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Sacrament

by Ladyhawk Baggins and CRB

5 April 1421sr

“Lily-sweet, shall we visit my reading-tree? The air’s unusually warm, more like a May day. We could pack a light lunch and spend the afternoon.” His throat tightened. “It’s been a year, beloved. A year to the day when we promised ourselves to each other.”

Lily nodded eagerly. “It’s a glorious day, and I am quite unable to think of a better way to celebrate.”

---------

Frodo should have recognized the gleam in Lily’s eye, but still he was speechless when she seemed to grow a bit overexcited -- perhaps it was the heat, he thought -- so much so that she actually lost a great deal of her natural reserve.

“No one is in sight, love.”

Lily whispered against his ear, sending a shiver down his spine.

“Or even within sound,” she continued, then settled a kiss against his neck.

Their kisses had grown deep, with the haze of tender passion beginning to weave its spell. His heart stopped in his chest when she actually asked him to share her love there and then, in the wide outdoors--

“Sweet...” His words were breathless as he struggled to push them out of his mouth. “It is one thing to be completely alone in the wild, as we were on our trip to Rivendell last summer, but another thing entirely to be in Hobbiton, woods or no woods!”

Though he was a little surprised, and a little shocked, he dared not admit he was pleased as well. But what worried him most was how badly he wanted to give in to her. He managed to stop kissing her, taking a few very deep breaths to clear his head.

“Lily-sweet, neither of us would want to be found, however unlikely.”

He laughed at the dismay in her eyes, and continued, “Neither of us would ever hear the end of it if we were found -- ever!”

At Lily’s crestfallen expression, he reminded her, “Hobbits love their gossip, as well you know, dearest. Folk still speak of Pansy Grubb walking in the woods near Brandy Hall and discovering Saradoc Brandybuck and his wife, Esmeralda -- and that has been over 30 years ago! Merry always laughs when someone brings up the famous story about his parents, usually told over a half-pint at the pub, but he turns a bit red, all the same.”

Frodo helped Lily up from the warm grass -- she was just a little sad. “I promise, Lily-sweet, the moment we’re inside the front door, I will make it up to you, in extra measure.”

He stared her down, and then they both laughed, and hurried toward home, holding hands. Each time they looked at each other, they smiled and walked a little faster.

Finally, Bag End was in sight. Lily glanced slyly at Frodo and grinned. “Race you!”

She dropped his hand and ran up the lane.

Frodo wondered why he was still surprised when she did this, then raced after her, catching her just inside the gate.

“You cheated, Mistress Baggins, again,” he panted.

“Did I indeed, Mister Baggins? I simply gave myself a much deserved tiny head start. You, sir, are slow.” She struggled to catch her breath and laugh at the same time. “For which I am truly thankful.” She reached out her hand to him.

He eyed her suspiciously for a moment, then he could no longer hide his smile. He grasped her hand, and their fingers intertwined. They walked up the steps together, gazing into each others’ eyes. At the door, he opened it for her and followed her inside. A sigh escaped him as he closed the door behind them.

Lily turned to him. “You said something about making it up to me in full measure, or have you forgotten already?” She smiled, and did not attempt to hide the gleam in her eyes.

Frodo answered her by pulling her into his arms, and hungrily covering her mouth with his own.

Lily melted into him, returning the impassioned kiss.

---------

6 April 1421sr

Frodo slept hardly at all. The whole of the night, he cradled Lily in his arms praying she would indeed be all right. He felt her stir in the early morning hours and gathered her closer, and trembled when she nestled deeper into his embrace. The sun began to peek into the window and his wife returned the loving embrace, alerting him to her waking.

“How are you, dearest Lily?” Frodo whispered.

Lily tightened her arms about him, then rubbed her cheek against his shoulder. “A little tired, my love, but grateful to be waking in your arms. Yesterday was...” She sighed.

He could hear the smile in her voice. “Beloved...” He took a steadying breath. “I should still prefer to send for the healer...”

“Frodo, I’m all right, truly.”

“Please, Lily...”

“I only fainted. It is not as if it’s the first time...”

“It was the first time you’ve fainted when we were--”

“Yes, I know, and in truth, I prefer not to explain that to Mrs. Longburrow,” Lily giggled.

“Please, sweet. I need to be certain nothing is amiss. I could not bear it if anything happened to you. I beg of you, allow me do what I may to keep you safe...”

Lily heard the fear in Frodo’s voice. “As you wish, beloved. Summon the healer...” She reached up and caressed his lips with her own. “Could you wait a bit though, and hold me a little longer...”

Frodo tightened his embrace and kissed her temple. His lover settled comfortably within his arms, and for close to an hour drifted between wakefulness and sleep.

---------

As they prepared first breakfast, Frodo glanced out the kitchen window and noticed young Toby playing in his back garden at #1. He kissed his wife’s cheek. “I’m going to ask Toby to fetch the healer.”

Lily smiled and could not resist one last protest. “I do hate to bother her for no reason. I feel fine, a little tired is all.” She caught the pained look in Frodo’s eyes, and sighed. “Please be certain she knows there’s no hurry.”

Frodo searched Lily’s eyes. She placed the lid on the skillet of freshly made scones, set in the coals near the hearth, then placed several coals atop it to bake. After wiping her floured hands on her apron, she reached up and caressed her lover’s cheek. She smiled for him, and he returned the smile, then kissed her forehead.

“I’ll be gone only a moment. Toby’s just outside.”

“Don’t take too long, dearest. Firsties is almost ready.” Lily reached up and kissed his cheek where she had left a spot of flour.

Frodo nodded and slipped out the door.

Lily sighed and stared at the door for a moment. “Dearest Frodo, how you worry...” She shook her head to clear it, and smiled softly, then returned her attention to the bacon.

---------

Frodo stepped outside the front door. “Toby!”

The young hobbit turned and trotted up to Bag End, meeting Frodo at the gate. “Yes, Mr. Baggins?”

“How are you?”

“Fine, thank you, sir.”

“How old are you, now?”

“Ten, sir! Well, almost ten... I’ll be ten mid summer.”

Frodo struggled to keep a smile from spreading across his face. “You’ll be ten before you know it. Would you please fetch your auntie for me?”

“Are you sick, Mr. Baggins?”

“No, I’m quite well, thank you.”

“Oh, then it’s Mistress Baggins. Is she terribly sick?”

“No, she’s just a little more tired than usual, and I want to be certain she isn’t taking ill.”

The lad nodded his head. “I’ll get her right away, Mr. Baggins. She and mum left early for the market this morning, so I know where she is.” He waved and dashed down the lane.

“Thank you, Toby!” Frodo called after him and smiled when the lad waved without turning around. The smell of sausages wafted through the air, reminding Frodo of first breakfast. He found himself breathing a little easier as he stepped back into the smial.

---------

First breakfast was finished and they were enjoying a leisurely cup of tea when the knock came at the door. Frodo briefly covered Lily’s hand with his own, then rose to answer the door, insisting his wife remain where she was.

“Good morning, Mrs. Longburrow.” Frodo opened the door wide, inviting the healer in. “Thank you, Toby.” Frodo slipped the lad a small coin.

Toby bobbed his head and chortled. “Thank you, Mr. Baggins. Thank you. Do you need anything else, sir?”

The healer spoke to the lad. “Toby dear, please send Rosie up, in case I need an extra pair of hands.” She turned to Frodo. “Miss Smallburrow, my apprentice, is off visiting family in Oakleaf. Please wait here for Rosie, then send her back to the master bedroom.”

Mrs. Longburrow turned her attention to Lily, who had joined them in the entrance hall. “Back to the master bedroom with you, and tell me what you’ve noticed.” She grasped Lily’s arm, gently, and propelled her down the hall.

Lily glanced back at Frodo, wide-eyed, then back at the healer. “This way, Mrs. Longburrow.”

For a moment, Frodo wondered if calling the healer was such a good idea. He wanted to be with his wife, not standing about waiting for Rose to show up. She knew how to let herself into the smial... He was grateful she walked in moments later.

“Is everything all right, Frodo?” She made no attempt to hide the concern she felt.

Frodo nodded and would have spoken but for a chirping voice.

“Anything else, Mr. Baggins?”

Frodo reached into his pocket for another coin.

“That’s all right, sir. Mum would be right steamed if she knew I took the first one. And I’d not be able to sit for a week if she knew I was paid for doing what my auntie asked of me.”

Frodo smiled at the open, unassuming child. “I think you’ve taken care of everything you could. Thank you, Toby.”

“You’re welcome, sir.” With his task accomplished, he bobbed his head, tugged his forelock, and ran off.

Rose touched Frodo’s arm. “Sam’s watching Elanor. She’s napping. What’s wrong, Frodo?”

“I don’t know, Rose. It may be nothing... Mrs. Longburrow asked if you’d come, as her apprentice is visiting relatives. They’re in the master bedroom.”

Suddenly, Frodo did not know what to do.

Rose started down the hall, and stopped, glancing back at Frodo. “Come on, then. You’ll need to know what’s going on, and you can’t do that if you’re hanging about out here.” She smiled reassuringly. “Besides, your curiosity would have you on pins and needles.”

Frodo grinned, and followed her down the hall.

Mrs. Longburrow was examining Lily on the bed, listening to her heart and then to her breathing.

Lily visibly relaxed when Frodo walked into the room, while her pulse was being checked.

Mrs. Longburrow glanced sharply at Frodo.

He paused just inside the door, uncertain of where he could be without being in the way.

The healer returned her attention to Lily and gazed steadfastly into her eyes. “Take a seat, Mr. Baggins. Mistress Baggins seems to be in quite good health, overall. There is something I wish to confirm, however...”

She glanced at Rose. “Oh, good. Rose, how’s little Elanor?”

Rosie’s face became radiant. “She’s doing well, thank you. Sam’s watching her now. She’s napping, so I’ll not be missed for a while.”

“Let’s see, you just delivered, what -- a little over ten days ago. Are you quite all right, being up and about so soon?”

Rose nodded vigorously. “Oh, yes. I’m feeling quite well. I’m a bit tired sometimes, but mostly doing everything I used to.”

“Good, glad to hear it. You’ve always seemed to me to be the type what thrives on carrying a child. Would you keep an eye on things for a bit? I’ll return shortly. I think I know what’s affecting the mistress, but there’s one more thing I need to look into.” With that, she swept out of the room.

Frodo raised his brows in surprise as he heard the smial door open and close. “Has she told you anything, dearest?”

“No, she just poked and prodded a bit and listened to my heart, then made -- I don’t know -- I’d hoped she’d tsk or harrumph or something to hint at what she was thinking, but the noises she made were entirely -- noncommittal.”

Rose could feel the tension in the room. “Are you two still coming to tea today?”

Frodo and Lily glanced at each other, and then at Rose.

She sighed. “You’ve forgotten...”

“I’m sorry, Rose,” Lily began. “No, we haven’t forgotten; it’s Sam’s birthday. I don’t think either one of us as thought past this morning. Yes, we’re coming to tea. Do you need us to bring anything?”

“No, Sam very deliberately wanted it kept small this year so I wouldn’t need to do much. He’s watching Elanor for the whole of the day as his gift to me.”

Lily caught her breath. “Oh, Rose, I’m so sorry. We’re intruding on your day!”

“Oh, fuss and bother; nonsense. He’s really just taking care of her while she naps; after all, I’m still the one what feeds her. Though he’s also changing her swaddling.” Rosie grinned.

Lily continued, unable to hide the distress in her voice. “Yes, but if you weren’t here with us, you could be off having some time alone in your garden, or napping yourself.”

“It’s all right, truly. Besides, this way I’m in the know at the start.” Rose winked. “Hate finding things out from the neighbors, much better learning it first hand.”

Frodo and Lily both laughed, though Frodo’s laugh was nervous.

“You are incorrigible!” Lily teased.

The smile on Frodo’s face faded as he heard the door to the smial open and close, then the sound of feet padding down the hall.

Mrs. Longburrow entered the room first, followed by another hobbit they all recognized.

Hope leapt in Lily’s heart at the sight of the midwife. She felt it in Frodo as well, though he held his firmly in check. Could it be, after all this time? she wondered.

Frodo stood and greeted the new arrival. “Mrs. Chubb, welcome to Bag End.”

“Thank you, Mr. Baggins. Now, out of the room with ya’.”

Frodo blinked in surprise.

Rose stepped close to him and whispered, “I’ll call you back in when she’s finished. I promise.”

Lily’s voice was small, but clear. “Mrs. Chubb, please, let Frodo stay...”

Mrs. Chubb pursed her lips. “It’s highly unusual and not entirely proper...”

Lily spoke again, her voice a little stronger, but gentle. “I know, Mrs. Chubb, but then we Bagginses aren’t entirely proper, are we?”

“Mistress Baggins,” Mrs. Chubb began sharply, then stopped and sighed. “Mistress Baggins, most--” she eyed Frodo “--males don’t understand about these things, and end up being more trouble by swooning or... Plain and simple, they don’t have the stomach for it.”

Lily smiled serenely. “I don’t believe you need to worry about that with Frodo. Please, I’d like him to stay.”

The healer whispered in the midwife’s ear.

“So be it,” Mrs. Chubb relented. “It seems Mrs. Longburrow believes it best Mr. Baggins stay.” She eyed Frodo severely. “Don’t get in the way, and if you swoon, I’ll leave you where you lay.”

Frodo quickly took his seat by the hearth again.

Mrs. Chubb dismissed the master of Bag End from her mind, and turned her full attention to the mistress. “Now, Lily, do you have regular monthly courses?”

“For the most part, but I have been late, and even skipped a month on occasion.”

“What about this last one?”

“It’s... quite late.” Did Frodo understand the significance of such questions? Lily wondered.

“Have you been keeping your meals down of late?”

“Mostly.”

Mrs. Chubb eyed her carefully. “How often have you not?”

“A few times.” Lily avoided Frodo’s eyes, not wanting to see the surprise there, as she hadn’t told him. She couldn’t avoid them for long.

Finally, she searched his eyes, beseeching, “I didn’t keep elevensies down a time or two, and then tea a time or two. It’s only been once, or twice, a week, for the last few weeks.”

Mrs. Chubb nodded.

Would Frodo understand why she failed to tell him of this? She felt her worry growing. Something within her had told her what was happening long ago, but she feared being disappointed again. What was more, she did not want Frodo to fret nor to build up his hopes only to have them dashed.

Rose cleared her throat and found Mrs. Chubb’s piercing gaze on her.

“Out with it, Rose Gamgee.”

“I remembered our conversation the day Elanor delivered. Remember, Lily? You were telling me you’d been tender of late...”

Mrs. Chubb raised a brow, and eyed Lily. “Have you now?”

“I’d forgotten about that, in all the excitement. I was, for a few weeks, but it’s mostly past now.”

Lily sought Frodo’s eyes with her own, again. Please, help him to understand why I explained nothing of what was happening to me, she prayed. I should not have been afraid of disappointing him, and yet I was. Now I hope I’ve not disappointed him by not sharing my suspicions with him sooner.

Mrs. Chubb drew Mrs. Longburrow aside, and the two spoke together in hushed tones.

Lily lay on their bed, propped up against the pillows. She reached out her hand to Frodo. He left his chair and sat next to her on the bed, taking her hand between both of his. She reached up with her other hand, and he leaned toward her so she could smooth his furrowed brow. She smiled into his eyes.

“Lily, dearest, why didn’t you tell me you haven’t felt well,” Frodo whispered.

“It never lasted, dearest.”

“Lily,” Mrs. Chubb interrupted without apology, “have you ever been present for a first visit?”

Lily’s eyes widened as she nodded slowly. She swallowed hard, afraid to believe what the midwife was saying. “My sister’s -- Daisy...”

Hope began to swell within her heart. Did Frodo know what a first visit was? -- but then, how could he, being an only child? Would his Auntie Esme have included him in that part of Merry’s coming? Probably not. He was, after all, fourteen at the time. Definitely not. Males were kept ignorant of such affairs; Mrs. Chubb spoke rightly about that. Yet, Lily knew Frodo would be different. From the very beginning, before they were married, Lily had determined to make him a part of everything in their life, if he so chose. Much had been stolen from him, she would see to it that more than he ever imagined would be given to him for his sacrifice.

Mrs. Chubb eyed Frodo severely.

His confusion and nervousness growing with each passing moment, Frodo’s eyes darted between Mrs. Chubb, Mrs. Longburrow, Lily, and Rose. A part of him wanted to escape, anywhere, then Lily tightened her hold on his hand. He returned his gaze to her. A softness in her eyes tugged at him, captured him, warming his heart. Whatever it was, it would be all right, and she needed him near. He returned her smile, and squeezed her hand.

Rose stepped close to him and murmured, “Keep your eyes on Lily’s face for the next little bit.”

Frodo nodded and smiled. “I feared you might ask me to do something difficult.” He turned his gaze fully to his blushing wife, only to see the crimson colour deepen. He felt Mrs. Chubb step up to the end of the bed along with Mrs. Longburrow.

Lily tightened her hold on his hand. She drew her knees up as the midwife asked, while her breathing became increasingly uneven. She was having more trouble concentrating; so many thoughts were racing through her mind, faster and faster, overwhelming her.

“Lily?” Frodo grew concerned. “Lily, look at me. Breathe deeply, sweet... slowly... evenly... good... good... You’re doing well, dearest. Much better. Are you feeling all right, darling?”

An unsteady breath escaped Lily’s lips, then she nodded, her eyes locked with Frodo’s. “Yes, dearest. I’m fine.”

Mrs. Longburrow climbed onto the bed on Lily’s other side and checked the beating of her heart.

Frodo gave no heed to the healer, but continued to gaze into Lily’s eyes, offering what strength he could.

Rosie noted the glance that passed between the healer and the midwife and then the slight nod. She carefully sat on her hands and bit her bottom lip in an effort to hide the excitement building within her. It’s not my place to say anything, she reminded herself firmly.

Mrs. Longburrow rejoined Mrs. Chubb and they conferred once again, speaking too low to be heard by even Frodo. His attention was fully engaged by the look in Lily’s eyes, and the smile inching across her face. He lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it softly.

Mrs. Chubb cleared her throat and spoke quickly. “Mrs. Longburrow will be working with me, as things are a mite complicated. Lily, it seems you’re about two months along.”

Lily’s eyes widened, and her breathing quickened. “You mean... I’m with child?”

“Very much so,” replied Mrs. Chubb.

Lily searched Frodo’s eyes for his reaction. She smiled and then giggled as she watched the news register on his surprised, then delighted face. He matched her smile as she tipped her face to receive the kiss he offered. As their kiss lengthened, he released her hand to ease his arms around her, and she slipped her arms around his neck.

They broke their kiss, and shared another smile. Lily giggled, and Frodo laughed, then they kissed again.

It did not matter to him who was there with them, or who saw it.

His kiss was so tender, and so warm, that for a moment even Lily forgot they were not alone.

The kiss ended, and he held her tightly, but not too tightly; now she seemed to him the rarest of all flowers, delicate and fair. He whispered against her ear, not truly caring if indeed anyone else heard.

But Lily felt him trembling.

“Oh, my love, my dearest Lily... is it true? Tell me it’s true. I need to hear it from you, the bearer of all that is beautiful in my life.”

She felt a tear against her cheek, and another on her neck. “It’s true, dearest husband. I think I’ve known from the beginning, but was so afraid to believe it myself. We’ve waited so long. And now, it’s true. You’ve made me so happy... we can thank Ilúvatar for this gift.”

“Daily; I shall, we shall...” He smiled at her again, tears shining in his eyes, and kissed her cheek, then her nose, then her brow, until she began to giggle again.

Rose wiped away the tears of joy streaming down her face.

Mrs. Longburrow struggled to stifle a pleased laugh.

Mrs. Chubb cleared her throat loudly, and her voice was stern, though she surreptitiously dabbed her eyes.

“Really, now, we’re not finished yet! Mrs. Longburrow and I have other ladies to attend to today...”

“I don’t!” Mrs. Longburrow smiled, but at the midwife’s look, she bit her lip. “Ahem, well, yes, Mrs. Chubb is quite right, of course, and we do have more to tell you.”

Frodo tore his gaze from Lily, but did not loosen his hold on her. He glanced over his shoulder.

Rosie whispered, “This could take a while, so you might want to make yourself comfortable.”

Frodo released Lily only enough to shift his position. He thought about settling back in his chair, but could not bear being parted from his wife. He turned to face the healer and midwife and sat next to Lily on the bed, wrapping his arm around her shoulders. When she leaned against him, he kissed her temple. Then his eyes and his other hand strayed to his wife’s belly. She trembled against him, and laid her hand over his. Again, their eyes met.

“I love you,” Frodo whispered.

Lily smiled, her lips tremulous. “And I love you.” She reached up and caressed his lips with her own.

Mrs. Chubb shifted on her feet irritably, and Mrs. Longburrow touched her arm. The midwife met the healer’s eyes and sighed, then nodded.

Mrs. Longburrow spoke softly, gently pulling the couple’s attention toward her. “This is indeed happy news... Frodo, there’s a reason I requested you be allowed to stay. When I was counting Lily’s heartbeats, before Rosie arrived, it seemed quite normal. Then you walked into the room... She’d already told me about her fainting spells.

“My cousin was the healer in Willowbottom when Lily’s mother was a lass growing up. I was allowed to go with her on some of her rounds whenever I visited, even when I was but a wee lass. I remember visiting Amaryllis Chubb when she had one of her fainting spells, just before she married. Her mum, Lily’s gammer, had them as well.

“I thought mayhap Lily’s affliction was not too severe as the beat was steady and at a good pace; but when you walked into the room, Mister Baggins. I realized she took her ease in your presence. Her heartbeats slowed far too much -- that means her blood does not flow as vigorously as it ought. I worried, until I watched how you helped her with her near fainting just now.

“I’ve seen many a husband who thought his wife was being foolish, and believed that if they ignored the trouble, it would go away. You clearly accept what is, and work together to make the best of a difficult condition. This is not something what’ll change over time, but I think you realize this already. Now, as to how it affects the carrying of a babe -- and it does -- Mrs. Chubb’ll knows more than I do.”

Frodo drew his brows together at a sudden realization. “Mrs. Chubb, how are you related to Lily?”

“We’re second cousins, once removed on my husband’s side. I’m quite familiar with what ails Lily. Several of the Chubb lasses suffer from the malady to one degree or another. She’ll need to be more careful than most lasses if she doesn’t want to risk losing the child. Anything what might cause her to faint is strictly off limits until after the child is delivered -- anything.” She eyed them both imperiously.

Frodo blushed to his toes, and Lily giggled, pinking. Then she reached up and kissed his cheek.

The midwife continued. “I’ll be popping in, from time to time, to be certain everything’s coming along as it ought. If anything out of the ordinary crops up --” Mrs. Chubb eyed them critically. “Would you know? Never mind. Rosie, you’ll know, so keep an eye on things. Now, Lily, who’ve you chosen to be your acolyte?”

Lily peeked around Frodo at Rose. “I haven’t actually asked her yet.”

Rosie’s eyes widened in surprise, but before she could answer Mrs. Chubb spoke. “It’s usually a relative. Rosie’s mum was her acolyte--”

“I know,” Lily interrupted, gently. “My mum passed -- over two years ago. My sister is in Deephallow, with a young child of her own, and my sister-in-law is with child herself. Rose is my friend; if she is willing to be my acolyte, I would be most grateful.”

Mrs. Chubb inclined her head to Lily, deferring to the young mistress, but still seemed uncertain.

Then Lily realized the healer worried about the difference in station between the two.

Rosie glanced at the midwife, and then met Lily’s gaze; tears shimmered in the eyes of both lasses. “I’d be right honoured indeed to serve as Lily’s acolyte.” They shared a smile between them.

Lily felt Frodo’s arm tighten around her shoulders. She met his blue eyes, and her smile broadened at the approval she noted there. Finally, she looked back at Mrs. Chubb.

The midwife’s stern face softened. “She’s a very good choice, Lily. Rosie’s had a child of her own, and attended several birthings, so she knows what to expect. She’s also in good health herself, and strong -- something what’s especially important where you’re concerned. That, and she’s nearby. I’ll worry considerably less knowing she’s your acolyte.”

Lily sighed with relief, then smiled. “Thank you, Mrs. Chubb.”

The midwife reverted to her customary brusque demeanor. “As I said, I’ve other ladies to see to today. You’re in good hands with Mrs. Longburrow and Rosie. Come to think of it, your sister-in-law is on my list of stops today.”

She paused and, for the first time, appeared uncomfortable. “I’m familiar with your mum’s birthing history, Lily. You might want to wait a little yet, before announcing the coming.”

“I understand,” Lily whispered. She felt Frodo stiffen, and she pressed his hand against her belly. “Thank you, Mrs. Chubb. In truth, I’ve no desire to share the news with anyone as yet.” She glanced at Rose, “Except Sam, of course,” then back at the midwife. “Is that acceptable?”

Mrs. Chubb’s stern face completely disappeared in a warm, approving smile. “Yes, Lily. Though I must admit, it shan’t be easy to not tell Bell,” she chortled. “I’ll be on my way.”

“I’ll see you out,” Rosie offered.

“Thank you, Rose.” The midwife stopped short and allowed herself to look over Lily and Frodo carefully. “I think you’ll be just fine. You’re in good health; you’ve chosen a fine acolyte, and you’ve got an understanding husband...” She cleared her throat, “I’ll check in on you soon,” and she swept out of the room with Rosie right behind her.

Frodo murmured, “She’s not as gruff as I thought.”

Mrs. Longburrow laughed. “She’s soft as the newborn babes she delivers. But it’s a serious business, and she likes to be sure that’s clearly understood at the start. She’s also very unaccustomed to dealing with husbands.” The healer smiled at Frodo.

“So it seems.” A smile tugged at the corner of Frodo’s mouth. “I’ll endeavor to ensure she does not regret the experience. And thank you, Mrs. Longburrow.”

“Yes, thank you so much, Mrs. Longburrow,” Lily added warmly, and sighed, then leaned her head against Frodo’s shoulder. “I think I could do with a nap.”

“A wise idea,” the healer agreed. “But you need to eat something first.”

Rose piped up from the doorway, “I’ll bring something in here for you, shall I?”

Mrs. Longburrow nodded approval, then continued, “I must be on my way as well, then. Fortunately, it’s a quiet day for me, but that means time to catch up on little things what get put off on busy days. If you need anything, you know where to find me, and I’m certain Toby would be thrilled to fetch me for you!” She laughed. “Rose can see me out.”

Rose glanced at her friend. “Rest yourself, Lily. And don’t worry about a thing. I’ll return shortly with something for the both of you to eat.” She followed the healer down the hall, saw her out, and then went to the kitchen.

Frodo found himself once again gazing at his hand, still held against Lily’s belly. Tears sprang to his eyes, and he kissed his lover’s temple, lingering for a time, kissing her there several more times.

Lily nestled closer. “I’m sorry.”

“What ever for, my dearest love?” Frodo wanted to search her eyes, but she curled into him, hiding her face against his shoulder.

“For not telling you what I suspected.”

Her voice was muffled, but Frodo could hear the tears.

“Lily, dearest, I knew.”

“What?” Lily pulled away to look into Frodo’s eyes, tears trickling down her face.

Frodo lifted his hand from her belly to wipe away her tears, then kissed each cheek. “I knew.”

“How?” She did not hide her curiosity. “How could you know?”

“I dreamt of it.”

The hint of a smile revealed itself in Lily’s eyes. “When?”

“The beginning of February.”

“But I wasn’t with child then.”

“I dreamed you would be soon.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” she asked curiously.

“It was just after the unpleasantness at the market. And what if the dream were not true? I didn’t want you to feel disappointed or hurt.”

“Oh, Frodo... And I didn’t want to tell you, for what if I was wrong? I didn’t want you to feel... disappointed.”

Frodo gathered her into his arms as tears streamed down their faces. He slipped one hand into her silken tresses, and kissed away her tears as she kissed away his. She wrapped her arms around his waist and drew him closer. Each searched the others’ eyes.

“Beloved,” Frodo murmured, “it’s going to be a maidchild.”

Lily smiled. “Is it now?”

Frodo returned the smile, and caressed Lily’s lips with his own. “Yes, dear one.” He could no longer resist the request in her eyes. “Oh, Lily. I love you so much. Never did I believe such joy could be mine.” He lowered his head to hers.

“Love of my life,” Lily whispered against his lips, then accepted his adoration.

Rosie cleared her throat, and the couple pulled apart, reluctantly.

“Sorry, I do hate to interrupt, but better now than later. I’ve brought us all a bit of late secondies or early elevensies. Depending on how you look at it, o’course.”

“Rosie, there are four plates,” Frodo observed, bemused.

She smiled. “Sam should be here any minute.”

Frodo continued. “How do you know that?”

“It’s just about time to feed Elanor. Don’t ask me how I know, you’ll only end up blushing to your toes, Frodo, and I think you’ve had enough of that for one day, wouldn’t you say?” Rose grinned.

All three turned to the sound of the smial door opening, and Sam’s arrival was announced by a wail from Elanor.

Frodo called out, “We’re in the master bedroom, Sam! Come join us for second breakfast!”

Rose sighed and smiled. “I’ll go rescue him, and feed Elanor. Don’t be eating my breakfast,” she scolded, and then giggled. “Oh! Would you wait to tell Sam the news until I come back, please?”

Lily smiled, and Rose sighed again. “Goodness, your smile gives it away, Lily, sure and certain.” The frown fled from her face and she smiled again. “With any luck, he’ll be too tired to notice; he was up early with Elanor. I think she knew he was caring for her today.” She laughed and headed down the hall, meeting Sam part way.

Frodo and Lily knew at precisely what moment the two met in the hall for the babe’s sobbing ceased entirely.