Fic: Morning at Crickhollow (for [ profile] sophinisba)

Aug. 1st, 2007 03:59 pm
[identity profile] posting in [community profile] a_conspiracy
Title: Morning at Crickhollow
Author: [ profile] rubynye
Characters/Pairings: Estella Bolger/Merry Brandybuck/Pippin Took
Summary: While waiting on breakfast, Merry and Pippin tell Estella a tale or two.
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Implications, slash, het, cheerful nonmonogamy
Word Count: 2381
Disclaimer: All recognizable characters are the property of the Estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. No offense is intended, nor profit made.
Title, Author and URL of original story: Gondor Has No Buttons, Gondor Needs No Buttons, by [ profile] sophinisba.

Morning at Crickhollow

Merry opened his bedroom door to find Pippin and Estella dozing in his bed, brows touching, legs tangled beneath the counterpane. Dawn light slanted low and pink across the room, and he breathed deeply as he regarded them, lying there easy and warm, Estella's arm draped over Pippin's bare shoulder, dark serpent-curls interthreaded with the spice-colored tousle on the pillow. His Pippin and his Stel, so comfortably tucked together Merry wondered for a sharp-edged moment if there were even room for him in his own bed, before he laughed in his heart at himself. Their getting on so well was all he could have ever wished for, all or nearly.

So Merry watched his lass and his lad, glowing in the warm light, and sighed, and thus was caught. Pippin opened one eye, round and bright, and said, "Why, Estella, look at our Brandybuck in the doorway."

"Must I?" Estella murmured, covering her face with her sleeve. "Is he greatly changed from how he looked last night?"

"His hair's askew," Pippin answered, half his face still sunk in the pillow, the other half alight with his grin. "Well, even more so. And he looks indignant." Merry had been opening his mouth, but could not but shut it at that.

"That is a change." Estella pushed herself up to sitting, her gown less pink than her cheeks for all her words and voice were carefree. "I might not say indignant," she added, pushing her hair back from her face as she looked at Merry, mouth smiling and eyes uncertain. "If we made him a space he might even regain some cheer."

"We might hope for merriment, no less," Pippin could not resist saying, and Merry groaned. Estella began to giggle, hands pressed to her mouth, and so did Pippin, rolling his face into the pillow, and Merry couldn't help but laugh as well, and go over to the bed.

He caught Estella's hands between his so he might kiss her laughing mouth for a good full moment, then assumed a ludicrous frown. "I leave you two alone for a quarter-hour," he scolded with as much indignity as he could muster, which was precious little. "While I set breakfast to baking, no less–"

Pippin leaned up over Estella's shoulder, and took a kiss as well, stopping Merry's mouth sweetly and effectively enough that he lost the thread of his complaint. Stel, still laughing, tugged at his sleeve, and Merry suffered himself to be pulled back into bed, tucked between Pippin and Estella, warm within and without.

"Thank you for making us breakfast," Estella said, and kissed Merry's cheek. He wound his arm round her waist as he smiled up at her, her dark curls glinting with garnet highlights in the early light, her eyes shining now rather than unsure, and thought another kiss to her soft mouth would be better than any flowery acknowledgement he might produce.

So of course Pippin put in, "It will be ready soon, surely?" and Merry simply had to growl and let go of Estella to roll and pin him.

"Is that all your gratitude?" As Estella's laugh rang off the ceiling, Pippin's eyes went round and guileless, and Merry squeezed Pippin's shoulders, skin and muscle warm and whole beneath his hands, all the hurts healed to scars so fine they might almost be overlooked. "O terrible Took?"

"O hungry Took!" Pippin responded, pressing his thigh hard against Merry's. "O starving, thin and tweenage cousin to you our gracious Brandybuck, whom all rules of hospitality insist you must feed!"

Pippin's lips went from earnestly parted to smiling wide, and Merry could just kiss him too, but... night and firelight were one thing, morning sunshine another, and he hadn't forgotten Estella's uncertain look. "I'll feed you if you'll dress for it." Merry let Pippin go and sat up, wrapping his arm round Estella again, her shoulder warm and soft through her gown.

"Should I go fetch my soldier's garb, then?" Pippin swung his legs out of the bed, but twisted round towards Merry and Estella, lissome as an otter. "Would you have your Guard of the Citadel to breakfast?"

Recalling Pippin in that clothing, Merry found himself remembering Pippin flushed by lantern-light, hands pinned with Merry's belt, lips parted ripely with desire. He swallowed hard, and Estella answered in his place, "That would be a sight indeed, you got up in your lordly gear. Should Merry and I dress to match? I'm not sure I have anything in my bags near so fine!"

The thought of them side by side dressed both so well made Merry recall the opposite from last night, them dressed alike in only candle-light and cheer, and the memory made him wish to forget breakfast and keep them both in bed with him. However, he at least was no longer a tween, and they did both need to be fed. "Only if Pippin wears all of it, with those sleek tight trousers," Merry said lightly, though he could hear his own voice hoarse on the words.

Pippin blinked, caught off guard a moment, then laughed, quick and bright. "Oh ho, Merry, you have me there. After a year of good Shire cooking I doubt I could fit those pants, leastwise not without doing myself a grievous harm with the zipper." The tilt of his grin and gleam in his eyes showed he was thinking of the same stolen moments Merry had recalled.

"And yet, you clamor after breakfast, as if no one ever feeds you." Merry rolled his eyes, even as he grinned back.

"I've catching up still to do," was the airy reply.

Estella hummed in thought, and Merry glanced round and saw her brow furrowed. "Stel?"

"That must have been dreadful," she answered slowly. "Gondor being so scarce of food and all, after that lengthy war; I hope its people fared aright in the end."

"No, no," Pippin said loyally, waving his hands. "No, I didn't mean to speak ill of Gondor; once the war was over there were banquets nearly every night, or so it seemed. It's just that they went on and on, all full of speeches and recitations and presentations, and so the food was often cold by the time we had leave to eat it."

"You sound as if you even stayed the full length of any feast, Pippin." Merry surely knew better.

"Well, you always left when I did, if not before!"

"Do you mean to tell me..." Estella suppressed a giggle, with some difficulty, her look droll and her eyes dancing. "You two, who were knights by then, would sneak off from the feasts night by night? And I am sure I can guess how you passed your stolen time!" She laughed, shaking her head. "Brandybucks and Tooks, no matter how finely dressed."

"Well, the feasts were so very long," Pippin said with some chagrin. Knowing better than to say aught at the moment, Merry just chuckled wisely.

Estella's punch to Merry's arm cut short his snickering. "And you!" she scolded him cheerily. "Pippin was just risen from sickbed, was he not! What did the Gondorian healers think of your overtiring him?"

Merry rubbed his arm as if he didn't delight in the feel of her knuckles on his skin. "Our healer was the King himself, so I am sure if he thought I wore Pippin out he would have said as much."

"The first night he didn't even let me exert myself," Pippin added helpfully. "Merry, that is." Merry nodded right up until Pippin said, "He tied me up with his belt so I couldn't so much as move." Cheeks burning red, he looked sidelong at Estella, whose eyes had gone round. "And pulled down my zipper with his teeth, no less. A stirring sight, that was."

"Yes, Pippin," said Merry belatedly, blushing so hard his face ached. "Stel?"

"I'm just considering... an event like the Yule celebrations, or an important birthday party, and you two sneaking off to strap each other up and have a tumble. Truly wild, both of you." Not that this was a shock to her, after last night, with that dimpled grin.

"Good thing you're here, then, with your steadying touch," Pippin said impudently.

"Indeed it is, as you two need a chaperone."

Watching Pippin and Stel at it was a delight, but they had both forgotten an important matter. "As the eldest present, I believe I'm the chaperone," Merry reminded them. "Not to mention the tallest."

Pippin set hand to hip as he opened his mouth, but Estella spoke first. "Indeed, and so what's this about your pulling tabs off with your teeth? I hope you don't treat your own clothes such, or I will refuse to be responsible for them."

"It was just a little ways, and we don't use zippers on clothing here." Estella regarded Merry with raised eyebrow and plumply pursed mouth, and he continued, "Zippers are a sort of clothing fastener they use in Gondor, made of strips of metal teeth."

"Two strips, which merge like so," Pippin said, demonstrating with his fingers, "when the tab that slides along them is pulled up." Merry helpfully supplied a representation of the tab with his hand. "And to open it the tab slides down, parting the strips." Pippin promptly captured that hand between his own.

"That sounds, well, outlandish." Still, she looked intrigued. "What's it for, besides being undone with the teeth?"

"It's meant to make getting one's clothes open much quicker." Pippin elaborated that statement with an expressive waggle of his eyebrows. "That's why they call it a zipper, because it zips along."

Estella's voice rippled with laughter. "I'm sorry then that we shan't see you in your tight trousers with those zipper things. Although quick-moving metal teeth sound just a little perilous, as clothing goes."

"I must confess, they felt a bit dangerous, snug up against my bits like that." Pippin meshed his fingers with Merry's as he spoke. "And I don't think they'd ever quite catch on in the Shire; we like our pace slower, here at home. But they do make quite the tale."

"All your time away makes for quite the tale," Estella agreed, with a little sigh. "I wish I had matching tales for you."

"You do," Pippin told her, before Merry might. "Tales just as brave, every one we've been told."

"If not as cheery." She reached across Merry, and Pippin gave her his hand, folding it around hers. "And not all of yours are as light, I know. But here we are, with all our tales." She leaned into Merry's arm around her, and he could feel the scar on Pippin's palm pressed to his; there they indeed were, the three of them, alive and warm and home.

"And also," Stel said more briskly, "someone ought to check on our breakfast, which Merry so kindly put to bake. I think I can smell it." Merry took a deep breath and indeed did smell it, toasted bread and custard and fruit.

"I'll go." Pippin finished getting up, scooping his nightshirt from the floor as he did so.

"Don't burn your mouth," Merry called after him, and Pippin spun as he pulled on his nightshirt to grin through the neck-hole, bounding along out the bedroom door.

Stel leaned her head on Merry's chest, and her sigh was happy. "Irrepressible Took," she said, and Merry smiled agreement. But then she said, more softly, "He has as many scars as you do."

And it was Merry's turn to sigh. "That he does, if not more." And look at her, her eyes deep and shaded by her lashes, her expression both lit and hidden. "How are you, Estella, this fine morning?"

"Oh, I'm fine, truly." She smiled at him, and he could believe it. "We spoke a little, Pippin and I, while you were up. I think.... you and he have ever been so entangled, there'd be no having one without the other, and think I I do not mind so much. Or not entangled, but enmeshed. Like that zipper you told me of."

Merry grinned, remembering. "So I said once to Pippin."

"Knowing you, you likely meant it saucily," Estella said, and was right. "So, ought I to get myself a dress patterned after Pippin's soldier garb? Would I look good to your eye?"

Merry let himself imagine a moment, or three, or perhaps five, before he brought himself to answer. "No, you'd look lovely so, but no. I love you in the colors of the Shire."

Estella smiled up at him, and kissed him again, better and sweeter than any words; then they heard the front door open, and glanced at each other quizzically as they heard Pippin's voice rise cheerily and a deeper one answering.

Soon enough he came padding down the hall and rapped the door. "Are you two decent?"

"Shouldn't you prefer it if we weren't?" Estella called, grinning at Merry; Pippin opened the door, dressed in shirt and breeches and surprisingly without crumbs, eagerly reading a letter. "Breakfast is cooling on the counter, and Stel, we have mail!" he said, without looking up. "From Diamond!" Estella breathed in sharply, all eagerness. "Merry, she put in a word for you as well."

"I'm glad to hear that, at the least." Merry unwound his arm from around Estella and gave her a little push.

She rose, smiling back at him, and reached to tug Pippin's hand down so she might see the letter herself. "She's coming to Crickhollow for a visit! In May, and staying through Lithe at the least."

"Without even any sisters!" Pippin sounded entirely gleeful at that. "Her Mam seems to trust that Stel will be here, for some mysterious reason, and has written to ask."

"Back here in two months? Mayhap I should just send for another trunk of clothes." Estella looked up, thinking, then shook her head. "No, I should go home at least awhile. But I'll be back, and we'll be four."

"Four in this house should just fill it nicely." Merry looked up at Pippin and Estella, their heads bent over the letter, and thought of Diamond standing with them, smiling brightly in the morning sunshine. Mornings were wonderfully bright, here at Crickhollow.
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