Frodo gazed out the greatroom window at the drizzling rain. He trembled slightly when he felt his wife’s arms slip about his waist from behind. She laid her cheek against his back, warming him, then tightened her hold.
His voice reflected the greyness of the day. “The lads’ll not make it in this weather, Lily-sweet.”
Without conscious thought, Frodo’s fingertips gently stroked the back of his wife’s hands. A smile spread across his face when he felt her shiver against him.
“No, love,” Lily murmured. “But if it clears, they’ll come to visit on the morrow.”
Frodo’s breath caught in his throat when Lily pressed herself fully against his back, head to toe. Her hands drifted down to his hips, then his thighs, and up again, skimming his abdomen that tightened under her touch, and his chest. He knew she could feel his heart pounding faster and harder, as well as his breath coming swifter and deeper. Then her hands slid down his body again.
“Lily?” Her name eked out on a sharply indrawn breath, sounding strangled.
He could hear the smile in her drawn-out, wordless question. His knees almost buckled. She knew exactly what she was doing and what it was doing to him. Satisfaction filled him, and a deep rumble in his chest escaped unchecked as his head fell back. Only for a little longer would he allow her to have her way with him.
But before he could turn the tables, she whispered, “Frodo, take me to bed.”
As quickly as that, he whipped around and lifted his giggling lover into his arms. He searched her eyes. The sadness he had seen so often there at the thought of no children of their own had utterly vanished of late. She was content with only him.
The emotions filling his heart overflowed. He could wait no longer, covering her mouth with his own. Slowly, her body slipped down the length of his until her feet touched the rug that lay before the flames that crackled and danced merrily in the fireplace, warming the greatroom.
Without releasing his hold on her body with one arm or breaking their kiss, he stretched to reach the throw on the settee with his free hand. With a practiced flip, he tossed it to the rug. He gently lowered them both to the floor.
13 March 1421sr
Startled awake, Lily shifted slightly under Frodo’s weight and wondered what had disturbed her sleep.
Her husband stirred restlessly, and mumbled distressed, incoherent sounds, pulling a little away from her. By the fire’s light, she could see his brow was furrowed. Was he awake or asleep?
She whispered, “Frodo?”
He did not reply, but shifted again, and she realized he was still asleep. She struggled to understand his muffled words but none of them were clear. He had nightmares from time to time, but they usually passed; this seemed to be growing worse.
Quickly, she searched her memory, then remembered the date. Would they always mark this anniversary in this way? She tenderly kissed the scar on his neck and felt the perspiration there.
“Frodo, beloved,” she whispered. “You’re safe, dear heart. You’re home. I am here.”
He curled into her, shivering. She tucked their blankets more snuggly around them and helped him settle, wrapping him in her arms. Gradually, he eased more deeply into her loving embrace. She kissed his forehead several times before he finally completely relaxed into dreamless sleep.
Lily now felt wide awake. A part of her worried the nightmares might return, and she cuddled Frodo closer. Her heart skipped several beats when he nestled his head against her breast, tightened his hold on her, then slid one of his legs comfortably between hers. A soft smile touched her lips, and she kissed her husband’s silken curls.
Her thoughts drifted. The Mugwort lads had appeared every other day for the continuing story of Bilbo’s adventure, as long as the weather held. She and Frodo decided to invite the lads’ mother to visit, but she had declined, at first. Then when Lily was chatting with Rosie, her friend suggested hiring the young mother. So Lily hired the seamstress to help with new window coverings, and a tentative friendship began.
Never in her life had Lily felt so at peace.
25 March 1421sr
Lily smiled to herself, pleased she woke before Frodo. Will you speak to me of this day, beloved? No matter, she decided. I shall give you my gift... hmmm... mayhap, I’ll wake you with it, but not quite yet.
She felt him stir.
You shall wake soon. Let me give you dreams of peace and wonder...
She touched her lips to his, then whispered in his ear between feather-light caresses, “I love you, Frodo Baggins. My life is richer than ever I imagined it would be, with you, more blessed than anything I ever dreamed.”
She kissed the scar at his neck, then trailed kisses down to his shoulder, and sensed him shift from sleep to wakefulness as she softly caressed the scar there a second time.
“Lily...” he breathed.
She smiled into his shadow-free eyes. How different from a year ago. She covered his mouth with her own.
His arms wrapped tightly about her, and he returned the hunger he felt in her kisses, then gently broke it.
“I need to feed you, Lily-sweet...” His breath caught as she offered another caress.
She whispered against his lips, “Beloved, today, I’ll feed you first.”
“Rosie? I’d ask my mum, but...” Lily shrugged her shoulders, accepting of her mother’s passing more than three years hence. “Daisy is too far away, and Bell, well, she is sweet, but we’re not particularly close. That is to say, I don’t feel I could ask her...”
Rosie heard the uncertainty in her friend’s voice. It had been long since such a tone had coloured her words, but not so long that Rose had forgotten that whatever the concern was, it was distressing Lily. Besides, this would give her an opportunity to sit her ample form in a chair and rest a bit.
Lily had told her she would do all the dishes, but Rosie did not like to loll about and watch others work, so Lily had let her dry the dishes with the understanding that all she was to do was dry. Lily would put them away.
Rosie attempted to make herself more comfortable. It was useless, so she waited for Lily to continue. The expecting hobbit watched her friend stare into the dishwater.
Without looking up, Lily murmured, “Sam’s always gentle, is he not?”
Rosie smiled warmly and was momentarily lost in a memory. She shook her head to clear it. “Yes, Lily. He’s always gentle with me.”
A sudden, unwelcome thought crossed Rosie’s mind. She tried to push it away but could not. She tried to hide her concern as she tentatively asked, “Isn’t Frodo?”
Lily was concentrating on twisting the dishrag in her hands, but looked up sharply at the question. “Yes! Yes, of course he is.”
Rosie sighed in relief. “Lily, there’s many a husband who would seem to be gentle, until he’s alone with his wife.”
Lily turned abruptly fierce. “Not Frodo. He is kind and gentle and patient...”
She finally noted the concern in her friend’s eyes. “Forgive me, Rose. I should not have snapped at you. It’s just that of late...”
Rosie decided it would be best not to jump ahead of the conversation. She did not want Lily feeling as though she needed to defend herself, or Frodo, again.
A twinge in her side distracted her for a moment and then she asked, “What’s been happening lately?”
“When he touches me...” Lily blushed. They had never talked of this before.
Rosie pieced together the words and the blush. “Lily, as you know, I have no sisters. You have become as dear to me as if you were one. In fact, I have come to consider you so.”
Lily’s eyes filled with tears.
Rosie smiled reassuringly and continued. “You may tell me anything, anything at all, and I promise it’ll go no further than these two ears. Not even my Sam’ll know.”
A tear spilled onto Lily’s cheek.
“Oi, we’ll have none of that right now, or we’ll flood the place.”
Lily giggled and sniffled. She pulled up a chair next to Rosie.
“I don’t know what to make of it, Rosie.” Lily felt awkward blurting it out. “When my sister Daisy was preparing to marry, she and her friends would chat of what they wanted their husbands to be like -- wealthy, admired, a farmer, or a trader, those kinds of things. But, they also talked of other things they hoped for, such as someone who was gentle and kind. Well, one or two of them didn’t really care about that.”
“You, being the little sister, sat in on all the conversations?”
Lily glanced away. “Well, more or less. If I stayed quietly in the corner, they barely knew I was there. Besides, I hadn’t much to say. My heart was already given to Frodo, so idle chatter of what one hoped for seemed pointless to me.”
“And you never told them about Frodo?”
“Oh, no! You can image the teasing I would have been required to endure. In love with someone I’d met only once at the fair... No, I guarded that secret carefully, though, my mum knew...”
Rosie felt another twinge but put the thought aside. She still did not know what was bothering Lily, who obviously needed her to listen, not grouse about how ready she was to have this babe. She nodded her head to her friend, encouraging her to continue.
“After the last one married, they gathered at Daisy’s to chat; nigh on two years ago it was. I happened to be visiting that day. They spoke mostly of how things hadn’t turned out as they hoped. One of them had married someone like you described; everyone thought he was so caring and kind, but when they were alone, all that mattered was what he wanted. For the rest of them, their husbands were gentle, sometimes, not always...”
Rosie smiled and ignored another twinge, though it was sharper this time. “And what about you, Lily? Did it turn out as you had hoped?”
The warmth from Lily’s smile filled the room. “Oh, Rosie.” She sighed. “He’s kind and thoughtful and always gentle with me. He accepts me as I am, and endeavors to fulfill my every wish. Our time together, no matter how it is spent, be it walking together, or sitting in the den while he writes and I sew or read, or -- or our -- our time -- together... I never dreamed it could be like this. He seems to find as much pleasure in pleasing me as...” She blushed to her toes.
Rosie smiled and patted her friend’s arm, and wished the twinges would stop. “Lily, it sounds wonderful, so what’s troubling you?”
Lily was nervous again but took courage in Rosie’s loving smile. “This past week or two... I’ve been sore, as though I’ve overdone things, like lifting too much, though I know I’ve not. Frodo is gentle, as always. In fact, the first time I flinched he was horrified he had hurt me. It took more than a little convincing to assure him he was not at fault. I would never have believed he could be any more gentle, but he has been. I thought the soreness would go away after a few days, but it hasn’t...”
She turned worried eyes to Rosie, who smiled.
Another twinge. “Lily, are you late?”
“Late? Oh! No, not really, at least not any more than usual.”
Rosie suddenly grabbed the edge of the table. “OH!!”
“Rosie? Rosie, what is it? What is wrong?”
Rosie breathed out slowly. Her voice was strained, “It’s the babe.”
“Should I get Mrs. Chubb?”
Another wave seemed to hit Rosie as she wrapped her fingers around Lily’s proffered arm, who struggled to keep from gasping at the pain. Rosie panted a few times and then finally spoke. “Yes.” The pain subsided a bit.
“I’ll have Frodo fetch her.”
Rosie smiled through the pain. “You best send Samwise with him. It’ll give ‘em both something to do.”
Lily giggled at Rosie’s wisdom and hurried to find Frodo and Sam; of course, they were in the garden.
It was now well after midnight. Frodo tucked Lily close to his side as they made their way home to Bag End.
“Oh, Frodo-love! It was wondrous, indeed. I’ll not be able to sleep a wink this night, I’m certain.”
Frodo laughed softly at his wife’s happy chatter. “Sweet, you need your rest, and well you know it, for I’ve no doubt at all you’ll wake early to return to Garden Hill.”
Lily giggled. “You’re right.” She sighed. “Elanor is a lovely name, is it not?”
“Indeed,” Frodo grinned.
Lily heard the mirth in his voice, and bumped him lightly with her hip. “You’re laughing at me, Mr. Baggins. I know I’ve told you, a dozen times--”
“At least.” Frodo nuzzled her ear, then whispered, “And you may tell me a dozen more.”
A soft sigh escaped Lily. “Tell me what you and Sam did, while you waited.”
Frodo laughed. “Sam paced and muttered, while I read.”
Lily stopped in the road, and stared at her husband, her voice incredulous, “At such a time, you left Sam to his own devices?”
With an effort, Frodo endeavored to appear properly chastised, but a smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. “Lily dearest, I made countless attempts to distract Samwise Gamgee, all to no avail. His body may have been in the library with me, but his head and his heart were in the bedroom with Rosie.”
Lily stepped back into Frodo’s warmth. “Yes, of course.”
Frodo nuzzled her ear, again. “I’ll be the same way.”
Startled hazel eyes met sparkling blue in the moonlight.
“Lily-sweet, it’s difficult enough now to be distracted from you.”
Lily blushed to her ears, and buried her face in her lover’s chest. Her voice escaped on a hush, “It’s the same for me.”
She felt the warmth of her husband’s lips on her forehead, once, twice, thrice, then her temple felt the brush of his lips, and she trembled in his arms.
“Home, Mistress Baggins, to sleep. First, shall I make you a pot of tea? Would that help to settle you?”
They began to walk again.
“Yes, it would help. Now I think on it, a bit of something to eat would not be amiss. I’ve no memory of eating anything since luncheon.”
Frodo battened down the concern arcing through him. It had been too long since her last meal. He’d thought the ladies would see to food as they insisted upon seeing to everything concerning the birthing. Then he reminded himself that most of the ladies would not be troubled by a missed meal, unlike his Lily. His heart tumbled in his chest. He would ensure such an oversight did not happen again.
Struggling to rein in his worries for his wife, he ushered her into Bag End and straight to the kitchen where he settled her into a chair.
“Rest, Lily-sweet.” He kept his voice gently coaxing. “What say you to a bit of cheese, while I prepare the tea?”
Lily sighed and nodded.
He could see the weariness in her eyes, and hoped it was simply due to the busyness of the day. He pushed the water kettle hanging on its hook over the fire, then sliced off several chunks of the mild cheese, placing all on a plate but one, which he pressed into Lily’s hand. Only when she had finished the first slice did his unease begin to dissipate. Then he cut a chunk of bread and buttered it before adding it to the plate set before his wife.
The kettle began to sing, and Frodo removed it from over the fire to pour the boiling water into the waiting teapot. While the beverage steeped, Frodo added a bit of ham and a handful of sliced dried apples to Lily’s plate.
She giggled. “Frodo-love, enough. Truly.”
The warm fullness of her voice heartened him, and Frodo returned her smile. “I should have thought to seeing you fed...”
Lily shook her head. “I could not have eaten, dearest. In truth, I’d not thought of food even once the whole of the babe’s coming, but I thank you for caring for me. I am blessed, indeed.”
“As am I,” Frodo mumbled, his voice rough.
Lily offered her husband a radiant smile. “Sit with me, love. I know you’ve heard it once already, but I wish to tell you all over again of the wondrousness of it.”
Frodo settled easily beside her, and smiled, “I wish to hear it, again, from you, instead of Mrs. Chubb.” A pained expression crossed Frodo’s face. “She has a singular ability to be both succinct and wholly without embellishment.”
“She is that,” Lily giggled. “But she was also very calming in her straightforwardness.”
Frodo poured them both a cup of tea, adding the right amount of cream and sugar to Lily’s. Emotion tinged his words, “Tell me, Lily, about the day, in your words.”
Lily smiled, her eyes reflecting the memories in her mind. “When Daisy was delivered of Pearl, there was only the midwife, me, Hal’s mum, and one of Daisy’s friends. But Rosie had the midwife and her apprentice, her mum, and two of Sam’s sisters, three aunties, four of her friends, and me. The mothers shared their experiences and advice. We sang and laughed. And once little Elanor was delivered, it was easy to change out the bedding and freshen the room. She’ll have ever so much help, to make it easier for her.”
Frodo was enraptured by the light in his wife’s eyes, and the passion in her words. A familiar prayer rose in his heart, that she too would be blessed with the same loving support. He did not question the opportunity would present itself; it was only a matter of time. Excitement skittered along his veins. He saw the desire in his lover’s eyes. She had so much love to give...
“Sweet, I suppose you’ll insist upon popping in on the Gamgees on the morrow -- that is to say, later today?”
Lily easily saw the teasing glint in her husband’s eye that he made no effort to hide. “Indeed, yes.” She leaned against Frodo, allowing her head to drop to his shoulder.
He slid his arm about her waist, drawing her closer on the little bench. His voice pitched low, “You’re weary and need sleep, beloved.”
He felt her nod, then trembled within when he heard her murmur, “I need you most of all, Frodo Baggins.”
“You have me, Lily. Now and always.” He kissed her temple. “Are you finished, my dear? Is there anything else I might offer you? More cheese, a biscuit, another slice of bread?”
“I’m quite satisfied, dearest Frodo. I thank you.”
Frodo helped Lily rise, then guided her down to their bedroom.
“I think” -- Frodo spoke conversationally as he helped his wife ready for bed, as he realized her weariness was taking hold -- “On the morrow, we had best make a special effort for Sam. Rosie has her mother and others to care for her, but I think Sam will find himself feeling a bit of the outsider...”
Lily allowed her husband to help her into bed, then watched as he readied himself. “I’d not thought of that. I’m certain Rosie will want him near...” Lily yawned, covering her mouth with the back of her hand. “We’ll see what we may do.”
Frodo blew out the candles, banked the fire in the grate, and crawled under the covers beside his wife. His heart warmed and expanded as she nestled close to him.
“Are you sorry, Lily?”
She knew what her husband meant, and did not pretend otherwise. “A little, mayhap, but it seems somehow ungrateful to sorrow at such a joyous time. And I do not wish to diminish in any way at all this day of jubilation and wonder. Today, it is enough that our dearest friends have brought into this world a miracle from Ilúvatar, and we were blessed to be present for it.”
Frodo cuddled her closer, his heart full to overflowing.
Lily sighed deeply, then gave voice to her thought, “Are you sorry, Frodo?”
“Like you, I feel somehow ungrateful for allowing anything to shadow the day. But then I remember... I never imagined I might have you, at all.”
His throat tightened, and he breathed deeply before continuing. “I am sorry we have no such miracle of our very own; and yet at the same time, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for all with which we have been blessed. Ilúvatar gave me you. You are enough, and more than I ever believed possible.”
Frodo pressed a kiss to the top of Lily’s head, tucked under his chin against his chest. “Ilúvatar, we thank you for Your blessings, for our love, and for the newest member of the Gamgee family, Elanor Gamgee.”