A soft smile crossed his face, as he thought of Pippin. Who'd had wonderful excuses, open arms, and quite a bit of love for him, when he'd finally arrived at Bag End. And both he and Merry had decided to stay, for as long as they could, speaking long into the night of their worry for Frodo, his loneliness and isolation. And of course, they could be as open with each other as they liked, in the halls of Frodo's hobbit hole, in a way they never could in either Buckland or Tuckborourgh.
Tonight, Pippin had sent Merry off alone, saying he had something to discuss with Frodo, and Merry should go and have fun. Frodo had been surprised, but as Merry had agreed readily enough, hadn't said much.
So now Merry was sitting here, still at the edge of the crowd, but nursing a single ale and quite content.