61. Rough and Tumble
"Pip! Your name is Pip?" Merry was still mulling this over after Smagnu had left to go for his day's sleep. "I wonder why I thought my name was Pip?" The other was of course oblivious to Merry's out-loud musings. "But then Mr Smagnu didn't know if that really was your name. Perhaps all our kind are called Pip. No, that would be silly."
Pippin busied himself with the food. There was no knife or plates of course and they would have to share the tin cup again. The busy hobbit took the first little loaf and tore it into pieces, laying them out along the side of the cot, and putting a small piece of broken off cheese on each.
At the back of Merry's mind was the prospect of being questioned again. He had a vague recollection of the first time. That was when he had first remembered the name – his name, Pip. But there had been something else. The questions had been voices in his head, but there was another voice in his head.
Pippin poured the ale from the flagon into the tin cup, waiting for the froth to subside before topping it up.
The white faced being, the one he could see, had told Merry that it was his companion – the other one. Could this one who was now with him be his companion – the other one – the other Pip? It would seem very likely.
Pippin decided it would be better to share one apple now and keep the other for later. He had no idea how long they had to make this food last.
"I wonder which of us is called Pip." Merry talked out loud again, addressing his deaf cellmate more out of companionship than the prospect of an answer. "Perhaps I just remembered that name because it was important to me. Perhaps you are very important to me."
Pippin looked at Merry and saw that his lips were moving. That used to annoy him a little when Merry would persist in talking to him even though he could not hear. But now it worried him, what might he be saying? Who might be listening? He went to his cousin and gently put his fingers on the moving lips as if to silence him.
Merry startled at the touch, not just because it surprised him, but because it was familiar. He caught the fingers in his hand and moved them from his lips, touching them tenderly to his cheek. The other let him hold his hand there for a long while as Merry's mind struggled desperately, trying to pull the memory back - it was so close. He remembered a catch of a tune, a sweet flavour, a happy laugh, a smiling face. Fragments of memory started to drift back with the other's touch, elusively, but he could not catch and hold them. Tears welled in Merry's eyes and dripped down onto the others fingers, still held on his cheek.
Pippin felt rather than saw the tears on his hand. It made his own heart well up again and he moved the fingers from his cousin's cheek to his own face, gently brushing his lips across the back of Merry's hand.
Merry took his hand back now and brushed his eyes with his sleeve. He pointed at the other and then shrugged his shoulders in query. It was a clear message, "Who are you?"
Pippin leaned forward and pressed his lips against Merry's cheek. He did not kiss but instead made a 'P' vibration against the soft skin. Then he took Merry's hand again and made a very clear letter 'i' in it, waiting to see if it was understood.
Pippin then made another 'P' against Merry's cheek and waited.
"Pip?" Merry took the other by the shoulders to make sure he was directly in front of him. "You're Pip?"
Pippin had not really learnt to lip read, but he could make out his own name when it was said in isolation. He took Merry's hand and put it on his cheek and nodded vigorously.
"So your name is Pip." Merry still didn't know what that meant. He was back where he had started and was really no further forward. Except why had the orcs called the other one, 'Pip' and how did the other know it was his name if he couldn't hear them? Perhaps it had always been his name and that was why he had remembered it and thought it was his own name.
Pippin was happy now. Merry seemed to know his name and they had food to eat. He put a piece of bread and cheese in Merry's hand and bit off a piece of the apple and put that in his other hand. They both munched in earnest for some time, Pippin supplying Merry with alternate sips of ale and replenishing his bread, cheese and apple as necessary. It was just like having a ploughman's lunch at the Green Dragon, Pippin thought happily.
After their first little meal was finished Pippin wrapped the remainder carefully in the bag which Smagnu had left him, keeping the food as fresh as possible for later. He resealed the flagon of ale. They had drunk more than half of the frothy beer, but there was still plenty of water.
Pippin decided they would share one piece of chocolate now and save the other for later. It was only about an inch square so he bit half of it and put the other half straight into Merry's mouth. Merry was completely trusting of the other one – Pip, he must remember to think Pip – putting food in his mouth now and chomped down on the sweet straight away. He was astonished and delighted with the flavour. It stirred another memory. He had been given chocolate once before. It was Yule. Cousins from the South had visited and it was a rare treat. But something else went with the memory – something bittersweet. Again it was just at the edge of his recall.
Pippin's memory flitted back to the time he and his cousin had first had chocolate on that Yule. All the hobbit children spending the 12 days in Brandy Hall had been given a piece, there had not been enough for the adults. The doling out had started with the youngest and allocated according to age until it was all gone. Pippin remembered how Merry's face had dropped as Ferdibrand, Merry's junior by a year, was given the last piece.
The littlest Took, who worshipped his Brandybuck cousin, couldn't bear the look of disappointment on his hero's face. But Pippin had gobbled his piece of chocolate with relish the moment he was given it. There had to be something he could do. Pippin had resolved the problem in his own unique way by stealing his sister, Pervinca's chocolate and giving it to Merry.
Pervinca had wailed and told and both boys had been beaten, Pippin over his father's knee and Merry over a chair with a strap, because he was old enough to know better. But it had merely served to form a closer bond between the two – a partnership in villainy had been cemented.*
The chocolate was gone and Merry had grown pensive again, his head in his hands as he tried to hold on to one concrete recollection.
Pippin wondered how to lighten his cousin's mood. He hated to see him so distressed but he couldn't talk and when he touched Merry it only seemed to make him sadder. There had to be something else he could do to cheer him a little.
Pippin took Merry's hands away from his head and pushed his lips into his face again, only this time he blew a raspberry into his cheek. Merry smiled a little and gently pushed the rude little face away. Pippin came back and snaked his arms around Merry's chest and tickled him with both hands, his fingers seeking out places he remembered would dissolve his cousin into paroxysms of laughter.
Merry batted at him, curling up and giggling with agony. Pippin carried on until Merry managed to wrestle him into submission, pinning his hands down to the cot so he couldn't move.
Pippin wriggled and fought until Merry let go and then he was off the cot and scampering across the little cell. He ran back and tagged the other hobbit on the arm and ran away again.
Merry was still laughing and put his arms out in front trying to feel where the other… where Pip had gone. Pippin ran back once more and, as he tagged Merry this time, the older hobbit was too quick for him and grabbed him tightly with both arms and they fell in a scrabbling heap on the floor, wrestling, rolling and tickling until they were both breathless.
Pippin scrabbled up on all fours and scuttled away and then back again, tapping Merry playfully on the nose, teasing him into chasing. Merry stayed on all fours too, he felt safer closer to the ground as there was not so far to fall. He listened carefully to where Pip was and then flung himself in the general direction, grabbing with both hands.
The pair managed to knock over the metal water jug with a loud clatter and narrowly missed the bucket. 'Phew that was close,' Pippin thought and jumped up to put it safely in the corner before leaping onto Merry once more in a scramble of arms and legs.
The jailer opened the door and Pippin saw him standing there with his arms akimbo as Merry heard him say, " What's going on in here? Quiet down you two. Have you been fighting?"
"No Sir!" Gasped Merry, completely out of breath now, with Pippin sitting on his chest. "Just playing."
* See separate story "A Partnership in Villainy"