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Sacrament

by CRB and Ladyhawk Baggins

20 July 1420sr

After they finished packing, Lily slowly approached one of the great stone trolls, gazing up at it all the while. Frodo quietly joined her, slipping his hand in hers. She laced their fingers and tightened her hold.

She reached out her other hand and lightly touched the statue as she began to speak. “I -- yesterday I came to realize something. Being in this place... the statues, seeing them for myself... I did not expect this to affect me as it did. When you offered to bring me here, I was delighted. I would see a childhood story appear before my eyes. But once we arrived here, an unexpected feeling began to overwhelm me. Everything you’ve told me is real, isn’t it?”

Lily searched Frodo’s eyes.

His were now full of question. Hesitantly, he voiced his thought. “You didn’t believe me?”

Hazel eyes, tinged with blue, widened. “Oh! Oh, yes, I believe you! Dearest, do not doubt that, please! Oh, dear, I’m not explaining myself very well. Let me say it differently.

“I heard the story of the Stone Trolls before I’d met you, and now I am here with you, here in this place... you might have been lost here... yet now we are here together...”

Lily noted the confusion in Frodo’s eyes. “I’m sorry... I’m not making much sense, am I?”

Frodo thought he was beginning to understand but could not be sure. He smiled and shook his head. “I’m sorry. I’m having trouble following you.”

Lily searched her mind for a way to explain what she was feeling. She offered her husband a reassuring smile.

“When I was little, my Mum used to tell me about a field of daffodils some distance from our home. It was several years before she took me to see them for myself. I believed her, and I knew she spoke truly, but it was so difficult for me to imagine it in my mind...

“Then one year, in the early spring, Mum decided it was time I visited the meadow. It was a day trip for just Mum and me; she’d done the same thing with Will and Daisy, when they were about the same age. It was a long walk, and you had to be big enough to walk all the way there and back on your own. It was Mum’s way of letting us know we weren’t babes any more. I think I was five or six...

“We arrived expecting to see a field of daffodils, but the winter had stayed a bit longer than usual so all we found was grass. I did not doubt my mother’s story of the bright yellow flowers, but they remained only an image created in my mind. Mum was determined I see them, so we returned a few weeks later.” Tears sprang to her eyes.

“Lily?” Frodo’s gentle voice was almost her undoing.

She sniffed and smiled. “I’m all right, thank you, love... Oh, Frodo, they were so beautiful. I knew they were real, but seeing them for myself... It wasn’t that I doubted my mother at all... in truth, seeing the field awash with yellow blooms for myself only deepened my trust in her. Just as seeing the Stone Trolls has deepened my trust in you. It’s not that I ever doubted you, but standing here, I realize it was only by the blessing of Ilúvatar that you came home at all...”

Tears slipped down her cheeks. “I understand now why I’ve needed you close, especially here -- I desire the constant reassurance that you truly are here with me, and this is not a dream from which I’ll soon awaken, alone, without you...”

Frodo released her hand to draw her into his arms. “You are here with me... Shall I put the memories away for a while?”

Lily trembled and returned his embrace. “No, it’s all right. They are as much a part of you as I am.”

She smiled warmly, then became serious again. “You endured so much terror and pain; for so long... I know I am safe with you, and you are finally truly safe. Frodo, we have spoken much of what happened before you ever reached Rivendell, which in itself took a month. How long was the rest of the -- the Quest?”

Frodo was uncertain of where her question was leading. But Lily was a part of him now...

“Yes, I am safe, with you, beloved,” he realized, and lightly kissed her brow. “We spent almost two months in Rivendell. From there our journey took about three months.”

“Were there no pleasant times on the Quest?”

Frodo searched his memory. Were there?

It took him several moments to sort past countless images, vivid, distinct, and the worst always leapt to the fore. He pushed them away as he always did.

Then he smiled. “Let me tell you about Legolas and Gimli.”

---------

The overcast skies were finally beginning to make good on their promise, as light sprinkles of rain came and went throughout the day.

As they took an easy pace with the ponies, Lily remembered something Frodo had said the day before.

“Frodo, why haven’t you seen any catkins since before the Quest? You traveled so much, and it isn’t as though they are scarce...”

Frodo smiled. “They are, in the south. We also traveled mostly at night, not to mention being so weary we concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other...”

He noted the question in his wife’s eyes. She wanted to know more, but did not want to ask, uncertain of how much of the story he wanted to share.

Frodo spoke of the journey the Fellowship had taken from Rivendell, south, stopping before he got to the part about the wargs.

He seemed to tire of the tale, so Lily asked him to teach her a little Elvish while they rode; she wanted to give their hosts a proper greeting when they arrived in Rivendell. The laughter they shared as she struggled with some of the more difficult words lightened considerably the dark of the day.

When evening came they camped in a small clearing, skirted by a hazel thicket, not far from the main road. They had made good time, and gave thanks together as they prepared for sleep. Lily welcomed anew her husband’s tender caresses with wonder and delight, basking in his love.

---------

21 July 1420sr

As they finished packing up their camp after second breakfast, Frodo noticed the wind picking up. He glanced about him, and observed the ponies shuffling.

“Hmmm.” Frodo paused on his way to Pippin, the packpony, holding a satchel of provender in one hand and their water bottles in the other.

“Not the best day for traveling, I fear, Lily-sweet. The ponies will be a bit difficult to handle, what with the sounds being carried from all over on the wind. There’s a cave down the road a fair piece. Gandalf told us about it on our way home, when Sam recounted the miserable rainy day we spent huddling under a cliff overhang.”

“I’ve never seen Merry fidget so.”

Lily eyed Merry uncertainly as she pulled her hair back from her face in the stiff breeze. She began to braid it into a single plait as she spoke.

As he watched her deft movements, Frodo’s thoughts were for a moment scattered, full of memories of the softness of her hair the night before. He blinked once, recalling what he wanted to say. “Sweet, remember what I taught you: don’t show him any fear. He trusts you to be the leader.”

She nodded decisively as she completed the braid, and allowed Frodo to help her up.

They shared their morning kiss, and were on their way, the ponies taking a fair clip.

“I never realized riding a pony could be so much work,” Lily commented, after they had traveled several miles. “I always figured the pony was doing all the work.”

Frodo laughed. “Indeed. It does depend on the pony, of course, and the situation. Take today’s weather, for instance: most ponies and horses don’t care for windy days, for they hear noises of every variety, but are unable to rightly fix where they come from, or even what they are, as there are too many to properly sort out. In weather like this the smells also come to them from everywhere and nowhere, or so it must seem to them, I’d imagine, for so it seems to me...”

Lily nodded and concentrated on holding in Merry, who was fighting her a little as they rode.

---------

As morning turned to afternoon, Frodo glanced more and more often at the sky. “Looks as though we may be in for a spot of rain, Lily-sweet; even the ponies feel it.”

Merry’s head popped up, his ears twitching back and forth. Lily clutched the reins nervously. The wind was growing in the trees on either side of the road, and Merry became increasingly skittish, sidestepping from time to time. He planted all four when a branch snapped in a tree on the side of the road.

The pony snorted and sidestepped again, then pranced in place as Lily struggled to hold him. He tossed his head, and began to settle.

Without warning the branch fell to the forest floor only feet from where they stood, and Merry whinnied, frightened, and bolted down the road.

Lily’s scream tore through Frodo’s heart.

“Hang on, Lily!”

He threw Pippin’s lead rope over a bush, hoping it would hold the packpony enough to keep him from wandering. Then he urged Strider to pursue Merry.

“Lily! Pull his head to your knee!”

Frodo realized the wind was whipping his words away. “You cannot hear me,” he muttered under his breath, and laid himself low on Strider’s back to help the pony move faster. “You must catch them, Strider, before anything happens. Hurry. Noro lim!

Strider flattened out to a dead run, swiftly gobbling the distance between the two ponies, and within moments drew abreast of Merry.

Frodo reached for Merry’s bridle and pulled on both ponies with a stern, “Whoa!”

They came to an abrupt stop, the ponies snorting and pawing.

Frodo slid off Strider and immediately reached for Lily, keeping the reins of both ponies in his left hand and wrapping his arms around his wife. She fell against his shoulder, her arms wrapped around his neck, sobbing and struggling to catch her breath.

“Lily-sweet, shhh, I am sorry. You are safe now. I am so proud of you; you hung on wonderfully well, not an easy feat at all, on a runaway pony. I’m so sorry. I am grateful you’re not hurt. You’re all right, aren’t you?”

She nodded her head against his shoulder, clinging to him, and continued to cry.

“You did so well, Lily-sweet, so well... Strider spooked, as well, or I might have caught you sooner. I’m sorry.”

Between shuddering sobs, Lily stuttered, “It -- it isn’t -- isn’t your -- fa-fault.”

Suddenly he felt her breathing grow more shallow and her trembling increase. His left hand, still holding the reins, spread wide against her back to better support her, and his right hand cradled her head as he pulled a little away to study her face.

“Lily, Lily! Look at me! Look at me...”

She did as she was commanded.

“Good. Now breathe, slowly, deeply. Please don’t faint. Easy. Breathe easy. Stay with me, please. Good. Better. Keep breathing evenly. No, no, don’t look away; look at me. Good. Very good. Better?”

Lily nodded.

“I’m so sorry, sweet.”

“What -- whatever for?” She offered a tremulous smile as tears continued to cascade down her cheeks.

Frodo’s eyes pooled. “I should have taught you what to do. I’m sorry.”

“There is something one can do?”

“Yes.”

Without anger she wondered aloud, “Why did you not teach me?”

A tear slid down Frodo’s cheek. “I didn’t want to frighten you; I simply hoped there would never be a need. I’m so sorry. I’m so glad you’re all right...”

Lily struggled. “I needn’t have gone through this?”

Frodo’s voice came out in a whisper. “I’m sorry.”

Lily kept her voice even. “What should I have done?”

“With either rein, just pull his head to your knee.”

The constriction in Lily’s chest eased, and she smiled gently for her lover. “Then it is a very good thing you never taught me.” Her smile grew at the confusion on Frodo’s face, and she caressed his cheek with her hand.

“The branch startled me as well, Frodo-love, and I dropped the reins to grab hold of the pommel. If you had taught me what to do, I might have tried, but it would have required releasing the pommel. I might very well have fallen off. As it was, I did the last thing I heard you tell me: I hung on.”

Frodo gazed at her in wonder, relief and joy, gradually returning her smile.

Abruptly, Lily was pushed against him, and she giggled and sniffled.

Frodo laughed. “It seems Merry is feeling remorseful and seeking your forgiveness as well.”

Lily turned within Frodo’s arms to find a pair of large brown eyes gazing balefully at her. A soft nose nuzzled her again.

“I forgive you, Merry,” Lily smiled, then sniffled. “But Frodo,” she spoke over her shoulder, “may we walk the ponies for a while?”

Frodo gently turned her to face him once more. He searched her eyes, his expression serious. “Lily-sweet, we may walk for a while... but first you must get back up on Merry. Just for a short ways.”

He felt her quail in his arms. “I’ll stay close. I promise. It’s important you get back on Merry.”

Lily searched his eyes in turn, then slowly nodded. “I understand.”

She took a steadying breath and turned to her pony. After several moments she remounted, with Frodo’s help.

“Have I ever told you what a fine teacher you are, Frodo-love?”

Frodo looked up at her with a crooked smile as he put his left foot into the stirrup. He thought he detected mischief in her voice, but could not be sure. He swung up onto Strider, and matched her tone.

“It has been a while, but yes. You said those words to me during our niwealdor.”

Frodo met her gaze steadily, trying not to smile, but it was impossible. Her eyes went as round as saucers, and he laughed aloud.

“Frodo!” Lily blushed furiously, but she was giggling nonetheless.

He was enjoying the game too much to stop. “What? Have I answered incorrectly, mayhap?”

His wife opened her mouth but when nothing came out, he feigned anguish. “Lily... don’t tell me... was I -- was I not a good teacher -- ?”

She burst out laughing, unable to speak, her eyes sparkling.

What? What have I said?”

“Stop it! Oh, stop it, you’re incorrigible!” She wiped away tears with her fingertips, giggling, and Merry snorted and shook his head.

“So, I was not a good teacher -- now I understand. It’s fine, Lily... I see...” he went on, biting his lip to keep from laughing with her, his eyes dancing with mischief.

“No, no, no!” she giggled, and sidled Merry close to Strider, putting her fingers to Frodo’s mouth.

Warmth coursed through them unexpectedly, and they went still.

“Shhh, dearest,” Lily urged softly. She held her palm to his cheek, and watched his face change, loving the tenderness in his blue gaze. He was holding his breath, and she breathed for both of them.

“Your da was a postal rider, and I was only trying to say how proud he’d be if he’d seen you today. Thank you for everything you’ve taught me: for the riding lessons--” She watched his eyes close as she kissed him gently. “And for all the rest.”

She drew back slowly, and Frodo’s eyes opened to hers. He swallowed once, hard, and touched her cheek, and his voice went straight through her heart to her soul.

“Please don’t ever leave me, Lily...”

“Never, beloved. Never.”

He nodded once, then pulled his hand away and took up the reins, still holding her gaze.

“I -- unless we want to spend the rest of the day here, I -- I think we should keep moving, Lily-sweet. Just now I feel like thanking you for everything you’ve ever taught me.”

---------

Frodo checked the ponies at the front of the cave. The animals were huddled together just outside the entrance, their tails to the rain.

“Frodo-love, why won’t they come inside?”

“I don’t know, though I’ve noticed when it rains in Hobbiton, the ponies turned out to pasture won’t come into their stalls if it rains. They’d rather graze than stay dry.”

Thunder sounded in the distance, and the ponies shifted restlessly as Lily and Frodo finished their supper.

“Sorry, lads, you’ve got to come in now. Can’t have you breaking free and running off if you get spooked, now can we?”

Frodo led the hobbled ponies to the back of the cave, then rejoined Lily near the fire. It was built only just close enough to the entrance to allow the smoke to escape easily.

Thunder rumbled closer, and Lily glanced out uncertainly, her eyes searching the sky beyond.

“We should be safe enough, sweet.” Frodo smiled encouragingly.

“How did you know of this place, again?” Lily could not hide the nervousness in her voice.

“Gandalf. He told us of it on our way home. On our way to Rivendell, we huddled under a cliff overhang not far from here, and got miserably wet.”

Thunder clapped nearby, and Lily buried her face in Frodo’s coat, clutching his lapels.

“What is it, Lily-sweet?”

“It’s so close--”

Another burst of thunder cut off her words.

“It’s so loud! And -- angry...”

“Angry?”

“Mayhap, in truth, it’s how I feel because I can’t make it stop, and I don’t understand it...” Lily admitted softly.

Frodo held her tighter, as she nestled closer. “Sweet, what did your parents tell you about thunder... when you were small, and they were trying to ease your fears?”

Lily glanced into her husband’s eyes, then buried her face against him once more as another thunderclap echoed suddenly. “They would tell me the storm was talking the only way it knew how, like a baby crying.”

When Frodo did not immediately reply, Lily lifted her head and found him smiling. “Do you think it foolish?” she wondered.

“No dearest. I find the explanation very pleasing. Though, shall I tell you how Bilbo explained it to me?”

“Yes, please.”

“It was quite a few years before my adoption. Bilbo and I were out camping. Though we’d been camping before, it was our first venture in a storm, far beyond the protective walls of Bag End. It was, in fact, my first trip in such a storm, without my da to reassure me. Da always told me Men were wrestling, and he would of course proceed to demonstrate!”

Frodo laughed, almost to himself. “I’d forgotten how much fun we had, doing that... at any rate, by the time we’d finished, the storm had invariably passed!”

He gathered Lily to himself more closely, and she sighed. “And of course, I’d not yet seen a Man. I only knew they were supposed to be very big, so I thought it quite possible they were causing the thunder.

“When I told Bilbo this, he agreed it was possible, but assured me Men were not nearly so big as all that, more the size of Elves...”

“But Frodo, it’s what your da told you...” Lily openly showed the distress she felt. “Why would Bilbo say such a thing?”

Frodo chuckled. “My cousins are right; I’ve never been able to hide my feelings, and Bilbo noticed, and seemed to realize what he’d said, then quickly assured me the softer sounds, farther away, were probably indeed Men wrestling, as ‘they do seem to enjoy scuffles’...”

He smiled at his own imitation of Bilbo, and Lily gave him a bemused grin.

“Did he say more?” she prompted.

“Oh, yes! Bilbo went on to say that the louder, sharper rumbles are trolls!”

“Trolls?” Lily whispered, her eyes wide.

“Indeed,” Frodo replied seriously. “They’re throwing stones at each other. They usually catch the stones, but sometimes they drop them, and that’s what you hear. Sometimes they miss on purpose, just to hear the noise.”

Lily giggled, then became serious. “What should we tell our children, Frodo?”

Frodo’s breath caught, and he endeavored immediately to hide his reaction to her words. Lily had not made any mention of this -- their own children -- for days, and he had promised her he would not speak of it unless she did.

He paused for another moment before answering, keeping his tone even. “I think I like what your parents taught you.”

“I like what your da taught you, and that it led to fun.”

They laughed together.

“In truth, Frodo-love, I also like what Uncle Bilbo told you, so mayhap we should tuck away each of the explanations for different occasions.”

“Do you think we’ll be able to use them all?”

“Indeed. Children have a way of asking the same question over and over.” Lily sighed, and nestled closer.

“I’ve so much to learn about children--” Frodo lamented.

“Fortunately, you enjoy learning,” Lily giggled. “I love you, Frodo.”

He trembled, never tiring of hearing the words. “I love you, Lily...”

She had set him to thinking, here in their little cave. The rain fell steadily, beating patterns on the ground outside.

Frodo kissed her brow once and extricated himself reluctantly from her embrace. “I’m going to get the bedroll. Even with the blanket, this floor is getting cold, and I just realized how hard it is.”

Lily smiled as he got up; within moments he was back. They spread the bedroll together, over their red blanket.

“It should help tonight,” Frodo observed, “but not very much, I fear. I hope you’ll be able to sleep, when the time comes, sweet. And it looks like the ponies are easing their way back toward the cave opening; but it should be safe enough for them to go back out now, and they’ll not go far.”

He stretched himself out on the makeshift bed as if to test it out, then sat up and took off his coat, rolling it tightly into a pillow of sorts and positioning it next to where he had laid his head before.

She realized the coat-pillow was for her.

“Come join me, sweet Lily.”

“Gladly.” She took his hand, and let him steady her as she knelt beside him, and gave him a demure look, though she could not hide the sparkle in her eyes. “You might want to use that pillow yourself, Frodo-love, as I’m thinking I’ll not need it.” She then lay next to him, her head on his chest, and sighed as she felt the warmth of his arm around her shoulder.

They shared their evening prayer of gratitude. Then she nestled against her husband, endeavoring to get a little more comfortable. Allowing her right hand to spread wide, she ran her fingertips up his waistcoat to his shoulder, then back down around his waist, gently pulling him closer. She sighed, then began to trace the buttons of his waistcoat, playing with them until eventually she had undone them all, then began fiddling with the buttons of his shirt. She felt the merest change in his breathing.

“Did you have enough supper, sweet?” he murmured, and Lily thought his voice sounded far-off. She felt it against her cheek as he spoke.

“Yes, Frodo-love. I’m very satisfied.”

“Good.”

She heard the smile in his voice. “And you?”

“I’m more than satisfied... oh, my dearest Lily, more than satisfied.”

He sighed, and Lily smiled to herself, then giggled.

“What’s funny?” he wondered aloud, stroking her right shoulder absently, and kissing the top of her head. Her hair smelled of rain and honeysuckle and Lily, and he was dimly aware she had undone several of his shirt buttons, so that he nearly missed her reply.

“I was thinking of what you said about just realizing how hard the stone floor was, as if you hadn’t noticed it when we first settled here over an hour ago. It struck me in a funny place.”

“I hadn’t noticed it at all, when we first arrived,” he confirmed, his tone oddly neutral.

Lily was too happy to think much beyond the warmth of his skin beneath her hand, and his scent, and the beating of his heart under her ear. “Why ever not?”

He paused for such a long time that she raised herself up on her left elbow to look at his face. He seemed to be staring at nothing as he gazed at the cave ceiling above them.

“You’re so far away, dearest. What is it?” she queried softly.

He said nothing.

“Frodo?”

When he turned his eyes toward hers, the sapphire blue took her breath away, as if she had never seen them before: as on the day of the Bywater Fair, so long ago.

“I’m sorry, Lily-sweet. I was far away... I’m sorry the pine and grass I might have used as bedding for tonight was too wet... this is a hard floor, it’s true. I didn’t notice it at first because --”

He covered her hand with his, where it lay on his bared breast. He seemed unable to continue, and Lily’s brow furrowed.

“What’s wrong, beloved? Can you tell me?”

Frodo carefully sat up, then, and kissed her hand. “Yes. I’m sorry. It shouldn’t be so difficult to tell you these things.”

He sighed heavily, as if to steel himself.

“Sam and I -- and sometimes Gollum, as well... I don’t want to talk about Gollum, Lily... not yet...”

“It’s all right... only share what you wish...”

He closed his eyes and sighed again, then opened them, but did not look at her. Instead he studied her hand, and stroked each of her fingers gently with his own.

“Sam and I spent so much time sleeping on jagged rocks -- in the Emyn Muil and Mordor -- that this feels like... well, not quite like Bag End... but it feels luxurious, by comparison...”

Lily hid her surprise that he spoke of happenings from the final days -- or weeks? -- of the Quest, then felt tears stinging her eyes. “I’m sorry, Frodo. I never -- I never thought of that.”

He lay back down and drew her gently to his chest once more, and she rubbed her cheek against him. He kissed her hair again.

“Please don’t feel badly, Lily. You couldn’t have known. We were too weary to notice the rocks... isn’t that odd now, I just remembered Sam complaining about a tree root digging into his back our first night out, and not being able to sleep, because of it... we were still in the Shire. By the end -- by the end, we could have -- indeed, we did -- sleep anywhere... wherever we stopped... There’s no need to cry, sweet, please... that’s over.”

She sniffed and took a breath to steady herself and to quell her tears.

He sensed it, and attempted to lighten the air. “I shall loan you one of my lovely embroidered handkerchiefs, if you’d like.”

She laughed against his chest, and felt the slight wetness of her tears on the opened edges of his cambric shirt.

“Thank you, no, my love. I’m quite all right, now.”

“Nevertheless I worry you won’t sleep very well on this very hard floor.”

“Our little bed has already helped, and I have you, which is best of all, beloved,” she murmured. When she felt him kiss her hair again, she stilled, and concentrated only on his heartbeat.

Thunder rumbled again, now in the far distance.

“I hope I shall be a good father...”

Lily sat up again, slowly, and studied her husband’s face, so dear to her for so long. He appeared worried, though not overly so. She caressed his cheek.

“Frodo...”

“I’m sorry -- should I not speak of such things at this time? I wondered... I thought mayhap it was all right... you had spoken of our children... when we were deciding what to tell them about thunder, and what it was...”

“It is indeed all right, love... yes, please, do speak of it now. You are so kind to think of me... please, tell me. I want to know what you’re thinking. Why would you believe you might not be a good father?”

He gave her a crooked half-smile and drew her back down again onto his chest.

She settled, nestling against him, and attempted to ignore his heartbeat, which was faster now than before.

“I’m not sure why I feel that way, sweet.”

“What does it mean to you to be a good father? Surely your own father was very good.”

“He was.”

She felt his words more than heard them, he had spoken so softly.

“What do you think he did, besides making thunder fun, rather than frightening, that made him a good father?”

“He was kind and loving. He was wise. He loved Mum very much.”

Frodo resolutely refused to allow himself a single tear, but he knew Lily could feel and sense everything. Still he did not give in to it. He was too happy with her, here, now, to allow sadness in. He would not.

“Dearest Frodo,” Lily began. She sensed his struggle against the old sadness, then sensed his victory over it. “You are all these things. You are kind, and loving, and wise. And you love me, very much...”

She fought unexpected tears at the feeling that their lives might ever be like their parents’ happy lives; that they might have children of their own. She was happy now, happier than she had ever been, but that would be a new sort of happiness.

Frodo sighed. “Ah, Lily! But I don’t feel all that wise. The world is so large. The stars go on forever. Ilúvatar is... it’s all too vast. And I still don’t truly understand what happened on the Quest.”

Here was the heart of the matter, Lily sighed to herself. Aloud, she offered, “You are wise enough to know you don’t know everything, and you’re still willing to learn. Surely you’re at least as wise as your father?”

“I hope so. I’d like to think so.”

“What is most important... wisdom or love... for raising our children, I mean?”

He loved her for her patience. The rain continued its pattern, though slower and softer, and their small fire crackled merrily.

“The love, I am sure. I am certain of it, Lily.”

She felt him smile, and she smiled against his chest.

“Actually,” he reasoned cheerfully, “I needn’t worry about the wisdom part. You’ll be perfect for that. And you are loving... And dear Samwise was named well. With all my heart I think he is the wisest person in the Shire. He’ll be like a second father to -- to our children. It will be very good, Lily.”

She raised herself on one elbow again, and met his eyes. “Yes, it will be.”

“I shouldn’t say it, but I cannot wait for when our children come -- I’m sorry -- That’s unfair to you.”

“It’s all right, Frodo-love. I can barely wait myself. I love you.”

His eyes seemed to darken, although she could not be certain in this dim light. His next words did not surprise her.

“Kiss me, my sweet Lily. I love you.”

She complied at once. The soft mating of their breath, and the taste of him, caused her whole body to quicken, sensations crowding within her, sudden and warm. She wished she could tell him how beautiful his mouth was, and his eyes, and his hair -- but she had not yet found a way, for she did not know if such words would please him. She kissed him again and felt his slight laughter.

Between kisses, he spoke. “What is it you wish to tell me, but don’t feel you can?”

Lily’s eyes grew wide, and she blushed crimson. “How--”

“There is a look in your eyes that is unmistakable. You needn’t tell me now. I’ll wait until you’re ready.” His smile faded, and his eyes turned wistful and soft. “You’re beautiful, Lily. Have I told you today?”

She shook her head once, sensing his hunger.

He buried his fingers in her curls, then he slowly kissed her lips, her cheeks, her forehead, her eyes, her nose, and her lips again. He pulled back, his hands cupping her face. His eyes held her still.

“This time the ground truly is too hard, beloved,” he breathed. “I’ll brave the stone floor, dearest, and I shan’t even feel it, I promise...”

Lily’s breath caught in her throat. “From the sound of it, you’ll brook no argument, Mister Baggins.”

He gathered her closer. “No indeed, Mistress Baggins.”

“Then I concede, with pleasure,” she smiled tenderly as she shifted her weight, all her being alive to his touch.

Concern tinged her heart as she heard him sigh heavily. “Are you certain I’m not too much? I know you don’t mind at home, but the floor...”

Frodo raised his brows. “I don’t mind?”

Lily giggled. “All right, all right, so indeed you like it very much, but still, the floor here...”

“Beloved Lily, now your sweetness shall forever be a part of all my memories of stone, lending a softness I never imagined possible.”

He was smiling, then winked at her, but just as quickly his visage became serious again, the desire in his eyes transparent. She trembled at the warm caress in his gaze.

“Frodo...” she breathed, gazing down at him. He was impossibly beautiful, impossibly loving. Her tresses fell forward, surrounding his face. Before she could kiss him again, he reached up and kissed her mouth firmly, capturing her soft sounds of joy, and sharing her increasingly desperate need.

The rain diminished to a muted patter, and the fire sputtered, blending with the whispered endearments and words of devotion shared between the two lovers.

They would soon be at the edge of a fall which he wanted with all his heart, and he knew she wanted it as well, and the knowledge made his heart sing. She was there with him, and they would fall there sweetly together, and be one.

He thought his heart would burst, but then all thought left him for a time, and there was only Lily.