Gandalf had advised Merry that he would keep Frodo and Sam asleep for at least ten days, so exhausted were they, and this was a relief; but Pippin had not been made to sleep, and Gandalf's magic could not make him wake. Gandalf and Aragorn made many suggestions, and Merry gladly accepted each, forcing whatever horrid concoctions they created into Pippin and then waiting by his side to witness any effect they might have. But no effect was seen, not even with athelas, and with each failure Merry felt his heart grow heavier and his own will falter with despair.
Several days passed, and still Pippin did not wake, and still Merry would not leave him. At the insistence of Gandalf, Merry slept at least a little, but would not leave Pippin even then; he pulled a chair close to Pippin's bedside, and then would sleep slumped half upon the chair and half upon the edge of the bed, clutching Pippin's uninjured hand. In the beginning Merry slept fitfully, waking at even the slightest of sounds in his wishes that the sound might have been made by Pippin, but as the days continued Merry was less hopeful, and he began to sleep longer and more deeply.
Thus it was late one night that Merry found himself dreaming, a horrid dream he could not escape. Nor could he nor Pippin escape inside of this dream, for they were once again on the plains east of Rohan, fleeing the orcs and Uruk-hais, and while they had managed to reach the forest, the orcs were close behind them and gaining ground. Furthermore, they had no idea where they were going.
They ran desperately until they found a break in the path, and Merry ran to the right without hesitation, but soon realized Pippin was no longer behind him. 'Pippin?' he called softly, not wishing the orcs to hear him. 'Pippin?' But Pippin did not answer, and then an orc crashed through the brush before him, and Merry had to run again.
The bushes and branches ripped and tore at him as he ran; Merry dodged them as best he could, knowing any damage done by the trees would be truly small in comparison to his fate should the orcs capture him. At one moment an orc nearly did capture him; so close was it, that Merry could feel its hot breath upon him, and he could see its filthy claws and gnashing, bloody teeth - and then he saw caught in its teeth a piece of gray wool, flecked with purple and yellow and fresh blood, and Merry knew where Pippin had gone.
Merry stopped running, closed his eyes and turned back, expecting and perhaps even wishing the orc to rend him to pieces, ready to accept the fate that had already befallen Pippin. But there was no attack, only silence, and after a time, Merry slowly opened his eyes to face what he was certain would be his death. But the orc was gone, and no others were there; nothing was there at all except a dark shadow, and then Merry heard his name spoken, soft and whispering as if on the wind, and he was certain it was the shadow that had spoken. He dared not answer it, for it surely was a wraith, and he was equally sure he knew whom it had once been. Then he heard his name again, spoken a little louder and with more insistence, and he was about to back away from the wraith when something grasped his hand tightly and the nightmare finally ceased.
Merry awoke instantly with a squeal of fright, and immediately looked to his hand to see Pippin's fingers closed tightly about his own. He leapt to his feet and turned to find Pippin watching him, scarcely awake and appearing very pained and discomfited but nonetheless regarding him with curiosity, puzzlement and more than a touch of impatience. Merry was so beside himself with joy and relief he could not think of a word to say, and in due time Pippin was no longer inclined to wait for a response.
"Merry," he whispered again. "I'm hungry."
"Pippin! You're, you - you're alive!" Merry flung himself atop of Pippin in his anxiousness and exhilaration, forgetting Pippin's condition until Pippin reminded him with a yelp of pain and a surprisingly strong complaint.
"Why, yes, cousin, I do believe I am alive, but I shan't be much longer if you insist on leaping upon me so. And I'm still hungry," Pippin whimpered.
For what he supposed was the dozenth or so time in the short hours he had been awake, Pippin took his own inventory of his injuries and ills and compared them to the list conjured by consultation between Aragorn and Gandalf. Upon receiving word from Merry that Pippin was awake (and, Pippin noted, there was a general failure by all to act upon the additional notice that he was hungry) Gandalf and Aragorn had set upon poking, prodding and otherwise producing prodigious pain throughout him in the name of determining his health. As far as Pippin was concerned, he had been far healthier before this undertaking.
While he agreed his legs were not broken, he vehemently disagreed that they were merely bruised and had told them so, declaring he had never seen anything so black and blue as his legs presently were since Fatty Bolger slammed his hand in the door. And while he had no argument that his left arm was quite broken, he deemed it far more damaged and painful than Aragorn seemed to believe it was. It was about then that Gandalf had insisted upon having the young hobbit gagged before proceeding any further, and Merry, of all hobbits, had cheerfully complied with the order.
'Pippin, even I no longer wish to listen to you, and if you wish to know the extent of that, there are quite a few here you could ask!' Merry had announced even as he had stuffed a loaf of bread into his mouth. At least Merry had the proper sense to use food. After all, Pippin still felt himself insufficiently fed.
Pippin further agreed that he indeed had many more cracked and perhaps broken bones (and those that were not broken by the troll, he suspected might have been broken by Merry's enthusiasm the night before and he made quite sure Merry was aware of his suspicions) but in the end he disagreed vehemently that he must spend at least two more weeks confined to his bed. He had been awake less than a day, and already he wished desperately to be somewhere else. It was of no comfort to him that he shared a space with Frodo and Sam; Gandalf had said that they would sleep for several days more, and it was extremely odd to share quarters with such inactive company.
At least Merry was there. Once the excitement had ceased (and he was truly amazed at how much excitement he caused merely by waking, he reminded himself he must inquire of Merry how long he had been sleeping) Merry had finally brought Pippin some food; not as much as Pippin might have liked, but certainly the foods that hobbits liked, and particularly the ones he most enjoyed, and he was sure Merry had played no small part in this. Indeed, Pippin could imagine Merry being quite insistent until he received precisely the right food. And despite Merry's occasional declaration that Pippin was being quite impossible, he still barely left Pippin alone, and inquired frequently whether Pippin was warm enough, and as to his other needs. Pippin was rather enjoying the extra attention. Perhaps he ought to keep this in consideration for the future, that Merry was far more mindful of him when he was ill.
By the following day Pippin was absolutely certain he would not survive unless he spent at least a little time outside, and queried Gandalf regarding any possible excursion so often and with such enthusiasm that in the end the Gandalf finally granted him permission for a short trip with Merry, and then Gandalf had stormed off in a fit of pique which Pippin really thought extravagant. "Merry," he asked, "Am I truly such as Gandalf says? And what did he mean by that remark about hobbits?"
Merry shrugged in response, wearing an expression of puzzlement and innocence so genuine Pippin knew perfectly well it was not. "Come on then, what's he about?" Pippin persisted.
"Well, it's not so much Gandalf then, as it is that I was much the same in Minas Tirith with the Warden. I suppose I may have been rather insistent about leaving my room…and I might have left on a few occasions…without permission, but really, he was being quite unreasonable!" Merry flushed slightly red at his admission.
"I don't know why you would be embarrassed, cousin, after all, we hobbits aren't really meant to stay in bed all day, unless of course, we want to!" Pippin declared, and Merry had to agree, and he helped Pippin prepare for his venture.
Pippin was nearly ready to depart when he realized he wasn't wearing his favorite scarf; he asked Merry to wait a moment and went and fetched it, attempting and failing to wrap it about with only one hand and then quite forgetting the entire complicated procedure when he saw that Merry had flinched noticeably at each sight of the scarf.
"Merry, is something the matter?" Pippin inquired, genuinely confused at Merry's reaction.
"No!" Merry answered quickly, too quickly by Pippin's judgment. "I meant, no, nothing's the matter, why do you think so?" Merry continued nervously.
"It's not so important," Pippin answered, thinking above all else to preserve his trip, and abandoning for now his efforts to put on the scarf, although he did decide to bring it with him. "Come on then, it won't be light for so much longer, and I must be somewhere besides here!"
Ithilien held no comparison to the elven-lands, or even to Sam's gardens in the Shire, and Pippin surely could not have managed to go far without Merry's assistance, but all the same Pippin found the walk an immense improvement to remaining in bed. In time though, Pippin felt himself chilled and decided one hand or no, he needed the scarf, and as he brought it out and tried once again to put it about his neck he again caught Merry in a flinch. "Here now, Merry, there must be something not right, you can't fool a Took, you know, and you are behaving most oddly."
Merry folded his arms across his chest, bit his lip and refused to answer.
"Really, Meriadoc Brandybuck, one would think you were stubborn," Pippin persisted, "but already I know there is much you haven't told me, and I don't know why you won't. Certainly, I've told you everything I remember, and it would be fair of you."
Merry remained silent for the better part of a minute, and Pippin was about to continue his plea when Merry turned to him and deftly wrapped the scarf about Pippin's neck, doing so swiftly but not so quickly that Pippin did not see the beginnings of tears in Merry's eyes. "There now, Pippin, you should be warmer. Will this do?"
"No, it certainly shan't," Pippin answered softly.
Merry turned away again, then spoke so quietly Pippin could barely hear him. "I dreamt of the orcs, on the plains. I dreamt when we ran away, that they caught you, and did most horrible things to you. And when I knew they had, I let them catch me, too. Do you believe what the old aunts always told us, that our dreams may mean something?"
Pippin was nearly frozen in surprise by Merry's admission, but he remembered the tales, indeed. "Yes, Merry, I believe."
"I think the dream meant that if you died, so would I, because I wouldn't care about living anymore. I have been very frightened these last days, that we would never speak together again." Merry's voice shook so that he could say no more.
Pippin put his better hand atop one of Merry's. "Do you know what I thought, as I thought I would die?" he asked. "Mostly I thought of how if only one would search for me, it would be you. And I was very sorry I would not see you again. But I was also very wrong, and we should both be much happier for it."
"I suppose we should be," Merry whispered. "Promise me though, that you shall never go off without me again. I don't believe I could survive this again, and I certainly would wish not to."
"I promise," Pippin answered without hesitation. "We hobbits must stay together, and we shall. I think we should begin with dinner."
At this Merry couldn't help but chuckle, and he helped Pippin back to the camp, holding Pippin's hand tightly.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.