Frodo finished the supper dishes and gave the kitchen a cursory glance. It wasn’t quite as neat and tidy as Lily left it, but he was well pleased with his efforts.
Perhaps he ought to bring in fresh flowers as Lily was wont to do. He shrugged his shoulders; it wasn’t as if anyone but him would see them. With Lily confined to bed, Frodo found himself apt to ignore the smial. Lily could not go anywhere, and he preferred to not be parted from her.
He chuckled softly to himself. Bag End was sizeable, and they were now reduced to using only the master bedroom, the kitchen, and his study. Though perhaps a bowl of fresh flowers for their bedroom would not be amiss. Yes, he’d bring them in on the morrow, bright and early. Sam had told him long ago that it was best to cut flowers first thing in the morning. Lily would enjoy the colour and fragrance.
Frodo stopped at the table, and once again glanced over the parchment that arrived a few days past. There would have been plenty of room for Hal, Daisy, and little Pearl, but not this time. Perhaps with the next child...
The company of Lily’s sister and her family would have been an added joy. But it was for the best they’d decided to stay in Deephallow, what with Daisy increasing and suffering terrible morning sickness. It made Lily grateful for only being confined to bed.
Will and Bell also were tied up and unable to stay for more than short visits, at least not yet, what with their little lad, Roper, only two months old already. Bell had done well, and tiny Roper was growing like a weed.
Wonder whispered through Frodo’s soul. Three new children, one of his own and two to whom he was an uncle. A grin spread across his face. What riches.
Shaking his head in astonishment, he made his way back to the bedroom. He came to a full stop when he found Lily sitting up against her pillows, gazing at her fully exposed rounded belly. Heat crawled up his neck, and he started in surprise at the sudden desire he felt for her. This would never do, not at all...
He turned abruptly. He needed to leave.
Lily glanced up, a smile lighting her face, her tone hushed, “Frodo, come see.”
He was both surprised and intrigued by the excitement lacing her voice. Taking a deep breath, he strode purposefully to her bedside, at the same time desperately trying to avoid actually looking at her, and failing miserably. He struggled not to stare at her shining face, or the beautiful expanse of translucent skin stretched across her abdomen. He paused and managed to avert his gaze, studying the floor at his feet, endeavoring to tamp down his ever-burning desire for her.
Someone at Will and Bell’s wedding had avowed that passion would likely last only as far as the next moon, then ebb swiftly, especially with the vagaries of increasing. Frodo decided whoever had said it could not possibly know what they were talking about, and that they’d certainly ceased to be grateful for such miracles.
Lily reached out her hand and grasped her husband’s, her eyes sparkling.
Frodo felt himself fall into the hazel depths, unable to resist.
Her voice escaped in an awe-filled whisper, “Look, Frodo.” She captured his gaze with her own, then drew it to her belly.
Frodo was unaware of his tightened grip on her hand, as his breathing quickened. Though he tried to distract himself, he finally allowed his gaze to wander over her rounded form. As a familiar hunger built within him, he endeavored to convince himself that he ought to turn away -- he ought not stare; he oughtn’t wish to caress her...
Then a movement caught his eye, and another, and then still another. He turned incredulous eyes to his wife.
“What?...” He realized his mouth was hanging open, and closed it with a snap.
Lily grinned broadly. “He’s turning.”
Releasing her hand, Frodo crawled to his side of the bed and settled close, facing her. He watched with ever-increasing wonder as the surface of her belly rippled first one way and then another. He did not know how long he sat there, entranced, but finally the fire started to burn so low he was having difficulty seeing her even with his keen sight.
He swiftly kissed her cheek. “Wait here; I’ll return in a trice.”
“As though I might simply pick myself up and go anywhere.” Lily laughed. “To be devoutly wished.”
Frodo laughed as well. “Only a few more months, Lily sweet, and then the three of us will go for long walks, every day. I promise.”
With glistening eyes, Lily’s smile was tremulous. “I’ll hold you to that, Frodo Baggins.”
“I sincerely hope so,” Frodo smiled.
He slid off the bed and quickly built up the fire, banking it for the night. Though Lily asked no question, he found himself explaining, “I know it’s early yet, but I don’t want to have to leave our bed again. I don’t want to miss a moment.”
So many moments. Lily decided her discomfort was worth every moment, to see such happiness fill her husband.
With a mischievous chuckle, Frodo bounced back into the bed like a child and sat cross-legged with his elbows on his knees and his chin in his hands. He stared at the intermittent rolling until Lily shifted against the pillows.
Frodo glanced up into her eyes, and recognized the weariness there. Softly, he queried, “Can you sleep at all, with all that going on?” His eyes strayed to her belly, and then back to her face.
Lily shook her head and sighed. “No, it would be like trying to sleep with you jumping on the bed next to me.” She smiled at the picture in her head. Then she giggled.
Frodo briefly feigned offense at the jest, and then grinned in return, pleased to hear her mirth. Though he knew he could not feel what she did, he suddenly wondered what she saw. He shifted around, plumped the pillows behind her to lend greater comfort, and then added a few more pillows next to her.
Lily watched with increasing interest the careful preparations, wondering what he was doing. When he seemed satisfied, Frodo sat next to her, leaned back against the pillows, slipped an arm around her shoulders and eased her closer, then he laid his other hand on her arm nearest him.
He nodded in satisfaction. “Just as I thought, it looks different from here.”
“What do you mean?” Lily searched his face, curious.
“From where I was sitting before, I could watch the ripple across you from the top to the bottom and from side to side. From here you can only see the top, yet it’s much more pronounced.” He hesitated. “Whatever it is the babe is doing in there.”
Lily giggled and leaned her head against him. “What is it you wish to ask?” She could feel him start in surprise.
“Sweet, sometimes, it’s exceedingly disconcerting to realize you know me so well. I can hide nothing from you...”
Her voice grew serious. “Is there something you need to hide?”
Frodo carefully considered his answer.
He took so long that Lily began to worry, a little.
His voice was hushed and rough, when finally he murmured, “Only how much I want you.”
Lily’s breathing quickened, and she burrowed against him. His hand tightened its hold on her arm, and she knew what it was he had not felt he might ask. She took his hand and gingerly placed it on her belly.
His touch was at first feather-light, and she giggled. “That’s too light, Frodo; it tickles.” She tenderly pressed his hand against her body and smiled as Frodo caught his breath, at last feeling the uninterrupted rolls of the child beneath his hand.
Tentatively, he allowed his hand to roam lovingly over her belly, trying to follow the movement of the child. For some time, he could think no farther than what he felt with each caress.
Lily was now leaning more against him than the pillows, and he gladly took her weight against him.
“Sweet, what does it feel like... inside, I mean?”
She settled more comfortably within his embrace, her back fully supported by his chest. She lifted his other hand from her shoulder, and laid it on the other side of her belly.
“Tell me what you feel, Frodo.”
He closed his eyes, allowing his sense of touch to fill him, gently running his hands up and down and then side to side. “It’s difficult to tell. Sometimes, I think mayhap I feel her hand, or an elbow, a leg, or a foot, or even her head, but I’m uncertain. Nothing stays in one spot long enough for me to be sure.”
Lily closed her eyes, enjoying the soft caresses.
She remained silent so long, Frodo wondered if she was finally able to fall into a deep sleep.
Then she sighed heavily. “You feel only one side of what is happening. I feel it all over, or all under, depending on how you look at it.”
She wrinkled her nose. “That doesn’t make much sense, does it?”
Pausing to gather her thoughts, she took a considering breath before asking, “Do you remember the first time you went fishing?”
Frodo smiled. “Yes, my da took me. We used to go all the time, what with living so close to the river...”
The silence lengthened, and Lily couldn’t help but worry a little that she had spoken amiss. “I’m sorry, I reminded you...”
She felt him shake himself slightly.
“No, Lily, it’s all right. They’re good memories, for the most part, and worth remembering. I haven’t in a very long time. It’s time. Mayhap long past time I took them out and dusted them off.”
Frodo settled more comfortably, nuzzling Lily’s hair. He tightened his hold while he continued to allow his hands to roam at will over her active belly.
“We’d catch fish and bring them home for dinner. Mum made us clean them outside in the garden. She believed it helped the vegetables grow bigger.” Frodo laughed. “She always told me it wasn’t good for us, but it was good for the garden.”
Lily couldn’t resist asking. “And was she right?”
“She believed so, though I always suspect it was simply the easiest way to dispose of what she did not wish to use. But you must remember dear one, I’m not the gardener she was. Sam would probably be able to tell us. Mum made Da turn the bits under the dirt so it wouldn’t spoil the aroma of the flowers. Though I seem to remember...”
A faint memory tugged at Frodo’s mind. Then he gasped, and laughed aloud.
Lily stared at him over her shoulder. “Are you going to share your secret with me, or keep me in the dark?” Her smile belied her feigned annoyance.
Frodo tightened his arms around her; he could barely touch his fingertips across the widest part of her belly.
“I suddenly remembered why I stole mushrooms from Farmer Maggot. His crop was the only one to rival my mum’s. She kept a dark, little corner. How she managed to cultivate them, I do not know, but they were remarkable. Mum used to tell me Faeries planted them. I wonder if they still grow there.”
They laughed together, then shared a comfortable silence.
Relaxed in Frodo’s arms, Lily yawned. “Oh, pardon me. I’m simply so weary. One would think it would be impossible to remain awake, and yet, here I am.”
Frodo softly kissed her temple. “It’s all right, dearest. Why don’t you close your eyes, and try to rest again for a while?”
Lily nodded and nestled deeper into his arms, then stiffened slightly before easing closer to him again. “You know, I truly was going somewhere with my question. Back to the fish. Tell me, did you put the fish in a sack while it was still alive?”
Frodo nodded. “Certainly -- in fact, Da taught me to put them in the sack before releasing them from the hook; lessened the chance of it escaping back into the water.” His voice turned rueful, “I lost one of my biggest catches by not doing that first.”
Lily patted his hand comfortingly. “Did you ever hold the sack with the fish wiggling inside?”
Frodo laughed again, wondering where she was leading him. “Yes! The first time Da had me hold the sack while he put the fish in, it wiggled right out of my hands.”
Lily released a satisfied breath and nodded. “I think that’s what this feels like.”
“Oh!” he breathed.
How she love that sound of wonder in his voice! Between bursts of activity from their child, Lily was able to snatch naps, knowing she was safe in Frodo’s arms. But as the evening wore on into night, the babe’s movements became less vigorous, with longer spaces of quiet in betwixt and between. Until finally Lily was able to nod off, in sheer exhaustion.
Gradually, Frodo changed his tactic. He stopped tracking the babe’s movements -- sometimes it felt like kicks or punches, and Frodo decided he’d need to have a long chat with their child about how she treated her mother. He relaxed his mind and heart, moving his hands more slowly and methodically over Lily’s belly. He did not bother to hide the smile of pure satisfaction that spread across his face as Lily sighed deeply and rubbed her head against his chest, slipping deeper into sleep.
Frodo breathed in contentment as the babe quieted, and Lily relaxed completely. A tear sprang to his eye as he slowed the movement of his hands, and Lily laid her hands atop his.
Drifting in and out of sleep himself, Frodo was surprised when he noted the soft glow of early morning creeping through the window. It would be a glorious fall day.
He stroked Lily’s hair softly, not wishing to wake her. She would be weary this day, after her lack of sleep last night. Sam and Rosie had teased them about how much worse it would be once the babe arrived; and they should know.