smiled.

"Attention!" Saradoc scrambled to the front with his glass of wine, and regarding a low bench near him, he stood upon it and raised his glass. "A toast! To good health and happiness, and the friendship and love that will forever keep this family together! To us!"

"TO US!" came the resounding shout, and after a clanking of glasses and smiles all around, the hobbits joined in a drink.

After a moment, Berilac, after getting away from his father and mingling with the Tooks, came to stand behind the couch and leaned his head in between both of theirs. "I heard Farmer Maggot has gotten another dog, recently."

"Ah," Merry said, swirling the drink in his glass, "it's still no match for us."

With as serious a face as he could manage, Pippin murmured, "Watermelons."

The three, in turn, burst out laughing.