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87
Last Comfort

A gapfiller for "For Eyes to See as Can," following the last supper shared by Frodo with Merry and Pippin's parents.

For Cathleen and ShireHobbit for their birthdays. Beta by RiverOtter.


~~~

Last Comfort


“I have you, Frodo,” Saradoc Brandybuck said in soft tones to his former foster son as he helped him to his bedroom, Frodo’s arm over his shoulder. With his own arm around his younger cousin’s back he could feel just how little flesh Frodo had over his fine bones, and how erratically his heart was beating. The younger Hobbit’s face was pale, his eyes shadowed, his lips not quite blue. The very fact Frodo didn’t appear embarrassed by the situation, however, seemed the most telling symptom of how weakened he was. Frodo had always hated to be seen by others when he didn’t feel well, a situation that had obviously become critical in the last two years since his return from lands east and south of the Shire. That Frodo was not protesting his older cousin’s attentions at the moment indicated he was sufficiently ill that appearances were quite beyond him.

The door to Frodo’s room wasn’t quite closed, and Sara was able to push it open with his foot. In moments he had Frodo seated on the edge of his bed, his hands braced on his knees. It took no real time to find which drawer of the dresser held Frodo’s clean nightshirts and to choose one, one of fine silk, Sara judged, probably come from the King’s city, possibly a gift from the King himself. He brought it to lay on the bed beside Frodo, then turned to helping Frodo disrobe. Frodo had managed to shed his jacket; now, however, his fingers fumbled at the buttons of his waistcoat, buttons of fine glass of a cobalt blue shot with flecks of silver.

“These are beautiful,” Sara murmured quietly, running his finger over one before he slipped it through its hole.

“They came in--in a packet sent from Minas Tirith, from Master Celebrion, who is a master of glass,” Frodo said softly, allowing his older cousin to remove the garment. “He’s given me other sets in the past.” He managed to slip the left strap of his braces down over his shoulder, then had to pause just to breathe. Sara efficiently slipped the other down, then reached to release the fastening on Frodo’s trousers, helped him to stand so that the trousers could be slipped down his legs. Before they’d quite reached the younger Hobbit’s ankles, however, Frodo had collapsed to sit upon the bed again, a fine sheen of sweat discernible on his brow and upper lip. “I’m sorry, Uncle Sara,” he whispered.

“Sorry? And for what, Frodo Baggins? For pressing yourself to do all you can? Nonsense!” He saw the placket of Frodo’s shirt unbuttoned and removed the shirt studs from their places, setting them in their box on the dresser. He helped remove the shirt, then paused to look at the quilted silk garment Frodo wore under it, one held closed by lacings. “And this? Where did you get this, dearest one?”

“They had it made for me--to go under--under my mail--keeps it from chafing. It keeps me warmer.”

“I can imagine.” Sara untied the lacing, and quickly had it, too, removed.

The room was not dark--it was only just sunset, after all. The rosy light from outside filled the chamber. As Saradoc Brandybuck went to slip the nightshirt over his cousin’s head he had plenty of light to see Frodo’s back, and to see the scars there--scars ordinarily hidden by his clothing. Frodo had told them, only moments ago, of the scars--where he’d been beaten and bitten, and where the chain on which he’d worn the Ring had dug into his neck; now he saw those scars and was appalled. Carefully he pulled the nightshirt over Frodo’s head. Its neck was loose, again with a soft lace to fasten it. Now it hung low on Frodo’s left shoulder, and as Sara reached to pull it up and settle it properly before tightening the lacing he paused, seeing the scar from a wound just below Frodo’s collarbone. It had healed, yet appeared irritated. Indeed, Frodo began rubbing at it as if it ached, and he could easily see the place where his finger was missing--bitten off by that Gollum creature of whom Bilbo had told so often?--and he could see the patient pain in Frodo’s eyes.

Oh, the pain could be seen. That was the hard thing to accept--that their beloved other lad was in pain, and had been in pain apparently since he’d returned to the Shire. All had been done for his comfort--that could be seen in the rich, soft nightshirts; that quilted garment to wear beneath the dwarf mail; the new lamps and candle stands within the bedroom; the soft, sweet-smelling linens; extra pillows and cushions gathered to help support Frodo’s torso; new curtains, and soft rugs upon the floor by the bed; familiar dressing gown hung over the back of the wooden chair; the hob built into the refurbished fireplace; the comfortable chairs settled near the hearth with the footstool before the one. It was a room apt to comfort and reassurance, but it couldn’t ease the pain.

Sara reached down to help lift Frodo’s feet free of the trousers and onto the bed, and saw more scars--his cousin had been bound so tightly it had cut into his ankles; and there were faint lines on the backs of his legs similar to those on his back, confirming that Frodo had indeed been beaten there as well. He helped Frodo get his legs under the sheets and soft blankets, helped place cushions and pillows to Frodo’s best comfort, and drew the covers over him. “Are you comfortable, Frodo my lad?” he asked.

The younger Hobbit looked up at him and gave his sweet smile, the one seen so rarely any more. “As much as I can be, Uncle Sara,” he murmured. “Thank you.”

Saradoc picked up the discarded clothing, all still clean. He smoothed out the trousers and straightened the braces and settled them over the valet stand in the corner; then the shirt, noting that a slight amount of padding in the shoulders had helped hide the lack of flesh. Then there was the vest, smooth and soft, dove grey, the cloth excellent. The jacket, also a soft silver-grey, had even more padding in the shoulders, and was delicately decorated with lines of silver spirals along the collar, front, and hem, the embroidery almost the same color as the fabric.

The last thing to pick up was the soft shawl Frodo had worn about his shoulders. Sara smiled as he carefully folded it and laid it over the back of the wing chair with the stool before it--Estella Bolger had knit that years ago when she was a young tween, and all had laughed softly as it has turned out so large. Now Frodo was making use of it, obviously appreciating its warmth and size.

The room tidied, Sara turned back to Frodo, whose eyes were blinking almost as if he were trying to clear them. “You don’t think you’ll suffer a nightmare, do you, sweetling?” he asked.

Frodo shrugged slightly. “If so, it won’t be the first one, or likely the last one, either,” he sighed. “Don’t worry for me, Uncle Sara.”

The older Hobbit leaned over his younger cousin. “It’s only we love you so much, and I don’t wish to see you uncomfortable in any way.”

Frodo’s blue eyes searched his for a minute. “If only love could keep the pain away, then I’d never know discomfort at all. Aragorn, Lord Elrond, Gandalf, Merry, Pippin, Sam and Rosie--they all have done all they can to see to it I’m ever surrounded by the knowledge of how they all love me. But love isn’t enough to ease it or to keep it at bay. I was hurt too long and too deeply.” He rubbed at his eyes, then again at his shoulder. “I love you so, Uncle Sara--you and Aunt Esme and Uncle Pal and Aunt Lanti....”

“And we love you, too, best beloved. Rest if you can, Frodo.” Saradoc sat upon the bed near the Baggins’s waist, reached to brush the curls back off Frodo’s forehead. “Sleep, dearling. And know that, no matter what, we’ll never stop loving you. Rest, lad.”

Again he saw the sweet smile, and Frodo turned his head slightly, settling it more comfortably, his eyes closing, his breath slowing as he drifted into a doze as the evening fell out of doors.

So it was Saradoc’s last glimpse of his beloved younger cousin was of him sleeping, his face pale yet seeming to glow in the darkening room.



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