A/N: This story is a little different than my others. Okay, a lot different. This story is Pre-Fellowship, and, well...it's about two years before Bilbo leaves, so if you can figure out the hobbit ages for me I would appreciate it.

Disclaimer: I don't own the characters, J.R.R. Tolkien does. I am simply writing this to sharpen my writing skills and give myself more Lord of the Rings stuff to read, as I've read the books three times and things are getting a little monotonous. So we add more stuff ^_^.

Summery: Even the Shire has its prejudice, as young hobbits learn. Brandybucks are different from their Shire cousins, everyone knows that, and it's best for young hobbits to stay away from them. A tale of Merry and Pippin friendship like you've never read before!

Rusta Iira (Broken Eternity)

Chapter 1: Hate hurts

"Frodo, the door!" Bilbo yelled from his study, but the young hobbit was all ready on his way to answer it.
"Coming, half a minute!" That type of knocking meant one of three things. Either Pippin was at the door, Merry was at the door, or both of them where. Everyone else in the Shire (with the exception of Lobelia Sackville-Baggins, who yelled as well as knocked) would knock once politely every two minutes or so instead of a constant loud tap tap. Frodo laid his hand on the smooth knob, turned it, and pulled the green door inward.
"Pippin, how many times have I told you..." Frodo's reprimand died on his lips as he took in the entire scene in front of him, instead of just his young cousin's face. Pippin was standing in front, his hazel eyes wide and confused. Leaning on his shoulders behind him, was Merry. Merry looked very much like he'd single handedly tried to stop a rampaging pony. His left arm was hanging uselessly at his side, while the other rested on Pippin's shoulder for support. One eye was beginning to swell, already turning a nasty greenish color, and he was covered head to foot in mud, dust, and dried blood.
"Merry! What happened?"
"Tell you..." the boy wheezed, wincing every time he spoke or even breathed, "inside..." Frodo simply nodded, and bent slightly so that Merry could lean on him instead of the unsteady Pippin.
"Run down the hall now Pip, like a good lad, and fetch Uncle Bilbo. Then run round back and see if you can find Samwise the gardener." Dark curls bobbed and small bare feet scampered, and soon the young hobbit was out of site. Frodo led his limping cousin into the kitchen, and sat him down in a chair by the fire.
"Now, Meriadoc, what happened?" He asked, as he placed the ever-full water kettle on the fire to warm it.
"Ted." Merry grunted, as if that would explain everything. Frodo looked at him, blue eyes showing obvious curiosity and disapproval.
"Ted as in Ted Sandyman, the millers son? Where you fighting with him? Merry you know better than too..." Merry gave him the fiercest look he could with a half swollen face.
"He attacked me...Frodo...I didn't...throw...a...punch..." each word was draining Merry of what little energy he seemed to have, but his eyes showed that he thought this was clearly important for him to understand. "He...beat me...and...no one...stopped...'cause I'm...a...Brandybuck." Having said that, he laid his head back and panted, so he didn't see Frodo's face drain of color and light eyes widen as he finished.
"Oh Merry." Was all he could find to say, as Bilbo came in, panting.
"What's going on Frodo-lad?" He looked over toward Merry, who was staring evenly back at him. "Leaping Dragons! Meriadoc you are a mess!"
"Ted Sandyman beat him, Uncle. Because of his surname." There was a hint of anger in Frodo's voice about the last statement, and his eyes darkened. He, being half Brandybuck himself, could not understand what a name had to do with anything. He was well liked enough, but had his name been that of his mother and not his father he believed it would be otherwise.
"And no one stopped to help him?" Bilbo asked, aghast. "It must have been in the middle of the market in town, for you to get here when you did if I judge your cuts right."
"It was..." Merry assented painfully, "and no one...batted...an eye...though they did...a lot of head turning." Bilbo became red faced and sputtering.
"Surly someone must have...perhaps they thought you were only playing?" Merry narrowed his eyes at Bilbo's determination to defend the Hobbiton hobbits.
"Not with what...he was yellin'..." Bilbo was about to ask the boy to expand upon this statement, but wisely stopped when Pippin came rushing in followed closely by Sam.
"How is he Frodo?" Pippin asked eagerly, rushing to his cousin's side. Frodo, unwilling to admit they had not even begun to check him over, gave the small hobbit a reassuring smile.
"I'm sure he'll be fine Pip, but I need Sam to check him over to be sure." The hobbit in question was all ready almost finished inspected the battered Brandybuck.
"That bruise'll be nasty and sore for a few days, Mister Merry, and you need bandages on some of those cuts. An' you've bruised up some of your ribs, that's why you can' breath rightly, but nothing lasting." The Gardner told his patient wisely. His mother had been a healer, and he knew the trade well for he'd helped her with many a patient when he was small. Merry nodded painfully. Frodo gave Sam some bandages and a soft rag soaked in the warm water to wash the worst wounds, before dumping the rest in a tub for Merry to wash himself in.
"You need to relax now Mister Merry," Sam said gently, as Frodo worked to delicately remove his cousin's outer wear. "Don' fight against Mister Frodo, it'll only make it hurt more."
"Can't I...do this in...private?" Merry groaned, his own modesty taking over the want of his aching muscles to feel the warm water. Frodo gave him a small smile.
"What if it's just me Merry? Would that be better?" Merry nodded, and Frodo shooed the rest out of the kitchen. When all three where safely outside, and the door shut tight, Pippin turned to the older hobbits who where discussing something in whispers.
"Uncle Bilbo?" The young child asked, cocking his head to one side. The wizened hobbit looked down at the innocent young eyes with a small smile.
"Yes, little one?"
"What's a whore?" Sam's eyes widened as Bilbo's eyes narrowed.
"Where'd you hear a word like that, Peregrin?" The young hobbit turned innocent eye to Bilbo.
"Don't be mad at me Uncle Bilbo! Ted called Merry something that I didn't understand that made everyone gasp. It made Merry awfully upset, he was clenching his fists and everything, but told me to just ignore him. Then he asked me, in a real loud voice, if I liked being the Brandybuck's little whore, and Merry whirled around and screamed at him to take that back. So I wanted to know what a whore was." Sam's face had gone white, and his eyes were flashing with anger.
"That Ted Sandyman's got some nerve! He shouldn' be..." Bilbo gave him a look, and Sam quickly fell silent.
"Don't you worry your little head about it Pippin, love. It's nothing to be worried about, and it's not true." Pippin nodded, with the most solemn face he could muster.
"Yes uncle Bilbo."

Inside the kitchen, Merry had been telling Frodo the same story, the warm water having eased his breathing.
"And then he yells, for the whole of Hobbiton to hear, 'Oi, Pippin! Do you enjoy being the Brandybuck's little whore?' Luckily, Pip has no idea what that means." Frodo's eyes narrowed with anger at the though of anyone saying something like that about his innocent little cousin. "So I whirled around and yelled at him to take it back that instant. I couldn't let him insult Pip. So he just grins and mutters something I didn't catch, but I knew it wasn't an apology. So I told him that he better take it back before I made him, and he tackled me. And I knew you'd be mad at me if I fought, Frodo, so I let him beat me around good, though I made sure he didn't get to Pippin no matter how he tried. He might have gotten smacked by my fists a few times as I tried to push him off, but I never actually hit him."
"Well Merry," Frodo said, handing him a soft towel, "next time anyone says something like that about you or Pippin, you now have my permission to place them back in line." Merry gave him a heart felt grin, and took the towel from Frodo.
"Don't worry Frodo, I will."