Title: A Little Indigestion Between Friends (or A Frodo Healers Fic. Gone Horribly Wrong)
Summary: Frodo's not feeling very well.
Category: General/Humor (with a dollop of angst)
December 10, 2003
A/N - Written for Febobe for the Frodo's New Year's Mathom Exchange - conceived and organized by Baranduin, Trianne and Gentle Hobbit. Febobe requested a fic. in which Frodo is ill post-quest and is tended lovingly (extra points for including Arwen). Unfortunately for Febobe, she got me as her 'Secret Santa' (or Baby New Year - what ever way makes you happy). This is what spilled out. Thank you to Arile3 for assuring me that Febobe would not weep in disappointment and to Febobe for not weeping in disappointment.
A LITTLE INDIGESTION BETWEEN FRIENDS
All right, so it was entirely possible that the fourth helping of veal with the heavy cream sauce was not one of his more inspired ideas. Although, now that he thought about it, the cherry cordial…all right, the three cherry cordials that had followed the beef-kidney pie with the thick, brown wine gravy and my, but wasn't that crust just the flakiest thing he'd ever had the pleasure of melting in his mouth but it was nothing compared to the thick slabs of chops that had been plopped in front of him, still sizzling from the heat of the open pit and oh! but then had come the bottomless mugs of ale and the potato skins stuffed with cheese and bacon and…
His stomach did a heavy roll and he groaned deep in his chest. 'Them's as eats like there's no tomorrow, ends up wishin' there weren't' and good heavens, but why did his conscience suddenly sound like Gaffer Gamgee? 'Remember how fine it tastes going down 'cause you'll need the good memories as it's on its way back up' and oh, now that was more than just a little bit too much, now wasn't it? He squashed the voice back into a corner, stomped on it for good measure then rolled sluggishly onto his back.
He stared at the vaulted ceiling, carefully considering whether he should attempt to curl himself into a ball and sleep until his misery eventually took pity and let him die peacefully or whether he should just throw himself out of a window and have done. He would have to make sure it was a very high window, of course. Minas Tirith had plenty of those, didn't it? If nothing else, he could crawl his way to the tower and--
A soft tap at the door and he clamped his eyes shut. No, no, no! No visitors, no do-gooders and absolutely no concerned faces today. He loved his friends dearly, but there was not a single one of them who could not be overbearing and downright disgustingly solicitous when the mood struck them or when Frodo - heaven forbid! – caught a hangnail on a button and said, 'ouch!' before considering the consequences. He kept silent and still, hoping that Whomever-It-Might-Be on the other side of the door would think he had decided to sleep in today and would leave him be.
go away go away go away
Another tap on the door, this one louder and Frodo clamped his eyes tighter and held his breath. Lying perfectly still, he listened to the shuffle of feet outside his door and willed Whomever-It-Might-Be to concede defeat and go back to wherever it was they had come from.
go away go away go away
"Mr. Frodo, sir?"
Bollocks! it was Sam and Frodo was seized with a sudden flash of guilt. Well, now, he couldn't very well continue this pretense with Sam, could he? That would be too much like lying. But if Sam knew he wasn't feeling well, he would insist on playing nursemaid and Frodo shuddered to think what sort of home remedies he'd be forced to choke down in the name of good health and Gaffer Gamgee. The garlic and nettle tea Sam had ladled into him the last time he'd caught the sniffles back home still haunted him and his stomach did a queasy flop at the memory.
"Mr. Frodo?" This accompanied by more shuffling of feet and a loud knock on the door.
Merry or Pippin he would happily ignore. Of course, that could be a dangerous thing as they were both apt to take his silence as an invitation to burst in and leap onto the bed, which would be annoying under normal circumstances and frankly hazardous under the present ones.
But Sam he could not ignore and the guilt assaulted him anew for having even considered it. The Gamgee in his conscience threatened to renew its yammering and his head began a light pounding behind his eyes.
He let loose a resigned sigh and called, "Come in, Sam. It's open."
The door creaked open and Sam poked his head through, a frown creasing his face into a map of worry. Frodo knew the look all too well…
"Everything all right, sir?"
…and so chose to answer by not answering…
"I've decided to sleep in a little today, Sam. Don't worry about me. Off you go."
…which, of course, Sam immediately saw through.
For a few worrying moments, Frodo was certain his Aunt Esmeralda had traveled all the way from Buckland to Minas Tirith as Sam's face drew into the same knowing expression hers always took on right before she said something along the lines of, "Frodo Baggins, your uncle has a few words to say to you behind the shed. And take a willow switch with you." Frodo blinked several times and, to his relief, his vision cleared and it was once again Sam standing at the foot of his bed.
"You look awful, sir."
"Why, thank you, Sam. Perhaps you can go and stuff yourself with too much food and drink and then you can come back and we'll both look awful together."
"Don't think there's such a thing as too much food and drink for a Gamgee," Sam replied and made his way to his master. He laid a hand across Frodo's brow and sighed. "Feverish," he said, shaking his head.
"I am not feverish," Frodo protested. "It's just a little warm in here. I over-did it last night, that's all and I just need to go back to sleep for a bit and where are you going?" The ghost of garlic teas past drifted into his nose and he was near to panic. "You're not going to the kitchens or anything, are you?"
Sam stopped at the door and turned to his master with a chuckle. "No worries, sir. I'd not be brewing anything for you when we have an honest to goodness healer to ask for such things."
"You're not going to disturb the King with my indigestion?" Frodo asked plaintively. "Don't be a goose, Sam. I don't need a healer, I need sleep and I mean to get it. Do not go to Aragorn."
"Right, sir," Sam replied as he stepped out of the room and headed for the King's messenger.
See, now – this was why it never paid to admit to not feeling well. Someone invariably thought they knew better for you than you did and took it upon themselves to make you feel even worse while pretending they were trying to make you feel better.
He peered into the cup and swished…or rather, rolled its contents. His brows drew together and he looked up at Aragorn, suddenly wishing for garlic and nettle tea.
"You're joking, right?"
Aragorn gazed at him with what could be interpreted as either amusement or pity. "No, Frodo. I'm afraid not."
Frodo looked back into the cup. "Well, then, you're insane."
"My mental capacities notwithstanding, it's really quite effective," Aragorn assured him with what Frodo thought looked suspiciously like a stifled grin. "You drink that down and I guarantee you will be feeling fine by suppertime."
"I drink this down and I guarantee supper will be the last thing on my mind," Frodo retorted. "It's black, for heaven's sake! And it smells like what Sam digs out of the compost heap to fertilize the pumpkin patch."
"I am not drinking this, Aragorn. I couldn't drink it if I wanted to – it's thick enough that I'd have to use a fork and knife on it. I don't believe one is supposed to have to chew a healing elixir."
"It's the very best remedy for what's ailing you, Frodo and I really think--"
"Oh, for heaven's sake, it's indigestion! People get indigestion all the time and very few actually cease living because of it."
Aragorn was suddenly serious. "It is not just indigestion, Frodo. You have a fever as well and if you can tell me your head isn't aching with a straight face, I'll hand over my crown to you."
Frodo scowled and set the cup on the table with a heavier thud than one might have suspected from such a small, innocuous looking vessel.
"I wouldn't want your crown," he groused. "It's far too heavy and people would stare."
Aragorn rolled his eyes. "Frodo, I beg you, please drink what's in the cup."
Frodo glared up at him, refusing to move.
"I'll summon Gandalf if I have to."
Frodo only continued to stare.
"Frodo, if you've come down with the bending illness, it's best we take measures now or you're likely to become very ill very quickly."
Frodo's gaze turned suspicious. "What's the bending illness?" he wanted to know.
"Very much what it sounds like. It is extremely painful – so much so that one who suffers from it tends to bend themselves in half in a bid to lessen the pain. It is extremely unpleasant and fatal in at least half of the cases." Aragorn paused and sat on the bed next to Frodo, reaching for the cup and holding it out to the hobbit. "Please, Frodo."
"I'll take my chances. I'm very flexible and can bend just as well as anyone else."
"Frodo, I will make it a command if I have to."
"I have been given leave by the King himself to not bow down to any man."
Aragorn closed his eyes and scrunched up his face, lifting a hand to knead at his forehead. He loosed a frustrated growl then a heavy sigh, mentally mixing ingredients for the headache elixir he would need to brew for himself once this trial-by-hobbit had reached a satisfactory conclusion.
"All right, Frodo," he said, standing and turning for the door. "But just remember – you've given me no choice."
Frodo had barely had time to smirk satisfactorily when Aragorn reached the door and opened it. Frodo, his haughty gaze following the King, froze as the door opened and had to concentrate very hard in order to keep his jaw from unhinging.
Oh, he wouldn't.
Standing on the other side of the door, placid, knowing smile adorning her radiant face stood the Queen. She looked past her husband and directed her gaze to Frodo and Frodo knew that he had been completely, unequivocally and summarily beaten.
Aragorn stepped aside to allow his wife entrance and turned an arrogant, annoyingly self-satisfied smile to Frodo.Oh, you sneaky, pompous…
"Good morning, Frodo," Arwen began. "The King tells me you are not feeling well." She approached the bed, reached for the cup on the bedside table and held it in her long fingers. "Perhaps I can be of some assistance?"
"Frodo seems to think I have mixed this healing draught for the sole purpose of making him more ill," Aragorn said smoothly. "I thought perhaps you might convince him that I am not attempting to poison him."
…treacherous, pain-in-the-arse MAN, you!
Arwen frowned sympathetically at Frodo and touched his brow with cool fingertips. Despite himself, he found the touch wonderfully soft and enjoyable and it was all he could do to restrain himself from seizing her wrist and laying her hand flat against his cheek to cool the sudden heat he felt rising there.
"You are a bit warm, Frodo," Arwen said. "And the bending illness has cropped up in several places around the city." She paused to grace him with a soft smile and oh, merciful Eru, was she really batting her eyes at him? "Will you not drink this for us so that we may put our worries aside?"
Frodo shifted uncomfortably and cleared his throat. Caught. There's no graceful way to get yourself out of this one.
"I, umm…" he began. "Erm…thank you, my Lady, I do appreciate your concern as well as your husband's." He paused as sudden inspiration went off like a cracker behind his eyes. "It's only that I can distinctly smell tarrowroot in the mixture and I'm afraid I'm quite allergic." Arwen exchanged a suspicious glance with her husband and Frodo pushed on, "Yes, yes, my face swells up to the size of a large melon, you know. And, and, and my tongue! Yes, my tongue swells so that I cannot even close my teeth around it. Why the last time, I could barely breathe around it and nearly suffocated. Imagine how embarrassing it would be to choke on one's own tongue! Very nasty business, that."
He looked earnestly from the King to the Queen, both of whom returned his regard with narrowed eyes and raised brows.
"So…" Aragorn began slowly, "you are allergic to tarrowroot?"
"Oh, yes, quite," Frodo confirmed, nodding his head perhaps a little too enthusiastically which resulted in the room beginning a lazy spin and the thumping behind his eyes graduating to a full-blown thud.
"You are not," came a contradiction from the doorway and Arwen and Aragorn turned.
Frodo gritted his teeth and rolled his eyes to the ceiling, slumping into his pillows. Brandybucks had the worst timing.
"Why, hello, Merry," the Queen greeted, standing from her perch on Frodo's bed.
"Good morning, your Majesty," Merry returned then, shifting his gaze to the King, corrected, "Majesties."
"Merry," the King returned with a nod. He shot a smirk Frodo's way and asked, "So, Frodo is not allergic to tarrowroot as he claims?"
"Of course I am," Frodo over-rode his cousin. "Why would I make up such a thing?"
"Well, I really couldn't say, Frodo," Aragorn responded, "but I suspect it would have something to do with not wanting to take the draught. Merry, is Frodo allergic?"
"Frodo is not--"
"Not feeling very well," Frodo cut him off again, "so why don't we all just move along and leave him alone for a bit, eh? Off you go."
"Cousin, if you interrupt me one more time, I shall be forced to stuff you inside your pillowcase and take a stick to it." Merry turned back to Aragorn. "No, Frodo is not allergic to tarrowroot. In fact, it is the main ingredient in the headache powders my mother mixes and I know for a fact that Frodo relies on them quite heavily after a turn or two with my father's wine cellar."
Aragorn and Arwen turned back to Frodo with matching grins. "Is that so?"
Frodo loosed a great gust of air and dropped his head to his chest in defeat. "Brandybucks!" was all he grated out.
Merry smiled knowingly and looked at Aragorn. "Giving you a spot of trouble, is he?"
"You might say that," the King answered sardonically. He took the cup from Arwen's hand and pushed it into Merry's. "Perhaps you can convince him that drinking the draught would be in his best interest."
Merry peered into the cup, lifted it to his nose and pulled his head back sharply, a mighty grimace twisting his face. "You've made a mistake," he told the King. "This isn't a healing brew, it's sludge from the privy."
"Ha!" snorted Frodo.
Aragorn turned to glare at him before grabbing Merry's collar and ushering him to the far side of the room. Arwen returned to her place on the bed and lifted Frodo's hand in her own, stroking the back of it with her cool, slender fingers.
"I understand you lived with Merry's parents for some time before Bilbo adopted you," Arwen said.
Frodo, who was shifting on the bed, attempting to spy over her shoulder at the two in whispered conference across the room, said, "Hmmm?" He looked to the Queen who was smiling sweetly at him and he flushed. "Ah…er, yes. Yes, I lived in Buckland until arriving at Bilbo's door when I was twenty-one."
"Bilbo tells me you were quite the…lively youth."
"Does he, now?" was Frodo's wry response. He shifted to his right to peer around the Queen, only to have her shift right along with him. He looked at her from the corner of his eye, feinted to the left then dodged back to the right again. The Queen parried admirably and all Frodo caught before she again blocked his view was Aragorn leaning down, speaking quietly to Merry who gazed back up at him with a concerned look on his face. Drat! Another convert to the cause. "I suppose dear Bilbo has made quite certain that I should never be able to look at you again without blushing."
Arwen laughed merrily. "I would not go so far, Frodo," she answered. "He told me only enough to enable me to understand why you are so dear to his heart."
Frodo abandoned his game of peek-a-boo and gave the Queen a fond smile. "As he is to mine," he responded. More quietly he said, "I do miss him terribly."
Arwen said nothing, only reached to stroke his cheek and he closed his eyes and leaned into her touch. He sighed and relaxed into the pillows at his back, allowing himself to drift a little before he heard Aragorn and Merry return from their impromptu conference.
"Come, love," Aragorn said to his wife. "Let's allow Merry to have some time with his cousin."
Frodo felt the mattress shift as Arwen stood then, with one last stroke to his cheek, followed her husband from the room and closed the door. Silence ensued before Frodo, without opening his eyes, spoke.
"Traitor," he said lightly.
More silence and not the haughty retort or good-natured bullying Frodo had been expecting. He opened his eyes slowly to see Merry gazing down at him with such love and concern on his face that Frodo was, for a moment, speechless. He gathered his wits and patted the bed beside him. Merry slouched over to do as bid, placed the cup back on the bedside table and sat gazing at his cousin for a long moment before crawling fully into the bed to snuggle beside him. Frodo held him close.
"It's indigestion, Merry," he murmured. "I swear it. I've had it enough times to know the symptoms."
"Yes, yes, you nit," Merry agreed quietly. "You over-ate and over-drank and now you're paying for it. But… Frodo…" He sat up and looked seriously at his cousin. "What if…what if it isn't indigestion?"
"It is, Merry."
"But what if it isn't?"
Frodo rolled his eyes and looked at the ceiling. "It is," he insisted.
"Frodo," Merry said, reaching for his cousin's hand, "I don't believe it's this bending illness any more than you do and I'd not have you drink that…that…whatever that disgusting potion is without very good reason." He paused and caught Frodo's eyes, held them. "But… I've felt what it's like to lose you. And…" He stopped, took a shuddering breath.
Frodo's heart thumped heavily in his chest and he squeezed Merry's hand. "Merry--"
"No, Frodo, listen to me now. I'll have my say." Merry's voice wavered but he continued to hold Frodo's gaze. "I was sure you were dead. Twice, I've said goodbye to you. The first time was after Gandalf found Pip and me and told us you'd gone to Mordor with only Sam for protection. Oh, Sam's strong and doughty, to be sure, but…but I was sure - and I mean sure that I had failed you. That because I hadn't the foresight Sam did, I didn't see the signs that you would go off alone and so had doomed you."
"Oh, Merry, no. You musn't--"
"The second time was when I saw you lying so small and wasted in your bed before you woke." A tear drifted lazily down his cheek and he absently brushed it away. "My joy at learning you were alive after all was stamped out mercilessly when I got my first look at you. I couldn't imagine that anyone could look as you did and still live. And…and then…"
Merry paused, swallowed, looked down then went on in a hoarse whisper, "I was there when they bathed you once," and Frodo blanched. "I've seen the marks Mordor has left on you and I suppose that's why you won't join us in the bath house. You think that if we don't see them, we won't have to know."
"I would sit beside you and lay my hand on your chest while you drifted in the healing sleep just so I could believe that your heart did indeed beat beneath the ribs I could see so clearly. And it beat so slowly, Frodo. I would hold my breath between them, waiting for the next and knowing each time that it would never come. I was so sure, you see. And again, I knew that it had happened because I had allowed it."
Merry stopped there, choked on a sob then looked at Frodo, let his eyes flow over with their liquid entreaty. "You cannot ask me to allow your death again. I won't have it."
"Merry," Frodo grated and latched onto his cousin, wrapping himself around him and holding on tight. His own tears flowed and wet the smooth velvet against his cheek. "You cannot believe that any of this was within your control."
"I let you leave, I let--"
"No, Merry!" Frodo drew back, held Merry's face between his hands. "I would have found a way to leave you no matter how close you kept me." Merry opened his mouth to protest but Frodo cut him off. "I would have found a way. You know me, Merry. You know I never wanted to drag you into this in the first place. You know in your heart that I would have found a way to leave you behind, no matter how vigilant you were on your watch. I never intended to allow you to enter Mordor."
"You never intended to allow us to follow you out of the Shire either, but we managed that."
Frodo offered a sad smile. "Yes, and I cannot regret it because if it hadn't been so, the world would be a darker place without the benefit of the deeds of my brave, young cousins. But, Merry…I hadn't known everything then that I learned along the way. If I had, I would have found a way then as well." Merry closed his eyes, shook his head. "Believe it, Merry. I would have left you."
Merry opened his eyes, lifted his head and locked his gaze with his cousin's. The corner of his mouth lifted into a small smile and he asked quietly, "But not now?"
Frodo's mouth dropped open and he realized all at once how well and truly he had been trapped. He gaped at his cousin whose eyes gleamed with a determined light beneath the remnants of his tears.
"You…you…" Frodo stammered, unable to come up with anything coherent until, "You planned this whole thing! You duplicitous…" he whacked Merry upside his head, "…conniving…" this punctuated by a thwack to his cousin's ear followed by an ow! Frodo! "…unprincipled--"
Merry grabbed his wrists and wrestled him down to the mattress. "I did no such thing, cousin," he said in all seriousness. "I just know an advantage when I see one. I am a Brandybuck after all. We're a clever lot," he finished and dropped a wink then a kiss to the tip of Frodo's nose.
Frodo gaped at him for a moment longer then allowed his mouth to curl into a smile and he laughed, conceding defeat. "All right, Merry dear. You win," and he kissed him back.
"You'll drink the privy sludge, then?" Merry asked happily.
Frodo gritted his teeth, rolled his eyes, sighed. "Oh, all right! I said you win. Now, get off of me, you lummox, or I'll tell your mother you wept like a babe when you discovered you'd left your stuffed bear behind."
"She'd never believe you," Merry said. "Besides, it was in my pack up until the orcs got us. I think Ugluk's sleeping with it now."
"You git. Off! You're heavy."
"I'll have your promise, first."
"I've already promised! Off!"
Merry sat and pulled Frodo up with him. He reached over to the table, took one last look at what slid around in the cup and held it out to his cousin. "Bottoms up!"
Frodo took the cup, grimaced then took a deep breath and drained it. He swallowed. Then swallowed again. And again. And…
Merry watched as Frodo paled then turned a lovely shade of chartreuse. He watched his cousin's throat bob as he swallowed convulsively. Merry had been around plenty of mornings-after to recognize the signs.
"Oh, you're joking."
Frodo dove for the chamber pot. Merry just sighed, shook his head and patted his cousin's heaving back. He got up, made his way to the door and opened it.
"Aragorn! We'll need another dose."
*A/N - I am not in any way, shape or form implying that Merry actually traveled with a stuffed bear. Frodo is teasing Merry here and Merry is teasing back. I guess I thought that was a little more obvious than it is but since I really don't feel like changing the actual text, you'll just have to take my word that I do not view hobbits as children and that it was meant as a silly joke between cousins.