Frodo watched the shadows cast by the bedroom firelight dancing across the painted leaves on the ceiling. The hour was late, or early, depending on how one looked at it, he mused. The moon shimmering through the linen window coverings showed the sky had cleared. The night still held sway in these early morning hours of Lily’s birthday. There would not be much more time to enjoy her gift for him.
Lily’s soft form nestled close against him. The soft crackling and popping of the flames seemed loud now, when only a short time ago, the only sounds filling his ears were those of their shared love. Just the memory of it caused a different kind of blaze to race through him. She would wake again soon, and seek him, her courses just past.
Frodo thought back. This month, Lily’s courses had saddened her but not devastated her. Last time, once she was recovered, Frodo had decided it would be wise to return to the Wheatsheaf Inn at Pincup, especially after overhearing the conversation between Sam and Rosie.
He had not meant to eavesdrop on the couple, but he had been preoccupied and unaware of the sensitivity of the conversation, until he knew it would be awkward if he intruded. He should have backed away; he was still out of sight, hidden by a thick hedge of hawthorn, but he could not help himself. He heard their genuine concern, and it touched his heart.
Sam had wondered, “Rosie-lass, what do you think we could do to help Lily?”
“What do you mean, Samwise?”
“It’s hard on Frodo to see her so unhappy, and sure and certain I never meant to say what I did, or at least, not the way it came out. I’ve never seen her look like that, Rosie. It was awful to behold. It put me in mind of the look on Frodo’s face when he thought he’d lost the Ring... And to think it was because of what I said.”
Rosie’s breath caught. It was a struggle for her to concentrate on the problem her husband was addressing and not pursue that quiet revelation. She shook her head. “Lily knows, Sam. I don’t know what we could say. To be honest, I’ve no real understanding of how she feels, seeing as I’ve not the same trouble myself. I’m thinking I can imagine it, but it ain’t the same at all, is it?”
“No, I s’pose not.” Sam sighed, then perked up. “Maybe we could tell her how lucky she is that she keeps meals down, and sleeps comfortable...”
“Samwise,” Rosie’s tone was patient. “Telling her somethin’ like that would be like -- like -- well, like telling you how lucky you’d’ve been if Fatty went on the Quest instead of you.”
“But -- but Rosie, I couldn’t let Frodo go alone, and Fatty couldn’t look after him near as good as me.”
Rosie’s tone gentled. “But, you wouldn’t’ve gone hungry or thirsted, nor tore up your poor feet walking on those sharp rocks...” her voice hitched “...or be having the nightmares...”
Frodo heard a long pause, then a sigh.
Sam murmured brokenly, “Rosie-lass, I’m sorry. Would’ve it been better if you married someone else?”
“Don’t be daft, Samwise Gamgee! I never wanted no one but you, not from the time I was a wee lass.” She pleaded, “Don’t you know that by now?”
“Rosie, Rosie... I love ya’, lass.” There was a long silence before Sam continued. “You’re sayin’ there’s nothin’ we can do to help Lily?”
“Time’ll help Lily, I think, and from what you’ve told me, and what I’ve seen meself -- ‘specially between those two -- Eru’ll see to ‘em. Maybe if I’m more careful about what I say...”
“No, Rosie. You know Lily better than that. She’d be hurt if you kept things from her. Besides, sooner or later, you’d slip, and you know it, lass. Then she’d know things weren’t natural between you and her. Think how’d that make her feel.”
“You’re right, o’course, Samwise. Maybe all we can do is love her.”
This time Frodo had heard their shared kiss, then Rosie’s giggle, and then something like a deep-throated growl from Sam.
“Sam-dear, isn’t Frodo coming this afternoon?” Her voice was breathless.
“He is, Rose my love.”
“Then I’ll leave you to him, and I’ll get some work done in the house.”
Another giggle, accompanied by a chuckle, followed by silence for several moments, and finally the kitchen door of Garden Hill closed. Frodo waited, mulling over what he had heard. A little time away would ease things for Lily, as well as for Sam and Rosie...
In September, they had spoken of returning to Pincup for a longer stay at the Wheatsheaf Inn, but no opportunity had yet presented itself. No time like the present, he decided, and a week, he hoped, would be long enough to soothe the disappointment and hurt.
They had packed what they would need for the stay on their ponies, Strider and Merry, leaving Pippin behind with Bill, and ridden out late in the morning a few days later. They arrived in Pincup in time for dinner, and indulged themselves in Mrs. Biddle’s cooking.
Most days, the ponies were left in their stalls, and the couple simply took long walks exploring the countryside. They always returned by evening, except on the final day of their visit, when Frodo arranged for a satchel of food, enough to last the day. He picked it up before firsties.
“So, off for the day are you, Mr. Baggins?”
“Indeed, Mr. Hornblower.” Frodo smiled. “As soon as Mistress Baggins is ready.”
The innkeeper grinned knowingly, his eyes twinkling. “Those lasses do have a way o’ takin’ their time, don’t they, sir?”
Frodo laughed, and nodded, not bothering to dispute the lament. “We’ll not be back until quite late, Mr. Hornblower, so there’s no need to hold dinner for us. I think we’ve enough here.” He lifted the satchel, then he offered a wave of his hand, and headed back down the hall.
Upon returning to their room, Frodo slipped inside and locked the door. He noted immediately Lily still slept in their bed. Silently, Frodo set the satchel in a chair by the fireplace. He added a log, stripped off his clothes, and slid back into bed. His desire flared the moment Lily nestled close to him. As he began to congratulate himself for planning just such a day, Lily wakened fully and initiated a kiss so passionate it surprised even him.
Late in the afternoon, Lily lay in Frodo’s arms, lazily caressing the warm alabaster skin of his chest with the tip of one finger. She felt him shiver, and smiled to herself. The ache deep within her had eased. They did not have a child for lack of trying.
Lily knew Frodo’s purpose for suggesting this small adventure. She sensed Sam and Rosie’s discomfort, and knew the reason for it, as well.
Her own forlorn thoughts swirled about in her mind. Why could she not be happy with the way things were? Her father had worked so hard to teach her that to be thankful was to know. Why could she not live this truth in regards to bearing children? Why was it so difficult to be patient?
She felt her husband stir beneath her. Oh, yes, that was why: her vow to herself to give her beloved all that the Ring would have denied him, all that the Darkness almost ripped away. Frustration bubbled through her. She wanted to give Frodo every joy, but when her courses came, sadness came with it, and the realization that she still did not carry her beloved’s child only served to accentuate her wretchedness.
Her lover’s warm and gentle hands caressed her, and a new promise took root in her heart and blossomed. She would be thankful for every moment of every day, no matter what it brought. Ilúvatar had seen fit to bless her with the only soul with whom she desired to share her life and love. She would show her appreciation by finding joy in each turn of their lives. How could she not, married to Frodo?
Lily raised herself up enough to kiss her husband’s breast softly. She caressed and tasted his skin lightly until she felt him fully awaken. A deep shiver raced through her when she heard him murmur her name, sleep-roughened and satisfied. Then she felt his arms tighten about her, shifting her atop him. She reveled in the liberty he allowed her to please him, nurturing a boldness she never imagined she possessed. And exhilaration rushed through her when she sensed his agonizing need to take control, but still he waited, waited until she could no longer deny him. It was a pleasure all its own, to surrender to his needs, for experience assured her he would not seek his own until he was certain of hers. Then there was only Frodo.
Frodo’s thoughts scattered, the memory of that week slipping back into the past as his lover caressed him now, her soft questing fingers evoking pleasure so profound it required several moments for him to realize she was awake. Powerful trembling rippled through him. Since their time in Pincup, his Lily’s attentions had markedly intensified. He could not deny his own deepening need to match her passion, in every aspect of their lives.
Hal and Daisy and Pearl were expected today, to celebrate the day of Lily’s birth. A letter had arrived from Deephallow four days past, apprising Lily and Frodo of the family’s plan to take several days to make the journey, to ensure Pearl would not be tired out. They had discovered in September, when they attended Will and Bell’s wedding, that long days were too difficult on their little one. And with such a sedate pace, they should arrive later in the morning.
On a shuddering breath, Frodo ceased worrying about the coming day and gave himself over to Lily’s enticing, unspoken request. There would be more than enough time for sleep, later.
The morning was spent in comfortable companionship, and back in bed, more than once, Frodo chuckled to himself. As he and Lily finished the preparations before the arrival of their guests, his wife periodically slipped into the greatroom to gaze out the window, searching the distance in anticipation. The only way to distract her was... well, distracting for both them, pleasantly so.
Frodo spun around in the kitchen toward the greatroom at the sound of Lily’s gasp. A warm grin spread across his face as he watched her dash for the front door. His heart tightened at the sight of her radiant smile for him, when she paused, her hand on the brass knob.
“They’re here, Frodo! They’re here!”
“Go!” He laughed, and she flew out the door.
Frodo stood quietly, an indescribable joy filling his breast. He listened to the excited greetings between Lily and her sister, followed by a shrill yet unintelligible call, announcing Pearl’s welcome. He could wait no longer and swiftly made his way to the front door to welcome their guests, their family.
He stopped on the top step, and his grin broadened. Daisy, Hal and Pearl were all cloaked against the cold, but his Lily had forgotten hers in her excitement. He slipped on his own cloak, and took Lily’s from its hook by the door. Daisy still had an arm around Lily, who was holding Pearl in her arms, and Hal was removing baggage from the cart.
Frodo slowly descended the steps, watching in amusement as Pearl pressed open-mouth kisses against Lily’s cheek, over and over again. He chuckled, and the babe abruptly turned his direction. Then a high-pitched shriek filled the morning air.
“Foh-doh!! Foh-doh!! Foh-doh!!”
Lily’s eyes widened in surprise, glancing from Pearl and meeting Frodo’s similar expression. Everyone laughed as Pearl nearly bounced out of Lily’s arms, eager to reach the hobbit wrapping a cloak round his wife’s shoulders. Then Lily helped Pearl into Frodo’s arms, where the babe began to kiss his cheek, open-mouthed as she had Lily, and continued to chant her version of his name, between each wet kiss.
Hal stepped up beside Daisy, chortling. “Don’t ask me how, for I couldn’t tell you, your name became her favourite word the day we left Deephallow.”
Daisy giggled. “Aye! And why our setting out put her in mind of you, I’m sure I don’t know.”
Hal gazed pointedly at Frodo. “Lucky for you, she learnt ‘Da’ first!”
Daisy biffed her husband on the shoulder. “She learnt ‘Mum’ first, and you know it!”
“Daisy, darlin’, that sound she makes is not your name; she’s eating! And she’s been doin’ that since the day she was born.”
“Exactly, Hal, dear. She knew me right off.”
Hal blinked, wide-eyed, then roared with laughter. He shook his head. “I know when I’m beat, Daisy-darlin’.” Then his gaze turned tender. “I knew soon as I saw you--” He blushed, and turned his attention to Frodo and Lily. “Sure and certain, hardly an hour’s gone by that she hasn’t chanted your name, though we can make it a tad longer of o’ stretch if we’re careful what we say. It can be a bit aggravating when we slip and forget. I mean, we can’t even mention Lily’s name--”
“Foh-doh! Foh-doh! Foh-doh!!”
They all laughed, and Hal continued over the din, “Without her going into alt all over again!”
“Pearl-my-wee-lass,” Daisy reached for her daughter, “come with Mum and Auntie Li-- Auntie. I’m thinking you need your nappy changed or something.” Daisy chuckled.
Frodo eased the babe into her mother’s arms. At the child’s worried look, he chortled. “Not to worry Miss Pearl, I’m going to help your da while you freshen up a bit. And your auntie will not be deserting you so soon.” Frodo kissed Lily’s cheek, and turned his attention to helping Hal gather the baggage.
“No, indeed,” Lily giggled, and captured the little hobbit’s wrinkled-nose gaze. “Luncheon will be soon, and your Uncle Will and Auntie Bell are coming to share it with us, too.”
“Good!” Daisy chortled. “Hear that, Hal? You’re to be fed soon, so you can stop fretting about that ache in your middle.”
Hal rolled his eyes at his wife’s smirk. “I’d not be complaining if that wee lass of yours had allowed us to eat earlier. But no, she fussed anytime I slowed the cart. Just because her meals are so handy...” He raised his brows, then gave a satisfied snort when his wife blushed.
Lily hid her smile behind a cough, then shepherded her sister and niece into the smial. Despite Pearl’s frequent interruptions and desire for attention, they were able to finish the preparations for luncheon in good time.
Frodo and Hal took care of settling baggage and turning the pony and cart over to the livery in Hobbiton. Their conversation was amicable and encompassed the conditions and happenings of both shires.
Sam and Rosie caught up to Hal and Frodo on their return to Bag End. Frodo opened the rounded door and swept a low bow to welcome his family and friends. He paused before following and glanced back toward Hobbiton, and smiled. Will and Bell were crossing the bridge.
Frodo welcomed the newest married couple of the group.
Will and Bell beamed, and Frodo wondered at the bloom in Bell’s cheeks. They greeted the other two couples and Lily. Frodo followed them into the greatroom, and before anyone could sit down, Will cleared his throat.
“Bell may have me by the scruff for saying anything without consulting her first, but her family knows, so by my way of thinking it’s all right if my family knows, too.” He paused only long enough for a quick glance at his wife, and a deep breath. Noting her warm smile, his grin split his face. “Bell is increasing. Two months already. ‘Afore you know it, we’ll have a whole brood filling the place,” he boasted.
Daisy, Rosie and Lily gathered around Bell exclaiming happily, while Hal, Sam and Frodo congratulated Will, with Hal and Sam giving Will knowing looks and broad winks.
Discomfort seeped through Frodo, though he was careful to hide it. His gaze wandered to where Lily was chatting eagerly, laughing at Bell’s excitement and radiant confidence. An unpleasant thought wheedled its way into his mind. What if it was not Lily who could not carry a child, but he himself who could not sire one?
He reflected on all he had endured. Things Sam had not. Might the Ring have affected him in such a manner? He had carried it so long. What of the drink poured down his throat by the orcs? Or what of Shelob’s sting?
Frodo struggled to tuck away the gloomy thoughts in the back of his mind. He knew if he did not, Lily would sense his mood, and he did not want her day shadowed. His heart whispered it would be difficult enough for her to know her sister-in-law was now increasing, as happy as she was for her; best not to let on to his own troubles. He was careful to give Lily an encouraging smile every time her glance strayed to him.
He could not help but wonder if perhaps Ilúvatar only gave so many blessings, and he and Lily had been blessed beyond measure. Were they wrong to want more?
The memory of Gandalf’s promise, the day he and Lily wed, wrapped itself around his heart, as clear as if he had heard it only yesterday. Surely Gandalf would not have promised children if Ilúvatar had not intended such a blessing for them? Frodo clung to the thought.
Lily instantly sensed the uneasiness in Frodo, and wondered if he were disappointed; or was he only worried for her? The mere thought of him being dissatisfied with her -- with the possibility that she might truly be barren -- was almost more than she could endure, yet how could she blame him? A part of her was crestfallen by the joy surrounding her.
With an effort, she endeavored to hold to her promise, to be grateful for every moment, and yet try as she might, she could not deny her own apprehension. Will and Bell had conceived immediately. She and Frodo were now married seven months, yet still she did not carry his child within her.
Lily took a deep breath, then re-entered the chattering fray of the talk of new babies to come. Even little Pearl chimed in, cooing in the midst of so much excitement.