5. Interlude Two
They didn't need to tell me aloud that I was getting sicker, not that they would have dared to do so. If I had not already figured it out from the ever-increasing effort each breath required, I could have read it plainly on their faces, no matter how they tried to hide the truth. Frodo was the worst -- his eyes get so large and his face so drawn when he is worried.
There was also so much more activity going on in the room, but this didn't bother me as much as it had before. I did not know if I had grown accustomed to it, or if I simply was too ill to care anymore. I suspected that it was the latter, but I was not quite so ill that I was unaware of the people coming and going in a steady stream, and I remembered that such comings and goings when a person is ill is generally not a good thing. I noted voices and movements by sound, but kept my aching eyes closed unless someone addressed me directly.
I wanted to sleep, to rest, so desperately, but could never quite seem to drift off into real slumber. Neither could I rouse myself from the fevered stupor that had settled into my body and mind. Dreams and memories and reality intermingled, and I scarce could tell where one began and another ended, or even be sure why it mattered so much that I know the difference. I shivered beneath the mound of blankets over me, so cold that it was a physical pain, but at the same time I soaked the sheets with sweat and my face felt like it was on fire.
Someone gently placed a cool cloth across my eyes, and it was the most blessed relief I had ever known. I wanted to thank this benevolent bringer of comfort, but my throat burned and my mouth was dry, so instead I just made a little smacking sound.
"Here," the kind, wonderful person said softly, and cool water trickled onto my lips. "Just let it slide down your throat instead of trying to swallow." I obeyed, and found that the soothing water slid effortlessly down my tortured throat. How clever this person was!
Now when I licked my lips and ordered my voice to speak, it obeyed, and I whispered a small, "Thank you," in a gravely voice that I did not recognize.
"You're welcome," the person whispered back to me, and took my hand in his, and now I recognized my cousin's familiar touch. How could I be so befuddled that I would not know his voice? I always knew him, always. This upset me greatly, and I whimpered in distress and shifted around a little in the bed, as though I could move away from my own mental disturbance.
"Shh, don't do that," my cousin said. "Just lie still and rest. I'm right here." He squeezed my fingers a little reassuringly, and I squeezed back, so glad he was with me.
"All right," I said, already forgetting what had upset me, my mind finding comfort just in his nearness. I lay still and worked hard at breathing. From somewhere, I could hear Frodo and Sam Gamgee talking. They sounded very serious, so I tried hard to understand them, as I wouldn't want to miss anything important, but I couldn't make out the words, and I soon abandoned the effort.
"Do you know what I dreamed about last night?" my cousin asked, and I jumped a little in surprise at his voice. I could tell he had laid his head beside me on the bed, and felt him gazing at me. He didn't wait for an answer, or even seem to expect one, and I was relieved that I could just lay quiet and listen to his voice. That's all I wanted to do, anyway.
"I dreamed about that day in the barn with the kittens," he continued. "Remember that? Remember the teeny tiny one?"
I felt a weak smile tug at the corners of my mouth. Of course I remembered. I remembered it all, every minute we'd ever spent together. Sometimes I even fancied that I could remember every minute we'd yet to spend together, our whole life laid out in front of me, if only I knew how to reach out and capture it.
"Well, I dreamed about it as clear as if it just happened yesterday," my cousin went on, but his voice trailed off. "Are you listening?" he asked ina nearly inaudible whisper. "Do you know I'm here?"
I wanted to answer, but my mouth was dry again, and really, breathing was taking up all my air, with none left over for frivolities like talking. I couldn't hold onto his hand anymore, either, much as I wanted to, but he kept a soothing hold on mind. I had so wanted to hear him tell me his dream about the kittens, but I could feel myself slipping again into that place where understanding was so very difficult. Maybe he would tell me anyway? That would be nice, and I tried to tell him so but a funny moan was all that I could manage. Well, he would know what I wanted, I was sure.
"You're so much worse, and I'm so scared," he whispered, and he sounded so worried that I wanted to comfort him, but I was already melting into dreams, and he was fading away. As darkness stole over me, I heard his comforting voice begin to murmur something about kittens and I felt his hand grip mine just a bit tighter, then I let myself go, knowing that he was there and would keep me safe.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.