West of the Moon
A Tolkien Fanfiction Archive
Like Falling Asleep Again
Merry and Pippin share a night in Minas Tirith in 1491
Warnings: angst, character deaths
A/N: I am going by the year listed in the Encyclopedia of Arda. Many, many thanks to my beta, Marigold.
Minas Tirith, S.R. 1491
"Dancing on the table at your age. Honestly, Pip."
"Dancing, did you call it?" Pippin snorted as he unbuckled his belt and set his sword against the wall. "More like shuffling, if you ask me, Merry-mine. Still, they didn't have to help me up onto the table. That's something anyway."
Merry watched from their bed as Pippin undressed in front of the window, the moonlight limning his body with palest gold. He was still a thing of beauty, his Peregrin Took: slim and straight as a tween, though his once-fair curls were all silver now, and the weight of the responsibilities and cares he'd borne as Thain had carved deep lines upon his face.
Pippin sensed Merry's admiring gaze upon him, and smiled. Even in the dim light, Merry could see the pleased sparkle in his green eyes. He was vain, Pippin was, absurdly proud of the fact that he could still fit into his original Guards' livery. Merry himself had long since regretfully given up that fight. His old uniform was on display in the Mathom-house, far away in Michel Delving. Merry wondered idly what future generations of hobbits would make of it, long years from now when it was no more than a tattered and dusty relic, when Meriadoc the Magnificent was simply a figure in legend and lore, like Mad Bilbo Baggins or Frodo of the Nine Fingers. He realised, to his surprise, that he didn't much care, though once the very notion would have appalled him. But he was old now, and all in the world that mattered to him was here in this room, bathed in moonlight as he pulled his surcoat over his head and draped it over the back of a chair.
Pippin swiftly finished undressing, shivering a little in the cool air, then slid naked under the covers and into Merry's waiting embrace. "Ah, you're so warm, Merry-mine," Pippin murmured, sliding one leg between both of Merry's, and winding his arms under and around his back. Merry could feel the goose bumps the cold had raised on Pippin's shoulders. He stroked one hand along the chilled flesh in a gentle caress, over and over, and felt the skin warm gradually beneath his touch.
The hobbits lay in contented silence, watching the play of moonlight and shadow on the walls of their bedchamber. Neither felt the need for speech. It was enough simply to hold each other, and enjoy the closeness they shared. A distant bell tolled the changing of the Citadel Guard, and they listened to the familiar muted jangle of armour as the Guards came and went.
"I never understood what Frodo meant 'til now," Merry said suddenly, when the City had settled into quiet once more.
"What? When?" Surprised by this apparent non sequitur, Pippin tilted his head up and looked into Merry's shadowed face.
"When we returned home from the Quest. I said it was like waking from a dream that has slowly faded. Do you remember?" Pippin nodded. "And Frodo said that for him, it was more like falling asleep again. I didn't understand then what he meant, Pippin. I wish I had, for I see now that he had already convinced himself that he would have to leave Middle-earth. If I'd known..." He fell silent, but he knew Pippin was still listening, waiting patiently for him to go on. "Well, that's neither here nor there, is it? I'm sorry, Pip, I've wandered from the point. I seem to do that often these days."
"It's all right, Merry-mine. You'll get to the point; you always do, whatever detours memory may take you on."
"The truth is," said Merry, "ever since we returned to Minas Tirith, my life before has become more and more like a dream to me, Pip- except for our time together, especially on the Quest. It's as if the only real thing that exists, the only real thing that ever existed, is you, and my love for you. The rest is now the dream that is slowly fading. I look back on my years in the Shire, and it seems as though they happened to someone else. And I know I should feel guilty, but..."
"You can't," Pippin finished for him. "Well, neither can I." He brushed his lips lightly over the nearest spot he could reach: the delicate skin at the base of Merry's throat. "Merry, did you think I wouldn't understand? We sacrificed so much for our duty to our families and the Shire. Let's not feel guilty that we've had these years together, just the two of us. I loved Diamond, as you loved Estella, but you are my love, and you have been ever since I was old enough to understand what that meant."
"A love too old to pleasure you with his body anymore," Merry said sadly, recalling the days of their youth, and the passion that had burned so brightly between them.
"D'you think that matters, my dearest?" Pippin raised himself on one elbow and looked down into Merry's eyes. "All I wanted, all I wished for, for so many years was to go to sleep in your arms, and wake to find you still there, holding me." He bent his head and kissed Merry, a kiss without passion, but overflowing with tenderness and love. "I've had my wish for seven glorious years, Meriadoc Brandybuck, and you've made me the happiest hobbit in Minas Tirith."
Merry swallowed a lump in his throat as Pippin settled back into his arms. "Silly Took," he said, striving for lightness. "There are only two hobbits in Minas Tirith, and one of them is even happier than you." Pippin gave a sleepy chuckle against Merry's throat.
Then his voice grew serious once more. "But Pip, I'm old. What will happen when I'm gone?" The secret worry that had been tormenting him for weeks could no longer be held back.
"To me, do you mean?"
"Yes; I can't bear the thought of you being left alone after I am gone." Tears prickled at his eyes; they came so easily these days.
"Goodness, you are in a melancholy mood," Pippin said. "But there's no call to be melancholy, dearest Merry, for if you think for one moment that I am going to let you go gallivanting off to the Halls of Mandos alone, you are vastly mistaken. I've tagged along after you since I was a babe. Don't imagine you are going to be rid of me that easily."
"Oh Pip, only you could make a jest about the Halls of Mandos!" Merry said, shaking his head, torn between laughter and tears.
"Well, if you insist on bringing up absurdities-"
"It's not absurd, Pippin. I'm eight years older than you; it's natural that I should die before you."
"Merry-mine." Pippin's green eyes were bright with tears as they met his, and Merry could not recall them ever looking more serious. "Love, don't you understand yet? My heart can't keep beating if yours is not beating, too." He took one of Merry's hands and held it to his breast. "This belongs to you," he said, "and when you go, wherever you go, it goes with you. And so does the rest of me."
Pippin was asleep, his steady breathing clearly audible in the quiet room. It was late; soon, the first grey fingers of light that heralded dawn would be reaching over the windowsill. But Merry did not feel sleepy. He rarely slept these days; it was as if his body recognized the futility of rest, with the final sleep so near at hand. For Merry's heart was failing. Aragorn and the healers had told him as much (out of Pippin's hearing), and the moments of breathlessness, the sudden stabbing pains that filled his chest, had been growing more and more frequent, despite all the remedies that had been attempted.
But he didn't fear death, not if Pippin would be with him, and in the face of Pippin's certainty, how could he doubt it? He wondered dreamily if they would see Frodo and Sam again. He'd like that, for the four Travellers to be reunited once more.
Pippin murmured in his sleep, the words unintelligible, though Merry imagined he heard his own name. He tightened his arms about Pippin's sleeping form. "I'm here, my Pip, my love," he said. "Forever."
The servants found them later that morning, when they arrived to clean the chambers: Meriadoc and Peregrin, their beloved Pheriannath, entwined upon the bed. They looked peaceful, as if they were but deeply asleep, and there were smiles of ineffable beauty upon both their faces.
The Guards brought the news to King Elessar where he sat with Queen Arwen beside the fountain, beneath the arching boughs of the flowering White Tree. As they approached, he was stooping to pick up what had fallen at his feet moments before: two perfect blossoms from the Tree. The King did not seem surprised by their news, and as he looked at the white flowers cupped in his hands, he smiled.
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