"Hey!" Young Peregrin Took stepped backward; a wooden spoon had delivered a stinging blow right to his knuckles. He looked up at the culprit, sucking on his throbbing fingers. "What was that for?" He asked, accusation and annoyance shining in his bright green eyes.

"If you eat any more of this dough, there aren't going to be any cookies, love." His mother Eglantine replied with a small sigh glancing at him from her work, noting the small tears in the corners of her son's eyes. Tears more likely from not getting his own way, rather than from the small smack from a wooden spoon.

"It didn't hurt that much Pip. Stop being so dramatic." Meriadoc Brandybuck, Pippin's older cousin chimed in from across the kitchen. Merry was being helpful as usual washing dishes, and Pippin scowled at his cousin who just smiled cheerily back.

"Pippin you're becoming much too old to act like this." She chided. Indeed he was: in his tweens now, Eglantine was waiting for him to cease acting like a little one and begin to become more mature, like her nephew Meriadoc had.

"Peregrin Took, either help your cousin or go off and play with Diamond." At the mention of the name, Pippin made a face. Wash dishes or play with…. Her. Pippin sighed. He hated when the North Tooks came down to visit for Yule: especially Diamond.

She and Estella Bolger would always team up and follow him and Merry around everywhere and pester them until Diamond and her family returned north to Long Cleeve and Estella no longer had a partner and crime. Then Pippin and Merry could finally go about their usual business again. Diamond was such a bother.

"She's a sweet lass, Pippin. She doesn't bite." Eglantine said with an exasperated sigh and cracked an egg into a bowl. Pippin recalled an incident which proved his mother's words to be quite the opposite, but sensing her mounting annoyance, chose to keep his mouth shut, unlike Diamond had of course.

Do the dishes or play with Diamond. The answer wasn't altogether too obvious, and finally Merry placed a dish down and with a half grin grabbed his younger cousin by the shoulders. He smiled brightly to his aunt, "We'll go off and see if we can't find Diamond." Pippin frowned, since when had Merry become the responsible one? Sure he was older than Pippin was, but Pippin wasn't used to Merry bossing him around this much.

"But I don't wan-" Merry didn't let Pippin finish the sentence; rather he pushed him out the kitchen door and into the hall.

"I know you don't want to Pip. Why do you think I'm coming with you? I swear Pippin you're so daft sometimes." Merry rolled his eyes and Pippin's face lit up. "So we don't have to see Diamond then?"

Merry snorted and shook his head. "Come on. Let's see if we can't find you a scarf. It's starting to snow and I want to go exploring." Pippin frowned again. "I don't need a scarf Merry. You aren't my mother." Merry shrugged. "Suit yourself Pip, but when you are cold don't complain to me."

Pippin remembered what had happened to his last scarf. Last winter Diamond had dared him to climb a slippery, frozen tree. She had already climbed it, grabbed a twig from the very top and had deftly maneuvered her way back to the foot of the tree. Pippin couldn't let a lass one-up him of course, so he had climbed the tree next. What happened next had been rather embarrassing, his scarf got caught on the rough bark of the tree about half way up. Then his foot slipped and he fell. He ended up with a broken arm that Yule, and altogether scarf-less.

Back from his thoughts, Pippin and Merry crept to the back door of the Smials, Pippin keeping a very watchful eye out for either Diamond or Stella. "I don't see them Pip." Merry laughed, as if reading Pippin's mind.

Pippin nodded in reluctant agreement, though something didn't seem quite right. Merry pushed open the door and as soon as the two were outside and the round, green door closed behind them, the snowballs came flying from unseen marksmen.

One hit Pippin directly in the face and he was down, Merry made out a bit better, ducking when one of the round balls of snow grazed his shoulder and he rolled his own snowball throwing it out in the direction of where the snowballs were flying from.

From his spot on the ground, the laughs and the whoops he heard could only be from two people: Diamond and Stella, Pippin groaned inwardly. He and Merry and walked directly into an ambush.

Finally the snowballs stopped after Merry and Pippin waved their arms in defeat and Estella Bolger and Diamond Took appeared next to the boys, rosy cheeked and breathless.

"Aren't we getting old for this?" Merry asked Stella, and she smiled at him and playfully pushed his chest with her mittened hand. "Never." She grinned and Merry returned her bright smile. Pippin looked between the two, feeling a bit betrayed by Merry. There seemed to be some sort of private joke between him and Stella, and Pippin didn't get it.

"Pip and I were just going for a walk in the snow." Merry chuckled, dusting clumps of ice from his jacket and brushing the snow out of his curly mop of hair. "You and Diamond can join us if you like."

Pippin made a small squeal of protest. "Merry." He whined, "But you said…"

"Hush Pippin, I'm sure Diamond would love to see some of our trails." Merry grinned to Stella who smiled and giggled in a stupid girly way and Pippin stared at the two, utterly flabbergasted. He had lost Merry to a pair of light brown eyes and long lashes. He opened his mouth and closed it a few times, too shocked to even formulate words.

"Would you really Pippin?" Diamond asked pleasantly, turning toward him with a small smile on her soft, pink lips. She blinked a few times and Pippin simultaneously felt sick to his stomach and began to blush a bright scarlet tone. Instead of answering Diamond, he turned wordlessly and stalked off in the other direction, ignoring Merry's calls of protest.

Pippin followed a small, but well-worn path toward his destination. This was one of his and Merry's trails. They were all over the Shire, and they led to various places of varying excitement. This particular trail led down around the Smials and through some tall grasses.

The grass was dead from winter's frost, but it was still tall and brown. It came up to Pippin's thighs and whispered in the cold winter breeze. Pippin grabbed a small branch laying on the ground in front of him and began to whack the top of the tall grasses. Decimating them to half their original height.

He went along the trail fighting his own private war with the tall grass until finally Pippin found himself in his favourite thinking spot, right next to the Great Willow down near the Smials. He dusted the snow of a flat rock in front of the tree. He and Merry had dragged it there one summer a few years back as a sort of chair aways from the ground. His back pressed against the rough bark of the tree and began to think about the events of the past few days.

He knew he had been acting quite childish as of late, and it had begun when the North Tooks arrived. He hated when they visited, mostly because Diamond was the most obnoxious thing to come into his life once or twice every year. The North Tooks also visited occasionally during the warm months, just more time for Diamond to aggravate him.

But this time, this time had been different. When she stepped down out of the carriage she had looked… different to Pippin somehow. She seemed a little taller; there was a slight curve now in her hips and chest, and her *face*… Pippin shook his head: the feeling in his chest when he had seen Diamond was most unsettling and it had really shaken him up.

He had refused to look at Diamond that night at supper and had completely ignored her when she smiled to him the next morning at breakfast. The feeling was dangerous. It was the kind of feeling that led to those sickening glances between Merry and Stella.

Pippin pulled a small pouch from an inside pocket of his overcoat and produced a pipe and some Old Toby. He and Merry had swiped them from his father one day during the harvest festivals to try it and Pippin had quite enjoyed it, it made him feel older and more mature, also he believed that it helped him think more clearly.

He lit the pipe, inhaled of it deeply, and then began to cough. He blushed; feeling embarrassed. Grateful no one was watching, he took another, smaller puff from the pipe.

He sat there smoking and gazing out over the small pond, which now was frozen solid from the cold winter months. He contemplated his feelings. He thought about Merry and Stella and the little looks they gave each other. He thought about growing older, and he thought about Diamond. She was infuriating; she could make him angry and strangely happy all at once. He couldn't explain the warm feeling deep in his chest that he felt when she smiled at him and it annoyed him so greatly that he picked up a nearby rock and threw it has hard as he could. He watched it sail and it landed with a small, satisfying thump on the frozen pond.

He stared at the rock, holding the pipe in his hands and didn't notice or hear Diamond as she silently came up from behind. He didn't even notice her until she was seated right next to him.

"Why do you hate me Pippin?" Came a soft voice and Pippin, turned to his left startled; dropping his pipe on the ground. He leapt up from his spot on the ground.

"Diamond! You. What I…" He peered down at her; she was sitting on the ground her knees drawn up to her chest looking up at him with a lonely look in her blue eyes. He almost bent down to throw his arms around her, but suddenly remembered how much he hated her and felt his blood boil that he had even thought to do such a thing.

"Why did you follow me out here? You ruin everything you know that? What has Stella done to Merry? This is your doing, why do you have to bother me so much I-" He stopped midsentence, immediately feeling horrible for becoming so angry with her. She looked so vulnerable, sitting there on the cold ground and he noticed tears beginning to form in the corners of her soft, blue eyes.

He watched her face change from sad to angry and she viciously wiped the tears away from her cheeks with her jacket sleeve. She stood up quickly, nearly eye-level with him and cried hotly. "You're such a wicked boy, you know that? I just wanted to know why you've been so cold to me since I got here. I can't believe I ever…." She paused and glared down at the ground.

Then she shoved a box into his hands. "I can't believe I ever even made this for you, but you might as well have it now." She didn't meet his eyes again and instead turned away and ran off to the Smials.

Pippin stood, flabbergasted again by Diamond's strange antics and looked down at the parcel she had pressed into his hands. It was a brightly wrapped Yule present and he glanced down to the box then back up to where Diamond had disappeared.

He began to walk toward the Smials. He had to find Merry.

Pippin found Merry near the fireplace in the library talking with Estella Bolger. Pippin was so preoccupied with Diamond, the sight of Stella and Merry together didn't bother him. He also missed the angry glare from Stella and the small sigh from Merry.

The entire story simply came out in a rush after that and the two hobbits patiently listened as Pippin rambled on.

"And then she just gave me this and ran off." Pippin finally finished and held the box up for Merry to see. Merry just smiled and glanced out the corner of his eye to Stella.

"This isn't funny Merry. Why is Diamond being such a pain again? What did I ever do to her?" He was still clutching the box.

"Pippin you've been awful to the lass since she got here. You could have at least smiled at the poor thing." Merry tilted his head toward Pippin, slightly annoyed mostly because he had been in the middle of quite the pleasant conversation with Stella when Pippin had so rudely interrupted.

"Can you stop saying things like that?" Pippin frowned, "You're sounding like my father." Merry shook his head, "Things are changing Pip, and we're older now you need to stop being such a baby." Merry held up his hand when Pippin began to protest.

"You know it's true. Anyhow, did you open the box? I want to know what it is that Diamond has given to you."

Pippin grumbled untying the ribbon. "It's probably a dead toad, or a clump of dirt or something, do you remember that time she put mud in my tea?" Pippin kept grumbling about Diamond and their childhood antics right until the moment he pulled the box open, and then he stopped.

Inside there was a small note on top of a beautifully knitted scarf. "Well what does it say?" Merry prodded, and Pippin didn't answer. Instead he read the note to himself.

"Dear Pippin, I know we have never gotten along very much, but I wanted you to know that I've always had fun when we come down to visit you and the rest of the family. You are so much fun to be around. Last year I remember you lost your scarf when we were climbing the trees out in the apple orchard. I felt really bad about it, so I knit you a new one. I hope that we can be friends. Happy Yule! Warmest Regards, Diamond."

Pippin opened and closed his mouth a few times, something he had been doing increasingly more lately. Silently he held up the scarf and Merry smiled. "Well put it on and go apologise to her. She didn't deserve you speaking to her like that, especially when she spent all that time making you a scarf."

Pippin shook his head. "I'm not wearing it Merry! Don't you see? This is just another way for her to annoy me. She probably crushed up some sort of itchy plant and sprinkled it all over-"

"Pippin put on that scarf and go apologise to Diamond or I will tell your father that it was you who swiped his pipe and that you have been smoking it." With that Pippin squeaked and tied the scarf around his neck. He hopped up and ran out of the room, Merry and Stella laughing behind him.

It was a nice scarf, Pippin realised with dismay. Diamond truly had just been trying to be nice. It was soft and warm, and the colors were beautiful. He sighed; he felt awful: Merry was right, he needed to grow up.

Pippin searched for a good hour around the Smials, but there was no sign of Diamond. He searched high and low, in the bedrooms, the kitchen, even behind the bookcase in the library: no Diamond.

Finally when he was about to give up he heard something. He stopped and listened for a moment, and the sound was unmistakable. There was a sniffling sound coming from in the hall somewhere. He followed his ears, and finally he could tell where the sound was coming from. The broom closet next to the kitchen. He stopped at the door, he knew who was inside.

"Diamond?" He asked tentatively, the sniffling stopped and started again. "Go away Peregrin."

Pippin leaned against the door. "I'm not going away until you come out of there."

"I don't want to talk to you." Her voice was filled with venom, and Pippin felt a stab of pain in his chest knowing that that tone was directed at him.

"Okay. I… I understand. I just wanted to say sorry. You don't have to talk to me, just listen for a moment. I've been so rude to you since you got here, and now here I am yelling at you… I'm sorry Diamond. I just…ever since you got here, I haven't been able to stop thinking about you, to be honest, and well it bothers me quite a bit." He paused, turning bright red wondering why he said that, there was still silence from the other side of the wooden door.

"So… So I just wanted to say I was sorry, and ah, thanks for the scarf." He began to turn away, tripping a bit. He blushed even more; he had been so clumsy lately, probably as a result of this "getting older" business Merry had been talking about. He heard a small giggle from behind, and turned to see Diamond peering out from the closet. Her hand shot out to steady him and as their hands met Pippin felt his heart skip. He looked down at her with wide eyes.

"Diamond?" He said, questioningly, unable to form any other words but her name. She smiled, and the look she threw him from under her long, dark lashes made his cheeks heat with a blush.

"I forgive you." She still hadn't let go of his hand, and Pippin finally found words. He took both of her hands. "Your hands are cold." He held them both trying to warm them. They were soft, lass hands: different from any hands he had ever held before.

For once, her nearness didn't annoy him. He had never noticed how lovely her eyes were before, how her lips curved in such a pleasant shape when she smiled, and right now she was smiling at him.

"Well I have you to keep them warm I suppose." She said after a while, never looking at their hands, only looking up into his eyes, making Pippin both uncomfortable and quite pleased at the same time.

"I love the scarf." He whispered, unsure why they had begun to whisper. He meant it, he had loved it when he first saw it, but hadn't wanted Merry to know.

"I'm glad." She was blinking now and Pippin was finding speaking more difficult, having lost himself in her deep, blue eyes. He felt himself edging closer to her until their faces were only centimetres apart.

Her scent enveloped him, she smelled like cinnamon and cold winter air, he felt her warm breath on his face, and then without a moment's hesitation he bent down to kiss her lips. The sensation of his lips upon hers warmed him right up from his toes to the top of his head, when he pulled away she said shakily. "My hands aren't cold anymore."

Pippin giggled: he had found something warmer than a fire and sweeter than his mother's apple pie. He let go of her hands and instead held her chin in his hands as he had seen his father do to his mother once. He lifted her lips again to his and kissed her once more.

If this is what Merry had meant when he said that Pippin needed to grow up, Pippin wished he had grown up a lot sooner.

Finally Diamond said quietly. "I think your mother baked some cookies. If we're quiet, we can probably swipe a few." She grinned and winked up at him, turning toward the kitchen door. Or not: you never grew out of some things.

"Diamond?" Pippin said, she turned toward him, "Yes?" Pippin had just wanted to see her sparkling eyes again. "Oh nothing." He smiled. She shook her head and turned again toward the door.

Cookies were nice, but Diamond had already given him the best Yule present he had ever received.