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Sacrament

by CRB and Ladyhawk Baggins

22 February 1419sr

Lily read the note over and over, unable to believe its message, finally memorizing it. Would he ever know how she cherished it? He wanted to see her -- he must see her!

She held the single sheaf close to her cheek briefly, wondering if it smelled only of paper and ink. She smiled to herself as she recognized the gentle scent that belonged to Frodo alone. It brought back a flood of memories, and with them came a sudden intense longing to breathe in his nearness again.

Her own return letter assured him nothing in the world would bring her more joy than to see him again, and she was counting the hours until his arrival. She sent it, grateful again for the post having been restored almost immediately when the Travelers returned to the Shire last November.

And thank you, Sam! she grinned to herself. Dear Samwise Gamgee, you spoke to him, as you promised... She brushed the tears from both sides of her face, and then began to weep harder, as the full import of Frodo’s letter touched her heart.

Lily Burrows, stop it, she scolded herself, and then smiled again. Since yesterday, she had alternately cried and laughed to herself, full of joy and anticipation; then she giggled, grateful Daisy and Hal weren’t seeing her this way, for they might not know what to make of it. She remembered carefully composing herself before supper yesternight, and still felt quite pleased with herself for staying coherent and calm all through the meal as they discussed the plans for Frodo’s arrival. Now, she endeavored to calm herself again, then struggled to keep from shaking, as she realized he should be in time for luncheon...

---------

Frodo arrived on Strider at midday. Lily heard the whinny of a pony, rushed out the door, and there he was, already on his feet, with a look she would never forget: his eyes, his whole face, full of cautious hope. She ran to him, and they held each other tightly. Then she heard his voice, rough with emotion, and felt it, as well, her cheek warm against his velvet coat, his arms still about her.

“Forgive me, Lily.”

She pulled back from his embrace a little; her arms eased her hold on his waist so she could smile up into his eyes. How she wished to wipe away his anxiety with understanding and comfort. “Dear Frodo, please don’t say such things... you wanted to protect me. There is nothing to forgive.” She felt only the slightest touch of the darkness, and did not care.

“You are here now,” she breathed. “I am so happy -- my heart is singing...”

She watched his eyes change. They revealed openly a question which before had only been hinted at, any chance to answer stolen away by interruptions or propriety.

Now, her reply was a soft, inviting smile. She felt no fear -- only hope.

As Frodo eased his arms from about her, Lily slipped her arms from around his waist. She lightly curled her fingers around the lapels of his coat and leaned into him. He took her face in his hands tenderly, as if she were the most fragile of flowers. All sense of time was lost.

She trembled slightly, her awareness heightened. She had waited so long...

He lowered his mouth to hers, and their lips met, as rose petals caressed by a spring breeze.

His kiss! It was her first... He imparted so much love! Lily did not know what to do, but she trusted him. She did not know Frodo was also giving away his own first kiss, as she felt a tremor course through him.

She heard him speak her name, as if from afar, but she was somewhere else, in some other place and time, and she only knew she wanted another.

Frodo whispered against her lips. “How I have longed to kiss you...”

“And I you...”

Then they were in the embrace again, and he kissed her once more, so tenderly... it took her breath away. She felt the blood drain from her face, felt the world fading away... she thought she returned the kiss, somehow, but her vision turned hazy, and she started to fall.

She awakened to see him bending over her, then saw the distress in his eyes, and heard him calling her.

“Lily! Lily!”

He held both her hands in his left, and was touching her cheek with his right. She smiled up at him, feeling strange and oddly happy, as if she had slept too long. What day was it? Where was she?

She realized she was inside the house, on the cushioned settee in her front sitting room. He must have carried her here. But why? she wondered, and then answered her own question. Oh, no, I must have fainted. She tried to sit up, without much success at first. He seemed to want her to rest, anyway...

“Frodo, I’m so sorry...” Again she started to raise herself up.

“Lily, are you all right?” Frodo’s voice was anguished, his face full of fear; panic, almost.

He has seen me faint before, she thought. Why is he so afraid?

“Please, please, don’t try to sit up.” He was fairly begging her. Lily saw him lower his head against her hands, still held in his. He began to pray out loud.

“O kind Creator, protect her from the evil that still lives in me. Forgive me for presuming that Your will was the same as my own -- that I could have anything I wished, and that Lily would not suffer from being near me...”

Lily felt a warm tear on her hands, then another, and then Frodo lifted his eyes to look at her. They were brimming with tears. He began to take his hands away from hers, until he was no longer touching her. Slowly, he stood up.

Lily’s mind finally awakened from the faint. She began to realize what was happening. Frodo was actually taking several steps back, away from her. She had never seen him look so desolate.

“Frodo, what is it? Why are you -- Frodo, this is not your fault! It was not the darkness!” She sat up, successfully if not just a bit too quickly, trying to prove to him she was not ill.

He was still mute.

“Please, Frodo, you must believe me! I am not ill, not in the slightest!” Now she was the one pleading.

His voice sounded lifeless and bereft. “Then -- what caused you to faint?”

She blushed. “You kissed me. I -- I have been longing for this day for many... since the day we met. You kissed me, and then again, and I was overcome with joy! I sometimes faint, when overcome with any strong emotion...

“Frodo, no one has ever kissed me before... you are the first... please, you must believe me. Not only am I not ill -- I am more well than ever. I am full of happiness!”

Lily smiled for him, but his face still reflected much doubt. She realized he was thinking the worst -- that he could not ever touch her, and most certainly not kiss her, again...

“I can give you proof, if you will not think me too forward.”

“What proof can you give me, Lily? I -- I need something to help me believe I have not hurt you.” His voice was a little stronger, but still full of remorse. It cut her to the heart to see him this way.

“If you will forgive me, again, for being too forward... Please, kiss me again.”

She said it with as much conviction as she could muster. She could not lose him now, not like this, not for a misunderstanding.

His brows drew together.

She easily read his uncertainty, and nodded to him in reassurance.

He took two small steps toward her, fear and desperate hope at war in his eyes. It was a look she remembered well; this time fear had the upper hand.

“If you fall again in my arms,” he stated deliberately, “I will know it is true. I will know we cannot ever be together...”

Lily stood and took only one step forward. She was already feeling too bold as it was, saying what she had. But she could think of no other way. Without proof, he would leave, and forever. She felt her breathing change as he stepped closer. Now she was more ready, more aware; she would continue to breathe as evenly as she could manage, as her mum had taught her long ago. She would not allow herself to faint, no matter how wonderful it felt, no matter her happiness...

Finally he was there with her again. He touched her face, gently, hesitantly, with his right hand. The caress was so welcome, she closed her eyes without thinking. He withdrew his hand quickly, and she berated herself for having closed her eyes. She opened them again, wide, and purposely looked into his; the bright blue colour there had changed to an unusual blue-green, some tears still reflected in their depths. I shall think on that colour, she decided; I shall concentrate on that.

Frodo gathered his courage once more, heartened that she had opened her eyes again so quickly. Indeed, she did not look ill. Her cheeks were flushed, a beautiful pink, and her eyes were very bright. Frodo also noticed with relief that her lips were not pale, but the warm, deep rose he noticed the night they met. He had carefully avoided studying her lips ever since then, and remembered why. He was drawn to them irresistibly.

I have so looked forward to being with her again, Frodo thought. I know she feels the same way; her note said as much...

With the tips of his fingers, he lightly touched her cheek again, and this time her eyes remained open; although the expression in them changed. At this moment they were green, and reflected a deep serenity he had not seen before. She did not look to be in any pain or discomfort.

He called upon Ilúvatar one last time in his mind, asking for a miracle, for both of them.

As he tenderly took her face into his hands once again, he was trembling. There was nothing for it; he must try.

Frodo kissed her as gently as he could, wondering if he were indeed doing anything right. When he gave her that first kiss, she seemed to enjoy it so well, before she fainted --

She was still standing. She was not falling. His heart raced in his chest, hope and joy welling up, but all fear was not yet banished. He pulled back and opened his eyes. Hers were open, and she was smiling...

“Please, again... please.” Her voice was hushed.

His hands still cupped her face. After a deep sigh, he kissed her again, not waiting as long this time.

Lily gingerly grasped his lapels, and returned the kiss, tentatively, which made him lightheaded; it was a new feeling. Her lips were supple and inviting...

He realized now she was telling the truth. Clearly, she was not ill.

“I believe you,” he said softly, as he broke the kiss. He could hardly find his voice. “Lily, I believe you; I -- I feel lightheaded myself.”

Frodo began to smile as he heard them both endeavor to catch their breath, but his tears welled again, this time from joy. “I feared the worst. I thought we could never be near one another again...”

Lily felt dizzy again as well, but not from any darkness; not yet. Still, it remained on the outer edges of her thoughts. She was not about to tell him even this much. She smiled up at him brightly, and touched his cheek as she pulled away from him.

“I have never felt better, nor have I ever been happier, Frodo. I am glad -- overjoyed -- that you could see me this way, for this is how I really feel when you are near me. I cannot say -- I do not know if I might ever be ill again, but for now -- now I am happier than you know.”

Frodo searched her eyes. “Lily, you must promise me...”

“Promise what?”

“Just promise, please...”

“Frodo, promise what?”

“Please...”

She finally realized he wanted the promise on her trust in him alone. What if he asked something she could not give? She swallowed hard and searched his eyes in return. Finally, the fear evident in her voice, she whispered, “I promise...”

Frodo released an unsteady breath. “Promise me you will tell me when you start to feel ill.”

Lily nodded, and squared her shoulders. “Promise me...”

Frodo looked at her in surprise, his face questioning. “What?”

Her confidence grew. “Promise me.”

A tentative smile spread across Frodo’s face. “I promise.”

“You will not leave just because I don’t feel well. You will give me the chance to recover.”

“When you grow weary, I shall go only as far as the Eagle and Child Inn, down the road.”

Lily smiled, her eyes sparkling. “Agreed. Come, I’ve luncheon on the table.” She led him into the dining room, where the table was laden with food.

In a quiet corner of his mind, Frodo tucked away his thoughts of their kisses, and concentrated on the moment. “Lily, you’ve laid out a feast!”

“I knew you enjoyed my scones, but I wasn’t certain what else you would like, so...” She suddenly wondered if it were all too much.

“You spoil me. How shall I ever go back to Sam’s cooking? Thank you.”

Lily blushed at the open appreciation in his eyes.

“And Daisy invited us to tea this afternoon, unless you need to see to arranging your room at the Bird and Babe.”

Frodo looked at her in surprise. “The what?”

Lily giggled. “The Bird and Babe. That’s what the Eagle and Child is called hereabouts.”

“Oh. The Bird and Babe.” Frodo repeated. “My accommodations are already taken care of... thank you...”

Lily’s brows furrowed. He’d only written her yesterday, and though she replied almost immediately, she was certain he arrived before another letter could have. Or had he been so certain she would accept him back that he sent a letter to the inn as well? She wanted to ask, but did not know how, without sounding like she was questioning him.

Frodo spared her and volunteered the information, albeit with noticeable discomfort. He dropped his gaze to the floor. “I went there before I came here.” He carefully raised his eyes to hers.

She wasn’t sure what to feel. I thought he wanted to see me; but he rode past my lane and all the way to the Inn, before coming here? she wondered. How could she ask?

Hesitantly, Frodo continued. “I planned to ride straight here, but when I reached the end of your lane I...” He lowered his gaze to the floor again, and his smile vanished.

Lily pushed her own unhappy doubts aside as she realized how uncertain he felt. She gently touched his arm and smiled for him when he finally glanced up at her.

Frodo released a quick shuddering breath, and spoke in a whisper, his voice full of emotion. “I wanted so much to see you, but wondered again if you might be harmed. I almost turned back for home, then and there.”

Lily’s smile faded and her eyes widened in disbelief. She began to speak but did not know what to say, and closed her mouth again. She could not hide the hurt in her eyes.

“I’m sorry.” Frodo pleaded. “I rode to the Inn to... to...”

He searched her eyes for understanding. “...to think things through again. I did not -- do not -- want you hurt. Once my room and Strider’s stall were seen to, I knew I could no longer put off seeing you.”

Tears began to gather in Lily’s eyes. “I thought you wanted to see me?”

Frodo’s eyes widened as he realized she misunderstood. “I did -- I do, but I was... I am also afraid of harming you. Lily...”

He lifted his hand to her cheek to brush the tear away.

“Then I turned down your lane, and saw your home, and all I could think of was being with you again.” He paused.

“But, when you fainted...”

Lily relaxed as understanding grew within her. “...you wondered if perhaps you really should not have come at all. Oh, Frodo...”

He nodded unhappily. “Are you truly all right, Lily?”

A smile crept across Lily’s lips as a relieved sigh escaped her. She wanted to smooth his furrowed brow, but didn’t yet feel confident enough... already she had asked for his kiss, and though he expressed no shock at this, mayhap it would be best to tread more lightly...

Instead, she spoke softly. “Yes, Frodo, I truly am very well indeed, and even better now that you are here. I have missed your company.”

The sadness in Frodo’s eyes faded away. “I missed you as well... I’ve missed you so much, I can’t begin to tell you... I haven’t slept...” He paused. “I don’t know what will happen --”

He looked down at his feet, then raised his eyes again to hers, letting his smile reach his eyes.

Lily watched the play of emotions cross his face as he struggled with himself over his own wants and his concern for her. She breathed in relief; his eyes clearly revealed his decision to accept the good fortune of the moment.

“No -- I shan’t speak of that now... I’m far too happy, simply being here with you. I can’t recall ever being so happy...”

Lily blushed, and let the doubts disappear. “Neither can I. Come and sit. I’m sure you haven’t eaten properly today.” Her smile was again bright, without shadow.

“It’s true,” Frodo sought and held her gaze. “I lost my appetite when we parted. Sam and Rose have both tried their best to see that I’ve not gone completely hungry...”

He paused again, suddenly concerned. “Are we alone? It would not be proper...”

The smile on Lily’s face broadened, and a twinkle lit her eyes. “It’s all right, Frodo. Hal is working on preparing the garden for spring, just outside the back door, for the next several days.”

Frodo sighed visibly in relief, and returned her smile. He proceeded to seat her and then himself. He briefly closed his eyes, and then surveyed the table with delight.

“I hardly know where to start, though I know I must have one of your scones.”

Lily passed him the plate of scones along with a dish of butter and a bowl of blackberry preserves.

They talked mostly of Pearl, and the doings in the Eastfarthing. Lily realized it would soon be time for tea, and began to clear the table. Frodo rose to help her.

“You don’t need to help me. You had a long ride here, and a fast one... Why don’t you rest a bit?”

A light blush crept into Frodo’s cheeks. “I would rather be with you, if I may.”

Bubbling joy filled Lily’s heart as she struggled to control her voice. “Yes. Yes, you may.”

---------

They finished clearing the table and walked out the door together to find Strider. In their eagerness to be together, the pony had been completely forgotten. He was still standing patiently in the lane, nose to the ground, searching in vain for some new spring grass. Lily’s eyes widened in surprise. “He didn’t wander off.”

“No. I dropped his reins,” Frodo replied matter-of-factly.

“I don’t understand.”

“Strider’s been trained that if his reins are dropped he is to stay where he is. He may wander a bit, but never very far.”

“Will you introduce me to him?”

“Certainly. Hold out your hand and open it flat. Let him sniff your hand. He learns who you are by your smell. Yes, that’s it, good.”

“We can take him to Hal and Daisy’s,” Lily offered, “and put him in their barn until... until you decide to return to the Inn. Will that be all right?”

“Yes,” Frodo replied, and picked up the reins. Strider whinnied and tossed his head.

“You’re ready for some oats, I daresay,” Frodo laughed. He patted the pony’s neck, and then stroked the velvety nose nudging him.

Strider whinnied again, impatient.

“Oh, and a drink would be quite nice, as well, you say? We’ll see to it, my friend. You were marvelous today.

“I did push him rather hard,” Frodo confessed, as they started down the lane. “And --”

They turned to the sound of Hal’s voice calling a greeting.

Hal caught up to them, only a little out of breath. “Frodo, it’s very good to see you again,” he smiled, and they shook hands.

“And you, Hal. You’re looking especially well -- more rested than when I saw you last.”

“That’s because Pearl sleeps through most nights now,” Hal laughed. “She still likes to surprise us now and then, though...”

He reached for Strider’s reins. “You two go on in. Here, Frodo, give me your pony and I’ll settle him in the barn and be in shortly.”

---------

Daisy welcomed them into the kitchen. Frodo’s eyes roamed over the room, remembering. He found Lily watching him. Her words were spoken softly, only for him. “I’m all right.”

Frodo sighed and smiled with relief. Will I ever see the day when she is free of this burden? he wondered, then gave Daisy his full attention. “How are you?”

The intensity of his deep blue eyes left her feeling a bit disconcerted.

“I’m very well, thank you. We’re very pleased you could come for a visit. I’m afraid Pearl is napping, but she should be up soon. We might have enough time for tea before she demands Mum’s attention again, at any rate. Listen to me, rattling on...”

Lily smiled fondly at her sister. “I’m afraid it’s a family trait, at least with the sisters -- we tend to babble when we’re nervous.”

Daisy playfully cuffed her sister as Hal entered the kitchen.

He laughed. “Don’t be giving away all the family secrets just yet. He’ll learn them for himself soon enough. Don’t want to spoil all the surprises, you know.”

Laughter filled the kitchen throughout tea. Just as the repast ended, Frodo’s attention sharpened. “It sounds as though someone’s ready to get up. I’ve missed her, truly...”

Lily rose from the table. “I’ll get her. I shan’t be but a few minutes.”

As she walked down the hall, Lily let down her guard; the effort it required to hide any trace of ill feeling was tiring in itself. She felt the illness edging closer. She had promised to tell Frodo when she felt unwell, but in truth, that would be whenever he touched her, and almost from the first moment they were together, after any separation... She could push it away for quite some time before it became uncomfortable. I’ll need to learn how to properly assess my strength, she determined, as she entered the nursery.

Lily found Pearl babbling gaily to herself, and laughed softly, recalling what she had just told Frodo about some of the family traits. Lily cooed all the while to her niece as she changed the babe’s swaddling, even as she worked through her concerns for her own strength and health during Frodo’s stay in Deephallow.

She felt certain some way must exist which would make it possible for them to be together; they only needed to find it, but therein lay the difficulty. They needed time to discover the key, and at any moment Frodo was prepared to walk away forever if he thought her in mortal danger. She would have to carefully learn her limits and not exceed them, in order to ease his mind and heart. Only then would he consider more fully pursuing their future together. The burden weighed heavily on her; everything rested on her ability to recognize and accept her own limitations. I’ve prayed morning, noon, and night. I am certain Ilúvatar brought Frodo back to me, Lily reasoned. Surely He will help us?

Pearl squealed and kicked merrily, free of her swaddling, pulling Lily back from her moment of brooding.

Lily smiled conspiratorially at the child. “Fortunately, Pearl, I have practiced the whole of my life for times such as this. For whom do you know but your Auntie Lily, who must watch and consider how she feels at every moment? Hmmm?”

As Pearl continued her gurgles and happy gasps, Lily continued her earlier thought.

“Will you be keeping up the family tradition, then, my little love?” she giggled to Pearl, who giggled back, gleeful, and began to babble all the more.

“Ah, I see you shall, then! Another generation of talkative females in the Burrows family! And the Banks’, as well! My, my, but that’s quite a bit of responsibility you’re taking on at such a young age, my sweet!” She tickled the baby’s foot, and Pearl shrieked happily. “My, but you can make a racket!” Lily teased. “But let’s go and visit Frodo now, shall we? Come on then.”

She gathered Pearl up into her arms and headed back to the kitchen, speaking more softly. “Have you missed Frodo, as I have? You get to see him now, dearest. Will you take care of him while I rest? Good.” She kissed Pearl’s cheek, adroitly turning her head just in time to keep the babe from grabbing a fistful of her hair as she stepped into the kitchen with her treasure.

Frodo stood, and at Lily’s nod approached them.

He greeted Lily first. “It sounds as though you two were having quite the time of it,” his eyes twinkled. “I was beginning to feel a bit left out.”

Lily giggled and blushed. “A lass must look her best when greeting a handsome caller, and a smile always helps.”

Then Frodo blushed, and gazed long at Lily, his eyes shining. After a time, he turned his attention to the babe in her arms.

“Hullo, Pearl. Do you remember me?”

He was greeted by a wide toothless grin, accompanied by a gleeful shriek.

“There, that familiar smile! I have missed it!”

Lily gently handed the babe to him. Pearl all but dove into his arms.

Frodo laughed and settled her onto his left arm. In wonder, he looked to Daisy, then to Lily and Hal. “She is heavier!”

He then turned his attention back to the child in his arms. “Your mum was right, Pearl! And so was your da, and your Auntie Lily! They said you’d grown so, and you have! And look how well you hold yourself up now!”

Pearl grabbed a handful of Frodo’s hair and pulled, hard, laughing with delight.

“Ow!” he winced, and laughed. “You don’t waste a moment, do you? Pippin was just the same, and Merry too -- but Pip was the quicker of the two. You’ll be stealing the hearts of all the gentlehobbits in the Shire very soon, and no mistake, as my Sam would say...”

Daisy and Hal had not spoken, but stood beaming with pride, and Hal’s arm tightened about his wife’s shoulders.

“I’d forgotten how much joy my cousins brought me... thank you, Pearl.” Frodo kissed her forehead. She reached for his hair again, but Frodo dodged it, and turned to Lily.

She looked into his eyes. “I’m -- I’m a little tired. Would you like to play with Pearl for a little while?”

Instantly, worry covered Frodo’s face.

“I’m all right, just a little tired,” she assured him. “Let me take a short nap, please.”

Finally, Frodo nodded. Lily relaxed visibly and smiled as warmly as she could manage.

Hal and Daisy carefully hid any surprise they felt at Lily’s behavior by starting to clear the table.

---------

They let Frodo play with Pearl for quite some time, until Pearl began to fuss no matter what Frodo did. To his relief, his confusion did not go unnoticed.

Daisy smiled and reached for her daughter. “It’s all right, Frodo. It isn’t anything you’ve done. It’s feeding time.” Daisy almost added that there was nothing he could do about it, but remembered vividly his earlier discomfort over any discussion of feedings. She smiled to herself and headed to the nursery, leaving Hal and Frodo alone in the kitchen.

“Frodo, we’ve a spare room here if you’d like it.”

Frodo turned his attention fully to Hal. “Thank you, Hal. It’s all arranged. I have a room at the Eagle and Child.”

Hal laughed. “Wise decision. Pearl can be a charmer, but not in the wee hours of the morning. And when she’s unhappy, there’s no place in the smial she can’t be heard. How long are you planning to stay in Deephallow?”

“I don’t know. It depends on Lily.” Frodo wasn’t prepared to explore the possibilities in that direction beyond the moment. Too much seemed uncertain.

“Lily says you farm both wheat and corn.”

Hal accepted the change of subject. “Yes, I know it’s not common to have two different crops, but I learned a few things with those ruffians about; a little variety never hurts. If one crop fails, you’ve still got a chance with the second one.”

“Is it working well for you?”

“Actually, I’m thinking this coming year, I may need to hire a hand to help with the labour, but we’ll see what this summer brings.”

Hal was a little surprised by how easily Frodo seemed to be distracted, and then stared, his mouth agape, as Lily entered the kitchen, looking rested. He never heard her footfalls at all, and wondered at Frodo’s hearing.

“Why don’t you two go for a brief walk? The weather’s holding nicely, and dinner won’t be ready for a little while yet.”

Frodo asked Lily what she thought of the idea with his eyes. She nodded and smiled.

They slipped on their coats and cloaks and headed out into the chill afternoon. Frodo reached for Lily’s hand, and she laced her fingers into his. They caught their breath, and blushed together. In silent agreement, they chose to walk west, away from the main road.

---------

They returned in time to enjoy dinner with Hal and Daisy. The conversation over the meal was light and pleasant; more than anything else, Frodo was happy, for Lily seemed well...

Lily rose to clean up the table and Frodo started to help her.

Daisy began to protest. “I can take care of all this.”

Frodo smiled. “Do I remember rightly that there are some animals in the barn that need feeding?”

Hal and Daisy blinked at him for a moment and then laughed. Hal replied as the two headed out the door, “We’ll be back in a bit.”

As Lily and Frodo finished the dishes, Lily began to realize she really was quite tired. She felt wonderful, and yet not. I do not think I can keep hiding it; perhaps now is the time to tell him, she decided. I will have kept my promise. She almost caught her breath as she realized how terribly important keeping a promise would be to him.

“Frodo.” She laid her hand on his arm. Almost as though he knew, he turned worried eyes to her. “I’m feeling quite tired now...”

Instantly, he turned to go. She held tight to his arm, and he stopped but would not look at her.

“Frodo?”

Gradually, he raised his eyes to hers. “I must go, Lily.”

She smiled for him. “I understand. Will you come to second breakfast tomorrow, at my home?”

Lily noted the slight hesitation before he agreed.

It was probably far too bold of her, but she quickly embraced him. She had meant to let go immediately but lingered a moment, and was glad she did, for Frodo returned the embrace, his arms tightening about her. It lasted long enough for her to wonder again at the oddity of the illness ebbing in along with joy.

They stepped apart, only to continue to gaze at one another. It feels like a trance; a good trance, Lily determined, her mind wandering. She broke free first.

“Tomorrow, second breakfast?” she questioned again.

“Second breakfast,” Frodo affirmed, and turned to gather his coat and cloak as he headed out the door.

Hal and Daisy just finished the chores, and met him part way across the yard.

Daisy tried to convince him to stay for supper, but Frodo assured them he needed to return to the Inn and would see them on the morrow. He could fetch Strider himself.

Upon entering their smial, they found Lily sitting in the rocking chair, staring into the fire. Daisy knelt next to her sister. “Are you well?”

Lily started out of her reverie and smiled. “Yes. Oh, yes.”

Daisy pried more carefully. “Is everything all right? Frodo left rather abruptly, didn’t he?”

“No, not really... it was time for him to go. He’ll be coming to second breakfast tomorrow morning.”

Lily was silent a moment and then turned fully to her sister, earnestly searching her face. “Daisy, please... if at any time during the next little while... if Frodo should ever bring me here because I’m not well, promise me you’ll not show any alarm? Help him put me to bed, and reassure him I will be fine? Please, will you promise?”

“You mean one of your fainting spells?”

“Yes. Frodo finds them unsettling, and if you react calmly, he’ll be more likely to as well.”

Daisy nodded. “Yes, I promise. I’ll do whatever I can to smooth the whole thing over.” She smiled at her sister. “It can be a mite disconcerting for someone who doesn’t know what to expect.”

Hal nodded. “I remember the first time I had to deal with one of your spells. ‘Twas a good thing Daisy was there. We’ll make it as easy as possible for both of you. You have our word.”

Lily sighed and relaxed into the chair. Everything would work out.