A/N: Movie-verse. Written for the hc_bingo prompt "tentacles"

_Small Comforts_

Everything happened so quickly. One moment Frodo was standing with his cousins and Sam, looking with dismay at the skeletons littering the floor just inside the entrance to the mines of Moria, and the next moment he was on the ground, dragged by a tight grip on his ankle, crying out in alarm and scrabbling for the handle of Sting.

Another moment and he was free, being dragged away from the monster and toward the mountain. Then a multitude of arm-like limbs exploded from the water and he was hoisted aloft. A bruising grip on his other ankle and one wrist dangled him over the monster and his thoughts veered wildly from fright at the size of the teeth below to panic that the Ring was beginning to work its way out from under his shirt.

He was about to grab at the chain, desperate to keep it in his possession, when he was jerked abruptly and fell toward the water, saved from immersion by strong arms cradling him against a large chest. He didn't immediately know who it was and he didn't care so long as it meant he was away from the thing that had attacked him.

When he was set on his feet on the rocky ground, he stumbled and was immediately surrounded by the other hobbits, who pushed him inside the mine entrance.

The doorway collapsed with a roar and he blinked in the sudden darkness, suddenly aware that random portions of his body were soaked through and his mouth and throat were dry-he didn't remember screaming, but he must have.

As the Fellowship began to silently follow Gandalf into Moria, he fell into line and hoped walking would keep him from shivering quite so badly.


They trudged for what felt like hours, darkness and rock pressing in on every side, kept from swallowing them only by the circle of light cast by Gandalf's staff. With each step Frodo's ankles itched and burned where he'd been grasped by the creature and his wrist throbbed in time with each footfall. The shadows at the edges of his vision frequently formed themselves into the creature's sharp teeth and he wondered how he was supposed to trust himself if he was seeing things that he knew weren't there.

As if in agreement with his thoughts, the Ring seemed to grow warm against his skin and he just barely kept himself from reaching up to touch it. No need to draw attention to himself-or it-and a ring couldn't change temperature like that anyway.

They walked for quite some time along paths that were sometimes no more than a narrow, crooked walkway with seemingly depthless canyons on either side. When they reached an area that was wider and had walls so there was no fear of accidental falls, both Gandalf and Aragorn agreed it was a good place to stop and rest. By that point, Frodo was almost accustomed to the pain and itching in his ankles and wrist; they were still maddening but had become just something else he had to bear, like the heavy weight of his pack or the chain around his neck.

What he hadn't considered was that the damage would be visible, though he'd been itching and rubbing his wrist compulsively for hours. So when he dropped his pack to the floor and started to sit down beside it, he was surprised to see angry red welts circling both his ankles. He quickly pushed back his sleeve and found the same on his wrist.

Just looking at them made them itch even more and he found himself in the awkward position of having three places that itched and only two hands. But scratching and rubbing didn't help the itch and made the burning sensation worse, so he stopped with a dissatisfied sigh.

"Mr. Frodo?" Sam asked quietly, squatting beside him.

"Do you have anything for itching?" Frodo asked, showing Sam his wrist.

Sam whistled under his breath. "I do, but Strider ought to look at this."

"I'll fetch him," Merry said from behind Frodo, who hadn't realized his cousin was there until he spoke.

Aragorn had been a short distance away, conferring with Gandalf and Gimli, likely about the rest of their trek through the mines, but he broke off the discussion and listened intently to Merry. Frodo watched as Aragorn picked up his pack and came over, followed by Gandalf. Frodo wondered at Gandalf's approach until he realized Aragorn would want as much light as possible and Gandalf had the light.

Gandalf remained several paces away while Aragorn knelt in front of him. "How may I be of service?" he asked kindly.

Frodo held out his wrist and gestured toward his ankles with his other hand. "It itches terribly wherever that thing touched me."

Aragorn gently examined each area, carefully feeling around the welts. Frodo looked with him, noticing in the increased light that his left leg was reddened all the way up to his knee.

"The tentacles must have been coated in something that has irritated your skin," Aragorn said. "We'll need to make sure any remaining residue is removed before I apply any salve. Do you itch anywhere else?"

Now that he asked, Frodo suddenly felt itchy everywhere, but only his ankles and wrist itched with the peculiar burn that apparently accompanied the tentacle-slime. "No."


Sam and Merry helped Aragorn wash his limbs with wet cloths, then Merry dragged Sam off to help Legolas put together a decent dinner. Pippin remained at Frodo's side and handed things to Aragorn while Aragorn carefully applied a salve to the welts and wrapped bandages over them for protection. From the smell, the salve contained athelas in addition to the usual herbs, and predictably the itching and burning began to retreat as soon as the cool ointment touched his skin. Frodo sighed in relief even as he flushed with embarrassment that he once again required tending.

Aragorn saw to his wrist last, and when he tied the knot in the bandage, Frodo said, "Thank you. I'm sorry to be such a bother."

Aragorn briefly pressed Frodo's hand between both of his. "It is no bother, Frodo. We are all here to help you with your task."

"I know. I just did not expect this to be the sort of help I'd need," Frodo said ruefully, briefly touching the bandage on his wrist.

Aragorn smiled as he put the supplies back into his pack. "At least this sort of help is easily given."

Frodo smiled a bit in response. "True enough." Aragorn helped him up, then returned to what he had been doing, and Frodo looked around for something to do. Pippin was still at his side, silent and wide-eyed. "I'm all right, Pip," he said. "Let's set out the bedrolls."

By the time Frodo woke the next morning-or was it evening? night and day had no distinction in such deep darkness-his ankles and wrist no longer itched or ached. He carefully peeked under the linen around his wrist and saw that the welts had shrunk down and his skin had almost returned to its normal color.

Aragorn also checked on him before they set out for the day and seemed pleased. He suggested that Frodo leave the bandages on to protect the irritated skin during the day's walk and Frodo saw no reason to do otherwise.

As Frodo fell into line with the other hobbits, he was grateful that the itchy welts were healing quickly. It gave him some hope that, despite all that had not gone well so far in their journey, they might still make it through-make it there and back again.