Under Lord Denethor's Rule by Justin Etre

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Story notes: I use multiple names because I felt it fit better. Sometimes I call Aragorn ‘Elessar', or even ‘Elessar-King', and Gandalf is called ‘Mithrandir' also.
"The festivities are being enjoyed by all I see," said the wise old wizard, before taking a deep drink of mulled wine.

"Indeed Mithrandir" said Aragorn contemplatively, then "Tell me, where are the two hobbits amongst our guests. To have them absent from such songs and festivities is cause for concern, is it not?"

"Not at all, Elessar-King" Gandalf said, smiling widely "They are long past parted, and are lovers reunited. Aragorn smiled back, and drew from his pipe thoughtfully.

"Pippin, we've been parted for weeks and now we're together again," Merry said pleadingly "I know you wanted to take things slow, but won't you even let me touch you?" Pippin scratched his head and giggled nervously, staring determinedly at the ground.

Merry, misreading the signs and said, "Oh, I get it. You're playing" and with that Merry pounced at Pippin, tearing the light robe he was wearing from his body easily. Pippin shrieked, he ran to the bed and pulled the bed sheet around him before Merry could see him unclothed.

"Pippin? You're not usually this shy" A few moments passed, and with a sick heavy convulse of his stomach he realised "You've been- you weren't alone in Gondor!"

Pippin stopped like a stunned rabbit, mouth agape. Merry wrenched open the door and stormed away from the bedchambers, in the direction of the Great Hall. Pippin jerked out of his trance and gathered the overlarge sheets around him as he tore after Merry.

The hall was heavy with chatter and laughter. Sam held Rosie lovingly with his arms wrapped around her stomach, with Frodo resting his head on Sam's shoulder. The three of them were watching, as Gimli and Legolas were regaling the Gondorian women with the tale of their journey, each embellishing their own parts. King Elessar, still known as Aragorn to those he was closest to, looked on from his throne, pipe in hand. Gandalf and Faramir were to his left and right, all three wearied by the night's festivities.

When Merry burst into the room few looked up, but when Pippin followed him with a far-too-large sheet clothing him the chatter stilled slightly.

"Merry! Merry wait, please! Let me explain!" The noise lessened slightly, but still the din of joviality sounded. Merry stopped abruptly in the middle of the hall and turned around to face Pippin.

"What could you possibly have to say to me that I'd ever want to hear?" Merry spat with disgust.

"Merry please, I didn't want-"Pippin began.

"What, didn't want to get caught? Let me guess, one thing lead to another? It just happened?" Merry asked sarcastically.

"Lord Denethor, I- I couldn't stop him!" And with that Pippin fell to his knees in a crumpled heap, grabbing the sheets desperately around his body, shuddering with sobs.

The room fell silent, a clatter of cutlery telling the two hobbits that everyone had heard what Pippin had said. Aragorn lowered his pipe. He looked to the ground, as did many others. Legolas looked on in confusion; Gimli, seeing this, whispered into his companion's ear. Legolas' eyes widened, then he too lowered his eyes.

Merry looked frantically around the room for help, with Pippin crying at his feet amongst a mass of sheets, muttering "Merry, forgive me" between sobs.

Elessar drew himself up from his thrown and strode quickly across the room to where the two hobbits were; in one easy movement, he gathered Pippin into his arms. The sheet loosened slightly and exposed Pippin's side and back. As one, the room drew breath. Merry moved around Aragorn to see why everyone had gasped.

Pippin's small body was stained with bruises, some fresher that others with bright purples and blacks, some looked to be weeks old, a mixture of greens and yellows.

Aragorn pulled the sheet back around Pippin hurriedly, and carried him out of the hall, paused briefly at the door, motioning Merry to follow.

Aragorn laid Pippin on the bed of the room that Marry and he were sharing. Pippin was still wrapped haphazardly in the sheet and still he was weeping. Merry hesitated before sitting on the edge of the bed, then instead pulled a chair from under the window and sat next to the bed.

Aragorn knelt next to the bed, taking Pippin's hand in his own.

"Pippin, look at me" he commanded quietly.

Merry sat numbly, not knowing what to do. Pippin pushed his head from under the sheet. His eyes were swollen and red with tears.

"Pippin" he squeezed the child-like hand reassuringly in his own much larger hand.

Aragorn turned to Merry and said "Stay with him" and at that, Elessar left Merry and Pippin alone.

After much time, Pippin spoke.

"Please don't hate me too much Merry," his voice was broken and raw.

"Hate you?!" Merry repeated incredulously. "Pippin, I-".

And at that moment, Aragorn returned to the room, with a salve at hand. Merry looked into Aragorn's eyes purposefully, yet Aragorn looked only to Pippin, who had closed his eyes again.

Aragorn unravelled Pippin from the sheets gently, careful to keep his body covered up at the same time. Pippin's limp body rolled like a rag doll. Aragorn rolled Pippin's body so that he was laid on his back. Pippin's eyes were dead, staring straight at the Gondorian tree painted on the ceiling. He looked so small.

Suddenly he spoke.

"This was the room I stayed in under Lord Denethor's rule" Aragorn paused for a moment, then looked to Merry. They exchanged a dark look beyond words. Aragorn applied the salve silently to pippin's arms, back, chest, legs, then set the pot on the nightstand.

"I take my leave" said Aragorn, bowing as he left.

Merry leapt down from the tall chair and stood at the side of the bed next to Pippin. Merry brushed Pippin's child-like, blond curls from his forehead. A single tear fells from the corner of Pippin's eye. Pippin spoke, his voice fractured and tender, a mere whisper.

"He said it was my duty to- to please him"

And with that, Merry was broken. He fell forward atop Pippin, head against Pippin's chest, body shuddering with sobs. When Merry's breath stilled he whispered to Pippin "I should have been here to protect you"

Pippin stroked the back of Merry's head then swallowed hard.

"Lie with me Merry, just lay here with me for awhile"

Merry climbed obediently onto the bed and lay next to Merry, his head resting on Pippin's chest.

Hours passed, and late into the night when the city had stilled, Pippin had long since fallen asleep; Merry lay silently next to him, hypnotized by the rise and fall of his lovers' chest, dark thoughts of Gandalf pulsing through his mind.
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