Gift of the Valar - Chapter 19: The Way Back
Bilbo sighed heavily as he made his way back to Frodo's room. Listening to the departing rumble of the ponies feet he thought ' Eru, what can be done with the lad in two weeks?'
As Bilbo entered Frodo's room he took in the sight of the hobbit lass sitting by his nephew's bedside, gently holding his hand and brushing a curl from his pale face. She looked up as he entered the room. "He'll be fine with some rest Mr. Bilbo Chrys said in answer to Bilbo's unasked question. "I know lass, I know." he said heavily as he sat upon the side of Frodo's bed and took Frodo's other hand in his. "He certainly made up for all those week of not speaking eh Samwise?" Bilbo asked the young Sandy haired hobbit who was busy stoking the fire against the early evening chill. "Aye, he did at that sir, he did at that, and I couldn't be prouder of his lecturing...but I do worry what it'll mean for 'em sir." "So do I Samwise" Bilbo said as he squeezed Frodo's hand "but I won't let go of this one without a fight I assure you."
That night Bilbo asked Chrys to sleep at the Gamgee's. "It'll do you good to spend some time with Mari my dear....I need you to take care of yourself as well." He put a fatherly hand upon her shoulder "especially until we get to the bottom of what happened at the barn this afternoon. " Chrys opened her mouth to protest but Bilbo stopped her "I'll have no more arguements young lady, your Uncle left me in charge as I recall" he said sternly but then added gently
" we shall be just fine...if the need arises I shall fetch you right off." With a last backwards glance Chrys was escorted to #3 bagshot row by Sam, who happily carried her satchel, feeling much relief at this newest arrangement.
Frodo slept from late afternoon to 'til the middle of the night when he was awakened with a coughing spasm. He was surprised to find his Uncle at his sid and had a moment of panic as he coughed, certain that his tirade earlier had caused Chrys to be dismissed. Frodo tried to speak but couldn't control the coughing, Bilbo gently sat him up and rubbing his back waited for the worst of the coughs to subside. Frodo again attempted to speak "Eh, not yet lad...water with honey first to ease your throat." Bilbo admonished softly. Frodo smiled, his Uncle had picked up a trick or two from Chrys. After his drink Frodo began to speak, his voice sounded weak in his ears "I'm sorry Uncle for all the trouble I've caused you." he said sadly. "Trouble my boy? You've been a joy to me Frodo, not a trouble." Bilbo replied Frodo looked down at his pale thin form, weakened muscles and bandaged head and he stared at his Uncle in disbelief. "All right then, perhaps you've caused a wee bit of trouble" Bilbo conceded but smiling tenderly at the boy said "I'd not trade a moment of it." Frodo smiled wryly "I can think of a few moments I'd preferred to have not had..."
"er, yes well, now that you mention it I do see what you mean." Biblo laughed and he gently ruffled Frodo's curls.
Frodo closed his eyes a moment to collect his thoughts. "Bilbo what is to be done now? Where is Chrys? How can I make up for my outburst this afternoon?" he asked all in a rush. "Whoa, whoa now...one question at a time. Well first, what to now? Why we get you well of course. Next, with Chrys' help your wellness will come sooner and she's down to the Gamgee's...does that answer all of your questions?" Bilbo asked raising an eyebrow. "Well, very nearly...except how can I fix what I said to the Uncles today?" Frodo asked, concern creasing his brow.
Bilbo looked firmly at the youn hobbit "There is nothing to 'make up' Frodo. I was never more ashamed of old gentlehobbits nor more proud of this young one here" he said as he leaned closer. "The world needs more lads of strong conviction, just because people have behaved one way for years and it's become a 'social convention'...well as you told as us all today, that doesn't make things right. And, hard as it may be for us both at the moment, you stood up for the right person at the right time." Bilbo paused a moment to look at his nephew and then smiling faintly continued "we may suffer the consequences of your tirade with narrow minded old hobbits, but we'll gain what's most important in the end eh lad?" Bilbo paused to see what Frodo would feel most important.
Frodo stared at Bilbo with an intensity that nearly unnerved the elderly hobbit next to him. "Yes Sir" he said with fire in his eye "we'll gain honor, self respect and the loyal love that comes of doing what's right by others." Bilbo's heart swelled with pride, he felt he'd never tire of being surprised by Frodo's insights. "To bed now lad, here ye go...you must drink this first, healer's orders" he said with a gleam in his eye as he handed Frodo a cup with an evil smelling tonic in it.
Frodo eyed the cup with distaste and nearly refused but seeing how tired his Uncle looked, he decided to do as ordered so that Bilbo could get some rest. "There ye go lad, 'tis a sleeping draught of some sort. Chrys wants ye to rest so you'll be right as rain in the morning." Frodo yawned "Yes Sir, I know we've got a lot of work to do." Within moments he was asleep.
Bilbo was awakened early that morning by the sound of a loud crash. He quickly ran from his room to the source of the noise and found Frodo crawling on the floor of his room towards his clothing chest. "Frodo, what in the name of Arda..." Bilbo started to say but was interrupted by Frodo "Sorry for the noise Uncle, I hit the floor a mite harder than I intended." he said with a smile in his eye. Bilbo walked over to the chest, "here lad, I'll get yer things you just sit tight eh?" Frodo remained in a jumble of bedclothes upon the floor, waiting for Bilbo to bring him his clothes. As Bilbo readied himself to help Frodo with the dressing Frodo grabbed his hand and looked into his eyes "Let me try to do this alone Uncle." he said seriously. Bilbo looked at the determined set of his nephew's jaw and took himself back to his own room to ready himself for the day.
As Bilbo was preparing breakfast a knock was heard at the door. It was Sam. "How is he this morning sir?" he asked shyly. "Go see for yourself Samwise, he's back to his old stubborn ways I'm happy to say." Bilbo said with a smile. Sam eagerly followed the hall to Frodo's room to find a partially dressed and sweaty Frodo lying upon the floor. "Look Sam" Frodo said with a grin as he panted in his exertion, "I've nearly got my breeches on...wouldn't Pip be proud of me?" Sam's smile lit up the room as he went and sat upon the floor by his friend. "Can I help ya with yer shirt Sir?" Sam asked eagerly. "No Sam, I must make right the mess I've made of things. The Uncles will see a new 'old Frodo' in two weeks time." Frodo took a deep breath and readied himself for his next article of clothing "hand me my shirt will you Sam?" "Oh no Sir...ye have to reach for it yerself" Sam said jokingly. Frodo took him seriously "right you are Sam" Frodo said as he crawled around Sam to get his shirt. He struggled to sit up and leaning against the bed worked to put his arms into the sleeves of his shirt. Sam nearly had to leave the room he wanted to help so badly, but he knew how stubborn his Mr. Frodo could be so he just waited to see if he could be of any assistance. Frodo finally got both arms in the shirt and was laying now on his back resting and catching his breath as he looked next to his face and caught a glimpse of pretty hobbit toes with softly curling red-gold hair. "Chrys" he yelped "you can't be in here, I'm not done dressing " he said as he tried to pull his shirt together "So I see Mr. Frodo" she said teasingly "would you be needing my help then?" she asked with a grin as she sat next to him and reached to his chest. He rolled out of her reach and remained on his stomach. "Off with you lass" he mumbled with embarrassment. She left the room laughing.
"Sam, be a friend and help me before she comes back" Frodo whispered urgently. "No Sir, to my way 'o thinking ye'll be learning faster with the likes 'o her lurking about Sam said seriously. "Why Sam Gamgee, you are wicked, be off with you then. Tell Bilbo I'll be along for breakfast in a bit."
Twenty minutes later Frodo managed to drag himself down the hall to the kitchen. He was pale, sweating with dirt on his knees and elbows. He was also grinning from ear to ear. He crawled to his seat at the table, where the three of them were already seated. He waited a moment and then said tiredly "you can help me into my seat." As he looked from one face to another none of them moved to help him. "This is how it is to be then?" he asked wearily. Sam looked away, unable to stand seeing his friend so tired, but they'd all agreed how to help Frodo best. "Breakfast is waiting Frodo" said Bilbo steadily. "Right you are Uncle" Frodo replied as he began his attempts to gain his seat.
He pulled himself to his knees by leaning on the seat of the chair and tried to hoist himself up, several times it seemed as if Frodo would pull the chair over upon himself. On more than one attempt Sam nearly stood to help, But Bilbo or Chrys would gently place their hand over his to keep him seated. After 10 minutes of failed attempts and exhaustive effort, Frodo was seated. He put his arms on the table and buried his face in them, he sat motionless for a moment and Chrys was beginning to worry that he'd fainted. Then they heard muffled noises and saw his shoulders shake gently, Sam was worried that he was crying from the fatique of his efforts. "Mr. Frodo Sir, are ye all right then?" he asked gently. Frodo raised his head, his eyes were bright with tears of joy. "Never better my friend, although my appearance at this moment might belay that fact." he said with a grin.
"You did it lad, this will be one of the most difficult two weeks of your life I'd imagine." Bilbo said seriously and then looked around the table as he continued "despite our actions just now we really are behind you and will work with you to get you ready for a visit from your cousins."
The next two weeks were hard for Frodo, but if it was hard for Frodo, it was torture for those that loved him. Frodo worked painstakenly to relearn even the most basic of skills as his wasted muscles gradually regained some of their old strength and cooridnation. For every attempt that Frodo made to accomplish a task, he would experience three or four failures. All of them had to remind one another that Frodo's stubborn nature was his greatest skill and they all fought not to help him. On more than one occassion each of them had to leave the room as they would rush to help and be pulled away by one of the others. Frodo was bruised from falling, burned from pouring hot tea and cut from his attempts to use kitchen tools...but daily he worked each mundane task over and over again, giving up only when exhaustion forced him to sleep.
Bilbo and Sam were tough on Frodo and ensured that he walked, carried, poured or placed each task or item as he was asked. But if Bilbo and Sam were tough Chrys was relentless. She worked him from early morning till into the late hours of the night. Even Bilbo's sunny disposition began to show signs of strain as he snapped at Frodo for dropping yet another tea cup after dinner one night. "Gracious Frodo, another cup? We shall all of us be drinking from a bowl pretty soon." he grumped. "It shall have to be a large bowl Uncle, if I am to be asked to fill it" Frodo tried to joke as he wearily tried to get down to pick up the shard of the broken cup. He misjudged the distance and landed his knees in the broken pottery as he fell forward into the firplace. Sam watched in horror as Frodo's sleeve caught fire. Thinking quickly he snatched the dishtowel from Bilbo's hands and wrapped it about Frodo's burning arm. He helped his shaken friend to a chair, as Bilbo ran to go get Chrys.
"Mr. Frodo, yer scaring me Sir and that's a fact." Sam said. Through teeth clenched tight against the pain Frodo tried to joke "good thing she didn't see you put out my arm Sam, you'd be in trouble for sure...I suppose I should have put out my own fire eh?" Frodo's laugh had a ring of hysteria to it and Sam was worried for his friend, he looked at him, blood flowing freely down his legs from the cuts upon his knees, hand and arm blistering and red from the burn, face still thin and white as a sheet. He shook his head.
Just then Bilbo returned from the Gamgee's where he'd gone to fetch Chrys. She came in and taking one look at the shaken and weakly laughing hobbit at the table said "That's it, tomorrow is a holiday. No more practice Mr. Frodo, it's books, blankets and a basket of food for us in the morning."
She kneeled down to assess the damage. "Oh Chrys, you mean it? sounds like paradise" Frodo said tiredly, and added "I suppose I'll have to carry the lot of us to build up my leg muscles." He tried to laugh but began to cough instead. Bilbo brought a cup of tea to the table and sat across from him "Careful lad, it really is one of the few remaining " Bilbo said as he gestured to the cup.
Chrys continued to examine Frodo critically and as she brought her hand up to his forehead she exclaimed "Why didn't you tell me you were fevering today, you shouldn't be so careless with your health you foolish hobbit" she said angrily. Frodo stared at her with hurt in his eyes "Why Crys, my dear lass, I wasn't trying to decieve you. I am working as hard as I can to get better. I have as much at stake here as anyone." He grimaced as she applied ointment to his burns before she wrapped his hand and arm. Frodo looked to Sam and Bilbo for support "Have I been shirking my responsibilities?" he asked wearily. "My dear boy, you have been the very picture of hard work these past weeks, why I am exhausted just watching you." Bilbo said with a soft smile.
Frodo put his head down upon his good arm as Chrys, who was seated on the floor by his side, cleaned and bandaged the cuts on his knees. He stared down at Chrys with sleepy blue eyes and dropping his hand to her hair he gently caressed her aurburn curls. "Oh tireless taskmaster, have I your leave to go to bed my love?" he asked in a sing song voice that faded to near unintelligibility toward the end of his sentence. He was fast asleep. Chrys stared at him in shock, had she just heard what she thought she had? She stood up as she gently removed his limp hand from her hair. "Sam, could you and Mr. Bilbo get him back to bed...mind his burns now...and I'll leave a sleeping draught with you Mr. Bilbo, if he wakes in the night it'll help with the pain of the burns." With that the shocked lass left Bag End to return to the Gamgees leaving both Sam and Bilbo wide eyed and silent from Frodo's last comment.