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'It was a near thing,' Elessar told the worried hobbits, 'a near thing indeed. He was so very ill that he didn't realise...'
'He didn't realise how very ill he was,' Frodo put in grimly.
Elessar looked at the Ring-bearer, standing to his full diminutive height, hands loosely clenched, jaw tight and eyes full of life and purpose, and he blessed Pippin's illness for bringing Frodo out of himself. There was no sign of brooding, now, no abstracted manner, but rather determination. Frodo, for Pippin's sake, was taking up the fight.
'He concealed his illness because he didn't want to spoil the Coronation,' Merry said with a grimace, 'and besides, it was...'
'...only a cold,' he and Frodo finished together.
'Well he's on the mend,' Elessar said. 'Draughts and rubs, hot onion poultices to clear his chest, simmering herbs and steam... and that brings us to another question. How will we keep him abed, once his energy returns? He is still very weary, and his cough wears him out enough to make him contented to sleep, but he has no crushing injuries to keep him confined this time when he starts to feel better...'
Frodo looked to Merry, who appeared to be at a loss.
'He's not one to lie abed,' Sam said, shaking his head, carefully not looking at his beloved Master. Secretly he was rejoicing to see Frodo completely caught up in the matter of Pippin, and not lost in reflection as he too often had been of late.
'Well then,' Frodo said. 'You say he's on the mend...'
'Yes,' Elessar intoned gravely, not at all the cheerful tone one would expect when talking about someone recovering from an illness. 'But if he gets up too soon, before his lungs are clear, the lung fever might return--no, will return, and carry him off before...'
'We cannot have that!' Merry said in alarm. 'Frodo, what's to be done?'
For a moment Sam thought the younger cousin had overplayed his role, but Frodo was distracted by his own worry for the youngest cousin.
'There was a time or two, back in the Shire, when we had to keep Pippin in his bed longer than he cared to stay there,' Frodo said, a look of grim determination in his eye. 'Just leave it to us, Elessar. We'll take care of it.'
Unaccountably, Merry laughed, and Frodo's look softened as the cousins exchanged wry glances.
And then the Ring-bearer began to chuckle, and Sam gave the King a conspiratorial nod.
in which the King reassures his youngest Knight
Contributed by shirebound
Over the long months he had known them, Aragorn had learned to read the emotions of his hobbit friends better than most. Frodo and Merry had nearly identical reactions to distress -- a tenseness in their bearing, eyes guarded as they worked out how to solve something. But there was very little guarded about Sam; his 'plain hobbit sense' rarely allowing him to hide anything for long. He felt it was better to get things out in the open, find a practical solution, and 'get on with it.' And then there was Pippin...
Aragorn hesitated outside the door of Pippin's room. When Pippin grew too quiet, for too long, it was a sure sign of something troubling the youngster. With a soft knock, he pushed open the door. The flowers, books, gaily-colored quilts and pillows, and softly glowing lamps brightening the room could not disguise the presence of a variety of medicines arranged on one of the tables -- draughts, syrups, poultices, small basins, gentle salves... whatever might be needed.
Pippin was sitting up, partially supported by pillows, a small picture-book of Faramir's lying in his lap. As Aragorn approached the bed, he could see that Pippin was fighting sleep.
"Hello, Strider," Pippin murmured. He frowned in the direction of the laden table. "Time for more of those..." He grimaced at the memory of the taste of some of the medicines.
"No," Aragorn said with a smile. He sat on the bed next to his small patient. "I thought we might talk for a few minutes, Pippin."
"Has anything happened?" Pippin was instantly alert, braced for bad news. "Is someone else sick?"
"Everyone is fine."
"That's good," Pippin said quietly. He fell silent, asking not a single one of his usual questions about meals, activities in the Citadel, or when he might be let out of bed.
"Pippin," Aragorn began, "I know this confinement is difficult, but I believe there is something else bothering you." He met his young friend's troubled eyes. "Can you tell me about it?"
Pippin cast his eyes down, then finally nodded slightly. "After everything we all went through, and becoming a Knight of the City and all..." He plucked absently at the blankets. "I was starting to feel... older. Now everyone has to waste their time taking care of me, like... like a child."
"I see," Aragorn said thoughtfully. "I understand how you feel. I spent half my life feeling like a child, Pippin, even after I was fully an adult; even after I began learning to act courageously, be a leader, and put the welfare of others ahead of my own."
"Then why did you feel like a child?" Pippin asked, puzzled.
Aragorn laughed. "Because I grew up amongst Elves -- ancient, wise folk who see all mortals as such. Besides, they rarely become ill. Can you imagine how I would feel, as an adult warrior, when -- ill or injured -- I found myself being tended and cosseted by Lord Elrond or his sons as if I were five years old?"
"You do understand," Pippin said wonderingly. "I've felt so very grown up recently, and hadn't given much thought to the fact that I'll be returning to the Shire still an 'irresponsible tween', as they say. They may still see me as a child, whatever else I have done."
"They may," Aragorn said gravely, "but you have gained the respect of some of the most honored folk in the West. Wear that proudly, Pippin. And someday, you will find someone very special who sees you as you see yourself... or perhaps even more than you see yourself. Whatever your age, from that moment on, you will never feel like a child again."
"Did that happen for you?" Pippin asked.
"It did," Aragorn said, a smile lighting his face. "However young and impulsive her brothers may at first have thought of me, when I gained the regard of Arwen Undómiel, my life was transformed. What I have achieved, I have done for her... for us. From the first time we met and spoke, she saw me as I could become, and I have strived to match her vision."
"I'm so very happy for you, Strider," Pippin said earnestly.
"Thank you, Pippin." Aragorn replied. "And as for you... it is not so dreadful, is it, being lavished with all this attention? It is a joy for us to do so."
"No," Pippin grinned suddenly. "It's not so dreadful, I suppose." He yawned, his eyelids growing heavy. "Thank you for telling me about Lady Arwen."
"It is her opinion that I value most," Aragorn said, tucking the hobbit under the blankets. "Perhaps, as you lie here, you can decide what you value and desire most, and how to work to achieve it."
"I already know," Pippin replied. "What I desire is… to be brave and true, and earn the high regard of..." He stopped speaking, his eyes suddenly brimming with tears.
"Yes?" Aragorn prompted.
"My King," Pippin whispered.
Aragorn looked down at the hobbit and smiled. "Then you will need to set a new goal, Peregrin Took," he said softly, "for you already have your King's highest regard."
Pippin beamed with joy. Aragorn sat with him while he fell asleep, and -- although Pippin did not know it -- remained for a long time after, watching over his young and treasured knight.
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