This is the first time I have tried to write anything like this so I hope you all like it and if not, well you only wasted five minutes or so. Please feel free to review it and let me know where I went wrong or right. By the way the chars are obviously not mine and I have very little money to worry about suing me over. -Al

INNOCENCE LOST

'You're not hurt are you?"

"No"

"You're sure?"

"No. Merry? It will never be the same, will it, Merry?"

The forest seemed to loom over the two huddled figures as the sun went down. Bruised and muddy faced, they tried effortlessly to blend in with the ancient giants that towered around them. Merry squirmed a bit while trying to think of something brave to say. What good does it do? This wasn't the shire with its comfortable surroundings. No safe haven to run through without a care in the world. This was a lonely forest surrounded by nothing but death and decay.

"No, Pip, no it won't" if it wasn't enough that the grief inside of him was about to swallow him up, the pain in his cousin's eyes was. He couldn't lie to him; there was no sense in that. Pippin was there, he saw all of the events unfold just as plainly. Merry's heart sank thinking of his friends. Pippin and he had barely escaped the orcs alive and then only by a stroke of luck. Boromir had fallen so soon after losing Gandalf, and what of Frodo, Sam, and the others. They were alone. Comforting words seemed few and far between at this point. "We'd best figure out a place to sleep tonight and find something more to eat. Things shall look up in the morn." A forced grin was all he could manage as he stood up to start into the forest.

Pippin just sat. His tear-stained face staring towards the direction they had been running from only a few hours before.

"Do you think they are all gone?" He asked.

"The orcs? Yea I think those fellows on horseback got them good. They won't be back tonight."

"That's good' he said even though the orcs were not the present thought in his mind. He could care less what those nasty old orcs were up to by this point. He had had enough of sleeping on the floor each night with little or naught to eat for the day, say the least for a proper bath and now to have Merry dismiss his concerns without a second thought. It wasn't supposed to be this way, he thought to himself. The all to familiar lump began to form in his throat again. I only wanted to be a part of an adventure like the ones out of the stories. A chance to be important, that's all. I never wanted to see anyone hurt. I didn't think... he could feel his eyes well up with tears. That anyone would ever be...

The pain was too much for him and his soft sobs started again.

Merry's heart ached. He wanted to answer him by shouting yes Pippin they are all fine you'll see! but he was afraid he would begin to believe it too and that may be too much to ask for. It wasn't fair. Why must they be the ones to be lost to this vile forest? This wasn't their quest. They should be with Frodo and Sam. Frodo... how many times had he helped them out of trouble and now when there was a chance to repay this favor the two young hobbits had lost it.

"I wish Frodo were here" Pippin said almost as if they shared the same thoughts.

"I do to, Pip."

The sun had turned from a golden orange into the familiar shades of soft red and lavender. Pippin pulled his cloak tighter around his head for comfort. It didn't have to be this way. He could have stayed in the shire or even in Rivendell.

No, he thought, Merry would have had bragging rights for months had I done that. No one could have known that it would be like this. Could they?

His eyes widened at this thought. He looked at Merry as he often did in his times of panic.

"They couldn't have known about all this could they, Merry? Gandalf and the elves, they wouldn't have let us go if they knew, would they?"

"That's a horrible thought to let race through your head." He chided his young cousin noticing the fear in his eyes at his current thought of conspiracy. "The elves didn't want us to go in the first place least of all you, and Gandalf, well, he wouldn't dream of letting us do anything that could put us in jeopardy. He was shielding us left and right. Why do you think he had us stay next to Boromir at all times, so that we couldn't..."

He stopped short wishing he had not said the later when he saw Pippin's eyes drop back down to watching his feet again.

"I'm sorry, Pip. For everything. I wish I could take it all away from you, all the bad memories that you have.

"Its okay Merry, I'm all right." He said as he used his sleeve to wipe his face. "You didn't know."

"We really had better be moving on Pip; its getting to be nightfall and who knows what orcs will come out of the woodworks when that happens. "

"Not to mention I'm still hungry. " His cousin replied fighting to use his usual perky manner. Merry saw the familiar impish grin that Pippin had carried from the time he was small return to his face, yet there seemed to be a piece of Pippin that was missing from his eyes. His eyes seemed hurt and hopeless. His innocence lost. Of all that had taken place over the last months the look in Pippin's eyes ripped into Merry harder than them all.

No Pip, it will never be the same.