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Sacrament

by CRB and Ladyhawk Baggins

5 July 1420sr

In the early morning hours, Lily woke to see the stars still bright and the merest lightening of the sky.

The open sky... Where was she?

With him... she smiled sleepily, with her beloved. He lay on his side, facing her; she lay on her back, still touching him, his warm arm draped over her hip. She turned her head just enough to see his face, his features not yet distinct in this gloaming, but oh--

Asleep, he appeared somehow younger. He was so beautiful she needed to bite her lip to refrain from letting out a sigh. She allowed herself the luxury of observing him; and in her joy, as she studied him, a prayer of thanks welled up from her heart. How had she been granted this -- granted him? She dared not think on it any more, for now; tears sprang suddenly to her eyes, and she did not want to wake him thus.

Lily heard a soft rustle, the faint morning breeze in the leaves overhead. Their bed was the earth, and not as unforgiving as she had expected; her husband took such care gathering enough grasses to soften the ground beneath them...

They were truly on their way to Rivendell; already one day out from Bree.

She found herself unable to go back to sleep, but did not want to move, for fear of disturbing her lover. If he woke fully, Frodo would not go back to sleep.

This she learned the fifth dawn of their niwealdor, when, as was usual, she woke to find him already awake. She could not hide the worry she felt on that morning...

---------

“Frodo-love, are you not sleeping well?”

Her husband had tightened his embrace. “Beloved, I am sleeping better than ever I can remember, and by that I mean much more deeply. Though I do not sleep too soundly; for indeed it seems I’m aware of your every move -- not unpleasantly aware, I might add...” His mouth curved into a tender smile. “But my slumber is more peaceful than ever I imagined possible. I’d forgotten how it was to sleep without disturbing dreams... I feel wonderfully rested each morning... as I do now.”

He kissed her forehead once, and her pulse quickened at his simple caress.

“Yet whenever I wake,” she murmured softly, “even in the deep of night, you are already awake...”

Outside the bedroom window, a finch was warbling, a solitary song which broke the morning stillness; but another sound covered his melody.

“Lily, can you hear it? It’s raining... just a smattering...”

They listened together for a moment, and she nodded. “I can... it’s soft... how I love this quiet hour before the world wakes.”

“Rain makes me want to kiss my beautiful wife,” he declared softly. “And you are so very beautiful...”

He pondered for a moment, then gave her their private smile. “Actually, I don’t need any reason at all to kiss you. The desire is ever-present. I only need you near me; nothing more...”

Before she could reply he covered her mouth with his own, and they shared a slow, lingering kiss. Lily heard and felt his voice, a low, appreciative sound. Five days into their niwealdor, and nothing, it seemed, dulled her husband’s need. She welcomed it, wishing only that she could do without firsties.

“Mmmmm, oh Frodo...” she breathed, breaking the kiss. “What -- what is it we were speaking of? I cannot remember for the life of me...”

“You were asking how it is I’m always awake before you, even in the night.” His lips curled into another smile. “I’ll answer it, and then, dearest, it’s firsties. You need sustenance. We can pick up where we left off...”

She was smiling at him from beneath her lashes. “Yes... indeed... but do go on...”

“It’s only because I wake to convince myself you’re here, with me,” he continued, running one finger through her hair, and tracing the curve of her ear. “And then it’s difficult to fall back to sleep... for I find myself reveling in simply gazing at you, whether it be by the light of day, or moonlight, or starlight. And when the cold months come, I’ll gaze on you by firelight...” His voice caught.

“Frodo...” Lily breathed. She searched his eyes, then allowed her fingertips to softly caress his cheek. “I am yours, now and always. I wish only ever to be with you.”

Her husband trembled and tightened his hold on her. “Lily, sweet...”

His use of her family’s endearment created an unexpected joy. He used it several times before she realized he did it to help her feel at home. Frodo had done everything within his power to welcome her into his smial and make it hers -- theirs. She had been surprised by the fact that it took her longer than anticipated to feel as though Bag End was truly her home...

As the days and nights passed, Frodo admitted he was gradually sleeping through the night, but still he enjoyed feeling her wake in his arms, and from time to time he would wake at her stirring. He did not want to fall asleep again, for fear of missing her waking, and the singular joy it gave him...

A time or two she delighted in the pleasure of waking first, and understood her husband’s enjoyment, but she also knew well her own greater need for sleep. To ease her own disappointment at this limitation, she decided this was a gift she could give to him. During the Free Fair, she had awakened several times, unaccustomed to sleeping outside, and found if she held very still, Frodo would sleep on; then she would allow herself to drift back to sleep after him, his peace blanketing her.

---------

Lily knew her husband was finally sleeping deeply of late, until Bree... surely he still needed the sleep, she reflected. He admitted once he had not truly rested since before the Quest.

Why could she not sleep now? Until this past night, Lily could not remember when she last slept under the open sky. Mayhap when she was a very young lass... with her brother and sister, in the back garden... during the summer, when it was cooler outside than in. But that was before she was a tween...

When was the last time I attended one of the Shire celebrations that went on all night outside? She smiled to herself. Was it before or after I met Frodo? It must have been years ago, but even so, this feels nothing like what I remember. Yes, there was the Free Fair -- was it only a few days ago? No matter, for we didn’t stay up all night... In fact, we were in bed before midnight, and we slept in a tent we shared with Rosie and Sam. Everything was familiar, then. This is all so new...

She pushed the memories of the past away and allowed herself to enjoy the deep quiet, and the sweet sound and feel of Frodo breathing peacefully beside her.

As she studied the perfection of his features in the dim light, the cleft in his chin, his long dark lashes, sudden tears stung her eyes, and she smiled at her excitable emotions. Lily Burrows! -- Baggins! -- she corrected herself, and nearly giggled, but held it back. Somehow you must learn to accept that his beauty is yours to enjoy now and forever, without these tears, or you’ll be in a constant state of upset! I must think about something else...

She closed her eyes so she could concentrate, and her thoughts turned to their journey thus far.

Leaving the Prancing Pony seemed to be for the best. No nightmares had disturbed his sleep this night. A part of her hoped Bree would be the only bad night he would experience, but she knew in her heart this was unlikely; the ordeal for her beloved was far from over. She again hoped the path they had chosen would be for the best. Gandalf seemed to believe it would. She decided to trust in his love for them, and his wisdom.

As dawn broke and the sky continued to lighten, Lily was surprised by how much colder it became. She started to shiver, struggling not to, wishing fervently Frodo would remain asleep. When he began to stir, she knew he was not having a nightmare, and, just as she was aware of his waking, he was aware of her.

He pulled her closer, and sighed deeply.

In a voice not quite awake he asked, “Lily? Are you all right, love?”

“Dear Frodo, I am so sorry for disturbing you.” She could no longer contain her shivering. “I don’t understand... The sun is coming up, and yet it seems colder.” Her voice quavered with a sudden chill.

Frodo smiled, still more asleep than awake, and found the cloak he laid beside him the night before, knowing this might happen. With minimal effort, he draped it over Lily.

She noted he barely opened his eyes to see her, then closed them again, the tiniest smile raising one corner of his mouth.

He unbuttoned his waistcoat with one hand and pushed it aside, pulling her close against him once again so she could more fully feel his warmth.

Lily slipped her arms inside his waistcoat, next to the cambric shirt, her right hand on his heart and her left feeling the comforting heat of his back, and immediately felt warmer. Her shivering eased.

Frodo settled his right arm atop her left, warming her further, then spoke once more, still sleepy. “It’s the dawn cold. You’ll grow accustomed to it... it doesn’t last long, truly...”

Lily nodded, wanting him to know she understood, and nestled her head on his chest. She felt his soft kiss on her hair, and then sensed he fell asleep again, and she was relieved for him.

Awe swept over her. For the first time, Lily believed, since meeting him again in November, she glimpsed the vast, secluded world Frodo had lived in. She knew it really was not so long ago, and yet for him it was a lifetime. He was her guide through the part of his life which made him who he was now, a part of his life few people knew anything of; a part of his life which haunted him.

She realized he thought nothing of sleeping on the ground out of doors in a strange place. Then she reminded herself that it was not strange to him. There were those who would have complained of the discomfort, but her husband had learned to accept the simple comings and goings of life, for he knew what true discomfort was.

---------

When Lily finally awoke again later in the morning, Frodo was gone from his place next to her, but the blanket was still warm, so he had not been away very long. She was about to take a deep breath when she heard Frodo’s soft voice. Whom could he be having a conversation with here?

So as not to startle him and whoever he was speaking with, she carefully glanced back over her shoulder toward the sound of his voice and found him with the ponies. Gingerly, she rolled over, keeping the blanket wrapped around herself, for the Sun had not yet warmed their clearing.

Lily watched with interest as Frodo took care of the ponies, speaking to them as he groomed each one. She could not hear the words at first but listened intently. As he worked on the new packpony, his words drifted to her.

“Well, lads, you look to be in good shape. If it’s all the same to you, I think we’ll continue on more sedately. Lily will push herself too hard if we let her. So we’ll simply say you need the rest. I imagine you’d rather not work at all, but at least you’ll be having an easy time of it from here. When she wakes this morning, I’ll try to convince her that though the new lad here from Bree is fresh, you two could do with an extra day of a rest. Think she’ll believe me? I think she will... I hope she doesn’t see through me; I’m not any good at hiding anything from her, you know. But I can’t think of anything better, so, such as it is, we have our plan.”

Lily stifled a giggle. He was conspiring with their ponies to ensure she did not become overtired, without letting her feel like she was holding things up. She then needed to swallow her tears. It would not do if he found out she knew. Why was she feeling like a spring day this morning -- sunny one moment, and raining the next?

For a few moments longer, she watched him grooming Strider, as he gently ran a hand down each leg and asked for each hoof in turn. She gauged how much longer she needed to stay ‘asleep’, so he would not wonder if she had overheard him, or the game would then be up.

He finished with his pony and started on Merry.

Lily stirred and stretched and rubbed her eyes slowly, pretending to come fully awake. She breathed deeply of the cool freshness of the morning. Dew lay all about them on the hawthorn and the hazel thickets edging their clearing.

Frodo noticed her and left what he was doing, stopping to rinse his hands in the nearby stream. He sat on the blanket beside her.

“You’re awake, dearest! I trust you slept well, once you were a little warmer...” A welcoming smile spread across his face.

Lily returned it. “Yes, my love, thank you. Though I felt certain you weren’t here a moment ago. I missed you. Is everything all right?”

“Yes, everything’s fine. I’ve been taking care of the ponies; they were getting restless, and needed moving to fresher grazing. If it’s all the same to you, we’ll stay here for today. Pippin, the packpony--”

“Pippin?”

“Well, yes... It seemed odd having Merry without Pippin, so I renamed the packpony.”

Lily blinked at her husband’s wholly innocent expression. She realized he was not teasing, but meant what he said, and she laughed.

Frodo shrugged and smiled back at her with a tinge of pink in his cheeks. He leaned over and gave her a gentle morning kiss.

She giggled again. “You were saying?”

Frodo almost forgot his plan. “Oh -- oh yes! Pippin is well rested, but Merry and Strider could probably do with a bit of a rest -- if you don’t mind, that is...”

Lily’s heart was brimming with adoration. My dear sweet husband, though struggling with your own fears, you still put my needs first. She realized she loved him just as well no matter what he did, and could not refuse him, whatever he asked.

“I don’t mind at all. It’s a lovely place.” She sat up smiling, and pulled the blanket snug around her. “It would seem the early members of the Fellowship are well represented. We have Strider and Merry and Pippin along; all we are missing is Sam.”

Frodo captured her eyes with his own. His voice was rough and low as he replied. “Sam’s here.”

The question in Lily’s eyes was clear, as her brows drew together.

He reached out his right hand and touched her cheek. “He’s here.”

Frodo smiled as he watched understanding dawn in Lily’s eyes.

She caught her breath and shook her head. “I could not have done what he did.”

Frodo grew more serious. “Lily, I had no hope of returning...”

Lily choked back sudden tears.

Frodo’s concern instantly turned from his own memories to his wife. He drew her close and held her tightly against him.

“Don’t cry, dearest; it’s all right. Sam carried my hope for me. He was in many ways a greater light than the Phial of Galadriel. No matter how dark it seemed, he could always see some light.

“Did I ever tell you the Fellowship spoke of Ilúvatar from time to time?”

When Lily shook her head, Frodo continued. “Sam, and Merry and Pip paid it no mind -- as there’s no mention of Him in hobbit lore -- and neither did I, except as interesting history, until I met Faramir. The hours were so dark then, and yet Faramir seemed to hold a light aloft that guided him. A light for which I held no understanding.

“I felt no need to learn more... as I didn’t believe we would return at all... Sam held on to hope to the bitter end...

“Since returning home, I realized Sam could carry my hope no further -- and then Ilúvatar brought us -- you and I, together... Now you have borne the hope for me, until I was able to hold it -- with you. Still, when I falter, I know you are here.”

Lily’s eyes mirrored his unshed tears as she returned his smile. Her heart echoed the prayer of gratitude she sensed within him. She noted the shadow of his disturbing memories from yesterday seemed to have completely vanished today. She searched his face and reached up to tenderly caress his cheek.

The moment vanished as Merry again stomped a hoof and snorted, impatient for his morning care.

Frodo rolled his eyes and sighed, “Lily, dearest, you truly did name him too well.”

They burst into laughter, and Frodo got up and returned to caring for the ponies.

Lily started to make breakfast, realizing that though Frodo would go without eating and not think a thing of it, she could not. She knew Frodo had not eaten at all well on his last journey down this road. The knowledge that she was able to help make this adventure a happier one for him warmed her, and she enjoyed more than ever the preparation of his morning meal. It took a bit of getting used to, using the campfire for cooking, but it’s not too different from the kitchen hearth, she mused -- once one learns the warm spots and accounts for the shifting breeze...

---------

They spent the morning in a quiet shared dream of restfulness and simple meals. They did not hurry at anything; it was only the two of them, and time did not really exist -- not today.

After elevensies, they rested again, settling back into an enchanted spot they had found just after first breakfast. Lily sat against a great maple, its wide branches and fragrant leaves a canopy over their heads; she thought it was more beautiful than anything crafted by mortal hands. When she shared her feeling with Frodo, he agreed. They studied the tree together, counting how many shades of green they found in the leaves, and how many browns and greys they found in the bark.

Frodo lay on his back, his head in Lily’s lap. With the fingers of one hand, she played in his dark brown curls. He held the other in his hands, absently lacing and unlacing her delicate fingers with his strong ones, and enjoying the contrast between them. Finally he held them to his heart.

“I cannot recall when last I’ve been so comfortable out of doors,” he mused. “I may satisfy my love for beauty first by gazing on your face, and then by watching the lazy sunlight paint itself on the leaves above...”

The soft air all around them smelled of summer, and as he felt her warm kiss on his lips, to Frodo it seemed the earth was like his Lily, bursting with life, and full of promise and hope.

Without a word, they agreed they would not think about anything beyond today. When they did talk, they both found it pleasant to speak only of the signs of summer all about them, and the suitability of Merry and Pippin’s names. Frodo delightedly acquired a number of kisses from Lily for making him laugh. He noted too that the fatigue in Lily’s eyes had finally disappeared.

After luncheon, Frodo remembered the berry bushes he’d spotted the evening before while gathering firewood. He wondered for a moment if he should say anything at all. It crossed his mind that if he did mention the bushes, then they could pick berries for their next meal. A pleasant enough prospect, but it also meant they would have to move from their current, very comfortable position.

Lily smiled. “What is it?”

Frodo started slightly and smiled back. “Dearest, how well you know me.” He was still reluctant to move, and waited a little longer before finally continuing.

“I spotted some berry bushes just beyond the meadow yonder. I thought you might like us to gather some for our next meal...”

“But you really don’t want to move,” she smiled indulgently.

Frodo nodded. Lily bent over and brushed his forehead with a kiss. He closed his eyes and sighed.

Lily smiled and continued, “I believe there is nothing that says we can’t come back to this, is there?”

“Well, no, it’s just that...”

“You want this to go on forever.”

Frodo nodded again.

Lily gazed into his eyes as she searched for a suitable answer. She felt much the same as he did, but also understood no perfect moment could truly last, except in memories...

She smiled. “My husband, as we search for berries, we’ll be gathering memories that do not disappear with the next meal.”

Frodo took the hand he held to his heart and brought it to his lips, lightly kissing her palm. Lily caught her breath and closed her eyes. When she opened them again, he saw they were quite green.

Frodo was a little surprised at the sudden deepening of their feelings. He quickly rolled to his feet, and gently pulled Lily up with him. He needed to master his own quickened breathing before he trusted himself to speak.

“My wife, if we do not leave now, we’ll never get those berries.”

Frodo secured the bedroll, while Lily fetched two bowls for gathering the fruit.

He answered the question in her eyes, grinning. “We’ll want to keep unwanted guests out of our bed... particularly of the very small variety.”

Bowls in hand, they headed into the woods where Frodo remembered seeing the bushes. They had only gone a short distance when Lily exclaimed in delight and ran forward.

“Frodo! They’re raspberries, and they’re early! They’re beautiful.”

She put one into her mouth.

“Oh, and they’re so sweet!”

Frodo grinned broadly as he caught her up, kissing her cheek.

Lily quickly stood tiptoe to return his kiss. “Thank you for finding them.”

She glanced about the forest floor until she found two long dried twigs, then handed one to Frodo and showed him how to avoid the worst of the prickly bushes, using the twig in one hand to lift away the thorny leaves from the clusters of berries, and the other hand to pick them. As they gathered, she spoke excitedly of how she would use them in their meals the remainder of the day.

They spent the next hour plucking berries and putting them in their bowls, or into each other’s mouths, often followed by a kiss.

Frodo found himself stopping occasionally to watch her; her movements were sure and confident. It occurred to him again that all their time spent together was dear, and he had never seen her exactly like this; they had never picked berries together before today. Their own bushes at Bag End were near to bearing, but not yet. He had thought he did not want to leave Bag End, and now he did not want to leave this brief refuge.

When they had eaten their fill, and their bowls were near to overflowing, they turned for the meadow, startling a hidden flock of blackbirds into flight as they went. Frodo stopped abruptly, his hand gripping Lily’s tightly. He glanced all round him and above him, his face apprehensive, as the birds circled once overhead, then wheeled away toward the south.

“Frodo? What is it, love?”

He blinked and shook his head slightly, as if endeavoring to rid himself of a thought -- or a memory, Lily decided. He turned to her and smiled.

Frodo would have touched her cheek but for the bowl in his right hand, and Lily’s hand still clutched in his left. His face was calm again, and content. She saw relief in his eyes.

“It’s nothing... no, that’s unfair to you, isn’t it? It’s not exactly nothing. I’m sorry, Lily; you did ask me to tell you, when I could...

“It -- I was reminded then of when Gandalf set Sam and myself out on the Quest, at the start, before he left us. I’d planned to stay at Crickhollow for a little time, but once we knew I was being followed, we were leaving Bag End and Hobbiton, and indeed the Shire. We were on our way to Bree, as quickly as we could manage.” He watched her eyes, offering the hint of a smile to set her at ease.

“Gandalf warned us there were spies... Sauron--” Frodo nearly choked on the name “--Sauron deployed spies, even amongst the birds and the beasts. As we traveled we were driven to hide and change our course because of them. Spies, everywhere...”

He paused, taking in her expression. He kissed her forehead, resting the heel of his right hand on her shoulder, keeping the bowl of berries level as he spoke.

“It’s in the past now, beloved. I still -- sometimes I need to remind myself that Sauron’s spies are gone. We were pursued for so many months. It’s difficult to believe the birds and the beasts are only that, now... they no longer serve evil... please do forgive me...”

Frodo knew she would, but he needed to say it, then realized he needed to hear her words.

“Dearest love of mine, there is nothing to forgive. I am grateful you told me the story. It’s difficult to think even the birds were no longer friendly, in those days, not so long ago...”

“Some were spies, and some were not; and we never knew which, simply by the look of them... there was no way to know. It’s fine now, love.” He kissed her cheek gently, wishing to reassure her. “It’s fine.”

Lily nodded, and they walked hand in hand on their way back, talking quietly of nothing.

They were almost to the meadow when Lily screamed and dropped her bowl; raspberries flew in all directions. She almost knocked Frodo down in her rush to get behind him.

“Lily, what is it? What’s wrong?”

From behind his shoulder, she pointed to the ground in front of them.

Frodo searched the ground, frantically trying to discern what could possibly frighten her this way. A snake? A spider? Frodo suddenly felt a chill. He shook it off and turned to Lily, endeavoring to understand, uncertain of how to comfort her.

She continued to stare past him at the ground and started to back away.

Frodo pleaded with her further. “Please, dearest; I cannot see it. I’m sorry; show me.”

Lily pointed to the ground again, and Frodo’s confusion grew. All that was there was a large, green grasshopper. Sudden understanding dawned, and Frodo began to laugh. He turned to her with a smile that vanished when he saw the tears gathering in her fearful eyes.

He wanted to take her into his arms, but knew that was not the answer at the moment. Then he set his own bowl down, turned to the grasshopper and herded it into the undergrowth, and did not turn back to Lily until he was certain the creature was a good distance from the path.

Frodo turned to Lily again as she burst into tears, burying her face in her hands. He was taken aback by the sudden pain he felt at her distress. This was different from the pain he felt during their courtship, and her fear that he might leave and break her heart. In all that time, he realized now, she had never been truly afraid of anything, not like this, but she was today, and he had laughed. He cursed his thoughtlessness.

“Lily, I am so sorry. I shouldn’t have laughed. I didn’t know...”

Lily sniffed and raised her face from her hands. She could not yet find her voice, and waved her hand once to indicate that he need not apologize. She sniffed again and trained her eyes on where the grasshopper had been. Then she smiled weakly and coughed.

“Frodo, it’s not your fault. How could you know? I have never told anyone...”

Frodo cocked his head slightly, endeavoring to encourage her to look into his eyes. She glanced up and away again.

“Lily, won’t you tell me?”

His wife sniffed again and turned so her back was to him. She then wrapped her arms around herself. Frodo took another step closer but refrained from touching her. She glanced back over her shoulder, as though to be sure he was there and truly listening, and for a moment met his eyes as she began.

“I was perhaps five or six at the time.” She sighed heavily.

Frodo took another step closer, standing just behind her.

Lily shook her head. “I know it’s absurd, but I have simply never been able to forget.”

“Forget what, dearest?”

Lily turned to face him fully but continued to hold herself and chafe her arms a little as though she were cold. Finally she stopped looking away, and gazed instead into Frodo’s eyes. She realized she had worried him terribly, and felt badly about it, but couldn’t yet get past the memory...

Her head came up sharply as she realized what she was thinking. Her memory of the past...! Here was her husband, facing terrible memories of pain, of death, of burdens too terrible and too heavy to be carried... she shook her head. She was just beginning to realize the enormity of what he would be facing on this journey -- memories so horrible that she could not conceive of them -- and he was setting everything aside to care for her childhood fear.

There was nothing for it; she must tell him now, silly as she felt, knowing he genuinely cared for her every thought and feeling, no matter how small or insignificant it would have seemed in the eyes of another. She would never be able to love him enough, but she would endeavor to, for the rest of their life together...

She took another deep breath and looked fully into his eyes, trying to reassure him. “I know it must sound ridiculous to be afraid of a grasshopper, but when I was five or six, I was taking a bath...”

His blue eyes were a picture of patience and love. Her heart whispered he was truly listening and genuinely wanted to understand, and she loved him the more.

“Go on...” he encouraged gently.

“Da was so proud. He’d gotten Mum a real tub. It was huge, considering my size. I’d spent the day playing in the garden, and needless to say, there was more of the dirt than there was of me.”

Frodo still held her eyes, but his smile warmed at the thought of Lily playing in the garden as a child. He wanted to learn about all of her, about all of her life before they met...

Lily saw and felt his warmth, and returned it. As she spoke again, some remembered fondness came into her eyes.

“Mum tried to rinse me off a bit with water from the rain barrel. She declared it a lost cause and put me straight into that tub. It was wonderful.”

Frodo still had no idea where her story was leading, and decided to let her tell it in her own time. A part of him suddenly rejoiced that he could give her all the time she needed.

Lily’s eyes refocused, then clouded. “It was wonderful. I could almost float in the tub. Wonderful until I felt something on my belly. I looked down and there was the biggest, fattest, greenest grasshopper you have ever seen.”

Frodo’s eyes widened as the picture became clear in his mind.

Lily began to laugh.

She saw he was confused by her sudden change in mood, and that he was schooling himself not to show it.

Let her tell the story, he counseled himself.

“Dear Frodo, thank you for not interrupting, though I see a dozen questions in your eyes. I’ll finish. Da had found it in the garden, after I came in, and thought it would be quite funny if he tossed it into the bath with me. He told me later, after Mum took him to task, he didn’t honestly believe it would make it all the way to the tub. But it did, and I have been terrified of grasshoppers ever since.”

Lily looked into her husband’s eyes. “I’m sorry, my love, for seeming so absurd, but I truly cannot abide them.”

Frodo began to relax, and gave her a calming smile. “It’s easy to understand why, after all that.” He grew serious again. “And I am sorry. I should not have laughed.”

Lily giggled. “I can imagine it would be difficult not to laugh, and to understand why anyone should be so afraid of such a silly thing.”

Frodo grew more thoughtful. “But Lily, you have never laughed at any of my fears.”

“Dearest Frodo, you had reason to fear. It is one thing to face real danger and feel fear, and quite another to feel fear because of imagined danger.”

“Sometimes, Lily, the two are not that far distant.”

Lily was amazed, again, by the depth of his love; Frodo was not going to laugh at her, or her feelings. Joy blossomed anew in her heart, crowding out her old fears, and she took one step forward and closed the distance between them. With a mischievous twinkle in her eye, she asked, “Well?”

Frodo looked down at her and blinked, not quite yet adjusted to another abrupt change in mood. His brows drew together in curiosity.

“Well, what?”

She leaned close to him. “Do I get my kiss?”

His eyebrows raised in surprise.

Lily smiled. “I made you laugh.”

Frodo thought his heart would burst. He wrapped his arms around her tightly, holding her full against him, and lifted her off her feet. Lily giggled happily as he buried his face in her hair. He set her on her feet again and covered her mouth with his, drinking in all the sweetness she offered.

They were lost, one breathless kiss following another, the world around them forgotten, meadow, birds, Sun, clouds; sky. Nothing but each other...

Frodo thought he heard his name, but was not sure. He began to make the effort to listen when he heard Lily barely whisper, “Oh, Frodo...”

She smiled at him faintly, then leaned against him for support. Her knees were weak.

“I’m -- lightheaded, and not from any lack of food...”

He shuddered and eased his hold on her only slightly, looking deep into the green-hazel hues in her eyes and endeavoring to clear his own vision. He could see her suddenly become aware of their surroundings and felt her withdraw a little, keeping her hands on his arms for balance.

She was still breathless as she looked down and for the first time noticed the berries scattered all over the ground. Frodo could not release her; not yet.

“Frodo, I’m sorry. I’ve ruined the berries.” Tears welled in her eyes.

Frodo smiled tenderly and lifted her chin so he could more easily gaze into her eyes. “It’s all right, dearest. We still have the ones in my bowl.”

“But all these beautiful berries are wasted.”

“No, my love, the creatures of this forest I’m certain shall be grateful for the feast you have so kindly and generously provided.” He smiled, his eyes shining.

A tear slid down Lily’s cheek, followed by another. “Frodo Baggins, I love you with all my heart.”

Frodo’s breath caught in his throat. “I love you, Lily.” Slowly he bent his head to hers, and their tears mixed with the kiss.

She sensed his need, so close to the surface, for indeed her husband could not hide his feelings from her, and blessedly he did not resent her gift of sight.

Lily accepted Frodo’s gradual easing away from the intensity of his caresses, slowing them; slower yet, until the touch of his lips upon hers was full of languor, of unhurriedness, of simple shared pleasure. He was telling her they had all the time they wanted, all the time in the world, and he knew full well how much it meant to her that they not rush. The knowledge of this only increased her passion.

She realized they both wanted more, and drew a little away to glance around them. She did not try to hide what was evident in her eyes.

“Not here, Frodo -- mayhap--” She glanced beyond his shoulder, back toward their camp. “Mayhap beneath our maple tree? I would very much like another memory there.”

Frodo searched her eyes and kissed her again, deeply. From her response, he knew he could change her mind; she would say yes to him here and now, if he asked. Part of him was pleased by this, but another part of him wanted even more to please her. He reluctantly ended the kiss and took a step away from her. Their breathing was uneven and loud against the meadow’s quiet. Frodo was aware his hand was shaking when he picked up the bowls and led Lily the last few steps to their clearing.

Lily took the berries, and using one bowl to cover the other, she placed them on a rock next to the circle of their morning campfire. Frodo spread the bedroll under their maple tree.

He was gazing at her, a question in his eyes -- was this what she wanted?

Lily smiled and stepped into his loving embrace. Slipping her arms around him, she laid her head on his chest, and nodded. She pulled a little away so he could look into her eyes again.

Frodo saw the unmistakable desire there, and his heart leapt into his throat.

Afternoon tea was forgotten.

---------

Frodo made sure dinner and supper were not forgotten. Lily had her strength back, and he wanted it to remain so. And as much as they wanted to stay where they were, Rivendell beckoned.

They spent what was left of the day lazily pleasing each other. As the night air settled, Frodo carefully arranged the bedroll once again by the fire. He drew Lily close to help warm her, and had the extra cloak ready for the morning. They were asleep within moments of their nightly prayer, sated and content.

He woke in the early morning hours and covered his lover before she felt the cold this time, then settled quickly back to sleep, holding her against him.