A/N - Hmm. This is my first ever LotR story. It's set long before the events of the Fellowship - somewhere around the time where Merry is in his mid twenties, and Pippin about 18/19. Arabella - my OC is 18 and part of the Cotton family - you will see some references to her siblings 'Nibs' and 'Jolly' in this chapter, but in later chapters all of her family will take part - including the lovely Rosie.

I still think this chapter has some kinks I need to work out but otherwise I'm pretty much happy with it. Tell me what you think - though no flamers please. Be as honest as you can when reviewing - but not to the point of being nasty because that doesn't help anyone.

Warnings - possible language in later chapters. Some mild peril and romantic themes too, but nothing too extreme. Romance will be subtle and gradual.

Pairings - Eventual Merry/OC - Rosie/Samwise - and others I'll probably work out as I go along.

Disclaimer - All characters apart from Arabella belong to the estate of J.R.R Tolkien. I only use them for fun - certainly not to gain profit.

Well, there you go. Hope you enjoy!.

Chapter 1 - Wearing Thin.

Arabella Cotton was laying down near the banks of the Bywater pool, amidst the long, thin stems of wild grass that waved softly in the gentle breeze. The cool refreshing water lapped against her skin as she dragged her fingers in a figure of eight in the pool. It was a very pleasant day this side of the Shire, and though Arabella would have loved to allow her mind to rest for a while, as the rest of her body relaxed in the warm sunshine, she could not. The cause of her stress was two particular hobbits. Hobbits, that went by the name of Peregrine Took, and Meriadoc Brandybuck – her supposed 'best friends'

'Meet us at Bywater pool, dead on 7 okay Bella? You can come on one of our walks – for real this time.'

Pippin had asked her this yesterday, and she leapt at the chance she had been given to finally go on one of his 'adventures'. Finally, she would be able to feel like she was part of the gang. Her hours of persistent begging and pleading had finally paid off.

But, she had turned up that morning, dead on 7, just like Pippin had asked, and lo and behold; both of her nitwit friends were nowhere to be seen. Not even ten minutes later, or an hour after that. It was now way past twelve in the afternoon, and Arabella conceded that she would finally have to admit defeat. Again. She was so sure that she would have been able to go this time, but it was the same as it had been every other time Pippin had promised she could come.

"Wait 'til I get my hands on those two,' she growled as she sat up to stretch her aching back. 'Why I'll...' She made a violent gesture in mid air with her hands, and slumped her body back down onto the soft stems of grass it had flattened whilst she had been laying there. She let out a loud sigh and turned her head, so that she could watch the insects dance across the surface of the pool, before closing her eyes. Almost instantly, she was lulled into a light, refreshing sleep.

A couple of hours later, Arabella was rudely awoken from her afternoon slumber in the warmth of the sun, by the sound of laughter coming from the dirt road that lead towards Waymoot, and further on towards Tookbank.
Though she was somewhat dazed by this unexpected interruption, she sat up, rubbed her eyes, and listened more intently to the voices she could hear.

It only took her a few seconds to realise who the voices belonged to, and when they got close enough so that she could hear them more clearly, she stood up and placed her hands on her hips.

Merry was the first to notice her. He and Pippin were checking the spoils they had gathered, (no doubt pilfered from some unsuspecting farmer – probably Farmer Maggot knowing those two), when he saw her stand up from the depths of the wild grass that lined the banks of the pool.

'Bella!' he called in surprise. He waved at the female Hobbit so vigorously that he managed to drop his armful of potatoes all over the path – which granted him a swift kick in the shins from Pippin. 'What're you doing here?' Merry called again, as he clutched at his leg and grimaced in pain.

Pippin, who was now hurriedly gathering the scattered potatoes, could not help but feel that Arabella was a lot angrier than she was letting on. This feeling was heightened when Merry's question saw her storm over to them. When she reached the pair, she gave them one of her trademark scowls and folded her arms indignantly across her chest.

'H-hey Bella,' he muttered, not daring to look her in the eye. He really did want to meet her earlier this morning; it was just the thought of her joining him and Merry, and getting in the way of things that put him off of the idea. He was also afraid that Merry would end up paying more attention to her, than to him – his best friend, and that would simply not do.

'Hello boys,' Arabella said in a somewhat frosty tone. 'Have a good day did we?'

As Merry nodded his head and grinned, Pippin looked at the ground and nervously shuffled his feet. He mumbled something that sounded like 'Yeah, it was okay.'

'Oh that's good. 'Arabella replied, feigning interest. 'Though I think you forgot something...'

Merry gave her a confused look, but as he saw her right eyebrow slowly rise at Pippin, who was still adamantly staring at the dirt path in front of him, he began to understand why Arabella seemed to be in such a foul mood.

'Any idea what that could be Pippin?' she asked the brown haired Took, who shook his head and shrugged his shoulders. Arabella let out a low growl and poked the unsuspecting Hobbit sharply in the ribs.

'You – told – me – to – meet – you – here – at –seven-' she hissed through gritted teeth, poking him in the ribs after every word. Pippin cried in protest and rubbed his chest where he had been poked.

'Hey! C'mon Bella, stop it will you? I'm sorry okay – I completely forgot I asked you to meet us...'

Arabella let out a hollow laugh and shook her head in disbelief. 'What, like the last time, and the time before that?'

Pippin opened his mouth to say something in reply but nothing would come out. He turned to Merry, trying to convince him to say something to Arabella in his stead, but the Brandybuck merely shook his head at him and folded his arms. He had no sympathy what-so-ever for his companion.

Arabella let out a disgusted snort and turned to walk away. 'You are nothing but a liar and a scoundrel Peregrine Took,' she shouted. 'I won't believe a single thing you say ever again...'

She turned to look at the pair one last time, and with one last glowering glance at Merry, who was still in disbelief over what had just prevailed, she began to walk back in much haste in the direction of Hobbiton.

As the two companions watched their friend walk away, Pippin let out a sudden sigh of relief and began to scratch the back of his head.

'Well she was in a frightful mood wasn't she?' he chuckled nervously. 'I don't see why she was so angry really – pah! Women...'

Merry stared at Pippin in disbelief.

'Really Pip? Really? Because I can see why she was so angry...'

Pippin said nothing. He knew very well that he was in the wrong but he didn't expect Merry to get angry at him as well as Bella.

'You even told me that Bella was busy helping Nibs and Jolly in the fields today, and that was why she couldn't come...' Merry continued. 'So you didn't just lie to her, you lied to me as well.'

Pippin hung his head in shame. He pawed the dirt with his big toe and shrugged at his best friend.

'Sorry,' he mumbled, only just loud enough for Merry to hear. But in all honesty, it was too late. The damage, as they say, had already been done. Merry shook his head and began to walk away from Pippin's side. He had decided that if Pippin wasn't going to have the common decency to apologise to Bella, then he would have to do it instead.

'Wait – where are you going Merry?' Pippin called after his friend. He looked at the pile of potatoes on the floor and wondered how on earth he was going to carry them home by himself. 'Does this mean you won't be going to the Dragon later?'

Merry pointedly ignored this question and carried on walking. Pippin, on the other hand, took his friend's ignorance the wrong way.

'So that's a yes then?' he called again.

Merry stopped in his tracks and clenched his small fists into a tight ball. He turned around, bared his teeth, and marched angrily towards Pippin who backed away nervously.

'You're unbelievable Pippin – you know that right? Our friend is upset, over something that you did, and all you can think about is whether or not you will have a drinking buddy for the night?'

Pippin grinned sheepishly and scratched the back of his head again. Merry hadn't exactly said no to the request, so that could only mean that he was going to be there – naturally.

'I'll see you there at eight then shall I?' he suggested.

Merry rolled his eyes and stormed away. It was all he could do not to punch the inconsiderate wretch in the face, actually. As he walked past the pile of potatoes, he kicked them out of the way before quickening his pace to at least attempt to catch up with Bella, who was a mere dot in the distance by now.

Pippin, left all alone and somewhat amused by his friends' antics, was now faced with another problem. Who was going to help him carry these potatoes home now Merry was gone? Sometimes, that blond buffoon could be so damned selfish!