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Lost and Found
He came back, my boy, at the end of hope; a shining light in those darkest days. But he was not my Pippin. This was no longer some rambunctious tween, interested only in good ale and rude songs, looking to inveigle lasses into quiet corners and dodge off with his cousins. His eyes told me that.
A year older in time, he was, but a lifetime in experience. He had seen more than any gaffer nodding away in the corner of the inn, seen and suffered and come through the fire, burnt bright and fine. He had done things no hobbit should have to do, survived the cataclysm and come home in search of a healing he would never find.
My heart broke for him.
My baby. My little question mark. He bounced through childhood, lurching from crisis to crisis, always in trouble, yet always winning though. A happy child, who needed no more than his family, his friends, the freedom of green fields and home. Bold and foolish, loving and generous, in despair one minute and laughing himself silly the next. Following his cousins devotedly even as he led them by the nose. My Pippin.
He blew in briefly, clad in mail like a character in a children’s tale, sword at his side, and dashed off to battle. I knew he was alive only to have him go off and risk death. There was a grimness in him, a resolve that I did not recognise, together with an ability to command. Where had he learnt this? What had he faced, out there in the wide world to make him like that?
My belly was tied in knots as we waited for him to return, the lasses and me. They told us to keep the doors locked and stay out of sight, and all I could see in my head was his face, leaner, the ready smile absent, weathered, old before he was adult.
He came back. Taller than a hobbit should be, he sat on the floor and told us his tale; the Ring, the Fellowship, elves and dwarves, men and wizards, tall towers and ancient forests, battles and kings. It didn’t sound too bad, so we knew he’d left much of it out. What he said would not account for the scars he didn’t know we saw; for the way he limped and rubbed his hand when he was tired; for the nightmares that haunted his sleep and the dark memories that shadowed his days.
He tried, I’ll give him that. He worked at being normal, slotting back into the life he’d dropped so casually. He visited the inn with the lads his age, ate enough to satisfy even me, spent long evenings telling cheerful tales to make us laugh and worked with his father to help with the rebuilding. But there was a desperation about him that told a different story.
Merry came when he could, although he was even busier in Buckland than we were here. With him, Pippin settled, and the dizzying rush of diversions slowed. Merry knew. The two of them together didn’t have to keep up a pretence of normality. The experiences they had shared divided them from their families, but bound them together even more than the love they had always felt.
It hurt. A lad needs his mother, I’d always said, and, before, Pippin had always relied on me to be there for him. I had nursed him through sickness, patched his scrapes and grazes, consoled his woes and shielded him from trouble, but these were wounds I couldn’t heal.
I spoke to Frodo, who, poor lad, looked as if he’d been boiled and bleached. He had always been all eyes, but, before this, they had sparkled like sun on sapphires. Now they were shadowed and he looked as if a stiff breeze would blow him away. He looked at my Pip knowingly and told me it would take time and just to keep on loving him. As if I would do anything else!
I asked him what they had done to my lad, all those kings and lords, and why he’d had to be the one to suffer. Frodo just shook his head and told me that it hadn’t been like that, that Pippin had been gallant and brave and bold and that, because of him and Merry and Sam Gamgee, the world was still turning. I had to laugh. To hear him, you’d have thought that he’d had nothing to do with any of it, when even my eye could see the poor haunted lad had been in the thick of it.
There had always been a Tookish look about him, a look that my lad shared; something about the shape of the chin and the set of the eyes. It made my blood run cold to see the suffering in his face and picture it taking over my Pip.
He did tell me that it might help Pippin to have some privacy, to have a place where he could be away from all those people who didn’t understand, so, when Merry suggested that he and Pip should share the old house at Crickhollow, I took up their cause and persuaded Paladin that it would be for the best, even though it broke my heart to think of him going off to a place where I couldn’t care for him.
He seemed easier after that. I know the nightmares didn’t stop, for I made Merry promise to let me know how he was going on, but he swore to me that they were coming less often. He said that the two of them would sit up into the small hours and talk in a way they couldn’t when others were around, so that when they slept their dreams were easier.
Pippin stopped pretending to be a youngster. He was still short of his majority, true, but everyone knew the role he had taken in scouring the Shire of those ruffians and, even though they had no idea what had happened over the year he’d been missing, they accepted that he was different. I began to feel that the worst was over and that maybe my lad was beginning to find some peace.
Then Frodo left. I never made sense of where he went. Off with the elves, I suppose, like Bilbo. Pippin and Merry came back from some trip with Sam Gamgee, only to say that he had gone to find healing. I hope he found it, for the lad needed more than we could do for him, but his loss sent Pippin and Merry back into the pits of despair they were just escaping. I’d have been angry with Frodo, if it hadn’t been plain to my eyes that he wasn’t much longer for this world. Better for him to go off like that, than have Pippin watch him fade away.
They seemed to get over it and quicker than I thought they would. I was glad about that at first, until I thought that what it showed was that they’d learned more about loss than lads their age ought to know; more about loss and more about hiding their feelings. I tried what I could to comfort them, but there’s only so much that warm fires and good food can do.
Merry started courting. I thought that might upset Pip again, but he seemed to cope with it well enough, although he didn’t seem too fond of Estella at first. I thought he might come home when they wed, and move back in with his family so that I could look after him for a bit. He stayed over more often, it’s true, but it was enough to let me see that this wasn’t the right place for him any more. He was as restless as he had ever been and there was a sharpness he had trouble holding in. He just couldn’t settle and I could see he had no patience with those of us who didn’t want to see beyond the Shire.
Letters came from time to time, with foreign handwriting, crusted with important-looking seals. I wished they’d leave him alone, let him forget, but that was just a mother’s foolishness. He’d be happy for a while when he heard from those friends of his, as if he heard their voices in his head and remembered times when the choices were clear. I was always afraid that I would wake up one morning to find that he’d gone again, off in search of a simpler way, and I was terrified that he would come back broken when he realised that it was an illusion: the past is gone and nothing can bring it back.
Then he found his Diamond. I was jealous of her, I freely admit. I hated the fact the she could bring him consolation and ease his pain when I could not, but in the end I was happy when he married her. She brought him back, so that most of him was here, living in the Shire and only the smallest part was lost, still seeking answers he would never be able to obtain.
Young Faramir’s birth rooted him most firmly. The memories were still there, but he had Diamond to hold him at night and a son to make him look to the future.
Much as I loved the little one, I found his birth brought some bitterness. As I looked at his innocence, I could see the boy my son had been and I brooded over what my Pippin had lost to that mad adventure. He saw how I felt, which surprised me: he had never been a lad for reading people, or he wouldn’t have got into so much trouble. He started to talk to me, not about the fighting, or the fear, or injury, or loss, but about reasons and meaning. He surprised me. My lad might never get over the physical effects of what he went through and he would always be haunted by bad dreams, but he had the morality of it clear and solid in his head.
It comforted me. Whatever he had lost, my son knew that what he had helped do was right and needful. He had lost his innocence and the last of his youth, but he had found a purpose that would keep him following the right path throughout his life; helping the helpless, protecting the weak, ensuring that evil could never prevail if anything he could do would prevent it. He had come into his own and become a greater person. I still wished I could have kept him safe at home and left someone else to do his job for him – I couldn’t be his mother and not wish I’d been able to shelter him. But I was proud of him and the person he had become. My Pippin.
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