Lily sat with Frodo on a bench encircling a willow at the edge of the Party Field. The branches mostly shielded them from gawking stares. She leaned against him and nestled closer as his warm embrace tightened; then she pressed her hands against his over her waist. They enjoyed watching Sam and Rosie dance and greet their well wishers. Then they laughed softly together at the antics of the children happily devouring the sweets given them as gifts, trying to dance as the grownups did, and playing games both arranged and made up on the spot.
Twenty-five days had passed since she and Frodo were secretly betrothed, and Sam and Rosie were Promised in the sight of all. Sam’s wedding to his Rosie would take place the next day, hard as it was to believe. The past weeks had flown, faster than at any other time in her life. She smiled to herself, grateful it was so, then hoped the next month would pass as quickly.
Since serving as Sam and Rosie’s fyllans, Frodo and Lily ceased to be of interest, as an ‘item,’ to the gossipers. There had been a good deal of whispering about the choice the first day or two, but it was quickly agreed the decision was far and away for the best after all, as the foursome spent all their time together anyway.
The past month flashed through Lily’s mind. With their new-found freedom, she and Frodo went riding before first breakfast every morning, gradually increasing their distance each day, so Lily would not get sore. She again felt grateful she had thought to ask to continue the lessons. It was the only time they could be alone together.
Frodo had deliberately told the stablehands in both Hobbiton and Bywater where the pair would be riding, and how long they would be gone. He let on to Lily that as he supplied more information, the gossipers’ interest waned proportionately. She had giggled and leaned over from her saddle, and kissed his cheek for being so clever. He had kissed her in return, as he helped lift her down from Strider. At times, when they felt sure no one would see, they exchanged a tender caress, but they could not indulge the passion which smoldered just under the surface, for them both. No, not now; not yet...
With Frodo’s gentle guidance, Lily’s riding skills improved, until he encouraged her to ride Strider and Bill alternately, so she might become accustomed to the different mounts. At first she was confused by his desire for her to ride both animals. Both were good ponies, well behaved and of mild temperaments. After several days of trading back and forth, she began to realize how the creatures responded differently to the same commands. Strider was more headstrong than Bill, but never needed a command twice. Lily warmed at the way Frodo beamed at her when she grasped what he had been trying to teach her.
Lily thanked Ilúvatar yet again for His gracious blessings. Her health had held up remarkably and unexpectedly well. She still required her afternoon rests, but only a few hours were necessary. When she woke, Rose would be busily sewing. The two lasses then worked together until dinner, when Frodo and Sam returned from working on the smial. Those were joyous evenings, indeed, Lily thought to herself.
The day after Frodo asked her to marry him, the foursome enjoyed an outing to the Battle Gardens. Though they knew he was not truly there, Frodo and Lily felt an unexpected peace as they presented themselves, in their hearts, before her father, and again Frodo sought her hand in marriage. Rosie and Sam silently kept vigil to offer their friends as much time alone as possible.
Their fourth day together, Frodo had struggled to keep the darkness at bay by himself. Lily had been distracted by the sewing she and Rose started in earnest the day before. By the time the darkness became noticeable to her, it required a wearing effort to push it back. It was easier, she assured Frodo, to consistently keep it away, than to fight it in spurts; he agreed to tell her when the darkness crept nearer, if she were distracted. She had promised to tell him if she became unusually weary.
But after the first full week of their secret betrothal, Frodo and Lily ceased speaking of the darkness. It lurked near, but they had agreed that talking about It did nothing to improve It, and at times seemed almost to spur It on. Gradually, Frodo learned to trust Lily to know when she needed rest, and to take it; and Lily trusted Frodo to reach for her whenever he needed her touch.
Only thrice in the past month had Lily nearly fainted: once, when the enormity of everything almost overwhelmed her; the other two times, the four friends had become involved in some aspect of the building of the smial and its gardens, and had allowed a meal to slip away unnoticed. Each of those times, she recovered easily, with the cheese or bread or apples Frodo fed her.
They received the news of the passing of Lobelia on April 10th. Lily gathered Frodo in her arms as he wept. He found himself telling her all over again about releasing Lobelia from Michel Delving, and how she gave Bag End back to him, and then left all that she and Lotho had owned to help the other hobbits who were less fortunate... Lily realized, after hearing Frodo tell it, she herself felt a kinship with the old cousin, and now she was gone...
After the mallorn in the Party Field burst into flower, the foursome picnicked under it each day for second breakfast, elevensies, and luncheon. Sam insisted the golden blooms reminded him of Rosie’s tresses. She blushed and giggled, then offered a look that caused Sam to blush to his toes.
The couples were frequently seen going about Bywater and Hobbiton together, mostly in search of whatever was needed for setting up the new smial being built. It started out being referred to as #4 by the locals, but within a fortnight they were calling it Garden Hill, as Rosie did. The finishing touches were completed only the day before, as the last of Rosie’s things were moved in.
Their kitchen, pantry, and cellar were filled to overflowing with the food well wishers had brought for the niwealdor -- the new life -- of the wedding couple: gifts of pies and meats and fruit, eggs and cakes and cheeses and butter. Hobbits firmly believed patience in matters pertaining to chastity before marriage should be well rewarded: by tradition, the niwealdor lasted ten days after the wedding, and was not to be interrupted by any meal preparation; nor was anyone to call upon the newlyweds, not even family, except in dire emergency.
Lily’s heart leapt into her throat at the thought of a niwealdor with Frodo. She smiled to herself weakly, and was relieved Frodo could not see her glassy expression; he was watching the dancing far across the field. How could she explain to him what she was thinking just then? she wondered, and realized she could not; not yet. She cast about in her mind for some other thoughts, following the dancing as well, until she spotted Will and Bell, there among the laughing couples dancing upon the new spring grass.
Will and Bell had become a familiar sight with the foursome as well, these past few weeks; at Bag End and at the Gaffer’s, but primarily at Garden Hill, when they were not visiting Bell’s family. Frodo, Sam, and Will, along with Will’s work crew, spent most of each day at the new smial. Lily, Rosie, and Bell spent their afternoons together, when Bell finished with her other responsibilities on the family farm. The three lasses designed and stitched the wedding finery, browsed and shopped at market together, and prepared meals for the six of them, usually at Bag End; but this past week, the week of nightly parties before the wedding, they had eaten their late afternoon meals at Garden Hill, before the shared supper with the celebrants. Rosie was happy and comfortable with her new kitchen. Sam was simply happy, for more reasons than he could name.
“Lily?” Frodo murmured, startling Lily from her reverie. “I’m sorry, love... I made you jump!” He kissed her cheek once.
“Dearest Frodo, it’s fine... I was daydreaming, again...” She smiled up at him for a moment, unable to meet his blue gaze for long. Perhaps it was fatigue, but she suspected it was pure excitement at the imminent wedding of their closest friends... on the morrow...
“Oh, Frodo... what became of April? It’s flown, and tomorrow they shall wed...”
“It has flown, indeed. And Sam and I actually prayed it would fly by...” Frodo chuckled. “The night of their Promising day, and our betrothal, we prayed April might fly by... April, and May... now April is gone...”
She felt him smile against her hair, then felt him kiss her there once.
“I -- Lily, you smell wonderful...”
He seemed unable to finish his thought, but Lily knew why; she heard the warmth in his voice. The darkness had lacked a solid foothold in him for several days.
When Lily answered, she was blushing, and could not meet Frodo’s eyes. “Thank you... the honeysuckle bush behind Will’s house bloomed recently, and Rosie, Bell, and I were able to gather enough flowers to make a fair amount of scented water and start some oils. What little was left of last year’s oil was fading.”
She felt Frodo tense, and realized what she had said. How she longed to heal him...
“Lily? What is it?”
“I -- I was thinking, how I wish dear Gandalf could come to our wedding, Frodo! It would be wonderful to have his fireworks for the children... He -- he came here in March, when you were so ill, simply because you called out his name. I wonder... I hope...”
Gandalf had to come to the wedding. He needed to bless them! How could she have let this slip past her?
“Lily, that’s a marvelous thought!” He turned to her fully and took both her hands in his. “We don’t know how to reach Gandalf, but we could pray for him to come here. Mayhap he could even come a few days ahead... if he came here in March, he certainly shall come to the -- our wedding --”
He cleared his throat, unable to think clearly whenever their wedding came to mind. “We can pray. Gandalf is so much closer to Ilúvatar; surely he shall learn of our wish. And if he can come, I’m certain he shall. I wish, truly, they could all come... I couldn’t hope for the King or his Queen, of course, but... it would be so good to see Gimli and Legolas once more... and how I wish -- I wish Boromir could be here... and could have met you, dear Lily... he would be so happy for me. For us.”
Frodo kissed her hand once, meeting her eyes. “Kind Creator, You have given so much to us. Lily and I have both done well. We are grateful. If it’s not amiss to ask, and it be within Your plan, please send dear Gandalf to us...”
He paused. “It feels too bold to ask for the others to come, beloved... do you think?” He smiled at her, but refrained from kissing her. The night was heady enough, with love in the very air, with the sight of her, the scent of her, the distant music and laughter, the starlight...
“I shall pray for the others to come, dearest love,” Lily smiled. “Then you shan’t need to. We may share the burden.”
Smiling to herself, Lily felt a deep calm come over her. She knew Gandalf would arrive in time. She breathed a silent prayer of thanks, wondering how she could possibly have forgotten: Gandalf had to be reached; and he had to arrive in time, somehow. But he would come. It was part of Ilúvatar’s plan. Gandalf himself told her this, in March.
“Thank you,” Frodo murmured, soft. “Have I told you yet today how beautiful you are?”
“Twice this morning,” she blushed. “You may tell me as often as you like. I shall never tire of hearing it.”
He leaned forward to kiss her, but stopped, smiling into her eyes. She understood.
“I love you, my beautiful Lily.” Frodo kissed her hands, then felt delight as she closed her eyes at his simple touch. He sighed. This waiting was so difficult, and there was yet a full month still to come, before their own wedding...
Frodo blinked at Lily in an effort to regain control over his thoughts. “Where were we, now?” he smiled.
“You were telling me how beautiful I am and that you love me,” Lily grinned. “But mayhap it’s best we speak of other things just now. Look! Even from here, it’s easy to glimpse Will, and Bell.”
Just before Sam and Rosie’s week of wedding festivities began, Frodo made an appointment to speak with Will. Traditionally, Lily would not have been present, had she been younger, and had the talk been with her father; but she had been on her own for some time...
Will had been expecting this for weeks, he had admitted, grinning at the surprised couple. “Bell noticed something had changed, just after you returned here.”
“She knew?” Lily had asked her brother in wonder.
Will screwed up his face then, trying to remember. He ran a hand through his unruly red hair, then nodded, still grinning.
“Bell felt fairly certain there was something afoot, but told me that for now it was best if she didn’t know for sure. That way, if anyone asked her about the two of you, she could honestly say she hadn’t been told anything as of yet. She was hoping it’d be all right if she was told the day before the posting of the Reading of the Promisings; and she didn’t say it, but I’m thinking she’d feel better when she visited with her sister... being more in the know when it comes to such news, if you take my meaning... Bell has a good heart. I -- I like seeing her happy...”
Will blushed, but did not look away from his sister and Frodo.
Unable to stay her tears of appreciation, Lily embraced her brother, who had gone unusually quiet. “Oh, Will -- I know you care very much for her! -- but truly, I think she’ll need to know about us a little sooner than that. Frodo and I were hoping you -- and Bell, if she likes -- would return to Deephallow May 2nd, the day after Sam and Rosie’s wedding. We’ll stay there during their niwealdor. They’ll come down for our Reading, and then we’ll return here...”
She had almost fainted then, but Frodo quickly helped her sit in the nearest chair. Once he was assured it was not the darkness, and she was not hungry, he helped her focus and breathe evenly. He teased her gently about being determined to faint one way or another. She remembered giggling at him as she regained her equilibrium.
As she recovered, Will had disappeared upstairs to his room, then quickly returned with his hands behind his back.
Lily’s eyes grew wide at the shy smile her brother offered her.
He hesitantly held forth his hands; one held a little carved horse and the other a small doll. They fit in the palm of his hand.
“Will...” She gently fingered each toy.
Her brother placed them in her hands. “Take a closer look, Lil.”
“They’re exquisite. I remember Da carving such toys. In fact, mine are still on the bureau in my room at home. The doll...”
“Bell made it...”
“Bell and I were thinking -- only if you want, of course -- but we were thinking you might like to have these to give away at -- at your wedding... You know that old cedar chest, in my room? It’s already full. I think we’ll have enough ready in time... that is to say, if it’s what you want...”
“Oh, Will...” Lily threw her arms around her brother. “I did want something special for the children that would be coming to the festivities, but I couldn’t think of a thing. Sam and Rosie are giving special treats, biscuits and the like, but I’m not quite the cook Rosie is, and as you well know, I’ve not the strength for such an undertaking... These are perfect. Thank you, both.”
“I think it’ll be best if you save your ‘thank you’ to Bell until you can tell her of the Promisings.”
Frodo finally found his voice, though it trembled with emotion. “How can we ever thank you, Will?”
Will smiled broadly and gazed fondly at Lily. “You take good care of my sister.”
Lily felt the darkness tug at Frodo, then he reached for her. He slipped his arm around her shoulders, drawing her close.
“I shall endeavor to take the best care of her...” his voice caught.
Lily wrapped her arm around his waist, then gazed up into his face. “He shall, Will.”
Via Robin, their favourite postal rider, Hal and Daisy had written back straight way, delighted by the news and the plans. Daisy confessed she and Hal suspected it would not be much longer, when Lily returned to Bywater. Hal had even encouraged Daisy to pick up special fabrics, including a bolt of pale peach satin, at the fair in Bree the middle of April. Now, Lily could begin working on the wedding finery as soon as she and Frodo arrived back in Deephallow. Daisy added a note at the bottom of the letter that she had arranged for every sewing need; thread, needles, buttons, and the like, and the promise to help as much as Pearl would allow.
Merry, Pippin, and Fatty arrived the day before the festivities began, and were staying at Bag End. Merry and Pippin sensed immediately something had changed. They considered approaching Sam with their suspicions, but finally decided against it, for they could not be sure how much Sam knew, and they had a secret of their own... and a promise to Lily not to reveal it.
Their first night in Bag End, the five old friends stayed up far past midnight, chatting. When Fatty suggested he take the far guestroom, he was quickly discouraged by Merry and Pippin and Sam. Frodo struggled to hide a light blush, as he had been caught sitting in the chair in the room, staring at nothing, when they arrived. Sam then offered his own room, telling Fatty he’d be staying with the Gaffer this final week.
As Sam and Fatty settled his things in the room, Sam quietly explained that the far guestroom had been Lily’s, and no one had slept in it since, and she’d be using it again to rest during some of the evening festivities. Fatty needled Sam for more information, then teased him about being even more secretive than he had been since the Quest.
During the past week, Sam and Rosie hosted the festivities until midnight, then returned to their respective homes with their fyllans.
When Lily ruefully admitted she could not keep the late hour, Rose made a suggestion... and it had become Lily’s habit to disappear for a few hours every evening.
“Frodo?” Lily asked quietly, and turned to face him.
He glanced away from the dancing, and met her steady gaze, smiling contentedly. “Yes, my love...”
He was not going to let his eyes give away his every thought tonight, not if he could help it. For when Lily understood him, as she always did, something within him yearned for her all the more, and tonight... Tonight, the yearning was already strong.
Then he broke into a grin; the game was already up. She could indeed read him like a book. He laughed.
“Lily, you owe me a kiss, dearest love; you made me laugh.”
“I was wondering when you’d ask, beloved. I owe you quite a few kisses, too many to count, for all the laughter we’ve shared this week alone.” Lily reached up and kissed his mouth once, and his smile vanished, replaced by surprise and desire.
“Yes... yes, I’m sure you owe me quite -- quite a few... dearest Lily... in truth, methinks, mayhap I am in debt to you... yes, I believe there is the truth of it: I owe you...”
“You owe me nothing, dearest Frodo... Already you have given so much, for me--”
“As you have for me... mayhap we shall change the bargain--” he laughed at her dismayed expression “--only slightly! For each time you give me laughter, I shall give you a kiss, and for each time I give you laughter, you...”
“A bargain I believe I’m able to live with,” Lily interrupted, giggling. “We may as well start fulfilling it right now...”
It happened so fast; she turned toward him and kissed him full on the mouth, her hands cradling his face. It was only one kiss, he knew, but -- and it had started out gently enough, but--
Frodo’s thoughts scattered like leaves in autumn as he allowed himself to respond to the depth of her love and her unexpected passion. She was taking his breath away, but he realized he did not care. In a month... in thirty days...
Thoughts of their niwealdor, and Lily, made him break the kiss, as with an effort he recovered his breath, still dazed.
Frodo tore his gaze away from her lips. This would not do... He saw the brightness of her eyes, and her enigmatic smile; and he returned it, meeting her eyes and reading love there in her glance. He smiled in spite of himself.
Lily removed her left hand from his face, laying it on his shoulder, without taking her eyes from his. She watched him tear his gaze away from her lips, and saw him return her smile. Only then, when lowering her right hand, did she feel the slight dizziness, a faintness... but it was pleasant, not frightening... and it was so difficult to stop kissing him... She swallowed, in an effort to master her emotions, then paused and endeavored to gather her thoughts again. When she spoke her voice was tremulous.
“Have I -- have I remembered to thank Rosie for her idea?”
Frodo drew his brows together questioningly, still catching his breath, but nearly recovered.
Lily wanted to smooth his brow, and struggled to continue her thought. “I’m truly grateful for her suggestion that I slip into -- my room at Bag End each evening this past week. Those few hours of rest after supper made it possible for me to rejoin the festivities. I did so regret missing even part of it... but you’ve been there as their fyllan when I’ve been away...”
She remembered the anguish that tore at Frodo’s heart when she first mentioned her dilemma. He had turned away and whispered, “I’m sorry.”
Lily had laid her hand on his arm and waited for him to look at her. When finally his eyes met hers, she reassured him.
“It is not the darkness only, Frodo dear. With my gift of sight, I find crowds difficult to endure for very long.” She had felt the pain in him diminish and continued. “Some of what I feel is joyous, but some is the other... the likes of Ted Sandyman and the ruffians -- the few times I encountered them -- there’s a sadness in them, Frodo. It’s difficult to sense and not be able to help. The sorrow of a child I’m able to do something about, usually, so I don’t mind it, but the other... the misery of one’s own choosing... I’m unable to bear it for very long.”
Frodo searched his beloved’s eyes. “I didn’t know.”
“I do not speak of it, for it is simply a part of my life...”
He lowered his eyes again. “I chose...”
“Hush, my darling. It is not the same. I have felt your struggle to overcome the misery you feel. We have prayed together, and I confess, I have seen you pray alone throughout the day. You have not given in to the -- you fight It still. There is a difference.”
Frodo had finally accepted her words, and the foursome had finished their meal.
Later that afternoon, when Rosie and Lily were alone, Rosie had cleared her throat, glancing at Lily several times.
“What is it, Rosie?” Lily had smiled.
Rosie shifted uncomfortably.
“It will be easier if you simply ask me,” Lily encouraged.
“It’s about -- about the darkness...” Rosie hesitated.
“Oh.” Lily took a deep breath and released it slowly. “You may ask.”
“It seems to me it’s not got as much influence... Am I wrong?”
Lily sighed, heavily. “It’s not weaker, if that’s what you’re asking, but It’s not been as overwhelming... Rosie... how do I describe It? I sense... It’s waiting...”
Rosie touched her friend’s arm and allowed her concern to show in her eyes.
Lily smiled. “It’ll be all right, Rosie. Gandalf shall come... Remember? It’s Ilúvatar’s plan for Frodo and for me.”
Rosie had quickly embraced her, then discussed how to slip away from the dancing each night, and return unnoticed.
Rosie’s plan had served remarkably well, up until this last night before the wedding. Lily had expressed her adamant desire to be present the whole of the evening; Sam suggested she and Frodo not participate in the dancing and such, but find a quiet spot to observe the festivities, while still being present. Sitting quietly like this, as they were, would have to do, and it did save her strength...
Lily’s thoughts returned to the present as she nestled her head against Frodo’s shoulder. He kissed her forehead softly. She could feel the smile on his lips.
He tightened his arms about her, and murmured, “Lily, my love, what are you thinking?”
She giggled. “I’m marveling at how quickly this month has passed, and yet, somehow, everything managed to get done... also, how happy I am for Sam and Rosie... and for us, my love.”
Frodo kissed her forehead again, smiling to himself that he was finally breathing evenly. “Indeed. We’ve all been blessed. I’m thinking you and Rosie had the busiest time of it. Sam and I only helped with the smial. You and Rosie helped with the smial and did an amazing amount of sewing... and wonderful cooking, I might add! Not to mention all the planning for this past week -- the food, the games, and the dancing...”
Lily sighed contentedly. “I’m glad you enjoyed the meals; they were a shared effort. But in truth, my love, Rosie’s mum and aunties took care of most of the arrangements for this week. Rosie and I were only responsible for sewing the wedding finery, and Bell helped with that.”
A chuckle escaped Frodo. “I think I shall never forget those fittings.”
Lily giggled as well. “At least you’ll not need to endure them again for our wedding, as now I have all the measurements.”
Frodo’s breath caught in his throat. “I’m still hardly able to believe...” He could not finish.
“I am yours, my beloved, and you are mine,” Lily breathed.
A shudder shook Frodo to his toes. “I love you, Lily Burrows.”
Lily turned within the circle of his arms, and gazed into his tear-filled eyes. “I love you, Frodo Baggins.” And a tear slid down her cheek.
Frodo kissed the tear away, then caressed her lips with his own. Lily tenderly returned the kiss. They ended it when a noisy group of tweens passed by, unaware of the lovers so near.
Lily again settled within Frodo’s embrace, a little closer than before, leaning against him comfortably. He nestled his cheek against her hair.
Her memory drifted back to the first time Frodo called her ‘beloved.’ Inside, she had felt like one of Gandalf’s fireworks, and she realized she still did, every time he used the endearment.
It was the day after he asked her to marry him. The endearment had slipped from his lips in a casual conversation about the garden planned for Garden Hill. She realized for the first time that Frodo called her ‘beloved’ in his heart, just as she did him. They fell into the habit of using it only occasionally, and only when they were alone. Even their endearment ‘my love’ was saved for when they were alone. She realized ‘dear’ and ‘dearest’ were used more freely in front of Rosie and Sam. Then she smiled to herself; they still sometimes said ‘I miss you’ when they meant ‘I love you.’
As the evening wore on, Lily napped against Frodo. He woke her with gentle kisses against her silken curls.
“Beloved Lily, it looks as though Sam and Rosie are ready to call it an evening. We’d best rescue them and get them home. If Rosie yawns one more time, someone’s sure to notice.” He chuckled deep in his chest, and Lily lost herself for a moment in the feel and sound of it.
A satisfied sigh escaped her. “I’m ready, beloved.”
Frodo tightened his hold on her for a moment, then stood, and helped her stand as well. He caressed her lips once, lightly, with his own. “A promise, Lily Burrows: in a month, Sam and Rosie shall rescue us.”
Lily breathed in sharply. “I shall hold you to your promise, Frodo Baggins.”
Frodo laughed softly. “Please see that you do.”
She wrapped her arms around his neck, and searched his eyes. “I promise.” She wanted one more kiss, and knew he knew it.
His arms tightened about her, and she reached up to meet his kiss partway. He tasted her lips; so sweet they were. Together, they realized their last unchaperoned kiss had been the day of their betrothal. They had not dared give in to their desires during their riding lessons, for if they were caught the repercussions would have been swift and harsh. Frodo was not concerned for what was thought of him, but he would not risk Lily’s reputation.
Now, for a moment, they were alone, and their uneven breathing seemed only to add to the sweetness as they offered each other light caresses, until neither could bear it any longer.
Lily tightened her left arm around Frodo’s neck, pulling herself closer, and slipped her right hand into his dark brown locks, darker now with only the stars shining through the branches above them for light.
Frodo accepted her request for more, and wrapped his left arm about her waist, holding her tightly. He buried his right hand in the softness of her auburn tresses.
Frodo covered her mouth with his own, tenderly at first; soon he felt the eagerness and hunger in her response, and he deepened their kiss, grateful once again -- for her, for her love, for everything she was. Lily trembled, and was lost with him for a while in a dream filled with giving and taking, turn upon turn.
They knew it was time to go. Sam and Rosie were relying on them, and Frodo thanked Ilúvatar again for the trust their friends placed in them.
May would be a long month...