Title: The Faintest Hope - An LOTR/House Crossover Fic
Author: Frodo Baggins of Bag End (FrodoAtBagEnd/FBoBE/"Febobe")
E-mail: febobe at yahoo dot com
Summary: Following the Quest, Frodo is plagued by a mysterious ailment...but a new doctor might be able to sort things out.
Rating: K+/PG for non-graphic angst
Warnings: Non-graphic angst. Frodo h/c; if you have issues with Frodo being coddled a bit, or want fic that is strictly canon-based, you might have some issues with this story. Otherwise, stick around - I hope you'll enjoy. :)
Story Notes: Written for the Teitho "Sickness" challenge (2015).
DISCLAIMER: I am NOT J.R.R. Tolkien. I did not invent Middle-earth or any canon characters. The Tolkien Estate and Tolkien Enterprises control the rights to them. I'm just playing in the sandbox with them. Please don't come back and haunt me, Professor!
THE FAINTEST HOPE
I felt myself swaying as I stood upon the dais beside Aragorn. Sam was on his other side; I was not certain he could see, and what could he do if he saw? For that matter, what should *I* do? I couldn't very well lie down in front of hundreds – perhaps thousands – of Gondorians. What I needed was some salt and some water – consuming those always seemed to help, so much so that I had taken to sneaking salt into my orange-juice and drinking a glass of cold water before my appearances each day. But it always seemed to wear off eventually, and today it was wearing off even faster than usual.
Someone, however, touched my shoulder. I turned. It was Legolas. I had not even realized he stood behind me, but there he was. He slipped his lower arm behind my shoulders and pressed gently, turning me so we might begin to walk down from the dais. With relief, I yielded, hurrying as quickly and quietly as I might, in hopes of drawing the least attention I could. But I knew it was a vain attempt. Already I could hear murmurs rising from the crowd, despite Aragorn's speech.
We made it to the paving-stones below, and Legolas and I walked swiftly – well, swiftly for a hobbit, though perhaps not for him – until we turned a corner, and there he caught me and knelt before me.
"Frodo, I can tell you are not feeling up to further standing. Will you permit me to bear you back to your chambers and call for all you need there?"
Relief flooded me. "Yes. Please. That would be wonderful."
Legolas had just begun to ease me into his arms when a familiar figure rounded the corner. Sam!
"Begging your pardon, sir," he said, "but it took me a minute to sort it out. What can I do? Are you taking him back to his room?"
"Yes," said Legolas, offering Sam a smile. "Would you join us? No one understands Frodo's needs better, I have learned. Not even Frodo." His grey eyes twinkled merrily, and I could not held but smile as well. Legolas had cradled me in such a position as to allow me to lean back a little, and though I still did not feel *well*, it was an improvement.
"Wouldn't have it any other way, sir," Sam grinned, but I could see the worry in his brown eyes.
Then Legolas turned, and off we went, hurrying past stares and whispers as we entered the King's and Steward's halls. I had to close my eyes and ears. There was nothing for it. I needed my bed.
Once we reached my rooms, Legolas laid me gently upon my bed, and he and Sam took over the work of getting me out of my court attire and into a night-shirt. I felt too weak to help or protest. Both of them were gentle, and though I had expected Sam's experience to make him expert, I had no idea what a kind and tender nurse Legolas could be when it was called for. He let Sam fetch my favorite garment, but he took over the moving of me, and it went easier for it; though Sam had helped me countless times in the past, Legolas, being taller, had the ability to lift me easily, without the amount of effort it would have required for Sam to do the same. I felt glad. This was not Orodruin. We did not have to face this alone, with only the two of us and the Ring.
"Has it been long since breakfast?" Legolas asked.
"We ate around eight," Sam answered for me. "Hardly did more than pick at his food, he did. Stirred a bit o'salt into his juice and asked for water and more water, and didn't eat much eggy bread or fruit or bacon or nothing. Don't see how that's enough to keep a sparrow alive, let alone a hobbit who ain't all better from everything he's been through."
"What do you think you could eat, Frodo?" Legolas asked gently, settling on the bed beside me. I was glad of his presence, and at once surprised and unsurprised to find an ally in him. During the first part of our journey from Imladris, he had always seemed attentive to my feelings, often coming to sit by me when I could not sleep, offering whisper-soft elvish lullabies and ballads until sleep at last overtook me. Sometimes I would wake with from a nightmare, soothed by his hand upon my brow as he murmured blessings in his own tongue, or at least the bits I recognized sounded like words of blessing.
"Salt," I begged. It was the only thing I could think of that would help, besides liquid. "Salty broth. Chicken, beef, it doesn't matter. Whatever the kitchen has. Lots of cool water. Maybe a dish of pickles. And – please, ask them to send up a salt-cellar."
Sam gave me a dubious look. "Sir, are you sure?" he asked anxiously. "My Gaffer allus said as too much salt'd dry up a body's blood. I know Stri – Aragorn – said you was to have whatever you wanted, so long as it wasn't too much, too soon, but – don't you think you ought to have some real food?"
Legolas laid a hand upon Sam's arm. "Kind Sam, you mean well. But sometimes when the body longs so deeply for something, it is a lesson. It is instruction in the body's need. When someone craves salt, or water, there are reasons for it. No doubt Aragorn will tease out more of the matter when he arrives. I shall see that word is sent to him of Frodo's illness, and when he comes, he will perhaps understand the cause better than I. Let us indulge him for now." He looked at me. "If that is your wish, Frodo, we shall see that all is brought as swiftly as possible."
Sam propped me comfortably against pillows, and Legolas called for all I had asked, and sent a message to Aragorn, who arrived as I was beginning to sip salted beef broth and iced water.
"Forgive me, Frodo!" he said as he took Legolas's place upon the bed beside me. "I should have realized you were unwell. Can you tell me what troubles you? Legolas spoke of a craving for salt, but I know little more."
Did I have the heart to tell him that I had endured such feelings for days, some of them for weeks? Aragorn's grey eyes were earnest, and I could not bring myself to withhold the truth any longer. I had withheld it from everyone. Perhaps it was time to be honest with them all, myself included.
"When I stand up, I feel faint," I explained. "It happens if I stand for more than a couple of moments, even if I rise slowly and carefully, and it grows worse with the passage of time. I have never actually fainted with it, but if I can, I sit down, and if I am able to lean back a little, or lie down, I feel better fairly quickly. When it is very bad, I can ease it somewhat by taking water and all the salt or salty foods I can get. Broth helps. Pickles. Salted meats. Melon with salt. That sort of thing."
"Indeed?" Aragorn looked interested but puzzled – his brow had furrowed up into a mass of wrinkles, the way it had when I had been too ill to take nourishment on the journey to Imladris, and he had tried his best to determine what to do, or when he had been trying to find our way through the least noticeable paths. That was concerning. Aragorn rarely looked so puzzled. If he did not know what was the matter with me, who would, unless I could reach Elrond again? "Tell me more," he said after a moment, though, and hope kindled within me. Perhaps if I continued to explain he might know the answer.
"I have chills sometimes – I mean, I've had an awful time feeling cold ever since – Weathertop. But – this is different. I have chills, and sometimes I have hot flushes, and I can't seem to get comfortable when either of them happen. And getting too hot makes me feel worse. And – " I hesitated. What I might mention next was the most frightening symptom of all, and I had hesitated to bring it to anyone's attention because I feared that I was dying – and, worse, that there was nothing anyone could do for it.
"Please, Frodo, continue." Aragorn laid a reassuring hand upon my arm. "We are listening."
"I – my chest feels – uncomfortable sometimes. Sort of – painful."
Aragorn leaned forward. "What sort of pain? Where, exactly?"
"All through." I made a generalized gesture passing over my chest. "And – I can feel my heart pounding, racing, hammering. Like I have been running, or had a scare. Only – I haven't had any of that since Gandalf brought us here. Apart from nightmares. And this isn't just after nightmares."
"Is there aught else?"
"Yes." I swallowed and Legolas offered me a tumbler of water, which I sipped. "I feel sick sometimes, and if I eat more than a little at a time, I feel worse. Sick, and hurting, and – and my sleep is not so good as it was before my journey. Not only because of nightmares, but – it does not seem to be – refreshing. And I need more of it. Only I cannot get it, because we are always so busy. I am so tired all the time, even when I rise in the morning. Mornings are the worst time of all."
"That, at least, I can aid." Aragorn patted my hand. "I will not suffer you to leave your room until we learn what is the matter and how it may be best addressed. And you may rest in bed as much as you wish for a while. And Sam and Legolas may stay with you, though there are others, I deem, who will wish to share in your care." He looked at my other companions. "What do the two of you think? I know you share a tender interest in our mutual friend. Would you take charge of ensuring he is shielded from anything he does not feel up to doing, or anyone he does not wish to see?"
"O'course, sir," Sam said firmly.
"It will be done," said Legolas.
"Excellent." Aragorn reached for my tray. "Will you permit me to move this briefly, to examine you? I assure you, I will return it promptly."
"That's fine." I had finished my broth and some water, and was just beginning to try the pickles, and I had been "doctored" enough to understand that Aragorn would need to examine me to be of any help. So I lay back and let him prod, poke, listen to my chest, feel my pulse, study my tongue, feel my brow, question, question, question, and so forth. He examined every healing injury and many areas which had been less hurt. And at last, he replaced the tray and sat back, stroking his well-trimmed beard.
"I am at a loss as to what is the matter," he said at last, "though I believe *something* surely is. Your heart beats too quickly, though it is not so high as I would have expected, and you report it does not feel 'hammering' or 'pounding' to you now. You seem free of fever, and your heart seems to me strong enough for what you have done since your recovery. If you will consent, I will speak to Gandalf. It will be many weeks yet before Hir Elrond may join us, and I should not like to wait so long to sort out what is the matter. He had informed me that, should I require aid in your care, he might be able to summon aid from the world outside ours."
I blinked. I think Sam did too. Legolas, of course, did not so much as bat one eyelash.
"World outside ours?" I asked. "What do you mean? How can there be any other world than ours?"
Aragorn shook his head. "I understand that there are worlds beyond that we know of, though I have never spoken with anyone from another world altogether. Gandalf, however, has been there, and has met a physician who is reputed to be the most brilliant of all in diagnosing rare and unique illnesses. I should warn you, however," he added, nose wrinkling, "that Gandalf tells me he is arrogant, sometimes petulant, and rather demanding. He has something of a tendency to be – less than polite. But, though he is not kind, he is a genius, and has much experience in discerning strange conditions. I would like him to see you, if he can be brought here – or if you can be taken there, if need be."
I couldn't imagine moving, the way I felt, much less doing whatever it would take to move between worlds. "I'd rather he be brought here, if possible. Please. I'm so tired. And I don't feel at all well. Ask Gandalf to bring the doctor here."
Aragorn nodded. "Then it is settled. We will try and bring him by tomorrow morning. In the meantime, I wish for you to rest in bed as much as possible. You may be up for a bath, with the help of one of us larger folk – Legolas and perhaps someone else, Eowyn or Gandalf or myself, though Sam may help you with the actual washing if you prefer - and for necessities, but I want you to rest in bed the majority of the time. I shall give orders to have small quantities of nourishment sent up at regular intervals, and I will also ask that they include several salty dishes and a salt-cellar for you. There is a drink from Harad I can have them make as well – it is a pleasant fruit drink, sweet but with salt added, so it is rather like the kettle-corn you have enjoyed here on occasional evenings. And I shall give orders for water to be brought, chilled, to your rooms more frequently. I have no doubt Faramir and Eowyn can find some entertainments for you which may be enjoyed in bed. Is there anything else you wish to ask?"
I shook my head. "No. Thank you." Suddenly a thought popped into my head. "What about the new doctor? Can – can you tell him – what happened? I mean – " I swallowed tensely. "I do not know that I could bear to tell him everything that – went on – before we – got here."
Aragorn touched my cheek. "Fear not, tithen min. I will tell him all myself, and Gandalf will help me. You shall need to recount nothing more than answers to his questions."
I followed Aragorn's instructions. When nourishment arrived, I ate what I could, and Legolas sent the tray back when I was done. Aragorn had indeed made suitable arrangements: meals were simple: a cup of soup and a miniature sandwich and some tossed salad with dressing or a cup of fresh fruit; tidbits of moist roast meat or poultry with a dollop of mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy, a spoonful of glazed carrots, maybe a green vegetable, a little white roll with sweet butter, a small dish of ice-cream or sherbet for dessert. To drink, there was a delicious limeade, which was like the lemonade Hir Elrond had served us in Imladris, only with salt stirred in with the sugar syrup.
But after supper, as I was beginning to contemplate a bath, a visitor arrived, and Legolas told me it was one of my favorite people. It was – Lady Eowyn. She came in bearing two large sheep-skins and a bag which seemed full.
"May I sit with you for a while, Frodo, and speak of what I could do to give you ease?" she asked warmly, setting her things down and bending to kiss my brow. She smelled of hops and new-mown hay, underneath the aromas of healing oils and medicines, as she always seemed to, and it reminded me of the fields back home.
"Yes, please." I noticed that Sam, whom I'd invited to sit at my other side after he ate his supper, had joined me, and he looked intrigued. I suppose we both were. Lady Eowyn had taken up healing, despite her previous disdain for it, and had proven herself quite skilled; when I had lain in bed recovering from the state in which I had arrived, Aragorn had invited her to come and sit with me, to feed me and give me my medicines, and, as I became more comfortable in her presence, to give me my bath. She had, I remembered, brought fresh sheep-skins for me regularly, though those had fallen out of use as I spent more and more time up and about. I was glad to see her bring them back.
"How are you feeling this evening? The King tells me you are not well."
I nodded. "I'm feeling better. Bed always helps."
"Ahh. And I understand the King has ordered you to rest in bed as much as you can. I thought you might wish to see your old helpers again, given the situation." She shook out one of the sheep-skins. "Perhaps you might consent to Sam and Legolas helping you with a bath, while I make your bed up with fresh sheets, and with this? While you are abed, your sheets ought to be changed at least once a day. And we will change out your sheep-skins each time, lest they become damp from the warmth of your body against them. Or – " Her blue eyes twinkled merrily. "If you wish, you may rest in the chair while your bath is prepared, and I will change your bed then, and after I can help you with your bath as well."
I smiled. "I like that idea. I want you to help too."
"Then it shall be so."
Legolas carried me to the chair by the heart, and I rested there, with Sam close at hand, while the two bigger people changed my bed. Before I knew it, they had the bath ready, and Lady Eowyn had brought special lavender oil to go in it, to help me relax and soothe my jangled nerves. There, Sam helped me wash my more personal parts, but the Lady Eowyn rubbed the oil-fragranced water over my limbs and into my aching finger-stump. It was altogether relaxing, and by the time she and Legolas wrapped me in warm towels and dried me thoroughly, then helped me into a silken night-shirt, I was drowsing where I sat in her lap.
I was asleep before they returned me to my bed.
The next morning, I awoke too nervous to eat much breakfast. Legolas took my tray from the attendant and offered to help me with a small serving of porridge, a dish of fresh pineapple and strawberries sliced into tiny tidbits, soft-cooked eggs cracked into a bowl and surrounded by buttered toast points, a tumbler of orange-juice, a small cup of hot tea with milk and sugar. Sam offered to help as well, and between the two of them, they convinced me to swallow three bites of egg and toast, a spoonful of porridge, some orange-juice, and a few sips of tea. I was contemplating the fruit, but feeling my stomach growing more and more jittery, when there came a knock at the door. I started to call out for the person to come in, but before I could get past "Co-", the door slammed back with a thud, and a man limped in on a cane, his other hand hauling a black bag. He had a mustache and some shadow, as if his beard hadn't been shaved in the past few hours or allowed to grow out and be properly trimmed, like Aragorn's. He stopped at the foot of my bed and stared at me for a moment, as if sizing me up.
"So, shortie, what's up?" he asked. "Or is that one of the questions your 'guardians' don't want me asking you?"
I felt my mouth open into an O.
Gandalf and Aragorn had hurried in behind him. "House – " Gandalf began in a warning tone, but the doctor – for I assumed it could only be he – dismissed him with a wave and a roll of his eyes.
"Oh, don't get your robe in a wad, Methuselah." The doctor pushed his way past Legolas and plopped onto my bed, still holding his cane and the bag. "So, shortie, are you too special a snowflake for me to examine you, or what?"
I sat there in shock.
"This isn't the way we usually tend to Frodo," Aragorn began, coming to the doctor's side, but the doctor merely shoved his cane in Aragorn's direction.
"Here. Hold this, crown-head."
Aragorn sighed, but held the cane. "Frodo," he said gently, "this is Dr. Gregory House. He has a gift for discovering what is wrong with people, and though he has never seen a hobbit before, we have no doubt he will – "
"You know, 'cause I'm a real doctor and everything." Dr. House rolled his eyes again. "Look, kid. This would be a lot simpler if you weren't trying to block every test I want to do. At Princeton-Plainsboro, my team of three doctors can do so many tests we could diagnose you before your hairy little feet hit the floor tomorrow morning. But they tell me you didn't WANT to come. What, you think this is about wanting?!"
I found my tongue at last.
"I won't go," I said firmly. "If you're as fine a doctor as I'm told, you can diagnose me here. Yourself. Or you can go back to wherever you came from, and in a few months' time, Elrond of Rivendell can do the job *you* failed at doing. Which will it be? I don't mind to wait."
Judging from the tightness in his jaw, I guessed I had hit my mark.
"You need me worse than I need you, short stuff," he said, but there was a gleam in his eye. I had angered him, hurt his pride, and I was glad of it. I had never spoken so to a Big Person before, but the Quest had done one good thing for me – it had made me bold, unafraid to fight against having things done to me which I did not wish.
I spread my arms. "I'm here. Examine me if you wish. Question me if you must. If you can't be bothered, go back to where you came from and let me go back to sleep."
Dr. House studied my tray. "From what I've been told, hobbits are food addicts. Seems like a small breakfast for one. And not much eaten from it."
"I didn't feel like it."
"Interesting. I mean, if you were a human, it would be boring. But for a hobbit – " He picked up the tray and handed it off to Legolas, who still looked a little affronted, but took it anyhow and set it aside in a chair. "Feeling faint when you stand up. Any family history?"
I shook my head. "I never heard of any relation having anything like this. My parents fell out of a boat and drowned. They couldn't swim. Most Bagginses and Brandybucks are healthy as ponies."
Dr. House took my wrist. Every doctor and healer I had ever known had done this, even hobbit doctors, so I thought little of it.
"When was the last time you sat all the way up, or got out of bed?" he asked sharply.
"I got up a few hours ago for – necessities." I did not feel the need to be more detailed than that. "Other than that, I haven't been up since last night, before bed."
"Interesting." Dr. House set the black bag on my bed and opened it. He pulled out a strange pair of instruments – one was a set of slender tubes with a flat sort of bell at the end. He put the ends of the tubes in his ears, then leaned forward and began to listen to my chest. The bell was cold when he poked it beneath my night-shirt. That done, he pulled out some sleeve with a rubber tube and a bulb, which he put my hand through and pushed up my arm, fastening it tightly, and began to pump the bulb so that the sleeve tightened on my arm, so much so that it was quite painful. I winced, but the doctor only placed the bell of the tubes against the bend of my arm, which he held out, holding it stretched down. After a few moments, the sleeve began to deflate, but he did not loosen and pull it off me. Suddenly he jerked me out of bed, against cries of protest from my companions, not least Sam, who came across the bed and seized his arm, but the doctor pulled free and set me on my feet upon the floor. A moment, and then the faintness came, and I felt like falling, but Dr. House held me up, and a moment later than that, he began to pump the sleeve again, listening through the bell. When it again deflated, he gave a, "Hrm!" but did not remove it. And a few moments later, when I felt I could not bear it, he began to pump again.
"Please," I begged. "Let me lie back down. Please. Please help me lie down. I'm afraid I'll faint."
"Almost done. You can make it." Dr. House seemed completely unmoved, his voice curt and crisp as he addressed me. Again he listened to my arm, and after a moment which seemed entirely as long as twenty, he picked me up and plopped me back onto the bed, where Sam and Aragorn and Legolas moved quickly to help me lie down, with a single pillow beneath my head. Dr. House unfastened the sleeve with a curious ripping sound and slid it off my arm. The tubes he put away as well.
"How could you DO that to him?!" demanded Sam sharply, jerking his head up to glare at Dr. House. "He's sick! You're a DOCTOR – you ought to try and help him, not hurt him!"
Dr. House smirked.
"I can't *help* him without knowing what is *wrong* with him," he pointed out, unruffled. "Before you all pop your eyeballs from panicking, I know what's wrong. I just need to check one more thing. Sit up, short stuff."
I blinked. Did he actually mean for me to sit straight up?
"I can't," I said.
Dr. House rolled his eyes again. "Of course you can, furfoot. Calm down. You're just going to sit up for a couple of minutes. Your friends can hold you up as long as I can get to your back."
Reluctantly I set up and let Aragorn's strong arms slip behind me for support. A moment later, I felt the night-shirt being unfastened further and slipped down a little, and I felt the cold bell against my back.
"Deep breaths, through your mouth," Dr. House said.
I complied. The bell moved.
Again I complied. Again the bell moved.
We kept repeating this until Dr. House seemed satisfied. The weak feeling returned. I was glad when Aragorn and Sam propped me back on pillows. Dr. House looked smugly satisfied.
"So – salt and water help, huh?" he asked.
"Yes." Legolas offered me a tumbler of water and I sipped. "What were all those – whatever – tests – about?"
"Do you want to know what's wrong?"
My heart skipped two beats. "Of course I do."
"It's called POTS." Dr. House looked even more pleased.
"Pots? Like what you cook in?" asked Sam, looking confused.
Dr. House rolled his eyes yet again. "*Nooooo*, POTS. Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. When your little furfoot friend sits straight up or stands, the blood pools in his legs and belly. Then his little hobbit heart starts beating too fast trying to pump more blood up to his brain. That's in HERE." He tapped my brow. "But it doesn't work, so the heart speeds up more, and the blood doesn't get there. So you feel like you're about to have a close encounter with the floor."
"Is there any treatment for it?" asked Aragorn. "Whether in your world or ours, we need to know."
Dr. House took his cane back from the bedside where Aragorn had leaned it, got up, and limped to the chair where my tray sat. He took up the salt-cellar and a spoon and limped back to the bed, where he sat and leaned his cane against the bedside once more before spooning up a mouthful of salt. "Get him some water," he said to Aragorn, then swerved the spoonful of salt toward my mouth. "Open up the hangar, here comes the plaaaaaaa- oh, wait." He frowned. "You won't get that one, furfoot. Open up."
I was grateful to have a mouthful of salt, followed immediately by long sips of water, as it always made me feel better. I drank and drank.
"The treatment," Dr. House explained in his sharp-edged voice, "is not that much better where I live than it is here. There are medications we can use, and if you would consider coming, shortie, I would try you with them. Exercising in water helps, if you can swim. Have somebody with you in case you did have a problem. But the *best* treatment is plain salt and water. Lots of both. More than you would probably think a person could or should eat. Salt your food. Salt it *liberally*. Eat salt straight up sometimes. Drink as much water as you can get down, and then drink some more. If you aren't peeing every fifteen minutes, as tiny as you are, you're NOT DRINKING ENOUGH." He poked me in the chest, as if to emphasize the point. "Other fluids are fine. That limeade your crown-head guy was telling me about. But your main fluid needs to be WATER."
"What about the nausea?" asked Legolas. "That troubles him at times. I have seen it."
"The nausea, blondie, is part of the condition. Salt and water will help it. Pickles. Salty soups and broths. Salted vegetable juices. Anything salted will help. Treat the condition and you treat the symptoms. But there's no fix for this. It's not going to go away. I couldn't make that happen even in my world." Dr. House's blue eyes softened a little as he turned back to me. His voice softened as well, when next he spoke. "Hey, kid. You got a rough deal already. And this is a rough deal on top of that. But it's not going to kill you. And what my machines tell me is that you're probably not going to actually faint when you stand up. You feel like it, and your heart goes too fast, but you're *not* actually that likely to faint – not from this, anyway." He looked at me in a way that was like he was looking right through *into* me, reading all the thoughts and feelings I had not been able to speak of to my fellows. "Sometimes in life we get a rotten deal. And yours is more rotten than most. But – we find what gives us a reason to get up in the morning. A reason to go on." He reached into a pocket, pulled out a small orangey bottle, opened it, and tossed down a round white object, swallowing it without water. "It's not what makes you happy. It's what you *need* enough to go on. And use whatever you can find to make it bearable – whatever that may be."
His voice was surprisingly kind. I felt as if I could tell him anything. I looked up at Aragorn.
"Leave someone outside my door," I said, "but – can you leave us alone for a while?"
Dr. House and I talked for hours. He was not always tender – far from it. He had a rapier wit and a tongue to match. But we spoke of my trials, and the lack of reverence with which he often treated me was actually refreshing. I appreciated my friends so much, but sometimes being treated as if I were some sort of revered ancient, one of the Valar or something, grew wearing. The kitchens sent up food as I called for it, and I actually managed to eat something.
"Can you come back again?" I asked Dr. House, when he said he must get back to his own world, that his 'team' would be looking for him. "Some time soon?"
"Ahhh, you don't need me." Dr. House wrinkled his nose. "Look, kid. You'll be fine. Load up on salt and water. But – " His eyes lit up suddenly. "I might have to send back one of my team. She'd LOVE you. Total bleeding-heart, that woman. She'd be all over your case like you were a lost puppy on the interstate." He stopped. "Another thing you won't understand. Just think REALLY BIG SUPER BUSY HIGHWAY."
"I'd love to meet her." I smiled as he rose, and reached to catch his hand with my injured one. He stopped and looked down at me, and his blue-grey eyes flickered for an instant.
"Take care of yourself, too, sir," I said.
He looked at me, and then he rolled his eyes once more, pulling away.
"Oh, Cameron's REALLY going to love YOU," he said, and limped toward the door.
It was as Dr. House had said. With increased water and salt intake, I improved, and I even managed to try a little of the pool exercise he had recommended. Gandalf said that he would go soon enough to see about bringing "Cameron," but we had to wait. Still, being able to feel better with some salted tomato juice or chicken soup gave me hope, and Aragorn was more than happy to see to it that I had all that I needed.
It was not an easy journey, but the journey which had led me to Dr. House had not been easy either, and yet I was glad to have met him. Sometimes I dream of going to his world, a strange place where Gandalf says there are rooms that move and carry one between floors of buildings, where people can talk to one another over great distances without being in the same room or indeed even the same country, where they have strange medicines and all manner of strange foods and drinks, and a doctor who limps along with a cane, the only person I had felt could sort of understand me since my ordeal….
Someday I shall go there. Someday, when I am ready for another adventure, I shall not sail into the West with the elves. I shall go instead, when I grow weary of life in Middle-earth, to "Princeton-Plainsboro Hospital," and I shall speak to Dr. Gregory House about whether he would like a roommate who can cook.
I think we could both use a friend.
Author's Note: For more information on POTS and dysautonomia, please feel free to visit DINET and/or Dysautonomia International to read the sections on Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS). Not all chronic illnesses are visible.