As the sun peeked over the faraway Misty Mountains, Lily slipped her arm around Frodo, inside his waistcoat. He always left it open for her to warm herself more easily, since their first night sleeping under the stars together. She sighed silently. I love you, Frodo, for this small gesture -- small to you, I’m certain, but very important to me. You add each tiny new consideration, each thought for my comfort and happiness, to those which have come before. You do not forget anything, it seems. I wonder again, when alone in my thoughts like this, why I was given you? It was all I wished for, for so many years, and after you taught me how to pray, all I prayed for... and yet, it is too vast a thought, and I feel such joy within me -- too much for my heart to hold. I must put it to rest, at least for now, as I have so many times before...
Lily felt the dawn cold and remembered it would not last, then nestled closer to her husband. She delighted in how he seemed to know she was there, tightening his embrace even though he was asleep. She felt more rested and comfortable than she had in days.
Frodo shifted a little, drawing Lily closer to him. She loved the feel of his soft silk nightshirt against her. Her hand lightly caressed his back, feeling his cambric shirt beneath her fingers.
Wait! she thought. Her eyes opened, but she could not move without disturbing Frodo; he was very near to waking.
She closed her eyes again and endeavored to solve the riddle using only her sense of touch, lightly stroking his back with her fingertips...
Yes... she felt his cambric shirt. Frodo briefly loosened his hold on her and mirrored her caress by gently rubbing her back. There it was; the feel of his silk nightshirt against her own skin. I’m wearing it... when did that happen? She thought back, her heart beating more insistently as each moment passed.
She remembered the previous afternoon, the two of them, together... When he had stopped kissing her, and rested his forehead on hers, after she confessed she wanted him, she wondered if he was bothered by her forwardness. She could not hide what she felt when he looked into her eyes. Then when he began to kiss her again, it was different... Her husband was ever aware of her wants, it seemed, but this time she felt a deeper love and... adoration. There was no other word for it. Each caress, every kiss, had been a humbly offered gift.
For the first time Lily noted the smell of the athelas on her skin. She could not remember taking her nightly bath. Her weariness had stolen most of her memories of yesternight. Then how--? She felt a blush warm her cheeks.
Frodo had taken care of her, again. She had been grateful for the meals he had made. But this...
Would she ever be able to show him how much she loved him, how grateful she was for his acceptance of her love? And for the love he so richly returned to her?
Lily woke her husband with a kiss.
Frodo lay in a dream. Lily’s arms were about him, and her warm lips were on his. His arms were around her too, and she was quite close. The dream seemed so real, he mused, in that odd way one may observe a dream while still inside it...
She was kissing him again, this time at his throat, then under his ear.
He felt on the edge of wakefulness. He was not sure if he wanted to wake, or simply stay like this and let the dream go on. He opened his eyes, then closed them, when he found Lily kissing the scar on his shoulder. He stopped breathing. When did she unbutton my shirt? Never has she awakened me in such a manner...
Lily knew he was aware enough to hear her. Laying her ear against his heart, she murmured, “Good morning, beloved. I feel so rested. Someone who loves me deeply took the most wonderful care of me last night. He fed me, and put everything away again where it belonged, and told me a story. He also saw to it that I was bathed in athelas. I feel not only rested, but dearly loved. May I please be allowed to return some of it?”
She pulled back enough to allow him to look at her face, so he could see she was serious despite the small smile she gave him. They heard a mourning dove in the distance, its dulcet song drifting on the fragrant morning air.
“Yes...” He started to sit up.
“Lay back, Frodo-love.”
He complied, smiling with curiosity.
She raised herself up on her knees, drew close to his side, and bent over him, placing a kiss on his brow, her hair surrounding him. It smelled of athelas and honeysuckle, and of her.
After only a few moments of the tender kisses Lily gave, Frodo was unable to lie still any longer. When her lips came near his again he took her face into his hands and kissed her mouth, kissed the warm lips that were somewhere between his dream and reality. Then he sat up and took her fully into his arms, kissing her again.
He felt strangely out of control, and did not know why, but it would not be good for the slow pace they had both become fond of... As his mind worked on the problem, his kisses continued, rich and ardent, but disconnected from his will. Lily was responding as well. If he could not ascertain... this would fly by...
It is this sleepiness -- this dreamlike state, he decided. I must needs be more awake...
“Good morning, Lily,” he breathed into her ear. She giggled, a musical sound which never failed to make him smile.
“Good morning, beloved.”
Two weeks ago, the day before they left for the Free Fair, his playful wife had found a spot above his knee and discovered if she touched him there, he would laugh aloud... in truth, he would giggle uncontrollably, and Lily seemed to find great amusement in this. He hadn’t ever known it was there until she found it; now in the midst of their shared kiss, she found it again.
At first Frodo only smiled, his mouth still on hers, but then he began to laugh; he willed himself to stop, as she continued to test his resolve. He laid his hand over Lily’s in an effort to keep her away from his knee, but it was no good; he knew she wouldn’t give up easily. He felt her smile through their kiss...
Frodo tried his best not to give in first, but she won out in the end, as they both knew she would. He broke away and laughed into the morning air until he was breathless and tears came to his eyes.
He was still recovering as he kissed her again.
“I’m giggling like a tween, you -- you dear sweet thing...” He caught his breath somewhat. “Oh, Lily,” he muttered in mock despair, “whatever shall I do with you? You know I cannot simply let that pass; I shall have to repay you for all that laughter. It may take hours... days...”
It was her turn to giggle softly, and as she did, he kissed her neck. Suddenly it was no longer an effort to stop laughing; suddenly, her nearness crowded out every other thought. Frodo swallowed hard, and slowly pushed aside the collar of the nightshirt, planting a soft kiss on her shoulder.
Lily’s response was a gasp of delight, then a sigh.
Frodo raised his head, capturing her hazel eyes as she smiled tremulously. “Your skin is so soft, Lily. You are so beautiful, your eyes -- your smile...”
He was wide awake, and could give her all the tiny considerations she cherished. Frodo knew they meant the world to her, because she had told him so, on several occasions. He could feel his heart beating harder at the thought of loving her.
“I dreamt you were kissing me,” he murmured. “It was -- a most beautiful dream. But to wake and have you here with me -- ”
He captured her hand, kissing her palm gently, then the tender underside of her wrist.
Lily felt warmth flooding through her. Her breath caught slightly as she whispered, “You weren’t dreaming...”
Frodo took her in his arms and held her close. She was warm and pliant in his embrace, so willing, so dear... He felt the strength of her desire, and saw her gaze shift from his eyes to his lips. Opening his mouth, he said nothing, but only breathed in deeply, and doing so, he inhaled the enticing scent which was hers alone. She smelled sweeter than any flower, and he kissed her deeply, wanting the familiar taste of her...
“Lily, my love -- ”
She trembled under the weight of his kisses, returning each one gladly, until they parted for a moment, slightly breathless. Lily caressed his mouth with her fingers, wanting still to touch him, not wanting it to stop. She watched her husband close his eyes and sigh raggedly before opening them again; his intense gaze seemed to burn a path to her heart, to her soul.
His brow furrowed, and he kissed her fingertips, murmuring, “I wish I knew more words to tell you how much I love you. I haven’t -- there aren’t enough words, Lily...”
She wove the fingers of her right hand into the silky chestnut curls, and as he tensed, she spoke under her breath into his ear.
“Don’t worry about the words too very much, beloved. I know how much you love me by all the things you do for me, by the way you look at me, and by your gentle touch...”
Knowing what his response would be, she kissed the tip of his ear, then his neck, and felt his pulse there, stronger than before. She smiled, feeling his warm breath against her cheek, feeling his kisses in her hair, reveling in each one. She could sense his hunger, as well as her own.
He kissed a path to her mouth, and spoke soft endearments against her lips, and her passion rose to meet his. Their love was real, and warm, and far better than any dream.
Lily nestled deeper into Frodo’s embrace. She loathed the thought of disrupting this serene moment, but could not ignore the fact that the chores simply had to be done today... She tried burying her face in her husband’s neck, to no avail. She sighed and resigned herself to the rest of the day.
Frodo tightened his embrace and kissed her hair.
His voice was soft and relaxed. “What is it, dearest?”
He caught even her most subtle changes in mood. She responded by tightening her hold on him. She missed his warmth already, and she had not even left his arms.
She sighed again. “Beloved, much as I would delight in staying right where I am the rest of the day, the meals shall not get cooked if I do so, and the spare travel clothes shall not get washed.”
Frodo smiled into her hair. “There’s nothing that says we can’t come back to this later.”
Frodo grew serious. “Lily?”
She heard the change in his tone and shifted just enough to see his face while still remaining close to him. Their waking had been joyous; what could be troubling him? She responded in the same serious tone. “Yes, Frodo, what is it?”
He lowered his head a little to gaze into her eyes. “Thank you.”
Lily smiled in confusion. “For what?”
He looked away and then back into her eyes. “For everything. The last few days I know have not been easy...”
Lily quickly kissed him. “I know. We’ll face each memory together, one by one. And if I do not get up now, we shall not be eating either first or second breakfast, and the washing shall not get done,” she repeated. She smiled warmly at her husband and gave him another quick kiss.
Frodo helped her with breakfast, handing her whatever she needed, sometimes before she asked for it. Lily found his help unexpectedly pleasing. She had cooked so long for herself she was sure she would never be able to adjust to someone else being at her elbow in this manner. Perhaps it was simply that Frodo was willing to do what she asked, and did not try to tell her what should be done. She remembered her mother’s patience with her in the kitchen.
Lily smiled to herself as thoughts of her mother brought to mind memories of Deephallow with Frodo; he had comforted her there, when the same memory had come to mind. She was not saddened this time, but warmed.
She allowed her thoughts to drift on. Her mother had been a gentle teacher, but her sister Daisy could be quite trying. In her wish to feel grown up, Daisy would boss her in the kitchen. Lily had decided at a very young age she didn’t want to share the task with anyone, until now. Frodo helped her with the dishes after breakfast, just as he had at Deephallow, and at home...
Lily gathered the wash and took it downstream while Frodo looked after the ponies. When the washing was done, she laid out their clothes in a sunny spot over the branches of a sturdy hawthorn.
She was just finishing when Frodo came up quietly beside her. She nearly jumped, but her husband slipped his hand gently over her mouth. Her eyes went wide with surprise.
Frodo shook his head and smiled, then took his hand away and quickly put his index finger to his lips, requesting quiet.
Lily slipped her hand into his and nodded her head, and Frodo smiled broadly, pleased she understood and trusted him enough not to break the silence by asking what he was on about.
He headed them back to their camp and then skirted the edge of the clearing to the far side. He glanced back at her, and again motioned for her to remain quiet.
She smiled and nodded her head, but didn’t mention aloud that they couldn’t possibly be more quiet than they already were.
Frodo slowed their pace and the two of them crept forward until they were behind a small outcropping of rocks. He pulled Lily close behind him and stopped, then glanced back at her and smiled, his eyes sparkling with excitement.
Lily loved the look in his eyes; it was different than any expression ever seen on her husband’s countenance since they met the previous November.
He peered around the rock face, gently pulling her with him. He pointed carefully into the shadows ahead of them.
At first, Lily saw nothing. She would have queried Frodo, but trusted that if he knew something was there, then she would search again until she saw what he wanted her to see. She let her eyes adjust to the difference in the light of the sun filtering through the trees. This part of the forest seemed a bit darker; a profusion of tall old elms, oaks, and sycamores conspired to create a quiet sanctuary. A small movement caught her eye.
Lily covered her mouth to stifle a gasp of wonder.
There in the shade of a cluster of oaks, several deer were resting with their young. The fawns were well on their way to being grown.
Frodo squeezed her hand when he knew she had spotted them. He knew the creatures would rest there most of the day, but Lily needed elevensies. He carefully moved back, still holding his wife’s hand, drawing her with him, and turned towards their own camp. Neither of them wanted to break the spell of silence, draped over the forest like a mantle of solitude.
After a quiet meal, Lily whispered, “May we go back and watch some more?”
Frodo nodded his head quickly. He whispered back, “We’ll pack some bread and cheese and seed cake so we can stay as long as we like.”
Lily’s eyes sparkled with anticipation.
They packed their food, shook out the blanket and folded it, then Frodo tucked them under his arm, and they headed back into the woods. They found a quiet spot some distance from the deer, almost out of sight but with a good vantage point, and settled for the afternoon on their bellies, the blanket spread beneath them.
As twilight approached, the deer grew restless and began their evening grazing. Lily and Frodo had each dozed a little.
They woke to see the last deer vanishing deep into the woods.
“You’re cold, dearest. I don’t want you catching a chill. It’s time we head back to our camp,” Frodo smiled.
They talked of the birds and other creatures they had seen on their journey thus far -- coneys, squirrels, lizards, and insects. Yesterday, they came upon a lone fox, who seemed to regard them quizzically before scampering away.
Here in the wilds, they spotted several insects Lily had never seen before, and Frodo seemed to recognize them all.
“Look at this one!” he grinned, and pointed to a spot on the brown and grey roughness of the tree trunk before them.
After long inspection, Lily finally saw a large brown beetle on the bark, and was rewarded with another grin from her husband.
“See how well it blends in? It’s remarkable... Merry is quite an expert on these six-legged creatures, you know...”
Lily’s tone belied her true feelings. “I -- I’ll admit I’m not sure I’d like to meet the likes of him in our home, but here -- well, here, I suppose, it is fine... It is rather magical, in an odd sort of way.”
Frodo laughed. “Not to worry, dearest; you needn’t share my excitement about such things. I can tell Merry about it...”
His next words came out before he realized their import: “There are older and fouler things in the deep places of the world...”
Frodo’s eyes suddenly clouded.
Lily placed a gentle hand on his arm and gazed into his face.
“Memories?” she asked softly.
His voice was rough. “Yes... I -- I don’t even know why I said that...”
Then he pulled Lily into his arms, holding her tightly against him.
To her surprise, he was trembling. She slipped her arms around him and rubbed his back.
Not tonight! she pleaded silently. Today has been perfect... why tonight; why now? She wanted to weep with her husband. When would they have peace?
She surprised herself with the question, and then offered a silent prayer and spoke softly. “Will you tell me?” She could only ask, and hope that he would share this pain with her; it was difficult to give him meaningful help without knowing more.
Frodo took a deep shuddering breath and nodded, his head still buried in her hair.
Lily’s heart leapt; he was rarely so forthcoming with his memories. She held him tightly, waiting.
Frodo lifted his head and rubbed his cheek against her hair for a moment. His voice shook slightly. “That’s what Gandalf said as we entered the mines of Moria... he was speaking of the Balrog, but none of us knew it. He knew... he knew it was there, and he knew he would have to battle it...”
Lily remembered what he had told her about this. “Is Moria where you fought the cave troll? And -- is it where Gandalf was -- was lost to the Company?”
Frodo nodded, stroking her hair absently as he continued to hold her close. “But I didn’t know then that Gandalf would come back. I -- we thought he was lost forever, and it was my fault.”
Lily started, but kept her voice calm. “How could it be your fault?”
Frodo lifted his head and looked into her eyes. “They were all there for me, Lily -- to help and protect me...”
His anguish was painful to see and hear. Lily sighed and offered another silent prayer, then spoke.
“Frodo, Gandalf needed to fall there, in order to come back stronger. He would never have been powerful enough as Gandalf the Grey to accomplish what he did. The way was made for him to become Gandalf the White, to fulfill his destiny. Serving you provided that way...” Lily’s voice trailed off.
Frodo’s tears stopped, and he stepped away from her, staring at her in wonder. He took one more deep breath as he studied her face.
The kiss he offered her in gratitude was gentle, almost reverent. He slipped an arm around her, guiding her the remainder of the way to their clearing.
Once there, Frodo tenderly kissed her again. Then, without another word, he began his evening care of the ponies.
Lily started the fire, and then supper, praying silently for her husband as she worked. She stopped for a moment as she saw the appearance of Eärendil, the evening star. It made her heart glad; indeed, her heart was very full tonight. She prayed again, offering her thanks to the Creator.
Frodo returned and stopped a short distance from her as she stood there. She had heard his approach, but did not turn, only tipping her head to listen to him. She sensed the question in his heart.
Quietly he asked, “Lily--? Do you think me foolish, to sorrow for the loss of someone who isn’t dead?”
Lily sighed and turned to face him, not with impatience, but with love.
“My dearest husband, no... I think you were not given time to mourn for the loss, and now it surprises you from time to time. Gandalf the Grey, whom you knew so well, is gone forever. Once you have grieved for him properly, the pain will ease, I am sure. So much happened all at once, one could scarcely take it all in... Memories are only foolish if you let them keep you from living today. And we have lived today.”
Lily smiled, hoping he understood what she wished to convey.
Frodo stared at her in awe. She possessed wisdom far beyond her years; she could see things that he could not. I have learned so much from her in this short time...
Lily watched a myriad of emotions cross his face so quickly that she could barely read them all. He finally settled into an expression of grateful wonder. She smiled and blushed.
Frodo returned her smile and softly whispered, “My gift from Ilúvatar...”
“Dear Frodo,” she murmured, gazing up into his eyes. His lashes are so long -- his eyes are so beautiful...
The bacon popped in the pan, startling them both out of the moment. They exchanged quick smiles, and Lily returned to the task at hand. As she finished making their dinner, they discussed the day. They found their talk turning to the deer and their young. They spoke of it all through dinner, and as they cleaned up together.
As Frodo spread their bedroll for the evening, he saw Lily stop by the fire for a moment. He sat down, and watched her quietly, resting his forearms on his knees. Suddenly he noticed that at the far edge of the clearing beyond her, fireflies had appeared.
Fireflies were nearly magical to him, and he watched them, thinking of the times he had tried to catch them as a child. His mother had told him he could catch them, but that he mustn’t hold them against their will. They would blink like stars in his hands, and then fly away to blink some more, and even now he was mesmerized by them...
Frodo sighed softly, and wondered how he had grown from being a child, to being someone who might father children, and raise them... When had it happened? The idea of child-rearing had seemed fraught with peril and uncertainty before Lily. He was no longer afraid. Before her, he had only been able to envision raising a child in the way Bilbo had raised him... alone, and doing a fine job, to be sure, but many times it must have been a lonely road for Bilbo to walk. His parents had been very loving. He was a fortunate hobbit indeed to have had them even for the time he did. His memories of his parents were only warm now. Faded, but warm. He hoped and prayed that he and Lily would be granted enough time to raise several children, at least to their coming of age. They would have to wait and see.
His wife seemed deep in thought as well, where she stood staring into the campfire.
“Lily? Do you see the fireflies? Aren’t they beautiful?”
“Yes,” she murmured vaguely, looking up once to see them, then back into the flames. She gingerly placed her hand on her belly, her fingers spread wide.
“Frodo? If there were a life growing inside me, even now, would I know? I would, wouldn’t I?”
This was a question he had not expected... His breath caught momentarily in his throat, and he froze. He struggled to keep his voice even, not to show his intense excitement, forgetting that with her gift, his wife could nearly always sense his moods anyway. “Do you think there is?”
Almost absently Lily replied, “No, I don’t think so... but would I even truly know? I never thought to ask Mum such things, and Daisy only spoke of it after she was a few months along...”
He smiled as she turned back to face him, her fingers still spread wide, still holding that place. She was dreaming of it, he knew.
“Come and sit, Lily” he invited, patting the space next to him.
She sat down and leaned her head against his shoulder, resting her hands on her slightly drawn up knees. He wrapped his arm around her. He was still smiling, and kissed her hair.
“I wish I could tell you the answer to that. I do not know. There is very little indeed that I know about such things. I was thinking... I was hoping you would know.”
Lily smiled to herself and stared into the darkness, lost inside her dreams. She loved Frodo for not knowing everything, and loved him more for admitting it.
Frodo was still considering her question. The mere thought of Lily bearing his child -- he closed his eyes, trying to understand it. It was larger than anything he knew, larger it seemed even than Ilúvatar Himself, larger than the heavens with all the stars, because his heart’s love, the beginning of the miracle, was here on earth with him. She was here, next to him, living and breathing...
He looked at her now as if to confirm her reality, while she watched the campfire. Lily had given him his life back, and still she wanted to give more, beyond that... She wanted new life where none had existed before, and she wanted this with him...
He closed his eyes again, endeavoring to hold on to the idea, but no; it was too large, too far beyond his ken. The children would be gifts, as Lily was. She would carry them and bear them -- an act so pure and so sacred --
A sigh escaped him. A child -- new life... Lily’s burden would be so very different from what he had carried. So different... and so wondrous.
Frodo shook his head slowly. His task had been to bear and then destroy a monstrous evil. Hers would be to carry a new life within her... The two ideas were so far apart from each other... truly they were at the furthest possible extremes... They could not be compared, and yet both were a part of who he was now.
As he pondered this, Frodo reminded himself that he was no longer carrying the old evil within him. He had been redeemed somehow on their wedding day, his soul healed when they took their vows. His life had started anew that day. Because of this he had indeed been allowed to be joined to her. They were of one spirit.
“Frodo? Where are you, my love?” She knew he was not in a dark place, but she was curious, all the same.
He came back to her, his arm still snug around her, as she continued to lean against him. She was looking up at him, smiling softly in the golden firelight.
Frodo searched her face, loving her anew. He did not feel worthy of her. She would not allow him to talk of such things, but he felt it nonetheless.
His voice was plaintive. “I was thinking about your question... it’s difficult for me to tell you -- it’s difficult to find the words.”
Frodo wanted to feel closer to Lily, and to see her better. He shifted himself so he faced her, his back to the campfire, and his hip against hers. He reached his arm across her lap protectively, but not touching, and balanced himself with his right hand on the ground the other side of her. Then he leaned forward and placed his left hand within her curls, feeling the auburn softness, until his wife closed her eyes and tilted her face up for his kiss. He obliged her, covering her mouth with his own, and combing his fingers through her tresses until he was cradling her head. They deepened the kiss together; Lily felt his voice against her lips. For several long moments they were carried along on a tide, lost to the world.
Frodo broke the kiss, and taking Lily’s left hand in his own, he kissed her open palm and then placed it gently where she would carry their child, someday, his hand atop hers. She closed her eyes with a little gasp, and opened them again. Frodo captured her eyes with his own and held them in a kind of caress, as he found his voice.
“We’ve been given the chance to create life... I cannot fathom it.” He shook his head. “I don’t pretend to understand it; I’m almost frightened of it. But I know that I want it, and I want it with you, Lily, more than anything I’ve ever wanted. I can’t think about it too much...”
He eased his hand away from her womb, then bent his head low and kissed her there -- a warm series of kisses, slow, and full of love, and she twined her fingers into his dark curls, holding him there.
She remembered their wedding vows; it felt like worship.
Finally he raised his eyes to hers and his voice dropped to something below a whisper. “I don’t know when the children will come to us. It doesn’t matter when. We have each other, and I can hardly believe it even now. I love you so much...”
Lily’s own fears assailed her heart, and she wished she had not brought up the talk of children. Then she remembered her regrets from a few days back. Frodo had kept his promise not to speak of it unless she did. Today had been perfect; she would not mar it, and she pushed her fears away. Then she smiled into his eyes as tears started in her own.
“I love you. You know the words I want to hear even before I ask.” She smiled again, her tears brimming. “You said something this morning -- ‘there’s nothing that says we can’t come back to it later’ -- am I right?” She kissed the corner of his mouth, barely brushing his lips with her own.
For a moment Frodo’s breathing stopped. He laughed softly; then his expression turned serious. “We have come back to it, Lily.” He returned her kiss eagerly, the familiar ache for her deepening within his breast.
Lily reveled in his attentions, and dreamed of all the days ahead, rich and replete with promise.
They offered a prayer together, then set to the joyful task of pleasing one another, as the fireflies lit the forest like winged stars all about them.