Dawn stole up over the hills like a trickster poised to strike. Pippin could appreciate a good prank, especially one in the early morning when the vict-- erm, playmate was freshly rested from a night of boring sleep. Why sleep anyway? There was so much to explore in the dark. The view from the trees, why, the very trees themselves changed especially out here where the most familiar of plants had different names and bark and fruit and seed. Then, there were the animals that only ventured at night with their huge, glowing eyes; the fields of corn that transformed into great fortress walls; piles of boulders that became trolls when you raised your torch and tilted your head just so. How Pippin wished he was like an elf and could sleep with his eyes open! Or, better, never sleep at all.
From experience, Pippin knew that the sun would send fingers of light slowly creeping down the field, keeping its face hidden until it had gotten a good grip on the gently sloping land and then SNAP! It popped over the horizon, jerked the warm, wooly remnants of your dreams from you and forcing you, stumbling, out of bed. Pippin used the same strategy to wake Boromir up last week. Granted, no one grabbed the sun by its ankles and swung it in circles as one threatened to steal its dinner but that was probably because the sun didn't have ankles and even if it did they would probably be both huge and fiercely hot, hotter than even Cook's oven fires when she was making roast boar with potatoes and parsnips. Pippin was quite certain that if the sun's ankles had merely been one thing or another-- just huge or just fiercely hot-- Boromir would have no trouble shaking dinner from the sun's rotound stomach but the combination of the two might deter then man. Well, for a little while anyway. The young hobbit was equally convinced that the warrior from Gondor did not only hang the sun but threw stars into the night sky when he found crumbs of light beneath it.
Speaking of crumbs, it was high time for breakfast. Eating at Great Smials began as soon as the first bird stirred. Pippin had a crust of bread somewhere in his-- oh, there it was, in his cloak pocket. A poor breakfast to be sure but it would have to suffice until the big folk deemed it safe to make a fire and cook a proper meal. Pip was going to be helpful this breakfast, oh yes. He'd spotted a brook not more than five minutes from camp similar to the ones that he and Merry fished in back in the shire. His quick eyes had even spotted a few fish breaking the water on their way upstream to spawn. They would be fat and tired and easy to catch. Strider fetched last night's drinking water from that brook and a clearer, sweeter draught Pippin hadn't tasted since well, since the last time he'd taken a drink of water which was profoundly more recent than his last pint of ale.
Oh, to have a lovely, frothy mug right now would be a dream, a lovely, rowdy dream wherein he shook Boromir by the ankles, saved all of Arda from Sauron, and was rewarded by a whole week-- nay, a month-- no, even better a year of feasting! Surely such a feat deserved no less. From then on, every five years would be a Pip Year when all the land stopped working except to cook. The year after Pip Year would be horrid, of course, what with a years' worth of washing up to do. Perhaps he, Pippin, could invent a sort of edible plate or bowl only be wasn't sure how to make edible mugs and besides, he didn't care for beer-soaked bread which was his plan for the plates.
He was still contemplating the idea (what if a gourd was halfway hollowed out and dried so that after the ale had softened it, it could be cut into strips and roasted?) when he came upon Legolas and Boromir. They were standing to their ankles in the fish-filled brook, with their knives out and their heads close together in companionable conversation. Boromir was stripped to his underclothes. Pippin saw the man's clothes and armour laid out neatly on the riverbank atop his cloak in such a way that it would only take seconds to don them should the need arise. He'd taught the hobbits how to arrange them thusly. They even raced once in pairs; Frodo and Sam, Merry and Aragorn, and Pippin and Boromir. Legolas was still fully clothed; his cloak floated behind him with the brook's currents but never getting water-logged.
"Does squash taste good soaked in ale?" Pippin blurted out, unable to keep the burning question unanswered for much longer. And the big folk were the closest around. Also, Boromir was the one who thought to stuff berries in the fowl that Legolas had captured the other day. Who would have guessed that a soldier could cook?
"Have you got one hidden somewhere in your cloak, Master Peregrine?" asked Legolas. "You mustn't hoard it to yourself; you know very well the rules of the fellowship concerning rations."
"I haven't got one with me right now, no," Pippin acquiesced. "But I had a thought, you see, concerning edible dishes and such."
Boromir laughed. The man had a booming bark of a laugh, like a tame wolf. The young hobbits quite liked Boromir's laugh especially Pippin. Strider and Legolas never laughed like he did. Those two were too well, regal must be the word although Pippin didn't think it quite suited the rough Ranger nor the ghostly elf. And Gimli had a grunting laugh, one that could split rocks if he so wished. Boromir would make a good hobbit as soon as he rid himself of unsightly mannish habits such as warring. He liked to drink, he devoured food with gusto, and he had no qualms about rolling around in the bracken for a wrestle when Pippin's superior swordsmanship got the better of him (actually, he tripped Boromir while Merry tried to wrench the Gondorian's sword away from atop his shoulders but since one man was equal to two hobbits in weight and height, and since it was his idea to trip Boromir, Pippin thought it a fair fight).
"Trust you to bring food to the conversation, little one." Boromir reached down to ruffled Pippin's hair. "And dishes you can eat? I suppose that will reduce the number of broken crockery and the time it takes for the servants to clean up after a meal."
"That was my thought precisely," said Pippin, pleased.
"I find it hard to believe that you suffer the indignities of dish washing," Legolas said with an arched brow. "Are you not the son of the Thain?"
Pippin nodded. "Yes, and as such I must look after the well being of all the hobbits in the Shire. I've heard many, many complaints about washing up. A responsible Thain would work to relieve this problem, would he not?"
"To be sure," said Legolas gravely.
"You have the makings of a fine Thain," Boromir added. "It is always wise to listen to the least of your people. Well done, little one."
"Perhaps you should refrain from addressing Pippin as 'little one' now, Boromir," Legolas said. "After all, he has shown his mettle not only in battle but now in dispensing justice."
"Oh, I don't mind," said Pippin. "Not when you folk say it. There were some in Bree and again in Rivendell whose tone I didn't care for at all. But you, Legolas and Boromir, you two don't make it sound as if I were simple or just barely out of my changing cloths. You call me little one because to you I am little but that's all." Pippin wrinkled his nose. "They for get sometimes, you know, Frodo and Merry, that I will be Thain. Not that I want them to act differently because I do like the have fun with them but it's nice once in a while to be treated like I'm grown up. Like you two treat me."
Boromir traded guilty looks with Legolas. They did think of Pippin as child but because of several reasons-- Legolas' faith in the Council's wisdom, and Boromir's desire to keep the hobbits strong-- they weren't overtly affectionate. Boromir especially always had to fight the urge to pin Frodo to the ground and tickle him until he wept the way he used to with his younger brother, Faramir. The two were so alike-- quietly strong whose eyes seemed to know your very soul and whose shoulders were set with a gravity rarely seen in men with full grown children never mind freshly minted soldiers. The soldier of Gondor sighed, studying the edge of the blade in his hand in order to help his thoughts turn from maudlin to the previous job at hand.
"Those of us who are heirs to a responsibility must see to each others' back," said Legolas.
"Indeed." Pippin nodded happily. "In fact, we should-- whatever are you doing, Boromir? You'll cut your throat!"
Smiling, Boromir lowered his hand. "I'm shaving, Pippin."
"Shaving?" Pippin clambered atop a boulder beside the two larger companions, wanting to get a closer look. "You shave your moustaches? We shave sheep and goat at home and sometimes a whole field if a blight has gotten deep into the patch but I've never seen anyone shave their own hair."
"What, there are no bearded hobbits?"
"No, of course not! Hair on one's face seems to me to be quite silly. Begging your pardon, Boromir." Pippin bowed slightly then turned to Legolas. "Do all big folk shave, Legolas?"
"No, little one," Legolas replied. "Elves, like hobbits, do not have facial hair."
"I'd thought not. Do men have beards then because the hairs on their feet have no where else to go?"
Boromir cocked his head to one side. "I hadn't thought of it that way before. Perhaps that's true. Or perhaps hobbits have hairy feet because their facial hair traveled downward."
Pippin began to shake his head but Legolas added, "After all, elves have neither hairy feet nor beards."
"But you've all got prodigiously long hair," said the youngest of the three. "Surely hair would not grow that vigorously if it had to grow in more than one place. I have always wondered how you manage to plait all of that. Why, just brushing it out must take all day! My sister, Pimpernel, has hair to her knees and although that is not nearly as long as you're my equal measure it still takes her and on of my other sisters all morning to brush it out and arrange it. Quite vain about her hair, Pimpernel is. I cut a bit of it off once when I was younger-- just a hands' width, a paltry length-- and you'd've thought I'd slaughtered a puppy."
"Fortunately, elvish hair is much easier to care for," said Legolas who was just barely managing to keep a serious expression on his face unlike Boromir who looked ready to fall face-first laughing into the water.
Boromir gathered himself long enough to say, "I still had to help you plait it in exchange for your blade."
"An orc-blooded dagger should not suffer the indignity of shaving" -- Legolas' aquiline nose almost wrinkled in distaste-- "without due payment." He smoothed down the strip of cloth that held his hair back then ran his hands down the thick, loose braid. "Very prettily done, son of Gondor."
The man snorted and set to shaving again, this time on the other side of his neck. It seemed to give him more trouble because he had to wait until he finished a strip before he spoke again. "What type of steward would I be then if I couldn't woo a maiden with hair brushing nor weave a proper soldier's plait?"
The brook was all that could be heard for a few minutes as both elf and hobbit watched Boromir slowly drag the knife over his skin. Pippin had seen that same knife used upon a rabbit; the skin had fallen away as though it were a silk shirt with its laces undone. He couldn't imagine why it didn't puncture the man's skin.
"Does it hurt to shave, Boromir? Why haven't you shaved before?"
"You do not remember it but I kept myself almost completely clean shaven whilst we were in Rivendell," Boromir answered. "Out in the field, however, there is barley time to wipe sleep from your eyes never mind see to your grooming. As to your first question, it hurts no more than it hurts the sheep being sheared
"Yes, but the shearer can see the sheep. You can't see if your blade will cut you or your beard."
Grunting, Boromir stretching his chin out, and drew the knife from his jugular. "It takes practice. Mind you at times you do give yourself a slice which is why your blade as to be very sharp."
"Which is why I had to lend him one of my daggers." Legolas patted the sheath built into his belt. "Yon knight of Gondor feared to slice into his fair visage."
In retort, Boromir snapped the blade in the elf's direction, flinging the whiskers into the water at Legolas' feet. The elf didn't start, only smiled in that way that elves usually did-- a slight upturning of his lips and a considerable brightening of his skin. Pippin threw himself on his stomach atop the boulder and watched Boromir, rapt. The scrrtch scrrtch of the elvish blade against the man's skin sounded like fish being scaled for frying and Pippin said so.
"Fish, eh?" Boromir paused in his morning ablutions to nod at the water. "I thought I saw a few try and take a nibble out of my toes while I was bathing."
"Of course!" Pippin jumped up. "That's why I came here to begin with."
"Here I thought you were to relieve me of the watch," said Legolas. "Come then, Pippin. Let us fetch breakfast while the man attempts to present a guise of civility."
Boromir's brows rose and he paused before the knife's edge could touch his cheek. "When we arrive at Gondor, elf, and you are agape at the splendor of the White City, we shall see who is putting on a guise of civility."
Bowing from his shoulders, Legolas said, "I have no doubt that Minis Tirith has beauty to rival the pearly scallop shell, Boromir. It is her first son's beauty that I hold in question."
Pippin thought that Boromir's cough either hid outrage or chuckles but he only heard the man mutter, "I wonder if elves float or sink." The hobbit started to slide off his perch when he spotted another anomaly.
"Boromir, you've got fur on your chest!"
If the rest of the fellowship wondered why the trio arrived in such a strange state-- soaking wet except for Legolas who was only damp, Pippin with his hair braided back, and each with a line of trout in hand-- they didn't ask. They were pleased enough to have a proper breakfast.