“Read to me, Frodo dearest,” Lily sighed, and shifted uncomfortably on the bed.
Frodo smiled indulgently. “A distraction, sweet?”
Frodo’s gaze flickered over the books.
“One of your poems, please.”
Frodo shook his head. “I should never have left the book out where you would find it.”
Lily’s heart warmed at his attempt at surliness. “You do understand, my love, that the more you protest, the more I wish to hear them, do you not?”
A look of mock horror crossed Frodo’s face. “You might have warned me sooner.” Though he gave a disgruntled huff, his lips still twitched in his effort to hide the smile lurking there. Then he glanced at the page to which he had opened the book, and he could not deny the joy curving his mouth.
“Share it with me, beloved.” This was why she persisted, Lily knew. All she had hoped for was being realized. Only one more thing. “When did you write this one?”
Lost in memory, Frodo did not answer at once. Then he shook himself out of his reverie, and grinned. “In April, after we learned you were increasing.” He shrugged, unable to hide the slight blush creeping into his cheeks. “Once I was over the shock.”
Clearing his throat, Frodo began to read:
of babes and bagginses.....
Like the smallest mouse, sun-veins run timid upon the study floor.
It is, after all, yet April and She might still have need to share Her gold with the silver'd remains of winter.
Soon there will be Spring
Soon, there will be yet another harvest, warm with promises
given and fulfilled.
And in the season following close,
naught but dremes now, will find their ending
in the small music of a babe's first cry, the sweet'd spice of a silk-crowned head,
the pearl-pink hold of fingers grasping mine.
Soon there will be feet,
bare as silver'd night,
rousing the spiders in their corners,
running like the quiet moon in the halls.
I shall read to her within this room, tell her the stories of my heart.
All of those things which somehow I know
only she might understand.
Tears filled Lily’s eyes.
She shifted again, struggling to find a comfortable position.
Frodo shook himself from his own thoughts and noticed his wife’s grimace. “What troubles you, sweet?”
Lily sighed. “There are times, now, when I wonder if I might be the first hobbit in the history of the Shire to be with child, for ever.”
Frodo gaped, then quickly covered his surprise. “Nonsense.” He was taken aback when his beloved glared.
Then Lily sighed again. “I know.” She searched her husband’s face for some sign he understood her. “I miss going for walks. I miss visiting our friends. I miss preparing our meals. I even miss cleaning the smial. I miss feeling comfortable. Sometimes it seems as if I move the wrong way I shall pop. I’m sorry, Frodo, my love. I’m happy, truly, to be carrying our child, but I’m so tired, and uncomfortable. It’s so difficult to sleep.”
Compassion filled Frodo’s heart. “I wish I could ease your burden.” He swallowed hard, and continued in a whisper, “As you eased mine.”
Lily’s heart swelled with overflowing love. “For you, Frodo. For you and for us, I gladly endure what I must, even if I do so ungraciously on occasion.” She drew a shuddering breath. “I would never have married another, never known the joy of love’s union.”
“Never had to endure--”
“Never say it, my darling. ‘Tis but a little while longer. I know. I’m simply especially uncomfortable, today. It will pass soon enough.” Then Lily smiled. “I imagine that in not too very long I will be wishing to be here, once more, when the child wakes me, for the hundredth time, in the middle of the night, and I wonder if I’ll ever see the back of my eyelids, again.”
Frodo laughed, and Lily joined him, then she winced.
Immediately, Frodo left his chair and sat on the bed beside his wife. “What is it, Lily-sweet?”
“My back, Frodo-love.”
“Shall I rub it for you?”
“I don’t think I’m able to move anymore, so you might reach it.”
“Rosie should be here soon, Lily. Mayhap she knows of some way to ease you.”
“Perhaps. This is the worst it has ever been.” Tears filled her eyes, but she struggled to hold them back, and smiled gamely. “I imagine it isn’t particularly comfortable for the babe anymore.”
Frodo grinned and gently rubbed his wife’s belly. “The fit seems decidedly a bit tight.”
The cheerful babbling of Elanor announced Rosie’s arrival. Stepping into the room, Rosie immediately handed the babe to Frodo. “What is it, Lily?”
“My back has been aching, for hours.”
Rosie arched her eyebrows. “How long is ‘for hours?’”
Lily’s brow wrinkled. “Since last night, I think.”
Rosie’s eyes widened. She breathed slowly, carefully calming herself. “Frodo, if you would, methinks it might be wise if you fetched Mrs. Chubb.”
All the colour drained from Frodo’s face. He trembled and his voice shook, “Mrs. Chubb?”
Rosie grinned. “You’ve been through worse, Frodo.”
“It wasn’t Lily.”
Rosie’s heart contracted. “Sam’ll be more’n happy to go with you, Frodo. There’s little enough to do, now, but soon. Off with you. There’s still time a plenty, I’m thinking, but babe’s have their own schedules and I’d not like for you to still be out looking for Mrs. Chubb when this little one makes an appearance.”
Frodo’s eyes widened.
A giggle escaped Lily, then she winced again. “Please hurry, Frodo.”
Frodo glanced swiftly between the two lasses, then nodded his head decisively, holding Lily’s gaze. “I love you.”
She smiled through the discomfort. “And I you, Frodo.” A sigh escaped as her husband slipped out the door.
Rosie’s eyes sparkled. “He’s besotted. There’s no doubt.”
Lily grinned. “A good thing, too, since it’s mutual.” Another pain shot through her.
“Now,” Rosie turned brusque, “let’s see how far along you are, and what might be done to ease you.”
Sam led Frodo to the back garden. “‘Tis no time for us to be interfering. They know what they’re about, Frodo.”
Frodo glanced at his friend and smiled weakly. “I suppose not.”
Sam cast about for something to distract his friend. “I’m curious, Frodo. Is it my own imagining or have you not been plagued by that cursed darkness?”
Frodo stared at the smial for several moments, seeming not to have heard. Then he shook himself. “It’s gone, Sam. Thanks to Lily.”
Wide-eyed, Sam gaped. “It’s truly gone?”
“Entirely,” Frodo nodded. “Lily told me, last month, when the sixth passed without naught more than an unpleasant dream.”
“How, Frodo?” Sam did not bother to hide his wonder.
Frodo drew his brows together in thought. “Lily. It seems she is possessed of a gift for healing, for me.”
Frodo nodded, his face softening. “‘Twas at great risk to herself. The day we were wed, she accepted all the darkness to herself, but Gandalf knew and sensed it was meant to be, for both of us. Gandalf told her Eru planned for it, for us both.”
Sam burst into tears.
Mewling sounds escaped the babe. Mrs. Chubb stepped close to the bed. “Mistress Baggins, I know you’re weary, but you need to feed the babe now and then every few hours or whenever she fusses.”
As Lily unbuttoned her nightshirt, Rosie held Amaryllis.
Mrs. Chubb nodded and disappeared into the hall.
“Mr. Baggins, there are a few instructions I need to give you.”
“Is she all right?” Frodo’s throat tightened around the words.
“Yes, she and the lass are fine. Mistress Baggins is fatigued, more so with her condition, and soon she’ll be very cold. You’ll need to continue to care for her, and see that she stays abed.”
A tear slid down Frodo’s face.
Mrs. Chubb’s face softened. “I’ll give the instructions to Rosie, and she’ll see everything is seen to I’m sure. Best we get you in to see Mistress Baggins and your daughter, so you know she truly is all right.”
Frodo raised his eyebrows in surprise.
A smile softened Mrs. Chubb’s face further. “Come along, now.” She ushered Frodo into the master bedroom.
Frodo was startled to see the mattress and bedding had been completely changed out and Lily and the babe cleaned up. Rosie’s mum, Mrs. Longburrow, and Iris and Pansy, from #1, were gathering everything together. They nodded to Frodo and removed the soiled bedding and towels from the room.
He watched them go, marveling at how everything was neatly and quietly taken care of, then his searching gaze found Lily. His heart tightened. She was clearly exhausted and yet there was a serenity about her, her attention fully engaged by the tiny bundle held to her breast.
Rosie glanced up and motioned for Frodo to come closer.
He hesitated, then edged nearer. Fleetingly, he felt oddly cut off from his wife. The unpleasant feeling vanished when Lily glanced up and captured his gaze with a radiant smile, and tears coursed down her cheeks.
“Beloved, come see your beautiful daughter,” Lily murmured.
Frodo’s breath caught in his throat, then he sat on the edge of the bed next to Lily. He carefully wrapped his arm around her shoulders and drew her close, planting a gentle kiss on her temple.
Tears silently slid down Frodo’s cheeks. “Yes, she is beautiful, like her mother. Lily, my love, you did so well.”
Amaryllis fretted, fat drops glistening on her tiny eyelashes, until Frodo swallowed his tears, and allowed a quiet joy to fill him. Then the babe settled quietly in her mother’s arms. Once asleep, Frodo hesitantly moved his daughter to the cradle beside the bed. He slid into the bed beside his wife, pulling her close to help warm her.
She did not sleep long, but woke at some silent signal, perhaps a whisper in her heart for not but a few moments passed and the babe fussed again.
Frodo helped Lily sit up in their bed and gently handed Amaryl to her mother. Lily made herself comfortable against the pillows and put the babe to her breast, supporting her head and speaking in soothing tones. As Frodo watched Amaryllis, her tiny mouth took the form of an almost perfect circle.
Lily smiled at Amaryl’s expression, and Frodo laughed, but softly. She finally took to the breast, and after a few attempts at suckling settled into a pattern, her eyes closing slowly with each passing moment, until she was completely content and able to take her mother’s milk. Her little fist, which had before been waving aimlessly, now lay still against Lily’s breast. Lily stroked Amaryl’s fine hair.
Frodo made sure his right hand was very warm before placing it gently on her small arm. Not a word was spoken except for Lily’s soft endearments. He knew no words sufficed for these moments with his wife and his child. Only in silent prayers, only in his thoughts, full of tenderness and awe, could he find any sort of release for what he felt as he watched them both.
Finally, he whispered to Lily, unable to bear it any longer, “If I were not able to pray a little, I think I should not be able to stay in this room with you. Tears would always defeat my best efforts, and I would miss this. The babe seemed to become upset, when I could not hold back my tears, did she not, Lily?”
She looked at Frodo with love in her eyes, and smiled. “I noticed. And when you stopped, her tears stopped as well. She is your daughter, Frodo. She will be like you; can you see it?”
“I see it a little,” he whispered. “But mostly I see your face, in hers... I am not sure I can see mine.” He smiled at her. He imagined they would have this conversation dozens of times, with almost these same words, and he looked forward to it. Would he feel the same wonder with each babe they welcomed into their home? He couldn’t imagine ever not feeling the awe and wonder of bringing a new life into the world.
“Look at those long lashes, Frodo. They are yours, not mine, much as I wish they were! Look at her brow... see that little furrow there when I moved just the slightest, and she had to start over? She has your brow as well...”
Frodo gently fingered one pointed ear. “Her ears are like yours, and her mouth is the perfect bow, like yours.” He grinned. “We’ll have to wait to see what colour her eyes and hair remain, but I think it will be like yours.”
Frodo took the time to set the cradle to rights. After feeding, it was time for the swaddling to be changed. Lily was delighted when Frodo asked her to show him how. She giggled as his head was bent over their child in the task and he took a moment to kiss the toes of each foot.
Special thanks to jan-u-wine for providing Frodo's poetry.