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This was first posted on Silk Screen Views.
PART FIVE – HOBBIT PSYCHOLOGY
When Tamsyn walked back into the kitchen, eyes lowered but peering through her lashes, Esme clasped her hands together. “Oh, look at you, you beautiful lamb!” she exclaimed. “You wear that dress even better than my Diamond did.”
Perry said nothing, just stared at her with wide eyes. He was so fixed on her that he completely missed his mother’s flailing ladle until it hit him on the ear again. “Ow!” he exclaimed. “Mother, what was that for?”
“Stop staring at her, you impossible boy!” Esme snapped. “Where are your manners?”
“I was admiring her!” he retorted. Esme swatted at him again, but this time her attempt was only half-hearted, and he avoided it with ease. “Where should she stay, anyway?” he asked. “Do you want me to show her to her room?” He blinked innocently and Tamsyn almost snorted, convinced that his mother would swat at him again for such an obvious ploy.
Esme, however, suddenly had a very thoughtful look on her face. “Why don’t you show her to the eastern guestroom,” she said, and Tamsyn looked away in surprise.
“Why not Diamond’s old room?” Perry said. “It’s closer to the kitchen, so she won’t get lost.”
“You know, Peregrin, I do believe you are right. Go on then,” Esme said, and turned back to her cooking.
Perry beckoned and Tamsyn followed, only voicing her astonishment when she was well out of earshot of his mother. “You can’t show me to a change of clothes, but you can show me to my bedroom?”
He grinned at her. “I think my dear mother suddenly realised that I’m attracted to you. Be prepared to be shoved in my direction for as long as you’re here now.”
“I don’t understand,” Tamsyn said. “Why is she suddenly not worried about propriety?”
“Because she wants to see me married, Tam, and she’s getting desperate,” he said, opening a door and gesturing her inside with a flourish. Tamsyn, however, stood as if glued to the floor.
“M…married?” she stammered.
“Yes, married,” he repeated, gently pushing her into the room and closing the door behind them. “My dear, virtuous, insufferable brother Paladin has been married for four years now and probably has his third child on the way. Even my sister Diamond is married and pregnant. I’m not just the black sheep of the family, Tam, it’s worse than that. I’m the black, unmarried sheep of the family.” He sighed, a sudden, pained look on his face. “In fact, if I don’t get married soon, I do believe my father might break with all tradition and name Paladin as the next Thain.”
Tamsyn stared at him in shock. “All that because you’re not married yet? How old are you?”
He flung himself backwards onto the bed, linking his hands behind his head. “Forty-one this Blotmath. And I’ve still never met a single girl who I’m willing to spend the rest of my life with.”
Tamsyn sat down on the bed, facing him. “Okay, you’ll have to help me here a little. I understand from Donna that you’re considered an adult at thirty-three?”
Perry gave her a strange look, but sat up and nodded.
“So you’re only seven years into your maturity. Surely there’s still plenty of time to get married?”
He shrugged. “Sure, but every girl I’ve shown interest in so far has run away in fright after I tried to kiss her a second time.”
Tamsyn blinked at him. “Seriously? The way you kiss? What are they, stupid or just really prudish?”
He shrugged again, though this time he looked a little smug too. His voice, though, was wistful. “I don’t know. Sarry says I’m too passionate. He reckons it scares them.”
Tamsyn didn’t know who Sarry was, but that could wait. “So they’re stupid then,” she decided. “Right. Blotmath?”
“Next month.” His stare was now intent, and the look on his face was almost sad.
“Perry? What is it?” she asked in confusion.
“You really aren’t a hobbit, are you?” he asked in a small voice. When she shook her head he continued, “But you were only upset about your feet, so you must otherwise look the same as what you’re used to. You’re one of the big folk, aren’t you?”
“Yes, I’m a human,” Tamsyn confirmed. It felt strange to have to confirm her race, and she added a shrug and a half-smile to indicate that she couldn’t do anything about it.
Perry took a deep, shuddering breath. “Okay, so you’re what, Gondorian? With hair your colour you must be.”
She shook her head. “No, I’m not Gondorian.”
“Rohirrim then?” he said in surprise.
“I’m not Rohirrim either.”
He frowned and ventured, “Southron?”
“Perry, I am human, but I do not come from any country here in Middle-Earth.”
He stared at her for at least a minute, as if hoping that she would suddenly deny all she had said, or confess it had been a joke, but she only looked back at him with a sad smile, and finally he sagged. “Oh. So where do you come from then?”
Tamsyn sighed. “I’m not sure I can explain, or at least not in terms you’ll understand. I think… I think we’ll need to wait for Radagast to wake up, because I don’t fully understand what he’s done either. He’s the one who got us into this mess, so he can do the explaining.”
He nodded dispiritedly. “Maybe we should go check on him.” He made as if to get up, but Tamsyn placed a hand on his arm to stop him.
“Perry, please don’t treat me like a human,” she pleaded. “Treat me like you would any other hobbit. I look like one, so please don’t now get all afraid of me.”
He shook his head slowly. “You don’t look like a hobbit, Tam. But then, neither do I really,” he added with a sigh.
“What do you mean?” Tamsyn asked, confused.
He stood up and spread his arms. “Look at me. I’m an adult, yet I am as slim as when I was in my tweens, despite the fact that I eat more than my father and brother put together. Before I was born, no one even thought it was possible to have black hair. Even my darkest cousin’s hair is no darker than mahogany.” He sat down again and ran a hand through his curls. “Some have called me a freak behind my back. Girls tend to be interested initially, but they’re either vapid or insipid or they get frightened the moment I try to go beyond a kiss on the cheek, and they’re so, so boring… I’m not a normal hobbit, Tam, nor do I look like one.”
She placed a hand on his arm again. “Perry, recite me your family tree.”
He looked up at her. “What?”
“Just do it.”
He frowned, but said, “I’m Peregrin Took the seventeenth, son of Faramir Took the twelfth, son of Adalgrim Took the fourth, son of Peregrin Took the sixteenth, son of–”
“Who’s your second cousin twice removed on your father’s side?” Tamsyn interrupted him.
“Falco Bracegirdle,” he replied immediately.
“What’s your favourite food?”
“Pork cutlets in gravy made with apples, plums and cherries, with potatoes roasted in goose fat and herbs and green beans dripping in butter, Tamsyn what–?”
She shook her head. “What’s the best pipeweed there is?”
“Ah, well, most hobbits will tell you that Old Toby is the best, but I reckon that for a late evening smoke you’re better off with that mellow Buckland variety that my cousin…” He faltered when he noticed her secretive smile.
“That sounds like a hobbit talking to me,” Tamsyn said.
“I… ah…” He stopped and looked away in startled confusion. Tamsyn took his chin, turned him back towards her and kissed him lightly on the lips. When she pulled back his eyes were intent and full of questions.
“Perry, this…” she gestured at his body, “this is packaging. It’s the exterior, nothing more. This…” she placed her hand on his heart, “this is what matters. Oh, I understand that you’re a troublemaker, one of those stubborn people who prefer to make their own lives difficult rather than conforming to the rules and be stifled with boredom. You speak of your brother in derogatory terms, you drive your mother to distraction, yet if a horde of orcs were to invade the Shire you’d die before you’d let any of them come to harm. Wouldn’t you?”
“I… yes, I would,” he confirmed, looking away again. Tamsyn could see he was mulling over her words, contemplating what appeared to be a new viewpoint to him.
“You’re the eldest son of the Thain,” she continued. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that deep down you’re terrified of the responsibility. I don’t know why, because you’re smart and capable, but it scares you that someday people will come to you for… for whatever it is that a Thain does. Don’t be. You are who you are, and you’ll be good at whatever you turn your mind to. Until then…” She spread her arms and shrugged. “Just do whatever you like and to he… to Mount Doom with what everyone else thinks.”
His stare was baffled for a few moments longer, then he shifted closer, wrapped an arm around her shoulders and kissed her again, his tongue gently questing for access into her mouth. This kiss was slower than his previous ones, but it made Tamsyn forget her surroundings as she lost herself in the feelings he evoked.
When he drew away he ran a finger over her cheek. “How is it that you, who has known me for less than an hour, already know me better than anyone in my entire family?” he murmured.
“I’m sure I don’t,” she replied, trying to steady her breathing, “but I daresay that neither your mother nor your father want to say this to you for fear of encouraging you. I don’t mind telling you the truth though, especially if it makes you feel better. And if you want, I’ll pose as marriageable material for you, if that will give you a break from your mother’s nagging.”
His eyes widened. “You would?”
“I’ll be the perfect prospective daughter-in-law, just watch me.”
“Why? Why would you do that for me?”
She gave an embarrassed half-shrug. “I like you. Plus, you’re a really good kisser,” she added with a teasing smile.
He laughed, standing up and pulling her into his arms. “Well, I guess we’d better go and put on a show then,” he said, though he didn’t move. Instead he kissed her again, combing his fingers through her hair. Tamsyn sighed and raised her face to him, leaning into the kiss, and she felt it like a loss when he lifted his head.
“You really are exquisitely beautiful,” he murmured, and she lowered her eyes away from the smouldering intensity in his gaze.
“But you don’t think I look like a hobbit,” she replied. “Why not?”
He pushed her away to arm’s length. “Too slim. Hobbit girls usually start getting fatter around twenty-five. How old are you?”
“In human years, twenty-seven. In hobbit years, who knows? Probably as old as you.”
“You don’t look it. And your hair…” He slid his hand into it and let her locks slide through his fingers. “I’ve never seen anything like it. So long and soft, and it’s straight. No hobbit hair is ever less than wavy.”
She smiled. “So yours is natural at least in that regard,” she remarked, tugging at a curl on his forehead. “I don’t know, mine has always refused to take whatever curl I tried to put in it. I guess not even Radagast’s spell could change that.”
He put a finger under her chin and lifted it. “That’s about the seventh time I’ve called you beautiful, yet you’ve barely even acknowledged it. Why?”
She gave him a sad smile. “I’ve heard it too many times, I’m afraid. I suppose I’ve got cynical about it. Where I come from… Very few people gave me credit for what I’m like or what I can do. They always get stuck on my looks and then seem surprised that there’s a brain underneath it as well. After years of that it gets hard to acknowledge a compliment and still sound sincere.” Then she put a hand on his chest and looked him in the eyes. “But I realise that you’re not like those people, and that you have been paying me a genuine, honest compliment. Thank you.”
“And me?” he asked quietly. “Do you think I’m handsome?”
She nodded, her throat suddenly dry. “Exceedingly so.”
“And you’re not afraid of me? You don’t fear that I’ll ravish you if you let me kiss you for too long?”
Her mouth curled into a smile and she gave him a sly look. “If you ravish as well as you kiss, I’m sure I can handle it.”
His reaction was predictable, and she twined her fingers into his hair as he kissed her until her knees grew weak.
“You know, somehow I don’t think I’ll have any difficulty in making my family believe that I might want to marry you,” he said pensively, then with a sigh he let go of her before she could reply. “Come, let’s check on Radagast.”
Tamsyn might be getting more than she bargained for… Continues in part six!