Title: Little Light, Little Hope
Author: TrinityTheSheDevil
Beta: Rhonda, aka LeggyLover03
Rating: PG, maybe venturing into PG 13
Archive: Just ask!
Summary: AU - In Moria, the walls seem to have a mind of their own. Aragorn finds this out the hard way, and the hobbits realize they have an inner strength greater than they knew.
A/N: This was a quick (well ... quickly written in the time I actually worked on it) one shot that I wanted to finish before ending "Innocently Accused". When written, it was never meant to be very long, so forgive me for the ending! One day in the distant future I may go back and work on the rest, but for now this will have to do:)

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Aragorn wasn't quiet sure how it had happened. One moment, he had sighed in relief as the door collapsed on the Watcher, and the next ... he fearfully looked on as the ceiling shook above the hobbits. It was an automatic decision, not one he spent more than a moment (if that) thinking on. It was only natural for him to sacrifice himself and push the hobbits out of the way. He had, however, planned on clearing the rockfall himself.

Of course ... fate always has different plans. And that was how he had found himself buried under quite a lot of heavy rocks. Breathing seemed far too difficult than it should have been and the copper taste of blood lingered on his tongue. He could hear voices - the hobbits, probably - screaming for him. But he could do nothing besides fight the ringing in his ears and the encroaching darkness on the edge of his awareness.

He resolved not to go down like this. To be slain by mere rocks in the doorway of Moria. So on he fought, until at last clarity came to him with a painful thrust. He was now fully aware of the sharp rocks digging into his back and legs, and the blood trickling down his side. Pain like no other embraced him, as if it were a long-lost lover. Gasping dryly, he finally answered the voices that were frantic with panic.

"'ere. I'm ... here!"

"Strider! Oh, thank blazes!" Sam's voice seemed quite loud to Aragorn's pounding head. He groaned, inhaling a lungful of dust as he did.

"We thought you were squished for sure!" Pippin sounded relieved.

"Pip! He is squished! Not fatally so but I think anyone would be, under that much rock." Aragorn could almost see Merry rolling his eyes. "No offense, Strider."

"None ... tak'n ... " He coughed. "What happen'd? Where's ... "

"The others are all blocked behind you. We haven't heard anything from them. The rock is too thick." Frodo's worried voice crept into the conversation.

"Are ... any of you ... injured?" Speaking was turning into far too hard of a task for the ranger.

"A few bumps and bruises, nothing life threatening." Sam said.

Ah, good. At least the hobbits were fine. With that off his mind, Aragorn began to assess his own injuries. He was positive his left arm was broken, what with the odd angle it was twisted into. Moving down some, he noted that several of his ribs were either cracked or broken. Not very surprising. His knee was throbbing with a very sharp, piercing pain. Probably badly twisted. Blood trickled down the side of his face; wonderful. A head wound and most likely a concussion.

All in all, he was a mess ... and he had no earthly idea how exactly he was going to get out of Moria like he was. Oh, if his ada could see him now. He'd get a severe lecture, a long healing session, another lecture, a stern look, and then strict orders to return to his bed and not move for the next few weeks under pain of death. Part of him wished that he was back home ... then again, he knew that he now had a duty to Frodo and the Ring. He had pledged his sword to the halfling and nothing - not even these large, stubborn rocks - was going to stop him.

"Strider! What do you want us to do? We have to get you out before you run out of air in there. Gimli told us that if someone is trapped in a rock fall, they can breathe all the air in the space around them!"

Aragorn thought for a moment. He really didn't want the hobbits doing anything to endanger themselves ... though Moria in itself was the biggest danger of all right now. Knowing he may regret the decision later, he responded to Merry.

"Just ... see if you can move ... some of the rocks ... for now." He groaned as some of the weight above him shifted, pressing further into his back. "If I ... don't answer ... don't worry. I'll ... be okay." Aragorn, having used most of his strength to get the words out, slumped his face against the hard surface. The inky blackness that crept into the edge of his vision now began to take over, sending him into oblivion. He only hoped that the hobbits would once again prevail, and not only for his sake.

---

"Strider!" Sam yelled, wanting to strike his fists against the rocks. He knew it would do more harm than good though, and settled with only clenching his jaw shut firmly, grinding his teeth. The small cut on his forehead had almost stopped bleeding now; not that he was very worried about it anyway. Pippin sat next to him, nursing an injured wrist and a worried look.

"He must have fallen unconscious." Frodo said softly, looking down. "Well come on. We haven't much time, and I'm sure the others are trying to dig him out also." The words 'if possible' hung in the air, causing him to shiver. They weren't even sure the others were alive. All they were sure of was that they were behind Strider ... and that almost the entire entrance had collapsed.

"It's my fault." Pippin sniffed sadly. "I awoke the watcher, even though Strider told me to stop. Why must I always do things like that!"

"Now Pip." Merry turned sternly. "I was doing it too. We didn't know ... "

"It doesn't matter, Merry! This isn't the Shire. We can't be the carefree hobbits we were! It will end up getting someone killed ... if it hasn't already."

"Don't say that." Sam glared lightly at them. "Nobody is dead, and definitely not Strider. He took on the wraiths ... no way will he be fallen by a bunch of oversized pebbles! Now come on, lets dig him out. Like Mr. Frodo says, we don't have much time."

The others nodded, standing up and sharing a look. They were going to get Strider out ... one way or another.

---

"Aagh!" Gimli, frustrated over their new predicament, smashed his axe against one of the stones lying on the ground.

"Really Gandalf, are all dwarves like this? Or did we just get stuck with the most temperamental, stubborn, hairy dwarf on the face of Middle Earth?" Legolas mused to the wizard, glaring at Gimli.

Gandalf said nothing, too busy concentrating ahead of them. They were blocked either way; to their fortune, a small space had been left open. It wasn't big, but it was big enough to fit an elf, a dwarf, a man, and a wizard.

"The stones here!" Gimli growled. "They're too cursed by the blackness within. They refuse to say anything, other than whisper about the evilness that has befallen them."

"The stone actually said that to you?" Legolas quipped.

"Just because the dwarves don't speak to trees, it doesn't mean we're completely talentless! Now go find a squirrel to converse with you infernal, pointed eared galloot. I, however, am trying to get us out of here!" The dwarf shook his axe at Legolas, huffing to himself.

"Galloot?" Legolas raised an eyebrow.

Before the 'conversation' could continue any further, Boromir stepped in. "Shush, the both of you. We're wasting time here when we need to be working on moving these stones. I'm sure whatever evil that does lay in here heard the fall; Aragorn and the hobbits are alone up ahead. We'd be hard pressed to fight off what is in here ourselves. They wouldn't stand a chance."

"Boromir's right." Gandalf said, after a silence. "We have to move, quickly. I feel the darkness reaching out ... it's coming. And I fear what will happen to the others."

Gimli picked up a stone, placing it as far to the other side of the space as he could. "Let it not be said that this dwarf is one to laze around while there is work to be done."

"And this elf." Legolas said while joining Gimli, ignoring the dark glare from the smaller one.

"Set aside your squabbles for now." Gandalf said. "And just pray we make it in time."

---

"You know ... it would be better if we had some proper light." Pippin said, wiping the sweat from his brow. His wrist throbbed from all the work, but he wouldn't give up. Not when Strider needed them the most ... not when Strider would run himself to death's door if it meant saving another.

"It's the best we can do for now." Sam grunted, heaving a rock that looked larger than himself from the pile and throwing it towards the stairway behind them. "We don't want to attract anything from beyond there. Anything that comes out of here is bound to be evil."

"Yeah. You're right." Pippin sighed. "Doesn't make it any less scary."

"Don't worry, Pip." Merry said in a false sort of cheerfulness. "They'll just take one sniff of you and turn the other way."

"Ha ha. It isn't my fault if I'm all sweaty and smell."

"Well, you do favor Strider now, at least." Frodo grinned.

"I'll be sure to tell him." Pippin glared at Frodo, rolling one of the rocks away that Merry had just picked up from the pile.

"Tell me ... what?" They heard a muffled cough, somewhere near.

"Strider!" Sam rushed forward, moving away the rocks that remained between them and the ranger. After a few moments of rushed labor, they had finally uncovered Strider's upper-half. Seeing his friend in such a state shocked Sam. It was clear to anyone with eyes that the man was severely injured. And they didn't have the healing herbs and bandages - Gandalf and Strider kept those in their packs, which were now with the others.

"Oh, Strider." Frodo felt along the man's neck for his pulse, finding it rather weak and erratic. "We must get the rest of the rocks off of him, quickly."

Aragorn managed to open his eyes, waiting for his vision to clear somewhat. He finally managed to blink away the blurriness, almost gasping as he did so.

"PIPPIN! LOOK OUT!"

---

"What was that?" Legolas lifted his head up from moving stones in alarm, gazing at the rock as if he could see through it.

"I have heard nothing, Legolas. What do you sense?" Boromir spoke.

"Danger. Fear. Do you not feel it?"

"No, we cannot. However some of the creatures may have found them ... we should hurry!" Gimli said.

"Yes, we should, quickly!. And I fear we may be too late now." Gandalf rasped in haste. "Come, dig in! We cannot spare another minute!"

"But what is happening? What is there?" Gimli asked even as he grabbed another large rock, hefting it over his head in a display of strength and tossing it over to the pile behind them.

"Goblins, for now, I think. But that is not the only thing to fear in the dark depth of these caverns." Gandalf's voice grew more worried by the second.

"Goblins! Bah, my axe longs for the bitter taste of their blood. Let us hope Aragorn can hold them off until we can get to the other side."

"I fear Aragorn won't be the one fighting."

"What do you mean, Gandalf?" Legolas turned sharply, looking in confusion at the wizard.

"Legolas ... I don't think he cleared the rockfall."

---

Pippin, having heard Aragorn's warning, ducked just in time to clear the sweep of a Goblin's small sword. With wide eyes, he backtracked to the others and grabbed his own little sword, raising it in defense.

"Pippin! No!" But Sam's cry was too late. With a scream of rage, the small hobbit had jumped upon one of the five goblins that had entered the room, ramming his blade straight through the other's chest.

The remaining hobbits, having become unfrozen, finally grabbed their own weapons and joined the small battle. They were very hard pressed to keep up with the goblins, but somehow managed to hold their own.

Sam, with his sword in one hand and frying pan in the other, fought off two of them at once. With a quick twist he brought the heavy metal down upon the first goblin's head and followed through with a sword thrust to the neck. Turning, he parried the strike of the other goblin, backing the foul creature up against the wall. Snarling as the creature dared to shriek at him, he brought his blade down again and again, slicing through the crusty skin and deep into the flesh, until the steel met bone.

Merry and Frodo fought back to back, parrying and thrusting in a dance of death. Aragorn, only half able to pay attention to what was going on, could not have thought the hobbits were as fluid in their movements as they were now proving to be. One slip might prove fatal, but after a few moments, the hobbits prevailed.

Pippin collapsed onto a rock, cradling his wrist to his chest and trying to keep the tears back. He had never killed before ... though he couldn't really say he regretted doing it. It was a creature of evil, after all. Still, his heart felt heavy at the thought of ending a life, even if it was a bad one.

"Pip ... " Strider coughed weakly, calling to the hobbit. Pippin's tear-stained face jerked around to the man who had just saved his life. Again.

"Strider!" Pippin rushed over to the man, sitting beside the taller frame that was still half buried in rocks. "Oh, Strider!" He pushed against one of the rocks that refused to budge. The other hobbits now joined him, straining against the remaining stones. But there was nothing for it - the ones that were left weren't going to move.

"I'm sorry, Strider. We can't get you out!" Pippin let out a barking sob without meaning to. He felt something brush against his cheek ... trembling fingers, covered in blood and grime.

"It's alright, little one. The others will be along soon." Strider said gently, trying to smile. His hand dropped against Pippin's leg as his strength waned, leaving him gasping for breath at the small action.

Pippin scooted over and slowly raised Aragorn's head, settling it in his lap. He brushed the hair from the man's face while trying to wipe away some of the dirt and dried blood. Never before had he felt so strongly for a man or any other race. But this man ... this man had risked his life for the life of Pippin and his kin. And for a hobbit, there was no other sacrifice so great as that. And Pippin knew without a doubt, he would gladly do the same for Aragorn.

"There's nothing for it." Sam sighed, looking at the rocks. "They're not going to move an inch."

"I don't understand though! We moved the others easily enough!" Merry said angrily.

"The other stones were merely the loose ones that had slide down from the top. Those are wedged in there tight ... and I don't know about you all, but I know nothing of stonework." Frodo quietly murmured.

"But ... Gimli does. Perhaps they are on the other side, burrowing this way!"

"Aye Merry, perhaps they are. We can only hope ... there is little else we can do." Sam said.

---

"Surely we have to be close by now! They weren't that far ahead!" Legolas blinked the grit from his eyes, laying a pointed ear against the stones. "I can hear nothing!" He was desperate to get to the others, worry and fear gnawing at his very core. What if Aragorn hadn't made it across? What if the goblins had prevailed in the fight with the hobbits and were now setting a trap for them? These thoughts and more swirled about in his already aching head.

"Of course you can't laddie." Gimli grumbled, heaving rock by rock from the pile. "This stone is thick and old, you won't be able to hear a thing even if it was but an inch wide! We are almost through, however."

"And how would you know, dwarf?"

"Because, elf! I was raised around stones as you were raised around trees! I understand them."

Legolas didn't bother to reply, instead working harder to move the rocks. They had made their way through quite a bit, and there couldn't be much further to go. He hoped, anyway.

After a long few moments, they finally broke through, revealing Aragorn's legs and waist. Legolas gasped at the sight of them; blood stained the human's legs, centered around his knee. The cause of the wound was clearly visible to the others. Aragorn's dagger, which had at first been located on his belt, was now lodged firmly in the area just above his knee.

"Oh Estel!" Legolas removed the remaining rocks, handing them off to Gimli, who tossed them to Boromir. Boromir grunted, glaring at the dwarf.

"About time." Aragorn mumbled, his head still pillowed in Pippin's lap.

"I'm sorry Estel," Legolas said, glancing at the dead goblins. "Some rather large stones laid between us that blocked our way."

"Always making excuses." Aragorn snorted. "While you all were back there the hobbits were busy doing all the work!"

"While you just lazed around, I'm sure." Legolas hissed, checking the rest of Aragorn's injuries."

"Ha ha." The man looked around to make sure the hobbits had walked a little ways away with Gandalf, before turning serious eyes on Legolas. "Mellon nin, you must leave me here. I will not be able to travel the rest of Moria."

"Leave you? Oh dear, the fever must have set in. There's no way in Middle Earth we'd leave you. Sam himself would skin me alive. If Pippin doesn't beat him to it!"

"Then how do you propose we get out of here? With me slowing you all down, we're almost sitting ducks!" Aragorn gasped as Legolas yanked the dagger from his leg, glaring at the elf.

"You were distracted." Legolas said in defense of himself. "And as for us getting out of here, there is a reason we are a fellowship. We are not leaving you, nor anybody else, as long as there is an inch of life left in you. We will simply rest here until you can walk, and then make our escape. If trouble comes, we will deal with it."

"Prissy elf." Aragorn snorted. "Fine. Have it your way."

"I will. Besides," Legolas winced. "Elrond would have my head on a plate if I even thought of leaving you in a cave."

"That he would, Legolas. That he would!"

---

The End

Reviews and comments are greatly appreciated:)