Title: The Hunting of the Calorie

Authors: Frodo Baggins of Bag End (FBoBE/"Febobe") and Elwen

Rating: K

Warnings: Graphic food descriptions, humour.

Summary: Overhearing a discussion about Frodo, his hobbit companions take it upon themselves to help...and manage to do so with surprising accuracy, considering they can't even sort out what they're trying to do!

THE HUNTING OF THE CALORIE

"Can you hear anything?"

"Hush! Maybe if you'd be quiet." Merry strained to listen, leaning away from his younger cousin as they and Sam huddled behind the curtain, listening intently to the conversation just outside.

"Frodo must have a high-calorie diet for some time. . .perhaps indefinitely. You will have to monitor his progress closely, but it will be required at least for the first several months. Anything less. . .and his recovery will be severely compromised." Elrond's voice was intent.

"Of course, Adar." Aragorn answered quietly, his tone that of a man inclined to brook no protest.

The three hobbits looked at one another.

"What's 'calories'?" asked Sam anxiously. "Do they have 'em in the market here?" He eyed Pippin hopefully.

"Whatever they are, we have to make certain Frodo eats a lot of them, whether he wants to or not," offered Merry.

"I've never heard of a 'calorie,' murmured Pippin nervously.

"Then we must search the marketplace until we find some," insisted Merry. "After all, it's *Frodo* - we can't leave it up to Aragorn. He needs us. Now, let's split up and meet back. . . ."

...

Not long after the closing of the marketplace, three decidedly despondent hobbits reconvened in Merry's quarters, each hauling a basket.

"No one knew what a 'calorie' was," mourned Sam. "Not a soul I asked, and I must have asked nigh on the entire east and south sides of the market. I did bring back some things, though, what Mr. Frodo likes - sausages, and strawberries, and right good mushrooms from a stall down on the East Walk, and fresh butter, not to mention eggs and cream and taters. I can make up some right proper dishes from that."

"I couldn't find anyone who knew either," chimed in Pippin, "but I brought back treats too. There was a merchant on the North Side selling the *loveliest* mushroom pastries and apple fritters, so I bought some of those, and then I got a chicken and mushroom pie a few booths over, and some peaches. He loves peach foam."

"No one in the West Market knew what a 'calorie' was either," confessed Merry, "so I brought back some ham and bacon, some seed-cake, and a good bit of soft gingerbread."

There came a soft knock at the door. "Gentlemen, may I come in?"

"Aragorn!" whispered Merry. "Quick!"

Arranging the bags behind them, they lined up to face the door. "Come in!" Merry called.

In came the king, his expression filled with concern. "I heard that you three were here. Is anything the matter?"

Three curly heads shook in unison. . .but at last Sam glanced to Merry, and, biting his lip, looked up at Aragorn anxiously.

"Beggin' your pardon, sir, but - I heard - "

"We heard - " explained Merry.

" - that Mr. Frodo has to have a 'high-calorie diet.' But when we went to market, no one knew what a calorie was, not a soul. How's Mr. Frodo going to get plenty of them if no one here's ever even heard of them? Unless it's something else, like a medicine to add to food, in which case Mr. Frodo won't like it at all. . . ."

"We went all over the markets trying to find out, but no one had heard of them. . .so we brought back some of Frodo's favourites instead." Pippin began opening bags to display their contents.

Aragorn smiled kindly and knelt upon the floor, motioning the hobbits closer. "Ai, but my friends, you have succeeded already! You have brought back many high-calorie foods, or foods that can be made into high-calorie dishes easily enough. By that we mean foods rich in energy - foods like cream and butter and eggs and milk." He smiled. "Somehow I suspect Frodo has just the medicine he needs. . . ."

...

Frodo turned drowsily in bed, moving with difficulty; he still ached everywhere from his ordeal, and everything hurt, from his ears to his feet. His throat was sore, his lips were cracked, and his gums still bled. He was thirsty at all hours, but the last thing he felt like doing was eating. . .oh, he could, but it hardly seemed worth the effort.

Until now.

He stared in disbelief at the tray set before him, mouth open in astonishment. There were mushroom pastries, apple fritters, chicken and mushroom pie, seed-cake, soft gingerbread, peach foam, strawberries with cream, roast chicken with mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes, carrot pudding, ham sandwiches and bacon sandwiches, baked custard with a little puddle of blueberry jam on top, sausage applesauce toast, coddled eggs, puffy mushroom omelet, creamed mushroom toast, a host of assorted muffins, soft melon balls and berries, hot tea, fresh milk, cool water, and even a little champagne.

"For me?"

Aragorn nodded, grinning. "You have your friends to thank for it. I am afraid that for a long time - perhaps always - you will have to eat an especially rich diet to help you gain back the weight you have lost. But I believe you will have plenty of help."

Behind him, a door closed quietly, and three conspirators beamed.

"Sam," Pippin said suddenly, "I still don't know what a calorie looks like. . . ."

-finis-