Yule, 3015

Pippin is 25, Diamond is 20, Merry is 33, Sam is 35 and Frodo is 47.

This wasn’t fair. This was… well, it was damned unfair, that’s what it was. It was unfair and harsh and cruel, and didn’t anyone else see that this sort of thing shouldn’t be allowed to happen to a respectable hobbit? Certainly not the future Thain of the Shire, in any case. This was just bloody insulting, not to mention demeaning, and if Merry thought that he hadn’t seen him smirking as he’d left the smial, he had another thing coming! And as for Frodo…

Pippin’s inner tirade came to a painful halt as a knitting needle jabbed sharply into the small of his back, and he recoiled, yowling with pain.

“Sit still!”

Sweet stars, this was beyond a joke. Gritting his teeth, Pippin raised his eyes to the high heavens, or at least to the roof of Bag End, as if asking it what he’d done to deserve such a fate. The ceiling remained stonily silent. Really, why couldn’t Bilbo have left Sting at Bag End? Jolly good tool for seeing off the Sackville-Bagginses, and besides, it was the perfect shape for running through infuriating hobbit lasses with…

Another knitting needle, this time further down. Pippin let out another yowl and thanked his lucky stars that he’d been standing with his back to the knitter. Drastic measures had to be taken.

“Diamond,” Pippin stated matter-of-factly, “You can’t knit.”

The young lass looked up from the mess of knitting needles, wool, and one small, coal-black cat, now contentedly batting the remaining ball around with one paw, the other one being caught up in Diamond’s knitting wool. The hobbitess had a rather dark scowl on her face, and her eyes glinted in a way that suggested that, should the Took decide to comment on her lack of skill in the area of knitting, he would be in Big Trouble.

“You can’t knit,” Pippin carried on recklessly, “You can’t sew, you can’t crochet, you can’t knit, and apparently you can’t control that kitten of yours.”

Diamond let out an angry little yelp, picking up the kitten gently and placing it on the end of the chair arm, where it sat down and began to wash itself. “I can knit quite well, thank you very much, Pippin,” she snapped haughtily.

“Really?” the young hobbit muttered, squirming from where he stood. A half finished jumper was hanging from his slim frame, dark russet in colour and incredibly bulky. Even Pippin had to agree, it appeared to be a very nice jumper… if he wasn’t being forced to model it while Diamond was still knitting it. “I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to have someone wearing this while you’re knitting it, Diamond.”

“Hush up,” Diamond retorted tartly, tugging ineffectually at a stray strand of wool. “It’s the only way I can keep the shape.”

Pippin winced.

Why had he insisted upon visiting Frodo in time for Yule? And why had he insisted that he and Merry should ride ahead of Uncle Saradoc in order to surprise their cousin? And why, why had he burst into the study just in time to find a newly-arrived Diamond, knitting needles and all, struggling with her latest attempt at creating home-made Yule presents?

This was all just a conspiracy. He realised that now. His dear and darling cousins were sneaky, sly, evil little… orcs! He should have guessed when Merry backed out through the door with that oh-so-sweet smile on his face that he was up to no good. But this… modelling for a lass… this was just… cruel.

“I was thinking of knitting Frodo a jumper,” Diamond explained gravely, winding a strand of wool around her little finger thoughtfully, “You know Sam’s always fussing about him catching cold, and he is right, Frodo could very well get deathly ill, you know how he is about going for long walks without wrapping up properly, and that last time he was so terribly sick, and of course poor Sam was beside himself with worry, after telling Frodo to wrap up warm, and really, what your cousin was thinking, going out in that weather without a jacket, honestly…”

Pippin hurriedly clapped his hand over Diamond’s mouth, “Diamond,” he said sternly, “you worry more than Sam.”

The glare from Diamond’s blue eyes told Pippin quite clearly that, if it was a choice between Sam’s worrying and his own careless attitude, she would side with Sam every time.

“I don’t care what you think,” Pippin snapped, still firmly clasping one hand around Diamond’s mouth. “Between Sam acting like an ever-worrying mother hen, and you fretting fit to burst whenever you visit our cousin and panicking yourself into near hysterics if Frodo stays out on one of those long hiking trips a day too late, it’s a wonder my dear cousin gets any rest in Bag End.”

Diamond glowered at him and, unable to express her irritation at Pippin verbally, stuck her tongue out, causing Pippin to yelp and wipe his hand hurriedly on the knees of his breeches.

“Well,” Diamond said smugly, “I will show you, Peregrin Took, that not only can I knit, I can make the nicest present that Frodo will receive this year. A nice warm jumper, that he can wear all the time and not ever get cold.”

Pippin raised his eyes to the high heavens, “Diamond of Long Cleeve, you are a Took…”

“If only distantly, by marriage,” Diamond interjected.

“If only by marriage,” Pippin repeated, silently thankful that they were not closely related. He did not want to think of himself sharing some of Diamond’s less desirable traits. “And because you are a distant Took, you are stubborn, and I admire your stubbornness. It’s a good trait in a Took, if I do say so myself. And I will admit that you are a great many things, some of them good, and some of them bad, and from the talk of the lads down at the Green Dragon, you can be a good many things when I am not there to keep an eye on you -”

“Hoy!” Diamond exclaimed, her face turning a bright crimson shade. Another knitting needle jabbed down sharply into the tender spot behind Pippin’s knee.

“And all in all, you are a good many things, but one of the things you are not, Diamond dearest,” Pippin winked, “is a knitter.”

Diamond bristled dangerously. “Well, I’ll show you,” she snapped, snatching up the bundle of wool from her lap and leaping to her feet, “I’ll make the best Yule present for Frodo you’ve ever seen! And I will succeed in knitting, let me tell you that, Peregrin Took!” The lass stormed past him, her blue eyes smouldering darkly with irritation. She managed to make it past the door before whirling back and poking Pippin squarely in the chest. “And if you want to live through your tweens, don’t ever call me dearest again.”

Pippin waited until she was down the hall before shouting, “Anything you say, dearest!”

The angry yell and the slam of a door gave Pippin all the satisfaction he needed.


“Ninnyhammer! Noodle! Oh, whatever new name my old Gaffer comes up for me, I’ll deserve it!”

Sam kept berating himself in this fashion all the way up to Bag End. It had been quite a good day until this evening. He had managed to stay out of the way of Masters Merry and Pippin for most of the day (really, they were dear lads, but the mess they had gotten themselves into on their last visit had almost been painful to watch; and as for that mess they’d made of the kitchen… well, what with the honey and the caramel, it had taken a day simply to unstick them), the potted plants had all been safely sheltered, and at the end of the day, Mister Frodo had confided in him about the upcoming Yule Dance at the Green Dragon, where it was well known that any well-bred hobbit lass would be keeping at least one eye on the young Master of Bag End.

“I don’t mean to be any bother, Sam,” Frodo had whispered, his face washed out, and his eyes widened slightly. If Sam hadn’t known his Master better, he would have thought Frodo was joking. “But to be perfectly honest with you, I’m terrified at the merest thought of that blasted dance! And I just know that my cousins are going to try and ‘set me up’ with any number of lasses. It was a sort of tradition in Brandy Hall, and I’m afraid the tradition’s stuck.”

There was a definite flicker of fear in Mister Frodo’s eye. Sam had gifted himself with a small sigh of relief that his brothers were no longer interested in such highjinks.

Sam had flushed with buoyant pride at the thought that the Master had considered him a worthy confidant for his trouble, and had suggested a number of little bolt-holes in the Dragon that he could shelter in.

“And if worst comes to worst, Master,” Sam had replied, “you can always ask one of my sisters to dance. They’re a good deal easier to dance with than some lasses, and our Daisy’s married, May’s engaged to some lad at Bywater, and we all know that our Marigold’s keen on Tom Cotton. So you’re safe there.”

Yes, until tonight, when he had just been rolling over in his sleep and woken up, things had gone brilliantly. Until, ninnyhammer that he was, he remembered that fast-approaching night and the frost that it would bring, along with the chrysanthemums that were not yet sheltered from the cold.

“If the Gaffer looks into Bag End’s garden tomorrow and sees all those lovely flowers frozen up and dead, he’ll flay me alive!” Sam hissed, reaching into his pocket with numbed fingers and taking out the spare key, letting himself silently into Bag End through the kitchen door. “And what Mister Frodo will do if he finds me poking about in the middle of the night, I really don’t know. I know Master Merry and Master Pippin will never let me forget it.”

Shaking his head, he slid the door shut behind him, “Now, I know there’s an old cheesecloth around here somewhere I can use to cover ’em up…”

He turned back and walked three paces through the kitchen before….



With shaking fingers, Sam struck a match and lit the lantern he had taken with him, holding it up and taking a good look at the stranger in the dark.

“Miss Diamond? What are you doing in here, in the middle of the night?”

Diamond looked up from her knitting needles, shielding her eyes from the dim light. Her eyes were half-open, with dark shadows under them, and her hair was straggling down in front of her face.

“I’m knitting – can’t you see, Sam?”

He could – very clearly. He could also see the time on the small clock-face hanging above the mantelpiece. For a moment the urge to back out of the kitchen and leave whatever madness the young North-Took had evidently caught was overwhelming, and then, very warily, he placed the lantern on the table and sat down opposite the lass, “Are you now? And why’s that?”

“Because if I let that blasted Pippin get the better of me I’ll push him into Bywater Pond!”

Ah. He was wondering how long it would be before one of the young masters’ names was mentioned. Sam could feel the beginnings of another one of his Took-induced headaches beginning to pound behind his eyes. And the week had seemed so nice and peaceful up until now…

“What in the name of the Eldar is going on?” Frodo’s ragged voice – always grumpy when woken – came from the hall as the Master of Bag End stomped into the kitchen, dressing-gown wrapped tightly around him. “It’s freezing in here. Sam – Sam, what are you doing here? Never mind, I’ll let you stay here for as long as you like if you get a fire going. I’ll give you your own room if you could make a cup of tea for the three of us.” Frodo shook his head, beginning to light the lamps, “And Diamond, what are you doing? Fully-dressed and not in bed, in the middle of the night! And with knitting needles, no less.”

Sam looked up from the grate, already teasing flames to come to light with the lantern, “She was knitting, Sir.”

Knitting? At two in the morning?”

The gardener nodded, “I’d realised I hadn’t covered the chrysanthemums for the frost,” he mumbled, blushing to the roots of his sandy hair, “And I reckoned there wasn’t much chance in saving ’em, but I remembered, there’s a bit of old cheese cloth here somewhere, so I thought I might be able to cover the flowers a little, and then I came in, and I found poor Miss Diamond, sitting here in the dark, clacking away at those knitting needles of hers.”

Frodo nodded, a little doubtfully. “Sam, I covered the chrysanthemums before you left. I thought you noticed. Don’t look so ashamed of yourself, lad, I suppose hiding from my cousins took up a lot of my concentration.” Sam turned an even deeper shade of red, and began filling the kettle up with water from the pitcher. Frodo smiled at the chance of finding Sam out, and turned to Diamond. “That doesn’t explain why you were knitting at two in the morning though, Diamond-lass.”

Diamond’s face scrunched up tiredly. “I’m proving Pippin wrong.”

“By… knitting?”

“Yes!” Diamond exclaimed, before commenting regretfully, “He said I couldn’t knit.”

Both Frodo and Sam took a doubtful look at the mass of wool at Diamond held. While it was at least holding together, Sam didn’t think it looked like it was taking any particular form.

“I’m… sure he was naught but teasing, Di.” Frodo spoke reassuringly, shooting a panicked look over her little dark head at Sam. A look which quite clearly said ‘What in the name of Elbereth is that?’

“Don’t look at it like that!” Diamond wailed, “And it was going to be your Yule present, Frodo, but now you’ve seen it, I can’t exactly give it to you, can I?”

Frodo patted the sniffling tween on the back, sharing a sympathetic look with Sam. Although loyal to Pippin, Frodo couldn’t exactly say that any chance to prove his young cousin wrong was unappealing. The young Master passed Diamond a cup of tea from Sam and sipped his own, thinking quickly.

“Now, now, lass, give me it here, and we’ll begin again,” Frodo said comfortingly, “You can give me something else for Yule, and I won’t mind. But let’s have a look at this.” He spread it out on the table, Sam peering over his master’s shoulder.

“Well, now, this isn’t too bad,” Sam told the girl bracingly. It was easier than confessing that the half-finished tangle of wool that she held looked like one of those great spider’s webs from out of one of Mister Bilbo’s tales. Come to think of it, if she continued in this way… Sam abruptly shook his head. “You’ll want to make something simple, like a scarf. That’s always easy to make, or so my sister May tells me. If you start out over, and just continue a pattern, you’ll have the finest scarf in all of the Shire.”

Diamond rubbed her eyes mournfully. “Really?”

“Why, Miss Diamond, who’s to say you couldn’t do it?”

Frodo turned to shoot a warm, grateful smile over at his gardener, who flushed with bashful pride again. He really had to start thinking about giving Sam a raise one of these days. Or employ him to start dealing with his various relatives more often.

“Pippin did. He always thinks he’s right. Oh, Frodo, if I make a scarf would it be too much to ask if I could strangle him with it?”

For a moment Frodo’s expression was one of the sorely tempted. She could… well, if it indulged Diamond… no. Paladin could get quite sensitive about things like that, and the Baggins’ legendary hospitality would come under severe doubt if he allowed the future Thain to be throttled… “Maybe next time, Di,” he said comfortingly, smoothing the young lass’s dark curls from her eyes. “When you’re a little older.” Besides, the scarf would probably tear. “I don’t think Cousin Paladin would like it.” Probably wouldn’t even work, with my luck, the dratted lad would come back to haunt me…

“He’d most likely thank me.” Diamond muttered to the ground, addressing the ground with a black scowl.

Maybe, Frodo admitted to himself. Maybe if I asked Sam to hide me until Paladin stopped cursing…

Watching the exchange with a suspiciously blank expression, Sam coughed unobtrusively as a flash of inspiration struck. “What about my sister, May? She can knit anything, probably clothed half of Hobbiton with her ware, and she’d be glad to help. She’ll be visitin’ tomorrow, and if I ask her to show you how, the scarf will be ready in time for Yule.”

Diamond nodded sleepily and smiled. Frodo patted her back again and dragged the lass to her feet, “Now, bed time. You’ll be ready to knit in the morning, alright? Sam, there’s a room here if you don’t want to go back home in this weather. It’s no trouble.”

For a moment the notion of sinking into one of the deep, inviting feather beds at Bag End lulled Sam into a sense of security; but then common sense snapped him out of it. His Gaffer would already be itching to give him a seeing-to over the flower beds; and ‘sides, it wasn’t his place. And even if it wasn’t… the thought of being the new target for the latest prank from a newly arrived Brandybuck and Took was… unnerving, to say the least. Murmuring a hasty farewell, Sam backed out the door and headed for the relative safety, and sanity, of Bagshot Row.


Silence reigned throughout the echoing rooms of Bag End. A warm, comfortable silence, the silence of the contented, peaceful and well-fed. Stretching his arms out behind him in his study, Frodo contemplated the prospect that his cousins had eaten so many sweets that they couldn’t even move, and permitted himself a dry little chuckle. Stuffed to the brim with Sam’s delicious roast chicken – not to mention the four helpings of buttered mushroom soup – he rested heavily in his chair; before smiling and reaching for a well-thumbed copy of elven poetry.

In the main living room, however, a sticky hand reached out for just one more chocolate truffle, and oh please, Merry, I promise I won’t get sick like I did the last time…

“You’ll throw up,” Merry warned darkly. In Frodo’s absence the hobbit had appropriated his cousin’s favourite armchair, and was now nestled comfortably into its contours, legs thrown over one of the arms. A newly wrought pipe was between his fingers, and a considerable amount of smoke was rising from the chair. “Either that or you’ll start getting… energetic again. I don’t want to explain to Frodo why his nice neat hobbit hole’s been wrecked all because of an over-energetic Took.”

Pippin glowered blackly back at Merry and defiantly popped the sweet into his mouth. Ignoring his favourite cousin’s grumble, which sounded suspiciously like ‘stubborn wool-pated Tooks’, he leant his head back against the mountain of cushions he’d constructed for himself and began to fiddle with the Bree-made game that Merry had gifted him with. “Merry, how do you play this game?” Pippin demanded brusquely, corner of his tongue poking out in concentration as he wrestled with the device. “I… I can’t…” It was not often that Tooks could be coerced into being still, and Merry congratulated himself on finding the perfect gift that brought about such a rarity. He deserved a reward, at least… turning his head, he recoiled just in time to feel the full weight of the little gift as it was flung directly into his face. “Oh, bugger!”

“Hoy!” Nursing a forming bruise against his cheekbone, Merry seriously considered the prospect of shoving Pippin into Sam’s toolshed and locking him in there until the gardener found him come spring-time. “You know you should have a bit more patience, Pip,” he rebuked his cousin teasingly. “If you can’t work out a simple puzzle, what shape will Tuckborough be in when you become Thain?”

“Stow it,” the tweenager snapped, but desisted from throwing any more projectiles in Merry’s face. “Better’n Buckland, anyway.” Propping his arms beneath his head, Pippin heaved a self-satisfied sigh, his expression contended – and slowly melting to consternation. “Do you think Sam kept the leftovers of the mushroom soup?”

Not for the first time, Merry considered the possibility that Pippin’s legs were, in fact, little more than hollow tubes that served as extra storage space. “You’re impossible,” he muttered, rolling his grey eyes expressively. Ignoring Pippin’s face-pulling, he turned his head lazily to stare out the frost-laced window. “Pippin, have you seen Diamond at all? Her Ma and Pa went down to the Green Dragon an hour ago, but I don’t suppose she was with them.”

“No. Chances are she’ll still be click-clacking away at those ridiculous knitting needles of hers,” Pippin smirked, shaking his auburn hair out of his eyes. “I told the lass she can’t knit, and she can’t; and I don’t care what she says. I can’t wait to see the look on her face when she realises I’m right.”

Merry smiled fondly at his cousin, muttering something that sounded horribly like, “And you call me competitive.” Tooks, they were all the same; whether they lived in Tuckborough or North Cleeve. He was sure that all Tooks had a little network of messages, simply to swap methods of infuriating all other hobbits out of their minds. It would explain a great deal.

Pippin made an irritated sound from the back of his throat and jumped up, stuffing the last of the sweets in his pocket for further use. “Well, dear cousin, you’ll see. When the poor lass is holding a mass of wool, you’ll see that I was right, and Diamond dearest was wrong.”

Merry stifled a laugh, “Diamond dearest?”

“It’s a name I made up to annoy her.”

Merry ducked his head to hide the ill-concealed smirk on his face.

“And it works,” Pippin carried on, oblivious to Merry’s amusement, “She goes hopping mad whenever I use it.”

“I’m not surprised…”

The young Took turned his head briefly to glower back at his cousin, before wheeling huffily around on his heel, muttering something about ‘always taking her side’ and jamming his fists determinedly into his pockets. Merry merely rolled his eyes indulgently, and allowing his cousin to storm off grumpily. For a moment he considered warning Diamond of Pippin’s ill-temper, and then shrugged. She was a North-Took, after all. She could handle herself.

Knitting indeed! Pippin shook his head disapprovingly as he marched along the corridor, the put-out scowl still on his face. As if no-one else could see that trusting that blasted hobbit-lass with knitting needles was a foolish idea… and the next thing you know it’ll be cooking… Images of Bag End burning down to the ground flooded Pippin’s mind, and he shook his head as if to rid himself of the vision, making a mental note in his head to warn Sam never to allow Diamond into the kitchen. Ever. I’m surprised that she hasn’t killed someone with those knitting needles; they really are more dangerous a weapon in her hands than anything else, and maybe the next time Lotho Sackville-Baggins decided to plague Frodo we could all shove Diamond in his way? Could certainly puncture a lung with those things… and oh sweet stars, she’ll expect me to wear whatever she makes, and of course I can’t refuse, because Frodo will hit me, and what on earth’s wrong with going to the market and buying presents, I should like to know? Maybe if I hid in the cellar until she left, I wouldn’t have to see her for another few months, and by then that kitten of hers will have destroyed it all anyway…


Something wrapped itself around its neck and tugged. Pippin felt the floor disappear from beneath his feet.

“Diamond!” As Pippin landed on the ground with a thud, Frodo stuck his head out from his study, blue eyes sparkling with a mixture of genuine concern and mirth. “What did I say about throttling Pippin?”

Blinking upwards, Pippin scowled as the young lass folded her hands, dark eyes wide and pitiful. Oh, please… surely Frodo wouldn’t be so dense as to fall for… “Sorry, Cousin Frodo.” Oh no, and she was doing the little chin quiver as well! He’d invented that… damn it, he’d damn well perfected that trick, and now here was some half-grown waif of a North-Took, not even a proper Took, batting those big black eyes and quivering the chin for all she was worth, and stealing his trick from under his nose! That was… well, that was plagiarism, that was! His mouth dropped open in indignation as Frodo not only smiled, the small, indulgent smile reserved only for wayward cousins, but winked at her, retreating back into his study.

Oh, well thank-you Frodo, Pippin thought blackly to himself. Thank-you for abandoning me to the mercies of an unstable, ill-tempered, knitting-needle-wielding maniac. Thank-you so very much. I’ll tell the Sackville-Baggins’ exactly where you are the next time they come calling, you see if I don’t; you miserable little traitor.

“Hullo Di,” he grumbled finally, rubbing where the… the whatever had wrapped itself around his neck and nearly throttled him.

“Happy Yule, Cousin.” I am not related to her, I’m not! Noble Took blood doesn’t reside in an irritating little barely-tween, I don’t care what Merry says. “Haven’t you seen? I knitted you a present.”

She – what? Almost tentatively, Pippin reached up to where the whatever-it-was had nearly throttled him, unwinding the mass of wool from around his poor, abused throat until he drew back a long and ragged scarf, blue-green in colour. Several threads of wool were spiralling off from it, and both edges were severely frayed, but even Pippin had to admit: a scarf was a scarf.

“Huh,” he murmured; grudgingly admitting to himself that it was a scarf, and had evidently been knitted, and knitted fairly well. He was going to have to swallow his pride eventually… if not just yet. “I suppose it’s a very nice scarf, Di, as scarves go.”

Diamond was practically levitating off the ground.

“Oh, shut up,” Pippin grumbled, wrapping the scarf back around his neck. “Well; thankyou for my present – cousin,” he added, with a little ingratiating smile that Diamond ignored. The words and thankyou for nearly strangling me with it were only just held back. He was going to be made to pay for this – a lot.

The young hobbit lass threw a charming smile back at him, neatly side-stepping around Pippin to head off for the pantry. “You’re welcome, Pippin. I expect to see you wear it all the time, you understand?”

“Certainly…” came the grumbled reply as she disappeared from sight, and Pippin gave another irritable tug to the scarf. I’ll give it away as a mathom on my next birthday, he decided stubbornly. To Frodo, and he’ll probably lose it. That’ll show her… Turning around, intent on sneaking the leftovers of that mushroom soup, Pippin nearly jumped out of his skin as he saw Frodo and Merry leaning out of the respective rooms they had been seated in; little dry, knowing smiles on their faces.

He didn’t like this. He didn’t like the look of this one bit.

“What?” he demanded defensively, folding his arms.

Merry’s grin only grew broader, turning into a smug, self-satisfied smirk. “That was very sweet of Diamond, Pip. Very kind of her that she should take the time and effort to make you your very own Yule present.”

“I suppose…”

“Why, that’s the first Yule present that a lass has made you, isn’t it? Certainly the first lass that hasn’t been your sister, or any immediate relative. Oh; your parents will be so happy.”

Pippin’s mouth abruptly dropped open, his jaw coming very close to unhinging, eyes near to popping out of their sockets. Even the sight of Frodo abruptly stifling a chuckle did little to calm his nerves. The rotten little… he wouldn’t

“Frodo, do you have any writing paper in there? I want to write Uncle Pal and Aunt Tina… they’ll be overjoyed, Aunt Tina’s been wanting a particular lass to catch Pippin’s eye for months now…”

He would. That horrible, sneaky, treacherous, sly… half-Took! Aware that he hadn’t managed to breathe for quite a few moments now, and his lungs would be in dire need of the air, Pippin took in several deep, gulping breaths, before glowering warningly at his charming cousin. “You dare…” he growled blackly. “You… Meriadoc Brandybuck, you even dare put quill to parchment, and I’ll… I’ll…”

“Lads, enough.” Putting a hand out to prevent Pippin from disposing of the Future Master of Buckland in the most violent of manners, Frodo smoothly wiped the smile from his own face, patting his young cousin on the shoulder. “Merry, there’s no need to tease; and Pippin, you deserve it. If you hadn’t kept needling Diamond about her knitting skills then none of this would have happened. You could have just accepted that she might be right about something; but you had to continue, stubborn as you are.”

Itching to smack the grin right off Merry’s face, Pippin folded his arms huffily. “You should thank me,” he grumbled. “You didn’t see it, Frodo. Diamond was prepared to drown you in a lake of wool masquerading as a jumper.”

Frodo’s lips nearly twitched. “I’ll take your word for it, Pip. Nevertheless, it was very kind of Diamond to make the scarf for you,” tongue in cheek there, “and you should be grateful. I expect you to wear your new scarf all through this winter.”

“Yes, Frodo.” Darkly considering rebellion, and settling instead to kick Merry solidly in the kneecap, Pippin let his shoulders rise and fall. Stubborn… that lass is just as stubborn as I am, or she wouldn’t have tried to prove me wrong. I’ll keep it for this year, and then see if I can’t burn it with the first bonfire that’s lit come the autumn…

“Hoy! Peregrin Took, where’s my present then?”

That is if I last the autumn… Pippin corrected himself grimly.


January 3119

Huddling into his thick, fur-lined cloak, Boromir peered over the hemline to where he could just see three of the four Halflings – or hobbits, as he was beginning to remember them – curled up together, the snow pushed up away from them until it reminded him of a birds’ nest. Frodo, the Ringbearer, distinguishable by his dark locks, had one arm slung around his youngest cousin, Peregrin; and on the other side was Samwise, small body braced against Pippin’s other side but his head tilted upwards, indicating where he had been carefully watching his master before falling asleep. Boromir grunted with reluctant humour and affection, before wriggling deeper into his cloak, batting away the falling snow.

“We’d have loved this in the Shire,” came a voice from behind him, and Boromir turned to see the fourth hobbit on watch, his collar flicked up around his neck, “but right now it’s little more than a damned nuisance. Can’t you sleep, Boromir?”

The man smiled broadly, grateful for the distraction, and nudged up enough for Merry to sit down. “Not yet. I am used to the snows, but not quite so used to sleeping amidst it yet.” The hobbit chuckled, and Boromir shook his head. “If I had known I would certainly have brought thicker cloaks than these.”

Merry nodded in grave appreciation. “I’m sure Sam’s already kicking himself for not packing in as many warm layers as he can. Still, he can’t be blamed – none of us were prepared.”

Boromir quirked a wry glance over at Merry, before nodding down to where the youngest hobbit was turning over in his sleep, throwing out a hand which caught Sam right in the face. Both companions winced, before Boromir glanced down to where a scarf was still wrapped around Pippin’s neck. “But your young cousin seems more prepared than any of you,” he remarked dryly. “Indeed, I haven’t seen him without it since the day we’ve met each other.”

The hobbit’s brows rose, and then a small, inexplicable smirk passed over his lips. “Oh. Oh, that. No; that’s not Pippin being prepared at all.”

“Then what is it?”

For one brief moment, Boromir was sure that a flicker of tenderness rippled through Merry’s grey eyes. “Proof,” he said, lips twitching. “Proof of the utter stubbornness of Tooks.”

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