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Fear  by Ariel


by Ariel (

Rating: PG-13 for medical details and high angst

Warnings: This fic is rated for graphic medical details, contains some violence (fights) and hints at darker themes, but contains no slash or sexual themes.  

Disclaimer: The characters are Tolkien's - I make no profit but my own pleasure from using them in fiction.  

Story description: Falls can be deadly - especially if you are a very young Frodo Baggins.  A brooding cousin and a fabulous necklace form the backdrop for this tale of angst and heartache, dire injury and long healing.


Chapter 14 - Maneuvers "You should have called me to tend him before this, Menegilda."

Dody blinked as well as his still stiff eyelids could perform the function and peered up at the keeper of the voice that had disturbed his slumber.

"There were… complications, Doctor. My husband was very unwilling to have you come at all but I prevailed upon him." Menegilda moved into Dody's sight and leaned over her nephew, smiling kindly. "Young Dody has had enough difficulty in his life without also being permanently disfigured because he was not been seen to by a proper physician." She placed her warm hand on Dody's still bruised one. "Wake up, my dear! I have someone here to see you. You know Doctor Clearwater. He is going to examine you and make sure you haven't got anything more worrisome than bruising. Come along, child. I'll help you."

Dody closed his eyes again and sighed. For the week he had been staying with his aunt and uncle, he had done little but sleep. Any other venture, even eating and relieving himself, was a painful trial. He rolled to his side and with the aid of both adults, struggled to a sitting position. Everything still hurt, but at least the swelling that had stiffened his joints and closed his eyes to mere slits had gone down. He dropped his hands into his lap and focused unenthusiastically on Clearwater's face.

The doctor's eyes had a curiously bright appearance that unsettled Dody. He seemed to be taking in the condition of his patient with swift, calculating glances and Dody was almost surprised not to see a smile on his face. Dody's notice was in turn recognized and all semblance of interest vanished from the doctor's face so quickly that Dody wondered if he'd only imagined it.

"You've gotten yourself into quite a mess here, young Master Brandybuck," cooed Clearwater with nothing but soft concern in his voice. "Let's see if we can't take a look at you properly." Menegilda bent to unbutton Dody's shirt, gently pushing away the boy's own hands as they rose slowly to the task.

"You let me, dear. Just sit quiet and let us make sure you are alright." Menegilda was very patient and carefully slipped the shirt off Dody's arms. The doctor's low gasp of surprise might have sounded horrified to other ears, but to Dody, who could still perceive the carefully masked zeal in the Doctor's manner, it sounded sickeningly covetous. Cool fingers touched his side, tentatively probing the still livid bruises and Dody suppressed the urge to flinch.

The doctor was thorough but said nothing during the examination. He then asked Dody to remove his trousers. The boy hesitated and Menegilda came forward thinking it due to his fingers' difficulty with the buttons. Clearwater looked up at Dody and for an instant the boy was pinned by the most calculating look he had ever received. Clearwater knew exactly what had caused these bruises and that Dody knew he knew. Dody had the sudden impression of a dark well into which information was gathered, carefully analyzed and stored - but to what purpose he could not begin to guess. He shivered as Menegilda laid him back down on his cot and removed his pants and under-things. He curled in on himself, feeling horribly exposed, much more so than he might have felt naked in any other company.

"There, there, my boy!" soothed Menegilda. "You have to cooperate. The doctor won't hurt you and he needs to make certain you will be alright."

"Perhaps a sheet?" suggested Clearwater, with just a touch of amusement. Dody looked up at the doctor again, his face flushed with discomfiture and sudden anger. He knew he was being toyed with but he was also keenly aware that he was no match for Clearwater in this strangely serious game. He wondered how Menegilda could not see what a dangerous person she had allowed into her rooms.

"Why Dody, I bathed you when you were this big, and the doctor attended your birth! Come now…" She settled a throw over his hips and stroked his hair. "There's no reason to be ashamed before either of us. I would not have called Dr. Clearwater if I could not be certain of his discretion in this matter." She smiled simply at the doctor and Dody felt ill. No, she did not see it. Not at all.

After the rest of the examination was over, Dody was allowed to dress. His aunt and the doctor retired to the parlor to discuss his condition and Dody slowly pulled on his dressing gown. He would have preferred a bath first. He felt soiled. He could still feel the doctor's hands on him, probing places he would much rather had been left alone and whether it was his own embarrassment or some subtle game of the doctor's that made the memory of his touch linger, Dody did not know. He only understood that he had been weighed and measured, tested and catalogued by a hobbit he was defenseless against. He felt very much like he had when dealing with his father and the realization that he had not completely escaped such humiliations chilled him.

He stood, wobbling a little until his strained muscles began to cooperate with each other, and drew the dressing gown closed tightly. He walked towards the door and into the parlor. They had not said he should stay in his room and if they were discussing him, Dody felt it his right to be in attendance.

"It's been one thing after another this week," Menegilda sighed opening her elaborate fan with a click and scenting the fabric of its webbing from a vial on the table. "First my darling Frodo, and now Dody too!" She waved the fan briskly at her face and the smell of lavender, the one Dody always associated with her, wafted towards him. "There are precious few children in the hall right now. One would think those responsible for the ones we have would be more attentive to them." She leveled a look at Dody, clearly suggesting that his own father was at great fault for inattentive behavior, but Dody took an entirely other meaning from the criticism in her words.

"Frodo?" he croaked, his voice still a bit rusty from the abuse his throat had taken. "I… I was there when they found him," he explained, trying desperately to avoid looking at Clearwater's swiftly heedful face. The doctor was shrewd and Dody had no doubt the older hobbit would perceive his guilty interest in an instant. "In all the… excitement, I'd nearly forgotten about him being hurt. How is he?" In truth, Dody's thoughts had been fairly preoccupied with his cousin's condition, but Menegilda had not brought the subject up and Dody had been afraid to ask. He was, by that point, fairly certain that Frodo still lived. If the child had died from his injuries, Menegilda would have talked of nothing else.

Clearwater laughed bitterly. "I should like to know that myself, young Master Brandybuck, but I am forbidden to see him!"

"Now, now, doctor," said Menegilda. "You can't be blaming yourself for that. I know it seems their decision was ill advised, but Frodo is reportedly doing much, much better. Primula says he's even feeding himself now, though she's not allowed any of us in to see for ourselves.

"Hmph, yes…" grumbled the doctor. "I'd feel much more comfortable seeing his progress myself as well. I may not be the child's physician, but I've been with this family for 50 years! I am concerned about all its members."

"I know you are, Albarus, and that is what I admire most about you! You are kind and caring far above the call of your profession. We Brandybucks are lucky to have such a devoted servant. I hope you know we realize and appreciate that fact."

If Menegilda didn't notice the way Clearwater stiffened at the term 'servant', Dody did. It seemed oddly incongruous that anything could rattle the doctor's immanently cool façade, but the signs of irritation were wiped from his manner as swiftly as they had appeared. Clearwater, benign again, cocked an eyebrow at Dody. The boy couldn't tell if the expression was a challenge, a warning or just plain curiosity.

"Perhaps they'll let you in to see him, eh, Master Dody? Who could possibly mind one of the boys who found him coming back to see how he was doing? Perhaps you can give me an objective report on his condition? You seem a bright and observant youngster. Do you think you could do that for me?"

Before Dody could think of a reply, Menegilda clapped her hands in delight. "Oh, doctor!" she cried. "What a splendid idea! Primula was just saying to me the other day that Daisy Burrows suggested she find some young person to help with Frodo until he gets on his feet again. Someone who could spell them and give the poor dear a chance to get away and relax for change. When he is a bit more recovered, I think Dody would be a splendid choice! It's his cousin after all, and who better to care for family? Dody is free until lessons start in the fall. It's a perfectly splendid idea." She laid her hand on Clearwater's knee. "You are so clever, doctor!" she cooed. Dody felt ill.

"Hmm… Well, I must say, the more I hear about that young lass' treatment of the boy, the more respect I have to give her. Still…" Clearwater looked up at Dody thoughtfully. The tween could almost see the wheels turning as the intricate machinery of his mind worked. "I would love to see his condition for myself. I feel so helpless in this situation. I realize he is not my patient, but if anything were to happen to him, or to Primula, that I could have prevented, I shall be beside myself with guilt." His eyes narrowed. "What do you say to the idea, my lad? Would you be up to being my eyes and ears? It would be a kindness to poor Primula, I dare say, and wouldn't do Frodo any harm either. I would expect you to keep your eyes and ears open and tell me exactly how the boy fares - what he is and isn't doing yet. That would at least give me peace of mind and keeping an active boy in his sickbed for the summer would keep you out of trouble too." He winked at Dody, but there was no trace of cheery warmth in it. He wanted a spy, and Dody had been offered and judged suitable.

"I… I know nothing of caring for…" Dody stammered, feeling the heat rising to his face again. He felt horribly uncomfortable at being maneuvered but he did want to see how his cousin fared. Part of the reason was to assuage his own feelings of guilt, of course, but Dody still feared what Frodo might remember and say. Helping his aunt might be a way to atone for the actions that caused Frodo's fall while determining precisely what the boy did and didn't recall. Strangely, Dody no longer felt quite so panicked that Frodo might reveal him. It was as if his father's beating had been punishment for the crime. He still felt bad that Frodo had gotten hurt and didn't want anyone to realize that it was his cast that had precipitated the injury, but the gnawing, aching guilt no longer plagued him. He had paid his due in blood - even if no other realized it. He wasn't completely free of his sense of responsibility but felt he could now face the consequences of his actions. It might be like rubbing salt into a still gaping wound, but it would not destroy him. "I mean, surely someone more knowledgeable would be better," he concluded culturing reluctance into his response. He didn't want to appear too suspiciously eager.

"Perhaps they would," frowned Menegilda. "But it is unlikely anyone more knowledgeable would be allowed in to see him. That upstart Drogo has refused to let Bethany back near the child and she's been his nurse since he was four." Menegilda's fan waved more rapidly in her irritation. "The poor dear is beside herself. We've all told her that it wasn't her fault, even Drogo said so finally, but he's refused to ever let her care for Frodo again." Her fan moved faster. "Stubborn, willful, prideful hobbit… He's broken the old dear's heart, he has, but there's no changing his mind." She shook off her displeasure and took a deep breath. "But still, I want someone from our family in there seeing to things. I want to hear how Frodo is really doing, not just listen to platitudes from Drogo and that Burrows youngster. I think you would be a good choice, dear. You've got the time, and if you don't mind my saying so, you could use a few lessons in empathy." She cocked her brow at him. "Considering your parentage, it's not a characteristic you'd come by naturally." Menegilda snapped her fan closed and sat regally back in her chair. "Caring for a sick child should teach you that, at least."

'Like a bitter medicine,' Dody thought. 'Unpleasant to endure, but worth the relief.' He did not like the fact that Doctor Clearwater was sitting back contentedly in his chair, as if the events playing out before him had all been part of a well-orchestrated plot. He did not like his aunt's seeming blindness to being used, nor did he like the feeling of being all too aware he was being maneuvered as well. But there was little he could do about any of it, especially if he was to keep his secrets hidden. If he played along, and did as he was told, he could meet his own ends without even the doctor becoming the wiser, but he would have to be very, very careful. Dody looked up, schooling his own features to be as expressionless as Clearwater's were. He was no match for the doctor in this manipulative game and he knew it, but he could also recognize this as an opportunity.

"You'll suggest Dody as help for Primula?" Clearwater asked.

Menegilda nodded happily, obviously content that this proposal would tie some 'ends' together. "Oh, I will! I think it is a marvelous idea and I am sure Primula will think so too. It's Drogo Baggins who'll be the hard one. He's unpredictable and sullen. I never know which way that hobbit will lean." She shook her head in disapproval. "But since his precious Daisy Burrows suggested it, perhaps he will be easier to convince than we think. I'll set to work on it straight away." She smiled at Dody and then, as if she had just then noticed her battered nephew was standing in her parlor in nothing but his dressing gown, cried, "Land sakes, child! You don't need to hang about in your condition! Back to bed with you! I'll call to the kitchen for some chamomile tea for elevenses but you can take it in your room. You need to build up your strength. We will need you healed and fit as soon as possible. Off you go! Quick now!"

With that Dody retired to the quiet and comforting darkness of his room.


They told him he was doing marvelously and that he was recovering from the fall faster than they'd ever imagined, but it was not anything like fast enough for Frodo. He was bored and the boredom had turned him sullen and uncooperative. He longed to get out of his bed. He could hear the cook's children laughing in the sunlight outside of his window and wished he could play with them but even had he been allowed, he could not go out. Just sitting up caused his head to spin uncontrollably. Walking was, as yet, impossible.

He spent his days being tenderly cared for by his parents and occasionally the nice lady hobbit with the bright green eyes would come and look at him. His mother kept him washed and dressed in his finest as if he were going out but they never left their apartments. She would look at him with worry and sorrow in her eyes and that upset Frodo. He did not want to make his mother sad and yet he did not know what he could do to make her happy again. He thought that perhaps if he showed his mother that he was getting better, tried to sit up and even walk, she would be happy again, but though his father delighted in his attempts, his mother seemed even more upset by them. Frodo was confused and more than a little hurt. He wanted to please her but the only thing that didn't upset his mother was when he laid quietly on his bed and rested...and that bored him to tears.

The only good thing about being in bed all day was that his father could spend time with him. Drogo had not been at his desk once since Frodo woke and, instead of pouring over contracts and dusty old records, he would read to Frodo from great leather bound history books and slender volumes of lore that his cousin Bilbo had translated from the elvish. Frodo loved the stories and loved hearing his father's comforting baritone measuring out the words as if they were a fine draught to savor. But even listening to the tales reminded the boy that there was still something terribly wrong with him. He had difficulty following the stories. His thoughts would wander and he could not picture the tale in his mind as he used to be able to. Events referenced in them that Frodo thought he should remember seemed always at the edge of his memory. It frustrated him and, though he was loath to show it, frightened him as well.

He would still become terribly dizzy if he moved too quickly. His head felt like a great glass ball atop his shoulders that he needed to move carefully lest it shatter. He no longer had headaches all the time, but if he tried to remain awake for too long, or pushed himself to try and stand, they would return, blinding him and often making him cry out in pain. Those were the times that upset his mother the most. She would become horribly anxious and would force nasty medicines down his throat. Frodo quickly learned to push himself only as far as he could before the headaches returned, and so thereby avoided any of the bitter teas his mother seemed so fond of giving him.

One day when the green-eyed lady was visiting, she brought someone new with her. A little girl. She was older than Frodo, but still young enough that she might have been a playmate. There were few children in Brandy Hall but Frodo did not recognize her. She peered from behind her mother's skirts and stared at him with innocent curiosity. Frodo wanted to talk with the little girl, but the grown-ups were busy asking him silly questions. They asked if he remembered what happened to him, which he didn't, and how many fingers they were holding up, which he could count, but for some reason the word for that many fingers escaped him. He became irritated and fussy and his head began to pound. All he wanted was to talk to the little girl. It had been ages since anyone new had come to see him and the grown-ups were making him too miserable to converse properly. He felt like crying, but stubbornly refused to in front of the little girl, and that made his head pound even more.

Finally, they let him alone to rest. The green-eyed lady turned to speak to Frodo's parents and the little girl was left at his bedside. Frodo stared at her, dully, no longer interested in talking, only wanting his aching head to feel better. The girl came forward and placed her hand on Frodo's brow, mimicking what she had probably seen her mother do countless times. Frodo thought the girl's play-acting was silly, but he had to admit her warm hand did make him feel a little better. He sighed and the girl looked at him, suddenly serious, and said, in a voice that was an obvious attempt to sound like her mother's, "You'll be alright," and for some odd reason, Frodo believed her.

After that, the green eyed lady and the little girl left. Mother and Da sat down in the parlor just outside his alcove, conversing. Frodo listened to the words, finding comfort for his aching head in the soft familiar voices, but their meanings were mostly lost to him.

"I'm not sure what your brother's thinking," growled his father. "But I like Dodinas' boy little more than I like Dodinas. He's a moody child and I'd not put it past him to be cruel. I must get back to work, I've delayed my trip to Michel Delving as long as I can, and I agree you'll need some help with Frodo while I am gone, but I'd sooner choose another to aid you."

"Well, he's not the one I'd have picked either," came his mother's weary voice. "But most of my nieces and nephews are apprenticed already or have duties that I wouldn't feel right imposing on. Dody won't be going back to the mercantile - Rory won't let him within reach of his father again - and until they find him a suitable situation, he is available." She sighed. "But it's as much for Dody as it is for Frodo. You didn't see that boy when Marietta brought him down." Primula paused. "He'd been beaten near to death," she whispered, horror evident in her voice. "I'd have not thought any hobbit would have it in him to do that to his own flesh and blood." She sounded so sad and pitiful that Frodo almost felt like crying himself. He turned towards his parents and saw them sitting at table with their tea. Their backs were half turned from him. A single trail of smoke drifted up from the pipe in Drogo's hand. Primula had her sewing draped, unattended, across her lap. It was a scene that filled him with feelings of ease and security. Their familiar movements; the way Drogo held his mother's hand and the way Primula casually stroked his father's arm, soothed Frodo's head.

"'Like father, like son'... So they say." Drogo took a sip of his tea. "If that kind of violence is in Dodinas, who's to say it isn't in Dody as well? Primula, I am not at all keen on this. I won't forbid you from bringing Dody here, but I do wish there was another option."

Primula nodded. "I know, but I have a feeling it will be alright. Menegilda said something that I thought was very perceptive. She said 'there is nothing better for driving self pity out of a body than learning compassion for another.' Though Dody's life has given him reason to feel sorry for himself, dwelling on it is probably what's made him so unpleasant. He needs to learn to care for something other than himself. Menegilda also suggested that you might be a better role model as a father than Dodinas." Primula laughed at Drogo's ironic grin. "Not much of a compliment, but, considering Menegilda's opinion of you, it's almost high praise." Drogo snorted stubbornly around the stem of his pipe, but did not counter her. "And I'll be here with him," Primula continued. "I will be well able to judge how things are going. You know I'd not leave Frodo in any situation I was not totally comfortable with. I think having Dody here to help me will be good for both boys, but we will see how things develop."

They sat in companionable silence for a long while after that. Frodo's eyes drifted towards shutting. The only sounds in the room were the crackle of the fireplace, the occasional clink of a teacup and the soft rustle of fabric as his mother sewed. At last, as Frodo was just about to fall asleep, he saw his mother put down her sewing.

"How long will you be gone?" she whispered.

Drogo looked at her for a long moment. "No more than a month, I'd say. I will make the trip as short as I can manage, but I must see to our investments. I'd rather not live on your brother's generosity any longer than necessary."

She nodded and stood, putting her sewing on the table and looking down into her husband's face. Frodo's eyes were almost closed but he could see the way hers glittered in the firelight. She bent and kissed Drogo in that way that told Frodo he would soon have the curtains of his alcove drawn to. He closed his eyes the rest of the way and snuggled down in his bed, feeling safe and as near to normal as he had felt in over a week. He was asleep a second later.


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