3. Coming Home to Crickhollow 3/3
Merry let his weight sink back fully on the bed, feeling every thread and knot of the blanket, and the finer knit of the linen that touched the back of his thighs. Merry's hardness slid along Pippin's belly, and the chance touch of heavy flesh was so arousing that Merry pressed into it with a whimpering moan. Pippin moved forward in response, but where before there had been solid want, only tender stirrings remained. Desire thwarted too soon, maybe, or because Pippin feared to hurt him again. In the past months Merry had often wondered whether Pippin would not rather lie with a lass, but no such doubt was in his mind tonight. Tonight Pippin wanted him with a fervour that equalled his own, he'd known this since that first kiss, and even earlier in the kitchen, when Pippin had held him and would not let go.
Without a word he pulled Pippin to him, felt his ragged breathing, the shivers running through his body. He is doing this for me. Before he fully understood the thought or knew what it could possibly mean, Merry reached towards Pippin, moved his hand over chest and muscle, over scars smooth like glazed bowls, searched for Pippin's belly button hidden deep within soft flesh until he found his failing need.
"If we go ... slower, maybe", Merry said. "It's my first time like this." He touched Pippin with sure strokes and felt him harden quickly.
"I'll try ..." There was relief in Pippin's voice, and he moaned as his thrusts became stronger. "I can't hold on very well, Merry," he whispered. "It's been so long."
The words went round in Merry's head once, then again. Something rose within him, he knew not whence, just that it felt strangely light and nippy, like ice water rushing from a hidden spring on the first day of summer. Pippin stopped moving, he seemed to wait and listen, unsure what was happening.
"You ... desired?" Merry asked, then chuckled at his own incredulous words. "And there I thought you had forsworn such thrills for the delights of Brandy Hall's kitchens and the beer taps of the Golden Perch."
Pippin relaxed towards Merry's chest and softly laughed. "Ah, but I have no intention to chose between these thrills and those delights. I wish to eat and drink to my heart's content and make merry with you whenever fancy strikes."
"But ... I waited so long for you. I thought maybe here in the Shire you no longer thought it right to lie with a lad. And a kinsman at that."
"Now, Merry", Pippin gave him one of those annoyed looks he had picked up from the guardsmen of the Citadel, "have you ever known me to show such qualms?"
"No." Merry shook his head. "Well, at least not in the White City. But Minas Tirith is a long ways from the Shire."
"Aye, it is ..." It seemed that Pippin wanted to say more but then he didn't and instead withdrew gently from Merry's hold, moved off him and settled at his side. He touched Merry's shoulder, and his fingers seemed to shake. Merry turned to see whether it was the candle's flickering light which made Pippin shiver so. But the candle shone calm like a beacon, and Merry saw Pippin clench his jaw, trying to steady himself. Merry wrapped his arm around his cousin, held him tight, and Pippin gave him a shy smile.
"Some nights ..." he started, then stopped to take a quavering breath, "some nights I miss you so."
To hear Pippin say this almost broke Merry's heart. "But you can be with me every night", he said, trying hard to keep the pain out of his voice. "I am right here all the time."
"No, you're not. And when you come to me, this stranger who never left the Shire, and wish for the lad I was before ... Merry, I cannot lie with you then." Pippin watched him through tears, and Merry felt the hand on his shoulder shake still, as if Pippin was afraid even now. And whatever else Pippin just said, there was no need for such fear, for Merry had been with him always. He could hardly remember a night when he had not fallen asleep with Pippin's fingers drawing sleepy, twitchy patterns on his stomach. All the strange places they had seen, all the roofs they had slept under, earth and root, timber and tapestry, branch, leaf, canvas and the high stone ceilings of the White City, he had been right there with Pippin.
"Long now they sleep under grass." From nowhere, it seemed, the slow tune of the Rohirrim's song appeared within Merry's mind. "In Gondor by the Great River, grey now as tears, gleaming silver ..." Gleaming bronze and red, from the fading light of dusk or from blood shed in war, Merry could never tell. Like a shimmering trail the river had looked from the hillock where he had found Pippin that one night in Ithilien. A soldier of Gondor with his long curls and the silver on his breast, standing still, hands on his back, the right a bit closer to the sword, ready for battle even when he watched the sun set over Anduin.
Merry gasped at the memory, felt something loosen inside. Why should this vision come back to him now, when for so long he had not thought of it, had not wanted to think of it? Just this evening he'd told Pippin that it had all ended, never to return, that it could no longer touch their lives. And how could he have said that when it was with them always, a living memory which touched everything, even the way they loved each other? He only had to look at Pippin to know that it would never end.
The soldier of Gondor did not sleep under the long grass near the river, much as Merry had wanted to bury him there. This was Pippin, the child running in a cloud of snow, his young lover with the passionate strength of a full-grown hobbit. But then, how could Merry live, always with the dark? This road was laid in stone before him, circling ever upwards to his tomb - golden wheels stamped into the candleholder's brass, rayed suns burned into Snowmane's reins, round mists of breath on the Prince's shining vambrace ... My King is dead, and where now shall I go?
If this was a dream, then Merry desperately wanted to wake from it, wake in Pippin's arms and forget it all. But what he tried so hard to hold on to broke off, was swept away with his breath, was urged out through his very eyes. He squeezed them shut and searched for some hold, but then his own heart tried to push through his skin and leave him in wounded darkness. He found Pippin's shoulder, then he felt Pippin's hand on his chest. My heart ... He could feel it pound against Pippin like a stick against a drum, and for a moment Merry was sure his heart would simply stop if it wasn't for Pippin's touch.
His breathing became quieter and he sought Pippin's face, touching him blindly. "You remind me of Beregond sometimes," he whispered into the red dark. "I'm afraid of it. I'm afraid of you. Of us. What we've become, what we shall be, what we can ..." The words came before Merry knew he was saying them, and he stopped with an effort. They had both changed so much, beyond anything he had thought possible. No-one in the Shire had ever heard of Ent-draughts, and when Pippin and he stood before a crowd, tall as only the Bullroarer himself, Merry saw his own fear mirrored in the other hobbits' faces.
He opened his eyes, and there was Pippin, all hobbit-lad, his youth so obvious in the full softness of his face, the smooth skin around the eyes. He was utterly still, barely seemed to breathe. He caressed Merry's chest, traced his throat and shoulder, slowly, as if he was learning their shape for the first time.
"You are so beautiful, Merry", he whispered. "That will never change. And we'll just be whatever we'll be."
A startled thrill washed through Merry's breast - because of Pippin's immeasurable trust in him, or perhaps because of the simple, unfailing hope that Pippin held for their future.
The Shire will love him as no Thain was loved before. And a strangely comforting thought it was, that one day Merry would speak the customary oath which for generations each Master of Buckland had pledged to renew the union with the Thain. Merry could almost see himself, standing in the middle of the Great Place like his father had, the heads of the families around him, the cups raised in their hands. The silver tree was glimmering on Pippin's breast, and he himself was clad in leather and green and white cloth. He could even see the twinkle in Pippin's eyes, as they smiled at each other while they drank to the Shire's good fortunes. They had sealed this bond so long ago.
"Pippin, I ..." - "Merry, will you ..."
They both stopped, and when Pippin started to chuckle, Merry couldn't help but join in laughing. Pippin rolled on his back, chuckling still. He brought his face close to Merry's, and they both gazed at the ceiling. The candle's light made the rafters seem dark and crooked like the roots in an old smial. The wind whistled softly in the chimney, and in the garden an early bird chirped sleepily at the approaching dawn. After a while Pippin said: "We don't have to do this, you know."
Merry turned his head. "No?"
Pippin leaned unto his elbows and kissed him. "What I mean is," he murmured through a tangle of warm lips and tongues, "there are other ways to make good use of that hazelnut oil."
"Oh, I can think of a few right now." Merry moved his fingers along Pippin's need pressing hard against his thigh, and Pippin responded immediately with a rough moan Merry had been eager to hear. It made his legs tremble, as did the urgency with which Pippin pushed into his hand. Merry felt himself tighten as he tried to quiet his own laboured breathing. "Your body has a mind of its own, Pip. It does not want the Goldworthy's oil wasted on crayfish tails and hazelnut biscuits."
"Crayfish and biscuits are not what I have in mind." There was a grin on Pippin's face but his voice was hoarse, and he held on to Merry's hip so hard it hurt.
Pippin's desire was always like this, strong and demanding, a thing Merry had not known of Pippin until he'd lain with him. It reached into Merry like madder into bare earth, and there was nothing he could do but let it swirl and surge within him, dark red like the madder's dye. "Come, love ..." He reached for Pippin with a sudden, impatient need and tried to pull him on top of himself. "Come."
But Pippin would not move. "I don't want to hurt you", he said so softly that Merry could barely hear him.
"You're not hurting me." Merry drew Pippin as close as he could and burrowed his face against Pippin's breast. "It's me. It's me who won't let go."
The curls on Pippin's chest felt soft and sweaty on Merry's cheek, and he suddenly remembered a morning long ago in Brandy Hall when he and Pippin had spent the night after the Midyear Feast in a spare room near the servants' quarters. There had been the sound of rain, and Pippin half-dressed and very close to him, his warmth all around. Merry remembered clearly how something had felt different that morning, something that made Pippin glow in a sudden clear light. It must have been the sun which had found a crack in the rain-clouded sky and shone into the small low window just above the bed. But the sight of Pippin asleep in that light had cut through Merry like a knife. He had known nothing then but to clutch Pippin to him so hard that he had woken the lad, and he had greeted Merry with a drowsy kiss tasting of too much ale and not nearly enough sleep.
"I shan't be a stranger to you," Merry whispered.
Pippin grabbed Merry's hair, pulled him away from his chest and looked into his eyes. And then, with one swift movement, he had them both rolled over. Merry found himself on the folded blankets again, and Pippin over him. There was no fear, just a bit of awkward moving around until they had their bodies thoroughly entangled. Pippin felt so good in his arms, Merry wanted to crush Pippin's ribs between his raised knees whenever Pippin's belly rubbed against his need. The hazelnut oil between his buttocks was slick and warm, and Pippin's fingers spread it more, sliding along the crack, kneading oil into flesh.
Merry's skin was tingling with a giddy heat, when Pippin pushed hard against him. And even though he moved more slowly this time, Merry still felt his insides cramp, expecting the scorching burn. For a moment his body tensed, but then Pippin reached for him and touched him with strong, slippery fingers. Merry thrust into Pippin's grip with an unruly need that heeded not pain nor fear. He felt Pippin pierce him, and he felt himself give way to a quick searing, and then a fullness which spread towards an aching place deep within. He drew Pippin close, moved his thighs even higher, so Pippin would push deeper and touch, please touch ... but instead Pippin pulled back, so fast it made Merry gasp.
Pippin's breath was harsh with want, his face flushed, sweat shimmering in the soft creases of his throat. His eyes asked if all was right, and Merry kissed the sweaty skin, bit into it, he wanted Pippin so much. A taste like hay, and salt, like the high wind only, and always, always the scent of wild parsley that grew in no other place than the Green Hills. Merry was reeling with it, spicy-sweet and rich, and for a moment he felt he would break if he could not burst in Pippin's hand right now.
Pippin tightened his grip around Merry's need, unbearably raw and so full that Merry jerked against Pippin, his arms around his neck, holding on to him because if he let go he would fall, would drown ...
And they were running down the Causeway again, skin to skin, droplets of sweat flying from hair and face, Pippin a toe's length behind him, panting sharp and fast, the river all bronze and mist at their side. Merry turned, never breaking their run, the storm ripping at his hair. He reached out for Pippin, screaming into the wind, and Pippin took his hand and they raced high above while the sunset flamed the water red like blood.
Pippin thrust into him, more forcefully than before, and his eyes went wide and dark, he stuttered Merry's name. The candle's flame caught in the circles of brass, and light spilled in ripples like rain on the Brandywine. Pippin was in him and around him, touching him within and without, and Merry could no longer hold back, he was swept off the Causeway, sent tumbling towards the flaming river. He fell, and Pippin caught him, held him in shaking arms, when the light on the water broke into rushing, blinding silver, flung high and bright into the sky over Crickhollow.
The first thing Merry knew after the stillness released him was Pippin's heavy breathing and his curls damp on Merry's skin. Then he realised the younger hobbit was still cradling his flesh, now limp and spent, between their bodies.
"You ..." Merry barely recognised the husky sound coming from his lips.
Pippin raised his head and at the same time let go of Merry. He smiled, then concern crept into his eyes. "Did I hurt you much?"
Merry shook his head. His body was tingling, he felt as if he had lain in a field of thistles as they bloomed purple up near Scary. He could not tell hurt from pleasure, not now, not yet. All he wanted was Pippin here, in his arms. He moved his hips and rolled Pippin to his side, to where the candle shone on the linen. The younger hobbit laughed, then closed his eyes. Merry lifted Pippin's head gently, and it seemed light as the pillow Merry propped underneath his neck. Cautiously he traced Pippin's throat, touched his chin and lips.
Pippin opened his eyes slowly.
"What in all the Shire put it in your head to lie with me like this?"
Pippin chuckled. "It was Reginard, if you must know."
"Reginard?!" Merry tried to imagine Reginard Took in his musty coats explaining the finer uses of hazelnut oil to a much younger Pippin. It was quite impossible. "It's not Cousin Reggie you are talking about, is it?"
The disbelief in Merry's voice must have shown plainly, for Pippin laughed out loud. "Aye, old Cousin Reggie. Well, Cousin Reggie and Anie Twofoot, I should say. Ah, and what a sight that was." He shut his eyes again, waiting for Merry to ask for more.
"You're getting as close as Gandalf, Pip. Out with the story," Merry said, letting just the right amount of irritation show in his voice.
"Not so hasty, Merry lad." Pippin opened his eyes with a big, deliberate sigh. "I saw them once in one of the guest-rooms of the Great Smials. I must have been in my teens still, Anie Twofoot was working in the kitchen then. At least that's as much as I recall. She's always been a quiet lass. Seems the two found a liking for each other, and when I stumbled into that bed-room, they were kissing under the blankets."
Merry laid his head on Pippin's shoulder, and Pippin's arm quickly found its place around Merry's waist and pulled him close. "I remember Anie", Merry said. "As pretty a lass as they come. Hobbiton-bred, too. Why would she lie with a Took?"
"I don't know. But Reggie thought the world of her. He called her Anemone, which was her real name, only no-one ever called her that. I heard them talk in the bed-room, and he said that he did not want to get her with child. 'A lass thus shamed can't expect much from life,' he said. And that he wanted her to be always as happy as the sparrows in the birches. Then he explained to her about the oil and things. That's when I made sure they did not see me and I could hear some more."
"And that's when you learned about the Goldworthy's hazelnut oil, too?"
"No, that was my own thinking." Pippin squeezed him gently and kissed Merry's curls. "They used plain sunflower oil which I would have brought to bed, too, if there was any left in the kitchen. We do have to go into Bucklebury tomorrow and stock up the larder."
Merry nodded slowly. He thought of Anie Twofoot while he traced circles in the smudges of oil on Pippin's belly. "Well, I could never see Reggie as anything but a bachelor. Do you think it's on account of Anie that he never married?"
There was no answer, and Merry raised his head. He felt Pippin's hand move slowly up and down his side, Pippin's hips shifted to meet his touch. Desire returned without warning, a prickling like thorns all over Merry's skin. Pippin looked so young, so much like the lad he had known all his life. It would be so easy to forget all that had happened.
"I think Anie loved him very much," Pippin said softly.
Merry put his hand flat on Pippin's stomach, making him stop the movement of his hips. "Anie's no longer in the service of the Tooks. She left, didn't she?"
"Aye, she went to live someplace else. I don't know where. But I never saw her with any of the young lads. I keep thinking she might have left to not make things worse for her and Reggie. She said a thing that day ..." Pippin halted as if he was trying to recall Anie's words.
"What was it, Pip? What did she say?"
"Oh ... " Pippin gave him a quick, uncertain smile. "She said that even though there were no promises she could make Reggie with roses in her hair, it was still true that he was forever in her heart, and if she could, she'd be with him always."
Merry felt Pippin's eyes on him, the question in them clear as a song, and a need there which had nothing to do with the way their bodies had come together just now. For once tonight Merry knew what to say, and he knew the answer to his words, too. But he was shaking so with a fear that had come from nowhere to fill his chest and throat and leave hardly room for a breath. "This is what you want?" he whispered.
Pippin softly touched Merry's cheek. "This is all I wish for, since Minas Tirith, since we've come home."
Had he ever doubted it? Felt it in his own heart and let it run free so there was no stopping it? What do you see? he had meant to ask the soldier of Gondor who looked with such hopeless wishing towards the Anduin, and Pippin had asked then in his stead: "Where do we go?" The question had filled Merry with such anguish - and such happiness - but his only answer, even then, had been what it still was today: I do not know, but always with you.
Tears burned behind Merry's eyes and he nodded, for he could not trust his voice. One day he would speak aloud, would tell Pippin what his heart was pushing through his blood in steady beats, a wordless joy which seemed to have been with him all his life and yet felt so new and raw, it startled him.
"It will not always be easy, little Took," Merry whispered so softly he could not be sure Pippin heard.
But Pippin's hand moved to his chest and found its place over Merry's heart. It took Merry's breath away, as small a gesture as it was, and like before he felt his heart would falter if Pippin's hand was gone for just a second.
He leaned into Pippin's touch, heavier than he had intended, brought his lips to Pippin's throat and burrowed his face in Pippin's neck, so close that all he felt was Pippin. Pippin kept his hand firmly over Merry's heart until Merry himself took it with trembling fingers. Pippin's hand was warm and sticky. Slowly Merry turned it and with his lips touched the soft skin. Then he saw the blood, and it took him long moments before he understood that it was his own blood that painted Pippin's hand red.
"Blood and heart, you see? It must count for something." There were tears on Pippin's cheeks even though he smiled.
A new life within the old. A life that had no name but all the promise of the taste of apples and the certainty of blood rushing through a great and gentle heart. Yes, their love would count for this - whether Merry's heart burst now, or if on some far-off day his last heartbeat would be held safe in Pippin's hand.
* fin *
(1) Merry's haunting vision of Pippin in Gondorian armour standing on a hillock in Ithilien overlooking the river Anduin recounts a crucial moment in Victoria Bitter's outstanding M/P fanfic Displaced.
(2) The lines "Long now they sleep
under grass in Gondor by the Great River.
Grey now as tears, gleaming silver, ..."
are quoted from the Rohirrim's song of the Mounds of Mundburg honouring the fallen of the Great Battle on the Pelennor Fields, J.R.R. Tolkien, Return of the King, Ch. 6 "Many Partings". The intermingling imagery of the red of sunset and of the red of blood colouring the river takes up the lines of the song which immediately follow the ones I quoted:
"red then it rolled, roaring water:
foam dyed with blood flamed at sunset ..."
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.