Author: Frodo Baggins of Bag End (FBoBE/"Febobe")
Title: Joy From Ashes
Challenge: Crack Me Up
Rating: PG-13 (see Warnings).
Pairing/Characters: Frodo, Gandalf, Sam; brief appearances by Pippin, Merry, Legolas, Gimli; brief reference to Aragorn, surprise special character appearance in final chapter. Various OCs. Primarily a Frodo and Gandalf fic.
Warnings: Graphic medical detail. No sex, no slash, no profanity (unless you count one incidence of "bloody"). Movieverse. Also, I think this goes without saying for the Crack Me Up challenge, but - WAY AU. I mean WAY.
Summary: Following the Quest, a gravely injured Frodo is taken by Gandalf into the 21st century, where Frodo finds life-saving aid. . .and small pleasures unlooked-for.
Author's Notes: This fic, originally written for the Waymeet Crack Me Up Challenge, is dedicated to SurgicalSteel and Riddlemaster, without whom this story would not have come together. An extra-special thank-you goes to both lovely ladies for their openness to questions, tireless answers, and general good-natured encouragement of the author. In addition, a gold star goes to SurgicalSteel for her medical beta and snarky medical dialogue work, without which this fic would not be what it is. If you like those bits, hug her. (If you like the medicine, hug both these ladies. I don't know what I'd do without them.)

PROLOGUE

Frodo found himself standing in what seemed to be an empty space. The ground beneath his feet felt solid enough, and when he looked up, the heavens were cloudless and filled with stars.

It was glorious.

"Frodo."

At the familiar voice, Frodo turned, mouth opening into an O of surprise as his disbelief turned to confirmation. Gandalf! It was Gandalf! With halting steps he began to approach, and then with running stride, as he discovered that his hurts seemed to have disappeared with the casting off of his weary body. Much to his relief, the wizard came to meet him, and put out warm arms to welcome him. Frodo could hardly help smiling for the first time in many days.

"Gandalf! Is it really you? I mean - I saw you fall, and - " He hesitated. "Have you come to show me the way? I never thought it would be like this. I never imagined I would get to see you again!"

Gandalf smiled, but there was a sorrow in his eyes which filled Frodo's heart with a sudden dread. "Yes, Frodo, but not as you expect. I have come to show you the way back."

"No." At once Frodo shook his head, pulling away. "Gandalf, I - I cannot go back. What I have done - what has happened - "

"I know. And none of it matters now." Gandalf's voice was kind yet firm. "Your time is not yet finished, Frodo, and so you must return."

"Please," Frodo begged. "I cannot. I am so tired - so very tired - "

For a long moment, Gandalf hesitated, and then he motioned Frodo to him, kneeling with one knee propped where he motioned for Frodo to sit, like a spry grandfather with a forlorn child. "Frodo. . .I cannot give you the healing you need. We have tried. But neither can I let you go. There is, however, another way. . .if you are willing."

Sitting, Frodo nestled close against the familiar comfort of the long beard. "Tell me."

"I can take you to another place - another time - where the healers will be better able to help you. They have medicines and machines that we do not have. Some of the things that they do will hurt, but it will be only for your good, I promise. And you have already suffered the greater miseries by far." Gandalf's compassionate gaze met Frodo's eyes. "They will be kind to you, and they will help you get well. They will give you medicine for the pain and for your breathing, and water to drink. Someone will watch over you at all times, and I will be in their waiting-area, to see you as often as they will permit me, which will be every few hours."

Frodo hesitated. A strange place and time? And yet. . .

"What of the others?"

"They cannot come yet. But perhaps when you are better, they may. Time passes differently in that world; I cannot explain all to you now, for time is of the essence. But know that it is a wonder even to the Istari. I could send back word to Aragorn through the palantir when the time is right, and your friends may come then. Sam needs to recover; I would not like to move him with that head injury, and he will be fine here. You, on the other hand, do need assistance if you are to hold fast. In that I agree with you." His gaze flickered across Frodo's face searchingly. "Will you consent?"

"Yes."

"Then close your eyes. Soon you will no longer be here." Gandalf patted his back kindly. "I know it is too pleasant a place to leave easily, but this is very important. And someday you will return in passing. I promise. But not yet."

Closing his eyes, Frodo sighed and rested against Gandalf's beard. Almost at once he could feel himself beginning to lose consciousness.

-to be continued-