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Recaptured!: 59. Touch and Go
He did not especially enjoy or dislike this line of work, but regarded it more as a matter of fact, something that had to be done. However the more time he had spent with little Pip, the more he was getting to actually like him and not to want to harm him particularly. Partly this was fear because he was sure that Pip was bewitched, but also, like Smagnu, he was beginning to find him rather engaging.
The second one, the new Pip as they had started to call Merry, was a bit of a disappointment at first. Once he realised that this one was blind, the possibility of using him to steal was ruled out. What was the use of a blind thief? A dumb one had endless possibilities, but a blind one was useless. Nevertheless, this one was also quite appealing and little Pip seemed extremely attached to it, a fact which could prove extremely useful in manipulating him.
The jailers in the dungeon were used to Grutfley coming and going, he even had his own cell allocated to him for which he held the key, although there was a duplicate kept on the massive key ring in case any prisoner should be required at a moment's notice.
Grutfley found it easier to carry the new Pip down to the cell. The little hobbit was tired and, because of his blindness, not very sure-footed. Smagnu followed behind with little Pip hidden under his great cloak, but once they were clear of the main corridors and no longer needed to be concealed, he was set down to walk.
"How-do, Gripper." The jailer saluted vaguely in greeting, "ain't seen yous down 'ere in a whiles. Watcha got there den?"
"The name's Grutfley," the orc snarled. He did not particularly like his epithet. "It's from upstairs." He pointed a finger upwards. "Gotta keep 'em safe's all. You don't need to mind 'em. Me or Smagnu'll be down 'n' sees to 'em."
He unlocked his special cell and set new Pip down inside. "Just give 'em some water an' owt else if they needs it. We'll feed 'em."
Smagnu took little Pip by the hand and led him inside, although he was quite happy to follow the other one anywhere it seemed. The orcs had brought them some blankets and there was a cot with a dirty mattress along one wall.
The big Uruk patted little Pip on the head and said to new Pip, "You'll be safe here and we'll bring you some food later. Don't be frightened."
Grutfley shook his head in exasperation, already halfway out of the door. He was anxious that the jailer did not see the attention these two were getting, he had his reputation to consider after all. Smagnu finally joined him outside and, as Grutfley turned the key in the lock, the big Uruk gave the jailer a mithril coin, one of the five little Pip had given him. "There's another of these for you if you make sure these two come to no harm," he promised.
"Right you are, Corporal!" The jailer was very impressed.
After the orcs had left, Merry stood just inside the cell door anxious and unmoving so Pippin automatically took his hand and started to lead him towards the cot so that he could sit. Merry dug his heels in and refused to move. "P-please," he stuttered, "who are you?"
Pippin of course did not hear the question but could feel the resistance in Merry's hand and see the confusion on his face. He went closer to his cousin and held his arm and gently urged him forward.
Merry stepped with Pippin this time and found the cot. He sat down and Pip sat next to him, still holding his hand affectionately. "Why don't you tell me who you are?" Merry found the silence of the little presence familiar yet disturbing. "Can you not tell me. Why do you make no sound?"
In spite of his deafness Pippin could tell Merry was getting agitated. He wrapped his arm around the blind hobbit's waist in an attempt to calm him. However it had the opposite effect. Merry panicked and pushed the little one away from him, wriggling free of the embrace and shoving hard. Pippin landed up sitting on the floor with a bump.
He looked up at Merry and saw that he was distressed. At first the blind hobbit reached out as if to find where the other one had gone, then as Pip gently touched his fingers, he withdrew his hands quickly, hugging them into his body as if he had touched something distasteful.
Pip sat on the floor in utter misery and dismay. He knew it was better if Merry did not remember him, Legolas had said so. He knew he shouldn't do anything to help Merry remember him. Easy for the elf to say, but he felt like his heart was about to break in two. Tears ran down his cheeks and he had to hold his arms firmly round his shaking body to stop from trying to touch Merry again. It was the first time in his life he had sat sobbing a foot away from his cousin and not been comforted.
Merry calmed down a little and then thought things through. Whoever it was that touched him did not seem to wish him harm and, although he had instinctively pushed the arm away, he still craved it. No, more than that, he really longed for it now. It was comforting and had seemed quite natural.
"Where are you?" He tentatively held out his hand again, hoping the other one would come back. But Pippin was blinded himself now by the stream of tears, his face buried in his arms.
Merry reached forward with both hands and felt around in front of him. He finally found the shaking little form and realised just how upset it was. What had he done? Whoever this little person was, they obviously wanted to be friends. He put his hand softly on the back of the trembling head, feeling the curly hair. The head seemed to lift up towards him. The creature must be looking at him now.
Merry wondered what it looked like. For that matter he wondered what he looked like. Well he had felt the curly hair and now he ran his fingers through his own hair, it felt quite similar. Returning his hand to the other one he ran his fingers through the curls again, this time finding a pointed little ear. He reached up and touched his own ear and again it felt the same.
Pippin could see what Merry was doing and took a couple of deep breaths to bring his shaking sobs under control. He gingerly took Merry's hand and guided it down to his foot, running the fingers over the woolly top and toes. Merry then reached down and touched his own foot and even smiled when he felt the similarity.
Pippin's mind raced to think of what else they shared. He stood up and pulled Merry to his feet as well and put his cousin's hand on top of first his head and then Merry's own, demonstrating that they were a similar height. In the tall world they currently inhabited this was quite an important consideration.
Merry then tentatively reached out one hand and found Pippin's face. The little hobbit gently took the hand and guided it over his features, letting Merry know that it was all right to get that close. The enquiring fingers traced over the small face along the line of the jaw, up over the cheekbone and then to Pippin's brow. As he touched the sympathetic bruise he felt the other flinch and at the same time the pain resonated in his own head in the same spot.
Merry withdrew his hand in surprise and touched his own bruise. Again he winced and amazingly felt the other cringe slightly once more at the contact. Why did they feel each other's pain? Merry became even more puzzled and nervous at this development. Was this just another version of him? He didn't understand this confusing world he had woken up in.
Pippin took his hand again and gently urged him to lie down on the cot. He must be tired Pip reasoned and Merry did not look too well, perhaps if he slept for a while and maybe just the tiniest sip of poppy.
Pip uncorked his small bottle and put it to Merry's lips, tipping it up a little so that a tiny amount trickled into Merry's mouth and then upending it again. A quick sip himself and returned the bottle to his pocket.
Merry swallowed the poppy with some surprise but had now given up all resistance. He allowed himself to be covered with the blanket and let the other gently stroke his hair until he eventually drifted off to sleep.
Pippin waited until he could see Merry's chest rising and falling very regularly and slowly so that he knew he was asleep. But before he could join his cousin there was something he needed to do.
'legolas? you go hear at i?'
'Pippin? What is it my Pip? You're not supposed to talk to me.'
'merr gone sleeped…'
"How do you know?'
'…he with i…'
'Is he all right?'
'…got big cut-bang on head…'
'As we thought. Is it very bad.'
'…not 'member no things…'
'Well that's probably best at the moment Pippin – if Merry doesn't know anything, he can't say anything.'
'…but legolas… i…i hurted…'
'Oh Pippin! I know, I can feel it.'
'…need talk at merr…'
'But Pippin what will happen if Merry is questioned by Sauron and he tells all he knows of the quest? You wouldn't want that to happen, would you?'
'not… but merr not at wraith now…'
'You are both still in their keeping? No?'
'…in cell… lock door…not go out…'
'Pippin, I'm not certain what to do for the best, but I think it would be better if Merry didn't get his memory back just yet.'
'…it too sad at he…need talk at i… poor merry… not see… not 'member…' Pippin dissolved into hiccuping little sobs '…poor merr (hic!) poor (hic!) merr…'
'Little one, I know it's very hard, but you have to be brave. You can hold Merry and look after him – but no talking in your head – promise me.'
'Say it properly, Pippin.'
'you go trusts i legolas…promsis…do'
'All right, Pippin, of course I trust you. Éowyn and I are riding towards Mordor now, so if there is any way for you to escape we may be able to help you.'
'you come find we?'
'We may not be able to come to Barad-dûr but we're coming as far as we can.'
'Oh you couldn't hear her name. Do you remember the lady with long fair hair who looked after you at the Golden Hall?'
'…'member… kind at i and at merr…'
'That's Éowyn and she is riding with me now.'
'where gandalf? where gimli and strider…'
"Gandalf and Gimli have gone to Minas Tirith and Aragorn has ridden to battle with the Dunedin.'
'oh sorry we go be nuises, legolas'
'Nuises? Oh nuisances! You're not Pippin. You are not to blame, I'm sorry that this happened to you.'
'are?… you go be kind too, legolas…'
'Perhaps there is something about hobbits that makes others kind. Take care now my Pip and remember… no mind talking to Merry.'
'bye legolas, say bye at e-ow…'
Pippin shook his head a little as Legolas left him. He looked at the sleeping Merry lovingly, trying to pretend nothing had changed. That he would open his eyes, see him and remember him. That he would say 'Morning Slugabed are you going to sleep all day,' just as if they were back in the Shire, 'There are apples waiting to be picked and mushrooms to find. Betchya can't catch me!'
Then he would run out of the door and through the tall grass, laughing and taunting his cousin to catch him. Merry would run behind him, probably able to catch him up but, just as when they were little, would always deliberately stay a few paces behind, as if he knew Pippin would stop trying if he wasn't in front.
Pippin curled himself around Merry on the little cot. The other hobbit let his arm wrap around the smaller one and Pippin kissed Merry lightly on the cheek before closing his eyes.
'Night night, Merry, sleep tight.' Pippin was not too sure what the difference was in his head between mind talking and just thinking, it was simply something he did, although he would never be able to explain how to anyone. Legolas had made him promise not to talk to Merry – and he wouldn't, but there was nothing to stop him pretending.
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