Of Back Rubs and Swamp Gas by Lady Harvest

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Story notes: This is set in the Midgewater Marshes, a spiffy little scene on the Extended DVD. Just thought I'd clarify.
"You cant do this you know, its not right." That was Frodo's soft voice, and it sounded almost muffled by the thick swamp air. Pippin just merely made a face, going back to prowling through Strider's bags as quietly as he could.

"Pippin..." That was Frodo again. Pippin's eyes raised to him, and he sighed, scampering away from the bag. "Fine, fine. But I'm hungry."

There was a deep sigh in Pippin's voice. It was a grievous thing to come between a hobbit and his hunger. It just wasn't right. He curled up next to the others, and watched Sam snuggle happily back into Frodo's warmth. He wasn't worried about food, of course. He was right giddy at having his "Mr. Frodo" close enough to lay bodily with. But Pippin was happy for him. He knew he himself was wishing for the comfort of someone, anyone... and Merry was snoring away, snuggled to Sam's other side. It was a hard thing, being the odd hobbit out.

As the moon rose full and pregnant with light over the humid swamp, Pippin was roused from his light sleep by the grumbling of his stomach. He rolled over, bringing his knees to his chest in an effort to quell the diabolical rumbles. But alas, this was the tummy of a hobbit, and it didn't take well to missing supper. Sure, he'd had dinner, but what about tea? Elevensies? Second breakfast for Shire's sake! It was a hard thing to swallow. The thought of swallowing sent another grumble through him, and he stood, his mouth now grumbling in unison with his stomach.

"S' not fair...not fair at all, that Ranger is right starving us!" He spoke in an indignified whisper to himself. As quietly as he could, he crept over to the small leather bag, his eyes darting up to watch the steady movement of Strider's chest. If he just keep sleeping... "Can I ask what you're doing, Master Took?" Pippin froze guiltily, one tiny hand poised on the clasp of the leather bag. Strider's voice was soft, and there was a vague sound of amusement, floating in there somewhere. "I was...I was just..." He pursed his lips, bringing his hands together to wring them in front of his small shirt. His lip pushed out almost comically, his eyes filling with water. "I was hungry!" Pippin lowered his voice when he heard Merry snort. Strider just watched him silently for a moment, his head canted to a curious angle. "Do Hobbits only think of their stomachs, even when followed with such danger?"

He didn't go into detail, trying not to scare the hobbit too much. A healthy dose of fear was one thing, but terrifying the poor lad just wasn't nessicary. Pippin's gentle face took on an air of hurt, and Strider instantly regretted his somewhat sharp tone. These poor little creatures had the biggest hearts he had ever seen, and he found himself regularly treading on proverbial toes, when it came to their feelings. The hurt on Pippin's face seemed to swell for a moment, and much to Strider's surprise, it swerved quickly into anger. "Well, I wouldn't have to go snoopin' through your things at night if you'd just let us eat, right proper!" Strider only blinked for a long moment, before a subdued smile touched his lips.

"Anger becomes you, Master Took." His voice lowered a notch, almost as if to make up for Pippin's raised tone. Pippin faltered, and looked over at the Ranger, his eyes full of bewilderment. The very thought of this man, this Ranger flirting with him, was a concept just a little too quick for the naive hobbit's mind. "Wh...What do you mean??" All traces of anger were gone from his smooth little face. He was lost somewhere between innocent confusion, and indignation. He wasn't quite sure how to take the smile that Strider wasn't trying very hard to hide.

"Nothing more than I said, little one. "His laid his hands out, palms up in front of him in a placating gesture. "You hobbits are such curious little creatures..." Strider's voice took on a misty edge, like he was talking more to himself, than to Pippin. "Able to wear any emotion openly on such smooth...faces." He'd had to stop himself. The word beautiful had been dangerously close to leaving his mouth. And as much as he enjoyed watching the emotions fly across Pippin's sweet face, he wasn't sure if Pippin was ready for such open honesty. Or if he, himself was, for that matter.

Pippin watched the man, that look of bewilderment fading, but slowly. He wasn't...he could of been...was he...flirting? Pippin wasn't quite sure how to handle that thought. Sure, he'd instantly been taken with the dashing Ranger, but who wouldn't have been? It fascinated him to watch someone with so much strength, speak with such a gentle manner. A manner that Pippin believed, was natural to Strider. He pulled his lower lip into his mouth, worrying on it methodically with his teeth. He needed time, a moment to collect himself, and decide what he should say in return. But luckily, Strider seemed apt to wait.

After what seemed like hours, but what couldn't have been more than a minute of two, the hobbit spoke. "You're attractive, Strider." He spoke with certainty, nodding his head a bit to emphasize his point. Strider however, couldn't bite back his amused chuckle. "Well, its quite pleasing to hear that from you, Pippin." At the moment, the hobbit decided that he really liked the sound of his name from those full, rosebud lips. He took a hesitant step forward, and then another, until he was standing even with the man's shoulder. He raised his face to the night sky, his eyes dropping closed. "Say it again?" It was barely more than a whisper in the air, and it took Strider a moment to fully decipher the sultry request. He was too busy being taken aback by the huskyness that had suddenly invaded the young hobbit's voice. "Pippin." If the sweet huskyness of Pippin's voice wasn't enough, his own voice cracked in a very un-manly fashion.

"Thats nice. I like it." There was more, but suddenly Pippin was silenced by the warm, heavy hand on his back. He stood stock still for a moment, not even realizing he was holding his breath. Then Strider's fingers started moving across the smooth expanse of his shirt, his calluses causing pleasing little ripples of electricity down his spine. "Could you...a little lower?" Strider's breath hitched in his throat, and after a moment, he cursed himself mentally. The young one wasn't asking for that, he simply wanted his back rub just a little further down. So he lowered his hand inch by inch, still smoothing and massaging, until he heard the tell tale "aah". " There...thats nice...I like it.."

The little hobbits face was still raised to the sky and he was rocking backwards into the touch just slightly. All the tenseness from sleeping on the ground, was fading slowly out of his body. Strider's hand was warm, and with it brought the security that Pippin had been seeking, subliminally, if nothing else. It wasn't exactly torture to the ranger either. Pippin's tiny body was smooth, and sweet in a way that almost felt guilty. It reminded him of a doll that his mother owned, when he was a child. It was the most beautiful creature Strider had laid his eyes on, and because of that very fact, he was terrified to touch it. It had smooth, milky skin, and bright blue eyes. And he just knew the moment his clumsy, young hands laid upon it, that its stillness, and serenity would be broken.

"Strider?" Pippin was looking over his shoulder at the ranger, a curled strand falling almost completely into his eyes. The reassuring smile of the hobbit brought Strider back out of his trance. Pippin wasn't a doll, and wouldn't break, and Strider was no longer a gangly boy. His hands had seen many wars, but they still knew the gentleness women, and creatures such as hobbits, craved. Strider reached out, almost without thought, and gently swiped the curl away from Pippin's eyes. He didn't want anything to obscure his view. "Does that make it my turn?" Pippin asked eagerly. Strider wanted to kick himself at the moment of hot glee that passed through him. It'd been too long since he'd last had a lover, too long... "Your turn?" He had one eyebrow raised, watching as the little one hopped up on the rock behind him.

"My mum, I used to give her rubs all the time...only, those were her feet, but there's not much difference." Pippin spoke with an easy confidence, as his small hands began to work over the taut muscles of Strider's shoulders. He wouldn't be able to give them the good hard squeeze they needed to ease the knots, but the feeling was plenty soothing. Little hobbit hands moved over his muscles in a magical fashion, relieving aches he didn't know he had. "Mm...you're doing wonderfully, Master Took." Pippin took a heady little thrill over the fact that Strider's head was tipped back slightly, and his eyes were closed. He knew there was no way the man was faking the cat-like look of pleasure on his rugged features.

"Pippin." Strider nodded, a small smile creeping up on his lips as he spoke the word in return. "Pippin."
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