26. Chapter 25 - June 1423
Today was the first time Merry had seen Pippin since Pippin had left Crickhollow. It was the longest he'd ever been separated from Pippin that he could remember. Even the war had only separated them a little over a week, at most. They'd always been together, staying at each other's homes and spending nearly every waking moment (and a lot of time when they should have been asleep in their beds) getting into mischief together. Their time apart while growing up was measured in days at a time, not weeks. He missed him terribly.
Unfortunately, he'd had little chance to spend time with Pippin today. An overwhelming number of guests to greet had kept Pippin occupied. And any amount of free time he had seemed to be filled by the Thain introducing him to some lass and her parents.
Pippin plastered on a smile for the lasses, but Merry knew he wasn't happy with what his father was doing. After his string of bad luck, Pippin had decided not to get serious with anyone and remain a bachelor for a while. "Maybe forever," Pippin had scoffed into his ale as Merry and Freddy had tried to console him after he'd ended his relationship with Laura Boffin. Merry had just nodded, not wanting to point out that he'd seen how Pippin looked at lasses and he was pretty sure he wouldn't remain a bachelor forever.
Once all the guests had arrived and his father had run out of girls to parade in front of him, Pippin found Merry and Sam and they escaped out to the orchard to get away from the crowd for a while.
"It's hard to believe our little Pip is all grown up," said Merry. He sat in the shade of an apple tree, mug of ale in hand.
Beside him, Sam snorted into his ale. "I don't know about that." He nodded towards where Pippin was playing tag with Ivy and Elanor around the trees, giggling just as much as they were. "And I seem to recall another young hobbit who didn't grow up right away."
Merry tried to look hurt. "And what's that supposed to mean?"
"Let's just say we're lucky there aren't any fireworks around."
They both started to laugh at the memory of a fiery red dragon filling the sky and the look on Gandalf's face when he had caught the culprits who had released it, then stopped as it hit them at the same time why there weren't any fireworks anymore. Both hobbits somberly turned back to their ales.
"I wish he could have been here," said Merry, breaking the silence. "He adored Pippin. He always had time for us, even when the other lads teased him for spending time with his snot-nosed little cousins."
Sam sighed. "I miss him, too. I got so used to taking care of him and watching out for him. I would have died for him. I love him like he was my own brother. He became my whole life for a while and...then he was gone."
Merry put his arm around Sam and sighed. "I know, Sam," he said, but suddenly it wasn't Frodo he was thinking of. Pippin wasn't gone, but he no longer needed Merry as a guide and protector, a role that Merry had filled for thirty-three years.
"Hey! No being gloomy on my birthday!" Merry looked up as Pippin came towards them, with Ivy and Elanor following behind, whispering and giggling to each other.
Merry gave Sam's shoulder a squeeze then pulled away. He forced a grin up at Pippin. "We're just feeling old because my little baby cousin is a grown-up now."
Pippin made a face at him. "We're going to the north pasture to see the new foals. Would you two old gaffers like to join us?"
"Don't you have a party to host?" Merry asked, eyebrow raised.
"The huge party was my parents' idea," Pippin said, not bothering to hide his annoyance. "They didn't even ask me what I wanted to do. And I'd rather spend my birthday with my best friends."
The admonishment died on Merry's lips. Pippin was an adult now. He could certainly make his own decisions.
"All right, Pip."
Pippin grinned and grabbed their hands to pull Merry and Sam to their feet. Sam scooped up Elanor and swung her up on his shoulders. Merry and Pippin each took a hand and swung Ivy between them as they walked up to the pasture, leaving the sounds of the party behind them.
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.