The nights were turning chilly, and though Frodo had banked the fire it was not enough to last into the early morning hours. He slid out of bed and added another log, then hurriedly ducked under the covers once more. Drawing Lily into his arms, he grinned in the dark. She would warm him quickly enough.
She murmured wordlessly in her sleep, and nestled closer to him, causing a delicious quiver to race through him. How easily she came to him. Frodo rubbed his cheek against her silken tresses. His heart fluttered in his chest when she slid her arm around his waist and tightened her hold, then relaxed. What would he do without her?
Several nights past, his nightmares had startled him to wakefulness. Long had it been since last that had happened, but not long enough, by his way of thinking, and he was certain Lily felt the same. She had eased and comforted him, cradling him in her arms as he shivered from the memories.
He wondered briefly why the dreams had returned so strongly. Was it due to the writing of the tale, or was it because Rosie had asked him to help Sam?
That day, but a fortnight past, flashed through Frodo’s mind, and he tightened his hold on Lily. He had been to Hobbiton with Sam. Upon his return, he went in search of Lily as soon as he walked into Bag End. He smiled to himself. He could not seem to help himself. He always went in search of her, no matter how long or short a time he had been away.
Then he walked into the private parlor and to his surprise had inadvertently found Rosie weeping in Lily’s arms. He began to back out silently when Lily noticed him and waved him over.
“Frodo is here, Rosie-love. I think he’ll be able to help you.”
Rosie drew away from Lily’s shoulder slowly. She glanced up at Frodo, who smiled encouragingly, and then she looked back at Lily.
“Do you think so?” Rosie’s voice trembled.
Lily nodded and smiled. “He still has bad dreams, from time to time, and he does not tell me of them either.” She gazed at her husband, wanting him to see she accepted his choice.
Frodo realized she probably also understood. He cleared his throat and squatted on his heels to look up into Rosie’s eyes. “It’s difficult to speak of them, Rosie. There are things I don’t want Lily to have to hear or ever remember. She knows so much already. The dreams are really only more of the same.”
Rosie’s chin quivered. “But how do I help him? Sometimes -- sometimes they’re bad, real bad.”
Before Lily or Frodo could answer, Rosie continued, “I try to hold him, and sometimes he lets me, but usually he gets up and goes out, only as far as the garden, I’m certain. It seems the only place what brings him peace. Not that I begrudge him going. He’s always found peace in the garden, ever since after his mum passed on. I know Lily’s able to help you, Frodo, but I’ve not got her gift of sight.”
Frodo noticed Rosie’s hands were now clenched so tightly in her lap they were turning white. He laid his hand over hers, and gazed into her eyes. “You don’t need the gift of sight, Rosie-lass.”
Her voice wobbled, “I don’t?”
“No. It isn’t Lily’s gift of sight that helps me, Rose.”
“Not at all. All you need to do is continue to make his home a haven, just as you have been doing, and as Lily does for me.”
Frodo smiled warmly. “And mayhap I’ll speak with him, a little.”
The tears welling in Rosie’s eyes slowly spilled over. “Would you?”
“Yes, Rosie-lass. I will.” Frodo found it difficult to continue. “He’s given so much to me; mayhap the way is open for me to give a little back to him.”
Rosie threw her arms around Frodo’s neck, almost knocking him over.
“Thank you, Frodo!” She sniffled and wiped her tears away with her hands. “I was so afraid to stir up any of your memories. You’re so happy now, happier than ever I’ve seen you. I didn’t want to burden--”
“Nonsense, Rosie Gamgee!” Frodo softened his curt reply by patting her shoulder. “You’d never allow me to say such things to you, and you know it. So there will be no word of burdens or owing. We’re friends, the very best of friends... the best of families -- whether or no we’re blood related, our feelings go ever so much deeper than that.”
Rosie nodded vigorously, a smile trembling on her lips. “Thank you, Frodo.” She turned to Lily, and embraced her. “Thank you, Lily.”
She sniffled once more. “I best be getting home to my Sam, afore he wonders were I’m off to and tries to start tea himself.”
Frodo drew his brows together. “When did that become a difficulty, Rosie? He made my tea for years, and it was always more than passing fair.”
Rosie giggled. “You only had one type of tea in the pantry, Frodo.”
The puzzlement on Frodo’s face deepened.
Lily covered her mouth and giggled. She took a quick breath to keep from laughing more. “Frodo-love, you don’t really care for my raspberry tea, or any of my other teas, for that matter. You like what you’ve always liked, and so does Sam.”
Frodo’s face cleared, and he grinned. “Rosie-lass, you might want to do what Lily does. She puts her teas in very different jars than mine; that way I never mix them up.”
Rosie’s face clouded. “But they look so pretty lined up in their clear-glass jars.”
Frodo chuckled. “Then put what Sam likes in a larger jar -- anything to make it easier for him to tell them apart at a glance.”
Rosie nodded slowly. “I suppose I could do that.” Her face cleared. “Be that as it may, I need to get home.”
She took Frodo’s hand in her left and Lily’s in her right. “Thank you, both.” Then she placed Lily’s hand into Frodo’s. She smiled softly and stood. “Are you coming for supper?”
“Indeed,” they answered together.
Rosie laughed. “We’ll see you at supper, then.”
The next day, Frodo had broached the subject with Sam when they were out in the garden. Somehow the working made it easier to speak of the painful things. Frodo smiled to himself. Not to mention that a great deal could be revealed without a word being uttered. When he nonchalantly wondered aloud if Sam had had unpleasant dreams, Sam had pushed his trowel especially deep into the soil. Then they talked.
As he thought on that day, Frodo considered Sam’s reflection that writing the story of the Quest might also be more of a strain than either of them had before been willing to admit. Though Frodo spent time in the study, daily, he admitted to Sam that he was not doing any actual writing. He arranged notes, and then rearranged them. He shied from the truth, and he knew it. His notes reached as far as the lawn of Parth Galen. He could not bring himself to go further. Sam had nodded in understanding and left it at that. Frodo’s heart whispered he should share it with Lily, but every time he sought the words, they were lost to him.
There was another reason as well; he preferred spending time with Lily and Sam and Rosie. His world was rich with the love that graced his life. He struggled not to tremble with excitement. Now there would be a child.
He was careful not to chortle, for fear of waking Lily. Yesternight, he had realized with surprise that her monthly course was now two months past. She had shyly agreed it was long overdue. He had also noted her reluctance to speak of the coming child, but she allowed him to chatter excitedly, enough for the both of them.
Frodo had wanted to send for Mrs. Chubb straight away, but Lily had requested they wait a little longer. He had relented, then cuddled her in his arms. It was not long before he admitted he wanted to share his love with her, but he was uncertain if it would be safe for the child. Lily had giggled then, assuring him the child would not notice in the least. He had blushed from his ears to his toes, then taken her to bed, and loved her with an intensity and gentleness he had not known himself capable of before.
Lily had wept for the beauty of it, and he had found himself weeping with her.
Now he held her snugly, her body curved to fit perfectly against his. Frodo’s heart swelled with the love he felt, and overflowed, knowing she was his, made for him, as he was made for her, exquisite and as perfect as might be found in a world of imperfections. And as soon as she stirred, he would love her awake.
Sam gazed round his garden, and sighed in satisfaction. It was more than he ever dreamed of owning. A memory niggled uncomfortably at the back of his mind. He shuddered, and closed his eyes, struggling to brush the thought away, but it took hold.
The Ring. The Ring had promised him everything. He shook himself, reminding himself he was not sorry for the choice he had made not to heed its seductive voice. He opened his eyes and searched every corner of his garden, reassuring himself this was what he wanted. It was more than he ever believed he would own, thanks to his dearest friend. Well, next to his Rosie, anyway. He smiled, and decided it was like trying to compare apples and oranges; they were both round, but there the likeness ended.
He firmly pushed away the other memory, and looked at the hobbit kneeling only a few feet from him, digging in the rich brown earth. He watched for several moments, then drew his brows together.
“Frodo... Frodo...” Sam stared at his friend, and raised his brows. “Frodo!”
Frodo blinked. “What? Did you say something, Sam?”
“I’ve only been trying to get your attention to tell you you’ve planted bulbs on top of bulbs three times now. Where are you? For sure and certain you ain’t in this here garden.”
“Have I really? Planted bulbs atop bulbs?”
Sam noticed that though his friend’s brows had drawn together in question, his gaze was still unfocused. “Indeed you have, Frodo.” He anchored his fists on his hips. “You’re useless in the garden, don’t you know? So tell me, what’s got you woolgathering?”
Sam’s eyes widened at the blazing smile that suffused Frodo’s face.
“I’m uncertain I may tell you, Samwise; not without Lily’s permission, leastwise.”
“Not without--” Sam’s mouth gaped, then he quickly closed it with a snap. He took a deep breath, and exhaled it slowly. “Are you saying...”
Frodo grinned at Sam’s searching gaze. “I’m not saying anything.”
“There’s no need to, now is there?!” Sam chortled.
Frodo laughed. “Not a word, Samwise Gamgee!”
Lily slipped out the back door, and into the barren garden. She gazed about her, and fled to the farthest corner. The little stone bench beside the trailing toadflax that clamored over the rock wall had always felt like an inviting place. Today, she felt condemned by the shrub’s flowerless branches.
The sweet chestnut tree that shaded the spot in summer was now bereft of leaves, and Lily felt it to the center of her soul. A cry caught in her throat, and though she tried to swallow it, she could hold back no longer. She dropped to her knees beside the bench, sank down, laid her arms on the cold stone, and buried her face. Great racking sobs grabbed hold and shuddered through her.
In her mind’s eye, she saw again the scene in the kitchen. Frodo returned from his afternoon with Sam, with Rosie between them, laughing. She had tried to hide what she was feeling; perhaps she had done it too well.
“Lily!” Sam had chortled. “You’re lovelier than ever!”
He had given her a knowing look and a wink, and Lily’s gaze had flown to Frodo’s, even as Rosie had added cheerfully, “We’re so happy for you!”
She could feel all the blood drain from her face, then she had turned away and escaped as fast as her feet would carry her down the hall and out the back door.
Frodo froze in horror as he watched his Lily shrink into herself, then disappear down the hall in a flurry of skirts.
Rosie and Sam shared a worried glance, and moved toward the kitchen together. She laid a hand on Sam’s arm, stopping him in his tracks. Then Rosie advanced slowly to the table where two teapots sat. She lifted the lid of one and breathed, and then lifted the lid of the other and took another whiff.
Her glance darted to Sam, then Frodo; her voice raised barely above a whisper. “It’s red raspberry leaf.”
Sam shifted uncomfortably on his feet. “What does that mean, Rosie-love?”
“It’s for -- for the discomfort of the monthly courses...”
Sam’s face reflected his continued confusion, then it cleared and his eyes widened. “Oh! Oh, Frodo. I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t’ve...” He stopped, helplessly spreading his hands in entreaty.
Rosie nodded her head, and fought to hold back tears.
Frodo’s face crumpled, and he shook his head. “But it’s been two months...”
Rosie shrugged her shoulders in commiseration. “It’s just like that, sometimes, Frodo.”
Sam cleared his throat. “Do you want us to wait for you, Frodo?”
Frodo blinked, struggling to focus. “Why don’t the two of you go ahead and eat; everything’s ready anyway. I don’t know how long it will be before...”
“Go to her, Frodo,” Rosie whispered.
Frodo made his way blindly to the back of the smial. He stumbled outside their bedroom door, but was able to quickly see she was not there. The study also showed no evidence of his wife. A faint worry struck at his heart. The other rooms at this end of the smial were only empty bedrooms. Pain gripped Frodo’s heart. He had spoken to her only last night of turning one of the rooms into a nursery. Tears gathered in his throat, choking him.
Fear grew steadily within him. Where was she? There was nowhere else for her to hide... except the back garden... would she go outside in the cold without her cloak? It still hung on the hook at the end of the little hall. He threw on his own cloak and grabbed hers, then frantically bolted through the door. Where would she have gone? He quickly scanned the garden, front to back, and saw no sign of her. He turned aside to check the front garden, then paused. Closing his eyes, he listened more carefully.
His eyes snapped open, and without moving he searched the back garden but still could not see her. Slowly, he threaded his way along the well-worn paths, now covered in straw to protect against the cold and damp. He wondered briefly if his ears had deceived him; then he rounded a bend, reaching the farthest corner.
Frodo’s heart stopped; his mind went numb. Never, in all his life, had he heard a heartbreaking sorrow such as this. He glanced down at his hands, and realized they were trembling. Step by faltering step, he approached the weeping lass, all in a heap by the stone bench they had so often shared, speaking of their hopes and dreams.
The sudden intense cold on his face made him realize he was weeping, as well. He whispered her name, but she did not seem to hear him, so lost she was in her own grief.
He stopped beside her, and waited for her to acknowledge he was there. Moments passed; he took her cloak and gently draped it around her shoulders. She hardly seemed to notice. He kept his hands firmly in place, then tightened his hold, tenderly lifting her and turning her into his embrace. She seemed unable to stand, so weak she was. He helped her to sit on the little bench and sat beside her. Then he wrapped his arms around her, holding her close, and started to rock gently, back and forth.
At first she seemed to curl more into herself, then inch by inch she curled into his side, finally clinging to him, her arms around his neck, and her face buried against his chest. Would the tears never cease? Frodo was uncertain how much more he could bear; listening to her tore at his heart.
He struggled to regain command of his voice. “I love you, Lily-sweet, with all that I am and all I will ever be.” He softly kissed her forehead, and she buried her face more deeply against his chest.
Frodo’s throat tightened, and he fought to speak. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Please forgive me, please.”
He felt the slight nod against him. She was listening. “I swear I did not tell. Sam guessed it.” He felt her take a shuddering breath, and heard her hiccup for another. “Sam might not have known if I had not planted bulbs on top of each other in the garden... He guessed I was distracted, and I could not deny it.” He felt her take another steadying breath. “I’m afraid my face is as readable as ever.”
Relief flooded him as he felt the merest acceptance from her. She swallowed hard and gave a small nod, sighing. His own tears gathered anew as he felt her cling to him more tightly. He rubbed his cheek against the softness of her hair. “I love you more than I’m able to express, Lily-sweet.”
He had to strain to hear her words.
“I’m sorry... so sorry.”
“Whatever for, beloved? You warned me it might not be. I regret my own excitement carried me away. It wasn’t fair to you. I promise to be more heedful of what you ask of me.”
“Oh, Frodo...” Lily’s voice broke over his name.
Frodo tightened his hold, and gently rubbed his hands over her back and shoulders, endeavoring to warm her. “It will be all right, Lily-sweet. You’ll see. What is most important to me, in all the world, is that I have you. In truth, I feel quite greedy wanting anything more.”
Lily pulled back slightly, and searched her husband’s eyes.
Frodo offered a gentle smile. “You are all I need.”
Lily whispered, “I love you, Frodo, so much...” Her voice broke again, and she covered his mouth with her own hungrily.
Frodo first worried where this might lead, considering his wife’s present condition, then realized if he pulled back she might misunderstand and see it as a rejection of her, so he allowed himself to be drawn into her ardor.
As abruptly as it started, it stopped. Lily flung herself away from Frodo, almost knocking him off the bench as she fled back into the smial.
Frodo shuddered. He felt bereft and chilled to his core. Then he gathered his wits and her fallen cloak, and trudged back to the smial. After hanging up their cloaks on their respective pegs, he paused by the bedroom door, where he could hear his wife sobbing into her pillow. His own sense of inadequacy shot through him; what should he do? What could he do?
He wanted to hold her and erase all the hurt, but she had pushed him away. He continued down the hall to the kitchen. Sam and Rosie had left, but not before clearing the table but for the teapots and two cups and saucers, as well as two plates prepared with food.
After placing everything on a tray, Frodo took a deep, steadying breath and slipped down the hall to the bedroom. He faltered, wondering at what his wife’s reaction might be, and hoped she would not reject his simple effort. Listening carefully, he knew she was no longer crying, but did not sleep, as sniffling reached his hearing.
He took another bracing breath, and stepped into the bedroom. Frodo stopped dead at the sight of his sweetheart lying on her belly, her face buried in her pillow. He swallowed hard and pressed forward, then laid the tray on the bedside table.
After he lit the fire to warm the room, he sat gingerly on the bed beside his wife. He hesitated, then lightly stroked her hair. He kept his voice soft and low. “Lily-sweet, I have a bit of tea for you.”
She did not respond, at first, and Frodo thought his heart might break. Then she took a deep, shuddering breath.
Muffled by the pillow, he heard her murmur, “Thank you.”
Frodo shifted, and stretched out on the bed beside Lily. Instantly, he felt her melt into him, and the heaviness in his heart eased. He gathered her into his arms, aware of one of her legs easing over to entrap his, while her arm circled his waist, and her head nestled against his chest. He rubbed his cheek against her hair, then tightened his hold.
“I’m so sorry, Frodo-love. I shouldn’t be sad, truly. I have you... and it is enough. You are more than enough. But I was -- was so disappointed to learn I -- I still am not increasing...”
Frodo noticed she used the traditional term, and realized she was distancing herself. He stroked her auburn tresses, burying his fingers in her warm curls.
Lily sighed heavily. “I suppose I must apologize to Sam and Rosie; my behavior was terribly rude.”
“No, Lily-sweet. They understood immediately, and were sorry to have distressed you.” Frodo searched for the right words to continue, then offered a prayer for guidance. He took a soft breath. “It must be difficult for you, watching Rosie every day...”
He felt her nod against his chest and curl more tightly around him.
Her voice was once again tinged with tears. “I feel a failure and -- and I have been -- ungrateful and churlish...”
“You have failed no one, beloved. You are too harsh with yourself...” Frodo kissed her forehead. “And I think you know Sam and Rosie sorrow with you... with us.” He felt her nod her head against his chest again.
He took a steadying breath. “You need to eat, Lily-sweet. I brought tea here. I’m afraid the tea is a bit tepid, but still passable, I’m sure.”
Frodo felt Lily loosen her hold on him, and sit up carefully. He fluffed the pillows, and sat back, drawing her with him. Then he retrieved the tray from the bedside table and set it on his lap.
After Lily poured their tea, and placed their plates of food on her lap, she held the two cups while Frodo set the tray back on the bedside table. He took his repast from her, laying them in his lap, then slid one arm around her shoulder again. Never before had he felt so fortunate to have had an injured hand; it had made him accustomed to using his good hand independently.
They ate in a companionable silence, and when they finished, Frodo removed the dishes to the tray. Then he wrapped his arms around his wife once more, and drew her close. He felt her initial resistance; it lasted only a heartbeat, and then she wrapped herself around him, her head on his chest again. Frodo slid his fingers into her tumbled locks, and breathed in the sweet fragrance of her.
“All will be well... will it not?”
“Yes, beloved Lily. All will be well.” He knew that was the answer she wanted to hear, though it was not necessarily the truth. The unasked question between them was too difficult to voice. And he could not bring himself to say he did not know the answer.
Lily wanted to be comforted by his words, but knew he had simply told her what she wanted to hear. Anger flashed through her, and just as quickly vanished. She knew that though he assured her she was all he wanted, he was disappointed as well. But how could she make up to him for not giving him a child? The whisperings of her heart reminded her that he was not disappointed in her.
“There is still plenty of time, yet, Lily-sweet,” Frodo encouraged.
Lily felt a small smile lift the corners of her mouth. “Yes, Frodo-love. There is still plenty of time.” She nestled closer, and felt the pain in her heart ease.
He stroked her hair, studying the golden-red colour, made richer by the flickering firelight. “Yes, Lily-sweet?”
“For what, sweet?”
“For understanding... for comforting me... for your patience...” She lifted her head to gaze into the blue eyes she loved so well. “For loving me.”
Frodo swallowed hard. “How could I not?” he breathed. “You give all those things and more to me.”
Tears filled Lily’s eyes, and one slid down her cheek. Frodo kissed it away, and gathered her close once more.