Rating: PG -> PG-13

Warnings: [violence] [language] [het] [shounen-ai]

Pairings: Takeru/Ken & Ruki/Legolas

Notes: Meep. 0_o;; I spelled "Galadriel" wrong and had to go back to fix it! Iím such an idiot. -_-;;

Dedication: Gatochu! Wanna know why? 'Cause Gatochu-san reviewed seven times in one day! Yay! That was a bright spot, what can I say?

Disclaimer: I'll repeat what I've been saying all along; I do not (not that I don't wish...) own Digimon or Lord Of The Rings. Just borrowing... I'll return... no big deal, etc, etc. etc...

Company
Chapter Nineteen: Departure
by Senashenta

It was before sunrise the next day when Aragorn shook them all out of their dreams to get on their way; everyone went straight to packing, with the exception of Pippin and Merry, who decided to hold a tug-of-war over a blanket belonging to one of them.

Ruki had spent much of the night either wandering Lothlorien or crying into Renamon's fur. She had managed to compose herself before the others rose for the day, but she refused to speak with anyone unless directly spoken to, for fear that her voice would still waver. And because she had spent so much restless time the night before, she was extremely tired. Because of her stubborn nature, though, she wouldn't let it show.

Renamon, concerned for the well being of her Tamer, watched the girl closely while the Fellowship packed and prepared to leave; her sharp eyes could pick up what the eyes of the others could not... the haunted look in Ruki's eyes... the deep-set worry in her face...

<But for all she cried,> the digimon thought to herself; <she still won't tell me what she saw...>

It was true. Ruki still adamantly refused to speak of what Galadriel's mirror had shown her.

<In this case, being secretive is harmful to her... and possibly to the others as well...>

"Hey, Renamon!"

"Hm?" Renamon glanced over at the Hobbits, her gaze resting on Pippin, who had called her name. Normally, most of the Fellowship refrained from speaking to her... not that she was around very much for them to speak to, but... "what is it?"

"Ah, I was just wonderin'-" Pippin tilted his head to the side, "see, I -- ahem -- lost my blanket, and-"

"-and-?"

"I was going to ask if you would be so kind as to get it for me."

Renamon raised a furred eyebrow. "Where is it?"

"Well..." the Hobbit glanced upward.

The digimon followed his gaze and would have chuckled if she hadn't learned restraint from Ruki herself. Somehow, in the course of their game, he and Merry had managed to get the blanket stuck in the branches of the tree they had slept under. Granted, it was stuck in the lowest branches, but that was still far to high for any of the Hobbits to reach.

"Anyhow, I was thinking," Pippin continued.

"-there's always a first." Merry snickered.

"Hey!" Pippin smacked his friend.

Merry smacked him back.

And soon the two of them were involved in the most juvenile and extensive slapping fight that Renamon -- or the rest of the Fellowship -- had ever seen; the others were all staring at them in almost-disbelief. 'Almost' because they all knew Merry and Pippin...

The yellow fox-digimon sighed tolerantly and rose from her perch on a low branch of one of the other trees. Uncrossing her arms, she jumped to the ground and walked briskly across to where the two were still 'fighting'. Merry had Pippin's arm twisted behind his back, and Pippin, in turn, reached back with his free hand and latched on to Merry's nose.

"Ahem." Renamon cleared her throat.

"Uh-"

"Um..."

Without releasing each other, they blinked at her in union.

"Hi, Renamon."

"Hullo."

Renamon stared at them flatly, a stare that, in the past, had put even Guilmon and Terriermon in their place without a struggle or complaint. The Hobbits simply continued to blink at her blankly, and after a long moment Renamon rolled her eyes skyward. <Give me strength...> she paused, her eyes still focusing upward. The blanket hung just over her head and to the left. Shaking her head, she leaped upward to land on the nearest branch. Balancing in the way only she knew how to, the digimon walked over to the blanket and plucked it from the leaves. Holding it in her paw, she gazed down at Pippin and Merry.

They hadn't moved, with the exception of their heads to follow her actions.

"Here." Releasing the blanket, she let it drop down to land on the ground beside them.

Pippin let go of Merry's nose, and Merry allowed him take his arm back. Both took a moment to rub the pains out of their respective parts, then Pippin leaned down and grabbed his blanket. Turning his gaze up, he grinned, "Thanks! I was gonna' ask Legolas, but he seems to have vanished."

"He went to talk with the other Elves." Frodo offered.

"Oh."

"Anyway," Pippin continued, "thanks a lot, Renamon."

Renamon nodded silently and sat down where she was to perch on the tree limb.

"...I would have made him climb up and get it himself." Sam muttered.

Laughter broke out among those present. It was strained, but it was something they all needed. Renamon, however, remained silent; she was watching Ruki, who was staring into the stream without moving. Her eyes were blank and her thoughts seemed to be on something far from Lothlorien and Middle Earth.

Renamon sighed again and waited for everyone to finish getting ready. Much as the enjoyed adventure and to seek out challenges in life, the digimon had to admit that Middle Earth was getting to be a little much, even for her. She would be glad to get back to Tokyo.

...it was nearly another hour before they were ready to leave, mostly due to Pippin's incessant fooling around. The Hobbit simply had no sense of how serious their current situation was.

Though the Elves of Lothlorien gladly re-supplied them, tailored new clothing -- including a brand new cloak -- for each member of the Fellowship, equipped them with weapons (Takeru was glad for this as he was still kicking himself for losing his bow in Moria) and even gave them boats to get them down the Great River, they were without a guide now that Gandalf was gone... and none of the Elves were willing to venture out of the safeness of their forest to walk into Mordor with them. All of them knew that Aragorn -- who had unspokenly become their leader -- would do his best, but even the Ranger had never been this far before...

Still, Pippin's carefree (though many would have called it careless) outlook and his squabbling with Merry remained a semi-bright spot for all of them in what could have turned into a dark state of mind.

<Just something to take our minds off of what we're about to do, I suppose.>

They set out shortly before dawn, having been up for quite a long time already, and sunrise saw them already a good distance down the River from Lothlorien. The boats that the Elves had gifted to them were light but strong, and they were making good time. Each little vessel was shared, so that no one person would have to take on the task of paddling alone; Aragorn took a boat with Frodo and Sam, Boromir with Merry and Pippin; Legolas and Gimli (the most unlikely pair, who were, in fact, now good friends) shared another. Ruki simply took a boat with Renamon, the only digimon who was large enough to help with the paddling, and did so without comment. And finally, Takeru and Ken shared a boat, with Patamon and Wormmon along for the ride.

Their supplies were distributed equally among them, not that there were many to distribute; Aragorn had opted for the least amount of baggage possible to make for light traveling. Logically speaking it made sense, but leaving Lothlorien with little to no food would mean foraging along the way when their supplies did run out, and none of them were particularly looking forward to that eventuality.

They tried not to think that far into the future, though it probably wasn't a good idea on their part.

...Renamon paddled silently, her eyes on Ruki. She was in the hind section of their boat with her Tamer in front of her, and the girl was still looking... haunted. It worried Renamon. She had never seen Ruki act the way she had been since Galadriel and the Mirror.

Motion to the side caught the digimon's attention and her eyes flicked in that direction; Legolas, with Gimli in the boat that was running just beside and slightly behind their own, had his hand raised. She watched him motion for the Dwarf to bring their boat closer to Ruki's and stifled a smirk. The Elf was showing concern for her Tamer. Again...

<Something in the way he looks at her...>

Ruki noticed when the other boat pulled closer to theirs... certainly Legolas and Gimli weren't trying to hide it in any way; but the girl showed no response except to glance in their direction as they neared.

Once their respective craft were floating parallel to each other, Renamon sighed. Beside her was Gimli; Legolas, as with Ruki, was seated in the front of their boat and so Gimli was in the back. The Dwarf watched as his friend attempted to strike up a conversation with Ruki -- beginning with concerned questions as to what was wrong -- and the girl answered shortly, making Legolas pause to re-consider his general approach.

Eventually, he was able to get her speaking, but she kept her eyes trained on the route in front of her and concentrated most of her energy on paddling. She obviously wasn't as interested in telling Legolas what was amiss as he was with asking.

"The fool," Gimli muttered half-to-himself, "does he actually expect her to open up to him?"

"...perhaps..."

The Dwarf blinked, surprised when Renamon spoke. Turning to her, he narrowed his eyes slightly; "you more than anyone should know it to be impossible." He said, "your partner is not one to consider telling others of her inner feelings."

"...no." Renamon agreed, eyes on Ruki and Legolas as they spoke in hushed tones, "but since we arrived in Middle Earth I have noticed that her relationship with Legolas is growing. They may not be as close and she and I, or you and he, but they are slowly becoming friends."

"You're kidding."

But Renamon shook her head, "of course not. You can't see it?"

Gimli shook his head.

"Hn." The digimon snorted lightly, "Dwarves are not the most observational of peoples..."

"What?" Gimli demanded, looking shocked, "who told you that-?!"

"No one." Renamon replied, "I simply... watch..."

"You watch?! You watch -- argh!"

A silent snicker at the indignant look on Gimli's face was all that Renamon allowed herself. No one else heard, and she made no outward sign of her amusement -- she was neutral as always as far as everyone else was concerned. And she stared ahead at Ruki's back while the Dwarf began -- and continued to -- rave at her from his own boat, catching the attention of several other members of their company, Takeru and Ken included...

"What do you suppose she said to him?" Ken wondered, blinking.

Wormmon, who was seated at his partner's feet, peered over the edge of the boat. "I don't know."

"Something that made him mad!" Patamon piped up from his perch on Takeru's head.

The blonde rolled his eyes at Patamon, "thanks for the insight."

"What?" The digimon asked, looking innocent.

Takeru sighed. "You are practically intolerable at times, Patamon. Be glad you're my best friend or you might have found yourself tossed out on your backside a long time ago." He paused and then chuckled to himself; "but I can't really do that to my digimon, can I?"

"Nope!"

"Damn."

"Hey!"

"What?"

Ken smiled, loving being able to enjoy their bickering. Until then, there had been very little time for enjoyment in Middle Earth... things were not as easy here as in their world or the Digital World. <Or,> he thought, <in the World Of Wishes. Although the Dark Ocean World was certainly no better than this one... it was lonely. At least in Middle Earth there are friendly people, even if there are some not-so-friendly ones as well...>

"Ken?"

"Hm?" The bluenette looked down at Wormmon when a claw tapped his leg. "What is it, Wormmon?"

"What are you thinking about?"

Ken regarded his friend affectionately, "I'm comparing Worlds, actually."

"Comparing Worlds?" Wormmon looked slightly confused.

A nod; "I'm comparing Middle Earth to our Earth and the other dimensions we've been in."

"Oh."

"It's pointless," Ken shrugged, "but I want to keep my mind off... things..."

Wormmon nodded seriously. "So do I."

The Child of Kindness sighed and turned his eyes to the trees that were drifting past on either side of them. The forest they were passing through was nowhere near as lovely as the forests of Lothlorien, and Ken thought wistfully of the trees and stars that they had left behind. Well, not entirely... before they had left, Galadriel had gifted Frodo with the light of their Ďmost belovedí Star... an important gift, Ken had gathered, and one that could be important, though he had no way of knowing for sure.

<...and there's something about this forest that I don't like.> The former-Kaiser swallowed down an uneasy feeling at the shadows between the trees and turned his gaze away and back toward the river ahead. <What it is? I have no idea... it just feels like something is... there...>

"Hey!"

A blink and Ken's attention was drawn to Aragorn. From the front of the small group of boats, the Ranger waved them to the side, motioning that it was time to paddle ashore. It was too early to be stopping for the night, though...

"Left-" Takeru glanced back, "ne?"

Ken nodded and they turned their boat, pushing it through the water. Soon they were close enough to the shore for them to pull the craft through the shallows, and Takeru jumped out into the water. With Ken continuing to paddle lightly, he heaved the small boat up onto the land... and then fell backward into the ground.

"Next time," he moaned pitifully, "you do this and I'll sit on my butt."

Ken raised an eyebrow even as the Hobbits began to giggle. "I think not."

"Jerk."

"You don't mean that."

"And how would you know?"

Ken's eyes twinkled as he climbed from the boat, lifting Wormmon after him. "I know..."

"...fine." Takeru glowered at him. "You're a pain in the ass."

"That," Ken chuckled, "is something I will admit to." Stretching, the bluenette attempted to work the kinks out of his very sore muscles. He was still working his left arm -- which, for some reason, was far more sore than his right -- when Aragorn dropped his packs on the ground a few feet away. The bluenette cocked his head to the side. "Aragorn?"

The Ranger looked at him.

"Why are we stopping now?"

"We will rest here for now," Aragorn explained, "and travel the River by night."

"...why?"

"There are Orcs close by," Legolas spoke up; "I can sense them, and I am sure that Aragorn can sense them as well?" At Aragorn's short nod, he continued; "we have a better chance of journeying unseen at night. Perhaps, if we travel by cover of darkness, we can make it down the River without being spotted by them."

"Oh." Ken shrugged and dropped to the ground. He was so beyond tired... "alright." Cuddling up against his side, Wormmon closed his eyes. Ken assumed the digimon fell asleep, as he grew silent and still. <Poor guy. He's been through a lot.>

"You alright?"

Glancing at Takeru, Ken nodded. "Yeah. You?"

"I'm okay."

They both closed their eyes, leaving the silence to itself as they attempted to soak up some sort of energy from their surroundings. Given the way they were feeling, any kind of energy would have been fine, too...

...and Ken woke again who-knows-how-long later when Wormmon tugged at his tunic, making him groggily open his eyes and blink dully at the digimon. "...s'wrong?" He muttered, slurring in his sleepiness. "Worm'on?"

The bug tugged at his tunic again, more insistently, "Ken-"

"What? What?" The bluenette struggled to pull himself into a sitting position and looked around. Takeru, who had been next to him when he's fallen asleep, was standing a few feet away, frowning. The Hobbits were sprawled wherever they happened to have sat down. Legolas was sitting nearby inspecting the string on his bow. Gimli was sharpening his axe nearby. Ruki was leaning against a rock formation, only semi-aware and obviously deep in thought, and Aragorn was standing near the edge of the River, looking out at the opposite bank. Ken shook his head to clear his thoughts. "Takeru?"

"Aragorn!" Takeru called, ignoring Ken completely. Ken blinked, and when Aragorn turned around, Takeru stared hard at the Ranger. "Where's Frodo?"

"Frodo-" Aragorn paused, then looked around. "I... do not know-"

Ken was on his feet and totally alert within a fraction of a second. Everyone else joined him an instant later, all of them concerned. Frodo was not someone they could just misplace, and it seemed they had somehow lost him.

Suddenly, Aragorn's eyes narrowed as he surveyed the surrounding area. "...Boromir..."

Takeru scowled; his trust of the man had not grown during the course of their quest, and now, with Frodo missing and Boromir nowhere to be found... his stomach twisted into a tight lump. There was definitely something wrong. Very wrong! He spun to face Aragorn again. "We have to find them!"

Aragorn nodded, "yes. We'll split up; Takeru, you come with me. Gimli, you take Merry; Legolas, you take Pippin and Ken, you take Sam. Ruki, see if you and Renamon can find anything... I'm sure Renamon will be of great help in the forest..."

"We're gone." Ruki shoved off the rock and started into the woods, disappearing between the trees. A flash of movement signified Renamon dashing after her Tamer, and soon both of them had vanished.

"Come on." Aragorn strode forward, and Takeru followed quickly.

The others scrambled to find other directions in which to search.

"Where are we going?" Takeru asked, "do we even have any idea?"

Aragorn nodded sharply, "this way."

Instead of questioning the Ranger, Takeru simply accepted his word without complaint. Still clutching his head, Patamon was looking more worried than the blonde had ever seen him look... he sensed something, Takeru was sure. He almost asked the digimon what he was feeling, but then thought the better of it.

<I don't think I want to know.>

"Here-"

Aragorn lead him up a steep slope until they were standing at the top of a small hill. Turning, the Ranger looked around him, searching for Frodo. Takeru did the same, whirling to search the area with his eyes. Near them was a stone pedestal -- stairs lead to the top, which was adorned with worn-down statues and figures...

The snap of a twig nearby caught their attention, and both Aragorn and Takeru spun to face the source of the sound.

Standing near one of the pillars that help up the pedestal was Frodo.

"Frodo!"

The Hobbit eyed them warily.

"Frodo-" Aragorn started forward, hands held in front of him. "What happened?"

"He tried to take it." Frodo stepped back, making Aragorn stop. "He tried to take the Ring from me..."

Takeru blinked. <He? Who..?> And then he knew. <Boromir. Damnation.>

But, though he surely knew, Aragorn still asked; "who, Frodo? Who tried to take the Ring?"

"...Boromir." The Hobbit said softly. His hand was curled at his side and he slowly brought it up, uncurling his fingers to reveal the One Ring, free of it's chain. He followed Aragorn's eyes with his own as the Ranger's gaze fell on it. Frodo looked at him sadly. "Would you destroy it?" He asked softly.

Aragorn stepped forward again, eyes on the Ring, and this time Frodo didn't move away. The Ranger reached a shaking hand toward the Ring in Frodo's hand, and Takeru tensed, his own hand straying to his knives. He knew he couldn't take Aragorn on and even hope to win, not as a Human anyway, but he also knew the power of the One Ring... he could feel it himself, though he managed to restrain himself...

Finally, with a shaky breath, Aragorn dropped to one knee. Taking Frodo's hand in his own, he folded the Hobbit's fingers around the Ring and pushed it away from himself. "I would have followed you to the end-" he whispered hoarsely, "into the very fires of Mordor."

"I know." Frodo replied.

"...Takeru?" Patamon asked softly.

"He's going alone." Takeru said, "and Aragorn is letting him..."

"But-"

The blonde shook his head. "They're doing what's right, Patamon. I just wish-"

Then Aragorn's eyes lit on something and he jerked back from the Hobbit. "Frodo-!"

"What-?" Frodo reached to his side and pulled Sting from it's sheath. The sword was glowing a very pale blue... "Orcs!"

Takeru responded immediately, his bow out and loaded. Despite the fact that he was no longer technically an Elf, those of Lothlorien had gifted he, Ken, and Ruki with Elven bows... the same type as those they had used before, only stronger and lighter (as only bows from Lothlorien could be, Legolas had told them.)

A feeling of dread crept up his spine, and he knew which direction the Orcs were coming from...

"Run, Frodo!" Aragorn commanded, readying his sword. "Run and don't look back."

Frodo nodded, frightened, and dashed off in the opposite direction, his cloak fluttering.

And Takeru turned with Aragorn to face the oncoming horde...

~*~*~*~*~*~

Me: ...okay, so most of the action is in the next chapter. So? Sorry. Only one more chapter to go minna! I'm so proud of myself! *looks around* What? No commentary from everyone else? Jeez... I'm kinda' hurt here... *sad sigh* Maybe they'll visit again at the end of the next chapter. I can hope...

 

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