1. The Scent of Apples
Surely it was up to him to start? That was how these things were done, wasn’t it? Merry found himself wishing he was older, that he knew what he was doing, that he wasn’t expected to be in charge all the time, but, as usual, found that wishing for such things wasn’t going to make his life any easier at this strange and somehow fragile moment. Swallowing hard, and hoping it wasn’t visible, he reached out and pulled his cousin to him gently. There was a sudden soft gasp, but it didn’t seem to be unwelcoming, or upset, merely a little surprised, and when Merry awkwardly put his hands on to the other’s shoulders, and felt smooth warm flesh under the soft linen, he felt answering hands move readily to his waist, and pull him a little closer still.
He couldn’t be doing anything too wrong then. It’s not like he wouldn’t know it if he was being too forward or rushing anything, or assuming too much. This hobbit had a yell that could wake the dead if they cared to employ it. No, they were both there for one reason, and one reason alone, which frankly was scary enough without worrying about what tomorrow might bring or if their parents would be pleased or horrified, or why his heart was beating this hard, or if he truly wanted this. Slowly he leaned forward, giving plenty of time for the other to pull away, just in case, but instead those brilliant green eyes went dark and molten, and then slowly closed, and Merry found if he tipped his head slightly to the side, it made things a lot easier, and then with a soft bump, their lips met.
The kiss was soft at first, uncertain, just a meltingly warm undemanding pressure, and Merry wondered if he should be doing something more. He tentatively opened his mouth, just a little, and then with a small jolt of surprise, shocking him with the shiver it sent down his back and into regions he didn’t want to think about right then, a warm tongue tip darted into his mouth and then out again, fast, like a minnow in a river. He moved then, pulling the other closer still, and running his hand up into fine curls, loose on the nape of the neck, and there was a soundless little cry, breathed into his mouth, as he deepened the kiss and ran his own tongue lightly along the curve of a lip. He tasted apples then, and cinnamon, and something more that was uniquely them, and for a wild moment thought the pantry itself was offering itself up along with this wonderful kiss, until he remembered there’d been apple crumble for dessert, and the flick of a flirtatious glance over the supper table, and a whispered stolen word or two, and here they both were, and wasn’t this something after all? Well worth any trouble surely, to hold this warm trembling armful and kiss them for the first time, and imagine perhaps a little more, but not too much, or he’d have to shift himself before they noticed anything and Merry wasn’t at all sure he wouldn’t die from the embarrassment of that.
He felt hands on his back then, stroking in circles, and slipping under his waistcoat to run themselves along his spine and he almost paused in the kissing because it felt so wonderful, hot and cold all at once, and goosebumps chased themselves up and down, good goosebumps, better even than the ones you got from slipping into a lovely hot bath after a cold day. And that seemed to be the cue to move the kiss and Merry felt warm lips begin to trail little light nibbles along his jaw and up to his ear. And didn’t that feel good, he had no idea… He breathed out a small sigh and felt rather than saw the other smile into his neck, before proceeding to lightly graze his earlobe with their teeth and tongue. Oh… Merry found he had arched his neck without even being aware of it, but it was becoming very hard to think, it was all he could do to keep breathing and distantly wonder where that wondrous mouth was going to visit next…
No-one ever said it was going to feel like this. Like your insides were all scrambled like eggs and melted like butter, and even leaning up against sacks of apples was getting to be far too much like hard work, but making himself move was even harder. A wickedly smiling face with brilliant green eyes and softly mussed brown curls swam into his inner vision, behind his closed eyelids, and he softly began to sigh their name, “Oh Pip…” Before he stopped himself with a shock as vicious as if he’d been dipped in icy water.
The hobbit held close in his arms stiffened then, and Merry had time to feel his heart speed up and his hands grow stiff and clammy, before almost at the same moment, they were both frozen in the glare of an abruptly brilliant burst of light. Merry opened his eyes, feeling sick, feeling sad, feeling any number of things, none of them good anymore, and then abruptly pushed himself completely upright and in doing so released his hold, like the other had suddenly become burning hot like a brand. Then they both stood there rumpled and embarrassed, and at the very least, Merry decided, it would be only fair if the ground opened up and swallowed him, as it wasn’t just anyone that had caught him compromised in the second pantry with his cousin, but it was Aunt Eg, that cousin’s mother, and she was going to have something to say about it, and long and loudly too.
They both stood there then as the storm broke over their heads, and Merry kept stealing glances, when he thought he could get away with it, but the other refused to look back at him and Merry felt miserable and heartsick, and amidst all the chorusing of ‘Yes, Aunt’ and ‘No, Aunt’ he wondered what he could possibly do? Eventually, they were allowed to escape, separately, as a sharp maternal eye obviously debated the merits of locking amorous tweens up until their coming of age, but Merry shot around the corner, and as soon as he was out of sight, speeded up, until he was running full pelt through the smial. So it wasn’t long before he caught up to his cousin, luckily in an empty corridor, and came to a skidding halt in front of them, abruptly unsure of how to begin, but knowing if anything was to be salvaged, it had to be now.
He took a deep breath, and smiled as winsomely as he knew how.
“I’m truly sorry, Pim.”
Brilliant green eyes inspected him from under a tousle of mussed brown curls, no longer caught up in the neat blue ribbon that had held them earlier. Pimpernel smoothed down her creased dress and sniffed.
“I’m sure it’s not your fault, Meriadoc.”
He let out the breath he was holding and made to take her hand, thanking his lucky stars she wasn’t angry after all.
“No, it’s mine.” His hand froze then, before nervelessly dropping to his side as she continued, “For letting myself be sweet-talked by a boy – a boy – when I should have known better. Why you’re a child still – I don’t know what could have possibly come over me!”
Merry opened his mouth to protest that she was only three years older than him, but stopped in the face of the glitter of those very green eyes.
“This never happened, Meriadoc Brandybuck, and if you ever – ever! – refer to this again, I will, I will…” She seemed stuck for something bad enough. Merry decided helpful suggestions would not go down well at this point and wisely remained silent. “I will… never speak to you again!”
Not such a bad thing as all that, Merry thought, given how her voice was starting to rise in volume and shrillness, and was getting to be enough to make him wince. But he kept his tone wheedling, hoping to persuade her, although of what, he remained unsure.
“My name is Pimpernel! Kindly use it, Mr Brandybuck!” He was about to protest again when he caught sight of the lightest sheen of tears in her eyes, just clouding their brilliant depths, and felt a fool, and suddenly desperately guilty. She must have seen something in his face, because she broke off, and stared at him, looking wretched and forlorn. Merry felt as tongue-tied as the child she’d called him. Without breaking their gaze she reached up and impatiently scrubbed at the corner of one eye, leaving a light trail of moisture shining on one cheek.
Whispering, she said, “Pim. My name is Pim, Merry, not…”
And then she turned and took off down the corridor, running hard, as if all the wolves of the North were chasing her, and not one stupid hobbit-lad’s mistakes.
Merry let her go. He stuck his hands in his pockets and walked rapidly away, trying not to think about it, trying not to remember. How could he have been so stupid? What had he been thinking? Well, that was the point, he hadn’t precisely been thinking at all, not at that moment, and he felt a heavy blush well up from deep within as he contemplated precisely who he had been thinking of, and when. It’s just the brown hair, and green eyes, that’s all, so similar to Pim’s, Merry told himself, over and over again. It means nothing. It’s Pim I want. I’ve liked her for months now, everyone knows that. It’s Pim. Then he heard a familiar burst of high gurgling laughter and he shut his eyes slowly, as if in pain. There was the sound of rapid footsteps, and Merry opened his eyes and smiled to himself, a little sadly, a little wryly, and was just in time to open his arms and catch a slim form as it hurtled round the corner. The other leaned in for a hug and Merry had time to feel the soft touch of hair against his cheek, and catch the elusive scent of apple soap, before he was pushed away impatiently and glared at in mock anger.
Pippin looked up at him through softly mussed brown curls, his brilliant green eyes snapping in merriment, and cocked his head to one side.
“Is it true, Merry? Honestly? Did Mum really catch you in the second pantry with my sister…?”
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.