Disclaimer: I own nothing from Lord of the Rings, be it movies or books.
A/N: Just a small one-shot I wrote after watching the reactions of Gandalf's death in FotR. Movie-based, my take on what happened following that.
The sword of time will pierce our skins
It doesn't hurt when it begins
But as it works its way on in
The pain grows stronger, watch it grin
-"Suicide Is Painless", Johnny Mandel
Aragorn walked up to Frodo, his eyes dark with concern and his own sorrow as he looked down at the small hobbit. Even since Bree, and Aragorn had looked upon that waifish, blue-eyed soul, almost too gentle for his own good, he had felt a measure of unfounded protectiveness for Frodo Baggins. It was a feeling that had only grown stronger since the trip to Rivendell, and had been cemented forever when he had held the small shuddering form in his arms after Weathertop, hearing the hobbit's stricken cries of pain echo in the air.
Frodo's eyes held the same amount of pain as they had on Weathertop, but it was a different, perhaps even rawer type of pain. This was not agony of the physical, Aragorn thought, and it was like a blow to the stomach: this was agony of the soul. It was something Aragorn, with all his abilities, simply could not heal. He almost flinched away from the sight of those pale and ethereal eyes looking up at him in such open despair, and he wanted to brush away the tears running silently down Frodo's face. It had been hard enough keeping himself from breaking down seeing the other hobbits collapsed on the rocks, weeping. Now it was nearly unbearable.
"You can't wander, Frodo," he said instead, surprising himself by how even his voice sounded. "It's dangerous enough without us all getting separated."
"We already are," Frodo answered softly, so softly Aragorn almost missed the words, and again he felt his breath catch in his throat. As he often did with Frodo, he found himself feeling utterly helpless. How could he possibly talk to someone so utterly cut off from the world with grief?
His rescue came in the form of the one thing he least expected.
Pippin's voice was wracked with sobs he was trying to hold back, and his face was twisted with misery and self-loathing. The young hobbit approached his cousin with Merry and Sam right behind him, and he seemed hesitant, almost as if he was afraid of being pushed away. "Frodo, I'm s-sorry, it was my f-fault," Pippin choked out, thoroughly dejected as he stood waiting for his cousin's wrath to fall. "I was s-stupid, and it was my fault--"
But instead of becoming angry, or blaming Pippin, as Aragorn knew many others would have—it had been Pippin, after all, who had called the goblins' attention to the Fellowship at Balin's tomb—Frodo merely shook his head, his own tears still falling hot and quick.
"Don't even think like that, Pip," he whispered, his voice thick, and suddenly the two of them were holding each other close and crying together, letting their grief run its course. Merry and Sam, struggling with their own sense of control, went and joined the embrace, for once completely united with the knowledge that they had lost one of their number. The Fellowship was now only eight where nine had once been, and the knowledge was a harsh pill to swallow. Legolas and Gimli and Boromir joined Aragorn's side, and the four Big Folk could only look on with aching hearts at the sight before them, and even Aragorn did not have the heart to tell them to march immediately.
When finally the hobbits' tears had stilled, and all that was left was tender throats, blurry eyes, and red noses, Aragorn told them they must continue on.
"We will only be safe if we reach the shelter of Lothlorien," he said gently. "Come now—we must go."
The hobbits looked up at him, squinting in the harsh light of the sun, and Aragorn was struck by how disheveled they looked. Their curly hair was matted and stiffening with drying sweat, and dirt was fairly smudged on their faces, a layer of filth wrought from the conditions of Moria. Standing together, Frodo and Pippin and Sam all in a line and Merry behind them, they looked both vulnerable and unbreakable. They had had their first real taste of death, and time would only tell if they were ever to recover from it.
They were a doughty folk—Aragorn believed they would, if given the time to accept it.
That night, away from the mines of Moria and the site of Gandalf's fall, they sheltered themselves in a small overhang that dipped slightly into the earth, and there hid themselves as best they could. The nights were becoming bitter with approaching winter, and they had trouble becoming comfortable. Tonight, however, it didn't matter to any of them—their sadness wiped all other thoughts away.
If any of the Fellowship noticed the four hobbits lying in a pile, Frodo and Pippin in the middle and Sam and Merry outside, they chose not to mention it.
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.