Final chapter. Thanks for reading & reviewing.

Hope you enjoy. ^_^

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This was it—just Merry and Pippin. Perfection. As Pippin let out a small sigh and shifted in Merry's arms he couldn't help but inquire, "This is so nice, isn't it, Merry?"

He nodded. "Yeah, Pip. It sure is." and he planted a small kiss on the top of the other Hobbit's head. Pippin glanced up at him, his green eyes alight with affection.

"I love you, Merry."

"And I love you, Pip."

"How much?"

He smiled in thought and said, "More than..."

"More than everything else in the Shire?"

Merry shook his head at this. "No."

Pippin frowned and a look of concern came across his face as he asked, "What?"

He grinned. "No," he continued, "I love you more than anything Middle Earth—no, more than anything universe." as he said this he wrapped his arms around Pippin and pulled him closer. The other Hobbit just grinned and rested his head on Merry's chest.

"And I love you, Merr, just that much and more."

Merry laced his fingers through Pippin's curls and guided their lips together. Both Hobbits smiled as their lips met, and they only broke away when they were completely out of breath, panting and breathless.

"How much, Pip? How much do you love me?" Merry asked once he caught his breath.

He smiled thoughtfully and said, "A lot." and paused before adding, "Merr, promise that we can just stay here forever and ever. Run away with me. Merr, run away with me..."

Merry gasped and his eyes popped open. He was laying in his bed, his room totally pitch dark. Outside his open window there were stars winking at him in the cool night air, beckoning him towards their rays of platinum, pure light. In an instant his dream had evaporated into thin air.

The Hobbit sighed tiredly and rolled over in his bed. This night marked the extremely long, excruciating second day that he and Pippin had been apart. He couldn't imagine what Paladin had done to his Pip, only that he was quite sure that it was bad...terribly bad...perhaps severely bad.

Perhaps he's lying in his room right now thinking about me. Merry thought as he rubbed his half-asleep eyes. And he whispered aloud, "God, I hope that he's alright."

His voice was cracking and broken. Tired.

Stifling a yawn Merry closed his eyes and pulled his covers up in a meek attempt to go back to sleep, though he knew quite well that he wouldn't be able to. Instead his mind began to drift away, to thoughts of his Pippin, and soon, only when he was quite lost in the memories, did he remember the words that his friend had spoken what seemed like an eternity ago.

Hey, Merry? Let's run away, just you and me.

And it was at that moment that his mind snapped back to the present and he cursed himself aloud for his foolishness. "Confound it all, Meriadoc Brandybuck! Perhaps if I hadn't been so stupid and gone with him none of this would've happened! He wouldn't have to face his father and I...well, I could be with him forever, as much as I wanted."

Merry shook his head and wiped a tear from the corner of his eye. Please let him be okay...please just help him not to get hurt too badly...please, He prayed silently to a God he didn't know, I love him.

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The truth of the matter was that Pippin was badly hurt, but not in the way that Merry believed him to be. He had long since stopped feeling the pain of the blows that his father dealt him daily for his disobedience; instead he had began to feel a steady, heavy sort of sorrow at not being able to see Merry.

It weighed him down immeasurably, to the point where he could barley drag himself out of bed or eat—in face, lately he had taken to keeping to his room with the door locked, thinking back to a time when he was happy. Ironically, all of these happy memories could only be found with thoughts of things that he and Merry had done together. Whether they be mischievous memories like when they had stolen from Farmer Maggot's crop, ones where the two Hobbits had attended parties, or birthdays, they were always filled with memories of Merry...the smell of him, the twinkle in his eyes when he laughed...they seemed all that he he had left now.

Pippin sighed as he shifted in his bed and looked up at the dark ceiling. He was exhausted, but when he tried to get some rest he no longer felt the sweet relief that sleep brought, only the heavy sadness that plagued his heart. He was restless, unable to sleep, but when he got outside and tried to do something with his unused energies he felt utterly ill.

"Oh, Peregrin, what have you gone and gotten yourself into now?" he wondered aloud just then. He swallowed and felt a too familiar lump forming in his throat as tears swelled at the corners of his eyes. He was exhausted and aching. Every part of him screamed, mostly due to the fact that his stomach was begging for food but he was refusing to eat, and his father's temper.

Inside a part of him begged for relief, to just move on and love Merry wordlessly, but another part said that this was totally hypocritical and wrong. After all, he often found himself thinking while he was alone or getting yelled at by Paladin, love wasn't made to be easy, was it?

But tonight he wished that it was made to be easier. As Pippin closed his eyes and sighed, he heard a soft knocking at his window. His green eyes popped open, and as he wiped his tear-blurred eyes he saw the silhouette of a Hobbit standing outside his window in the darkness, beckoning him to let him in. Pippin gasped, hopped out of his bed, and threw the covers off of him. He hurried over to the window and unlatched it. Merry let out a grunt as he struggled to climb through the window, but as Pippin reached out to help him he was sent sprawling on the floor as the other Hobbit fell inside with a loud thud.

"Ouch! Merry, I--"

"Ssh!" Merry hissed as he pressed a finger to his lips and nervously glanced at Pippin's bedroom door. "You have to be quiet or Paladin might hear us."

Pippin nodded and allowed Merry to help him to his feet. "Sorry, I guess that I just wasn't expecting you is all." and he backed away for a second and both Hobbits just stared at each other until Pippin let out a little sob and launched himself into his friend's arms, wrapping his arms around his neck, trying to stifle and choke out his joyous sobs.

"I haven't seen you in so long! What's happened to us?"

Merry didn't have an answer for that, so he just kissed the top of Pippin's head, just as he had in his dream, and hugged him so close that they weren't a centimeter apart. Once again he felt the same unity with Pippin that he had felt the first time that he had held him, those many weeks ago in the hiding place by the creek. They fit against each other perfectly.

He swallowed and said the words that he had never dared to say before. "Pip, I thought that Paladin might have...well, that he might have actually killed you by now, I haven't heard anything from you in so long...but you're okay, aren't you? He didn't hurt you, did he?" and he pulled away and leaned down a little so that he was on the shorter Hobbit's level. Merry took Pippin's face in his hands and he began searching it up and down for any signs of injury, and this made the other Hobbit grin a little.

"I may not be that bright, but even I know that that's a silly question."

And as he said this Merry noticed the healing purplish bruises that ringed poor Pippin's eyes and he shook his head. "Oh, Pip. We've got to do something about this! We've got to!"

Pippin's eyes lit up as he asked, his voice barley above a whisper, "Can we run away?! Remember, just like I asked before, just you and me?"

He didn't answer at once; he was too shocked. For a moment he actually considered saying yes, but instead he did the responsible thing and shook his head and kissed the other Hobbit's forehead tenderly. "No, love, you know that we can't do that. There's no way that that could ever..." but his eyes ventured to the healing cut across Pippin's cheek, one that he had failed to notice, and his blue eyes shined with sorrow. As he reached out to touch it, Pippin pulled away, shaking his head.

"If you don't want to that's fine, just don't feel bad for me. I'll go by myself. I can manage." and Pippin turned and walked towards the opened window. He said softly, more to himself than Merry, "I could make it out of the Shire before daybreak and Da would never know...he'd never catch me."

Merry went up to him and put his hand on his friend's shoulder. "Pip, like I told you before, I don't think that we can run away together—it wouldn't sit right with every other Hobbit in the Shire, but you could always go away for a bit and I'd have to go after to fetch you."

Pippin turned to him, his eyes glowing brightly and cheerfully. "But what happens if Da comes after us?" He asked this as if it weren't actually a question, only a test of Merry's determination. The other Hobbit didn't let him down with his answer, though.

Merry thought about this for a second, frowned, and finally shrugged. "Then I'll hurt him." they both laughed quietly at this until he said seriously, "We've got to get you out of this place, Pip. I'm scared that if I leave you too long Paladin will...well, he might do something awful to you, and I couldn't live with that."

"Then let's go!" Pippin said happily as he struggled to get a good grip on the window ledge and attempted to pull himself up.

Merry laughed at this and gave him a boost onto the ledge. "Fine, but you'd better be careful climbing out of that window. You might--" Suddenly Pippin let out a yowl of surprise as he lost his balance and fell from the ledge onto the ground outside. Merry grinned and looked over the ledge.

"Are you okay?" he called down.

Pippin nodded and whispered back up, "Yeah, but hurry. I think that Da mighta--"

"Peregrin Took, just what are you up to in that room of yours?"

His father's voice cut through the darkness startlingly loud; Merry jumped at the sound and his eyes grew wide as he bolted onto the window ledge and struggled to regain his balance. Just as he did so, Pippin's bedroom door flew open and Paladin entered, his face red with rage. As he set his eyes on Merry, he shook his head in astonishment.

"You?! What are you doing here in my son's room, Brandybuck?!"

"I..." his voice failed him for only a second before becoming strong and resilient once more. Merry glared at Paladin and declared, "I've come to take Pip away."

Paladin laughed. "Oh, have you? And since when was my son your responsibility?"

"Since I first heard him laugh—that's when I fell in love with him." he said this last part knowing just how angry it would make him. Paladin let out a roar of anger and launched himself at Merry, his fists raised and poised to strike anything that came across their path.

Merry dodged the first blow easily, and come the second he had had ample time to dart over to Pippin's bed, take the old, chipped glass plate that Pippin still had some of his supper sitting on, and raise it above his head. Paladin didn't register this until it was too late, and the plate collided with his head. A loud crashing could be heard as the plate shattered into big pieces of sharp glass and food was thrown everywhere. In an instant the floor was covered with glass and cold food, and the walls were covered in dripping bits of chicken from the plate. Merry grinned wickedly as Paladin staggered back a few steps.

The Hobbit's eyes rolled back into his skull and he fell limply to the ground. Merry just shrugged passively and bent down to pick up a bit of chicken that had been on the plate. He bit into it, winked at the now unconscious form of Paladin, and said merrily, "And good day to you to, Mr. Took." and he wandered over to the window and leaped out.

ooo ooo ooo

Once he was outside in the cool evening air, Pippin hurried over to him, looking absolutely terrified. His eyes nervously passed over Merry's face as he asked, "What just happened? Are you okay? Did he hurt you? Are we still going away, or--"

"Now that's a stupid question, Pip." Merry said kindly as he reached over and threw the half eaten chicken off to the side. "I've been listening to you ramble on for a while, but so far that's the silliest thing that you've said; are we still going away? Well of course we are! But let me warn you, because once we leave I don't intend to return any time soon." and he laughed at the look of confusion on Pippin's face and kissed him swiftly on the lips before continuing down the path that led to the main road of the Shire; their way out.

Pippin hurried to catch up. "But I thought that Da would surely have--"

"Well goodness, Pip, don't try to seem too overconfident in my abilities to defend you." he interjected as they walked along. The other Hobbit just shook his head.

"I am not, I was just...well, you didn't...kill him, did you?"

Merry shook his head and reached for his hand. He squeezed it reassuringly and said, "No, but I should have. He had it coming, after all, but I let him off. He's not dead, but when he comes to he'll have a horrible headache, I expect, and that's more that he deserves..."

Pippin shook his head. "No, I don't think so."

Merry turned to him questioningly. "What? After all of that you don't think that he deserves to be dead? After what he did to you?"

Once again he shook his head. "No. I would never wish that on anyone, not even someone like my father, even if he..." and his voice trailed off before he turned his hopeful gaze on Merry and asked, "We're never coming back, are we? Never as long as we live?"

He smiled, and as he and Pippin walked down the path he looked up at the sparkling stars he said softly, "No, I don't expect that we need to. We've quite outgrown this place, I think, and it's time that we move on to bigger and better things now." and he reached over and wrapped his arm around the small of Pippin's back. He pulled the other Hobbit close.

And now his mind didn't wander off to a time where it was just him and Pippin lying alone in the sun, holding each other close. Instead it remained right where it was, firmly rooted to the present, because there wasn't any need for those silly fantasy games anymore; he had gotten everything he wanted and needed to live tonight. He had gotten his Pip back, and nothing could ever take that away from him.

Somewhere deep down inside of him thoughts and emotions had begun to stir and become terribly, wonderfully mingled into one, and Merry, being a young, growing Hobbit still hadn't a clue what they meant, only that they were there. And in still some deeper part of him the thought began first blossoming then flourishing in his subconscious; This is really going to be something, just me and him...we'll remember this summer forever, no matter what happens. Sure, we'll come back here as soon as things get terribly bad, but for now it's all okay because we have each other.

And for that one moment it all seemed like some silly, childish game that he had Pippin had played when they were young, but as he felt the other Hobbit sigh and press against him, he knew that it wasn't.

Merry knew that this was as close to perfection as perfection could be.

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That's it. I hoped that you enjoyed.
Reviews = love and are always appreciated.

Thanks for reading.

Peace & love to you.