This story is my tribute to one of my favorite bands, Rascal Flatts! The title comes from the name of their hit song. I was listening to it one day, and I thought of how it just fit with my plans for this particular story. So, I decided to include lyrics from the song at the beginning of each chapter. They will not go in the order they are in the song, but they will match what happens in the story.
Author's Chapter Notes:
The title of this chapter, like the title of the story itself, is the name of a Rascal Flatts song. Not all of the chapters will share titles with songs, but I thought that the song fit this chapter very well. Pippin actually quotes the song when he says "You've got to go and find those dreams."
“You could have bowed out gracefully, but you didn’t.”
-Rascal Flatts, “Every Day”
Diamond Took stared at the letter, her blue eyes wide in overwhelmed disbelief, her hand trembling ever so slightly. She felt a chair being pushed underneath her just as her legs gave way and she sank to the ground, her gaze still fixed on the parchment.
“What is it, Diamond? Bad news?” She turned and saw Merry looking at her with concern in his eyes. It had been he who had saved her from falling to the floor in helpless disbelief.
She shook her head. “No! No, it…it’s not bad news at all…I don’t think…” She trailed off, her eyes scanning the gaudy, flowing script once more.
“What do you mean, you don’t think?” Merry’s voice was insistent. “Diamond, please tell me, you have to talk to me!”
Diamond didn’t respond. Instead, she read the fateful epistle over again.
“To Mrs. Diamond Took,
After considering your application very carefully, I have decided to grace you with the honor of studying under me upon the flute. I was very satisfied with your performance at the Hobbiton concert last summer, and I feel that you have the potential to be a flautist of legend one your skills have been “fine-tuned”, as we say in music. I regret that my letter was sent so late- I had a very difficult choice between you and the other applicants. The duration of your stay would be approximately three months. If you still wish to study with me, I expect to see you at my home outside Michel Delving in four day’s time; the address is enclosed. This is the chance of a lifetime: you have potential, and I truly hope that you choose to act on your wish to improve your skills even more.
Yours in music,
Mistress Ariethia Hibbs”
Diamond had almost forgotten about the application. Indeed, she had forgotten nearly everything about her previous life over the past three weeks- the most painful and trying weeks of her entire existence. She had been playing the flute since she was a little girl, and had been told by many people that she had extraordinary talent. She didn’t feel that she possessed any special gift- her love for the flute and music in general was what truly motivated her, not a desire to become better than anyone else. She had performed at small events as a tween and young Hobbitess growing up in the North Farthing, but when she had married and come to live in the South Farthing, she had stopped performing in favor of her life as a loving wife and mother. It had been Pippin who had persuaded her to join him in performing at the concert. They had done a duet: she had played her flute, and he had sung. Diamond closed her eyes for a moment, remembering. What a beautiful night that had been. There were so many people around them, more than she had ever seen in one place, but yet as the melody of the love song flowed from her flute and from her heart, she had felt as though she and her Pippin were the only ones there- the only people in the entire world. He had gazed at her as he sang with such love and adoration in his emerald eyes that she had been reminded of their wedding day. His sweet, flawless voice had caressed the words so tenderly, and she had known that he was singing them to her, for her, and for no one else. She had been so in love with him at that moment that she had felt her heart would burst, and it was all she could do to keep the flute from trembling as she did with emotion as she pressed it against the bottom of her lip. She had been so in love with him; she was still so, so in love with him. If only things could go back to the way they had been right then, without everything that had happened over the past three weeks. If only, if only…
“Diamond!” Merry’s voice sounded scared now. It jerked her out of her reverie and she merely handed him the letter silently, not trusting herself to speak for the intense emotion of her memory.
Merry read the letter, his blue eyes progressively widening as he absorbed more and more of its meaning. Finally, he lowered the parchment and stared at Diamond, a smile lighting up his face.
“Diamond, this is wonderful news! You’ve wanted to study under Mistress Hibbs, well, forever, or at least since I’ve known you… I’m so happy for you, you really deserve this, and you do have talent! This is amazing…”
“Oh, Merry,” Diamond’s half-sob cut him off. “You’re right. I do want to go; I do want to learn from Mistress Hibbs- she’s renowned as the best flautist in the Shire, after all…”
“But.” It was more than a statement than a question. Merry was beginning to understand now.
She shook her head sadly. “It’s only been a week, Merry. I can’t leave him, he’s still so ill…”
Merry knelt down in front of her and took both of her smooth, cream-colored hands in his own in an attempt at comfort and reassurance. “Diamond, Mistress Hibbs is right. This really is the chance of a lifetime. If you turn her down now, you’ll never get to go. I can care for Pippin. I would be more than happy to, you know that.”
Diamond shook her head. “Merry, you can’t take care of him all by yourself. He needs someone at his side constantly!”
“He’s stable enough now that he can sleep at night without being watched over. Frodo said that when he visited this morning. I would sleep in the armchair in the corner. I would be in the same room with him the whole time, and I would awake if he needed me. I just sort of have this, well, sense about those things, I guess, with Pippin. I mean, I know when something’s wrong, when he needs me. And during the day, I wouldn’t leave him for more than a moment. He’s my very best friend, Diamond, and I want nothing more than to see him get well. And I’ll do what I must to make sure that that happens.” Merry finished his monologue and gazed expectantly at Diamond. She stared back at him for a moment, and then removed her hands from his and threw her arms around him.
“Oh, Merry, do you really mean it?”
Merry smiled as she squeezed him. “Yes, Diamond. I mean it with all my heart. Dear Pippin will be well looked after.”
“But what about Estella?”
As Diamond was still enclosed in Merry’s arms, she didn’t see the momentary expression of pain that fluttered across his face. “Estella understands. She loves me, and she’ll wait for me, for as long as I need.”
“Thank you, Merry. Thank you so, so, much.” Diamond released him and looked upon him with grateful love in her eyes. “Of course, I shall have to talk it over with Pippin. We’ve always made decisions together, as a family. He’s very ill, yes, but not incapacitated. We shall decide together.”
Merry nodded. “Yes, of course. The decision is yours. But I will be there for Pippin, always.”
Diamond kissed him on the cheek. “I know. And he knows it, too. You’re the best friend he could ever hope to have, Merry. Not many people would be willing to do what you are offering, nor what you have already done.”
Merry’s cheeks turned pink and, casting his eyes downward, he muttered, “You should probably go and talk to him now.”
Diamond smiled and left him to his embarrassment. She crept down the hall in the tiptoe manner that only Hobbits can muster, not wanting to startle her resting husband, especially if he was asleep.
She pushed open the door to the bedroom with the intention of going in, but she leaned against the doorframe for a moment instead, gazing upon the one that she loved. Pippin was indeed asleep. He lay underneath multiple blankets- Frodo had expressed that keeping him as warm as possible was of the utmost importance, for all of Pippin’s remaining strength was currently engaged in healing his body, and none of it could be spared to keep him warm. He still looked so pale, and very thin. Pippin’s struggle with the almost fatal case of pneumonia had taken a heavy toll on him indeed, but Diamond had faith in him. He had a very sweet and sensitive personality, but he was strong, too, perhaps not in body but most definitely in spirit. He had told her of his travels- she knew what he had been through, that he had the will to live and the strength to fight for his recovery. But it had only been one week since his fever had broken, and he was still so, so ill…
She left the doorframe and went to kneel at his bedside. Touching his sheet-white face ever so gently with the tips of her fingers, she murmured, “I can’t leave you, dear one. You mean so much more to me than any music lessons. I love you, and I shall stay with you. I won’t even trouble you about it.” She choked a little, for she knew that what she was about to say meant giving up what she had hoped and prayed for for so long. “I’m not going.”
“Going where, Di?” Pippin’s emerald eyes fluttered open and, seeing her emotion, he gazed upon her with concern. His voice was still weak and he winced as he spoke. It still hurt him to breathe, this Diamond knew, and talking and coughing were especially painful. Unfortunately, he still seemed to be doing much of the latter. But, despite the pain, he seemed determined to find out what was going on.
“What’s wrong, Di?” The love in those green eyes was so intense that Diamond just wanted to throw her arms around him. But he looked so thin and frail that she was afraid that if she did so, he would break.
“Oh, Pip…” she murmured, not quite sure what to say. Should she just deny it all, or should she tell him everything?
“Why are you crying?” The effort of speaking made him cough, and his face contorted in agony as he did so. Diamond reached out and passed a hand gently through his auburn curls, letting him know that she was there, she felt his pain. The fit finally passed and Pippin looked as though he were about to inquire again, and then Diamond realized that she had doomed herself to revealing everything.
She pressed a finger to his lips and murmured, “It’s alright, I’ll tell you. But you must be quiet, my dear. You mustn’t strain yourself.”
Pippin gave a weak smile in response. He could agree to that.
With a little resigned sigh that was not without sadness, Diamond began. “I got a letter from Mistress Hibbs today.”
Pippin’s eyebrows rose inquiringly.
“She’s decided to teach me, Pippin.”
His expression brightened, his expressive emerald eyes lighting up with joy. He seemed about to speak when she shushed him.
“You promised, remember?”
He bit his lower lip but remained silent. His eyes, however, still beamed with pride and happiness.
Diamond sighed and continued. “I want to go, I really do. But I would have to leave, well, tomorrow…”
His hand found hers and it took all of his strength just to press it lightly, but she understood the gesture. She squeezed back. “I can’t do it, Pippin.”
“Yes you can.”
She ignored the fact that he had broken his promise and gazed at him with pain in her blue eyes. “Pippin, I can’t leave you! It’s only been a week since you actually started recovering, and you’re not even close to being well! Who would take care of you?” Her voice faltered as she uttered this final question because she already knew the answer. Pippin caught this and asked,
“He’s already spoken to you, hasn’t he?”
She cast her eyes downward. “Yes. He seems to think I should go. He says he can take care of you for three months all by himself. And it’s not that I think he can’t, it’s just that… it’s such a long time, and you’re so weak yet, Pippin…”
“I know. But if I know Merry, he’ll do whatever it takes to see me through this.” Pippin coughed again. Sympathy for him lit up in Diamond’s eyes, but Pippin shook his curly head. “I’m…fine…”
She almost retorted that no, he wasn’t, he quite obviously wasn’t, but when she looked into his eyes, she saw strength there that she hadn’t noticed before. It was a sort of strength of mixed emotions- resigned to fate yet hopeful and even confident about the future. Despite herself, she felt the corners of her mouth turning upward.
He smiled as she did, stronger this time. “You want to go, don’t you?”
“Yes.” Her voice was barely a whisper.
“Then you should. You have amazing talent, Di, you do.” She squeezed his hand even tighter and he murmured, “And when you come back, I shall be well again, and you shall play your flute and I shall sing, and it will be just like old times.”
“Oh, Pippin…” she whispered, choking with tears. She kissed him, her raven-black curls brushing his pale face.
“You’ve got to go and find those dreams, Di,” he whispered, and Diamond saw that tears shown in his eyes, as well.
She remained there for a while, her hand in his, both in silence, loving each other beyond words. Finally she stood and said softly, “Well, I should get packed, then.”
“Yes.” Pippin closed his eyes as she turned for the door, but she turned around when she heard the sound of his voice once more. “Could you tell Merry I want to speak to him?”
Diamond smiled. She knew what this would be about. “Yes. Of course.”
Diamond left the room feeling as though her dreams were finally about to be fulfilled, but when she turned back to smile once more at her husband, she realized that they already had been.
Merry took it to be a good sign that Pippin was still awake when he entered the room- his friend was getting stronger by the day, although sometimes it seemed it would take until the end of the fourth age for him to get well. A week ago, Pippin hadn’t been able to retain consciousness for more than five minutes at a time, and he was usually awake less than an hour total out of each day. Diamond had been with him for at least a full fifteen minutes, and although Pippin hadn’t yet accumulated enough strength to sit up, he now looked at Merry with brighter eyes than he had before.
Merry returned Pippin’s weak but loving smile and sat on the edge of his friend’s bed. “You wanted to see me, little one?”
“Yes.” Merry noted that his friend still cringed as he spoke. It was Pippin’s lungs that worried Merry the most. Though Pippin’s strength was returning slowly, he still suffered every time he took a breath, that much was clear. Frodo had prescribed a number of herbs, and Merry had made sure to follow the dosing instructions flawlessly. Maybe they just had to wait a little while longer. But Brandybucks were not patient Hobbits, and Merry wished there was a way to make his dear friend better faster.
Pippin continued. “I suppose Di’s told you everything, hasn’t she?”
“I suppose so.”
“I can’t keep her from her dreams, Merry. This was her choice.” Pain filled his green eyes as he spoke, and Merry knew just how much Pippin was going to miss his wife when she left the next day. “I just want her to be happy.”
“I know. You’re a good husband, Peregrin Took, and Diamond loves you more than anything in the world. I hope to be able to do the same for Estella, if I were ever in your place.”
Pippin winced at his words. “Let’s hope you never are, Merry.” He paused and examined his friend’s blue eyes with his own green ones, searching out every emotion and thought he could manage. Pippin was the only person that Merry would allow to do this- Brandybucks did not often let their feelings be known so easily.
Finally, Pippin whispered, “Are you sure you want to do this, Merry?”
Merry nodded vigorously. “Yes, if you will allow me to. I want to see Diamond happy, too, and I want to see you get better so much, Pippin. I’ll do anything. I will.”
“Oh, Merry…” Pippin’s eyes glistened with tears. “How could I ever possibly thank you?”
Merry smiled gently. “You needn’t, little one, you know that.” He kissed Pippin’s forehead and murmured, “The best thanks that I could ever possibly have is to see you well again, my dear.”
“I could never have asked for a dearer, more selfless friend.” Pippin’s whisper was nearly inaudible, hindered less by his illness than by the emotions that threatened to pour forth from within him.
Merry leaned over so that his golden-brown curls rested ever so lightly on Pippin’s chest. “Neither could I, dear one.”
“You could have bowed out gracefully, but you didn’t.”