"You're limping again," Merry said, frowning at his cousin.
Pippin nodded and climbed onto the high bed, where Merry was sprawled with a book and a plate of fruit. "Rain," Pippin said. He made a face as he began to rub the arch of his foot. "I was supposed to go with Bergil, all the way out to Osgiliath to see Beregond and his company, but his mother declared that he was to go to market for her, since she cannot take the infant out in this, and that I should come back here and curl up with a heated brick."
"A wise woman, Mistress Aninia," Merry said. He put his book aside and moved the plate of fruit onto the table beside the bed. "Too much rain for my liking or your foot." He sat up and reached for Pippin's foot.
"Oi, your hand is icy," Pippin exclaimed.
"Is it?" Merry said. Pippin shuddered and then relaxed back onto a pile of pillows to enjoy Merry's ministrations, awkward though they were with only one strong set of fingers to rub and dig into the aching muscles and press along the fragile bones. Merry used his injured hand to cradle Pippin's foot in his lap.
They fell silent, the only sounds those of rain through the high windows and the pop of a small fire in the grate; Pippin occasionally made an appreciative murmur as Merry's fingers soothed the aches away. The room was dim and silvery, cool but not cold. Spring was well advanced now, this rain feeding jonquils and irises.
"Better?" Merry said at last, tweaking Pippin's smallest toe.
"Much," the younger hobbit sighed, eyes closed.
Merry yawned. "Let's take a nap," he said. "I'm feeling particularly lazy today."
Pippin wriggled out of his trousers and shirt and slid beneath the counterpane in a wink; Merry set his book carefully beside the plate and followed suit. "These sheets are chilly," he muttered, and Pippin reached for him, pulled him close.
"Come here, you," he murmured. "Curl up, now." He tucked Merry's head under his chin and cuddled him close. "Better?"
"Much." Merry sighed gustily against Pippin's neck. "You're cheerful today, for an achy old gaffer."
"Aye," Pippin said. "I'm cheerful most days."
"True enough." Merry tucked his cold right hand more firmly between them, for the warmth it offered. "Why is that, do you suppose? Frodo wanders around looking half-lost, and Sam is always worried for him; I'm fine most of the time but can't abide company the other bit. Except you, of course. So why're you so blasted cheerful?"
"Frodo is half-lost," Pippin said softly. "Half of him gone, into the fire. And you know Sam can’t abide his master feeling so - and I wonder, too, what happened to him up there, and on that journey. We all ask Frodo so many questions, and worry so about him, but Frodo'd never have made it without Sam." He squeezed Merry. "I don't know what your ailment is, except this." He slid his hand between them, ran one finger across Merry's knuckles. "Which is enough."
"You've ailments, too, y'know." Merry's voice was muffled.
"I like my ailments," Pippin said.
Merry wriggled backward to look at him. "Beg your pardon?"
Pippin smiled at him, quiet and mischievous at once. "I do. They're reminders, you know, that we survived it."
"You're daft, you are," Merry said. "They're reminders that we went through what no-one should have to go through."
"Of course," Pippin nodded, his lips thinning slightly. "But they're reminders that we made it, Merry-mine." He propped himself on one elbow to better regard his cousin. "This -" he traced the brown seam of scar that marred Merry's brow - "every time I see this, I think, Merry survived." He leaned down and kissed the mark gently. "You survived that, and I can do this." Pippin kissed his cousin's lips softly. "Every time I feel how cold your hand is, every time I see you fumble and curse with your buttons, I ache for you - but I also think, There is the bravest hobbit in Middle-earth, who slew the Witch-king." He lifted Merry's hand to his lips and kissed each fingertip gently, ignoring Merry's blushing face and the protest that fell half-formed from his mouth. "When we lie together and I feel the weals on your back and legs, I remember that run across the plains, and I remember how we got away - how clever I was, and how brave you were." Pippin grinned and ran his hand down Merry's back. "And my scars are the same," he said lightly.
Merry pulled Pippin down and then rolled so that he was propped over the young Took. "They are," he admitted. He kissed the bridge of Pippin's nose, so the younger hobbit giggled and went cross-eyed. "Your lovely Tookish nose all battered and broken by that Troll, but healed now." Merry pulled back, rolled off him and lay propped beside him under the covers. "This long scar - Beregond saw the sword that did it, and says you slew the orc, too." Merry ran his finger down the long line of new-healed pink skin, from Pippin's shoulder to forearm. "I also think of Aragorn, and how he and the healers sewed you up like a quilt."
"I didn't feel it at all, at the time," Pippin admitted sheepishly. "It's all a blur - I was scared out of my wits."
"And no Merry there to help you," Merry said, laying his forehead against Pippin's.
"Ach, it would've been worse, if you'd been there," Pippin said pragmatically. "I'd've been worried so about you that I wouldn't have been of any use at all."
"I disagree," Merry said, but he ran his hand down Pippin's side, touching the ends of Pippin's whip scars where they curled round his ribs. "And you survived that run as well, didn't you?"
"And we met Treebeard, and we helped bring down Isengard," Pippin said. He shifted against Merry, less sleepy than before.
Merry grinned. "You're feeling less achy, then," he said.
Pippin pressed his hips and his arousal upward. "Different kind of ache. Though a massage wouldn’t go amiss."
Merry's guffaw gusted across Pippin's mouth. "Incorrigible!" he said.
"Just another affirmation of life," Pippin said, wrapping his legs around Merry's waist, pulling him down and moving against him so the older hobbit's eyes sank shut, his forehead falling against Pippin's again. "Just another way to reassure myself that good things are yet to come."
"They are, love, they are," Merry breathed, and his mouth covered Pippin's, met by an eager tongue and a happy murmur.