14. Woolly-footed and wool-pated truants
Merry caught his tongue between his teeth and narrowed his eyes, focusing all of his attention on the stubborn leaf brooch to his cloak. He could fasten it well enough with just his left hand by now, but this morning had obstinately decided that he ought to be able to close the clasp with his right hand and he therefore would do so. If only his fingers would cooperate!
His fingers slipped and fumbled, and Merry felt a drop of sweat roll down his furrowed brow. He stubbornly kept trying. If Frodo and Sam could crawl up Mount Doom, if Pippin could stay alive buried beneath a troll for more than 24 hours, if Gandalf could actually return to life, then he, Meriadoc Brandybuck, could force his fingers to obey his will.
Or not. The brooch fell from his hand altogether, and his cloak slid from his shoulders. Drawing breath to tell the brooch in no uncertain terms exactly what he thought of it, Merry was bent to retrieve it. A large, strong hand intercepted him, plucking up the adornment before he could.
"I know, Master Meriadoc, that you were not about to say anything derogatory about something the Lady of the Golden Wood gifted to you," Gimli said, snagging Merry's cloak from the ground as well and draping it back around the hobbit's shoulders.
Merry gave him a wry smile. "No, of course not," he said, and allowed Gimli to fasten the clasp. "How was Pippin's night?"
"Uneventful," Gimli answered. "He was awake early enough and demanding breakfast. I do not know how hobbit parents keep their broods fed."
"You just make the older children tend to the younger children," Merry said absently as buttoned his waistcoat, opting to use his left hand in front of Gimli. "And have plenty of food on hand at all times."
Gimli chortled. "I think that is a bit of an understatement," he said, and sat on the edge of his bed. "I thought I'd take a brief rest, as I told Aragorn I would be on hand to lend him some help later today. Are you off to see Pippin?"
Merry nodded. "For a bit, at least. Éomer needs me later today. I'll make sure that Legolas will be around, so that Pippin isn't alone. Have a good rest, Gimli, and I will see you later."
"Thank you, Merry," Gimli answered, then called out as the hobbit began to leave the tent, "And have Aragorn look at that hand, would you?"
Merry paused, left hand holding back the tent flap, right hand curled idly at his side. "I'm just a little tired," he responded after a moment, not turning to look at the dwarf. "It's healing well enough. I don't think I need to bother Aragorn about it."
Gimli's eyes crinkled. "If I know the king, and I do, he would rather you did bother him about it. Just have him take a look when he comes by to check on Pippin. Humor me, Merry, for all the pains I have taken for you."
Merry smiled lightly, and turned his head so Gimli could see his profile. "You make it hard to refuse, Gimli," he answered. "If I keep having trouble with it, I will let Aragorn know. But, really, I am just tired this morning."
"Then Aragorn will say you are just tired, and accuse me of fretting overmuch," Gimli said. "Have him look at it. And don't forget to bring Pippin something for 'second breakfast' -- the servants at the mess tent still do not believe it is a real meal."
Merry grinned, nodded and ducked out the door. Gimli let his eyes rest on the tent flap thoughtfully for a few moments before lying down to rest. "Young hobbits," he muttered to himself, "are a great deal of work."
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