Disclaimer: I do not own Lord of the Rings.
Summary: "End? No, the journey doesn't end here. Death is just another path… One we must all take. The gray rain-curtain of this world falls back, and all changes to silver glass… And then you see it." "What? Gandalf? …See what?" "White shores…and beyond. The far green country under a swift sunrise." "Well, that isn't so bad." "No…No, it isn't." One-shot.
"Happy Birthday, Eldest of the Tooks!" the whole room shouted, clanking their mugs together, slopping ale everywhere. In the background music rattled on, provided by Pippin's grandchildren; he couldn't remember which, not that it mattered, anyway. There were so many, that even if he straightened out who these were, he'd then forget who the others were, and would be caught in an endless cycle that was just too tedious for someone his age.
"How are you holding up there, Pip?" Merry asked cheerfully, prodding his friend in the shoulder with his index finger. "I haven't seen you down this small amount of brew since you first found that little Faramir was getting married to Goldilocks."
Pippin rolled his eyes, "Once I got used to having Sam as an in-law, he was gone, and I never got things righted after that," (Meriadoc chuckled at this) "but, as for the ale, can you blame me? I'm ancient, Merry. My body is starting to fall apart and I simply can't hold as much drink as I used to. Say, you wouldn't happen to know how old I am this year, would you?"
Merry roared with laugher, "Estella mentioned that Diamond thought of you as quite lost of your memory lately, but really, Pip, do you not know how old you are?"
Pippin snorted, "Matters like these are very unimportant to the things that happened to us long ago. My mind is like a sieve. It only keeps the big things. And I challenge you to tell me how old you are."
Merry frowned indignantly, "I'm…I'm…well, hm…let's see…well, I'm younger than you, Oldest of the Tooks!" Pippin just raised an eyebrow.
"Who came up with that title, anyway?" he asked, running his hand through his wavy gray hair tiredly. Merry shrugged. There was a brief pause. Then…
"I don't suppose I can sneak out without anyone noticing me?" Pippin asked, fingering his barely touched mug. Merry's brow furrowed in thought.
"It's possible. Everyone is dancing and partying enough that most wouldn't notice, but you can bet that Diamond has been keeping tabs on you to make sure you're holding up. It'll be harder to dodge her," he mused. Pippin groaned.
"Wives," he muttered scathingly. Merry looked amused.
"I could provide a distraction, I guess…" he said grudgingly, and Pippin beamed. As Merry made his way to the front of the room, calling attention to himself, Pippin discreetly slipped outside, letting the cool night air wash over him as he breathed a heavy sigh of relief.
"Trying to sneak away from your own birthday celebrations? I would never have anticipated it!" a voice came from the shadows. Pippin jumped. The figure laughed and moved into the lantern light and Pippin recognized it as Aragorn.
"Strider! I mean, Lord Aragorn! Or should I call you King Aragorn? Or how about King Strider? I like that…so, how have you been? How's the Queen? Killed any goblins lately?" he babbled nervously, making Aragorn laugh.
"You can call me whatever you'd like, Peregrin Took," he said genially. Pippin grinned.
"I think I shall call you King Strider. That sounds very magnificent, doesn't it? So, why are you here? I was actually heading out for a walk. It's so stuffy in there, you know. Too many relatives," he chatted on. Aragorn's face broke into a smile.
"You sound just like Bilbo! It almost seems that age really makes all of you hobbits the same," Aragorn observed. "Alas, I too am aging, as are we all. Would that I came for something as merry as so bring you birthday salutations, but no, I bring tidings of Elanor that I think her mother should hear first and foremost. I am glad that Samwise is no longer here, for I would not know how to tell him…"
Pippin frowned, "I fear for the news you bring and what gravity it might cause on this delightful day. Pray, save it for the morrow, lest the Gamgees lose any joy over it." Aragorn sighed.
"What you ask of me is great, Pippin. For despite the ill news, the longer I wait to give it to Rose Gamgee, the more it will hurt her when she hears it," he replied softly and Pippin hung his head.
"I would have so liked to have walked and talked with you," he murmured. Aragorn's features softened.
"And you will! But I must deliver this news, so we cannot walk together for a bit. Perhaps, you would like to go on ahead? The old road, you know. We might wander down to the ocean, if you don't mind the distance," he suggested and Pippin brightened.
"Oh no, of course not. As long as we can get away from this confounded lot, I'll walk as far as you'd ask me to, King Strider. Who knows? Perhaps the sea air will do me good," the old hobbit replied happily and sat down on an overturned barrel to wait for his companion to return from his task. Some time later Aragorn returned, looking grave.
"She has been told, but I'll give credit to Rose, she took it in stride. What pain a parent must feel to watch one of their children pass before them…" the king thought aloud. Pippin looked at the older man sympathetically. He himself only had one son, but Aragorn had a son and two daughters, all of which the king would be heartbroken to lose.
"King Strider?" Pippin asked as Aragorn seemed to become lost in thought. Aragorn started.
"Oh, I'm sorry, old friend, let us take our walk now and not dwell on death of all things," he apologized and Pippin hopped off the barrel. The two began their walk down the path and onwards, towards the sea.
"I have been dwelling on death, though," Pippin said dreamily, looking up at the starry night sky. "It doesn't bother me as much as when I was younger. It is inevitable to all of us, but I will chose to accept it instead of striving for eternal life and always awaiting the end with a fearful backward glance. 'White Shores', Gandalf told me. I will be ready when my ship comes to take me to take me to my final resting place. Yes, I will be ready."
Aragorn looked half amazed, half amused. "It is just as Gandalf said, you can spend a life getting to know hobbits so that you know everything about them, and they still surprised you. You have indeed aged more than I, Master Peregrin, though in years I am a good bit your elder."
Pippin smiled wryly. "And yet I will be the first to pass away, won't I?"
Aragorn bowed his head. "It is indeed true that the numenorian blood endures for many years more than the line of hobbits. But I do not doubt that the hobbits will be the ones left standing at the end of things. White shores, hmm? That does not sound so bad."
Pippin's smile softened, his eyes half closed as his feet hit gravelly sand where the road ended. "No…no it doesn't."
"Do you miss them?" Aragorn asked suddenly, making Pippin look up.
"Who?" the aged hobbit asked slowly, though he thought he knew.
"Frodo, Sam, Legolas, Gimli, Gandalf…all those who left us to the West," Aragorn answered, staring at the moonlight reflected in the crashing waves. Pippin smiled, his eyes tinged with a bare regret.
"Part of me wanted to go with them. The fellowship, oh the fellowship, how fond of it I was. It was only in later years that the pain of something lacking really grew on me," he lamented and Aragorn nodded.
"But," Pippin added as an afterthought. "I suppose we'll all meet up again, at the end of all things, won't we?" He took a side-glance at Aragorn who smiled tiredly.
"At the end of all things…" Aragorn mused, and for the first time Pippin could really see how age had affected the king. His eyes had lost some of there brightness, his hair had streaks of silver, as did his beard, and his body seemed to slag slightly as if it could no longer bear up the weight it had been given to carry.
"All things shall pass…" Pippin murmured. "…into the West."
The gray rain-curtain of this world falls back, and all changes to silver glass…
And then you see it.
White shores…and beyond.
The far green country under a swift sunrise.