3. The Golden Wood
"All right," said Merry, brushing his own tears away. He pulled his pack over, unlaced it, and peered inside. With a chuckle, he, too upended the pack and poured the contents out.
"First of all," said Merry briskly, "Let's put all the clothes in a pile over *there*. I can't say mine smell that great either after all this time." He put his worn, wrinkled clothes with Pippin's, one piece at a time, then pushed at the pile with his foot until it was a bit further away. He grinned. "You know, Pip, with both of these silver belts we could probably buy the whole Shire if we wanted to. Two belts like this have to equal one of those mithril shirts, don't you think?" He laid his belt next to Pippin's, glad to see his cousin distracted from his earlier grief.
"Whatever would we do with the whole Shire, Meriadoc? The more you own, the more you're responsible for, I say. I'm not quite ready to tie myself down quite yet, thank you." He peered at the small pile in front of Merry. "Your pipe isn't broken, that's amazing. And this is awfully heavy, what is.." Pippin picked up a small, bulging pouch and frowned. "This is full of money! I didn't know you had this with you. Just how much is in here?"
"A lot," admitted Merry. "Not counting what Mr. Butterbur gave me for the ponies, there's still quite a bit." He grew thoughtful. "Frodo was running, you know, and we didn't know where or for how long. I wanted to think of everything we might need. I figured we might make it to Bree, or that he might run to the Elves or the Dwarves, or just keeping going and going.. There was no way to tell. Whatever happened, however long we were gone, I wanted to be prepared. Frodo had enough to worry about." He smiled. "I knew Sam would keep us fed and you would keep us entertained, so I thought about other things. Stop that!" He slapped Pippin's hand away from three somewhat dried, golden leaves each wrapped carefully around a thin cake. "Let me."
Somewhat reverently Merry picked up one of the packets and slowly unwrapped the leaf. He shook his head, admiringly. "We have to give these leaves to Sam. Look how enormous they are, so much bigger than the mallorn leaves on the tree in Hobbiton. That tree has a long way to go yet to have leaves as big as this." He held the leaf up to his nose and smelled deeply. "Smell, Pip. You can imagine being back in the Golden Wood."
Pippin took the leaf and closed his eyes, inhaling deeply. "I never noticed that, when we were on the River." He frowned. "I wonder what else we never noticed?"
"Life is like that, sometimes," said Merry. "We take so much for granted." He sniffed tentatively at the waybread. "I think.." He took a tiny nibble of the cake of lembas then looked up at Pippin, wide-eyed. "Pip, these are still good, I think. How could that be?"
Pippin reached out and broke off a still-crisp corner of the waybread and took his own nibble. A slow, delighted smile broke out on his face. "Amazing. We have to save one of these for Sam." He sighed. "If he ever wants to see the stuff again ever, that is."
"We can ask him," said Merry quietly, picking up one of the packets and putting it aside. "That leaves one for you and one for me." He looked up. "Shall we?"
"Yes," said Pippin. "But this one already has a bite taken out of it."
Merry burst out laughing and broke the nibbled cake in half. "We'll just start with this one, and save the other for another time. If they've lasted this long, another week or so surely won't harm it." He handed Pippin his half of the lembas and nodded. They both ate slowly, savoring the sweet taste they had nearly forgotten.
"Merry," said Pippin after awhile, "What did the Lady say to you?"
"In your mind, you know, when we arrived. I always wondered."
"Oh." Merry was quiet. "What did she say to *you*, Pip?"
"How much my parents missed me," Pippin said softly. "I just wanted to run home so quick I could hardly bear it, and she said I could."
"But you didn't."
"No." Pippin looked up. "And you?"
"That I might not be able to protect you. My tweenaged cousin was in the middle of deadly peril, and I might not be able to... that you might not..." Merry's voice broke and he took a deep breath. "She said she could get you home safe but I had to go too."
"But you didn't."
"No." Merry smiled. "You turned out to be so brave, Pip, every step of the journey, no matter what happened. You saved me, you saved Faramir, you saved Beregond... Every day I was more proud of you."
"You mean it?" Pippin was close to tears again.
"Peregrin Took, I wouldn't have missed seeing you grow up for anything."
Pippin smiled back at him. "Merry?"
"I wouldn't have missed it either." He grew thoughtful. "Merry?"
"Are you *sure* we should wait to eat the other piece? I mean, one more day might ruin it, we don't know, and it's sitting right there, and-----"
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.