West of the Moon

A Tolkien Fanfiction Archive



The Heirloom Ring
A ballroom farce with kissing. Frodo has one more ring than he needs.
Author: Stranger
Rating: PG-13


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Note: Written for the Hobbit_Smut Livejournal Community "Beneath the Mistletoe" Challenge. It has been re-edited slightly since then.

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Frodo's room in the Great Smials this Yule was in the Took family's own tunnel. He was sure that Eglantine hoped he would propose to one of her daughters, so that the family connection would be as immediate as the smial arrangements already were. All the same, being in the central smial let him take his time as he dressed carefully for the Yule-eve party, for the Tooks and Chooks and Meadowes and Banks and Bagginses and some other friends. He didn't go so far as to preen, of course, but he quite liked the mirrored sight of himself in dark blue velvet as he slipped on the sapphire ring inherited from Bilbo, who'd inherited it from Belladonna Took. He'd almost considered braiding blue ribbons onto his feet, but such furbelows were for courting tweens; he was a staid bachelor of forty-six.

Before he left the room he patted the waistcoat pocket that held Bilbo's other, plain gold ring. Frodo never wore it, but occasionally he liked to carry it hidden, as Bilbo had. If the truth were told, he appreciated the much-cherished memento of Bilbo's Adventures much more than the ring from Bilbo's mother that Bilbo hadn't worn above six times for as long as Frodo had known him.

Merry waited for him in the family parlor, resplendent in gold and red and wearing a red bow on each ankle. "You're a beauty tonight," he said, and offered a cousinly kiss.

"So are you." Frodo caught him and gave the kiss back with interest, one well-brushed foot toying with Merry's red ribbons.

"Save it for midnight," warned Merry, but his toes wriggled under Frodo's, and they were kissing again when Pippin burst in a moment later.

"Come on-- Oh, stop it, you two. If we're late, Mother and Aunt Agapantha will make my life miserable for the whole year!"

"They can only make you stay until the Yule log is lit," said Frodo.

"And after midnight, we'll see the new year in with you," said Merry, holding out the hand that wasn't twined in Frodo's curls. "We promised, and we meant it."

Pippin nodded, eyes alight. "Both of you?"

Frodo took Pippin's other hand, and leaned into Merry's embrace. "If you want it, both of us."

"Oh, yes, I want to," Pippin paused, his smile shyer than his eyes, "come between you."

Merry caught his breath on a guffaw. "Frodo, did you say that to Pip?"

"I fear I did."

"I suppose it's apt. Pippin, you're welcome with us, both of us." He kissed Pippin's mouth quickly. "Until tonight." Merry's arm gave Frodo a squeeze before the three of the separated. "Meanwhile, there are cakes and tarts and ale and eggnog, and lasses to dance with. Let's be about it, shall we?" And the three of them sauntered toward the sounds of voices and the smell of bay and juniper and rosemary that adorned the larger rooms of the main smial for the season.

# # #

Aunt Eglantine signalled at the three of them as soon as they came into the Yule-decorated largest parlor where she was welcoming guests and directing Tooks and other family members to their duties as hosts. "Pippin, please stay with Pimpernel here to help greet. Merry, Clover Meadowes needs a partner for the first couple-dance. Frodo..." she let her eyes go to Pearl, in yellow and white and gardenia foot-garlands, but she said, "your cousin Wisteria would like to dance with you. I know she'll be out directly."

Frodo gave her a smile. "Do you mean Aunt Agapantha wants me to dance with her?" Paladin's sister was as anxious for her daughter to make a good match as Eglantine could be.

"Frodo, dear," Eglantine drew him into a corner decked with holly and mistletoe, secluded enough that later in the evening it would undoubtedly be used by more than one kissing couple. "If it were up to me, I'd let you dance with Pearl until the silly lass proposed to you. I am mistress of the Great Smials, no matter what airs Agapantha may put on. It was Wisteria herself who asked me for a moment with you, and I suppose she has her reasons."

Wisteria, for all her big brown eyes and forward ways, wasn't the sort of lass to back a lad into a corner and demand more than he cared to give. "I'd best ask her for a dance, then," Frodo shrugged. "Egtina, you know I'm not hanging out for a wife." He tried a charming smile. "You're taken, after all."

"You've more address than is good for you," she said, but she patted her hair in its carefully arranged auburn waves and ribbons.

"We're in a kissing-nook, aren't we?" he said, and saluted her like a cousin -- for she was a very fetching cousin who didn't at all look like the mother of two daughters past their tweens -- and that left Eglantine flustered enough to let him go without any more questions.

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"It's Fanno Meadowes," Wisteria confided to Frodo, when they were treading the measured steps of the Jon Smithy's Round to the tune of three fiddles and a dulcimer, amid seven other couples and enough pine boughs to make the Great Smials dining hall resemble a forest. "I've met him more than a few times in Tuckborough, and he's a wonderful lad, and Mother is simply not willing to let him court me properly. I'm at my wits' end."

"Won't you be of age soon?"

"Soon, but not soon enough."

Frodo raised his eyebrows.

"I'd like to stand up with him in company before my belly gets big."

Frodo nearly took his next step onto her pink-ribboned feet and converted a gasp of surprise to a polite cough, all without losing his place in the dance-pattern. "Well, that should ensure that Agapantha lets you marry him, right enough. Forgive me, but is Fanno as eager as you are to stand up instead of lie down?"

"He says he is," she said, glowing so strongly with confidence and love that Frodo regretted, just for an instant, that it wasn't for him. "Mother just thinks there's a chance you'll offer for me first."

"Oh, gracious stars. You know that's nonsense, and I know it, but is there any way to convince dear Aunt Agapantha?" The dance parted them for a circle round, hand-to-hand with every lass until they met again, a respite that gave Frodo time to recover his manners. "Wiss, you're a fine cousin and Fanno is incredibly lucky and I'm happy for you both. I'll find something to make Agapantha know you're just not the lass for me."

"Try to think of something as dramatic as the time you taught the pony to sing," she said, as the music stopped and they bowed and curtsied in parting.

"Let's take a turn to the refreshment tables," he suggested. "I think I see Fanno there, and Agapantha can't object if he's speaking to me while you're with me too, can she?"

"Oh, Frodo, you're a hero!" Wisteria kissed him, quickly.

"And then we'll all three go out to the front parlor, where there's a proper kissing-nook, complete with mistletoe." Frodo rather suspected that he'd find Pippin on the way, and that there would soon be more than one couple stealing kisses the Took aunts mightn't approve of.

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Aunt Agapantha didn't catch Wisteria's interlude with Fanno, which was ardent enough to let Frodo believe every part of her story. However, a few dances later, when Frodo and Merry had tucked themselves into the mistletoe nook and were remembering how very well they suited each other, a cold voice intruded on their embrace. "Frodo Baggins! And Meriadoc! Stop that this instant!"

Frodo untangled his tongue from the sweet warmth of Merry and the mulled wine and a hint of brandy-spiced cake in Merry's near past. He thought he really oughtn't to be flustered at a kiss taken in such appropriate surroundings, no matter how tiresome the interruption, but he found himself lowering his eyes instead of giving Aunt Agapantha's fine black eyes and her fine lace shawl stare for stare.

Merry didn't let go of his hand. "Did you want to make use of the kissing-nook, Aunt?" he asked, with perfect aplomb. "We'll have finished in a moment, I promise."

"You lads know quite well it isn't done to set such a poor example! 'Finished in a moment,' my foot. You've been there a quarter-hour!" She stomped, almost daintily, a foot with lace ankle-frills. "And it's quite necessary that both of you marry properly to Took lasses!"

"It is?" said Frodo. "I know you'd like to renew the connection between our families," -- and Bilbo's money, he added silently -- "but it's hardly a matter of life and death." He wouldn't take a hobbit-lass to wife. It wouldn't be right, or fair.

"It's a matter of the heirlooms, lad," she said. "Esmerelda has Mirabella's necklace, and Meriadoc will give it to his bride when the time comes. Bilbo inherited Belladonna's ring and you're even wearing it now! It's time it came back to a Took, and who better than Wisteria?"

"I see," said Frodo. "Wouldn't Pearl or Pimpernel be suitable?"

"They're fine lasses, but Wisteria is finer, and she's the perfect age for you."

She was at the perfect age and condition for marriage, Frodo thought. Merry whispered something incomprehensible about "later" and slipped out of the kissing-corner behind him. Frodo could hardly blame him. "She's a beautiful lass. Will you let Wisteria take her choice of suitors tonight, if I propose to return Belladonna's heirloom to the Tooks?"

"If the chit of a lass doesn't accept you, I'll know the reason why!"

"There are other Took daughters," Frodo warned her. "I truly can't say I've a preference for any of them, but they're all very fine. Promise me you'll allow Wisteria her choice if she's free of me after tonight."

Agapantha pursed her lips and pulled the shawl around her silver-gray gown. "You're bargaining with her heart."

"So are you," said Frodo. "Will you promise?"

"Very well, Master Baggins. Offer Belladonna's ring to a Took tonight, and Wisteria will marry you if you ask, or whom she pleases. My word on it."

"You're an honorable aunt," said Frodo, and raised her hand to brush it with his lips.

# # #

He found Merry at the drinks table, pouring well-brandied eggnog into cups and looking preoccupied. Without any preamble Frodo said, "I've a plan."

Merry brightened. "I knew you'd have something up your sleeve! Aunt Aggie terrifies me, and she's been scheming for weeks to see you with Wisteria."

"She'll be scheming about me, next," said Pippin's voice from under the table. "Frodo, is that you? What kind of plan?"

"Come out of there and drink your brandy with eggnog like a civilized hobbit. If you're not drunk, I'll tell you some of it."

Pippin scrambled out from under the tablecloth, and Frodo noted that he was, indeed, clutching a bottle of brandy. If Pippin had any other reasons for hiding at Merry's feet, he didn't show any signs of it.

"Are you going to marry Wisteria?" asked Merry. "Not that she isn't a real Took in all the best ways, you understand, but it would change the tone of our tryst later tonight."

"I'm not going to marry any lass just to oblige Agapantha, and certainly not to disoblige her. I've a different plan altogether, and I want you two to back me up in it. And we'll all be comfortable afterward."

"That's what you said when you gave Everard a swan and six goslings at Lithe two years ago."

"It's nothing like that."

"Well, what is it?"

"Give me a kiss and I'll tell you."

# # #

Six dances later with a selection of Took females including Wisteria and Yarrow and the eligible daughters of Paladin, and one just for show with Clover Meadowes, Frodo collected Pippin and Merry when it was time to light the Yule log. Everyone in the party crowded into the oldest room in Great Smials where the hearth was laid ready.

Before The Took could start the ritual of fire-lighting, while the family and all the Took connections were still finding themselves places to stand, Frodo stepped to the front of the room, nodded to Merry and Pippin, and called for attention. "Hobbits, hobbit-wives, lads and lasses, I have an announcement."

The roomful of Tooks quieted somewhat, and Frodo noticed Agapantha shushing her sisters, while Eglantine give her a sharp look. Eglantine glanced at Frodo, then, and didn't say anything more. She even gestured at a clutch of murmuring uncles and cousins to pay attention.

Frodo waited for his moment and then spoke. "I've held the heirloom of Belladonna Took for some years, ever since it came to me from Bilbo." He held up his hand with the sapphire ring, and then slowly, theatrically, removed it. "I've decided that this heirloom of the Tooks deserves, rightly, to stay in the Took line."

He held up the sapphire for a moment. The showy scene he was putting on was only play-acting; underneath it, Frodo knew that he needed no possessions but the plain ring hidden in his pocket.

"I propose," Frodo let the word resound through the room, and saw his aunts and female cousins all come to instant attention, "to consolidate a relationship between the Baggins and Took families. There has been the greatest amity and indeed, love, between Bag End and the Great Smials."

Pearl sat up eagerly, and both Pimpernel and Pervinca wore hopeful faces. Wisteria sent Frodo a look of alarmed inquiry from where she held Clover's right hand and Fanno's left.

"This Yule is the occasion, I believe, to return the heirloom to the Took line."

Aunt Agapantha shot her sisters and sister-in-law a meaningful look; Eglantine returned a diplomatic nod. Aunts Juniper and Paracantha and even Cousins Everard and Reginard were paying close attention. Frodo smiled, for both Reginard and Everard had reason to be puzzled at the announcement he might seem to be making.

Frodo took a deep breath and looked around, smiled at Wisteria and at Pearl, and last, more warmly, at Merry and Pippin.

"I am presenting the Took heirloom to a dear friend and cousin, whom I hold in the highest regard, as a gift and in token of our present and future connection. To," stepped sideways and pulled Pippin forward, "Peregrin Took!"

There was an instant storm of babble wherein the only silent person in the crowd was Agapantha, whose glare at Frodo and Pippin might have melted stone. Reginard's eyes widened after the shortest moment, and he winked, broadly, at both of them. Eglantine blinked and gave a vague nod to Pippin, but at a whisper from Agapantha she looked back again with her we're-going-to-discuss-this face on.

Pippin, tipsy, waved for quiet. "Thank you Frodo. I love you, too." Shamelessly, he seized the golden opportunity to kiss Frodo, not at all decorously, in full view of all his relations in Tookland and most of their relations as well. He slipped the sapphire onto one of his fingers, waved his hand about, and kissed Frodo again.

Frodo couldn't help enjoying it a great deal more than he should have.

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After the Yule-lighting that followed, Frodo escaped as soon as he could but Eglantine pursued him out into the tunnel of the smial. "Frodo, do you know how improper your behavior has been?"

The longer Eglantine stayed with him, the easier it would be for Pippin and Merry to find their way to Frodo's bedroom. Frodo leaned back against the curved old-smial wall, glad of its support. "Do you mean I've been seducing a lad who's at the height of his tweens? It was very nearly the other way around."

She brushed that aside with a tight gesture and a narrow-eyed look. "I mean playing with poor Agapantha's sensibilities, and her expectations too, in such a callous way."

"But," he expostulated, meeting her stare for stare, "the provocation was extreme!"

"Agapantha's a bit of a bore about the family heirlooms, I grant you, but there's no cause to make Pippin into a show like that. You'll spoil him for the duties of his position, and the kind of lass he ought to choose when he's of age."

"The provocation there was extreme as well," he said, raising his now-bare hand to forestall her reply, "I assure you. Pippin is just enough like you to be irresistible."

"Pippin's not old enough..."

"Pippin is quite old enough to know what he wants at the moment," Frodo told her. "I could go into detail, if you were to provoke me."

"Ahh," her expression was an interesting mix of curiosity and apprehension. "No, thank you. I've no need of tittle-tattle on such subjects."

Frodo smiled, and refrained from asking why she plainly knew as much as she needed to already. "You're a wise mother. And Pippin's charm is entirely," he kissed her on the cheek, "natural."

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A knock sounded on Frodo's door less than a half-hour later, and Merry and Pippin entered hand in hand, Pippin still wearing the sapphire ring.

"Come in," said Frodo. "We've some interesting plans, if I recall."

"Frodo..." said Pippin.

"You don't have to stay if you don't want to," said Merry. "For that matter, Frodo doesn't have to stay if you don't want him to."

"It's my room, you donkey. I invited both of you."

"Frodo... do you want Belladonna's ring back? It was a grand show, but we all know it was just to keep the aunts quiet."

Frodo tucked a hand into the deep pocket of his dressing-gown and touched cold, round metal. "It belongs with a Took. That ring and all the family obligations it carries are yours to enjoy, with my love." He pulled Pippin close and kissed his forehead. "And Merry is right, that you can stay with both of us tonight, or either, as you choose."

"Both, please. I've been waiting all day for you."

"Me, too," said Merry, "and you could have given the ring to me, you know. I'm practically a Took."

Frodo raised his eyebrows. "Didn't you hear Aunt Agapantha? You'll have one of the Took heirlooms, in time. Aunt Esmerelda wears it, but it came to Saradoc from Mirabella and it will be yours." He smiled at his cousins, feeling sly. "It makes the two of you a matched pair, each with a Took heirloom."

"When you put it that way," said Merry, "I'm much happier about it all." He took Pippin's hand again and led him to Frodo's bed, and Frodo welcomed each of them with a kiss.

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