Too Many Tooks by Kathryn Ramage
Summary: Frodo, Merry, and Pippin attend their cousin Melilot's wedding in Tuckborough, but the nuptials are interrupted when the bridegroom stumbles upon the body of a close friend.
Categories: FPS, FPS > Frodo/Sam, FPS > Merry/Pippin, FPS > Pippin/Merry, FPS > Sam/Frodo Characters: Frodo, Merry, Pippin, Sam
Type: Mystery
Warning: None
Challenges: None
Series: Frodo Investigates!
Chapters: 32 Completed: Yes Word count: 51402 Read: 373641 Published: March 22, 2008 Updated: March 22, 2008
Chapter 15 by Kathryn Ramage
When he left Merry and Pippin, Frodo went into the garden. It was dusk--at this time yesterday, they had found Toby murdered--and the garden was quiet, seemingly abandoned, and dark. The lanterns that had been hung up for the celebration tonight remained unlit. Frodo made his way through the shrubbery and banks of flowers toward the lawn at the center; he thought that no one was there, until he heard the soft sound of sobbing, and quickly traced it to the pavilion.

Melilot sat on the edge of the pavilion, weeping under the garlanded canopy.

"Melly?"

She lifted her face from her handkerchief and peered at the shadowed figure standing on the lawn before her. "Frodo?"

"Are you all right?"

"I'm fine... as well as can be expected. I only had to get away. I had to come outdoors and be by myself for awhile. Everyone means well, but I can't hear one more person tell me how lucky I am to be free of Evvy. I don't feel lucky! I'm so sorry about the flowers," she added nonsensically. "You worked so hard on them, and now they'll all have to come down before they wilt and turn brown."

Frodo ventured a few steps closer. "Do you want me to go away?"

"No," Melly answered after a moment. "Since you're here, you might as well stay and talk." She patted the wooden platform beside her to invite him to sit down. "Are you still investigating?"

"Yes," he said, and sat beside her.

"You needn't go on on my account. You've done what I asked you to. I'm glad that Evvy won't be arrested, even if..." She took a deep breath, and said deliberately, "Even if we won't be married after all. I've loved Evvy since I was six years old, Frodo. Did you know that? I never wanted anyone else. I wish he'd felt the same about me. It would have saved us this trouble. It hurts to realize that I wasn't the only one for him."

"I think," Frodo told her, "that if Evvy doesn't have the decency to apologize for the way he's treated you, and beg you to have him back, he's a greater fool than I already believe he is."

Melilot laughed bitterly. "Oh, Evvy's a great fool! I don't know if I'd have him back now if he asked me. But he won't. It's hopeless, after the things he said this morning."

"Did you know, before that, about Everard and this boy, Toby?"

"No," she answered. "I wouldn't have wanted him to marry me if I'd thought there was someone else. I wouldn't have kept him to his promise. It wouldn't have been much of a promise, would it, if he was still meeting with his boy-friend in secret?"

"But Toby is gone now." In spite of himself, Frodo remembered that there was no proof that Melly had been in her room all afternoon as she was supposed to be. Could she have gone out without being seen? He knew that she had more than enough reason for wanting to be rid of Toby: He was her rival. He had no intention of letting her be happy with her prospective husband, and had even threatened to spoil their wedding. Could she..?

It was too dark for Melilot to see the expression on his face, but he must have given his thoughts away, for she drew away from him and said sharply, "Don't you dare think it, Frodo Baggins! It was bad enough you suspected me of committing murder once--I won't bear it again. Must I be careful of every word I say to you? Are you offering a cousin's sympathy, or this is an interrogation?"

"I'm sorry," Frodo said immediately, deeply ashamed of himself. "It was meant to be one, but turned into the other. I didn't plan it so--please, Melly, you must believe that. The worst part of these investigations is that you have to consider everyone as a possible suspect, even the people dearest to you. And you do suspect them, like it or not. I am sorry."

Melilot accepted this. Calmer now, she said, "No, I didn't know. I saw Toby about from time to time. Evvy introduced us when I first came here, but he hardly ever spoke to me. I wondered if he might be jealous that Evvy was getting married and wouldn't have as much time for him, but I never thought- I mean, even if it occurred to me that he and Evvy were more than friends, I would have assumed that it was over and done with as far as Evvy was concerned. Most boys grow out of it once they're of an age to marry, don't they? They don't go on playing around."

"You know about that?" Frodo asked.

Melilot gave a small laugh. "I'm not so innocent, Frodo! Do you imagine any girl who's grown up in the same house as Merry Brandybuck can be ignorant of how boys play? Some girls do too. Not me, but if you knew the sort of things Celie got up to before she married-"

"I remember hearing some gossip about her and Berilac, when I was looking into his death."

Melly nodded. "Yes, that, and there were other boys from Bucklebury she used to slip out at night to see. She was getting to be almost as much of a scandal as Merry."

"Little Celie?" Frodo exclaimed.

"That's why the aunties and Mother got together and decided it was best for her to be married off to a suitable boy as soon as possible, before there was talk. My brother Merimas was the most suitable boy they could find." She crumpled her handkerchief between her hands as she confessed, "When I came here in the spring, I thought that Evvy and I might... well, that we might go on a little ahead of the wedding night. That's not unheard-of, when you're about to be married," she explained quickly. "It's more common among the country folk than we gentlehobbits, but I thought that as long as we were both living in his father's house, officially betrothed, and had only a few weeks 'til the wedding, we mightn't wait. I let Evvy understand that I was willing, if he wanted to." She laughed again, more hoarsely this time. "But Evvy didn't want to. He said we ought to wait. I thought he was considering my reputation or my maidenly virtue, or some such nonsense. I know better now."

Frodo felt uncomfortable listening to these extremely personal confidences, but as he grew older, he was began to realize that girls--even the nice, well-behaved ones--had these same feelings. If he could talk with Merry about love, why shouldn't he be able to speak with Melly as well? They had grown up in the same house together, in the same nursery; like Merry, she was only a few years younger than himself, and he had the same brotherly affection for her. Surely they could be friends in the same way?

"I knew how boys played, but I thought Evvy might be different. Some boys don't. You never did, not even with Merry, did you?"

Frodo shook his head. "No. Merry's too much like a brother to me. Besides, I never wanted to, not with anyone... at least, I didn't 'til I fell in love."

Melilot turned to him. "Are you in love, Frodo?" she asked.

"Yes," he admitted softly, and wondered if she knew his secret. Had she guessed when he visited Brandy Hall with Sam last spring? Perhaps she had heard the gossip, or Aunt Esme had told her.

His cousin was quiet for a long while; he could see the glint of her eyes in the darkness as she regarded him. At last, she said, "You're a very dear boy, Frodo. I never realized..." And then she kissed him.

No girl had ever kissed him before; Frodo was too startled at first to do anything, even kiss back. His only thought was that her lips were softer than Sam's and tasted sweet, and if she also smelled of flowers... well, they were sitting in the middle of a garden.

After pressing her lips to his for a few seconds, Melilot stopped suddenly and drew back. "Oh, I-" she said. "I'm sorry. I-" and she burst into tears.

What else could he do, but put his arms around her and hold her while she sobbed against his shoulder?
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