Apart from You: Absence (Merry)

Note: Companion to Pippin's POV in "Separation". Written while in a somewhat subdued mood, but tried not to make it too depressing.
Beta: My thanks go to Khylea.

Merry looked around, seeing only the grim faces of the Rohirrim riding around him, towering over one little lone hobbit far away from home. Everyone he knew was gone, far away. Worst of all, Pippin was far away too, leaving Merry all by himself.

Merry had never felt quite so lost on this dangerous quest as now that Gandalf had taken his cousin away from him. How he wished to hear one of Pippin's careless remarks now, see his smile, feel his closeness -- even hold him as he cried, the way he had done more than once in the last months.

It was not that Merry had never wished to be rid of the responsibility of caring for Pippin -- no, quite the contrary, he had wished several times that Pippin had stayed behind, in the Shire. At home. Where he belonged, where he could be happy and carefree Pippin, loved by everyone. But especially loved by Merry, loved so fiercely that no one could know about it -- least of all Pippin.

Sometimes the intensity of his love frightened Merry, because he knew that it could never be, that they both had other destinies to fulfil, laid upon them from the moment of their birth.

But until that time came Merry had resolved to enjoy being with Pippin, enjoy their friendship, their love, without burdening his cousin with complications. What good would it do him? Pippin should be able to live his youth without worries, to do what he liked with no fear of repercussions. Responsibility would catch up with him soon enough, and Merry did not want to be the one to destroy his innocence.

Pippin had been supposed to spend the years until his coming of age carefree, playing in the Shire and loving Merry with the guilelessness of a child. Therefore Merry had not found it difficult to keep quiet about his ever growing feelings, he had been content to be Pippin's playmate and best friend as long as law and custom allowed it.

Only Evil itself had intruded and changed both their lives dramatically. What had started out as a harmless adventure had turned into a life-threatening quest to save the whole of Middle Earth -- and Pippin had been forced to grow up much sooner than Merry had expected.

With regret he had seen Pippin's eyes change, grow weary and cautious, with his old carelessness showing up only occasionally -- and most of the time fatally, as Merry thought wryly. He had wanted to protect Pippin from what they had seen, but had known that he couldn't, that Pippin's innocence was lost unavoidably, irrevocably -- as was his own.

But at least they had still been together.

Not anymore, though. Now it was only Merry, with Pippin's absence burning like ice and fire on his mind. A part of his soul he had not even been fully aware of having was missing, and no way of telling if he'd ever get it back.

Wrapping himself tightly into his cloak, a constant reminder of the peaceful time they had spent in the woods of Lorien, Merry looked at the horizon passing by, trying to forget that Dernhelm was carrying him into an unavoidable war with an uncertain ending.

Somewhere out there was Pippin, facing an equally bleak future. Alone.

Suddenly all Merry wished for was for Pippin to be here with him, or for him to be with Pippin. If only they could face the future together, no matter what it brought. He only wanted to hold Pippin, see his face -- and let him know everything he had been hiding so long. Let him know that he loved him, more than was proper, more than was acceptable in the Shire.

Because what use had propriety now that they might die, so far away from the Shire?

Death was not a concept hobbits spent a lot of time thinking about, but now it was there, bleak and unavoidable -- and to his own surprise Merry found that it did not hold the terrors it once had. Yes, Merry could live with death.

Of course, he'd much rather live with Pippin.


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