West of the Moon
A Tolkien Fanfiction Archive
In the Company of Friends
An injury he sustained during the Battle of Pelennor Fields takes a turn for the worse for Gimli, and at Pippin's encouragement he visits a healer. Later, he has the opportunity to comfort Pippin as he worries about the upcoming battle.
Author: Slightly Tookish
Note: Written for Marigold's Challenge 14. Thank you to Pipwise for the beta :)
In silence Merry and Pippin sat alongside Legolas and Gimli on the wall behind the Houses of Healing, gazing upon the glittering Anduin as they thought of battles fought and yet to come.
Squinting in the sunlight, Gimli studied the hobbits. Made pale by pain and weariness, Merry stared ahead with a tense and troubled face, and every so often Pippin glanced at his cousin worriedly. They had grown uncommonly quiet after listening to the tales of the Umbar ships and the Dead Army, and it unsettled Gimli to see such serious expressions on faces made for laughter. He caught Legolas' eye and the elf shook his head, concern for his young friends visible upon his face.
With a barely audible sigh, Pippin reached into his pack and retrieved two handfuls of apples, and silently offered them around. Gimli accepted one with a nod of thanks, glad to see the young hobbits eating, at least.
For a few moments more there was no sound except for the crunching of apples. Then suddenly Gimli felt an intense pain, and with a hoarse cry he dropped his apple and brought both hands to his face.
"Gimli! What's wrong?" Pippin cried, rushing to his side.
"My tooth, my blasted tooth," Gimli muttered. He brought his hands away, revealing a thin trickle of blood dripping down the side of his mouth and onto his beard.
Merry came around to Gimli's other side, and held out a handkerchief. "What happened to it?"
"I cracked it during the battle," Gimli admitted, pressing the handkerchief gingerly to the troublesome tooth before continuing. "A foul and stinking orc elbowed me in the face, but my axe took care of him." His satisfied grin turned into a grimace. "I thought that he had knocked out my tooth, but later I discovered that it was merely cracked."
"Merely cracked!" Merry echoed doubtfully. "I don't think there is such a thing, when it comes to teeth. Let me see the damage, Gimli."
Reluctantly Gimli pulled away the handkerchief, which was mercifully not too bloodied, and pointed to a tooth on his right side, just before his molars. Merry leaned closer, clucking his tongue in disapproval.
"What is it?" Gimli asked gruffly. "What do you see?"
"Your tooth is cracked straight through to your gums," Merry declared. "I can see two separate pieces. You'll need to have it removed."
"Removed?" Gimli yelped. "I think not."
"You can't go on in this much pain," Merry insisted.
"And how will you eat?" Pippin chimed in. He shook his head reproachfully. "Really, Gimli, you should have said something earlier, when it first happened."
"There was no need," Gimli replied sheepishly. "The pain was little more than a dull ache, and I had other concerns weighing on my mind."
"The stubbornness of dwarves," Legolas said fondly. "Perhaps you should have Aragorn look at it?"
"No, no. I will not bother Aragorn with this, not when he is so busy." Clearly in pain, Gimli winced a little as he spoke.
"I know who you must see!" Pippin exclaimed abruptly, hauling Gimli to his feet. "Belecthor. He's a healer who specializes in teeth."
"No, no, certainly not," Gimli replied, refusing to budge. "I will not have my teeth poked and prodded."
"Gimli, I've met Belecthor, and he's very nice," Pippin said. "The warden says that he is well known for being an excellent healer. Let's just pay him a visit, and hear what he has to say."
The dwarf sighed. He could never deny that rascally hobbit anything when he turned those great, pleading eyes upon him. "All right. Take me to this healer-friend of yours, Pippin."
"Wonderful!" cried Pippin, grabbing hold of Gimli's arm once more. He paused suddenly, and anxiously glanced over at Merry. "Belecthor has a chamber in the Houses of Healing but there are many steps to climb, Merry. Are you feeling well enough for that?"
Merry hesitated. "I feel a bit tired now, Pip, and it will take you twice as long to get there if I go. I think I had better stay here with Legolas, if he doesn't mind."
"I do not mind at all," replied Legolas. "Nothing brings my heart greater joy that to sit in the sunshine with a friend."
"If you're certain..." Pippin's eyes searched Merry's face, and he looked visibly relived when his cousin smiled in reassurance. "All right, then. We should not be long, Merry, and if you need me at all just send Bergil to find me."
Setting off then, Pippin and Gimli made their way into the dim, cool interior of the Houses of Healing.
"I do not know why you are troubling yourself with me, Pippin," Gimli said gruffly. He knew that Pippin had meant not to leave Merry's side until he absolutely must, and he felt guilty that he was the cause of another separation, however brief, for the cousins.
Pippin gave him a baffled look. "We're friends, Gimli. You would do the same for me - you did more, you know, by trying to rescue Merry and I from the orcs, in case you had forgotten."
"Hmmph." Gimli hid a smile, not wanting to reveal how touched he was by the hobbit's words.
Pippin led Gimli down a crowded passageway, and then up a long flight of stairs, greeting by name every healer and soldier they passed along the way.
"I cannot remember ever paying a visit to a healer," Gimli grumbled half to himself. "Never had any need to, before this wretched tooth gave me trouble."
Smiling, Pippin said, "Well, you're very lucky that I have had many dealings with healers in my time, and I know just the sort of things to expect. Now, however, I think you need something to keep your mind off the pain and to cheer you up along the way. Are you familiar with the Tooth Dwarf?"
"The what?" Gimli spluttered, turning quickly toward Pippin and grimacing in pain at the sudden movement.
"It's something Merry told me when I was very young. Whenever I lost a tooth, I was to put it underneath my pillow and during the night the Tooth Dwarf would come and take my tooth and leave a coin in return." Pippin grinned mischievously. "I thought you would have heard that tale before, Gimli."
"I'm going have a word with Meriadoc, for spreading such nonsense-" Gimli's words broke off as he howled in pain, holding the side of his face with both hands.
A worried expression crept across Pippin's face. "We're almost there; it's just a few steps further." He took Gimli by the elbow and hurried him down another corridor and through an open doorway.
"Hullo, Belecthor!" Pippin said, grinning up at the man standing behind a high counter.
"Master Peregrin!" the man exclaimed, rushing through the low swinging door to stand before them. Tall, with dark hair and neatly trimmed beard, he looked much like any other man of Gondor. His eyes were large and brown, and crinkled at the edges when he smiled. He wore long dark robes, and around his waist was a belt, attached to which was a small folded booklet containing drawings of teeth. He held out his hand and clasped Pippin's warmly, before turning to Gimli.
"I am Belecthor son of Tarondor," he said, offering his hand to Gimli, who bowed stiffly. Belecthor's healer eyes searched the dwarf's face anxiously. "What brings you to my chamber?"
"My friend Gimli cracked one of his teeth during the battle, and waited until his tooth was split in two before admitting it," Pippin explained, shooting Gimli a disapproving glance.
Gimli attempted to speak for himself but the pain was so unbearable that he found himself groaning in agony instead.
"Come!" said Belecthor, ushering them through the swinging door and into a small room.
The room was cluttered, with a large leather chair in the center and a low wooden stool beside it. Books, stacks of parchment, and jars of liquids and powders filled the shelves that lined three walls. The fourth wall contained an enormous window that looked upon the Anduin.
Despite the plentiful light let in by the window, three tall candleholders surrounded the leather chair, each holding five large candles that burned merrily. There was also a cart containing various tools - picks and pliers and even a tiny hammer.
With a grimace Gimli's eyes roved the room, his body tense as if he meant to bolt from the chamber. Pippin seemed to sense this, and soothingly patted his arm. "Don't worry, Gimli. I'll stay with you."
"Have a seat, Master Gimli," Belecthor said as he removed several jars from the shelves. "I shall examine you in just a moment."
Gulping audibly, Gimli sat in the large chair while Pippin stood patiently beside him.
"Forgive me, Master Peregrin!" Belecthor exclaimed. He stepped outside for a moment and returned, carrying another stool. "Please, have a seat."
"Thank you, Belecthor. I've become so used to standing that sometimes I forget what it is like to sit," Pippin said with a smile. "And please call me Pippin, as my friends do."
Belecthor smiled as he went over to a washbasin and began cleaning his hands. Glancing over his shoulder he asked, "How does the other perian, your cousin, fare?"
Worry clouded Pippin's face. "Merry has been able to get out of bed and walk a little, but he is not yet himself." He brightened suddenly, and it was with pride that he said, "Merry is the one who looked at Gimli today, and saw that his tooth needed to be removed. My cousin knows a great deal about teeth - he used to pull out my loose ones, you know." Pippin smiled at Gimli encouragingly. "It never hurt much."
Gimli was not convinced, and watched Belecthor closely as the man took a seat on the other stool and fitted a loupe to his eye. "All right, Master Gimli, let us see what your tooth looks like." He waited patiently as Gimli, obviously wary, slowly opened his mouth.
"Hmm," Belecthor murmured thoughtfully. He stretched Gimli's mouth wider and peered inside, tapping gently on the offending tooth with his finger. "Well, it appears that your cousin has the eyes of a healer, Master Pippin. He is quite correct - your tooth might have sustained a small crack during battle, Master Gimli, but part of it has chipped off entirely, and what is left has broken into two separate pieces." Belecthor shook his head in amazement. "You are very lucky that it has not become infected. However, it must be removed at once."
Gimli's hands tightly gripped the armrests, and nodded in consent.
Belecthor drew the cart closer, and selected the instruments he would need. "I shall endeavor to make this as painless as possible, Master Gimli," he said, his voice so kind that Gimli actually believed it.
But then Belecthor pressed a lever on the chair, and Gimli yelped in surprise as he found himself lying on his back. Pippin grabbed his friend's hand and stared at the chair curiously.
"I am sorry," Belecthor said apologetically. "I failed to mention that this is a reclining chair."
"So it is," growled Gimli, still unabashedly clinging to Pippin's hand. "Would you kindly begin the procedure, Master Belecthor?" He watched as the healer fitted his mouth with some sort of contraption designed to keep it open.
"Don't worry, Gimli," Pippin whispered. "If it hurts very much just squeeze my hand. That's what Merry always used to say to me."
Belecthor opened a small vial of almost-clear liquid. "This should ease the pain a little," he said as he swiped a generous amount over Gimli's gums with a bit of cloth. Almost instantly the right side of Gimli's mouth numbed slightly.
Pippin watched with interest, leaning closer as Belecthor took hold of one half of Gimli's broken tooth with a pair of pliers.
"You'll feel a bit of pressure," Belecthor warned, and without any further warning he wrenched the tooth free. Gimli growled loudly - he certainly felt more than just a bit of pressure.
"Now the other," Belecthor said, far too cheerfully for Gimli's taste. And then the second piece of his tooth was gone, and blood poured freely from the gaping hole. Belecthor swiftly stitched the open wound, and though some blood still dripped out of it, he promised that it would stop soon.
"There now, all finished," Pippin said happily, dabbing at Gimli's beard with a clean, wet cloth.
Belecthor rolled up a wad of cloth and pressed it between Gimli's teeth, warning him not to spit out the blood as it would open the stitches. "And if you would like, I could prepare you a false tooth, Master Gimli, though it would take a few days to make, I fear."
Managing a smile for the healer - his mouth was still a bit numb on one side, but not enough to hinder speech - Gimli replied, "Indeed I would, Belecthor son of Tarondor. However I plan to fight in the next battle and it may well be that I lose another tooth, or worse." Out of the corner of his eye, Gimli saw Pippin look away suddenly, and so he concluded his speech hastily. "If I do return to this city, I will make certain to seek you out. Thank you for your assistance today."
Belecthor bowed his head with a smile. "Farewell, Master Gimli. May you return safely to Minas Tirith."
"Thank you, Belecthor. It was good seeing you again," Pippin said with a small smile. He and Gimli took their leave and returned to the long stone antechamber.
"Are you feeling any better, Gimli?" Pippin asked anxiously. "Belecthor wasn't so bad, was he? I think he helped you, even if it hurts you now."
"He did, Pippin. I do feel better already," Gimli replied. He continued gruffly, "I thank you for bringing me to him, Pippin, for I know it was difficult for you to leave your cousin today, knowing you must part again from him so soon."
Pippin glanced at Gimli sharply, and then nodded. "I did hate to leave Merry, but I wanted to help you." He sighed a little, and when he spoke again his voice was barely above a whisper. "I haven't told him yet that I plan to take part in the next battle, but I think he knows. And Merry won't be well enough in time to come along." He stopped walking abruptly, and Gimli stood beside him, watching with growing concern.
"We must separate now just when we've been reunited, and who knows what will happen next?" Pippin's face crumpled as he tried to hold back his tears, and he nearly succeeded, but then the dam broke and he sobbed, first into his hands and then into Gimli's shoulder as the dwarf wrapped his strong arms around him.
Though he would never admit it to anyone, one thing that Gimli had learned in recent months was just how small he truly was, and his heart broke for the hobbits, even smaller than he, and yet expected to endure so much. He had long grown used to being the lone dwarf of their Company, but knew that it was hard for the hobbits to bear separation, for they drew comfort from having each other nearby.
Gimli patted Pippin's back gently, and wondered if there was something he might do to ease his friend's troubles, as Pippin had so often made his companions smile during their long Quest.
"Pippin, I will do everything in my power to see you returned safely to Merry's side," Gimli said finally, and his words came out fiercer than he intended. Grumbling a little at his own sentimentality, he continued, "You and your cousin have cost me many pains, as you well know, and I will not have them wasted."
Pippin giggled a little at that, and it gladdened Gimli's heart to hear that light and joyful sound, for he had missed it.
"Thank you, Gimli," Pippin replied softly, before turning away and scrubbing at his eyes with the edge of his sleeve. He remained there, facing the wall with his head bowed, and Gimli moved away, understanding that Pippin needed a few moments of privacy to compose himself.
When Pippin reappeared at Gimli's side it was with a tremulous smile upon his face, and together they continued their way down the corridor.
"Let's find Merry and Legolas now. We still have one or two days together at least, and I don't want to waste them being sad and gloomy." Pippin turned to Gimli and his smile grew a little steadier. "Besides, it's almost lunchtime, and you should be able to manage something soft, like stew or soup."
"Aye," Gimli replied. "I think I can manage that."
They walked back out into the sunshine, making their way to where Merry and Legolas sat watching the gulls, and together they went in search of food. And for a few short hours their minds were unburdened by the future, as their hearts were made light in the company of friends.
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