2. Too Much, Too Soon
Aragorn gently turned Frodo’s head to the left, and for the first time, Frodo noticed the bed next to his. Sam lay peacefully asleep, clad only in a shirt so large it covered him nearly to his toes. Frodo looked down at himself, startled to see that he was wearing similar attire.
“Don’t these belong to someone?”
Aragorn chuckled. “The Men who donated these shirts were nearly overcome by the honor. Besides, I didn’t think you would sleep as easily in those,” he said, motioning to the floor. Frodo looked down to see the tattered Orc-rags he had endured he knew not how. He shuddered at the sight of the hairy, filthy breeches.
“You were right,” Frodo whispered. “Get rid of them.”
Aragorn smiled. “I suspect these will find a place of honor, as well.”
Frodo looked back at Sam, tears filling his eyes once more at the sight of his friend.
“Is he all right?”
“You needn’t worry,” said Gandalf. “It’s just a gentle, sweet sleep.”
“Oh Gandalf, you have no idea what………” Frodo couldn’t take his eyes off Sam’s peaceful face. “You can’t imagine………”
“I know some of it,” said the wizard. “You and Sam can tell us the rest when you’re ready.”
Frodo nodded and looked around. “Where are we?”
“Ithilien,” answered Aragorn. “We will proceed to Minas Tirith as soon as all of the wounded are ready to travel.”
Frodo touched the stump of his missing finger. Nearly healed. “Aragorn,” he said with a frown, “How long have we been here?”
“The Ring went into the Fire on March 25th of the Shire Reckoning,” said Aragorn quietly. “Today is the 8th of April, Frodo.”
“Two weeks,” Frodo whispered. He felt the back of his neck. His hand traveled down to his chest then dropped into his lap, his eyes haunted, distant.
“Are you in pain?” asked Aragorn.
“No,” said Frodo. “Not pain, exactly. It’s just………” He sighed. “It’s gone. It’s really gone. I feel a little……… empty.” He sagged a bit against Aragorn.
Gandalf and Aragorn exchanged a look.
“So much has happened,” Frodo murmured, suddenly drowsy again. “We’ve had no news since we left Captain Faramir.”
Aragorn smiled. “There will be time for as many stories and tales as you can handle. But for now, perhaps a bit more sleep, and then a meal?”
“Those both sound wonderful.” Frodo yawned. “How can I possibly need more sleep? But first, please, what about Merry and Pippin? And the rest?” He looked at Aragorn sadly. “We know about Boromir.”
“Merry and Pippin are fine,” said Gandalf. “as are Legolas and Gimli. You will see them soon.”
Frodo looked up at Aragorn with a sleepy smile. “We missed your birthday.”
Aragorn burst out laughing. “How did you remember that?” He shook his head, remembering. “On my birthday, Frodo, I found out that Gandalf had returned to us. It was a gift for all of Middle-earth.”
The wizard smiled, then took the hobbit’s small hand in his and looked deeply into his eyes. “Frodo, do you know the name Estë? Does that mean anything to you?”
“No,” Frodo murmured. He suddenly could barely keep his eyes open. “I need to know……… wake me when Sam………”
“Here, how about this?” Aragorn lifted Frodo and lay him down next to Sam. Frodo sighed and closed his eyes, and in less than a minute his breaths slowed and deepened as sleep took him.
“How *can* he need more sleep?” Gandalf chuckled.
“Mild shock,” said Aragorn quietly, covering Frodo with a warm blanket. “Frodo never imagined he would survive the Quest, and this is surely a bit much to take in all at once.” He took a deep breath. “I had feared much worse, Gandalf.”
“You feared that the destruction of the Ring had broken him utterly --- that the trauma had been too much for anyone to bear.”
“Yes,” Aragorn whispered. He looked down at Frodo. “No other mortal has lived through a Nazgûl wounding. No other mortal has carried the One Ring into Mordor itself. He was poisoned, imprisoned, whipped, hunted. When you found them, they had no water and no food. There was barely anything left of either of them. These two………” Aragorn’s voice broke and he sank to his knees next to the bed. “How did they do it?”
Gandalf came to Aragorn’s side and clasped the Man’s shoulder, but said nothing.
Aragorn sighed. “Although the Ring’s influence has yet to fade entirely, Frodo seems nearly himself again; he may heal fully.”
“Only time will tell, my friend.”
“They’re going to need haircuts,” said Aragorn with a smile, brushing Frodo’s errant curls off his forehead. “T’would be a shame to have saved all of Middle-earth and not be able to see it.” He looked up at the wizard with a frown. “Estë?”
Gandalf was gazing thoughtfully at the two hobbits. “You are a very good healer, Aragorn, but I suspect you had some assistance in looking after these two.”
“I doubt it not,” said Aragorn. He lay his hand gently on Sam’s curls. “Sam will be waking soon.”
“How can you tell?”
Aragorn smiled. “I doubt he will let Frodo walk too far ahead of him, even now.”
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.