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Chapter Two: Settling In

Two days later, my ankle was almost back to normal, with a bit of strapping for support. I also had my wrist strapped up to hold it steady. It was a bit more shaky than normal and kept slipping out at odd moments. Frodo, Sam and Pippin had accepted my story. It was the unloading of my bag which had served as the final clincher. I couldn't read their books, they couldn't read mine. It seemed my knowledge of Westron was probably magical, some kind of translation spell. I tested it by getting Frodo to try some Sindarin at me, which I understood perfectly (although it did come out with a very slight Shire accent, oddly enough). There was no knowing when it would wear off.

Frodo had told me he was expecting Gandalf to send word, and turn up for the farewell party on the evening before the 23rd. I kept silent. I suspected he wouldn't, from my own knowledge of the plot of the book I had inadvertently landed in. I had managed to borrow a spare nightshirt from Frodo and one from Pippin, which meant I at least had some spare shirts. Spare trousers and underwear were another problem. No hobbit underthings fitted me, and I was damned if I was going into a skirt: I don't like chafed thighs at the best of times, and this was most definitely not the best of times. Skirts are too much of a nuisance for me. I wound up alternating days with the leggings, knickers and tights, washing one pair each night, drying it the next day. Frodo had managed to find me a pair of dwarven breeches, which had been left behind by their former owner on one of their visits to Bag End. After a bit of an airing to freshen them up, I had another pair of trousers to wear. These almost fit, although they were a bit long at the ankles. I'm either short for a dwarf, as well as for a human, or male dwarfs are differently proportioned to human women.

The withdrawal from my antidepressants had started and I was feeling nauseous all the time. I'd explained to Frodo I was supposed to take two different sorts of medicine every day, one for a problem with my metabolism, one for my depression. I also explained I had none of my medicines with me and as a result, I might not be completely well for a week or so. He offered to fetch over the local healer, an offer which I declined. If I was to remain in Bag End, I was determined to keep my presence as quiet as possible. After all, I wasn't mentioned in the books. Sam was a great help, preparing peppermint tea for me, which was very nice. It was one of the few things I could handle drinking and it helped me keep what little food I was able to eat down.

On the morning of my third day in Bag End, I'd tried to find the portal back to my own world. No such luck. It wasn't there again on the fourth morning. It looked as though I had to get into touch with Gandalf and see whether he could (or would) help me get back home, which meant I had to keep a grip on myself and save the shrieking hysterics for a later date. I really didn't have a choice. Screaming hysterics wouldn't help me, they would only alienate the hobbits, who I needed to have on my side. I was half scared of being caught up in depression again and half scared of being stuck in Middle-Earth forever. I don't know which one scared me more. I think it was the combination of both which had me close to hysterical tears all the time. I wasn't sleeping at nights, either. I'd lie awake, tossing, turning, terrified and trying to get to sleep. This wasn't helped by the bed being a foot too short for me. Not even reciting multiplication tables worked. I felt like death warmed over each morning, and from the faces of Frodo and Sam, I looked it.

On the good side, Pippin and I got along just fine. He'd introduced me to Merry (whose first comment when he saw me was "Ooh, just the right height to keep my ears warm." Cheeky ratbag! His rather earthy sense of humor wasn't mentioned anywhere, I'm sure) and the two of them decided to bring me in on their "conspiracy". My job was to keep Frodo distracted now and stop him from worrying himself silly about leaving the Shire. So I did, mainly by asking him to show me around, or teach me Westron (I have no faith in magic and I didn't want to find myself in a position of being unable to communicate except via pantomime). In the meantimes, Sam, Merry and Pippin got to work and packed up some more of Bag End and moved some more objects over to Crickhollow.

Frodo was very interested in Earth as I knew it. A world without hobbits, without elves, without even dwarfs, totally run by Men. It must have sounded like something out of a fantasy story to him, too. I wound up telling him and Sam stories of King Arthur and all the mythology I could remember. Sam in particular had problems realising I was speaking of a lot of different cultures of humans: the hobbit culture around here tended to be pretty monolithic. I also told them tales of the elves and dwarves of our own world, including what I could remember of Wagner librettos. For this I will probably get murdered by the purists of the world, when and if I get back. However, I can live with it. Information was the one thing I had to bargain with. I needed to get knowledge about Middle Earth, they wanted knowledge about the place I'd come from.

Frodo also (at my insistence) wound up teaching me the elven script he used, as well as some dwarfish runes. I started to be able to piece together words, which was good. I'd never realised what it meant to be sub-literate, as I'd been a keen reader since I was two. It was a real nuisance, as I felt uneducated. I knew I wasn't but it was still a nagging feeling at the edge of my mind.

Although I tried to suppress them, Australianisms kept jumping out, and startling the hobbits. Especially the swearwords. Definitely not ladylike, but I got the feeling they soon stopped classifying me as female by their own cultural norms, and just put me into a separate category of my own: "Megs". A nice touch of homeliness, really: I've spent most of my life being classified as "one of the boys" by the various groups of menfolk I hang around with.

In an effort to repay them all for their hospitality, I tried to do my share of the chores. All four of them thought this a bit of a laugh, as I'm the wrong size entirely for hobbit-size brooms and tools. I did my best, and persuaded them all to let me do the washing each day; after all, I said, as I've got to wash my own things, I may as well wash theirs, too. They were good hosts, but I think they were looking forward to Gandalf coming along, all the same. So was I, in a way. I was hoping against hope my presence had altered things enough I could meet up with him while we were still in the Shire, and he would be able to send me back. Meanwhile, there was this corner of my head which was nagging me, and saying I'd two chances of it happening, and one of them was Buckley's.

Dammit. I wanted to go home. I was missing my friends at work, missing my friends on the 'net. I kept worrying they were worrying about me, and I was going to be thought of as dead. I wanted to go home. I wanted to see my PC again, I wanted to experience the joy of indoor plumbing (going to the privy of a night was somewhat frightening; I think the thing attracted spiders, not to mention lizards). I wanted a nice hot shower; I wanted my own clothes back; I wanted to get back to my own job; I didn't want to be here. I desperately wanted someone to wake me up, and tell me I was having a bad dream. I wanted someone to cuddle me, tell me I was being silly again. But they couldn't, and they wouldn't, and I was trapped here until I found that bloody wizard and got him to shunt me home again. To be deadly honest, I hated it.

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