Frodo woke, dimly aware of Lily leaving their bed. Contentment filled him as he thought on the last several hours. It was good to be home, and he offered a prayer of gratitude. While he waited for his wife to return, he peeked up at the ceiling and smiled. He had not counted the leaf tips since they wed; there had not been time. His smile broadened.
When Lily finally returned and carefully crawled into bed, Frodo noticed she did not turn to him but curled up on her side with her back to him. He slid his arm around her waist, and nestled close, burying his nose in her hair. He sighed silently, and began to drift back to sleep.
It was several moments before the feeling that something was amiss could take hold. Then Frodo realized that though he could not hear her, he could feel her weeping by the occasional hitch in her breathing.
“Sweet?” he murmured sleepily.
“I’m sorry I woke you, beloved,” Lily choked. She paused for breath and continued before Frodo could answer. “I don’t understand it. Rosie is almost three months with child. Bell’s sister is but two months wed and already with child, and still I-- I--”
Understanding swept over Frodo, and he tightened his hold around her. “Lily, dear heart, you have been traveling for over two months. Would it not be best to give yourself time to rest and fully recover?” He hoped the words came out right.
“I suppose,” she whispered meekly.
“Of course,” Frodo soothed gently, then another thought struck him. “And... you don’t believe I’m disappointed in you, do you?”
Lily heard the uncertainty in her husband’s voice. “I know you are not, beloved,” she sighed.
Frodo closed his eyes in relief, then held her closer. “I am sorry.” He turned her toward himself, and he gathered her in his arms snugly. His throat constricted on unshed tears as he felt her weep softly, until she fell back to sleep.
Once he was certain she was deep in sleep once more, he rose from their bed. When Lily stirred, he gently kissed her forehead.
“I’ll only be a moment, Lily-sweet. Sleep.” He lightly touched her hair, tenderly easing a tress behind her ear. Then he set about carrying out his plans for the morning.
Lily woke to warmth, and the discomfort she felt in the predawn hours was almost gone. She sighed and nestled deeper, then realized warm towels had been tucked around her.
A smile crept across her face, and she raised her head enough to glance about the room. She found her husband lounging in the chair beside the quiet fireplace, one leg draped over the arm of the chair, with a book opened and propped there. Though the Sun could not reach their west-facing window, its light still illuminated their room enough to read by, even in the early morning hours.
He was already dressed in forest-green velvet breeches and waistcoat and a white shirt of Elvish make. His waistcoat hung open, revealing a loosely-buttoned shirt. She was careful not to move too much, so as not to disturb him. An unexpected peace filled her as she enjoyed watching his eyes move across the words, his hand reaching up to quietly turn the page.
Her heart tightened, and she was grateful her monthly course had waited until this morning, so they could share yesternight. She offered a prayer of thankfulness for her husband and their life together.
She watched him turn another page, and glance up, then back at the page, and then quickly up again. He smiled, and closed his book.
“You’re awake, sweet. Secondies is ready, all but for the steeping of your red raspberry leaf tea, and I’ve only to move the kettle over the fire, and hot water will be ready soon enough.”
Tears filled Lily’s eyes.
Frodo’s face reflected his concern. “I’m so sorry I can’t do more, sweet.”
Lily sniffled and laughed. “Dearest Frodo, you are the most wonderful hobbit who’s ever lived. I am so blessed to be your wife.”
Frodo blushed, and smiled, pleased. “Thank you. And I am grateful, every day, for you.” He searched his wife’s face. “I was thinking I would pop over to Garden Hill and ask Sam if we mightn’t arrange to host tea in another day or two...”
“Oh, no, please. I should still like to take care of tea this afternoon. I’m feeling much better -- thank you -- and I know the raspberry tea will help also. It’s important to me... to share in the hosting...”
Lily carefully shifted so she could sit up in bed. Her heart filled to overflowing as she noticed Frodo quickly rise from his chair, leaving the book on the seat, and hurried to help her. He fluffed the pillows so she could settle more comfortably. She gazed up into his eyes as he finished arranging the pillows.
She could hardly find her voice. “Thank you, Frodo-love.”
He smiled warmly, all his love apparent in his eyes. “You’re most welcome. I’ll get secondies. You rest. We’ve a busy day ahead of us.” Then he kissed her cheek and left.
Lily drew her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. She sighed and murmured, “Was there ever a lass as lucky as me?” She giggled, then wiped the tears from her face. “Thank you, Eru Ilúvatar, thank you.”
She heard the whistle of the kettle, and then it was quiet. She found she could not help herself; she gazed at the door, waiting for her lover to return. She knew her eyes grew wide when Frodo entered the room carrying a heavily-laden tray, with a basket hanging from one arm.
He grinned and carefully laid the tray on the end table. He set the basket on the bed. “More warm towels.” He promptly replaced the cooled towels surrounding her with heated towels from the basket. Then he poured her a cup of tea, adding a bit of honey.
Lily sipped her tea and watched her husband finish plating the eggs and mushrooms, bread and fresh blackberries. When she drank the last drop of tea, he handed her the plate and refilled her cup, then set it on the bedside table, close to hand. He took up his own plate and sat on the bed beside her. She paused for him to offer a prayer of thanks. Then they shared their breakfast in comfortable quiet, Frodo ensuring she had everything she needed or wanted.
When she ate the last bite and sighed in contentment, Frodo took her plate, refilled her cup with the last of the tea and gathered up the tray and basket.
“Rest, Lily-sweet, and I’ll take care of this, and re-warm these towels.”
Before she could say anything more than a thank you, her husband slipped out of their room. She wanted to help him, but realized she was a little weary. If she was to be up to hosting tea in the afternoon, she would need to rest now, just as he suggested. She smiled and shifted more comfortably, closing her eyes to rest.
When she woke again, her husband was right where she had found him earlier, reading, one leg draped over the arm of the chair.
Frodo glanced up and smiled, closing his book. “Iris picked up the laundry, including our travel clothes. And I put away our baggage. I was unsure where you wanted a few of your things to go, so I put them in your room. And it looks like Felena left you material for several dresses! I saw the Elvish cloth stacked on your bed and thought you’d like to sort through it when you’re feeling better. Elevensies is ready and waiting, along with another pot of tea, whenever you feel up to it.”
“You spoil me terribly, Mister Baggins.” Lily’s voice caught on the words, her heart brimming.
“‘Tis only fair, Mistress Baggins,” Frodo grinned. “Would you like elevensies in bed, sweet?”
Lily smiled. “I think I should like to have elevensies in our kitchen. Besides, if we’re to host tea, then I’d best get started preparing it.”
Frodo glanced at his wife, then down at the book in his lap. He ran his hand over the leather cover while he spoke. “May I help?”
“You may, if you like.”
“I should like very much,” his voice lowered, “to be with you...”
“Yes, you may. I should enjoy your company in the kitchen, Frodo-love, very much.”
Frodo glanced up and grinned. “I’ll get your tea started while you get ready.”
Again he left his book on the seat, then stopped by the bed long enough to kiss Lily’s cheek; she cupped his face with her hand, smiling and meeting his eyes.
Frodo pressed her hand to his cheek, then kissed her palm before hurrying to the kitchen, whistling a tune they had danced to the night before.
Lily sighed, smiling happily. “Lily Baggins, you are the luckiest hobbit... person... being... that ever lived.”
She rose and opened the wardrobe to choose a dress. Tears sprang to her eyes as she found all the clothes that had been carefully packed by the Elves now hung among her others. Her husband had been very busy indeed, and quiet, as well! She giggled.
Lily chose a midnight-blue velvet dress created by the Elves, but after Shire fashion. It was a particular favourite of Frodo’s and would compliment nicely his own forest-green. Lily fingered the soft yellow chemise hanging with the skirt and vest; the colour cheered her heart. She hummed to herself as she prepared for the day.
Frodo set to making another pot of the raspberry leaf tea, grateful it helped Lily feel so much better.
He found his mind wandering to yesternight, and allowed it, for the moment. The sparkle in his wife’s eyes when he asked her to dance still made his heart sing. She was so completely unaware of herself, and of what she stirred in him. A smile, a glance, a touch, even one as simple as laying her hand upon his arm for the briefest of moments, all woke within him a yearning for more.
A rueful smile touched his mouth as he set the table for elevensies. Lily thought him so considerate and kind and giving, when the truth of the matter was that he was desperate for anything to keep himself busy with something other than wanting her...
He almost laughed out loud. He remembered a long-ago time, thinking he could not be stirred as other hobbits were. No lass had awakened such desire within him, though now as he considered it, he realized the Ring had already laid Its claim and lulled him into passivity; until that fateful day when he learned Its true nature. Yet even then, he had been reluctant to act in any way -- until the last possible moment, as it turned out.
Then he met Lily. He hardly knew what was happening. She woke within him a hunger he did not know nor understand. If Gandalf had not told him he was experiencing the first delicate intimations of love, he would have been completely perplexed and might have carelessly lost that precious gift which was his wife.
He realized his thoughts had come full circle, and he was once again remembering her sweetness and warmth and generosity... his heart raced, and he swallowed hard, struggling to catch his breath. So quick it was; simply the thought of her made him ache for her gentle touch, her softness, her fire...
Frodo laughed at himself. This was impossible. Then he sighed deeply, placing the last touches on the table. All was ready for his bride. There was no way around it: he wanted her, in every way. Then it occurred to him, quite unbidden, that they had all their lives together...
His breath caught as the object of his reflections stepped into the kitchen. He suppressed the groan rising within him at the sight of her, and struggled to put away his wandering thoughts. Did she know? He hoped not, as he knew she was not inclined in that direction today... He took a silent, deep breath and smiled broadly.
“All is ready, Lily-sweet.”
“Frodo!” Lily gasped. “You even thought of roses for the table.” She buried her face in the bowl of flowers, breathing deeply of the soft petals of yellow, light pink, and white. Then she grinned up at her husband. “And whatever we’re having, it smells delicious.”
She sensed his desire, and his studied effort to master it. His pleased appreciation that she noticed his efforts warmed her heart further.
They sat down to their meal and shared a prayer of gratitude. As they ate, they talked of what they wanted to prepare for tea that afternoon for their family and friends.
Lily was enchanted by her husband’s intense interest and willingness to help her. When they finished their meal, Frodo gathered up the various ingredients needed for making cherry scones, biscuits, and tea cakes.
While Lily mixed and baked, Frodo set about ensuring the tea services were clean, and preparing the greatroom. He moved chairs from the dining room and parlour, setting them in a semicircle. He smiled to himself, remembering Yule. His heart leapt in his breast... now Lily was his...
He shook himself, then headed out to the garden to gather some more flowers for the occasion.
Lily placed the last of the cherry scones on a plate, and set them to keep warm on the hearth. She sighed in satisfaction at the row of plates lined up there, filled with her efforts. On the table, were two plates of cheeses that Lily felt certain Rosie had made herself, then stored in the pantry for their return home. Lily smiled; she would thank her friend later. There were also bowls of apples, pears, apricots, peaches, and plums. And she would gather fresh berries just before the guests arrived. She slipped off her apron and hung it on the hook on the wall next to the doorway into the hall.
She drew her brows together. Frodo had left her alone in the kitchen well over an hour ago, and she had not seen him since. She glanced down the hall, then turned back to the kitchen. She recalled seeing Frodo working in the greatroom, but did not recall hearing him in there for the last half hour, at least. Where was he?
Lily walked to the greatroom entrance and stopped, staring. “Oh, Frodo,” she breathed.
Frodo turned from the table, and smiled. “They’re all from our garden.”
Lily slowly stepped into the room, gazing about her. Bowls and baskets filled with dahlias, hydrangeas, and daisies covered the mantel and the hearthstone before the fireplace. The table in front of the window was covered with irises, lilies, and morning glories intertwined with more roses, leaving spaces for the plates of food to be set when it was time.
“It’s beautiful.” Lily knew he had not arranged them in any kind of design so much as simply filled the containers and placed them about. She decided she liked the informal effect. Then she noticed for the first time the potted primroses lining the inside of the windowsill. “And so many...”
“Not to worry,” Frodo assured, “there’s plenty more. So many, you’d not know I picked any at all. I’ve never seen the garden so...”
“Bountiful,” Lily smiled. “Elvish magic. It must be,” she giggled.
Then she spied a bowl in the middle of the table filled with geraniums, nasturtiums, violets, and pansies. “Frodo! You prepared one of the dishes from Rivendell.” She quickly popped one of the blossoms in her mouth, smiling.
Frodo chuckled. “You’re welcome. And I do hope it’s time for luncheon. I’m famished.” He grinned. “I’ve done my best not to notice, but your scones...”
Lily laughed. “Come. We can’t have you starving on our first full day home, now can we?”
She led Frodo into the kitchen, then glanced over her shoulder as she pulled out a plate separated from the others. “I saved these just for you.”
Frodo’s eyes grew wide, then he kissed his wife’s cheek, and relieved her of the plate. “What about you?”
Lily smiled, and retrieved a plate for herself.
They sat down at the table and ate with an appetite.
Frodo sighed as he finished his last scone. “Would you like to lie down and nap before everyone arrives, sweet?”
Lily giggled. “I think I’m too excited to sleep, but I am a bit weary.”
“Then might I suggest you take a rest in your chair in the study?”
“You mean in Uncle Bilbo’s chair?” Lily grinned.
Frodo searched his wife’s eyes. “Now it is your chair, Lily-sweet.”
Lily’s heart tightened. “I’d like that very much, love.”
She drew her brows together in question as Frodo led her down the hall to the study. He helped her settle in the chair, then sat at her feet after retrieving a jar and small brush from the table by the chair.
“What’s that?” Lily peered down at her husband.
He grinned. “The cream Felena gave me to use on your feet. I found more in your room, next to the fabric.” He put some of the cream in his hands and began rubbing Lily’s feet.
Lily sighed in contentment, then murmured, “Methinks you planned this in advance, Mister Baggins.”
“You would be right, Mistress Baggins,” Frodo smiled.
He watched his wife’s eyes close, then she relaxed further, giving herself over to his care. He began to sing under his breath, knowing she would drift off to sleep.
A deep gratitude swept over him. They had been to see the Elves and Bilbo, and now they were home, and still he was well. He knew the wedding -- and Lily -- healed him, somehow, but the wonder of it still filled him, and almost overwhelmed him. How could it be? Not for another year could he ask her. Did it matter? He was aware Lily knew his healing was lasting, and he would trust to her. He allowed the happiness to wash over him.
He could not show her how much he loved her in the way he wished, at least, not today, but he could show her in a way that she would appreciate. How his life had changed...
Another broad smile lit his face. Never had he appreciated the fine art of massaging feet. He almost chuckled. Carefully, he reviewed what he remembered of the things Felena had taught him. He winced at the memory of rubbing too hard at first, and causing his Lily pain. When Felena had returned later, he asked her if she might instruct him, since she seemed to be knowledgeable in so many aspects regarding caring for a lass. The Elf had taught him to start at the back of the foot, very gently, and gradually increase the pressure, then work his way to the toes. He also needed to pace himself or he would grow weary, and he wanted his lover to wake to his ministrations.
He was relieved the activity kept his mind fully occupied. Then he was gently brushing the tendrils curling across the top of her feet. It fascinated him that he could brush them straight and as soon as the bristles released them, they sprang back to their unruly state. He was just finishing, his hands caressing lightly from the lower legs, to the ankles, down the heel, along the sole and arches, to the toes, when he heard Lily breathe deeply and sigh.
He was careful to keep his voice soft and low. “Good afternoon, Lily-sweet.”
His heart fluttered at the slight of her hazel-blue eyes blinking open and gazing into his with a smile that warmed him through.
“Good afternoon, Frodo-love.” A smile spread across her face. “Thank you. That was wonderful. I feel hardly any discomfort at all now.”
“I’m pleased to hear it. It’s almost time for our guests to arrive. Is there anything else we need to do first?”
Lily shifted slightly, stretching with a minimum amount of movement, and sighed contentedly. “Berries. I’d like to gather some fresh berries.”
She laughed at the clouded look in her husband’s eyes. “Dearest Frodo, Rosie assures me the berries are plentiful, and there is enough and to spare. You needn’t worry about your blackberry preserves. They are not in jeopardy.”
Frodo blushed and laughed. “In that case, I’ll help you.”
He rose to his feet, then offered a helping hand to Lily.
She took his hand, and held it, leading him to the pantry to collect large shallow bowls.
Lily met Frodo’s questioning gaze. “This way, we may gather plenty for tea and they’ll not be crushed.”
Frodo’s face cleared, and he grinned. “Ah, but if we have deep bowls, then we’re halfway to preserves already...”
Lily laughed. “What am I to do with you, Mister Baggins?”
He had not meant to, but a seriousness he could not hide overcame him, and he murmured, “Always love me, Mistress Baggins, and I’ll ask for nothing more.”
Lily stopped, and searched his face, seeing the love there within the most beautiful eyes she would ever know. “Not doing so would be the same as asking me not to breathe, Mister Baggins.” She struggled to hide a smile. “And I’m quite certain you’ll ask for more, as soon as I’m ready.”
His bright blue eyes grew wide at the sparkle in his wife’s. Then he laughed out loud. “You’re quite right, of course.”
Lily giggled. “Come, Mister Baggins, our guests will be here soon, and dawdling will not keep me from gathering berries for tea; it will simply make us late, and I should hate to give the impression I cannot prepare a simple tea for company without something going amiss.”
“They’d not think that --” Frodo declared, then continued with less certainty, “...would they?”
Lily maintained a knowing air. “One can never tell with friends and family, you know. Gracious and accommodating one day, then demanding and unreasonable the next...”
Frodo stared aghast at his wife. “They wouldn’t...” Then he laughed. “Mistress Baggins, I truly must be more careful. We’ve been married three and a half months, and there is still so much I do not know about you!”
“It keeps life interesting, Mister Baggins,” Lily grinned. “Now, are you going to continue to delay the inevitable?”
Frodo sighed heavily. “No. We’ll gather berries... but if there aren’t enough for your preserves, when all is said and done...”
Lily reached up her hand and cupped her husband’s cheek. Then she stood on her tiptoes to brush his lips with her own. “Do not fret, Mister Baggins. Never would I allow such a travesty.”
Frodo’s breath caught at the softness of her lips, then he slid one hand into her tresses. “You are very good to me, Mistress Baggins.”
“‘Tis only fair, Mister Baggins,” Lily smiled and led her husband out to the garden.
Lily laughed as she noticed the only gathered blackberries were in her bowl, while her husband’s bowl was filled with raspberries, strawberries and tomatoes.
“Tomatoes?” Lily gazed up at her husband with her brows raised.
Frodo returned her look with wide innocent eyes, though he was unable to hide the twinkle in their depths. “They’re a splendid addition, freshly sliced with the cheese and bread...”
“But of course! I should have thought of it myself.” Lily rolled her eyes, then giggled. “Come along, Mister Baggins, or we’ll not hear our guests arrive.”
With a chuckle, Frodo escorted his wife back into the smial, and helped her finish preparing the last of the food, including the tea.
Frodo watched Lily as her gaze swept the kitchen and greatroom critically. He itched to gather her up in his arms, then he pushed the thoughts away and glanced up sharply, startled by the sound of the bell at the door.
He grinned at his wife. “Shall I let them in, dearest?”
Lily gave her husband a demure smile. “If you would, love.”
Frodo bowed, then swiftly kissed her cheek. He ducked away and hurried to the door, opening it with flourish.
“Sam and Rosie! How good of you to come. Please, come in. Hal, Daisy... Pearl!”
The babe reached for Frodo, who deftly settled her in the crook of his arm. “Will you help me welcome everyone?”
Pearl laughed, squealed and clapped.
The master of Bag End smiled at Will and Bell as they entered. “We are delighted to have you here. Welcome.”
Will and Bell laughed, and followed Hal and Daisy, and Sam and Rosie.
“Welcome,” Lily smiled. “The food and tea are ready. Please, come help yourselves to whatever you like.”
Lily was complimented repeatedly for her efforts, and she ensured Rosie was given her due, with an appreciative smile for her friend, who blushed and accepted the compliments for her cheeses.
Pearl laid claim to Frodo and refused to give up her prize for anyone or anything, much to the amusement of all present.
It warmed Lily’s heart to see the interaction between the two. She was grateful she was allowed to watch them, with pleasure, and no one questioned her silence. As the conversation ebbed and flowed, mostly on the wedding and Shire matters, it occurred to her that the only ones who had heard anything of the couple’s travels were Sam and Rose.
Lily mulled over the curiosity. Why was it they did not speak of their travels? Was it like this for Sam and Frodo when they returned home? In her heart, she had been angry that no one seemed to want to listen, and yet now she found herself reluctant to share the journey. Even what they had told Sam and Rose the previous evening had been sketchy. She realized that the journey had been more for Frodo and herself alone... and Felena, she mused, and who knew how many others, as she thought about it. Yet there were so many memories she did not want to share with anyone. It filled her mind then that Frodo needed to write the story; then, those who wished to learn of the tale could, in detail. She struggled not to blush as she realized she was grateful their own journey would not be included in the book.
As the tea drew to a close, Bell insisted, “Frodo and Lily, and Sam and Rosie, of course, you must come to tea at Will’s home. You simply must see it.”
Frodo smiled. “We should be delighted.”
Will and Bell swept out the door after expressing their thanks again, followed by Hal and Daisy, with Pearl informing the whole of the Shire of her dislike at being separated from her Uncle Frodo. Sam and Rosie invited Lily and Frodo to dinner with them in another hour; then there would be the evening festivities as usual.
When finally Lily and Frodo were alone in their smial, Lily gazed about the greatroom, and sighed. “Best get to it.”
Frodo took the plates his wife had gathered from her hands and set them on the table. He drew her into his arms, where she leaned against him, wrapping her arms about his waist. He kissed the burnished auburn curls just above her ear, then her forehead.
“Lily-sweet, I’m able to take care of this. You need a bit of rest. The end of the evening is still a bit far off, and I don’t want you to get overtired.”
“I don’t wish to leave you to all this, Frodo-love.”
“Not to worry, Lily-sweet. I need something to do...”
Frodo closed his eyes, too late realizing what he had said.
Lily pulled away from him slowly, and waited for him to open his eyes and look at her. She waited patiently, then smiled for him.
“Frodo, dear heart, if it is easier on you for me to go rest, then I’ll do so...” A soft smile lit her face. “You want me to go, and you want me to stay. Oh, dear. I’m sorry, my love.”
He smiled ruefully, then shrugged.
Lily cupped his cheek. “I’ll go rest, and thank you, for everything.”
Frodo nodded, unable to speak. He released the breath he had been unknowingly holding when she walked out of the room.
Then he grumbled to himself aloud, “Frodo my lad, you have got to get yourself under control. You survived more than fifty-one years without her; surely you can survive a few days without her loving...” He rolled his eyes at himself. “Get to work, my lad, and it’ll be easier. Please.” Then he laughed and began cleaning the room.
Lily smiled to herself as she lay down on the white coverlet to rest. She would need to find a way to make up this difficult time to her lover -- for her lover he was, in every possible way. She drifted off to sleep thinking about what she could do.