While on the march --
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement is intended. This story is not meant to violate the rights held by New Line, Tolkien Enterprises, nor any other licensee, nor is any disrespect intended. I don’t own Tolkien’s original characters, however, my OC’s, Gwinthorian, Garrick, Devon and several other Rangers are exclusively my own.
An Objectionable Companion
Frodo bravely tries to hide it when he's struggling. Unless Aragorn asks me to scout ahead or he needs my vision to scan something on the horizon, I usually take the rear guard while on the march, and from this vantage point I can keep a watchful eye over the entire Fellowship, especially the little ones. When Frodo is brooding or perhaps simply feeling tired, he will often drop back to walk with his Sam. But rather than strolling next to Sam, Frodo will walk alongside Bill's neck, running his small hand through the pony's mane, or sometimes simply holding on to it, as though seeking comfort from the steady, loyal Bill. Sam always knows his Frodo's disposition. Often he will chat softly to him but at times he will simply plod along quietly, allowing Frodo his solitude. Such was the case today.
We were several hours away from the copse where Aragorn wanted to stop for the evening, and for the last quarter hour or so I had been watching Frodo walking along, his little fingers laced through Bill's shaggy mane. Sam had been leaving his master to his private thoughts, but casting him frequent glances. Not for the first time I longed for Aragorn's Dúnedain sensibilities. Even without them, though, I saw Frodo's weariness. So I stepped up my pace, heading for the two little ones, speaking softly as I approached.
"Holding up all right are we, gentlemen?" I asked. "We shall be on the march but a few more hours."
Frodo and Sam swiftly turned to look at me.
"Aye, Legolas," Sam said. "Doing just fine, and so's good ol' Bill."
Sam then darted a look towards Frodo, evidently unwilling to say anything about his master's state. Unfailingly honest, Sam would likely tell me that, in his opinion, Frodo seemed 'a bit done in.' Instead he shot me a hurried look of concern that said much.
Frodo, seeming oblivious and vague, merely patted Bill and cast me a forced smile. "Fine, thank you, Legolas," he said, and he held the pony's mane again.
I strode forward, saying, "Well, I have need of some company."
I scooped up Frodo, settling him on my hip ere he finished his soft gasp. Winking at Sam, who gave me a grateful smile, I stood still for a moment, dropping back into the rear guard position with my halfling, then started off again. Meanwhile, Frodo, his small body taut, his slender legs wrapped around my waist and his little bottom nestled against my forearm, put up a token fuss.
"Legolas, put me down!" he demanded with utterly unconvincing ire. "Thank you for your concern, but it's unnecessary. I'm fine. I can walk. Please. I'm perfectly able to keep pace with everyone else. I was keeping pace with everyone. And I don't need to be carried. Or coddled. Or overprotected."
I listened to his sputters, knowing he was not nearly as provoked as he was trying to appear. His sputters lacked any real power. He sounded tired.
"Why all this fussing, little one?" I asked him. "Pippin loves to be carried."
"Then go carry Pippin," Frodo grumped. "Put me down and I'll run ahead and send him back here and he can keep you company."
"No, thank you," I said, weaving my fingers together beneath his backside and gently bouncing him a few times. "I am content."
He wriggled a bit and huffed at me and said, "Honestly! You big folk think you can just scoop up a hobbit and tote him around any time you feel like it."
"Aye, we do," I said, smiling at him. "Because we can scoop up a hobbit and tote him around any time we feel like it. And I feel like it right now. So, if you would be so kind as to oblige me, fussy young Master Baggins, I request the honor of your company during the last leg of today's march." Frodo narrowed his eyes and studied me with a mildly reproachful frown. "Ai, little one," I said. "Am I that objectionable a companion?"
He blinked, his expression melting into a quizzical, bashful gaze, his cheeks becoming pink, his eyes growing wide. He looked as though he suddenly wondered why he was fighting me. I grinned at him. Frodo was adorable.
"He yet harbors an infatuation for you, mellon nin," Aragorn had said a few nights ago after the march. Sitting far enough away from the halflings to avoid being overheard, we watched Frodo gaze at the fire, his eyes glassy, his chin resting on his gathered up knees.
"It is innocent and you know it," I said, catching Aragorn's warmly amused sideways glance. "And you are enjoying this far too much, sir."
Aragorn chuckled softly. "I know Frodo is devoted to his Sam. But, Legolas, come, you must admit, the little one's veiled attraction to you is endearing."
I released a soft scowl, making him chuckle again. "I know that none here would dare dream of mentioning it to him," I said, "save perhaps our naughty wee Took."
"Mmm. Although Pippin's mud bath and the spanking you gave him seems to have helped cure his ill-mannered teasing."
"Aye, but Frodo has enough on his mind without taking on the extra burden of an infatuation," I said. "I . . . I feel for his distress."
Aragorn reached behind me and rubbed his hand over my back. My tight muscles began to ease. "He is but mildly distressed, elfling mine," Aragorn said. "And he is not overly plagued by it. For all we know you help distract him from his quite real and overwhelming burden. But there is nothing you can do about it save allow him his feelings." Aragorn grinned again. "I myself cannot fault him his choice."
My cheeks flushed with warmth and I shot my Ranger a glare and called him a filthy name in elvish. He laughed softly, leaned over and murmured, "Careful, little one. Sam still has plenty of soap."
"No, Legolas," Frodo now said, softening and relaxing against me. "Of course you are not an objectionable companion. I'm sorry I was so, so . . .."
He grimaced at the word, then gave me a look of nervous concern. "I just . . . I just . . .."
I felt his eyes upon me, but I watched the ground, giving him a moment.
"I just don't want to take advantage," he finally said in a small voice. "You've been on the march all day, too. Why take on an extra burden when you must be growing tired as well?"
I bit back a laugh and turned to him. "Ahhhh, Frodo," I said, kissing his dewy cheek. "You are no burden. Remember, I carried your Sam on my back in that 'nipper sling' for a full day when he was ill. I could easily carry you like this all day, sweetling."
Ah. A small shy grin. I bounced him a few more times, making him giggle. "So is your fussing at an end, sir?"
He blushed more. "Yes, Legolas."
"Good," I said, giving him another small kiss. "Then keep me company, pretty one."
Frodo watched me for a long moment, then he reached out and I felt his hand glide down my hair, petting a path from the back of my head down past my shoulders. He picked up my braid and played with it, then stroked my hair again. I watched him from the corner of my eye. My little Ringbearer was weary indeed, his guarded constraints melting away. His eyes were wide and shiny and transfixed, as though he was not fully aware of what he was doing. He smoothed his palm down my hair several more times, relaxing ever more and more, then Frodo sighed and lay his sweet head upon my shoulder, his arms draping loosely around my neck.
"Very well, sir," he said, a smile in his voice. "I suppose I can keep you company for a while."
"Can you indeed?" I chuckled, giving his bottom a small swat.
Frodo squeaked and sniffed a laugh against my shoulder. "Not if you're going to assault me, though," he said. "Any more of that and I shall call my Sam back here to deal with you."
"I promise to restrain myself," I said, hearing him smile again.
"In that case, thank you for the ride, Leg'las," he said in a drowsy purr, snuggling against me. Suddenly he yawned, a long, hushed yawn. I cuddled him closer.
I knew not what fate had in store for this precious little one, but I felt a fierce protectiveness of him roar within me, the same surge of protectiveness I experienced when I first laid eyes upon him at Elrond's Council.
"Rest, sweet Frodo," I murmured against his soft curls. "Be at ease. I have you. You are safe."
I need not have uttered a word. My little Ringbearer was fast asleep.