Aragorn had heard the dwarf enter the room. Without turning his head, the ranger said, "Gimli, bring a large bowl of hot water, towels and plenty of clean cloths for bandages."
After the dwarf had left, the other healer, Simdell by name, said, "I have those things ordered."
"I figured you did, but I want Gimli to feel he's helping. He cares deeply for Legolas, as I do."
Simdell nodded his understanding. He hadn't had much experience with dwarves, but he did know they were not the most patient of people. As such, he wasn't sure how the dwarf would handle the difficult surgery that lay ahead for his friend.
Aragorn couldn't help but smile when Gimli's gruff voice came in through the door. "I'll take those."
Gimli appeared back in the room in seconds, bearing the requested items. Aragorn didn't comment on the fact he knew the stout warrior had just commandeered the supplies, probably from one of the apprentice healers. Despite his size, Gimli could be very intimidating.
Because the arrow was so near Legolas's heart, the surgery to remove it was slow-going, very delicate and even more difficult than either Aragorn or Simdell had hoped.
During the surgery, Aragorn had been shaken, thinking about the fact that Legolas's life had not been taken immediately simply because he had been running when the arrow hit him. If he had been standing up straight in front of the man, the arrow would have entered a bit lower and struck directly into the elf's heart. Legolas would have been killed on the spot.
The ranger took a deep breath. That was entirely too scary a thought to dwell on, even though he knew that there was still a strong chance the elf would die anyway, despite all efforts made to the contrary.
Gimli had been watching the entire ordeal from the corner of the room, at times shifting from one foot to the other and at other times not daring to move at all.
He had the first two fingers on each hand crossed, as he prayed to Ilúvatar and even to Aulë to spare Legolas's life. In fact, he prayed to everyone he could think of short of the Dark Lord himself, and he wasn't so sure he would've stopped there, if it meant his friend would live.
At long last, Aragorn straightened up and wiped his bloodstained hands on a towel next to the tray. Groaning, he rotated his shoulders and stretched his back to rid them of the stiffness that had settled there.
It had taken over an hour for both Aragorn and Simdell, working in close tandem, to remove the arrow. The wound had bled so heavily that it had to be cauterized. Then the needed healing herbs were applied and the bandages put in place.
"Well, will he be all right?" the dwarf demanded impatiently, unable to wait until Aragorn decided to tell him.
A sweaty and weary face turned toward the dwarf. "I don't know, Gimli. We did the best we could. Now we must wait."
"You can be sure of one thing: If hardheadedness counts, then he'll be fine." Gimli said, as much to convince himself as anyone hearing his words.
"Oh yes," the ranger agreed. "That I well know." And it was true. Aragorn had seen Legolas survive wounds and injuries in the past that would have easily killed any mortal he knew, including himself. The elf was too stubborn to die. At least that's what the man was telling himself.
Simdell rounded up the bloody cloths, the jars and the instruments, piled them on the tray with the arrow that had been removed and carried them out of the room. "I'll check back later. For now, there are others I must attend to."
Aragorn nodded. "Thank you, Simdell, for all your help."
The healer gave Aragorn and Gimli a sad smile and left them alone with their wounded friend.
Aragorn pulled the lone chair in the room up beside the bed and gingerly lowered his weary body down onto it. He couldn't stand on his feet any longer without swaying. The long battle followed by the intense surgery and the worry over it all had finally taken its toll on the ranger's mind and body. He needed to sleep but knew there was no way he could do that right now.
A minute later, Gimli had dragged another chair into the room and set it on the other side of the bed, settling his own weary body into it.
"Tell me, Aragorn, was there any of that cursed Morgul poison on the arrow?" It was the one thing that could seal Legolas's fate, even if he survived the wound itself.
"I saw no evidence of it," was all the ranger said.
"Then the elf will live," was Gimli's declaration.
Aragorn prayed he was right. Being the healer he was, he couldn't be sure but refrained from saying that to the dwarf, who like himself, was clinging to anything that would give them a shred of hope.
Both friends then began their long vigil.
When Jother entered the large healing room, he looked around. Beds and pallets covered every area of the room, and each one was occupied, leaving only enough space for the healers to make their way between them. Men were in various stages of recovering and of dying. It was a scene that the captain never got used to seeing.
Jother stopped a man that wore a healer's robe and was carrying a large bottle containing a green liquid. "Can you tell me where Lord Aragorn can be found?"
The man, an assistant to Simdell, nodded toward a small room to the left.
Thanking him, Jother approached the door cautiously. He wasn't sure what he would find there, and he certainly didn't want to be responsible for a distraction that could potentially cause a problem.
The captain didn't know the elf lying in the bed other than having seen him several times during the battle and having admired his adept use of his twin knives and his extraordinary skill with a bow.
He had heard that the elf was a close friend of Lord Aragorn's, and considering what had happened earlier, he didn't doubt it. The elf had literally thrown himself in the path of an arrow aimed straight at the future king. Jother could not imagine a deeper friendship existing between two people.
The scene he was now witnessing was both touching and heartbreaking. Aragorn was sitting in a wooden chair with one hand resting over the elf's heart. On the other side of the bed, the dwarf Jother knew was also a close friend of Aragorn's was holding the elf's slender hand tightly in both of his much rougher ones. His eyes were closed, but his mouth was moving, in silent prayer the man supposed.
Jother hated to interrupt, but Aragorn had asked for a report, so the soldier approached slowly. When he reached the other man's side, he stopped.
Aragorn looked up at him with tired, worried eyes. "You have something to report?"
Jother was glad that he had good news to tell the future king. Maybe it would take away at least some of the sadness he saw in the other man's almost ageless eyes. "Yes, Lord Aragorn. We have killed all of the enemy we could find, including the one that shot...that tried to shoot you."
Jother took a deep breath before continuing. "We have built a number of pyres, and all of their bodies are being burned. Our own dead are being taken care of, and the wounded are being attended to."
"Thank you, Jother."
Aragorn's face was pale and drawn, attesting to his weariness. Jother knew it was worry, more than anything else, that was taking its toll on the other man's strength.
"How is he?"the captain asked. He glanced over at Gimli, as he asked the question. The dwarf's eyes were now open. He said nothing but stared at Aragorn, seemingly waiting to hear what the ranger would say.
Aragorn sighed and slowly shook his head. His gray eyes took on a faraway look, as he cast his mind backward in time. "He's always saving my life by risking his own. In fact, that's how we first met. He jumped into a raging river and pushed me out onto the bank just a few feet from the edge of a high waterfall. He went over it and almost drowned. Legolas couldn't save us both, so he chose to save me. He's been doing it ever since.
"I can't count the number of times he's been hurt saving me from one mishap or another. I've told him time and time again not to do that, but he just doesn't listen."
"Stubborn, pointy-eared elfling," Gimli grumbled quietly from across the bed, though the words were clearly heard by both men.
At this point, Jother was not the least bit surprised at what Aragorn had just told him. "How long have the two of you been friends?"
"When we met at the river, I was fifteen. So we have known each other for seventy-three years."
"Seventy-three years? You mean you're..." Jother was so shocked that he couldn't voice the number that simple math told him was Aragorn's age.
Gimli chuckled. It was not the first time someone had been shocked to hear how old the ranger was. He, himself, was now included in that group.
Jother was trying to come to grips with the figure in his head. Then the truth hit him. "You're a Dúnadan."
Aragorn nodded. "That I am."
Then changing the subject back to Legolas, Aragorn said, "I fear for him now more than I ever have before. He has never been wounded like this. His heart may have been compromised. The arrow was so close to it. I may have..."
Before the ranger could finish his sentence, Gimli interrupted. "Don't go blaming yourself, lad. You did your best for him. Legolas will live, or he will not. There's nothing more you could have done. He would not accept your guilt, and well you know it."
"He'd chew me out, if I even thought of blaming myself."
"Then I suggest you banish any guilt you feel before it takes hold, and he finds out about it. A tongue-lashing by this elf is not something you want to experience too many times in your life."
"True," Aragorn admitted, nodding his head. "I've had plenty already."
It was Gimli's comments, despite his own fears, that served to bring a small smile to Aragorn's face, and the dwarf was glad to see it.
Jother suddenly felt out of place. There was no intent on the part of Aragorn or Gimli to shut him out, he knew, but these were two close friends, who had shared much, and were worried about the survival of a third. He didn't feel that he belonged. "I'll leave you now," he said. "If I have anything further to report, I'll return to inform you." Before leaving, he said, "I greatly hope Legolas will recover."
"Thank you," Aragorn replied, grateful to the man for his genuine concern.
As Jother left the room, Gandalf entered. It took only one look at Legolas to know how grave the elf's condition was. For that reason he didn't ask, not wanting either Aragorn or Gimli to have the voice the painfully obvious.
The wizard offered to stay with Legolas so Aragorn and Gimli could get some rest, but both refused. They would not leave the elf, especially at a time like this. Gandalf understood. If Legolas died while they were off sleeping and not by his side, the guilt would eat at them both for a long time to come.
Aragorn knew there were many things that needed to be taken care of in Minas Tirith after the battle, but he just could not bring himself to go and tend to any of them. He asked Gandalf if he would act in his stead, completely trusting the wise wizard to make the right decisions.
Gandalf agreed, and after a while and with a heavy heart, left to do as he had been asked.
The entire time that both Jother and Gandalf had been in the room, Aragorn had not once moved his hand from Legolas's chest. The connection to the elf's beating heart was the only thing that seemed to offer any solace to his own heart.
During the ensuing hours, Aragorn prayed as hard as he ever had in his life. It was the same one he always prayed in these circumstances: that Legolas would live and recover to be the elf he though of as a brother.
This prayer had always worked in the past, but for some reason the ranger feared it might not be enough this time. That Legolas was closer to death than to life frightened him now more than it ever had before.
It was around midnight that Aragorn changed his thinking. The future was too uncertain where Legolas's survival was concerned. The elf might not even have a future in Middle-earth. If only things could be the way they had been in times past.
'If I could turn back time, then none of this would ever have happened. The battle cannot be changed, but if only what Legolas did to save me could be.
'If I could turn back time, I would have seen the orc with the bow in plenty of time to get out of the way, or even kill the creature before it could fire that arrow.
'If I could turn back time, Legolas, Gimli and I would probably be in the Great Hall right now, celebrating our victory.
Sadly, the man had to admit to his mortal limitations. 'I cannot turn back time, Ilúvatar. Only you can do it so that Legolas can remain at my side. You know that I need him here with me, if I am to fulfill my destiny - a destiny that you designed for me.'
But the Dúnadan knew that time would not be turned. Ilúvatar would not disrupt the world to save one elf, no matter how important that elf may be.
There were just too many things that would change, and common sense told him that they would not all be for the better. How many of those that now live would instead be dead, if time were altered? Would the battle have been lost instead of won? Would Middle-earth itself be doomed to live under the Shadow of the Dark Lord?
Aragorn shivered at the thought. The orc had fired his arrow, and Legolas had stopped it. That was what had happened, and that was what he had to deal with.
The ranger knew he could only pray for what he always did, and hope that it would be enough.
Two days later, it was.
When Legolas finally opened his eyes, it was a very exhausted ranger and an equally exhausted dwarf that he first gazed upon.
The elf smiled at his friends, who were both sound asleep. He knew these two, so he knew that they had stayed up in hopes of being awake when he regained consciousness, only to be completely out of it when that time finally came.
Legolas started to let them both sleep, knowing the toll their worry for him had taken. However, he had also been on the other side, waiting for Aragorn to awaken from some injury and knew how much he had wanted to know that the man was better. Besides, he feared that his friends may be having bad dreams caused by their concern, so he squeezed Aragorn's hand to wake him.
Startled out of his sleep, the ranger jerked his head up. "Legolas?" he said, before even realizing that it was the elf who had been the one to rouse him.
"What? What's going on?" came a demanding voice from the other side of the bed. Gimli was never the most cheerful of people upon waking. And being as tired and worried as he was now only added to his grumpiness.
"Legolas?" the ranger questioned again.
"None other," came the quiet, raspy reply. The elf was working hard to hide the pain he felt. That's a further worry he refused to inflict on his friends.
"You scared us half to death, elf," Gimli chided, though he meant to sound as if that wasn't the case at all. He didn't want to show just how truly scared he had been.
Then with his usual attempt to lighten the mood, Gimli said, "I was even going to give you credit for ten kills for that Múmakil, if you'd just wake up. You must have read my thoughts and opened your eyes, so you could collect."
"I did not mean to scare you, Gimli," came the elf's apologetic answer.
Gimli waved his hand in a dismissive gesture. "Think nothing of it, laddie."
With a grin, Legolas added, "I will take your generous offer, Master Dwarf, and add ten to my count."
"Which the two of you can settle later," Aragorn interrupted, though he couldn't hold back a chuckle. He never tired of hearing these two banter with each other, but as he had just said, that would have to wait for a later time.
Turning more serious, he asked, "How do you feel?" The man almost cringed. He hated asking that question. It sounded so lame when asking it of someone who obviously felt miserable.
"I have been better." That was a rare admission from the proud elf but one he could hardly deny under the current circumstances.
The statement made Aragorn laugh. He pointed his finger at the elf. "How many times do I have to tell you not to risk your life for me before it sinks into that hard head of yours?"
Legolas just smiled that infuriating smile of his but refrained from commenting, knowing that Aragorn fully understood what the answer would be.
Gimli looked from Legolas to Aragorn, and when he saw the bemused look in both sets of eyes, he smiled. It was their way of easing the tension that the elf's critical condition had created. It was quite different from the kind of insults he and Legolas were constantly throwing at each other, yet he couldn't deny it was affective.
It was at that moment Aragorn knew that Legolas was going to recover. It looked like his plea to turn back time hadn't been needed after all, but he believed that his other prayer had been.
The ranger closed his eyes and silently offered his gratitude to Ilúvatar for once again sparing this cherished friend.
In the end, all Aragorn could do was shake his head, because both he and Legolas knew that if, or rather when, Aragorn again needed saving, Legolas would not hesitate to endanger himself to accomplish it.
The elf was unbelievably stubborn, but the ranger wouldn't have him any other way.