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Friendship and Fear
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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[Index]

1
Chapter 1

"What were you thinking?" he hissed loudly. He didn't care if he woke anybody up -
most of the camp was astir now anyway.
He felt rage well up inside him - he couldn't remember ever feeling so angry before.
Not even when the ents refused to march to war. But there was another emotion there
as well - one that he didn't want to acknowledge, so he masked it with anger.

Merry was badly frightened.

Desperately fighting down this emotion, he let the rage come to the fore. He glared
at the huddled, trembling form in front of him, and refused to feel any pity. "You
have put the entire mission in jeopardy! You have not only put yourself, and me, in danger,
but also Frodo and Sam. What were you thinking?"

"Nothing! I wasn't thinking at all, as usual. Is that what you want to hear?" The
intensity of this outburst rocked Merry back on his heels. "I never think about anything
before I do it - don't you know that about me by now? It doesn't matter that the Enemy
can read minds, because there's nothing in mine to read!"

"This isn't a joke, Pippin!" Merry cried. He couldn't stop the tears from welling, making
his bright blue eyes shine with supressed anguish and fear. "Don't you understand?
Frodo and Sam are gone - you are all that I have left. If anything were to happen to you,
I'd be lost." He swallowed hard, and let the tears fall unheeded. This was what
frightened him so - more than the fear of himself being injured or killed, he feared what
might happen to this, his most precious cousin. If Pippin were taken away from him, he
could not bear it. And Pippin, unheeding, unthinking, had taken the palantir and put
himself in the gravest of danger.

"Pippin" he whispered hoarsely, "you are dearer to me than anyone. I need you around to
lift my spirits, to keep me grounded. When you heedlessly put yourself in danger, it
frightens me. I do not want to be left alone."

Surprised that he had revealed so much, he fell silent, feeling a bit awkward. He rushed on
before he lost his nerve. With so many things at stake - their way of life, the whole of
Middle Earth - it would be a tragedy to leave such important things unsaid. "I love you,
Pippin. I've loved you since the day you were born, and I'll never stop, not until one or
both of us is dead. Please don't hasten the coming of that day through foolish, hasty
actions."

Pippin, miracle of all miracles, was rendered completely speechless. It had never been
brought home to him before so clearly what impact his actions had on those around him. He
had gone through most of his life unthinking and uncaring, living life for the moment and
not considering the consequences. Now, as he looked at the person he loved the best, he
felt truly ashamed.

"Merry, I'm so sorry..." Pippin whispered. "I never thought.."

"Of course you didn't, you silly Took. You never do." Merry managed a weak smile.

Pippin threw his arms around Merry, squeezing him in the biggest bear hug Merry had ever
received. After they separated, they sat together in companionable silence, tightly holding
hands - holding onto each other for as long as they could.

----------

Breaking the silence, Merry spoke. "He's going to take you away from me."

Startled, Pippin leaned forward to look into Merry's face. "Who is, Merry?" Pippin asked
softly. "Who is going to take me away from you?"

Merry tilted his head in the direction of Gandalf. "He is. He's been talking so intently
with Strider over there, he's forgotten how sharp hobbit ears are. He hasn't said in so
many words - but I recognize the intent. He means to spirit you away to safety, leaving me
alone."

"No, he won't", Pippin whispered fiercely. "He wouldn't dare separate us. He'll take
both of us."

"Pippin, don't be daft. Gandalf doesn't need two ragtags hanging from his saddlebag."

"Silly Merry - Gandalf doesn't use a saddle on Shadowfax."

"It was a figure of speech, Pippin." Merry sighed. "Pippin, if we ARE separated - just
remember that I will find my way back to you, I promise."

"I know you will, Merry. And remember that I love you, too." Merry squeezed Pippin's
shoulder and hugged him closer, heads touching and hearts entwined.

------------

Piercing cries rent through the night. The hobbits fell to the ground as one, hands
pressed to their ears.

"Nazgul! Nazgul!" came cries throughout the camp. The bone-chilling screeches from above
continued as the creature circled twice, then flew northwest - toward Isengard. Trembling,
Merry and Pippin rose to their feet, faces ashen and hair disheveled. They looked at each
other for a long moment - a moment of hopelessness and despair. "Merry..." Pippin began,
but never finished.

At that moment, Shadowfax came galloping over to where the two hobbits stood. Swiftly,
Gandalf reached down and hauled Pippin up in front of him. "Come with me, lad; Shadowfax
will show you his paces." Gandalf flashed Merry a look of regret, then turned Shadowfax
toward Minas Tirith and was gone in a flash, leaving a heartbroken Merry behind.

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