“Still sleeping,” said Pippin, frowning. “It’s pretty late. Do you think Strider put them back into that sleep they were in?”
“I don’t think so, Pip. He said ‘the healing on the inside has caught up with the healing on the outside,’ or something like that. Come on, this should do it.” They walked into the tent balancing a large tray of fresh-baked bread, cheese, early fruits, and cooked meats. Pippin cleared the table of the water and cups, and added the fruit in the tent to what they had brought. They promptly sat down on the grass and began eating.
“You know, Pip,” said Merry loudly, “You should save some of that bread for them. Can you imagine how many meals they’ve missed?”
Frodo opened his eyes to the sight of his cousins, dressed in shining mail, calmly gazing at him with their mouths full. He noticed that Sam had also awoken. “It must be a dream, Sam. I see armed hobbits who are taller than they should be devouring food obviously meant for us. Is that what you see?”
Sam grinned and sat up. “It’s right strange, Mr. Frodo, but I see it too.”
“This can’t be permitted to continue!” Frodo leaped off the bed and threw himself at Pippin, laughing. Sam joined them on the grass, all smiles, and the four settled down to some serious eating.
“Whose sword is that, Mr. Merry?” Sam motioned to the unfamiliar sword in Merry’s scabbard.
“It’s mine, Sam,” said Merry. “A friend from Minas Tirith, Bergil, found it for me. The one from the Barrow got melted by that….. that…..” Merry’s voice trailed off.
“Merry,” said Frodo. “You killed it, didn’t you? The wraith that wounded me. We heard so many stories last night I couldn’t keep them all straight, but I remember that.” He suddenly realized the enormity of what his cousin had done. “Oh, Merry!” He threw his arms around his astonished cousin, shaking a little.
Merry pulled Frodo close to him. “It’s gone, Frodo. Gone for good.” He pulled back a little and smiled. “You’ll have to thank Éowyn when you meet her,” he said softly. “It took two of us to get that thing.”
“I will,” whispered Frodo. He sat back, staring at Merry in amazement. His gaze turned to Sam, then Pippin. “All three of you,” he said, shaking his head. “All three of you killed evil things that were after me, after the Ring. Sam killed that Orc that was hurting me, and that, that spider……”
“And Merry killed….. all right, helped to kill….. the wraith, and Pippin……..”
Pippin smiled. “Frodo, I didn’t-------“
Frodo grinned at him. “Pip, you may not have killed that troll that hurt me in Moria, but I hear you got its big brother!”
With a whoop, Pippin grabbed Frodo and wrestled him to the ground. All four started laughing with joy and relief, and wonder at being together again. They were startled by a voice at the entrance.
“There is so much noise coming from this tent, I’m going to ask Aragorn to move it farther away!”
“Legolas,” said Merry, “Come over here and get some food before it’s gone.”
Legolas and Gimli came inside and sat down. “What food?” asked Gimli.
“Oh,” said Frodo, looking around. “We can get some more if you’re hungry.”
“No need, Master Baggins, we have already-------“ The Dwarf stopped talking. “Peregrin, why are you staring at me like that?”
All trace of Pippin’s smile had disappeared. “Gimli,” he said solemnly, “I haven’t had a chance to thank you. Twice now you have had to look through a field of battle searching for me. Or for Merry.” Pippin flung himself on the Dwarf and hugged him fiercely. “Thank you,” he whispered. Before Gimli could respond, Legolas also found himself with an armful of hobbit. “Thank you,” Merry said softly. “You never stopped looking for us.”
Gimli patted the top of Pippin’s head a bit awkwardly. “Now stop that, young hobbit. There is no need for thanks between us.”
“Well, I see *this* was unnecessary!” Aragorn stepped into the tent with a tray of food.
“Strider,” gasped Sam. “You’re not to be serving us! It’s just not right!”
Aragorn smiled and sat down, putting the tray on the grass. “It’s a special morning, Sam. Besides, with the damage already done to whatever food was here, I think a bit more will probably not go to waste!” He looked at Frodo and Sam. “How do you two feel today?”
“Alive,” said Frodo quietly. “I don’t know what you did, Aragorn, but thank you.” He and Sam exchanged a look, then they threw themselves at the Man, toppling him over. Aragorn laughed and embraced them both.
“Beyond all hope we are together again, my friends. We will have many days to-----“ He looked to where Pippin sat with his mouth and hands already full.
“Pippin, that was for Sam and Frodo,” he admonished gently.
“It’s all right, Strider,” Pippin said calmly. “I don’t think they’ll starve.” He was looking up, past Aragorn to the entrance, where Gandalf stood shaking with merriment, holding a tray of food.