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Freezing

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Who knew freezing to death could be pleasant?

At first, you hunch down, shivering teeth-rattling shivers that shake your whole body while you try to pull every bit of you inside your cloak as you stumble along. Snow and ice and wind slide chill fingers into your bones to steal precious warmth, and send a caress of freezing fire curling across your skin with every step, every motion, the chill touch slipping through every gap. It seems no matter how tight you wrap yourself up, something is exposed to the thief and slowly, so slowly, the great, wracking shivers, the body-warming tremors that shake your body so hard you can barely stand, begin to stop. You don't notice, marching along, focusing so hard on following in the footsteps of the larger Men. You fight through the drifted snow and lean into the biting wind as it tries to force you back, struggling to keep walking despite the weariness and lethargy stealing into your body. Shire-woven cloaks and bare feet, even with naturally wooly uppers, are no match for the fury of a frozen mountain. Exhaustion brings with it a dangerous warmth as your body begins to give up the struggle for survival.

Pippin was the first to fall, exhausted and near frozen. The smallest of all the members of the Fellowship and the youngest, with his scarf wrapped around his ears, he'd begun to lag behind slightly, creating a bottle-neck in the narrow path and causing the last few members of the party to cluster close up behind him. Near blinded by his own weariness, Merry stumbled over him before his sluggish mind could react to the sight of the crumpling form in front of him. Struggling to his feet, fighting the soft snow and punishing wind, Merry cried, "Pippin! Pippin, get up!", even as he weakly attempted to lunge between his fallen friend and the hooves of the chestnut pony coming close behind them.

The shying head of Bill, jerking him up and nearly throwing him off the path, pulled Samwise out of his own cold-induced stupor, and he barely stopped the pony before running over Pippin and Merry himself. Merry was hunched over the younger Hobbit, briskly chaffing the white hands, his hoarse voice barely carrying over the howling winds around them. "Pippin? Pip! Wake up, come on old chap, up we go...Pip? Pippin!"

Sam looked ahead, taking a breath to call out as Boromir, the last on the trail, pushed up behind them, forcing his way through the snow around the chestnut pony. Resting a hand on Sam's small shoulder, the Man looked down at the fallen Hobbit, concern in his hazel eyes, then bellowed, "Hold up! Hold up a moment!", his voice echoing oddly off the stones and drifts around them even as he bent and scooped up Pippin. He gave the Hobbit a brisk shake, dusting off snow, before effortlessly cradling the small body in his arms. Catching Merry by the scruff of his cloak, Boromir set him on his feet, then wrapped his own heavy cloak protectively around the Hobbit in his arms before pushing on ahead to the rest of the group, leaving Merry and Sam to stagger worriedly in his wake.

Legolas turned and trotted gracefully across the snow back to them, his light feet leaving barely a mark on the soft, drifting surface. "What ails?" he asked, squinting into the wind and blowing snow, then peering back down the trail at the two Hobbits and the pony struggling up behind the Man. "Where is Pippin?"

By now, all of the party had stopped and turned, Aragorn pressing back down the trail from where he had been taking his turn forcing a path through the piled snow. His hands gently steadied a trembling Frodo as he squeezed past, and rested a brief, quieting moment on the grumbling Dwarf's shoulder, silencing Gimli before his complaint found voice.

It was to him Boromir spoke, raising his voice to project his words also to Gandalf, at the head of the trail. "We must rest. The Halflings are exhausted. The snow is too deep for them to keep our pace, and we have been driving them beyond their endurance. Pippin cannot continue, and," his eyes rested on the swaying Frodo for a moment before returning to meet Aragorn's cool gray gaze, "I can see the RingBearer will soon fail as well. We must find shelter and warm the Halflings, or we will lose them all to the cold." Behind him, Sam and Merry had caught up, Merry more than half hanging from the pony's pack as he slipped and slid in the soft snow, body shaking in violent shivers.

Legolas crouched down on the snow beside them, the move bringing his eyes level with those of the Men. "We cannot stop here," he began, holding up a hand to stop Boromir's protest before it aired, "but ahead there is an overhang, in the lee of a cluster of boulders and the snow is not so deep. We could rest in some comfort there, if the Hobbits can make it so far."

Aragorn's eyes assessed the violently shivering Hobbits behind Boromir, noting the way Merry clung to the pony's harness, and Sam's clumsy grip upon the halter rope. Turning, he considered Frodo, eyes narrowing in concern as he realized how little the thin Hobbit was shivering and how loosely he held his cloak around himself. The vacant, glazed look in the blue eyes alarmed him and he nodded in sudden decision. "Gimli, take the pony's lead and follow at the rear. Watch and call out if Sam or Merry need aid." He looked to the Elf, "Legolas, take a faggot from Bill's pack and go ahead of us to your shelter. We will need a fire there and less time wasted is more time warm."

Legolas nodded, moving toward the pony quickly. The Men leaned aside as the Dwarf pressed past to take Bill's lead from Sam's stiff fingers, and Boromir heard him tell the sandy-haired Hobbit to lean against the pony's warm side for a moment as they rested. Aragorn stepped closer to Boromir, "How fares Pippin now?"

Boromir shifted the small form under his cloak, holding it more tightly against him, as if to press his own warmth into the young Hobbit. "He has lost his senses, but he is still shivering, if lightly. If we get him warm soon, he will be well, I am sure. It was exhaustion made him fall, I think. He has a great heart to have gone so long, and without complaint."

Aragorn smiled faintly, turning to look at Frodo. "They all have great hearts, I think. Perhaps too big for their own well being." He looked back at Boromir, "Sometimes, I think, they fail to realize how big the world is around them." He turned away, moving up next to the weary RingBearer. "Come, Frodo, let me help you. It is only a little way farther and you can rest."

Legolas disappeared into the swirling snow ahead of them, a small bundle of wood wrapped tightly in a blanket tucked into the crook of his arm. His voice drifted back to them on the wind as he paused briefly to speak to Gandalf. "It is not far. Keep straight on to the bend of the mountain's spine and then look for the fire. I will come back to guide you once it is lit."

***

The first thing you become aware of is fire. Gradually you feel it; fire burning your skin, pulling you up, out of the safe, cold haven of your mind, forcing you to confront the excruciating reality of your body. Swaths and patches of fire at first, touching, caressing your skin with searing pain, then a blanket of fire draping across your body, pinning you down in an agony of returning sensation. You open your eyes -- all you can see is a dark morass of grays and blacks, luridly splashed with eye-searing orange. You open your mouth to scream and it fills with liquid fire, sliding down your throat as you choke, to burn you from the inside out.

"What are you doing?!" Merry gasped, struggling to his feet in a flurry of tangled blanket, cloak and drifting snow. Sam lunged forward out of his own nest to flip a blanket corner out of their small fire before it had time to do more than steam slightly, as Merry continued his shocked tirade at Boromir. "He'll freeze!"

Boromir ignored this claim, focusing on the task of stripping an unconscious Pippin to the skin and bundling him into a pile of blankets and cloaks near the back of their shelter. Beside him, Aragorn was helping Frodo do the same while Sam tended the heating teapot. Looking up from the now-well-bundled Pippin, Boromir answered the shocked Hobbit as he began to shrug off his own tunics. "He'll not freeze, young Merry, once you and I are under the blankets with him and he has a bit of Sam's hot tea inside of him." Merry blinked, swaying back a half-step, and Boromir smiled grimly, pulling off his undershirt, then shucking his boots, "Pippin is too cold and tired to make his own heat yet, Merry, so we must share our heat with him." He gasped slightly, grimacing at the cold as he steeled himself, then wrenched his breeks off, following them quickly with his smallclothes. Shivering violently in the snow, the naked Man burrowed into the nest of blankets to press skin to skin with the icy young Hobbit cocooned within. After a moment to brace himself, the big Man wrapped his arms around the frozen form, pulling Pippin close with a shudder.

Merry squeaked and started to step forward, only to find himself grabbed by the throat as Sam caught the trailing edge of his cloak and pulled him back toward the fire. "Here now, Mr. Merry, sir...Boromir knows what he's doing." Merry turned to frown at him and Sam held up a steaming mug. "You just drink this down, now, sir, and we'll fill it up again for Master Peregrin...." Sam didn't release the cloak until Merry had settled again by the fire and taken the mug. "Not to worry, now," he said, just loud enough to be heard over the wind and snow howling outside their makeshift shelter. "Gandalf isn't upset, and you know he wouldn't let anyone hurt Pippin, Merry."

Merry subsided; then, "It's just…naked, Gandalf? In this snow?" The young Hobbit looked to the wizard for reassurance.

"Indeed, Meriadoc," Gandalf said gravely, stepping away from where he had been wedging his staff into the opening of their shelter to hold a blanket against the blowing snow - the other side of the blanket was held securely by a heavy stone jammed between a fallen boulder and a corner of their roof. The blanket provided a barrier for the snow to pile against, encouraging the creation of a wall of insulation against the cold outside; even so, snow still drifted gently into their shelter, carried around the blanket and boulders by the curling tails of the screaming wind outside. Satisfied that the blanket would hold until the snow built its wall, Gandalf approached the fire, pulling out an elaborately carved leathern flask, unstopping it and leaning over to pour a splash of something into Merry's mug. "Clothing holds your heat in; the more clothing you wear, the less heat escapes. You know this." He tucked the little flask into his robes again as Merry nodded intently. Gandalf lowered himself with a grunt to sit by the fire, pulling his cloak around himself before continuing. "To share your heat, you must remove layers of clothing between you and whomever you are trying to warm, and put those layers around both of you, like when Pippin was very young and you would hold him inside your cloak with you --"

"-- when we watched the fireworks at night!" Merry interrupted, with a smile of understanding. "But -- naked, Gandalf?"

"Pippin is very cold, Merry. He needs as much warmth as we can give him," Aragorn moved up to kneel by the fire, adding another small stick of wood and checking to see that Boromir's shield was still firmly in place to keep the tiny flames from reflecting light out of their shelter. "As does Frodo. Is the tea ready, Sam?"

Sam nodded, quickly pouring out another mug and struggling to his feet. Gathering his cloak and blanket around him, the stout little Hobbit waited only long enough for Gandalf to pour another splash from the leathern flask into the mug before making his way to the sheltered back of their cold camp and settling next to Frodo, head ducked low to avoid the rough ceiling of the overhang. Offering the tea to his weary friend, Sam carefully unwound himself from the sheets of cloth and matter-of-factly stripped down to his smallclothes before burrowing into the blankets surrounding Frodo, and pulling his own blanket and cloak up around them. The last thing Merry saw was Frodo holding the mug up to Sam's lips and smiling, before Sam pulled one last blanket up and over their heads to keep the snow out.

A shifting of blankets pulled his attention sideways, away from Frodo and Samwise, deeper into the sheltered area behind the boulders. The blankets shifted again, a large lump - far too large for a Hobbit - rising and settling once, twice, and Merry rose to his feet, eyeing them suspiciously. His jaw set in determination and he took one step forward, fists clenching tightly around the forgotten tea mug in his hands. Then he hesitated, doubt flickering in his eyes as he glanced back to the fire. Gandalf was unconcerned, leaning toward Aragorn to discuss how long the snowstorm might last and if the shelter might be safe enough for the night. Gimli was coming back from tending to Bill at the far side of their meager shelter, stamping his feet and brushing snow from his beard before accepting a mug of tea from Aragorn.

A hand on his shoulder made the little Hobbit start, hot tea slopping slightly onto his fingers. With a yelp, he held the mug away from his body, then shook off his hands one at a time, sticking the smarting flesh into his mouth to suck the hot water off and finding the touch of his tongue to be even warmer than the water. He turned to glare at Legolas.

"Drink your tea, Merry," the Elf smiled, understanding in his warm lavender-gray eyes. "Do not waste the warmth. Then you can take a cup to Pippin and see that Boromir is only warming him. Did not Boromir say you were to join them?" He looked over at the two piles of blankets, then back at the distraught Hobbit. "Pippin needs you. Boromir would not harm him, but he will warm faster with two bodies in the blankets with him, and he will be reassured by your presence when he wakes, I am certain. I doubt he will remember falling in the snow."

Merry looked uncertainly at the pile of blankets again, then nodded and resolutely brought the mug to his mouth, determined to drain it as quickly as possible. Swallowing rapidly, he emptied the cup before taking a breath, then had to reach out a hand toward the nearest boulder for support as the fragrant liquid hit his belly with an explosion of warmth and heady energy that had nothing to do with Sam's tea, Merry suspected, and everything to do with Gandalf's little leathern flask. Taking a deep breath, and then another, he felt his balance steady and he turned back to the fire. Offering his mug to Aragorn, he said simply, "Pippin", nodding toward the appropriate blankets to indicate he would take the drink there.

Aragorn dipped his head once in acknowledgement. Accepting the mug, he filled it up, passing it to Gandalf, then back to Merry before adding a few handfuls of clean snow to the simmering teapot still on the fire, pulling out the small rag bundle Sam used for a tea bag and freshening the herbs it held. Merry watched, taking a moment to enjoy the meager heat radiated by the tiny blaze, and screwing up his courage before turning to shuffle toward the pile of blankets containing Pippin and Boromir, holding his own blanket and cloak defensively around himself.

He crouched next to the pile for a moment, looking down at the great lump, his eyes caught by the brocade of the Man-sized cloak tossed over the top. In between the small piles of snow accumulating atop the mound, it reflected the firelight in small splashes and sparks of satiny orange and yellow, absorbing any light that did not hit it straight on. It seemed to move slightly in the light, and, after a moment, Merry realized it was moving, in a slow rhythmic ripple, as if something were stroking it from the inside…or it covered a hand moving down a small body with long, gentle strokes. Merry shifted slightly, from one foot to the other, his courage suddenly deserting him.

"Well?" Boromir watched the Hobbit jump, nearly spilling the tea in his hands, his face draining of color. He looks frightened half to death, the Man mused, Am I really so terrifying to these little ones? He felt a sharp pang go through him at the thought, and tried to cover it by arching an eyebrow at the Hobbit. "Are you just going to stand there until you give me another frozen Halfling to thaw, or are you going to help me warm up our little Pippin?"

Merry blinked, flushing suddenly, eyes widening. "I --" He stopped. 'Our Pippin' Boromir had said.

Boromir hesitated a moment, then his eyes softened. "Come here, Merry...."

Merry eased closer, eyes lowering to avoid Boromir's gaze and falling to the cup in his hands. Hesitantly, he offered to the Man, rocking forward to kneel next to the nest of blankets with a shiver. "For Pippin."

Boromir worked a hand free and took the mug, then looked up at the shivering young Hobbit, backlit by the small fire. Snow dusted down into his face as he looked up, and caught in the Halfling's honey-colored curls, gilded bronze by the firelight behind him. His crystal gray eyes were in shadow, but Boromir could see the way his jaw clenched and unclenched in indecision.

"Merry...you do not have to join me here. If you are afraid of me...," Boromir's voice wavered slightly at that, then firmed as he cleared his throat and continued, "I will not harm you or Pippin...I could not. But Pippin is dangerously cold and we must get him warm. This is the best way that I know, here, in these conditions, with no shelter or hearth or warm bath. He would warm faster if you were to join us, and you, I think, would benefit from sharing my warmth as well. But you do not have to come into the blankets with me, if you do not want to." He shifted slightly, moving to set the mug down so he could adjust the blankets to keep as much heat in as possible, waiting.

Merry didn't move for several breaths; then, just as Boromir was about to give up, the stubborn jaw set and Merry gave a sharp nod of decision. "Right then." Standing, the Hobbit unwound the blanket from around himself, carefully draping it across the side of Boromir's cloak, then pulled off his own cloak and spread it beside the lump that was Pippin. Hurriedly, he pulled off his great coat and weskit, beginning to shiver in the vicious cold as he did so. His breath caught in a gasp as the cold bit deep, but his jaw tightened and he wrenched off his braces and shuffled off his breeches, shrugging out of his shirt so fast Boromir feared for the buttons. Hurriedly bundling the clothing into a pillow and wrapping his coat around it, Merry quickly yanked off his smallclothes and dove into the pile of blankets, shaking violently from the chill.

Boromir reached over the unconscious Pippin and tugged the blankets tight around Merry. The young Hobbit was shaking so hard he could hardly breathe, and the Man watched him in concern for a moment before sliding a hand up Merry's back and pulling him closer, pressing Merry into Pippin's side as he tried to share his warmth with the frozen Hobbits. Merry was surprised at how cool Pippin's skin felt to him, and snuggled willingly around his young cousin. Boromir rolled forward, half covering the small form directly in front of him, and wrapped an arm and a leg around both small bodies, hugging them closer to the furnace of his flesh. Merry sighed softly, body relaxing as his shivers eased in the warmth, and instinctively squirmed closer to the warm Man, reveling in the heat and crushing Pippin between them.

The Man watched as Merry slowly relaxed, then, after a moment, asked, "All right, then?"

Merry nodded, taking a deep breath and letting it out in a soft sigh, "Yeah, all right."

Boromir smiled, then grabbed for the tea mug as Pippin suddenly protested the crushing by squirming and twisting under him, throwing his head back against the blankets. The green eyes opened, but it was clear they were not seeing much from the way they rolled around and back into his head. He moaned, very softly, and twisted again, hands clenching the blankets.

"Hold him!" Boromir exclaimed, clutching at the tea mug and lifting it out of range of sudden movements as he rolled back and off of the small body.

"What's happening?" Merry squeaked as he wrapped himself around the twisting Hobbit, holding him tightly.

"He is beginning to warm." Boromir leaned forward again and braced the small head, fingers buried deeply into the soft cinnamon-touched curls. "Worry not, little one, this is a good thing." Carefully, the Man brought the still steaming mug to Pippin's bright lips, tipping it up and spilling the fragrant liquid into Pippin's mouth with perfect timing as the small Hobbit tried to throw his head back, mouth opening with a soft cry of distress. Merry's heart gave a thump at the pitiful sound and he remembered how the barely warm tea had scalded his frozen fingers, then he had to hang on tighter as Pippin choked.

The younger Hobbit coughed hard, but still managed to swallow most of the tea Boromir was pouring down his throat. Tenderly, the Man used a corner of a blanket to wipe Pippin's mouth and throat dry of spilled tea, handing the mug out of the blankets to Aragorn, who had approached them at the sound of Pippin's struggling.

Boromir rewrapped himself around the two small bodies, pulling the cinnamon head up to rest on his shoulder as he held them tight. He felt Aragorn tuck the blankets in, sealing out the cold before walking away. Boromir ducked his head down, snuggling his nose into soft, anonymous curls, and held onto the twisting Pippin, while inside the blankets the temperature began to rise. Slowly, Pippin began to calm, his body going limp and soft between the two sharing warmth. With a deep sigh, he turned and snuggled into Boromir's chest, pressing close. The Man smiled, feeling the small body go heavy in his arms.

Reaching out, Boromir pulled Merry closer still, big hands spreading and stroking softly down the Hobbit's small back, rubbing warmth into cool skin. "He sleeps now," the Man whispered. He felt Merry nod silently, and soon he had two exhausted Hobbits sleeping in his arms. The warm darkness swallowed his tender smile as he cradled them close, warming their chilled bodies with gentle strokes of warm hands across cool flesh until he followed them into exhausted, dreamless slumber.

***

A soft, rhythmic rushing sound fills your ears, in time with a slow, easy rocking motion that soothes. Gentle thumping surges through you, oddly reassuring, lulling you to contentment. Warmth surrounds you, fills you to the core, filling your mind and body to the brim, and you sigh in soft, lazy pleasure. The deep sigh brings with it the knowledge that you are held securely, buffered on both sides by firm, warm bodies and wrapped tightly in strong arms. The knowledge carries a feeling of security, absolute safety, and you doze a while longer, not questioning the feeling but content to revel in the bliss of feeling safe, protected, cherished.

Pippin woke, slowly. He murmured a soft, drowsy protest at the event and snuggled closer into the arms that were holding him, smiling in lazy contentment as he felt them tighten around him reassuringly, even though the breathing of the broad chest beneath his cheek barely quickened, it's owner still deeply asleep. He drifted there for a little, lazily warm and content, letting his mind gradually catch him up. He remembered starting up the mountain; days it had taken, getting colder and steeper with every step. He remembered the snowstorm vaguely; most of what he remembered was the cold - so cold. He shivered once at the memory, then smiled sleepily to feel both sets of arms around him tighten, bringing sleeping bodies closer to warm him.

...BOTH sets of arms...?

Pippin froze, holding his breath as his mind woke fully; he kept his eyes scrunched tightly closed, afraid to look. He could feel the bodies around him, skin on bare, warm skin, and he tried to remember how they had come to be there, in such a way. Vaguely, he remembered waking in the night and being soothed back into sleep by trusted voices (voice...es? Yes, he thought, definitely plural; he remembered at least two,) and strange hazy dreams about fire and burning.

His body finally forced him to take a breath and he gasped softly. The figure behind him shifted, arms wrapping more tightly around his chest as a familiar sleepy voice murmured unconscious reassurances into the nape of his neck, the words muffled by slumber. Pippin smiled, relaxing again, melting into the embrace with relief. He knew that embrace, nearly as well as he knew his own mother's; Merry would never let harm come to him.

Pippin rested a moment, thinking; if Merry was behind him...who was in front of him? He opened his eyes but saw only darkness. He twitched in fright; a heavy cloth brushed his cheek and moved across his head. Taking a breath to still his racing heart, he realized that there was a blanket over his head, blocking out the light. He stifled a giggle - the small squeak that did escape sounded shrill to his ears -- and tried to move his hands up to his face to feel the body in front of him. His left hand moved easily, ghosting across damp skin to come to rest on the furry chest, just by his nose. A Man, then; too big for a Dwarf, too furry for an Elf. His right hand, the shoulder he was resting on, did not move, trapped somehow between their two bodies.

He flexed his fingers thoughtfully, just a tiny wiggle, trying to figure out how to free his hand without waking his unknown bedpartner. That felt...odd. Frowning, he flexed his fingers again, feeling crisp, crinkly hair, satin soft skin, and firming flesh underneath. His eyes widened in sudden realization and he struggled backward, gracelessly yanking his hand from between the Man's thighs.

The motion threw him backward into Merry, an elbow driving up into his cousin's ribs, and sent the blankets gaping, chill air ghosting down his spine with icy fingers. Pippin rolled over with a shudder, fighting blankets to arrange himself face-to-face with Merry. With an attempted casualness, he poked his cousin in the belly, eliciting a pained, "Oof!"

Loudly, Pippin hissed, "Merry! MERRY!", poking his cousin again for good measure. "Merry!"

Merry tightened his arms around Pippin, and scooted a little closer to the younger Hobbit in self defense. "What? What is it, Pippin?" He blinked blearily, peering through the darkness under the blankets.

Pippin's eyes were huge in the darkness, and his hand gripped Merry's shoulder tightly, "Merry...there's a naked Man in my bed!"

Merry rolled his eyes and sighed, scooting closer and forcing Pippin back into the warm body behind him. "I know, Pip. Shut up and go back to sleep. It's the middle of the night."

"But, Merry--!"

Merry reached up and forcibly tucked Pippin's head under his chin, holding his cousin close in the darkness. "It's only Boromir, Pippin. He's keeping us warm. Go to sleep."

Pippin paused for a moment, considering that. "Oh." After a moment more of thought, he snuggled into Merry's arms and sighed. "Well, that's all right, then." Within moments, he was sound asleep, his breath warming Merry's throat. Merry sighed and then smiled to himself before closing his own eyes and trying to go back to sleep.

***

Carahdas had defeated them. By midday, the mountain had finally forced them back, piling snow and rocks upon their heads until even Gandalf had no choice but to admit defeat. They turned and made their way back down the path they had carved through the snow up the mountain, reaching their little overhang-cum-snow cave as the last pale glimmers of light left the gray sky.

Carefully, the Walkers pushed into the little cave created by the overhang and boulders covered in snow, the taller Men and Elf ducking to avoid the rough roof. The exhausted Men let the Hobbits down, and Sam began to unload the pony while Frodo and Merry started another fire with what was left of their wood. Pippin carefully unpacked the blankets and cooking supplies, taking over the care of the pony so Sam could brew some tea, while Gimli and Legolas stepped outside to pile more snow against the walls and gaps in the boulders, fortifying their shelter a little more.

Sam volunteered to take first watch, and Frodo spoke up to accompany him, letting the grateful Men have a chance to rest. Merry watched as Boromir quietly wrapped himself into his cloak, looking pale and tired. With a glance at Pippin, Merry gathered up his own blankets and took them to Boromir's side. Hesitantly, he set them there, then snuggled up against the big Man's side. "Rest, Boromir," he said quietly. "Sleep if you will. We will wake you when warm food is ready. Do not worry." Gray eyes twinkled merrily, underscoring the subtle jest.

Boromir blinked, but before he could say a word, he was interrupted by the thump of a body on his other side. Bright green eyes sparkled up at him before Pippin burrowed into the blankets and pressed himself against the exhausted Man's side. The combined warmth of their bodies, and comfort of their presence, quickly pulled Boromir under the cloak of sleep.

The next night, it was Pippin who set up his bedroll next to Boromir's, followed closely by Merry as he finished first watch. The night after that, Boromir had first watch; but as he settled into his blankets, alone beside the fire, he barely had time to doze off before he was stirred awake by a pair of small warm shapes pressing themselves into his sides. He smiled and wrapped his arms around both of them, quickly falling asleep.

 

END