This story is mine but characters belong to tolkien.

Summary: The Fellowship has stopped for the evening. As they sleep, Frodo's shoulder is hurting and Aragorn finds out there is a link

A Growing Trust

The Fellowship had been traveling since dawn with a few breaks for meals. Gandalf could hear the footfalls of the Hobbits. Even though they were quick and quiet on their feet, the footfalls were getting heavy from exhaustion. He had noticed at one time that Boromir had taken Pippin onto his back, then would give Merry a ride. Sam, on the other hand would not accept any "piggy back" rides from the Men. He preferred to follow his master. They were so tired, he had to help Frodo gain his feet a couple of times.

Aragorn made his way to the front of the line with few strides coming up along side of Gandalf, "Are we stopping any time soon? The hobbits cannot keep up this pace," he stated matter of factly.

"I know of a place that provides cover. It is a bit further over that hill settling between some rocks and trees," Gandalf replied, knowing that Aragorn was just taking an interest in the halflings well being as well as the rest of the Fellowship. He did not want to mention the darkness that he was feeling that seemed to be getting closer. All that he knew, is that they needed to get to safety of cover and soon.

Pippin was the first to plop down on his bottom as soon as Gandalf called a halt to the march and declared that they were stopping for the night. "Could he have marched us all night?" Pippin asked wearily rubbing his aching feet.

"Peregrin Took..." Gandalf bellowed.

"Now you've done it," Merry whispered as he fell to his knees beside Pippin.

"I am just trying to provide the best place for safety, Now, if you would help gather wood, I am going to allow a fire tonight," he smiled down to the youngster.

"A fire? Really? It has been so long..." Pippin trailed off gathering what kindling as fast as he could, forgetting his aching feet all together.

Frodo and Sam began unloading Bill the pony of some of the burden. Since Sam had heard that they were going to have a fire, he had a good supper in mind. He could make a good beef stew. Then he could heat the apples with some cinnamon for a special treat. "I sure 'm glad Gandalf is letting us have a fire. I wonder what changed his mind, Mr. Frodo," Sam questioned as he and Frodo finished with the unpacking and he started to roll out their bedrolls.

Frodo had wondered too. It had been almost a week since they last had a fire. The nights were cool, but not that cool and had managed with eating cold meals. He knew Gandalf had a reason, but for right now he could not think clearly. His left shoulder started to ache when he last tripped on a pebble. Sam had helped him to his feet and he managed to conceal the grimace by bending over pretending to brush the dirt off of his knees.

"Do you think it wise, to have a fire tonight?" Legolas queried Aragorn. Legolas, perceptive as he may be, could not sense what Gandalf seemed to be worried about. He had only hoped that he had confided in Aragorn. With hands on hips, Aragorn had to just nod in understanding to his lifelong friend that he too was intending to find out why the sudden change.

Aragorn approached Gandalf at the edge of the clearing. With staff in hand, eyes closed, he seemed to be in some sort of tranch. Aragorn dared not to disturb him. As he began to walk away, a voice reached his ears. "We are being followed. That is all I will say. You know why there must be a fire. Protect the Ringbearer," Gandalf finished and slowly turned to face Aragorn.

"Surely, they would have been on us by now?"

"They are waiting for their leader. He is the one who can draw out the Ringbearer. He is the one that had stabbed Frodo," Gandalf cautioned.

Aragorn nodded and looked over the campsite. The fire blazed as the weary Fellowship sat around it, each had put their effort into helping Sam with the meal. As they waited, Gimli had found to sharpening his ax, Legolas preparing tips on more of his arrows. Boromir lightly entertaining Frodo's cousins, weaving tales of knights of the stone city, wonderous eyes widening by the minute. Then Sam started ladeling out the stew into cups and handing them out, each accepting in gratitude. "Let us go eat. Sam will have our hide if we do not sup with them tonight," he concluded.

The meal was devoured by each, savoring each hot spoonful. Then when Sam had made dessert, the Fellowship praised Sam. He blushed and hurriedly did the dishes, carefully putting his wares away. The fire stayed lit and was so ordered that each one to have watch was to make sure that it stayed that way.

It was Gimli's watch. He had managed to find a couple of larger rocks to perch on. One he was sitting on, the other resting his feet upon, ax ready to strike out at any intruder. He had started to think about this quest, his part and his likelyhood of going with an Elf of all people to travel with. He was beginning to like the blond headed princeling. But he did not want to let Legolas know that. It was bread in his nature to hate the Elves. His teachings were ebbing, realizing that everything he had been taught was not true. They were not horrid creatures ready to subdue their prey with magic and cause them harm. Then he heard it. A small moan brought him out of his reverie. He looked about the perimeter of the fire, eyes trying to adjust looking past to the pile of halflings on the other side. Another moan, just a little louder that time. He was sure it had come from the hobbits. Gimli stood up and jumped from his boulder, walking steathily to bedrolls on the other side of the fire, where he knew the hobbits lay.

When Gimli approached, he seen four hobbits all in a row. Sam was on the end to Frodo's right side with Pippin on his left pressed against Frodo's arm, Merry taking the outer side. They had huddled like this since Weathertop, never once changing their sleeping arrangements. Gimli peered closer to the group. Frodo's eyes were closed, but definitely the one moaning. His brows were furroughed and his right hand clenching his left shoulder.

Gimli did not want Frodo to wake his companions so he tried to rouse him, "Master Baggins?" he whispered. No reply. Gimli tried again, this time trying to use his ax handle to prod him, "Master Baggins?"

"What is wrong, Gimli?" Aragorn had approached quietly, startling the dwarf.

Blast Aragorn for living with the Elves. He is as quiet as they are on his feet. "Master Baggins. He does not bode well. I cannot rouse him. I am afraid that he will wake the others," Gimli pointed to the sweat now forming on Frodo's brow.

Aragorn leaned over Sam to peer at Frodo. Usually Sam hears every whimper from Frodo. Aragorn concluded he was truly exhausted if he could not hear his master's moans. Lightly Aragorn shook Frodo speaking his name,"Frodo, can you hear me?"

Frodo slowly opened his eyes. He had been having a nightmare again. He was in the dreamworld with the Ringwraiths, stabbing him again. He clutched harder to his shoulder, his knuckles turning white, while his left hand held the Ring. Aragorn noticed that Frodo was staring out into the night, not focusing on him at all. Sweat now drenching his brow, his breathing coming rapidly. Aragorn was about to shake Frodo from his nightmare when Gandalf ran up to them from nowhere waving his hands, "They are here!" he declared.

Piercing screams woke the Fellowship from their slumber. Fear creeping into their eyes. Hands to their ears as the Nazgul flew over. "Hide. Run for the bushes," Gandalf barked orders. Boromir grabbed Merry and Pippin quickly, running for cover before dropping to his knees to cover his ears again. With Legolas's keen hearing, he was rendered useless against this foe and concentration was hard to maintain to get an arrow to fly straight and true before he had to cover his ears. Sam and Gimli both huddled to one another close to where Merry and Pippin were, eyes locked in to where Aragorn was trying to subdue Frodo long enough to get a hold of him.

Frodo screamed out as pain assailed him. Grabbing harder at his shoulder trying to make it go away. He had closed his eyes, tears of pain streaming down his face. He tried curling up on his left side, but big hands restrained him from doing so. He fought with all the strength he had left, but to no avail. Those big hands gathered him into their arms and was carrying him away. He did not want to go. Another piercing scream. Struggling as hard as he could he could not escape. "No! You will not take me!" he cried out. Then he heard a familiar voice, singing the tale of Luthien. A smell of leather, and pipe weed. Frodo slowly opened his eyes. He was under some kind of bush, in Aragorn's arms. "Naz-gul," he breathed hard, eyes rolling back in his head. Aragorn looked down at his small charge, still humming. "Stabbing...me! Make...it...stop!" Frodo pleaded.

Tears ran down Aragorn's face, quickly finding that life still flowed in Frodo.. Aragorn did not know how they were going to escape this one. He prayed the little one in his arms had the strength to survive this ordeal. Frodo's breathing was labored and the pain in his shoulder increased each time the Nazgul screamed. Then it dawned on him. They were linked. That is what Gandalf had warned him about. He held onto the shuddering body, hoping his humming was having some kind of calming effect on him. Out of the corner of his eye, Aragorn spotted Gandalf at the fire, holding his staff high above his head, chanting. WHOOSH, the flame stretched higher and seemed to grow brighter. Aragorn could make out a shape high above them. But it was not out of the range of the flame as it licked at the Nazgul's beast's wings, catching them on fire. The Nazgul retreated back towards Mordor. They were safe for the time being. Aragorn breathed a sigh of relief.

Sam was the first to rush on Aragorn and Frodo before they were even out of their hiding place. "Mr.Frodo? Can you hear me. Open your eyes," Sam soothed brushing back the damp hair that had been drenched with sweat. Aragorn knew Sam meant well, but he needed to check Frodo over. "Sam, boil some athelas, please? He will be all right until you return." Aragorn coaxed.

"Yes, 'm right on it." and he left to his duties.

Aragorn still was crowded by Merry and Pippin, but not that close. He could use their help. "Merry, call to him, and Pippin..." he had noticed that Pippin already had hold of Frodo's left hand. Keeping it away from that Ring. "That is good, Pippin. Now let me see if he will let go of his shoulder," Aragorn pried Frodo's right hand from his shoulder, one finger at a time.

The Ringbearer's eyes slowly opened, gazing from Aragorn, then Merry, then Pippin. The pain had subsided in his shoulder, but he felt very drained. He barely had the strength to speak, so he did not. His eyes conveyed his questions for him.

"It was the Nazgul, Frodo. You two are linked. I am going to warm your shoulder with a rub and then you may have some athelas. You need to rest. To keep up your strength. Do not fight me on this little one. Understand?" Aragorn commanded, knowing if he was not stern, Frodo would not comply. Frodo nodded and squeezed Pippin's hand. The Ranger smiled and gently lifted the Ringbearer into his arms once more and carried him to his awaiting bedroll. Sam approached with the athelas tea and retrieved the jar of cream from Aragorn's pack. Frodo then felt cool air hit his shoulder then the cream being worked into his skin, he wanted to drift off to sleep. "Not yet, Frodo, you must drink the athelas," the kind Ranger stated, putting a cup to his lips and lifting him up to drink the brew. After Frodo had finished the tea, he was spent. He was not able to keep his eyes opened any further, wanting to desperately succumb to the vast darkness that awaited him. Sam patted Frodo's brow with the Athelas mixture making him comfortable as possible, watching him sleep peacefully.

Satisfied with the progress, Aragorn got up to leave Frodo in Sam's care. Before he made it, a hand reached out staying him. It was Sam. "Thank you, Strider," he stated in his no nonsense way, trusting Strider more each day.

the end.