Summary: A camp site for the Fellowship offers an unexpected bonding experience for Sam and Legolas.
Disclaimer: Nothing is mine, no profit made, just for fun, don't sue. And I have no knowledge of gardening techniques, and don't claim to.
A/N: This was written for the Teitho theme "Healing".
"Gandalf?" came Pippin's voice for about the third time that hour.
"What is it, Mr Took?" Gandalf growled, though he knew exactly what Pippin would ask.
"Can we stop for a rest yet?" The youngest member of the Fellowship was having a hard time keeping up with the others, though Aragorn had to admit that he was having trouble as well. His legs were burning with an unquenchable ferocity, and his grim face was not due to a small argument with Boromir, as he pretended, but to exhaustion.
It had been dark for around four hours. Nothing was chasing them, at least as far as Aragorn knew, and they were in no hurry. Yet Gandalf had been driving them at a brisk pace since midday.
"We will stop when we find an appropriate spot, as I have already told you!" Gandalf growled.
Pippin glared at him. He wasn't really angry with the wizard; he was tired beyond belief. He didn't know it was possible for a person to feel this sore. The Big People were feeling the strain too. Boromir was sweating and panting; Gimli (if he classified as a Big Person) was muttering self-encouragement under his breath; Legolas was staring at the ground with his jaw firmly clenched rather than staring up into the stars as he did most nights, even while travelling; and Strider was trying to pretend he was simply grumpy at the world, though it was painfully obvious, even to the youngest hobbit, that he was exhausted. The Istar seemed to be the only one who was showing no signs of waning strength.
They walked for about ten minutes more when Pippin felt a scrutinizing gaze being placed on him. He looked up to find Legolas looking him up and down. The elf shifted his gaze back to the front of the line they were walking in, towards Gandalf. He stopped.
"This seems a perfectly good spot, Mithrandir," he said evenly.
Gandalf wheeled around and glared daggers at the wood elf, who held his gaze firmly.
"Look," Legolas pointed out, "it's sheltered, the grass is soft, there's a lot of" - here he paused and stiffened marginally, though it was barely noticeable – "firewood, and we have those berries in Mirkwood. They're safe to eat and we can save our food stores."
Pippin had heard enough. He sat down on the ground in a heap, and was dimly aware of Frodo, Sam and Merry doing the same.
Gandalf shifted his glare from Legolas to the four hobbits on the ground, before giving a stiff nod and thanking Legolas in a tone of voice that betrayed his obvious annoyance.
X X X X
Aragorn leaned contentedly against a boulder and smoked his pipe, his legs crossed in front of him. He looked around and observed, with a sort of twisted sense of humour, the effects of Gandalf's trek on the other members of the Fellowship. Merry and Pippin had curled up in the grass and gone to sleep quickly. Frodo sat just to the right of them, not sleeping just yet, but his eyes closed every now and then, until he opened them with a jerk of his head and repeated the process. Gimli was telling Boromir what sounded like dwarvish myths. Both had their pipes out, too. Sam was cooking dinner over a roaring fire, Legolas was sitting quietly with his hand on the trunk of a small tree, and Gandalf was glaring at the elf, occasionally muttering to himself.
Aragorn chuckled to himself. He had insisted on a rest once, a long time ago, when Gandalf was trying to push him too hard, and the wizard had remained angry at him for another week. He certainly wouldn't envy being Legolas for the next few days.
Sam finished his cooking and began handing plates out amongst the members of the Fellowship. Nobody had disagreed with Legolas at first, for fear of Gandalf pushing them further, but it was later pointed out that while the berries may be enough to sustain an elf, and possibly a man, they would not be nearly sufficient to fill the stomachs of four exhausted, starving hobbits. So Sam, as always, had cooked up a fresh, warm meal for his tired friends. He was, at this moment, probably the most appreciated member of the Fellowship.
Merry and Pippin woke up quickly as the smell of food reached their nostrils, and Frodo's head jerked upright one more time and stayed there. Sam passed plates to everyone with no objections, not even from Gandalf, who was more tired than he cared to admit, until he reached Legolas, who, politely as he could, declined.
"Begging your pardon, Mister Legolas, but you look like you need it," Sam said. "You're just as tired as any of the rest of us, don't think I haven't noticed."
Legolas didn't respond. Sam began to wonder if he was even listening. He looked closer at the elf, and suddenly realized that he was sad.
Sam felt very awkward. He felt as though he was intruding on a private moment, but didn't know how to get himself out of it. He was saved the necessity by Legolas, who chose that moment to speak.
"You're a gardener, aren't you, Sam?" he asked quietly, eyes not leaving the tree his hand was placed on.
"Yessir," said Sam, a little proudly. "I been a gardener for Mr Frodo for a long time."
"You love plants…" Legolas mused.
"Er, yes," said Sam awkwardly.
"Sit with me," the elf said unexpectedly.
Sam sat, placing the plate of food that had been meant for Legolas to the side.
"Look," said Legolas.
Sam followed his gaze to the tree, noticing suddenly that it was burnt. He didn't know why it had escaped his attention before, but most of the trees here were burnt. Only the very young were green and whole.
"There was a fire here," Legolas said, a little unnecessarily. The fact that there had been a fire was obvious. "It must have been a long time ago, for the grass is soft and lush, and the younger bushes grow here happily. It troubles me… the trees don't seem to have healed on their own."
Sam sat in quiet awe. He had always admired Legolas - and all elves - and felt immensely privileged to have him speak this personally to him. If his memory served him correctly, Legolas had not spoken of his own feelings at all during the trip, only speaking to point out things that the others, with their inferior senses, could not see or hear. He was an observer, perfectly happy to sit back and watch proceedings without taking any unnecessary part in them. Much like himself, Sam suddenly realized.
"The trees will come back," Sam said. "The saplings are spreading nicely."
"Not fast enough," Legolas muttered, and Sam wondered what he was talking about. He still had the palm of his hand resting against the tree trunk, and Sam suddenly noticed that his eyes were shut. He knew that Legolas was a wood elf, and that they could communicate with the trees, and he wondered if he was witnessing that now.
"What's it saying?" he breathed, almost without realizing it, so swept up was he in what could be occurring between tree and elf.
Legolas opened his eyes. "Yes, not fast enough," he said to himself. Turning back to Sam, he said, "The trees ask for help in getting better. There is a stream about half a mile south, but because of the hills, these trees receive no water. That is why they have been unable to grow back. It's not quite dead" – here Legolas sighed and turned back to the tree – "but it is in pain. Do you think maybe we could lessen its pain, both mental and physical?"
Sam was amazed. Was Legolas suggesting what he thought he was suggesting? That he, Sam, a simple gardener from the Shire, help a prince of elves in healing the trees, what they both shared a love for?
Legolas was still looking at him, waiting for a response. "Yes, er, that is, only if you want to, and you think it would help, I mean, you're the expert here," Sam mumbled awkwardly.
"I am no expert," said Legolas. "Experts work hard to attain their skills. I was born with the ability to hear the earth. It is you who are the expert. You were not born with anything, but you earned your skills. And I can only talk to the trees. You are the one who knows how to help them. And yes, I do want to help them. Tell me what to do, Master Gamgee."
Sam blushed. Surely this wasn't right. He should not even be talking to Legolas! Now he was supposed to tell him what to do? And as for calling him Master…
Sam looked back to the tree. Clearly Legolas wanted to help it, but didn't posses the skills of a gardener. And Sam had always thought himself a decent gardener, thankyou very much.
"Well," he said, "a lot of trees burn to spread seeds, and though I don't know this particular type, I think it looks like one up in the Shire that does that. So I think we ought to help the seeds grow. I'll fetch some water, if you tell me exactly where to go, and you collect as many seeds as are around, they're those round things, like this" – he picked one up – "and put them in a pile. Then we can plant them in good spots."
Legolas smiled and set about his task as Sam went in the direction Legolas indicated to collect water.
Sam and Legolas planted many seeds and gave them water that night. Neither slept, and the other exhausted members of the Fellowship did not argue to them "keeping watch" all night. They took turns between going down to the stream to fetch water and finding more seeds, and then they would dig a hole, plant one and water it. They also tended to the saplings, Sam caring for them physically, and Legolas caring for the emotionally. At one point, he brought Sam to tears by translating the gratitude that came from the tree to him, though Legolas kindly pretended not to notice. Each considered the other to be the botany expert, and themselves to be merely the assistants.
The next day, they were both exhausted, Sam in particular. By unspoken consent, neither of the two friends spoke of what went on last night, knowing that it was a private moment between two plant loving friends. For friends they had become, true friends, and when Sam became so tired he was virtually asleep on his feet, Legolas carried him.
The trees left behind in the little camp site continued to thrive and grow, and to sing their gratitude for the hobbit and elf's healing for many generations to come.