Written for the GFIC Group's May "Fix the Movies" Challenge.
Element: A flower: White Campion
“Jest in Time”
Bree: The Inn of the Prancing Pony
The rain did not let up once it had started, and all the travellers could do was hurry along faster in the hopes of reaching the Prancing Pony before the torrent carried them away. Pippin grimaced and pulled his cloak tighter about his throat, although it did little good. He was already drenched. “Water is so much better when it’s hot,” he said.
Merry gave him a lopsided grin. “Maybe we can get a hot bath.”
“And a warm meal. A little ale sounds good, too.” Pippin smiled in anticipation. “A blazing fire with my feet on the hearth, and my pipe filled with good longbottom leaf, perhaps a song or two. Ah, it sounds splendid!”
Frodo rolled his eyes at his cousins. With a glance in their direction he pressed on, Sam close at his side. Pippin and Merry fell further behind, making plans and now seemingly oblivious to the downpour.
Irritated, Frodo said, “There’s the gate.” He pointed ahead, and then sprinted towards it.
Sam squinted through the raindrops. “What if it’s locked? What will we do?”
Frodo ignored the fretting. He rapped on the sodden wood and a voice rang out.
“Who’s there?” The man stared at the hobbits, huddled close to one another, and hesitated.
“Who’s that?” Pippin asked. “Is he going to let us in?”
“How should I know?” Merry shot back.
“Back home he would’ve opened the door straight away, not left us standing out here in the cold and wet--”
“Hush up, Pip. We’re not back home.”
Pippin looked wounded at Merry’s effort to silence him. He always hated it when his cousin shifted sides unexpectedly. “But--”
“SHUSH!” Merry clapped a hand over Pippin’s mouth, and they listened to the conversation.
‘Hobbits!’ the man was saying, ‘What do you want?’ and Pippin held his breath. Perhaps they wouldn’t be allowed inside. They might have to camp out here in the rain without food or fire. He stifled a groan at the very thought.
Frodo was still speaking in a low voice and suddenly, the gate opened and the man ushered them inside. Pippin breathed a sigh of relief, the grin returning to his face.
Later, they relaxed around a table at the Inn. Gandalf wasn’t here as promised, they had learned, and Frodo appeared uneasy. For the moment at least, Pippin didn’t care. He was starting his second mug of ale and he leaned back and glanced around at the other patrons of the Inn, noticing that Frodo seemed preoccupied with one in particular.
Pippin peered over at the man. The hood of his cloak was pulled down over his face, his pipe resting in hand. He didn’t seem frightening, not like those dreadful Riders, and he quickly lost interest. His attention settled on a group of men and Bree land hobbits across the room. Someone had apparently told an amusing tale and the others were laughing uproariously. He wondered what they were saying and wandered over to join them.
“Pippin! Where are you going?”
“I don’t think he heard you, Merry.” Frodo watched his young cousin in dismay as Pippin joined effortlessly in the conversation with his newfound friends.
“More likely he didn’t want to,” Merry said. “As much as I keep warning him to be on his guard, and then he slips right back into his old habits. Look at him. He thinks he’s still in the Shire!”
“Mr Pippin is young, Mr Merry,” Sam offered. “And none of us have ever been this far from home. He probably just needs more time to adjust.”
Merry shivered. “Those Black Riders were frightening enough for me to realise we’re not at home anymore. We don’t have a great deal of time to change, I think.”
“You’re right. Even though Pippin is used to being the centre of attention, we need to impress upon him that it isn’t a good thing at the moment. His tongue is far too loose and he’s used to joking around without much thought. We can’t allow him to do that.”
Frodo sighed and glanced over at the mysterious man smoking his pipe in the far corner. “I’ll have a talk with him before we retire for the evening. Meanwhile, I think we should--”
Merry groaned. “He’s telling the story about the Town Hole in Michel Delving.”
“They seem to be enjoying it,” Sam said, twisting in his chair to watch.
“A little too much.” Merry frowned. “That will only encourage him. I think I’d better go drag him back here.” He started to rise when Frodo laid a hand on his shoulder.
“Sure I know a Baggins!”
At Pippin’s use of his name, Frodo tensed. The fool of a Took was starting to go on about his Baggins’ cousins! He hurried forward and grabbed Pippin’s arm, and his young cousin tumbled off the stool with a cry of surprise.
Rivendell: The House of Elrond
Merry and Pippin leaned their elbows on the balustrade, and gazed down at the Elven gardens below. Merry glanced at his cousin’s face, but the younger hobbit seemed not to notice the scrutiny. An Elf strolled by just then and acknowledged the pair with a tilt of his head. Pippin smiled and waved.
Merry was not deceived by Pippin’s silence. While he appeared to be absorbed in studying his surroundings, Merry knew him too well to believe Pippin was overly interested in flowers and trees. Tension hovered in the air between them, and weighed heavier on Merry’s mind as each minute ticked by. It was obvious Pippin intended to say nothing about his earlier actions. Finally, Merry could bear the silence no longer.
“Why did you do that?”
”Hmm?” Pippin seemed to startle from his daydream, but Merry knew play-acting when he saw it.
“You know perfectly well what I’m referring to. And now you’re doing it again.”
Pippin turned around. “Doing what? I haven’t any idea what you’re going on about.”
“Why?” Merry demanded, and this time his cousin frowned and looked away.
Merry was having none of it and took hold of Pippin by the arm. “I want to know what happened to your common sense. Did you mislay it somewhere along the road? Or perhaps you lost it while you were busy larking about before the Council meeting?”
“What?” Pippin shrugged out of his grasp. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He crossed the room and sat on the bed, idly swinging his feet back and forth, while his fingers toyed with a loose thread on his sleeve.
Merry felt his temper rising and carefully counted to ten before approaching the bed. “You’ve been acting like you haven’t a lick of sense! You may be young, but I know you’re not stupid, so why are you going out of your way to make other folk think you are?”
Pippin didn’t answer. He slid off the bed and paced about the room before returning to the balcony to study the garden once more. Merry waited, feeling his patience slipping. Before he could speak Pippin suddenly broke into a huge grin. He glanced over his shoulder, waving Merry to join him.
“Look! Why, I believe those are White Campion! Just like my mum has in her flower garden. . .back home.”
Merry didn’t allow the wistful tone to sway him. “Pippin,” he began, before his eyes were drawn to what Pippin was staring at. The delicate blooms were lovely. He could almost see his aunt’s face, her mouth turned up in a smile as she tended them. He sighed and tried again. “I want you to tell me why you’ve been acting a fool.”
“I’m not!” Pippin scowled and kept his eyes on the garden. Merry watched him without a word.
At last, Pippin sighed and answered in a soft voice, “I wanted to cheer Frodo up. That’s all.”
“You wanted to cheer Frodo up by pretending you’re dim-witted in front of strangers?”
“Frodo likes it when I say something to make him laugh. I like to make people laugh.”
“Do you want them to think you’re daft? Or worse?” Merry pulled him around sharply and leaned close. “Do you really want them to think you’re still a child? Perhaps Lord Elrond and Gandalf will reconsider allowing you to accompany us.”
Pippin looked shocked for a moment before narrowing his eyes. “You’re embarrassed.”
Merry shook his head. “No--”
“Yes, you are. You think that my acting silly to make Frodo laugh makes you look silly too! As a matter of fact, I seem to recall that you were enjoying my jest as much as the others.” Pippin thought for a moment before adding with a chuckle, “Except for Sam, of course. He was acting like an old stick-in-the-mud, all disapproving and frowning at me so sternly. I wanted to laugh at his expression in the worst way.”
Merry spun and paced the room looking disgusted. “You asked ‘where are we going’? Peregrin Took, I want you to look me in the eye and tell me exactly where we are going and what we have got ourselves into.”
Pippin’s eyes flickered over Merry’s face and then he looked away, ashamed. Merry felt a twinge of sympathy.
“We’re going to Mordor,” he said, a slight quiver of his shoulders betraying his true feelings. “To the land of the Dark Lord, to help Frodo destroy the Ring.”
Merry rubbed a hand across his tired face. “Yes.”
“That’s not a nice place.” Pippin turned to stare at the garden below.
“No, it’s not.” Merry shivered and rubbed both arms, feeling as if the air in the room had suddenly gone cold. “Pip?” He laid a hand on his cousin’s shoulder.
“What is it? Are you going to scold me some more?”
“I am glad you cheered Frodo up.”
Pippin twisted around and looked at him askance.
“But you must be careful. Sometimes playing the fool to make others smile can go wrong. We need to have our wits about us on this journey. Please keep that in mind at all cost. I couldn’t bear to have anything happen to you.”
Pippin’s mouth twitched and then he allowed himself to smile. “Perhaps you’ll assist me in keeping things light-hearted along the way, at least as much as we can? I wouldn’t want to be the only one working so hard at making the others laugh. After all, it’s quite a task!”
Merry threw his head back and laughed. “And one I’m sure you are more than up to, my friend. But never fear, I promise to do my best. That is, as long as you promise to put the jesting aside once in awhile and show them what you’re really made of!”
Pippin’s eyes took on a familiar cheery twinkle. “I’ll show them what the kin of the Old Took is made of long before our journey ends. You’ll see.”
“Now that’s the cousin I know and love!”
Pippin glanced down at the garden one more time before straightening his shoulders. He tilted his head at the door. “Let’s see what we can find to eat before luncheon. I’m starving!”
“Now that sounds like a splendid idea.”
“Well? What are we waiting for?” Laughing, Pippin grabbed Merry’s arm and pulled him along. “I knew you’d see things my way!”