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(Written June 2013, for Father's Day)
Title: A Father's Fears
A Father's Fears
Paladin sat by the cradle staring at the tiny face, red and wrinkled: the tiniest baby Paladin had ever seen. His heart clinched. Peregrin had come early, and the birthing had been long and difficult, exhausting for both mother and child. Indeed, for a terrifying while, Paladin feared he'd lose them both. Now he had a son. He would have loved another daughter just as much, but something in him knew it would be different with this child. He loved him fiercely already, but there was a tinge of fear in his heart, fear that he might lose this longed-for son.
Paladin sat by the bed, gazing at Pippin, listening to the high-pitched wheeze that accompanied each hard-won breath. At seven, he was a daring child, trying to follow in the footsteps of those much older and larger than he. But races and jumping and the rough-and-tumble of lads often brought this on, the difficulty in breathing, the rattle in the thin little chest, then illness and fever and time abed. Yet the child would never admit that he couldn't do everything the others did. Would his stubbornness and persistence one day carry him off where his father could not follow?
Paladin stood across the room from the bed,staying out of the way of the healer's desperate efforts to save his son. Fury rose up, fury at his son for jeopardizing his young life for a foolish dare; fury at those who had made the dare. The others had played Peregrin like a hooked fish-using his son's curiosity and wish to seem older than he was to push him into drinking himself into a stupor. His son had to learn how to lead, not to just blindly follow. Paladin's fear had tied him in knots. Would his son survive this night?*
Paladin stared out the window into the darkest night of his life. He glanced guiltily at the bed he had abandoned; would the pounding of his heart waken his wife? Perhaps not, if his terrified gasp as he awakened did not cause her to stir. He tried to hope it was a nightmare brought on by these terrible times of trouble-but he knew it was a vision. "Night oft brings news to near kin." Somewhere in the world, far from home and those who loved him, his son had gasped out his life beneath a crushing weight. Pippin was dead.**
Paladin came into his son's room at the sound of his cries. The nightmares that troubled his child troubled him. So much his son had seen and done that no hobbit should ever have to see and do; he had not understood at first. He had tried to punish his son for leaving him to worry, to deal with terror and grief and anger, when Pippin had done the only thing he could in leaving. But now he was ashamed of his old fear. He moved to the bed, and ran his hand gently through Pippin's curls, soothing his dreams.
Paladin sat by the hearth watching his grandchildren, three bonnie lasses and one lad on his father's knee, enthralled by Pippin's tale. "...and that, my lambs, is why you should always pay attention to Uncle Merry!' Now give Papa and Grandfather a kiss and off to bed with you!"
Bending forward, Paladin accepted three kisses on his cheek and one that landed on his nose, and watched them scamper after Diamond as she led them to the nursery.
"I fear I'll never be as good a father as you were," said Pippin.
Paladin squeezed his hand. "No fear of that."
**This refers to the idea in my fanon that Paladin had declared Pippin dead during the year he was gone, and attempts to explain why his father lost hope so quickly and thoroughly.
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