His stomach growled and for the first time in over two weeks, Frodo managed to climb out of his bed without the help or aide of his faithful servant Sam. Frodo glanced at the bed beneath the window where Sam was sound asleep.
He wouldn't awaken for a few hours yet, and that freed Frodo to go exploring. It had been almost a month since the destruction of Mount Doom. He and Sam had reached the treacherous mountain top, not without sacrifice --and not without it putting a toll on his body. He should have died that day, he and Sam, but fate stepped in and they were rescued out of the hands of death by the Great Eagles.
It wasn't until three days later that he awoke to see all his friends had survived the Great War. Gandalf's resurrection had sent Frodo into a fit of glorious laughter. Laughter like that had not come from his lips since he had left the Shire, more then a year ago. Soon he would be going home. Even now his cousins were hinting at leaving. Sam couldn't stop talking about Rosie and seemed to be looking forward to working the garden again.
Frodo was envious; everyone seemed to have someone. Except him, of course. Sighing, Frodo slipped on a robe and minding his stride stepped out into the hallway. Several guards looked up from their posts as he passed, giving him a welcoming smile. The humans here seemed quite kind and friendly. Always ready to lend a hand-- which, Frodo sullenly realized, he needed most of the time. The Ring had done its damage and he knew with a terrible ache that his pain would never fully heal.
There was one human, however, that Frodo desired to see but he was busy tending to his new kingdom. Aragorn.
Frodo still remembered the moment he laid eyes on the scruffy ranger in Bree. The human had scared the wits out of him, dragging him up a flight of stairs and throwing him roughly into a secret room. The Ranger had ranted and raved about his ill behavior for putting on the ring in a room full of men. But Frodo had to try to keep his mouth from dropping open in sight of the very masculine and very tall male. The Ranger took his breath away.
Frodo had fallen in love for the first time in his life and he hadn't been the same since. He had been good, though. He kept his thoughts and feelings secret. After all, once Frodo found out that Aragorn was betrothed to a beautiful Elf Princess, he very well couldn't try to stake a claim. Could he? Frodo had learned a few weeks ago that Arwen, in the end, had chosen to leave with her father and sail into the West. A part of Frodo was grieving for Aragorn, whose mood seemed to change, becoming gloomy and remote. He was sad for the Princess too, who still loved Aragorn with all her heart, but in the end could not defy her father or leave her people.
But a small, despicable part of Frodo was happy too. He shook his head, feeling very bad at having such feelings. It would never work. Besides, he was a hobbit, and Aragorn was human. They were both males. Aragorn had a large kingdom to rule and set right. But above all else, Frodo was sure that Aragorn harbored no feelings whatsoever for him.
Oh, Aragorn cared for him. Frodo knew that much. Aragorn had wept at his bed side in grief at seeing the pain Frodo had endured on his journey into Mordor. But Frodo knew pity and friendship were quite different to loving someone. He had Aragorn's friendship and Frodo knew he should be grateful for that. But Frodo just couldn't help wanting more.
At night, when everyone was asleep, Frodo would lay in his bed, wondering and dreaming what it would be like if he got up right now, went to the King's bed, and asked him if he could sleep with him. Frodo told himself that was foolish speculation, for he knew exactly what would happen. Aragorn would call for his guards and have him escorted to the nearest dungeon. Well, perhaps not the dungeon, but most certainly he would not accept a male hobbit in his bed. It was a dream, that was all it was. All it could be.
Soon Frodo would be heading for home. In time, he would forget the ranger. In time, he would learn to live again and to love another.
Yes, that's right Frodo. You just keep telling yourself that.
The kitchen was; quite a distance and Frodo got lost several times and had to ask a maid or a guard for directions. But finally, Frodo rounded a corner and his nose caught the scent of early breakfast.
Walking in, Frodo spotted several cooks working at a counter. Their hands were busy as they talked and gossiped about the latest men coming to Gondor, how handsome the king was, and praising the goodness of the Prince of Ithilien.
Frodo realized without dismay that they had not heard him enter the kitchen. This was not unusual. Humans tended to be so loud, particularly when talking about nonsense things, that they never really paid much attention to what was going on around them.
Wishing not to disturb them, Frodo reached for the table to get himself a few carrots and mushrooms out of a nearby bowl, when he spotted the fluffy white rabbit in a small cage.
It was so cute that Frodo took a moment to put his fingers through the bars and gently stroke its head. The creature, however, looked out at him fearfully and full of sadness.
Frodo could see deep sadness in its eyes. It broke his heart. It was then a part of the conversation the cooks were having caught his attention.
"The King will really enjoy supper tonight. I will make him my best recipe, Rabbit stew. With my secret ingredients, it will certainly get his attention and before you know it, I will be the top cook in all of Gondor."
Ever since he was a child, Frodo had disliked seeing caged animals, and felt even worse when they were killed for food. It began when he was only six, his aunt and uncle had come to visit his parent's house with a large pig. Frodo had been so excited to have a new friend. He had spent all afternoon having fun with Mr. Pig, and had fed him several of his mama's celery sticks, when his Papa came out with the axe. Before Frodo could figure out what was happening it had all been too late. Frodo had wept all night and all the next day, so upset he wouldn't even look at food.
His mother had fretted and had taken her anger visibly out on her husband. Papa had been confused and tried to explain to Frodo that animals were not pets they were fodder. Frodo had only cried all the more. Frodo never again ate meat. He would only eat baked breads, fruits and vegetables. When his parents died and he had gone to live with his relatives in Brandy Hall, they were quite displeased at the young orphan who refused to eat good and filling meat. But Frodo wouldn't swallow one bite of it. Not one bite.
No one had understood, not even his numerous cousins. They often ridiculed and teased him about his weird eating habits. It wasn't until he had gone to live with his Uncle Bilbo that he finally found someone that understood. One day Bilbo was making plans to kill a chicken for soup when he found himself with a lapful of hobbit, begging and pleading with him to not kill Miss Chicken.
"Please, Uncle Bilbo, Miss Chicken's my friend!"
For a moment his Uncle had stared at his dear lad and heir, mystified, and then he had shaken his head and let Miss Chicken go and promised mushroom soup instead. Uncle Bilbo always understood everything. It seemed as if they were meant to be together during those happy years living at Bag End. Frodo sometimes missed those days of happy innocence, knowing one hobbit truly identified with him. They were kindred spirits. But then Bilbo had left and he had inherited a magic ring. The rest, as we say, is history.
Frodo shook his head and once again his head tilted back to see the cooks were still jabbering about the latest gossip and paying him no mind. Frodo remembered leaving the Shire, knowing he had no choice but to eat whatsoever he could get his hands on.
When Aragorn had joined them he hunted and killed several deer to feed his hungry companions. It had taken quite a bit of resolve for Frodo to swallow the little meat he could force down. Perplexed that Frodo's companions seemed to gulp the meat down while Frodo struggled with a piece or two, Aragorn had taken Frodo aside to try to find out what was the matter. When Frodo finally confessed his eating habits, he waited for the scorn that usually followed. It didn't. Instead, Aragorn had gone away and smoked his pipe for a long time in deep thought.
The following day, Aragorn had brought deer meat but instead of serving Frodo the same portions he gave to the other three hobbits, he instead pulled out apples, honey and berries he'd found while hunting. It was then Frodo knew he had found the second person who truly understood him.
Along his journey, however, Frodo had no choice but to eat meat when it could be found. It was either that or death. But now that was over with, and Frodo had sworn never again to see another creature die because of him. That was when Frodo unlatched the cage and with both hands pulled the rabbit into his arms to make a daring rescue. He paused only a moment to grab several carrots and mushrooms before fleeing from the kitchen.
Aragorn was in the library reading and over several maps and scrolls with Faramir when a loud noise in the hallway got his attention. The door opened abruptly with a female coming into the room arguing with his guard. Faramir, who raised an eyebrow, moved aside and chanced a look out the window to see something catch his eye. A small smile crossed his lips.
"I don't care how busy his majesty is, I intend to speak to him of the thievery right now! My Lord! There is a thief on the premises and they have stolen the rabbit I was making for you and the Periannaths tonight for supper."
"It's all right, Finan. Madam Cook, what is it that has called you from your kitchens to honor me with your presence?"
Ever the gentleman, Aragorn gently took the overwrought cook's hand and gave her a patient smile. The cook then proceeded to inform him that someone had stolen one of the rabbits that were to be for tonight's meal, from the kitchen.
She had her suspicions that it was the new stable boys and wanted him to do something about it right away.
"A good whipping should keep them in line. You mark my words, today it's simple rabbits they are stealing from the pantry, but tomorrow it will be the King's crown."
Aragorn smiled sweetly at the woman, trying to keep his patient look in place, while inside he swore no child or boy in his stables would ever be whipped in his kingdom. He had seen enough death and pain for one lifetime.
"I will find out at once who was responsible and see that they are reprimanded. In the meantime, why don't you make some mushroom soup. Our guests, the Hobbits whom we owe so much, would surely appreciate such a gesture. It is one of their favorite foods."
The cook brushed back her hair and sighed, whining in her most put out voice.
"As you wish, my Lord. I will be sure to do so. In the meantime, make certain that you find the thief in my kitchen and see to it he is dealt with harshly. If you don't have the time, send him to me, and I will deal with the matter myself."
Aragorn gritted his teeth, nodding, and quickly pushed her out the door. Sighing, he shook his head and wiped his forehead in annoyance.
"Oh! If it isn't one thing it's another! I almost wish I had never claimed the throne of Gondor. How I miss those days when all I had to worry about were a few ruffians and robbers. A sword often put them in their place."
Instead of getting an understanding word from Faramir, he got a hearty laugh. Annoyed, he glared at his former steward.
"Oh, nothing my Lord. I was just wondering what indeed you would do to the thief, if he is found?"
Aragorn strode to his desk and shrugged.
"I don't know, whipping would be a bit much. Perhaps send him to bed without supper?"
Faramir shot Aragorn a long look, with one eyebrow raised high.
"What?" The king snapped.
"I don't know, your Majesty. I think that would be an unwise decision, after all he is already wasted away and another lost meal could seal his fate."
Confused, Aragorn marched over to the window and when Faramir pointed down towards the courtyard, one level down from the window, Aragorn had to fight the laughter rising inside his chest.
There in the courtyard was one tiny hobbit, clad in his night clothes, lying on his back with a fluffy white rabbit on his chest. The Hobbit seemed to be trying to feed the rabbit a carrot stick and was talking to the animal as if it could really understand what he was saying.
Staring down at the sight, Aragorn once again felt a strange ache in the center of his heart. It was the sweetest sight he had seen in a long time. Unable to pull his eyes away, Aragorn watched as Frodo finally pulled the carrot away. The rabbit walked further up his chest and put his nose up against Frodo's nose. For a second they seemed to eye each other, pretending that perhaps in all the world it was just the two of them. A second later, the rabbit's nose began to twitch and Frodo mimicked him in return.
It was so cute and adorable that Aragorn knew then that his heart was no longer his own. He had thought it would take a thousand years before his heart would mend after losing Arwen, but somehow it lasted no more than a few weeks.
Aragorn had always been attracted to Frodo, from the moment he had laid eyes on the blue eyed hobbit. At the time, however, he had too many other worries and an elf princess to fight for. In the end, he had lost her, but even then something had kept him from falling completely apart. There were always other fish in the sea. Gandalf had even spoken something about this a few days ago. The wizard had said Aragorn should stop looking above for answers and start looking under his nose, and he just might find love and happiness again. And, indeed, it seemed what he needed had been right under his nose all along.
But Frodo would be leaving soon for the Shire with Sam and his cousins. He was human and Frodo was a hobbit. They were males. Besides, Frodo had given no indication that he even liked him.
"My Lord?" Faramir broke his thoughts with a question at seeing Aragorn's shining eyes and smiled, unable to resist a small bit of teasing to his King.
"If you wish, I could decide a just punishment for his crime."
Aragorn turned to him in mild shock, but smiled when he saw the laughter in Faramir's eyes.
"And what just punishment would you mete out to our Ringbearer?"
"The severity of his crime has only one punishment. He should be sentenced to remain forever at my side. To prevent him from ever stealing again, I would take his heart and bind it to me forever."
Aragorn smiled. "So you have to come to care for him as well?"
"He is a gentle soul, My Lord. I would be honored if he would stay in my life. But alas, it is not me that his eyes seek out ever since he has come to Minas Tirith. He asks for you instead."
Seeing the shocked expression on Aragorn's face, Faramir continued. "I do not lie. Go to him. You had better never let this one go, for if you do, I will step in and gladly stake my own claim to him."
Aragorn shook his head and dropped his hand to his side, where Narsil remained. Though he smiled playfully, he was truly speaking his heart.
"Never, Fair Prince. This one will be mine and shall have no other."
Moments later, Aragorn left the library. Faramir remained by the window, watching Frodo in the courtyard and sadly wondered what it would have been like to have won Frodo's heart. It would have made him a very happy man, and Faramir would have spent his entire life trying to make one little hobbit the happiest being in all the lands. Turning his eyes away, he decided to seek solace elsewhere and wondered if that beautiful Elf, Legolas, was still around here somewhere. Maybe he could find a slight distraction from the ache in his heart.
Ever so slowly, Frodo stroked the rabbit's ears moving with great care down its back and brushing its tail before returning to its ears.
The King, standing in the shadows, watched the sight and wondered what it would be like if he switched places with that rabbit and had Frodo stroking him in all those wonderful places. Aragorn suddenly felt a twitch below his waist.
"And then Mr. Rabbit, I climbed all the way up to the tallest tree. Yes, I did. And then Mr. Rabbit I-"
A shadow fell on Frodo's form, blocking out the sunlight and rather taken back, Frodo looked up to see a familiar, tall human looking down at him with both hands pressed to his hips. Placing the rabbit gently in his arms, Frodo sat up slowly and tried to smile at the King of Gondor. But seeing the narrowed eyes and the pressed together lips, Frodo suddenly felt a bit of fear go up his spine.
"So, this is where my dinner is? In the hands of a thief, I see."
Frodo swallowed and petted the rabbit's ears nervously.
"Your Majesty, I can explain."
"Indeed. I'm sure you can...I'm waiting."
Frodo watched him tap his foot impatiently and Frodo suddenly felt very small indeed. The rabbit, however, only seemed to make matters worse by totally ignoring the situation and nibbling on the remains of the carrot Frodo had brought.
"Well, I--I ahm, well. You see-" Frodo swallowed and shrugged both his shoulders. "Mr. Rabbit is my friend. Don't eat him. Please!"
For effect, Frodo pulled the rabbit up to his face and held him close. He was fervently hoping that what had worked on Uncle Bilbo would work yet again. Seeing that little face and big blue eyes peering up at him with such depth of sad devotion, Aragorn suddenly felt like a heel for frightening Frodo and putting him in such a state.
Joining Frodo on the ground, Aragorn took the rabbit into his arms and peered deep into the animal's eyes. The rabbit only looked back at him in defiance with his ears up and his nose twitching as if to say 'go ahead try to hurt my hobbit friend and I will bite your nose!'
Turning to Frodo, Aragorn handed the rabbit back to him and smiled.
"You are hereby pardoned, and I decree that we shall have Mushroom soup instead."
Frodo realized he had been had and that Aragorn wasn't angry at all. He smiled in appreciation to the King.
"Thank you, your Majesty."
"Strider, Frodo, or Aragorn. Never call me Your Majesty? Promise?" Frodo nodded. "I promise. Aragorn."
It was then that Aragorn decided he couldn't resist that cherubic face one moment longer. Without another thought he reached over and pressed a light kiss upon Frodo's lips.
Realizing what he had just done, Aragorn started to pull away, only to have a small hand touch his cheek and pull him back down again. When both opened their eyes moments later and tried to catch their breath, they didn't see the rabbit snatch the remaining carrot from Frodo's hands into his mouth, and proceed to run off a few paces and eat to his heart's content. For a few moments the rabbit stared at the two of them and then seemed to return to the business at hand in eating his carrot.
Swallowing, Frodo smiled at Aragorn, who returned the smile with one of his own. Frodo suddenly began to wonder if his cousins and Sam wouldn't mind staying in Minas Tirith until Autumn. Perhaps, he would stay here for awhile. The Shire would always be waiting for him.
Aragorn sighed contentedly and wondered if perhaps Faramir or Eomer would be willing to take over the throne of Gondor. After all, they were both fair and strong leaders and besides, it would be only right for him to take Frodo and his friends back to the Shire under protective guard. Perhaps he could even stay for a time in the Shire. Frodo was still not fully healed and would need to be looked after and he was more then willing to heal Frodo -- in more ways than one. As they both bent closer for another kiss, their thoughts came together at the same time.
They could work this out. They could.
Meanwhile Mr. Rabbit had finished his carrot. Seeing that the hobbit had no more food to give him, he decided to head for the nearby garden. One hop at a time.
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What a Hobbit Wants by Summer
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Story notes: Beta read by Lorie