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Fate and the High King's Falcon  by Baylor

Aragorn found them seated with their backs against the rain barrel two hours later when he finally emerged from the tent, his face somber. Merry looked at him bleakly but could find no words, and then Aragorn crouched down in front of the hobbit and smiled gently.

"I think it has passed," he said quietly. "Something inside of him was bleeding. Such a thing is grave, but not completely beyond my skill. I have done what I can, and believe the danger is over, for now, at least. You must keep him very still for the next few days, and send for me immediately if the pain returns. I have given him something for it now, so that he may sleep, and left instructions that should keep him comfortable."

Merry reached out for Aragorn's hand and grasped it gratefully. "I am so sorry," he said. "I know you were trying to help him."

Aragorn shook his head. "You need not apologize, Merry, for loving your cousin. But do this for me -- after you have seen him, go take some rest, and get outside of that tent for a bit. Pippin will yet need many days of care, and they may be trying at times. He will need you to be strong and clearheaded. You do him no good if you are distraught with exhaustion and strain."

Merry shook his head. "I won't be able to rest away from him, Aragorn."

"Perhaps I wasn't clear, Master Brandybuck -- that was not a suggestion," Aragorn said seriously. "You are still recovering yourself, and it is apparent to me just looking at you that you are not yet well. Pippin has many friends here willing to watch over him as he sleeps, but he will want you upon waking. Trust that you will be sent for immediately should he need you, and go and rest where you are not listening for him even in sleep. I guess it to be many days since you have slept truly well."

Merry looked for a moment like he would put up a fight, but then nodded in weary agreement and blinked watery eyes. He and Gimli got to their feet, and Gimli laid a hand on the king's arm. "I will make certain he rests, Aragorn, if I have to pick him up and carry him away to a bed."

Aragorn gave them a genuine smile now, and answered, "Then I know I leave you in the best, though perhaps not the gentlest, of care, Merry." And with that, he strode away across the camp.

Pippin was still and white on the cot, and even in sleep Gimli and Merry could see the lines of pain etched in his face. Merry went straight to him and sat by the bed, leaning in close to his cousin's face to murmur things Gimli's dwarvish ears could not distinguish.

Gimli scanned the tent, now still and hushed, the healer and the woman cleaning up and putting away supplies. The linens and blankets on Pippin's bed were new, and Gimli spied fresh blood stains on the soiled ones the woman was leaving with. His eyes fell on Legolas, seated across the bed, tenderly cradling Pippin's good hand in both of his hands, and thought that the elf looked nearly as poor as the hobbit. His face was tense and grey with exhaustion -- only after Helm's Deep had Gimli seen him come close to looking thus. He crossed the tent to stand at his friend's elbow.

"You look abysmal, Master Elf," he said bluntly. "Go and rest now."

"Yes," Legolas said in a distracted voice. "I just wanted to be certain he was sleeping first. He . . ." His voice trailed off and Gimli's eyes glimmered with concern as he looked into the elf's face.

"Aragorn said the danger has passed for now, yes?" Gimli prompted, and Legolas nodded.

"Yes, yes, it has," he answered, sounding more focused. "You are right, I am weary. I will turn the watch over to you." He leaned forward and kissed Pippin tenderly on the brow. As he did so, Merry looked at him for the first time since coming back into the tent and was visibly startled by Legolas' appearance.

"Legolas, you --" he began, but stopped when Legolas stood, smiling serenely.

"Do not stay overlong, Merry," he said. "Aragorn said Pippin will sleep through the night, and that you need to go rest. I will go now, and look for you shortly." With that, he left them with the patient.

Merry in turn took Pippin's good hand in both of his own. Dwarf and hobbit sat in silent vigil for a time, until Merry finally said, "I have never seen Legolas look like that."

"No," Gimli said gruffly. "Nor have I."

"Is it . . . Do you think it was all because of Pip?" Merry asked.

Gimli tried to soften his voice. "He loves Pippin dearly, Merry. It has been trying for him, these past days, to see him in pain and not be able to offer much comfort. This sudden ill turn no doubt frightened him as much as it did you and I. And Aragorn."

Merry nodded, eyes firmly fixed on his cousin's face, on the lines of pain slowly easing away. "I forget, sometimes, that he is not just mine, and that other people love him just as much as I do. I am sorry for that, Gimli, and I will try not to forget again."

Gimli wasn't quite sure what to say, so he harrumphed, which served most occasions. He let Merry stay for a bit longer, then drove him off to bed. Once he was alone with the sleeping Pippin, he hunched over the hobbit and grumbled, "You had best heal soon, young hobbit, before you have driven all these fey folk to their own sickbeds for worry over you. Besides, I find it disturbingly quiet in here."

In his sleep, Pippin sighed a bit and scrunched up his nose.

"I agree, it is no good," Gimli said. "Though, naturally, I must claim to wish for a little peace and quiet once you are well and running that mouth at full speed again."

Gimli received no response, but he contented himself with watching the color slowly return to Pippin's wan features.

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