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Sacrament

by CRB and Ladyhawk Baggins

18 July 1420sr

Morning brought with it overcast skies again. The clearing was quiet but for the river’s constant chatter, when Lily stretched within Frodo’s embrace, and he kissed her forehead.

“Do you think it shall rain, Frodo-love?” Lily sighed.

Frodo glanced up at the sky, then shook his head. “I know it’s been overcast, and then sunny, then overcast again... but the rain shan’t be making an appearance, for the clouds aren’t quite right, at least not yet.” He grinned at Lily’s widened eyes.

She blushed and laughed. “I suppose it isn’t fair to expect you to know when exactly it’ll rain, is it?”

“I imagine we’ll see rain sometime in the next few days.” He smiled down at Lily; her hair smelled so good. He wanted to tell her. He wanted to kiss her...

A soft sigh escaped her. “But we’ll not worry about it today.”

“No.” Frodo replied, and finally he kissed her hair, once. He could not allow the sweet scent of his wife to hold sway; it was difficult... “Shall we make an easy day of it, start after second breakfast?”

Lily glanced around the glade. “A leisurely pace sounds just right.”

---------

Frodo paused at the Last Bridge, before crossing over.

Lily cocked her head, endeavoring to search her husband’s face. “What memory does this bring?” she murmured softly.

“Nothing in particular. Aragorn found a beryl here, an elf-stone.”

Lily gazed down at the bridge, noticing the three great arches and the water rushing through them; then she looked out across the bridge. “What was an elf-stone doing out here?”

“Glorfindel left it for us, to let us know it was safe to cross. In truth, I don’t remember it, but Sam told me about it, once we were in Rivendell... I miss Sam, Lily.”

“So do I, dearest Frodo. So do I.”

---------

As they traveled in the Trollshaws, they spoke at times of nonsensical things, ending in fits of laughter. At times they spoke not at all, and the surrounding woods seemed full of its own conversations. A welcome breeze caused the leaves in the high branches of the beeches and alder to tremble.

The afternoon wore on, and they were approaching the glade where they would camp.

“I’m still thinking about Bilbo’s party,” Frodo mused aloud, rousing Lily from a daydream.

She heard irony and wonder in his tone as he went on. “It’s an odd thing indeed to think that we were both at the party, and yet did not meet, nor even know the other was there...”

“Why would you have noticed me? I wasn’t yet even in my tweens, and rather than dance, I still wished to hear stories.”

Frodo laughed, meeting her eyes. “That last has not changed.”

Lily lifted her head in mock offense, “That all depends upon the story, or mayhap more precisely, who is telling the story...”

They shared their private smile.

Frodo thought she had never looked lovelier, and almost laughed to himself, knowing she could not possibly be lovelier today than on other days... or, could she? No, it had to be that he missed her... he caught himself, returning his attention to her.

Lily continued. “You were coming of age... Frodo, I keep trying to remember the party, every detail that I may -- I remember Bilbo’s birthday being celebrated, but I don’t remember mention of yours... It was almost as if it were not your party at all.”

Frodo shrugged. “I never truly cared for my own parties, other than for the sake of the fellowship I could share with my cousins, and Samwise, and Fatty, at those times... I was quite happy to let Bilbo take all the bows; in fact, I preferred it that way. And luckily Bilbo didn’t mind being the center of attention. There’s a bit of play-actor in him. Besides, it was, in truth, Bilbo’s farewell party -- ”

Frodo paused suddenly in thought. “What if we had met then, Lily? Mayhap we did, and neither of us remembers it. But no; I would have remembered you...”

Lily’s heart caught a bit in her chest as she heard the conviction in his tone; she warmed at his words. With his gaze fixed within the memory; he did not see her. She smiled wryly. “Frodo, you told me yourself, half the Shire was invited. There was so much happening that night...”

She discerned clearly the solemn wonder in his voice.

“When I think about it, Lily -- that we were so close to meeting that night -- I cannot get past it!”

Frodo pulled Strider to a halt and looked at Lily. His suddenness surprised her; he was no longer woolgathering. Merry halted with Strider, and Pippin followed suit.

“To think! -- eighteen years ago, we were in the same place, at the same time, and did not know it. I know we have spoken of this before, that if I had found you then... I would not have gone on the Quest...” Frodo’s face became shadowed.

Lily’s voice lowered. “But we did not meet then, and if you had not gone on the Quest, would you have found me -- on that night in Bywater last autumn?” Her voice was softer than before. “You wouldn’t have been passing through there on a cold night...”

Frodo was still gazing at her intently, then sighed. “Perhaps not... No, I would not have been in Bywater on a cold November night, was it not for the Quest. Had there been no need for the Quest at all, I’d have been warming my feet by the fire at Bag End, with a pipe. Alone.”

He continued to look at his wife for a long time, then stared at Strider’s mane and stroked it absently as he spoke.

“But there was the need, and whether I wanted it or no, it was my place to go on the Quest. Even if I had decided to say no, and refused what was asked of me, they were coming for me... for the Ring. They’d have killed me on the spot to get It, or taken me along with them... in either case, Sauron would have had the Ring for his own...”

Frodo waited a long moment, then looked up at his lover once more; he knew she sensed his old feelings of loss, and not just the loss of the Ring.

“Gandalf knew before I did that only I could carry the Ring. The Lady Galadriel knew it, too.

“If the Fellowship had failed, I would not have found you last November in Bywater, because I would have been dead, or imprisoned by Sauron, and tortured, or a wraith, which is worse than dead... We would all have been” -- he tried never to think about this, but she had asked -- “enslaved to Sauron, or dead...”

Lily eased Merry closer to Strider; she took Frodo’s hand in her own.

One corner of his mouth raised in a little smile for his beloved.

“Frodo, I -- I’m sorry, my love. From time to time, I must remind myself there was no other way. It’s difficult to understand all of it; it’s bigger than -- I can’t find words...”

Frodo raised her hand to his lips and kissed it.

“It’s perfectly all right, Lily. Sometimes I forget, too, in my own way. And I’ve never been able to understand all of it. I think mayhap I never shall. But as it is, I did find you in Bywater. And for that I’ll be forever thankful. You are my gift from Ilúvatar. I love you.”

“I love you.” Lily’s smile added to the warmth of the afternoon, as they set off again.

---------

Frodo slowed as they reached the glade, just before supper. Unbeknownst to Lily, his memories of this place were starting to crowd in, but he would not burden her with them at the moment. He remembered passing Weathertop, and how he had struggled to make the correct decision as to what to tell her, and how much, if anything. This was different; he knew he would share his memories with her as soon as she wanted to hear them. It would be better this way; indeed, it was for the best.

After the evening meal was cleared away and the final check on the ponies was made, Lily settled against Frodo on their bedroll, her back to him, the same as the last few nights. She looked up into the night sky and sighed, then smiled at Frodo’s awareness; she could sense it before he spoke.

“What is it, Lily, darling? Is it the crickets? They are so loud tonight!”

“They are! No, it’s the clouds... They have covered the stars, and I cannot see Eärendil.”

“He’s still there.”

“I know; but it seems I have grown accustomed to our blanket of stars, and I miss them.”

Frodo smiled into her hair. “If you like, I can tell you of them -- not just Eärendil, but other stars, as well...”

Lily’s heartbeat quickened. “Not tonight...”

She turned in Frodo’s arms, and searched his eyes.

Frodo’s breathing stopped. She slipped an arm around him, inside his waistcoat, gently pulling him closer, and then softly kissed his lips; lingering for a moment, she kissed him again.

Surprised as he was, Frodo was still careful not to let things move too quickly... as much as he had missed her -- He smiled as he heard Sam’s reminder in his head. ‘Try not to rush things...’

“I have missed you, Lily. Oh, how I’ve missed you... I hardly know where to begin, I missed you so much. It’s only been a week, beloved -- less than a week...”

In the time he was endeavoring to think, Lily had already begun to plant kisses on his neck. He was finding it more difficult to think about anything at all, now. She had missed him as well, that was clear...

He kissed the tip of her ear, softly, slowly, something he had been waiting for days to do. Lily kissed the scar on his shoulder; and he trembled...

And I always will, he realized suddenly, in a tiny window of coherent thought. Oh, Lily -- you know so much about me now, about what makes me happy -- nearly everything, when we’re this close. I don’t remember you unbuttoning my shirt... but you must have...

He needed to remember to breathe. She was ahead of him... it was all right. He would accept what she was offering. It was sweet, after all, to respond to her wishes, for all of it brought him joy. She wanted him closer; he complied. She seemed hungry, thirsty, and sought his lips with her own; he gave them to her, as much as she wanted, gladly, willingly, smiling into their kisses.

He felt the same sweet hunger and thirst, for it was his own...

They were able to satisfy it well, and then some. The clouds had moved away for a time, and Eärendil shone down, but neither of them knew it, lost as they were.

Then another gift came to them, heavy and welcome, and they breathed a prayer of thanks as one, and drifted off into the deep sleep of sated desire and love.

The breeze had stilled, and only the sounds of the nearby stream and the crickets’ song accompanied their steady breathing in the warm night surrounding them, still happy, and still close.

---------

19 July 1420sr

Frodo awoke in the early morning, shaking, and Lily was startled into wakefulness.

“Frodo?”

“It’s cold, so cold...”

Lily was glad Frodo had laid out an extra blanket for her, in case the morning was chill. And yet she was troubled, as well. It wasn’t truly that cold, and Frodo never seemed to be affected by it anyway. She tucked the blankets around them, gathering him close to her to help warm him.

“Lily, it’s so misty.” He wondered, softly, “Why isn’t it clear?”

“It’s been cloudy. Remember? We’ve been wondering for days if it might rain. It’s only a bit of early morning mist.”

Frodo pulled away a little and searched her eyes. “It truly is misty? It isn’t just in my mind?” He shivered again, unable to stop.

“It truly is misty, and should clear in a few hours.”

“It’s not just in my mind -- ” Frodo repeated to himself; then he searched her eyes yet again.

Lily continued, weighing each word carefully before she spoke; her husband was in the grip of some old memory. “You are with me, Frodo. There is no danger.”

His eyes locked with hers, drawing on her strength to help him. “We are not being chased,” he murmured, trance-like, “-- and the shard is gone.”

Lily hid her surprise at his words. “Yes, Frodo. You are safe.”

Frodo nodded his head slowly, and finally his trembling body began to relax, and he curled into her. He laid his head on her breast, and slipped into a dreamless slumber...

How quickly he sleeps! Lily marveled. She thanked Ilúvatar, remembering the months of sleepless nights her lover knew during their courtship, and well before it...

She cradled him in her arms and whispered in his ear. “Sleep, beloved, sleep a little longer. You can tell me everything in the morning light.”

For her own part Lily did not find sleep. What shard? she wondered.

---------

Frodo began to stir, and Lily lightly traced his ear with one finger. He captured her hand and brought it to his lips, softly kissing her palm.

Lily’s breath caught. “Frodo, must we move on today?”

Frodo lifted his head to look at her, and yawned as he came awake. “Pardon me... and now I have made you yawn as well!” He smiled. “Would you like to stay another day?”

“Yes... but only if it’s not painful for you.”

“Why would it be pain--” His brows drew together. He knew he had not told her anything yet; or had he?

“What happened?”

“You don’t remember?”

Frodo shook his head warily.

“You awoke shivering and saying it was cold. You also talked about the mist. I had to assure you it was real.” Lily hesitated a moment. “You also mentioned a shard.”

Frodo stiffened.

“What shard, Frodo?”

Her husband slowly closed his eyes, but said nothing.

Lily laid her hand on his cheek. Her voice was gentle. “I know you are trying to protect me, but you did that when you fulfilled the Quest.

“All those years ago, at the Bywater Fair, I fell in love with a kind, gentle hobbit whose soul somehow touched mine, but that was only the first blush of love. Since then, it has grown and deepened beyond anything I could have imagined. I am asking you to allow me to share in who you have become. I waited such a long time to become a part of you, beloved; please do not deny me.”

Frodo gathered her fully into his arms, and placed his cheek against hers as he spoke into her ear. “I know I should tell you, but I do not want to cause you pain. That is the only reason I’ve ever kept anything from you.”

“But this causes its own kind of pain. Frodo, I am strong enough to share the burden of your memories, and their weight shall be a little less, when borne by two.”

A tear slid down Frodo’s cheek, and Lily kissed it away. He smiled at her in thanks, and shifted to settle himself more comfortably, cradling his lover in his arms. She rested her head on his shoulder, against the scar. She could see the stone trolls from where they lay. He stared up into the overcast sky, and began to tell the story. “The shard...”

Only two words into the tale, Lily felt her husband take in a deep breath, as if to calm or strengthen himself.

“The Morgul blade had a notch in it.”

Lily tightened her hold on him, and hoped he did not notice her flinch at those words. “What -- what is a notch for?” she asked.

“It causes a weakness in the steel, allowing the blade to break more easily. When the -- when I was stabbed, the tip of the blade broke off in my shoulder.”

Lily shuddered and nestled her head against the scar left by that wounding. “But it is gone now, am I right?” She knew the answer, but wanted to hear it again.

“Yes, it’s gone now, but that was part of the evil --” he closed his eyes for a moment “-- the evil you felt in me when we met after the Quest. The shard was cursed, and was slowly dissolving in my shoulder as it made its way toward -- toward my heart. The Ringwraith’s intent had been to make me one of them... but they did not take into account Lord Elrond’s healing power.”

“So you bore the shard from Weathertop to Rivendell?” Lily struggled not to weep.

“Yes.”

“It has been a week since we passed Weathertop, but we have taken full days of rest. How long till we reach Rivendell?”

“A few more days ride.”

“Without the delays, you should have been in Rivendell in... less than a week?”

Frodo was silent.

“How long was it?”

“Fourteen days.”

“Fourteen days?! Why so long? Surely they would take you straight there?”

“We were being pursued, Lily. Eluding the enemy meant taking unknown paths.”

“For all that time, you bore both the shard and the Ring...”

Frodo felt her tears wetting his breast through the fabric of his shirt.

Lily took in a steadying breath. “Lord Elrond was able to remove the shard, once you were in Rivendell.”

“Yes.”

“He was able to remove the poison as well.”

“For the most part...”

He felt more tears spill onto his breast and tightened his arms around her. She wanted to know; she needed to know. He suddenly realized he needed and wanted to tell her.

“I asked him myself if the wound would now fully heal,” he continued, “but Lord Elrond would not look at me, nor even answer, at first... Finally, he told me only that the shard was removed, and he had done what he could.”

Lily began to understand. “But he could not remove all the poison... So, from Weathertop, you were burdened with the poison and the Ring until...”

Frodo searched her hazel-blue eyes, studying them intently, before he spoke. “Yes, Lily... Until all was finally lifted, when you and I exchanged our vows. I still don’t fully understand what happened... I don’t understand it at all.”

Lily did not want him pursuing those thoughts. She was not yet prepared to tell him of her gift. Frodo still held so many memories of the Quest... full knowledge of her gift to him might cause him to distance himself from her, for fear of causing her harm. Someday, when this journey is past and these memories are more healed -- in October -- I shall tell him, she assured herself.

“You were here, in this very place, sometime during those fourteen days, weren’t you?”

“Yes.”

“Yet you brought me here anyway, knowing it would stir memories...”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“You wanted to see it.”

Lily started to sit up, slowly; Frodo released her. She hugged her knees to her chest and for a moment could not face him. “Frodo, if I had known, I would not have asked to come here.” Tears began to form in her eyes, and one fell.

Frodo sat up next to her and put his arm around her; she turned toward him.

“I know,” he murmured. “That’s why I didn’t tell you.”

Lily looked up into his eyes. He could read the question on her face.

“I hadn’t planned to bring you here, but two days ago, when you reminded me you had heard the story at Bilbo’s party, it seemed churlish not to bring you. The memories were coming back to me anyway, regardless of whether or not we actually came to this place. And the delight on your face when you saw the stone trolls, here -- that alone was worth the trip.” Frodo smiled into her eyes. “And my memories of this place are not all bad.”

“Will you tell me?”

“Yes.” Frodo lay back down. “Come, Lily.”

She lay down again and settled comfortably in his arms.

“In truth, we were very close to the end of our journey to Rivendell, though we did not know it at the time. Merry and Pippin had run on ahead, and gave us all a fright with tales of huge trolls nearby. Aragorn seemed to take their tale in all seriousness until he hit one of the figures with a stick. Merry and Pippin hadn’t listened to Bilbo’s stories well enough to know that trolls would not be out in daylight. I was actually feeling well enough that day for a bit of a song, though I could not sing it. Of course, Sam was more than happy to oblige, and sang a delightful song he had made up himself. It made me laugh... but I saw mist all that day. The others did not see mist. They saw a clear day.”

Frodo sighed. “The shadows were encroaching more and more upon my mind. I was so cold -- particularly my shoulder, and down my arm... it was gradually spreading... the campfires helped a little, as did daylight.”

Lily shivered. Frodo’s arms were warm today; she was grateful.

“Frodo, if this is nearly half-way between Weathertop and Rivendell, and you were already starting to...”

Frodo helped her. “...to fade; yes. The nights were the worst, and yet I welcomed them. It was harder to get warm, and my breathing became more ragged... the greyness that my world was turning into -- that I myself was becoming -- did not seem so stark as it did in the light of day.”

Lily shivered. Frodo tightened his embrace, and kissed her hair; she calmed again and murmured, “The greyness... it is as though all is there but faded away, is it not?”

“Yes.” Frodo did not hide his surprise. “How did you know?”

Lily nestled closer to her husband. “I shall never forget my small taste of it, when you were ill, in March... it does not matter now -- Frodo, how did you survive all the way until Rivendell?”

Frodo’s brow furrowed. I shall have to ask her more about what happened in March, he decided. If she will speak of it... but not now; she had asked him a question, and he still needed to answer her.

“Actually, by the time we got here, we were already well into our second week. The day after we left here we were caught up to by one of the Elves searching for us, Glorfindel. He gave me his horse to ride ahead.”

“The same Elf who left the stone on the Last Bridge?”

“The same.”

“So, if you hadn’t been found by the Elf, Glor--”

“Glorfindel.” He smiled despite the desperate gravity of his story. She brought so much of her own light to him. He began to study her eyes again, and was called out of his reverie by her question.

“Glorfindel,” she repeated, “you would have been out here for more than fourteen days?”

“Yes.”

Lily closed her eyes, trying to hold back the tears. Frodo sighed and kissed her hair once again.

“Frodo, I think I know you well enough to know you would not leave your friends behind, no matter the danger to you...”

“As Glorfindel pointed out to me, they were in considerably more danger if I stayed with them...”

“Frodo, there’s more to this story, isn’t there?” Lily’s voice was low.

“I’m sorry, dearest.”

“Please, tell me the rest.”

“Fortunately, Glorfindel’s horse was swift, or I assuredly would have been caught...” Frodo shuddered.

Lily’s first thought was that she was unsure how much more of the story she could bear to hear. But if it is difficult for me to bear, it must surely be harder for him to tell it, she decided. He has kept all of these stories inside himself.

Frodo told her once that even he and Sam rarely discussed the worst parts of the Quest. It was simply too horrible to speak of those memories. Now he was willing to unburden himself to her. I am his help-mate! she realized. She strengthened her resolve to listen.

Without a word, Lily shifted her position so that Frodo lay cradled in her arms, as he had been when their morning began. Frodo seemed to accept this gratefully. He sighed, and nestled against her. He heard her soft voice against his ear. “I am here,” she murmured.

Frodo nodded, just a little, and continued. “The Black Riders had caught up to us. Glorfindel’s horse, Asfaloth, carried me to the Ford and across to safety.”

“Why would the Ford be safe?”

“It is protected by Lord Elrond. Once I was across, the waters rose and flooded the Ford, taking with it the Riders, and leaving me free of their pursuit for a time. Did I tell you the foam looked like great white horses, with riders?”

“No, you never told me. How?”

Frodo smiled. “A trick of Gandalf’s, like his fireworks.”

The shadow of a smile crossed Lily’s lips in answer. “And you were able to continue to Rivendell.”

“I do not remember much after the river foam engulfed the Riders. In fact, I still remember nothing at all until I awoke in the house of Elrond.”

Lily allowed her tears to fall freely.

Frodo raised himself up from her embrace and leaned on his left arm, looking down at her and wiping tears away with his right hand, first from one side of her face, and then the other.

“So you see, Lily-sweet, there was no reason really not to come here. The memory would require telling sooner or later, and at least we are where you want to be. Don’t cry, dearest.”

“Frodo, dear heart, I want only to be with you, wherever you are.”

Gently, his lips brushed the last of her tears away. He gazed into her eyes, studying their colour, and looking as he often did for the love hidden in their depths; but today it was not hidden. Lily was smiling at him.

Frodo returned her gentle smile. “What a gift you are to me, beloved.” He stroked her hair, then lowered his head to kiss her soft auburn curls, her warmth cooled only slightly by the morning mist. There was no sound anywhere, none, but that of their own breathing.

“Frodo -- I would -- very much like for you to have happier memories of this place.” She tilted her face up to receive his kiss.

Frodo kissed her, warmly at first, then more ardently. He stopped for a moment to catch his breath and to calm himself. But his calm was only momentary, and once again he needed to think in order to breathe.

“You would do this for me?”

“Yes,” Lily whispered, her eyes inviting him to her. “Nothing would please me more, beloved.”

After all the weeks spent together, they knew their love was a treasure. It would not be taken for granted. And it would never be simply taken. It was true freedom. Each time felt like a gift; like the first time.

Lily trembled as he continued to kiss her. He stopped for a moment, gazing into her eyes.

“You’re trembling so, Lily... you’re not--”

“Cold? No, I’m not cold at all. It’s only that I need you.” She smiled up into his eyes, still trembling.

He smiled and whispered into her ear. “Still, let me warm you. I love you.”

Frodo continued where he had left off, paying his wife full attention at every turn. He was rewarded by the sound of her quickened breathing, her soft voice.

“Oh,” she whispered. Her eyes closed again. “Frodo, beloved...”

He kissed her words away, and her breath almost left her; she almost fainted. She willed herself to stay with him, and was pleased with her accomplishment, smiling into his kisses. She began to breathe with him.

Frodo was again amazed that he could make her so happy. To be able to please and satisfy her spoke to his deepest yearnings. It was more than he could understand; he gave up the mental effort involved. It was sweet simply to surrender his mind and his whole self to her love. He trusted her completely. His heart belonged to her, to do with as she would.

He laid his hands against hers, palm to palm, and their fingers locked together. He could feel the pulse in her wrists, there against his own. They were in the wedding ceremony once again.

Lily met his eyes. Oh, I cannot bear it, she sighed, I cannot bear his purity and beauty, all the love I see there! -- but I must, I must! She used all her strength to hold his gaze.

Frodo could see straight into her soul; she was vulnerable, exposed, and so beautiful. He knew she could see into his as well; but because of her healing and her love he did not need to turn away from her. There was nothing dark in him, he knew. It was gone. Even today, even here, in this place where he had almost lost his soul forever to evil, he could feel no darkness within himself.

Gratitude for her flowed over him like a wave. It was not the first time and would not be the last. It nearly broke him down, but he took the wave and turned it back out to her, showering her with kisses, and releasing her hands as he did so.

She pulled him closer to her, breathing in the scent of him, and fighting the dizziness again. With her eyes, she asked him for more.

Frodo smiled, breathless, and brushed a stray curl from her forehead, then kissed the tips of her ears, stopping to speak into her left one.

“You are so beautiful.”

His mouth sought hers again, and they were lost to the world around them.

They did not notice the morning mist slip away. After a time, they were themselves kissed, by the sun.

---------

They spent the day peacefully, meandering far afield. The ponies were in no danger, and the roads were safe again.

They found a wide meadow of clover and lay down in it for more than an hour, studying the clouds. The day was brilliant with sunshine, and the clover smelled sweet. They laughed as they returned to their camp -- Lily noticed that their clothes were covered with tiny grass stains.

“I must work on these clothes, or they’ll be forever covered in green spots...”

Frodo gave her a wide-eyed innocent gaze. “Mayhap, my sweet, we should go back and roll some more, then you needn’t worry about washing at all?”

“Roll some more?” Lily’s shocked expression lasted only a moment, then she turned away so he would not see her smile; but when she turned back she was still smiling, and Frodo was grinning at her, as he took her hands into his own.

“Oh! Look!” She broke free, and ran ahead just to the end of the meadow of clover, to where the forest began. “Look, Frodo -- catkins!”

Frodo caught up to her and was nearly as excited as Lily at the sight. “I have not seen a single one of these since -- since before the Quest. I love them.” He touched the light grey buds, soft against their sturdy brownish-green stems.

“They truly do feel so soft, like grey kittens, do they not?” Lily exclaimed.

“Yes.” Frodo remembered a time long past, when he had been someone else. “I remember a grey kitten I found outside Brandy Hall. I must have been only seven or eight. My parents let me keep her on condition she was a good mouser. She was good, very good indeed. She was also a friend to me. I would have called her Mithrandir had I known any Elvish then.”

He smiled at her. “As it was, I named her Smoke. She was a much darker grey than these catkins.”

Lily stroked the tiny buds, then reached out to break off some stems, to take back with them to the camp.

Frodo watched her change her mind, as she stayed her hand.

“Yes, let’s leave them for now, sweet.” He echoed her thoughts. “They are still thriving and growing, here in the Sun. We shall plan an excursion in the Shire this winter... to hunt for catkins. In the winter, the branches will be dead, but the catkins themselves will still be lovely. But we may not have to hunt at all -- if I know Sam, he’ll know where every one is within ten miles of Bag End.”

“Then let’s not ask him,” she replied. “Let’s take some food along and truly go hunting. I would welcome that.”

“Done,” Frodo said, and laughed. “Come, your husband is hungry for tea, so I am certain you are as well.”

They made their way back to their camp slowly, savoring the breeze and the sunshine. When they reached the cool shade of the evergreen boughs, Frodo turned to kiss Lily’s cheek.

Lily smiled up at him. “What was that about?”

“You made me laugh! It still feels very good indeed. And it is a perfectly good excuse to kiss the wife I adore.”

---------

After they finished washing up the tea things, Lily waited until Frodo dried the last mug. As he knelt to put the dishes away in the satchel, she bent over him and whispered in his ear, “Tag, you’re it.” She gave him a playful shove which unbalanced him; but he was able to keep from falling over. It gave her a head start, as she hid behind one of the stone trolls.

Frodo was surprised at how quickly his wife was able to elude him, despite her skirts. She screamed a little, when twice he came very close to catching her. They chased each other around the stone trolls for several minutes, until they were both breathless.

Finally, he doubled back and caught her around the waist as she made a dash for one of the other statues. He swung her around, and they collapsed, laughing, onto the Sun-warmed grass.

Frodo got out a few breathless words, between his gasps. “I love you forever, you imp.”

Lily giggled, breathing hard. “Say it again.”

“You imp.” He smiled into her eyes.

She giggled again. “No, the part just before that.”

Frodo continued to smile and gave her a quick, soft kiss. His voice lowered. “I love you, forever.”

Lily wrapped her arms around his neck and drew him close. She whispered against his lips, “I love you, forever.” She kissed him deeply.

It caught him by surprise, and he returned it. Frodo gathered her in closer to him; her back was warm beneath his hands as they caressed each familiar curve, and she was still breathing hard.

She closed her eyes, trying to regain her equilibrium.

“Sweet, I mustn’t turn my back for a moment, I can see that now, but I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t fun!” Frodo grinned, then whispered into her ear. “I can’t remember who’s ‘it’, though.”

She stilled in his arms, and pulled back just enough to let him see her expression.

“You caught me...” She reached up to kiss his ear, and to his increasing surprise she then also kissed his neck, several times.

He felt panicked in an odd way, and happy, all at once. He tried to think of ways to mask his sudden desire, but he could not think clearly. Her kisses continued, now just underneath his jaw. She was -- he swallowed hard -- she was working her way back to his mouth, and she found it again, just as he was going to speak. Her hair still smelled sweet from the clover. She was making him breathless and slightly dizzy, but he did not mind it... she could not possibly want -- they had only just this morning been together!

Still she kissed him -- what to do? She wants this -- should I refuse? But why would I do that?

“Lily.” He got her name out, between kisses. She had never been quite like this, not even during the weeks at home, following their wedding. He tried again, by pulling back from her. Her eyes were as green as he had ever seen them.

“Lily... what is it?” he smiled at her, love in his eyes, and wonder in his voice. He still supported her with his left arm, but brought his right hand up gently to cup her chin in his palm. He ran his thumb lightly against her mouth. She closed her eyes and kissed his hand, then rested her cheek against it.

“What is it, dearest?” he repeated.

“I don’t know...” She was breathless, like him. “But please--”

He lowered her gently to the grass beneath them. It was wrong for her to have to plead, for anything... Her wants were quite clear. He lay next to her on his right side and propped himself up on his elbow.

She turned to her lover and caressed his face.

“But the ground, Lily...”

She covered his mouth lightly with her fingers. “Shhh, dearest -- I know the ground isn’t as soft here. I don’t care. I want you now. I love you. Let me love you.”

In the face of such devotion Frodo could only do as she asked. He leaned over her as she lay back, and slid his right hand beneath her head to shield it from the unforgiving ground. His left hand found her right in the air between them and as their fingers locked together she created a balance for him to rest against.

His hand was a welcome support under her head, and as he bent to kiss her she tipped her face up closer to meet the warmth of his lips. He kissed her mouth passionately, and she heard her own voice, as if from afar, as she returned his love.

Afterwards he wept, overcome, and she held him close, speaking every endearment she knew until he calmed. Together they offered a prayer to the Creator, lost in wonder, love, and praise. It reminded her of their wedding night, and she smiled as she kissed away the last of his tears.

---------

Dinner and supper were kept simple. Lily could not, at first, explain it to herself or Frodo the overwhelming desire to keep him close, within easy reach; it was all she knew, for the rest of that night. Thus, never far from each other, they found comfort and peace in a look, a touch, a gentle embrace.

After supper, they turned in early. Frodo wrapped his arms around his wife, drawing her near to his heart. Lily nestled deep within her husband’s embrace and murmured, “What was the song Sam sang to you that made you smile then? Do you remember it?”

Frodo chuckled softly. “Not all of it, but a few bits and pieces. I fear I shall not do it justice, but I’ll share what I remember.” He was surprised by how much he did remember, once he began it, and he was quite pleased at the song’s end, for he had lost only a few of the words.

Lily giggled. “That was wonderful!”

“I’ll need to have a talk with Sam about the parts I missed. It truly should be in the Red Book.”

“The Red Book?”

“Yes. Haven’t I mentioned it before?”

“No. I don’t think so. What is it?”

“I’m certain you’ve seen it on my desk, though you didn’t know what it was. Uncle Bilbo started a book of his adventures in a lovely red leather volume. He asked me to finish it with my own adventures. It has been difficult to write. So far, all I have are notes. That song is another one I shall want to add.”

“May I read it when it is finished?”

“Yes, of course, if you like.”

Frodo paused for a long moment, as the crickets’ loud song suddenly filled the night air. He smiled then, and kissed his wife’s brow. “But something tells me the new memories you gave me today shall vie to be first among all my other thoughts of this place, dearest Lily. My heart feels lighter for your love, my gift from Ilúvatar. How can I ever thank you?”

“And you are my gift.” Lily sighed contentedly. “Not to worry, I’ll think of something, Frodo-love,” she grinned, relaxing completely within the warmth of his embrace.

At this Frodo laughed softly, and whispered in her ear. She giggled with delight, nestling her head against his breast, and they allowed the sweet songs of night to lull them into easy sleep.