A/N: Here's another Merry/Pippin story. It could be construed as slash or as friendship, whichever you prefer. Read, enjoy, and review!

Ghost of a Dream

He stared without seeing at the pint of mead sitting in front of him. He was over in the corner, in the shadows, alone. He'd been alone for years, since the others died. He wasn't the oldest, though his hearing had nearly gone and his eyesight was getting blurry and his hair—what little that was left—was pure white, but he was the only one of the group left.

His stories were out-dated, and the little ones had heard them time and time again and had written them off as the ravings as a crazy old hobbit. But they weren't just stories, they were life. His life. They'd stopped believing in him, nearly forgotten that he'd left the Shire and come back a different hobbit all together.

He closed his eyes, his mind drifting back to the days when his joints didn't scream in protest in response to every move, back when he'd gone on an adventure that he'd thought would live on as legend forever.

He remembered when they'd all come home, and they'd sat in this very tavern, pints all around, sitting in awkward silence as the hustle and bustle merriment of the Shire went on around them. They'd been irrevocably changed; come full circle. Then Sam was out of his chair like a rocket, off to offer his heart to the girl who had always had it, and they'd looked at each other and laughed, long and hard, a catharsis of their souls. It had been almost like old times.

Almost like the old times, where he and Merry danced on table tops, singing at the top of their lungs, overflowing mugs in their hands. Almost like old times, where they'd sat together and smoked pipeweed on the stones of Isenguard.

He remembered Treebeard and the Ents and the storming of Isenguard. He remembered the feel of his hands upon that damned seeing stone, and the pull, and the fear as the red eye burned into him. Sometimes at night he still woke, sweating in cold fear and dreaming that the eye of Sauron was burning into him.

He remembered the night on Weathertop, with the Ringwraiths. He remembered Aragorn, then Strider, who they had put their faith in. He remembered every bad moment and every good, remembered the time when Boromir had taught them how to fight just as equally as he remembered when Boromir died to protect them.

He opened his eyes. Things were fuzzy around the edges, nowadays, and the dim light of the Green Dragon didn't much help matters. But he could make out the shape of the person suddenly sitting across from him, if not the features.

"Hello? Who are you?"

"I'm hurt that you don't remember, Pip."

He froze, his eyes widening. He knew that voice. That voice was in his dreams and his memories and his heart. "M-Merry?" It wasn't possible, just his mind playing foolish tricks on him again.

"Yeah, Pip, it's me."

"You're dead." He accused.

"So I am." Merry leaned into the light and grinned. "But I couldn't leave you, now could I? You remember when Gandalf took you to Minas Tirith and you asked me if we would see each other again?"

"You never replied."

"I'm replying now. Yes, Pippin. We'll always see each other again. I'm not going anywhere without you." Merry reached a hand across the table. "Come on, Pip. It's time to go."

Pippin stared at the hand, a smile spreading slowly across his face, and then reached out his own hand. He felt the warm flesh against his own and a full-fledged smile, one that hadn't been seen since the deaths so many years ago, danced across his face. He stood, feeling no ache in his joints, feeling as though he could climb on top of the table and dance a jig like the old times.

He could see clearly through the dim light of the bar, and the sounds seemed so much louder than they had in years.

He trained his eyes on Merry and the air seemed to grow lighter and lighter and the tavern began to fade away.

Once a very wise old wizard had told him that death was not the end; that there were white shores and a far green land.

"What're you waiting for, Pip?"

Merry's grin was as real as ever, as joyful as in the days of the before and the after.

He let Merry lead him onto the stretching white shores.

Gandalf had been right.

Death wasn't the end.

It was just the beginning.