Sixteen-year-old Meriadoc Brandybuck lay in his warm bed, asleep at the moment, but not for long. His mom, Esmeralda was outside the door. She rapped on the doorway lightly, poking her head in to see if Merry was stirring yet. Merry rolled away, facing the wall opposite his bed. His eyes fluttered, but he instantly closed them, snuggling deeper into the soft quilt. “Merry!” she called. “Merry!” “Ohh,” he moaned, but didn’t stir. He just closed his blue-gray eyes tighter. “Meriadoc Brandybuck, wake up!” she exclaimed. “Why, Mamma?” he murmured. “I was in the middle of a good dream.” His mom smiled. “Did you forget that your cousin, Peregrin, is arriving today?” she replied. That last statement got Merry moving. “Really, Mamma?!” he exclaimed. “Yes, dear. Hurry and get dressed. Then join us for breakfast. After that, clean your room a bit and set Pip’s bed up. When the little imp gets here, you can send him on his way,” his mom replied, ruffling Merry’s hair. “Yes, mamma,” Merry replied. Merry got up, got dressed, and headed into the kitchen for breakfast. The cooks had set out pastries, a delicious-looking fruit salad, and some eggs. Merry only had time to eat fifths before it was time to clean his room and get ready for Pippin’s appearance. He started by making his bed, chuckling to himself about how Pippin liked to sleep with him. On him, if the truth were to be told. When Merry finished, he vacuumed, dusted, and reorganized. He had just put up Pippin’s bed when there was a sound from outside. Merry went to his open window and looked out. Pippin was frowning in the way that meant he was upset about something. Merry looked closer and saw, to his horror, that Pippin’s oldest sister, Pearl, was pulling Pippin along. “Cut it out, Pearl!” Pippin shouted. “I’m going as fast as I can!” “Oh, all right. We’re nearly there anyway,” she replied. With that said, Pearl let go of the lad and watched as he bolted to the door of the Great Smials. Merry saw him coming and clattered down the hall, bumping into his dad in the process, to answer the door. Merry flung the door open and nodded at Pearl. Then he turned his attention to the little lad in front of him. “Merry!” shrieked Pippin joyfully, pouncing on his older cousin. “Pippin!” cried Merry, sweeping Pippin into a big hug. He tousled Pippin’s curls affectionately. “Hello, Pearl. Won’t you come in?” said a voice from behind Merry. Merry set Pippin down and turned. There was his dad, looking at Merry with laughter in his eyes. “I’d like to, Uncle Saradoc, but I’m just here to drop off Pippin,” Pearl said. “Good-bye!” “I see you found your bodyguard, Pippin,” said another voice. Pippin turned away from his Merry to see his aunt Esmeralda smiling down at him. Pippin nodded. “I got my Merry.” Merry laughed. “Come on, then, Pippin-lad, let’s play. We’ve got a lot to catch up on.” When the twosome reached Merry’s room, buried deep in the Great Smials, Merry jumped onto his bed, saying, “Come here, Pip. Come sit on my lap.” Pippin climbed onto Merry’s warm lap and rested his head on Merry’s shoulder. By lunchtime, Merry knew all the newest gossip from Tuckborough, and Pippin knew all the Buckland hearsay. Pippin curled deeper into Merry’s shoulder, and Merry leaned his head on Pippin’s curls. Nice soft curls that smelled of fresh air and flowers. After a hearty lunch, Merry and Pippin were ready to cause mischief. Their first stop was Farmer Maggot’s produce, where they stole carrots, beans, and cabbage, plus some mushrooms and potatoes. Following their escape was a trip around Buckland, where they filched some cherry pies. They made off with their loot and headed back home to hide their stuff. Then they slunk into the kitchens and pilfered some chocolate cupcakes. While Pippin took the cakes, Merry kept a lookout for any cooks. When they heard footsteps, Merry and Pippin hid under the table while the cooks filled the fruit basket. Then the twosome made their getaway and deposited the sweets in Merry’s room. By that time it was dinner. Merry and Pippin washed up and ate the good stew and salad that the cooks had prepared. Then it was back to Merry’s room to devour some of their loot. Next, it was bath time. Merry ran the water and helped Pip to get undressed. Then he fetched his rubber ducks. When he got back, Pippin was nowhere to be found. Merry laughed; Pippin was always playing jokes like this, the little scamp! Pippin jumped out from behind the door, shouting, “BOO!” “Aaaaaaaaaaaaah!” Merry shrieked. “Pip, you scared me!” Pippin giggled and jumped into Merry’s arms. He wrapped his arms around Merry, holding him close. Merry kissed Pippin’s curls, stroking his hair softly. “I love you.” “I love you, too,” Pippin replied. “And I always will.” They got into the warm water and relaxed. Merry shampooed the little lad’s hair and feet and helped him to rinse. Then Pippin did the same for Merry. Finally they settled down for a good soaking. Pippin climbed into Merry’s lap and sighed as Merry massaged his back soothingly. “Ready to get out, Pip?” inquired Merry. “Yeah,” Pippin replied. He was half asleep as Merry dried him off. Merry hoisted Pip onto his hip and carried him to his room to get dressed. When they were finally ready, Merry said, “Get into bed and we’ll read a story, Pip.” Pippin climbed into Merry’s huge bed and waited while Merry chose a book. At last, Merry found what he was searching for and climbed into bed beside Pip and patted his lap. Pippin nestled into Merry’s neck and listened while he told the story of a little hobbit that was afraid of the dark. Then Merry blew out the candle and they snuggled together. Merry tried to roll over, but found that he couldn’t because Pippin was asleep on his chest. Merry woke Pippin up and said, “Stay on your half of the bed, Pip, or I’ll tickle you!” Pip wasn’t in the mood for tickling so he did as he was told, his head resting on Merry’s shoulder and one arm draped across his chest. “That’s better,” Merry mumbled, and fell asleep.