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Fate and the High King's Falcon  by Baylor

Day Five of the New Year (March 29 SR)

Worn out, Gimli slept the night through soundly, and when he arose and stepped out of the tent he and Legolas shared, he saw the first of the arrivals from Minas Tirith coming across the fields. Moving in the swift, efficient manner only a dwarf possesses, he strode to meet them and find Merry.

The camp was busier than usual with the arrival of the great ships. Men rushed to unload supplies and greet friends left behind in the city. Gimli dodged around two unhappily lowing milch cows and then spotted his friend.

The young hobbit had just come from his ship and was clutching his small bundle of belongings, looking toward the big encampment in bewilderment, not certain where to start. He spotted Gimli quickly, though, and ran to meet him. He answered Merry's question even as the hobbit opened his mouth to ask.

"He lives, Merry. Hurt, but recovering. Come, come, he asks for you," Gimli said, putting an arm around Merry in a half-embrace that also supported the obviously somewhat-shaky hobbit and steered him in the right direction.

"One of the Eagles came to see Faramir, and told him that Frodo and Sam had been rescued from Mordor itself," Merry said in a slightly dazed voice. "It does not seem possible. But there was no news about Pippin, or you or Legolas. I did not know if that was good or bad. And he could not tell us how Frodo and Sam fared, just that they had been found. I have been frantic, torn between imagining the worst sort of things, and hoping for things that seem impossible."

"Well, you shall know the lot of it shortly," Gimli said gruffly, noting the shadows under Merry's eyes and the paleness of his face. "Legolas and I are both fine, so put your mind at ease about us. But, here, I know where you need to be."

Gandalf had left near dawn when Legolas had returned, and the elf swiftly moved from the chair at Pippin's bedside when Merry entered the tent. Merry had eyes only for his young cousin, taking in the extent of the injuries with disbelieving eyes. Gimli had grown used to Pippin's appearance over the past days, but now he saw anew the battered form -- brilliant with the colors of bruising and nearly hidden in bandages and swelling, the injured hand and leg carefully propped on pillows -- and mentally berated himself for not preparing Merry more for the sight. Merry numbly climbed into the chair beside the cot and reached a tentative hand out to stroke Pippin's hair.

"Pip, sweetheart," he whispered. "My Pippin."

Pippin, who had been dozing, yawned abruptly. "Hullo, Merry," he said drowsily, then went back to sleep.

"Do not be fooled," Legolas said quietly over Merry's shoulder. "He has asked and asked for you, and seemed to find Gimli and I poor substitutes."

Merry nodded absently to show he had heard, but for a long time he wanted only to sit by the bed and watch Pippin sleep, and gently touch the myriad injuries as if to assess their extent while Legolas quietly explained each injury and described its recovery. Eventually Merry shook off the odd, remote mood, and Legolas and Gimli had food brought in, and they ate and Merry heard all the tales there were to tell. Pippin woke briefly, and Legolas and Gimli were secretly pleased to discover that he was no more a cooperative patient for Merry than he had been for them, but finally the afternoon remedies were consumed and the surly patient made it up to all of them by saying, "Merry, did Legolas and Gimli tell you that Frodo and Sam are here, too? Isn't it splendid that we all are all right and together again?" before immediately falling back asleep. 

Satisfied for the moment, Merry left Legolas to watch over Pippin and allowed Gimli to lead him to report to Éomer and to see Frodo and Sam. He was quiet and thoughtful when he came back, but only said to Legolas that he had never seen Frodo look more haggard, or more peaceful.

Pippin was sleeping deeply now and often, but seemed clearer, more himself, each time he woke. To the delight of Legolas and Gimli, Merry coaxed an entire mug of broth into him in the evening, and gave him a report on Frodo and Sam that Pippin seemed to listen to. Then Legolas and Gimli amused themselves by listening to Merry tell Pippin the tales of their childhood. Pippin kept falling asleep, but each time he woke, he demanded that the tale start back up, so Merry kept up a steady cadence. He seemed satisfied with his cousin's progress, considering what had been explained to him about the severity of Pippin's hurts. When the healer woman came by to check on the patient and warned that sometimes a bad turn could come late in the recovery, Merry listened gravely, but said to Gimli and Legolas once she left, "These healers don't know what a stubborn little thing Pippin is, or they would not doubt that he will be fine."

Merry slept the night in the chair at Pippin's side, feet propped on the edge of the cot, despite Legolas and Gimli's protests. They both thought that Merry looked poorly: wan and tired from many days of fear and anxious inactivity, and not sufficient recovery to his own injury, but they could not persuade him to retire to the bed they had had brought in to their own tent for him. The elf and dwarf both noted with concern that Merry still favored his right hand, but resolved between themselves to see if the problem improved with some proper rest, should they ever persuade Merry to take some. For the moment, they decided the best medicine for both hobbits was being at one another's sides once again.

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