NOTE:  A slightly AU story about the Fellowship's first night after leaving Moria.  (In this story, Frodo and Sam weren't injured in Moria.  And Lórien is a lot farther away.)

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



Chapter 1

Frodo walked blindly on and on, paying hardly any attention to the terrain or where he was putting his feet.  More than once Sam or Legolas, concerned, held out a hand to steady him or steer him.  He was scarcely aware of their presence.  He was only aware of Gandalf's face, voice, empty space, someone screaming………  no

Aragorn led the grief-stricken company many miles from Moria's eastern door before calling a halt in a secluded glade just before the sun began to set.  It would have to do, the hobbits could go no further.  He looked around at the decimated group, filthy, hungry, exhausted, shocked.  Shock.  Frodo.

Upon stopping, Sam had tugged Frodo's pack off his back and pulled out his bedroll, laying it out on the ground.

"Sit down, Mr. Frodo."  Nothing.  "Frodo?  Here, sit down."

Sam's gentle, worried voice finally penetrated the haze.  Frodo sat down and hung his head.  He had said nothing since Moria.  He was aware of movement around him, hushed voices, setting up of camp.  He should help.  He should get up.  He should never have left the Shire.  He should have done something to save Gandalf.  Gandalf.  No.  He felt so cold.

Someone sat down behind him, and Frodo was aware of long, gentle fingers massaging his neck, his back, his shoulders.  He sighed as he grew a bit more aware of where he was and what was going on.  He felt warmer, breathed easier.  Legolas.  Thank goodness.

Frodo looked up as Aragorn sat down before him, holding out a mug.  "Frodo, drink this.  It will help.  I'm sorry we can't risk a fire, I would rather give you something hot to drink.  But this will do.  Please, Frodo."  Aragorn looked into his pale face, concerned.

What was this?  Frodo didn't know and he didn't care.  Even through the haze he knew Aragorn would never do anything to harm him, would never give him anything dangerous.  He took the mug in a shaking hand, and Aragorn helped him press it to his lips, drink the small amount of liquid down.  A bitter, strange taste.  It didn't matter.

Sam nodded his thanks to Aragorn as the Ranger got up to leave.  Aragorn nodded back, glad that Sam approved, and cast another worried look at Frodo.  There was much to be decided and planned, but the wellbeing of the Ringbearer was uppermost in his thoughts.

Legolas spoke soothingly in Elvish, continuing to rub Frodo's neck and back, after awhile feeling Frodo relax and begin to sag.  Legolas guided Frodo to lean back against his chest as drowsiness slowly took him, wrapped his arms about the hobbit when the herbs took effect, sending him into a deep sleep.

Legolas looked around at who was closest.  Sam, of course.  "Sam, will you take Sting and lay it on the ground near us?  It will alert us if any Orcs are near perhaps sooner than we can see or hear them."  Sam did so, then unbuckled Frodo's scabbard and laid it aside.  Dampening a cloth from his waterskin, he wiped his friend's face and hands, unclasped Frodo's Elven cloak and folded it neatly beside him.  Frodo never stirred.

"Thank you, Sam.  Will you tuck a blanket around him?"  Legolas lay back on the bedroll taking the sleeping hobbit with him, letting Sam cover them both.  Aragorn came over and pressed his fingers lightly to the inside of Frodo's wrist, checking his pulse, checking his breathing.  The herbs Elrond had given him were having the desired effect.  He was relieved that he had estimated the correct amount to give Frodo.  Too potent a dose would be disastrous for someone so small.

"Thank you, Legolas.  I think we can settle him down on his own.  Sam can……"

Legolas shook his head, speaking softly.  "I don't mind, Aragorn.  He's comfortable, someone should be with him should he wake."

"I can……" Sam began, but Legolas shook his head again.

"I know, Sam.  Frodo loves and trusts you.  And Merry and Pippin.  And Aragorn too, I suspect."  The Elf smiled at the Ranger hovering close.  "He needs to trust the rest of us as well, for more than defense.  He's lost someone very dear, very important.  I want him to realize that we all care for him, that he can turn to us in need.  Any of us."

Sam nodded, with a small smile, and hurried off to help Merry prepare a cold supper for the group.

Finally the camp settled down, Boromir and Gimli taking first watch.  Aragorn had come by again to check on Frodo.  Legolas lay in the darkness, cradling the small one in his arms, working his fingers through Frodo's soft, tangled curls.  The loss of Mithrandir was an arrow piercing the Elf's heart, but his own grief and need for comfort would have to wait until another day.  For Elves there was time.  There was endless time.

** TBC **