The Fellowship rests for the night while traveling south, Merry wondering if he'll always be able to protect his cousin Pippin. Mostly movieverse, set during the Fellowship of the Ring.

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It was another cold night for the Fellowship as they traveled south. They had been traveling for the past month now, already weary of traveling with the constant fear of being found by the enemy. Gandalf led the Fellowship to a small clearing near a patch of woods, announcing that they would be resting there for the night.

Frodo and Sam sat down on their packs, rolling out small blankets as Aragorn started a fire with the help of Legolas as he collected logs. Gimli looked for food throughout Aragorn's pack, grumbling under his breath good-naturedly about the cold as Boromir came from the patch of trees with logs in his hands for the fire. Gandalf looked out on the horizon, the sun beginning to set low in the colorful sky, the stars beginning to shine up ahead.

"Pip, that's mine-" the wizard heard from near the building fire. He turned, his mouth curving up in amusement as he saw Meriadoc Brandybuck standing with his arms crossed above Peregrin Took, looking at him with frustration as the young hobbit held a mushroom in his small hands.

"It is not, Merry- I found it on my own, before we left the Shire- I had found it in my pocket just yesterday-" Pippin retorted defensively, standing up from his place kneeling on the ground as Merry narrowed his eyes.

"You have not, Pip- I would know. You would've eaten it as soon as you found it if you were telling the truth." Merry said, reaching for the mushroom in Pippin's hand.

"Merry! We can share it!" Pippin nearly shouted as his cousin struggled to grasp the beaten looking mushroom.

"That's what you always say! Yet I never seem to get my share!" Merry exclaimed as he tackled Pippin to the ground, the other members of the Fellowship turning their heads as Pippin let out a shout.

"We can share it!" Pippin repeated in a high-pitched voice as Merry reached down to his stomach and began to tickle him, uncontrollable giggles coming from the young Took. Aragorn and Legolas exchanged amused smiles as Boromir let out a laugh, sounding loud and amused compared to Frodo and Sam's quiet chuckles.

More desperate giggles came from Pippin's mouth as Merry began to laugh as well, the mushroom falling into his hands as Pippin writhed and squirmed, trying frantically to get Merry off of him.

"Ah! I've got it now!" Merry said triumphantly, standing up and ruffling Pippin's auburn curls, holding the mushroom high.

Pippin gasped for air, breathless giggles coming out of his mouth as he sat up shakily.

"You call that fair, Merry? You hardly gave me a chance to put up a decent fight!" the young hobbit said brightly as his cousin extended an arm, helping him stand up.

"I would've if the mushroom hadn't been mine-" Merry retorted with a grin as Pippin giggled.

"Oh, you know me too well- I am sorry for stealing it from you-" Pippin sighed, a smile still on his face as Merry grinned, looking down at the now crushed mushroom.

"It's no good now, Pip- We shall find some more on this journey, I promise you-" Merry said, his voice turning quiet as he realized that this was only the beginning of the long journey that lay ahead.

"I trust you, Merry-" Pippin said honestly as Merry suddenly pulled Pippin close, embracing him tightly. Pippin blinked, stiff for a moment until he held his older cousin as tightly as he was holding him, wondering what was the reason for the sudden embrace.

The rest of the Fellowship exchanged nervous and worried looks as tears suddenly burned at Merry's eyes as he leaned his chin on his younger cousin's shoulder.

"Merry? Merry- What's wrong?" Pippin asked softly, his bright green eyes wide as Merry began to tremble, his hand dropping to his side and reaching for Pippin's.

"Pip- Pip, you shouldn't trust me-" Merry said, his voice wavering as Frodo and Sam spoke quietly to one another. Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli sat near the building fire, looking at each other with concerned expressions at listening to the two small hobbits. Boromir sat next to Gandalf, speaking softly to him, glancing at the two every few moments.

"Why, Merry?" Pippin whispered, pulling back slightly and looking him in the eyes, "Why?"

"It is my fault that you're here, Pippin- We might never see home again. We don't know what's coming-" Merry forced out, his voice shaking as his memories sifted back to the ring wraiths and the hushed voices at the council of Elrond, speaking of evils in Mordor that hadn't even reached the Shire.

"Don't say that, Merry- We shall see the Shire again." Pippin whispered softly, brushing a golden brown curl away from the other hobbit's forehead as Merry slowly nodded, blinking his tears away.

"We shall, Pip, we shall." Merry said quietly, making himself promise to protect his younger cousin through whatever they would face throughout this long journey, no matter what it took. He took a deep breath and kissed the top of his small cousin's head, pulling away and gesturing towards the fire where their companions were sitting.

"Shall we?" he asked, forcing a shaky smile as Pippin nodded, the two walking towards the warm fire as Aragorn looked up, giving them a soft smile and moving over to give them room to sit against the large log. Gandalf and Boromir joined them shortly after, both relieved to see Merry and Pippin telling a story of their childhood with bright smiles, Frodo and Sam occasionally adding things as the rest of the Fellowship laughed and enjoyed themselves, forgetting about their mission and quest for one night until exhaustion came.

Merry and Pippin lay down next to each other as Aragorn and Legolas kept watch, Boromir spreading his long coat over the two hobbits as they shivered in the dark. They both thanked the Gondorian, Merry falling asleep shortly after, his head resting on Pippin's shoulder. Pippin looked over at his older cousin, running a hand through his golden brown curls as he shut his eyes slowly.

"I will always trust you, Merry- Always-" Pippin murmured as he fell asleep, the stars shining brightly overhead as the Fellowship rested for another night, another day of the quest ahead of them.

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