Lord of the Rings
A Shot in the Dark
By Lucky_Ladybug


Notes: All characters and locations belong to J.R.R. Tolkien! Only the plot idea is mine! (Most of it anyway; the paranormal scene was based on a scene from a wonderful Monkees fic, whose name and author escape me at the moment. . . . Whoever you are, I want to tell you how greatly your story (and that scene) inspired me!) This is based more on the movie version of LOTR than the books, just so you'll know ^_~ Hope y'all enjoy!


Merry sighed. No matter how hard he tried, he could not fall asleep. He stared up at the thick canopy of tree branches high above him, letting his mind wander over the events of the past days, weeks, and months since he had wound up on this quest with Frodo and wondering if it would ever reach its end.

"Merry?"

The hobbit turned at the sound of his younger cousin's thickly accented voice. "Pippin? What're you doing awake? It's the middle of the night."

"I can't sleep."

"Me either."

Pippin sighed. "I want something to do."

Suddenly they heard a sharp crackle in the nearby brush. "What was that?" the two hobbits both said at the same time, standing up and looking around.

"Maybe we should wake the others," Pippin suggested.

"It's probably just an animal," Merry replied. "Come on, let's go investigate!"

As they headed for the source of the sound, they spotted Legolas' bow and arrows, and Merry reached to pick them up from where they were lying besides the sleeping elf. "Come on, let's take these. Legolas won't be needing them right now."

Pippin readily agreed, and they resumed their pace. Suddenly a small animal darted out of the brush. "A rabbit!" Pippin declared. "I might've known."

With the mystery sound revealed and the two hobbits still wide-awake and ready for adventure, they turned to the borrowed arrows for entertainment.

"Look out! It's the infamous orc king!" Pippin exclaimed as he and Merry took turns being the good guys and the bad, and play-shooting the arrows. It all seemed perfectly harmless.

Merry never did know how it happened exactly; one minute he was placing an arrow in the bow . . . the next, Pippin's eyes went wide and he gasped, doubling over. In an instant, Merry was at his cousin's side, horrified. "Pippin! Oh Pippin! What have I done?!"

Pippin fell forward into the other hobbit's arms, trembling, his hands blood-red from the arrow wound in his chest. His eyes, already glassy, stared ahead at something Merry couldn't see. "It's okay, Merry," he rasped.

"Pippin! Oh, me and my utter foolishness!" Merry declared. "I should never have picked up that bow and those arrows!"

By now the other members of the Fellowship had been awakened and were coming to see what had happened. "Pippin!" Frodo and Sam exclaimed, running over.

"What madness has gone on here?" Gandalf demanded, watching as Legolas bent down to retrieve his bow and arrows, looking at them suspiciously.

"It was my fault," Merry whispered, feeling numb as Pippin slipped into unconsciousness. "Stay with us, Pippin, stay with us!" he pleaded. He looked up imploringly at Gandalf and Aragorn. "You have to help him! We can't let him die! We can't!"

As Aragorn knelt down to inspect Pippin's wound, Gandalf turned to Merry. The hobbit was shakily standing up, supported by Frodo and Sam, who were equally shocked and horrified by what was transpiring. "Merriadoc Brandybuck, what has gone on?" the wizard again demanded to know. "As if I couldn't guess." He looked from the arrow in Pippin's chest to Legolas' quiver, which, he was certain, was missing an arrow.

"We heard a sound, and we went to investigate . . . it was a rabbit . . . we had Legolas' bow and arrows . . . we started fooling around . . . I had an arrow in the bow . . . it fired. . . ." Merry's sentences came brokenly. "I shot him! I shot Pippin!" He dissolved into tears as he sank to the ground, staring at his hands, which were coated with the younger hobbit's blood.

"It was an accident, Mr. Merry," Sam tried vainly to console him. "You would never hurt him on purpose. We know that. He knows that."

Merry acted as if he hadn't heard, repeating over and over, "I shot him! I shot Pippin!" in a horrified, almost disbelieving tone.

"He's in shock," Frodo exclaimed.

Gandalf nodded slowly, then turned to Aragorn and Legolas, who both looked up and exchanged glances with the wizard. Then Aragorn turned to Frodo and motioned to him to come over.

"How is he?" the Ring-bearer asked.

"Not good," Aragorn replied grimly.

"The arrow went in deep," Legolas added. "Right now, we cannot tell whether it may have punctured a lung or not."

Frodo lowered his eyes. It was so hard to see Pippin—cheerful, mischievous Pippin—laying so still, with that horrible thing . . . that weapon . . . in his chest. . . . And to know that he might never awake again . . .

"He's going to die, isn't he?" Merry said miserably, voicing Frodo's thoughts. He couldn't hear what was being said, but he could tell from the others' expressions that the situation was not good. "He'll die and it will be my fault. I will have killed him!"

"There is still a chance for him if we move fast," Aragorn replied. He and Legolas busied themselves with preparing the healing tools they'd need to work with.

No one noticed as Merry stumbled deeper into the woods, still reeling from the shock of what he'd done. He didn't watch where he was going, and before long, he was hopelessly lost in a strange part of the forest. When he tripped over a rock in his path and went sprawling on the ground, he barely noticed, instead remaining where he was as he once again let the tears fall.

"Pippin, oh Pippin, I've failed you," Merry moaned. "I was supposed to protect you, and what do I do instead? I go and shoot you with Legolas' blasted arrow!"

He stumbled to his feet after what seemed like hours, walking ahead mindlessly, suddenly slipping and falling into a deep creek that he hadn't known was nearby. He broke the surface, coughing, barely able to swim. He was one of the few hobbits who knew how, but right now, in his broken state of mind, and with the current being especially vicious, he didn't have the heart or the strength to try.
****
Aragorn sighed, brushing the stray bangs away from his face. It had taken hours, but he and Legolas had finally managed to remove the arrow and bandage Pippin's wound.

"How is he, Strider?" Sam asked worriedly.

"We've done all that we can, Sam," Aragorn replied slowly. "The rest is up to him."

"The arrow didn't pierce a lung or anything else vital, so that is something in his favor," Legolas added.

"Fool of a Took," Gandalf spoke up. "I hope this teaches him a lesson." Though he appeared stern and somewhat uncaring, the wizard was actually quite fond of the young hobbit and was quite afraid that maybe he would not survive this experience.

"Pippin will pull through, won't he, Mr. Frodo?" Sam's eyes were wide with concern.

Frodo looked at Pippin, the younger hobbit's labored breathing the only visible sign that he was still alive. He smiled at Sam in what he hoped was a convincing way. "Pippin's strong, Sam. He'll pull through." He prayed that was the truth.

"Mr. Frodo, where's Merry?" Sam asked suddenly, looking around.

Frodo gave Sam a worried look. He had thought Merry was still there, but he wasn't where he had last seen him. But if he wasn't there, where . . .?

"He was in such a traumatized state," Frodo said softly.

Sam's eyes went wide. "He could've gone anywhere, Mr. Frodo! I should've kept a better watch on him!"

"There now, Sam, it's not your fault," Frodo said reassuringly. "We've all been so worried about Pippin. . . . Come on, we'd best go tell Gandalf."

Legolas met them instead. His eyes were very grim and he looked as if he very much regretted what he had to say.

"What is it, Legolas?" Frodo asked, a knot forming in his stomach. "It's Pippin, isn't it?"

"He's worse, isn't he?" Sam added, his eyes filling with unshed tears.

Legolas nodded slowly. "He lost a lot of blood. Too much. I don't think he'll last much longer."
****
Pippin found himself in a strange place, surrounded entirely by darkness. "Merry? Where are you?" he called. Just previous to this, he had been reliving his childhood in the Shire, the beginning of the Ring quest, and the accident. Over and over again, he found himself stumbling to the earth, the arrow embedded in his chest, the blood running through his fingers, the terrible pain . . . and Merry's horror at what he had done. . . . "It's okay, Merry," Pippin had said, and he said it again now, alone in the darkness, adding, "Where are you, Merry? Where did you go? Come back, Merry!" Then he had succumbed to this darkness, letting it take him wherever it willed.

He looked down at his chest, noting with more than a little surprise that now there was no arrow there, nor any blood. It was as if there had been no accident, no misfiring of Legolas' bow by Merry.

"I'm dead, aren't I?" he said aloud.

Suddenly he found himself floating through the air, and the darkness gave way to the dense woods. He saw a half-drowned hobbit half-heartedly trying to stay above the water. "Merry!" he gasped. "Merry!"

The hobbit didn't seem to hear him, and Pippin came closer, frantically trying to get Merry's attention.

And then, when he thought he could scream no more, Merry looked up, finally having heard. "Pippin?" he said in disbelief. "Pippin? Where are you?"

"I'm up here, Merry," Pippin replied, floating down closer to where his friend was laying on a small rock in the middle of the raging waters.

Merry brushed a wet curl out of his eyes. "Pippin? I can't see you!"

Pippin gulped, hoping desperately that he was not just a ghost of some sort, as he feared he was. "Merry, you have to keep trying," he urged. "You can't just stay out here—you'll drown!"

"It's no use, Pippin," Merry replied. "The water's too fierce, and I don't have any strength left." And I can't see you, Pippin, Merry added to himself. Where are you? Are you . . . dead? Oh, if you are, it's my fault!

Merry's thoughts echoed in Pippin's mind, and the younger hobbit wondered what to do. He had a feeling that not only could Merry not see him, but that he wouldn't be able to touch him either, if he reached down to help Merry up. "I don't know whether I'm dead or not, Merry," Pippin said gently, seeing the other hobbit start at the realization that Pippin had heard his thoughts, "but I do know that you shouldn't blame yourself for it. It was an accident, Merry, an accident!" He paused. "Merry . . . I'll come back if you will."

Merry looked up, suddenly able to see his cousin and dearest friend hovering in the air above him. "Together, then," he said.

"Together," Pippin agreed, and he was gone.

Had Pippin's presence there just been a dream? Merry slowly opened his eyes and looked around. The waters were calming down. He'd be able to swim across now.

Just as he made it to the bank, he heard his name being called frantically. "I'm over here!" he called, as Frodo, Sam, and Boromir came through the trees.

"Mr. Merry, you're drenched!" Sam gasped.

"I went for an unexpected swim," he replied ruefully.

"You had us frightfully worried, Merry," Frodo scolded gently, taking his cloak off and wrapping it around the shivering hobbit.

"I know," Merry sighed, "I shouldn't have gone off like that. I wasn't in my right mind, I suppose. I was in a dither. But I shot him, Frodo, I shot him!" He looked down. "How is he?"

Frodo, Sam, and Boromir exchanged looks. How to tell him?

Finally Frodo smiled wanly and said, "Let's get back to the others and see."
****
It had been a week now since the accident. Merry kept a constant vigil by Pippin's side, willing him to wake from the comatose state he was in. His wound was healing now, but even at that, no one was sure if he would ever revive. Except Merry.

"You promised, Pippin, remember?" he said softly. "I've come back, now what about you?"

Was it his imagination, or did Pippin not look near as pale as he had before?

"Pippin! Can you hear me, Pippin?"

The young hobbit moaned softly, slowly opening his bright eyes. "Merry?"

"Pippin! Oh, Pippin!" Ecstatic, Merry pulled his friend into an embrace.

"I heard you, Merry," Pippin said, "and I kept my promise," he added, as the others came running over to greet him. "I came back."

Merry could have laughed out loud with joy. "Yes, yes, Pippin, you did!"

"And I have a suggestion for the future." Legolas spoke wryly as he came over, "Stay away from my arrows!"

Merry and Pippin looked at each other and grinned. "Do not worry, Legolas," Pippin declared, "you can be sure we will."