Doctoring by Febobe

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Written for the March 2017 Spring Fever challenge with the element feverfew.

I went with some less common uses of feverfew – it’s most commonly employed for migraines, but it does have some references to use for iron-deficiency anemia/as a tonic, and for insect bites, pain, and “nerves.” I chose to go with its more unusual employment, as I suspect Shire ladyhobbits might be well versed in such uses, and b/c I wanted to do something a little unexpected and a little closer to gapfiller…I know, I know, everyone who knows me and my crackfic and AUs must be choking on her laugher right now. 😉 Seriously. I wanted to go with something a little less “out there.” I hope you enjoy this one!


Rosie knocked at the door of Mr. Frodo’s room. She hadn’t seen him go out this morning, and she’d been in the kitchen since before five. Then again, he was prone to keeping odd hours. She’d have let him sleep, but he was so thin! He ought to be up eating him a good breakfast, she reckoned, and she’d made him one, eggs scrambled in butter, real soft and creamy, and nice crisp streaky bacon, the kind he favoured. She’d made hot buttered toast and added some of the strawberry jam Mr. Frodo favoured. And there was apple juice she’d warmed and spiced with just a touch of cinnamon, and a cup of fresh milk, and tea with milk and honey made the way he liked it. She’d heated the milk through and honeyed it for him too, for he looked like he needed every bit of nourishment she could coax down him. After all, she’d promised Sam she’d look after his Mr. Frodo while he was gone away south, dealing with the damage to homes and gardens wrought by Sharkey and that awful Pimple. 

After the third knock, Rosie thought she’d just peep in and see whether Mr. Frodo might not be lying in there sleeping in. He might be glad to be woke for eggs and bacon. And Sam had said if Mr. Frodo didn’t answer his door, it might not be a bad idea for someone to look in on him – his health had been very poor since their long errand, and though Rosie didn’t understand everything Sam had told her (Mr. Frodo being quite reticent on the subject except when it came to Sam’s accomplishments and exploits), she understood that Mr. Frodo had taken a grievous wound, and had almost become some kind of terrible monstrous ghost thing. Or at least that was what it sounded like. All Rosie knew was that Sam worried endlessly about his master, and it was no wonder, for Mr. Frodo always looked peaked and pale and sickly to her eyes.

And when she opened the door, Sam’s fears were realized for her.

Mr. Frodo lay upon his bed. His eyes were open, staring at nothing she could see, but his right hand clutched the white gem he always wore about his neck, which he often would finger. But he was deathly pale, and a sheen of sweat stood on his brow; when she set the tray down and rushed to him, calling his name, he seemed half in a dream. 

“It is gone for ever,” he murmured, “and now all is dark and empty.” *

Rosie laid her hand upon his forehead. He wasn’t feverish, but he was clammy like someone with a fever. She didn’t rightly know as her mum and da would approve of this, but Sam had asked her to look after his master for him, and she didn’t reckon he’d want her to leave poor Mr. Frodo like that without trying to help him.

“Mr. Frodo!” she said, a little louder, but in her gentlest voice. “It’s Rosie. You’re at the Cottons’. Come back. It’s all right. You’re safe here. No bad thing’s going to harm you.”

Mr. Frodo blinked, and suddenly he passed his hand over his eyes. A moment later, they came to focus on Rosie’s gaze. 

“Rose?” he asked hoarsely. “Is it really you?”

Rosie tried to smile, but she didn’t know how happy she looked, because she was still worried. He was hollow-eyed, as if locked in a struggle between this world and wherever it was that had called him away. “That it is, sir. Should I send one of my brothers to fetch the doctor for you?”

Mr. Frodo sat up and shook his head weakly, steadying himself against her arm as she caught his swaying form. His right hand still clutched the gem tightly. “No, thank you. I fear this is beyond his ken. I’m sorry I alarmed you. I’m not feeling very well today – I don’t think I’ll be up to coming out to join the family.”

“It’s all right, sir. Begging your pardon, but you don’t look like you’re fit to be getting out of your bed.” Rose moved to prop his pillows behind him. It didn’t look like he had even gone to bed; his bed was still made, and he was dressed as he had been when she had left him in the kitchen the night before, sitting staring into the fire as if something troubled him. Now that she came to think of it, the last thought on her mind before she undressed and put on her night-shift had been how unwell he looked. “Now, I’ve brought your breakfast,” she continued soothingly, “but as soon as you eat that, I want you to let me get you into your night-shirt and tucked into bed. You need rest, and that’s no mistake.”

“I’m sorry, Rose, but I’m not sure I can eat,” Mr. Frodo murmured, and his voice was so full of despair that Rosie shuddered. With an effort she suppressed it.

“Now, sir,” she insisted, “that won’t do at all. I’ve got eggs and bacon here, and milk, and warm apple-juice, and I can feed you. Them eggs are nice and creamy, should go down real easy.”

Wearily Mr. Frodo sank back into his pillows. “I haven’t the strength to fight you,” he replied softly. “I will try. But – please do not be alarmed if I am – absent – again at some point. It comes and goes, and sometimes it carries me quite away with it.”

“What’s that, sir?” Rosie asked, fetching the tray to settle it over Mr. Frodo’s legs.

“The pain. The memory.” Mr. Frodo sighed. He looked at the tray, but did not relinquish his hold on the white gem.

Rosie spread a napkin over his chest, and then she offered the first mouthful of juice, supporting his head gently with her hand so he could sip before she gave him the first taste of egg.

This won’t do, she told herself silently. I can’t just leave him lying like this all day! As soon as I get him settled and take this tray out after, I’m going to fetch Jolly out to kill a fat hen for me so I don’t have to leave him alone sick. Mr. Frodo needs good broth, and soup, and sops, and if he won’t let me send for the doctor, why, then, I’ll just have to doctor him myself. And I know just what he needs for tomorrow, to put him back on his feet and give him a little colour….



Frodo awoke the morning of March the fourteenth feeling spent, wrung out and exhausted. He felt weak and achy, but at least the terrible memories, and the terrible burning at the back of his neck and along his side, had abated. Vaguely he remembered being nursed through the entire awful day by Rose, who had fed him, put him to bed, and attended him until night, and even then she had sat by his side, promising to make sure he wasn’t alone in the darkness, and had a light by him….

The light by his side still burned, as did the fire in his hearth, and both had been freshly tended by the look of it, though Rosie was nowhere to be seen. He could hear the faint sounds of voices down the hall. With an effort, he rose, letting go his hold of Arwen’s white gem, the only true comfort to be found yesterday, though Rose’s presence had given him some consolation. At least he had not had to be alone, despite Sam’s absence. 

Carefully he eased on a dressing-gown. He did not feel well enough yet to bother himself with putting on trousers, shirt, waistcoat, and the like, and he thought Rose and her family might forgive him for appearing thus. And poor Rosie had seen more than that, no doubt, the day before. He pinked at the thought. It wasn’t right for a maiden to see such things and do such things, but he had been much too ill to protest. Half the time he had not even known where he was, drifting rather in dark, foul dreams of the Black Land and Shelob.

As he padded down the hall, the voices grew clearer – it sounded like Rose and her mother.

“Oh, that looks fine, dear. I’m sure he’ll like it.”

“I wonder if he’s awake yet. I hate to bother him, he was sleeping so good when I stepped out. But I reckon I’d better be finishing this up; it’s nigh to nine, and if he sleeps much later, he won’t be able to take his lunch when he ought.” 

Frodo stepped into the kitchen and cleared his throat softly. Both ladyhobbits started. But both broke into smiles, even as Mrs. Cotton hurried to put a maternal arm about his shoulders.

“Oh, come now, dear, and sit by the fire. I’m sure you’re worn out after yesterday. Do you want to go back and take your first breakfast in bed, or would you like to sit here, where it’s cosy?”

Frodo smiled and let her shepherd him to a chair near the hearth, his usual spot. “Thank you, Mrs. Cotton. I’d be pleased to eat here. I’m afraid I put your family – especially your daughter – to rather a lot of trouble yesterday, and I’m terribly sorry for it.”

Rose snorted and began dishing up porridge and toast expertly. “Nonsense, Mr. Frodo. Now, you know we’d do anything we could for you, and I’m no exception.”

Mrs. Cotton wrapped a warmed blanket about Frodo’s shoulders. The warmth was soothing and welcome. He remembered Rose wrapping him in warmed blankets yesterday, during the worst moments, constantly reassuring him that he wouldn’t be left alone in the dark. And then Mrs. Cotton set up a small folding-table before him, and Rose brought dishes to set out on it – porridge which smelled of cinnamon and brown sugar, studded with plump raisins, buttered toast with blueberry jam, and a poached egg in mushroom sauce. And then she brought over a mug of warm apple-juice, and a cup of warm milk, and his morning tea with honey and milk mixed in the way he liked it. 

“There now, sir. Just you eat that up. Do you feel like feeding yourself, or shall I help you again?”

Frodo looked up into Rose’s face, and there he saw exactly why Sam had fallen so deeply in love with her. They were so very much alike, weren’t they? Both of them eminently practical, everything as simple in their eyes as making sure everyone got enough to eat and got enough sleep and was kept warm. He didn’t even know how much of the War Rose understood. No doubt to her it must all seem like grand folk didn’t have enough sense to get in out of the rain. Had the Ring been given to her or to Sam, most likely it would have been immediately tossed into the flames of the Mountain…oh, Frodo knew the Ring had had ways of working on everyone, of course, but it seemed just that simple with Sam and Rose. And after yesterday, he felt certain that she had understood her Sam’s part in the War…for she had tended him as diligently and devotedly as Sam had in the darkness of Mordor. And that he had not expected. Did she perhaps understand more than he realised?

“I think I can manage,” he said, coming back to himself and taking up the spoon to get a little porridge. “Thank you, Rose.”

But Rose did not leave him. She pulled up a small stool as her mother began to busy herself clearing the kitchen, and there were signs in her determined face that she was on a MISSION. “I got to thinking yesterday, sir,” she said calmly, “about how peaked you look, and – begging your pardon – it ain’t right, and you know Sam would say the same if he were here. Now, with your permission, I’d like to propose we do something about it.”

Do something about it? Frodo stifled the urge to let out a grim laugh. What could a hobbit-maid do about what ailed him? But aloud, he said, “I’m listening. Please, tell me what you have in mind, though I fear there is no hope for me.”

Rose shook her head. “I was afraid you’d say that, Mr. Frodo. But – see, it’s spring now, coming in, and it’s been a right hard winter and fall before that, and it sounds like you had a real hard year before them. I’ll warrant that fancy king don’t know a thing about proper spring tonics. I’ll bet he didn’t even give you any liver to eat, did he, hmm?”

Frodo blinked. He had been gone from home so much of the past two years that he had quite forgotten being given liver dishes as spring tonics by Bell Gamgee, who had been tasked by Bilbo with pinking his ‘nephew’ up after winters full of coughs and fevers. When he had been fed liver as a child at Brandy Hall, he had despised it, for the whole hall smelled of it for days after. But Bell’s preparations, while they had taken some coaxing to get down him, were nothing like that. He wondered how Rosie meant to prepare it.

“He didn’t,” he admitted. “I must admit there were so many feasts, and everything so grand, that the comforts of home were quite forgotten in the shuffle, and more than once Sam and I wished we had a kitchen. When we moved into that little house with Gandalf, we had one we could use with step-stools, and that was a treat – but I think everyone quite forgot about liver that year, as by then we were well into summer.”

“Well, liver ain’t the only thing you need,” Rose said firmly, but she smiled, and her eyes sparkled. “I reckon the best thing for you is everything that’s good for what Mum calls ‘thin blood.’ And Sam’s mum said the same, so I’m sure you know where this is going. It’s time for nettle, and parsley, and dandelion, and every kind of organ meat I can find to make, and – “ She leaned forward, her eyes keen and piercing, as if she could look into him almost the way the elves could. Frodo paused in his slow eating. “Sam tells me – and I’ve noticed, ‘cause I have eyes, Mr. Frodo, and I can see – that you have a great deal of pain.”

Frodo hesitated. But lying to her would do no good. She’d see right through it. “I do have pain,” he said haltingly, “but not even the greatest healers in Middle-earth could help it. My shoulder, my side, my head – some days everything aches.”

“Did they ever give you feverfew tea?”

Frodo thought for a moment. He had no idea what all he had been dosed with, particularly soon after his rescue from the Mountain. “I don’t know,” he said. “But – “

“But nothing.” Rose put her hands on her hips. “We’re going to give you feverfew for the pain, and to soothe you a bit. Helps your nerves. Now, they say it helps with insect bites, too, and if a spider ain’t a big bug, then I don’t reckon I know what it is.” Her expression softened. “Mr. Frodo…you’ve been through a lot. Let me doctor you up. Sam will be beside himself if he comes home and finds you so poorly as you’ve been this week.”

The thought of the dismay such a thing would bring to Sam’s stout features broke Frodo’s heart. And it seemed that in this, at least, Rose of all people understood him – and shared that concern – best of anyone. 

“All right,” he said, spooning up a bite of poached egg with mushroom sauce, and following it with a bite of toast and sip of juice before continuing. “Do what you feel best. Doctor me, if you will, then.”



And doctor him Rose did. For the next near-fortnight, Rose kept him bundled up, sent him out into the fresh air to sit in a chair laid with cushions, and nursed him with all manner of herbal teas. Frodo had thought that he had been dosed with every imaginable tea Elrond and Aragorn could concoct, but Rose was always coming up with new ones, and though she tried to sweeten them with honey, they were still vile. But he had to admit that the feverfew did seem to help steady his nerves and calm him a little in the milder, everyday sense of dismay and darkness which troubled him.

And Rose also made good on her promise to feed him organ meats. Frodo’s meals she served at off-times, when the rest of the family would come in after, save for his first breakfast and his late supper after the others had gone to bed. “I don’t want to make you feel more alone,” she explained that first day, “but I reckon you don’t seem like you’re much for a crowd just now, and I understand. Sam told me you’ve had enough grand crowds for a lifetime. I reckon even a crowd of plain hobbit-folk could be too much after all that.” And so she would call him into the kitchen in the morning after the others had all gone out to work or to market, and then she would call him before the others until night, when last thing he would come out to sit and stare into the hearth. Only now, instead of sitting alone with his thoughts, he had company – for Rose would make him a pleasant supper, kidneys in mushroom sauce or bone marrow custard with black pepper and parsley – and sit to eat with him. He suspected she did it to occupy him as much as aught else, and at first they spoke only of such small matters as any preferences he had for his food the next day. 

But one night, about five days into Rose’s “doctoring,” Frodo took his seat, wrapped in his dressing-gown, as Rose set a bowl of creamy soup in front of him – probably gizzards, if he wanted to think about it, which he didn’t. Still, it tasted nice, and was not unpleasant. And he did feel a little stronger for it. Even Mrs. Cotton had taken to commenting that she was pleased to see him eating and getting a bit of colour in his cheeks for a change. 

“How much has Sam told you?” he found himself asking suddenly as Rose sat down with her bowl. “About – about the last part of our journey?”

Rose’s eyes caught his at once. There was a startling intensity in them, and sorrow, and a hint of anxiety. She was trying to decide what to say. He knew that look. Sam got it at times too, had gotten it when he had tried to tell Frodo that they would reach the Mountain.

“Enough,” she said simply at last. “Enough to know why you’re a walking ghost.”

“It is – hard to speak of,” Frodo admitted by way of reply. He expected Rose to tell him not to, then. To look away, awkwardly, and stare at the floor, or into the hearth, or at the ceiling – anywhere but his haunted face. 

But she kept her eyes on him, steady and sure.

“Do you want to speak of it?” she asked gently after a moment. “If you feel the need – I can be a good listener when I’ve a mind. And right now, I’ve a mind.”

Frodo poked at his soup. Did he want to do this right now, he wondered? Now, bringing thoughts of darkness and death and desolation into the warm, safe kitchen of the Cottons’ farmhouse? He reached up with his left hand to finger the white gem Arwen had given him.
Elvish medicine, the finest to be had in Middle-earth, had not completely brought him peace. It was how he had survived. 

But Rose had shown him that hobbit healing had something, too, to offer. It probably wasn’t enough to heal him altogether. But – having Rose about had been so much like having Sam at his side that Frodo could not deny she had brought him through these dark days in much the same way Sam had brought him through the Black Land, albeit he had had to make do with less than Rose had at her disposal. And yet she had never shied from him, for all he wandered in darkness so much of the time.

It was time.

“I think I want to,” he said at last. “I want to tell you the story, at least as much of it as I can bear to tell anyone.”

Rose spooned up a little of her own soup without her eyes ever leaving his face.

“Then I won’t leave you,” she said gently.

#

“Lor’ bless me, Mr. Frodo, if you don’t look a sight better than when I left!” exclaimed Sam the day he returned, coming in to find Frodo eating Rose’s stewed beef heart with root vegetables and mushrooms. “Have you put on a bit o’weight?”

Frodo smiled as he rose to embrace his dearest companion. The past fortnight had brought clarity of mind as he had not had in the better part of more than two years. Did he feel truly well? No, and he knew that most likely he never would. But he felt stronger, better able to bear the darkness which shrouded his memories and waking and dreaming hours…and, best of all, he knew now that even when Sam and Merry and Pippin were away, he wouldn’t have to truly be alone so long as Rose was around. Sam, he felt certain, was delaying asking her to marry him, and Frodo suspected it was due to his lasting devotion to his master’s care.

Perhaps it was time to fix that.

“Rose, would you mind to leave us for a bit?” he asked hopefully, looking across to her. “I promise I’ll send Sam to find you soon, and perhaps the two of you can take a walk. I’m sure Merry and Pip and I can finish up the dishes.”

Rose looked delighted. “Well, if you’re sure, Mr. Frodo,” she said. “But I’ll expect you boys to get them as clean as I do!”

Merry and Pippin laughed, embracing Frodo after Sam’s turn, and then they followed Rose out into the yard as soon as Frodo whispered to them, leaving Frodo and Sam alone. Sam, of course, looked puzzled.

“Bless you, Mr. Frodo,” he said, “if you don’t better than you have since last summer, in Gondor,” he said, shaking his head in wonder. “Looks to me like Rosie took good care o’you, just like I thought she would.”

“She did, Sam. She’d do anything for you,” said Frodo, reaching for Sam’s hand with his maimed one. 

Sam blushed and looked down. “Mr. Merry and Master Pippin, they’ve brought back your old furniture and all your gear from Crickhollow, sir,” he said after a moment. “Reckon it’ll be ready for you to move in soon enough, likely even this week.”

This was it. The opportunity he’d hoped to have soon enough. 

“Good!” I said. “When are you going to move in and join me, Sam?” **

Sam looked a bit awkward.

“There is no need to come yet, if you don’t want to,” Frodo said. “But you know the Gaffer is close at hand, and he will be very well looked after by Widow Rumble.”

“It’s not that, Mr. Frodo,” Sam said, and he went very red.

“Well, what is it?” Frodo asked, though he knew very well what it was.

“It’s Rosie, Rose Cotton,” said Sam. “It seems she didn’t like my going abroad at all, poor lass; but as I hadn’t spoken, she couldn’t say so. And I didn’t speak, because I had a job to do first. But now I have spoken, and she says, ‘Well, you’ve wasted a year, so why wait longer?’ ‘Wasted?’ I says. ‘I wouldn’t call it that.’ Still I see what she means. I feel torn in two, as you might say.”

This was exactly the moment Frodo had been hoping for. In that moment, he felt so full of hope and love he thought his heart might well burst. 

“I see,” he said, “you want to get married, and yet you want to live with me in Bag End too? But my dear Sam, how easy! Get married as soon as you can, and then move in with Rosie. There’s room enough in Bag End for as big a family as you could wish for.” ***

Sam’s mouth opened, shut, opened into an O. He stammered for a few minutes, but then he got up and threw his arms around his master. 

“O, Mr. Frodo!” he cried. “Now every dream I ever had has all come true! I’ll talk to her and her da this very day! Just you wait and see, sir – we’ll take good care of you.”

Frodo sent him off in search of Rose at once, and rounded up Merry and Pippin to help him with the dishes, as promised. And by supper, the whole household could talk of nothing but the wedding. But that night, Sam and Rose came together to tuck him in.

“Sam told me what you done said, Mr. Frodo,” Rose said in his ear as she bent down to kiss his brow and take his evening cup of feverfew tea from him. “I never expected such a thing. But don’t think I’m not grateful.”

And after everyone had said their good-nights, and Frodo closed his eyes, this time his dreams were not nightmares, but filled with the sound of laughter, and of small feet running through the halls of Bag End. And he saw many hobbit-children, from the eldest girl on down to the tiniest babe in arms…and that night, for the first time since before his journey, he felt the stirrings of hope in his heart. He knew that he was beyond repair, true enough. But Sam – and Rose – and the Shire – were not, and never would be. It had all been worth every moment of suffering. And when he dreamt that the eldest daughter came to stand at his elbow as he worked in the Red Book, compassion in her eyes, it was joy enough that he was almost sad to wake come morning.

-the end-

*Taken in large part from LOTR, The Return of the King (chapter: “The Grey Havens”) – I wanted to draw on JRRT’s beautiful words for this, but I don’t want to claim credit for them. They belong to the Master!

** = Here begins a passage from LOTR, The Return of the King (chapter: “The Grey Havens”) – I thought I could hardly improve upon JRRT’s version of this turn of events, and I wish to credit him here although I have set it slightly differently than his original presentation.

*** = Here ends the passage from LOTR (ROTK).




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