Disclaimer: I do not own LotR

This little character piece was inspired by the incredible Baylor and the wonderful 'Care and Feeding of Hobbits'

"An apple for them?"

Misted grey eyes cleared and the Man shook his head rid of wandering thoughts, as a dog shakes water from its coat. "I beg pardon?" he returned, looking up a little at the hobbit who was stood over his crouched form.

Frodo Baggins, former master of Bag End, heir to Bilbo Baggins, beloved cousin to hundreds and, perhaps less importantly, Ringbearer, considered Boromir for a moment, then favoured him with a smile and moved to settle on a convenient outcropping of rock next to the tall Man.

"You looked so immersed in you thoughts," he clarified, the extra inches gained by the rock allowing him to look at Boromir without straining his neck. "They seemed to so occupy you that I wondered whether you would share their fascinating contents for the price of an apple." The Hobbit lifted his cloak to reveal a large green specimen, which he shined invitingly on his sleeve.

A grin touched Boromir's usually stoic features. "You may find them unworthy of such an expense," he joked. "I was merely pondering on the intricacies of halfl- Hobbit society."

"A dangerous venture, for one without a guide," Frodo said, lightly. He followed Boromir's gaze to where the two most exuberant members of the Fellowship, having tossed aside their cloaks and coats and been informed by Gandalf that they could make as much noise as they wanted, were tussling rowdily. "Any judgement taken from those two rapscallions would reflect a sore inaccuracy on my people, I fear. They are renowned troublemakers in the Shire. If you are curious, Boromir…" Frodo hesitated. "If you are curious, I would be delighted to explain a little of my culture."

The Man looked at him for a moment, then turned back to Merry and Pippin, mulling over the offer. "Their behaviour is not…typical?" he asked, tentatively, with a nod towards the scuffle.

Deft fingers dove into Frodo's pockets in search of his smoking paraphernalia as he formulated a satisfactory answer. " They are both young," he stated, eventually. "I am given to understand that Men judge maturity differently to we Hobbits- by our reckoning, Merry has barely come of age at thirty-six, and Pippin is still held to be an irresponsible youngster at twenty-eight."

"Truly?" Boromir's eyes widened with surprise as the first tendrils of smoke curled up from Frodo's pipe. "At such an age I was considered a battle-hardened leader of men. Is there no conflict between Hobbits?"

Before them, an indignant squeal rang out as Merry effortlessly ducked a wild swing from Pippin and thumped him hard upside the back of his head. Their elder cousin rolled his eyes skywards. "None of any note."

"Such play and roughhousing is not uncommon, then?" Boromir asked, as the collective eyes of the Fellowship strayed to the ferocious battle, then away.

"Not at all." Frodo shifted a little to make himself more comfortable. "I had a fair few scraps myself when I was growing up- we have big families and more often than not, several family groups will share what amounts to one huge set of lodgings. That many young Hobbits together is as sure a recipe for fireworks as one of Gandalf's brews."

Boromir's reply was interrupted by a flying scarf that hit him squarely in the face. He removed it, gingerly, as an ignorant Pippin continued his spectacularly unsuccessful attempt to get Merry in a headlock. He cleared his throat to regain a little dignity. "Such things are not unknown in my city," he offered, perhaps in order to balance the exchange of information. He folded the scarf. "The families of tradesmen and craftsmen share common dwellings to foster the traditional pride in their skills. The sons and nephews perform the menial tasks of their fathers' and uncles' trades to better understand them."

Frodo, by this point, had taken on an unusual shade of pink as he succumbed to mysterious coughing fit.

Once recovered, he replied, "In that case, we share a tradition! Though you may not credit it, my cousins are the heirs to the headships of their respective families," (Boromir's response to this was a vaguely horrified snort) "and they have been much drawn into their fathers' company of late, to study their homelands and fair government of them." The dark-haired Hobbit frowned briefly. "The lessons were not going well upon our departure."

"You surprise me," came the dry remark, as Merry tackled a fleeing Pippin from behind and brought him to the ground with an alarming thud. "Are they not instructed to conduct themselves with decorum and grace? My father, the Steward, would have my hide for a cart-pony harness if I were to act in such a way."

"Their parents might apply themselves to such ideas, if it would give them any more control over their offspring."

With an ease that suggested long practice, Merry was systematically tickling every part of Pippin he could reach as he straddled his cousin's waist, pinning him to the ground with his body weight, his knees resting on either side of Pippin's stomach. The Took was wriggling frantically, snatching at Merry's shirt to try and dislodge him, red-faced from helpless, shrieking laughter that had Bill the pony shifting nervously and tossing his head.

Sam shot his fellow Hobbits a disapproving glare that might have frozen Mount Doom to its core, had he not glanced up to see his master's fond gaze on the pair also.

Boromir's lips twitched and he let out a tiny harrumph of amusement. Frodo, delighted, laughed quietly along with his kinsmen. Aragorn and Legolas, lately returned from a hunting expedition and burning off some frustrated energy, paused in their frenetic sparring session, then returned to having at each other as if Sam's cooking was having adverse effects in their vision and they each believed the other to be a marauding Orc with a particular skill for infiltration. Gandalf and Gimli, deep in conversation, remained oblivious.

Eventually, Pippin burst out a short stream of high-pitched, unintelligible syllables. Though those watching (and listening) for the most part wrinkled their noses or furrowed their brows in complete incomprehension, Merry smirked triumphantly and sat back on his haunches, raising an expectant eyebrow. Still giggling and breathless, Pippin burrowed into his much-abused clothing and came up with a huge apple, nearly twice as big as the one Frodo had offered Boromir. Cheeky blue eyes lit up and Merry leaned forwards, bracing his hands on either side of Pippin's head and staring down at him over the succulent fruit. Sparkling green orbs matched his stare, unblink for unblink.

"They are unafraid to be demonstrative," Boromir mused, his voice sudden in the quiet that had fallen.

As Pippin tutted and slid a hand through Merry's wayward curls, in imitation of an action oft performed on his own unruly mop, Frodo cast a sideways look at the Man. He was a little surprised. "Is it not customary amongst your people to be affectionate with kin?" he asked, taking the role of inquisitive questioner.

Merry was rolling his eyes at his cousin. He nudged at Pippin's hands with his chin and opened his mouth expectantly. Pippin obliged him by offering the apple, shaking with fresh giggles as an enormous bite sent juice spurting down Merry's chin.

"Between the womenfolk it is not unusual," Boromir conceded, with a moment's thought. "The menfolk…well, we tend to be more reserved. It is not seen to be necessary to touch a comrade or hold him. Many find it distasteful to indulge in extravagant displays of affection- there is a proper distance that should be maintained between Men."

Frodo's eyebrows were now the ones on the move, climbing up to his hairline in disbelief.

"That is not to say we do not show our regard for each other," Boromir hastened to explain. His eyes softened a little at his next words. "My brother and I, Faramir, we are very close and he is quick to grasp my shoulder or embrace me when a victory is won."

Large eyes watched Boromir's hand stray unconsciously to his shoulder, grasping the thick material of his cloak in an absent copying of his brother. "You must miss him very much."

The Man drew in a quick breath, the sound hissing a little through his teeth, then shrugged. "I miss him. It pains me not to know how long it will be before I return to his company. Yet, we have been parted often and such dark times do not warrant dwelling upon simple longings or personal troubles. It is not for one Man to bemoan his losses."

Frodo turned back to his cousins, watching as they shared their treat, completely at ease with their innocent intimacy, absorbed with the simple joy of each other and indulgence in a Hobbit's favourite past time. "I think you are very brave, Boromir," he said, softly. "I should not like to be upon the journey with nothing familiar to me, though I disputed my fellow Hobbits' coming. In fact, I think I should bear the hardships with a much heavier heart."

He handed his apple to the Man, who was stunned and abashed by the praise, and the compassion of Frodo's tone. "Thank you for your thoughts," the Hobbit murmured.

"Thank you for your indulgence, Master Baggins," Boromir answered quickly, before Frodo could move away. "I feel I understand your people a little better now. I hope I may learn yet more on this journey."

Frodo nodded in answer to the unspoken question, but before he could open his mouth to comment further, a loud oof sounded from behind him, followed by a thump and the sound of running footsteps. Frodo yelped as he was grabbed and spun by an escapee's desperate scramble to get past him and staggered sideways as Pippin scrabbled to get behind a bewildered Boromir.

"Pippin! Get back here!" Merry sounded more than a little annoyed. Frodo wondered distractedly what could have so enraged his cousin, then caught sight of Merry's apple-bruised forehead as he shot past, intent on the brutal murder of the impish Took. Pippin squeaked and deserted hir unwilling cover, haring off in search of something sturdy enough to climb out of reach of his Brandybuck adversary.

Boromir took one look at Frodo's resigned, helpless features and burst, at last, into rich, shoulder-shaking laughter.