Newly corrected. Evidently I had A LOT of typos! My bad!

Disclaimer: Sadly, I don't own any of the Fellowship, but I did happen to steal Legolas' virtue, and there is a mysterious Ranger-shaped sack that keeps trying to get out of my closet. I own a large chunk of Middle Earth where I plan on building my summer home, and I've been accused of four Hobbit-knappings in the past week alone

This takes place about a week or so before the Fellowship reaches Hollin. For all of you Tolkien purists, *sticks out tongue* it's my fic, so I can do what I want with the characters.

Please R &R!! I can take constructive criticism!

** denotes thought

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His feet ached. He couldn't remember the last time they hurt so badly. It had been three hours at least since Gandalf had last called a halt, and they had been marching for hours before that.

*It wouldn't be so bad*, Pippin thought, *If Gandalf or Aragorn knew that in order for something to qualify as a path, it must be somewhat capable of being traveled*. The road was getting steadily harder as they got nearer to Hollin, and more than anything, Pippin was getting irritated with the so-called "paths" that Gandalf and Strider were leading them on. Since they traveled by night for secrecy purposes, Pippin couldn't always make out obstacles such as large rocks or tree stumps that he came across. the hobbit's only consolation was that Merry seemed to be having as much trouble as he was.

"When do you think Gandalf's going to give us a rest?" the young Took whispered to his older cousin.

Surprised by the sudden voice in his ear, the curly haired hobbit jumped just in time to catch his broad foot on a knurled tree root and fall flat on his face. Pippin would have laughed, had he the energy to escape the definite onslaught that it would provoke from the older hobbit, but tired as he was, Pippin settled instead for giving Merry a hand up. He heard hushed whispers coming from the back of the company where Aragorn and Legolas currently brought up the rearguard, resulting in a weather-beaten Aragorn overtaking the two stumbling hobbits on his way to join Gandalf at the head of the company.

"Dawn will be approaching soon," Aragorn said, "perhaps we should find a place to camp for the day."

Preparing to argue the fact that dawn was about and hour away, Gandalf turned, but stopped short when he saw the state that the two youngest members of their Company were in. Gandalf looked thoughtful for a moment, while he silently surveyed his fellow travelers. Hearing the possibility of rest to come, the Company began to make its way to where Aragorn and Gandalf currently stood. Merry, looking thoroughly miffed, was dusting himself off with the help of a weary, yet amused looking Pippin. To all eyes, save Gandalfs perhaps, Gimli looked as though he could go on for another few hours, though the wizard noticed that the dwarf was leaning heavily on his axe. Frodo was breathing rather hard and had plopped down at the feet of Sam, who was leaning on Bill for support, whispering something into the pony's ear. There was a slight sheen of sweat on

Boromir's forehead and his breath was coming more rapidly than he would have like for Gandalf to have noticed. The nights march was really telling on everyone-- everyone, that is, except for Legolas. The elf looked for all the world as though he had just had a long, refreshing night of sleep, and he raised his eyebrows expectantly and gave a slight smile when Gandalf met his gaze. The wizard frowned inwardly.

"Do you know of a safe place that we might make camp for the day, Aragorn?" he said at length. Aragorn looked off to the side as though trying to remember the landscape.

"If my memory is correct--" he began.

"Let's hope it is, or we're all doomed," Merry muttered grumpily under his breath. He completely missed the steely glare Gandalf sent him, as the muffled laughter coming from Legolas had caught his attention.

"If my memory is correct," he said again, turning his gaze from Merry back to Gandalf, "then there should be a small clearing about a quarter of an hours march from our current location."

"You shall lead us to it then, " Gandalf replied, and all four hobbits uttered a sigh of relief.

Aragorn started off again into the wilderness, followed not to closely by Gandalf. After Gandalf came Frodo and Sam leading Bill, then came the sullen looking Boromir followed by the ever disgruntled looking Gimli. Behind him, Merry and Pippin came fumbling along, and at the very back of the Company, Legolas looking intently at the trees on either side of them.

In this manner, they arrived at the small clearing that Aragorn had described as the first pre-dawn light touched the topmost leaves of the surrounding trees. Merry and Pippin flopped down onto the ground immediately and began the construction of the mound of cloaks and blankets that they, Sam and Frodo had called a bed. As the rest of the Fellowship spread out and began to claim spots to lay out their own beds, Frodo and Sam contributed their own cloaks and blankets to Merry and Pippins pile and headed towards the center of the little clearing to begin preparations for the morning meal.

"Legolas, your keen elven eyes see farthest and clearest in this dim light..." Aragorn mused.

Legolas raised a suspicious eyebrow.

"Could you backtrack to where we left the path and scout around to make sure we can not be followed?"

Legolas' suspicions were confirmed. It was a legitimate request on the Rangers behalf, but most of the Fellowship, Legolas included, saw the true reasoning behind it. It was to keep the Elf and the Dwarf separated during the time when camp was being set up, as that was the time period when they usually chose to begin one of their endless verbal sparring matches. Of course, this was only prolonging the inevitable, as an argument would most likely break out as soon as Legolas returned.

A look of insult only another elf could have caught flashed across Legolas' eyes. *Is the dwarf so much a child that I must be sent away so that he can keep his foolish tongue in check?* Legolas thought irritably. "Of course," he said, answering both his and Aragorns questions. With that he turned and disappeared into the trees so quickly that Merry blinked and rubbed his eyes, not even sure if the elf had really been there to begin with.

When Aragorn had finished making his own bed, he headed off to the edge of the camp opposite Merry and Pippin where Gandalf had spread out his cloak. They began immediately to talk in hin hushed voices as if resuming an unfinished discussion. Once Pippin decided that this was of no immediate concern to himself, he turned back to what he was doing before Aragorn had attracted his attention: pestering Merry.

"You know Merry, I've been thinking..."

"Did it hurt?" Merry snapped. He had been thoroughly annoyed with his younger cousin since Pippin had caused him to take an involuntary dive into the dirt.

"No," Pippin said matter of factly. Then, apparently continuing on with his original thought, "Last night when Gandalf stopped Legolas and Gimli from arguing, Legolas said something in Elvish, probably an insult, and Gandalf didn't look too pleased-- hey, wait up!"

Merry had begun to walk towards Frodo and Sam in an attempt to rid himself of his younger cousin. Pippin didn't take the hint.

"And anyway, Elves have been at odds with Dwarves for thousands of years, so if it was an insult, it must have been good--"

Merry was now purposefully ignoring his cousin, though Gimli, who had been tending the little campfire, made a decisive snort and pointedly walked back to his own cloak and lay down.

"--and I was wondering if you thought if Legolas would mind teaching me some of those Elvish insults--"

Merry looked up to see Boromir quickly turn away, a bemused look on his face. *Wonderful, no Boromir thinks hobbits are complete idiots*, Merry thought bitterly, the beginnings of a migraine starting at his temples.

"--so then, if Pearl or Pervinca are mean to me, they won't even know if I'm insulting them--"

Merry was now trying to decide if Pippin was born with very little tact, or none at all.

"--and that way, my Da couldn't get mad at me--"

"PIPPIN! I am not in the mood, will you GET LOST?!" Merry yelled in his frustration.

A twinge of guilt crept over him at seeing the hurt in hid little cousin's eyes, but it was replaced by relief when Pippin said. "Fine!" and stomped back to the sleeping mound at the edge of the clearing.

An odd silence followed, and Merry realized that everyone was staring at him. He cleared his throat and suddenly became very interested in the fire. Gradually, everyone turned back to what they were doing: Frodo and Sam began once again to rummage through food packs, Gimli lay back down, Boromir began shining his shield, and Aragorn and Gandalf took up their conversation once more.

*Finally*, Merry thought as he stared into the flames, and he breathed a small sigh of relief.

********

Legolas had been feeling rather insulted that Aragorn chose to make him leave rather than the Dwarf. *Of course*, he thought somewhat disdainfully as he made his way through the trees, *if Estel had sent the Dwarf out here, he would most likely make more tracks than he was trying to cover up*. He paused as a squirrel crossed the trail he was following back to where they had left the path. *I am a WoodElf*, he told himself, *I can't have that confounded dwarf distracting me from that task at hand*. He silently scolded himself for not paying more attention to what he was doing, and took off again, leaping silently from branch to branch.

It didn't take long for him to find his way back to where they had left that path. He neither saw nor felt the presence of unfriendly eyes, and he gave a small chuckle when he found the exact spot where Merry had hit the dirt. He dropped to the ground with catlike grace and began to cover it up. He tried to focus on what he was doing, but the prince's mind kept wandering back to the previous day when , because of interference from Gandalf, the Dwarf had gotten the last word. *What was it that he said? Ah yes, he said that Elves wouldn't know quality craftsmanship from a hole in the ground*. The elf prince had been about to reply that Dwarven craftsmanship was no better than a hole in the ground, when Gandalf had interjected that warriors did not act like such children. Legolas was a warrior, and nearly 3000 years old to boot. It was the Dwarf who was a child, not he. *We shall see who has the last word, Dwarf*. Retribution on behalf of his honor must be both swift and satisfying, and Legolas spent the short trip back to camp envisioning a frantic, now beardless Dwarf running through the woods.

He arrived at the clearing in silence, and no one seemed to notice that he had returned. He surveyed the little camp area and was slightly confused by what he saw. Aragorn, realizing that the Elf had returned, met his gaze. Legolas drew his eyebrows together and frowned when he made eye contact.

"What's wrong, Legolas? What did you find?" he asked, the note of worry in his voice catching the attention of all those present.

"It is not what I have found, so much as something we seem to have...lost," he replied quizzically. Now it was Aragorns turn to be confused, and he was silent as he sent Legolas a questioning gaze. He didn't currently have the patience for Elvish word games.

Legolas looked around the camp for emphasis and said at length, "Where is our young Master Peregrin?"

A small gasp escaped Merry's mouth as everyone began to visually inspect the camp from where they were standing. Merry ran over to the pile of cloaks where he saw Pippin last and frantically began to tear it apart. His jaw dropped and he stared off into space when he came to the realization that Legolas had been correct. Pippin was gone.

*********

TBC...

Teah: Oh no, not Pippin!! He's my favorite Hobbit!

Frodo: Well what about me?! I thought I was your favorite Hobbit!

Teah: No, you're just short eye candy. *see's Sam brandishing a saucepan* That's my story, and I'm sticking to it! Now back in the cupboard!

Sam: *see's Teah brandishing a whip* run Mr. Frodo!

There may be a slight delay while I attempt to round up some escapees.