Since they had left Lothlórien the nightmares had started. Why he didn't have them in Lórien Merry could only guess; it had been a soothing place. When they were captured at Amon Hen he had been unconscious much of the time and didn't remember Pippin even sleeping. It wasn't until Treebeard, an Ent of Fangorn forest, gave them a place to stay after they escaped the slaughter of their captors that he noticed something was wrong.
Pippin was restless, tossing and turning in his sleep. Than he started waking up suddenly, gasping, eventually with tear stained cheeks. When Merry questioned him he said he didn't remember what his nightmares were about. It continued this way for a while until it evolved into what was now happening. Along with the restlessness and tears there was also words. At first it was an undistinguishable mumble, and then Merry heard some of what was said: "I'm sorry."
Many times Merry had asked Pippin what was wrong and everytime he would shrug. Merry left it alone. Pippen was still his cheerful self during the day, until yesterday.
The morning had been beautiful, despite the steam and smoke from the fires that had been quenched in Isenguard two days before. After breakfast the two hobbits were wandering the edge of the River Isen. Merry was feeling up to having some
"Come on, Pippin," he said, picking up a stone. "I bet I can throw farther than you. I always beat you when we were at the Brandywine!"
Pippin turned with a smile on his face and picked up a stone as well. Together they threw them, waiting for the two small `plunk's in the water to see who had won. Merry's had went further but not by much.
"How `bout we try that again!" he laughed. "I can beat you by a large distance I think!" But when he turned, the smile had left his friends face. Pippin was staring out at the ripples spreading from the spot his stone had entered the water. He looked near tears and his lip was trembling. Merry walked over to him, wondering if perhaps the mention of home was too much for the young hobbit.
"Pip?" Pippin jumped when Merry laid a hand on his shoulder. "You alright?"
"Yea," Pippin answered, with a less than convincing smile. "Yea, I just..." He shrugged.
"You miss the Shire don't you?" Merry asked. Pippin looked up, seemingly confused. "It's alright, Pip. It gets to me sometimes too, missing home."
There was silence between them for a few moments. Pippin looked out over the water. When he faced Merry again he was smiling, though his eyes weren't as bright as usual.
"You're right, Merry," he said. "I do miss home. I wonder sometimes if I should have stayed there, whether that would have made a difference."
"And left me alone to journey with a bunch of strangers? I think not! If I'd had to suffer with a bossy Wizard, an exiled King, a troubled Gondorian, an overly-cheerful Elf, and a disgruntled Dwarf alone I would have returned home, found you and made you pay!" Merry said jokingly.
"Alone? Frodo and Sam---"
"Frodo and Sam have been inseparable since we left the Shire for Bree," Merry said. "And you well know that Sam was not much fun in the Shire let alone away from it! It wouldn't be much fun being lectured alone now would it?"
Pippin laughed. He seemed much better now. But Merry wanted to be sure.
"Although," he added. "I wouldn't be have been lectured becuase you wouldn't have been there to get me into trouble."
"Me?!" Pippin cried. "It's my fault we get in trouble all the time, is it?"
"I believe I just said that," Merry answered with a grin.
"I'm not the one who comes up with the stupid plans," Pippin said.
"They are not stupid plans," Merry said defensively. "They're very good plans. You just get us caught."
This led to a wrestling match, making Merry forget his worry. They fought until noon, when their stomachs told them it was time to eat. Going to find some food, soaked to the skin and sporting some new bruises, Merry thought perhaps getting Pippin to admit he missed home would rid him of the nightmares. Clearly it had not.
Merry was rolled over, ready to shake Pippin awake and ask once again what he was sorry for. Suddenly he heard his friend udder something new:
"...alf, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to. It's my fault, Gandalf, I'm sorry..."
"Pip." Merry grabbed Pippin's arm. "Pip, wake up!"
The young hobbit sat up with a cry, his frightened eyes darting around wildly as if he didn't know where he was. Merry reassured that it was just him, that it was just another nightmare. It took a moment for Merry to get his attention.
"What's wrong?" Merry asked sternly, grasping both of Pippin's arms and shaking him gently. "Pippin talk to me! What were you dreaming about? I know you remember."
"My fault," Pippin whispered. He began rambling, Merry picking up only a few words. "Mine...I didn't mean...fire...shadow...at the bridge...fell...my fault..."
"What, Pippin? What's your fault?"
"The mine," he answered tearfully, still unable to speak clearly. "In the mine...the stone...I threw it...made them come...in the well...the drums...the drums and then the fire..."
Pippin began sobbing and shaking his head.
"Tell me, Pippin," Merry said. "What's your fault? What were you dreamin about?"
"Gandalf!" Pippin cried, getting free of Merry's grasp and scrambling backwards. "It was may fault. I threw the stone in the well. And then the drums, and they came. Then the...the fire...it killed him! It's my fault it killed him."
"The balrog," Merry whispered to himself.
"That wasn't your fault, Pippin," he said, reaching for his friend. Pippin recoiled. "It was the balrog. You couldn't have done anything to stop it."
"If I hadn't thrown the stone they never would have come," Pippin sobbed. "It never would have come! And Gandalf wouldn't be..." Pippin was crying harder now, unable to speak, choking on his tears.
"No, Pippin," Merry said softly. He went to Pippin and hugged him. Pippin clutched at his shirt. "None of this is your fault."
"If Gandalf were here he'd---"
"If Gandalf were here," Merry interrupted, "he'd say 'Fool of a Took, haven't you learned yet. Everything happens for a reason.' And then he'd spend half an hour answering your questions before telling you you're too curious for your own good and warn you to be silent before you drive him mad! That is what Gandalf would do."
Pippin laughed softly, but it diminished into sobs once more.
"Elrond was right," he said. "I should not have come on this journey. I've caused nothing but trouble. I don't think anything I have done has accomplished anything positive at all."
"Pippin," Merry sighed. He pulled his friend back from their embrace so he could look into his face. "Haven't you listened to anything I just said? Everything that happens, happens for a reason. You were suppose to be part of this journey."
"Why?" Pippin cried suddenly, wiping the tears from his face. "I can't fight, I know nothing of these lands. I can't do anything right. I'm stupid, Gandalf said so himself. I should have rid him of my stupidity before it got him killed, but I was too stupid to realize it. I just---"
"I'm afraid, Merry." Pippin looked up at Merry. "I'm afraid too afraid to do anything."
"You were brave enough a couple days ago at Orthanc," Merry began.
"Sitting atop an Ent where the orcs and other horrible creatures of Saruman couldn't reach me," Pippin said. "How brave do you have to be to do that?"
"What about at Amon Hen?" Merry said. "You tried to help Boromir---"
"He'd probably be alive too," Pippin said miserably. "Why didn't Gandalf let Elrond send me home?"
"Tied up in a sack?" Merry asked cheerfully. "An uncomfortable ride I would guess. Or so you told me when I use to carry you back to your mother that way." He was hoping to get a laugh out of Pippin, but barely smile touched his lips. "Pip, Gandalf said we should be allowed to go with them, remember? He's wise and---"
"Was wise," Pippin corrected.
"---and he always had a reason for what he chose to do," Merry continued. "And he was always right!"
Pippin had stopped crying now. He sat silently before crawling back to his bed, Merry following behind. The night air was chilly and Merry was happy to be back under his blanket.
"What if there's more fighting?" Pippin asked. Merry realized suddenly how young Pippin , being only twenty-eight, barely more than a child for a hobbit. He wondered how he could have forgotten. Though only eight years older than his friend, Merry had reached his coming of age, Pippin hadn't. It showed in his trembling voice. "What if something happens? What if I can't..." he paused. "What if I'm too scared to do anything and someone else dies?"
"For the last time, Pip," Merry said, "none of this is your fault. Gandalf was killed by a balrog, which not even he could defeat. Boromir was killed by that rather nasty looking orc thing, and we tried to help there. There's no way anything we could have stopped any of it from happening. No one could."
"Right," Pippin said, lying down. Merry could see none of that had comforted the young hobbit, it hadn't done much for himself either. He tried to think of something that would atleast settle Pippin enough to get a little sleep.
"Hey, Pip," he said softly, "do you remember our parting with Galadriel?" Both hobbits smiled at the memory of the enchanting Elf Queen, who had been able to read their thoughts and calm their fears.
"She said not to fear," Pippin said. He had tears in his eyes once more. "She said I'd find my courage."
"Exactly," Merry yawned. "And she is also very wise, maybe even more so than Gandalf. I believe what she told us was true. So you don't need to worry about that, alright?"
Silence fell between them. Finally, as he drifted off to sleep, Pippin whispered:
"You're welcome, Pip."
Merry lay awake a while, listening to Pippin's soft snoring. He wondered if this would stop the nightmares that had haunted he friend from returning. He knew the guilt probably wouldn't go away, but hopefully it would be pushed to the back of Pippin's mind, and he would be his carefree self again.
Slowly Merry drifted off and dreamed of returning to the Shire, his friends at his sides. And a tear ran down the sleeping hobbits cheek.