DISCLAIMER: I don't own Frodo, more's the pity; he's Tolkien's. Raistlin belongs to his own creators, probably the property of TSR. Alex is me, so I suppose I own her. This is (I hope) a gentle poke at the Sick!Frodo phenomenon. Don't hate me: I love Sick!Frodo, and I write it myself. This is more along the lines of "what if he knew?" Students of medical history will recognize Laennec's protostethoscope.

The air turned itself inside out with a faint pop, and a young woman in nondescript brown jerkin and hose, her white hair tied and pinned ruthlessly into a knot at the back of her skull, stood there.

Frodo turned his head on the pillows and gasped. "Who're you?"

"Alex," said Alex, smiling and taking a seat by the bed. "You should know me."

"Oh, Elbereth," he groaned. "You're not one of those dreadful women who write stories about me being ill, are you?"

"Got it in one, beautiful." She leaned back against the chair, smiling. "You really are beautiful, you know. It's unfair. Brings out all our maternal and ministering-angel instincts."

"Well, sod it," he said crossly. "If you like me so much, why do you put me through all this?"

"Think of it as us loving you and wanting to have an opportunity to care for you and make you feel better. Unfortunately, that means you have to feel lousy to begin with." She gave him a wry smile. "Sorry. Really. But you have to understand what you do to us."

Frodo laced his fingers behind his head. "Am I really that attractive when I'm white and sweating and near death?"

"Oh yeah. You're so........touchingly vulnerable." Alex sighed. "Your eyes go all dark with helpless pain and your hair falls in a dark tumble over your forehead, and we all swoon. Odd, but there it is."

"Well, what do you want with me this time? Or should I say what are you going to do to me?"

She steepled her fingers and regarded him thoughtfully. "Hmm. Another bout of pneumonia? Some strange malady related to the evil influence of the Ring? Viral gastroenteritis?"

"Oh, no. No more throwing up. Please."

"Darling, I'm very good at holding your head."

"I don't care. I've been sicker than I ever thought anyone could be since you lot got hold of me. I never want to throw up again as long as I live." He shivered.

Alex nodded. "Understandable. How are you on respiratory infections?"

He scowled. "This is all because of the Morgul-wound, isn't it? That's what started you off."

"Well, yes and no. Certainly you'd be more vulnerable to opportunistic infections while your body was weakened by the evil of the Ringwraith's blade—and I have my suspicions it might have nicked the pleura, which gives us a whole other set of options—but you're just so lovely and so fragile that it's easy to see you ill and in need of help." She smiled apologetically and tucked a strand of white hair behind her ear. "What about a nice simple case of seasonal tracheobronchitis?"

"No!"

"Migraines?"

"No!"

"Influenza?"

"You're sick, you know that?" Frodo gave her a considering look. "How come you've got white hair?"

"Because I verge on being a self-insertion Mary Sue in so many of my stories. Thus the yellow eyes, too."

"I was wondering. They're sort of attractive. Not so much yellow as golden."

Alex grinned. "Thanks. I don't have any special powers, though."

"Can't you bilocate or see the future?"

"Nope. I do have the world's biggest collection of useless medical knowledge, though."

"Oh, great." He sighed, shivering a little, and pulled the covers closer around him. "Why don't you write stories about Legolas coughing up his lungs?"

"Because I don't care about Legolas. His eyebrows are wrong." She looked thoughtful. "Although that's an idea, I suppose. Wouldn't he look romantic with dark shadows under his eyes and a quiet little cough?"

"Go with it," said Frodo. "What about, whats-his-name, Haldir?"

She grinned. "You mean Lucius Malfoy's long-lost twin brother? Nope. Not interested."

"Come on, it has to be someone else's turn," said Frodo, shivering. "Aragorn?"

"Never. He's too.......scruffy...to be ill. Microbes are frightened of him."

"Merry? Pippin?"

"Adorable in a different way."

"Elrond?"

Alex laughed, a low rough kind laugh. "Now there's a thought. Agent Smith laid low."

"Agent who?"

"Never mind." She reached out and fluffed his pillows. "Hate to bring this up, Frodo, but you look a little pale. Are you feeling all right?"

Frodo sighed. "No, as a matter of fact I feel like hell. Is it really cold in here, or is it me?"

Alex laid the back of her hand against his cheek. "Oh, dear," she said, gently. "Any dizziness? Localized pain?"

"My chest hurts," he said. "What have you done to me?"

She sighed. "For once, this isn't me, sweetness." She snapped her fingers and a large black handbag appeared in the air beside her, falling with a thud to the floorboards. Rummaging inside it, she came up with a short wooden tube.

"What's that?"

"A listening device," she said, perching on the edge of the bed and beginning to unbutton his nightshirt. "Let's find out what's going on in your chest."

"You just want an excuse to take off my shirt," said Frodo, but he let her set the tube against his chest and listen to the other end.

"Hmm," she said, eyes closed. "Interesting. Can you take a deep breath for me?"

He did so, and coughed a little. "Ow."

She moved the tube, and listened again. "One more time. As deep as you can."

This time the coughing didn't stop, and she sat up and slipped an arm around him, holding him while the spasm ran its course. At length she let him lie back against the pillows, and gave him a wry smile. "Poor Frodo," she said. "How long have you been feeling like this?"

He swallowed painfully and cleared his throat. "A couple of days. It's nothing."

"Like hell." Alex got up and went to the fire, hooked a kettle over the coals. "Did it start with a scratchy throat?"

"Yes," he said. "And yesterday my chest started hurting, and I had this cough. I only started feeling dizzy recently, though."

"I see," she said, fishing in the bag. "Well, you'll be just fine in a couple of days, dear. You really are lucky I'm not adhering to medieval standards of medicine."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Frodo coughed.

"Well, the general treatment for a respiratory infection with upper-lobe congestion was a strong course of emetics and purgatives, possibly with some mercury and antimony thrown in." She shook herbs out of their containers into a beaker. "Not that they had any way to detect the congestion or lobe involvement beyond percussion, which is notoriously unreliable."

"I haven't the foggiest idea what you're talking about," said Frodo, misery colouring his voice. Alex turned, paused, and came over to the bed.

"Don't worry about it, darling," she said gently. "You'll be fine soon. I'm making you something to help with the cough, and I think I can knock out the infection with what I've got here. Tell me.........have you ever eaten moldy bread?"

"All the time," said Frodo weakly. "There wasn't much else to eat, by the time we got past the Black Gate."

"Right." She smoothed his hair out of his face gently and went back to her potions. "Then you're unlikely to have an allergic reaction to this." The kettle boiled, screaming, and she poured the water over the herbs in the cup. "Good thing Raistlin taught me this recipe, really."

Frodo coughed, trying to muffle it behind his fist. "Who's Raistlin?" he demanded.

"Another health-challenged individual," said Alex mildly, carrying the steaming cup back to the bed. "Try and drink a little. It's not very nasty."

"What is it?"

"Coltsfoot and ginger, with a bit of honey and lemon thrown in. Should loosen your chest up."

Frodo sat up with an effort and took the cup. "Thanks," he said. "I think."

She smiled. "Again," she said, "you're jolly lucky you haven't got anything causing massive secretions, because I'd be happy to show off my knowledge of postural drainage. You'll feel better once you've got that down."

"What was that about mold?" Frodo demanded, sipping the stuff in the beaker. It wasn't that bad, really, and he felt the itch in his chest begin to subside as the warmth of the ginger flooded through him.

"It's something that might knock out the infection in your chest," she said. "Otherwise, you'll have to wait until your little hobbit immune system clears it, and said little immune system has been sorely taxed recently. Don't worry. It won't hurt."

"Will it make me sick?"

"Nope." She found what she was looking for in the bag and went back to the fire with a little glass bottle and a hollowed thorn. She held the thorn in the fire for just long enough, before it caught fire, and held it between the tips of her nails as she washed the base of the thorn and the wax seal of the bottle with dwarf spirits. Frodo watched with horrified interest as she thrust the base of the thorn through the seal and upended it, watching as clear droplets formed at the thorntip.

"What's that?" he quavered.

"An innovation." Alex brought the bottle with its needlethorn attached over to him. "Roll over, dear. This won't hurt much."

"What?"

"Roll over. You could close your eyes, too."

Frodo did as he was ordered. There was a brief sharp pain in his backside, and then Alex was helping him lie back against the pillows. "What the hell did you do to me?"

She put the needle and bottle away. "Nothing bad. Relax." She stroked his hair away from his forehead. "Feeling any better?"

He sighed, leaning his head into her hand. "Not really. My chest still really hurts."

Alex slipped an arm around him, holding him close. He rested his hot face against her shoulder. "Why is it always me?" he asked, in a little voice.

She held him gently, rubbing his back. "Because it is, darling. Just relax. Everything will be all right." He began to cough again, raggedly, and she held him close as his small body was shaken by the spasms.

"'s....not fair," he managed at last. Alex let him lie back and opened a small bottle; the scent of green apples and rain filled the air in the little room.

"Nothing's fair," she said softly, dipping her fingers in the bottle and rubbing her hands together. "We take what we can get, and live for today."

"What's....that supposed.....to mean?"

"Sorry, I was channeling Jack Higgins for a moment." Alex sighed and bent over him, beginning to rub his chest. The scent of the oil was like ice, numbing and soothing. Her fingers, surprisingly strong, began to ease the tightness in his muscles, and he found himself relaxing slowly. "Just take deep breaths," she said, from a long way away.

Frodo tried, but he found himself drowsing under the gentle influence of her hands. He slid away into dreamless sleep as she finished rubbing his chest and pulled the covers up over him, resuming her seat by the bed.

"I'll be here," she murmured. "As long as you need me, I'll be here."

Frodo stirred and muttered something under his breath. She leaned closer.

".....'s......long as...you don't.........make me puke........"

Alex smiled to herself in the dim room. "Not this time, Frodo Baggins. Not this time."