NOTE: I couldn't stand it anymore! I'm so inspired by all the amazing writers out there I just had to try a story of my own. Hope you enjoy. Gentle (but constructive) reviews encouraged. If I've trodden on anyone's storyline please know that it is unintentional; I've read only a fraction of the 7,000 (!!) LOTR fanfiction.net stories and duplication is bound to occur.

DISCLAIMER: Of course. The characters don't belong to me, I just get to think about them day and night.

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It had been going on all day. All week. Forever. Frodo felt that if he had to hear one more second of Legolas and Gimli's eternal bickering he would scream. Or run. The Fellowship was walking along a narrow ridge, about ten days out from Rivendell. Ten days of listening to every possible combination of grievances between the Dwarves and the Elves. Bilbo's stories hadn't begun to cover it --- or maybe he had heard so much of it on his journeys, he had mercifully forgotten to write it all down.

They camped that evening within a hollow of the hills, which at least blocked some of the wind. Frodo sat against a stone with his eyes closed, trying to rest, when Legolas and Gimli started up again. Enough.

"Enough!" Frodo leaped up and stalked over to the two of them, startling them into silence. Quiet, brooding Frodo just didn't act like this. Legolas and Gimli stared at him, open-mouthed, as Frodo stood before them, taking deep breaths and trying to stay calm. He failed.

"Every moment, every day, this blasted, cursed, evil thing I'm carrying tries to break me down, get into my mind… it wants me to put it on, throw it away, run away, stand still so they'll find me…" Frodo felt like he was hyperventilating, finally venting everything he had been holding in for over a week.

"I don't have the energy to block out all this arguing. I barely have enough energy to keep walking, sleep nowhere near enough, and keep from shattering into a thousand pieces. I thought you were here to help me! Why did you even come?"

Frodo could hardly believe these words were coming out of his mouth. Everyone was absolutely silent. He wanted to say more, he wanted to sob, he wanted to go home. He turned his back on the Elf and the Dwarf, walked past the astonished hobbits, and disappeared around the hill.

Sam glared at Legolas and Gimli before leaping up to follow Frodo. He was restrained by a hand on his shoulder.

"I'll go, Sam," said Aragorn. "Let's give him a minute."

Sam looked up and nodded, bewildered and a bit uneasy at Frodo's unexpected outburst.

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Aragorn found Frodo sitting with his back to a wind-blown, battered tree, with his arms on his knees and his head on his arms. Aragorn sat down next to him, saying nothing.

Finally Frodo sighed and looked up, stricken. "Oh Aragorn, I'm so sorry."

"For what, Frodo?"

"They've both come so far from home, and everyone's in danger just being near me. And I yelled at them!"

Aragorn smiled. "About time, I'd say."

Frodo looked at him, stunned. "What?"

"Merry tells me you were a holy terror growing up, Frodo --- kind of legendary --- that there were so many people living at Brandy Hall it was necessary to demand attention when you needed it. It's about time you started to use what you learned there!"

Frodo frowned, not understanding. "What do you mean, Aragorn?"

"Frodo, sometimes in life you have to ask for what you need. You never complain, rarely speak --- how can we give you what you need if we don't know what it is? I've been ready to throw both of them off a cliff or give them a good talking to, but I've been hoping you would find your voice and do it yourself." Aragorn was chuckling now. "I enjoyed every second of your tantrum, Frodo; I'll bet you haven't had one in far too long."

Frodo smiled in relief. "Thank you, Aragorn. But still…"

"Now if only you could do the same for Pippin before I strangle him…" Aragorn mused, only half joking.

Frodo's grin faded and he gazed seriously at the Ranger. "You don't understand. I wouldn't change a thing about Pippin. I know he chatters incessantly and gets in the way and acts like a spoiled child half the time, but that's just Pippin, you know? Oh Aragorn, I took the blasted Ring in the first place to keep the Shire safe, and Pippin reminds me of exactly what I wanted to keep safe. He's still a child --- full of wonder and exuberance and innocence. He and Merry and Sam are all the Shire I have, out here. They keep me saner than anything else."  He suddenly smiled again.  "So please don't strangle him until you talk to me first, agreed?"

Aragorn roared with laughter and brought Frodo to his feet. "Agreed. Ready to go back?"

**** I'll write Chapter Two if there's interest!