This was the reason why they rarely ever got lonely or restless. The stars above them were the same stars travellers saw from the open road, the same stars even the richest of lords saw from palatial windows, the same stars beggars could see from smog filled city streets. They were the same stars you could look up at from anywhere. The stars did not change subject to where you were or when you were, how you'd gotten there, how long you'd planned on staying. What was good enough for the stars was good enough for them, they'd figured, and it had lasted them through fidgety childhood up through early adulthood, in Merry's case, and near the end of those clumsy teenage years, in Pippin's.
They were spread out side to side, cousin to cousin, arm adjacent to arm and the knuckles of their relaxed fingers nearly grazing. Such juxtaposition of their bodies was usual, a comfortable and familiar feel, like their entire world around them. There was nothing new to it, every bit of the arrangement something they knew down to the core. They were deeply rooted in this world they'd grown up in, and also deeply root in each other, always. Where Merry went Pippin followed, causing a scene. When you saw Pippin you knew you'd see Merry not far behind, cleaning up the messes the younger hobbit made. It was simple. It was a routine they followed, a schedule of life they knew and understood better than they understood life itself. And, above all, it was pleasant.
On this night they were both of them a little tipsy, finding quite a few things more than intoxicating, drunk to their veins, what with the stars and the warmth of summer, and mainly with the brandywine they had borrowed from the Brandybuck cellars when no one was looking. They were feeling at home with themselves, as they rarely ever had need to feel like strangers anywhere for any reason, and it was a pleasant way to feel on a starlit night, sprawled out in the grass.
"Merry," Pippin said, slowly and thoughtfully, "d'you suppose we'll ever be looking at the stars from anywhere else?"
"No, I don't suppose," Merry said, feeling as always the authoritative figure, and rather enjoying it. Pippin needed a bit of guidance, and though it was always that the younger and more roguish Took tempted Merry to a life of careless pranks and foolish mistakes, it was nice to feel like you were the more responsible one, despite your obvious failings as a role model.
"That's rather comforting to know," Pippin stated, seemingly speaking to Merry, but they both felt as if he were talking to no one in particular, and it was all right just to lie there, both of them looking at the same stars, in silence.
Something so vast as the night sky could bring them close and closer still. They were included in on some great secret, because they were lying in the same spot, just the two of them, and watching the stars together. The stars had that power. The stars made everything relative.
It was in times like these, feeling complete in mind and complete in location, that Meriadoc Brandybuck would turn his head to the side and watch his cousin from the corners of his eyes, the side of his own cheek tickled by the cooling grass. They might as well have been brothers, for all they knew each other, every whim and every desire, better than they knew themselves and their own. They might as well have been lovers, for the way they stretched themselves out side by side on the ground, one pillowed against the other.
Two slices, Merry thought, of the same apple pie. And then he smiled a little, laughed to himself, watched Pippin smile too as if he understood the joke. Maybe he didn't and maybe he did. Maybe he got it without any words. It was possible, because they knew each other well.
"We'll always," Pippin said, oddly absent, "be watching the stars together, though. Right, 'cuz?" Merry chalked the question up to the brandywine and murmured an equally absent yes, toying with a few blades of grass as their fingers brushed together.
It was in times like these, feeling complete in mind and complete in location, that Meriadoc Brandybuck wanted quite desperately the proverbial other half of the pie to feel as complete in body, and perhaps in soul, though he wasn't sure if one meant the other, or if the second state was truly attainable. Their knuckles brushed together over the comforting and familiar dirt, Merry at home against the earth. Not for the first time, he felt alone, the loneliness of adulthood and change, despite Pippin beside him. Or perhaps because of Pippin beside him, not in quite the right fashion of lying. He was used to a steady world that moved slowly and did not, not ever, change. He was used to staying in one place, to knowing himself and his cousin equally. This loneliness put them on unequal levels, drawing away from each other, no matter how close their bodies were. It wasn't in the right way.
That was the problem with watching the stars on a dark night when you were just beginning to grow up.
They got you thinking about being lonely when that was the last thing you wanted to be feeling.
Pippin turned to look at his cousin and saw the way his face was outlined in the darkness and the starlight. He liked looking at Merry sometimes when Merry wasn't looking. Felt like an idiot, looking at him, but he felt like an idiot a lot of the time and since the feeling wasn't entirely new to him he tended not to pay it much attention. Especially not when just looking at Merry could be so nice, when it was night, and the stars were out, trapped deep in his eyes.
It was on nights like these that the generality of the stars made it so most anything could happen, even in a place as unadventurous and unexceptional as Buckland, or all the Shire for that matter. At an unspoken agreement, Merry and Pippin took each other's hands, fingers twining with fingers and the prickly blades of grass caught in the minute interstices.
We'll always be watching the stars together, though. Right, 'cuz?
It dawned on Merry suddenly that the only person he ever wanted to watch the stars with was Pippin, the only person he wanted to laugh with was Pippin; the only person he wanted to drink brandywine with on a cool summer night was Pippin, and certainly the only person he wanted to ever touch was Pippin, Peregrin Took, his cousin and his best friend and the hobbit beneath the stars with him. Always beneath the stars with him.
Underneath the stars, Merry rolled over slowly, and Pippin stretched out his arms to wrap them around Merry's shoulders, pulling his cousin against him. It wasn't like them to be so serious or so somber, especially not drunk and especially not with each other, but there was something about the stars that did that to you, got you to thinking and got you to wondering. When you wondered, you were serious, even though people who sat around and wondered all day were never taken seriously.
Merry felt Pippin bury his face in his neck and wondered what it was his cousin was trying to escape. Part of him wanted to do the same, hide himself away in the comfort of this embrace, reminiscent of their childhood but suggesting something else, something older. Part of him felt proud for doing just the opposite, for being ever the strong one when it came down to it. Whatever 'it' happened to be.
"Something wrong, Pip?"
"I think so."
"What is it?"
"Too drunk t'tell you right."
The answer seemed less odd than it should have. Merry took it without a word, held atop the other and feeling comfortable like that, in mind and in location and in body, too. A little breeze had started up. Pippin shifted beneath him to keep himself protected from it, protected and warm.
"Tell you anyway," he said suddenly, and kissed Merry's neck. It was telling him in a very Pippin-ish sort of way, not with words but with something more demonstrative, getting directly to the point by running at it headfirst and not wondering too much about the reactions or the casualties that would spring up from his actions. Pippin started things. Merry, in a roundabout sort of way, finished them.
It wasn't, Merry noted, a particularly good kiss. Half-drunk and sloppy, but then again, knowing Pippin hadn't had much practice in kissing was a somewhat comforting thought to Merry's spirit.
It wasn't a particularly good kiss but Merry hadn't been expecting it and he had been wanting it. On the whole, Pippin had excellent timing, for a silly little fool of a Took.
"Well," Pippin said finally, ruffling up beneath him, "didn't your respectable mum ever teach you it's only polite to speak when spoken to?" And Merry moved swiftly, pinning him down to the ground, brandywine making the older hobbit careless, the stars making him hungry.
It was the perfect sort of thing to be doing under the stars on a night such as this. It was just chilly enough to want to get warmer than they already were. It was just warm enough not to mind losing some of their clothes, stripping down finally so they had only their skin against the cool dirt.
They lost their seriousness quickly, and they were laughing as they rolled against each other, against the dirt, against the grass, ignoring the pebbles that stuck into their flesh as unimportant, preferring to touch and be touched and feel the moonlight caress their skin without letting their minds cross over to any other topics. Pippin's hands graced along Merry's lower back, Merry's hands tangled in Pippin's hair. It was like being a child for its innocence, but being a child who knew things and wanted things no children wanted for its desire, for its wild and shameless nudity. They weren't careless but carefree, Merry guiding the kisses as Pippin supplied the true ardor and intensity behind them. The most important thing was that it felt fundamentally right, Merry wanting nothing more than Pippin ever in his life, stumbling along beside him, and now moving and laughing beneath him, kissing the corner of his mouth and touching the side of his face, surprisingly careful with those gentle caresses.
After all, Pippin rationalized, he didn't want to break this, or do something to end it. He had to stop his clumsiness before it ruined this beautiful night as it ruined everything else. All in all, though, he wasn't too worried, because the idea of losing Merry had never even crossed his mind, and no doubt it never would. Merry was there, a part of him, a part of the Shire, and while the Shire never changed and the stars were always there, winking on and off in the sky, so would Merry, his Merry, never leave and never change. Despite growing up -- and so far, besides the usual awkwardness and insecurity, it had been rather nice -- Merry was Merry, his own and always his own. It was a truth that Pippin trusted.
They touched each other in more intimate places as they grew more comfortable and therefore more daring, hands along the insides of thighs, kisses to Pippin's bellybutton, one to the curve above Merry's backside. Merry urged Pippin's leg back to kiss the inside of his knee, dart his tongue out, tasting the flesh there. Pippin made a soft, pleased sound and flipped their positions, doing the same in return. Everything made sure they were equal, equal in kisses, in caresses, in position, too. They shared everything, as they always had.
Shared a kiss beneath the stars, laughter mingling with their breaths in the junction of their lips.
Shared the stars together, too, the night with the stars laughing just as the two of them were, but to their own cosmic jokes.
Shared their bodies, pressing their hips together, twining their fingers, pressing their hands palm to palm and watching each other blink over the glazed, warm depths of their eyes.
Shared things that were not innovative or extraordinary, but deep down to the root of them very, very pleasant. Things weren't changing so much as being realized and discovered. Nothing changed in the Shire, not even in growth, not even in the blossoming of love, not even in death.
They fell still finally, Merry atop Pippin, laughter fading on their lips and their chests rocking together as they breathed out an in. Their heartbeats had quickened, the pounding of blood through their veins felt deeply inside of them, as if suddenly they'd been turned inside out, bared, unfolding to the world bathed in the night. Something you only dared to do in the embrace of darkness, with the stars giggling childishly high above you.
Their foreheads together. Their palms together, too. Their bodies vaguely unsatisfied but the general satisfaction that permeated their essential contentment was stronger than that minute and unimportant dissatisfaction.
It went unspoken, passed from their lips and from their bodies and from that warmth within which said they'd meet just like this tomorrow night under the stars, would never leave each other so they'd have to meet again. In the sun it was different. When they were like this -- and they'd never been quite like this before, but it was quite obvious to both of them that they would be -- it was all their own, nothing they would speak of, a secret, a secret joke passing between their lips and sparking up when their gazes met, though the laughter had long since faded from their eyes, leaving them just with the memory of it, and of each other's touch.
Pippin thought enough to twine his legs around Merry's, tangling their limbs together so it was hard to determine, even for the two of them, where one young body ended and the other began. Down to their fingers they were intertwined and so down to their fingers, they belonged.
They'd always loved each other. That part didn't need to be said.
And it was nighttime, quite late by now, Merry figured, and it was obviously very good, so they didn't need to say that, either, before they dozed off with the ground beneath them as their bed and each other's shoulders as their pillows, the patterns of their breaths a steady lullaby that soothed them to sleep.
Cousins or not, lovers or not, the stars in the sky made everything relative, and turned all its subjective subjects into comforting laughter in the end.