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Fate and the High King's Falcon  by Baylor

Once the supplies were in order, Aragorn re-approached his patient, a mug in his hand.

"All right, Pip?" he asked first, and Pippin nodded gamely. Aragorn handed over the mug and cautioned, "That is fairly strong, so don't worry if you feel a bit fuzzy. It should help a lot, though." Pippin nodded and obediently set to work draining the mug.

"Do you have to re-break all of his fingers?" Merry asked in a low voice.

"All but the thumb, it looks like," replied Aragorn, who had taken the injured hand back into his two hands and was looking carefully at each finger. "I'm going to need room again, Merry."

Merry scowled a bit, but delivered a quick kiss to Pippin's forehead and moved out of the way so the healer woman could approach and take the mug away from Pippin. She set the mug away and returned in a moment, her hands full of splinting materials.

Pippin was listing a bit in Legolas' loose embrace, his eyes slightly unfocused, so the elf drew him close and adjusted the hobbit so his grip was secure. Gimli held Pippin's shoulder and elbow again and Aragorn grasped the hobbit's wrist firmly.

"Are you ready, Pippin?" he asked quietly.

"Uh-huh," Pippin said groggily.

Aragorn took the hobbit's index finger in his other hand. "All right," he said. "On three. One. Two. Three --" and with a lightning-sharp movement, he yanked the finger straight. The SNAP of the bone breaking reverberated in the tent, amazingly loud. From his corner, Merry gasped.

Pippin drew in a long, ragged breath, his face going completely white. Then he let out a series of short, sharp cries, and tears leaked from his eyes.

"We know, Pippin, we know," Aragorn soothed as he accepted a splint and bandages from the healer woman. He had the finger properly set quickly, and then leaned in to place a comforting hand on the hobbit's upper arm and peer critically at his face. Pippin had stopped crying but was taking gulping breaths. "Can you go on?" Aragorn asked seriously, not certain what he would do if Pippin said no. But Pippin nodded yes, still unable to speak, so Aragorn positioned himself to repeat the procedure on the middle finger.

Pippin screamed as the bone broke, and then began to keen, high and in the back of his throat. Aragorn did not ask him if he could continue this time, but moved on as quickly as he could, determined to get the ordeal over with, for everyone involved.

When the ring finger broke, Pippin gave a strangled little scream, and abruptly went limp and silent in Legolas' arms. "Pippin!" Legolas said in a commanding voice, just as Merry cried out, "Pip!" in anguish, and rushed forward. The healer woman caught him and moved him firmly away. Aragorn did not look up from splinting the ring finger, but asked in a strained voice, "Legolas?"

The elf was checking the hobbit's pulse at his neck, but Pippin was visibly breathing heavily. "I think he's just fainted," Legolas reassured everyone.

"Don't try to wake him," Aragorn murmured, and Legolas nodded. The king moved right on to the final finger, and the SNAP rang out for the last time. As Aragorn set the splint, Gimli abruptly said, "Merry."

Everyone turned to see Merry swaying a bit on his feet, his face as white as Pippin's. The healer woman handed over her supplies to Gimli quickly and was beside Merry in an instant, guiding him into a chair. "Head down, head down," she said quietly, using a hand to push Merry's head forward. He took deep, gulping breaths and covered his eyes with a shaking hand.

"I'm all right," he said thickly. "I just didn't realize how much it would hurt him."

The healer woman patted his back reassuringly, then went over to the supplies and returned with a mug. "Have some water," she encouraged, pressing the mug into his hand. Merry took it gratefully and drank.

Aragorn finished with Pippin's final broken finger, and then proceeded to splint the entire hand. Pippin remained limp and unresponsive throughout, his breathing slowing. Legolas accepted a damp cloth from the healer woman and washed the sweat off Pippin's face.

Once he was finished, Aragorn pushed himself up from the chair, the strain of hurting Pippin to heal him showing on his face. He sighed. "All right," he said, "that is over with. I'll stay with him for a bit, and I'll leave plenty of medications to keep him comfortable. He's going to hurt when he wakes up. For now, let's just get him back into bed."

Gimli was shifting uneasily while the king spoke, so Aragorn turned to him and raised an inquiring eyebrow. Gimli nodded toward Merry's chair, and they all turned to find that Merry had apparently fallen asleep slumped against the back of it.

"Did he faint?" Legolas asked with concern as Aragorn quickly approached the hobbit. He checked his pulse and laid a hand on his brow, then took the mug from Merry's slack hands and sniffed suspiciously at it. The king turned sharp eyes at the healer woman's back. She had not turned from packing up supplies, and now said calmly, somehow sensing the eyes on her, "I raised five boys, and sometimes they just do not know when a little rest is the best thing for them."

Rather than argue with a woman who had raised five boys, Aragorn simply tucked Merry into his bed to sleep the draught off, while Legolas put Pippin into his and Gimli propped the injured hand up with a pillow. Once the healer woman had left, Aragorn extending his thanks to her, Legolas turned to his companions and said, "Just be certain none of us accept anything to drink from her. I dare not think what she imagines is the best thing for us."

Aragorn, settling into a chair and lighting his pipe, said mildly, "You've been spending too much time with these hobbits, Legolas. It's made you entirely too cheeky -- I fear you may be completely ruined for your father's court now."

"What a pity," Legolas said with a complete lack of concern, and stepped outside as Gimli joined Aragorn in smoking. Through the partially open flap, they could hear him humming an unfamiliar tune that had oft been on the elf's lips of late.

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