Favorite Time of Year

Note: Birthday mathom for , who wanted a new year's celebration, and for , who wanted curls. 🙂 I'm not sure if Yule was the end of a year in Shire Reckoning, but for convenience sake, let's assume that it's the same as ours…

The Change of Years in the Shire was Pippin's favorite time of year. Right after summer, that is, with its hot, sunny days spend lying beside the Brandywine. And after harvest, with its sweet, stolen apples. And spring, with the birds returning from warmer climates.

So maybe Pippin didn't have a favorite time of year – but Yuletide was special anyway. It meant days and days of celebrations even after the two days of Yule, party invitations for pretty much every day for two weeks straight, and many, many presents to be opened. Sometimes it had its advantages to be the youngest child and only male heir of the Thain, because there was hardly a time of year that Pippin was coddled more, with the possible exception of his birthday.

But the Change of Years had the decided advantage that Merry was guaranteed to be there, too, because Esmeralda Brandybuck always visited her brother directly after the Yule celebrations in Brandyhall were over. The day the Master of Buckland arrived with his family, Pippin never failed to wait around the Great Hall all day, to make sure that he could whisk his Merry away the moment he set foot into the door. He barely paused to greet his aunt and uncle and receive his gifts.

Merry always brought him a gift, too, and Pippin secretly thought that Merry's presents were the best ever, although he clearly couldn't tell his relatives that. No one knew him as well as Merry, after all, who was not only his cousin but also Pippin's bestest friend in the whole wide world. He did not quite know yet how he would explain this to his mother, but one day, when Pippin was grown up, he wanted to live with Merry all the time and never be separated from him again.

For the time being, though, Pippin was content to show Merry all the decorations everywhere and tell him everything that had happened since they had seen each other last. It was so exciting to have Merry there, he hardly even thought of the mysterious package that Merry was carrying until they reached Pippin's room and closed the door to any nosy relatives.

Then Pippin jumped onto the bed and pulled Merry with him to rest for a while.

"So, Merry-mine, what did you bring me this year?" Pippin asked, curling himself around the older lad the way he always did. He just seemed to fit into Merry's arms naturally, always had, as long he could remember.

"Can't you wait for the big party? Just this once? You're the most impatient hobbit I know, Peregrin Took!" But Merry was smiling, that special warm smile he only ever gave Pippin, and ruffled Pippin's curls. Pippin didn't know why Merry was forever playing with his hair – it wasn't anything special, after all most hobbits had curly hair – but he wasn't about to complain.

Any touch of Merry's was a good touch; it made Pippin want to close his eyes and start purring like a kitten. Except sometimes, when Merry's touch made him feel warm and tingly all over his body, in a way that was strange but also very nice. One day he would tell Merry about it and ask him if Pippin's touch made him tingle too, sometimes…

But right now, he had more important things on his mind: "No, of course I cannot wait. You've been dangling it in front of me all the time when I was showing you around, and I didn't ask about it once. You know I want it now, not at the party – that's a whole night and another day!"

Merry laughed and relented, as Pippin had known he would: "Very well then, Pip – but first I need a wide basin or something of the sort, which we can fill with water."

Intrigued, Pippin raced all the way to the kitchen as fast as he could, only stopping to pick up a couple of cookies Cook, who mistrusted Pippin but had a weak spot for Merry, had laid out for them.

Back in his room, Pippin had to promise not to peek while Merry went about some more mysterious preparations. Pippin heard water sloshing and almost couldn't resist the temptation to sneak a look – but he fought down the burning curiosity and managed to stay strong until Merry told him to open his eyes.

Pippin laughed with pleasure as he saw what Merry had made him: The basin had been turned into a lake, with miniature trees lining its shores. There were seven small wooden swans swimming in the water, each of them carrying a small candle – and on the moss that represented the grassy banks of the lake Pippin saw two small hobbit figures, sitting side by side. One of them had his feet dangling in the water, next to a little boat, and the other was holding a picnic basket in one hand and a red apple in the other.

"Oh Merry – that's us! Last summer, when we saw the swans and didn't dare going out on the boat for fear they would attack us! And you made it, for me!"

Pippin could hardly stop himself from squealing with joy – instead he threw both arms around Merry and hugged him tight. This was the best present ever, and Merry was the best hobbit alive, something Pippin told his friend over and over, babbling excitedly as he took turns admiring his gift and embracing Merry again and again. Finally he calmed down a bit and they sat down on the bed again, both facing the marvelous present.

"That was a good day, wasn't it, Pip?" Merry asked with a smile, and Pippin wholeheartedly agreed, settling down with his head in Merry's lap.

Dusk crept into Pippin's room, and Merry leaned forward to light the candles the swans were carrying, not without reminding Pippin to never do this when he was alone. Pippin couldn't help but giggle at the seriousness in Merry's voice, because Merry's handsome face was still red with laughter and joy over Pippin's pleasure.

But then Merry's hand crept into his hair and started playing with his curls again, a tender smile on his face, and Pippin fell silent. Yes, the Change of Years might just be his favorite time of year after all…

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