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B2MeM Challenge: O70, Diners' Club, fruit (author's choice)
Format: Ficlet
Title: Unexpected Healing
Genre: Angst
Rating: G/K
Warnings: Some food detail
Characters: Merry, Frodo, Pippin, Sam, Aragorn, Legolas
Pairings: N/A
Summary: Merry frets about the Ringbearer following the Quest...and finds unexpected healing despite his fears.

"I'm hungry," said Pippin as the hobbits sat on the balcony overlooking Minas Tirith's many levels. "What's for second breakfast?"

"Aragorn promised a surprise," said Frodo, who sat wrapped in a cloak despite the warm spring day. He seemed always to feel a chill in the air now, as he put it, much to Merry's dismay. Secretly Merry suspected that his cousin would never again enjoy truly good health, but he kept his fears to himself. At least Frodo was showing some interest in food, which was something.

"Breakfast is served - or shall I say, second breakfast is served?" Aragorn and Legolas came onto the balcony with two large trays, much to all the hobbits' delight. Carefully they set goblets of chilled orange-juice down at each place, then dishes holding strange and wondrous surprises.

"What is this?" asked Pippin as Sam eyed the main dish with doubt. "It looks like griddle-cakes all rolled up."

"They are like griddle-cakes," said Aragorn, "only much thinner and lighter, and always served with a filling or a topping. These are filled with some seafood common here - crab, and shrimp, with cheese sauce - and something I think you will all enjoy very much."

"Mushrooms!" cried Frodo as he lifted the edge of one end with his fork.

"Yes," said Aragorn with a grin. "Mushrooms, and I asked them to put extra in all of yours, but *triple* the amount in Frodo's."

Frodo's eyes widened, joy warming his thin features, and Merry felt his heart lifted.

"And the fruit?" he asked, glancing at the round thing on the other plate before him.

"Pink grapefruit," said Legolas. "A delicacy even here, where fruits like these are more commonplace. It is nice broiled with some brown sugar and a bit of cinnamon on top, which is how these were prepared."

"It smells lovely," said Frodo.

"Go ahead, try it," urged Merry. The healers had spoken of these fruits, the sort of juicy, tart things which they said were especially valuable for those long deprived of nourishing food. Merry was eager to see Frodo try it; he and Sam had returned so thin, though while Sam was regaining flesh rapidly Frodo seemed to remain hardly more than bones with the skin stretched over them. He looked far worse than he had even as he lay ill in Rivendell so many months earlier. I'll try this, Merry thought, and then once I have a taste, I'll see if Frodo will eat the rest of mine. It'll do him good.

Frodo used the special spoon provided at his place setting to dig in, squirting a bit of juice in Pippin's direction.

"That was my eye!" cried Pippin, but he laughed even as he wiped his face.

"Sorry," said Frodo, scooting over to make room as Aragorn and Legolas joined them, though the two took no food other than their own goblets of orange-juice. The hobbits had already learned that the big people considered three meals a day more than adequate, so they were well accustomed to company who only sipped something rather than joining in.

Merry held his breath as Frodo took the first bite of grapefruit.

Frodo broke into a smile. "It's wonderful!" he said. "Sam, you must try it."

"As you wish, sir." Sam, looking altogether more dubious, gave his grapefruit a try. Pippin was already halfway through his.

Merry tried a mouthful. It was delicious, but nothing compared in his mind to what it would feel like to see his cousin eating and growing strong. After a few mouthfuls, perhaps two or three, he turned his attention to the main dish.

"Frodo," he said as casually as possible, "if you'd like the rest of my grapefruit when you've finished your hot food, I shouldn't mind at all. I've had all I want of it."

"I couldn't do that, Merry," said Frodo, forking up a mouthful of mushroom and crab smothered in cheese sauce.

"Oh, yes, you could," Merry insisted. "It's the least I can do."

"No, really - "

"Frodo." Merry looked intently at his cousin, and suddenly he felt his heart in his throat. Quickly he blinked. When he spoke again his voice sounded hoarse and tight. "Frodo, let me do this for you. I know it's not enough."

Frodo looked at him for a long moment, then rose, and came to Merry's side of the table, where he took Merry's head in his hands. He bent forward and kissed the top of his cousin's head.

"It is more than enough," he said gently. "What you did on the field of Pelennor means more to me than words can say. Do not grieve, Merry! You must not worry so."

Tears began to stream down Merry's cheeks.

Frodo drew him close, and he wept, and before he knew it the other hobbits and Legolas and Aragorn had gathered round to console him.

Merry felt love enveloping him, and Frodo's arms about him.

He could not fix things.

He could not heal Frodo.

But how could he have known that Frodo would be the one to heal him?

-the end-


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