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A Tale to Becalm the Healing –
Chapter III, Fellow Renegades
Faramir was asleep when Legolas entered with Pippin in his arms. I don’t know how I happened to wake up, but I did, and just at that moment, in came the elf with a Pippin-size bundle wrapped in a fluffy woven throw.
I slid to one side of the bed and drew back the covers, smiling sleepily up at Legolas. He returned my smile and nestled his bundle down beside me, unwrapping my cousin, who quickly turned on his side, grinned at me and whispered, "Hullo, Merry."
"Hullo, Pip." I grinned back.
Legolas crouched beside our bed. "You seem to have survived your lesson, Meriadoc," he said quietly.
"Aye. Aragorn made his point, though. Neither Faramir nor I will be doing anything but lying in bed for the next two days."
"Well, as it so happens, Aragorn has decreed that your naughty cousin needs to serve further penance for his part in all this, and so he will also--"
"He said I have to remain in bed all day tomorrow, too! With you!" Pip interrupted, practically wiggling with excitement. "To heal what he called my ‘injuries,’ and you know what he meant by that, don’t you, Merry?"
I grinned over his head at Legolas, whose bright blue eyes were glittering. "Let me guess."
"It wasn’t funny." Pip sniffed. "Legolas was very hard on me."
"Aww, my poor Pip."
"I hate it--"
"I know," I said. "You hate it when Legolas spanks you."
Still grinning gently, Legolas rose and turned to check on Faramir.
"And the soap!" Pippin made a dreadful face and a rather orc-ish sound. "Simply awful!"
"It always is."
"No, he didn’t use soap on me, yet," I replied.
"Oh." My cousin gazed at me with sorrowful eyes. "Well, maybe he’ll forget. And yours was a very little lie. All you said was that you and Faramir were coming to find him to tell him you felt better."
"Pippin, I know you’re trying to cheer me up, but has Aragorn ever tolerated lying?"
"And does he ever forget such things?"
He sighed. "Aww, my poor Merry."
While we chatted, Legolas crossed to the armoire, pulled out another nightshirt and brought it over to Pippin. Despite my cousin’s useless protests, he made Pip sit up, then pulled off his shirt and settled the sleep garment on him.
"I feel silly wearing this in the middle of the day," Pip grumbled.
"Get used to it," Legolas replied, tossing Pip’s shirt onto the end of the bed. "You shall be wearing more of the same all day tomorrow."
Pippin released a small groan that was somewhat less than entirely sincere. "How exciting," he muttered.
"Aye, it well may be," Legolas said. "Halbarad has offered to come keep the three of you entertained for part of the day, and he knows many stories."
"He does?" Pippin asked.
"Indeed. He led the Grey Company long before Aragorn assumed command of them, and before I joined him in their adventures. Aragorn was but a young man when he became a Ranger. Perhaps Halbarad would be willing to tell you some of their early exploits."
Pippin’s eyes lit up. He tossed me a grin full of excitement. "Aragorn as a ‘tween. This could prove interesting."
Legolas laughed softly. "Aye, and Halbarad is an excellent storyteller, so think of what you might like to hear from him, and I vow he will not let you down. Until then--" Legolas leaned over and kissed both Pip and I on the brow. "Get some rest."
"You mean until supper," Pip said quickly. "Get some rest until supper."
Again Legolas snickered. "Aye. Until supper."
Suddenly Pip flipped over onto his back and threw his arms around the elf’s neck. "Thank you, Legolas," he said " . . . for everything."
Legolas blushed and hugged my cousin, then he kissed Pippin’s brow again and eased him back down. "You are most welcome, little one."
We watched him glide to the door and leave, then Pip turned back to me and I pulled him close. "Was it bad?" I asked.
"Of course. It always is. But no worse than usual. And you? Was it bad for you, Merry?"
"Aragorn was a bit more careful because of our injuries, but he still made his point most effectively."
Pippin’s eyes lit up again, this time with his mischievous sparkle. "I fought him."
"I fought Legolas, Merry, and it was the grandest fight! You should’ve seen it!"
I stared into his joyous little face. "You fought an elf."
"Indeed I did!"
"You fought an elf."
"Aye! Oh, Merry, it was lovely!"
"Pip, why? Why, for pity’s sake would you fight an elf? You knew you wouldn’t win."
"But that’s why. I fought him because I could, and because I wasn’t going to win," he replied, quite pleased with himself. "But it still felt wonderfully good to do it."
I tried to put myself in Pippin’s place. Oddly enough, it made a little sense, which worried me. "You weren’t going to win, so why not have fun doing it?"
"Now you’ve got it!"
I stared off over his head for a moment, straightening this out in my mind. It was possible to understand Pippin’s reasoning, as long as I didn’t expect it to be sound.
"I have to tell you what happened!" my cousin began, all full of puppyish wiggling.
I watched him, feeling my grin spread with Pippin’s contagious excitement. Confined to bed in the middle of the day, his mouth surely coated with traces of soap and his bottom burning, he lay there, trying to keep his voice low, but nearly bursting with the thrill of telling me his story of how he’d fought an elf and lost. I listened, shocked in places, and not so shocked, but completely enjoying his wild tale.
" . . . And then he kicked in the door! WHOOSH! BAM! You should’ve seen it, Merry! Kicked it right off its hinges! It was a sight to behold! This heavy thing positively sailed into the room and crashed to the floor! WHAM! Can you imagine it? Kicking a whole door in?" He paused to giggle wildly at my expression. "Oh, but it was fantastic!"
"I-I-well, I mean, Pip, were you scared?"
He snorted. "Of Legolas? Oh, come now."
"You’re right. I know you wouldn’t be scared scared. But, I mean, was he angry?"
"Goodness no! He looked his peaceful, gorgeous self, not a hair out of place, his gaze all calm and his manner completely under control. He acted the way they all do when we’re amusing them with our cheek."
"Ah," I nodded. "Indulgent. Of course."
"Aye, but I was shocked to my toes! So I bellowed at him, ‘Look what you did, ye daft elf!’ or something like that."
I burst into giggles. "Oh no!"
"Aye, well the door was laying there like a dead orc, and Legolas was standing there, looking down at it, all grinning and pleased with himself, and I swear I was so flummoxed I don’t quite recall what all I said next . . . but I did say I intended to tell Aragorn that I hadn’t done that, but his lunatic elf had."
Now we both had to pause to giggle. "You didn’t!"
"Aye! And he politely informed me that he didn’t think I’d have any trouble convincing Aragorn that I hadn’t been the one to kick in the door."
I could just hear Legolas saying that, and it set me off again.
"But that’s not the best part!"
I blinked. "There’s more?"
"Well, of course, because he was right, there was no where else to run, and I had to defend myself, Merry, sooooo, as luck would have it--"
Pip’s bubbling excitement had him stumbling over his words through the next part of his battle narrative. I couldn’t believe my ears. Only my cousin would find himself cornered by an elf, but with a ready store of ‘weaponry’ within arm’s reach, and only Pippin would think to start hopelessly hurling that useless weaponry at said elf. My folly was in wondering about the practicality of it, because, after all, this was Pippin, and his philosophy was that, resistance might be futile, but if it meant something to you, it was worthwhile. Again, the paradoxical sense of that was disturbing. I listened, envisioning the bizarre scene.
"I just kept grabbing bottles and pitching them, and he kept knocking them away! And he was so quick! A flash of his arm and they’d crash against the walls, a few of them shattering splendidly! And, I must say, they were some of my finest throws, like when you and I kept downing orcs at Orthanc! Treebeard was so impressed!"
"Pippin! Either one of you could’ve been hur--"
"Oh, Merry! I wasn’t thinking of that!" he shot back, my shock failing to dim his delight. "I just saw Legolas coming at me, and there were these bottles and jars, and - I don’t know – I just had to hurl them!"
"Even though you knew it wouldn’t save you."
"Nay," a deep voice murmured from the other bed. "Because he knew it wouldn’t save him."
Pip and I gasped and exchanged startled looks, then my cousin twisted and flipped onto his other side, turning his back to me and facing Faramir’s bed, both of us propping up on one elbow. Faramir still lay on stomach, looking drowsy and rumpled, hugging his pillow while watching us with a soft gaze of understanding.
"What do you mean?" Pip asked him.
"You weren’t frightened of Legolas, Peregrin," he said in a dreamy tone. "You dreaded what was about to happen, yes, but you were not panicked by his approach, and you knew you could do nothing to change his intent. Locked doors and thrown bottles were not going to stop Legolas, but you could, perhaps, provoke him, and thereby earn yourself more trouble, which you clearly felt you deserved. So you were mouthy and combative. And I dare say you screamed and yelled and cursed a like a mercenary."
Faramir didn’t wait for a response, but pressed on to finish his point. "You felt badly for what you’d done. Perhaps you even felt responsible for the way things turned out for Merry and me, so you sought out a more severe reprisal, payment due to soothe your guilt."
I leaned over Pippin, placing my hand on his shoulder to turn him towards me more where I could better see his face. But I knew that every word Faramir had said was true, even before I saw Pip’s downcast eyes and his quiet, withdrawn expression. He tried to gently pull away, curl down onto his stomach. I held him in place.
"Aw, Pip," I murmured, and I leaned down to kiss his cheek.
"Don’t, Merry." He jerked away. "I’m fine."
Before I’d seen him leave his bed, Faramir was beside us, drawing back the covers and scooping up my gasping cousin. Pip immediately began a wriggling protest. "Stop that," Faramir softly ordered, nearly dropping him. He hugged Pip against him with one arm, lifted my cousin’s nightshirt up to reveal a red bottom that made me cringe, then delivered a small whack to Pippin’s backside that made him squeak and cease his struggles.
Turning back to his bed, Faramir said over his shoulder, "You come too, Merry. Come. Over here with us."
I scrambled from my bed and climbed up onto Faramir’s much larger one. He had settled himself, courageously, on his back, with Pippin gathered against his hip, my cousin laying half on his side, and half on his tummy atop Faramir.
"Come, Merry." The man smiled at me gently, his arm raised to gather me in, and within moments he had a hobbit on each side of him, all three of us cautiously aware of Faramir’s bandages and his wounds. I gazed across the warrior’s linen-covered chest at Pippin, who was still careful not to meet my eyes.
"Now listen to me, my fellow renegades," he said, his voice warm and affectionate. "We tried something we should not have, and we failed, and not one of us is more to blame than the others. We are all equally accountable, and we have all endured our discipline equally, although--" He paused and smiled down at Pippin, who turned his head up to meet his gaze. "I fear our young outside contact endured a bit more, as he had not the protection of healing wounds to lighten his ordeal."
"Even so," Pip said, "I do not envy you your plight. Only my bottom suffered, my lord. ‘Tis nothing compared to the battle wounds you and Merry are bearing." He turned sad eyes my way.
"But you are suffering on the inside," Faramir replied. "You carry an undue burden of guilt, Pippin."
"But Legolas said that, because I tried to help you, you would now be stuck in bed for two more days instead of one, and that I helped you exhaust yourselves and set you back in your healing."
I felt a surge of anger at that. Legolas should have known better than to say such a thing to Pippin. He would immediately do exactly what he had done – blow his guilt out of proportion and turn his anger on himself.
"Was everything Legolas said true?" Faramir asked.
I now grew angrier. I turned a frown to Faramir and snapped, "No, of course n--"
"Merry." Faramir said in an authoritative manner. "I prefer that Pippin answer."
I studied him for a moment, looking into the deep radiance of his eyes, his expression urging me to trust him. Then I glanced back over at Pip, who was staring off thoughtfully.
"Aye," he replied in a small voice. "Everything he said was true."
"But they were hard truths to hear, were they not?"
"Why do you think Legolas would say such harsh things to you? He knows you well enough to realize how you would react, does he not?" Pippin nodded again. "Would Legolas, who clearly loves you, seek to purposely hurt you, little one?"
I listened to Faramir’s soft, reasonable voice, and I watched my cousin’s wide eyes. Pippin was listening, thinking, taking in Faramir’s words. "My brother is graceful of speech, a natural diplomat," Boromir had once told me. "When he is not being exasperating." I saw that now in Faramir’s simple manner, and heard it in the gentle quality of his voice.
"No," Pip murmured. "No, Legolas would not seek to do such a thing."
"What could have been his purpose then?"
Pip narrowed his eyes in thought. "I think . . . I think he wanted me to understand the consequences of what I’d done, because, well, perhaps he thought I didn’t."
"Did you understand the consequences?"
"Well . . . I guess . . . well, maybe I didn’t. I just knew that you and Merry were so bored and you wanted to be out for awhile, and . . . and these healers! I know they mean well, but I don’t like those bossy clucks! They don’t know everything," he grumbled.
Pip’s sudden hostility startled me, and I glanced up at Faramir. He gave me a soft wink and began stroking Pippin’s curls. "Go on."
"I just thought you deserved to be out if you wanted to be," Pippin went on. "You knew best how you felt, and I wanted to do whatever I could to help, and bother the ruddy healers!"
After a moment’s pause, Faramir ventured, "Have they been denying you access to Merry, little one?"
I couldn’t think that possible. "Pip?" I said.
"Not when Boromir was here."
Faramir smirked. "I doubt it not. They all prefer to keep their heads. But since he has been in Osgiliath--"
"Is that why you haven’t been here as much?" I interrupted, my anger surging once again. "I thought you were being kept busy with your duties! Pip, why didn’t you tell someone? Why didn’t you tell Aragorn? He would have made certain the healers allowed you in here anytime you wanted to see me."
"I couldn’t trouble Aragorn with this," Pip said in a hushed voice. "He has enough problems. How could I bring such a small matter before him when he’s already so beleaguered?"
"Small matter?" I cried. "Pippin, your needs are no small matter!"
Pippin sighed and lowered his face to Faramir’s chest, rubbing his cheek against the man’s nightshirt. "Oh, Merry. You’re being tiresome."
There were times when I simply did not know what to say to Pippin, and this was one of them. Faramir stepped in with strategic grace.
"Let us return to why Legolas spoke to you so," he said. "He wanted you to understand the consequences of your actions, and? Is there more?"
I seethed quietly, feeling a great need to expel my anger somewhere – and right there, in that moment, it hit me. I suddenly knew. I knew why Legolas had spoken so bluntly to Pip, inflaming his temper. I knew what Faramir was trying to help Pippin see . . . and not only Pippin. I darted a glance to the Ranger, and he recognized my sudden understanding. He nodded slightly and we both returned our gazes to Pip.
"I . . ." Pippin was once again staring off with narrowed eyes as if reading his answer on the far horizon. "I felt so badly . . . I felt I should have known better, but, because of how angry I was at the healers, I let myself get carried away with your escape plans, even though deep down inside I knew you should probably stay put. It sounded like another of your fine plans, Merry, and I thought, ‘how lovely!’ I could help you two, and get back at those snooty healers at the same time!"
Pip buried his face against Faramir. "Ohhh, yes, that was it! That’s what I was thinking deep down. I even offered to drug poor Caspian! I wasn’t thinking of you and Faramir, Merry – I was thinking of myself! Of revenge! And I let you go through with it, getting all the way down to courtyard when you shouldn’t have been out of bed."
Faramir slid his hand from Pippin’s hair and down to his back, where he began to rub, and I reached over, my fingers replacing Faramir’s in Pippin’s wild curls. "Shhhh, it’s alright, Pip," I soothed. "It’s alright now."
He raised his head and looked over at me, his eyes glistening with unshed tears. "I hadn’t really let myself think of all that until now, but even before Legolas said those things and tweaked my temper, I was angry at myself, so angry at what I’d done. Oh, Merry! I felt so guilty! I should have known better! How could I have done that? I was so, so angry with myself!"
"And all that anger made you want to fight something," I said.
"Aye! And . . . and Legolas knew that. And he invited me to fight him."
"Because you could."
"Because I wasn’t going to win."
"And," Faramir murmured, "because it felt wonderfully good to do it."
We both looked up at him, and he returned our gazes, a soft and clever light in his eyes. "Shhh now, Pippin. Listen to me. What Legolas said was true, but he left out a few important facts. You were not solely responsible for what happened. Merry and I had an equal part in it. You alone did not set us back in our healing. We did that as well. You did not earn us two more days in bed all by yourself. We helped earn that. But Legolas left out those things because he had a different purpose in mind when he spoke to you as he did. You needed to release that anger you were harboring within, did you not?"
"And it felt wonderfully good to do so."
"And you also needed to invite the response you very much wanted, earn for yourself what you felt you deserved."
Pip hesitated on that one. "Uh . . .well, I guess so."
"I think Legolas would’ve soaped you and walloped you just fine without you asking for a greater measure, Pip," I ventured.
Faramir’s eyes smiled at me, then he said, "There is no shame in acting as you did, even though your cousin is probably right – Legolas would have dealt out exactly what he felt you deserved without being provoked. But you needed to receive what you felt you deserved." Faramir sniffed a small chuckle. "So Legolas opened the door for you with some stinging words, and you blasted right inside. You set about getting just what you felt you needed. You sassed a Prince of Mirkwood, locked him outside a door, hurled bottles at him and lambasted him with foul language. Ah! Would that not have been glorious to see, Meriadoc?"
I smiled and Pippin released a small sound of amazement. He stared at Faramir, and then he grinned softly, and then he laughed, and then he wriggled up and kissed Faramir. I watched my cousin stare into the man’s eyes, smiling his pretty Tookish smile once more.
"Oh, and it was indeed glorious!" he exclaimed. "Although I could have done without what followed." Faramir raised one brow at him. "Well, maybe not. But I could have done without three doses of soap and hours of spanking." Faramir’s expression remained unchanged. "Well. Maybe not."
"Aye, it would have been folly to turn down what you’d worked so hard to earn, Peregrin."
I suddenly thought of something, and just as suddenly I heard myself asking it. "Faramir, you had to know that we’d get caught." They both turned to gaze at me. "I mean, you had to know we wouldn’t get away with it. Make it all the way to the stables without someone spotting us? Someone who knew we shouldn’t be out? You had to suspect we’d never make it."
Faramir’s gaze narrowed on me slightly, then he sighed as though recognizing he’d been discovered. "Aye, well, I suppose we all have our inner reasons for what we do. Is that not so, Master Brandybuck?"
"I guess we do." I watched the man’s face grow rosy. Pippin and I exchanged glances, and I knew that my cousin shared a private understanding of what might have driven Faramir to join in our doomed attempt. But we both also knew that it would only serve to embarrass him to mention it. Admitting to the need for attention, well, it was really too much to expect from a proud warrior, and it was best to let the matter go.
Faramir, however, looked back and forth between us, then grimaced, and said, "Aye, like you, Pippin, I do not look deeply at those inner motives of mine. I know what they are, but I prefer they remain silent."
Pip and I simply studied him quietly. It seemed he had more to say, but he needed a moment to bring it forth.
"I suppose," he finally said, his voice soft, "that, if we chose to do so, all three of us could lay claim to a large amount of guilt. Pippin, you feel you should have known better, that you knew we were not well enough to go out, and that your motives were self-serving. I also knew better, as did you, Merry. We both knew how unsteady we were. And you were right. I felt certain we would never reach the stables, and yet I allowed us to make our foolish attempt. I could take on an even greater share of the guilt, for I am the highest ranking among us, and even though you are in the service of Rohan, Merry, you would have been subject to my orders in the absence of your lord.
"We all had our reasons for going along with a plan we knew to be wrong and bound to fail. Pippin wanted to please us and to gain our company and to strike back at the healers; whereas I . . . ." Faramir drew a deep breath, shrugged his head to one side, then surprised me with his courage. " . . . I . . . I missed my brother, and I hoped to gain his attention, and perhaps to even . . ." He winced. ". . . cause rumors to fly his way in Osgiliath, so that he would return early."
I felt a twinge in my chest at his brave display of humility and I wriggled closer to his body, unable to stop myself, while Pippin and I both gazed at him wide-eyed. Faramir withstood this as long as he could, but he was blushing furiously, and finally he muttered with mock impatience, "Enough gaping you two, or you go back to your bed at once."
Pippin and I smiled softly, then Faramir suddenly turned his eyes to me. "And you, Meriadoc," he said, studying me with a rapt expression. "What reason did you have for joining what you knew was a doomed undertaking?"
I hadn’t wanted the question, and I didn’t want to think about my answer, much less give it. But, inspired by Faramir’s confession, I said in a small voice, "I didn’t want to be left behind."
Watching my cousin’s face tighten in utter bewilderment, I added, "I didn’t want to be the one to say that, ‘no, we shouldn’t do it.’ It didn’t matter to me that I knew better, or that we would be caught. It didn’t matter that I would most likely end up with a sore backside. All that mattered was being with you, Pip, and standing at your side, Faramir. That’s all that mattered to me."
"But it was your plan!" Pip said.
"A good way to insure you’ll be included is to come up with the plan," I replied.
Pippin struggled up to stare at me, openly troubled. "Merry, when have you ever been left behind in anything?"
"Pippin," Faramir said.
"You’ve always been at the heart of things!"
I could understand Pip’s shock, but I had no intention of going any further with this. Faramir gave me a sympathetic grin and said, "That is enough, young Guardian of the Citadel. Leave your cousin in peace. His confession was just as brave as mine, so curb your displeasure lest I swat your sore bottom."
Pippin opened his mouth to protest, then wisely closed it again and settled for tossing me a look of worried perplexity. I doubted this was over in my cousin’s mind, but thankfully, another question suddenly came to me, and, again, I turned to Faramir and blurted it out. "My lord, had you known that Aragorn would be . . . well, seeing to your discipline, would you have--"
"I not only would have stayed behind, little one, I’d have done my best to discourage the two of you from such nonsense."
We all chuckled, Pippin saying, "Aye, well, Merry and I have ended up up-ended over Aragorn’s lap enough times to sympathize with you."
Faramir grinned wickedly at me and winked, saying, "I would guess, Master Took, that you have ‘ended up up-ended’ over so many laps you have lost count."
I grinned while Pip ‘hmmphed!’ and quipped, "Not yours, Captain Faramir, nor do I intend to be."
"We shall see about that."
"And what of Merry?" Pip demanded. "He is just as deserving as I am."
"Indeed he is." Faramir cast a gentle smile upon me and I felt a warmth creep into my cheeks. "You are both deserving, and I feel certain I will have cause to prove that to you, but for now I grow weary of being smothered by halflings and my backside will bear no more of this, so get off me and go back to your own bed."
"Well!" Pippin huffed with exaggerated indignation. "You’re the one who dragged me here and ordered Merry over as well."
"And now I am ordering you both hence," Faramir said, reaching for the hem of Pippin’s nightshirt.
My cousin squealed and collided with me as he scooted from Faramir’s bed and back to our own. I followed more carefully, and when he noticed my sluggishness, Pippin once again became the caretaking cousin who had found me a few days earlier on the battle-ravaged Pelennor Fields. He fussed over me, seeing that I was settled comfortably on my stomach, then he tucked himself in beside me and covered us both up. This was strange, this new side of Pippin, but although I struggled to adjust to it, there was something nice about it as well. I glanced over at Faramir, but he’d already turned onto his stomach and faced away from us now, if not already asleep, then nearly there.
"You should rest for a while," Pippin whispered.
"And what will you do?" I asked, my eyes feeling heavy.
"Shh. I shall watch you sleep. And maybe I’ll sleep some myself."
"My poor Pip," I murmured, closing my eyes for just a moment. "Stuck in bed."
"Stuck in bed with my Merry. Aye, there’s a cruel torture indeed."
I heard the smile in his tone, then I felt his breath on my cheek as he leaned in to place a small kiss there, and then I heard my cousin’s sweet voice humming one of my favorite songs, the perfect, otherworldly sound easing into me until I knew no more.