Note to reviewers: Thank you SO much for your lovely reviews. For those who have mentioned the length of this story---I really wish now I had made it longer! I might, in the future, indeed continue this story or do another "Frodo memory" while he's being taken care of in Ithilien.


An hour later, one of the barrels in the hobbits' private alcove had been opened, rinsed well, and filled half full of fresh water from the falls outside. To this the men began to add enough coppers of boiling water to make the bath fairly hot.

Frodo and Sam were sitting on the floor watching this process, entranced by the whorls of steam rising off the top of the water, when Faramir again strode in carrying a small burlap bag tied up with strong twine. As the hobbits stared, curious, he opened it and upended it over the barrel. Cream-colored flakes poured out to join the steaming bathwater.

"I found it in our food stores," the captain said, brushing his hands free of dust and wadding the bag up in one fist. "It is often used in Gondor for soothing rashes and ills of the skin and is naturally cleansing."

"What is it?" Sam asked, while Frodo listened and scratched surreptitiously.

Faramir's stern lips curved up slightly, the first hint of a smile the hobbits had yet seen from him. "Something I imagine you Shire folk are likely familiar with---oatmeal. Since we seldom make a fire here to cook it, we have plenty should you need more." He advanced toward Frodo and knelt, examining the hobbit's arms and hands again. "This should help ease you, and we've a salve here that might help as well after the bath. We will rinse your clothing under the falls as well, as it is soaked with the foul waters of that place. You may wear something of ours until it dries."

"Thank you," Frodo responded, a bit surprised to find such help from the captain---especially knowing he was Boromir's brother---when he and Sam were, for lack of a better term, prisoners. "I'm grateful for your help."

"I would not see you suffer," Faramir replied curtly. "And now, I leave you to undress. Let me know when you are ready to get in." After checking the temperature of the steaming barrel, now filled and waiting, he retreated quickly.


"Sam, you really should go first."

"I'll have none o' that, Mr. Frodo. It's you that has the rash and itching." Sam frowned, watching Frodo dig his fingernails into his calf. "You're about to take your skin off, and your leg is already bleeding. I'll look toward going in after you."

"All right." Quickly Frodo shed his clothing---all but the Ring---feeling a bit self-conscious about undressing in the cave but willing to do nearly anything to alleviate his discomfort. He grimaced as he removed layers to reveal unpleasant red wheals covering nearly all of his skin. Finally wrangling his mithril coat off, he turned to stuff it out of sight in his pack and stopped, noticing Sam staring at him sympathetically.

"What it is, Sam?"

"I'm sorry, Mr. Frodo, but the only time I've seen skin look that angry was when Marigold got into a patch of stinging nettles down in the pasture. I wonder what caused it?"

Frodo shrugged as he removed his last article of clothing. "I've no idea . . . I suppose there are all sorts of unsavory things in the water of the Dead Marshes. If I hadn't been so stupid as to fall in . . ."

"Now, don't go saying that. You couldn't help it---just got distracted. And who wouldn't, in that foggy place with all them dead eyes looking up at you."

Frodo sighed, shuddering at the memory. But what was done was done. "Sam, er, I guess we need to call Captain Faramir . . . I cannot get into this barrel on my own, and there's nothing to use as a stool, either."

"You can't get in?"

"The top of the barrel comes to nearly the top of my head, Sam!"

"It does that, sir. Hold on just a moment--Captain Faramir did tell us to get call him when you were ready."

Sam went to the curtain, peering out and whispering. A moment later Faramir returned, picking Frodo up about the waist and depositing him gently in the water. Frodo hoped the man hadn't noticed his red face---although hobbits were not overly modest as a whole, they certainly didn't make it a habit to be naked around Big Folk they barely knew. However, any embarrassment the hobbit might have felt faded as the warm water enveloped him.

Frodo closed his eyes with a long sigh, sinking down as far as he could until the water sloshed up to his chin. "Thank you . . . feels wonderful."

"The rash should stop itching and gradually fade, once your skin is clean," Faramir said, handing Frodo a cloth with which to scrub himself. "You and Sam may soak as long as you wish. If you are in need of more hot water, Mablung has just placed a kettle in the corner. Call me when you are ready to be helped out."

He exited, taking Frodo's clothes to rinse and leaving the hobbits alone.

"How does it feel, Mr. Frodo?" Sam asked from where he sat nibbling away the last of the salted meat and watching his master's curls---all he could see of Frodo---bob over the top of the barrel.

"Mmmmm. It feels heavenly, Sam. Heavenly." Indeed, the oatmeal-water was a soothing balm to his itchy red skin, and Frodo took a gulp of air and held his breath as he sank down under the water and scrubbed his hair. A moment later he rose up, water streaming down his head and face.

"Mr. Frodo?" Sam sounded quite panicked. "Are you all right? Your hair disappeared!"

"I was under the water, Sam. I think I might stay here forever, just soaking and singing Pippin's bath-time song . . . you remember the one. 'A loon is he that will not sing: O Water Hot is a noble thing . . .' Ah, how true it was."

"I do recall Mr. Pippin's bath leaping on high," Sam said. "Go ahead, sir, and stay in as long as you like. I'm in no hurry to get to Mordor anyway."

And indeed Frodo did soak until his fingers and toes were so wrinkled he was sure they'd fall off. After that, Faramir returned and helped him out of the tub and added the remaining copper of water to it for Sam to use. The captain had brought salve and a long shirt for Frodo to wear and had lain the hobbit's washed clothes out to dry in the main room.

As he dressed in the shirt, Frodo sighed in relief, for the itching seemed to have been eased greatly. But even better was the feeling of being clean---of having the sliminess of the marshes and the griminess of the air from Mordor gone from his skin. Applying the salve Faramir had brought and listening to Sam sigh as he, too, enjoyed the bath, Frodo thought that maybe something good had come from being captured after all.


After the bath that day, Frodo's rash had lessened greatly. It itched a bit still, but was manageable with the salve and healed quickly. Many times, as he later made his way into Mordor, Frodo had wanted to thank the man, but he'd never thought he would make it back alive to do so. Or that Faramir, as stern and important as he was, would care to accept thanks from an insignificant hobbit.

But times had been difficult then and much different. Now, the quest complete and safe in bed in the Houses of Healing, Frodo reflected that he had been mistaken----Faramir possessed an utter lack of pompousness and selflessly tended to Frodo even though the man was also wounded and ill.

"Frodo?" Faramir's voice intruded on his thoughts as he held the hobbit's head up off the pillow. "Keep drinking this, until it's all gone."

Concentrating, Frodo finished the sweet ginger tea, feeling his head grow heavy with drowsiness. Aragorn must have added a sleeping herb to the mixture.

Faramir set the cup aside and sat down on the bed next to Frodo, carefully pulling the hobbit's blankets away from his upper body. For the first time, Frodo realized he was so toasty warm due to several towel-wrapped hot-water bottles eased up against him.

"I've some salve for the whip burns on your back, Frodo," Faramir said, "and am going to gently roll you over to apply it."

Frodo tried to whimper a protest. He didn't know what his injuries looked like, but they smarted so badly he knew they must be very severe and quite revolting, and he did not particularly care to have Captain Faramir---or anyone, for that matter---see them or touch them.

The man seemed to read his thoughts and chuckled lightly, caressing Frodo's cheek. "I have been doing this for you for several days now, my friend. As the Houses of Healing have been overrun with casualties, I have volunteered to help out where I can." Very gently he turned Frodo over onto his stomach, whispering soft reassurances when the hobbit winced in pain.

Then, extremely carefully, Faramir began to unwrap the fine linen bandages from Frodo's torso. The hobbit gripped his bedclothes tightly with his good hand as Faramir eased the dressings away from the sore, still-red whip abrasions on his back. And yet, as the man's fingers began to soothe the cool cream into his flesh, Frodo relaxed.

"You know, Frodo," Faramir murmured as he worked, "I recall your difficulties in Henneth-Annun after falling into the Dead Marshes. At the time I felt I should have done more to take care of you and Samwise, knowing of your dark journey ahead, but I was unable to. Now, I am glad to be able to do what I could not before."

"I . . . remember . . . that you . . ." Frodo uttered, his throat burning from the effort. He tried to say more to alleviate Faramir's guilt, but the tea he'd been given was strong and effective, and his mind was too fuzzy. And so all he could do before drifting to sleep was extend his left hand and pat the man's knee where it rested on the bed beside him.