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Sacrament

by CRB and Ladyhawk Baggins

12 July 1420sr

The sky shone pink and orange through wisps of cloud as Frodo woke well after firsties. He did not really miss it, not feeling hungry in the slightest... at least not for food, he mused, and gazed at his wife, still asleep. I hope you’ll be all right, Lily-sweet. I’ll feed you as soon as you wake, but for now, I want only to hold you close; I want you to wake in my arms.

He took time to think about the night before, carefully recalling every detail. Not only had Lily kept him from thinking about Weathertop, but in coaxing the story of Eärendil from him, she had brought him peace, such peace as he had not known for days. And her calm was a gift, especially when his memories threatened to overtake him...

Lily awoke within Frodo’s embrace, and it felt so perfect there... she wondered for a moment if the last two days might not have been a nightmare of her own. I love you so, dearest Frodo, she reflected, and wished to show him how much; she could not read him as well this morning, and wondered at the realization of it.

Frodo nearly lost all his earlier resolve when his wife greeted him with a soft, gentle kiss on the lips. Sweet, the taste of her... Passion began to surge within him as she continued her slow and tender stirring of his senses. For a moment he was helpless at the touch of her hands on his shoulders and his neck, every nerve taut. He trembled, endeavoring to maintain control of his feelings. He did not want to lose himself in her love until he could give himself fully, and Weathertop was still between them, although the fear seemed to have all but disappeared. There was something he needed to tell her, but he hadn’t yet worked out how. The door to another memory cracked open, and Frodo firmly closed it. Not yet, he decided. Soon, but not quite yet. That is, if she is still willing to listen to anything I say, after I tell her the truth...

He knew his wife sensed his feelings of reluctance, and she understood them. He kissed her forehead to show his thanks. She did not need to ask him what his gratitude was for.

Then he retreated behind the obvious. “You need a meal, dear heart. Good morning to the loveliest hobbit-lass in all the Shire... the loveliest lass in all Middle-earth. Tell me again,” he smiled, without allowing himself another kiss, “why it is I should have been blessed with you?”

In reply, Lily only smiled, and he laughed once and kissed her cheek. She heard the strain within his laughter. Rising, he extended a hand to help her stand.

“Good morning, my love,” she greeted him, and allowed him to lead her to the stream, where they washed their faces in the cool clear sparkle of water. Their day had begun. What would it bring? she wondered, but she did not speak of it. She would leave that up to him.

---------

Frodo was able to divert his thoughts of Lily with travel preparations. Yesterday he was living in fear; today he was searching for answers, and courage...

Lily realized there was something he was thinking through. She let him, without interruption. They knew their morning routine well enough that no words were actually needed. After Frodo helped her onto Merry, she was pleased he accepted her kiss, but he was decidedly distracted. Her heart whispered, he will tell me when he is ready...

They traveled mostly in silence, though Lily noted gratefully the air was not nearly as thick with tension as it had been yesterday. She endeavored to recall Frodo’s wondrous telling of the story of Eärendil. She was already losing track of all the names... Elrond she knew well -- Elwing? Elros? So many names, so much history -- and Frodo knew so much about it. Underneath her thoughts ran a prayer that Frodo would find the answers he was seeking, and that the answers would be bearable.

They agreed their travel for the day was sufficient as afternoon tea approached. Frodo found a suitable place for them to spend the rest of that day as well as the next.

After tea was finished, Lily took the opportunity to mend an eyelet on the vest of her other set of traveling clothes. She also wanted to repair a slight tear in Frodo’s extra waistcoat -- it had no doubt been caught on a raspberry thorn, several days back, in their meadow. Lily smiled at the memory. She almost hated to mend the tear.

Since they would be spending the next day here as well, Lily thought ahead to washing their extra traveling clothes in the early morning and allowing them the day to dry. She sighed and took out her sewing kit and began to work, while Frodo finished up with the ponies. He was brushing them down, as he did every day.

With the ponies settled, Frodo returned to sit across from Lily and watch her, amazed at the deftness in her fingers, and full of admiration for her skills. He took pleasure in simply watching her work.

Lily glanced up and smiled, and then finished the last few stitches. She restored the sewing kit to order and gathered up the finished mending to put it away, starting to rise.

Frodo reached over and carefully laid his hand on her arm, then withdrew it. He searched her eyes, as if he was about to ask her a question, but said nothing. Lily had become adept at knowing when her husband was looking at the colour of her eyes in order to assess her mood, which was what he was doing now. She knew they were on the blue side, simply because she felt thoughtful and at peace.

Lily sat back down on the bedroll Frodo had laid out for her. There was obviously something he wanted to express. She laid the sewing aside.

Frodo glanced down at the ground and up again into her eyes. He could see she was waiting... dear Lily, he sighed, you are always so patient with me.

She watched the debate taking place in her husband’s heart; even without her gift of sight, his face reflected all of it openly, clearly.

Frodo took in a deep breath, opened his mouth and then closed it again. He stared down at his right hand, rubbing nervously on a small ache acquired earlier when cinching up the saddle on Strider. He wished his hand was not a constant reminder of the Quest. He wished he could escape all of it, at times...

Lily reached across the short distance between them and gently laid her hand over his.

He looked up at her, his eyes suddenly full of supplication.

She smiled and nodded. “Whenever you’re ready, I will listen.”

One tear slid down his face. He whispered, “I know.”

She tenderly brushed the tear away, allowing her hand to linger on his cheek.

Frodo captured it, briefly kissed it, and retained his hold. He reached for her other hand, which she freely gave. He stared at the soft, beautiful hands held firmly in his own. With a sigh, he raised his eyes to Lily’s.

Her own eyes stung with tears as she noted the plea in his. She could not mistake the look in his eyes, begging for understanding. Whatever he needs to say must be very important, she realized, mayhap more so than I ever imagined.

There could be only one response for her beloved, and she gave it to him in the clearest way she could. She offered her open gaze, full of the love she felt for him, just as she had in Deephallow after his unforgettable stolen kiss. She smiled inwardly; he never needed to steal another. Then Lily allowed him to see into her soul. She looked forward to these moments. They felt purifying for her, though she doubted Frodo knew this.

After a few moments, Lily sensed Frodo had decided to speak. She gave him the merest nod of her head.

Frodo’s eyes wandered once more to the ground between them, and then returned her gaze.

“I need -- I want to tell you about Weathertop.”

Concern filled Lily’s eyes, and her mind was suddenly full of questions for him. Then she remembered Frodo patiently listening to her own childhood story, all the way to the end, without unnecessary interruption. She could do that for him.

She returned his steady gaze and gently squeezed his hands, and was glad for him when he could finally voice the words.

“Lily, dear heart -- I know I have already told you much of what happened, but there are things I have never told anyone; not even Sam. In truth, I barely admit them to myself. I have told you of being hunted. Of finding Gandalf’s note. Of Strider scouting the area. Of the -- the Ringwraiths’ attack on our camp. I have even spoken a little of -- of the Witch King. All these things I told you about, in our letters, last March. I had wanted you to be prepared for the illnesses that wounding would bring. You know of the wound; you have seen and touched the scar...”

His mind leapt to his illness in March and then to their wedding day. She had seen it, touched it, and even kissed that mark of his past. He realized he had lost count long ago of the number of times she caressed him there, offering indescribable comfort, and was startled by the sudden flood of gratitude he felt; it seemed to wash away some part of his fear.

“To be thankful is to know,” he murmured to himself, very softly, softer almost than the whisper of the slight breeze in the elms about their clearing.

To Lily, it seemed as though he was endeavoring to understand this simple truth. She had been fortunate indeed to have known it for so many years, since the days when she and Daisy and Will were only children, and heard it from their father.

Frodo saw the concern shining in Lily’s tender gaze.

“Lily, love of my life, please forgive me... there’s so much to explain -- and so many things are becoming clear to me all at once...” Without taking his eyes from hers, Frodo sighed again deeply, and endeavored to put his thoughts into some semblance of order.

Before she could stop herself, the words were out. “What did he look like?”

“Who?”

“The -- the Witch King.”

“Didn’t I tell you?”

Lily shook her head.

“He was tall -- so tall, taller than Gandalf, Lily! -- and terrifying, and powerful; he was evil beyond any evil I had ever known, until that moment. The Ring... the Ring was seductive; only gradually did I come to understand Its evil. But the Witch King -- ”

Frodo shivered, and swallowed once, and Lily squeezed the strong hands which still held hers.

“He -- he was clad in a black hooded robe... it was all one could see -- nothing of his face could be seen; even the hand which gripped the poisoned blade was in a glove of mail until -- until I put on the Ring...”

Frodo shuddered, searching for some way to convey the assault of the stark, barren evil. “Terrible to behold, he was... his visage was ghostly, unreal, corrupted flesh, and yet I could see through him; he was not solid. He held no substance... or did he? I do not know... You believe me, don’t you, Lily? Please...”

“Yes. I believe you.”

Frodo nodded once, looking through her, and his voice took on a note of despair, of sorrow and fear, and was pitched higher. “He was dead, but alive... the Black Breath... he emitted terror, like a wall, a wall no one could withstand... I -- I put on the Ring, and only then could I behold him for what he truly was... like evil incarnate, and I had no protection from him, none... I had thought the Ring would hide me, but It did not... It betrayed me, revealing me fully to him, for he possessed no natural eyes... He stabbed me, and the pain of the evil which filled me -- like ice -- was far worse than any bodily pain the blade could inflict...”

Lily refused to allow her tears to surface, and almost lost the battle. She wanted to be strong for him. Her voice sounded small in her ears. “You are safe, dear Frodo. You are safe. Never again can he harm you.”

“Yes, dearest, I am safe, with you, but I must -- I must tell you the truth... and it is painful and terrifying for me -- for I fear you may think -- less of me, once you have heard it... But you must know.”

Again Lily saw his plea for reassurance. She saw that his fear of losing her love was deep, and her simple spoken assurances would not be enough this time. It seemed he had not heard the affirmation of her acceptance of him yesterday, but he was listening to her now, struggling to push back his fear. She would tell him what he needed to hear until she was sure he heard it and understood it.

“Frodo, my love...”

His hands tightened their hold on hers. He continued to search her eyes, hanging on her every word.

“I want everything you are, Frodo, and everything you have been. I need only you, all of you, now and always.”

Frodo’s eyes brimmed again with tears, which had never been far away. He brought Lily’s hands to his lips and gently kissed them; he was trembling slightly. She had given him courage again, the very thing he needed most.

“Lily--” he stopped, and started again. “I have told you of the power of the Ring and what It exercised over me. Sam told you of how -- of how I claimed It, at the end... but there is something I’ve not told you” -- he shuddered again, harder than before. “I loathe admitting it to myself... what I have not told you, and I must, is how early It took hold of me. You see, I did not want you to think me weak...”

He closed his eyes and dropped his head, afraid of what he might see reflected in Lily’s eyes as he finished.

“I am not certain, and perhaps never shall be, of which pain struck deeper: the pain of the blade which nearly took me -- my life was well nigh forfeit -- for I would have become one of them...”

He paused, and the tears began to flow.

“...or that as early as Weathertop, I -- I could not resist the Ring. Nay, even that is not the whole truth.” The words stuck in his throat, and he coughed to clear it. “If only it were that I could not resist Its awful persuasion. In truth, I wanted It. I knew then on Weathertop, without doubt, I wanted the Ring, to wear It, to keep It for my own... I did not put the Ring on then because I was afraid, or wished to disappear, or because I wanted power; my only desire was for It. Oh, Lily,” he choked on his tears, “And I could not admit it to myself fully, not until we reached Mt. Doom...”

His voice softened abruptly, and Lily felt his soul shrink back from hers, even as he spoke.

“...And then I thought it finished, until our return journey... As my shoulder ached, passing Weathertop, I finally knew the ugly truth: for my part, the Quest was a lie, even from before leaving the Shire...”

For a moment Lily thought he was through, but more words escaped him, between sobs and gasps for air. “I hoped -- I hoped somehow to keep the Ring for myself... I did not agree to take the Ring in the hopes of destroying It, not at all, though that is what I told others, and kept telling myself... The horrible truth is that I hoped to hold It a little longer, just a little longer, and that somehow I might not need to throw It in after all. Somehow, I might be able to keep It. If only It had not awakened, It might still be mine! Never have I known such devouring need--”

He took in a sudden deep breath, as if against pain, or sorrow, and Lily struggled not to recoil at his use of the present tense. She deliberately lightly tightened her hold on his hands, as he continued, first averting his eyes, then meeting her gaze once more.

“I knew, Lily, as far back as the Shire, before the Quest ever began -- I knew I could not destroy It. I could not even throw the evil thing into the fire in Bag End -- a flame so small it didn’t even warm the Ring, though it revealed the engraving upon It -- how could I possibly throw -- ” Frodo swallowed and continued in a whisper, “How could I destroy the only thing that mattered to me in the Fires of Sammath Naur?”

She searched frantically for what she might say. Her voice was thin when she finally spoke. “No one knew how you felt? No one?”

Frodo shook his head, then stopped. His tears stopped as well. “Mayhap Gandalf. He it was who threw It into my little fire... he pointed out to me then I was incapable of harming It... Gandalf knew...”

Confusion filled Frodo’s heart and eyes.

Understanding flashed through Lily’s mind, and much that had been spoken of in the previous weeks and months now fell into place.

“Frodo, the second day of our journey, you told me about Tom Bombadil -- that ‘he did not care about the Ring at all’...”

“Yes. Some part of me, even then, wished I felt It so much dross, as he did, but as soon as the thought entered my heart, my desire for It flared...”

The darkness was gone, Lily realized, but this was not about the darkness. Frodo saw himself as weak because he not only gave in to the Ring, despite his effort to fight It, but he desired It, beyond all reason, knowing Its evil nature. Yet many others, King Elessar among them, had praised and honoured him, though the folk of the Shire had not. The two extremes vied within her as she struggled to find some balance between them, and wondered how to ease his burden.

Lily stifled a gasp, for fear her husband would mistake it for horror, instead of the sudden understanding revealed to her. Gandalf -- again Gandalf had known she could help Frodo! He believed in me, and knew I would see Frodo through this journey. But how may I help him with this? For this is not a lifting of the darkness from him, as when we were wed...

She thought back to the March illness. Gandalf had revealed she possessed the gift of healing of the soul. Was this not his soul that was being tortured by memories? She also remembered she had no control over the power. But surely in all this time the pain in his soul would have been lifted by her gift? ...unless it was not the particular gift that was most needed...

Lily searched her mind as Frodo began to withdraw his hands from hers, but she tightened her hold on him once more. She knew. Gandalf had mentioned another gift, her love for Frodo...

He watched as she slowly kissed his hands, and his voice was soft as he pleaded, “Please, please forgive me! I should have told you sooner. I should have...”

Lily released one hand in order to cover his lips with her fingers. It was her turn to speak, and the words flowed out of her, full of love for him.

“Beloved, haven’t you paid enough? You did what was asked of you, for whatever reason; you carried It. If you had not gone, who would have? Would they have resisted Its power for so long, despite the aching need for It? The Ring used you for Its own purpose. It sought to return to Mordor, to Its master... I do not fully understand Its power, but...” She took a steadying breath. “I do remember Its lulling voice...”

Frodo’s eyes flew open wide, and Lily hurried on.

“During your illness, in March... I heard the voice of the darkness, warm and inviting and menacing, all at once... It’s over, dear one. It’s past. If Gandalf knew, and allowed you to bear It anyway, then the Quest was not a lie; we simply do not understand all the reasons for the decisions and choices made...

“I need you here... I need you now... all of you. I did not wed bits and pieces of you. I married all of you. I did not wed you only to stop loving you as soon as I learned of something I did not like. I married you for always.

“I know what you see in yourself; it is clear to me. You have never truly attempted to hide anything from me. You have ever sought each opportunity to ensure that I knew all the truth, as much as could be shared. I accepted you before, and I accept you now.”

At every turn of phrase, Frodo was ready to dispute her, but she never gave him the chance.

“Frodo, beloved, do you think so little of me that you believe me incapable of accepting you wholly?” Now her voice broke; she could not hide the hurt.

Frodo felt cut to the heart, and at the same moment his heart was soaring. His voice was breaking, as well.

“No! Beloved Lily, I’m -- I am sorry. I never considered it in that light. No, dearest, I could never think such a thing of you. You are wise and loving and generous... you are all that is good and best in my life. I do love you, above all else in this world.”

“And you are all that is good and best in mine. Frodo-love, always remember, no matter what has been, no matter what is, and whatever may be, I love you, all of you, with all that I am. Remember too, the joy I know because you love me. I love you with all my heart.”

Frodo rose and in one step lifted her up against him. She was in his arms, and he was raining tender kisses on her lips, then on the pulse at her throat, aware of the racing of her heart. He found her lips once more, sweet, always sweet...

Between his kisses Lily whispered, “I want all of you.”

Frodo heard her. He needed to stop in the middle of a kiss, his eyes still closed, his lips nearly touching hers, their breath mingling.

He rested his forehead against hers, breathing hard. His heart needed time to understand the depth of this love. Even after he had shared his darkest secret with her, she still loved him, and more than that, she wanted him...

Frodo lifted his head and looked down into her eyes. The desire he saw there was unmistakable, and she was trembling.

What had he ever done to merit such a love? And how could he possibly deny her anything she asked?

He could give himself to her fully now; in fact, he could hardly have stopped himself.

“Beloved -- my Lily -- how grateful I am to Ilúvatar for you,” he breathed.

“Frodo, my beloved... I shall thank Ilúvatar forever for bringing you home to me,” she sighed, and returned her husband’s steady gaze.

His left arm tightened his hold about his wife, as his right hand slid up her arm to her shoulder, caressing her neck, until his fingers lightly touched her face, tracing her features. He opened his mouth to speak, but could think of no words adequate to express the depth of his feelings.

A memory tugged at his mind, reminding him of Lily’s gift of sight. It was such a part of her that he often forgot she possessed it. He opened his heart to her fully, and smiled softly as her eyes widened in appreciative surprise. His breathing quickened to match hers, and he drank in the sight of the love in her eyes, allowing his own love to shine clearly for her to see.

Tears filled Lily’s eyes as all the walls Frodo had built over the past several days fell away. Her breath caught as he touched his lips to hers, and his murmured response, a low sound from deep within him, gave sudden release to the desire she had held back for days. Her hold on him tightened, pulling him closer, and her lips parted under his, inviting him to deepen the kiss. She felt him tremble, and she trembled as well when he lightly tasted of her, then granted her request.

A prayer rose up from within her that he would not stop as he had before. Her heart beat faster as she realized he was answering her wish.

Each tender caress he gave was new, each kiss an offering laid before her heart.

---------

Lily did not stir when Frodo got up, as quietly as he could, to prepare their dinner. She had fallen asleep there on the bedroll he had laid out for their afternoon tea. She was radiant, the suggestion of a smile playing at the corners of her mouth. Studying her in silence, he noted the deep rose colour of her lips, evidence of their recent passion, her beautiful hair spread out in bright waves upon their simple bed.

He loved her so much it hurt; it was a deep ache within his breast, which he welcomed gladly. The ache -- the yearning for her, the feelings of protectiveness, the desire to please her -- he wondered at how very alive he felt in her presence, at the bright intensity of it. He would not give it up, not ever.

Frodo covered her with the softest blanket they had brought on the trip. It wasn’t nearly as soft as what they owned at home, but it was warm, and she seemed to be sleeping comfortably.

The late afternoon Sun cast her long shadows through the tall birches and poplars around their little clearing, and Frodo watched again as the sunlight, alternating with afternoon shadow, played on Lily’s hair. He wanted to touch the shining tresses, but refrained; she needed her rest.

Frodo realized she must have been hiding her weariness from him. Only when she was overly tired could she sleep soundly without him lying next to her. He guessed she had been all but spent, and she still had given him everything. He might never be able to show her how grateful he was for her love. He only knew he needed to try. If it took the rest of their lives, he would be content with that.

Then Frodo smiled to himself and sighed happily. He carefully folded her clothes, and noted the fit of his own as he adjusted his braces. At the beginning of the Quest, he hadn’t needed them; his girth had suited his breeches nicely. Now, even with the alterations by Lily’s nimble fingers, he needed the braces or a belt. His thoughts turned to dinner. It was time to get their campfire started.

After the fire was lit and tended to, and supplies and utensils for dinner retrieved, Frodo sat down on the ground near his wife and cut potatoes, added them to the pot over the fire, and into their small frying pan he placed sausages.

As he continued to cook the meal, Frodo reflected on how odd it was to be off the main East-West Road, not needing to worry about being waylaid by anyone, or anything. He was almost used to the idea, in fact. As each day passed without incident, it was easier to believe they were in no danger.

Lily’s sad question this afternoon was still clear in his mind -- ‘do you think so little of me as to believe me incapable of accepting you wholly?’ She had been hurt, but in the same instant had forgiven him. He would never again be able to question if he was worthy of her love. He closed his eyes in silent prayer and thanked the Creator again for all the blessings he had been given in Lily.

Frodo knew she would need to eat as soon as she awoke, but also that she needed to sleep as long as possible. Every few moments he glanced back at her. He smiled, realizing he loved to simply look upon her in wonder, whether she was awake or asleep; but he also wanted to know when she began to stir. He did not wish her to think even for a moment she was alone. He wanted to be with her upon her waking.

As dinner finished cooking, Frodo started the nightly kettle of hot water with athelas. He usually waited until after supper to prepare it, but decided it might be better to start it now, so it would be ready by the time they finished eating.

Lily slept on, and Frodo hated to wake her, but remembered all too well what sometimes happened when she did not get regular meals -- they had eaten only lightly so far today. He admitted to himself that the last few days must have been a terrible draw on her, especially on her love for him; he had never meant for it to be a test of her love...

Frodo pondered the mystery of how intertwined their lives had become. He had never imagined being able to share his deepest hopes and fears with anyone as he had with Lily. And her own dreams and memories were becoming a part of him as well, a part of who he was. Because of her he had a future where once there was none... the Ring and the Quest had stolen the future from him. Lily had restored all of it -- all of it. He shook his head in wonder.

He got dinner onto plates and sat down next to her again. It was time to wake her. He smiled and indulged his earlier wish by softly touching her hair. He worried he might startle her awake, when he wanted only to gently rouse her.

“Lily, darling, wake up. You need some dinner.”

She stirred and then seemed to settle again.

He was about to kiss her brow when she opened her eyes, and sleepily smiled up at him.

“Dearest Frodo--! Yes, please do kiss me there,” she murmured, and he did.

“Lily, my love, I have your dinner here.”

Frodo helped her sit up and slipped his cloak around her. The late afternoon had taken on a bit of a chill in the shade of the trees. He could see in her eyes she needed more sleep, but first he would get some food into her.

Lily accepted the plate he offered, and set it in her lap, absently holding the fork in her hand, too weary to eat.

Frodo sat next to her and put down his own plate, then picked up hers. Gently withdrawing the fork from her hand, he fed her a bit of potato and then a bit of the sausage.

She ate a little, then leaned against him. “Frodo, I’m sorry...”

He interrupted her. “Shhh... Dearest, please, I am the one who is sorry. I shouldn’t have moved us at all this morning. We could have stayed where we were one more day.” He attempted to feed her a bit of sausage, but she placed her hand over his to stay it a moment.

Without reproach, she answered, “I know you wanted a bit more distance between us and Weathertop. It’s all right. I wanted it as well, and this place is--” She yawned, covering her mouth. “It’s -- lovely... Excuse me, I can’t seem to keep my eyes open...”

Frodo nearly laughed out loud. “You haven’t any idea how beautiful you are when you’re sleepy, my dearest wife. Only keep eating, and if you eat enough, I shall let you sleep again.” He winked at her and kissed her temple as she smiled wanly at his idle threat; then she let him feed her the bite of sausage.

Frodo put the fork down for a moment. “Lily, I--” A sigh escaped him. “There are no words. You have been so patient and understanding...”

“As you have been with me.” She shifted more of her weight against him so she could rest her head more comfortably on his shoulder. Another bite of sausage.

Slowly, bite by bite, he fed her most of what was on the plate. Then he helped her lay back down, arranging the blanket carefully over her.

Her voice sounded far away. “Frodo?”

“Yes, sweet.”

“I know you must care for the ponies...”

“Yes.”

For a moment it seemed she had fallen back asleep. Then she took in a deep breath, as though mustering the strength to continue. “Will you stay with me for a little while?”

He lay down next to her, tears threatening once more. He held them at bay, whispering in her ear, “Yes, sweet, I’ll stay.” His dinner would keep. He carefully draped his arm across her waist.

As Lily slipped back into sleep she murmured, “Thank you.”

Frodo softly replied, “I love you.”

Lily’s only answer was to nestle closer to him.

When she was again deep in slumber, Frodo was able to get up and bring the athelas-infused water to where she lay. It was no longer too hot to use, but warm; it would be pleasant for her.

He bathed her lovingly with the fragrant water. He remembered seeing it done for sick children at Brandy Hall when he lived there. He had a vague memory of his mum caring for him in such a manner when he was very small.

Another memory tugged at his mind. He could not say at first when it was, but it must have been quite recent; a picture of Merry and Pippin administering to him in such a way...

Frodo carefully captured the memory and turned it over in his mind. When would Merry and Pippin have needed to do such a thing for him? He searched back until he came upon his March illness. He remembered so little of that time, but suddenly those moments were clear to him. His eyes widened as he also remembered Gandalf gingerly lifting him from the bed and returning him there again. Why was he remembering all this now? He could not tell, but the memory warmed his heart.

He whispered aloud, “To be thankful is to know, dearest love...”

After he finished bathing Lily, he gently dressed her in one of his soft silk nightshirts, admitting to himself he was more comfortable coping with buttons than attempting to unravel the mystery of the laces on her chemise. He did not want her to catch a chill, and the sun was setting. Then he covered her once again with the blanket, reveling as he did so in her sweet beauty. He was quite pleased with himself; she had not awakened.

Lily curled up on her side, her breathing soft and steady.

Frodo sat with her while he finished his dinner. He made to get up, and Lily stirred next to him. One hand escaped the blanket and reached for him. He smiled. She was recovering from her lack of food and sleep. He gently laid her hand atop the blanket and held it a moment, speaking softly.

“Dear one, I must care for the ponies now. It’ll not take long, and I’ll be near.” Frodo was not sure if Lily nodded, or was only settling her head more comfortably on the cloak he had folded and placed under her head. He released her hand and went about the evening chores.

By the time he finished, it was supper hour. He knew Lily would feel more like eating now that she was more rested, so he fried up bacon and tomatoes and pulled out a seed cake, as well as one of the bottles of small ale; one was being saved back. Frodo smiled fondly as he remembered Lily carefully storing it away when they packed up camp in their meadow.

---------

Frodo had just finished preparing supper when Lily awoke. He was at her side in a moment, helping her up. He led her closer to the campfire and when she was comfortably seated, handed her the supper he had prepared.

Lily smiled warmly and teased, “Frodo, dearest, if you are not careful, you shall end up preparing all our meals, and then what shall I have to do?”

Frodo laughed, “Keep me company and listen to my interminable stories.”

Lily laughed with him.

Supper was enjoyed quietly, as they watched the Sun sink beneath the western horizon. Lily would have cleaned up the supper dishes, but Frodo would not allow her. She noted he had put her sewing away.

With the dishes back in their satchel, Frodo joined Lily on their bedroll. He was at a loss for words, which surprised him.

Lily slipped easily into his embrace and settled against him.

“Frodo-love, tell me again the story of Eärendil...”

Frodo paused and drew back, looking at her.

“I’ll be all right tonight, Lily...”

“I know. It’s just that there’s so much to remember! On our way here today, I kept going over the story in my mind, but I couldn’t remember all the names, and I’m not sure I kept it in proper order.”

Frodo relaxed and pulled her closer.

“I’ll give you the shortened version tonight. How will that be?”

Lily barely nodded her affirmation.

Less than half way through the story, he knew she was asleep. He suspected he’d best get used to this particular request, and a thought formed in his mind. It might be easier if she could read it... or if he could read it aloud to her. He fell asleep, considering the possibilities.