Decades later, back in the Shire...after a lifetime of living, loved ones come and gone, early memories beginning to fade...Merry still felt that Pippin was his anchor to the world. He had been the only constant in Merry's life, ever since the time of his birth when Merry was eight years old. Parents had come and gone, as had their spouses. Most of their friends had either passed on or crossed the sea. They had their sons, but these sons had their own lives to live. And yet here they were, the both of them, still companions and best friends. Merry stole a glance at Pippin, riding beside him on his pony. He really hadn't changed that much during all this time. He could still fit into his original Gondorian uniform, although he wasn't wearing it today. His golden curls had streaks of gray in them now, and his bright emerald eyes had faded just a bit over the years. He was still the same old Pippin, though; mischievous, curious, a bit childlike, and often talkative. Right now, however, he wasn't talkative in the least. He had been quite silent during this little sojourn they had taken into the countryside surrounding Buckland.
These walks were something they did quite often when they wanted to give their ponies some extra exercise, and when they wanted to spend some time alone. There was something different about this time, Merry sensed. Pippin seemed to want to talk to Merry about something, but somehow he wasn't finding the right words to begin. Merry decided he would help things along a little.
"Pippin?" he asked gently. "Was there something you wanted to talk to me about?"
Pippin stopped his pony and turned to gaze at Merry. There was a sadness in his eyes that Merry was surprised to see. "Merry, I can no longer stay in the Shire. There are too many memories here that won't let me move on. I miss Diamond..." He paused as he tried to swallow past a lump in his throat. "And now that she's gone, and Faramir is grown, I can't keep the memories at bay any longer."
Pippin didn't need to say which memories he was talking about. Merry knew. They couldn't go anywhere in the Shire without being confronted with memories of Frodo. Even Brandy Hall was tainted, as Frodo had lived there after his parents died until he went to live with Bilbo. Even after he moved away, he would still visit often. Frodo had always been there throughout their childhood, a favorite cousin to both of them. As they grew out of childhood, they both had remained fast friends with Frodo. It had torn both their hearts out, as well as Sam's, when Frodo left with Bilbo and Gandalf. They had grieved for a long time, taking comfort in each other's presence at Crickhollow. Eventually the scars over their hearts had slowly healed. They both found someone to fall in love with, and they had thrown themselves into their families and into their roles as Thain and Master of Buckland.
But it was different now. Sam's Rosie had passed on, and even with all of his children around for comfort, he found he couldn't stay in the Shire, so he followed Frodo over the sea. Another bitter parting, and another dear friend lost.
So Merry understood. He nodded, and asked, "So where do you plan to go?"
"I was thinking of returning to Gondor, and taking up my service in the citadel once again. It would be wonderful to see Aragorn again...perhaps even Legolas and Gimli. I just know I can no longer stay here." He raised his eyes to Merry's. He asked softly, "Will you come with me, Merry?"
Merry drew in his breath as he saw the unspoken plea in those emerald eyes as they rested on him. This was just another example of how he and Pippin could tell each other what needed to be said without words. This time, if Pippin left the Shire, it would be for good. He wouldn't be coming back. For Pippin to find peace, he had to leave. And yet another truth was written in those eyes as well; that if Merry decided to remain behind, so would Pippin. For Pippin needed Merry more than he needed peace.
Pippin hung his head in shame. He had no right to do this to Merry. Merry loved the Shire; he had found peace in the green fields, orchard trees and sparkling streams. He had grandchildren that he loved dearly and doted on. He should never have asked Merry to come with him. He stammered, "I---I'm sorry, Mer, I..."
Merry nudged his pony closer to Pippin's, reached out and cupped Pippin's chin in his hand, forcing Pippin to look at him. "Pippin," he said gently, "don't you know that wherever you are, that is where my home is? It doesn't matter if it's here, in Gondor, or in the depths of Moria itself. I might draw the line at Mordor." That forced a grin from Pippin. Merry smiled. "You've followed me everywhere our whole lives. This time, I'll follow you. I don't want to be anywhere that you aren't. If Gondor is where you want to go, then that is what we'll do."
Relief practically exuded from Pippin. He smiled weakly at Merry. "Thank you, Merry," he said tremulously. "I could never leave you behind, you know...not ever."
"Oh, but you have; twice, as I recall. Don't you remember? Of course, it was a very long time ago; perhaps age has fogged your mind..."
"Oh, Merry! As you well know, I had no choice in the matter, either time." His playful manner subsided as he glanced at Merry. "And both times nearly ended in tragedy, for both of us, didn't they?” Of course; the first time, their separation had ended with Merry badly wounded from stabbing the Witch-King. The second time...Merry still had nightmares about that second time, when Pippin had very nearly been taken from him. Pippin continued. "That should have taught us that it's never a good idea for us to be separated; bad things tend to happen when we are. We need to look out for each other...just like you looked out for me after my battle with the troll. If you hadn't come to me when you did, Merry, I think I might have died."
In all seriousness, Merry replied, "Pippin, if you had died then, I would have also. But that's neither here nor there." His hand reached for Pippin's, and Pippin clasped it. "I will go with you to Gondor, and anywhere else you feel the need to wander. I can live without anything or anyone else...except for you."
Pippin squeezed Merry's hand before releasing it. "You better be careful, Mer...people will start saying that we're in love."
Merry laughed. "Well, I for one don't really care what people say, since we'll never be seeing them again anyway. Let's start laying our plans, so that we can leave before the summer's end. I don't want to be traveling in the dead of winter...again."
Pippin snorted. "Indeed not. This time I intend to actually enjoy our little trip." A thrill of anticipation ran through him, and he could hardly wait to set things in motion. "Race you to the Hall, Merry!" he said with youthful exuberance, as if he was still in his tweens, and Merry laughed as he spurred his pony after Pippin's. It was good to be alive, especially when you were in the company of your very best friend.