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Yule Fictions Past and Present  by Grey Wonderer

Concerning Ladders by Grey Wonderer
This is a little Yule story featuring Merry and Pippin after the Quest...


This one is also posted under "Trust a Brandybuck and a Took" but I had this urge to get all of my Yule fictions together in one place and so I am also posting it here. Once again, you've probably read it but at least I'm organized now.

G.W. 12/18/2006

*****

Written for Marigold's Challenge 11

Thanks to Marigold for a quick touch-up and a beta before posting.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Concerning Ladders"

"How did you get up there?" Merry asked, cupping his hands around his mouth and calling out loudly against the wind.

"I used a ladder," Pippin shouted back.

Merry looked up at the roof of the Crickhollow house and scratched his head. Pippin was sitting on the edge of the roof with his feet dangling over the side. "What ladder?" Merry asked, now scanning the ground in front of him. All he could see was a light dusting of snow disturbed only by a few footprints. No ladder.

"We donít have a ladder, Pip," Merry objected, yelling again.

"I borrowed one," Pippin said.

"From whom?" Merry called up, looking at his cousin in confusion. If Pippin had borrowed a ladder then where was the ladder now? Pippin was on the roof and so one might expect the ladder to be leaning against the house, but there didnít seem to be a ladder. "And if you did borrow one, then where is it?"

"I borrowed it from old Mister Grubb down the way, Merry," Pippin called out. "I donít know where it is now."

"You lost Mister Grubbís ladder?" Merry frowned.

"I hardly think that is the most important part of this, Meriadoc," Pippin sputtered. Merry watched as Pippin wrapped his arms about himself in an effort to get warm. "I canít get down now!"

Merry snorted. "I figured that out all on my own. Serves you right for losing the ladder."

"I didnít lose it! I was up here and it was just gone," Pippin shouted. "I left it leaning against the house and when I came back to climb down, it was gone! That is hardly my fault!" Pippin was either red in the face from the cold or from anger. Merry couldnít decide which at the moment.

"Just get me down. Itís cold up here," Pippin said, shifting a bit on the edge of the roof and causing a bit of snow to drift down onto Merryís head.

"Get back from the edge or youíll fall down on your own, you ridiculous Took," Merry warned, brushing the snow from his hair. "Only you could lose a ladder!"

"Why donít we have a ladder, Merry? If we had one of our own, then I wouldnít have to borrow one," Pippin said, scooting back from the roofís edge.

"I didnít think we needed one," Merry said. "I didnít think we would be climbing about on the roof. I definitely didnít think we would be climbing about on the roof in the snow!" He glared up at Pippin as he said this last, hands on his hips in a gesture that his mother often used when she was angry with someone. "I canít leave you alone for five minutes without coming home to find a disaster in progress."

"It wasnít suppose to be a disaster, Merry," Pippin yelled. "It was supposed to be a surprise."

"It is a surprise," Merry said. "I am very surprised. I should just leave you there. Maybe the next time I go up to the Hall for the afternoon you wonít get into any more trouble."

"Merry, itís cold," Pippin objected. "And this isnít my fault! I had a ladder!"

"Well, I donít!" Merry yelled. "How am I supposed to get you down without a ladder?" Merry looked around as if expecting a ladder to appear but none did. "Well, what do you suggest that I do, Peregrin Took?"

"You could borrow one," Pippin said, a bit meekly.

"Well, I donít suspect that I should ask old Mister Grubb for one, should I?" Merry said, sarcastically. "You know how I hate ladders, Pippin!"

"You donít have to climb it, just get it and lean it against the house," Pippin shouted. "Iíll climb it!"

"Fine, but back up from the edge and try to sit still while I go see if I can find a ladder," Merry said, firmly. "Donít do anything else ridiculous while Iím gone!" Merry turned and stalked off in search of a ladder while Pippin watched his older cousin from the roof, shivering. He couldnít imagine where the ladder had gone. Ladders didnít leave on their own.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

About fifteen minutes later as Merry was walking by the Grubb home, he noticed old Mister Grubb out front sweeping off his stoop. As Merry walked past Mister Grubb called out, "Fine thing to have a neighbor who runs off with your belongings!"

Merry stopped and turned. "Iím sorry? What do you mean, Mister Grubb, sir?" Merry asked.

"I found my ladder up againí your house, Meriadoc Brandybuck not more than two hours ago," Mister Grubb said. "So I guess you might be able to take my meaning on this." He walked out to meet Merry, hands fisted at his sides.

Merryís mouth fell open but he quickly recovered. "I am so sorry about that, Mister Grubb. I assure you that I didnít know anything about it. My cousin Pippin must have helped himself to your ladder. I do apologize." Merry decided that Pippin had got exactly what he deserved in all of this. The sneaky little Took had stolen Mister Grubbís ladder. It looked as it Mister Grubb had taken it back while Pippin was otherwise occupied. Merry would have smiled, but there was Mister Grubb to think of at present. A smile might not be the best thing at the moment.

"So, you had nothingí to do with this?" Mister Grubb said, eyeing Merry intently as if looking for a lie in him.

"No, sir, I most certainly did not," Merry said. "I only came home from the Hall a bit ago and found my cousin up on our roof."

Mister Grubb stood a moment and processed this information and then chuckled. "So the little thief is trapped on the roof now, is he? Well, I didnít know that when I took my ladder but it is an added bonus," Mister Grubb grinned. "Thatíll teach him to take what donít belong to him."

Merry grinned a bit and then said, "It will indeed, but the trouble is, I do need to get him down before he freezes to death. I am afraid that I find myself in need of a ladder." Merry waited to see what the old gentlehobbitís response might be.

"You mean to say that your cousin could use a ladder, donít you?" Mister Grubb said, eyes twinkling from his very round face. There was a touch of something about the old hobbitís expression that Merry didnít care for.

"Well, yes, I guess thatís so," Merry said. "I know that you donít have any reason to do so, Mister Grubb, but could you be so kind as to see your way clear to loan me that ladder of yours?"

"I shouldnít," Mister Grubb said, looking stubborn.

"I know that, sir," Merry said. "I promise to return it to you as soon as Iíve got Pippin off of the roof, or better still, I will have Pippin return it with an apology."

Mister Grubb thought this over for a minute and then answered, "Ladder is in the barn where it belongs, Meriadoc, but I suspect that you can find it well enough. I expect you to keep your word on this. Iíll be wantiní an apology from that cousin yours. The very idea of that sort of behavior here in Buckland and it almost Yule too! Never did trust those Tooks and I see now that I was right in my thinking on that. I hate to think what Buckland will come to if more Ďo them move over here across the water. I think we should post a guard at the bridge and turn any with a drop Ďo Took blood in Ďem away on sight!"

"Iím afraid that I canít agree with you there, sir, as my own mother is a Took," Merry said, straightening. "I might find myself ousted from my own home if you get your way." It seemed that every time he turned around Merry was having to defend his Took relations in some way. Folks in Buckland could be a bit narrow-minded when it came to the subject of Tooks.

Mister Grubb looked a bit embarrassed for having forgotten that Merryís mother was a Took, but he quickly recovered himself and said, "Well, even in a bunch such as the Tooks I suspect that there might be a good one now and again, and you are at least half Brandybuck."

Merry found himself wanting to continue his defense of his mother at least, but he stopped himself. He had no idea how many of his other close neighbors had ladders and he knew that Pippin had been stuck out on the roof for at least three hours now. It was best, though not at all satisfying, to hold his tongue for the present. He didnít want a sick cousin on his hands through the holidays. It was difficult, but he managed to bite back the words heíd wanted to say and instead he smiled, "I am indeed half Brandybuck and very proud of it! So, will you trust me to see to the return of your ladder?"

"I will," Mister Grubb said. "Iíve a thing or two to say to that cousin of yours when he returns it. I wonít have my things taken without my leave. Iíve lived here all of my years and I have earned the right to expect my property to be respected. I wouldnít like to, but I could go to the Master on this."

Merry was very sure that Mister Grubb would go to the Master and he believed that the old coot would enjoy it no matter what he said.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A bit breathless from dragging the ladder back to his house and with a growing anger at Pippin for his actions, Merry finally arrived back home. Between the nasty talk with Mister Grubb and the fact that Pippin had led him to believe that he had borrowed the ladder, Merry was now in a very nasty mood himself.

An unsuspecting Pippin peered down from the roof shivering and smiled. "Thank goodness youíre back," Pippin shouted. "I was beginning to think that youíd left me."

"I thought long and hard about doing just that at several points while getting this ladder," Merry said, stiffly. "Now, I am going to put this against the house and I want you to get down here as quickly as you can, do you hear me?"

"Yes, Iíll gladly be quick," Pippin said, rubbing his gloved hands together. His gloves had the fingers cut out of them to make working easier and they only covered the palms of his hands and up to the first knuckle of each finger. Pippin hated having his fingers completely covered and so naturally his hands were very cold just now. "Iím very tired of being stuck up here. Itís freezing and itís starting to snow again."

Merry hadnít noticed the snow. Heíd been too angry with Pippin and with Mister Grubb to take notice of much else. He leaned the ladder against the roof and held on to the bottom of it for extra safety. It was snowing again. Seems that they would be having a white Yule season this year if this kept up. "Take off those gloves so your hands donít slip!" Merry shouted up to Pippin.

Pippin removed the gloves obediently, stuffed them into his pocket and began to climb down. He was very cold and very damp. He had been sitting on the snowy roof from most of the afternoon. He could only hope that his surprise for Merry was worth the effort. The Yule season was supposed to be filled with surprises and it was so difficult to surprise Merry. He stepped off of the last rung of the ladder and grinned at Merry. "This is Mister Grubbís ladder. Where did you find it?"

Merry had his arms folded over his chest now and he looked quite angry about something so Pippin suspected that there had been trouble over the ladder. "Did someone pinch it?"

Merry was fairly seething now. "Someone?" Merry asked. "You want to know if someone pinched this ladder? "

Pippin nodded, putting his hands underneath his armpits to warm them. He dared not say more as he could see that Merry was extremely angry with someone. He felt sorry for the poor hobbit that had crossed his older cousin.

"I am looking at the hobbit who took this ladder!" Merry shouted and rapped Pippin hard on top of the head. "Are you out of your mind? Do you know I had to endure at least twenty minutes of Mister Grubbís lecturing because of you? I truly did give thought to not coming back here. I am not sure if I trust myself not to hang you, Peregrin Took! How could you take Mister Grubbís ladder without getting permission?" He glared at Pippin daring him to make an excuse this time.

Pippinís eyes were wide and he sounded hurt by the accusation. "Is that what you think that I did? Do you think that I took that ladder without permission?"

"I know you did!" Merry said. "Donít try to squirm your way out of this one, Pippin. I talked to Mister Grubb myself for a good deal longer than I wanted to and he told me exactly what happened."

"He did?" Pippin said, softly.

"He said he came by here and found this ladder leaning against this house and so he took it home with him," Merry said. "He had no idea that you had it! He thinks youíre a thief and I tend to agree with him at this point!"

"So I can see," Pippin said, even softer. He looked down at his feet for a moment but offered no other explanation.

"Well, at least youíve the good sense not to offer me any wild excuses this time," Merry said. "Now, I told Mister Grubb that if he would allow me to use his ladder to rescue you, that you would return it to him. Now you take this ladder back to Mister Grubb and you apologize before he has you up on charges and my father has to render judgment!"

"Fine," Pippin said, putting his wet gloves back on. "Iíll take the ladder back and then Iím going up to the Hall and stay the night. I would hate for you to have to spend the evening with me after my deplorable behavior." Pippin took hold of the ladder and maneuvered it past Merry.

"Fine. But youíve no right to play the injured party this time, Pippin," Merry called after him. "You canít take things without asking and expect others to simply let you by with it."

Pippin didnít answer, but continued on with the ladder. As he got into the road with it, still shivering, he looked back to see Merry going inside. He sighed and looked up at the roof of the little house. Such a wasted effort, but still, it did look festive. He shifted the ladder and began to drag it through the snow toward the Grubbís house. This was not going to be pleasant.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Merry was sat by the fireplace having tea and fuming about the afternoonís events. How could Pippin possibly try to make him out to be the guilty party? He had done nothing except take a dressing down from Mister Grubb that should have been Pippinís. He had done nothing except retrieve the ladder so that Pippin could get off of the roof. He had done nothing except, well, except take Mister Grubbís word for the course of events without asking Pippin what had happened. That last part made him feel a bit sick. He had just accepted Mister Grubbís word, but then again, why would the old hobbit lie?

It was very strange that Pippin hadnít offered his own version of things. Pippin was always willing to do that. Why, a guilty Pippin had a million reasons for his own actions, but Pippin hadnít offered up a single word on the subject of the ladder. Not one word. Merry didnít like the feeling that he was starting to get. Could he have been wrong about this?

Merry shifted in his chair and puffed on his pipe. Why did he feel guilty? Even if he had asked Pippin for his side of things first, the out-come would have been the same. The ladder was Mister Grubbís property. Pippin should not have taken it without asking and that seemed to be what had happened, didnít it?

The knock on the door startled him. He wasnít expecting anyone out in this weather. Pippin had vowed not to return tonight and he had seen his parents earlier in the day. He sighed, in no mood for company, and went to open the door. Maybe Pip had changed his mind and was coming to offer an explanation or at least, an apology.

As he opened the door, the sight that greeted him surprised him. It was Mister Grubb and he had his wife with him. Confused, but feeling the cold air blow into the house, Merry invited them in and shut the door behind them. "You both must be frozen solid. Please come over and warm yourselves by the fire," Merry said. "Iíll put the kettle on and make some more tea." He hoped that this didnít mean that Pippin had not returned the ladder. If he had to take another of Mister Grubbís lectures this evening, then he was likely to say more than was wise.

The Grubbís moved over by the fire and Merry left them to make the tea. From in the kitchen he could hear them muttering to one another. Their voices were low but it was obvious that they were arguing about something. Merry was not looking forward to this visit with the Grubbs. He sighed, tried to remember that everything that he did reflected upon his father who was the Master of Buckland, and took the tea tray in to his most unwelcome guests. It hardly seemed fair that Pippin was to miss this encounter too.

"Please have a seat," Merry said, as he sat the tray on the table and began pouring the tea. "I do hope that the weather isnít as dreadful as it felt when I opened the door."

"It is," Mister Grubb said with a rather nasty look at his wife who returned his glare full force with one of her own. Merry handed her a cup of tea and waited for the lecture to begin.

"Well, go on," Mrs. Grubb said, looking at her husband. "You best get this over with. We have to get home before the weather gets any worse." She glared at him as he sat like a silent lump on one of Merryís chairs with his teacup in hand. "Well, I suppose that you expect me to do all of the explaining!"

"This entire thing is your fault to my way of thinkingí!" Mister Grubb said, loudly. He then looked at Merry. "Some folks think theyíve a right to speak for you when you arenít about."

Merry wasnít sure what his response should be and so he simply extended the sugar bowl in Mister Grubbís direction and cursed his own luck. "Sugar?"

"He donít need any Ďo that," Mrs. Grubb said. "Bad for him at this age. Twill keep him up all night if he has it and me along with him."

Mister Grubb glared at her. "See! Always answering for me! Never marry. If youíre smart youíll stay a bachelor all your life. That is the only way that youíll be able to speak your own mind without others trying to do it for you."

She stiffened. "You just tell him what we come all this way for in this weather, old goat!"

"I still say it was your doiní, you old shrew," Mister Grubb said, then grabbed the sugar bowl from Merryís hand and heaped a liberal amount of it into his tea. He glared at her and drank deeply. "If youíd stick to your own business then this sort ío thing wouldnít happen!"

"Why donít you just explain yourself to Meriadoc and let him be the judge of it all," Mrs. Grubb said. "And Iíll not sit up with you while you canít sleep tonight either!" She pointed angrily at his teacup.

"No one ever asks you to, you old busybody," Mister Grubb said. "You just take it on yourself! Thatís your trouble!"

Merry felt as if he were caught between two charging bulls. They continued to hurl insults at one another for several more minutes before Mister Grubb finally came to the point. By then, Merry was desperately wishing that he could run from his own home and go to Brandy Hall and hide underneath his old bed. There were drawbacks to having your own house.

Mister Grubb cleared his throat and began, "It seems that there may have been a bit of a misunderstanding this afternoon." His wife made a noise that sounded a bit like a snort but he ignored her and continued. "When you came by about the ladder I may have misspoke when I called that Took cousin of yours a thief."

"May have?" Mrs. Grubb said, rolling her eyes.

Mister Grubb put more sugar in a second cup of tea, offered it as a toast to her, and said, "If you want me to tell this then shut your trap for once in your miserable life!"

"Tisí you whoíve made it miserable," she muttered.

"As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted, " Mister Grubb said. "When you came by, I thought that your cousin had stolen that ladder. What I didnít know and I am sure youíll agree, couldnít have known, is that she loaned it to him without my leave!"

Merry felt the air go out of his lungs for a second as he processed this new information. "You mean to say that Pippin didnít take your ladder?"

"Well, of course he did!" Mister Grubb said. "As far as Iím concerned he did just that because he should have known that, as it was my ladder, it was my permission he would be neediní, not this old sowís here!" He pointed to his wife. "That ladder is mine and I say who uses it, not her, so yes, he did take it without my leave. The trouble here is that he had her say on it and being foolish enough to think that she could speak for me, which she canít, he took my ladder!" Mister Grubb was the color of a ripe plum and if Merry hadnít been so upset by what he was hearing, he might have been worried that the old fella was going to drop over dead in the parlor.

"The lad meant no harm," Mrs. Grubb said. "He helped me take in some things from the market which a certain old goat should have been there to do and so when he asked, all charming and polite like, I gave him my leave to borrow the ladder."

"A ladder that isnít hers to lend," Mister Grubb said, standing. "Now, weíve explained. I am going home and if you want a way there other than to walk on your own two feet, youíd best be putting down that teacup and coming along, you old biddy."

Merry was nearly speechless. Nearly. "So, you accused my cousin of being a thief when, in fact, he had permission to take the ladder? You threatened to have him brought before the Master of Buckland when all of the time the truth was that you didnít realize that your wife had loaned the ladder to Pippin? Then you come by and take the ladder and leave him stranded on the roof in the cold!"

"Itís my ladder, not hers!" Mister Grubb returned.

"I am very sure that the Master of Buckland would see it otherwise," Merry said, folding his arms across his chest. "In fact, I suspect that he might have a thing or two to say about a hobbit who would leave another stranded out in the cold on a roof on a day like this!"

"I didnít know he was up there," Mister Grubb said, less sure of himself. "I only wanted to get my property is all."

"You should have checked," Merry said, fiercely. His desire to defend Pippin was becoming very strong especially in light of the guilt that he felt over his own part in all of this. "You donít just take ladders away from a place without checking!"

Mister Grubb nodded. "Well, I suppose you may be right in that."

"He didnít mean no harm," Mrs. Grubb said, softly, putting her arm around her husband and looking at Merry. "It was my fault for not telling him that Iíd loaned the ladder to your cousin."

"You arenít going to the Master on this are you? You wouldnít would you?" Mister Grubb asked, patting his wifeís hand. "Sheíd be scandalized by all of this. Think of the gossip!" He looked at Merry imploringly and then over at his wife. Was this the same hobbit whoíd threatened to make her walk home in the snow just minutes before?

Merry could hardly believe this sudden change in attitude. If asked to guess before this, heíd have told anyone that these two hated one another. Now, he wasnít altogether sure. "I wonít go to the Master, and partly because I know that my father would not take kindly to your words regarding Tooks, Mister Grubb. I found them offensive myself. No, I think this is best left as it is. You and your wife go on home before the storm gets worse. I think weíve settled this."

Mister Grubb bolted out of the door leaving Mrs. Grubb to say their good-byes. "What about the lad? Will he feel the need to speak to the Master about this? He didnít seem the sort when he brought back the ladder, but still, you never know." She was wringing her hands.

"He isnít the sort and I do know that," Merry said. "I am the one that your husband does not want to run afoul of in the future. If he wants to stay out of trouble, then he will not speak unkindly of my cousin or any other Took in my presence. He would be wise not to bother Peregrin Took." Merry gave her a rather stern look and then continued. "You had better leave before he leaves without you."

"Oh, heíd never do such as that," she said with a slight smile. "He only threatens. He isnít that way at all." She walked to the door and then said. "I guess the ladder was for the Yule decorations. Tell the lad that they are lovely." Having said that, she left.

Merry waited until he heard their waggon go and then put on his coat and went out to look up at the roof. There, glinting in the moonlight against the soft background of white snow, were dozens of twinkling brightly colored balls. The balls were hung on tinsel and strung all across the top of the house. They glimmered and reflected in the cold night. They were beautiful. Merry suspected that they would be even more lovely on a clear night with star light bouncing off of them. How could he have missed seeing them before?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Merry came into the kitchen of Brandy Hall and hurried over to warm himself by the fire. Even on his pony, it had been a cold journey through the snow in the night air. He extended his rather numb fingers out toward the fire, grateful for the warmth. He could feel bits of snow melt and drip off of his hair.

From beside of the fire in his favorite rocker, Saradoc said, quietly. "Still snowing out?"

Merry turned and caught sight of his father for the first time since entering the kitchen. "Yes, it is." He slipped off his coat and lay it on another chair and looked at his father. "Is Pippin here?"

"He is," Saradoc said, offering no more.

"I suppose he told you what happened," Merry said, quietly.

"No, but your mum and I know enough about you two to know that thereís been trouble," Saradoc said. "I can tell by looking at you now, even if I hadnít see it in Pippinís eyes earlier."

His mother interrupted them at that moment and walked over, hands on her hips and lips in a tight line. "Itís past time that you got yourself here, Meriadoc. Now, you go on to your room and straighten this mess out so that I can get some rest. I wonít sleep until I know that youíve settled this with your cousin."

"My room?" Merry asked, looking guiltily at his mother. He was far past the age of being sent to his room for his actions.

"I put Pippin in your old room, of course," she said, Tookish accent thick. "Where else would I be puttiní him after he finally warmed up? Poor thing was near froze to death"

"Did he tell you why?" Merry asked.

"Only that heíd been working on the roof of your house most of the day in the cold," Esmeralda said. She softened a bit and then continued. "Whatever you two are fussing over, it has him very upset. He wouldnít give me any explanation."

"Then why are you so sure that Iím at fault?" Merry asked, confused.

"I know you two," Esmeralda said, smiling. "If heís at fault then he comes in here apologizing and tells the entire thing whether I want to hear it or not. If you are to blame, then I canít drag the information out of him. Besides, you have that guilty look in your eyes, my darliní lad. Iíve seen it before. Youíve been beating yourself up over this, havenít you? It would be better for both you and Pippin if you woke him up and spoke your piece."

Merry smiled at her. "I hope that when I have children, I will know what theyíve been up to the way that you do."

"This is a motherís trick," Esmeralda said, gently. "If you marry well enough, then your own dear lass will let you know what the children have been up to. Now, go and see Pippin."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Merry knocked but he didnít wait for an invitation. He entered his old bedroom and sat the candle heíd been carrying on the table next to the bed. Pippin turned over to face him and sat up. He squinted his eyes as he became used to the light. "Why are you here?" Pippin asked, frowning. "Have you come by to accuse me of stealing something else? Did someone you hardly know drop by and tell you that Iíd taken their pony or is something else missing that you can blame me for?"

Merry sat down on the edge of the bed and looked at Pippin. "You have every right to be angry with me. I deserve it."

"You do," Pippin said, softly.

"Will it help you at all to know that I have just spent a very unpleasant evening with the Grubbs?" Merry asked. "Will it help you to know that they had a full-out argument in our parlour with me in the middle? Will it help in any way for you to know that my mum is a bit put out with me for whatever it is that Iíve done to you?"

"Not much, but some," Pippin said, after a minute. He looked down at the blankets and began to trace his finger over the design in the quilt. "You think Iím a thief, donít you?" he said sounding hurt.

"I did think that youíd taken the ladder, Pip," Merry said. "That was my mistake. You used to be quite good at that sort of thing. I know because I taught you most of it." Merry waited a minute and then continued. "Iím very sorry that I didnít ask you what had happened first. I was wrong. I didnít mean to hurt your feelings, Pip, honest."

"You did, though," Pippin said, softly. "I count on you to believe me, Merry, even when no one else will."

Merry could see the hurt in Pippinís eyes and he felt his stomach twist into a knot. "I know that and I know that you have every right to be very angry with me, Pip, but please believe me when I say that Iím sorry. I would take it all back if I could," Merry said, taking one of Pippinís hands in his. "I know better. I know that I can trust you. I will do anything to make this up to you, Pip. Please forgive me."

Pippin looked at him for a moment and then slowly broke into a small smile. "Buy me an extra present for Yule?" His eyes twinkled with mischief. He had already received what he wanted from Merry. The apology was really enough, but he couldnít let Merry know that.

Merry smiled back at him. "Anything you like," Merry said and meant it. He couldnít stand it when he hurt Pippin. "Especially after the lovely thing that you did today."

"What did I do?" Pippin asked, not sure what Merry meant.

"The decorations are beautiful, Pippin," Merry said. "The little house looks almost magical with those decorations on it. The colors remind me of Gandalfís fireworks."

Pippin grinned broadly. "Iím glad you liked them, Merry. I wanted to surprise you and decorate the house for Yule. I know how much the little house means to you. I wanted it to look special."

"Oh, Pippin it does," Merry said. "Itís wonderful!"

Pippin smiled with pleasure at Merry. "Then everything is fine."

Later as Merry stretched out beside of Pippin to go to sleep, he asked, "So Pip, what sort of extra present do you want for Yule?"

Pippin snickered. "Iíd like a ladder of my own, Merry. Oh, and be sure to wrap it. I want to be surprised."

Merry groaned. He should have seen this coming. How did one wrap a ladder?

The End


***Well, that claims to be the end but I got a lovely surprise this evening (12/18/2006) when an LJ friend and a very talented Hobbit author wrote a little something extra for this story. I have her permission to link it here. I think you'll enjoy it. Here is a link to a drabble by Lindelea that she posted to Live Journal. My thanks to her for the drabble and for letting me post this link.*****Enjoy! I certainly did. Thank you, Lindelea!

http://community.livejournal.com/there_n_back/94054.html?view=341606#t341606





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