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Title: Making Merry merry
Disclaimer: Not mine. They just own me.
Frodo couldn´t sleep. Dreams and hazy memories mingled together and had woken him up several times this night. He tossed and turned a little in his blankets, thinking that a little walk maybe was what he needed. Stretching, he looked around the room. Sam and Pippin were sleeping, but Merry was gone. Now, where could he be? Frodo waited a little, but as he didn`t come back, Frodo decided to go and check on him. If Merry only had gone to the privy he should be back by now. Maybe Merry had trouble sleeping too?
Frodo walked around the Golden Hall, but no cousin was to be found, only a couple of guards standing their watch. Frodo wasn`t too familiar with the Golden Hall yet as they had only arrived two days earlier. Not finding Merry anywhere Frodo ventured outside in the bright summer dawn, thinking a breath of fresh air would do him good and clear his thoughts. Looking about the plains far ahead and the court and city close by he saw nothing that even remotely looked like his cousin, and he walked around the Hall towards a little hill facing east, where the morning sun would soon come into view over the mountain. There Frodo saw a tiny shape sitting still and watching the sunrise. As he climbed the little hill, the sun started to rise and soon after Frodo sat down beside Merry. “It's beautiful!" he breathed, watching as the sun coloured the tops of the mountains.
"Merry?" Frodo said when Merry didn't turn around and look at him.
Merry started and turned in a flash. "Frodo! How... What are you doing here?"
"I couldn´t sleep, so I decided to take some fresh air. It looks like you thought of the same?"
"Mmm. I couldn´t sleep either," Merry said, facing Frodo. "I’m worried about Pip."
"You always worry about Pip, Merry!" Frodo said but smiled when Merry scowled at him. “What is it now?" Frodo added more gently, a growing sense of alarm rising within him. What had happened now that he hadn't seen? Frodo could kick himself for being too lost in his own thoughts and not watch his cousins more closely.
“He frets, he does not sleep as well as he should, he doesn’t eat enough, his joints and bones hurt when he’s tired and sit or stand or lie too long. Where’s my carefree, laughing Pippin, Frodo? I miss the old Pip so much some times that I feel my heart will break.” Merry said, the words rushing out of him. He had been sitting slumped over a little, but now he straightened, to look directly at Frodo. Merry knew that Frodo knew all of this but sometimes Frodo didn't seem as aware of Merry and Pippin as he used to. Merry didn't doubt the reason for it and decided to talk about that later. A yawn suddenly escaped him.
Frodo drew his cousin into a hug, kissing his curls. “I know, Merry. I worry about him too.” Frodo felt Merry`s head nod in his embrace.
“Yes, and then there`s Sam!” Merry said lifting his head again, looking Frodo in the eye.
“We have all changed Merry, you and me too," Frodo said gently, stroking Merry's hair, guiding Merry's head back to his shoulder and slipping an arm around his shoulders. How long was it since he and Merry sat like this? It must have been... Frodo didn't remember. It must have been before they left the Shire then, Almost a year ago.
Merry sniffled a little and snuggled into Frodo’s side, rubbing sleepily at his eyes and watching the sun rise slowly over the mountain. The four hobbits had talked at length about everything that had happened since they were separated but Merry knew that some things took longer to understand and to heal than others, and they had talked about that too but Merry couldn't help but worry.
Frodo looked down on the golden crown of Merry’s head and tipped his own head down and laid his chin on the soft curls. Merry hadn't talked much about how he felt when he was walking from bedside to bedside in Ithilien but Frodo knew that it had been a hard trial for him. Merry had kept to the facts and told what had happened but not much about his feelings. Frodo had questioned Aragorn and Gandalf about it later and they told him a different story – a story where they more than once had carried an exhausted Merry to his cot, wrapping his cold arm in hot poultices and sat with him through nightmares and ills. Frodo had confronted Merry with this and they had argued about it. This repeated itself each time Frodo tried to get Merry to admit how tired he was and tell him if he wasn't feeling well or up to the tasks he had set his mind to. Frodo knew that he was the only one Merry would admit lack of strength or pain or hurt towards, even more so than Pippin, and it saddened Frodo to see that Merry kept this away from him now. In one of their arguments about this Merry had said that Frodo had more than enough to think about than to worry about Merry but that had only made Frodo ask if Merry distanced himself from them on purpose. What kind of a burden did he carry that he couldn’t share? Frodo knew the others had nightmares too, he had woken to them several times. He had gone to Pippin hoping that he could shed some light upon the matter but Pippin had told him that Merry didn't say anything to him about these things either.
Frodo could only hope that Merry would come to him in his own time, like he always had before. He looked down at his cousin. Was Merry snoring? "Merry?" Frodo whispered. No answer. He wriggled a bit and found a more comfortable spot. He looked down on Merry again. Merry's right hand lay in his lap and the other was resting on Frodo's knee. Frodo reached out and suddenly remembered something Pippin had done when Merry had looked pale and worn one day. He touched the hand gently. It was too cold! He touched the hand lying on his knee in wonder. The left hand was warm and felt normal to the touch. He took Merry's cold hand in his and rubbed softly at it to help it regain warmth. Lulled by the singing of the birds and the sounds of Merry's even breath Frodo soon fell asleep.
In a patch of bright morning sunlight, Aragorn found what he had been seeking. Two of the hobbits could not be found, and no one had seen them since last night. It was now past second breakfast. Both Legolas and Aragorn had searched Edoras for the missing hobbits, and while Pippin and Sam both were found snoring in a heavy post-festive sleep, Frodo and Merry were gone.
Aragorn walked on silent feet up to the little green hill where he saw one dark haired and one bright haired hobbit sit unmoving with their backs to the Golden Hall, facing the mountains. The sun was shining down on them, making their Elven cloaks look almost green, and their curls shine; Frodo’s rich, warm and brown, Merry’s like the sweetest of honey. Frodo had his good arm around Merry’s shoulders, and Merry was resting his head on Frodo’s shoulder. Coming around in front of the pair, Aragorn saw that both of them were soundly asleep. Frodo was dressed in the clothes he was given in Minas Tirith, Merry in his livery of Rohan. Crouching down in front of them, Aragorn noticed something else. With his injured hand, Frodo held Merry’s injured hand, and their fingers were entwined.
"Merry?" Aragorn shook the mail clad shoulder a little. Merry murmured something and licked his lips but didn’t wake, his head drooped more and leaning against Frodo´s chest. "Merry!" Aragorn lifted the hobbit’s chin, but Merry slept on, his face peaceful but pale and weary. Gently Aragorn disentangled Merry from Frodo’s grasp and laid the little warrior down on the soft grass, arranging him so that his left hand cradled his head, the right lying across his belly - the coolness of it did not surprise him and Aragorn frowned. Perhaps the last few days had been too much for Merry, what with the funeral and the ride upon the wagon bearing the late King’s arms? Lightly Aragorn shook Frodo´s shoulder. Now that Merry didn’t support his slumbering weight Frodo was falling to his side and Aragorn eased him down beside Merry. The Ringbearer was finally taking both food and rest and his cheeks had taken on a rosy hue. Frodo was alarmingly thin but he had improved a lot over the months and even if his eyes were full of sadness and loss, they were slowly but steadily filling with laughter and happiness.
"Frodo?" Frodo blinked his eyes open, panicking at first when Merry was not nestled close to him. A breath of relief passed over his lips when he saw his cousin resting on the grass. "It’s all right, Merry is here." Aragorn said, seeing the Frodo’s distress.
"He’s so tired, Strider.” Frodo said after rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. “He´s worrying and fretting and does not care about himself while he watches over Pip and me. I too, but Merry especially savours every breath Pip takes. I´ve seen him, Aragorn, the way Merry drinks in every move, every word ... every thing from both Pip and me. He thinks I don’t notice but I do."
"I know Frodo." Aragorn said simply.
“And then there's Theoden and the funeral," Frodo continued, “I think Merry loved him dearly and mourns his loss like a fathers.” He sat up and looked at Merry’s sleeping form.
"We´re all weary,” Frodo said, "but there´s something else about Merry... Back home, before ... He used to be so strong, so joyful, so gloriously happy. And now, now it seems as if he carries a heavy burden. All of us are alive and we’ll soon go home, but Merry isn’t as happy as I would hope for.” Frodo paused and continued musingly after a moment’s thought. “As if seeing us alive and everything done and over with is a larger burden to him than worrying about staying alive during the Quest…"
Tears gathered in Frodo´s eyes now, and he moved over to put Merry´s head in his lap. "He is my Mer, my little cousin, my Merry-lad. He´s been through so much, Aragorn, and Pippin too.” He paused again, looking back at Aragorn's steady gaze.
“Will my Merry be merry again, do you know?" Frodo said. A wistful smile tugged at the corners at his mouth while he traced a few fingers feather light over the scar on Merry´s brow, down his cheek and over his delicate, pointy ear. "He shouldn´t have to worry anymore Strider!"
Aragorn could only watch. He knew, and had seen over and over again how the hobbits looked after each other, shared joys and perils with undivided love for each other and courage beyond what he had ever hoped for and remembered something he had said to comfort Pippin in the Houses of Healing. “Merry was grieved and wearied when he stabbed the Witch-king but even if he remembers his grief Frodo, it will not darken his heart but give him wisdom.” He wasn’t sure if this was what Frodo wanted to hear but Frodo nodded.
There was a rustle of cloth, and both Aragorn and Frodo looked up. Gimli came stomping up the hill. "So here you are. We have been looking all over for you." he said by way of greeting, gazing sternly at Aragorn for not bringing the hobbits back at once. "Is he well?" Gimli added, seeing Merry asleep in Frodo´s lap.
"He will be." Frodo said softly, then cleared his throat and added more loudly and with confidence. "Eventually."
Aragorn lifted Merry from Frodo´s lap and cradled the hobbit against his chest. "Yes, he will. You all will. Let´s get Merry back to bed, and find you some food Frodo. What were you two doing up here anyway?"
"Oh... just some cousinly conversation, that´s all." Frodo said smiling and taking hold of Merry's hand as they walked..
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