Title: Diamonds for Diamond
Theme: Two Sides to Everything
Elements: Is one ever justified in refusing a gift?
Summary: A year before Pippin and Diamond get married, he gets her a very "special" gift.
Word Count: 2693
The hallway appeared empty, but Pippin double-checked anyway. He never felt completely at ease at the Northern Smials. He looked both ways once more before finally knocking on the door.
“Come in,” came a muffled voice from inside the room. “It isn’t locked!”
He glanced over his shoulder one last time before turning the knob and stepping in. He shut the door and barely managed to stifle a gasp when he looked up and saw Diamond sitting in front of her vanity wearing naught but her unmentionables. She saw him avert his gaze in the mirror’s reflection and sighed as she turned around.
“Really? Still?” she said while pulling on a robe. They’d been courting somewhat secretly for more than a year and, despite natural urges taking effect, he still had a hard time making eye contact during moments of intimacy. And especially when she wasn’t dressed ‘decently.’
“You know it could have been someone else at the door,” said Pippin still staring at the floor. “You mustn’t tell someone to come in when you’re indisposed like this!”
“I knew it was you, silly,” said Diamond. “I recognized your knock.”
She pinched his bottom and he began to giggle nervously, which was both frustrating and amusing, given his size and hero status. He clapped a hand over his mouth, but the damage was done. Diamond sighed again, walked over to her bed and picked up two dresses.
“I can’t decide between the two. Which one do you like better?”
“That one,” said Pippin, pointing randomly without lifting his head.
“Look up,” said Diamond threateningly. Her patience was wearing thin. The Yule dinner was in an hour and she hadn’t even combed her hair yet.
Pippin forced himself to wrench his gaze from the floor to the dresses. They were both very pretty, but he found the top of her bodice much more interesting to look at.
“Er, the green one?” He decided to go with his favorite color, since he had precious little knowledge of ladies’ fashion apart from what his sisters used to subject him to before they acquired husbands.
“Blue one it is,” said Diamond as she pulled the other dress over her head. “Now help me tie the back.”
Here was something Pippin could do. He tied the ribbon into a somewhat sloppy bow, which she adjusted accordingly before sitting back down at the vanity to wrangle her hair. He played with something in his pocket and dug his toes into the rug, waiting somewhat impatiently while she primped in the mirror.
“You look fine,” he finally uttered in an exasperated tone. She turned around and gave him a sharp look.
“I’m sorry, did you want something?” she asked sarcastically. “I thought you just came here to fidget awkwardly and avoid looking at me.”
Pippin smirked and pulled a rectangular box out of his pocket. “Well, actually, I was going to give you this, but if you’re going to be so snappy, I might as well give it to someone less rude.”
He pretended to start to leave, but stopped just as Diamond stood up.
“You didn’t say anything about a present,” she said, coming up to him with a coquettish smile. “You really shouldn’t have. I didn’t get you anything, after all.”
Pippin knew she was lying, but played along anyway, making an exaggerated frown. She laughed and flicked his nose.
“Oh, I can’t fool you, can I?” she said as she bent down and pulled a little wrapped gift out from under her bed. She handed it to him and he could tell whatever was inside the parcel was soft and possibly knitted.
“Well, go on,” she said, eyes glimmering with excitement. “Open it already!”
He made short work of it, unwrapping the present with as much gusto as a wee lad a fraction of his age. As he’d expected, it was clothing, though he was surprised to find a beautiful emerald green scarf with a little white tree stitched onto each end.
“I made it myself,” said Diamond proudly. She’d taken a while to get used to knitting and sewing, but was quite proficient now. “I knew you loved that old one and I felt awfully sad when it fell apart last winter.”
“Mundee, it’s wonderful!” said Pippin pulling her into a massive hug. “It’s my favorite color and everything!”
“And it has your white tree,” she said pointing from his uniform to the scarf’s decoration.
“That was a very clever touch,” he said kissing her on the forehead. Then handing over her present, he added, “Now open yours.”
He watched eagerly as she opened the velvet box to reveal the shocking contents within. Diamond was at a loss for words when she saw the giant, gaudy, and quite poorly designed necklace constructed from gold and chunky, oddly shaped diamonds.
“Well, I wasn’t able to make your present, but I came up with the design,” said Pippin, trying not to brag. “I sent quite an order to the Dwarves that made it. There was a drawing and a detailed description and everything.”
Pippin seemed incredibly pleased with himself, but Diamond knew she could never wear the thing in public... or private, for that matter. It was both extremely opulent and hideous at the same time. She’d be laughed at and jeered by all of Long Cleeve. At least presently they only gossiped about her behind her back; but to go about in something as tasteless as that necklace would cement the complete and utter destruction of her name and reputation.
“Pippin, you shouldn’t have,” she said, trying very hard to sound grateful but modest. “Really, you shouldn’t have. I can’t take this, you know I can’t.”
“Why not?” said Pippin, slightly crestfallen. “Don’t you like it?”
Diamond swallowed hard. “I love it,” she lied. “But it’s just too beautiful. This isn’t meant for me to wear.”
“No, actually, it is,” said Pippin, growing agitated. “Remember the bit about me having it specially made by Dwarves? That was with you in mind, by the way.”
“I know and I appreciate that very much, really I do,” she said patting his arm. “But it’s just too lovely for my scrawny little neck. This belongs on one of those beautiful Big People you saw out in the world. But me? I am just a small, plain hobbit-- it would overwhelm me!”
“How can you say that?” shouted Pippin, offended at the notion that his lover could be anything but beautiful. “You’re the loveliest lass I’ve ever seen! Did someone call you plain? Do I have to go fetch my sword?”
He rushed for the door, but Diamond pulled him back and, with a strength she didn’t know she had, forced him to sit down on the bed.
“No one has said anything,” she said looking into his eyes. It was funny how she could only reach his eye level when he was sitting down. “I just feel that if I were to go out wearing that, it would be all anyone could see. They’d think, ‘My, what a beautiful necklace.’ Then they’d compare it to me and naturally think, ‘And what a homely girl.’ I simply don’t stand a chance.”
Pippin mulled over the logic and Diamond thought she’d made a strong case against the necklace, but he shook his head.
“No, I don’t believe that,” he said with a furrowed brow. “I’ve never heard of a lass shunned for her pretty jewelry.”
“But it’s so pretty!” exclaimed Diamond, shaking the box and rattling the necklace about inside. “What if someone were to envy it and try to steal it? All your effort would be for nothing!”
“You have a point,” said Pippin, rubbing his chin. “Not to mention that you could get hurt.”
This seemed to genuinely stump him. Satisfied with her apparent victory, Diamond headed back to the vanity and began to powder her nose. But Pippin jumped up and exclaimed, “I’ve got it!”
He took the accursed jewelry out of its case and draped it around her neck before she could do anything.
“Why don’t you simply wear it at home,” he said, beaming with pride at his new idea. “There wouldn’t be anyone around that would steal it or hurt you for it.”
Diamond smiled weakly at the reflection. It looked even more horrible once it was actually on her. The whimsical, childish shapes of the gems looked incongruous against the festive but elegant gown. Rather than highlight her lovely features, it seemed to point out every blemish and weakness in her countenance. Even the faint glow that emanated from the jewels seemed to shed malevolence.
“Oh, I don’t know about that,” she said, quickly thinking of a new excuse. “Cousin Molly is still rather jealous of your attention. It would make her all the more sore to see you give me such a fine gift.”
Pippin shuddered involuntarily. Her cousin had fancied him back when he and Diamond were just friendly acquaintances, before they were even aware of any mutual attraction. But he’d always found the girl peculiar and not in the endearing sort of way.
“We wouldn’t want to make her sore,” he said, his eye wandering to the window where he hoped he wouldn’t find Molly spying on them and breathing all over the glass. He was relieved that this wasn’t the case.
“No, indeed not,” said Diamond. And now she’d pull out the final maneuver. This would certainly frighten him into acquiescence. “And imagine what would happen if she suspected anything? Why, I think she’d certainly tell the rest of the family, and then think of the problems we would have.”
Personally she didn’t care much whether her family knew what they were up to, but Pippin wanted to maintain the illusion that they were still only good friends. And he definitely didn’t want her relatives being privy to the more lurid details. Especially her father, who had intimidated him since they’d first been introduced years ago.
The comment had just the effect she was aiming for. Pippin blanched and his eyes grew as wide as saucers. He gulped and tried to speak, but apparently his mouth had gone dry. Diamond would have laughed if she wasn’t trying so very hard to trick him.
“Oh, that would ruin everything,” he finally stammered. “I didn’t even think of it, but it’s quite a give-away, isn’t it?”
Diamond pretended to gasp and clapped her hands to her cheeks. “Mother and Daddy would know something is up the moment they saw it!”
“And we cannot have that! Not at all,” exclaimed Pippin as he ripped the necklace off a bit more violently than he’d intended, causing Diamond’s head to jerk back painfully. She glared at him as she rubbed her neck, but didn’t break character.
“You know, we could just tell them,” she said, switching gears as she rubbed his hand tenderly. “I’m coming of age in less than two years, so I doubt it would even matter that much.”
“Right, and while we’re at it, why don’t we cut off my head?” said Pippin sarcastically as he put away the necklace. “Save your father the effort.”
“I don’t think that’s the body part he’d want to cut off,” said Diamond with a wicked grin. Pippin grimaced and wished he’d worn protective chain-mail trousers rather than the sensible breeches he now sported. Diamond rose and comforted him with a tight embrace. “I suppose the announcement and the necklace will both have to wait.”
Pippin unclenched and smiled down at her, although somewhat bitterly. “I do so hate waiting, though,” he said stroking her hair. “All this sneaking and lying is wearing on my last nerve. It’s terrible that we have to be so quiet when I just want to climb up on a mountain and shout out how I feel.”
“Oh, no mountains, please,” said Diamond with mock worry. “Didn’t you nearly freeze to death the last time you were on a mountain?”
“Yes, very nearly,” said Pippin with fake-woe to match her display. “I feel a chill just thinking about it.”
“Then let me warm you up,” she said in a low purr before pulling him down into a deep kiss. He was rather enjoying the moment and thought they could perhaps have a quick go before dinner, when there was a sudden knock on the door.
“Yes? Who is it?” called out Diamond, covering Pippin’s mouth.
“Your mother, who else?” came the aggravated reply through the door. “You’re surely not expecting that silly Southern Took, are you?”
“No, Mother, why-ever would he come by?” said Diamond, rolling her eyes.
“Well, his parents say he isn’t in his quarters, so I assumed he was visiting you,” said the matron.
“He’s probably out for a stroll, stretching his legs,” said Diamond, scratching Pippin’s thigh in a way that made it very hard for him to stay quiet.
“Well, then... well, fine!” said her mother, apparently at a loss. “Just do come out soon. We’ll be starting the dinner soon and it would embarrass me terribly if you were to saunter in late.”
“Yes, Mother!” said Diamond glowering at the door. “I’ll be out very soon.”
She listened for the sound of her mother continuing down the hallway, possibly moving on to harass her brother next door, and then let go of Pippin.
“Lawks, but she does vex me!” Then with a resigned sigh, she went on, “Though I suppose we really ought to head out now.”
Pippin nodded, though he wished they had another twenty minutes to themselves. Well, more like ten. Or five, if he wanted to be really honest with himself.
“I think it’s best you climb out the window and jog a little in the frost,” she said ushering him towards the still blissfully empty window. “To make the story believable, you know.”
“Couldn’t I just pinch my cheeks?” said Pippin as he began to clamber out. “I would look like I’ve been out in the cold without actually suffering at all.”
“Oh, go on! You won’t suffer a bit!” laughed Diamond as she shoved him out.
“You know, I really think it’s going to snow tonight,” said Pippin poking his head back in. “I’ll surely catch cold out here!”
Diamond smiled, grabbed his new scarf off the bed, and wrapped it around his neck. “There! Now you’ll be fine.”
But Pippin continued to pout. “This is truly cruel and unusual punishment. And after I gave you such a nice gift.”
“Speaking of which, what are you going to do with it?” Diamond felt the tiniest bit nauseous as she remembered the hideous thing. But she did feel sorry for having to manipulate Pippin so much, especially after he’d gone to such great lengths. He’d had the best intentions, after all.
“Oh, I don’t know,” he said playing with the box in his pocket. “I suppose I’ll save it for another occasion.”
“That’s probably best,” said Diamond, though inwardly she cursed, dreading the day that she’d have to come up with a fresh excuse to get rid of the tragic jewelry. “Well, I think I’ll make my way to the dining hall now. I’ll see you in a little while.”
Then after giving him a quick surreptitious peck, she closed the window and left her room. Pippin snorted and left as well, heading for a path that wound around the premises.
“I really thought she would like it,” he said to himself sullenly. “Merry warned me not to get overly creative with this sort of thing, but did I listen? Of course not.”
Then pulling out a smaller velvet-covered box, he sighed. “She probably wouldn’t have liked this, either.”
Still, he couldn’t keep himself from opening the box and admiring the simple diamond ring inside. He should have known it was too soon to make such a bold move, but he wasn’t exaggerating when he told her he didn’t like waiting.
“But I suppose I shall have to wait a little longer.” Then hiding the ring once more, he added quietly, “Even if it does feel like an eternity.”