To the Bottle [part two]
Boromir had never truly thought far into the concept of drinking before battle, because he always preferred a clear head as he engaged the enemy, but while he desperately tried to keep all attention away from the intoxicated hobbit it dawned on him that when a soldier drank before a battle fear seemed to turn into instant courage. That was probably why Peregrin Took was mindlessly squirming and singing and yelling even though Aragorn and Gimli talked only a few meters away in the camp.
"I am dead serious, keep quiet or I will feed you to Gimli and Aragorn skewered conveniently on the end of my sword!"
"Your sword? Do you mean the one you can't use?" Pippin giggled, and Boromir resisted the urge to throw hobbit over the nearest tree. Pippin wriggled out of Boromir's grasp and broke into a half-run, stumbling into the base of the first tree in his path. The hobbit craned his neck and stared up the long body of it with wonder, and then grinned madly. He latched a hand onto one of the low branches and began heaving himself up.
"What Took can't climb a tree?"
"You." Boromir said firmly, snatching up Pippin's blue jacket with one hand and attempting to pry him off. The Took had an iron grip on the wood and would not budge, and the captain snarled in frustration (earning a laugh from the drunken hobbit), bracing his booted feet into the dirt and pulling harder. Gimli and Aragorn neared, and panic rose in Boromir's throat. "Pippin!"
"I'm goin' t' climb this tree – "
"No, you are not!" Boromir stopped pulling only to lean in and snare both arms around the hobbit's middle, and then he heaved backward with all of his might. Pippin yelped and released the tree easier than Boromir had anticipated, and both man and hobbit tumbled backward in a cursing, flailing heap of arms and legs. The outburst had caught both Aragorn and Gimli's attention, but Boromir was too disoriented by the crash to notice them as he groggily came to his senses again. Pippin just rolled off of his chest and laughed, unscathed for Boromir had broken his fall to the ground.
"Tha' was great!" he chimed, pushing off of the leaves and pouncing onto Boromir again. "Why don' we do it again? But this s'time I'll pull you off!"
The Captain grunted and shook his aching head, wordlessly shoving the hobbit aside and looking up to catch the sight of Aragorn and Gimli crouching around him, silently surveying him as if he too were drunk enough not to notice them. Instantly did Boromir scoot away from them, forgetting himself and how this must have looked, and tore Pippin away from Aragorn before the ranger could smell of the liquor scent emanating from the hobbit.
"Boromir?" Aragorn knitted his brows in confusion as Boromir regarded him with a dead stare of silence and shock that lingered between them. The ranger broke the stare to give the captain's knee a firm slap as if to wake him from this trance. "Boromir, are you all right?"
The Steward's son grunted and pushed back more in the leaves, pulling himself to his feet and making sure to push Pippin behind his legs to keep the attention wholly focused on himself. But Pippin had other plans, and laughed loudly, then stooped to all fours and tried to crawl through the gap between Boromir's legs. The captain quickly clamped his knees together, trapping the hobbit. Pippin squeaked. "We…fell…it was an accident, but we're fine…here."
Aragorn quirked an eyebrow at Boromir's stammering, and how he tried to back up with the hobbit still wedged between his knees. "You seem distracted." He remarked as he folded his arms and observed the scene, wondering what could possibly happen next. With Pippin involved, no one could ever tell.
"Distracted? No." Boromir released the hobbit from the grip of his knees and casually pulled him up by the wrist, dragging him along as they walked. "Come, Pippin."
"'Ey, Boromir, know what?" Pippin stayed in place and would not follow.
"No, what." It was a flat, uncaring statement.
"If'n El'es had beards 'an ssuch you would be one hairy Elf!"
Boromir did not bother trying to make sense out of that last comment and turned around to grasp Pippin's other wrist, pulling him harder. "Thank you for pointing that out, now come Pippin!"
Aragorn stepped forward, unable to watch this any longer, and inquired with the authority that Boromir resented before – though as the tone reached his ears, the captain did not feel the same envious twinge that always rose in his chest and made his jaw clench. He felt nothing. "Boromir, what is the trouble?"
Pippin laughed, but Boromir remained still, with his eyes fixed upon the ranger with inward debate on how to respond. He felt sudden guilt. Boromir wanted to tell Aragorn the truth, wanted to be able to create a bond of trust between himself the man who would one day be his King, no matter how meaningless the truth may have been at the time. Whatever he thought of the ranger, Aragorn was King, and he had grown to greatly respect the other man over the past months of their journey. And Boromir valued his friendship.
But just as he opened his mouth to respond he remembered Pippin, and thoughts invaded his mind of the flashing horror that would cross the hobbit's face, no matter how drunk, when he discovered a friend had betrayed him. The tense silence ended, and Boromir said quietly, "Nothing." He turned away and began towing Pippin, who obeyed this time. "It's nothing, we're all right."
As they departed Aragorn glanced down at Gimli, who shook his head and gave a tiresome sigh before turning back to the pavilion.
"I don't know about those two, Aragorn, I just don't."
"What, of Boromir and Pippin? What are you uncertain of?"
"I don't like to think of what that Took will do to Boromir," he gruffed with the edge of laughter in his voice. "Pippin drives Boromir to do things I know he would normally not do – it's almost like having two Pippins, one brooding and the other insane."
Aragorn laughed. "I do not think I could handle two Pippins."
Gimli looped his thumbs on his leather belt as he spoke. "Nor could I."
--- --- ---
"He is drunk."
"No, he's not."
"He is drunk, just look at him."
"He is not drunk, Elf! He…hit his head, and is…recovering."
"And somehow managed to fall into a pool of Gimli's brew?" Legolas prompted skeptically from beside Boromir as both warriors knelt before the incoherently muttering hobbit. He got to his feet and turned to head for the pavilion. "I suppose I have to be the one to tell Aragorn and Gimli."
Boromir scrambled to follow him and skidded to a stop before him, minding to keep an eye on Pippin as he said desperately, "You cannot tell Aragorn and Gimli! Legolas, do you not see?!" Boromir looked sincerely nervous, and the pleading note rarely heard in the captain's voice took Legolas aback. "Gimli will tear him to shreds!"
"Gimli may do some yelling, and damage his pride a bit, but nothing fatal. Aragorn must know of this before anything else results from it." Legolas tried to walk around Boromir, who had discarded his jerkin and red silk tunic after they had been the victims of Pippin's having vomited up all of his dinner, and now was clad in only his deep blue undershirt. The man blocked his path once more and seized the Elf's arms.
"Legolas…he makes so many mistakes as it is…Pippin has so much learning yet to do," Boromir's voice went softer, so that drunken Pippin could not hear, and something in Legolas twitched with sympathy at the sound of it. "Are you going to make him suffer through another one? Can we not just keep it silent until all is well again?"
Legolas exhaled through his nose, looking at Boromir pointedly through green eyes. Boromir was wearing down his resistance, and in one last attempt to get out of the web he knew he was going to get pulled into no matter what he said quietly, "Gimli will find out sooner or later."
"Aye, he will…but there is a better chance for Pippin if Gimli has time to calm down. Do not tell Aragorn."
Legolas resisted the urge to roll his eyes, but instead released himself from Boromir's iron grip and folded his arms across his chest, regarding Boromir with that overconfident air he always did. "On one condition."
Boromir looked startled. "What?"
"You know what I wish to hear from you." Legolas lifted his chin in more arrogance than Boromir had seen from him in a long time. "Say it."
Boromir drew his brows down low. "Legolas…"
"I wish to hear you speak it, Boromir."
"I am not asking this of you, Pippin is."
"I wish to hear it from you."
"Tis the principle of the situation," Legolas said evenly. "You cannot expect me to help you as if I were your servant and you my better. Come, son of Denethor." Boromir bit back a string of nasty insults of every kind thinkable and made a note to smack Pippin when he was himself again, then muttered what the Elf wanted to hear through gritted teeth. Legolas, despite the fact that every being in Middle Earth knew Elves had superior hearing, leaned in and raised his brows. "What?"
"I am sorry, that is just a fragment."
"Please help me, Legolas."
The Elf smiled. "Of course I will." Boromir exhaled in relief and Legolas turned back into his practical self. "Now I will not tell Gimli or Aragorn of this, but what exactly do you plan to do with the Took until he is back to his senses?"
Boromir ran a weary hand through his hair. "I do not know." Legolas bit his lip and narrowed his eyes, surveying their surroundings thoughtfully in the silence between them. Something in a distant grove of trees caught his attention, and he touched Boromir's shoulder to catch his attention.
"Over there, do you see it?"
"It is Haldir." Legolas smiled. "Haldir will help us."
--- --- ---
"Did they not find you?" Haldir inquired as he sat with his back against the body of the long grey-based tree with the hobbit as they shared a wide-surfaced branch. He was studying one of the silver coins Merry had let him see with interest, looking at the little pictures and symbols and inscriptions on the Hobbiton currency. Haldir had never been to the Shire. "I have never heard crops to make good hiding places."
"Well, his dogs are getting old I suppose." Merry shrugged. "I kept moving very quietly…every time they picked my scent up I just moved on until I guess Farmer Maggot gave up. I was still nervous, though."
The Elf smiled. "It sounds like an adventure."
"It was." Merry snorted and failed to suppress a shudder. "I'd never do that again for a few carrots. I was in bed for two weeks after that, and I had to make up a stupid excuse for why I came back half dead."
Haldir laughed this time. "What was worse? Those nights in the field or the humiliation of trying to think of an excuse to save your already done in hide?"
"Well," Merry angled his head to give the Elf a pointed sidelong glance. "When I was thinking up the excuse I was at least in a soft bed with warm blankets. And I woke up to six or so very pretty lasses wondering what had happened." He grinned cheekily. "It wasn't so bad." Haldir just smiled back at him, his expression unreadable if anything at all besides amusement lurked behind his blue gaze. "But I suppose you wouldn't have any time for girls, would you?"
"On the contrary, I have all the time in the world." Haldir looked forward again. "In any other time I would have said that and believed it, but as these dark days continue I truly do not have time for such a thing."
"So you're telling me there has never been an elf maiden that's caught your eye?" Merry nudged his new friend in the grey-covered ribs. "A handsome fellow like you?"
Chuckling, Haldir shook his head. "It has been too many years to tell you of foolish things – "
"Foolish?" Merry looked at him with wide, incredulous eyes, and ran both hands through his sandy hair. "Haldir, there is nothing foolish about love! Of all people I would think you would know that."
Haldir arched a brow. "Convince me otherwise, I am listening."
"Well for one everyone needs someone to take care of them, to tell them how wonderful they are, to put an arm around their shoulders when they need it – Haldir, I could go on all night! The rest of eternity even, but I think you would beat me at that game."
The March warden of Lorien gave a small inclination of his head, turning so that the hobbit saw only his fair, proud profile. "You are wise beyond your years, Master Brandybuck, and you think me wrong, I do not believe love is foolish, I believe depending on it alone is foolish." He waved a hand to the canopy above their heads. "What of the beauty of the earth? Of the ties deeper than that of simple love? I smile upon things such as that, Merry."
Merry looked very pleased with himself. "So there is someone."
"And you won't tell me, will you?"
"I must keep some of me to myself," Haldir replied, coming lightly to his feet and effortlessly balancing on the tree limb. "But you – tell me another tale."
"Haven't you heard enough for one night?"
"This is one of my rare leave takings," Haldir continued to study the coin in his hands with glowing fascination, as if he had never seen a piece of currency in his life, and his eyes sparkled every time he turned it over to view the other side again. "Your tales would never bore me."
Merry snorted. "I wish Gandalf could have heard you say that." Haldir stopped examining the coin and regarded Merry quietly as the hobbit hastily wiped away hot tears that still surfaced even after the many days since Gandalf's fall. He cleared his throat. "Do you really enjoy them?"
"Funny to think that simple misadventures I had when I was a youngster could entertain one of the brave, wise fair folk like you." Merry shook his head and leaned back against the smooth tree. "I never thought I would be here, that I'm sure of."
"Nor would I have, if I were you." Haldir crouched down in one fluid motion and held the coin out the hobbit. "Here."
Merry shoved the elf's long-fingered hand back. "Keep it. And this war ever ends you should come to the Shire with me."
Haldir quirked a brow. "I would like that." His eyes lowered to the floor of Lorien, and Merry began to talk when suddenly Haldir murmured something and a second blond head appeared from the blue and Merry bellowed a startled yelp, slamming his back to the tree.
"Legolas! Never do that again!"
Legolas, holding himself onto the branch by balancing on his palms and keeping his feet planted sideways on the trunk of the tree, gave Merry a brief glance but then turned urgently back to Haldir. "Haldir, forgive my disturbance."
"What is it?"
Legolas jabbed a thumb delicately over his green-clad shoulder. "Well, you see, Gimli thought we may toast Gandalf's memory tomorrow night."
"And so he brewed some Dwarvish beer. I tasted it, it was quite good."
"Yes, very good...not as foul as I have always anticipated in my mind."
"But Peregrin Took, Meriadoc's cousin, discovered it early and consumed all of it." Legolas' brows raised as Haldir groaned and Merry blanched. "He is intoxicated to his ears and if he is discovered by the Dwarf –"
"He will be torn to shreds?"
Merry let his face drop into his hands. "Oh, Pip, you can be so stupid..." he muttered, and felt his insides clench as Legolas continued on with the story, and Merry wanted to shrink away and hide. Ever since the journey had began he felt as though he and Pip were just in the way, and at every turn Pippin seemed to be proving this thought right.
Haldir waited until Legolas finished, and looked at his cringing new friend, the hobbit. "I do not know what you wish of me to do except hide Peregrin."
"Come, Haldir, many years ago did you fight alongside men...do you not remember those herb boils you put together to sober the drunks up?"
Haldir flinched, as if the distant memories still haunted and tormented him. The few times in his long life Haldir had fought with men had not been the most pleasant of experiences, but he nodded his recollection. "Unfortunately, yes, I do."
"Could you not remake the same boil?" Legolas cast a look below him to a scene Merry could not have seen even if he tried, and his face became even more desperate as Pippin's insane giggles floated up. "For an old friend, Haldir?"
The march warden of Lorien considered this a moment, and then gave a grudging nod. "Very well." He swung from the tree, and Legolas followed as graceful as ever, while Merry found the ladder and quickly made his own way down.