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Pippin woke to find himself nestled into a fellow hobbit body he immediately identified as Frodo's. His head was tucked into Frodo's shoulder while his older cousin softly stroked Pippin's hair. Years of memories of waking countless times in this very position flooded over Pippin so vividly that he half-expected to smell the familiar fragrance of Bag End's garden wafting in through the open window and hear Merry's voice, yet undeepened by adulthood, calling, "Hoy, slugabeds, are you going to sleep all day?"
But then he spied Frodo's bereft hand laying on the blanket, and smelled the piney air of Ithilien, and Bag End vanished with waking. He found he was blinking back tears as he turned his face into Frodo's chest.
"Are you in pain, dearest?" Frodo asked tenderly, touching Pippin's cheek, and the use of the familiar childhood endearment prompted the tears to fall.
"No," Pippin answered in a quavering voice, though he was aware that his hand was aching and throbbing and that he still felt somewhat feverish. "I just thought we were home for a second, and that none of it had happened."
Frodo did not answer, but kissed the top of Pippin's head and let him have a quiet little weep. When he was done, Frodo mysteriously produced a handkerchief, and Pippin laughed a bit as he accepted it.
"How do you always have one of these on hand, Frodo?" he asked. "Do you have a magical means of replenishing handkerchiefs so that you are never without?"
Frodo chuckled. "Why, yes. It is called 'Sam,'" he said, and Pippin giggled as he wiped his nose. "Feel better?" Frodo asked as Pippin deposited the handkerchief over the side of the bed. Pippin nodded and nestled back into Frodo, sighing with weariness.
"Are you certain you don't need something for this?" Frodo queried, lightly touching Pippin's heavily bandaged hand.
"I don't need anything," Pippin mumbled. "Don't leave." He gripped Frodo's shirt with his good hand and pressed a little closer.
"All right," Frodo murmured. He stroked Pippin's hair until the tween-ager's eyes shut again, and then gently traced the shadows of bruises still faintly visible on his younger cousin's face. Pippin opened his eyes again to look at Frodo inquiringly.
"It was a very big troll, wasn't it?" Frodo whispered.
Pippin nodded, his lips trembling. "It was so big," he admitted, "and I didn't feel like a hero. I still don't."
"Neither do I," Frodo confessed, and Pippin nodded solemnly.
"Were you very afraid, Frodo, before the Eagles came?" he asked. "Did you think you'd come to the end of your story?"
"To my part, at least," was the answer. "But I was not afraid, Pippin. It was over, and I was glad. I would have sent Sam away from me, back home safe and happy, if I could have, but that was all I wanted at that moment." He was quiet for a minute, and then tugged on Pippin's ear. "Were you afraid, Pippin?"
"Not -- not right then," Pippin said in a hesitant voice. "It seemed so -- easy, suddenly, and not at all like I would have thought. But I am glad I am still here, and you too, Frodo."
Frodo touched Pippin's bruises again with feather-light fingers. "I am glad you are here too, dearest," he said. Pippin blinked slowly, thoughtfully, at him, but then Frodo kissed his brow and whispered, "Sleep." Pippin obeyed, and his dreams were full of the colors and smells and textures of Bag End, and the sounds of his cousins' voices.
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