Title: Black & Blue

Author: Frodo Baggins of Bag End (FrodoAtBagEnd)

Characters: Frodo, Sam

Rating: PG. 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 references to violence. Should you choose to continue, you do so at your own risk. (If you were fine during the movie, you're more than fine for this. ;) )

Feedback: Welcomed. Constructive only, please. . .no flaming. Summary: As Samwise nurses his master's injuries, he contemplates their road ahead. . .and what healing he can bring to the increasing damage inflicted as a consequence of carrying the Ring. Story Notes/Announcements: Inspired by a comment made by Sean Astin regarding Sam and Frodo interaction on the extended DVD of TTT (May 2003 issue of Movie Insider Magazine): "I can't wait to see the extended version DVD. . . . We filmed a MUCH more aggressive, much longer fight scene." () I may have totally different ideas once I actually get to SEE this, but it did nudge a little plot bunny to come nibbling at my ankles (as if they aren't swarming me already).

Regarding FrodoHealers, I have finally found a way to over-ride the age- alert button, so if you've had trouble joining in the past and would still like to do so, just drop me an e-mail. :)

As an unrelated aside, no, that is NOT the end of "The Memory of Taste". . .it remains an ongoing series, as planned, and the use of ~the end~ at the finish of each vignette simply indicates the end of that segment. So for those who've expressed panic over that. . .don't fret! There's PLENTY more where that came from, and it's on the way! :) "Counterpane" will be updated on May 20, as scheduled; the following week, I'll post another story, followed the next week by the next chapter of "Counterpane," &c. Thanks for your patience. . .I hope you'll enjoy it all. :)

For permission to reproduce any part of this fanfic, please contact frodoatbagend@yahoo.com

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. Original characters are my own work; please do not use my creations in your work. Please respect my original contributions. 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. Absolutely no slash or sexual connotations are intended or implied.

BLACK & BLUE

"It's all right, Sam, really - "

"No - not, it's not, Mr. Frodo. Now just stay settled there; it won't take half a moment."

He sighs, but settles down, stops trying to get up now that I've got him lying on his belly, even the mithril-coat off along with the rest so I can tend him proper. I reckon this is our last night outside the Black Land, and there's still green growing things and good water a'plenty, so I insisted on making up a proper supper, best way we could. Good hot lambs'- quarters soup - just a little bit of the cured meat from Captain Faramir went a long way toward flavouring it nice. I won't say a bit of bacon or salt pork wouldn't have been better, but it was good. Made Mr. Frodo eat every bite of that meat, too, along with the broth. He didn't protest too much over my making the soup - I think he realises too that Lor' knows how long it'll take getting there and back, and anything that fills us up with something good might help us save that waybread for a time we might need it a sight worse than we do now. We finished it off with some of that dried fruit. I didn't take any of the apple slices or blueberries, seeing as those are his favourite. Apricocks are good enough after soup anyhow, if you ask me.

That wasn't the end, though. I fetched some more clean water, and put that on, and told Mr. Frodo he ought to lay off his shirt so I could see what needed tending.

I could see him tense up at just the mention. 'I'm all right, Sam,' he kept saying, 'but what about you? If I - ' And that's when I hushed him, and just started easing his vest and shirt off nice and gentle. Stinker's nowhere close, and I don't want to know where he's gone; there's no chance of me leaving Mr. Frodo alone asleep with or without him here. Not now. If you ask me, Mr. Frodo didn't ought to have gone down like that. . .if it'd been me, now, I'd have said, 'Fire away!' without more than a wink's thought, and then maybe we could have gone back to sleep, and they might not a found out. . .but then maybe it's just as well. Maybe we'd still be prisoners. I don't know. I'd rather be worrying over carrots and turnips and taters at home than here, worrying how we're going to get this blasted Ring all the way to that Mountain.

Especially now.

He can't see it, but he can feel it, sure as anything. How could he not, with his poor back already turning purplish-blue in places? Some of those places'll be fair dark in a few days, then fade back to purple, then to that ugly yellow colour like a blight.

It's not fair he should have to be walking with his poor back like that. It's that fall straight onto the stones on his back that did it. Which wouldn't a happened if I hadn't pulled him down. And then that tumble down them stairs. . . . I was trying so hard not to hold too tight at his poor wrists, not to have my hands too tight, and in trying to use my arms at his shoulders I pulled him down instead of steadying him and keeping his hands from that chain without hurting him, the way I was meaning.

And he kept asking if *I* was all right!

Oh, my Gaffer would'a taken a switch to me, grown or no. Still will, if we ever get back for him to hear about it. I was brought up right, much as I don't always act like it. . .and I'd never a' thought I'd a. . .

I *struck* Mr. Frodo.

I still can't believe it.

But I reckon it's true. . .I laid my hands on him, and then I. . .I put my hands up, and he was struggling, and I moved to stop him. . .but my hand came up against his quicker than I realised, and I saw him pull back for half a moment. That was all, and he was already wrestling me down again, but. . .truth's truth. I laid a hand on my master, and it breaks my heart. . .both because I did it and because I couldn't find a way around it.

'Sam?'

I start, my breath catching as I realise I've been staring at his back and worrying for too long. 'Just a moment, Mr. Frodo, and your Sam will fix you up right as rain.'

His breathing eases a little, though I'm worried: I could swear he doesn't feel warm enough, not by a long shot. Especially on that left side. What he needs is a nice warm bath in a proper tub, then a good feather-bed with down pillows and quilts, and a proper hot supper. . .something more suited to him, chicken and mushroom soup and a basket of muffins, or a nice ham and apple pie fresh out of the oven. It's been too long since he had good milk and eggs and cream. Too thin, he is. Not right for a hobbit. Not right at all.

At least I've a few things from Strider's stuff: arnica and marigold cream, and chamomile, too, for tea, that I made for him with supper, with its good appley scent. And a beautiful bottle wrapped up special in layers and layers of soft cloth. . .lavender and thyme rubbing oil, with oil from the pine-woods and juniper around Rivendell, made up special for Mr. Frodo by Master Elrond. Taking some rags from my pack, I wring them out in the pan of water, then lay all but one out over Mr. Frodo's poor back, using the last to bathe his back and arms with movement as gentle as I can make.

He's always seemed so fragile, has Mr. Frodo. Especially since that awful knife-wound he got at Weathertop. Always pale and fair, sort of Elvish, somehow. Too tall and slim for a hobbit, but he's that beautiful, he is, and I've loved him since I can remember him coming to our house this first time, by himself, afraid of bothering Mr. Bilbo at his writing, but not feeling right. . .and my Mam had him sit by the fire, made all of us go on about our chores and not hang about close. Maybe it was just to keep Mr. Frodo from feeling all stared at and out of place, not that he's ever seemed out of place anywhere I've ever seen him. Maybe it was so none of us would catch whatever he had. But he was all flushed and shaky, and when Mam felt his neck and looked at his tongue and throat and felt his forehead, she sent me up to fetch Mr. Bilbo and wouldn't let Mr. Frodo even think of getting up. When we got back, she had wrapped him up in a quilt and had him in her lap, though he was already a 'tweener and tall for his age, just rocking him like she did any of us.

Mr. Frodo was ill for such a long time. It was a while before I saw him again. But I didn't forget. And when he was able to come out and sit in the gardens, and then to walk round them, while he was getting his strength back, I was fair pleased to find he seemed to like talking to me well enough.

He got stronger, and before long people forgot about that, mostly.

But he's never been stronger than I have. My whole life I've worked with my Gaffer in the gardens, and I had to take up Bag End earlier than most - not that I'm sorry, mind you - when his creak-joints got so bad he couldn't do the work any longer. Mr. Bilbo was real nice about it, and so was Mr. Frodo after him. Sometimes Mr. Frodo would invite me in for a beer and a talk, and Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin began talking to me more over the years, as they were afraid of him up and leaving with no warning, running off into the Blue. Many's the talk we've had a winter's night, laughing and drinking and riddling and singing. . .and one thing that's come up more than once is who could beat the others at arm-wrestling, just for fun. I never would do it; it ain't proper, and I know my place. It's not fit for Mr. Frodo's gardener to cheat and let him win or to win and embarrass him; besides, I was always afraid of hurting him with that fair skin of his. I never knew his mamma, but I've seen the little portrait he carries, and she looked like that. But I did watch, and called it between them, and I've seen Mr. Merry beat him many times. Mr. Pippin is still growing into his strength, but now and then he's taken one or the other of them down at the table.

Mr. Frodo's never been stronger than me. Especially not after all he's been through.

Those weren't his hands.

That wasn't him.

That wasn't my master. Reminded me too much of. . .well, I don't want to think about that. And shouldn't.

Even so, I don't mean to hurt him.

And yet I did.

I finish with rubbing the herb cream on, working nice and easy so's not to hurt him any more than it has to. He winces a little every now and then: no surprise, them bruises must ache something fierce. I only hope he's not hurt bad inside, the way you can be and not look as bad hurt, like with that knife-wound. But he seemed so sick then, and now he mostly seems achy and worn out and maybe a little chilled.

Pouring about a spoonful of the oil into my hand, I set the bottle down and cork it securely, then rub my palms together to spread it good before setting to work on his back. Almost at once I hear a soft sigh, and Mr. Frodo seems to relax a little, and lie quieter. Rubbing his back always does do wonders when he's feeling poorly, though I don't dare use more than a real light touch, not with all that bruising. But the herbs will help that, and I'll cover him up good with my blanket over his, so the extra warmth will help them work better.

There are some things your Sam can still fix, Mr. Frodo. Even if I can't protect you from the both of us.

~the end~