West of the Moon

A Tolkien Fanfiction Archive

 

 

Berry Juice
A pastoral first-time story. Second in the Shire Reckoning 1412 Series.
Author: Stranger
Rating: R

 

Takes place in August 1412

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Pippin was twenty-one when things changed. He'd gone on berry-picking outings before, but it wasn't until this summer that Larkspur Hayfoot had pulled him away from the berry-picking company in the sunlit, vine-tangled woods and into the orchard and kissed him in the warm brown shade of a plum tree.

Under the fruit-laden tree her lips tasted of ripe plums. Pippin put an arm around her, pulled his mouth back to breathe for a moment, and kissed her again. He wasn't shorter than Larkspur any more. This time her mouth tasted over-ripe and hot, hotter than sunshine, like a good brandy sauce. She sort of *wriggled* in his arms, soft everywhere, and the heat ran through his whole body. He jumped back, since jumping forward would have knocked her over, and stared for a moment.

That changed whatever it was back. Larkspur smiled and shrugged at him. "You won't get away so easily next time. Will you?" She kissed him very sweetly on the cheek like a sister, but her smile wasn't sisterly when she looked back over her shoulder at him as she picked up her basket and left.

He'd climbed the tree afterward because it was that or burst.

It wasn't that they didn't pick berries on those warm afternoons in late summer, he and Merry and Folco and May Boffin and Lark and Foxglove and any of the Burrowses in the neighborhood, and sometimes Frodo on his summer visits to Brandy Hall. It was just that lots of other things happened as well. Pippin didn't quite recall them happening in the same way before. If two hobbits happened to be out of sight for an hour or more among the acres of vines growing over and around the trees, beside and across shifting pathways, who noticed? They all came back with full baskets, and no one in Brandy Hall ever went without berry tart or cobbler for more than a day at a time with so many young hobbits in their tweens and thirties eager to harvest them of a summer day.

Today it was Lark and Fox and Folly and cousins. Pippin, deliciously torn between following Foxglove, the prettier of the sisters, or Larkspur, the elder and bolder, found himself shuffled into a trio with Foxglove and Merry. They wandered southward, each carrying a purple-stained withy basket, pushing through the scratchy rose vines that netted the blackberries with brambles.

When the baskets were mostly full, Merry picked a rose for Foxglove, and while she was looking at it, as if debating whether to accept it, Pippin found another, very pretty blossom just tinged with pink and held it out on her other side.

Foxglove giggled. Merry tried to glare, but there was enough surprise in it to make it unconvincing.

Pippin giggled. He'd done it as much to tease Merry as for Foxglove, and he could see Merry wondering how it was meant.

Foxglove looked at him then, not the way she'd looked at him before. The new way. It wasn't the way Merry was looking at him, either. Pippin flushed in the summer heat, suddenly uncomfortable. Foxglove took each rose-bearing hand in one of hers, sighed dramatically, and said, "How's a lass to choose between you?" Her sparkling brown eyes went from Merry to Pippin and back.

Finally she picked up both roses, kissed the pink-tinged one and handed it back to Pippin. "Next time, sweeting." She winked at him. "Soon." The sparkling eyes went back to Merry and she tucked his rose into the cleft above her well-rounded bodice.

Merry chuckled at the sight, but he reached for Pippin first. "Better luck next time... sweeting." He patted his cousin's shoulder with a gentle hand, and for once, *didn't* tousle his hair. Pippin was tall enough to see almost eye-to-eye with Merry now. "I'll bet all the others are finished picking berries, unless they've wandered too far toward the river. Folly has no sense of direction at all. Why don't you go see to them?"

"Why don't I?" said Pippin, resigned, and set his berry-basket down beside theirs. If he was going to be hunting Folco and Frodo -- and Larkspur, of course -- in the muddy ground by the river, these two could carry one more basket up to the house. Whenever they decided to go in.

They didn't seem to notice. Pippin wound his way through a few layers of vines in the direction of the river, leaving their breathy giggles behind.

He'd just lost them properly when he spied Folco and Larkspur, not at all missing and holding hands over brim-full baskets of east-wood brambleberries, the kind Folco's father liked to make wine from. They were going the right direction for Brandy Hall, and Pippin decided that if they were to lose their way, it would be their own business.

Frodo wasn't with them.

There was nothing wrong with Frodo's sense of direction, but Pippin decided to keep on looking for him. Frodo had an unaccountable tendency to skip tea if he happened to be reading, or thinking, or daydreaming, or having a conversation that interested him. Sometimes he talked about elves as though he knew them.

He found Frodo lying on his back in a grassy pocket of a clearing with a full basket beside him, gazing at the sky and eating the plumpest of the blackberries with an air of slow concentration. His mouth was purple with the juice, and so were large patches of his open-collared shirt.

"There you are!" said Pippin with a fine sense of accomplishment.

"Here I am," said Frodo languidly, not moving except to pick another dark-jeweled berry from the basket. "Hullo, Pip. Have you found anything interesting today?"

"Lots. Folly and Lark have gone back to the Hall already with some of the baskets and Merry sent me to find you."

Frodo grinned at the sky. "Merry wanted to have Foxglove to himself, I should think."

"It looked that way." Pippin heaved an elaborate sigh.

"So you came along and searched for me and left them alone." Frodo turned his head and looked at Pippin. "You're a good, polite hobbit. For a Took, of course." His smile was sweet enough to make it only gentle teasing. "Have some blackberries. I think that patch" -- he waved toward a thicket on the south side of the clearing -- "is particularly good."

Pippin sat down and sampled the contents of the basket. "Mmm-hmm," he said, mouth full. "'S'ex'elent."

They munched in silence for a few minutes. Pippin found himself thinking of the crumble-cobbler his cousin Acacia could make with honey and butter, but it wasn't any richer or sweeter than this warm afternoon of sweet fruit and knowing there was sweeter in prospect and feeling that Frodo rather approved of him. Pippin leaned over and kissed his Baggins cousin full on the berry-stained mouth.

"Well, well," said Frodo. "What's that about?"

"I felt like it." Pippin went back to selecting the perfect blackberry.

"Why not?" said Frodo, lazily. "Summer afternoons are good for kissing. Didn't I see you disappear under a tree with Larkspur a few days ago?"

"Maybe," said Pippin. "I climbed the tree, too."

Frodo smiled upward at the sky. "All the way to the top, right?"

"I felt like it," said Pippin, again. "Anyway, *you* kiss people, when you feel like it."

"I do when I feel like it," said Frodo, still lazily, "but how do you know?"

"I saw you and Merry."

"Oh," said Frodo. His sun-warmed face flushed pinker.

"Here, in fact."

"So we were. Here. Last week. Probably while you were climbing that tree...." He snickered then, and said, "Well, you're a curious Took, aren't you?"

"If you like," said Pippin, and rolled over and kissed him again. He tasted of berries and summer grass.

"Oh, my. Just how curious are you?"

"Ravenously. You and Merry..."

Frodo got both hands on his shoulders and pushed him up, just out of kissing range. Pippin could see berry-juice stains in his eyebrows. "Are you sure you wouldn't rather be doing this with Merry, or maybe Lark?"

"I love Merry. I love you. I might love Lark, but I think she's too old for me."

"I'm older than she is," Frodo pointed out, but his eyes were laughing.

"It's not the same."

"Perhaps not. Ravenous curiosity, you know, implies a lack of the information you're curious about."

Pippin worked this out. "Oh. Yes. I mean, I don't know what it's like. I haven't..." He stopped in consternation. "Does that mean you don't want to?"

Frodo was laughing. "Silly Took. Silly Pippin. It's so easy to love you." He set the basket well away and lay down again, spreading his arms out wide on the grass. "Come here and kiss me and tell me what you want."

Pippin lunged onto his cousin and held him down, lapping and nibbling at the laughing, berry-flavored mouth. Then Frodo wasn't laughing, but instead was kissing him back, tasting *him* as though he were a particularly nice kind of berry, maybe with wine sauce. Pippin was as warm and giddy as though he'd had the wine sauce. He rested like that on top of Frodo, Frodo's arms holding him steady, and made a long dessert of kissing with berries.

He licked Frodo's eyebrows, tasting sweat and berry-juice, licked the tips of his ears, the corners of his mouth, and down his chin to the neck inside the open shirt. He found more salty sweat there, tasted it carefully, and then sucked and swirled his tongue in the hollow between his collarbones.

Frodo gasped, quivered, and rolled sideways, dumping Pippin onto the grass without letting him go. "Pip..."

Pippin waited in wide-eyed terror. Had he done something wrong?

Frodo took a deep breath, and another, and finally looked at Pippin. "Do that again."

It was easy to put both arms around Frodo's neck, and go on kissing him, neck and collarbones and chest as far as his shirt would open. After a while Pippin felt his trouser-braces being slid down his shoulders, felt his sweat-damp shirt being loosened. Somehow they were sitting up, and he was leaning back against Frodo, having *his* neck kissed and finding that a certain sucking pressure on a certain spot, or several spots, made him lose all awareness except of the warm, wet mouth on his skin and the hot wine that seemed to have replaced all the blood in his body.

When he felt his ear -- not one of the spots -- being licked, Pippin managed to open his eyes and discovered that Frodo's fingers were tickling his belly in a lazy way, not as if it were important. Both of their shirts were lying elsewhere in the grass, possibly as the result of magic. Pippin didn't remember taking them off. He made a questioning sound that wasn't any word he remembered. "Slleee...?"

"We can stop if you're not sure," said Frodo. He didn't stop tickling.

"I meant to say," Pippin gathered up a great deal more dignity than was probably necessary with a cousin he'd known all his life, "I don't quite know what this is, but what makes you think I *can* stop?"

He felt a warm gust of air on his neck, and shivered. "Very true." The tickling worked downward into his trousers, steadily but not too fast, and before too long it settled in his groin, curled warmly around a restless, hard piece of his anatomy which was unaccustomed to being touched by anybody else.

Pippin made another noise, this one of discovery. He'd kind of known... but it wasn't the same as being told... and it didn't feel anything like he'd imagined, or tried. Better, but strange.

"Do you want to stop?" The whisper tickled his ear. "Or take it slowly?"

"Do *you* want to?" asked Pippin.

"Oh, no," said Frodo's voice, whispering in his ear. Everything was strange, but better. "No, indeed. Dear Pippin, you are absolutely adorable." The hands on him moved, tickling in a way that sent hot shivers through his whole body. After another moment of it he couldn't move and couldn't not move, and ended up falling over and out of Frodo's arms.

He blinked up at Frodo, who was looking at him with a quizzical twist of his lips. "I didn't mean to do that. Is it supposed to happen?"

"Sometimes. Things might go more smoothly if we..." He stepped out of his trousers and sat down next to Pippin, close enough to touch but not touching.

"Help me?" asked Pippin, still not sure which way was up. He pushed at the garment tangling his hips and legs, trying directions at random.

Frodo leaned over and kissed him, nibbling over his mouth, down his throat, down his chest. Trousers slithered down Pippin's legs and over his feet, tickling skin and hair and feet and toes. The grass under his back was rough and cool compared to the hot wine fizzing through him, very much cooler than the warm hand that settled between his legs, squeezing and tickling him in new intimacy. Pippin said, "Oh. Oh, yes. Oh, please," which must have been the right thing to say, because Frodo pulled him closer and didn't stop this time until the heat rose and filled him and expanded beyond containing, and exploded out of Pippin in a spray of delicious ecstasy.

He noticed that he was curled around Frodo with his head on Frodo's shoulder and their toes tangling together. "Yes, I definitely love you," he said, and snuggled into the sweaty embrace.

"I don't think that will change," said Frodo into his hair, "dearest Pippin."

They were lying at one side of the clearing, now in dappled shade that was cooling and comfortable. Somewhere nearby there must be a clump of daisies, the sharp-smelling kind. Pippin kissed the cream-pink skin under his lips and felt a tiny, languid twitch in response, so he did it again. That was nice for a while.

"That was..." Pippin roused enough to think. "If it was all for me, what about you?"

There was a kiss on his ear-tip. "Sweet, lovable Pippin. You ask the right questions. It was all for me, too, this time."

"How...?" he asked, certain that he'd missed something.

Frodo only laughed softly. "You'll find out soon enough. Do you think it's possible we *didn't* upset that basket of tomorrow's breakfast with cream?"

"Maybe," said Pippin, but after a lovely, drowsy moment he lay back on the grass and opened his eyes. "Find out what?"

"It would be a shame to stifle your curiosity by just telling you the answer," said Frodo. "Work it out later. Next time."

They untangled their bodies and discovered that Pippin's trousers were unaccountably draped over a branch at the far side of the clearing, and both shirts were more purple than not with juice stains -- but it wasn't as if you wore a *clean* shirt for berrying -- and the basket full of the particularly good, plump blackberries was still upright, safe and whole.

It was very satisfying to walk through the woods holding someone's hand, finding paths through the meandering tangled vines of berries and flowers. They didn't hurry, wandering in the late-afternoon shade and sunshine until, almost by chance, they reached the gap that was kept clear at the beginning of the path that led up to Brandy Hall.

Frequent trimming made the vines there grow up into thick pillars that had leaned together into an archway overhead. They paused in the shade of the arch for one more berry-flavored kiss before Pippin bounded up the path to find his cousin Merry and find out what was on the table for tea.

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