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RETURNING THE FAVOR
I was so excited to show him what I found that I couldn't help running through the corridors to his room - even though I know the Big Folk (and Minas Tirith is full of Big Folk) don't like it when I do that. It makes them nervous they say. But I just couldn't help it today. So, I ran. The door was closed when I got there, but I didn't knock, because I never knock - not with family, not with Frodo. I know he's not meaning to close me out.
You would think that being as tall as I am now that I'd feel right at home in this place, but even with my extra inches, I'm still a bit smaller than the ones this place was built for, it would seem. The door knobs, for instance, though they are no longer at my chin level, are still a bit too high for me to comfortably open. I still have to reach up quite a bit higher than the Big Folk would, so it just creates an odd angle for turning. That's why the door clattered open as it did. I wasn't intending it to be such a boisterous entrance.
An apology was already on my lips as I turned to close the door back - quietly. But as I glanced around the room, I found that an apology wouldn't have been heard anyway. Frodo was asleep.
After I managed to get that gargantuan door soundlessly closed, I crossed the room to his bed. He had fallen asleep reading again, the book laying still open on his lap, propped up on a pillow so he didn't have to support it's considerable weight as he read. One slender, white hand still held one corner of the book while the other lay at rest on a page.
Frodo himself was also propped on pillows, a good position for reading tomes perhaps, but it didn't seem to serve him as well for sleeping. His head, bless him and his book loving heart, was listed over to one side, his chin nearly resting on his own shoulder. I hoped he hadn't been laying that way for long because if he had, he'd surely have a sore neck (to add to all his other aches and pains) when he awoke.
For all that he didn't look at all comfortable in that awkward position, he seemed to be resting well. His mouth was just slightly open and his breathing was a bit noisy. He wasn't snoring really, but just breathing slowly and heavily through his mouth - a sure sign he was deeply asleep. I listened closely to make sure his breathing wasn't labored in any way, and it wasn't. I suppose we've all become accustomed to watching over him like that, especially Merry and Sam and me - and Aragorn, of course who will let no healer tend to Frodo in his stead. It's funny how things change. Before the quest, it was always me that every one felt the need to look out for, but now it's me doing the looking.
While I'm looking at him, I'm happy to note that at least he has a bit of color in his cheeks, though I hope the flush is only from his deep and restful sleep rather than from the start of a fever. Looking at him like this, with his face in a gentle repose, he looks so young. He's never really aged a day since I remember, because of the Ring, of course - not his face anyway.
Even now, after all he's been through, his face is still unlined, unwrinkled. I nearly expected him to be like Bilbo was after having given up the Ring...all the hidden years seeming to catch up to him all at once. But it appears he'll be young looking a while longer - his face will, at least. But his eyes - those remarkable eyes of his that no one could ever quite pin down to coming from either his Mum or Da, those eyes that are his alone, they know what his face does not. They know where he's been, what he's seen, what he's been though. They tell no lies - they don't know how. Sometimes I wish they did. Sometimes I look at him, and those eyes are so full of pain that goes so much deeper than his body, that I can nearly feel it, too. But, as I look at him laying there with the afternoon sunlight casting shifting patterns of light and shade over his bed, those haunted eyes are closed, hiding those deep wells of secrets behind innocent lids, dressed as they are in dark, feathery lashes flaunting themselves over his cheeks.
Such dark hair he has for someone so fair of complexion. It's funny that I never really noticed it until I saw him lying (so often) against white pillows. He had it trimmed not long ago, but it's still long enough to be unruly - even by hobbit standards and as he lays there with his head cocked to the side as it is, a bit of it has found it's way down his forehead and nearly into his eye. I tried brushing it back, but it just springs back to where it apparently wants to be, so I give up and let it lie where it pleases.
I know there must have been a place marker for that book he was holding, for surely no reasonable person would've ever expected to finish a book that size in one sitting, but as I seek it out, it's not to be found. Well, I'm nothing if not resourceful, Took that I am, so I use the reason for my visit in the first place, the thing I ran all the way here to show him, to mark his place.
As I pulled it from my pocket, I gaped at it as I had when I first spotted it and ran my fingers down it's soft length. I've seen plenty of bird feathers in my life, but never one quite like this one. For one thing, it's much larger than the ones a hobbit typically finds on a jaunt through the woods of the Shire. Not as big as I imagine a single feather from one of the Great Eagles would be, but much bigger than a regular bird feather. Aragorn said it was a 'parrot' feather - from a 'Macaw' he said he thought it was. They only live in southern climes he said, and I believe it, for I certainly have never seen the like of a bird this feather would fit! He said they weren't really what you could call 'common' in these parts, but not unheard of, either. Maybe it was a refugee from all the destruction of war, just like so many of the people flooding this city are.
The other odd thing about this particular feather, the thing about it that first caused me to spot it, lying amongst a pile of leaves, is its color. Blue - but not just any blue, not even just like the brilliant blue of a normal blue jay, but blue like I've never really seen on anything else - except perhaps in Frodo's eyes a time or two. They change shade according to all sorts of things - from what color he's wearing to what kind of mood he's in. I'm sure I've seen his eyes this particular shade of blue at some point. It reminded me of him immediately when I saw it. I just had to show him. He can see it later, I suppose.
I lay the feather against the crack of the pages and slowly slide the book out of Frodo's lax hands, watching his face the whole time to make sure he doesn't wake from the sudden movement. When I have the tome fully in my hands alone, I close it on the feather and glance at the title on the cover. "Gondorian History - An Unabridged Account" - no wonder he fell asleep!
I laid the book aside and sat myself down on the edge of Frodo's bed. For a moment, I just sat looking at him as he rested, completely oblivious to my presence. It's good to see him resting, for that is what he truly needs more than anything else. There's been little else besides banqueting and feasting since we arrived here. Every night it's a new party to attend. All well and good if you are well and good, but anyone with even a touch of hobbit sense should have been able to see that Frodo was not yet well or good. Far from it, actually. But Frodo wouldn't admit it, least of all to himself. It took his actually falling over in the middle of one of the biggest parties yet to prove it to him. I wonder if he even remembers Aragorn picking him up and carrying him back with Sam, Merry and me all tagging worriedly at his side. We were all relived to hear Aragorn say after checking him thoroughly that he seemed to be simply exhausted still and in need of rest from his terrible journey and grievous wounds. Our Frodo was not yet well.
I don't think he even woke up that night. Slept right through to morning. We were all there to greet him when he did open his eyes, of course. And all there to make him stay in bed when he would have gotten up. When will he ever learn? Never, I suppose. Too much stubborn Baggins in him to do otherwise. Still, when I think of it more, I'm glad he's got so much of that stubbornness, for I'd say it was as much that as anything that carried him to the very end of the world to complete his awful task. Just because everything was against his doing it, he had to do it all the more.
Anyway, that was three nights ago and Aragorn's only allowed him up to use the privy since then. He said he might let him get up for a walk tomorrow if he's still feeling relatively well and shows no signs of a fever. I hope again that those rosy cheeks of his are just a sign of deep slumber. When I lay the back of my hand against them, they are warm, but I'm not sure if they are too warm.
Slowly I pull out a couple of the pillows behind Frodo's head, careful not to jostle him awake. When I've got him laying down a bit more, I ease his head to rest in a more comfortable position and this time am successful when I try brushing the hair from his face. I half expected him to wake up when I did that, but he sleeps on.
His night shirt looks like it might be a bit twisted under him, but I don't dare try to fix it and spoil his sleep. The one he's wearing was evidently made right here in Minas Tirith, and recently too, for someone has taken the care to stitch, in silver thread, the White Tree on one shoulder of the garment. Very lovely it is and reminds me a bit of my armor. But you tell me, why it is, that someone would take such care to add detail like that for the Ringbearer to wear, and then, not make sure it fits him? If I remember correctly, they got the length almost right, though you can only see Frodo's toes sticking out from beneath it when he stands. I guess they didn't know that hobbits generally like their night shirts to only come to a mid-calf length.
I suppose they must have envisioned one who was able to carry the Ring all the way to Mordor as a much bigger person than Frodo is. As the Ringbearer lays there sleeping in a night-shirt made supposedly just for him, one slim shoulder lays exposed, for they have cut it much to broadly. I remember watching him one morning as he sat eating his breakfast in just his night-shirt. Every other bite or so, he'd have to reach up and haul one shoulder of the garment or the other back up. Why did they have to make it so big? Didn't they take measurements? Didn't they believe them if they did? Perhaps they didn't believe that shoulders so small could carry such a burden? It'll be good to get back to the Shire if only so he can have clothes that truly fit him again. I don't think I've seen him in anything that truly fit (other than his ceremonial clothes) since he's been back. Seeing him laying there with that little exposed shoulder reminds me of the first time I saw him after the quest. As if I could ever forget that sight. He was in a garment too big for him that day, too, with a little shoulder peeking out.
I had run to him that day as well. Well, as best I could anyway, with a partially healed leg of my own. I was so excited to hear he was there and couldn't wait to see him and tell him of all the 'adventures' Merry and I have had since we parted and to hear of all his as well. Of course, I donned my armor and finery for him, since he had missed seeing me in it in the battle. When I arrived at his tent, he was apparently having his bed linens changed and had just had a bath himself as well, his hair still damp and smelling of soap.
I don't know what I was expecting. Whatever it was, it had not prepared me for what I actually found that day. He was laying, not in a bed or cot, but in Aragorn's arms. I'll never forget how tiny and fragile he looked right then. Aragorn was bent over whispering something into his ear as I walked in, but looked up and smiled at me as I stopped stock still in the door way. I think it might have been one of the only times in my life when I was able to be so, but I was completely silent as I crossed the small space separating us.
Aragorn sat holding him, on a low stool as servants changed the bed linens. When I reached their side, I knelt in front of them and just stared for the longest time. It was so hard to believe that the tiny, doll like body, covered in evidence of torment, in Aragorn's arms was my own Frodo. I was nearly afraid to touch him - he just looked so very fragile cradled there in Aragorn's arms like that. But I did it anyway. I finally reached out my hand and very gently caressed his face. It was so pale and thin and his lips were actually a shade of pale blue. Aragorn said he was afraid Frodo's lungs might have suffered some permanent damage from all the poisoned smoke and fumes he'd breathed in that foul place. His eyes were closed, of course, in deep, healing sleep, thank the Valar and Aragorn. I kissed his temple gently and whispered my hello, but of course he didn't respond, and I'm glad he didn't for that would have meant I had disturbed his rest. He slept on. As I cried, burying my face in his newly washed curls, my tears mingling with them to further dampen his hair, he rested on, bless him. The shoulder that lay exposed in the night shirt that was too big for it, felt cool against my cheek as I laid it there. That poor little shoulder! So battered and bruised - I pray the Valar that the kiss I laid there helped somehow.
I believe it's the same shoulder that's laying bare in front of me now. If it is, it certainly looks better than it did that day. The bruising is gone and the scrapes and cuts are healed, but it's still so terribly thin and it still feels cool when I very gently lay my cheek against it again. Just for a moment I let my head rest there, my nose just brushing his warm cheek. My heart whispers a prayer of thanks that he is still with us at all, for I know just how close he came to not.
I'm very gentle with him now, where once I was always rough and tumble, a habit developed in my earliest childhood. Growing up as I did in a house with nothing but girls (save my Da), it was always nice to have Frodo around to play with. Mother and my sisters were always afraid something was going to get broken or that I was going to get hurt if we played rough. Frodo didn't worry though, and for the most part, the rougher he was with me, the better I liked it. It didn't take me long to get used to making sneak attacks on him as he innocently walked by - even after I out-weighed him by a stone or two. Being grown up didn't stop us from 'wrestling like a couple of naughty pups', as my Mum put it. Why, right up to the quest, we were still going at it.
But now...I wouldn't pounce one him for the world. He still seems so fragile to me, even now, months after it's all over. I keep hoping he's going to get well - that his health will be restored fully. But now, though I try to deny it, a bit of doubt begins to creep into the edges of my mind.
His hands and arms are still laying outside the coverlet where they were holding the book. When I reach out to feel them, they seem cold to me, so I gently take them up, each in turn and lay them beneath the sheet. I'm extra careful with the left one as I know his shoulder still pains him sometimes when he moves that arm. His face shows no sign of pain now however, and he sighs contentedly and burrows his head a bit as I draw the coverlet up to his chin. Slowly I lift myself from his bed and smooth the blankets. For a while, I just stand there and wonder how often he may have put me to bed in a similar manner when I was very small. I do remember a few times - hazy memories, but memories all the same. I remember him carrying me through the halls of Bag End, to his own bed. My head rested on his shoulder as I was a dead weight in his arms. What a warm, comfortable memory that is. Many of my memories of Frodo are that way. I just pray the Valar that I can return the favor.
One more time I lean over him and press a kiss to his temple. "Rest well, cousin." I whisper. "Pip's here."
I'll be right here when he wakes.
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