Learning to Smile

Chapter 6

by Little Jewel-(T)
December 9, 2016

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The peace and relief, however, were not to last.

The fever came back during the night, this time with a vengeance. It attacked the child restlessly and would not cease tormenting her mind and body. By the following morning, Aerinel was quivering like a leaf caught in a storm in the sheet that was wrapped around her small body, her face flushed with red and her skin clammy. She was unresponsive to any attempts made to wake her, causing Elrond’s fear for her to heighten. None of the calling or shaking, whether by the twins or Aragon, could rose Aerinel from her feverish stupor.


For the most part, Aerinel had slept throughout the night despite the rising fever, only waking just enough from time to time for Elrond to administer his medicines. But soon the elf lord was forced to get “creative” in his methods of administering the healing elixir he had concocted. The child refused to cooperate as her fever rose further, dragging her down into the darkness of her mind. It was not looking good.

With the help of Aragorn to make sure Aerinel could not escape or harm herself, Elrond managed to coax an elixir, stronger than the last dose, down Aerinel’s throat, which the child swallowed instinctively. The healer knew he could not increase the strength of the medicine any more. He had already giving the child a dose stronger than he would have liked. Any stronger and the elf knew it would kill her, her already weakened body unable to take the toll of it.
 

Elrond’s gaze strayed towards where his son sat, observing the human with a critical eye. Aragorn sat vigilantly at the small girl’s bedside, constantly changing the wet cloth on Aerinel’s forehead with a clean one, trying his best to do whatever he could to lower the fever. But it did little good. It was an endless battle. No matter what he did or the twins did, the fever would not let go, continuing to cause the child distress.  

The sun rose high above the valley, passing the midday point over the mountains, but Aerinel’s skin was still hot to the touch. However, hope flitted in and out; the child still burned, but not as harshly as she had just hours before. The fever had lowered by mere degrees, mainly due to the last dose of medicine. Still, it was not enough for the child to be out of danger.

Elrond stood at the side of the bed, his arms crossed over his chest, his face grave. “She must be woken up. If she goes on like this much longer, she will be lost to us.”
 

“But how? We have tried everything to rouse her.” Elrohir shook his head. “Nothing has worked.”

Elrond rubbed a hand over his face and sucked in a deep breath, letting it back out in a sigh. “I know, Elrohir, but all we can do is try.”

Aragorn leaned over and tapped Aerinel’s cheek gently. “Aerinel, you must wake up now. You have slept long enough.” But the child didn’t stir. “Please, Aerinel, wake up,” Aragorn pleaded, tapping her cheek harder in an attempt to get her to wake up, but to no avail. Aerinel’s eyes remained closed. He tenderly brushed her hair back from her face. He clenched his teeth and fought against the overwhelming rush of emotions. He wanted to pick the child up and shake her until she awoke. He did not want her to die. “Aerinel, wake up,” he repeated in a pleading whisper.

"Aerinel, child, you must wake up," Elrond called, his hand gently shaking the girl’s shoulder as he once again tried to coax the young human child to awaken. “Come, listen to my voice and awaken from your slumber.” The elf lord placed a hand on Aerinel’s forehead. “Aerinel,” he called, his eyes closed in concentration, “you must wake, child...you must wake.”

"Yes, Aerinel, you have to wake up,” Elrohir said, adding his voice to his father's.

"Otherwise, what else are we going to do with all this special tea?” Elladan queried, coming to stand beside his twin. His heart ached for the child. He shot an anxious glance to his brother. Elrohir just shook his head sadly. He had lived for many centuries, had seen many die, but he could not hide the pain he felt at watching a child – any child – perish.

Whether it was the combination of voices calling her or the feeling of being shaken that finally broke through the fog in Aerinel’s mind, no one knew. Whatever it was that caused it, the seven-year-old finally awoke, blinking sluggishly as she tried to orient herself with the waking world.

“Aerinel?” Elrond questioned gently, watching her response closely. Aerinel’s eyes were glazed with fever and filled with fear. She meet his eyes fleetingly, but then quickly avoided further eye contact. Her gazed darted around the room, but she did not even try to move. Instead she just lay on the bed, breathing heavily, sweat rolling down the side of her face.


“Something’s not right,” said Elladan to Elrohir quietly as he observed the child’s reaction with growing concern. “She does not know where she is – again.”  

“The fever is still very high. It is likely she will be disoriented for a while,” Elrond said as he straightened up and stepped away from the bed, hoping to calm the child like the times before when she woke. He seriously doubted that the child was even aware of where she was or what was going on around her. It seemed to help, for some of the tension in Aerinel’s body drained away and she relaxed slightly.  

“Aerinel?” Aragorn shifted along the side of the bed, bringing her attention to him. “Aerinel...are you with us?

The child turned her head and locked eyes with the man. “E-tel.” She was so weak that she could hardly form the words.

Aragorn smiled with relief. “Yes, little one, it is I. I need you to drink this special tea for me. Can you do that? It will help make you well again, I promise.” He took Aerinel’s lack of response to be a yes. Slowly, with a little assistance from Elrohir, he managed to coax her into drinking the lukewarm tea.

“It just won’t let go.” Elladan spoke the words softly for only his father’s ears to hear. “The fever is slowly killing her.”


Elrond watched the child for a moment, his eyes not missing the tender way his youngest son held Aerinel’s hand in his, trying to offer her some comfort. His eyes locked with the child’s for a moment. “Shhh…” he murmured. “Av’osto penneth; you are safe here.” 

Aerinel blinked up at the tall elven lord, her eyes tired and unfocused. Sensing that the child would not shy away from him this time, Elrond took a step closer and placed his hand on her forehead, disguising his intentions by affectionately brushing her hair back. As soon as his fingers had touched Aerinel’s skin, his suspicions were confirmed. The child’s fever had risen again. It was an ongoing battle. He would succeed in bring the fever down only for it to flare up again a moment later.

Elrohir stood and approached his father as the older elf moved towards the table in the room. “Do you even think she is aware of where she is? Or who is around her?”

“No.” Elrond shook his head. “I doubt that she is aware of anything at the moment. She is just lying there, lost in a world of fever and nightmares.” He glanced back over his shoulder. “It is difficult to say whether or not she will survive this.”

The room lapsed into an uncomfortable silence once more, each of the occupants tense and alert, constantly watching the child for any signs of a change in her condition.

"Please…” Aerinel whimpered after a while in time, stirring fitfully under the blankets. Her small hands clenched and unclenched, the sheets caught between her small fingers.

Aragorn immediately moved to her side. "Shhh, Aerinel, I am here. Av'osto.” He brushed her hair back, hoping his touch would soothe the small girl as it had done before over the previous days.

"Please… I’m sorry..." Aerinel whimpered again, cracking her unseeing eyes open.

Elladan shared a nervous glance with his twin. He did not like the words the child was struggling to say. His fear was reflected in Elrohir’s eyes.

"Sîdh, Aerinel. Ú-vaur gosto; I am here.” Aerinel crying out in such a way awoke a fear inside Aragorn’s heart that he didn't understand – all he knew was that he was suddenly very worried. “Peace, Aerinel. There is no need to fear; I am here.”

He turned to Elrond. “Ada, why is she crying like this? It is as if she cannot hear or see us.”

Elrond face betrayed none of what he was feeling, but his grey eyes were clouded with worry. “I suspect, but I do not fully know, ion-nín. It worries me just as much as it does you.”

“Please...don’t hurt...me,” Aerinel cried out in fear, her eyes wide and unseeing. “Please...”

“Hush, Aerinel, nobody is going to hurt you. You are safe here,” Elladan murmured, his own heart filled with a feeling of dread. Aerinel’s eyes darted back and forth across the room, seeing things that weren’t there. Elladan knew that look. He had seen it several times before, once or twice on Aragorn’s face, and once also on his twin’s. “She’s hallucinating,” he said, his voice low. Elrond did not look up, nodded all the same, confirming what his son had said.
 

“I fear you are right, Elladan. It is the fever. It is playing with her mind, creating images that are not there.”

The elf lord sat down on the bed and lifted the child into his arms, hoping that his touch would bring Aerinel back to the real world. "You need not fear of anything, Aerinel, I am here," Elrond spoke gently in her ear, rocking her back and forth. “You are safe… What you are seeing is not real… You are safe.”


But Aerinel just whimpered fitfully, her unseeing eyes wide with fear, her breathing harsh. She became still for a moment, her eyes staring at something across the room. Then suddenly she screamed in terror as she thrashed around in Elrond’s arms. She gripped his robes and tried to push herself out of the elf’s arms. “No...no, no!” Her voice rose. “Please make it go away! Make it go away!” she screamed.

“Easy, Aerinel, take it easy. Calm down, child. Calm down!” Elrond called over the sound of the child’s terrified cries as he tried to loosen her hands from his robes. She had a remarkably strong grip.

But Aerinel continued to cry and struggle against him, tears rolling down her flushed cheeks. Aragorn went to moved towards his father, but Elrond waved him away. He stood by the twins, feeling completely helpless as they watched their father try to calm the frightened girl.

Almost as suddenly as it had started, the screaming and fighting stopped and Aerinel lay unnaturally still in Elrond’s arms. The elf quickly searched for the girl’s pulse, which took a moment to find. When he gave a sigh of relief, Aragorn and his brothers also relaxed, visibly slumping onto the nearest thing – be it a chair or the bed or against the wall – in relief.

No one spoke for a moment. Then Aragorn said hesitantly, his voice sounding fearful, “Ada?

Elrond looked up at his foster son. “Yes, Estel?”

“Is Aerinel going to survive? Tell me truthfully, please.”

Elrond closed his eyes, his heart clenching in fear and worry as he held Aerinel in his arms. "I don't know, ion-nín. I just don’t know." And that was what was really scared the ancient healer.  

Elladan pressed his lips together in a thin line. He did not want the child to die any more than Aragorn and Elrohir wanted her to, but looking down at her, lying limp and helpless in his father’s arms, the young elf was forced to realise that she could very well die, very easily. She was so ill and weak.


~*~*~S~*~*~

Aerinel spent the rest of the day in the claws of the fever, and nothing Elrond did would bring her temperature down. By the early afternoon the fever still hadn’t broken, and Elrond was at his wits’ end. For a young human to have such a high fever for such a long time could result in her mind being permanently damaged, even if Aerinel even made it out of the fever.

As the darkness of the evening rolled in over Rivendell, it found Elrond and his sons once again coaxing more medicine down Aerinel’s throat in the hope it would fight the fever, but to no avail. The young girl’s fever would not be lowered.

"Ada," Elladan said, his voice betraying just how worn-out he was, "you need to rest. You have been awake for over two days. Get some sleep. Elrohir, Estel and I will look after Aerinel."

Elrond shook his head, his back turned towards the bed as he gazed out of the window. “I cannot.”

"We'll come get you if anything happens," Elrohir promised. “Please, Elladan is right.”

Again the elven lord shook his head. “The child needs me.”

Adar,” Aragorn spoke up, “they are not asking you to abandon Aerinel, just to get some rest for a short time.”

His sons, who were looking at him with pleading grey eyes full of concern, combined with the stress and exhaustion of the past couple days, were enough to persuade Elrond to agree to their wishes. Leaving Aerinel in the care of his sons, knowing they would alert him the moment anything happened, he left the room and made his way towards his own bedchamber. Lying down on the large bed, it took only moments for the elf to slip into a deep, dreamless sleep, his eyes half-closed.

~*~*~S~*~*~

Elladan nodded in satisfaction as the door closed behind his father. He glanced around the room, his eyes landing on Elrohir and Aragorn, who were sitting on either side of the bed.

“Do you think she will ever recover?” Aragorn turned his eyes on Elrohir.

The young twin sighed and reaching his arm forward, placing his hand on Aerinel’s forehead for a moment. "She still burns fiercely.”

Aragorn sagged dejectedly. “It's been four days now, and she still has a fever. If it does not break soon…" The ranger trailed off and looked sadly at the small child.

“She will die.” Elladan approached the bed and placed a comforting hand on Aragorn’s shoulder. “I do not say this to be cruel, but it is the truth. I’m sorry, Estel.” He gave it a light squeeze. “I hope Aerinel will be alright. She is still a child. The Valar should not be ready for her, and I would hope that they will not allow her to leave us just yet. She is strong. She has fought it this far. I am sure she will pull through.” He leaned forward and gently wiped a cool cloth across the girl’s forehead.

Elrohir fiddled with the corner of the sheet. "I know the Valar are not yet ready for her, but they will not turn her away were she to come to them."

"Have faith in the Valar, El." Elladan put a hand on his twin's arm, trying to comfort him. "I do not wish to lose Aerinel any more than you do, but have hope that they will do what they see fit."

Elrohir nodded, but doubt still clouded his mind. What if the Valar did see fit to take Aerinel away from this world when she was still so young, when she had so much to give and receive in return?


~*~*~S~*~*~

Time seemed to haze into one long restless repetition that slid from one hour to the next without change. Aerinel grew ever worse, and nothing they did seem to have an affect or help her at all, much to the three elves and Aragorn’s great fear.

The fever that racked the young girl's body only continued to rise, and the harsh coughing only deepened. It was nightfall when the fever peaked and Aerinel slipped deeply into a fevered delirium, causing her to scream with terror from hallucinations, tugging raggedly at the blanket that seemed to twist itself around her body.

"Aerinel, shh – Aerinel, listen to me, little one,” Elrond hushed in a gentle tone, holding the flailing child close to his chest and rocking her back and forth. "It's not real… I am here, you are going to be all right." He continued, stroking the young girl's unruly and sweaty hair with one hand, “You are safe, no one is going to hurt you here in my house.”

Elladan and Elrohir stood nearby with Aragorn, waiting anxiously for any command from their father that they could fulfill. Finally, after several minutes of attempting to calm the frightened child, the elven lord looked up at them.

"Go fill a bath. Her fever has spiked again and we must try and get it down,” he said hurriedly, struggling slightly with the thrashing child, who was emitting choked cries. The twin turned and vanished with a swiftness like that of a fired arrow. There was no need to tell them that this was a final attempt to break the fever. After that...who knew what would happen?

“Estel, help me here, please,” Elrond called as he laid Aerinel on the bed and began to undo the child’s nightshirt. Aragorn pinned the girl down with gentle fingers as he did so. Within minutes, Elrond had prepared Aerinel for the bath and wrapped her naked body in a light sheet as they waited, once again tucking her close to his own body for comfort.

"Shh, I won't leave you, hush, penneth, hush,” he murmured over and over again. His deep, calming voice at last seemed to have an affect on Aerinel. She sucked in a large, shuddering breath, going limp again in his arms.

Aragorn reached one hand out and stroked her hair. The child lay in his father’s arms, completely unresponsive. Her eyes were half-lidded and unseeing as she blinked sluggishly. She jerked once, whimpering quietly.

“Shhh, Aerinel, it’s alright. You’re going to be alright,” Aragorn murmured, taking her small hand and rubbing her fingers gently. There was nothing more either of them could do. “I wish I had not gotten so attached to you.” Aragorn whispered furiously, almost to himself.


“Why is that, ion-nín?” Elrond’s gentle voice startled the man and caused him to lift his head quickly, meeting the calm and steady gaze of his father. He swallowed once.  
“For then it would not hurt so much were she to die.”

Elrond regarded his son for a moment, then said slowly, “Perhaps, but then you would have to take a look at what it would be if you did not get so ‘attached’ as you put it. You would not care what happened to her...you not have shown her the kindness and care that you have. You might as well have left in the destroyed building alone to die.”

Aragorn bit his lip. “But why does the grief have hurt so much?”

Elrond smiled sadly. Even after all these years of traveling with the Dúnedain, Aragorn could still feel the grief and sorrow of someone passing. “Because my son, you have a heart.”

A cough interrupted their conversation.

"The bath is ready," Elladan said quietly, stepping back into the room. His sharp eyes followed his father's movements with precision, and he couldn't miss the complete tenderness that followed in the wake of the elven lord's movements. Swallowing hard at the lump that appeared in his throat at the thought of the child dying, Elladan held the door for his father and followed after him and Aragorn, refusing to let the tears fall.

Entering into the bathing chamber, Elrond stepped quickly over to the tub, filled with scattered herbs and luke­warm water. Kneeling down beside the edge of the tub, he gently deposited the weak child into the water,m supporting her head and neck with his hands. Instantly the girl's body tensed in shook, a painfully raw cry escaping her lips, and her eyes flashed open with terror.

“Mama!" she shrieked so harshly that it made the three elves present wince as if the sound had been ripped from their own throats.

"Cold! It's too cold!" she continued to cry, thrashing wildly and splashing the water everywhere. Elrond pressed her back down, glad to see that the water had at least brought Aerinel crashing back painfully to reality. He sealed his heart against the pain he was causing the child, knowing in the long run it would do her good.

"Mama, please, help me! It hurts! They’re hurting me!" Aerinel screamed again, tears now falling freely down her face. "I want out! Please!" she choked, clawing at the Elrond’s arm, which was pressed against her chest to hold her body down under the water.

"Aerinel, listen to me, child, listen to my voice,” Elrond half-shouted to be heard, desperately trying to comfort the young human. "I will get you out as soon as I possibly can, I promise." But Aerinel wouldn't listen, going into a crazed fit as she tried to escape the water which felt like ice on her over­heated skin.

"M-ma-mama! Help me!" she pleaded, her eyes focused on something beyond the elves and lunging forward against Elrond’s arms to try and get to them. "They are hurting me! I just want out! P-please, h-help me!"

The twins glanced up guiltily, heart­break clear on their faces. Aragorn looked near tears as he watched the child struggling against his father. The ranger knelt beside the tube and gently ran his fingers through Aerinel’s hair. "Hush, little Aerinel. You must stay in the water, just until your fever lowers. Then I promise I will get you out."


Aerinel twisted around to see the ranger’s face. “O-ou-out!” she sobbed, reaching her hands up, begging to be taken out of the water.
“No, little one, not yet. Just a few more minutes. Then I will get you out. Just relax...hush now…”

Aragorn’s soft words seemed to calm the child, for Aerinel paused in her thrashing, large tears still trickling down her face. Elrond gently pulled her back so that she was once again lying half­-submerged in the water. “Pr-promise?” she hiccupped weakly. “Y-you’ll… get me… o-out?”

Aragorn nodded and took her head. “I promise. Now relax, little one.” He cupped some water in his hand and poured it over her small shoulders.

But she only started to cry louder and struggle once more. “Mama, help me, please!” she whimpered.

Elrond cupped his hand in the water and let it run across the child's face, stoically continuing the treatment. Aerinel began to sob hysterically, though she had stopped fighting.

It seemed to take an age, but finally Elrond relaxed his muscles a little, his much-larger hand resting on Aerinel's small forehead. "Her fever has broken. Her body temperature is starting to go down," he whispered, smiling up at the twins, who laughed aloud with relief. Aragorn slumped against the wall beside the tub, relief shining in his grey eyes.

Aerinel herself was exhausted and didn't react to the words, simply lying still in Lord Elrond’s arms, taking in a shuddering breath every now and then. With one hand, she clutched the elf lord’s where it lay against her chest, so tightly that her small knuckles were white, and allowed the soothing motions of the elves moving around her to comfort her.   

Lord Elrond was speaking again, his voice low and comforting, but the young girl failed to listen to what he was saying, just barely paying attention to the sound of his voice.

"Would the two of you please go see to the changing of the sheets and blankets on Aerinel's bed?" Elrond asked, looking up at the twins, knowing that they would do it willingly. The sheets were soaked with sweat; herb-laced water and some of the medicine that had been spilled upon it. If they wanted Aerinel to be comfortable, then she would need warm, clean, dry sheets and blankets.

Elrond now turned to his youngest son. “Estel, will you stay here with the child for a moment? Aerinel seems to be calmest in your presence.”

“Of course.” Aragorn nodded and moved closer to the tub, sliding his hands behind Aerinel’s neck and supporting her head as Elrond stood up to fetch a towel.

Left alone with Aerinel, Aragorn found himself reflecting greatly on the child lying against his arms in the tub. The small girl he was rapidly learning to love, the girl who had already see so much horror and suffering. “Oh, Aerinel…" he whispered softly, gently stroking a soft pattern with his thumb along the girl's chest. “What you have been through for one so young.”

The child stirred sleepily in the water, a harsh cough escaping her lips before she stilled once, content to lie still now that the initial fear had slowly evaporated to a mere weariness. The man smiled, knowing that the child would soon drift into a much-needed rest, her mind free at last from the horrors that had haunted her for the past few days.

He looked down again as Aerinel reached up and grasped the forefinger of his right hand, gazing up at the man with sleepy eyes. A soft smile tugged at the corner of Aragorn’s lips. “Hey there, penneth,” he murmured. “Your fever had broken at long last. You will be able to rest now and recover your strength.”

The girl didn’t say anything, but closed her eyes again with a sigh. The water lapped soothingly against the edge of the tub. Aragorn momentarily closed his eyes, just listening to the breathing of the child and feeling the thumping of her small heart under his hand, a sure sign that she was alive. It had been so close.They had been so close to losing her.

A soft cough from the doorway alerted the ranger to the presence of one of the twins, breaking the moment of peace, and Aragorn looked up. "The bed is ready,” Elrohir said, holding a towel in one hand.

"Good,” Aragorn answered, lifting the small body of Aerinel out of the water and letting Elrohir wrap the towel around her thin little body. Aerinel gave a small grunt and shifted as she was moved, but almost instantly relaxed limply back into Aragorn’s arms. The man smoothed back the dark curls plastered against her head. One of Aerinel’s hands came up and curled into Aragorn's tunic like she was just a baby.

Aragorn looked down and smiled at her as he carried her back into the bedchamber. The fire had been stoked up, burning brightly and the lamps had been lit, giving the room a warm appearance.  Elrond stood beside the fireplace, patiently waiting with a clean nightgown in his hands. One eyebrow was raised at the sight of Aragorn with the child. He caught Elrohir’s eye, but the younger elf just shook his head fondly and followed his brother.

Elladan smiled as he passed by, carrying a basket filled with the used bedsheets and blankets. “Never did I think I would see those clothes be used once again after Estel grew out of them.”  

“Neither did I, brother dear.” Elrohir smirked at the man. “It seems our little brother has indeed grown to be a man, for he no longer fits into his romper suits!” His eyes were twinkling with mischief as he spoke. A great worry had been lifted off their shoulders and the impish side of the twin was beginning to show itself once again.

“Yes… it seems only yesterday that Estel was a small boy of five, running into one of our rooms and tripping over his sleeping clothes because of a storm.” Elladan winked at his twin.

Aragorn rolled his eyes at the twins as he sat down in the chair beside the fire, settling Aerinel in his lap. He then looked up at his father, realizing he had no clear idea of what to do.


Elrond chuckled kindly at the expression on the human’s face. “Start by drying her – just gently rub her skin with the towel...yes, that’s it,” he instructed. “Be careful not to rub her too hard; she is only small.”
Under the instruction of Elrond, Aragorn dried Aerinel and with his father’s help, tenderly dressed the child in the fresh nightgown provided. “I have never dressed a child before, and especially never one so small,” said Aragorn, gently guiding one small arm through the sleeve of the garment.

“Indeed,” Elrond chuckled with a soft smile of tenderness. “I may have had the pleasure of dressing four small beings, but none were as wily and as crafty as you were, my son, for you made it most difficult sometimes for either your brothers or I to dress you. You would sit down and refuse to get up, or perhaps you'd cross your arms most determinedly.”

Aragorn had the grace to blush as Elrohir sniggered from the other side of the room. He glared at the younger twin. Elrohir, however, was unfazed and grinned wickedly back at the human before putting the most extraordinary fake pout on his face and crossing his arms over his chest, mimicking Aragorn as a young boy. The ranger promptly ignored him. His mind was on other things than entering a verbal bicker with his brother.

Aerinel lay contentedly against Aragorn’s chest. She seemed more aware of what was going on around her. Her eyes roamed around the room, watching everything, taking in who was there and who wasn’t. The ranger was pleased to see that her eyes were less glazed than they had been a mere hour ago, another sure sign that the fever had broken.

“Here.” Elrond handed Elrohir a smaller towel as he passed. “Dry her hair to prevent her getting another chill, for that is the last thing I would wish to see happen.”

The younger elf took the towel his father offered him and knelt down beside the chair where Aragorn sat. With gentle hands and practised ease, Elrohir used the towel to dry Aerinel’s dark hair, careful not to pull it too hard,  until the soft curls bounced around her shoulders.

“Talk about having staff,” Elladan joked quietly as he re-entered the room, a soft blanket thrown over his arm while in his hands he carried a tray laden with four steaming mugs.

“Leave her; she has been ill.” Elrohir swatted at his twin with the towel. His eyes brightened at the sight of the  tray.  “Who are the drinks for?” he asked eagerly, getting to his feet.

“It was just a joke,” Elladan protested good-naturally, a look of mock hurt on his face as he set the tray on the table and picked up the discarded towel before throwing it at the basket by the door. But he missed and the towel landed on the floor.

“Some aim you have,” Elrohir muttered sarcastically.

Elladan glared at his twin. “And who says you are excellent at aiming, may I ask?”

“No one, but everyone knows I have better aim than you do.”


“You better be nice to me, otherwise you will not get one of the drinks Celboril sent up.”

The corner of Elrond’s lips pulled upwards slightly as he watched his sons bickering between themselves. “Pick that up please, Elladan.”

With a dramatic huff, Elladan did as he was asked, flinging the towel into the basket, giving it a good kick to close the lid. “What?” he asked, spreading his hands at the look Elrond was sending his way. The healer just gave the twin a stern glare and then returned his attention to his human son.


Aragorn was once again rocking Aerinel back and forth. The child rested her head on his shoulder, watching the elves move about the room. Although Elrond could not detect any traces of fear from her, he knew that she was still wary about them from the way she pulled herself closer to Aragorn if he or one of the twins stepped too close.

Elladan quietly came over and gently draped the pale blue blanket over the small child, tucking the edges around her, making sure she was warm. Aerinel stared up at him with big, round, sleepy eyes. Elladan just smiled down at her, his fingers brushing a strand of hair away from her face. Then he moved away again without a word.  

“Isn’t that the blanket I used to trail everywhere with me?” Aragorn queried, taking a better look at the blanket with curiosity.

Elladan hummed in agreement. “It is. Being warm and soft,  I thought it might do nicely for Aerinel.”

“Personally, I’m still surprised that blanket is even around after all Estel dragged it through, including his mouth. He was always chewing on it,” Elrohir commented lightly as he stood beside the chair, gazing down at the child.

Now that the child was free from the dirt and grime that she had been covered in from head to foot after been trapped, and now that the sweat from the fever was gone from her body the elves and Aragorn got their first proper look at the little girl. They took in in the dark hair that framed her small face and the grey eyes that looked up at them so quizzically.

“She is such a sweet-looking little thing,” Elrohir remarked as he gazed down at her. Aerinel sucked in her breath and then closed her eyes tightly. Her thumb came to rest between her lips as she finally give into exhaustion and fell into a deeper, more settled slumber for the first time since the fever had attacked her.

Making sure Aerinel was completely asleep, Aragorn stood and carried the child over to the bed with ease and gently laid her down, making sure her head was cradled by the pillow. Aerinel sighed and curled up on herself as he pulled the covers up over her. He brushed her hair a few times before placing a tender kiss on her forehead. “Sleep, little Aerinel. May your dreams be pleasant,” he whispered.

Elrond watched for a moment, then turned to the twins. “I need one of you to watch over Aerinel tonight to make sure the fever has completely left her. I do not want to take any chances. I would ask Estel, but he is exhausted himself. I need him to rest.”

Elladan nodded. “I will stay here. I am not yet tired.” He glanced at the bed. “She should sleep the whole night, shouldn’t she?”
 

“More or less,” Elrond confirmed. “If she wakes, just let her know that she is safe. You take some rest too, Ada, for you have spent much of yourself caring for her. There is nothing that needs doing tonight that either myself or Elrohir cannot take care of.”  

“Thank you,” Elrond said softly, his eyes turning towards the bed where the sleeping child lay. “She will begin to recover now, and hopefully it won’t be too long before she is running around like other child of her age.”

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