TITLE: Starved

AUTHOR: Febobe (Frodo Baggins of Bag End - FBoBE - "Febobe")

FANDOM: Lord of the Rings

PAIRING: N/A - Gen (Characters: Frodo Baggins, Sam Gamgee, Faramir, Arwen, Eowyn, members of the Fellowship, brief appearance by Ioreth)

GENRE: Hurt/comfort; angst

RATING: Teen/PG for thematic darkness

WORD COUNT: 12,139 words

SUMMARY: Following the Quest, Frodo and Sam find that returning to life as usual isn't as easy as it might seem. . .particularly when it comes to eating.

WARNINGS: Rating for mild thematic darkness only; no sex, slash, or profanity. Probably bookverse apart from Frodo's appearance, but you could go either way on the interpretation. Additionally, this series is heavy on the food imagery - I *am* writing about a hobbit, after all, and a hobbit with a food obsession at that, so please bear with me! Seriously, this is a foodie h/c Frodo fic, so if you don't like those, DON'T CLICK. Just STOP NOW. Otherwise, you will NOT enjoy yourself. Trust me!

NOTES: The foods cited in this fic are drawn from a wide variety of sources, including an online BBC website for the English foods of the Shirefolk (I'd give you the URL, but it doesn't seem to be functioning fully these days, so I don't know how much good that would do!) and from 1,000 Italian Recipes by Michele Scicolone for the "Italian" recipes of Minas Tirith and Gondor (Minas Tirith sits at about the latitude of Florence, according to JRRT in the Letters, which inspired some of us in discussion to give Gondor a somewhat "Italian" flavor). Eowyn's recipes come from One Potato, Two Potato, from 500 Soups, and from general personal experience (in short, I could find you a recipe for it, but I didn't look at a specific book this time to find it). In addition, some of my ideas about the effects of starvation/food deprivation on the human psyche and the body come from the Ancel Keys experiment, summarized nicely at .?title=EffectsOfSemiStarvation (just in case you're interested in my source material).

DISCLAIMER: I don't own Tolkien's characters; I just like to play with them from time to time. I make no claim of ownership on his creations. Any and all treatments used in this series are purely for fictitious purposes and not to be attempted on humans (having been designed for fictitious hobbits instead). Please consult a qualified health care professional for all your medical needs.

CHAPTER ONE

Frodo would never forget his first glimpse of Minas Tirith. Level upon level it stretched, far below to the ground, until Frodo grew dizzy with looking and put his face to Aragorn's shoulder. How could Men endure so much walking up different levels? Didn't it make their feet sore? At least in the Shire one was on ground, not on stone as everything was here. . .but Minas Tirith seemed to be nothing but a city of massive white stone. He shivered.

"Shall we go back inside now, little one?"

Frodo nodded eagerly. He hoped his tray would arrive soon; he was hungry, and Aragorn had promised something to eat. They were alone now, the rest of the company having departed to allow Frodo rest, and he could not say that he was entirely sorry, for he had so many questions!

"Aragorn?"

"Yes?"

"What are they like - the Men of Minas Tirith?"

Aragorn came to sit beside him, his tone warm and compassionate. "They are much as you have experienced, Frodo, in Faramir and Boromir - noble and brave, but like all of us in their fallibility. But there is yet some of the grace of Numenor about them, and that perhaps you will sense, particularly among the noblest and most loyal of those who have survived this long war." He smiled. "The Steward is giving a feast soon in your honour, as soon as you are up and able to eat well enough to enjoy it, which should be very soon. I think you will fare well when we begin to get you properly fed."

"A feast?" Frodo eyed Aragorn curiously. "What are their feasts like? I know only of their ordinary meals, from dining with Faramir and his men."

Aragorn laughed. "Well, why do you not speak more to me of hobbit dining, and let me explain what is different? I fear that I know little of hobbit meal practises, apart from your habit of eating six times a day or more and your penchant for mushrooms."

Frodo flushed. The latter had come out during a story about his own past, and he was not eager to touch upon it again. "Well, my Aunt Dora wrote positively reams on good manners at table. How the first Conversation should always be about the Food Before One, after which the conversation may gradually turn to Food in General, and from there, as the meal nears its End and one has progressed to Filling Up the Corners, to more general conversation, provided One keeps to Topics of a Congenial Nature. All sorts of things like that."*

Aragorn nodded. "In that, the Men of Minas Tirith are not so different. It is considered polite to keep to congenial topics at table, though not necessarily to food." He hesitated. "I believe, from some of the descriptions you and your cousins have given me, that it is not uncommon among hobbits to have meals with seconds and thirds. This is not usual at such feasts as we will attend, but I think you will find the number of courses served - while served one or two at a time, and not all at once - quite satisfying."

"Oh?" Frodo paused as there came a knock at the door and Aragorn rose, going to the door and returning with a covered tray which, once uncovered, revealed small servings of food: dry toast, stewed apple, and hot tea with honey. Gently Aragorn offered him a spoonful of stewed apple.

"We must be careful what you eat at first; you have been with little food for such a long time that you require careful refeeding. Soon you may have some soup and mashed potato and even a bit of plain roast chicken, if you tolerate this well. But first things first."

Frodo swallowed gratefully, blinking back tears. The taste was delicious. At once he opened his mouth for more of the warm, soothing nourishment. This Aragorn offered, even as he continued to speak.

"There will be many courses - first, the antipasti, or appetizer - which will consist this time of marinated mushrooms and marinated olives. The second course is a pasta - it is a dough cut into shapes and cooked, somewhat thin; it may have a filling or a sauce. The pasta we will have is pappardelle with mushroom marsala sauce - that is a mushroom and wine sauce. I think you will especially like that. Next we have a meat course: that will be roasted chicken with rosemary, lemon and garlic. The vegetable is a roasted mushroom medley. Following those we have a salad - a mushroom salad, in this case; next, chilled fresh fruit. After that, we have dessert: something called strawberry tirithmist, which is like nothing you have ever eaten. It is absolutely light and delicious and refreshing, and you will love it, I believe. And of course there will be plenty of wine. I believe Faramir has also arranged for a bread called rosemary focaccia to be served."

Frodo's eyes widened. "It sounds so strange. . .but delicious! Anything with mushrooms must be wonderful."

"Faramir spoke with Pippin and Merry about what might best please you. They told him of your fondness for mushrooms." Aragorn smiled. "Would you like a bath after you have eaten?"

Frodo nodded. "Please. I have not had a good wash in so long - "

"You were bathed well when you were brought in, but there is nothing quite like sitting in a tub filled with warm water." The king offered a bit of toast. "I understand that you will feel better when you have had a real bath."

"Yes." Frodo yawned, and a sudden guilty thought struck him. "Has Sam had plenty to eat?"

"He has. I have had more food sent to his room." Aragorn held another spoonful of stewed apple to Frodo's lips, watching as it was nipped up gratefully. "He is tolerating it well. Of course, he is hungry, as are you, but that we can remedy, I think."

"Mmm." Frodo nodded through a mouthful of apple. "I feel better already." He fell quiet for a moment. "Aragorn - do you think the men of Minas Tirith will react very strangely to us? I mean - everyone will be expecting a great hero."

"I see one." Aragorn's grey eyes softened. "I think they will understand, though some may stand in wonder."

"Aragorn?"

"Yes, little one?"

Frodo yawned. "Are the Men of Minas Tirith more like Faramir - or Boromir?"

Aragorn hesitated for a long moment, offering a bite of toast and sip of tea in the interim. At last he met Frodo's gaze thoughtfully. "It depends very much upon the man. There are some like each."

"Oh." Frodo blinked wearily, but continued to eat until every bite and drop was consumed. "I don't suppose I could have that bath and something more to eat when I wake?"

"Of course, little one. Of course." Easing the pillows from behind his shoulders so that only one remained, allowing Frodo to lie down comfortably with his head and shoulders only slightly raised, Aragorn smoothed the covers and tucked his charge in warmly. "Rest now, and pleasant dreams to you. One of your companions, whether myself or another, shall remain with you while you sleep."

Somehow the knowledge gave Frodo peace, and he found himself drowsing at once. And this time his dreams were not dreams of fire, or of the Eye, but of plain Shire food - sausages and apples, freshly baked white bread, poached eggs, bramble bread and butter pudding, roast chicken, mashed potato, double ginger cake, apple pie. . . .

-to be continued-