Title: Counterpane
Author: Frodo Baggins of Bag End (FrodoAtBagEnd/Febobe)
Characters: Frodo, Bilbo, Bryonia (OC - one of Frodo's relatives at Brandy Hall), various others
Rating: PG to PG-13. While this story falls within the guidelines of the FrodoHealers group in both letter and spirit, free from profanity or sexual content, it does contain material which may be distasteful to some readers. If you prefer to avoid graphic medical content or non-sexual bare hobbit "rear-views," then you may wish to avoid reading this story. Should you choose to continue, you do so at your own risk. I have chosen to provide a realistic portrayal of symptoms and treatment given the conditions in Middle-earth, and as such the content is quite graphic in nature.

Feedback: Welcomed. Constructive only, please. . .no flaming.

Summary: Young Frodo Baggins falls ill with the measles. (A short summary, but I'd rather avoid spoilers for this one.)

Story Notes/Announcements: This is the final chapter of "Counterpane." Thank you all for bearing with me so patiently! I cannot thank all of you enough for reading, reviewing, and supporting me in so many ways. Thank you so much. :) There will be a sequel to "Counterpane" which I hope to post at a speedier pace; I will begin posting this once I get a bit more caught up ficwise and get some lead space into it.

Quotations are from Lullabies and Poems for Children in the Everyman's Library Pocket Poets series. The first is traditional Swedish; the second is from Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Land of Counterpane."

An extra-special thank-you to Mews for beta-reading - your kind assistance and feedback were of such help to me, dearest one. Bless you. :)

For permission to reproduce any part of this fanfic, please contact febobe at yahoo dot com

DISCLAIMER: The characters, places, and story of The Lord of the Rings are the property of J.R.R. Tolkien and consequently of the Tolkien Estate, with select rights by Tolkien Enterprises. This piece appears purely as fanfiction and is not intended to claim ownership of Tolkien's work in any way. Please e-mail me if you have concerns. Original characters, such as (but not limited to) Bryonia and Forsythia, are my own work; please do not use my creations in your work. Please respect my original contributions. Furthermore, please do NOT consider any treatments or remedies within this story safe or effective for use: these are included as fictitious hobbit care, not real human medical practice, and while some can indeed be traced to actual therapeutic practices, could be dangerous. Please consult your health care professional before treating yourself or others for any condition or symptom.

Chapter Fourteen: Dream Sweet Dreams

Slumber time is drawing near,

Night is gath'ring round us.

Stars will all be bright and clear,

When the sandman has found us.

Dream sweet dreams the long night through,

Mother will be near to you.

Go to sleep my dear one.

-Shire Traditional

The clink of his favourite nursery-dishes awoke Frodo.

It had been a long time since he heard that sound. . .such a very long time. Mamma had used them, but they had been put away when his parents died, and he had promptly grown up, without fuss or pomp, even though most of the other children relinquished their special dishes much more slowly, and still had a favourite cup or bowl their mothers would pull out whenever they had had a difficult day or felt poorly. Not so Frodo.

Until now. . .for there they were. Opening his eyes, he found that it was no dream: white dishes with blue trim and blue-coloured dragonflies upon them sat upon a tray carefully positioned over his legs. There was a cup with small blue bunnies dancing about the rim, and a feeding-cup designed so that he could either feed himself or be fed by a grown-up, this one decorated with bright green frogs pursuing tiny lady-birds. Secretly the dragonflies remained his favourites, though he cherished a distinct love for the others as well. . .especially when such delicious scents arose from them as now! He felt terribly hungry, as if he had not eaten for weeks. . . .

All out. That was how he felt. All out. . .drained. . .as if he'd been emptied inside and left hollow and wobbly. He wanted to sit up, but wasn't certain he could manage the effort without falling sideways over the edge of the bed. . .like a rag-doll, he thought wryly with half-amusement. What a fix I'd be in then, and spilling the food besides!

Tentatively he considered how he felt. His ears still hurt, and he wasn't entirely certain about the feeling in his stomach. But the terrible headache had gone, and with it much of the misery of the past. . .how long had it been now?

"Here now, lad. Try a little of this."

Bilbo!

Much to his delight, it was indeed Bilbo who bent over his bed, slipping a strong arm beneath him and propping pillows behind his back and head, easing him into a comfortable reclining position.

"There! Gave us quite a scare, you did, but that's over, isn't it? What do you say to a cup of something to steady you up a bit?"

Frodo wasn't at all certain, but nodded dutifully, determined to seem obedient. Gingerly Bilbo took up the feeding-cup and held it to his lips, tipping it just enough for him to sip.

Oh!

Oh, that is GOOD.

Chicken and mushroom broth, delicate in flavour - thin, not too rich, easy on his stomach. At once he began to drink more enthusiastically, evoking a chuckle from Bilbo.

"Easy now, lad! There's more where that came from. Slowly, now; not too much all at once."

But to Frodo nothing had tasted so good in weeks. Whether because of the food itself or because of the company - or perhaps both - he found himself thirsty and hungry, and the salty broth seemed, strangely enough, to help both.

"Frodo."

He looked up, feeling his stomach suddenly knot at the gravity of Bilbo's expression. What if Bilbo had changed his mind about wanting an orphaned cousin for any length of time?

"Frodo-lad. . ." Bilbo took a deep breath, setting the newly emptied cup aside. "This isn't a very easy thing for me to talk about, but some things have to be said, and - well, you know I've always lived alone, ever since my parents died, before your time."

That's it. He doesn't want me.

"And I've never seen any reason to change that, after all - until now."

What?

Bilbo reached to cup one of Frodo's hands in his own. "It's going to be a long time getting you better, I'm afraid, my boy. You've a long road ahead of you. The doctor says you need a great deal of rest, plenty of fattening up on a proper diet, pleasant surroundings. . . . Now, you and I both know your auntie will do all she can to give you those here, but. . ." Here he lowered his voice. "I know how it is in family smials with plenty of youngsters. Never the same as it is when there's only one of you around, is it?"

Frodo shook his head.

"So I thought. Well, how would you like to come and live with me for a while? At least until summer comes, and maybe on up into that. It'll be a long trip getting there, because we'll have to break it up with stopping at inns so you won't tire out and get chilled, but the doctor's said if we bundle you up properly it might do you as much good as staying here, or more. We'd wait till the weather's mild enough; it's not been even seasonably cold lately, so there's hope of a bit more warmth in the air yet." Bilbo stopped abruptly, pinking as if embarrassed, awaiting the reply, and began to stir the contents of the little dragonfly bowl.

"I would love that more than anything."

At once Bilbo looked as pleased as a child surrounded by Yule gifts, much to Frodo's relief. "Well, then! That's settled! I shall make the arrangements, and we shall let you grow a bit stronger while we watch the weather. . .and soon enough we'll be off to Bag End!" He held out a spoonful of applesauce. "Here now, try a little more. . .first things first; if your aunt finds this tray full, I think I'd be better off facing Smaug again!"

Frodo laughed, but accepted, continuing to eat as Bilbo fed him the rest of the tray's contents: applesauce, a bit of dry toast from his dragonfly plate, and apple juice in the blue bunny cup. Though he knew he should consider himself too old for such things, it felt wonderful to have something of his parents back again for comfort, since they could not be there to comfort him.

Or could they not?

He still could not entirely convince himself that his mother's presence had been the stuff of fever-dreams, and nothing more. There was something too real in all of them. . . .

Yet for now, did it matter?

"Frodo-lad?"

Frodo blinked, looking up abruptly. "Yes, Uncle Bilbo?"

"Are you all right?"

Firmly Frodo nodded. "Yes, Bilbo. I'm fine. Only a little tired."

"Then sleep, lad. I'll be here when you wake, and we'll have another meal and a story."

Burying his face in the pillows as Bilbo eased the supporting ones away, allowing him to lie down comfortably once more, Frodo sighed contentedly, closing his eyes. He felt Bilbo's hands about his shoulders, tucking him in warmly.

It would be all right now, he mused cosily, curling up.

Bilbo would watch over him.

I was the giant great and still

That sits upon the pillow-hill,

And sees before him, dale and plain,

The pleasant land of counterpane.

- finis -