Disclaimer: The Tolkien gave us Hobbits, although I doubt he intended them for this use. Merry and Pippin belong to The Tolkien, and not to me, which is just as well because they never would have gotten out of bed if they were mine, much less traveled with the Fellowship, and the only Crack of Doom they would have known about might belong to the Shire Roto-rooter Hobbit.
Summary: Eh, we've all had that younger tagalong following us around at least once in our lives, haven't we? Set far before LOTR, Pippin and Merry aren't quite best friends yet.
Note: To James; never let it be said I don't do anything for you. ;)
The Sweet Purity of Apples
It was a lazy day in the Shire, the kind that only come in the summertime when it's too hot to do much of anything useful, too early to begin harvesting any of the slowly ripening crops and much too lovely a day to be spent inside. Most of the hobbit children were laughing and playing out in the fields while their parents watched indulgently from the cool shade.
Further up the hillside, and away from all the ruckus, Merry Brandybuck was laying almost hidden amongst the nodding grasses and wildflowers, nearly drowsing from the warmth of the Sun as he sketched idly on a scrap of parchment with a piece of charcoal.
It wasn't that he didn't like his family, far from it, but sometimes he simply wanted a little quiet and he'd be more likely to find an Elf hiding beneath his bed than to find silence in Brandy Hall.
He'd thought that today he might actually have found a place to hide safely for a time, but the sound of someone wading through the sea of grasses towards him warned him that his privacy was about to be invaded.
A pair of feet appeared at his elbow, and Merry raised his eyes warily to see his younger cousin Pippin standing over him, crunching rather noisily on an apple.
Merry sighed in exasperation. He was actually quite fond of Pippin, at least in comparison to most of his other cousins, but Pip didn't seem able to understand why anyone might wish to spend a bit of time alone. Merry suspected that if Pip would spend more time in Brandy Hall he would understand the notion right quickly.
Deciding that perhaps if he ignored the younger Hobbit, he might wander off to find someone friendlier to spend the day with, Merry refocused his attention on his drawing.
Pippin regarded him silently for a long moment but Merry should have known to wouldn't last. "What are you doing?" Pippin asked finally, catching a droplet of juice trailing down his arm with the tip of his tongue.
"If you have to ask, I don't see why I should tell you," Merry replied coolly, refusing to look up.
"What I mean is, what is that supposed to be?" Pippin clarified, trying to speak around a mouthful of fruit and Merry grimaced in disgust.
"I'm drawing the millhouse right there." Merry gestured towards it with his free hand. "What did you think it was?"
"If I could have told, I wouldn't have asked," Pippin said easily, dancing nimbly away from the slap Merry had aimed at his leg before flopping down next to him. He squinted at the millhouse and then at the paper, chewing thoughtfully.
Merry managed to wait through a few moments of silence before he finally gave in. "What do you think?" he asked heavily, certain he'd regret asking.
"I think you're ruining a perfectly good piece of parchment." Merry did hit him that time, and Pippin lost his grip on his apple. He picked it up by the stem and gazed mournfully at the dirt-encrusted flesh before tossing it aside, sighing, "Honestly, Merry, someone would think you are as blind as old farmer Grubb. Here."
Before Merry could protest, Pippin had scrambled onto his back, one leg on either side of Merry's hips as he leaned over him. Merry grunted at the sudden added weight and one of Pippin's pointy little elbows dug into his shoulder, producing a remarkably sharp burst of pain.
"Pip, what are you..." he halted mid-sentence when one of Pippin's hands wrapped around his own that was still holding the charcoal.
"Like this, now." Pippin's hand guided his, sharpening the lines on the page. Merry watched at first, seeing a much clearer picture appearing but there always seemed to be something distracting him from seeing the means of it. There was the faintest touch of Pippin's breath, sweet and warm on the back of his neck, and Pippin's hand, still sticky with juice, cupped around his own.
Merry swallowed hard, trying not to squirm under his cousin. As many times as he and Pippin wrestled and played together, it had never quite felt like this. Pip leaned up just a bit more, his hips rocking against Merry's backside and Merry quite abruptly forgot how to think. He hardly heard what Pippin was saying. All his focus was on the warm body pinning his own down and the ground no longer seemed a comfortable place to be, especially not in one particular place where both his and Pippin's weight were pressing down.
Pippin dropped Merry's hand and out of the corner of his eye, Merry saw him raise his own to his mouth, his small pink tongue wetting the tip of his littlest finger before Pip artfully smudged a few lines on the paper into shadow.
"There. Isn't that better?"
"Better," Merry repeated numbly and Pip laughed brightly, knocking away what little breath Merry had left as he bounded to his feet.
"Now, don't you go being jealous just because I draw better than you," Pippin said, winking at him before sauntering away, hands in his pockets as he whistled a cheery little tune. Not until that little song had faded completely from his hearing could Merry turn his attention to the parchment.
Pippin was a great deal better at drawing than him, Merry had to admit, turning his own nearly shapeless form into a fair portrait of the millhouse and once he might have been somewhat perturbed that Pippin had bested him.
His hand still felt warm where Pippin's had rested and, without thinking, he brought it to his mouth and found his skin sweetly tainted with apple juice.
The Sun was starting its downward arc in the sky and most of the other hobbits had begun venturing indoors to find supper. Climbing slowly to his feet, Merry carefully rolled up the parchment and tucked it inside his shirt. Later, he would place it in the small chest he kept under his bed with all his other treasures, and every time afterward he smelled apples he would remember that afternoon, and how very warm and heavy Pippin had felt, how his eyes had been bright and his smile sweet.
But right then, all Merry wanted was a bite of supper.