Title: Wake to Sleep
Author: Slipstream
Rating: PG-13 (for blood, vampirism, and the gutting of a rabbit. Yet more of my usual cheeful stuff. :) )
Summary: Legolas awakens in the night to discover the horror of the hobbits' secret. Not nearly as grim as all that sounds. Vampire!Hobbit fic. Just.... don't ask....
Disclaimer: Tolkien loves me this I know// For dear Frodo tells me so// All hobbits to him belong// They aren't mine though how I long...// Yes, Tolkien loves me...!
Notes: Am I writing Vampire!Hobbits? Yes, I do believe I am. This little overnight fandom is quite addictive. I don't even remember where I stumbled upon the link that led me to 'Anklebiters,' (http://www10.brinkster.com/anklebiters/ for those of you who don't know... ) but vampy hobbits are like blood-sucking nicotine-- they latch on and you can't shake them off, not even with quantative doses of Nicorette. Pippin's love for squirrels comes from "The Care and Feeding of Young Hobbits" by James Walkswithwind. Evidently this whole mini-fandom is Olwen's fault. Blame her or her hubby, who made the comment about how hobbits should be on 'Angel.' Apologies for any inconsistencies in accents, as I am Southern and only writing what *I* think everybody sounds like, some-what based off of the movies. If all else fails, sound it out! :) This'll probably have a weird enough edge to it, anywho, seeing as it is a vampire fic written while listening to "Pure Imagination" from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory on repeat. Enjoy!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow. //
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear. //
I learn by going where I have to go.//
"The Waking" --Theodore Roethke.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Legolas stirred, his eyes opening to stare outward into the night in a manner born of eons as a warrior in the wilderness. The blackness was broken only by the soft flickering of firelight on the tall grass that rimmed the fellowship's campsite. About him he could hear the gentle sounds of sleeping travelers. All seemed at peace, what was it that had broken his reverie?

He shifted his gaze to the broad back of Samwise, who sat on guard with his back against their small fire, facing outward into the dark. In one hand he held his pipe, which, though Sam's face lay in shadow, Legolas could see he was chewing thoughtfully. Without trying, he could hear Sam's mutterings to himself, a steady stream of self-chiding and various things that the Gaffer would say once he got back to the Shire.

"Now you stop that Sam Gamgee... It's not that big of a deal to be the only one here up, now is it? You're lettin' your head roll right off your shoulders, you are, with all this nonsense. What would the Gaffer say to see you now, eh?"

Legolas smiled at the non-sensible prattle, taking it as the final sign that all was normal. His high elven senses had simply been rubbed raw by all this mess about the Ring, and the sudden comradeship with absolute strangers, and the constant flow of surprises that seemed to follow the hobbits. He settled back down into his bedroll, letting his eyes slip shut to find that elven resting state he would need before their long march tomorrow.

"I'll tell you right what the Gaffer'd say, Sam. 'Sam,' he'd say, 'Sam, there's no use a complainin' about how long supper's on the kettle if its somebody else a cookin' it for you,' he'd say."

Legolas opened his eyes again, this time in question. Supper? Where had that comment come from? Sam may have thought he was being as quiet as a... well... hobbit, but even the faintest of ghosts had no chance of slipping by the elven prince's hearing at this short a range. Legolas knit his brow in puzzlement. Where the hobbits going hungry? He knew that they were used to much more food that traveling allowed, but rations at the moment were still good, excellent, even, so short out of Rivendell. He shifted his eyes to the massive pile of blankets and bedrolls that the hobbits slept in and started to find it empty. He almost rose in alarm but a small whistling sound from the edge of the clearing stilled him.

"Here, Sam, we brought ye sommat!" The tall grass parted as the hobbits materialized from the inky black. Merry was the first to come into the light, carrying a sack from which small squealing noises could be heard. Legolas's brow crinkled. What on Middle-Earth...?

Sam grunted something feral and took the bag, peering inside. "Took you long enough, did it? My watch is about over."

Frodo plopped down onto the bed pile and stretched out his mud covered feet. "Catch your own food next time, Sam. You're lucky you didn't get squirrel. The rabbits are getting harder to find."

"*I* like squirrel," came the indignant voice of Pippin, who was the last to appear from the shield of fronds.

Merry gave a low, halting chuckle. "We know. It's all over yer face."

Legolas's eyes trailed to Pippin and froze. The firelight revealed Pip's laughing face, smeared with blood along the jaw. At the same moment Sam pulled from the bag a mottled grey rabbit and grinned at it with a smile punctured by two very sharp teeth. The rabbit gave a final squeal as he sunk those teeth into its fur.

Merry began to warm his hands on the fire. Pippin wiped a hand across his mouth and licked at the redness. Urgent sucking noises could be heard from Sam, while Frodo sat up stiffly to fish around in the bag, retreating with what appeared to be a small mouse or rat. He sunk teeth into the rodent and began to lap at the blood that welled there with less insistence than Sam, his golden red eyes staring deep into the fire in thought.

Sam glanced up from his rabbit, the worried look on his face made surreal by the bright, wet smear of blood across his homely face. Legolas kept his eyes mostly closed, watching through his lashes in feigned sleep, and stifled any noise that his mouth wanted to make, knowing that, despite his abject horror, he must see this through.

"You're not feeding over much, Mr. Frodo."

Frodo paused in his lapping to give Sam a red tinged smile. Legolas thought he could sense a change about the Ringbearer, about all the hobbits, a lengthening of tooth and nail, a crinkling of the brow, a deep-set pallor accented by the red tinged gold of their eyes. He shivered in his bedroll.

"Drink your fill and don't worry about me, Sam. While Pippin was off chasing the squirrels and rabbits for you, Merry and I caught a boar and feasted well."

"T'weren't that big of a boar," grumbled Pippin to himself. "Not full grown. I could have hunted it." He would have kept mumbling indignations had not Merry thumped him hard across the back.

Frodo smiled at their teasing and turned back to Sam. "All right, not a full grown Gammer boar, but big enough to feed two. This is just a thinking snack, extra food while the hunting is still good."

Sam slurped at his rabbit. "You think it'll get bad soon?"

Sighing, Frodo leaned back, bringing the now still mouse to his lips to suck in a grotesque imitation of many an elven-maid Legolas had seen drinking the juice from sweet fruits of the citrus groves of Rivendell. "I heard Aragon talking with Gandalf." He gestured eastward. "I think they plan for us to climb those white-crested mountains we have been nearing."

Merry folded his hands, long, sharp nails clicking together. "Aye. Their tops glitter white in the sun and moon. Whole lot of snow and scant enough meat, s'what I think is comin'."

Pippin fidgeted. "What'll we do? Snow or no, it'll take a couple o' nights just to cross the barren rocks. We'll starve!"

Frodo smiled gently. "Trust a young Took to despair over a shortening of rations." Apparently finished with his snack, he tossed the shrunken ball of fur into the fire. Legolas fought the bile that rose in his throat at the crackle and hiss made by burning fat and fur. "This is how I fare it. We eat as well as we can now, as long as we can. When we start the climb, we may be able to stow a few rabbits or squirrels or the like for the first night, before the blood goes too bad. On the slope we'll see what there is to eat and then go from there."

"And what if there's naught but stone?" Pippin urged in a loud whisper, still trying to keep quiet so as not to wake the rest of the Fellowship. "Stone don't bleed, least not in my experience, and we can't just eat each other!"

Merry nodded at this, again turning to Frodo for leadership. The older hobbit sighed again and seemed suddenly weary, rubbing tiredly at his temples. "I'm afraid we'll just have to sip at poor Bill, but carefully, so as not to hurt him. We don't now how many barren miles lay still beyond the mountains."

"Poor old Bill!" murmured Sam, as he laid aside his now finished rabbit. The pony, hearing his name being called, stirred once before settling back to sleep.

"But won't that weaken him?" inquired Pippin, glancing over at their quadruped companion.

"It'll be all right. I've been testing him, and he does just fine, if you take only what you need, and slowly," assured Frodo, absently picking up the discarded rabbit while Sam drew another from the bag to feed upon. Frodo extended one long, ragged claw and slit the skin from nape to gut. He traced a few more strategic cuts upon the carcass before sliding long fingers under the pelt to lift the fur from the meat. The body barely bled as he scooped out the vital organs and began to carve the meat into chunks.

Pippin stopped his sulking and looked over, curiously. "What're ye doin'?"

Frodo grunted and began to peel the majority of the muscle from the bones. "Breakfast. Where do you think your mourning meat comes from, Master Pip?"

He snorted, wrinkling his face. "Huh. Always wondered why it was so chewy."

"Lazy, greedy hobbit," laughed Merry. "Won't take dawn-watch and see how 'is breakfast is made. You can take the honors tonight, though, m'lad. I'm quite done out with bein' stuck with t'cookin'."

Legolas felt sick. It was not the sight nor the smell of blood, but the mere scene of the hobbits wallowing in the carnage so, sucking the red liquid and ripping apart raw meat with utter innocence that made him feel nauseous. He felt the bile rising in his throat and choked on it in the attempts to remain still and quite.

It was useless, however. All four of the hobbits went taunt, their gazes slowly turning onto the rest of their little company. Their eyes glowed in the darkness.

"Someone's awake," hissed Merry.

Frodo stood, his face a blank mask. He moved in front of the fire, turning his body into a thin, shadowy silhouette. Behind him, Sam appeared suddenly, strong and sturdy in this realm of half-cast firelight. Frodo tilted his head to the side as if to listen and sniffed. A thought flashed across Legolas's mind, an image from one of Bilbo's stories of a small hobbit being suddenly found and set upon by trolls.

Had he not been watching, Legolas would not have known that the hobbits had moved, so quiet were their feet, ethereal upon the dry grass. Then two furry feet were before him and a wet hand pressed across his mouth, filling his nostrils with the warm smell of copper. "Don't try to hide from us in sleep, Legolas," Frodo's voice hissed in his ear. "I can hear your blood racing and smell the sickness in your mouth. Why don't you join us instead of listening like a spy in the night?"

There was no avoiding it now. He opened his eyes to gaze fully onto the four faces above him, their eyes flashing red and gold, brows furrowed surreally in bloodlust. Frodo released his grip long enough for him to stand slowly, non-threateningly, but somewhere in the middle he saw a blur and felt hands, quick as thieves, take his bow and knives.

Infuriated and unarmed, he marched the short paces to the fireside, watching Merry and Pippin tighten their grip on his weapons as well as their own. Frodo bade him sit, licking the blood on his hand that had not been smeared across Legolas's face. He stared at the four of them, his mind working. He believed he could take them, but he stayed his hand for the uncertainty of their strength and abilities in their new state.

"You shan't tell anyone, or cry out, or make any move towards harming us," whispered Sam, his usually calm and reasonable voice made heavy with a bearing sense of protectiveness. "We'll talk with you, and try to be sensible and explain, but only if you promise that." The fresh blood glittered off of his teeth.

"And clean your face," ordered Pippin, oblivious to the current filth on his own. "It's distracting and we can't talk properly if you're making us hungry."

Keeping an eye on the hobbits, Legolas drew up the corner of his cloak to wipe off the red mask bestowed upon him by Frodo. He decided to tread carefully, having not yet decided if the hobbits were spies or not. "What else would you bid me to do?"

There was a general silence as the hobbits shifted. "How long were you listening?" asked Frodo, finally.

Legolas drew himself up and set his face, determined. "Since before you returned from your hunt."

"And you know...?"

"That you intend to eat Bill."

Pip snorted. "Better'n eatin' you lot, I imagine..."

"Hush," scolded Sam.

Legolas ignored the banter. "I was not aware that Periannath were night-walkers as well."

"We aren't," ventured Merry. "Just us four."

This was a new thought. He scanned the hobbits, looking from their fangs to their claws. The signs seemed so obvious to him now, it seemed impossible that he should not have seen it before. Legolas's hatred of orcs and dark things ran to deep for that.

"How long...?" He blinked, catching himself. "How long have you been like this?"

Pippin squirmed again before he was stilled by Merry. When Legolas's gaze shifted from them to Frodo and Sam, he was surprised at the dark look in the Ringbearer's eyes. The vibrancy of the pigments that had graced his irises --reds, golds, and palest blues-- were gone, swallowed whole by the deep, dull black that transfigured his eyes into two sucking voids of shadow.

"Since Weathertop," he hissed, staring someplace deep into the night with orbs that reflected neither star nor fire. "Since the Nazgul..."

Legolas sat, stunned. Half of the Fellowship had been dead since October, and he hadn't noticed? He almost didn't hear the rest of the story as Merry rushed out the words.

"The Ringwraiths, they hurt Frodo very badly. The change was slow, but it couldn't be stopped. By accident we discovered that blood would sooth his sleep, if you understand. It t'was the only thing he could eat or drink that wouldn't come right back up. But we didn't tell Aragon what we were feeding him at night while he was scouting the road ahead. Then, a week out of Rivendell, Sam was tending him, and..."

"I bit him," interrupted Frodo, something stirring within the night of his eyes. He squeezed them shut, as if to ward off a sudden memory, burying his face in his hands. "I bit him, and couldn't stop..."

Sam reached out, touching a hand to his Master's shoulder. Legolas noted that, a contrast to Frodo's black, Sam's eyes were the solid white of pearl, shining softly in the darkness.

"I bit him, and he wasn't moving, and I knew he was... dead... but I couldn't... I tried to give it back! Tried to... the life I had taken away! It..."

Frodo shuddered, and sank back into silence.

Merry looked sorrowfully at Legolas, continuing the story. "Pip and I were asleep. The noise woke us up, and we thought we'd lost them both, but then Sam roused and Frodo came back to us, a little. He was still too wounded to do much more than that, other than feed." He laughed a little, lowly, with dark humor. "We thought it was all okay. We hadn't rightly realized that Frodo was fully changed, and Sam on the way. Didn't know how much a full vampire hobbit would need to eat, much less two. And we couldn't leave to all go a hunting, even if we knew how, so..." He shrugged.

"You sacrificed yourselves," finished Legolas, seeing the four of them in new light. "And prayed to Eldebreth that you'd come back."

"Oh, Sam and Frodo had that figured out," piped Pippin. "And then hunting was easier when two could go out and bring back food for four. Like we do now durin' watch."

Legolas set his senses upon the rest of the Fellowship. Still sleeping. "Did Aragon know...?"

Sam shook his head. "We don't likely know. We suspect he might've known, but only a bit later, at Rivendell. Gandalf knows, though. He's the one who watched Mr. Frodo during the night, and was able to help the four of us find sumthin' suitable to eat at Rivendell."

Legolas laughed suddenly. "It was *you* who got into Elrond's peacock pen! The 'cursed little foxes' that pestered his flock!"

"Stupid nasty birds," mumbled Pippin. "Nothing to sink your teeth into under all those feathers. *Mice* are more nourishin'."

Legolas sat back in wonder. "But why didn't you tell the rest of us? It would certainly have been easier if we all knew about it than the four of you sneaking off during your watch to find game."

"Don't mind me sayin' this, Master Legolas, but its not near as simple as that," spoke Sam quietly. "Gandalf knew, and that was okay, him castin' little spells to help in findin' the rabbits and all, and Strider, Aragon, that is, too. He was all right in the knowin', seein' as he'd known us... before." He bit his lip. "But the rest of you were different. Gimli has no love for orcs or goblins or any dark thing, even darklings as us, after the fall of the dwarf-homes to them. We knew also of your hatred for orcs, and've seen the war-things you carry with you. And Boromir is bitter about his lands being so close to those forces in Mordor, and sees no difference between a Ringwraith and its victim, and...well..."

"Borimir cannot be trusted," spoke Frodo quietly. There was something odd about his voice, something dreamy and ethereal and yet guttural and dark. "He wants it, wants it, precious, but he cannot have it." Then he opened his eyes and, though they were not their normal blue, they were at least that safe golden red color. Whatever dark thing possessed him, it had passed.

"You musn't tell," urged Sam, eyes shining. "Not yet. Not while things are still fairly normal."

Legolas sat, silent, his head bowed in thought. In Rivendell they had made no oath of allegience, bidden to go as they pleased as their little errand wound its course. But council meetings and ceremonial farewells meant nothing here in the wild, and he knew that to break any such trust that had formed between their little band was to be cast away. He sensed that the hobbits were now and ever more a unit, and if events threatened their survival, they would break off from the Fellowship and take the Ring further into the dark, alone. Four sets of eyes watched him, pleading. But beneath that innocence, there lay something else, something darker. He owed his allegiance to that innocence, and would spend the last of his quivers to drive the back the night and let the purity shine though.

He spoke at last, slowly. "I shall keep my silence, until I am bidden otherwise, or conditions lead me to betray that trust for your own safety."

Frodo smiled. "That is enough."

Merry yawned. "Enough for me. I'm off to bed, since Master Pip has been so kind as to relieve me of my watch."

The others nodded their agreement. Pippin crawled off to his bedroll as well, finally remembering to clean the gore from his face. Sam reached to ad another bundle of kindling to their meager fire while Frodo finished skinning the last of the rabbits. Legolas retrieved his bow and knives from Merry (with some apologies) and snuck back under the warmth of the blanket. So strange it seemed to return to the realm of sleep after such and conversation, that he did not know when he slipped into elven sleep, and when he did it was with half an ear listening and a hand poised, ever ready, at the hilt of his dagger.

When he awoke the sky was just beginning to lighten. Around him the soft breathing of his companions could be heard. He could see Pippin clearly now, hunched over the fire, tending something in one of his cooking pots.

Pippin must have heard him, for he turned, but at that moment the sun peeped its first rays over the horizon. He stood slowly, stretching, and Legolas beheld a transformation the likes of which he did not expect to see grace such young features. The nails on his fingers and toes lengthened, becoming claws, while his ears also grew longer and pointier. His nose hunched up in a predator's snarl, brow crinkled and hunched low over blazing eyes, sqeezed shut now in a yawn that stretched his features surreally, revealing long, sharp fangs. He stretched, his arms upheld to the sky, and a soft noise, a sigh or a hiss, Legolas could not tell, escaped from him and from the other hobbits. Then he let down his arms, his features smoothing, and he was plain Pippin once more, with nothing to suggest the hidden darkling underneath the hobbit shell other than a slight rust colored stain on his scarf.

He smiled. "Mornin' Legolas. Seein' as how's you're up, why don't you fetch us some water while I finish the grub, aye?"

As the dawn progressed, the others began to wake. Sounds of life soon filled their little camp as the late sleepers were roused by their duties or, in Merry's case, kicked awake. The hobbits were wound with good feeling, Frodo less than the others, but that was to be expected. Legolas saw Sam whisper something in Gandalf's ear, and the old wizard turned and fixed the elf with a knowing smile, before returning to his discussion with Aragon about which road they should take.

The company was in much better spirits when Pippin began to dole out food, the meaty smells chasing away any intentions to eat dried rations.

"Don't know how you hobbits manage it," chortled Boromir, put in a good mood by several hours of uninterrupted sleep. He had had first watch. "Though I'm beginning to get sick of rabbit. Can't you lot catch anything else? A deer, perhaps?"

Frodo smiled politely, laugh lines showing plain upon his pale skin. "I'm afraid if we were to fell one, being so hungry and hobbit-like as we four are, we'd drag it off for ourselves and the rest of you'd never see it again."

Boromir laughed again, reaching back into the cooking pot to spear another bit of meat. "Here, Legolas. Come down off your elven perch and fare a bite of this, or I'll eat it."

Legolas glanced at Boromir and Gimli, both of whom were wolfing down their breakfast with little dribbles of the juice spattered across their lips, then back at the hobbits, who ate the rabbit meat neatly, in little bites, never wasting a scrap or lick. Pippin grinned at him, prodding at his now normal-sized eye-teeth with his tongue.

"No thank you, Boromir," he answered, and went back to nibbling on his bread. After the night he'd had, he just wasn't feeling very hungry.

-Fin