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Fool of a Took


Rating: G
Archive: If you liked it, just ask
Time line: The Palantir
Summary: Curiosity killed the cat – but what did it do to Pippin?
Disclaimer: Middle Earth and all its inhabitants, the Sundering seas and Over-heaven belong to the incredible genius that was J.R.R. Tolkien. No copyright infringement is intended, I am not making money from this at all, and will always stay in deep and humble adoration of the wonderful world he has created and in which I have lived since I was 4 years old. Thank you. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, or so they say. I hope this is at least a little flattering and enough to make the great man smile from up there.
Author's Note: If I understand it correctly, some time passed before Gandalf went to talk to Aragorn. The story takes place in that span of time. I found it awfully odd that Merry was the only one who couldn’t look at Pippin after the Palantir incident. This story follows those events.
Dedication: To Kati-Wan, Fran and Ambersky, for Baylor, Leslie and sincerity - for we share a love for mushrooms. And for Quiller. Who is just one of the world's angels.

 

***

Cupidine humani ingenii libenter obscura creduntur.
(For blinded is man’s mind, everything dark is believed by him.)
(applies to hobbits as well :o) )

 

***

He had spoken to Pippin, had looked into his very eyes, his very soul. Cold, piercing eyes, a mind that pulled his and could destroy him, a mind so cruel, so vindictive, so fearfully intelligent.
Sauron.
The thought sent icy shivers down Pippin’s spine and his limbs trembled fearfully.
Fool of a Took.
Gandalf was right. As usual. He was a fool, had even called himself so. But it had hurt, hurt more than anything to hear it from Merry.
Merry, the one person who had always understood, who had always been on his side, who had always been with him, in whatever shenanigan.
Not now.
Fool of a Took.
Four words, simple words.
Why did they hurt him so much?
Had it been the tone of voice his cousin had used? Or the heavy frown he had had upon his face?
Fool of a Took.
Merry had looked at him for a long time after Gandalf had set him down, then he had turned around and had left.
Left. Just left. Just like he had turned away earlier, leaving Pippin alone where he was, trembling, with Gandalf frowning at him and the rest of the fellowship eyeing him suspiciously.
The black sheep of the group, the jester, the fool. That’s what he was. What he had always been. Did he serve any purpose in the fellowship beyond making them laugh? He made them laugh - but that was it. And now his foolishness had endangered them all.
Pippin swallowed hard around the lump in his throat. More than anything he wanted to follow Merry and tell him what he had seen. He needed the other hobbit to comfort him. The things he had seen had been too much for him to comprehend. Too much to bear alone.
But here he was. Bearing the burden of the fool.
He wiped angrily at his eyes and willed himself to stop shaking. So Merry thought he was a fool, too. Let him think so. He ought to know better, but Pippin was not going to correct him.
No matter how much Gandalf was still frowning, he had, after all, forgiven Pippin, and said no grave harm had been done. Why was Merry acting so coldly?
The other hobbit had changed. The battles they had seen had changed them all, but Merry had changed more than Pippin felt comfortable with. Not only was there the fact that he had grown after the Ent-draught, but there was something in the other’s eyes. Something very old. Merry had always been the clever one, while he, Pippin, had been the one with the quick wits and the unstoppable mouth. But Merry had never been cold towards him.
Fool of a Took.
Spat out, like a curse.
Pippin sighed miserably and glanced towards the canopy of stars, twinkling like thousands of jewels in a velvety black sky. Nevertheless the sight brought no comfort.
He had been sent to sleep. Sleep? That was the furthest thing from his mind. He wouldn’t be able to find a good night’s sleep knowing the things he knew. Not after seeing the things he saw. Not after falling out with Merry.
Beyond the horror of the things he had seen, this last picture stood out sharply, in a glaring white light. Merry's back turned toward him, his shoulders squared, his head held high. Not looking back.
The young hobbit slumped on the earth, a pile of misery, not noticing the light footsteps behind him.
Hands curled tightly around his bent legs, he huddled in the bedding, chin resting on his knees, and stared off into the darkness.
"You shouldn’t be alone, little one." The musical elvish voice seemed to belong to the night as well as to the day. Sure, strong, yet soft.
Pippin briefly closed his eyes and sighed. "I don’t think anyone will want me to be near now."
Legolas didn’t answer but sat down next to the hobbit. "How do you feel, Pippin?"
The hobbit gave a startled gasp. Why was the elf even asking him such a thing?
"Do I need a reason?"
This time, Pippin turned towards the elf in the dark. He stared at the lithe figure. Wisps of the far-away firelight were dancing on the long bright hair and the silver-green clothes, surrounding Legolas with a somehow larger-than-life aura. Pippin had heard a lot about elves - but could they read minds?
The archer gave him a small smile and repeated the question: "How do you feel?"
"I . . . I don’t know. Strange. Guilty."
"Alone?"
The young hobbit glanced warily up to the elf. "No. . . . It’s more like . . ."
"I saw Merry leaving."
Pippin's shoulders slumped. Tears burned in his eyes.
A slim hand suddenly rested on his shoulder, a soothing, yet strange touch. Legolas was not a hobbit. He couldn’t understand . . . not like another hobbit would have. Not like Merry would have. Should have.
"I am a danger to the fellowship," Pippin whispered, defeat muting his reply. "He knows it. Everyone knows it. He was right to leave. My curiosity has caused us great danger. He was right to leave. He was right."
"Is that what you think, Pippin?" An enigmatic smile played around the elf’s lips.
"What else could it be? Why else would he have left? He called me a ‘fool of a Took.’ And he was right! I only wished it wouldn’t . . ."
"Hurt so much?" Legolas finished for him.
The young hobbit hung his head without answering.
The hand on his shoulder squeezed lightly. "I don’t think you’re drawing the right conclusion, my friend." With that, Legolas rose and walked back to the firelight and to Gimli, his feet never creating a sound on the soil.
Pippin wallowed in misery. He had disappointed all the remaining members of the fellowship. And he guessed that even Frodo and Sam would have been disappointed. Yet Gandalf had spoken kindly to him, and Legolas hadn’t been hard with him. Just enigmatic.
Drawing the right conclusions? But he was, wasn’t he? Why else would Merry have left?
His stomach growled embarrassingly loud and Pippin shot a quick look over his shoulder to confirm if anyone had heard. For the first time in his life he didn’t care for food. No matter how much his stomach wanted it, he couldn’t have swallowed a single bite. Not with Merry being so cold and . . .
"You’re going to lead the enemy straight to our camp with this," a familiar voice grumbled behind him. Pippin went rigid. The bedding slipped from his shoulders.
Merry.
Had he come to deliver the crushing blow?
Just then he heard the distinct clatter of plates and cutlery. A more-than-inviting smell wafted over to him.
What was this? Had Merry come to punish him properly? He cast a timid glance at his cousin.
Familiar features greeted him. Merry, his head cocked slightly, one leg set forward, the weight resting on the other, with two plates in his hand and an impatient look upon his face, which underlined his slightly off-centre features even more.
"Fool of a Took," Merry muttered while he sat down cross-legged in front of his cousin. Pippin cringed and lowered his eyes once more. It hurt. Just as much as it had hurt the first time.
For a little while there was silence. The resinous smell of the night mingled with the odour of the freshly fried bacon and the hot mushrooms. Pippin’s stomach growled again.
"Are you going to wait until everything is stone-cold? I made an effort with this, foolish Took."
Pippin raised his eyes to see Merry pushing one of the two plates at him. He accepted, but still eyed his cousin warily.
"Eat."
"Where . . . why . . ." The younger hobbit sat the plate down on his now-lowered legs and reached for the cutlery. "I don’t understand this." The last sentence was blurted out with utmost sincerity. Pippin was confused. More confused than he had ever been.
"Fool of a Took," Merry muttered again. "Did you really think I would leave you alone in this?" He cut a slice of the bacon in half and munched on it, his face turning much brighter in the process. "Peregrin Took, no hobbit has ever let his mushrooms grow cold, so eat!"
Pippin hurried to comply and was rewarded with one of the best mushroom stews he had ever tasted.
They ate in silence for a while, until Pippin burst out: "You were so angry, I feared you would never speak to me again."
Merry gave him a wry grin. "You would have deserved it. Foolish Took. I should have known you were harvesting mischief in that little curly head of yours, but I never would have thought . . ." He threw his fork down with a loud clatter and the younger hobbit cringed once more. "You scared me half to death, Pippin! When you screamed and I saw you there, speaking in that voice, pale as a ghost . . . You foolish Took!"
He cleared his plate and then realised that his cousin was still sitting with his half-eaten stew, eyes downcast.
"I’m sorry, Merry."
"You should be."
Pippin’s sinuses swelled and tears burned in his eyes, threatening to overflow. "I am very, very sorry."
Merry glanced at the curly head in front of him. Half-hearted anger turned into compassion. Compassion turned into the need to comfort.
"Foolish Took," he muttered, tenderly this time. "Did you really think I would throw away our friendship because of that?" He took the plate out of Pippin’s hands and placed it on the night-darkened soil. "Sometimes I wonder what is going on under those unruly curls of yours, Pippin."
The dam burst. Tears flowed freely for a few minutes. Merry reached over and ruffled his cousin’s hair until the younger hobbit laughed.
The tension drained away. They were friends.
Fool of a Took.
Indeed.

***

Finis

 

 
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