Fic: When The King Came Back (Part 2) (for [livejournal.com profile] dreamflower02)

Aug. 1st, 2007 03:43 pm
[identity profile] remix-puppet.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] a_conspiracy
Title: When the King Came Back (Part 2)
Author: [livejournal.com profile] ceshaughnessy
Characters/Pairings: Pippin, Paladin, Eglantine
Summary: When Pippin returns home after the Ring War he has grown and matured in many ways due to his experiences.
Rating: PG
Warnings: Memories of violence
Word Count: 10765
Disclaimer: All recognizable characters are the property of the Estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. No offense is intended, nor profit made.
Title, Author and URL of original story: One chapter from When the King Comes Back (The Great Smials), by [livejournal.com profile] dreamflower02.

Part 1


When the King Came Back (Part 2)

Pippin paced the bedroom for what seemed the hundredth time. He couldn't help feeling like a naughty child who'd been sent to his room. In fact, the more he thought about it the more it felt that way. He laughed to himself at the sheer irony of his situation. He'd just returned from a great war in which he'd played an integral role despite his youth, and his father was treating him like a child. Moreover, his father didn't even seem willing to listen. He'd just up and sent him to his room, after all. Thank you very much but we'll be talking about it in the morning. Have a nice sleep now!

Pippin snorted in irritation, his impatience increasing. He felt trapped now, as if he were being held prisoner, and the feeling made him very anxious. He thought of Merry, and wished he were here. Sighing heavily he plunked down on the bed and stared at his surroundings. His father had no idea how hard this was for him. He was back in familiar surroundings but it didn't feel like home. He flopped backward on the bed and placed his hands behind his head. He wondered how things were going for Merry right now. Surely Uncle Saradoc and Aunt Esme were making him feel at home again. He was glad for Merry, but his own heart filled with a longing for peace that just wouldn't come.

Half an hour of staring at the ceiling prompted him to rise and circle the room once more. He went to the window and stared off into the darkening sky, feeling a sudden stark yearning for the only place that had ever felt like home. The farm. Yes, that was home. He'd spent the best, most carefree years of his life there and he wanted to know that comfort again more than anything. Without hesitation, Pippin opened the window and climbed out, taking care to favor his injured knee. He headed for the pony stables without a backward glance.

 

"Pad! Pad, he's gone!" Eglantine cried as she ran back to their bedroom. She was up with the sun and Pippin's room was her first stop. She'd only wanted to stand there for a moment and enjoy the sight of him in peaceful sleep. But his bed was empty and obviously hadn't been slept in.

Paladin cursed and finished pulling on his braces before hurrying to the kitchen. He paused to grab a cloak from the hook by the door before flinging it open wide.

"Pad, where do you think he went?" Eglantine's voice was higher than normal, her skin grown pale.

Paladin hurried out the door waving a hand for her to stay put. "I don't know," he spat, "but I'm going to have a few words with him when I find him."

"Pad–" Eglantine followed closely on his heels.

Paladin whirled. "Stay here and try not to worry." His voice softened at the trepidation in her expression and he took a moment to caress her cheek. "I'm sure he's fine, Tina. Still your fears now, my lass, all right?"

She nodded reluctantly, clasping his hand to her lips and bestowing a kiss there before releasing him. "Aye. Go find him, then." Eglantine watched until her husband rounded the corner of the shed by the pony enclosure and then stepped out into the dawn. She gazed off into the distance, her eyes searching the skyline, heart pounding, barely noticing the beauty of the sun as it rose high above the tree line that surrounded the bottom of the meadow. A thought occurred to her that Pippin was watching the same sunrise, somewhere, all alone. She allowed her tears to fall.

 

He came within view of his former home not many hours after sending his pony galloping across the far expanses that comprised the Great Smials of Tookland. Entering Tuckborough, he slowed to allow himself the enjoyment of taking in the familiar scenery, soon making his way into the little village of Whitwell near his family's farm. He halted his pony and sat for a time, drinking in the sight.

Pippin was glad it was nighttime. The world felt like it belonged only to him and he eagerly absorbed the precious hum of the active nightlife, the sounds of the childhood that now seemed so far from his grasp. Sounds he had despaired of ever hearing again throughout his long journey. Lost in reflection he drifted back to when the echoes of shouting, the din of sword fighting, and finally the silence of death had drowned the night's music out.

He remembered the strange hush at the end of battle best of all. The silence following the storm was, in a way, as jarringly trying as the battle itself. For after the great cacophony came at last the utter stillness when those left on the battlefield no longer breathed. Both friends and enemies lay scattered and broken, eerily united in death.

Unable to move and barely breathing Pippin saw himself again wandering across the immense fields of Pelennor, pausing to lift an arm or a leg of the fallen, some still draped across their dead mounts, to see if he could find one small hobbit, his cousin. The scene before him was uncannily genuine; he was there, and yet he was not. He witnessed himself using his foot to roll away a dead Uruk, certain he'd seen a hobbit's foot protruding from beneath its large form. Instead, he'd leaped back in horror at the sight of a pair of staring, sightless eyes that gawked from the severed head of the Orc. He had fallen to his knees and vomited helplessly. He heard the cries of anguish without realizing they came from his own throat.

The sudden flash of recall tore through his body with physical force and he doubled over in pain. He visualized the scene in every burning detail, relived his horror moment by moment as he'd continued struggling through the tangled mess of lifeless and dying mounds of flesh. Appalled, gagging on the odors, slipping in the blood and gore he'd struggled on for hours until at last he'd found him. Pippin released a ragged sob as he relived the final joy – Merry was alive. Badly injured, yes. But he would live.

Dazed, Pippin dismounted and continued shakily on foot, leading his pony behind him. He found the rhythmic movement of walking soothing and his thumping heart stilled at last to a more reasonable beat, still too fast, but one he'd grown quite accustomed to lately. He breathed the damp air appreciatively. The pounding of his heart slowed further, and he took another shaky gulp of air before picking up his pace, suddenly eager to make it to the farm.

Before the morning light had kissed the dewy grass he found it. Peering through the bushes the sight beckoned him with an almost intimate allure, like a lost love that awaited his fond embrace. Nothing had changed. The little farmhouse sat where it always had on the flatlands surrounded by a line of grand oak trees, both young and old.

Pippin smiled, remembering the many times he'd climbed those trees, entering a different world altogether. Settling into some of the higher branches and peeping through to spy on the world far below he had lived all manner of adventures in his head.

And frightened poor Mum half out of her wits, he reminded himself with a little grin. His mother would soon locate him in his hideaway perch and having had her fill of the adventurous young Took for that particular day she would call his father from the barn to haul him down. Then she would scold him soundly for his daring escapade.

"A wee hobbit lad has no business up a giant tree," Pippin whispered to himself with a wry grin echoing his mother's words from so long ago.

Sometimes he would receive a smack or two on his backside for his reckless behaviour, depending on her mood and how badly he may have frightened her on that particular occasion. Then, more often than not she would hug him fiercely and take him inside where she would fill him with ginger biscuits and milk while he chattered on about his great adventure. It was strange. He'd never had an appreciation for the amount of fright he'd given her until now. Perhaps it was his father's earlier words that had set him to thinking. Pippin felt a pang of regret for having caused his mother so much distress.

He headed towards the barn after pumping some water into the trough for his pony and giving her a pat on her shaggy head. "Be a good lass, Stars. All right?"

Cautiously, he opened the wide door and looked about. He half expected to see his father working with the cows or mending a harness, or even talking with one of the farmhands about the dry weather they were having. In a moment he would beckon to Pippin to come in and make himself useful or else he would find something for him to do. Pippin chuckled aloud at the imagined look on his father's face. He would appear stern at first before allowing a little smile to overtake his features and then he'd crook a finger at him.

Pippin had always loved that part best and he would rush over and fling himself into his arms, reveling in their strength as they closed around him. He had found his own strength there in his father's loving embrace on many an occasion. How he longed to find that solace once more.

Pippin wandered into the barn and found himself beset with memories from every direction. It was almost as if he had stepped back into that former world of his childhood and abandoned his cares behind. He found himself relaxing more with each careful step. Several birds flitted about in the loft and Pippin placed a foot on the ladder and began to climb. He spied their nest in a high rafter, their gentle cooing a sweet music to his ears. Scrambling up into the hay on his hands and knees he sat back on his heels and looked about the small space.

Many a carefully planned scheme came to mind from when he and Merry had plotted their mischief making from atop these piles of hay. He had spied on his sisters down below and heard their secrets. One time he had even found out the intimate details of his eldest sister's tryst underneath the moonlight. Pippin blushed with the memory, just as he had the first time. Even though he hadn't fully understood what the lasses had been talking about he knew it was something he wasn't meant to hear.

The hay was warm and still smelled sweet. Pippin marveled at that. The straw was several years old now; it had lain inside this loft since the very last day he had spent here bemoaning his family's move to the Great Smials, leaving his childhood home and his favourite places behind. He allowed the tears to fall as he had before. He'd known that his life would never again be quite the same. Just as he realized it wouldn't now, and he wept for his loss.

The memories of that day came back to him in grievous waves. His mother's face was sad, his father's, firm and impassable. His sisters Pimpernel and Pervinca had quietly piled into the carriage and Pippin recalled how Nell had watched over her shoulder as they pulled away. Pippin himself had knelt on the seat and watched until their land was out of sight. It wasn't until he'd been forced to turn around and sit that he'd shed any tears.

Weary eyes fluttered shut and then popped open as he struggled to stay awake. Preoccupied with the memories Pippin sank further into the familiar comfort of the straw. He sighed. It felt…right. It felt… like home again. Tired eyes fluttered shut almost without his knowledge, certainly without his permission.

 

"No, I haven't seen him sir. Would you like me to help you look?" Tomias Chubb held the pony's reins as the Thain prepared to mount.

Paladin thought this over, finally shaking his head. "No, lad. If I don't find him directly I'll return for help. I've an idea of my own just where he might be." Paladin reached for the reins and nodded to the former farmhand before setting off at a brisk trot across the yard. A moment later he urged the pony ahead, quickly setting off in the direction of the old farm.

 

He took another deep breath of the luscious straw and sank deeper into its depths, sighing happily. His nose twitched at the scent of his mother's cooking. She was baking something wonderful and the scent was making it quite impossible to sleep any longer. Pippin crawled out from beneath the hay and made his way down the ladder heading out the door at a vigorous trot. Warm crusty bread slathered with freshly churned butter and apple jelly! He picked up his pace and pursued the enticing food smells eagerly. It was so long since he'd tasted the food flavored with the love of his mother's hand. Reaching the door of the farmhouse he threw it wide and ran inside – coming to a shocked standstill at the sight before him.

He was once more in the great White City of Minas Tirith. Worse, he was inside the tombs of the forefathers of Gondor and directly ahead Faramir lay as if in sacrifice on a bed of kindling wood. Surrounding him were the Steward's guards holding aloft their lighted torches. Denethor's dark eyes met his and the madman smiled, beckoning him closer.

"NO! He is ALIVE! Did you not hear me when I told you so? What are you doing?"

Pippin ran to Faramir and tried to pull his friend from the funeral pyre. The guards yanked him backwards at the Steward's directive and tossed him hard against the floor. Denethor laughed, a harsh sound that echoed about the stone chambers. Lifting the palantir high above his head he intoned, "We shall all burn together," before smashing it at his feet. A great flash of light enveloped Pippin like a cloak and he wailed in utter mortification as he felt everything around him flaring up in a wave of searing red flame.

"NOOOOO…OOMPH!"

Pippin lay at the foot of the ladder; the attempt to scramble down in the throes of his nightmare had resulted in his firm deposit on the barn floor, one foot tangled in the rung of the ladder. He freed himself and leaped to his feet whirling frantically. When the realization of his whereabouts hit him he slithered downward, landing in a heap. Burying his head beneath his arms he drew his knees up to his chin and began to rock. A low keening started in the back of his throat and grew louder until his crying reached a level that frightened the birds nesting above, causing them to abandon their lodging in a flurry of feathers. He wept, great wrenching sobs, until he could weep no more, then laid his cheek on his knee and stared at nothing.

 

By late morning Paladin had reached the old farm. He couldn't help allowing himself a smile at the familiar sight. How many years he had toiled here. And his family had been happy. Now, weighted down with the cares and responsibilities of the Thainship life was much different in many ways for all of them. But nothing had changed them quite so quickly as the war.

Paladin paused at the top of the path leading down to the farmhouse. Memories bombarded him. Finally he eased the pony on looking around carefully as he approached his former home. His son had fled to this place. He knew it with as much certainty as he knew his own name.

Pippin had no idea just how close he had remained in his father's heart and mind while he was away. For Paladin had sensed many of the emotions his son harbored on his long journey, and the knowing had left him raw and wounded inside. There was much he didn't yet comprehend, but so much more that he did. And he wasn't sure quite how he was going to share that understanding with his son who was in so much pain.

He halted the pony at the foot of the first giant oak tree in the long line that bordered his property. Looking up into its boughs he couldn't help smiling in memory. He again heard those voices from long ago. Eglantine, in a bout of fright as she spied her youngest and tiniest child far above her head, waving to her from the boughs of the biggest oak in their yard. He almost cringed with the memory of her shrill cry as she shouted for him to come quickly and get his son out of that tree before he killed his fool self. Small wonder Pippin hadn't been startled clean out of the tree at the sound of his mother's screams.

Paladin shook his head recalling how he had stood beneath it wondering just how he was going to get his son down from such a place when he himself was afraid to climb that high! And just how annoyed he'd been when the mischievous lad had waved to him cheerfully from his perch, inviting him to come join him, as if he didn't know he wasn't allowed to climb up the big trees. Yes, even then Pippin had insisted on having his own way and pushing the limits of good sense while he was at it.

He shook his head again at the memory of his wife's reaction once he and a farmhand or two had brought Pippin down. He was certain his son wished for the safety of the high branches again once his mother got her hands on him. He laughed aloud remembering how after chastising him soundly Eglantine would carry him inside their home and feed him sweets while Pippin made her chuckle with stories of his adventure. Paladin sobered recalling his wife's suffering during their son's disappearance and the way she was utterly inconsolable those first few weeks. Anger at his son's inconsiderate actions rose within him once more and he turned away from the happier memories and urged his pony on into the farmyard.

Swinging down he led the animal around the side of the barn to the water trough. Pippin's beloved pony, Stars, stood quietly nearby. Paladin tethered his own pony to the post then approached her. He patted her nose affectionately. "Now just where is your young master, eh lass?" As if in answer to his question Stars bobbed her head toward the barn.

"Ah," Paladin nodded. "Now, isn't that a surprise."

Entering, he left the door ajar behind him and hesitated, allowing his eyes time to adjust to the dim light. All was utterly silent. Paladin peered about. Again, the recollection of another time rose up to meet him. He took a deep lungful of air and embraced the memories lovingly. Passing by his old tool bench he couldn't resist pausing long enough to run his hand over the tools that still lay there as if awaiting his return. Those had indeed been simpler times. And they had been so happy here.

Paladin tore himself away and continued his search. His eyes were adjusted to the low light now and he circled back around the stalls coming at last to the foot of the loft. How his children had loved to play up there! He placed a foot on the lowest rung and began to climb. Sticking his head up into the loft he looked around but saw nothing of Pippin. He hurriedly descended and pondered where else he might search.

His eyes widened when he looked at his feet and he stooped to retrieve Pippin's scarf where it lay tangled in the straw beneath the ladder. Paladin's eyes clouded with tears. It was the scarf Esmeralda had made for him so many years ago and the same one he'd been wearing when he disappeared. Paladin struggled with the conflicting emotions while running his fingers over it lovingly.

Pippin had been ill so many times as a child. He had come too early and was such a tiny babe they hadn't been at all certain he would live. But he and Eglantine had kept the faith that time too and Pippin had survived, but not without all the loving care his family bestowed upon him day and night. Caring for their wee infant had exhausted the entire family but the love he gave in return had been so much a reward for their early efforts. "Ah, my lad…" Paladin held the scarf to his cheek and sighed. "How you have tried my patience these many years." Tucking the scarf inside his shirt he headed for the house.

 

Half an hour later Paladin emerged back into the sunlight, frowning. He had known Pippin had fled here even before spotting Stars, but his search of the barn and the house had turned up no sign of him. He felt a wave of overwhelming frustration as he stood gazing about the yard deep in thought. "Where else could you be, boy?" Slapping a fist into his palm with sudden enlightenment he set off for one of his son's favourite places.

As he approached the pond Paladin slowed his steps. He spied him at last, huddled beneath the willow tree tossing pebbles into the smooth surface of the water. It was such a familiar scene he felt as if time had stood still. It would be so easy to believe they were living here again and that all the horrible things had never happened over the last year.

Paladin headed for him calling his name softly. "Pippin?" He didn't think Pippin heard him at first and then his son turned his weary face in his direction. He wore no expression at all; his look was simply blank. "Pippin? Are you all right lad?" Paladin felt a slowly growing sense of alarm. He tried again. "Son?"

There was no response as Pippin favored him with the same empty stare as Paladin joined him. He knelt and touched the cinnamon curls gently, almost reverently. Paladin noted the red swollen eyes and the dark circles beneath them and his heart ached for the suffering his boy had seen. Uncertain just what course to take he followed his instincts and sat down beside him, leaning against the tree. Shifting, he placed his arms around Pippin and eased him closer, finally pulling him into his lap as he had when he was but a tiny lad and needed comforting.

Paladin held him for some time, neither of them speaking. He knew Pippin was aware because he felt the tension in him begin to lessen and his breathing become more deep and regular. His son's pounding heartbeat slowed. Paladin marveled again at how much taller he was and wondered for the thousandth time what magic had made this possible. No matter. He had his son back again and he didn't care. Pippin was safe in his arms.

But what hurts had come to him on that journey to make him behave so? What horrors had he seen? And just how badly had he been injured? The boy he held seemed a stranger in some ways and he desperately needed to understand what had happened to him. What do I do now, he wondered? As if in understanding of his father's thoughts Pippin quivered in his embrace and began to weep silently. Paladin's arms closed about him protectively. Unsure what else to do he began speaking to him quietly.

"I knew you would return to us, lad. Did you know that?" There was no response. "I saw you on a great battlefield, clad in those strange garments of black and silver and clutching a sword against your chest." Paladin fell silent for a moment feeling how his son had grown tense again, then spoke in a low, comforting tone close to his ear.

"You looked so unbelievably capable and mature…" Paladin's voice grew very soft, "So determined…I thought someone else had wandered into my vision!" Pippin relaxed once more and his father chuckled. "Aye, so grown up I almost didn't recognize you." He squeezed his shoulders. "But yes, I knew it was you and I couldn't fathom exactly what you were doing carrying a sword and fighting. And I saw Merry too." Paladin rested his chin upon his son's shoulder as he relived the visions.

At last he spoke again and there was tightness in his voice this time. "I saw you injured on one occasion. But I didn't know how bad it was. I saw the blood on both you and your cousin and I knew you had been captured and were in great peril. It almost killed me to know I was helpless to do anything about it. I knew I had to have faith in you. And I did."

"But it wasn't easy, was it Da?"

Pippin sounded so wistful that Paladin's heart twisted painfully. He squeezed his son's shoulders again and sighed. "I won't lie to you, Peregrin. Yes, it was very difficult. But not because of any lack of belief in you. ‘Twas the lack of belief in myself that was eating away at my heart. And the lack of faith in my own ability to weather the hardship and the uncertainty. To feel I was strong enough to bear the waiting and the ultimate fear that the news might not be good. I…I weakened at one point and told your mother about the visions. I wanted to share with her that I knew you were alive. But I didn't want her to know the other things."

"But Mum guessed, didn't she?"

"You always were a very perceptive lad. Yes, of course she did, at least in part. Call it a mother's instinct, I suppose. But afterward I was glad I'd told her because she helped me stay focused on the things that were important. That meant surviving each day, one at a time. Sometimes one hour at a time just like she was doing. And it helped us to hold true to our faith in you. It drew us closer together, actually. And ultimately, through it all we knew our son would eventually come home to us whole and sound–"

"But Da, I'm not whole." Pippin laughed uneasily. "Not really. And I'm not exactly certain I'm sound either, for that matter."

Paladin's arms tightened around him. "You need time to heal. You need time with your family. You will heal, Peregrin. It's true you will never be exactly the same lad you were before. But you are stronger for what you went through." He pulled his son closer. "And so am I."

Pippin nodded against his father's chest. "Aye," he whispered.

"So tell me, son. Just why are you here, sitting under the old willow tree instead of at home with the family that's missed you so?"

"I needed to come home. All the way home. This is the place where I've always felt the most secure. And loved."

Paladin smiled at his answer. "And are you now? All the way home, I mean."

"Yes Da. I think I've finally made it."

"Good lad." Paladin patted him on the shoulder.

"Da?"

"Hmm?"

"I haven't sat with you like this in years." Pippin tilted his head around and grinned at his father. "I like it."

Paladin laughed. "Come now, it hasn't been that long has it?"

"Well, it seems like years. And I certainly haven't sat on your lap in quite some time!"

"Is there any rule that says a father can't hold his almost grown up son on his lap if he wants to?"

"I suppose not."

"Just you remember that, then."

Pippin nodded then sighed deeply. Paladin raised a brow in concern. "What is it?"

"You're still angry with me for going. Aren't you?"

Paladin thought hard about the question. "I told your mother that I was confused about many things at the moment. That was right after she accused me of contradicting myself. Twice." Paladin smiled sheepishly when Pippin chuckled.

"I'll be very honest with you, son. Yes, I was very angry with you. For leaving, for creeping away and leaving no word of your whereabouts, for putting yourself in such grave danger. And I was angry at Merry and Frodo too. For allowing you to come with them–"

"But Da, I–"

"Hush now and don't interrupt me. Like I said, I was very angry – at one time. But your mother helped me to see the futility of it. And the reason behind my anger."

Pippin twisted around again to look at his father. "And what was that?"

"Fear. Plain and simple. Although nothing all that simple about it really. ‘Twas a very complicated anger borne not only out of fear but also of a loss of control. You aren't a little lad anymore and even though I'd told you that you needed to start growing up and acting your age a part of me regretted it and still wanted you to remain my wee lad. I couldn't protect you from the harm you were facing and that tore me to pieces inside."

"Oh Da! I'm so sorry I put you through all of that!"

Paladin hugged him firmly to his chest. "Son, when you have children of your own some day you will finally understand exactly what I'm trying to say. ‘Tis a father's duty to protect his family, and when I wasn't able to…well, it isn't an easy thing to accept. I have never in my life felt so helpless as during the time you were gone. And as for the Sight, blessing or curse I'm really not certain which anymore, but it was so hard knowing what I did and not being able to change things. Do you understand, lad?"

Pippin nodded slowly. "I think so."

"And I was quite upset that Merry had left his father a letter and you hadn't."

"Merry didn't think I should. He thought the one he left was enough."

Paladin nodded. "And knowing your cousin as I do he was most likely thinking it was better that his hot-headed uncle didn't find out much until you were both well on your way."

Pippin sucked in a quick breath. "How did you–"

"Peregrin, please give your father a little credit for knowing how to reason things out, eh?" Paladin laughed. "Ah, it's amazing what I can figure out when I'm able to put my anger aside. It all makes perfect sense now. Your mother was right, as she usually is."

"But Da? You never answered my question."

"No?"

"I asked if you were still angry with me for going."

"So you did." Paladin thought this over. "Well, let's just say that I'm working on letting go of my anger, all right?" He patted his son's shoulder. "Yes, I admit I'm still a bit upset with you, especially the more I find out about what you went through. And from what I saw today I know you have a good deal of healing yet ahead of you. I mourn for the innocence you've lost forever, Pippin. But I am very proud of you too. You're not the same irresponsible lad of one short year ago and I'm stunned by the changes in you."

Pippin smiled at his father's words. "We have a great deal of talking yet to do, Da."

"Aye that we do. Just remember let's keep on talking, all right? And no more running off without letting someone know what you're about. We don't deserve to be frightened like that anymore."

"I will."

"And I'll try not to do the kind of things that make you want to run off. All right?"

"Yes, all right. And Da? I think I'm ready to go home now."

"That's good to hear." Paladin eased his son from his lap and stood. "Oh my, I'm getting too old for this sitting on the ground business." He stretched his stiff back. "Shall we?"

Pippin nodded and linked his arm through his father's.

"Pippin?" Paladin asked as they climbed the little hill leading back to the farmyard. Pippin looked at him questioningly. "I've been meaning to ask. However did you manage the little growth spurt?"

Pippin laughed merrily. "Oh, that. Have you ever heard of Ents, Da?"

Paladin scratched his head. "Can't say that I have."

"Well, after we made it out of Fangorn Forest Merry and I…"
"Fangorn Forest?"

"Aye, a rather frightening place all on its own, but there was a tree shepherd there–"

"Ah, now that's a legend I have heard tales of." Paladin looked at him curiously. "But, not a legend after all I take it?"

Pippin shook his head and grinned broadly. "No indeed, as Merry and I were soon to find out."

"So, is your cousin taller too, then?"

"Yes, and he still managed to stay taller than me! Anyway, this is what happened…"

 

"Are you ready to rest now, son?"

Pippin leaned over and kissed his mother's cheek before nodding. "I'm sure a few hours to lie down could only be a good thing." He followed her down the long corridor to his room.

Pippin felt the burning sting of tears behind his lashes and tried to blink them away. He swallowed hard. "Mum, I'm sorry I ran away. It…it was a very childish thing to do."

"We all do things we regret sometimes dear, and I dare say you'll learn from your experiences." Eglantine hugged him. "I'm glad you and your father are talking."

"We…we talked about a great many things. It's odd, but I feel like I got to know Da a good deal better today than I ever have. He spoke to me like I was an adult. I can't tell you how much I appreciated that."

Eglantine settled on the side of the bed and tucked the covers around her son. She smiled and smoothed her hand across his hair before planting a kiss on his forehead. "I think your father has begun to realize just how much you've grown up Pippin." She studied his face for a moment before speaking again. "And I think you've realized just how vulnerable to hurt your father can be. The two of you are more alike then you care to admit but it's something I've always known. You're both very stubborn and you each have a great deal of love in your hearts for your family."

Pippin nodded sleepily and yawned. Eglantine smiled. "Perhaps you'll be able to sleep a bit better now. Remember we're nearby if you need us."

"You've both always been nearby Mum." Pippin touched his chest. "Right here in my heart. As far as I'm concerned you were there with me all the way through my journey. Keeping me going."

Eglantine smiled and kissed his cheek. "Good night my little love. I hope you sleep well."

"Night, Mum. And I'm really glad the king did come back after all."

"And I'm glad my son came back. All the way home at long last." She closed the door softly as Pippin closed his eyes.
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a hobbit-centric remix

April 2017

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