~ Author's notes: Disclaimers: nope, they are not mine. I just enjoy foolin' with 'em. Mr. Tolkien was a grand master and I hope I'm not insulting him by caring about his cute little creations. And the wild rumor that I am a pervy hobbit fancier is just that. Wild. I won't deny or confirm the "rumor" part of that statement. ** NO SLASH ** but some angst in later chapters (come on, how can there NOT be angst?).

Class Distinction

Chapter 1 ~ A visit to Uncle Bilbo's.

Merry and Pippin, age 16 and 8, skipped happily down the lane on an extraordinarily hot, hot summer day. They wore shorts and nothing else, although neither one had been let out of their respective parents' control without proper shirts. But they were boys after all. Well, boys in their parents' view, for 16 was still quite young for a hobbit. Neither could be blamed for shedding said "proper" shirts by the first tree outside of the Took's family home where Merry was staying whilst his father did business in Hobbiton. He had been allowed to spend the last three nights with his cousin Pippin as he didn't often get to see the Took side of the family being as how Brandyhall (the ancestrial home of the Brandybucks) was some 2- 3 days away by foot. And now they had spent the better part of an hour walking from to their uncle's house in Hobbiton. They'd been lucky enough to cajole a ride from a friend who was heading in the general direction. But they were on their own, or more precisely, on their feet for the last three miles. They were expected, by their uncle and second cousin, to spend the evening at Bag End, their uncle's nicely appointed hobbit hole. The Took, as Pippin's father was called, was to drop by late the next evening to pick up the boys and return Merry to his father's care. So the cousins spent many of their summer days, visiting and playing and generally goofing off.

Whistling a jaunty tune, Merry ran on ahead of his younger cousin. Turning around while running backwards he taunted Pippin. "I could run circles around you Pippin, you are SO slow". Then to emphasis this obvious physical superiority, he did just that. He ran circles around the already exhausted Pippin.

Until Pippin, tired of a game he had absolutely no chance of winning, threw himself sideways just as Merry passed by on the second circuit. Pippin didn't think of what would happen when he pulled this stunt (trying to trip up his older cousin). Pippin often didn't think of the consequences of his actions (an unfortunate trait he was to carry with him until he was well into his 40's). And to the dismay of both, they crashed down. Hard. It was not a graceful fall. If anyone had witnessed it, they would have let out a sympathetic "ouch" when both boys smashed into the packed earth, the much smaller Pippin on the bottom. Merry was up first with a bloody nose. Pippin just lay there, on his side, knowing that the scrapped knees and elbow were going to hurt very badly in about 4 seconds. He was right. They did hurt. Amazingly so. And what was worse was Merry's ranting while he bled all over the younger boy. "Oh now THIS is lovely!" Pippin thought. "Why's he so irate? A bloody nose will stop soon enough. It's not like he has to live with bloodied knees." And he winced at the thought of the agony awaiting him for the next 4 or 5 days as the joints crusted over with HUGE nasty scabs. You must understand that Pip had extreme experience with nasty scabs. He lay still on the ground, winded and sulking.

"You NIT" shouted Merry. "What got into your head!!!! Oh, I FORGOT, NOTHING" and the 'nothing' was screamed at full volume, sending more blood flying. And with that Merry flopped on the ground next to Pippin, pinching his nose to stop the bleeding. For, you see, he really did care about his friend and Pippin's silence and refusal to get up, let alone move, had frightened him. "You OK, Pip?" he asked nasally through his pinched off nose. And with his free hand, he patted Pippin consolingly.

"Yes, I suppose I'll live, but I won't be skipping anytime soon" he answered rolling over on to his back and looking up at the sky. He had finally caught his breath and dared to straighten his legs and scraped elbow. "Youch!" he yelped and then tried to bend them back to a less excruciating position, causing only more agony. "Stars in HEAVEN, that hurts!!!!" he yelled.

"Yeah, it LOOKS bad, too" answered Merry, patting Pippin again, as if that would relieve any pain. "Come on, let's get up and get to Uncle Bilbo's. He'll have something to put on those scrapes". Dreading to stand, Pippin just lay there feeling incredibly sorry for himself and making a mental note to never try to trip up someone by throwing oneself in their path. Especially on a hard packed cart path that hadn't seen rain in a month.

~ end Chapter One