After second breakfast, Sam was still reluctant to knock on the Baggins’ door. He had not seen a sign of either one yet this morning. He picked at this and that in the front garden, trying to decide what to do. The decision was taken from him when Frodo opened the door.
“Sam! Come in! Come in! Don’t stand about out there; folk’ll begin to talk.” Frodo laughed at the startled expression on Sam’s face. “Lily saw you through the window, and suggested I let you in before you wear down the front steps.”
Sam blushed and ducked in, greeted with a gentle pat on the back as he stepped through the doorway.
Lily presented him with a plate of warm bread and jam.
Sam made himself comfortable in a chair in the greatroom in front of the fire. Lily stepped easily into Frodo’s waiting arms, and they settled on the settee. The two shared warm smiles while Sam made short work of the chunk of bread slathered with jam.
Frodo smiled as his friend sighed and leaned back in his chair. “So, Sam what is it you needed to say to me this morning that it should have you pacing on my doorstep?”
Sam was uncertain how to approach the subject, delicate as it was.
Frodo studied his friend. From the look on Sam’s face, this might take a while.
Still, Sam did not speak. Finally, Lily leaned forward and smiled invitingly. “It’s all right, Sam, just say it.” She nodded encouragingly to him.
Sam returned the smile uncertainly, first at Lily and then at Frodo. “Yesterday afternoon, you had a visitor, Frodo.”
The couple exchanged questioning glances, then Frodo asked, “Who?”
“A lad from the village. He was looking for Mr. Baggins.”
Again, Frodo and Lily looked at each other, both wondering why this should cause their friend’s troubled countenance.
“The mystery deepens,” murmured Lily.
More than a little curious, Frodo decided to take a different approach. “Sam, am I to ask but a single question for each forthcoming detail or are you going to put us out of our misery and simply tell us what this is all about? Or are you mayhap hoping to stretch this out into an invitation to elevensies? If that is the case, we’ll save you the trouble; you’re invited. Now, out with it.” The twinkle in Frodo’s eyes was unmistakable and belied his mock-harsh tone.
Sam visibly jumped and blushed all the same. “No, I weren’t hunting for no invite to eat...”
Frodo’s voice softened. “My dear friend, in truth, I am well aware of that. Please, it’s all right. It’ll be easier on all of us if you simply up and out with it, whatever it is.”
Sam nodded. “One of the lads from the village overheard what was said in the market.” Sam glanced at Lily. “I’m sorry to bring it up, but it’s what brought the lad here.”
Lily lowered her eyes as pain swiftly crossed her face. Frodo’s heart clenched. It eased when Lily grasped his hand and pulled it into her lap, where she interlaced her fingers with his. She kept her focus there, on their hands. He gently squeezed Lily’s hand, and was relieved when she returned the pressure and looked up into his eyes. Her own were clear again, and she offered him a loving smile. He nodded his head to her, and turned back to Sam.
Sam watched the exchange in silence and awe. He had always been grateful that Lily had become a part of Frodo’s life. Suddenly he felt a deep gratitude that his master was a part of hers. He tried to explain it to himself. All he could think of were Rosie’s words: ‘They fit.’
When they were both looking at him again he continued, deciding to leave some parts out. “He wants to hear stories of your adventures.”
Frodo sat back in surprise. “He wants to hear what?”
“Stories about your adventures. I told him you’d be home today and might be of a mind to share a tale or two.” Sam smiled, hoping Frodo did not mind.
“I don’t know, Sam. I still prefer not to think on those times.”
Lily saw the concern grow in Sam’s eyes and spoke up. “Frodo, you need not share the stories of the Quest. Tell the child Bilbo’s tales. You know those as well as if they were your own.”
Sam’s face reflected the relief he felt at Lily’s intervention. Frodo’s face was skeptical.
“Frodo, dearest,” she went on, “Uncle Bilbo’s stories have not been heard in the Shire for nearly 20 years, except for the birthday party disappearing story. The children in the Shire now will know nothing of Smaug, or the dwarves, or of the stone trolls.” Her heart beat a little faster, and she squeezed his hand.
Frodo gazed into her eyes. “I’m not sure I am able to bring myself to tell the stone trolls story now.” He smiled warmly and tightened his hand over hers in response.
Sam looked at them, confused. “Why can’t you tell the stone trolls story?”
Frodo held Lily’s eyes with his own. “There are so many other memories that surround it now.”
Lily blushed softly.
Sam asked, “What memories... oh.” It was Sam’s turn to blush.
Frodo turned a warm smile to his friend. “Sorry, Sam. Are you still interested in elevensies?”
Sam perked up visibly. “If’n it’s Lily cooking, always!”
Frodo laughed, “Lily, I think I’ve just been insulted.”
Lily smiled sweetly. “Sam does not know you have been taking lessons, dearest.”
Now Frodo blushed.
“Frodo! She’s been teaching you to cook?”
“Yes, Sam, is that so hard to believe?”
“Well, no, it’s just you never seemed to have the inclination, beggin’ your pardon,” he grinned.
“I never had the right offer, my dear Sam.”
Frodo smiled again at his wife.
Lily got up from her place next to Frodo and gently pressed him back into his chair as he made to get up with her.
“Stay and chat with Sam. I’ll not need your help this morning.” She glanced at Sam. “What of Rosie?”
“She’s in Bywater visiting her mother, and’ll not be back ‘afore tea, if that soon.”
“Then mayhap, Sam, you will fill in, for Frodo, a bit more on our guest? For instance -- when he is coming?” Lily smiled at them both and left the room.
Frodo’s eyes followed her out of the room. He shook himself from his reverie and turned his attention back to his friend.
“Sam, tell me everything.”
Sam laughed. He rehearsed the previous day’s conversation, choosing to omit nothing now that Lily was not in the room. He knew Frodo would want to hear it all, and would appreciate the lad’s take on the market place incident.
He was right. Frodo laughed out loud, immediately warming to the idea of the child coming to visit.
“So, Sam, he is hoping I’m without airs. I think I can oblige. When may we expect him?”
“I believe sometime this afternoon.”
The two fell into talk about when the garden would need to be roused; not for a month or two yet. Lily called them for elevensies, and the three of them passed the meal pleasantly with idle chatter.
Sam kept an eye out while Frodo and Lily prepared for their young guest. Frodo made sure the greatroom was ready, including having his map of the Lonely Mountain close at hand. Lily made up a fresh batch of biscuits and small cakes.
Sam joined them for luncheon as well.
Shortly after they’d finished their meal a timid knock was heard at the door. All three froze, but only for a moment.
Lily laughed and rolled her eyes at the absurdity of the situation, and left the table. “It’s only one small lad. I think we can manage that much, at least.”
She opened the door with a warm greeting and found not one but two small lads, obviously brothers, for one was older than the other, and they looked very much alike.
The younger of the two, perhaps only four, gazed up at her in wonder. “You pretty.” His brother sharply ribbed him.
Lily smiled warmly, and her cheeks were tinged with pink. “Thank you, kind sir. And who, may I ask, do have I the pleasure of addressing?”
The oldest, who seemed about six, made the introductions. “I’m Hob Mugwort. I’m seven... well, I’ll be seven in four weeks and two days. And this is my little brother Andy. He’s four, a fortnight back.”
“Goodness, such handsome young lads you are. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Hob and Andy. I’m Mistress Baggins. Would you like to come in? My husband is expecting you.”
Two pairs of eyes widened and looked at each other, then back at the mistress of Bag End.
She bent down to their level. “It’s all right. Mr. Gamgee alerted us you were coming.” She smiled reassuringly and ushered the lads inside to the greatroom, where Frodo greeted them.
“Good afternoon, gentlehobbits! Welcome to Bag End. If I’m not mistaken, we have met before.”
Two pairs of eyes widened.
“Yes, I believe it was almost a year ago, at the Battle Gardens, was it not?” Frodo raised his brows, then noted the recognition on the two small faces.
“I remember,” declared Hob. “But Andy’s too little to remember.”
“I ‘member,” the younger brother declared indignantly.
Frodo felt his lips twitch, but managed to remain somber. “You’re a long way from Bywater...”
Hob squared his little shoulders confidently. “There’s always someone goin’ from one place t’other, and mostly they don’t mind us hoppin’ on the cart.”
Frodo nodded at this sage comment, and carefully suppressed another smile. “Now, I understand you are here on most important business.”
Two small faces gawked at their host, and then glanced at each other from the corners of their eyes.
Frodo had thought about holding out his hand to shake theirs, but decided he would wait on that. They had noticed the missing finger when they met the first time, and he did not want to draw attention to it, again. He was not ready to relate that particular story yet. Instead he escorted them to chairs situated across from his own, and sat down facing them.
“I understand you’ve been looking for me. It’s been a fair while since I’ve been hunted by anyone...” Frodo paused and peered closer at the lads before he continued, “...or any thing.”
If it were possible, the lads’ eyes grew even wider.
Lily had slipped quietly aside to a position where she could watch the children and Frodo without being noticed. At Frodo’s mysterious introduction, she started to worry that he would remember just how unpleasant that hunt had been. Instead, he seemed immersed in the story, intent on ensuring his young guests’ enjoyment. His voice had changed to that of a storyteller, and Lily was as enchanted as the children.
“My dear friend, Mr. Gamgee, tells me you are searching for tales of adventure. Is this true?”
Mouths slightly agape, they nodded their heads.
Frodo began his first story. Following Lily’s counsel, he shared his Uncle Bilbo’s story, starting from the beginning. He had barely begun when Andy and then Hob slid from their chairs and onto the floor to sit cross-legged right in front of him, gazing at him in rapt attention.
Lily realized with surprise it was almost time for afternoon tea. She set up a tray and carried it into the greatroom just as Frodo finished telling about the Dwarves’ tale and Bilbo rushing out the door without his handkerchief. She paused in the archway, hating to break the spell.
Frodo spied her from the corner of his eye and smiled. Turning his full attention back to the children, he leaned towards them closer. “Adventuring is hungry work. Mistress Baggins knows this and has brought a spot of tea and cakes.”
He sat back in his chair and casually continued, “Unless you’re not interested, of course...”
The lads looked at each other, seemingly asking a silent question.
Andy spoke first, though hesitantly, “Yes... some... pease.”
His brother gave him a quick cuff. “It’s all right. We only came for the story.” He turned to his brother and whispered, “We promised not to make a nui -- nuis--” He sighed in exasperation. “Pests of ourself.”
Frodo did not expect this turn of events and glanced at Lily, who apparently had, for she sighed heavily.
“Whatever shall I do with all these biscuits and cakes?” She gave the lads a sorrowful look.
The children looked at each other, again, only momentarily debating the decision. Hob relented, “Well, if’n it’s no bother...”
Lily smiled. “It’s no bother. It’s already done, so you may as well enjoy them.”
Lily and Frodo shared a warm smile over the children’s heads as they each greedily took a biscuit. She poured tea first for Frodo and then handed a mug of milk to each child. Hardly a word was spoken as they hungrily ate their way through most of the biscuits and cakes. Lily was amazed that such little bodies could put away so much, so quickly.
Both children sighed in satisfaction. Hob glanced at Andy and announced solemnly, “We really ought to be gettin’ home now. Thank you for...” He waved his hands expansively. “For everythin’.”
Frodo’s smile reached his eyes. “You are both most welcome. Please, return any time you want to hear more of the adventure.”
This was obviously far more than the lads had expected. Their eyes were almost as big as when Frodo had told the tale.
Andy asked in a very small uncertain voice, “Can come back?”
Frodo blinked. “Of course you may come back. That’s only the beginning of the story, unless you don’t want to hear any more.”
Both lads spoke at once over each other. “Oh, yes!! Yes -- please -- pease -- we’d like to hear more -- come back, more. If’n that’s alright o’course -- a’right?”
Frodo smiled broadly, “If it’s all right with your mum, and your chores are done, you’re welcome any time, though you might want to give us a little warning so we know to expect you. We wouldn’t want to disappoint you by not being here because we were off adventuring somewhere.”
Again, two pairs of large eyes shared a brief glance, then turned their host’s steady gaze.
Hob asked, “Any time?”
Andy, obviously the less reserved of the two, asked, “‘Morrow?”
Hob elbowed his brother and loudly whispered to him, “That’s too soon. We don’t want ‘em gettin’ sick of us, do we?” He then turned his attention to Frodo and spoke in a more formal voice once more. “Could we come again the day after tomorrow?”
Frodo bit the inside of his lip to keep from laughing. Lily covered her mouth with her hand to stifle a giggle.
Frodo took in a deep breath, and tried once again to adopt a serious pose. “The day after tomorrow would be excellent, if it’s all right with your mum, of course.”
Both children hopped up excitedly, chorusing, “It will be! It will be!” and ran for the door.
Hob grabbed Andy by the arm to stop him before they turned the knob. He and his brother turned back to the bemused couple in the greatroom. “Thank you for having us.” He seemed to be trying to remember something. “Oh! We had a grand time. See you!” They dashed out the door, chattering excitedly at each other all the way down the lane.
Frodo and Lily watched them through the window until they were out of sight, then looked at each other and burst into fits of delighted laughter.
Lily turned to face Frodo, and put her hands on her hips. “Well, Mister Baggins, I think you have become their most favouritest hobbit.” She added mischievously, “Can I bear to share you?”
Frodo laughed, and blushed to his toes. He dropped his gaze and shuffled his feet, then glanced up again, searching Lily’s green-tinged hazel eyes. It was good to see her smile and laugh, almost as if all the events of yesterday had not happened. He smiled to himself when he remembered that only part of yesterday had been terrible. The rest of it -- he looked at Lily again. She was smiling along with him.
“I confess, Frodo; I don’t really want to share you, at least not any more today,” she murmured. With a soft sway to her hips, she went to him and slid her arms around his waist, lacing her fingers together against his back.
Lily was a little surprised by his immediate and intense response to her simple embrace. She didn’t mind, not at all... she was hardly able to breathe, but, then again, that suddenly wasn’t important... she returned each kiss willingly -- more than willingly, though a part of her couldn’t help wondering what this was all about.
Yesterday had been so wonderful, he remembered, as he sought her lips again and again. She had been too sad, too sad even to have any interest in him, for weeks... and yesterday she had made it up to him tenfold, without his even having to ask. And somehow she had even sensed his own misgivings about being the cause for their childless state, and had assuaged every doubt, for both of them.
He was surprised even now at his own response to what had been a simple touch. He had not realized how starved he had felt. There was really no other word for it, he thought, as he broke from a kiss and held her tightly against him. Simply holding her, this closely... yesterday afternoon had recalled to him how badly he needed her, and how much he wanted her. He could not imagine what he would do if he were to lose her; nor could he imagine how he had survived all those years without her love.
Somehow he knew it would be soon. He dared not tell her; on the off chance he might be wrong. He could not raise her hopes in such a manner. But he knew that in the next few weeks a child would be conceived, their child, and the thought of it made him love her all the more. It was a love that held within it a deeper joy, but one that he himself could not contain or hold in any way. He held her now simply to anchor himself to her calm reality. Her warmth told him she was real, and her breathing, unsteady as it was -- he smiled at the evidence of her desire -- also convinced him of it. He buried his face against her neck and breathed in her warm, soft scent, wanting to hold her even closer.
He remembered the dream he had had last night; one so vivid it awakened him. A child would be coming to them soon, a maidchild. He had looked at Lily then in the moonlight while she slept, and had wanted to wake her and tell her of his dream, but no... let her sleep. It would be his own happy secret. He could tell her about his dream after she told him that it had come true.
He also knew that once they had confirmation of it, for some reason unknown to him, there would be months and months of long waiting, far worse than the waiting during their betrothal. Then, they did not know what they were missing. Now they would know. They could not save up nine months or more of shared love. But still, if he could somehow love her more carefully than ever, pay more attention, memorize everything -- perhaps he would be able to endure it. He laughed. He would have to as there was no choice in the matter! He laughed again at his line of thought. Lily must be wondering...
“Frodo--” she could barely speak, caught up as she was in this moment and taken as she was by his sudden passion. With his arms wrapped around her, enfolding her fully against him, she was lost in the feel of him...
“Yes...” He laughed again and loosened his hold on her, but only a little.
“What’s this all about?” Her eyes were sparkling and edged all round with green.
“Nothing, only that I love you more than I ever have.”
His laugh and his answer seemed strangely at odds. She tried asking the question another way, as she endeavored to catch her breath. “Where is this coming from?”
“Why, from you, Lily, of course! You are the source of all the happiness I feel.” He laughed again and kissed her once, lightly.
“Are you quite all right?” She smiled, puzzled and happy at once.
“I’ve never been better; I was thinking about yesterday afternoon.” This was quite true. He did not need to tell her the rest.
“Oh, yes -- it had been rather a long time, hadn’t it?” Lily sighed and tightened her embrace. Things were falling into place now.
“Yes. You are more than worth the wait. You always have been, and you always shall be. Your eyes are green now, you know.”
“I’m sure they are!” She laughed up at him. “I don’t plan to make you wait for me if I can help it, ever, though you seem to have already planned for it yourself. What are you thinking?”
“It’s my secret.” He was pleased she had not guessed what he meant. “But if you’d like to try to get the answer out of me, we have the rest of the afternoon, and you may try all you like, but I’ll never tell. Well, not today, at least.” He laughed again, and kissed her very softly at the hollow of her throat.
Her eyes closed and her heart leapt up. Now he was kissing her neck, and she could hardly breathe well enough to talk. “I have missed you too, my dearest love. I give in... I want... to work... on getting... that secret... out of you.”
Finally, he stopped, so she could breathe. He held out his hand to her, and she took it, but they only managed a few steps toward the bedroom before he stopped and drew her into his arms again.
Frodo helped Lily clean up the tea things and prepare supper, having completely missed dinner. They chattered about the young guests they had entertained earlier in the day, each pleased with the part the other had played. They also made plans for the next visit.
“Lily, we should tell Sam everything turned out well in the end,” Frodo decided. He set the teakettle back onto its trivet at the kitchen hearth.
Lily dried her hands, and took off her apron. “Particularly since you had been so uncertain about the whole proposition.”
“Yes -- I really hadn’t dreamed it would be so delightful. I almost think we had more fun that they did! Are you all ready, then?”
Lily nodded, and they walked to the door to gather their cloaks. Frodo helped her, drawing her hood up over her hair, and as he brushed the curls back from her face and into the hood, he laughed.
“Lily, your hair is so lovely. The Lady Galadriel herself would be envious, I believe. You’ve so many curls here... I don’t think your cloak can contain them all anymore.”
Lily blushed, but now she spoke in the completely earnest and unaffected manner Frodo had come to love dearly.
“Should I pull it up so it’s out of the way, do you think?”
“Never, Lily; never.”
He continued to hold the edges of the hood as it framed her face, and gazed at her, all the sweet moments of their past two days together crowding his thoughts. When their eyes met and he saw the same feelings revealed in hers, he could not help himself; he bent to kiss her.
Lily placed her hands on his velvet coat and gently held the lapels, returning the kiss.
Before he knew it, he had pushed her hood back and slipped his fingers into her soft tresses. In response, she released his coat, as her fingers sought to caress the curls at his nape. Over all their months of wedded life she still had not tired of touching his hair, and knew she never would. Nor had she tired of looking at it, the rich chestnut color a wonder to her senses. He kissed her again, and again she returned it.
Speech had left them, and the only language that remained was their own, one they had learned patiently, each from the other, giving and receiving; a language that grew richer and more expressive with the passing of each new day.
They would go in search of Sam to tell him of their success later.