Warning: character deaths
Pippin sat quietly by the bedside, holding Merry's hand. Every so often he would bring the hand to his lips and lightly kiss it. He wished his best friend in all the world would wake up so he could look into those bright blue eyes once again. Pippin had always thought that Merry's eyes were the most beautiful he had ever seen ... even more so than Frodo's deep blue, soulful ones had been.
The people of Minas Tirith were bustling along outside, as they will on any bright, sunny day, doing business, shopping, talking, laughing, eating. Pippin was unaware of it all as he gazed upon the form of his beloved friend.
Diamond and Estella had passed on a few years back, and although Merry and Pippin had desperately missed their wives, they had taken comfort in each other's presence - as they always had throughout their lives. Pippin had most certainly been in love with Diamond - he had never loved another lass so deeply , not even his own sisters. They had had a very romantic and openly affectionate relationship throughout their marriage. He had been more than devastated when Diamond had died; his son had feared that Pippin would lose his will to live.
But even for all the grief and anguish Pippin had experienced at Diamond's loss, it didn't compare to the jagged, raw wound being inflicted on him like a knife at the thought of losing Merry.
There had never been a time when Merry wasn't there. The day he was born, Merry was there. Merry's face was Pippin's first memory. They had bonded from the moment Pippin's sister Pearl had laid him in Merry's eight-year old arms. From then on, Merry had been there to look out for and protect Pippin.
They had been best friends for as long as Pippin could remember. Growing up, he had been in awe of his older cousin. He thought he was the luckiest hobbit in the world to have Merry tolerate his presence so much when he knew he must be irritating at times. But Merry had never been anything but kind and patient with his younger cousin.
And so their friendship had remained steadfast and true throughout their lives. The Quest, if possible, had intensified the already tight bond between the two. When they had returned, that bond had remained just as strong. They had been inseparable, living together at Crickhollow for a time. They had been considered the two most eligible bachelors in the Shire for the longest time, until they had both finally wed and taken themselves off the market, causing considerable distress among the young hobbit lasses.
Life had happened as life will; responsibilities fulfilled, families raised, memories made and cherished, celebrations come and gone. Through it all, Pippin and Merry had never questioned the other's devotion and friendship; it was just always there, like the air and the soil.
Then the spouses had passed away, Estella a year after Diamond, and Merry and Pippin had turned to each other once again. They had been each other's salvation through those dark, difficult months. The pain had eventually abated, and life had resumed its normal course once again.
Now, Pippin was 97 and Merry 105. Since arriving in Minas Tirith three years ago, they had had more time to spend together since their childhood. It had never crossed Pippin's mind that Merry might leave this world before him, leaving him behind to grieve. It SHOULD have occurred to him; after all, Merry was eight years the elder. Pippin just couldn't imagine life without his Merry.
As Pippin watched Merry struggle for breath, he clasped his hand in in both of his, and whispered, "Merry, I'm here. I'll stay right here, for as long as it takes, to see you home. I'll not leave you, I promise." Fortified by his words, Pippin kept vigil at Merry's bedside until, a few hours later, Merry Brandybuck took his last breath, leaving his Pippin alone and bereft.
The next morning, the King found two holbytla in their respective beds, with peaceful looks upon their faces. Although grief descended upon him, Aragorn couldn't help but thank the Valar that these two went within a day of each other. "It shouldn't have been any other way," he thought as he quietly left Pippin's room. "Surrounded by their friends, on such a beautiful day ... I will make sure their memorial sticks in people's memories for a long time to come." He sadly made his way to his wife and son's quarters to deliver the sad news.