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A Rabbit's Tale  by Grey Wonderer

This is dedicated to all of the loyal stuffed animals, security blankets, and favorite toys out there with a special thank you to a certain Toy Soldier, a wooden ball, and a remarkable Yellow Blanket.

For Marigold from Errol.

Work Text:

There’s been no noise for some time now. It’s so quiet that I could hear a pin drop if anyone cared to drop one. I know he’s not asleep. I can tell that much. After that last dream I suspect that he is just lying there. I don’t entirely know what the dreams are about but from what I do know, I am frightened for him. This is the sort of thing that I can’t protect him against. Merry might be able to handle the job, but Merry isn’t here now. At the moment I am in no position to be of even minor help. It’s frustrating but after years of loyal friendship, I am called upon less often as time passes.

The day started off right enough. I could hear him stirring as he woke. I heard him moving about our new room and it wasn’t very long until he opened the wardrobe and went about the business of gathering his clothing for the day ahead. I watched him quietly from my place on the shelf inside of the wardrobe and wondered what he might be getting into today. I had no reason to believe that I might be included in his plans. He seldom takes me on any of his adventures anymore. A nearly grown hobbit of his age can’t be carting about a stuffed rabbit so I knew that I was probably not going with him today.

The last big adventure I took part in was a walking trip with Merry and Frodo. They weren’t supposed to know that I was traveling with them. Pippin placed me down at the bottom of his pack underneath his clean shirts. He was eighteen at the time and so I suspect that it wouldn’t have been wise of him to allow his older cousins to know that he’d brought me with him. I traveled in secret but it wasn’t terribly bad. I listened to them as they talked and sang on the walk and at night Pippin made sure that his pack with me inside of it was within easy reach should he need me. It was a bit exciting to be a rabbit-in-hiding on an adventure.

I didn’t get to go on his last adventure. He was gone for ever so long and I did wonder if he meant to come back at all. I was a bit angry at first when I realized that he might have gone off for good and left me behind. After all we’d been through I felt that I could expect better treatment. I was owed that if only for all of the times that he managed to get jam in my fur or left me underneath a bed or a chair amid the dust. I felt, and rightly so, that I had earned my place at his side. If not at his side then at least underneath the shirts in his pack. Day after day I sat on the corner of his bookshelf and waited.

Some days I had a bit of company. More than once Pippin’s mother came in and sat on the bed. On those occasions she would take me from the shelf and hold me. Sometimes she cried so that I thought my lad must be in dreadful trouble or gone to whereever it is folks go when they are no more. One evening, after the entire house had gone silent, Pervinca, whom I have had a rather strained relationship with, came in, took me from the shelf and sat down on Pippin’s bed with me in her arms. She held me and slept there all night. We might have had our differences in the past but I suppose she cares about him nearly as much as I do. In some way, I like to think that I comforted her in his absence.

I had one small adventure while Pippin was away. Pearl’s youngest daughter came for a visit and before anyone could stop her, she was in Pippin’s room and had taken me down from my rightful place. It had been a while since I had been in the hands of a faunt and I had forgot how rough they could be. She took me out of the room and all down the hall into places that I hadn’t seen in some time if ever. We eventually went outside. I feared that I might be taken from Pippin’s room and not returned but Peal finally found me and restored me to my rightful place, brushing the leaves from my fur and straightening my ears and setting me on the shelf. I was relieved because I wouldn’t have wanted Pippin to return to an empty room. As luck or fate or whatever it is that drags us all around by the ears would have it, I was right where he’d left me when he finally turned back up.

He was changed in many ways but none that really counted against him as far as I could tell. His father seemed very out of sorts with him and my lad was far too quiet to suit but he needed me again and so I forgave his absence. He would secret me into his bed at night though it was often Merry that he called for when the dreams came. He did tell me a bit about his journey and that he was glad in the knowledge that I was at home in his room safe from harm and waiting for him. I suppose in his own way he was protecting me. From all I can gather, it was not the sort of adventure on which a stuffed rabbit would have been safe. It must have been quite dreadful and I suspect that my lad was in dire peril more than once.

I am glad that Merry accompanied him on the journey since I was not able to go along. I don’t always agree with Merry, particularly when it comes to his views on stuffed rabbit companions, but I do think that he has Pippin’s best interests in mind. I spent a rather worrying three months in Frodo Baggins’s garden shed thanks to Merry’s opinions about stuffed rabbits but in the end I was rescued by Frodo. I don’t think that Frodo came specifically to find me but in the end the result was quite satisfying. I was reunited with Pippin and it was Pippin who put Merry straight on things. After that, Merry didn’t try to hide me from Pippin anymore. He seemed to know what was what after that. Pippin often lets Merry run things but that time was different. I do wish Merry were here now. If Merry were here then Pippin wouldn’t be alone with his dreams.

This morning as I watched Pippin hunt through the wardrobe for a clean shirt, settle on one that was nearly clean, and then dress, I thought it was going to be a good day. Pippin even gave my ears a pat and smiled at me before he closed the wardrobe and went about his day. My accommodations in our new home are not the best but I am safe and I do see Pippin every morning and nearly every night. I miss my old place on the shelf since I had a view of things from there but I do understand. Merry doesn’t realize that I’m here. He doesn’t know that Pippin brought me along when he moved from his old room in his parent’s smial to this little house with Merry. I am, once again, a rabbit-in-hiding. This time I suspect that I may be in hiding permanently. After all, little hobbit lads grow up and it is not socially acceptable for adult hobbits to carry about stuffed rabbits even if the rabbit in question is as impressive as I am.

I have held up remarkably well considering all of Pippin’s early adventures and his habit of eating jam directly from his fingers. I think he is old enough now so that the jam isn’t an issue but sadly, now that he is over some of his messier habits, he is also too old for stuffed rabbits. If he were still a little lad then I would be in his arms right now doing what I do best, helping him through the difficult times. Merry does that now. My respect for Merry has grown over the years. I now suspect that Merry might have made an excellent stuffed rabbit if fate had dealt him such a chance. Since he drew a different lot in life, I do have to admit that he makes a splendid older cousin. Pippin is quite fond of him and has ever been so.

As a small child, Pippin was constantly chattering on about Merry. Some of our best adventures involved following after Merry. I also do have to admit that it is because of Merry that I have been with Pippin all of these years. I was meant as a gift for Merry but Merry was less-than pleased with me. I might have wound up in a dusty mathom room if Pippin hadn’t made it known that he wanted me. That was the single most important day of my life. Merry was generous and gave me up so that I could be Pippin’s rabbit. I don’t know how I came to be so fortunate but one shouldn’t question fate. My fate has been to be the stuffed rabbit of one of the liveliest, most adventurous, most cheerful, hobbits that the Shire has ever known. It has been a good fate.

My day passed much as it has since we arrived here. I returned Pippin’s smile as he closed the wardrobe door and went off to do whatever it is that he does all day now and then I took a nap. The wardrobe is excellent for that purpose. It is nice and dark and very quiet. True, it isn’t at all like sleeping in the arms of a child but it is still a far cry from a dusty mathom room. Thus far I have avoided being packed away or tossed out and so I count myself lucky. My nap was interrupted when Pippin returned to get a fresh shirt. Apparently he still spills things from time to time. The front of his shirt was covered with what looked like tea. He found another shirt, changed his ruined one, and then he did something that he doesn’t do often. He picked me up and sat down on the bed with me in his arms.

It was as if no time had passed and he began to talk to me and tell me his troubles.

“Errol, I do hope Merry gets home before dark. I know it’s still early yet. In fact, I’ve only just had my tea.” (This explained his ruined shirt.)

He stroked my fur and went on. “I know it’s silly and I’m too old for this sort of nonsense. Why if Merry could see me now, he’d tease me for days for sitting on my bed like a five-year-old talking to a stuffed rabbit.” (I suspect that Merry is largely responsible for my having to hide in the wardrobe but that’s just Merry’s way.)

“I just don’t want to sleep here in this wee house alone tonight. This will be the first night that Merry has been away since we moved in here. I know that Merry has things that he has to do and that he can’t be expected to look after me all the time.” (I expect that of him now that I am hidden away in a wardrobe most of the time. I consider it Merry’s honor to look out for Pippin.)

“All of us have nightmares because of the quest. It’s silly for me to think that mine could be any worse than anyone else’s. Frodo’s must be unspeakable and Sam was with him through it all so I guess that Sam’s dreams are just as frightening.” (I know all about Sam thanks to my stay in that garden shed. Sam’s father, the hobbit that everyone calls ‘the Gaffer’, was in and out of the shed most every day and he talked plenty about Sam. Most of it was good and so I suspect that whatever happened to Frodo Baggins, he was glad to have Sam for company.)

“It’s only that I don’t like the dark very much.” (He laughed a bit there but I don’t think he was amused, just nervous.) “I guess I don’t have to tell you about that.” (He didn’t. I have always known.) “It had got much better and I hardly minded the dark at all until after the quest. Now, I like it even less than I did before.” He stood and began to pace with me still tight in his arms. “When I moved in here with Merry I guess I knew that sometimes one of us might stay over night somewhere else but I didn’t think it would bother me. I thought the dreams would pass and that I could get on with the business of being all grown up.”

He was quiet for a long time, just pacing and I could feel him breathing. Then he said, “I have to keep busy and then I won’t think about it so much. Merry always says that I get into the most trouble when I think too much. I always rather thought that I get into the most trouble when I forget to think but I suppose that Merry could be right. He usually is.” (Not always and not about everything if you ask me.)

“It isn’t even dark out yet. Merry was going to try to come home tonight. He might be on his way here now. He wasn’t supposed to have to stay over night and the weather is fine.” (We are looking out the window now in much the same way that we used to stand at the window and look for Merry when Pippin was small. I remember waiting for Merry to come for a visit. I remember long days of nothing but waiting for Merry. Then when Merry would arrive, Pippin would leave me on his bed and go off with his older cousin but I didn’t mind because I knew that Pippin would return at bed time.)

“I can go out and work in the garden for a bit. We could use more wood for the fire. It still gets cold at night. I’ll surprise Merry by chopping more wood and then maybe I’ll make a stew for him to eat when he comes home. He’ll likely be here in time for dinner and I’ll feel a fool for worrying about it.” (I know that Pippin is trying to convince himself more than me. I have no idea where Merry has gone or why he had to leave Pippin alone here so I don’t know when Merry is returning.)

He sat me down on the bed then and turned to go, thought better of it and returned to scoop me up in his arms. “I better put you back in your hiding spot, Errol. I wish things were simple again but since they aren’t, you better not be on my bed when Merry comes home or he’ll not trust me to stay on my own again.”

He arranged me on the shelf and gave me a sad, little smile. Then he closed the doors and left. I wanted to tell him that he wasn’t here alone but at his age I am not sure that he would listen to me or even let himself believe it. He is so very grown up now and when hobbit lads grow up they don’t usually hear stuffed rabbits when they try to say important things. Pippin listened to me longer than most children do, but since he’s returned from that frightening adventure of his he doesn’t seem so ready to hear me. Merry may have protected him and brought him home, but Merry allowed my lad to grow up too much. Pippin may be beyond the help that a stuffed rabbit has to offer.

I did nothing much in my wardrobe for the rest of the afternoon and then Pippin finally came in for bed. He was nervous and I could tell that Merry had not returned. There was no talking and I hadn’t heard Merry’s voice all evening. Pippin had lit the lantern and built a fire in our room. When he opened the door of the wardrobe to get his nightshirt I could see out of the window and it was very dark. At first it seemed as if Pippin might leave the wardrobe open tonight but he didn’t. He closed it and I heard him get into bed. I heard him tossing and turning for some time. He got up a few times, left the room and then returned. I know this because I could hear the door to the room open and close. I have learned to be very observant when it comes to sounds since I can’t keep watch properly.

Finally everything was quiet and I relaxed. I had been watchful up until then but once I was certain that Pippin was sleeping I allowed my mind to drift to my own thoughts and concerns. Yes, stuffed rabbits do have concerns but I’ll not explain those now. They have nothing to do with the issues at hand and just now my mind is back on Pippin.

First there were the moans and then the yelling started. Pippin sounded more frightened than he has since we came here. I suppose all of that is because Merry isn’t here yet. When Pippin and I were in his old room in his family’s smial I slept with Pippin from time to time. There was no one there to catch Pippin sleeping with a stuffed rabbit and so our secret was safe. Pippin needed me because of the dreams and I was glad to help. When we came here, Merry took over. He watched over Pippin and I watched over both of them as best I could while in hiding. I was fine for the most part as long as Pippin was fine. Tonight Pippin isn’t fine.

Once the yelling started there were all sorts of noises. It sounded as if Pippin had fallen out of bed or dropped something. I do hate not being able to see what is happening. I was frightened and I felt the hair on my ears rise up like it does when I am fearful. I began to call to Pippin in that secret way that I have, in that voice that he used to always hear and seldom hears now. Then it became quiet. That’s when I knew that he was no longer dreaming. I knew that he was lying out there in that big bed and that he wasn’t sleeping at all. He was frightened. I know that the same way that I know my own name. I can feel his fear. I continue to call him even now, but I don’t hear anything at all.

Footsteps! The door to the wardrobe opens and there he stands, nightshirt rumbled, hair damp with the sweat that very bad dreams cause, a pair of trousers underneath his nightshirt as if he is going somewhere. He stands there and peers at me as if he hardly knows who I am. I call out again and he blinks as if I’ve hit him. He reaches into the wardrobe and snatches me from the shelf. He studies me for a minute or two and I realize that I have done something that frightens him. Someone else has reached into his mind. Someone dark and very evil. I’ve reminded him of this unwittingly. He isn’t truly sure that I’ve done anything at all but he is thinking about that other time, that terrible time, and so he hesitates.

Then he clutches me to his chest and closes the wardrobe. He hurries over to the bed, pulls a blanket from it and then heads for the door. He is taking me to the parlor with him. “We’ll wait for Merry in here,” he says and off we go.

We sit for a long time on the sofa and he stares into the fire and thinks about the evil times while I do my best to be of some comfort and not to frighten him again. Finally, he starts to nod a bit and so he settles us onto the sofa and adjusts the blanket so that we are tucked up warmly just like we used to be when he was small and would fall asleep in his parents’ parlor at home. In those days any time that Pippin went to sleep someone would see to it that he had a blanket and was comfortable and warm. This time he sees to it himself. That’s part of what being grown is about.

I feel myself relaxing as he drifts off to sleep. My last thought is more of a wish. I wish that the dreams would stay away tonight so that my lad can sleep. I wish for happy memories for him and then I go to sleep in his arms.

“Pip?” The voice is quiet and the night is nearly passed. I see that faint purplish light that is the very early dawn coming in through the windows and I see Merry’s face above us. His eyes are kind and he squints in the dark to be sure that he seeing me and not just remembering how it once was. He blinks, leans over and then sighs.

“Rough night, Errol?” he asks. I just look at him but make no effort to answer. I am Pippin’s rabbit and so Merry has never heard me. In fact in rarely speaks to me even though he has known me all these years. Merry is, for the most part, too sensible to do anything as absurd as talk to a stuffed Rabbit. I nearly smile because I remember that it was Merry who helped me one a night long ago by bringing me my first and only child. Merry is not entirely sensible and he does have a good heart.

“I suspected that you were here somewhere but I didn’t know exactly where,” Merry says with a small smile. He moves over to one of the chairs in the room and gets another blanket. I watch as Merry puts this over us and tucks it in around us gently so as not to wake Pippin. “I meant to be back before now but it got late before I realized it. I came on anyway even though mum suggested I wait and come home in the morning.” (I don’t remind him that it is nearly morning now. He feels guilty enough as it is.)

He studies us intently as if checking to see if anyone has been injured. Beside of me Pippin mumbles something in that dream-speak of his but it isn’t an evil dream and Merry smiles again. “I guess you took care of him tonight,” he says softly. “Don’t worry. I won’t say anything about this to Pip.” He winks at me and I can see why Pippin loves him so, just from that sly wink and that soft reassuring voice. Merry is home now and Pippin will be fine. Merry turns to go to his own bed but he steals a last look at Pippin and I before doing so. He is apparently satisfied that I have things well in hand because he goes on off to his own bed leaving me to stand watch.

*****

Pippin woke with a start, sat up quickly and looked about the parlor. That was when he realized that he was holding me in his arms. It was daylight and the sun was streaming in the windows filling the parlor with cheerful light. Pippin looked at me and winced. I could tell that he was wondering if Merry had seen him asleep on the sofa with me in his arms. I could see shame color his face and was sorry to be responsible, at least in part, for his discomfort. I do try not to embarrass him but sometimes these things simply cannot be avoided. He jumped to his feet still holding me tightly and made a dash for his room. He flung open the wardrobe door and started to put me back on the shelf but something must have stopped him. He held me suspended halfway between himself and the wardrobe and looked at me, a slightly worn rabbit with floppy ears and button eyes that have somehow survived his childhood. I am very grateful that I still have both eyes because Pippin was known to chew on things as a small lad and he swallowed more than his share of buttons, coins, and even a few bells. I count it among the minor miracles of my existence that he did not divest me of my eyes at some point. He is studying me now as if at war with himself over some important issue. Now and again his eyes stray to the wardrobe shelf behind me. I remain still and try to look very neutral so as not to influence whatever decision he is trying to make. It is not my place to intervene in any way.

Pippin sighs, reaches out and closes the wardrobe with one hand and then looks at me with what must be regret in his eyes. “It’s rather dark in there, isn’t it?” he says as if just noticing that. “I shouldn’t have put you in there but I was sure that Merry would tease me dreadfully for bringing you with me. He’s always warned me that stuffed rabbits are for very small hobbit lads. He is right, I suppose. I am too old to be sleeping with a stuffed bunny, but last night I couldn’t help myself, Errol. Sometimes the dark dreams come. Some of the dreadful things that happened on our journey still make me feel like a frightened child.” He stiffens a bit at this admission and then says, “I am a Knight of Gondor and I am nearly of age.” He makes this statement as if introducing himself to me. I don’t really know where Gondor is but if Peregrin is one of their Knights then it must be a very special place.

He turns on his heels and moves over toward the chair beside of his bed. He runs a hand over my ears, which I happen to think are my best feature, and then very gently places me on the chair. I am in a very dignified position, sitting with my back straight against the back of the comfortable chair, my ears arranged properly, and my legs stretched in front of me. Pippin then steps back and surveys me. “This will be better than the wardrobe shelf,” he says and I most certainly agree. I have a view of the entire room from here and everything is bright and cheerful. When the door to the room is open, which it is now, I can even see into the hallway so that I may watch folks pass on their way to and from whatever. This is a very interesting location for a stuffed rabbit. There will be lots to see and hear. “I am through hiding you,” Pippin says. “I may have to take a bit of teasing from Merry and maybe even from a few others, but part of growing up is learning not to put so much stock in what others think of you.” I listen and behind Pippin leaning against the door frame also listening is Merry. “I am nearly of age and if I do say so myself, I have grown up quite a bit of late. If I want to keep a stuffed rabbit in my room as a reminder of my childhood then I should be able to do that very thing,” Pippin declares. “It’s not as if you haven’t earned a bit of respect from me now is it?” he says with a small smile. “No more hiding for you. If Merry has anything to say about it then I suppose I can take it. This’ll be your chair.” He says it firmly and with a slight nod of his head. I can’t help but smile at him encouragingly. I am pleased with the honor he is giving me. Pippin rubs his eyes in confusion. He isn’t sure if he should believe what he is seeing or not. That is the trouble with grown hobbits. They don’t always trust their own eyes. He thinks that my expression has changed but he can't admit this to himself. As a child he would have known it was so.

There is a knock on the door to Pippin’s room and he turns to see Merry standing there. “Miss me, Cousin?” Merry asks all smiles and dressed for the day.

Pippin is standing there in his nightshirt and trousers. He has turned his back on me so that he is now facing Merry. I am sure that he is trying to compose himself and to seem casual. “Did you go somewhere?” Pippin says with a slight lilt to his voice and both Pippin and I wait to see what Merry will say now.

“Fine welcome this is,” Merry sighs as if offended. “I go away and the least I might expect upon my return is a nice hot first breakfast but here it is nearly time for elevenses and no meal at all. What kind of house mate are you?”

“It’s that late?” Pippin looks surprised. “How long have you been here?” I know that Pippin is wondering how much of his conversation with me that Merry might have heard when he asks this but Merry’s response is more general.

“I stumbled in here just before dawn with my eyes nearly closed,” Merry says while Pippin watches him for signs that he might be leading up to the subject of me. I can see Pippin bracing himself for the anticipated teasing. “I guess you were already in bed asleep. I didn’t wake you. I just fell into my bed and slept until about twenty minutes ago. It looks as if you’ve just got out of bed too. Your hair could use a brush and your bed is quite a mess.”

Pippin looks over quickly at his bed, which is indeed a complete disaster with blankets twisted and sheets crumpled and pillows on the floor. “I did just wake up,” Pippin says nervously. I am certain that Merry can tell that Pippin is nervous but Merry doesn’t remark upon it. Pippin doesn’t know what I know. He doesn’t know that Merry did indeed see us asleep on the sofa last night. Pippin also didn’t see Merry standing in the doorway observing us earlier as Pippin bestowed upon me my new place of honor in this lovely chair. Pippin runs his fingers through his hair and looks over at Merry. “I slept rather rough last night. You didn’t notice anything when you came home, then? You didn’t look in on me or anything?” Pippin’s voice is a bit too high-pitched for this to be a simple question.

“In spite of what others may think, Peregrin Took, I do not spend all of my time checking up on you,” Merry smiles. “I am especially lax about that sort of thing when I have ridden from the Hall after a long evening with my parents and I have to keep pinching myself to keep from falling asleep on my pony. It’s a wonder that I didn’t fall off of the poor animal and wind up taking a nap in a clump of ferns somewhere.” Merry grins. “Then it would be you riding out to check up on me this morning though the way you look now you’d have frightened me out of at least ten years of my life. I didn’t know your hair would stand up at that angle.”

Pippin pulls his fingers through his hair again and frowns at Merry but his voice is filled with relief when he speaks. “You should have waited and come home this morning.”

“I would have done that very thing if I’d known there’d be no hot breakfast waiting to greet a weary traveler when I woke up because my lazy cousin has stayed in bed far too long.” Merry is grinning.

“Honestly, Merry,” Pippin retorts. “You make it sound as if you’ve been to Gondor and back rather than just to the Hall.”

“I’ll just put breakfast on while you dress,” Merry offers. “I shouldn’t, but I will go ahead and cook for both of us while you tame that ridiculous hair of yours and make yourself presentable. In return for this favor, you will be making lunch and something splendid for supper, oh and tea.”

“All of that?” Pippin calls after a departing Merry.

“Maybe that will make up for not missing me,” Merry calls back in a voice that I recognize as his cheeky, teasing tone.

When Merry has gone, Pippin turns back to me and frowns while scratching his head and making a bigger mess of his curls. “I think he knows more than he’s saying,” Pippin says in a whisper. Then Pippin smiles broadly as if a great weight has been lifted from his thin shoulders. “Still, I don’t suppose it matters does it?”

I am content to watch as Pippin stands in front of his mirror and attacks his hair with a brush while humming a happy little tune.

***

Now I have a place of honor in a very comfortable chair and at night sometimes I watch my lad sleep peacefully. Other nights when the dreams come, I’m here and he knows he can count on me just as he counts on Merry. As for Merry, he never lets on that he knows a thing. Merry really would have been a splendid stuffed rabbit. That is the highest praise that I can offer to Pippin’s other protector and I offer it gladly.

The End

Dictated by Errol and typed out by Errol’s personal assistant, GW on 05/17/2006





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