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Fate and the High King's Falcon  by Baylor

Day Nine of the New Year (April 3 SR)

"Oh, but Legolas," Pippin was wheedling, "no one will know, not if you stop dawdling and we go now."

"Pippin, for the last time, no," Legolas answered, tossing his hands up in exasperation. "Aragorn said you were to stay quietly in bed, and the Valar only know what he will do to me if I take you strolling about the camp. Not to mention what Gandalf and Gimli and especially Merry would do to me. In fact, I do not know why you have chosen me as a likely mark for your devious little plans."

"Because when I told you there was something I wanted, you said I could have anything my little heart desired," Pippin countered, undaunted. "Oh, come now, Legolas, I won't be able to rest properly until I have seen for myself that they are all right. I have been so good, for days now, and I will not bother anyone about it again if you will take me now. Oh, please please please," and he put on his most endearing, beseeching face.

Legolas crossed his arms in front of his chest and bit back the retort that it would not exactly be seeing them, as Pippin's eyes were still bandaged. Then, just having thought that made him feel poorly about refusing Pippin, and, of course, it was hard for the hobbit, worrying and only getting second-hand reports, and he had been a very good patient, for days now . . .

"I suppose I was outmatched from the start," Legolas thought resignedly to himself moments later as he smuggled a blanket-wrapped Pippin out of the tent and across the camp.

"It smells nice out here, Legolas," Pippin said, wriggling his face out of the blankets. "Is it nice here? Is the camp very busy? It sounds like lots of things are happening."

"Ithilien is as nice as it was when we marched through it with the army. And the camp looks just like it did then," Legolas answered, reaching a hand to cover Pippin's face back up, careful not to smother the hobbit in the process. "And you promised to stay out of sight."

Pippin subsided, no doubt afraid that pushing his luck would end the excursion. They arrived at their destination and Legolas hissed, "No noise!" at his bundle before going in.

The healer seated inside stood and bowed respectfully when he entered, and Legolas inclined his head in response. "Good day to you," he said. "Tell me, is the Lord Aragorn or Mithrandir within?"

"No, Prince Legolas, just another attendant," the man replied. "Shall I send for them?"

"No, no," Legolas said. "I will be but a moment. I have brought some . . . special blankets preferred by the Shirefolk, to make the pheriannath more comfortable. I will just take them right in --" and he swept by the man into the interior, where he dismissed the other attendant. If either healer noted that the elven prince's bundle of "special blankets" giggled a bit, they were both wise and discreet enough to keep it to themselves.

Now Legolas uncovered Pippin, and the young hobbit became uncharacteristically somber. "Sam first, all right?" he said, surprising the elf.

"All right," he murmured, and then gently set Pippin down upon the edge of Sam's bed. When he was certain Pippin was steady, he took the hobbit's good hand in one of his and guided it to hover over Sam's shoulder. "Sam's right beneath your hand," Legolas said, and then moved back a pace.

Pippin's face was still and solemn as his hand carefully made contact with his friend and began to explore. His fingers crept over the still-dry skin, found and measured the once-stout arms, skimmed over the protruding collarbone, and padded across the familiar features so delicately that Legolas wondered if he could feel each new line and tiny healing mark. He finished at Sam's hair, and sat quietly finger-combing it, before leaning forward and unerringly finding Sam's cheek to press a kiss to. "Dear Sam," he said lovingly.

Legolas silently moved closer and whispered, "Are you ready?" He was loath, suddenly, to make any sound and disturb the reverent quiet of the tent.

Pippin nodded and held out his arms to be picked up. Legolas accommodated and soon had him perched on his cousin's bed. Again, he took the good hand and placed it just above Frodo's shoulder. "All right," he whispered to Pippin, who nodded.

In all the many ages to come, this memory would never diminish for Legolas, of Pippin carefully discovering and evaluating every small hurt on the Ringbearer's body. The hobbit made no sound at all, and his face was quiet and respectful. He left the damaged hand for last, and then touched it with a reverence that Legolas had not imagined lived inside the flippant little Took. Finally, he brought the bereaved hand to his lips and softly kissed the bandages. "Frodo," he said tenderly, then began to silently cry.

Legolas picked him back up and patted his back and rocked him, but Pippin shook his head even as he buried it in the crook of the elf's neck. "No, I'm all right," he said, sniffling. "I just really thought I would never see him again."

Someone in the doorway sighed heavily and Legolas started while Pippin gave a little squeal. "Well, now you have seen him, and if you don't want to get caught, you had best hurry back," Gandalf said. "Didn't you tell the Lord Aragorn that you wanted some custard, Peregrin? I just saw him headed across the camp with some."

Pippin squealed again and smacked Legolas' shoulder. "Hurry up, Legolas! You will be in dreadful trouble!" he commanded.

The elf was looking from wizard to hobbit as if he was uncertain what was transpiring. "I am sorry, Gandalf, he just really wanted to see them, and --"

"Caught, Legolas, you will be caught!" Pippin clamored, smacking his shoulder again. "Bye, Gandalf!" he added cheerily.

"Good-bye, Pippin. Be a good lad," Gandalf said, then helpfully held the door flap open for Legolas. "You'd best run," he said. Legolas decided not to question the wizard's good grace and dashed off as quickly as he could without jostling his giggling companion.

The Lord Aragorn did indeed have custard for Pippin, and if he noticed that Legolas' hair was a bit out of place, as though he had just come in from a sprint, the patient was much too grateful and engaging for the king to give it much thought.

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