Frodo stepped into Bag End. He silently closed the door behind him and leaned heavily against it. Tears streamed down his cheeks. How he missed the dear old hobbit... if Lily had not entered his life, he most certainly would have sailed for the uttermost West with Bilbo. Just for a moment, Frodo wondered about the other path his life might have traveled.
He wiped his tears away with his right hand, sharply aware of the missing finger. He had not noticed it for such a long time... the trip to the Grey Havens had stirred a sadness deep within him.
Gandalf! He would not miss the Lady Galadriel or Lord Elrond, not really, not at all; but Bilbo, and Gandalf... he could not imagine life without them, and he felt suddenly a little frightened. Gandalf was no longer here to help, if things went horribly wrong again.
But the wizard reminded him this was a new age -- the Fourth Age. It was now the Age of Men; the Age of the Elves was over. It was difficult to imagine. Gandalf’s task was done. The world was safe; Middle-earth was safe, and the Shire was safe.
He shook off the enveloping gloom. He did not want Lily to see him thus. She was, as ever, aware of the minutest change in his mood.
Frodo continued to lean against the door. He must not be afraid now Gandalf was gone...
Dear Sam; without him, I could not have borne this grief at the parting of Bilbo and Gandalf, Frodo reflected. He recalled to himself then the knowledge that the Creator was all around him, everywhere, at all times, ready to listen and to help when called upon; they were indeed quite safe. Then there was Lily, the light of his life, and now a maidchild on the way... Lily was well and healthy... the darkness was gone... he needed to ask her about that... but indeed, all that truly mattered, in all the world, now resided in this place, his home; everything.
From the back of the smial came the sound of soft, feminine laughter, pulling Frodo from his reverie. His heart tightened at the obvious friendship shared between Lily and Rose. Thoughts of the Grey Havens faded to the back of his mind.
The laughter seemed to call from the master bedroom. He stopped just short of the doorway. From their conversation, he gathered that Bell had come to watch Lily so Rosie could run a few errands. Bell had already returned home with little Roper some time ago, and now Rose and Lily were laughing at the stories Rosie was sharing about her visit to the market that day.
Frodo suddenly ached to see his beloved wife and stepped into the open doorway. The two lasses were only momentarily lost in their conversation. As if she knew, Lily looked up over Rosie’s shoulder, and her eyes locked with his.
Lily’s eyes grew wide and without thinking she flung off the covers and started to rise.
Frodo hurried over to sit on the edge of the bed, to keep her from completing the task. He knew Rosie was there but could not bring himself to concentrate on even a brief greeting for her.
Rosie, with Elanor in her arms, quietly slipped out of the room, leaving the two alone.
Without hesitation, Lily threw her arms around Frodo as he wrapped his arms around her, and buried his face in her neck. He barely kept himself from pulling her onto his lap, to hold her more closely. They wept as they gently rocked together, softly exchanging endearments until the tears finally ebbed away and their breathing grew steadier.
Finally, Frodo pulled back a little from his wife and smiled into her eyes. Though he cleared his throat, his words still came out huskily. “I missed you.”
Fresh tears spilled over onto Lily’s cheeks as she brokenly replied. “I missed you, so much.”
She could not bring herself to tell him of her niggling little fear that he might choose to go with the Elves. She knew it was silly, but it was difficult not to let her imagination run wild -- like a runaway pony -- especially all those nights alone, without him. He did after all have a place on the ship, if he wanted it. She drank in the love in his eyes, for her.
Suddenly, her eyes widened in pleasant surprise. She grasped Frodo’s hand quickly and placed it against her increasingly rounding belly. His face was a picture of confusion. She moved his hand a little and then held it in one spot.
Searching his questioning eyes, tears still spilling down her cheeks, she asked, “Do you feel him?”
“What--” Frodo’s eyes grew round and stared first into Lily’s eyes, and then at her belly, and then back into her eyes again.
Had she ever seen his eyes quite so big, she mused, and her smile broadened. “You do feel him!” She giggled and sniffled at the same time...
Frodo opened and closed his mouth a few times, trying to decide which question to ask first. “Surely that’s her foot; isn’t it? When did you start to feel her move so easily?”
Lily lowered her eyes and then raised them again, a soft smile touching her lips. “The first day I noticed of a certainty was September 22nd. Thank you, dearest, for the birthday gift.”
Frodo’s eyes filled with tears again. He wanted to continue to feel the small life move, but wanted to hold Lily as well. Just as abruptly, the pressure against his hand ceased. Quickly, his eyes traveled from her belly up to her eyes again, his brows drawn together. “She stopped. Is she all right?”
How I have missed that sound! Frodo thought.
It felt so good to be able to share with him again. “Yes, dear heart. It’s the oddest thing. He’ll be quite active, as though in play, and then he settles, as if taking a nap. Unfortunately,” she grimaced, “he likes to play in the middle of the night, more often than not.”
Frodo’s eyes widened again. “She plays?” He stared incredulously at her belly.
The wonder and awe in his voice filled her with an unexpected joy. “Yes, at least that’s what if feels like to me, at least. He truly is awake quite often.”
Frodo laughed. “It’s a lass, you know.”
Lily giggled. “What if it’s a lad, and all this time we’ve called him a lass?”
A sweet joy and sense of well-being filled Frodo. “It’s a lass.”
“Yes, yes, but just in case, I’ll call him a lad.”
They laughed together. Frodo reached up his right hand and cupped her cheek, and Lily laid her hand atop his. He spoke softly. “I missed your laugh, your smile, your gentleness, your warmth...”
Lily softly kissed the palm of his hand, then held it more firmly against her cheek.
He sighed. “I’ve missed your kisses, your embraces, your hand in mine...” He dropped his eyes for a moment as his vision blurred, then searched hers again. His voice broke as he continued. “I missed your glorious, silken tresses, and the way the sun catches the varying shades of auburn. I missed the way your eyes change colour. I missed your voice, speaking and singing... I missed our long talks... about everything and nothing...” A tear slid down his cheek. “I missed hearing you say, ‘I love you.’”
“I love you, Frodo Baggins,” Lily softly assured him, her eyes glistening with tears.
Matching tears flowed down Frodo’s face. He replied hoarsely, “I love you, Lily Baggins. You are everything to me...” His voice disappeared in his deepening emotions.
Lily released his hand and drew him into her arms. Frodo wrapped his arms around her again, and allowed the tears to wash over him. She gently pulled him with her as she leaned up against the pillows, letting one hand stray to his hair.
She spoke softly. “I missed your warmth. I missed waking and feeling your embrace tighten around me in the morning. I missed touching your chestnut curls. I missed losing myself in your eyes. I missed sharing my meals with you, even when you’re not hungry, but you eat with me anyway...” She smiled, and could feel him smile against her neck. She sighed contentedly and continued. “I missed the special little things you bring whenever you go outside, the leaf, the flower, the fresh fruits and vegetables from the garden, just for me. I missed all the little things you do for me like brushing my hair and reading to me. I missed our long conversations about everything and nothing. I missed your touch and your kisses and your hand in mine...” Her voice trembled. “I missed hearing you say how much you love me.”
Frodo shifted slightly and tightened his embrace, then whispered in her ear, “I love you, Lily, more than you shall ever know, but I’ll endeavor to tell you, every day, for the rest of our lives.”
“Oh, Frodo...” Lily’s voice failed her completely, but Frodo pulled back a little and saw her mouth, “I love you.”
He leaned one hand on the pillow beside her head and slipped his other hand into her silky curls. Searching her eyes, more green than blue, he lowered his head and softly caressed her lips.
She pushed her fingers more fully into his dark locks.
He wondered if he should pull away, but only for a moment; then Lily deepened their kiss. At the outermost edge of his thoughts, he felt one of her hands unbuttoning his waistcoat and then his shirt, but he lost himself in their increasingly passionate kiss, until he felt her warm hand pressed against his chest. Some small corner of his mind knew he was losing control, but he suddenly did not care and knew she didn’t either. He reached for the top button of her nightshirt, released it and reached for the second, when he heard above their impassioned kiss and uneven breathing a knock at the bedroom door, a pause, and then another gentle knock.
Reluctantly, Frodo broke their kiss, and carefully laid both his hands on the pillow either side of Lily’s head, not quite touching her. He laid his forehead on hers as they endeavored to steady their breathing. His voice still felt thick as he replied, “Yes?”
Rosie’s cheerful voice called through the door. “I’ve brought your supper, all made for you. Help yourselves when you’re ready. If you need anything, you know where to find me! I’ll be back in the morning. Good night.”
It didn’t take much to know she was interrupting something which unfortunately needed to be interrupted for a few more weeks. She had wanted to leave as soon as she saw Frodo, knowing her Samwise was home as well, but the look in the couple’s eyes told her to wait. She gave them several minutes alone, knowing, from what little Lily shared of that part of their lives, she could leave them for that long. Now it was time to see her Samwise.
She walked quickly out of the smial chattering excitedly to Elanor to keep herself from squealing in delighted anticipation of seeing her own beloved, at least until she got outside. Then she laughed as Elanor squealed excitedly for her, all the way back to their smial.
Frodo continued to rest his forehead lightly on Lily’s. Their breathing grew more even as a smile inched across his face. “She did that on purpose, did she not?”
Lily giggled. “I suspect so.” She sighed and reluctantly refastened his buttons and lay her hand on his chest again, only now with the cambric shirt once again between them.
A heavy sigh of resignation escaped Frodo as he pulled away from Lily, her hand still on his chest. He laid his hand over hers and held it there a moment longer. His eyes closed, and he sighed again. He lifted her hand to his lips and gently kissed the back of it. Gradually, he opened his eyes and searched hers.
“Are you ready for your supper?”
They both laughed at the retreat to his usual defense in such situations.
“Yes, dearest, though I hate to have you out of my sight again for even a moment.”
“I’ll not be gone long, rest assured.” He opened the door to step into the hall and stopped short, and started to laugh again. “Even less than that, beloved.” He bent down and picked up the tray on the floor. “Rosie, bless her, brought our food to us.”
He moved a small table, setting it next to the bed, and drew a chair close. The bowls were filled with still-steaming stew, accompanied by fresh bread and butter, and mugs topped off with cider.
They offered a prayer of gratitude, and then spent more time gazing at each other than they did eating, but they finally made it through their meal. Each wanted to know about the other’s past two weeks, then agreed they would share those thoughts on the morrow when they were both more rested.
Frodo set the empty tray and dishes aside and decided he would take care of them in the morning. The weariness of the journey was settling in. He slowly readied himself for bed, aware that Lily was watching him. Her comment did not surprise him as he slipped into his nightshirt.
“You didn’t eat as you ought, did you... not even the wonderful Elven fare?”
He turned a gentle smile to her. “It seems, my love, my appetite is only for you.”
He saw Lily’s breath catch at his words and knew she caught the double meaning; she allowed him to hold her eyes with his own.
Then Frodo blinked and turned away, for his own breathing had stopped entirely. He cleared his throat, and took a deep breath. He could wait -- they could wait. They must. They had waited this long. They could wait a little longer. Another month... no, six weeks... no, longer... Lily would need to recover...
It would be all right. He smiled to himself as he tended the fireplace. They had the rest of their lives together, soon to be made richer than anything they’d experienced before. He breathed a prayer of thanks; Lily and the child were yet safe and healthy. Yes, it would be all right.
After preparing the fire for the night and blowing out all the candles, he crawled into bed. Lily dearly wanted to curl into him with her head on his chest, to feel his breathing under her ear and listen to his heart beating, but knew it was too much to ask of him. She satisfied herself with settling against him as he wrapped his arms around her, pressing her back to his chest. Her hands folded securely over his and held them snugly against the upper swell of her belly.
Lily giggled, and Frodo startled. “What?”
“Tell me about Eärendil.”
Frodo laughed and kissed the back of her neck.
Lily breathed in sharply. “Frodo, do not start what you cannot finish.”
“Shhh, please, do not apologize. I want so much more, especially tonight. It was one thing to be with you and still be able to enjoy your caresses, both in deed and word, but to have been without you... to have only my memories of you... and now to have you here again, close to me...” Lily struggled to control her voice. “Just your arms around me...” A shiver ran through her she could not control; Frodo felt it and tightened his embrace. The tremor in her voice was still evident. “Any other time, I would welcome such kisses... please, save them for me for another time, please?”
She felt him nod his head and heard his soft, “Yes. I’ll hold them for you.” She shivered again and caressed his hands with her own.
Somehow she needed to smooth the tension between them. “Frodo, do you know how much I enjoy sharing my pillow with you?”
He laughed, deep in his throat. “Lily, dearest, I was just thinking how much I enjoy sharing your pillow.”
They took a deep breath together, and released it.
“Eärendil...” Frodo began, and Lily nestled against him.
Lily stirred in the middle of the night, and wondered what woke her. She almost called for her mother, and remembered she had passed on, and her loneliness almost overwhelmed her. She did not want to wake Da; he worked so hard, especially now with Mum gone.
She stifled the panic rising within her at the realization someone was in her bed. Whoever it was shifted slightly and tightened their hold on her. She gingerly laid her hand on the one caressing her belly and felt the marred hand beneath hers. Memories flooded in and her breath caught, and her hand lovingly lay atop his, pressing it close against her.
Fleetingly, she wondered if she would go back to being alone if she could have her parents back. No. Suddenly, she knew her parents would not wish it for her either. Somehow, she felt certain they were happy for her and only wanted her continued happiness.
She felt the babe move within her and smiled; it was he who probably woke her to begin with. With a deep sigh, she relaxed against Frodo and endeavored to rest while the babe continued to move.
Frodo gradually became more restless and mumbled in his sleep, his breathing more labored. Lily knew her memory was not its sharpest, as evidenced by her waking thoughts, but her heart told her Frodo’s dreams were not nearly as pleasant as hers. She remembered what day it was but had hoped, perchance, Frodo would forget. It seemed his dreams would not.
She knew sleep would evade her until the child within settled again. She carefully sat up and leaned against the pillows, endeavoring to find a more comfortable position.
Frodo’s nightmare deepened, and Lily heard him mutter the word ‘no’, followed by a sound deep in his throat -- it might have been a scream, if allowed out -- and then, finally, ‘Oh, Sam.’ She noticed the dampened curls on his forehead as he turned away from her, and knew instantly where he thought himself to be. She gently stroked his cheek, and for the first time, as though more aware of her, he woke from his dream at this simple touch.
“Lily?” He endeavored to steady his breathing, but was only barely awake. “Are you well, dearest?”
She smiled. “Yes, beloved, I’m fine. Are you well?”
At first he did not answer, and she wondered if he had drifted back to sleep, then she heard him breathe deeply and release the breath slowly.
“I am, now.” He hesitated. “May I hold you?”
Lily wondered at this request, and then realized that because she had changed positions, he was no longer sure of what was comfortable for her.
“Yes, my love. It’s a bit difficult for me to sleep when the babe moves.”
A smile spread across her face as her husband struggled to wake more fully. His voice was still muffled against her pillow as he asked, “May I feel her?”
“I’m afraid right now the feeling is more inside than out, but you may the next time. Why don’t you sleep, darling? I’m certain you are weary from your journey.”
She drew him close, and helped him settle within her embrace.
He shifted closer to her and softly whispered, “I love you.”
Lily closed her eyes in an effort to control the shivers she felt, and hid her trembling by tightening her arms about him, whispering back, “And I love you. Welcome home.”
She gently wiped the perspiration from his face, brushed back his dampened curls, and tenderly kissed his forehead. A satisfied sigh escaped her as he nestled his head against her. Surprisingly, the babe settled shortly thereafter and Lily too slipped into sleep.