West of the Moon
A Tolkien Fanfiction Archive
Apparently elves weren't terribly interested in sound-proofing their walls, prompting Merry and Pippin to seek an evening's rest quite outside the halls of Imladris...
Author: Briefly Del
"Beggin' yer pardon, Mr. Frodo, but this -- 'll have -- to go!"
"Oh, Sam! I could -- I could -- oh Sam!"
Grumpily Pippin rolled over and stuffed his head under his pillow again. Those two had been at each other all night: one would assume after such a fright as Frodo went through, he wouldn't be up to the excitement. Apparently not. All Pippin had heard for the past few hours had been shrieks and moans and whimpers and laughter through the thin Elvish walls. He gritted his teeth and buried his face in the soft sheets of his bed. He'd done his best to ignore them: he'd tried every trick in his very thick book. The first hour he had passed jumping on the mattress; the second, hanging upside-down and examining his feet; the third, remembering every drinking song he'd belted out at the Green Dragon; the fourth...
"Oh Sam, Sam, SAM!"
With an exasperated sigh, Pippin flipped onto his back and stared at the ceiling, completely unable to contemplate sleep anymore. I need to get out of here, he thought. I need to get outside. An idea occurred to him. He sat up, and looked out his window, calculating.
I'd like a swim, I think.
The moon was shining bright and full over Rivendell, and the quiet rushing of the myriad streams and pools began calling his name. Pippin was quite unlike other hobbits in that he derived a great deal of pleasure in large bodies of water. Almost as much as--
A crooked grin spread across his face. It was almost criminal to think of going swimming without his cousin. And while Peregrin Took had no objections to criminal activity, he did fancy slipping out for a bit with none other than that most water-crazed of halflings.
If Elrond himself in his high chamber hadn't heard Sam and Frodo by now, he certainly wasn't going to bother with a soft-treaded Took like himself. Pippin hopped off his bed and scampered out of his room without a backward glance. He closed the door with expert skill and covered the distance between his door and Merry's in a matter of seconds. Carefully he twisted the knob and peeked around the edge of the door.
Merry always fell asleep with gusto, sprawled over the mattress and tangled up in the sheets. Usually his limbs would jut out over the sides of the bed, dangling precariously in midair. Once Pippin had put on a puppet show starring Merry in such a state, which had earned him a severe tickling once his cousin had come to. But at the moment the Brandybuck was still out cold, allowing Pippin to let himself in and shut the door behind him with nary a squeak. He stood just inside the chamber for a moment, studying his cousin in the pale light of the moon. Merry must have been exhausted from the day's activities, so much in fact that he had simply crawled beneath the covers and gone slack with slumber within minutes. He lay stretched out, undisturbed, the slight up-and-down motion of his hand atop his chest the only movement in the room.
Stealthily as a cat, Pippin slunk forward and slithered up beneath the linens at the foot of the bed. With a deliberation almost misplaced in a Took, he began inching his way up Merry's torso, smiling to himself and planting light kisses here and there. He lingered about the stomach, wandering to his sides and over the bottom of his rib cage. Merry murmured, and shifted slightly beneath him. Pippin paused, and then continued his path up through Merry's chest, flattening himself against him as he progressed. When he reached the shoulders, Pippin again became diverted, burying his lips by the sweet hollow of his collarbone and inhaling his scent. Either he's slow to wake, he thought wryly, or he's letting me carry on. Gently he nipped an earlobe, and again Merry stirred. Pippin, now lying completely atop him, twisted sideways and left a trail of kisses along Merry's jawline and down over his throat. Slowly, he moved over his chin and finally settled on his mouth. Merry's murmurs became louder and more distinct, and at that point his eyes fluttered open.
Pippin pulled back a little to watch the smile light up his face. "Well, fancy seeing you here," his cousin purred. Pippin said nothing and with a small grin pecked the tip of his nose. Merry blinked and beamed. "It's surely not time for breakfast," he mused. "What brings you here?"
"Wanted to see you," Pippin mumbled happily as he laid his head on Merry's chest.
Merry feigned disbelief. "Good grief, whatever for?"
A wicked smile came over Pip's face, and he whispered conspiratorially in Merry's ear, "Wanna go swimming."
Merry raised his eyebrows and grinned as well. "Oh?"
Pippin nibbled his ear again. "Aye."
"Well, in that case, you're going to have to make a choice between you getting off or me rolling you off like a sack of flour." Of course, Pippin didn't really have a choice, as his squeal of a moment later declared. The wrestling match ended as spontaneously as it had begun, the end result being that Pippin was still wrapped around Merry's waist. He giggled and dropped onto the mattress, flicking the corner of a sheet at his cousin and letting it drape over his face. Merry lifted it back and kissed him again. "Right. So where exactly did you have in mind, you imp?"
"Mmm, no idea. But I thought we'd have a bit of an adventure findin' out, eh?" He winked playfully.
"Right, sounds good to me!" Merry replied, and with that jumped to his feet and made for the door. Pippin grabbed the back of his trousers and yanked him back onto the bed.
"Silly," he teased. "You can't go out like that. You're not wearing any clothes!" Merry's brow furrowed, and he picked at his shirt, puzzled. Pippin shook his head and took hold of the garment's buttons. "As of now you're not, anyway!"
* * *
After a considerable delay, the two found themselves tiptoeing through the halls of Imladris, doing their best to make neither noise nor a wrong turn, despite their giddiness.
"Merry! Where're you going? The outside's this way!"
"That's the great hall, you dunderhead! I can smell the water, it's over there--!"
"A fine Brandybuck you make, you couldn't navigate your way towards Bywater Pond if you fell in!"
"You may find you do a good deal more 'falling in' than you anticipated once we get out of here..."
The pair of them nearly collided with each other, so suddenly had they noticed the man pacing through the dimness. They pressed themselves close against the wall and peered cautiously around the corner, their breaths shallow and bottled.
He was a dangerous-looking man, in the half-shadow. He had a sharp, noble profile and a manner of walking too full of restless intent. The two hobbits watched him stalk toward them with growing apprehension: he was too close for them to flee unnoticed, and he did not look the type who welcomed company in this hour and in the mood he was betraying. Pippin, his arm flung across Merry's chest, slunk slowly in front of him, his body taut and tense. Merry's breath hitched, as he felt himself responding to the other hobbit's proximity. He gulped, and threw a nervous glance at the Man.
"Don't move and he won't see us," Pippin murmured in an uncharacteristically low voice. Merry couldn't help himself: he squirmed desperately. Pippin looked over his shoulder and flashed him a smirk. Merry groaned and pushed him forward.
They scurried into the nearest corridor. The Man brooded ever onward, and did not appear to notice.
The two hobbits scampered through the shadows for some time, until Pippin picked his head up and stopped to listen. "Ummmm... Merry? Where exactly are we now?"
The quarters were rather sparser than the rest of Rivendell, and in slight disrepair. No sound of running water nor chirping crickets echoed in these halls: rather, a few muffled grunting noises rose and fell from the other side of the walls. As Merry and Pippin stood trying to get their bearings, a deep voice suddenly bellowed "Khazâd ai-mênu!", a sound rapidly followed by a crash, as though someone had leaped from the foot of a bed onto a mattress -- right onto someone else. Merry winced. "Sounds like dwarves," he grimaced. "I don't even want to think about what's going on in there."
Pippin nodded, a visible blanching in his face. "Right then. Let's make ourselves scarce, shall we?"
"Sounds like a good plan." He glanced about, searching for an escape. Finding none readily available, he closed his eyes and shoved Pippin in a random direction. "This way!" They fumbled through the darkness, bumbling into columns, statuary, and each other.
"I thought you said you knew where you were going!" Pippin hissed.
"I did!" Merry replied indignantly. "I just got disoriented!"
"How can you be oriented when you've never been here before?" he scoffed.
But Merry didn't answer him: wordlessly he took Pippin by the shoulders and turned him around. The other hobbit's jaw dropped. "Oh."
They had stumbled upon a great balcony overlooking the garden nestled between the hall and the mountain. A network of arching bridges spanned a number of pools and streams separating small islands. Even though it was well into October, water lilies still placidly floated on the surface. Periodically, a glimpse of sculpture or the spray of a fountain peaked through the autumn mist.
Out of the corner of his eye, as he was drinking all this in, Pippin noticed Merry walk forward and climb onto the railing of the balcony. He was craning his neck over the edge, down the drop into the water. The balcony was probably twenty feet above the garden -- Pippin could see the thought flashing over his face: no more than the bluffs over the Brandywine River... He cleared his throat. "Merry, what're you thinkin' of doin' just there--?"
"How deep d'you suppose that goes?" he asked by way of reply.
Pippin approached the railing tentatively, and peered through. All he could see was a pool, sheeny with moonlight, rimmed with flowers and fallen leaves -- and black in the center as any well. "I... I dunno," he answered.
Merry hadn't taken his eyes off the water. "Deep enough, d'you think?"
His cousin looked over his shoulder and flashed him such a grin -- all of Pippin's misgivings became lodged at the back of his throat as he surveyed the Brandybuck: his fearless expression, the way he held himself over that rail, the way his slightly-more-than-rumpled hair caught in the pearlescent shine of the moon...
He raised his eyebrows. "D'you dare me to?"
Pippin blinked, and tried clawing through the haze clouding his logic and his eyes. "To--?"
With a whoop, Merry threw himself from the balcony, tucked his knees against his chest, and plummeted into the water. Pippin shrieked his cousin's name, and without a backwards glance launched himself after him. With an astonishingly satisfying splash, he plunged down into the pool. The heavy wetness enveloped him, and it was only through long years of suppressing hobbitish sensibilities concerning water that he didn't panic. He opened his eyes and kicked out. Surfacing was a shock of temperature that left him gasping for breath. He tread water, looking around. "Merry?" he called, a note of worry at his absence. "Merry? Eeeeoomph!"
A pair of strong arms clamped down around his waist, and for an instant Pippin sank with the weight on his back. He sputtered to the surface and lunged for the edge of the pool. "Fiendish Brandybuck!" he cried. "Get off of me!" He backed against the stone rim and glared at his cousin.
Merry laughed and cornered him, pressing his body close against Pip's. "I'm so glad you suggested this, I feel so much better after a good dive like that."
Pippin tried to squirm and scowl, but the sudden warmth of Merry's kisses against his neck halted all arguments. "I... ohhh, Merry, you scared half a dozen inches' growth out of me just now!"
"Of sideways growth, I hope," he murmured, sliding one hand down Pippin's slim midsection. "I don't think it would do if I could never find this spot again..."
It was at that touch that Pippin succumbed entirely, every time. Everything else slipped away: the terror of Weathertop, the nightmare within the Barrow-downs, the first frightful flight from the Rider to Buckleberry Ferry; the long, tense marches through the wild with Strider; the careless mistakes at Bree, in the Prancing Pony; all of it gave way to this moment in the water. It was a living relic of another time, when Elves were just incidental players in one of Uncle Bilbo's stories and Imladris merely another setting; the two hobbits were in the Shire despite their surroundings, swimming together in the calm Brandywine.
Distracted as he was, Pippin was still alert enough to catch the approaching footsteps echoing overhead. He opened half-lidded eyes and glanced upward: a strong glow accompanied the sound, and it grew in intensity as their potential captor hurried ever nearer to investigate the recent commotion. He clutched at Merry's back and whispered urgently, "There's someone coming!" A small thrill tingled across the surface of his skin: evading suspicious or accidental interpolators always lent an extra element to their midnight excursions.
Merry twisted sideways to see where Pippin was indicating: he grinned suddenly and exclaimed, "You're right!" Quick as an otter, he hopped out of the pool and helped Pippin out. Still holding each other's hands, they dived over a nearby bush and huddled together in the dark, listening for conversation and trying not to giggle.
"Did you hear that?"
"That splash, and that yell -- did you hear it? Did anyone else hear it?"
"I heard nothing, I was patrolling the corridors where the halflings are lodged. But should you not be in bed, my lord? Tomorrow is the reason you have all gathered here."
This Boromir fellow did not reply for a few moments, obviously fishing for an answer or an excuse. Finally, he spoke again, with an air of polite defeat. "No, forgive me, Master Sailaiwë. You're right, I shall need my rest before the Council. Though, I fear I have been wandering the halls, and have quite forgotten the way back to my room... would you lend me your light and your guidance?"
Pippin stifled an outburst of snickers in the meaningful pause before the elf's reply. "Certainly, my lord. This way, if you please." The light on the balcony and the footsteps faded back into the night and the hall. Pippin dislodged his fist from his mouth and sank against Merry's shoulder, quivering with mute laughter. The other hobbit had a crooked grin smeared across his face.
"Well, poncy elves notwithstanding, I think we'd better find a spot without so many people nancing about to disturb us, whadoyouthink?"
Pippin rolled onto his back and twirled Merry's water-logged suspenders in his fingers. "I think I would like to undress you now," he purred.
"Oh would you really?"
"Oh yes." He nipped lightly at his cousin's stomach, plastered against his shirt. "But you know what else?"
Merry arched away briefly, a vulpine smile fluttering to his lips. "What's that?"
"I think I'd rather have you undress me first!" With that, he bounced up, kissed Merry on the cheek, and dashed away into the garden.
"Hey!" He was up and after his cousin instantly, though the young Took proved quite a quarry, dancing between trees and leaping from rock to rock -- nimble as a sprite and just as confident, even in this unknown terrain. Even as he ran, Merry felt a jubilant laugh tumble from his throat. "You'd better make it worth my while to catch you!" he called into the mists ahead of him.
"S'pose the only way you'll ever find out is t'move your fat carcass a little faster, then!" Pippin crowed, jogging backwards and splashing into a murmuring rill.
Merry made no answer just yet, instead throwing himself forward and tackling his impudent young lover. Pippin shrieked, and fell beneath him. The sand lining the basin of the creek gave way softly, cushioning the weight of the two of them. Merry dipped his face into the water and let his lips linger on Pip's cheek for a moment. His fingers stroked the tendrils of hair now swaying in the gentle current of water. "Does this count as catching you?" he said softly, letting his voice drop to a pleasant rumble in his chest.
Pippin let his head loll to the side, exposing Merry's favorite tract of neck. "Mmm, well, I think it does that..." he whispered. "But..."
"But what?" Merry asked distractedly.
Pippin lifted his head and breathed against his ear, "You haven't undressed me still."
Merry slid off Pippin and onto his side, pressing himself up against him. The water rolled smoothly over them, a slight skin of movement giving the only indicator the moment wasn't frozen and perfect. "I think," he answered, skimming his palm over Pippin's shirt, "that patience is not a Tookish attribute."
Pip grasped his cousin's hand and slithered over to kiss him. "Since when is it a Brandybuck one?"
Merry paused. "You're right. In that case..." He deepened the kiss, and brought his hand to the collar of Pippin's shirt. With an insistent moan, Pip clasped his buttons and rhythmically began unhooking them from the translucent white fabric. His untucked tails swayed like the tails of fish, fluttering with the brook's own current and the small waves the two hobbits created. The shirt spread as it slipped further from Pippin's chest, and soon like a school of minnows it drifted away entirely.
It floated a few meters, skimming the water's surface for a while, and then gracefully snagged on a jut of rock. No great space of time had passed when it was joined by several other articles of clothing migrating downstream. Mud and sand billowed up from the basin of the stream, obscuring the pebbles and rippled silt lining its floor. Only a few elements of their surroundings troubled the hobbits: the glow of moon pouring through the branches; the feel of liquid coursing over their limbs; the movement of sand as it shifted beneath them...
And the sound of footsteps and voices nearby.
Pippin sat up like a shot, panting and wide-eyed. Merry fell back with an exclamation of pain, his chin having accidentally collided with his cousin's forehead. "Did you hear that?" the younger asked in a hushed, tight voice. He clutched Merry's wrist.
"No," he replied in an equally rigid voice, "but I do see those two Big People walking right into us, if we don't get out of the way!" He stood up, yanked Pippin out of the water, and skittered along the bank towards the nearest hiding-place -- a small, arching footbridge. The two hobbits thought the noise of their breathing could have deafened Gandalf's fireworks: they huddled against the slick, cool stone and against each other, barely daring to tremble for fear of discovery. It was one thing to be found sneaking through halls or splashing in ponds: it was quite another to be caught half-to-mostly naked in a woodland rill.
For a time, it seemed the pair of big folk had crossed the bridge, leaving the two hobbits safe in their wake. Merry relaxed his grip around Pippin's shoulders and looked at him hesitantly. "Think they're--?"
Pippin glanced up and opened his mouth to speak, but a female voice cut him off. Merry stiffened. "What was that?" he hissed, panic-stricken.
"I... I dunno," Pip replied helplessly. "Sounded like... 'Running will he heroine government'."
Merry furrowed his brow. "What?"
A hushed male voice entered the mix, and Pippin jerked upright even more. "Merry! That's Strider!"
"Strider!" he repeated, paling. He gulped. "What's he saying?"
Pippin cocked his head and wrinkled his nose, as he was apt to do when concentrating. "'Not that one... the nettle island.' What's that mean, Merry?"
"Shhh!" The Brandybuck took a small step forward, arching his neck as if he intended to peek out from under the bridge. Pippin's eyes flicked onto him nervously. The female voice spoke again.
"'Go in and ending as...' I can't understand what they're talking about, Merr--" His cousin shot him a warning look. Pippin gulped again, shifted his weight, and listened harder. "'Do our necking near easy selling'?" he said, apparently feeling the need to translate or clarify whatever it was he could hear better than his cousin.
Merry turned his head abruptly, with the intention of scolding Pippin, but stopped. The young Took was caught in a perfect blue shaft of moonlight, which shone softly over the lines of his torso. It illuminated the coppery sheen of his hair, and traced precise lines over the angular sweetness of his face. Merry heard a sharp intake of breath, not realizing it was his. Sometimes being with someone too long can blind you to how really beautiful they are, he thought fleetingly. Pippin still stood there, knee-deep in water, at the edge of the bridge's shadow; his body tense and alert, his every feature bright and lovely as... as...
"'When is it best,'" he said slowly, still trying to decipher the conversation overhead; "'pin him'?"
"Oh, right now," Merry interrupted earnestly, and, forgetting about eavesdroppers of any sort, gave in completely to the very real necessity of muffling Pippin's startled squeal with his own mouth...
* * *
Arwen Undomiel drew back from the kiss and looked at Aragorn, puzzled. "Did you hear that, meleth?"
The focus of the Ranger's gaze shifted from the elf's mouth to her eyes. "Hear what?"
She pursed her lips. "I'm not sure... some sort of a thumping, or a bird perhaps."
"Did it sound like anything in particular?" Aragorn asked, his hand weaving itself through the locks of her black tresses.
She listened for a moment. "No bird in my knowledge cries 'merry' from dark places in the woods at night."
Aragorn stopped, and then let out a short, soft laugh. "No, there is one, my dear. I've heard it often between Imladris and Bree."
Arwen raised an eyebrow. "And what sort of creature is this?"
He leaned close and nuzzled her hair, relishing her touch and the too-long unfamiliar scent of her skin. "A Peregrin, min Älskling." He took her hand and stroked it. "Come, perhaps we should leave it to its business."
She smiled wryly. "Very well, then. It would not do to disturb it with extraneous affairs." With an inclination of her chin, she indicated the halls of Rivendell. Without objection, Aragorn followed, confident the sturdy walls of Imladris would guard any cries of their own.
~ * ~
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