Disclaimer: I do not own any of these characters. They belong to J.R.R. Tolkien

True Friends

The gentle hobbit of the Shire awoke to nearly every muscle in his body aching. He had not remembered such a terrible ache in his back as the pain drained every ounce of strength from him. It seemed to the Ring-bearer, that his life these days were full of horrible dreams and the scars left on his pale skeleton reminded him everyday. Aragorn told him it might take time to recover from his trials, but soon everything would fall in place and that Frodo would start to live a normal life.

Blinking sleep away, he attempted to turn his body from its fetal position onto his back when a sharp pain claimed his right knee as he tried to straighten it out. Tears of anguish erupted immediately as he cried silently, gripping the bed covers until his knuckles turned white.

A door opened silently, admitting Sam and Aragorn into the Ring-bearer's room. Sam, as always, had gotten up early to wash then retrieve breakfast for his master. He had met the King in the hallway and was only too happy to help with the burden of opening the heavy wooden door for the gardener as he was holding a heavy tray laden with his and Frodo's breakfast.

Upon entering, the stout hobbit unloaded his burden upon a low table that was once a coffee table, but now served as a dining table for the halflings. Making his way into the bed chambers, his sensitive hearing picked up a muffled cry coming from the tall bed. Fear in his eyes that someone had hurt his master, Sam quickly hopped up on the three step stool as he called for the King, "Strider!"

Aragorn, who had been eying the breakfast tray since some other halfling in his court helped himself to the sausages from his abandoned plate, was picking up a link off of Sam's tray sticking it in his mouth as he heard him being summoned. Choking down the meat, he ran to the Ring-bearer's room appalled at the scene before him.

Frodo was unusually pale, a death grip upon the coverlet, tears streaming uncontrollably from the sky blue eyes, staring blankly into the King's face.

Brushing back damp curls, the King's hands felt the little forehead for any fever. When he found the skin cool beneath his touch, he questioned the hobbit,"Frodo, where do you hurt?" he asked knowing that he was obviously in pain. After a moment with no answer, he gently pried small fingers from the quilt then lifted stiff arms, pulling it slowly away from Frodo's body. Aragorn watched the Ring-bearer's face grimace with pain, his breathing becoming rapid.

"What is wrong with him, Strider?" Sam asked as he had taken the stool and placed it on the other side of the bed and climbed up.

"I do not know. He has complained of many body aches the last couple of days. He..." Aragorn stopped as a small voice entered the conversation.

"Do not talk as if I am not here," Frodo whispered, lips tight as his gaze finally focused on Strider.

"Where are you hurting, Tithen Min?" Aragorn asked concerned, stroking the curls back from the sweaty brow.

Taking a deep breath, Frodo groaned as he exhaled, "You use that as a term of endearment, my lord," he said and immediately wanted to take it back.

Strider's hand ceased its movement over the Ring-bearer's head, stunned as the words cut through him.

"Please, I am sorry," the Ring-bearer apologized placing a hand on his exposed knee. "The leg is just stiff. The pain is abating as we speak," Frodo said with a forced smile upon his face.

"You're hurtin', Mr. Frodo and no mistake. Strider jus' wants to help," Sam said, biting his lower lip, understanding that he may have just gone beyond his station. He was only thinking of his master.

"No, Sam. If Frodo says the pain is leaving, then I believe him. So, if you both will excuse me, I leave you two to break your fast," the King stood from the bed, bowing. The tall man then turned on his booted heel and left the chambers without looking back.

"Mr. Frodo? What has gotten into you? Strider has always cared for your well being as well as your cousins," Sam chastised.

Rolling his eyes at the obvious, Frodo sat up as the pain really had subsided. He was already thinking of ways to apologize to Aragorn before the King decided to throw him in the dungeon for being sarcastic. He started with Sam, "I did not mean to snap, Sam. I have just been so tired as of late of just being tired and sore. Especially my back."

"Well, maybe you should use that on Strider. He seemed awfully put out," the gardener stated the obvious in his no nonsense way. He set the table with the meal he brought and called, "Come on. Breakfast is waiting. Might as well repentant on a full stomach."