West of the Moon

A Tolkien Fanfiction Archive

 

 

Pipe Dreams
Hallucenogenic pipeweed and a very determined Took.
Author: Willow-wode
Rating: NC-17

 

"This stuff smells a bit odd, don't you think?"

Merry looked up from where he was busily lighting his pipe and exchanged a glance with Frodo, who was in turn examining his own. Merry coveted that pipe--it was a gorgeous inlaid clay affair, with a lip piece of soft, honey-coloured wood. But the only way he had any hope of it was in immolating Frodo some dark night; the pipe had belonged to Drogo Baggins, and it was one of the only things Frodo had left of his father.

Now, however, Frodo was giving his precious pipe the same kind of look he occasionally gave Samwise Gamgee when he'd been spreading fish gut fertilizer on the Bag End gardens. Same wrinkled nose, drawn-up lip, almost-comic dismay. "Pippin!" Frodo raised his voice, still frowning at the pipe.

No reply. Frodo didn't move, but glanced sideways at Merry, took in another breath and called, much louder, "Pippin!"

"I'm here, I'm here!" came a muffled shout from somewhere to the back and below the kitchen. Merry twisted on the rug where he and Frodo sat, pipeweed pouch placed on the thick nap between them, to peer at the doorway as Pippin finally appeared, capably balancing three mugs of ale. He parcelled them out one at a time to his older cousins, keeping the most generously-filled of the mugs for himself, then took a large pull from it, wiped the foam from his lip and angled his backside closer to the cypress-wood fire. "Even if it is a bit colder than usual in old cousin's Bilbo's cellar, he keeps it well stocked, doesn't he? There's an awful lot of food down there. And the ale barrels are always full. I like it at Bag End!"

"Where did you get this pipeweed?" Frodo waved his pipe at him. Merry grumbled as his own went out again.

"Just where you told me. You said our esteemed cousin kept his best on that second shelf in his wardrobe, just beyond the scarves," Pippin assured, grinning as Merry tapped irritably at the dampened bowl. He grabbed a small punk from the fire and held it out to Merry helpfully, never pausing in his explanation. "I had to go hunting a wee bit--he'd it stowed way in the back, mind you, but it was basically where you'd said."

"It smells... off," Frodo insisted. Clamping his teeth about the pipe-stem, he leaned back against Bilbo's favourite chair and stuck his feet toward the fire. "But it's rather nice," he added after a few experimental tastes.

"Aw, Frodo," Merry gave Pippin a thankful smile as his recalcitrant pipe finally sparked and drew. He chided his older cousin between puffs, "It's not that off. My dad has some that smells a bit like this. Saves it for special occasions."

"You know, it does smell a bit familiar at that," Frodo concurred. "But I can't place it."

"You don't think it smells funny, do you, Pip?"

"I wouldn't know," Pippin airily declared. "I'm not allowed to smoke, you know. Ruddy unfair it is, too. I'm old enough to work a full day in the fields and drink as much ale as I like and tumble some playmate--"

"Assuming you ever have!!" Merry snorted at this last.

"Assuming you know anything!" Pippin shot back irritably, "--but I'm not old enough for a smoke. 'Tisn't fair. And the both of you just sitting there, puffing like teakettles and teasing me with it!"

With a roll of his eyes, Frodo took another drag from the pipe and held it out. Pippin's eyes glinted.

"Really? You mean it?"

"Frodo, Uncle Paladin will take the hide off you in strips if he finds out!"

"I won't tell him!" Pippin avowed, cupping his hands about the pipe as if it were a holy relic.

"You spoil him rotten, you do," Merry grumbled around his pipe. "First you introduce him to mead, then cow tipping, now smoking. What's next?"

"It won't hurt him," Frodo said good-naturedly, then directed to his youngest cousin, "Just a few puffs, mind. If Bilbo comes back from Michel Delving tomorrow and finds too much of his Old Toby missing, your dad won't have enough left of me to tear strips from for letting you smoke."

"Oh, Dada likes you anyway, Frodo," Pippin told him earnestly.

"Not half as much as Frodo likes your mum!"

Frodo cut Merry an indescribable look, his cheeks splotching with colour. "Merry..." he warned.

"Well, you do. I remember that time at Pippin's party when she danced with you, and I found you back in your room not fifteen minutes later, all by yourself and the room all dark and--"

"Merry!"

Pippin looked from one to the other eagerly. "Well?" he demanded. "What?"

"Nothing." Merry lay back on his elbows, clamping his pipe between his teeth and giving Frodo a slight smile. "We took care of it."

Frodo started to reply, but it was as if whatever protest he'd began runneled away. He stared at Merry as if trying to remember what he was going to say; instead he snickered and laid his head back on the chair. "Well, Merry's right about one thing. Your mum is lovely, Pip," Frodo drawled, letting smoke curl out his nostrils.

"Frodo, that's disgusting." Pippin wrinkled his nose. "She's... Mum."

"She's your mum," Frodo pointed out to the ceiling with a shrug. "Not mine."

"She's old."

"She's not that old, and she's gorgeous."

"You like lads better, anyway."

Frodo raised his head and peered at Pippin. "What makes you say that?"

"Well, I've only ever known you to game with males; I never heard of you getting into any trouble putting your hand up a lass' skirt when you were too young to--"

"Are you going to smoke that, or what?" Merry interrupted.

"Oh, fine," Pippin sulked. "You can be bringing it up, but if I do then it's not all right!"

"I'm not too young to be talking of gaming, lads or lasses!"

"Which again just shows how well you've been paying attention to--!"

"You're wasting good leaf, waving that about," Frodo broke the beginning squabble with a deceptively-mild censure. "And if you break my father's pipe I will murder you. Slowly."

"I won't break it. I'm nearly two years past all that clumsy stuff. And I'm not stupid, you know, even if I've not the years on me that you do. At least not so I don't know what you two get up to whenever you get the chance!"

"Give me that pipe--!" Merry started forward and Pippin retreated, clutching the pipe to his chest.

"Either smoke or hand it back, Pipsqueak," Frodo chided.

"I wish you wouldn't call me that," Pippin grumbled, raising the pipe to his lips.

His cousins watched expectantly, distracted from spoken subject of gaming to the very real jape they hope was about to present itself.

"To get the full effect you have to suck it way down," Merry informed him blithely. "Deep, deep breath. Go on, now."

Frodo's mouth quirked in an iniquitous smile as he glanced at Merry, then on to Pippin, his eyes glinting. Pippin shrugged, set his lips to the pipe and inhaled.

He didn't choke. He didn't even cough. The only sign that he might have been the least bit uncomfortable was that his eyes watered slightly; he closed them and exhaled with a sigh.

"Oh, that's good leaf, isn't it?" He opened his eyes, met his cousins' faces and grinned at their confusion and disappointment. "And you think I'm daft. Did you two really think I'd never even stolen a puff from my dada's pipe before?" He took another large draught; this time he did give a tiny cough, but gamely held it down and handed the pipe back to Frodo, still holding the smoke in his lungs, giving them both a level "dare you" stare.

It was too much for Merry. He fairly howled with laughter, and reached out to smack Pippin between the shoulder blades. Smoke loosed itself and Pippin did choke this time in pure reaction.

"Oh, you turned the tables on us proper! That was brilliant, Pip!"

Frodo snorted. Cradling his pipe in both hands, he settled it between his lips and leaned forward to tend the fire. When he straightened, his cheeks were flushed and his eyes glinting black, the pipe clamped comfortably between his teeth. He looked a bit pie-eyed, as if he'd had too much to drink, but his mug was only half-emptied and anyway, as such things went, Frodo had a pretty good head for ale.

Pippin grinned to himself, then demanded, "When are you two going to admit that I'm old enough to be in on some of these things?"

"When you are old enough," Frodo informed him, quite seriously.

"'Tis nearly a year since I hit the change, you know. That makes me old enough for more than a bit."

"Well, your voice might have broken early, but that doesn't mean the rest of you should follow close behind," Merry told him. Pippin started to protest, then grinned as Merry clearly negated his statement by passing the pipe to him. At this show of solidarity, Pippin palmed the pipe and gave it a contented puff. Merry was loosening up a bit, for which Pippin was quite grateful; when they were all three together, Merry was often a little too serious, as if set on putting Pippin in his place as youngest.

"You were earlier," he reminded Merry.

"Fifteen," Frodo reminisced with a smile. He leaned back against the chair, stretching his legs out to plop his feet into Merry's lap. Merry willingly angled his position to accommodate; he settled one elbow along Pippin's shoulder and leaned against him, holding out his other hand for his pipe. Pippin shifted himself to brace his cousin's weight and complied after another quick puff.

"Well, I'm seventeen."

"Which doesn't make you a tweener yet, Pipsqueak," Merry chided. His eyes were half-masted, yet black and full as Frodo's in the flickering half-light; the normal delight Pippin received in watching Merry tease him was dampened by the way he was doing it.

"I really wish you wouldn't call me that," Pippin said morosely. Merry put his pipe into his mouth and leaned a bit harder on him, making matters even worse by fluffing the curls back from his forehead as if he were a child. Pippin gave him a sideways, disgruntled look which went unnoticed as Merry then placed his hand on Frodo's shin. His fingers lingered there and as Pippin watched, pique forgotten beneath sudden fascination, Merry trailed those fingers down to Frodo's instep. The resultant smile on Frodo's face was just as compelling. It combined with the smoke and firelit warmth to engender all sort of strangeness within Pippin's belly.

"I've never had a batch of Old Toby that was this good before," Frodo abruptly rhapsodised to the ceiling. Puffing on his pipe, Merry shifted against Pippin and kept tracing patterns along Frodo's heel and upward to his ankle. Pippin leaned in as well, angling his chin to rest on Merry's shoulder. Those golden curls were soft and full against his cheek, smelling of wood smoke and sunshine, a hint of sweat and the peppery sweetness that Pippin had, for as long as he'd known, labelled as "Merry".

"I'm starving," Merry said, abruptly and a bit plaintively, his hand still stroking Frodo's ankle. "Pip, when you brought the ale why didn't you bring some food, too?"

"D'you think I'm your servant, then?"

"A little higher, Merry-dear," Frodo said about his pipe, smirking at the ceiling.

Merry retorted immediately, "D'you think I'm your servant, then?"

Frodo cut him a look. "You're the one who started rubbing my foot, you know."

"Well, if Pip doesn't go and get us something to eat, I'm going to start gnawing on your foot."

"All right!" Pippin laughed, scooting out from beneath Merry's shoulder. "I'm going, I'm going!"

By the time he came back, laden with a tray piled with bread, cheese, apples and several handfuls of sweet biscuits, all courtesy of Bilbo's well-stocked pantry, Merry and Frodo had somewhat switched places. Merry was lying with his head in Frodo's lap, one hand still clutching his pipe, the other moving slowly back and forth inside Frodo's newly-unfastened shirt. Frodo had a rather interesting smile on his lips, his eyes closed and his head still fallen back against the chair cushions, one hand stroking Merry's cheek.

Pippin could walk very quietly, even moreso than the most light-footed of hobbits. He had once sneaked up on a grazing deer and smacked it on the haunch. He'd also almost got kicked in the head for his pains. Perhaps it was this last remembrance that made his hands wobble on the tray when all he wanted was to be silent, to not shatter the tactile tension of the moment, to be able to sneak up on his cousins as he had the deer and insinuate himself within their comfort.

The tray rattled. Merry snatched his hand from Frodo's breastbone, twisting to see Pippin. Frodo blinked bewilderedly, as if reluctant to be dredged from wherever it was he'd gone; plainly he had been daydreaming while Merry felt him up. Pippin took a quick breath and strode blithely into the room.

"Why d'you feel this need to hide things from me? As if you're hiding anything, the pair of you?"

"What?" Merry demanded irritably, but was almost immediately diverted as he saw the apples on the tray. "Russets!"

"I know what your favourites are," Pippin smugly balanced the tray on one hand and tossed an apple to Merry. "Just like I'm well aware of what you and cousin Frodo are up for, every chance you get."

"A lot you know!" Merry retorted, discarding his pipe and taking a huge bite of the apple.

"Exactly! It's a lot I know." Pippin gave them both a sly look. "I've eyes in my head, to be sure, and practically everyone knows. If for some reason they didn't, it's sure they have since the cider pressing this year at Buckland."

"Everyone, Pip?" Oddly enough Frodo didn't seem perturbed at all, just dubious. He hadn't even lifted his head from the couch. Merry, on the other hand, was sitting bolt upright.

"What about the cider pressing at Buckland?" he spluttered, spraying apple. Pippin rolled his eyes and settled the tray on a table not too far from the hearth rug; stepping over to the two of them, he reached out and flicked a bit of pulp from Merry's lip.

"You broke a few hearts that night, I heard. Several were mightily disappointed to see the Master's son gone, and him still playmate to the very eligible heir of Bag-End." He crossed his arms and sighed dramatically. "Such a pity, I heard."

Merry was actually pouting. Frodo, on the other hand, demonstrated a sideways, very sceptical look that made Pippin determined to back up his claim with facts.

"Dancing and flirting with practically everyone--especially you, Meriadoc!--and then, when your own pumps were good and primed, sneaking away to the woods after the dancing? And it after midnight, beyond the north gate and twenty paces to the old grandmother apple tree?"

"It's a fair hit," Frodo voiced to the ceiling in amused resignation. The pipeweed must be really good. Pippin grinned.

"What were you doing, spying on us?" Merry demanded.

"Oh, and wasn't it obvious, Merry?" the younger hobbit demanded. "You and Frodo could barely keep your hands off each other once you got into the wine, all giggles and foolishness. Even Auntie Esme was giving you one of her fierce looks, and she's long since given over to the fact that you two are attached at the lips despite living twenty leagues apart."

"It had been over a month since we'd seen each other," Frodo reminisced. "We were a bit squiffy and obnoxious, I'm afraid."

Merry shot him a wounded look. Frodo blinked at Merry, then Pippin, then grinned. Then giggled. He put fingers to his lips as if the sound had startled him. His eyes got round, and he snickered again.

Merry tried to keep a straight face, but failed. He gamely tried to keep from laughing, but lost that battle as well. Giggles echoed up into the ceiling. Pippin watched in delight, took another pull of his ale, and asked about a mouthful of bread, "So, cousin Frodo, and what does Sam think of you and Merry?"

The laughter died. Merry stared at him. So did Frodo.

"W-what?" Frodo stammered.

"Well, I just wondered how you managed it." Pippin grinned and leaned forward conspiratorially. "We both know that Merry's not too good at, erm, sharing things."

"Hoy, you Squeak, you!" was the vehement protest to this.

Pippin wrinkled his nose at him and continued, peering at Frodo, "And Sam seems a bit protective himself."

Frodo was staring at him as though he'd grown two heads. "Wh..." He seemed to be unable to form words for several seconds. "What does that have to do with it?"

"Well, haven't you lain with Sam, too?"

"Pippin!" Merry protested, a bit more heatedly than was his wont.

"Oh, Frodo, surely you have!"

"Peregrin Took!" This from Merry again; Frodo was speechless, his eyes dropping almost desperately to fasten on the rug. Which made no sense--Bilbo had nice rugs, to be sure, but not so that they'd garner as much attention as Frodo was giving.

"Well," Pippin said consideringly, "Sam's here a lot. And I know he likes you, Frodo. He watches you all the time when he thinks you're not looking--and you usually aren't--but I was. Watching, that is, several times. I think he rather fancies you, don't you know?"

"N... no, I don't think so." Frodo kept his eyes upon the rug. If Pippin didn't know better, he'd swear Frodo was blushing.

"That's preposterous!" Merry snorted. "He's the gardener!"

Frodo raised his head at this. "What does his being the gardener have to do with it? Meriadoc Brandybuck, you are the biggest snob this side of the river I've ever witnessed!"

"I am not! Sam's a fine fellow and all, I'm just--"

"Just what?" Frodo sniped.

"Merry's no snob!" Pippin defended.

"You wouldn't know one if it walked up and bit you on the arse." Frodo punctuated his words with several stabs of his pipe in Pippin's general direction. "Pip, one of your shirts costs more to make than Sam's entire wardrobe!"

"I like my shirts!"

"Oh, as if you wear rags, Frodo," Merry scoffed. "Living with your filthy rich uncle on the Hobbiton Hill."

"And if he tossed me out on my ear tomorrow I'd have not much more than a house on the river that needs thatching, my parents' furniture, and the rent of several sheep pastures," Frodo shot back. "I certainly wouldn't be Heir to Buckland!"

"You might be, were circumstances right."

"Meaning that the entirety of your family--including you--would drop dead, and that's not something I care to contemplate!"

"But it proves that you're family, and one of us, and belong with us. You're a Brandybuck."

"I'm a Baggins."

"Erm... are we still talking about Sam?" Pippin asked tentatively.

"I don't want to talk about Samwise Gamgee," Merry said petulantly. He gnawed at what remained of his apple.

"And why not?" Frodo retorted. "What do you want to talk about?"

Merry gave him an indecipherable glance which melted into apology. "Aw, Frodo, you know I like old Sam. I'm not being a snob. Just realistic. What would you want with him, anyway? You've got your family about you."

"And Merry in your bed o'nights," Pippin inserted slyly.

"Peregrin Took, you are far and away too familiar in speech about my bed!" Frodo, who had obviously had enough, gave Pippin a look. That look had been known to back up adult hobbits and metaphorically flay younger ones, including his two cousins, but for once it had no effect on Pippin.

"Oooo, maybe I am. And you know what I'd like?" Pippin crawled on all fours to stick his face right next to Frodo's. "I'd like to get even more familiar with it."

Frodo looked down at him, brows raised, for long moments. Then he giggled. Loudly. This was not the reaction that Pippin had been hoping for. Dismayed, he sat back on his haunches. This was cause for more chuckling, not only from Frodo, but Merry as well. Unable to resist a good joke even if it was at his expense, Pippin found himself joining in despite a smarting ego. Backing away from Frodo, he decided on another tack.

"I've an idea!" he said once he'd caught his breath. "Let's play a game."

Frodo was still giggling. Merry raised his eyebrows. "Mmm?"

"Like 'Pass On'. But it doesn't have to be just things that we pass, like mathoms at a party. It can be a look, say. Or a dare. And if we decide to keep the look, or the dare, then it's just like 'twould be at a party. You have to come up with something to pass back."

He obviously had them. Merry was peering at him speculatively. Frodo's giggle had turned to a grin; his eyes had an interested gleam. Clamping his pipe between his teeth, he leaned back, burrowed a hand into his left pocket, and drew it out fisted.

"I'll start then, shall I?" Frodo held out his hand, palm flat. Upon it was a shiny disk of copper. Angling it onto his thumb, he flipped it toward Pippin. "Check it carefully before you pass on it."

Pippin caught it, fumbled a bit, then peered closely. It was no commonplace coin; it had angular hatch marks incised into the copper.

"Dwarvish," Frodo informed them. "Found it in the kitchen after some of Bilbo's friends visited last month."

"I wish you'd tell me when they come," Merry grumbled as Pippin studied the coin avidly. "I'd like to see some dwarves."

Frodo was still grinning rather lop-sidedly; he took the apple core from Merry's fingers, grabbed another apple, and stuck it into Merry's mouth. "They come when they please and go as quickly. Pass or keep, Pip?"

Pippin was tempted, sorely. But he'd also seen Merry's eyes gleam at the mention of dwarvish metal. Metal forging was something that his Brandybuck cousin had been keenly interested in for several years now and as pretty as the coin was, he wasn't about to deny Merry the chance of it just because it was shiny and diverting. With a shy smile, he "passed on".

Merry's eyes were saucers as he took the coin from Pippin's palm. Frodo's grin tucked a bit satisfactorily into the corners of his mouth, as if he'd known what Pippin would do. Merry studied the coin, and smiled brilliantly at Pippin.

"That's a gift, then," Frodo said of the smile. "Pass it on, Pip?"

Pippin grinned widely at Frodo, who smirked inexplicably and made a catching pass in the air with his hand. As Merry and Pippin watched, a bit puzzled, he opened his hand with an air of great secrecy, and placed it on his breast.

"I'll be keeping that to light my smial with," he teased.

"Aw, Frodo," Merry snorted, "you got that out of one of those books of yours, didn't you?"

Frodo looked mightily wounded. "I just made that one up! I can, you know!"

Pippin laughed. Frodo took another deep drag of smoke from his pipe, angled upward to his knees and placed it on its stand. Shuffling over to the tray of food, he nabbed cheese and bread from it. Merry made a pitiful noise; Frodo shot a sideways glance at him, snorted, grabbed several more items and came back to the rug, hands full, still on his knees.

"You act like we're starving you, Merry Randybuck." The moment the mispronunciation came from his lips, Frodo dissolved once more into mirth.

"Randybuck! Ow!" Pippin gave a howl and lurched forward. He landed against Frodo. Food went flying, and they collapsed in a laughing heap on the rug.

Merry stared at them, indignation and humour doing battle in his expressive face. "Oh. Oh. That is not funny, Frodo!"

"Then why are you laughing?" Frodo demanded between giggles, pointing at him. He rolled over to lie on his side, propped on one elbow, hand against his head.

"You are, you know," Pippin concurred, nestling his head into the hollow between Frodo's hip and ribcage. Merry was. He had the oddest way of repressing it when he didn't want to be caught laughing, but it was obvious from the quivering dent in his chin, the crinkling of his eyes, and the way his nose twitched sideways.

"Just let it go," Frodo told him smugly. "You're not fooling anyone, you great 'Randybuck' you."

Merry gave a snort and buried his face in his hands.

"Nice nickname for you, at that," Frodo kept going.

Merry's shoulders shook.

"Have to remember it. Can't believe I didn't think of it before."

Strangled sounds emerged from Merry's hands. When he finally did look up, there were tears in his eyes. "You're a rotter," he accused. "And now you've spilled the food!"

"You're bony, Frodo," Pippin complained as Frodo's hip rocked against his shoulder.

"So I've heard," was the wry answer as Frodo rolled out from beneath him and started to gather up the scattered comestibles. "Are we finished with this game already, then?"

"No!" came protests from both his cousins.

Frodo grinned, broke off several hunks of cheese and tossed them to Merry and Pippin, keeping a bit for himself. Having gathered all the scattered food, he replaced some on the tray. Halting at the wooden smoking stand next to the little table of food, he considered it for a few moments, took up a small pipe from the rack and walked back to them. "I believe it's my turn, since I kept Pip's smile." Twirling the pipe in his fingers, he sat next to his cousins on the rug. With a half-smile, he thrust the pipe toward Pippin.

Pippin had been staring at him the entire time. There was something mightily intriguing in Frodo's attitude, something loose and comfortable that had asserted itself above his normal reserved manner. True, Frodo had some time ago come into his own enough that he no longer constantly cloaked himself in his reticence. However even about loved ones, or plied with wine and playful, there was usually a bit of a veil over his vision, a place he would go where no one, not even Merry, was allowed to follow. Now with the offering of the pipe, it seemed that Frodo was offering something a bit more, but Pippin wasn't quite sure, at this moment, what it was. Only that for brief seconds, lit by the firelight and some inner radiance, Frodo was beautiful, and soft, and somehow perilous as a banked, brilliant flame.

Pippin took the pipe with trembling hands and looked at Merry. Merry was staring at Frodo too, as if he'd never seen him before, which was impossible because Pippin knew good and well that Merry had seen more of Frodo than most. Merry's face twisted Pippin's gut even tighter than Frodo's fey oddness; there was something raw and immediate defining Merry's expression, stark and stunning, much less complicated and shuttered and layered than was his wont. Where Frodo's eyes were dilated dark against pale blue slivers, Merry's were velvet, muted together as if more comfortable with his night sight; where Frodo's presence was almost uncannily daunting, Merry's was as magnetic as iron filings to a lodestone, earthy and insolent and intense.

Pippin wondered what his own gaze gave forth to them.

Writhing in sudden insecurity, Pippin dropped his gaze to the pipe, realising that his hands were shaking and his breathing had quickened to short little gasps. The pipe itself had paled to insignificance, which even a half-hour earlier he wouldn't have believed possible. But still, he wanted it. Almost as much as he wanted...

"I'll," he said slowly, "be keeping this." Cupping the pipe in one careful hand, he leaned toward Frodo. It was nigh onto unbearable, coming so close to that darkling luminescence; it flustered him beyond belief and the light, chaste kiss he placed on Frodo's cheek was not the one Pippin had fully intended to give. Pippin broke away, rocked back on his heels, shyly fastened his eyes on the floor, and suffered through the throes of his first remembered blush.

Frodo watched him for moments; Pippin could feel those eyes burning through him, but he simply sat there, as fractious and overfaced as a pony hunter put to too high a fence. That in itself was the most disconcerting feeling, even more overwhelming than the sudden rush of timidity that was so alien to his being. To be pinned like some creature beneath a rock: can't fly, can't speak, can't run...

And when Frodo turned from him, it was as if he'd been released from strange, silken bindings that trickled down his body and made him shiver. He looked up desperately, seeking Merry, and saw that Merry was looking at him with an altogether strange comprehension in his face, as if he understood what Pippin felt, and how. That face, familiar and beloved, was everything--reality and comfort in a morass of snarled feelings. Merry slowly drew his gaze away as Frodo leaned forward and passed along Pippin's small, quite cousinly kiss, and Pippin knew without any doubt what Merry would do, probably before Merry himself did. He would have--should have!--done the same thing.

"And I'll be keeping this," Merry said softly. Before Frodo could retreat, Merry put his hands about his face and kissed him back. No cousinly cheek peck, this; Frodo drew in a sharp, surprised breath, shut his eyes, opened his mouth and tangled his hands in Merry's shirt, pulling him fiercely close. Pippin watched, stomach knotting, utterly, utterly fascinated. He didn't remember it being like this at the harvest. Granted, he had been farther away, and unable to discern much in the dark other than the obviousness of what they were doing by silhouette--and sound, since neither of them, particularly Frodo, had been very quiet. Nor was Frodo silent now; a small sound hummed within his throat, and Merry breathed it in, sun-browned fingers splayed against pale, flushed cheeks. Frodo's hands gripped Merry's shirt tighter, and tighter, and then suddenly they drew apart. Merry was trembling; Frodo looked down, closed his eyes and licked his lips. He turned toward Pippin--and stopped dead.

"I'm... still here, yes" Pippin husked. His voice stuck within his chest; it didn't want to work. He felt like he was on fire, starting from the pit of his belly and flaring upward. The few kisses and gropes and fumbles he'd shared with the other lads and lasses his age didn't begin to compare to this.

Merry's eyes flickered from Frodo, to Pippin, then back to Frodo again, who was wiping his upper lip on his shirt sleeve and taking in a deep breath to speak.

"Oh, no." Pippin knew what he was going to say and nipped it in the bud. "You can't just quit in the middle. What kind of game is that?"

Frodo's brow furrowed. He looked at Merry, who was not returning his gaze. Instead Merry was staring at Pippin with eyes that whispered--nay, shouted--a message Pippin wasn't sure he could fathom.

"Are you going to 'pass on', or what?" Pippin demanded, sticking out his chin and denying the twist to his stomach the possibility gave him.

It was obvious for long moments that Frodo was tempted to keep the gift and avoid passing it along to Pippin. He stared at his younger cousin for long moments, then smiled briefly, seeming to come to some sort of decision.

He leaned forward, took Pippin's face in his hands. His lips graced Pippin's cheek, touched his mouth. It was briefly tender, but it was not in any fashion the same bit of passionate work that Merry had bestowed. When Frodo began to pull away, Pippin uttered a small protesting sound and grabbed Frodo's sleeve. "I'll be keeping this one, too," he breathed, and pulled Frodo back towards him.

Frodo's lips were sweet, like honey and spicecake, and they parted hesitantly beneath his, more surprised than willing. Before Pippin could draw breath, the indecision vanished and there was absolutely no doubt that Frodo knew precisely what he was doing. He pulled Pippin closer, one hand still cupping his face, the other cradling his skull and moulding him to the pressure of lips and very agile tongue. Pippin gasped into Frodo's mouth, feeling suddenly as if all the air he'd ever taken in was not enough to keep him upright, and Frodo backed down immediately, breaking away with a light caress of his tongue to Pippin's upper lip. Pippin uttered a small negation, reaching out, but Frodo took his hand, put it to his breast, and smiled with a tiny shake of his head.

"Wherever did you learn to kiss like that, Peregrin Took?"

"I..."

"Shh. You're drunk," Frodo whispered, despite the fact that he was the one who obviously had more than enough wind in his sails.

"Nay, 'm not!" Pippin protested. "I've only had one half of ale, and you know good and well I can drink a good deal more than that!"

"You've never done this, love, and you're not thinking clearly, and it's late," Frodo quietly replied, with the air of saying all that was to be said. "Game's done, now."

"Frodo," Merry said uncertainly from behind him, "You can't just--"

"This is not fair!" Pippin insisted vehemently. "I might not be as good at this as you and Merry, but you clearly have no idea of what I've done and what I've not--!"

"Tangling with more than the one is not the same as groping with the bairns," Frodo countered, quite levelly.

"I'm not a bairn. Neither am I a candle you can just be snuffing to forget! You kiss me like that, and look at me like that, and then expect to just tuck me into bed like that bairn you insist I am? And then all the while I'll be listening to you and Merry going at it in the next room and leaving me nothing but the prospect of listening and wanking? Well, Frodo Baggins, the only way you'll be putting me to bed tonight is if you're in there with me!"

Frodo stared, still holding Pippin's hand against his breastbone. With that one hand Pippin began to shift his way inside the shirt that Merry had already opened; with the other one he reached back and instinctually found what he was seeking. "Merry?"

Linen in both of his hands, half-undone with warm flesh beneath; the feel of Merry drawing a huge breath as Pippin's fingers trailed across his bare chest and then the feel of Merry's hand, broad and strong, wrapping itself about his own. Frodo's hand also was hard upon his, trying to halt his inexorable progress down between the rows of unfastened bone shirt buttons. Of the two, it seemed that Merry was more in sway of the moment, so Pippin turned to him and met his half-shuttered indigo eyes.

"Don't you think it'd be for the best, Frodo teaching me, you teaching me? 'Tis how they do things in the Tooklands, tangle or no, and that being so it's special. Wouldn't you rather know I was first broached with ones I loved, ones I knew would never be hurting me, even by chance?"

Merry's jaw had clenched to one side; he held to Pippin's gaze as unavoidably as he'd earlier held to Frodo's. His hold loosened; Frodo relaxed his tight grip upon Pippin's other hand. Pippin tightened his fingers in each of their shirts, one behind, one before.

"Please, share this with me?" Pippin murmured. "Don't you want to share? Don't you want me, either of you?"

Silence from Frodo behind him, and Merry's head lowered before him, eyes closing as Pippin's hand fumbled in his shirt. Frodo's hands, drawing Pippin's away from his chest; when he thought to protest, Frodo forestalled such by turning him, drawing their joined hands against Merry's breast. A searing, slender body, curling behind Pippin's; warm breath ruffled his hair as Frodo's narrow, nail-bitten hands pushed with remarkable strength against Pippin's own where they lay, pressing Merry back. Somehow in the midst of this, Pippin found himself straddling Merry's thighs, Frodo still behind him, spooned so close it was as if they were one person.

"He likes this," Frodo whispered in Pippin's ear, running their conjoined hands leisurely down Merry's torso, stopping at his waist and gliding back upward, fingers barely touching, teasing skin through linen. He left Pippin's hands there mid-motion; when Pippin hesitated, Frodo urged, "Keep going. Slow. Mm-hmm, like that. There."

Merry was staring up at them as if he'd been offered the world and didn't quite know what to do with it; that look was somehow creating the headiest sensation Pippin had ever experienced in his life. That is, until Frodo started performing the same service on his own torso. He didn't tickle--Frodo well knew how ticklish Pippin was, as much as Merry was not--this instead was a delicate, deliberate pressure that not only smoothed fabric thrillingly along his chest but also opened his shirt with incredible dexterity. By the time Frodo, working from shirttail upward, got to the last button, Pippin was shaking, and when Frodo's hands actually lay unimpeded on his bare skin, Pippin hunched forward and let out a sharp gasp, digging his fingers into Merry's ribcage.

Merry let out a small yip. Frodo's hands twitched along Pippin's breastbone; he let out a strangled snort not far from Pippin's right ear.

"Hoy, now..." Pippin protested, feeling all that delicious tension start to slide away.

Frodo doubled up along Pippin's spine, shaking not from suppressed passion but suppressed laughter. Merry's small chuckle lapsed into guffaws; he threw his arms over his head, convulsed. Frodo literally burst into giggles, falling back with his legs still folded beneath him. Pippin turned back to front, and crossed his arms in disgust. It looked like he was in the middle of the Green Dragon after a brawl, with two bodies sprawled on the floor in seemingly impossible positions. His mute irritation only seemed to fuel his cousins' mirth all the more.

Pippin decided that he'd had enough. He twisted atop Merry, grabbed Frodo's shirt and pulled him upright. Unfortunately he did not account for Frodo's boneless and inebrious state; instead of resistance he met compliance and his oldest cousin came sailing forward. They both fell onto Merry, creating a veritable tangled hobbitpile.

This, of course, set Frodo and Merry off again. But this time Pippin was with them, twisting and wriggling between them, laughing until his sides ached and tears sprang in his eyes. When he finally stopped chuckling, he realised that the other two weren't laughing anymore. That Merry lay still beneath him, ever the broad, soft pillow that he always was, but that now there was a subtle, tense difference in the way Merry was aligned against him. One of Merry's legs had twined about one of Pippin's own; one hand trailed near his hip. And it wasn't just Merry's comfortable warmth beneath him; there was also a slender, hard body half atop them both. Frodo's fingers were in his hair, and Frodo's lips were at his left ear, and the misted warmth that filled his ear made him squirm.

"Mmm," Merry murmured.

"Oh, yes," Frodo breathed into Pippin's ear, and Pippin was suddenly very aware of what hard heat was laying itself across the back of his right thigh. He squirmed again. Frodo gave another soft sound, and pushed against his thigh, which shoved him once more against Merry, whose rather sizeable response was nudging itself far too close for comfort to Pippin's own reaction. He suddenly couldn't breathe.

It was as if Frodo knew, for he pulled back, yet he also took Pippin with him--away from Merry, which was not good and Pippin let out a small whimper of protest that abruptly died away as Frodo finished divesting him of his braces and shirt. Merry reached forward, hands tracing Pippin's ribs, spanning his waist, pulling him to nestle into the cradle of Merry's hips. Pippin leaned back and found Frodo there, also somehow without his shirt, shifting closer against his spine, wrapping one arm about him. Frodo's other hand tangled in Pippin's curls, shoved them from his nape, breath and tongue laying itself along the cords of his neck and up to the lobe of his ear. Pippin whimpered again, this time from pure, humming pleasure, and Frodo nuzzled deeper into his hair, breath sending shudders through them both. Merry's hands stroked his waist, down to his hipbones, thumbs slowly circling down and Pippin let out a ragged gasp, arching back as Merry pulled his hips forward.

Fierce pressure, and his head wilting against Frodo's shoulder and his neck curving into that teasing tongue. Pippin reaching up to bury one hand in Frodo's hair. Frodo's own hands moving down to cover Merry's, and Pippin's free hand almost blindly following. The feel of Frodo's skin against his back, and the feel of Merry's soft, fur-laced belly beneath his hands, and the frustration that thick cord breeches right now separated all of them. He wanted to feel skin next to his own, wanted to know what it was like. He tugged at Merry's waistband, but Merry had started rocking beneath them with slow, sure motions, and Frodo was matching that rhythm from behind, and any semblance of coherent thoughts on clothing fled. Pippin yanked at Frodo's curls, and twisted his hand in Merry's breeches, breathing in small, staggered moans and gamely attempting to follow that amazing rhythm, and knowing--knowing--that any moment he would simply burst into a hundred pieces.

"Slow down," Frodo murmured. "He can't take much more. Slow down, Merry."

No! No, don't stop, don't slow, just keep going...

Merry did slow; only two more thrusts, but it was enough. A cry hitched at Pippin's chest, and ball lightning rolled through his belly and burst outward, and he was sobbing Merry's name and Frodo's as he recoiled. Frodo caught him, and Merry lurched up beneath him and he was surrounded by warm skin, and breath, and more comfort and tenderness than he'd ever thought possible. He collapsed between them, laid his cheek to Merry's chest, felt Frodo's arms wrapped about him, and thought rather dizzily and petulantly that for something so very nice, a tangle surely didn't last long.

Pippin hung there, well contented, for an indeterminate, passively-muddled amount of time. He became slowly aware that Frodo had pulled his head to rest on his right shoulder and that he was more firmly sandwiched between his two cousins than before. Merry's hand--it had to be Merry's because it was broader and longer--had tightened almost uncomfortably against Pippin's nape, and Frodo was curled even more snugly against his backside. A hand lay pressed between their bellies--Frodo's hand--stroking back and forth, back and forth, with quite mesmeric intent. Small, desperate sounds were voicing themselves next to his left ear. Pippin angled his head slightly to peer sideways. Frodo was whispering against Merry's cheek; Merry shifted, grabbed Frodo's chin to pull him into a kiss. Frodo evaded him with a quirk of his lips, whispered again; whatever he said made Merry close his eyes and inhale sharply, and then Frodo did kiss him. It was the oddest, most lovely kiss Pippin had ever witnessed; Frodo ran his tongue along Merry's upper lip, darted it into his mouth like a hummingbird dabbing at nectar, took the bottom lip lightly between his teeth. Merry shuddered beneath them both, eyes closed, hand tightening on Pippin's nape, and Pippin voiced a muttered query into Frodo's collarbone.

"Are you still with us then, dear heart?" Frodo whispered. He brushed his lips against Merry's chin, then nuzzled against Pippin's temple.

"Yes." Pippin inhaled deeply, tasting the closeness of skin and sweat, smouldering pipeweed and cypress needles, breath and blood-heat. Merry's hand softened against his skull; he laid his forehead against Frodo's other shoulder, and turned to peer at Pippin. He was still black-eyed and lax, but a tense petition of need now lay behind his eyes, burrowing into Pippin and siphoning somnolence from him.

"It went too quickly," Pippin complained tetchily. "And now I'm all wet."

Merry smirked. "Then perhaps we'd best get you out of those wet clothes before you catch your death," he said in remarkable imitation of Brandy Hall's head matron.

Frodo chuckled into Pippin's hair. "The night's barely started, my lad. And you weren't going to hold out much longer anyway. It'll be easier this time."

"Easier?" Pippin demanded. "If it gets any easier or quicker 'twill not be fair!"

"Easier to go slow, Frodo means," Merry said with a grin. "You were pretty quick off the marker, you know."

"I'd like to have seen yourself under the same circumstances."

"He didn't hold out much longer." Frodo giggled and tapped Merry's nose. Merry snorted and blushed, which wound up Frodo's humour a bit tighter. "And neither did I, come to think of it." His shoulders shook beneath Pippin's chin.

"Oh, no," Pippin sighed, "are you going to start up again, Frodo? If I had known how much a chucklebox you would be--"

"Known?" Merry asked, a grin tugging widely at his lips.

"Oh, nothing."

"What do you mean, nothing?"

"I said nothing and I meant nothing!"

"Right, Pip. And you expect me to believe that, knowing you?"

Frodo had obviously had enough. "Would you two stop fussing long enough for me to--"

"To what, Frodo?" Pippin turned to him curiously.

Frodo looked at him, then tucked a smile into one side of his mouth. Reaching around, he snagged a finger into the waistband of Pippin's breeches and dipped his hand beneath. Pippin gasped.

"You are a bit damp, at that," Frodo said in his ear. His hand stroked lower, then lower. "Mmm. Little sybarite. Not wearing anything beneath these breeks, are you?"

"Oh," said Pippin. Then, "What's a sybarite?"

A tiny kiss fluttered against his earlobe and abruptly he no longer gave a good tinker's dam about Frodo's penchant for complicated words; Pippin reached out almost blindly, found Merry's opened shirt within reach, and clung tightly. Merry's hands tightened in his hair once again, and Frodo's voice tingled against his pulse point. "Am I, um, going too quickly for you?"

Pippin was finding it inordinately difficult to breathe. Or to believe that barely a moment previous he'd felt absolutely drained past bearing, yet now found himself rising quite adequately beneath Frodo's ministrations. "I... uh... Ohhh..."

"Yes, love?"

Patient and thorough, those fingers, and almost not there; Pippin wished Frodo would stop the teasing; just grab him hard and bloody well have done with it.

"Those breeches are just terribly confining, I think. And inconvenient," Frodo whispered against his cheek. "Let us see?"

"Oh, please," Pippin begged, meeting Merry's gaze. Those tip-tilted eyes were still all but black against the firelight, as infinite as the night sky. But within that midnight void was Merry, a spark of madness and mischief to leaven the deeps, and a smile twisting his lips as he set his fingers to Pippin's trouser buttons in a fashion that made Pippin's stomach quiver beneath Frodo's fingertips. Merry stood, pulling Pippin to stand as well; Frodo remained kneeling, skinning the breeches from Pippin, and touched him with careful, almost reverent hands.

"Just look at you," Frodo murmured against Pippin's hip. "You're lovely."

The words knocked a sizeable hole in Pippin's already-quivering composure; fairly staggered him, in fact. Frodo complicated things further by laying his cheek against Pippin's flank, and running his hands up his thighs and to his waist. Somnolence and sated bliss were routed beneath those hands, and beneath the weight of Merry's gaze--Merry, who was looking at Pippin as though he'd never seen him before. Which was certainly impossible, considering the number of times they'd witnessed each other bare. But somehow, here and now, it was quite different.

Pippin abruptly came to the realisation that Merry still had not only his opened shirt on, but his breeches as well. This just would not do. He pushed impatiently at the linen shirt, but didn't get very far; Merry watched him with some bemusement, but his expression slackened when Pippin gave up on his shirt and instead moved to his trouser buttons, pulling them open and trying to peel Merry away from his breeches. When this too didn't happen quickly enough, Pippin fumbled beneath the corded wool, and filled his hands with Merry.

Too-tight clout, to which the ties gave easily, and hard flesh released and lurching eagerly into his palms, and a sharp, ecstatic gasp. The sound of it was sweetest music, like the rippling of the Brandywine or the wind through spring-green treetops. Merry leaned against him, kissed him and Pippin thought he might buckle at the knees. Indeed, had not Frodo still knelt behind him he might have fallen, but Frodo shored up against him, and Merry gripped Pippin's skull in both hands, holding him upright, holding his mouth against his. It was a kiss like but unlike the one he'd seen Frodo give Merry mere moments before; less control, less teasing, but somehow more playful nevertheless, and as wrapped up with darting tongue and gently nipping teeth. Finally, Merry's mouth sealed to his. Chest and belly and hands and groin lined up, all together, and sounds escaping his throat and echoing into Merry. But the frustration of those wretched breeches drove Pippin mad. He kept working diligently, trying to divest Merry of them; for some reason they wouldn't come off.

"Braces," Frodo said succinctly against his bare waist, and Pippin realised that he'd been trying to pull down Merry's pants without taking his braces off. Merry grinned rather foolishly--it was obvious he'd also not been paying much attention--and angled from his braces. The trousers shed themselves from Merry's hipbones like butter melting over a crock in the sun, and Pippin couldn't believe that he'd never before noticed how absolutely lovely Merry was, all flushed and curved and taut. He latched on a bit too eagerly, and Merry groaned, the sound suggesting a bit more pleasure than discomfort, yet when he heeded memory of what Frodo had shown him and gripped lightly, brushed teasingly soft with his fingers, Merry obligingly whimpered and ground against him. The feel of that bare body--and all its exciting angles--hoving into him made Pippin jerk in pure nerve-sparked reaction, nearly lose his balance. Once more Frodo leaned support into him, but this time his hands stole upward around Pippin's thighs, angling between his torso and Merry's, curling delicately about quivering flesh.

Pippin sank into sensation once more, sliding slightly down Merry's chest, his mouth opening as if to plead, to find succour. Merry seemed fashioned of sunbeams, all summer-bronze light and keenness and strength; his breast was firm against Pippin's lips, warm against his tongue with sharp-sweet honeysuckle and pepper and buzzing intensity. Frodo's hands moved with quick, expert agility against them both; he pulled reaction from Merry, then Pippin, back and forth, as if tickling trout from the Bywater, weaving a dance with his fingers: soft demand, utter bliss, more... more...

Merry whispered into Pippin's ear, and it seemed to be words but for long moments Pippin couldn't discern them. When those words did finally penetrate the rich, thick haze that touch and taste and smell had placed him in, a smile quirked his mouth.

"Oh, cousin Frodo?" he purred against Merry's chest.

"Mmm?" Frodo was only half paying attention, and it was all Pippin could do to direct his own attention past what Frodo's hands were doing to him, but Merry's grip tightened on him in stern reminder. Pippin turned his gaze to meet Merry's; there was a wicked smile on that lovely, lopsided mouth that prompted Pippin's own.

Frodo didn't know what hit him. That much was obvious from the stunned amazement on his face when he landed on his back against the thick nap of the hearth rug, piled on by his very wriggly and naked cousins.

"You're the only one of us still half-clothed, you know," Pippin said against his ear.

"Um..." said Frodo, a bit winded from being tossed.

"Not for long," Merry insisted. Frodo had long since divested himself of his braces, and his breeks were slung fairly low about his hips as a result. It was quite diversionary, watching Merry very slowly pull them down. Frodo was so pale compared to Merry, his skin the color of new milk dusted with cinnamon. He smelled of it, too, like sticky buns fresh from the oven in the morning, and the taste of that sparsely-freckled skin against Pippin's tongue was warm and milky, sweet and sharp. Dark hair curled against his fingers, shining russet in the firelight, cool flame. Merry's hands, brown and square and strong against that white, too-flat belly, pulled away soft-napped trousers and tossed them aside. Pippin reached down, found velveted stone fitting itself to his palm and Frodo's resultant gasp thrilled though him as if it were his own.

They were too close to the fire, and it seared against their exposed sides, but it was scarcely important when weighed against the heat of tangle and bliss. Now Merry was behind Pippin with hands smoothing over him, then over Frodo, his mouth trailing down Pippin's spine with gentle nips. It was almost as if he was demonstrating what Frodo wanted, for when Pippin slowly mimicked it, fingers and tongue and teeth, Frodo gave a soft cry and arched beneath him. It became a game, a test of perfection and repetition, questions and halting steps, first tiny, then bigger.

May I? Here? And here? May I?

Frodo's answers, urgent and wordless and keenly edged. Merry's fingers, stroking and probing, communicating unbelievable confrication and sensation that Pippin was compelled to pass along to Frodo; if he'd tried to contain it, to keep it all, he would have fallen dead on the spot.

"Merry..." Frodo's voice was as ragged and raw as Merry's returned response was soft and controlled.

"What do you want, love?"

Those eyes, even more startling now that blue had dwindled to a thin ring about black, fastened past Pippin's shoulder and onto Merry with a message that Pippin didn't ken, but it was obvious that Merry did, for his body gave a delicious quiver against Pippin's.

Abruptly Merry pulled Pippin off Frodo, rolled him over and pushed him back on the rug; bending over him on hands and knees, Merry's fingers smoothed down his belly. There was a depression in the rug where Frodo had been; Pippin could smell and feel the remainder of his warmth, stroking his cheek against the soft nap of it. But there was no need to question Frodo's absence because it didn't matter at this moment, in this now. He would be back, no question, and now was nothing but longing and need and Merry, whose mouth was covering him and whose hands were stroking him...

Oh... oh, Merry... please...

Only now. Strangled moans of breaths and pleasured sobs. Firelight on flesh, shadows on the ceiling, separate entities merging into one. The scent of juniper and rainwater filling the smial. Merry lurched forward, stopping that delicious pressure of his mouth and hands to curl his upper torso against Pippin's hip with a strangled groan. Shards of sound from above--Frodo--and a groaned reply from Merry, his head rolling to push sideways against Pippin's belly, his breath laving hot mist against skin. Pippin sucked in a breath at the look on Merry's face, at the sight of the hand that trailed Merry's cheek and clenched in his hair; he followed that pale arm to even-paler shoulder, to tightly corded neck and Frodo's expression as tense and tender and full of strange and beatific pain as Merry's, to Frodo's body angled along Merry's backbone as if melded there. Merry pulled forward, against Pippin, looking down at him through sweated curls and clouded black eyes, his arms a-tremble and ever so careful not to press unbearably down. Frodo was not so hesitant, driving forward, but Pippin welcomed it, that delicious, nearly-suffocating pressure that sent Merry's hips pushing against his own. He arched upwards, legs reaching, twining about not only Merry, but Frodo as well. Frodo's fingers were slick against his thighs, leaving tracks of scent that clung and burned with the fire's heat.

The flame guttered and spat in the hearth, sending darkling tendrils over them and Pippin was hard pressed to see anything through the haze of scattered light and his own vision. Nor did it matter who was who or what was what; they seemed all one entity, and whose hands clasped, whose mouth clung, who shaped and molded to whom was less important than the moment, and the now, and the need...

Merry growled into Pippin's throat; within the span of five breaths Frodo let out a shrill cry, and the moment scattered itself. They were three again, collapsing sideways on the rug, Merry to his right and Frodo to his left, and Pippin lay there, thinking that he must have missed something somewhere. Here his two cousins were, panting and trembling, but all he felt was frustration--Merry had stopped pushing against him just as he had been nearly over the edge. Merry lay on his back, gasping with his arms flung upward, and Pippin was aware of wetness drawing dry on his thighs, and Frodo's harsh breath whistling next to his ear. Fingers tangled in his hair, and he turned to meet Frodo's nearly-shuttered eyes.

"'M sorry." Frodo still panted, albeit softer. "I think we left you behind just a bit."

Immediately Pippin felt ashamed for his tiny hint of selfish frustration. "It was your turn," he said, and meant it. He grinned at Frodo, who smiled back.

Merry was still on his back. "That was good," he emphasized, somewhat breathlessly.

Frodo started chuckling again, which was quite a feat as he could hardly breathe, much less draw breath to laugh. Pippin gave him a wry glance. "He's off again," he informed Merry.

"That was really, really good," Merry said to the ceiling.

Frodo found this even more hysterical.

Merry was still studying the ceiling. "I think, once I get my wind back, we should go again."

Frodo was getting apoplectic. Merry propped himself up, reached over and gave him a shove. "Enough of you, already."

Frodo curled up on his side and looked at them rather mournfully. The effect was spoiled by the occasional chuckle still escaping his throat. "I can't help it," he explained very seriously. "It's just funny." He scooted over, curled up next to Pippin, and nuzzled his shoulder. Pippin sucked in a large breath and curled up into Frodo's embrace, his hips rocking back into Frodo's before he could think to govern the reaction.

"I see," Frodo murmured. He snickered softly into Pippin's hair, then jerked his head toward Merry. As one they peered at Merry. He blinked back at them.

"We've got all night still. Half of it, anyway," Pippin said hopefully.

Merry gave them a jaundiced look. "I did mention getting my wind back first, you know."

Frodo's eyes might still be more black than blue, but they had lost not one jot of appeal. Pippin decided this was just the thing and did some cow-eyed imploring himself. Merry shook his head and grinned.

"When I said that you spoiled him rotten, I meant it, Frodo. You've introduced him to entirely too many brands of drinking games, you've just given him a pipe to boot, and now you're trying to make him into something as insatiable as you."

"I am not insatiable," Frodo told him with a smirk. "But I do take care of my cousins, you know. And it seems to me that we've got a matter here that needs taking care of, don't you think?"

Merry smiled, and scooted over, and snuggled close. Once again Pippin was between the two he loved best, and all was right with his world. And would be even better, soon enough.

"Oh, all right, then. What would you like?" Merry asked, the smile settling deeper into his features.

"I want..." Pippin tried to finish the sentence, couldn't, settled instead for burrowing his face into Merry's chest, for wrapping an arm about Frodo. "Just love me. Love me."

"And what do you think we've been doing, you silly Took?" Merry grumbled against his ribs. Frodo laughed, and Pippin, tangled up and twined as closely as ever possible, giggled and began laying kisses along Frodo's forearm.

"Love me more!" he demanded.

* * * * * *

Frodo woke to a cold fire, late morning light just starting to slat through the pulled curtains of the Bag End common room, and gusts of chill wind orchestrating the insistent tap of a branch against the front window. Despite weather and lack of fire, he was warm, almost uncomfortably so. Merry was a decent heat source, true, but...

Cognizance came to him firmly as he opened his eyes and beheld his hobbit-shaped blankets. Two of them. Merry snored gently, curled against Frodo, one arm and one leg flung across him and his face squashed into Frodo's ribcage--that was not surprising. But what lay half on, half off his own body and Merry's both, one slender hand tangled in Merry's curls and the other curled up about Frodo's neck, his face nuzzled into Frodo's breastbone-- that was not only surprising, but staggering.

Pippin. The previous night, stripped of haze and in remarkably amazing detail, reasserted itself into memory.

"Oh, balls," Frodo muttered.

At the epithet, Pippin stirred. "'M hungry." The slurred words came from Pippin's mouth before he even opened his eyes. Frodo was fixed in place, unable to move even if there'd been some place to go. Beside him, Merry kept softly snoring--it took more than whispers and shiftings to wake him in the morning.

Green eyes opened, remarkably close to his. "Good morning, Frodo." Pippin yawned, stretching atop Frodo's body with a litheness that was disturbingly pleasant. "What's for breakfast?"

Frodo sat up. Merry's limbs went flying; he merely grumbled and curled up against the intrusion of chill air. Pippin hung on, sliding downward into Frodo's lap, one arm still angled about his neck. Frodo grabbed Pippin's narrow face, framing it with both hands, their noses barely an inch apart. He peered searchingly at Pippin for a few moments; the intensity of the stare obviously discomfited the younger lad, who squirmed slightly.

"Frodo, what is it?"

"Are you all right?" Frodo asked anxiously.

Pippin stopped squirming. "Whyever wouldn't I be?"

"Well. Um. Er..."

Pippin cocked his head, peering at him. His eyes were a wildling glimmer in the morning's muted light, magic and mischief all rolled into green-gold brilliance, like gems scattered in a forge-fire. Nothing held back, nothing denied, given with sweet abandon and a teasing smile. Pippin leaned forward, and kissed him, and there was nothing held back in that, either. It was no cousinly kiss; Pippin tasted like fireweed honey, and sweet hops, and mint, and the heat contained in the wiry, sun-kissed frame that pressed against Frodo made him more than aware of the fact that they were both still quite naked.

"Oooo, Frodo," Pippin purred in his ear. "I think you're all ready for fourths now, eh?"

Fourths??!!

Whatever had happened? What had possessed him? As if the questions were tumblers in locks, memory arrived rather belatedly and slammed into his brain. Once on the rug, and twice, and the third one against the wall under that map, which now hung rather askew...

Oh, my...

"I think Merry's right," Pippin went on, still wriggling against him with a lissome wantonness that in no way suggested that he'd learned said bump and grind only the previous night, "and you are insatiable."

There was no way to deny it; his reactions were certainly proving quite up to the challenge.

"Of course, all those people that say you're just too quiet and bookish don't know you the way we do, I'm thinking."

There was also and obviously, from the way that quick, darting tongue was running along his earlobe, no way to deny Pippin, either. Frodo gulped in a large breath as Pippin pushed back and gave him a very engaging grin.

"But you'll have to be patient, o insatiable Frodo!" was the next startling statement. "I've not had breakfast yet, and neither have you. Don't you think it'd be better to eat first?"

"Um," was Frodo's oh-so-coherent reply.

"Whatever was in that pipeweed, it was surely nice." Pippin kissed Frodo's chin. "Don't you think?"

"Um." This did not seem the mien of a young hobbit who'd just had a rather rough and ready first sexual experience with more partners and positions than he'd perhaps bargained for. This was a young hobbit who was remarkably pleased with himself, well-sated--in fact, Pippin was downright smug. Frodo eyed Pippin consideringly, saw the canny spark behind those green-gold eyes, and wondered.

"Breakfast?" Pippin said again, plaintively.

"Breakfast?" Merry's voice, thick and growly with sleep. He rolled over and blinked blearily at his cousins. "Did someone say breakfast?"

"Merry!" Pippin yipped and disentangled himself from Frodo. He landed on Merry, prompting a solid "oof" from him. Merry winced, looked at Frodo, then returned his gaze to who was sprawled atop him. One hand rose and brushed the curls back from Pippin's temple.

"Hullo, Pip," Merry said, with a grin that suggested delight, and discovery, and the unfolding of something perhaps uncontemplated before.

Pippin grinned back, folded his hands on Merry's broad chest and laid his chin upon them. "Hullo, Merry," he answered cheerily.

Frodo smiled to himself and went to start breakfast.

* * * * * *

Quite a bit later, once they'd all been adequately fed and Pippin distracted by the reality of his very own first pipe out in the garden with Merry as witness, Frodo went to check Bilbo's wardrobe. He opened the door, pulled up a stool, clambered up and peered into the upper recesses. Ha!--there was a small pouch towards the front corner of the top shelf. Pippin hadn't put it back where he said it was, after all. Frodo hefted it and started to angle it toward the back, then frowned. This was not the same pouch. It even felt different in his hand. Thicker leather, tighter stitching. He brought it to his face, untangled the lacings, took a cautious whiff.

Old Toby. Unmistakable.

Brows knit tightly, he reached into the back corner and was rewarded by the feel of another pouch. It was the same one as last night. Riffling it open, he took a deep whiff. His eyes rolled a bit--it was potent, and heady, and unmistakably the same as they'd smoked last night. And he suddenly remembered where he'd smelled it before. A visit back to Brandy Hall after he'd permanently been removed to Bag End. How he'd been out to the back of the vineyards, attempting to find a place to read his newest book, and had instead come across his older cousin Merimac passing a pipe of unfamiliar pipeweed between himself and cousin Milo and Pippin's father Paladin. How they'd invited him to stay, share a pipe with them. How Pippin had, as usual, followed him, and they'd ordered the little hobbitchild back to the Hall.

How he'd gotten the giggles then, too. And woken up the next morning in Mac's bed, a little unsure of how he'd gotten there but very sated and pleasantly sore.

And Pippin, no doubt remembering all that with the sharp edge to his memory that Frodo had seen in very few hobbits, and that edge cutting further to conceive and concoct such a thing...

A gamut of emotions raced through him: indignation, disbelief, irritation, turning to amazement, then admiration. And, even stronger, relief.

"You little... Took!"

Frodo smiled with fond exasperation, and carefully placed both pouches back where he'd found them.
 

* * * * * *
 

 

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