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The Honorary Hobbit  by lovethosehobbits

Well, Hell has frozen over, my friends. I am finally updating my fic. I realize most of you have given up on me or forgotten what the fic was even about, so here is a brief refresher.

Synopsis: While on a hike with Aragorn and the other hobbits, Frodo and Aragorn are injured. This story is about their road to recovery and the little dramas that happen along the way as is usual for our intrepid group.

Hard Work and Heartbreak

Chapter 24

A determined Bilbo marched angrily down the hallway to Frodo's room. Elrond followed a few paces in his wake, a small smile on his lips. "Bilbo, try to rein in your anger. You do not want to say anything you will regret, my friend," Elrond admonished.

Bilbo stopped and, for his age, swiveled with remarkable agility towards the Master of Imladris, "Nonsense. If I could bend him over my knee without further injury to his shoulder, I would. What was he thinking, doing something so foolish?" he fairly shouted. "I am shocked by his carelessness in regards to his own health. He could have died for Eru's sake," Bilbo continued, his lip trembling and his face flushed.

"If it had been you in his place and it was Frodo who needed attention, would you have reacted any differently, Bilbo?" Elrond raised an eyebrow as he scrutinized the hobbit.

Bilbo sputtered and turned, resuming his march, his cane thumping as he moved quickly forward, "That is not the point, Elrond. I expect him to consider all of the variables before acting so impetuously," he stammered.

As I thought, Elrond mused. Obviously, Frodo's impulsiveness was a family trait he thought with a smirk. They arrived at Frodo's room only to find both Merry and Pippin had arrived first. Both hobbits looked up with a grin, then rose and gave their elderly cousin a hug. "Cousin Bilbo, you look wonderful today," said Pippin. "Not as pale as usual and you have got a nice rosey glow and spark in your eye, doesn't he Mer'?" he chirped happily.

Bilbo blushed while Elrond masked a bark of laughter as a cough behind his hand. Merry studied his elderly cousin closely, recognizing immediately that someone was about to catch it hot. Surreptitiously, he looked for a freshly cut switch in Bilbo's hands, seeing none he relaxed slightly. There was only one person other than themselves and Sam in the room with the ability to draw such ire and Merry gulped as he thought of Frodo's little foray to Aragorn's bedside. He smiled, "Why Cousin Bilbo, if you were a lass I'd say you looked positively radiant," he quipped. Elrond and Aragorn were unable to contain their mirth and both exploded into laughter.

Bilbo waved them off impatiently, "Very funny, Meriadoc," he grumbled. His face saddened as he looked at them, "I am sorry for this lads, but must ask you to step out for a moment, please." Pippin looked at Merry in confusion then glanced over at Frodo who's eyes were closed, unaware of the tongue lashing he was about to receive. He grimaced as his eyes locked with Sam's who had paled considerably. Sam's former Master was slow to anger but once done so, his temper was legendary. "You too, Sam," Bilbo added.

Sam swallowed thickly, "I think I should stay, if it's all the same, Master," he said, trying to sound brave.

"I think not," Bilbo said flatly and Sam decided not to push his luck and rose, leaving the room with the others. Aragorn frowned, clearly worried and a little confused, about what was about to happen. Bilbo gave him a nod and mumbled "good morning, Aragorn," before pulling the curtain separating his and Frodo's beds.

Gandalf entered, "What occurs, my friends?" he asked innocently. Bilbo swiveled towards the wizard and Elrond.

"Gentlemen, if you would excuse us…" he began.

"No, Bilbo. Gandalf and I will be staying," Elrond said simply. Bilbo gave him a furious glare. "My home, my rules, old friend," the elf lord said without a smile.

Bilbo huffed and waved his hand at them in disgust, "As you wish," he muttered. He shut the door on the other three anxious faces and marched unceremoniously over to Frodo's bed.

Elrond captured his arm as he passed, "Do not go too far with this Bilbo, he is still not completely out of danger."

Bilbo's eyes misted, "I understand," he whispered. He gently shook Frodo's shoulder until the blue eyes opened and stared up into his face. Bilbo almost abandoned his planned lecture looking down at the one who was closest to a son to him. Frodo was thin and pale and would be unable to do little more than listen, but that was all that Bilbo really wanted, so he decided to proceed.

"Uncle Bilbo, how delightful to see you," Frodo said, his eyes warming.

Bilbo smiled at him, "And you, my dear boy, but you may not feel so in a few moments, I fear," Bilbo continued.

Frodo looked concerned as he studied his Uncle who still stood. "Wha..?

"I am quite perturbed at you, Frodo. Frodo's eyes cleared, becoming distant, as he realized what was coming. The Lecture. Whenever he had got in trouble as a lad, there was the lecture, sometimes accompanied by a thrashing or confinement to his room, or prohibiting him to go to some planned event. Since all of these options were unlikely, he knew he would have to lay there and bear the berating which was worse than all of his Uncles other punishments because it detailed how much he had disappointed Bilbo. Yes, this was the absolute worst thing to bear. He would do anything to avoid making Bilbo disappointed in him. "In fact, it has been many years since I have felt this angry and disappointed in someone, and to have it be you, Frodo, makes it doubly hard," Bilbo continued, "How could you be so heedless of what was at stake by risking your life so foolishly?"

"But it wasn't foolish, Uncle, "Frodo offered in a low voice. "Aragorn was in need…"

"And did you not think that that was WHY the elves and Deara had left the retrieve the necessary medicines? Did you think they had simply abandoned him perhaps gone to tea or luncheon? Elves do not take tea or luncheon Frodo, it is brought to them when they are treating the sick."

Frodo blushed furiously, the only color his face had had since his being bedridden. "I didn't think…"

"Exactly, and THAT is why I am so upset with you, my lad," Bilbo thundered. He turned his back as he began to pace, "You are the only remaining hope to destroy that foul thing I so carelessly brought to the Shire," Bilbo said as he turned and came nose to nose with his now very pale ward. "You will need to keep your wits about you, you will need to consider ALL outcomes and not jump in willy-nilly as is your usual way." He turned away and continued to pace, "If you do not, all could be lost; all of Middle Earth, the Shire, all of it, my boy. It could be you may even have to sacrifice your very companions for the very good of this world…" Bilbo ranted on. Frodo's head began to swirl with the absolute enormity of what he had promised to do. He could not sacrifice Sam, Merry, Pip, Aragorn or the others, could he? What if he had to choose? He was breathing far too fast as his eyes closed against the spinning room. Bilbo's voice faded away as a rushing filled his ears, then someone was there waving something under his nose as he jerked back to himself. He opened his eyes and beheld the worried faces of Bilbo, Elrond and Gandalf bending low over him while Deara waved a rag of something foul under his nose.

Bilbo looked shaken and worried, his face very pale. Gandalf placed a hand on Bilbo's shoulder, "he is alright, Bilbo, just overcome, I suspect," he said softly.

"Was he in danger, Elrond? Did I cause him injury?" Bilbo asked his eyes wide.

Elrond hesitated, torn between honesty and a tiny half-truth to quell Bilbo's remorse. "He is fine, Bilbo, but the reprimanding is officially over, am I correct?" Elrond said sternly.

Bilbo nodded and turned back to Frodo, "I am so sorry, my dear lad, forgive an old hobbit for ranting, Frodo.

Frodo smiled weakly, "I apologize, Uncle for my brashness and promise to be better behaved. I love you Bilbo," he whispered.

"Oh Frodo, I love you more than anything," Bilbo said, teary eyed. He gave Frodo a careful hug. "I'll be back later. Perhaps we could read that new anthology you've been asking about?"

"Yes, I would love that. I look forward to it, Bilbo," Frodo said with a small smile. Gandalf smiled, took out his pipe and sat down in the overstuffed chair with a groan, glad that the excitement was over for the moment.

Bilbo turned and Elrond followed him out the door but not before Frodo saw the elf lord give a meaningful look to Deara. "Ah, the secret language of the elves," Frodo thought fuzzily. He glanced over at Aragorn and saw that the curtain had been pulled from its rings and lay in a jumbled mess on the floor. The Ranger eyed him with deep concern, breathing as if he had just sprinted across the courtyard.


"I am alright, Aragorn," Frodo said reassuringly.

Deara prepared a mild sedative which was mixed into Frodo's tea. She helped him to take small sips until he turned his head and closed his eyes. She eased him back onto his pillows. She knew he wasn't truly asleep only deeply relaxed. "Thank you, Deara," he whispered. She smiled as she pushed the curls back from his forehead and looked into the blue eyes. Her eyes flickered briefly as she felt the forehead and the lingering fever. Frodo smiled wanly, "Nothing to be concerned about, I am sure," he whispered. She only smiled in return before rising and quitting the room, no doubt to find something awful to banish the fever once and for all, Frodo thought to himself.

Sam, Merry and Pip cracked the door and peered in cautiously. "Is it over? Is Bilbo gone?" Pip asked his cousin. Frodo nodded. "And you survived, I see," he continued. Only Sam saw Aragorn grimace at the choice of words. He looked quickly over at his Master before charging past the other two, to Frodo's side.

"Are you all right, Mr. Frodo?"

"Yes Sam, just a little tired is all," Frodo forced a smile.

Sam looked at him worriedly, not fooled for an instant, before glancing at Aragorn. The Ranger nodded briefly before Sam turned, mumbled something about "something strengthening" before quickly departing, heading towards the kitchens.

Frodo rolled his eyes and his cousins laughed. "You never could fool Sam, Frodo," Merry chortled.

"He will wear himself out trying to see me well again."

"And love every minute of it," Pippin finished with a wink.

Frodo noticed how strangely Pip was dressed and Pip giggled, "Today we start Aragorn's exercises", he said excitedly. Aragorn's eyebrows rose and he looked nervously at the two mischief makers. Pip's usual coat and scarf had been replaced with a loose white cotton shirt that he had rolled the sleeves up on. Frodo couldn't remember the last time he had seen Pip without his cherished scarf. Merry was dressed much the same, his jacket and gold brocade vest gone and a blousy shirt in its place. Both wore their normal impish grins that held a note of heightened anticipation.

"As much as I would love to stay and watch I have other matters to attend to," Gandalf said with a smile. He helped Aragorn to slowly sit up and propped him up by the headboard before leaving. They could hear him chuckling as his staff thumped its way down the long hallway.

Aragorn gulped and gave them a weak smile. "Gentlemen, I assure you I am perfectly able to do my own calisthenics so you need not bother."

"Oh, it's no bother, Strider. In fact, Merry and I have really been looking forward to this," Pip said excitedly.

There was a loud snort and everyone looked over at Frodo who wiped his nose gently, "Excuse me," he said trying to conceal a grin.

"You should know, Frodo, that Lord Elrond has requested we work on you next," Merry said flatly.

Frodo colored, "I don't think I'm ready for any calisthenics yet, lads."

Merry smiled, "Oh, we'll be gentle, I promise, cousin." Frodo gulped.

"Alright then, let's get started, shall we?" Pippin clapped his hands then rubbed them briskly together.

Merry crawled up on the bed straddling Strider while Pip tucked his knees under him and settle beside the ranger. Each took on of Aragorn's long arms, holding his hands. "Now Strider, you should push against me with all your strength and I will push back, all right?" Merry said.

"That doesn't sound too difficult," Aragorn said with a smirk. He stretched out his arms placing each against a hobbit and began to push as they pushed forward. His arms buckled and Merry and Pip fell forward onto Aragorn's chest.

"Sorry Strider, we should have braced ourselves better," Pip said as if it was every day that a hobbit could best a Ranger with simple isometrics.

Aragorn's face turned red as he fumbled for some excuse for his body betraying him, but he need not have worried as Pip and Merry kept up a constant chatter, seemingly not noticing the Ranger's discomfort.

"Again," Pip said. Aragorn braced his arms against the hobbits hands and pushed, concentrating hard to knock his torturers back. His arms shook and buckled, but Merry and Pip were ready this time and didn't fall forward. "Really Strider, you must try harder," Pip whined.

"I AM TRYING," Aragorn snapped.

"Hmm, well why don't we try something different?" Merry said and began looking around the room. He spied two round, smooth leather balls about the size of a man's fist, sitting on the ledge by the window and jumped down off the bed. He picked each up and hefted them to see if they would suit his purposes. Evidently they did as he climbed back onto the bed placing a ball in each of Aragorn's fists.

"Pip took one of the balls and looked closely at it, "what are these for, Strider?" he asked.

"They're weights for holding a broken limb taut for the traction board."

Pip blanched, "That sounds more like torture."

"Many would agree with you but they will be a good weight to start with for my therapy." He bent his arm at the elbow forming 90 degree angle and lifting the balls up to his chest and back down again. He was shocked at how weakened he had become. This mere stone of weight was all but impossible for him to lift. He tried to rein in the panic that he would never be able to use his sword or fight or…

Merry squeezed his arm, "It's all right, Aragorn, muscles remember and in no time at all you'll be cutting heads off of orcs again, I guarantee it," he said with a secret smile. Aragorn sighed knowing Merry spoke true and tried to concentrate on the small movements, feeling his muscles working and knowing that, with diligence, his strength would be restored.

"Thank you, Merry," he whispered.

"Well that's a fine thing…what about me?" Pip yelled.

"Thank you, Pippin," he chuckled.

"And I suppose I am to remain thankless," Frodo groused.

Aragorn frowned, "Frodo what am I to thank you for?"

Frodo stared at him, "That is a good point since I was the one that got you injured in the first place." Aragorn started to object but Frodo just waved him off.

The Ranger's eyes warmed, "Thank you, Frodo, for bravely volunteering to save Middle Earth," he murmured.

Frodo's eyes widened, but his face paled, "You are welcome," he whispered and then looked away.

"All right, that's enough chit chat," Pip declared. "I think that's good for a start, on the arms, how about the legs?" He asked Merry.

They moved to the foot of the bed and uncovered Aragorn's legs. Pip stared at the splinted leg and the black and blue, turning to yellow, thigh. "Strider, is it still painful?" Pip asked.

Yes Pip it is Aragorn thought to himself, but instead he smiled and replied "Not really, Pippin, but it itches horribly."

Pippin nodded, he remembered his own cast causing a similar problem when he had broken his leg climbing farmer Tuttlefish's peach tree. "What if I were to push on your foot while you pushed back, would it hurt?"

"NO," both Frodo and Merry yelled at once, causing Pip to jump. "Erm…Pip, maybe we should talk to Lord Elrond first," Merry said, taking a deep breath. Frodo had a look of terror, thinking of what could happen. He sighed and relaxed as Merry tried the voice of reason on their smaller cousin. He was unprepared for Aragorn's point of view.

"Why don't we give it a small try first, Merry, maybe it won't hurt?" Aragorn said, wanting to be up and about; tired of being weak and bedridden.

Merry looked down doubtfully at the leg and Frodo took that as hesitation. He looked anxiously over at Aragorn, Pip and Merry, "No lads, don't do it. Aragorn's just in a hurry to get up and out of bed; better to ask Lord Elrond first." Aragorn gave Frodo a wilting look. "You would have done the same were our positions reversed, admit it," Frodo said with a smirk.

Aragorn had to admit, he would have. Merry jumped down, turned and ran out the door to find Elrond and ask if the leg could tolerate some small movement. Turning too quickly around the corner, he ran right into the elf Lord's legs letting out an "oof".

"Are you injured, Master Brandybuck?" Elrond said softly. Merry looked up at Elrond thinking that the elf's facial expression seldom varied far from the usual placid serenity that Merry saw on most of the Elves faces. Perhaps after so many millennia the elves had ceased to be surprised by others (doubtful) or they had become experts at masking reactions to others (far more likely, he decided).

He looked up at Lord Elrond and saw that the elf was studying him, a crooked smile touching his lips. Merry blushed. "I was coming to ask you if there were certain precautions Pip and I should take with Strider's injured leg."

"I see. I was on my way to my son's room when you bumped into me," Elrond said with a twinkle in his eye. Merry blushed again. "Let us see how our patient is faring, shall we?" They walked quickly back towards Frodo and Aragorn's room. As they entered they could hear Pippin chattering away and the gleeful giggles of Frodo in the background. Elrond couldn't help chuckling as well when he saw Pippin lying along the length of Aragorn's good leg as the red faced Ranger, struggled to slowly lift his leg up and down. Each time the leg went up Pippin's eyes would widen and he would call out the count. Frodo was slumped against his pillows, eyes dancing, as he giggled at the sight.

"Very good, Strider," Pippen exclaimed as Strider's leg crashed to the bed.

Aragorn heaved a huge sigh and closed his eyes. "I think…"pant…"that is enough" pant "Pippin", he said breathlessly. His face was florid and damp with perspiration. He was mortified at how difficult even the smallest efforts seemed to be.

Elrond smiled at Pippin, "It seems you have Aragorn's therapy well in hand, Master Took." Pip puffed up his chest and beamed at the elf lord. "As to the right leg, we should tread slowly while it heals," he continued with a small frown. He pulled back the covers and slowly began to unwrap the bandages. Ballorian magically appeared at his side, tray in hand, loaded with clean bandages, antiseptic and oils to calm Aragorn's itching skin. The leg was finally exposed and the hobbits gasped in empathy. The leg was a quite colorful array of blacks, blues, purples and yellows. The stitches stretched out under the knee in a sinister grin, but there was no drainage and no redness. "How long since we placed the stitches, Balorian?" he asked quietly.

"Twelve days, my lord," Balorian answered.

Elrond nodded, "So much has occurred since that time, I had forgotten. I will remove the stitches in one more week," Elrond murmured. Balorian nodded in agreement. Elrond felt around the knee cap and below then he slowly moved downwards, grasping the leg beneath and on top, he slowly bent it a small amount. Aragorn gasped and paled. The movement was infinitesimal but enough to satisfy the elf Lord that the leg was all but healed. "Excellent," he said. The bone has healed and I feel no inflammation as the movement was smooth." He lay the leg slowly back down. "Was there much pain, my son?"

Aragorn sighed. "More from the bruising than the broken bone, Ada," he said with a grimace.

"You will remain casted for many more weeks to ensure that the limb can withstand full use," Elrond said.

Aragorn's face flushed and his eyebrows rose, "That seems excessive, Father. Could we not test the leg and see if it could hold my weight?" He all but begged.

Elrond smiled, "It is too early for such experiments, but I will consider your proposition in a few more weeks. Consider were you the healer and Frodo, Merry, Pippin or Samwise the patient. When would you remove the splints knowing how serious the injury was?"

A trap, Aragorn thought, "I would wait," he said grudgingly.

"As will I. You must be patient to assure that you will have no limp or loss of motion in the future. You were fortunate to have survived your injuries at all, Estel, you were very lucky." Elrond said seriously.

Frodo looked at Aragorn in concern realizing that because of him, Aragorn's life could have ended; his future reign as King never to be, Gondor's future and any promise of a life with Arwen, struck down before it had a chance to take root; all because of a clumsy hobbit. He gulped, his eyes flying open in horror as he stared at Aragorn's leg anxiously.

"…a washing and simple massage is all we will subject the leg to at this time," Elrond was saying. "Will you finish the care of Aragorn or should I call Deara, gentlemen?"

Merry smiled, "We can do it, my Lord," he said. Elrond nodded then walked over to Frodo's bedside.

"How are you feeling, Master Baggins? Frodo?" Elrond asked seeing how pale the hobbit had become as he stared at Aragorn's leg. He noted that Frodo's eyes were bloodshot and tremors shook the small body. He frowned and sat down near Frodo's shoulder. His back turned to the others; he spoke lowly "Deara, what occurs?" Merry and Pip stopped their chatter upon hearing the concern in the elf lords voice. Sam moved closer to his Master and took his hand. Deara appeared at Elrond's shoulder, alarmed.

"He was fine a few moments ago save for this persistent, low grade fever, my Lord." She touched Frodo's forehead before resting her hand against his neck. Frodo turned away, not wanting the extra attention. …he could have died… Frodo kept thinking.

Elrond's eyebrow rose at the grimace of frustration on Frodo's face. He looked up at Deara and motioned for her to exit. He looked over at the others; four worried faces watching him anxiously. He smiled and nodded, "My error, gentlemen, a trick of the light, no doubt. Master Baggin's appears well. Perhaps you three gentlemen should adjourn for luncheon; I believe I heard the bell. Merry and Pip assured Aragorn they would return shortly and grabbed Sam's arm steering him towards the door. Sam looked torn as to what to do before Elrond waved him off with a smile. Even Frodo tried to smile at him but it looked more like a grimace of pain than anything else.

"Mr. Frodo? I can stay…" Sam began.

"Nonsense, Sam," Frodo whispered. "I'm just a little tired is all. Go to dinner and bring me back some of that carrot juice, all right?"

Sam's eyes lit up seeing that his Master wanted something nourishing. "Yes sir," he said cheerfully, before turning down the corridor and joining the echoing stampede of hobbit feet heading towards the dining area.

The smile fled from Frodo's face as Sam exited the room, and Elrond's attention fixed on the hobbit's face. Were he able, Frodo would have rolled away from that penetrating stare. Aragorn's stare was equally direct. "What is it, Ada?" Aragorn asked anxiously.

Frodo gave them both a withering look. Elrond's eyebrows rose, "Frodo, what is upsetting you? You can ill afford anything that will rob you of energy or cause you worry. All of your energies need to be funneled towards your recovery.

Frodo closed his eyes, "I am weary, Lord Elrond, and there is nothing bothering me, I assure you."

Elrond waited. "Frodo…"he began.

"Why did you have to push me out of the way and get hurt instead?" Frodo blurted at Aragorn, his face showing the first mark of color in many days.

Aragorn's mouth dropped open in surprise at the anger radiating off of the Ringbearer. "I would have done the same for anyone Frodo, wouldn't you?"

Frodo colored, "Yes, I would have, but now…look at you. You're weak and thin and you'll probably always walk with a limp because of my clumsiness."

It was Aragorn's turn to blush, "I think you are underestimating my abilities, Frodo. I will recover, regain my weight and strength and WILL NOT LIMP," he said emphasizing each word. "It wasn't your fault, Frodo. It was mere happenstance that we got caught under that tree. Why do you think that you are the cause of anything bad that occurs?"

Frodo looked over at him sharply, "I don't," he whispered.

"Yes, you do. Whenever someone is injured you place the blame on yourself, Frodo."

"Because none of you should be here, wouldn't be here, if I weren't dragging you all into peril. I AM TO BLAME…everyone's life is in jeopardy because of this thing I wear," he fairly shouted, tears spilling down his cheeks.

Aragorn smiled wanly, "Frodo, sometimes bad things happen for no reason." He didn't mention that once Frodo began carrying the Ring the Ringbearer had seemingly become the target for an increasing number of strange mishaps. "As to the 'dragging us into peril', we go willingly to help you achieve the shared goal to bring a peaceful, better world into being. It could have gone much worse than it did, Frodo someone could have been mortally injured…"

Frodo's head jerked around, his eyes fairly shooting daggers at Aragorn, "EXACTLY. Someone could have been killed. Perhaps the only chance for a King on the Throne of Gondor to rule the new world after I supposedly, SAVE us all," he said sarcastically.

Aragorn jumped and pulled back, shocked at the vitriol pouring off of the slight Ringbearer. "Frodo…" he began, trying to take back his poor choice of words.

"No. I cannot have others be injured or killed because they gallantly volunteer to travel with me into certain peril," Frodo said sadly. His eyes held a look of steely determination and total stubbornness. "I will travel with the Fellowship to the borders of Imladris, but then I shall fare you all well and continue on my own. My decision is final," he said resolutely, turning away from a stunned Aragorn.

"Master Baggins you forget that you are not the only one to choose how we proceed on this quest," Elrond began solemnly.

Frodo gave a bitter chuckle, "I beg to differ, Lord Elrond, and pardon me if I sound unduly harsh, but I am the one who carries the Ring about my neck. By your own words, no one else can do this thing, therefore, I and I alone dictate how we shall proceed," he sighed and closed his eyes, "I am weary, please let me rest."

Aragorn had never truly seen his foster father's mask of composure slip as it did now. "Frodo, you cannot mean to…" he began.

"I can and I will," Frodo whispered, his eyes still closed. He heard the elf lord rise and slowly leave the room. He knew that Aragorn was staring at him trying to think of some way to convince Frodo that he would need the Fellowship to protect, defend and succor him on his long, lonely journey, so Frodo rolled as far as his shoulder would allow, away from the penetrating gaze. Once he was facing away from Aragorn he opened his eyes allowing the tears to come at last, dampening the pillow. It would be treacherous and lonely, he knew, but he would rather die a thousand deaths than see his kin, Aragorn, Gandalf and the rest of the Fellowship perish protecting him.

Deara entered the room quietly, looking more than a little distressed, no doubt she had heard the news, Frodo thought. She held a flask gently in her hand and sat near Frodo's bed. "Lord Elrond wanted you to drink this cordial, Frodo," she said simply.

A hint of suspicion flicked across his face, "May I ask what it is, Deara?" He whispered.

Deara smiled sweetly, "He said you were very weary and prepared a more powerful sleeping draught. You should have a dreamless sleep, if you drink this," she said softly.

Frodo sighed, closing his eyes, "I feel it is time I weaned myself of these sleeping draughts and simply sleep like everyone else does, Deara. I am sorry, but I prefer to forgo the cordial, my lady. I am exhausted, I do not think it will be necessary this time," he said sadly.

Deara's forehead wrinkled in worry, "Are you sure you do not suffer needlessly, Frodo. Your body is not yet strong enough to go without the medicines for sleep and pain, Ringbearer. Please allow me to at least see you to full health before you choose to dispense with the cordials."

Frodo's eyes slipped open, studying Deara. She had only been concerned for his welfare; they all had, and he was grateful for their care. He knew, despite his decision to go it alone, that he could trust all of these good people and elves. He smiled wanly up at her, "Very well, but only because you will worry otherwise, Deara."

Deara smiled and helped Frodo to slowly sit up and drink the cordial. It was fruity and Frodo was thankful it wasn't one of the nasty bitter draughts that were his usual fare. He shot a furtive glance over at Aragorn and saw that the Ranger was studying him closely. Deara slowly lowered him back to his pillows and Frodo felt his eyelids becoming heavy faster than usual. He wanted to escape into oblivion, so he welcomed the drifting, floating feeling with open arms. If only he could stay this way always, never waking, never to have to make difficult decisions. This was his last thought before the room vanished into nothingness and he sank into a deep sleep.


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