Title: Old Wives' Tales

Author: Frodo Baggins of Bag End (FrodoAtBagEnd)

Characters: Frodo, Bilbo, Dora, various other hobbits (including Fredegar, Estella, and some original characters)

Rating: PG-13 (IMPORTANT: Future chapters of this story will be rated PG to PG-13, possibly R. I have struggled with this matter for several days, and after some beta-readings by members of FrodoHealers, have decided to proceed as planned, though with this disclaimer. While this story falls within the guidelines of the FrodoHealers group in both letter and spirit, free from profanity or sexual content, it does contain material which may be distasteful to some readers. If you prefer to avoid graphic medical content or non-sexual bare hobbit "rear-views," then you may wish to avoid reading beyond Chapter One of this story. Should you choose to continue, you do so at your own risk. I have chosen to provide a realistic portrayal of symptoms and treatment given the conditions in Middle-earth, and as such the content is quite graphic in nature.)

Summary: Following a summer picnic during a stay at Bag End, young Frodo becomes seriously ill and is cared for by Bilbo and his aunt Dora, Drogo's elder sister.

Feedback: Welcomed. Constructive only, please. . .no flaming.

Story Notes: I have taken some liberty with ages - while I don't usually like to do so, I wanted to harness Estella's lack of culinary prowess, legendary on ElendorMUSH, but needed to make her a bit older to do so, given that she would be merely a toddler at this time in Frodo's life according to book canon! In keeping with this, I have also altered Merry and Fredegar ("Fatty") to fall closer to Frodo's own age. . .which, at the time of this fic, is all of seventeen years, though for a hobbit seventeen is more like nine to eleven years in human terms. In addition, Sam is now old enough to run errands. . .not really too much younger than Frodo. Please pardon the alterations. :)

For those who remember "Shadows in the Darkness," this is a *different* doctor. . .one gone from Hobbiton by the time Frodo is treated by Dr. Boffin some four years later. Most likely this is the one who moved to Buckland to plague the residents there. . . . ;)

DISCLAIMER: The characters, places, and story of The Lord of the Rings are the property of J.R.R. Tolkien and consequently of the Tolkien Estate, with select rights by Tolkien Enterprises. This piece appears purely as fanfiction and is not intended to claim ownership of Tolkien's work in any way. Please e-mail me if you have concerns. This is a non-slash fiction: no slash or sexual connotations are implied or intended. Furthermore, please do NOT consider any treatments or remedies within this story safe or effective for use: these are included as fictitious hobbit care, not real human medical practice, and while some can indeed be traced to actual therapeutic practices, could be dangerous. Please consult your health care professional before treating yourself or others for any condition or symptom.


Chapter Four: A Dose of Auntie's Medicine

Frodo closed his eyes, resting quietly as Dora cradled him. He felt better resting against her shoulder. . .she smelled of lavender, as his mother had. As he felt himself being lowered carefully back to his bed, though, he looked up at her anxiously, blushing afresh. Aunt Dora had been kind since he came to Hobbiton, but she was always so neat and proper that the realisation that she was going to give him a bath - well, the very thought embarrassed him beyond words. Still, Bilbo had been up all night with him for two nights now. . .it wasn't fair to be fussy. And with what she'd just done. . .well, a bath was nothing compared to that, was it?

"It's all right, poppet. I know it can't be pleasant, having your old auntie fussing like this, but there's no shame in being sick; you can't help that. . .and you need a good bath to bring that fever down. . . ."

Opening his eyes, Frodo watched, giving only a tiny nod in reply as Dora added the contents of another vial from her herb-chest to the basin of cool water near his bed. He recognised the piercing smell at once: vinegar. Still, the intensely pungent scent weakened as she stirred the mixture with her hand, and he lay quietly as she bent over him, folding the covers gently up to cover his legs and part of his belly before wringing out a cloth. With a light touch, she began sponging his face, using soft little strokes, moving down to bathe his neck, then shoulders and chest before using long, light strokes to bathe his arms, lifting each in turn. It was easy to relax and let her work; he felt too sick to protest. . .and the bath really did make him feel cooler and more comfortable, even more so than water alone usually did. . . .

"There's a good child. You'll soon be better, and then we'll just have to fatten you up. Don't those people feed you up there in the wild?"

"They do. . .I just. . . ." He struggled for words, caught between a desire to defend his mother's relatives and an inability to explain. "I don't always want very much to eat. . . ."

"Don't want much to eat! What sort of hobbit are you, Frodo Baggins? Rubbish, that's what that talk is. . .poppycock and nonsense! You just need to start eating a bit more, and that'll improve your appetite. . .it's easier once you get started that way. If it doesn't upset your poor tummy too much, once you start to feel better, you can just tell Auntie what sorts of things you like. . .perhaps we can figure out the right dishes to feed you when you're here, and send you back with some instructions for when you aren't. . . . Bilbo will want to get you eating like a regular hobbit, I know. . . ."

He nodded weakly. "Aunt Dora?"

She stroked his stomach gently, then slipped an arm behind him and sat him up slowly, running the cool cloth lightly over his back. "Yes, dear?"

"Tell me about Papa. . .please?"

Her expression softened. "Your papa loved you very much. . .as he loved your mamma. They were a lovely couple. . .strange as can be, but very lovely to look at, and very lovely people to know. Of course, your papa was one of the wealthier Bagginses - not nearly so wealthy as Bungo, Bilbo's father, but every bit as proper and as particular in his tastes, and oh! how he LOVED to eat. My goodness, but I've never seen a hobbit with such a wonderful appetite in all my life. When he was just about your age, he'd slip into the kitchen when I was baking. . .'Dora, *can't* I lick the bowl, please?' 'Dora, hadn't I better taste the first of the batch? Just to be sure it's properly done, you know - ' Oh, my, but I had a time keeping him out of my hair. Often as not, I'd let him lick the bowls just so I'd have time to sneak some of the results off to hide for my gentleman callers!"

Frodo smiled. The image of his father as a youngster begging for treats was rather more amusing than many of the few family stories he'd heard. . .thinking about his father as a lad seemed to ease the pain in his tummy, and he settled comfortably against Dora as she eased him to rest against her, taking something from her pocket with her free hand. Gingerly she eased him back onto the bed, turning him onto his side.

"Now pull those legs up, lad. . .there's a good boy!"

Blushing, Frodo complied, grateful that his face was turned away. Her hand separating his buttocks, she paused, then slid the bolus in, as his mother had done when he was quite small and very sick, patting his bottom gently as she eased him onto his back once more.

"I still remember how Drogo used to do whatever he could to chase every guest off, just to annoy me." She chuckled, shaking her head. "Dear me, but he was positively incorrigible! Once he replaced my flour with powdered plaster for ceilings, so my beautiful little cakes for a tea-party were positively inedible. . .and another time he dug a decent-sized hole and poured water beneath the mat, so that there was a dreadful mud-puddle there. . .and of course when Basil Boffin arrived and stepped on it, it squished and splattered mud all over him, up his legs and all over. . . . 'Twas why I was hardly surprised to learn you've given them a fair share of fits up at Brandy Hall."

Still laughing softly, she rose, washing her hands with soap and fresh water at the wash-basin and turning to get something else out of her herb- chest. From his nest of pillows, he could not see what she was doing. . .but within minutes, the pungent scent of mustard filled the room. Frodo wrinkled his nose. . .not that he minded, though: the smell of mustard was better than the sour smell of being sick. A moment later, she returned, bending over him and folding back the covers.

"This should help a bit, poppet. . .just a mustard-plaster for your tummy, to help you not hurt so badly. We'll see if that doesn't help. . .Auntie doesn't want to do the rest with you hurting so much." She smiles sadly, smoothing the preparation over his belly. "Not that you'd remember it, but I've used this on you before. . .you were only a baby then, little mop of hair and eyes wailing in your mother's arms."

Frodo blinked, looking up at her curiously. He still felt weak and nauseated, dizzy and achy and absolutely miserable. . .but he hadn't heard this story, and it didn't sound as if it involved having to hear about food. . . . "When?"

"Oh, about. . .goodness, back when you'd have been just about fifteen months old." Dora continued settling the plaster, at last wrapping him back up in soft blankets freshly warmed by the fire. "Your parents spent Yule in Hobbiton that year. It was grand having them home. . .but one night we all woke up to the sound of crying and coughing, and Primula sobbing. . .she'd heard you breathing strangely, and got up to check, and there you were, coughing and just wailing like a little banshee with every bit of breath you could draw, warm to the touch, just miserable. . . . Of course, it scared her half to death. . .and Drogo was wringing his hands, trying to figure out what to do. . .the doctor was away on holiday himself, and there wasn't anyone else to send for. So there was Primula, rocking you and crying herself, and Drogo watching her, and. . .well, I'd been the one who looked after our parents and all, and some of our cousins and their children, so I thought I'd at least offer to try and help. . . .

"Your mother looked at me as if I might have been suggesting we put you in a dragon's-egg, for all the reaction. . .but your father just nodded, and finally got her to watch for a bit. We got out a basin, filled it full of good hot water, and added a bit of mustard. . .let that cool just a touch while we did the same thing with another, using boiling water this time. It took a fair bit of convincing, but you looked so pitiful with your little lips half-blue, and your mother was so worried. . .finally she got you undressed and let me put you in the cooler basin. We just sat you down in the bath - oh, you kept crying, poor little lamb, and I don't think I'd ever felt sorrier for your mother than I did just then - and then we had her hold you still while I pushed the other closer, and held a towel over both, making a bit of a little tent for you so you could breath in plenty of steam. . . . After a good bit of that, we wrapped you up nice and cosy in blankets, little curly head and all, and let your mamma take you back to the rocking-chair and just rock you to sleep. . . ."

She sighed, wringing out a fresh compress and draping it over Frodo's forehead.

"Of course, the next morning, you were much better. . .still a touch warm, a touch congested, but much happier. . .poor little pumpkin, you'd had a bad night of it, but there you were, looking up at us with those big blue eyes and taking little sips of milk for your mamma. . .such a sweet baby you were. . . ."

Settling herself in a chair by the bed, the matron stroked Frodo's damp hair, smiling softly. Her eyes were just like his father's. . . .

"Now, poppet. . .how are you feeling?"

He managed a weak nod. "A little better. . . ."

"Good. . .good. Just you try to rest now, sleep a little. . .I'll be here when you wake up."

Frodo nodded. . .whatever medicines she had given him must be working, he thought, for he fell at once into a tired slumber, dreaming that someone held him in their arms, rocking him gently back and forth. . .back and forth.

~To Be Continued~