The Honorary Hobbit

Chapter 20

Tender Care

Frodo opened his eyes slowly, trying to orient himself but all he could see was darkness. He listened, barely breathing, and heard whispering and a low moaning somewhere nearby. Where am I? he thought to himself. He tried to lift his head and gasped as pain ripped through his shoulder. The left side of his body throbbed, so much so that he could feel his gorge rise. After a few minutes, his stomach settled somewhat and, breathing deeply, he slowly turned his head on the pillow. Beside his bed, napping in a stiff backed chair, sat Deara. Rivendell…Elrond's house… he remembered. He was so sleepy that his eyes began to close of their own volition. He tried to swallow and panicked when his tongue became stuck to the roof of his mouth; his throat making an odd clicking noise which triggered a cough. A shock of pain lanced through his body and he couldn't help but cry out. Deara snapped awake, instantly by his side with a cup of cool water and whispered words of reassurance.

"There you are at last, my friend," she murmured, as she slowly lifted him from the pillow and brought the cup to his lips. But the movement sent another shock wave of pain through him and Frodo's vision dimmed and somewhere he could hear someone scream. Me? he realized numbly. He almost blacked out, wished that he could, but Deara held him steady until the worst agony was over with and then offered him the cup again.

He drank deeply and she pulled the cup away to keep him from gulping the liquid and possibly vomiting it back up. "Slowly, dear one," she whispered. Then the cup was back and he tried to force himself to take small sips. When she took the cup away again, he groaned in frustration. She smiled, "We will give you more in a few moments, I promise," she said quietly. She gently placed two pillows behind him to keep him slightly upright. It caused his shoulder to pull and throb and he squeezed his eyes closed as a heavy sheen of perspiration beaded his brow. He grit his teeth, trying to bear the agony while she adjusted the pillows under his shoulder to be more even with his torso. When at last his shoulder was in position, Deara returned to his right side. She washed his face and torso, "I am sorry to cause you more pain, little one," she murmured.

"It is no matter," he replied flatly.

Deara looked into the pain filled eyes, "Of course it matters, Frodo. I would see you well again and able to enjoy the beauty of Imladris." Frodo made no comment; his eyes only stared at her blankly. She smiled, "I have reason to believe that Lord Elrond will allow you another attempt to explore with your cousins and gardener once you are healed."

Frodo huffed bitterly, "Why? So I can fall off a cliff or cause another injury to one of my friends? I have more than proven how accident prone I am and how dangerous it is to go on an outing with me. Just ask Aragorn…I imagine he will gracefully bow out of any hobbit walking parties in the future."

"Frodo, you're feeling sorry for yourself," Deara chided. "Accidents will happen and just because your first outing was filled with unfortunate events does not mean that another would be also." Frodo rolled his eyes and turned away from her, the reassurances falling on deaf ears. He had always been a bit clumsy and was determined to not chance another hike until their departure. "I have some tea to help alleviate your pain and some broth to strengthen you," she said watching his face in concern. There was no reaction so she rose and retrieved the soup and tea and returned to his side. Frodo dutifully drank the tea and was grateful as it further slaked his thirst. Then Deara slowly spooned the broth into his mouth and was pleased that he ate all that she had. Finally, she gave him a spoonful of the antibiotic laced with mashed strawberries and watched as he licked his lips afterwards in appreciation. "Once I change your nappy, you can rest," she said softly.

Frodo's eyes flew open, "Nappy?" he squeaked.

"We had to use one since you were unable to use the chamber pot," she explained, noting the Ringbearer's high color. "There is no reason to be embarrassed, Frodo, I am a healer and well used to such things," she reassured.

"I am not!" Frodo exclaimed. "This is humiliating. I am so very tired of being sick and having everyone care for me," he cried, a single tear ran down his cheek.

"It will be over with quickly, I promise," she said softly.

Frodo whipped his head around, "Could I not *TRY* to use the chamber pot on my own?" he begged.

She smiled, "I can bring a bed pan and we could see how that goes, but you should concentrate your energies towards healing."

'See how it goes'…Frodo almost laughed aloud at the play on words, but he instantly sobered when he heard what Deara said next.

"We will still need to remove the nappy and clean you, Frodo."

Frodo's mouth dropped open, "Could Sam do it?" he pleaded.

Deara smiled, "As you wish, Frodo, allow me to find him." She left and Frodo sighed in relief. It was one thing to have a male see your privates…that was embarrassing enough, but to have an Elf? And a lady Elf at that? No self-respecting gentle hobbit would ever allow such a thing. Frodo thought of all the days and nights he had been ill and unaware … he shook his head, trying to dispel the images brought forth.

Sam, Merry and Pippin had been forbidden into Frodo's room for days while Elrond assessed whether the pneumonia was contagious or not, so Deara had barely had time to request their presence before they rushed out the door and down the hall towards Frodo's room, leaving an uneaten meal behind. Sam raced to his Master's side and Frodo smiled weakly up at him. "Oh Sam, I cannot thank you enough," Frodo exclaimed in relief.

Deara smiled widely, "Master Baggin's would prefer your taking care of his personal needs over myself, little Masters." Frodo stammered an apology, afraid he had offended the healer. She held up her hand, "I quite understand, Frodo, and I am not offended," she reassured before gracefully bowing to all and closing the door behind her.

"Mr. Merry, fetch some nice warm water and add some lavender to it, would you? Mr. Pippin, would you warm some towels by the fire?" Sam said, taking charge. Both of Frodo's cousins jumped into action, thankful to finally be of service. "Now Master, let's get you out of this thing," Sam said gently. He climbed up on the bed, careful not to jostle Frodo, and pushed the covers aside.

"This is so humiliating," Frodo groaned.

"Nonsense cousin, you changed my nappies often enough," Pip chirped.

"Yes, but you were a bit younger, Pip," Frodo moaned.

Sam expertly unpinned the cloth and peeled it off of Frodo. Frodo blushed purple in embarrassment.

"Now, I know you're worryin' more about me than yourself, Mr. Frodo, and that's just plain silly. This doesn't bother me a wit, so you just get them feelin's outta yer mind, sir," Sam murmured. He set the dirty nappy aside and took the warm lavender scented flannel from Merry and gently washed Frodo's front and back. Frodo hissed and Sam abruptly stopped. "Am I hurtin' ya, Master?" he asked in alarm.

"It stings a little but the warmth feels wonderful," Frodo said.

"'Shouldn't sting, sir," Sam said, looking closely at Frodo's backside. Frodo's blush deepened as his gardener scrutinized his privates. "Looks like you've got a bit of a rash, sir," Sam muttered.

Frodo gasped,"I have nappy rash? Oh my stars, please just kill me now, I have never been more mortified," he exclaimed.

Merry grinned and Pip was trying hard not to giggle. "Well, at least it's not Deara examining your bottom, Frodo," Merry said brightly.

Frodo moaned, astounded that he could be any more embarrassed. "We'll jes put a little cream on there then maybe some powder, sir, and you'll be right as rain," Sam was saying cheerfully. Frodo groaned again, his face now a dusky purple. "Mr. Pippin, hand me that athelas salve that Mr. Balorian has been using on Strider, please," he asked. Pip retrieved it off the table and Sam withdrew a large dollop and applied it to Frodo's backside and front. "Now we just need some cornstarch…"

"I'll get it, Sam," Pip exclaimed. He opened the door and yelled in what seemed to Frodo to be a very loud bellow, for Balorian. Frodo tried to shrink even further under his blankets as he thought seriously about putting on the Ring and disappearing. "Oh, Mistress Deara, do you have any cornstarch?" Pippin called. Frodo pulled a pillow out from under his head and covered his face. "Thank you, Deara," Pip was saying.

"Can I be of assistance, Master Took?" Frodo heard the healer ask. The voice sounded very close to the bed.

"NO!" Frodo yelled, muffling his voice with the pillow.

Deara grinned widely and left the room. Merry was having a very hard time controlling his laughter, even going so far as to cover his mouth with both hands. Frodo felt a breeze hit his bottom as the cornstarch was applied.

"Before I pin ya sir, would you like to use the cup?" Sam asked quietly.

"Uggh…yes Sam, thank you," came a muffled reply.

Sam held the cup while Frodo tried to urinate with no success. "Mr. Merry, could you pour some water into that pan over there, real slow like?" Sam asked. Frodo was sure there was no way he could feel any worse. As Merry poured the water, making a loud tinkling sound, Frodo sighed in relief as he voided.

Once it was done, Sam began to pin a clean nappy on him when Frodo popped his head out from under the blankets," Deara said I could use the bed pan and wouldn't need the nappy anymore," Frodo whined.

"Beggin' yer pardon,sir, but with nappy rash, you'll need the nappy a little while longer," Sam explained slowly.

"Oh botheration!" Frodo stormed, ducking back under the covers.

"There, all done Master. Now that wasn't so bad, was it?" Sam said.

Frodo popped his head out, incredulous that Sam could say such a thing. Merry and Pip were grinning while Sam, oblivious to his Master's agape expression, climbed off the bed and went to wash his hands. "That'll do until next time, I think," Sam said, his back turned towards Frodo. Merry could stand it no longer and burst into gales of laughter as he looked at the stunned, tousled and wide eyed visage of Frodo Baggins, gentlehobbit of the Shire. Frodo shot him a withering glare.

"Your bottom sure was red, cousin Frodo," Pip said innocently.

After seeing to Frodo, the three small caregivers went to Aragorn's bedside. The man tossed and turned, leaving behind a large sweaty swath on the pillow. The Ranger mumbled, locked in some nether dream known only by the fevered sick.

"He sure is sweaty," Pippin said. He bent and sniffed the bed, "and he smells bad," he added.

Merry nudged Pip, "It's not like he can help it, Pip!"

Pippin blushed, "I was just wondering when we could give him another bath, is all," he retorted.

"Now would be a good time, Master Took," came a voice from behind him. All three jumped and Merry silently cursed the stealthiness of elves. Two more elves materialized behind Elrond placing a large tub in the middle of the floor. They began heating kettles of water as another elf filled the tub about a third full of cold water. Elrond added some myrrh and eucalyptus to the bath and the hobbits all breathed in deeply at the aroma. Frodo eyed the tub longingly.

"Could I take a bath too, Lord Elrond?" Frodo asked quietly, his eyes lingering on the steaming tub.

Elrond smiled at the Ringbearer, "I do not see why not, Frodo. Moving you will be painful though, little one, and of course this tub is too awkwardly shaped to accommodate your shoulder in a comfortable position. I will confer with Master Balorian for his suggestions on how we might achieve our goal."

"I can tolerate the pain as long as I can finally feel truly clean again," Frodo said, his eyes looking longingly at the fragrant water so close yet so far from his sick bed.

"Very well, once Aragorn has had his bath we will arrange one for you, Ringbearer," Elrond said with a bow of his head.

A chair was brought and situated by the side of the tub and pillows were placed on it. Two different elves entered the room and the coverlet was removed along with Aragorn's nappy, then they effortlessly moved the Ranger to the tub, slowly lowering him into the steaming bath as Elrond supported Aragorn's leg. Aragorn sighed as the water touched his skin, relaxing into the water's embrace.

"We can take it from here, sirs," Sam said with authority.

Elrond and the elves smiled, "I will have one of my elves within earshot should you require assistance, little Masters." They then bowed and, after the hobbits had returned the gesture, the entourage left the room, closing the door behind them.

"Well, let's get at it, sirs. Mr. Merry would you put some towels by the fire please?"

"Right Sam," Merry jumped up to do as bid.

"Mr. Pippin, mayhap you could strip the bed whilst I begin washing Strider's upper body."

"Happy to," Pip chirped, pleased that he had such an important task.

Sam placed a towel about Strider's groin to give the man some small amount of dignity before lathering a flannel and beginning to wash the man's torso, neck, face and ears.

Strider's eyes slowly opened. He looked about him as he tried to get his bearings before looking up at his caregiver, "Samwise," he acknowledged softly, blushing.

"Yes sir, Mr. Strider." Sam said softly.

"I believe you have me at a disadvantage, my friend," the Ranger croaked, his blush deepening.

"Yes sir, it appears so," Sam whispered with a smile. "You jes' lay back while we get you cleaned up and more comfortable, Strider," he said softly, never faltering as he continued to rinse the soap from the long arms.

"He's awake!" Merry exclaimed and both he and Pip ran to the tub, entering the man's field of view.

"Gentlemen," Strider acknowledged with a nod, blushing darker.

"Strider, it is so good to see you! Well, *see* you wasn't what I meant exactly though we certainly *can* see almost all of you…" Pippin prattled. Merry jabbed Pippin with his elbow and gave him a look that clearly said Pip had gone too far. Strider turned purple, took a deep breath and fixed his eyes on the ceiling.

"I'm sorry if I embarrassed you, Strider. But we are all males here, even if you are a good deal *larger* than us which is natural seeing as you're a man and we're hobbits and all. It's not like you haven't seen *us* often enough, I mean poor old Frodo has been seen by almost *everyone*. I bet Deara could practically *sketch* his privates by heart…."

"PIPPIN!" Merry and Frodo yelled at the same time.

Strider smiled widely knowing that Pippin was really *trying* to make him feel more at ease, but was helpless to control what came out of his mouth. "Frodo? Are you well, my friend?" Strider asked out loud.

"I am much better, thank you Aragorn." Frodo's voice reflected that he was still bemoaning his cousin's remarks.

Pippin blushed, "Frodo, I was only trying to say…"

"I think you have said enough, Pip," Merry glared at him.

Sam had almost burst out laughing while Pippin had made his remarks, coloring at some of the details, but had held his peace. While Strider had been preoccupied he had washed the man's genitalia, legs and feet. The broken leg had been tended to with utmost care and Strider was touched by how gentle the small gardener was.

"Aragorn, I am so sorry that any of this happened. I cannot express how badly I feel about…" Frodo began in earnest.

"You are not responsible for any of my injuries, Frodo," the Ranger exclaimed. "It was mere happenstance that all occurred as it did. Please be at peace, I do not want you worrying and wondering 'what if' or 'if I had only' when it will avail you nothing. Please, my friend, or I will be most distraught," Aragorn said the last hoping Frodo would act true to form and avoid anything that would cause another to feel *distraught*. It worked, as he heard the hobbit gasp. He smiled to himself realizing how well he knew the inner workings of each of these small individuals even though they had been companions only for a short while. They wear their hearts on their sleeves unlike men who endeavor to secrete all of their feelings and emotions, he thought in wonder. He looked up at Sam and the gardener was smiling down at him aware of the man's careful manipulations.

"Oh..I didn't mean to…" Frodo sighed. "It is only that mishaps seem to follow me wherever I go. I must be the unluckiest hobbit ever," he moaned.

"Nonsense, you should have more faith in yourself, my friend. I for one am honored to be considered your friend, and would feel privileged to hike with you anywhere and at any time," Aragorn murmured groggily, his eyes slowly closing.

"I feel the same, Aragorn. Aragorn?"

"He's fallen asleep, Mr. Frodo. I'm sure you can talk to him a little later, sir" Sam said if he isn't delirious with fever again, he thought to himself.

"Oh," Frodo whispered. "How is he really, Sam? And how did he get to my room?"

Sam sighed, not wanting to cause his Master further worry before deciding there was nothing for it. He recited the story of how Strider had trekked on his crutches down the hallway, the loud lecture from Elrond and finally the fever that had resulted from Strider's activities. Frodo listened intently, his worry for his friend intensifying, but he said nothing, knowing he would be faced with more of the same platitudes from his friends. He sighed and lay back against his pillows. He knew who was really responsible for Aragorn's injuries and resulting sickness.

Not hearing any response from Frodo, Merry looked over at his cousin, but Frodo's face was turned away from him. He sighed knowing his cousin well enough to see that Frodo was berating himself over all that had happened.

"There, that does it, except for the hair," Sam said. While he had been explaining all of what had taken place, Merry and Pip had gently rolled Strider to his side so they could wash the Ranger's back. "Let's bail some of this soap scum dirty water and replace it with more hot, what do you think?" Pip and Merry nodded and retrieved the pails left by the elves. While Sam went to the elf at the doorway and requested more hot water, the others bailed the water out and dumped it off the balcony. Three elves entered and carefully added the hot water as Sam stirred the tub to make sure Strider didn't get burned. He thanked them and they bowed and left the room.

While Merry and Pip supported Strider's shoulders, Sam thoroughly washed and rinsed the Ranger's scalp, his smaller hands artfully working through the tangles. "Mayhap we should make up his bed, sirs, and what say we add a fluffy quilt so's he has some more padding for his back?"

"Good idea, Sam," Merry said before running to a closet and pulling a soft blanket from within while Pip grabbed sheets and more blankets. They positioned themselves on opposite sides of the huge bed and managed to achieve their task after only a few tries. They spread the fluffy quilt on the bed and rolled the other comforters to the end. Pip pummeled the pillows as Merry crawled around the headboard trying to make the sheet as tight as possible. Sam signaled he was ready and Pippin retrieved the elves to move Strider from the bath to the warmed towels. All three descended upon the man, rubbing him down vigorously before pulling a nightshirt over the Strider's head. Finally, Sam retrieved a brush and combed out the man's long hair. The elves smiled at the sight of the three small beings taking such gentle care of Elrond's foster son. Once done, the elves carried Strider to the awaiting bed while Sam and Merry carried the broken leg. Strider and his leg were settled and covered with a light blanket just as Elrond entered the room.

He crossed to the bed, placing a hand on Aragorn's forehead and closed his eyes. He smiled, "I should have a team of hobbit healers at my disposal all of the time, it would seem. His fever is down and he appears to be quite comfortable, my friends." His face became serious and he knelt down so he could talk to them on their own level. "I am very grateful for the gentle, loving care you have given to Aragorn. He is fortunate to have such devoted friends."

All three hobbits blushed and bowed to the elf leader. "It was our honor to help him, Lord Elrond. He has repeatedly shown his quality taking care of my cousin Frodo." Merry replied solemnly.

Elrond smiled and rose, "Please join us for luncheon, then perhaps you would enjoy a small tour of the kitchens and gardens," he said.

Their eyes lit up and after making sure Strider was tucked in proper, they all went to Frodo's bedside. Even though Frodo's eyes were closed and he slept, there were dried tear tracks on his face, showing the three how worried their friend was about Strider.

Merry stretched up on his tippy toes and placed a kiss on his cousin's forehead, "You're next, Cousin," he said softly. Each followed suit, Pippin whispering, "get better soon, Frodo," and Sam "we'll be back in a shake, sir," before they quit the room and made their way to the kitchens.

Elrond smiled, looking at both of his patients and murmured, "Perhaps my services are not needed after all, as long as there are hobbits to care for you." He closed the door and followed the sound of laughter and chatter towards the kitchens.

TBC