Rain and Pain
I look at him, sleepingor at least unconscious. It looks like he's sleeping. I wish he was only sleeping. I wish I had never gotten him in to this mess. It's all my fault. I was the one who suggested we raid Maggot's field.
He moves in his sleep, and I try to comfort him, but my hands are tied. I can do nothing more than put my hands gently on his head. That is enough for him.
I think of all the times we got into trouble. It was always 'my fault.' That meant I got the worse punishment, but it also meant that I got the backhand admiration you get from others who envy your 'courage.' I have been told that, in the High-Elven tongue, our word for 'courage' means 'stupidity.' I was not surprised.
But always, I was in trouble, and Pippin was mostly innocent, no matter what was the real truth. My dad would be hard on me, he's absolutely mad, but the only time Pippin tried to share the punishment, my dad nearly killed him. I can't let that happen to him again.
Since I was twelve, Pippin has been my shadow, going everywhere I do. Once, he even followed me on an overnight trip with Sam and Frodo. I didn't know he was following, and he got lost...
Thunder booms and lightning flashes, making looking for small hobbits nearly impossible.
"Pippin! Pippin, where are you? Pippin!" I can't find him! Where is he?
"Merry! Any luck?" Frodo calls, he's scared, I'm scared, we're all scared.
"No, I cant find him!" I'm panicking, he's lost, and it's all my fault! "Pippin! Where are you?"
"I've found him!" calls Sam. I could kiss him, but he's handing my little cousin up to me, he fell in a big muddy hole, I think, I don't really care, Frodo's helping Sam up, he's dirty but all right, and Pippin isn't, he's pale, white-faced, from fear and pain? His arms are wrapped around my neck, I can barely breathe, one of his legs is wrapped around my waist, but the other one is hanging limp, I sit on the slippery ground, pull his arms off my neck, and look at his limp leg; is his foot supposed to be twisted 'round like that? I touch his ankle and he winces.
"It's alright now, Pip," I whisper to him, "I've got you, and I'm not goin' t'let you go." Thunder booms again, loud and sharp, then rumbling on and on and he grabs onto me, "It's all right, we're goin' t'take you back t'camp," we can't go anywhere in this weather, not with an eight-year-old, especially not a hurt one, we planned this all out ahead of time, I carry him back to our soggy camp, and check him over, he's cut and bruised all over, but his ankle is the worst, his ankle and his mind, he's so afraid he can't talk, he won't let go of me.
Sam brings over some food for us. "We'll have t'wait out th' storm," he says, I nod and thank him for the food. He says, "He'll be all right," and walks back to talk to Frodo; can he see the future as well as he can read minds? I try to get Pippin to eat something, he won't "C'mon, Pip, you need t'eat," he still won't, I have to play my trump card, "For me, please, Pip," it works, he eats a little, he jumps every time there's thunder or lightning, he's too afraid to talk, he's crying, I can see it now, those aren't rain drops those are tear drops and it's my fault hes crying, "It's all right, nothin's goin' t'appen t'you, I'm 'ere an' Frodo's 'ere an' Sam's 'ere and' nothin's goin' t'appen t'you, shhh, everythin' will be all right in the mornin'." I whisper over and over to him, until he falls asleep in my arms, I lay down with him, he's so cold, I wrap my arms around him tighter.
I wake up, I don't remember falling asleep, but you can't wake up with out falling asleep, unless it was all a bad dream? No, I didn't have a bad dream, but Pippin is, I shake him, he doesn't wake up, I call his name, shake him a bit harder, he wakes up, "M-merry?" he asks, he doesn't know if I'm real or part of his dream, "Merry," he starts again, "my neck's cold." I smile at him, or try to and put my hand on the back of his neck, he's right, it's cold.
"Better?" I ask, he doesn't reply, just snuggles closer and goes back to sleep.
He wakes up, and tries to hug me, but his hands are tied. I hug him instead, pulling him up to a sitting position. He leans his head against my shoulder. "M-merry," he says, "I'm scared."
"So am I," I answer honestly, "but we'll get out of this somehow. Just think of it as th' absolute worst punishment you've ever gotten."
"But wha' are we bein' punished for?"
"I don't know, but go back t'sleep. Everythin' will be better in the morning, it always is." He nods, and goes back to the uneasy rest he was in before the thunder woke him. I rest my head against his and can't help but remember the only other time everything was not "better in the morning." Coincidentally, it was also the only other time I can recall that thunder actually awoke Pippin, the night he got lost.
It's morning, and everything's not all right, his ankle has swelled up. It must hurt, a lot, but he doesn't make a sound, I leave him in the warm blanket and get breakfast for him and me, he only eats a little, and I can tell he really didn't want to, then it's time to go home. All the way back, we take turns carrying him, he doesn't weigh much, and he can't walk anyway. I can see Brandy Hall, and I dread what will be waiting for us, Frodo and Sam have left us, there's only about fifty more feet, not to far to carry Pippin, I see my cousin, running ahead to tell we're coming, we're met at the door by my dad, who takes Pippin and me into the red room. The red room is where he always beats me, he tells me in his calm, quiet, 'whipping voice' to put Pippin on the sofa and take off my shirt, no simple paddlings for me anymore, now I get full whippings. He gets the switch and begins, "No," Pippin says in a tiny voice, "don't 'it 'im, it was all my fault."
"'E," my dad says, "shouldn't 'ave kept you out all night, 'e shouldn't 'ave taken you out in the first place. Now be quiet."
How can a hobbit that small be so strong? In-between each stroke he says a word, speaking at normal speed, whipping like a demon, telling me I'm a disgrace, that next time I do something this stupid, he'll disown me, I should have been drowned at birth, Pippin's watching the whole thing, his eyes are getting bigger and bigger, my dad's saying something about Pippin being an idiot Took and I stop listening at the look on Pip's face, I wish he wasn't here, I can do nothing but stare helplessly at him until blessed darkness takes me.
With that happy memory, I fall asleep to dream about what had happened next.
I wake up in my room, my back hurts, but where's Pippin? I put a shirt on and wander the hole looking for him and find him curled up on the sofa in the red room, he's out, he looks like he was trampled by wild horses. I touch the back of his neck and he wakes up halfway and tries to move, he's hurt too bad, his nose is bleeding and his mouth is bleeding then he wakes up the rest of the way and sees me, he tries to put his arms around my neck, but they're too stiff from fresh bruises, I put my arms around him instead, he's dying, I can feel it. I've got to get him some help, where can I take him? Frodo. Frodo will help me. I pick up Pippin, he winces, he hurts, of course he hurts, he's dying, and it's all my fault! "It's all right," I say, "I'm takin' you out of here. We're goin' t'see Frodo." He nods, and closes his eyes again, he's got blood in his lungs, I can hear it when he breathes, I take him out the back ways, if we take the really fast pony, Frodo's not even an hour away, I put Pippin on Vei, and climb up behind him, holding him so he doesn't fall off, it's still thundering.
I wake up, and wish I hadn't. Pippin nearly died six times those two weeks Frodo let us stay, from a collapsed lung, infected cuts, pneumonia. I still can't believe my dad did that to him. I really let him down that time. I swore I'd never let him down again. But I did. And now he's paying for it, and it's all my fault.
Everything's my fault.