Fic: Healing a Healer (Part 2) (for [livejournal.com profile] easterlily41482)

Aug. 1st, 2007 03:36 pm
[identity profile] remix-puppet.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] a_conspiracy
Title: Healing a Healer (Part 2)
Author: [livejournal.com profile] sophinisba
Characters/Pairings: Frodo/Aragorn
Summary: Frodo and Aragorn have made a life together in Minas Tirith after the quest, but an epidemic puts Frodo in danger.
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: AU, hurt/comfort
Word Count: 12,000
Disclaimer: All recognizable characters are the property of the Estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. No offense is intended, nor profit made.
Title, Author and URL of original story: A Healer's Touch, by [livejournal.com profile] easterlily41482.

Part 1


Healing a Healer (Part 2)

Frodo awoke still shaking. He tossed around, trying to get comfortable. He felt a hand laid on his shoulder and a kiss on his forehead and knew his lover had come for him.

"Don't," he moaned, "too dangerous."

"No, Frodo," said Aragorn. "You're not in danger, or you won't be as long as you listen to us and take your rest. You're in the Houses of Healing..."

"I know," Frodo almost snapped. He opened his eyes and attempted to look firm and decided as he said, "I must attend to patients." He tried to sit up but found himself weaker than he'd known. Apart from that, Aragorn was clearly not convinced by his flinty glare. He pushed him gently back down onto the cot.

"Theron will take care of them while you recover."

"But there are too many," Frodo protested. "He can't do it all by himself. I will help. I am fine, please..."

Again Frodo fought to sit up, but this time he felt a wave of dizziness come over him with the change in orientation. He swallowed hard, trying to control his body, but before he knew it he was throwing up what little food he'd managed to eat that day. Aragorn helped him lean over the edge of the cot. It didn't last long because he'd eaten so little. After the retching had ceased, Frodo panted and trembled, too weak to pull himself up and lie down again. He felt humiliated, but Aragorn said nothing to tease him, nothing about how the other patients would be better off without him. Quietly he wiped Frodo's mouth with a wet cloth and then helped him back onto his back on the cot, supporting him so he could rinse out the bitterness with a cup of water. "Drink some more," he urged him, holding a clean cup to his lips. "Your body needs more water."

Frodo obeyed, though everything still tasted evil to him and his stomach cramped.

"Now this," Aragorn said, and gave him a different cup. So Frodo wasn't just sick from too much work – he'd caught the same disease as his patients. And the medicine tasted vile. He'd had no idea. He tried to push the cup away, though he wasn't violent as some of the others had been.

"No more," he said, afraid it would all come back up if he tried too hard to drink it quickly.

Aragorn nodded, letting him lie flat again, but after a few minutes he helped Frodo sit up again so he could drink the rest of it and then have a few more swallows of water. Frodo collapsed again on the cot and Aragorn readjusted the blanket that had been wrapped around him – Frodo felt so cold he hadn't even noticed the blanket was there.

"Rest," Aragorn said softly. "Try to sleep if you can."

Frodo shut his eyes tight and curled in around himself. He was uncomfortable but he was also exhausted, and within minutes he slipped away from consciousness again.

 

The dream was one that Frodo knew well. Well enough to recognize it as a dream after only a few steps. He'd dreamed it a hundred times, yet he'd never learned how to escape it. He was trapped, even as he staggered forward and up.

"Water," he pleaded. "Sam, is there any more..." But Sam wasn't there, had given up on him at last and turned around to go back. So there was no help at hand, no real hope in going on, and yet Frodo could do nothing else. He walked.

No use asking for help again. Frodo was alone. And it was still dangerous, so he'd best not call any attention to himself. Easier that way anyhow, for his throat was so dry already. Keep quiet, he told himself, though he wanted to sob. Keep walking, though the ground burned his feet. Keep breathing, though the very air tasted like ash.

Strange, with this burning thirst, that he should still feel so cold he was shaking. The shivering made it harder to walk, and time and time again Frodo stumbled, only to get up again and go forward. Toward what, he couldn't quite remember or understand, but he knew he had to do it.

Then he fell forward and found he hadn't even the strength to bring his arms under him, to kneel, or to crawl. He could only lie there, with the jagged rocks underneath him, abrading the skin of his hands and face, the rough sand and ash in this mouth and his eyes.

A harsh wind came down from the mountain and blew more sand over him. He might be buried, Frodo thought, struggling again to rise up as far as his hands and knees. And just when he made that horrible effort he felt himself being picked up, held close, and then carried.

The red sun and the burning air were gone suddenly, but the wind kept whipping at him, with cold rain now. There was a blanket wrapped around him and he felt it being pulled tighter.

"You'll be all right, Frodo, we'll be home inside very soon."

Frodo wanted to believe that was true, for of course he wanted to be well again, and of course he trusted Aragorn. It was hard though to believe that he could feel better. He'd been walking for as long as he could remember.

"Have to keep going," he murmured.

"You've no reason to worry, dear, I'll take care of you. Just hold on a little longer." Aragorn squeezed him close and Frodo clung to him.

 

When next he awoke he was lying in a soft bed – his own bed, the one he shared with Aragorn. He was warmer and more comfortable than he'd felt in a long time, but the blankets were being pulled away.

"No," Frodo complained, trying to pull them up over him again. "Too cold, leave me alone."

"The water will be warm," Aragorn promised. Frodo still tried to keep the blankets around him and to keep Aragorn from pulling the nightshirt over his head, but he had very little strength. He closed his eyes and lay still on his back, shivering. But then Aragorn lifted his arm and rubbed a wet cloth up and down it. The water was indeed warm and the gentle pressure felt good on his aching muscles. Not only that, but the smell –

"Athelas," he murmured. Aragorn hadn't used it since that illness in October. At some level Frodo would always associate the smell with his injury the year before, and all the fear and pain that went with that. But it also made him think of the quiet, peaceful days of recovery both in Rivendell and here in Minas Tirith; and, more and more, he associated the smell with Aragorn's closeness, his concern, his tender care. "Thank you," said Frodo, as Aragorn laid his arm to rest on the bed again and picked up the other one. "It feels good, all of it."

He kept his eyes closed, kept his limbs loose, and relaxed as Aragorn slowly washed and massaged him all over. He hadn't realized how dirty he felt from sweating in his fever until his skin was clean again.

Frodo felt good and was just starting to think that, being a hobbit, he might have recovered from the illness much faster than any of the others, when suddenly he felt a horrible pressure in his lower belly and he remembered another one of the symptoms.

"Aragorn – the privy!"

But before Aragorn could even reach for the chamber pot underneath the bed, Frodo knew it was too late, he'd lost control.

"I – " Frodo gasped, "I'm sorry, Aragorn. I couldn't hold it."

The pain in his belly was much less already, but of course Frodo didn't feel any better. He was wet and dirty and weak and humiliated, and the smell was terrible, and now on top of everything else he realized he was starting to cry.

"Oh, bother!" he tried to shout, but voice was also quite weak.

"Stay calm, Frodo, everything will be all right." Aragorn was already moving to help him

"I thought I was getting better."

"You are."

"You just – you just spent all this time getting me clean and now – "

"And I was about to change the sheets anyway," Aragorn finished smoothly. "Here, turn over." He shifted Frodo to lie on his side and then gently rubbed the washcloth over his buttocks and thighs. He rinsed the cloth and came back to finish getting him clean.

"I can't believe this," Frodo muttered, though he was relieved that at least the tears had stopped.

"You're ill, Frodo, you have nothing to be ashamed of."

Frodo could only shake his head, and though he hadn't spoken Aragorn hushed him, soothing a hand over his back and a dry towel over his backside. He wrapped him up in the towel and moved him again so he could take the sheets off the bed. He bundled them together with the other wet and soiled cloths and brought them all outside the room, where he spoke a few words to someone. A short time later a servant entered with a set of clean sheets. Frodo was dismayed that anyone else should see him in this state, even if he was covered, but Aragorn picked him up and hugged him while the servant made the bed.

"Does this help keep you warm?" Aragorn whispered in his ear, and Frodo couldn't help smiling. He hadn't realized he was shaking again until he heard that. Now he breathed deep and tried to make himself still, concentrating on the warmth and the comfort of being held. It helped – the shivering subsided. "Thank you," he said.

Although he couldn't see him, Frodo then spoke up to thank the servant as well.

"Of course, sir," he answered, and went out.

Aragorn laid Frodo down in the bed again, dressed him in a nightshirt and then tucked a blanket around him. "Can you drink some more of the medicine?" he asked.

Frodo thought about this, and pressed his hand on his belly, and tried sitting up on his own, noticing that he was not nauseous, though still quite weak. "I think so," he said.

It didn't seem to taste quite as bad this time, and Frodo wondered if that was because by now he realized that he really needed it. Once again, Aragorn brought him water to wash down some of the bad taste, and then helped him lie flat. To Frodo's delight, Aragorn also lay down with him in the bed.

"How do you feel?" he asked.

"Much better."

"Your stomach?"

"It's fine, only sore, from...from before. But I don't feel like anything else will happen. I'm really just – tired, and embarrassed, of course. And don't try to tell me I have nothing to be embarrassed about."

Aragorn chuckled, and Frodo guessed he'd been about to say just that. "All right, I understand that none of this can be very pleasant for you..."

"Well," said Frodo, "this part where you hold me and I fall asleep in your arms? That's not so bad."

"It's quite pleasant for me as well."

Frodo smiled. "You can't try to tell me you don't mind the other part though. Really, to have the King of Gondor..."

Frodo was just as glad to have Aragorn hushed him before he finished the sentence.

"Think of all the people you've helped in the Houses of Healing," said Aragorn.

"It's not –"

"You've helped clean up patients who've soiled themselves, I'm sure. Most of the work you do there is not glamorous or glorious, but it is useful."

"I've never complained about the work. I don't mind doing it, if I can make people more comfortable."

"You see, it is the same. Surely none of those people ever thought they'd have the Ring-bearer taking care of them in that way, but they are grateful for your help."

"Do I seem ungrateful, Aragorn? I'm sorry –"

"No, no, that is not what I meant. But think about your patients. Most of them are strangers to you, but you do your best to help them feel better. Think how much stronger my desire to care for you, since I love you so dearly."

Frodo lay still and thought about that for a while, enjoying the feeling of Aragorn touching him, calming himself and stretching out his breaths to the same slow rhythm as Aragorn's. "Well," he said at length, "I am grateful to have you care for me. It just seems to me that you could leave some parts of it to the Healers, or even to your servants. You have so much other work to do."

"Our country is at peace and there is nothing I need to do that cannot wait another day. This" – he kissed Frodo's forehead – "is the most important thing I can do."

"I'm sorry I questioned your judgment then," Frodo said, smiling.

"There is no need to apologize, love. I will always be here to take care of you when you are sick." He gently kissed Frodo's nose. "Try to sleep now. You will feel better in the morning, I am sure."

 

And that was true. In fact, Frodo had already begun to feel better as soon as Aragorn lay down with him. When he slept, he could no longer dream of being alone.

He felt warm and protected as he lay still in bed, but he could also hear cool running water nearby, and didn't bother to distinguish whether it came from a spigot in the city or from the waterfalls around Rivendell.

And Frodo knew, even as he drifted between worlds, that he had many friends who would not abandon him. In his dreams he saw his friends gone home to the Shire and traveling through Mirkwood. He saw Elana back at work, the Houses of Healing slowly returning to normal as more and more of the patients recovered and went home.

Sometimes when he awoke Aragorn was lying with him. Other times he was standing over him, helping him drink water or medicine or wiping his face with a wet cloth, but always he was there with him, telling him he would soon be well, and Frodo had every confidence that it was true.

 

Frodo awoke knowing that he was being carried in Aragorn's arms again, but it was only the short distance to the bath, where the tub was nearly full, and the clean water continued to flow into it. Aragorn removed Frodo's clothing and lifted him into the warm bath.

Days had passed and Frodo no longer felt sick, but he was still tired and his muscles ached. Yet once he was immersed in the water he felt as if he were floating, even as he rested at the bottom of the tub. Frodo had never before appreciated quite so well how pleasant it was not to feel the weight of his body.

"This is perfect," he said. "Thank you, Aragorn."

"I thought you'd prefer this."

"It isn't that I minded the sponge baths..."

"But this is even better, I know." He handed Frodo soap and a clean cloth so he could wash himself under the water, and at the same time he poured more fresh water over Frodo's head and started working a gentler soap into his hair.

He washed himself quickly and then settled back, resting his head against the edge of the tub. "Mmmm," he said, relaxing into the sensation – the sweet fruity scent of the soap and the feeling of Aragorn's fingers massaging his scalp.

"Annwyn returned to work at the Houses of Healing today," said Aragorn. "She is fully recovered, and you shall be as well."

"Perhaps I'll go back tomorrow."

"Perhaps, if you feel you're ready."

Frodo turned around to face him in his surprise, unfortunately interrupting the massage as he did and getting a little of the soap lather on Aragorn's clothes. "Do you mean you're not going to tell me I need to stay in bed doing nothing for another week?"

Aragorn laughed softly. "No, after this experience I rather think you'll listen to your body for a time. If you are tired you'll lie down."

"Yes."

"If you're thirsty you'll drink."

Frodo nodded. "Fresh water."

Tired of sitting up and not being touched, he turned around and leaned back again. Aragorn started pouring fresh water over his hair to wash out the soap. "Did you know why Elana didn't come to replace you the other night?" he asked

"I thought she must have fallen ill as well."

"No, her father had heard there was a contagious disease, and he forbade her to come and be around the sick people."

"I can imagine how happy she was about that," Frodo said, grimacing a little.

"After she found out you'd had to leave she disobeyed her father and came in to help."

"And she was all right?"

"Yes. As Theron had understood by then, the problem was with the water in a certain well on the sixth level that many people had drunk from. You and Annwyn became ill for the same reason, not because of your contact with the patients."

Frodo breathed a deep sigh. "So it wasn't my fault then."

"It wouldn't have been your fault either way."

Frodo nodded.

"Of course, working yourself to exhaustion and failing to eat or drink on the last day didn't help your resistance to the illness." A note of admonishment there, but nothing too strong. "But you wouldn't have avoided it by staying away from the sick." Aragorn came around so he could look at Frodo face to face. "I do honor the work you do. And I would never be the kind of tyrant to try to keep you at home when you decide you have other things to do. I only ask you to value your own health as you do others'."

"Yes," Frodo said. "Yes, I think I can do that. After all, I'm no good to anyone else if I don't take care of myself."

"You are always good to me." Aragorn helped him stand up and, once more, poured clean water over all of him to rinse off the soapy water from the tub. "But I'm happiest when you're well." Then he helped him step out of the tub and toweled him dry where he stood. "On the other hand," he added, reaching to pick him up again, "you are awfully pleasant when you're free from sickness but too tired to argue with me, and you let me carry you."

Frodo laughed, tossing back his head and then shifting up again, so he could put his arms around Aragorn's neck and kiss him on the lips. "Enjoy it while you can," he said. "I'll be running circles around you in another day or two."

"But for now..."

"Yes, for now you can have your way with me."

Aragorn brought him back to the bed and then lay down with him, and as Frodo kissed him again he decided he really didn't want to be anywhere else, at least for today.
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