"Pippin!" called a sweet, high pitched voice from one of the high branches of the apple tree. The green leaves near the top of the great tree started to rustle, as six year old Diamond climbed back down the tree.

Pippin, who was standing at the bottom of the tree, smiled widely. He was very fond of the little girl; sometimes he thought he liked her company more than the older boys (excluding his dear cousin Merry, of course). She could always make him smile with her sweet, naive sense of humor, and she never once objected to helping him borrow crops from Farmer Maggot.

Once, Merry had suggested that one day Pippin would marry her. He had not spoken to Merry for three weeks after that. Regardless of how friendly Diamond was, she was still a girl, and everyone knew girls were "icky". Besides, if they got married, he'd have to kiss her and stuff, and kissing was something only parents did.

"Pippin!" she cried again, jumping off the lowest branch of the tree and running towards him. She came to a sudden stop not a foot away from him, and looked up at him proudly. She had to look very far up, or at least it seemed that way to her.

"You grew!" she said, stomping her foot and pouting in mock upset. When she heard him chuckling, she smiled widely and knew her performance had been welcome.

"That's what big hobbits like me do," he explained.

She studied him for a moment, and then said: "Now you'll be too big to hide from Farmer Maggot. Oh well, you'll just have to learn to run faster. Maybe you can be quicker than Merry one day!" she was silent for a minute as she considered the possibility of anyone running faster than Merry. It seemed to her that he ran faster than light, and could circle the earth twice before the sun could do it once. No, it was defiantly not possible to run faster than Merry.

"Guess what?!" she said suddenly, in a voice that told Pippin she was very excited about her news. He smiled again and confessed that he didn't know. "I lost a tooth!" she said, smiling so that all of her teeth were visible. Sure enough, there was a gap where one of her front teeth had been. She stuck her tongue through it proudly. "I'm growing up too! One day, I'll be as big as you!"

"I don't think so!" said Pippin, in a lighthearted voice. "I'll always be bigger than you, Diamond of Long Cleave."

"Nuh-uh! My mother is the same height as my father! All her brothers and sisters are the same height! Admit the truth, Peregrin Took! I'll be as tall as you, one day, and then you shall not have anyone small enough to get the good mushrooms right by Farmer Maggots house."

"Perhaps you will not be small enough to crawl passed the windows unnoticed, but that doesn't mean you'll be as big as me."

"How much shall we bet on it?" she asked suddenly. Pippin thought about that for a minute. Usually they bet things like a bag of the best mushrooms, or sometimes a days luncheon (which was sorely missed when it was lost). But he didn't want to bet something simple like that. He wanted to bet something that would make her squeal and pout, so that she would regret ever challenging him.

"Alright," he said, thinking of something he thought was a rather good idea. "If I'm still bigger than you halfway through my 27th year, you have to marry me." He knew she wouldn't take it seriously, and he didn't want her to. Girls were slimy, after all.

She screeched and squealed, just as he expected her to. "Eww, Pippin!" she said through her cries.

"I thought you were confident that you would be as big as me by then," he said, amused by her behavior.

"I am!" she yelled. "But just in case. . .ewwww!" she went on like that for the rest of the afternoon, as they raided the crops together. Her squeals almost got them caught, but a fallen tree made a nice hiding place.

After a hard day of borrowing, they walked down the path that would take Pippin home and Diamond to her cousin Laurels home. She was still making funny faces at him, as if she had just eaten something very sour. He reminded her time after time that she was sure she would grow, but it didn't stop her squeals. She only stopped shrieking when they reached the holes, knowing that she would be in a lot of trouble if they were caught.

Pippin walked slowly past the open window of Laurel's home after Diamond went inside. He half expected to hear her telling her beloved older cousin about the bet. But she just said: "Hello, Laurel," and, "I'm tired, Laurel," and then there was the sound of small feet plodding off to a different room. She didn't tell Laurel about the bet that night, or any night, and she never told anyone else either. It was a private sort of thing, she thought, that should never be told to anyone. A secret between her and Pippin.

"That means we're real friends!" she said happily to herself one night, after figuring this out. She fell asleep with the widest, brightest smile on her face that she had ever smiled.

"Pippin!" cried a voice, many years in the future, from the high branches of the apple tree. No longer a childish squeak, this voice was rich and musical, and as sweet as the singing of larks. The girl who climbed down the tree had changed too; her adult teeth had all grown in, her once-light hair was now deep brown, and she was several inches taller. Nevertheless, Pippin recognized her instantly.

Diamond ran towards him, greatly surpassing the speed she had once thought only Merry could run. Longer legs were a great contributor to this. She stopped only a foot short of Pippin, and stared up at him admiringly.

"You grew!" she cried in amazement. Hobbits did not usually continue to get bigger after 24, height wise. Around the waist, perhaps, but not height wise. Pippin was (she thought back quickly) nearing 28, and had apparently grown a foot in the last year. Indeed, he was taller than any hobbit she had ever seen before. "How did you grow?"

"That," Pippin said slowly, "is a long story. I will tell you it, one day, but not today."

Suddenly, she stepped forward and threw her arms around her childhood friend. "I thought," said Diamond slowly, only just comprehending what she thought impossible, "I thought that you were. . .that you were dead. Now you are back from the dead, seemingly. How can that be?"

"I didn't die, Diamond," he said reassuringly. "I just went on a very long adventure, that's all." He felt a drop of water on his hand, and knew Diamond was crying. He sincerely hoped they were tears of joy.

The two were silent for a moment, as Diamond wept and Pippin tried to comfort her wordlessly. He felt like Diamond was a fragile doll and he was placed in responsibility of her. He wanted badly to protect her from harm.

He remembered how fond of her he was as a child. That, he decided, was a different kind of fondness than what he felt now. He did not feel the same way towards her as he did towards Merry, or Frodo, or even Sam. This kind of affection was more like what his mother and father felt towards each other. And suddenly, Pippin realized something that he had known in his heart all along.

He loved her.

"So I suppose," he said suddenly, when Diamonds tears had been reduced to sniffles, "I won the bet." Diamond pulled away gently and looked up at him, her hazel eyes wide with surprise.

"I had thought you had forgotten," she said softly.

"Forgotten? Me? Never!" he said, struggling to ignore the increased beat of his heart. She stared up at him for a few minutes, not daring to say what was on her mind. Finally, she pushed past that fear.

"Peregrin Took, are you asking me to marry you?" she asked, attempting to push her rising heart back into her stomach. 'I will not be silly and girly, I will not be silly and girly' she told herself desperately.

"Maybe I am," he said shyly. He was hoping very much that she would not reject him.

"Well then," she said coyly, "maybe I will."

"Maybe," said Pippin nervously, "This is the happiest I've been since I was born."

"Maybe the feeling is mutual," she said, hardly able to keep her excitement down. She looked up into Pippin's beautiful green eyes, feeling tears burning in her own. She thought it was not possible to be any happier, but then, he leaned towards her and gently brushed his lips against hers.

It was not a long kiss; being a decent hobbit, Pippin didn't want to make her feel uncomfortable. He moved back a little, never taking his eyes off hers. Suddenly, realization hit him; he loved her, and he was going to marry her, and he loved her. He leaned in so quickly for another kiss that Diamond was not prepared. She stumbled backwards a little, and, because they were on the top of a hill, this lead to them both falling over and rolling down to the base of the mound. Now she was flat on the ground, and Pippin was kneeling over her so that she could not move.

They stared at each other in silence, not knowing what to make of this new and somewhat more risqué position. They, slowly and quietly, Pippin started to laugh. Soon their laughter filled the air and the trees.

Merry happened to be walking home on a path very near to that hill. Hearing the laughter, he turned and crossed over the clearing to where Diamond and Pippin were.

He knew that nothing inappropriate was going on; Pippin was far to gentle to do anything like that with any girl. He remembered back to the days when Pippin and Diamond would wrestle over a bag of mushrooms (Something about a bet. . .), and he thought that was what they were doing now.

"Pippin!" he scolded. "You should not be wrestling with Diamond anymore. You could hurt her. You are so much bigger than her, you know."

"I know," said Pippin happily. "Isn't it wonderful?"

A/N I was challenged by my friend Katlin to write this. Please don't flame, it's not my usual style. And yes, I will be continuing The Edge of Despair, eventually.