Originally written for the Tol Eressëa community birthday day celebration for Sam Gamgee, based on the language of flowers. I chose the red rose, which in the language of flowers means love and desire.
"It's done." Elijah released a shaky breath and sat back on his heels, resting his hands on his thighs. They were trembling slightly.
Sean looked at him in quick concern. "Are you all right?" Elijah's face was chalk-white and pinched with exhaustion.
Elijah nodded, the simple motion appearing to require every ounce of strength he possessed. "I'm fine. I just hope he will be, too." Maggie vocalized, tail thrashing as she prowled worriedly around him. Elijah picked her up and held her comfortingly against his chest. "It's okay, Maggie. Honestly, I'm fine."
"His pulse is thready, but it's there, and his temperature is going in the right direction: up." Sean released the wrist of the man Elijah had rescued from drowning in icy water. "But while he's out of immediate danger, he definitely needs to be admitted to the hospital stat."
"I'll go start the Jeep and get the heater running." Elijah gently set Maggie down and climbed to his feet. He swayed slightly, but forestalled Sean before he could say anything. "Sean, I'm all right."
Sean sighed and ran a hand through his already disheveled hair. "You aren't, but unfortunately our friend here is even less all right." It never got any easier, setting a stranger before Elijah, no matter how necessary it was.
"You can torment me in your best doctorly fashion when you get back from the hospital," Elijah said, and with Maggie close by his side, left the family room, where the man, closely wrapped in blankets and padded by several hot water bottles, was lying on the sofa.
After Elijah left, Sean called the medical center to let them know he was bringing a patient in. Doctors didn't normally bring their patients to the hospital, but the staff was used to it after years of dealing with Ian Holm and now Sean. They never questioned the circumstances. To them it was simply a Piney thing.
He'd just hung up when the unconscious man groaned and his eyes flickered open. "Wh-where am I?" he asked in a dazed and disoriented voice. "What h-happened?" He moved, as if intending to sit up, but Sean put a hand on his blanket covered shoulder to stop him.
"Easy," Sean said soothingly. "Don't try to move. You had an accident, but you're safe now."
"An accident?" The man closed his eyes, obviously struggling to remember. "I remember now. Fishing - ice broke... fell in." A shudder quaked through him. "So cold."
"I know, but you're going to be all right." Sean spoke in his best calm and reassuring doctor's voice. "To be on the safe side, I'm taking you to the hospital."
"But who-who are you and how did I get here?" the man whispered in confusion. "I can't remember anything after I fell in..."
"My name is Sean Astin and I'm a medical doctor. A good Samaritan rescued you and brought you here." Sean picked up a stainless steel travel mug filled with the healing herb tea that he'd come to rely on in his practice. "Drink a little of this tea. It'll help warm you." He supported the man around the shoulders and set the rim of the mug to his lips. After letting him take a few swallows, Sean eased him back down. The man closed his eyes, clearly exhausted by the effort. "Can you tell me your name?" Sean asked.
"Well, Robert, I want you to hang tight. As soon as the car's warmed up, we'll be on our way. I promise you, you're going to be just fine."
Elijah returned a few minutes later, dressed for the outdoors with the old faded gray hat covering his still-damp hair. "You're good to go," he said, coming to kneel beside Sean. "How is he?"
But before Sean could answer, Robert's eyes opened again at the sound of Elijah's voice. Confusion passed over his features. "Who are you?" he whispered.
"I'm Elijah Wood, Sean's partner," Elijah replied.
"Have we met before?" The man's brows were contracted as if he were trying to catch some elusive memory.
"Not that I'm aware of." Elijah's voice was steady, but Sean knew what it cost him to lie, and his heart ached for him.
"But you seem so familiar. I could have sworn..." Robert began, and then doubt replaced puzzlement. "But I guess not."
Sean understood all too well what had happened to him, how the memory of his encounter with the Woodjin, in both his stag and human forms, hovered on the edge of his conscious mind, only to retreat like quicksilver the harder he tried to capture it. Eventually the memory would fade completely, save for random moments when, stirred perhaps by a fleeting resemblance in a stranger's face or voice, it would resurrect in that odd sensation called déjà vu. With it would come a sensation of loss, of something beautiful gone beyond recall - as indeed it was.
"Help me get him up, Elijah," Sean said quietly, putting aside regret for what must be to focus on the job at hand.
Together they assisted Robert to his feet and guided him slowly and carefully out to the Jeep, standing ready and waiting with the engine running. After he was safely buckled in, still swathed in blankets, Sean went round to the driver's side. Elijah came with him. "I'll be back as soon as I can," Sean said. He gave Elijah a quick kiss. "I want you to rest while I'm gone, please. There's nothing needs doing that can't wait." Elijah nodded, and Sean climbed in the Jeep. "I love you," he said softly before closing the door.
As he drove away, Sean felt a faint tug, the invisible connection between him and the Woodjin making itself known and trying to draw him back where he belonged. He steadfastly ignored it, but his hands gripped the steering wheel so hard they ached.
It was late when Sean finally left the hospital. After admitting Robert and calling his near-frantic wife, who had been expecting her husband home several hours' earlier and been unable to reach him on the cell phone that was now residing at the bottom of a lake, Sean could have left the man in the competent hands of the on-duty staff, but he stayed. Not only because he felt a personal responsibility to the man, but because it was what Elijah would want him to do. It wasn't until he was certain that Robert was stable and his worried family reassured that he would be okay that he finally made tracks for home.
As he strode through the hospital corridors toward the elevators, Sean thought about the fact that Robert and his family would never know the identity of the man to whom they owed so much. He thought about Elijah, patiently waiting at home for Sean. He never complained, never asked Sean to put him before others even when, like tonight, he was dealing not only with physical exhaustion but with the emotional fallout from erasing the memory of their meeting from Robert's mind.
It wasn't enough, Sean decided as he punched the elevator 'down' button with more force than necessary, simply to go home and offer Elijah the comfort of his arms and his sympathy. He needed to do something more. An idea occurred to him, and when he stepped off the elevator into the lobby, he didn't head immediately for the exit, but made a brief detour.
Elijah was, as always, waiting at the door when Sean pulled up in the Jeep. It was dark as only the Pines could be, although the sky was thick with stars, and bitterly cold. Sean hustled up the walk and climbed the stairs two at a time, carefully hiding one arm behind his back.
Neither spoke when the front door closed behind them; Elijah simply stepped into Sean's embrace, allowing a vulnerability and need to show that once he would have considered a weakness. They held each other in silence for a time, and a tiny smile played around Sean's lips that Elijah couldn't see.
"All right, Woodjin?" he eventually asked. "Or do you need me to torment you in my best doctorly fashion?"
Elijah laughed into Sean's neck, his breath warming the chilled sliver of skin exposed in the gap between the collar of Sean's fleece-lined jacket and the wool scarf wound around his neck. "I know you'd like to, but this is all I need to feel better. You." He rubbed his cheek against Sean's shoulder and then Sean heard an audible sniff and his smile widened. "Sean, why do you smell like roses?"
"Maybe because I'm carrying these." Sean stepped back and, grinning broadly, brought his left arm in front of him. He was holding a cylinder of green florist's paper that contained two dozen deep red roses. He presented the bouquet to Elijah with a bow and a flourish. "For you, love of my life."
Elijah took them. His cheeks were no longer pale but flushed bright pink. "You brought me red roses." He sounded incredulous.
Not certain if it was pleased incredulity or the 'I'm going to bop you over the head with these' variety, Sean said, "I would have brought you whippoorwill shoes, my brave and beautiful Woodjin, but February isn't really the best time for orchid hunting."
"I don't need whippoorwill shoes." Elijah buried his face in the blossoms, breathing deeply. When he looked up, his eyes were brighter than the stars outside and Sean had his answer even before Elijah said, "These are perfect, Sean. But where on earth did you find roses at this time of night? Weren't all the stores closed?"
"Yes, but I happen to have a connection at the hospital: the evening maintenance crew supervisor, to be precise. His wife is a patient of mine. He was more than happy to open the gift shop and let me do a little off-hours flower shopping." Sean hesitated then added quietly, "I used to buy Chris red roses, more because it seemed the thing to do than because I meant it. But this time I mean it, Elijah. I love you."
"Oh Sean, you've gone and worked your magic again." Elijah flung an arm around Sean's neck and hugged him fiercely. "I love you, too, my magician," he said and then he stepped back and added more prosaically, "We should put these in water."
Above the vibrant red of the roses, Elijah's eyes appeared impossibly blue and his skin glowed with the same pearl-like luster as the white stag's velvety fur. The familiar, beloved scents of pinesap, woodsmoke and dried grasses mingled with the sweeter, lusher scent of rose, and the combination worked on Sean like a powerful aphrodisiac.
"Not all of them," he said. "I'll need a few."
"Need a few?" Elijah repeated. "For what?"
"Is there an echo in here or is it just me?" Sean teased.
"Sean. Explain, please. Since when are you interested in making potpourri?"
"Since the recipe's ingredients are rose petals and you naked on our bed."
Elijah's pupils expanded until only a thin rim of intense blue could be seen and his breath hitched. "Oh. Gollykeeper."
Sean smiled but said seriously, "Only if you're feeling well enough, that is." He lightly touched the dark smudge beneath Elijah's left eye.
"You're not the only one with connections," Elijah replied airily. "I happen to know a certain doctor who strongly believes in the health benefits of potpourri making."
"Is that so? A very wise man, your doctor."
"He is," Elijah said but now as serious as Sean had been. "The wisest and the best." He pulled a half-dozen roses free from the paper cylinder and handed them to Sean. The pines tang around him sharpened and intensified, as it always did when he was aroused. "Now let's go make that potpourri," he said and, taking Sean's hand in a firm, no-nonsense grip, pulled him toward their bedroom.