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Sacrament

by CRB and Ladyhawk Baggins

1 June 1420sr evening...

The comfort Lily offered was like a benediction, and Frodo gave himself up fully to her warmth and care. He lay his head down on her and wrapped his arms about her waist. Then he felt her kiss his forehead, felt her fingertips gently touch his face and shoulder.

Lily was ending the long bleak darkness, the sickness in his soul.

Frodo could feel tears coming, like the flood rushing toward the Ford... His whole body shuddered, and he held his wife more tightly as the wave approached. He had so carefully hidden away all of the grief and torment of the Quest from everyone, even from Sam -- even from himself... not wishing to be a burden... Lily would not allow him to consider himself such... He was safe with her; there was no longer any reason to hide.

The wave was close to breaking over him, and he shuddered again and took in another sharp breath. As if in reply, Lily took a deep breath as well. She wanted to help him, he knew. She tightened her embrace...

The wave broke, and the tears came, in a torrent. He clung to Lily, allowing the old grief to have its way with him. It overtook him, and then he had a waking dream he was healed; but it was not a dream. It was not a dream...

He wept with unbounded relief, as a lost child at the moment he is found. Then he felt Lily’s soft touch... her fingers in his hair, so comforting...

It occurred to him, as he fell into exhausted sleep, that if the darkness reappeared, his beloved wife would be at his side; he would never again face It alone.

---------

As Frodo had wept, Lily’s heart whispered her dearest love had been overcome with emotion, even near to breaking -- but from happiness, not from sadness or any pain. His breathing, by fits and starts, had settled, as his tears ceased. She sensed she had distracted and soothed him by slipping her fingers through his curls. Soft and luxuriant... she was certain she would never be able to have her fill of touching his hair. It’s a comfort to me as well, beloved; I must needs tell you later...

They lay curled up against the soft down pillows, and Lily held Frodo quietly, kissing his chestnut locks and watching the candles flicker. It was dark outside now, with the merest hint of a breeze fluttering the curtains at the west window. The moon was nearly full, its soft light a steady stream mingling with the warm yellow glow of the candles.

Lily guessed it must be at least 9 or 10 o’clock; they had been married for nigh on ten hours, then... In those hours, she had learned much about her new husband. She had known and felt his deep love for her all the months before today -- but this sort of love, this sharing -- it was surely a great gift from their loving Creator. It was more pure than anything she had ever known. She felt wholly and completely loved, cherished; treasured... Frodo had shown her this with each tender caress, each hushed word spoken in her ear. She trembled a little as she remembered his desire to please her.

The crickets outside the back garden window were the only other sound she heard. They made a little counterpoint to her husband’s soft breathing, offering their cheerful song to the late spring evening. She smiled, kissing his dark curls once more, then nestled her head into the pillows.

She sighed, taking in the fresh night air, then sighed again, peace and calm and warmth filling her soul. Gratitude filled her heart to overflowing. Aided by Gandalf, the Creator had bestowed upon her such a gift--! the gift meant for Frodo alone, granting him the healing he so desperately needed.

Lily closed her eyes and prayed fervently, giving thanks.

----------

The candles had burned very low when Frodo slowly awakened, but for one large one in the far corner of the room. Why had the candles been left burning... and where had that large one come from? he wondered. How odd. He could not remember sleeping through a single night since his return to the Shire; such was his pattern, now. But nothing else felt the same...

He let his eyes flutter shut again. He felt rested, refreshed. His face lay not on a cold pillow, but on warmth and softness...

Lily!

Frodo did not move but for his eyes blinking open. She lay against the down pillows; her right arm encircled him, her hand resting on his back, and his head cradled against her shoulder...

He resisted the impulse to kiss the hollow of her throat, so near... His breath caught as he remembered their day, and everything she had given him. He felt a tremor course through his body, not wishing ever to move from this spot. Still his senses were overcome, for her sweet scent filled him, her skin warm, and forgiving...

Frodo came fully awake, wondering if this were a dream or reality. All his senses told him it was real, but his senses had fooled him in the past. He felt and then saw her left hand atop his right, as though holding it against her steadily beating heart. He closed his eyes and swallowed, tears of joy threatening to overwhelm him again, as they had so many times already on this day. She cannot be mine! he thought. This cannot be real. It is a trick of the darkness, a cruel trick...

No! There is no darkness in me -- that much I am sure of, somehow... How it could possibly be gone, I don’t know. I only know I feel free and whole again... and she, the loving keeper of my heart, is here...

Frodo caressed her with his eyes as he gingerly lifted his right hand away from her. His breath caught in his throat at the sight of her -- she is too beautiful for words! -- and he closed his eyes. Raising himself on his left elbow to a sitting position, he endeavored not to wake her. He kept his eyes closed, unable to look at her again just yet.

He raised his right hand to rub first one eye and then the other, to clear his vision. Slowly, he opened them. Lily stirred, and a tiny smile formed on her lips, a small sound escaping them, as she settled once more, still asleep. He closed his eyes again and lowered his head, fighting to control his breathing, to hold back tears, gathering the strength to look at her without touching her, without waking her.

Frodo studied his wife’s sleeping form. She lay there at rest, looking more beautiful than the most beautiful Elf maiden, more beautiful even than Goldberry. He remembered how Lily looked after she fainted; this was so very different. Her face was peaceful; serene.

Seeing her like this -- to know she was his, and more astonishing yet, that she wished to be his! Frodo trembled, the strong sweet desire for her filling his breast once more, and once more he needed to close his eyes against her beauty, resisting his desire; she should sleep...

He felt her shiver a little. Her arms no longer holding him, she drew them close to herself. Was she cold? He pulled the white coverlet up to meet the lovelier white of her shoulders, and laid it on her gently. She sighed in her sleep, and nestled into the pillows. That was better. Some of the longing subsided, and his mind slowly began to clear.

He reminisced of the wedding and of what followed. They had shared unhurried, languorous hours together, full of tenderness and exultation. He knew somehow he had given Lily great joy, even peace. He had not thought himself capable of such things. But what she had given him! -- he could not find words to express feelings which until this day had been outside all his experience.

“O Ilúvatar!” he whispered softly, the prayer arising unbidden within him. “Make me worthy of her. Let me never fail her. Teach me how to love her more.” His thoughts turned to the ceremony, and he whispered again. “My dearest love, where is the darkness?”

Frodo was willing to believe that at least for now, the barren darkness he carried within for so long was gone. It had been lifted from him during the exchanging of their wedding vows. He felt it as surely as if someone had brought him back from the brink of death into life. Lily’s great love for him was somehow a part of it all. Beyond that he could not understand what had taken place.

This afternoon and evening, her light flooded into him, and he knew the darkness could not survive such light. The image of water being poured into Galadriel’s Mirror appeared unbidden in Frodo’s mind. The Mirror had never shown him Lily, nor indeed any of this. He felt -- whole, as if the Quest never happened, as if the Shire had never been harmed, as if his parents never drowned... as if he had never known or touched any evil, any Ring...

For a moment he was haunted by old memories, and doubt crept into him. How, he asked himself again, could he have done this to her -- married her, knowing it was possible that in a few short years he might not even be alive? He prayed this would never come to pass; that Lily would not be left alone to grieve. For surely she would break in two if the darkness were to finally claim him...

Yet in this same moment he felt more hope than he had ever known.

How long he studied her, completely happy, he could not have said, but at length his bride opened her eyes, and she smiled at him and raised her right hand to touch his face. He felt her warmth again. He turned his head and kissed her hand, then held it against his cheek.

“I tried not to wake you,” he murmured softly.

She smiled up at him. “Are you really here? Or am I dreaming?”

“If you’re dreaming, then we both are.”

“How can I tell? Kiss me?”

She barely reached the end of her question before he leaned over and kissed her. He stayed close, wanting nothing more than to hold her. But he would not lose her, he knew; they had all their life together ahead of them. He was content.

She smiled up into his eyes.

“I still feel I am dreaming, dear heart,” she murmured, touching his shoulder as if needing more proof of his reality. He was warm, and she wondered if he could see her blushing in the dimming candlelight, simply at being able to touch his bare shoulder.

“My beloved Lily, whether real or imagined, I am satisfied -- happy -- beyond any measure.”

She smiled, and watched his expression become serious, and tender, all at once. He caressed her face lightly, as if touching some cherished and fragile treasure, and spoke softly.

“I had not understood.” Tears formed again in his eyes. “I -- I did not know -- what it could be like... Oh, Lily, to be so close to you -- to your spirit -- to share all with you -- I could not foresee... I have no words...”

“Nor I, my dearest love,” she replied, touching his face in return; his eyes closed. “Nor I.”

Frodo then gave in to one small part of himself and kissed her once more. He lingered, imagining another.

He then sat up, deciding with a small sigh that he would refrain from touching her again unless she asked. She had to be tired; she must be.

Lily raised herself up to sit against the pillows and the carved oak headboard, grateful for the coverlet. She felt cold without him in her arms. Frodo seemed almost restless.

“Frodo? What troubles you, dearest? Do you need to tell me something?”

He smiled a little, almost to himself. He would never be able to hide anything from her. A warm joy spread through him at this realization...

“You are right, Lily. I am hardly able to contain myself. I --”

Frodo noticed her eyes close, but not with sleepiness. He touched her brow. Her eyes opened, barely. Was she faint? Had the darkness--? No, he could not contemplate that. Worried, he touched her cheek.

“Lily -- Lily. What is the matter?”

Her eyes opened more fully, but still had the look he had come to recognize; the look before she fainted.

“Nothing’s the matter. I simply need -- to eat.”

Frodo reached for his dressing gown and pulled it on as he fairly leapt out of the bed, grabbing a bedpost for leverage. He must get her something to eat...

“Frodo?” Her voice was not strong, but he heard it before he was out the bedroom door. He turned and went back to her.

“Yes, Lily. I’m here. I need to get you something to eat, and quickly. I’ll be back instantly, beloved.” He kissed her brow and turned again to leave.

“Frodo?”

He turned yet again and sat next to her on the bed, taking her hands in his. “Lily, I need to get you some food and drink. Please, let me do this, dearest, and the sooner the better...”

Still sitting up against the pillows, Lily glanced to her left, to the end table next to the bed. Her voice wavered, but the shadow of a smile crossed her face.

“There is food here, dearest. And drink.”

Frodo followed her eyes and saw it for the first time -- a large basket laden with the season’s first apples, pears, strawberries and blackberries; small packages wrapped in paper; a bottle of small ale. Perched atop the basket was a note, and beside the basket were two glasses; clear cut glass. They were elegant. There were flowers in a bowl. Roses. From his own garden! -- their own garden...

Without a word he lay the note aside, uncorked the ale and poured some for her, then held it to her lips.

“Here, Lily. Drink.”

She opened her eyes, and started to drink, small sips. Then she placed her hand over his, to steady it, and drank more thirstily. She seemed to revive before his eyes.

He thought back. We have not eaten a bite since luncheon. That was hours ago! How could I have been so thoughtless? I’m not hungry at all, and hardly thirsty -- it must be all the excitement...

Lily stopped; she had finished the entire glass. Frodo was glad it was only small ale, rather than the stronger kind. She would not have done at all well with that. He took the glass from her and set it down.

Her eyes were bright, and she was alert. Frodo dug into the basket, removing items one by one and placing them on the end table. He found a small wrapped cheese, a mild variety. He unwrapped it for her.

“Please eat, Lily.”

He was gratified and relieved when she took it and began to eat. As she did, he unwrapped another small package; it was a sweet loaf made of cornmeal, a favourite of hers. Frodo was growing more puzzled by the moment. He turned to give it to Lily, but she held up one hand. She could not speak yet; but the small cheese was nearly gone.

When she finished, Lily started to giggle.

She was fine now, and Frodo relaxed visibly, his shoulders dropping. He could breathe again.

“Now I would like that sweet corn loaf -- thank you.” She smiled at him, and began to eat it, but far more slowly, taking only small bites.

“Where did all this come from?” Frodo wondered, looking at the basket and the flowers.

“I think from Sam and Rosie, dearest. Is there a note?”

Frodo found the small note and opened it.

     Dear Mr Frodo and Lily,
       Please accept this small wedding day offering.
       Rosie and I are so happy for the both of you.
            With sincerest affection
                Sam and Rosie G

Frodo tightened his hold on the note and lowered his hand slowly to his lap. He stared at the basket and the flowers. He had heard of gifts such as these for new wedded couples. Dear Sam and Rosie. How thoughtful of them. How had he not seen this?

“You never saw this, then, did you?” she asked, placing her hand on his back. She had finished the small loaf.

“No... no, I didn’t. I really did not see it. How kind of them...” His voice was far away. Sam had thought of everything, as usual. And Rosie now, too. Lily voiced his next thought.

“They are the best of friends. We are so fortunate to have them...”

She took a deep breath and let out a sigh of contentment. “Oh, that was delicious. I feel so much better... Frodo? Are you not thirsty, dearest, and hungry as well?”

Frodo looked back at her and smiled, pulled from his reverie. He realized he was dreadfully thirsty after all. He poured a glass of ale and drank it down, replacing the glass on the end table.

“I was more thirsty than I knew! Would you like more, Lily? What else do you see here that you’d like?”

“A pear, please; may I have one of those, Frodo?”

He found one next to the embroidered linen cloths Sam and Rosie had provided. They really had thought of everything, Frodo mused. He handed Lily one of the cloths along with the pear.

“Thank you, oh, this is good...” She wasted not a moment on the fruit, relishing every bite. It had been nearly nine hours since her last meal, and nervousness prevented her from eating heartily then. She finished the pear and laid the core on one of the small open package wrappings on the table. “Won’t you eat, my love?”

“Yes,” he laughed, “I suppose I should. I do feel a little hungry now, come to think of it.” He took a pear, but did not eat it.

“I’m so sorry I did not think of you at all today, Lily. I can’t believe I didn’t think of feeding you! -- to have let this much time slip away...”

“Frodo, hush, dearest. You were thinking only of me, and in a way I shall cherish always. I have been -- blessed today by your love, my husband.”

He put down the untouched pear and turned full to her, taking her in his arms and holding her tightly. He imagined never needing food again if he had this kind of love.

After a long moment Lily disengaged herself from him gently and kissed his cheek.

“Please do eat, Frodo, at least eat something,” she implored, then waited until she saw him pick up the fruit again and start in on it.

“Good; that’s much better. I feel even better now you are eating.” She lightly rubbed his back, enjoying the feel of his dark blue velvet dressing gown, until he finished the pear, then she handed him her linen cloth, hardly used. He still seemed far away. “Dearest, did you want to tell me something earlier?”

“Yes -- yes, I do wish to ask you something. But are you quite all right now?”

“Yes, dear Frodo. I am fine now. I’m sorry to have worried you.”

“I’m simply happy you’re all right!” He shook his head slowly. “Starving my own wife on her wedding day...”

“Your mind is on much else besides food, and at this moment on much else besides even me, my love.” Her tone was gentle. She did not want him to think her words were a reproof.

Frodo put down the pear core next to hers on the paper. To her surprise he stood up and paced the room, then returned to her and kissed her brow.

“I’ll be right back, Lily. I’m going for a fresh candle.” He smiled as he turned, and was gone.

He had not been out of her sight since the wedding, and she felt a loss which surprised her in its intensity. Reaching for the soft peach dressing gown she made for this night, Lily wrapped herself up in it and made her way to the wash basin and carafe across the room. As she washed her face, and dried it, she realized she could not yet fully comprehend that this was her home -- she was no longer a guest or a visitor here...

Frodo returned, a lit candle in his hand. He replaced one of the smaller ones which had gutted out just moments before.

To Lily, it seemed, Frodo’s return restored all light and warmth to the room. He had come back; she truly was not dreaming. She touched his arm for proof, again, and sighed.

Frodo smiled at her touch, but she saw he was clearly preoccupied.

“Lily, please, sit.” He led her over to the bed and sat beside her, absently stroking the silky sleeve of her dressing gown.

“You asked me if I had something to say. Yes, I do. I hardly know how to bring it up. I feel that if I speak of It, It may return.” His voice held both fear and excitement.

Lily stayed calm and quiet, despite her concern and curiosity.

“Today, at the wedding, something happened. Something I’m not sure I am able to explain.” He could tell she was listening intently. There was nothing for it -- he needed to try.

Lily prepared herself for the outpouring of feeling that was to come from her husband. She knew he would look directly into her eyes, as if to see that she understood all he was saying.

“Forgive me; I know I spoke of this earlier today... but I’m struggling to understand it, my love -- I remember speaking my vows to you...” His eyes searched hers. “But then, just after you spoke your vows to me, something very strange occurred. The darkness -- the darkness was lifted completely out of me, Lily... I can hardly think on it. I felt light and free -- I feel light and free. It was as though a huge weight had been lifted from me.

“Gandalf, Elrond, Aragorn -- they all told me I would never fully heal... that the darkness would never truly leave me. I cannot understand what has happened. I am overjoyed, and relieved, and frightened at the same time... I’m afraid It shall return. I haven’t felt this -- this kind of freedom--? I don’t know what to call it -- happiness -- since long before the Quest!”

Lily nodded and smiled, but said nothing, encouraging him to continue.

“Just as I felt this lightness after your vows, you looked strangely faint. I know the look, beloved... this was similar, but not quite... I was -- I was afraid for you... I held you, to steady you... You didn’t fall, but you looked so weak... I glanced at Gandalf; he was just about to give the blessing. But he only smiled a little and nodded his head, as if all was well. Do you remember this?”

Lily gazed steadily into Frodo’s eyes. She reached up and touched one of his dark brown curls, then took her hand away again.

“I confess, dear Frodo, I cannot recall very much at all of that part of the ceremony. What happened? Can you tell me more?”

His words came out in a torrent. “The very next moment was to be Gandalf’s blessing; I was still concerned, but he didn’t seem to be. I was trying to trust in him. If Gandalf the White thought all was well, who was I to question... It all happened so fast... you were quite unsteady on your feet. I wrapped my arm around you to steady you against me. Sam helped as well. Gandalf laid his hands on us, on our heads, and when the blessing was over, you revived, and then he closed his eyes for the longest time... Then you revived fully, as if nothing had ever happened. It was the strangest thing... what do you think? Why was the darkness lifted from me? Was it the vows? Was it the blessing? Can vows be that strong?”

He stopped, and sighed. His face was full of hope and disbelief.

“Lily, you are so good at seeing the darkness in me, at knowing when It affects me... can you see any now? Whatever you say, I shall believe it.” But he closed his eyes in fear.

“Open your eyes, dearest.” Her voice was calm and soothing, like a balm. She touched his cheek again, cupping it.

He allowed her to look in, frightened despite his love for her.

Lily looked into his eyes, more beautiful to her and more dear now than they had ever been; for a moment she was in their wedding ceremony once again. She needed to stop and make herself remember what she was supposed to be searching for.

Seeing the clear Light in his pure soul rather than the old darkness was still new for her. She needed to close her eyes in order to break the sweet spell he cast. Above all else, she was relieved for her husband. Her throat closed as tears welled in her eyes.

“Beloved, I see no darkness at all, and I feel none. The vows are sacred. Ilúvatar has blessed us with more than just each other... He lifted your burden. Gandalf also is very powerful... Ilúvatar... I feel certain Ilúvatar used him as a vessel of sorts, to lift the darkness away from you. I cannot fully understand such things, but I think we must give thanks for this. It makes our future far more bright, my love.”

Frodo eased her hand from his face, then took her other hand, holding them together in his own. He needed to think... Lily saw no darkness in him! It seemed impossible! -- impossible. But he had no reason to doubt her, and he could easily feel the difference within himself. Yet something pulled at his thoughts. He searched his beloved’s eyes again.

“Lily...” He hesitated. “I don’t wish to be misunderstood, but I need to ask -- do you know something more? I see it in your eyes... won’t you tell me?”

His voice held so much hope, but so much fear; she answered quickly. “Beloved Frodo, yes, there is something more...” She searched Frodo’s eyes in turn, not hiding her worry. “Are you able to trust me in this for a time?”

Frodo drew his brows together, but remained silent.

“Someday I shall tell you all; but not yet. Mayhap this fall... are you able to wait until then, beloved?”

“I...” Frodo glanced away from her.

She cocked her head, seeking to recapture his gaze. “If you ask it of me, I’ll tell you now... though I prefer to wait... only till mid-October...”

Frodo lifted his gaze to Lily’s once more. “You’re asking me to trust you without question...”

She nodded her head. “I love you...” Her eyes pleaded with him.

“I know...” Frodo whispered. He cleared his throat of the tears gathering there. “And I love you. You’ll tell me mid-October?”

Lily visibly relaxed. “I promise.”

“I’ll hold you to it, dear Lily.” A smile tugged at the corner of Frodo’s mouth.

“See that you do.” She giggled. “Beloved, we have so much to be grateful for. Ilúvatar has richly blessed us.”

“You speak the truth, dearest. It is right and good to give thanks. I need to believe. I shall use the time He has given as well as I may. Will you pray with me?”

“Yes.” Her hands were still cradled in his.

“We give thanks, Ilúvatar, for all Your blessings. Thank You for the love You have given us, thank You for giving Lily to me. Thank You for taking my darkness away--” His voice broke. “Please help me to believe. Please help me to use the time well. Please protect us, and if it pleases You let us have a long life together, and -- and children. Please let us never forget Your daily blessings on us. Help our belief in You to strengthen. Help us...”

At this he was unable to continue. He pressed Lily’s hands against his mouth, and his eyes were shut so tightly Lily knew he was mastering tears. This is truly the beginning of a new life for Frodo; for both of us, Lily rejoiced in her heart.

He let go Lily’s hands and threw his arms around her, holding her so tightly she found it hard to breathe. But she was happy. Her husband had another chance at life. She thanked Ilúvatar again as Frodo held her. His breathing told her he was still fighting tears, but finally, after a few more deep breaths, she knew he had controlled it.

Gradually, he released her. She saw in his eyes he had made the choice to trust her and believe the seemingly impossible had occurred: a miracle. The darkness was gone. He was beside himself with joy.

“What shall I do? I can’t think. I’m so happy... my mind is scattered in all directions.”

Lily brought him back, happy to lead him in from a place of joy and not of misery, as she so often had during their courtship.

“Frodo dearest, you could eat some more food... for me? Please eat some cheese and some bread -- here.” She placed the bread into his hand. “Eat!” she laughed.

“All right,” he replied, and laughed with her. How long would he have put off eating without Lily here to make him take in some sustenance? He ate as heartily as he could, and downed another ale. He was glad for himself now that it was small ale. Only once in his life, at a party for Merry’s birthday, had he had too many strong spirits. He had vowed never to repeat it. The vow was easy to keep; he never wanted to feel that way again.

After a time, he was nearly full, and stopped. He hated feeling entirely full.

“I feel far more substantial now, with less of the lightness I felt before,” he smiled. He remembered a similar feeling after he and Sam spent the day hard at work setting Bag End in order. Well, he mused with an inward smile, I’ve certainly worked hard today, although one could hardly call such blissfulness work...

He stopped in surprise as desire for her flooded over him again. He was amazed by how sudden it was; no wonder Sam had warned him.

Lily smiled as he put down the glass. “There,” she sighed, “I can tell you feel much better now. I was beginning to worry, just a little. You shall need all your strength for the next several days at least, my husband.”

Frodo saw her blush. He had expected her to laugh along with her light teasing, but instead her face was changed -- the look in her eyes had changed. They were full of want -- for him -- and the fear she felt earlier in their day was now gone.

He began to kiss her again, holding her face in his hands and realizing her mouth tasted sweeter than the sweetest fruit, or ale, or any food of any kind.

---------

Lily closed her eyes and nestled deeper into the down pillows, cradling Frodo’s head against her shoulder with her right hand. She laid her left hand on his right arm, which was around her waist. He felt so warm. It was comforting. The new candle Frodo brought into the room was casting little dancing shadows on the walls. Even the shadows are happy, she thought with a smile.

Finally, this day had arrived; the day she long believed would never come. She was in a haze of ecstasy, and a joy she had never known before lit a flame in her soul that would not be extinguished. Frodo loved her. She needed nothing else, nothing else at all.

Lily’s thoughts wandered. She remembered the first letter he had sent her in February, and the memory filled her with wonder, even now. She knew each word of it by heart...

When he left after Yule, it felt as though her world had ended. She had wondered many foolish things then... had she not been kind enough? Pretty enough? In truth, she knew these questions were pointless, but they had helped her avoid the question she could not answer then. Why would Ilúvatar bring them together, if marriage was impossible because of the darkness he fought? That last question always led into the truth of the matter. But now the darkness was well and truly gone. She offered another prayer of thankfulness for this blessing. Someday, she would tell him... much later, on a day when he finally believed for himself that the darkness would never return and cause her harm.

A light breeze fluttered the curtains, interrupting her reminiscing. The cool night air carried upon it the perfume of the back-garden roses.

Truly the Creator cared for them. Lily breathed in the fragrance and looked down again at Frodo. He still slept soundly. It was just as well. No one needed rest, rest of body, mind, and spirit, more than her beloved.

If she had but known sooner of her gift, she would never have allowed him to leave her in December. She would have married him as soon as possible, so the wretched darkness would have been taken from him long before today... but no; she could never have told him of this gift. Frodo needed to choose for himself to trust in Ilúvatar -- to make her his own -- without knowing of the gift. His love needed to be freely given...

Lily looked down at him again and smiled. He offered her his heart long ago, and today, he had given her much more. He gave her all of himself.

In her mind’s eye, she was with him again at her home in Deephallow. She remembered fondly his first kiss, as if it were yesterday. She had wondered how he might greet her. She had thought of every possible way to greet him, even practicing saying hello in front of the mirror.

She briefly raised her fingers to her cheek as she remembered his kiss in December; they had thought it would be their last touch before being separated forever.

Then when he finally arrived... she touched her lips, remembering his mouth on hers for the first time. She was not expecting it. He had always been so gentle with her. Then she almost lost him again when he misunderstood why she fainted...

She remembered her terrible discomfort with how forward she had been, but how else could she convince him that she was only overwhelmed, and not ill? She suddenly realized how important it was to her that she could share so much with him without a rebuff. So many other hobbits would have accused her of being too forward...

She sighed and closed her eyes again, allowing her memories to drift back to the present; their afternoon together flowed over her. I did not understand what today would be like, nor could I, with what little I knew... I longed for his touch, but had not expected... I could never have imagined today. Frodo feels wonder at all things... just as he did today. He felt wonder... at me! And he expressed it, in words and caresses...

Without warning, tears formed in her eyes. She fought to keep them back. Both of them had shed tears of joy today, and often. What a blessed time...

Lily felt she understood her husband -- as well as anyone could; for there were depths to him she had not yet known or seen. It may be years, she pondered, before he is able to bear revealing the events of the Quest to me -- if indeed he ever can. He may not wish to...

She studied his face as he slept, reveling in the knowledge they would not be parted, ever; years and years lie before them, time enough to learn more of him. And she did not care how long it might be until he could share his memories, nor did she care how much he chose to reveal or keep to himself. She vowed to love him with all her being for the rest of their days together, for whatever time they were given. It seemed impossible she could love him more than she did at this moment, but in her heart she knew her love would grow deeper as the days passed.

Frodo shifted, nestling his head against her. Lily briefly put her reverie aside and lightly touched his chestnut curls.

He settled, and she allowed her memories to fill her thoughts once again.

Frodo kept his promise to her today. At every turn, he asked her what pleased her, and what did not... It had been hard at first for both of them, shy as they were; but after a while, a deeper trust settled in, and she felt able to tell him what he wanted to know... but she could not anticipate what would be pleasing until -- until she allowed him to try, she thought, smiling again.

He told her plainly he was only guessing at what she might enjoy, and was hoping for the best.

Hoping for the best--! My dear husband, you are adept at understatement! Lily mused, and nearly giggled, her fatigue making her giddy, even as tears pooled in her eyes. This won’t do, she decided, still smiling to herself. I don’t wish to waken you, beloved! She resisted the temptation to kiss the tip of his ear.

She felt she had given very little to him, although he told her repeatedly he had never been so happy. He knew that -- at least for now -- the darkness was gone, for whatever reason. ‘It can no longer harm you, if It is not in me,’ he had murmured. He could not begin to describe the joy he felt. He thanked Ilúvatar, and turned the joy toward her.

Frodo started with the only things he knew how to give: his kiss, and his caresses. She knew no words for the feelings these new kisses gave her. Perhaps this was how he felt when she kissed his scars? And each new offering was slow and deliberate. She remembered Rosie telling her this morning Sam would give Frodo such advice, and smiled; Frodo does nothing by half-measures...

She lost count of the number of times -- before they consummated their vows -- when one would stop the other, and take a turn at this exquisite and unexpected love. Every new kiss and caress was savored and explored. Her heart beat suddenly faster at the thought of their first meeting... Rosie had been right; there was no way to explain it...

They basked in the give-and-take they invented for themselves, until they came to a place where the desire they felt for each other completely banished their fears. All that remained was the overwhelming need to be close; to be one. Lily trembled at the renewed memory of it; wondrous it was to meet thus with him, body and spirit together. Frodo’s concern and his tender attentions were --

She felt him stir in her arms, then he murmured, “Are you all right, beloved?”

“Yes, my love...” She kissed his chestnut curls and smiled, feeling his answering smile against her neck. “I’m just remembering the day...”

He nestled closer, tightening his embrace, then relaxed again, his breathing becoming deep and even.

Lily remembered how both of them wept afterward, holding each other, tired in one way, but in another way more rested than they had ever been. The peace was indescribable. They slept, only a short nap; and upon waking, a mere touch set them off again; by early evening real sleep seemed inviting.

Food was forgotten, until that time when she had indeed felt faint. Then he fed her, and cared for her, and talked about the wedding ceremony, and after he had eaten just a bit and taken a drink, the give and take began again...

She gazed down at him, happy to see him sleeping peacefully. Then she sighed and gently shifted her weight against the pillows. She kissed his hair once more, for proof, again, that his presence with her here was real. He was now well and whole, and it was not a dream. Lily wondered when she would stop questioning the truth of it, smiling as she realized she did not care how long it took. They had all the time they needed now. She closed her eyes tightly and breathed a prayer of thanks, calm settling over her again.

Lily opened her eyes, and saw as if for the first time the scar on his neck, very white even against his own fair skin. Please protect him now, she prayed, now and in all the days to come. Frodo stirred again, and she tightened her hold on him. He nestled his head more comfortably against her, and she rubbed her cheek lightly on his curls; then he lay still.

After a moment, she sighed. They had shared sacred vows...

“Was it only today?” Lily whispered to herself. She listened to her beloved’s deep and even breathing, and marveled at the peace it brought her. Suddenly, she realized the only time she had seen him sleep before this day was during the March illness. Never again would they endure that horror...

She thanked Ilúvatar for His tender mercies, and held Frodo a little tighter. Lily felt again her husband’s heaviness and warmth, and sighed, content. Absently she caressed his hair, and closed her eyes.

---------

Frodo rested within Lily’s embrace, half-awake and half-asleep. She really did help me over the rough spots, he mused. The cool, late night breeze made its way through the room, and he opened his eyes just enough to see the flickering of the new candle he had lit earlier in the night. Lily seemed to be resting. That was well. Surely she must be more tired even than I am. She gave so much...

He shuddered a little now at the thought of her this afternoon. She had invited his kisses, her arms open and welcoming, her tenderness... the sweet scent of her hair, and the softness of her alabaster skin were here, all about him! He could touch her...

Lily is here with me! How can this be? he wondered in awe. They had shared sacred vows today... His heart started its wild beating again. After their interminable wait, she was indeed here... her beauty and warmth, her caresses and her passion, all of her, was his for the asking. Here, and now, for always.

Frodo felt his blood course in a fresh wave of love for her, and knew he needed to stop himself, or be carried away yet again. A little sigh escaped her, and with his ear pressed to her, he felt and heard her heartbeat quickening. In wonder, he realized she was responding to his own heart, even to the tiniest unspoken message his body could convey. He had so much yet to learn about his new bride.

He was still faintly surprised by how cleansed he felt, how refreshed, despite the exhaustion. He settled comfortably within her embrace, lulled by her warmth. With the light touch of her fingers in his hair, his eyes fluttered shut.

His thoughts wandered back to that first vision of her, standing before him, when they had returned to his home -- their home -- after the wedding. She was so lovely, and he had been so unsure of himself. How to start... where to begin? How does one go about doing what one has never done before? He was glad now he remembered Sam’s words, for they served him well. Lily had assured him she was very happy indeed. A smile touched his lips, feeling her heart beating in his ear. It made him think of lullabies he had heard as a child.

He willed himself to relax, and welcomed in the fresh sweet exhaustion of their first day together. She was holding him, like an anchor, as in the tales Gandalf told of the Sea; an anchor, which holds a ship safe in a storm. He was safe here, in her embrace.

And the darkness was gone. He was sure now in his heart Lily’s love had done this. She was his gift from Ilúvatar. I am being healed, he assured himself. Healed.

Balanced on the small precipice between wakefulness and slumber, Frodo wondered how he had ever lived without her. He remembered, drifting off, that he had to take the Ring into Mordor. If Lily had been his then, as she was now, he could not have left her, ever. Yes, he thought, that was the answer. He tumbled off into deep sleep, entwined about her, his body relaxed as never before. The beating of her heart in his ear was indeed a lullaby, sending him into lands of dreamless rest.