Frodo paced the small room most of the night. Even his writing no longer distracted him. Thoughts of Lily consumed him, crowding his mind. Frodo wondered how one person could contain so much love. He knew she would be worried, and prayed for peace for her. Let her know I’m safe, and please, let her be well and safe, too.
By early morning, Frodo could no longer bear the sight of the four close walls and the single empty bed in the corner. He was grateful to find the common room empty. Wandering to the window, he stood gazing out at the moonlit snowy landscape in the direction of Bag End. The snowflakes continued to fall. Keeping his right hand in his pocket, he reached out his left and touched the cold pane. He pulled his hand back when he felt the presence of someone at his shoulder.
Fred spoke softly, “No need to worry, Frodo. All’s right and tight, I’m certain.”
Frodo answered him with nothing but a heartfelt sigh.
“You miss your lady that much?” The proprietor didn’t know why he used the formal title, but somehow it seemed right. He also knew he spoke out of line, but could not seem to stop himself.
Frodo nodded and bit his lip.
The stout hobbit felt speechless, unheard of for an innkeeper or a barkeep; and he was both. Yet he was touched beyond words by the longing he glimpsed in the startling blue eyes. Perhaps a bit of distraction would help...
“I remember back fifty years ago, almost as if it were yesterday, to a storm not unlike this one.”
Frodo smiled. “It was forty years ago. I remember it, too.”
Fred raised his brows in surprise, then grinned. “You’re right; it was forty years ago...”
They fell into talk of the Shire for the better part of the morning, with the innkeeper seeing to his guests between conversations. Frodo spent the remainder of the day alternately talking with Fred and writing. By evening, he was convinced he knew almost everything there was to know about practically everyone in Bywater and Hobbiton, as well as Longbottom, where Fred had been born and grown up.
Frodo was not looking forward to another night like the previous one, but the weather gave him no other choice. The snow rolled out, and just as he thought he might be able to head home, it rolled back in again, a flurry of white flakes buffeting the windowpanes of the inn.
27 January 1421sr
Morning brought a sigh of relief from most of those who had been trapped at the Green Dragon. The snow had petered out sometime after the setting of the Sun, and Its rising unveiled a stark blue, cloudless sky. By elevensies, the snow was starting to melt off a bit and though the inhabitants of Bywater were reluctant to move about, the children were delighted to be out and playing. Many of the visitors to the inn decided to wait one more day before heading off on their separate ways, but Frodo would wait no longer.
He was grateful to Lily; she always saw to it that he had extra coins in his coat pocket. It was just the sort of thing he was no good at remembering. He was able to settle his bill with Fred before heading home to Bag End. Fred offered to hold on to his writings until Frodo could return with a satchel to carry them home. Frodo shook Fred’s hand and thanked him for his kindness, then headed for home.
For the rest of the afternoon, Fred went about taking care of his patrons, reflecting on his last glimpse of the Master of Bag End. He could not shake from his mind the light he had seen burning brightly in Frodo’s eyes as he set off up the Bywater Road to Hobbiton.
Frodo finally made his way home in the late afternoon. He trudged up the lane, his feet and lower legs numb, and had only just stepped inside the gate when he saw the rounded green door burst open.
Lily flew down the steps and straight into his open arms, sobbing.
Frodo wrapped his arms tightly around his lover and buried his face in her hair, then breathed deeply of her. The honeysuckle and her unique scent washed through him. Warm tears dampened his neck. He drew back his head only enough to look into her eyes, which were pools of tears, her body quivered from the weeping that would not stop.
She choked out in a whisper, “Oh, Frodo! I was so worried, and -- I -- I -- missed you so. These days without you--” she hiccupped and swallowed hard. “I -- I realized my other fears no longer signify. You have told me again and again that you are not disappointed in me, and I think I understand now. It doesn’t matter if we have any children or not... not that we don’t want them, I know. But the children of Bywater are always welcome, and Hobbiton, too. All that matters, in all the world, is that I have you.”
Before he could answer, Lily covered his mouth with her own, uncaring of any prying eyes. Frodo at first returned the kiss in all its intensity. Gradually, he tried to break away, but Lily would not; instead, she deepened her impassioned embrace.
Frodo’s breathing became increasingly uneven, matching Lily’s own. She buried her fingers more deeply into his curls, and he allowed his left hand to slide down her back, pressing her closer. Her wordless sounds blended with his own. He gave up trying to disentangle himself, and gave himself over his wife’s desires.
Gradually, he slid his hand farther down Lily’s hip to her thigh, then shifted his position slightly. Her mouth clung to his, her body following him, until he managed to slip his hand down to her knees.
Lily reluctantly ended the kiss, only to trail more caresses along his jaw to his ear. At her lover’s sharp intake of breath, she smiled at him, tears still glistening on her cheeks. He lifted her in one movement, cradling her against his chest.
Frodo was glad for knowing the uneven flagstone leading up to Bag End so well. He carried Lily into their home, closing the door with his foot. Then he began to kiss away her tears.
Lily kept one hand wrapped around her husband’s neck and caressed his face with her other. She drank in every feature, finally looking into his eyes. Suddenly she noticed how red his nose and cheeks were. She kissed his nose and felt how chilled it was.
“Oh, Frodo, you are as cold as the snow.”
Frodo smiled for her. His voice was rough with unspoken emotion, “Not for much longer.”
Lily blushed and buried her face in his neck once more. She breathed in deeply the scent of him and again looked into his eyes. “Put me down, my love, and let’s get you warmed up.”
Frodo grinned, and kissed her swiftly before he eased her to her feet. He continued to hold her, searching her eyes, hungry for the sight of her. Then he gave her another lingering kiss before releasing her.
Lily helped him off with his cloak, then grasped his hand and led him into the greatroom, sitting him in the chair closest to the fire. She hurried into the kitchen, where she had just made a fresh pot of tea. Filling a mug, she brought it back to Frodo, pressing it into his icy hands. While he sipped at it, she filled two bowls with warm water, crushed an athelas leaf into each, and set first one, then the other, between his chair and the fire, along with a kettle of hot water. She then fetched a washing cloth and towels.
After building up the fire, Lily sat at Frodo’s feet. Lifting first one foot and then the other, she set them gently into the warm water. The groan of pleasure this elicited made her smile. With the cloth, she tenderly rubbed at each foot, removing the dirt and little balls of snow that had collected in the hair. When she was certain she had cleaned his feet thoroughly, she removed them from the dirty water, placing them on a towel only long enough to move the washing bowl out of the way. She replaced it with the other bowl partially filled with clean water and kept warm by the fire.
As she lifted his feet to place them in the clean water, Frodo started.
“Lily, it’s enough. You don’t--”
“Shhh...” She smiled up at him. “Frodo-love, I want to.” Her smile deepened when he relaxed back into the chair without argument.
Frodo sighed contentedly, and closed his eyes.
Lily began massaging first one leg and then the other, starting where his breeches stopped mid-calf. She kneaded and rubbed, and occasionally added hot water from the kettle. Gradually, she worked her way down first one leg and then the other to his ankles. Then she pressed and circled and caressed each foot in turn, all the way down to his toes. She finished by combing the hair atop his feet with her fingers and running her hands lightly over him. Finally, she eased his feet from the water and placed them on a clean, dry towel, and patted them dry.
For several moments she held very still, gazing up at her husband, basking in having him near. She kept her voice soft when she spoke. “Would you like something to eat, dear heart?”
Frodo kept his eyes closed, and slowly shook his head.
Lily noted for the first time the shadows under his eyes. Her heart tightened. She stood, and reached over to kiss his brow.
“Frodo, dearest, come.”
Frodo sighed heavily, and opened his eyes.
“Lily, you are so beautiful...”
Lily blushed and held out her hand to him.
He clasped it, and she pulled him out of the chair. He wrapped his arms around her again, holding her tightly.
“It’s so wonderful to be home.” His voice held a deep ache.
Lily whispered, “As much as I love Bag End, it’s only home with you in it.”
Frodo pulled back and gazed into eyes that were brimming again with tears. Keeping one arm wrapped around her, he reached up with his other hand and tenderly cupped her cheek. He slowly lowered his head, letting his lips gently caress hers. Was the salt he tasted her tears or his own?
With great reluctance, Lily disengaged herself from the warmth of his embrace. She found that she actually needed to stand still for a moment; she was dizzy from his kiss. She led him by the hand to their bedroom, where she handed him a nightshirt.
“Dearest Lily -- it’s late afternoon, not night.”
“...and you look like you haven’t slept the last two.”
“I haven’t. Have you?”
Lily nodded. “I have, though not well... But I felt nearer to you in your nightshirt, and on your side of the bed.” She blushed. “Now, in bed with you, love.”
“To sleep!” Lily returned the smile. “I expect you to make up to me the past two nights, later.”
Frodo drew her into his arms, and kissed her tenderly. He noted for the first time the weariness in his wife’s eyes. I know she would give me whatever I ask. He smiled weakly, and released her with a sigh.
He began to slip his coat off as quickly as he could, but only got one of his arms free before suddenly wincing at how stiff he felt. He finished the task much more gingerly.
Lily saw him struggling and hurried to his side. She helped him to undress almost as if he were a child. Then she slipped his nightshirt over his head and helped him ease his arms into the sleeves, finally buttoning it for him. She walked him to their bed, and pulled back the blankets.
Frodo crawled gratefully under the covers, and settled into his pillow while Lily drew the comforter up to his chin, kissing his forehead softly. He blinked sleepily, and gazed up at Lily. “Would you keep me company for a little while?” His voice hitched. “I’ve missed you so...”
A tender smile touched Lily’s face. She slipped into the bed next to him and pulled him into her arms, cradling him against her heart.
Frodo shifted slightly to get more comfortable, and whispered, “Beloved.”
Lily kissed his chestnut locks; within moments she noted his even breathing. She smiled and relaxed, feeling completely at peace. Gratitude welled up within her, and her prayer rose with it. Thank you, Ilúvatar, for bringing him home safe to me.
Lily napped with Frodo, but woke before dinner. Upon first awakening, she struggled to understand why breathing was more difficult; then she recognized Frodo’s weight and sighed and reveled in the feel of him almost covering her. As hunger edged into her own awareness, she decided to let Frodo sleep on; she knew he would not really miss the meal. With stealthy care, she slipped out from under him and gently touched his cheek when he stirred, grateful he settled quietly.
In the kitchen, Lily could not keep from humming to herself. She felt more peaceful now than she had since the storm blew in. After she ate her dinner, she prepared a light supper; something that would keep, and would not need to be eaten right away.
She carried the prepared tray back to the bedroom and placed it on the end table. Then she readied herself for bed. After banking the fire for the night, she slid back under the covers.
A warm shiver rippled through Lily when Frodo reached for her in his sleep, and once again he used her as a pillow. Glad she was that she felt awake enough to enjoy simply holding him and looking at him in the glow of the fire. She had not lit any candles, letting the fire in the grate be the only illumination in the room. His arms were wrapped around her waist, and his head nestled against her breast. She wrapped one arm around his shoulders and with her other hand she lightly touched him, to reassure herself he was truly home and cradled to her heart. A contented sigh escaped her.
Frodo slept well past supper. Lily was glad when he finally began to stir; her hunger was becoming difficult to ignore. She helped ease him awake with soft kisses.
With his eyes only partly open, Frodo smiled up at Lily and then nestled closer to her and murmured, “I love the feel of my nightshirt on you.”
Lily softly giggled. “So do I.” She shifted to help him sit up against the pillows.
He rubbed his eyes with his fists and shook his head, trying to clear it. He sighed, “Lily, I have missed you so much. All I’ve wanted for the last few days is to be able to gaze upon you, and now I seem quite unable to even keep my eyes open.”
A smile spread across Lily’s face. “It’s all right, love. Time enough for that later.” She blushed lightly, and cleared her throat. “There’s some supper here for you, and it should help set you a bit more to rights.”
Frodo looked at her and sighed, and then saw the tray, obviously laden with their supper including a bottle of small ale. He smiled and wondered aloud, “Have Sam and Rosie been by?”
Lily laughed. “No, dearest, it’s just a bit of supper I prepared while you slept.”
Frodo leaned back against the pillows and closed his eyes a moment longer. He gave his head one more shake, and blinked his eyes wide. A smile tugged at his lips as he noticed her nightshirt was a slightly paler shade of blue than the one he was wearing; it was the one he’d dressed her in on their way to Rivendell, the first of several that somehow vanished from his wardrobe and made its way into hers. Then he sat up, cross-legged, next to her and smoothed the covers. He reached over and pulled the tray of food in front of them onto the bed.
Lily uncorked the small ale and poured a mug for each of them, and made sure Frodo ate the bread and cheese and some of the fruit. He was already nodding off again. She had him move what was left of the food back to the end table; they could nibble on it in the morning. Then she helped him settle in for the night, cuddled against her.
He mumbled against her shoulder, “I still need to make up for the last two nights.” He tightened his hold on her.
Lily smiled and kissed his brow. “I don’t imagine we’ll have to worry about company tomorrow. That will be soon enough, beloved.”
She felt him nod his head against her. He took in another deep breath, letting it out slowly. Lily was surprised by the tear that sprang to her eye as his breathing slowed and deepened once more. She carefully refrained from tightening her embrace, but could not hold back the soft kisses to his warm chestnut hair.
Lily lay awake, enjoying the sound of Frodo’s even breathing. She inhaled deeply the scent of him. Her eyes caressed his face, noting his cheeks and nose were no longer red, as her fingers lightly played with the curls at the nape of his neck. Her breathing quickened as she remembered the taste of their kisses. How she had missed him!
Frodo stirred. Lily took in a few steadying breaths to relax and nestled deeper into the pillows, finally drifting into sleep.
28 January 1421sr
They awoke wrapped in each other’s arms. The first thing that came to their minds was to start the day with a prayer, and they thanked their Creator with all their hearts; it felt good to give thanks.
The day they spent reminded them both of their first weeks of marriage, but it was sweeter now with the addition of recent experience; to the breadth of their love was added depth. They wondered if it simply went on like this forever, and decided, with smiles and tender words, that it must.
29 January 1421sr
Frodo awoke first. He took a moment to revel in Lily’s warmth against him and again offered a prayer of thanks for her. He thought back over the last few days. Yesterday, he had told her of his long conversations with Fred, but had not yet mentioned the writing. Every time he thought to tell her, she would offer some new caress, and he would lose himself in her all over again. He smiled to himself, knowing he had distracted her on several occasions as well.
He mulled over the decision he had made during their separation. He needed to tell her, but perhaps he should wait? He struggled to decide. Would she accept what he had decided? Perhaps he should have asked her first, but would that change anything? He did not want her to feel unhappy or believe he was trying to rush her.
What nonsense, he chastised himself. Of course she would not think any of those things. But what if she felt he was disappointed; he knew how much she worried about that. She had reminded him of it upon his return home. He then remembered her declaration and assurances. No, she would understand, he was certain... almost...
Lily stirred, and Frodo could not help but think his own thoughts were the cause of it. She was ever aware of him. Her deep sigh told him she was awake.
She whispered to herself, but loud enough for him to hear, “Thank you, Ilúvatar, for bringing him home.” Then she tenderly kissed the scar on his shoulder.
Frodo trembled. His previous thoughts, all the things he had meant to say to her, vanished. He found comfort again, in each embrace and caress, and offered comfort in return, more than satisfied with the effort.
The fire in their room needed fuel, or it would go out. Frodo rose to tend it. At the same time, Lily prepared their breakfast, bringing it back to the bedroom, where the room was already warm. They both tucked in hungrily.
Once their edge of hunger had eased, Frodo became more contemplative. He hesitated, and then decided to brave it.
“I’m going to finish the Red Book, and turn it over to Sam.”
Lily endeavored to hide her disappointment. “But you read from it to me.”
Frodo knew it had meant a lot to her, but only in this moment how much. He almost changed his mind, but then prayed all would work out well. “While I was at the inn, I did a little writing -- actually, a lot of writing.”
Lily swallowed the sadness, and smiled. “And a lot of listening.”
Frodo laughed. “Yes, a lot of listening, but a lot of thinking as well...” He grew more serious. “I’ve started another book.”
“Remember in Bree...”
A smile crept across Lily’s mouth and into her eyes. She let her hand trail lightly across his. “Yes.”
Frodo’s eyes danced as he reached for her.
She went to him willingly, everything else forgotten.
Lily lay contentedly in Frodo’s arms, her head on his chest and an arm draped across his waist. Frodo kissed her hair. She sighed and nestled closer to him; his arms tightened around her.
“Frodo, tell me about this other book.”
Lily smiled to herself as Frodo began to lightly trace patterns on the smooth whiteness of her shoulder with his index finger. Almost as though he is writing, she mused.
“In Bree, you mentioned sharing my stories with our children.”
Lily nodded against his breast and tightened her hold on him. She loved the way ‘our children’ sounded coming from his lips.
“I decided to write the stories down.”
“But isn’t that what you’re doing in the Red Book?”
“Yes,” he drew out the word, gathering his thoughts. “But I don’t want the little ones reading some of those things. They may read the Red Book when they’re older. This new book will have shorter versions of many of the stories. But more importantly, it will start with the story of Eärendil.”
Lily lifted herself up on one elbow so she could look Frodo full in the eyes.
Frodo was relieved and pleased to see the wonder in her face.
Her voice now held a trace of excitement. “How much have you written?”
“Much of the story of Eärendil. The others will take more time.”
Lily drew her brows together in consternation. “I don’t seem to remember seeing any papers...” She smiled sheepishly. “But then I wasn’t exactly looking for any.”
A deep chuckle rumbled in Frodo’s chest. “I left the pages at the inn. I was afraid they might get wet... or crushed. Fred is holding them for me.”
“Very wise of you, dearest, all things considered...” Lily’s eyes sparkled.
Frodo lowered his eyes. “I was afraid... I didn’t want... I wasn’t sure... I hoped...”
Lily tightened her arm around his waist and caressed his face with her hand, one finger pushing back the curls on his forehead. Her voice entreated, “What, love? What is it?”
“I worried that you might not want to hear about it.”
Lily kissed him lightly, and he pulled her close again.
“Why wouldn’t I want to hear about it?”
Frodo hesitated, then took a deep breath and continued, “It’s for our children...”
Lily suddenly understood. She pulled back a little to look into his eyes again. “Frodo, I’ve had a lot of time to think as well, these past few days. Bag End was meant to have children in it, but I realize now it doesn’t mean they must be born here. You weren’t, and yet you most certainly belong in this place. Besides, I love to listen to you talk about our children. It warms my heart, and gives me hope. And I’ve so enjoyed entertaining Hob and Andy and hearing you tell them stories...”
Slowly, she lowered her head again and trailed kisses from his ear to his mouth. Then she softly caressed his lips with her own.
Frodo’s hold tightened, and his eyes closed blissfully as she deepened their kiss. As his body came to life yet again, he ended their kiss and opened his eyes. He saw for a brief moment the painted gold-green leaf-pattern above them. Then his vision blurred, and he saw only Lily, and knew only her.