-Note- This is written in answer to Shirebound's movieverse plotbunny #17: Describe the hobbits' last night on the road together before entering the Shire once more. What was that final campfire like? Did they speak of the past? The future? (Were their blankets and gear as fine as their clothes?) Were Merry and Pippin eager to see their families, or were they loathe to break up their fellowship and let Frodo out of their sight? Did they put on their Gondorian finery at the last minute, or had they worn it all the way home?

I have not answered all of the above questions, but I know what it feels like to come home after something Big and Life-Changing. : D This is my first story with Hobbits- I hope you enjoy it!

-Disclaimer- All characters, places, etc. belong to JRR Tolkien. I am in no way profiting from writing this. The title comes from the rhyme that starts out like this: "Home again, home again, jiggelty-jig…"

Home Again, Home Again

He leaned back against the oak tree and sighed, his eyes on the stars. They were familiar and calming…home. He had learned these constellations as a little boy in Brandy Hall, and had seen them gradually change as he and the others had gone south a whole year ago. They had taken on new names, been obscured by forests, mountains, cave-ceilings, and battle-smoke.

But here, on the borders of the Shire, they had not changed. Nothing in the Shire had changed. But he, Pip, Frodo, and Sam, had changed. He drew his knees up and rested his chin on them. He heard Pippin murmur in his sleep and shift under his blankets.

He had taken the first watch, and in a few hours, it would be Sam's turn. They didn't need to keep watch, not here, but it was a practice borne out of ahabit that none of them seemed able to break.

No Black Riders this time round, he thought dully, slowly rubbing a hand up and down his sword arm. Not ever.

Pippin shifted again, but this time sat up. "Hullo," he said groggily. "Is it my turn?"

"No," said Merry. "Go back to sleep. Sam will wake you."

Pippin rubbed his eyes and shook his head. "Nah," he said. "I'll keep you company."

Merry smiled and scooted over to make room for his cousin. Pippin sat down beside him and leaned into his shoulder.

"This would be nicer if I had a pipe," he grumbled.

"We'll get you some leaf tomorrow, Pip," said Merry. "When we're home."

Home. It felt so strange to say it. He could recall a time when he never thought he'd be home again. It felt like yesterday.

"Home again," echoed Pippin, "A few months ago, we…"

"I know," said Merry. "I know."

Merry watched the blanket over Frodo twist, then Frodo emerged.

"Hullo," said Frodo. "Thought I heard someone talking."

"Did we wake you?" asked Merry. "I'm sorry. We should have been quieter."

Frodo waved Merry's apology away with his left hand. The four-fingered one. "There's a feather mattress at Bag-End with my name on it."

He sat on Merry's other side. "I wasn't sleeping well anyway. The thought of being home…"

"I don't know if I should be excited or sad," said Pippin, "but I can't sleep, knowing that it's over."

They sat in silence for a moment, before Sam rose, looked quickly about, and followed the path Frodo had taken to the oak tree.

"Hullo, Sam," said Frodo. "I hope you didn't wake on my account."

"Nonsense, I didn't," Sam said, though he knew he would not fool them. "Is it my turn for the watch, Mister Merry?"

"No," said Pippin. "We couldn't sleep, is all."

"Since we're all awake," said Frodo, "perhaps we should rekindle the fire."

All four of them surveyed the dying embers. Merry caught Pippin glancing surreptitiously at him, and promptly elbowed him in the side.

"I am not starting the fire, and you know full well how awful I am at that kind of work!"

Pippin, clutching his side and laughing, said, "How could I not know, dear cousin? But I shall not be the one to leave my comfortable position here."

It was Sam who set the fire going again, with the store of wood they had collected the night before.

From the base of the oak tree, Merry could just feel the heat from the growing flames. Pippin scooted almost imperceptibly closer to the fire, and he followed.

"I suppose," said Merry, "soon I'll be back at Brandy Hall."

Pippin sighed. "We'll have a tale to tell, for sure."

"And I suppose…" said Merry slowly, "it will be only a tale to them. A story."

"But isn't that how it's supposed to be? Do we really want them to have to understand?" Frodo asked. "We saved the Shire. I don't want them to have to understand."

"Even Lobelia?" Merry asked, smiling.

The hesitation that followed was just enough to make Pippin smirk.

"Even the foul S-Bs."

"Funny," said Merry. "A year ago, I'm not sure you'd have said that."

"A year ago, we were all quite a bit different."

Merry made a sound of agreement, and they sat, quiet, at the base of the tree. The air was beginning to cool down, and a breeze ruffled the leaves above them.

The Shire, thought Merry. We're nearly home. He looked to Sam, who, he realized, had not said a word. He was gazing intently into the growing flames, his head against Frodo's shoulder.

Ah, cousin Frodo. Merry did not want to let Frodo go. They had only so recently gotten him back. Bag End is only a short distance away. Really, no distance at all. There will be plenty of time for visiting.

But even after all of the terrible things they had seen, he found it difficult to forget all the wonderful ones, as well. He thought it was very strange to reminisce over their journey, but he supposed that it was alright. All things had to end at one time or another, but it didn't mean that he'd have to give up the fellowship he'd found.

A thought struck him suddenly. Rising, he went to his pack and pulled out his helm. Facing the others, who were all regarding him curiously (and a little sleepily), he pulled it stubbornly over his curly hair.

"Well," he said, "the least we ought to do is come home in style."


The end. Thanks for reading!