AN: All right, here, for your pleasure, is a story inspired by my dear friend Dana. It's told from the POV of Eowyn, and centres mostly round her and Merry. Leave me reviews: constructive criticism, non-constructive criticism, notes to tell me I'm deplorable… you know, the usual. J
Chapter 1: Garden-time Talks
The days of my life in the Houses of Healing seem unbearably long and drawn, and I have come to detest these walls with a passion almost near to that I felt standing over the still form of my Uncle on the Pelennor fields.
The only respite I have yet found comes from a Hobbit: Merry, dear, chipper, little Meriadoc with his sweetly expressive face and silken curls. Many a night have I played my fingers through those flaxen ringlets as the small Hobbit drifted off to slumber in my arms. Just as many times have I caressed tears from that dear face as fits of memory overtook him and anguished sobs breached my once hidden maternal core. Indeed, if the Hobbit had not saved my life, and I do not doubt with a single fibre of my body that he did, then he has awoken in me the long sleeping desire to be a mother. Of this I would tell him naught, for to hear such a thing from a woman not so very far from his own age would serve only belittlement.
As I sit with him today taking our supper in the gardens, a privilege I treasure for it has only been recently granted to me, his mood is one of restless melancholy: his companions Peregrin, Legolas, Aragorn, and Gimli have gone to battle before the black gates of Morannon. His distemper at being left behind is almost palpable.
"Is it terribly foolish of me," Merry asks, looking up from a small patch of daffodils, with a thoughtful look on his round face, "That I wish I was out there with them?" He takes a slow loving bite of his sandwich, and I cannot stop the indulgent smile as I realise that I have considered his eating habits to be loving. And yet, they are: for all of his large appetite, he savours each bite that he consumes, handling the food gently and with such care that he reminds me oft of a hunter, giving blessings of gratitude and apology to a recently felled game animal that he will take home to feed his family. He will waste not a bite of anything, no matter how large the spread and I sometimes wonder if this is less an act of simple gluttony, than a genuine appreciation for what he has been given…
The clearing of a small throat interrupts my train of thought, and I look up to find Merry watching me curiously, curly head slightly tilted to one side.
"My apologies, Merry." I say, smiling but with an appropriately abashed countenance, and he smiles back at me. I take a moment to ruminate on his question before I answer. "Unless your desire stems from a need for glory, which I sincerely doubt it does, then no. I do not think it foolish. Indeed, I see it as but another sign of your admirable courage, that you have suffered so much already and yet still wish to stand at the sides of your companions."
A look of pride, however bashful, takes him and he smiles ruefully at me. "I wonder if it isn't so much courage, but my inability to understand the meaning of 'enough'." This makes me chuckle and I beckon him closers, sliding over a bit that he may sit beside me, a delighted grin crossing my face as, with a shy smile places a butter yellow daffodil onto my lap.
"Thank you, Merry dear." I say, pressing a kiss to the exposed skin between the golden curls on his forehead. "It's lovely." He nods his answer, rather than speaking and smiles up at me with a look to his eyes that I recognise but cannot place. I suffice knowing that it is not a look of some trouble, and give him a squeeze to his shoulder. Our meal is finished in companionable silence.
While later tucking away the last vestiges of our lunch, I decide to strike up conversation again. "Your cousin, Peregrin. You are very close to him, aren't you?"
He nods, smiling somewhat wistfully as he licks stray crumbs from his fingers. "He is my dearest friend. We have been round each other since the day he was born, and I love him more every single day." He laughs suddenly, a happy sparkle coming to his eyes. "I remember a time, when I first had thoughts of growing up and being a big Hobbit, I reckoned that I had no more time for a child 8 years younger than I. Mind you I had just woken up that very morning and decided this." He grins at me, and I grin back. "He had come out to stay with me at Brandy Hall, and when I started ignoring him that morning, and telling him that he was much too young for me to play with, he got incredibly worked up about it. He followed me about the entire day, repeating 'Merry, Merry, Merry' until I was about ready to give him a solid kick into the Brandywine, and I got quite angry with him, and yelled at him." He scrunches his nose at this memory, as if ashamed of himself for doing such a thing. "And rather than getting angry right back and running off back to the Hall, he latches himself onto my leg and no matter what I, or any of my older friends, did we could not get him off. I ended up having to walk 2 miles back home with him clinging to my leg, not to mention that he'd taken up his 'Merry, Merry' again. I was so mad at him I could spit." He lets out a soft giggle. "So I locked myself up in my bedroom, intending to stay there until dinner time, but Pippin comes knocking on my door not ten minutes after I'd gone in, and just… banged incessantly until I got up and let him in. And there he was, dressed in my Da's best clothes, with this stern little look on his face. He told me, in a voice that he obviously thought sounded grown up, that he would not have me putting him aside, and that he was perfectly old enough to play with me." Merry laughs again, eyes shining at this memory. "He looked so cute there in those great big clothes that I simply couldn't say no to him. I still can't. Whatever he wants from me he gets."
I grinned, and put my arm round him to give him a hug. "How old were you when this happened?"
Merry grinned once more, this one slightly more impish. "Thirteen. Pippin was five. At thirteen I had thoughts already of growing up." He sobers a bit. "I wish now that I had known then what growing up would be like."
I shake my head. "No you don't." I say, and he looks up at me with raised
eyebrows. I elaborate. "If you had known what your adulthood would
be like, do you think your childhood would have been so carefree?"
Merry considers this for a moment, and then shakes his head.
"There you are, then." I give him a warm smile. "But, let us hope that this darkness does not loom overhead and make the rest of your years dark, Meriadoc. You are too wonderful a person for the cynicism that would bring." I bring up a hand to run them through the soft curls, and he leans close to me, and for a while we sit together, in silence once more.
Ere the sun set, Merry has fallen asleep and I rock him slowly, my broken arm the only thing preventing me from carrying him back to his bed.
The Moon comes out slowly, His silvery rays lighting the garden in a surreal, fantastical way, and making Merry's curls look almost like cascading ringlets of silver. A warm feeling flutters in my bosom and I lean down to kiss the soft cheek, then gently ease him from my lap. I make my way back into the Houses of Healing, informing the Warden that Meriadoc, the perian, has fallen asleep in the gardens, and ask him to put the Hobbit to bed. He agrees, and I follow him back out to the bench where Merry still lies, sound asleep, snoring lightly, and watch as the Warden lifts the small body with utmost care and takes him back inside. He sets Merry onto his bed, and I thank him before leaning down to tuck sleeping Hobbit in. With a last kiss to his forehead, I leave him and go to my own bed.
"Eowyn! Lady Eowyn!" I look up at the sound of Merry, brilliantly happy, dashing into my room. "They're back!" He cries joyfully, breath heaving, round face flushed. Smiling widely, I stand to follow Merry back to the doors of the Hall to watch the procession of returning soldiers. We stand side by side in the doorway, watching the army as it makes its way through the streets. Several small groups branch off, and we move aside that they may enter the Houses, studying the faces of those borne on stretchers.
Uncounted moments pass, while we stand, waiting with baited breath, when suddenly Merry lets out a strangled cry and dashes from his space in the doorway.
"Merry!" I hurry after him, and only when I stop behind him do I see the cause for his sudden flight. Lord Aragorn is there, a stretcher suspended between him and Legolas the Elf, lying on it is the small, broken form of Peregrin. My hand flies to my mouth in horror, and I look up to Aragorn, disbelief written on my features.
"Pippin! Oh, what has happened to him, Strider?" Merry wails, taking up a small bruised hand in his own. I fall into step beside them, the better to survey the damage writ on this young Hobbit's body.
Every inch of what I remember to be clear porcelain skin is horribly bruised, numerous bandages wrap the small figure, eyes swollen so horribly that even if he were to awaken he would be able to see nothing. Beside me, I can here Merry, chattering frantically to Aragorn about his cousin and look up to hear what the Man has to say.
"He slew a great troll, Merry. And saved Beregond, Bergil's father. But in its death the foul creature fell forward onto Pippin."
"Will he live?" Merry's voice was shrill, choked with unshed tears.
"He will live." We reach the doors, and the stretcher is taken by the healers, and swiftly borne away to an enclosed room. Merry makes to follow, but Aragorn kneels and gently holds him in place. "Stay here, Merry, with Lady Eowyn. Let the healers tend him, and then you may come and stay with him through the night if you wish." Merry looks petulant, but nods and watches as Aragorn stands and hurries back to the room Peregrin had disappeared into.
"Oh, Eowyn…" Merry says, and looks up at me miserably for a moment before flinging his arms about my waist and soaking my dress with tears.
I steer him to a chair and sit, allowing him to climb up into my lap where I gently stroke his curls and fumble for any words of reassurance that will come. My heart breaks for Merry, but I know not what I can say to ease his anguish.
"He will die, Eowyn…" Come Merry's muffled words, and I look sharply down at him.
"Lord Aragorn said that he would live, Merry." I say, the first thing that comes to my mind. Merry shakes his head, his curls tickling my chin.
"No…" He pulls away, and I get a look at his face, tearstained and blotched with red. "He was crushed, Eowyn, *crushed* beneath a troll! Theoden King was crushed as well, by a mere horse!"
Ah, now that I know the pure root of his overbearing sorrow, I pull him back to me, rocking him and whispering to him. "Six days they travelled with him, Merry. It's a six day walk from the Morannon to Minas Tirith. If he were to die, do you not think he would already have passed?" He quiets a bit, and lies still, but no word in answer is spoken. "Hmm?" I give him a squeeze, needing to hear that my dear little Hobbit understands this.
He raises his head and studies my face, as if searching for signs of any mistruth. My eyes however have been drawn by another sight, and I draw a sharp breath as I sight two more Hobbits that I do not know, and pray Merry doesn't either. One is being carried by Gandalf, the other a healer of the city, and they are somber as they bear their burdens. Merry looks back as well, curious to see what has caught my attention, and I can feel as every muscle in his body tenses. "Oh Valar, no…." He says, voice a frightened whisper.
"Who are they, Merry?" I ask, swallowing a great lump that seems to be continually rising until I feel that it will pop right out of my mouth.
"It's Frodo… And Sam…"