Lily awoke wrapped in Frodo’s arms, and he kissed her softly.
Her memories of their discussion about the marks on his back, and of what he endured, tore through her again. A tear slid down her cheek.
Frodo gently brushed the tear away, allowing his hand to linger on her cheek. “Beloved, why such sadness?”
“How can you tell it is sadness, Frodo-love?” Lily wondered aloud.
Frodo paused for a moment, resting his fingers in the soft silk of his lover’s hair. “I suppose I feel it, though I think not as you do. It is more a familiarity gained in knowing you.”
Lily nestled her head against her husband’s scarred shoulder, then she slid her left hand up over his right shoulder and tenderly fingered where she knew the lash of a whip had left its lasting reminder.
She swallowed hard as fresh tears filled her eyes. “Sometimes, it is difficult to understand why it needed to be you. I know in my heart it was meant to be, but sometimes...”
Frodo gathered his wife closer, his throat closing with the deep love he felt for her. He kissed her hair and gently rubbed her back.
Then he breathed deeply of her. “I have thought much this night.” He kissed the tip of her ear. “I think mayhap I must ask a different question now, whenever that one arises.”
His wife’s eyes searched his, and he continued.
“Beloved, if I had not filled the need passed to me, or the task belonged to another, would you still have been given to me?”
Another tear slid down Lily’s cheek. “I cannot imagine belonging to another... only to you.”
Frodo held her more tightly, at first unseeing, then he searched the carved ceiling beams overhead.
“Bit by bit, it seems I’m almost -- unable -- yes, that’s the word; I’m unable to imagine my life any other way. The questions... why did Bilbo find the Ring; why did he give It to me; why did It wake in my keeping; why did no one else choose to carry It at the Council -- ? ...”
He paused, and sighed. “I cannot change the past, though I wonder at every turn how things might have been different. But then, I always come back to the question now dearest to my heart: If anything were different than it was, would you be my mine... my best friend, my wife, my lover?”
Lily nestled deeper into her husband’s embrace, breathing deeply of him, and drawing peace from his stillness and contentment. “I do not know. It certainly seems an impossible question to answer, with what little we know. We have only what is.”
“Indeed. Perhaps therein lays an answer, of sorts. We know you are my gift from Ilúvatar, Who knows all. He knew I would fulfill the deed required of me, no matter the cost, if I could. I know I am grateful for you, and if fulfilling the Quest was the price... It may be your father prepared the way in this also. To be thankful is to know... it’s true, Lily. It’s true...”
Lily raised her head to search Frodo’s eyes. Her lover opened his soul to her. The sweet familiar feeling of falling into his eyes began to sweep over her. Then she opened her soul to him as well, and discovered a new joy of sharing his deeper understanding.
Frodo sighed contentedly. “I suppose we should get ready for whatever may come today.”
“I imagine Felena will be here soon, with something delectable,” Lily smiled.
They rose together, and glanced at their dressing room.
“It’s early yet,” Frodo offered.
“She’ll not be here for a while,” Lily added.
They wandered out to the balcony, then laughed softly when they took a deep breath in unison. The music of the falls seemed muted in the surrounding hush of the morning, and they watched a pair of black swans glide behind the cover of an ancient weeping willow on the far bank of the river.
Frodo took Lily’s hand, twining his strong fingers into her delicate ones. She kissed the back of his hand, and watched him smile.
Tentatively, they began to speak of the music presented the night before, and finally, of Felena’s performance.
“It was quite beautiful,” Lily ventured. “I had not realized Sam was so gifted with words.”
Frodo grinned. “I don’t think Sam realizes it, either. He’ll blush right down to his toes when I tell him a lovely Elf-maid sang his song for all Rivendell to hear.”
Lily swallowed back joyful tears. “I’m glad you’ll be telling him.”
They shared a knowing smile. Several moments passed before either heard the light tapping at their door, and they drew on their dressing gowns.
Frodo remembered the door was probably locked, and quickly opened it with a grin. “Come in! Good morning!”
Felena entered their room bearing a tray of breakfast, and Frodo followed her, stopping close to Lily.
The Elf smiled brightly. “Good morning to you. I hope you both slept well?”
The hobbits glanced at each other, exchanging a soft smile.
Before either one could speak, Felena continued. “It’s a lovely day for exploring Rivendell. Bilbo mentioned something about visiting the Porch today; you could join him there.”
Lily giggled, bemused, and then noticed the shadow crossing Frodo’s face. She laid her hand on his arm and his eyes swiftly met hers. His brief smile was meant to reassure her, but she sensed the concern which touched his heart.
She spoke for them both. “Thank you, Felena, for bringing our breakfast. Did Bilbo say when he would be there?”
Felena replied easily, “Sometime this morning, though knowing Bilbo, it shall be later rather than sooner.” She nodded, with only a hint of a smile touching her lips, and swept noiselessly from the room.
“Frodo?” Lily faced him, anxious. “What is the Porch?”
“It is where the Council was held.” He leaned his head lightly against Lily’s. “I’m weary... No more -- I don’t want to remember any more memories...”
Before his wife could speak, Frodo sighed, heavily. “I’m well enough, my sweet. We’ll go to the Porch. I feel -- I feel...”
Lily became contemplative. “...almost as if we are being guided through your memories?”
Frodo’s eyes widened. “Yes! You notice it as well?”
She made herself ignore the temptation to fall into his eyes, once more. “Yes, dearest, almost from the moment we arrived, but let us see where this is leading, as long as you are able to bear it.”
They shared a soft kiss of agreement, and fed each other firsties amidst quiet talk and laughter, putting all thoughts of the Porch aside.
After first breakfast, they dressed with care, Frodo taking rather longer than Lily. She crossed the room to where he was finishing with his braces.
“Frodo?” Lily laid her hand on his breast; his heart was pounding. She searched his eyes. “Are you sure you want to go through with this?”
She felt a tightening in her chest at the fear filling his eyes.
Frodo grasped her hand and held it in place against his heart, taking several steadying breaths. “Perhaps it is better sooner rather than later. I see no other way, dear heart.” A gentle smile spread across his face. “I am well enough, and you’re with me.”
Lily shared his smile and stepped closer to him. With her free hand she caressed his cheek, slipping her fingers into the dark curls she adored, then withdrawing her hand.
Frodo grew more serious. He gathered her fully into his arms and softly kissed her.
“Beloved,” Lily whispered, “are you certain?”
Her husband smiled for her. “I do seem to be putting it off.”
His wife nodded and continued to search his eyes.
“It’s too warm for a coat.” Frodo released her and shrugged into his waistcoat. He reached for the buttons and found his lover fastening them. “Lily, you don’t need to do this for me.”
“I know.” She finished the last button.
Frodo’s brows drew together. “What is it?”
Lily fixed her eyes on her hands, laid flat on his chest. “Which memories... do you know which memories will be awakened?”
Frodo tenderly lifted her chin with his finger, and gazed lovingly into her eyes. “It’s difficult to say... there are so many. I’m so sorry you must suffer this--”
She touched soft fingers to his lips. “It doesn’t matter. I am ready, if you are.”
Frodo kissed the tips of her fingers, and then offered her his arm.
They strolled arm in arm for a time. When Frodo admitted he was taking the long way round to the place where the Council had been held, Lily accepted his choice without reproach.
He told her of the two months spent in Rivendell, now nearly two years past, spent leisurely recovering from his wounding.
“There were times, then,” he confided to his wife, “when I hoped the Quest might not start at all...”
Frodo stopped speaking for a moment as they rounded a curve in the flagstone path, and spied a small table within the feasting hall. It had been set for two, awaiting them, and they stopped for second breakfast.
Both ate their fill, quiet for the time being, each enjoying the stillness all about them. Lily almost spoke to her husband of the peace such utter quiet gave her, then realized speaking would break the treasured hush.
After a final cup of tea, a heavy sigh escaped Frodo. “Shall we?”
Lily nodded and offered an encouraging smile.
Frodo reached for her hand, and Lily laced their fingers.
They walked hand in hand in silence all the way to the Porch. When they reached it, Frodo tightened his hold. Lily raised his hand to her lips and briefly kissed it.
“Frodo, Sam told me a little about the Council, how it was here that it was decided... ‘It must be destroyed.’ What else was important about the meeting?”
“Where shall I begin? So much was said... and so much was promised.”
“What comes to mind first?”
“It’s cleared of chairs now, though the table...” Frodo ran his fingers along the stone edge.
Lily watched him carefully. “Is the table important?”
She felt a change within him. “We need not speak of it now.”
Frodo glanced at his wife gratefully.
“Then there is something else the Elves wish you to remember...”
“It was only the chairs, the table, and the people. That’s all that was here.”
Their eyes met, and Lily nodded. “It’s the people you need to remember. Who were they?”
Frodo shook his head. “There were so many... most of whom I never became acquainted with, beyond the briefest of introductions.”
“Then they do not matter. Those you do remember, they are the important ones. Tell me about them.”
They stood in the center of the Porch, looking about them.
“Lily, I’ve so few memories of this place, truly. The story of the -- Ring was told by those involved with It in one way or another, and then it was decided It must be destroyed, and I...”
Lily felt her husband’s increasing struggle and touched his cheek; and he focused on her.
“Frodo, my lad! And my dear Lily! How good it is to see you here this fine morning. I trust you slept well?”
Bilbo shuffled onto the Porch to receive tender embraces from the couple. “Quite the meeting we had here, I dare say. Do you remember, Frodo? And all over that silly Ring of mine. Such a fuss!”
Lily’s eyes swiftly sought Frodo’s, a question waiting on her lips. He shook his head, silently asking her to ignore the aged hobbit’s slip. Then he eased his arm around her shoulders, drawing her close to his side.
“Indeed, Uncle Bilbo. Fortunately, it’s over now.”
“Yes, yes. We did have our moments, though.” Bilbo smiled broadly. “Your part of the story was far more interesting than mine, but still, I knew a thing or two that some of the others didn’t seem to know. Take that lord... hmmm, what was his name again?”
“Which lord, Bilbo? I believe there were several present.” An uncomfortable feeling niggled in the back of Frodo’s mind, and he tightened his hold on Lily.
“You know which one, Frodo. The one to whom I had to quote that bit of poetry. Quite good it was, too. Now, how did it go?” Bilbo screwed up his eyes, and stroked his chin, then sighed in frustration. “Dash it, I can’t recall. Now I’ll not be able to think of another thing until I remember it. Wait, it’s in the Red Book... no, I gave that to you. Are you making any headway with it, my lad?”
“Still gathering notes, Uncle Bilbo. I’ll finish it...”
“Good, good. Hmmm, I think I may have kept a copy of that poem somewhere in my room. It really is quite exceptional, if I do say so myself.” Bilbo chortled. “And it’s well worth reading more than once. Don’t you agree?”
“Oh, yes, Uncle Bilbo, I believe I remember the poem of which you speak,” Frodo replied faintly. “It really is one of your best efforts.”
“You remember it? Do you think you could recite it for me, and save me the trip back to my room?”
How do I tell you I cannot bear to speak it aloud? “I’m sorry, Uncle, I’m afraid I don’t quite remember all the words, though I remember the lines about ‘not all that glitters is gold’ and ‘not all who wander are lost.’” Tears closed his throat.
“Indeed, quite good, and I knew all along about the Dúnadan.” The old hobbit turned away from the couple.
Lily’s eyes searched Frodo’s again, and he mouthed, ‘Aragorn.’ She nodded her head, realizing suddenly the King bore other names besides even Strider and Elessar.
Bilbo shook his head. “Oh, never mind, I shall simply have to go find it, for I shan’t be able to think of another thing until I have it all straight in my head.” He sighed. “I used to be able to recite it without a thought.” And he shuffled off to his room.
Frodo closed his eyes as he released Lily, and sat heavily on the step of the Porch, lowering his head into his hands.
Lily touched his shoulder, and sat beside him. She considered asking him who Bilbo was talking about, but decided to wait.
Long moments passed, and Frodo gradually raised his head, tears streaming down his face. “Boromir... he was talking about Boromir.”
Lily swallowed hard, and trembled slightly. Then she slipped her arm around Frodo’s shoulders, and drew him to her.
Frodo wrapped his arms around her waist, and leaned his head against her shoulder, curling into her.
He swallowed hard. “How much did Sam tell you about Boromir?”
After clearing her throat, Lily tried to decide just how much to tell her husband of what she knew.
Then she startled at his soft request. “Tell me everything he said; please Lily...”
A sigh escaped her, and she began. “He told me very little when first he shared the story of the Quest with Rosie and me... but when he came to visit me in Deephallow...”
Frodo lifted his head from her shoulder and studied her hazel-blue eyes. “The other day, you said he explained much. He only ever briefly told me of his time with you...”
Frodo lowered his eyes, and then raised them again to search his wife’s face. “...And I was too afraid to ask him of his visit with you... in truth, I was too occupied with struggling to realize you were truly well after a night’s rest, just as you promised...”
Lily kissed his cheek, and he laid his head on her shoulder once more, feeling somehow younger in her presence, and perfectly safe. She sensed his emotions, and breathed deeply, then released it slowly. “Samwise and I talked long that day...
“He told me of how Boromir pledged his service to you, as had the other members of the Fellowship. But Sam worried. He never forgot how Boromir first thought the Ring could be used against the -- the Enemy. He worried more as he watched It wear on you.
“Sam told of how Boromir was the one to think of bringing wood up Carad -- Caradhras, so you and Sam, and Merry and Pippin, would not freeze. And of how it was he who cleared a path through the snow to bring you down from the mountain. He spoke of Boromir’s bravery and courage in battle, as well as his skill.”
Lily hesitated, then sighed. “Sam spoke of how Boromir helped save you from the wargs, and the -- what did he call it? Oh, yes, the Watcher, and goblins, and orcs, and the cave troll...
“Sam said that if it weren’t for Boromir, you might have tried to save Gandalf from the Balrog, and perished.” Lily trembled, then cleared her throat again.
“Sam admitted Boromir wasn’t comfortable in Lothlórien, and that from then on, Boromir seemed increasingly dissatisfied... although Sam confessed he did not notice until he remembered back...”
Lily glanced at Frodo, then at the mural on the wall across the passageway, her eyes unfocused. “Sam was too worried about you...”
Frodo sighed wearily. “Everyone was worried about me, and I was worried about my decision... no one noticed Boromir’s increasing struggle...”
“Sam said -- Sam said Boromir was easily three times your size...” Lily struggled unsuccessfully to hide the sudden anger sweeping over her. “...and yet -- and yet he tried to kill you for that hateful Ring...”
Frodo stood abruptly, and paced across the Porch, stopping at the edge to stare out over the gardens.
Lily sighed and stood slowly, finally following her husband. She stopped behind him and waited. When he spoke she heard the tears in his voice.
“It claimed him, Lily. I do not believe he even knew what was happening, until it was too late. He struggled against It from the start, from the moment he beheld It here on this Porch, mayhap before he saw It, for he seemed to have some knowledge of It. And he endeavored to ease my burdens, especially after the loss of Gandalf. He was the turning point, Lily. It was he who decided me to go on alone. The Lady Galadriel warned me It would claim them all, one by one... I cannot begin to imagine the horror he must have felt when he came to himself again. The Ring promised him power -- the power to save his country -- and then It stripped him of what he valued most; honour was everything to him, Lily; everything. And without thought or remorse, It stole it from him.”
Frodo turned to face his wife once more, tears streaming down his cheeks. “He was so strong, Lily, so alive. I drew from his strength, his will to push on... but it wasn’t enough... it was not enough, not against the power of--” his voice dropped to a whisper “--of the Dark Lord. Boromir did not understand, not until it was too late. If only I had left the Company sooner, he might have been spared.”
Gently touching her husband’s stricken face, Lily offered, “Sam said the Ring promised whatever the person most wanted, but they were lies, for the Ring was Evil, and no good could come of It, no matter how much It promised to the contrary...
“Sam also told me of how Boromir gave his life trying to save Merry and Pippin. I cannot imagine the nightmares they must have, remembering that day.” Curiosity filled Lily’s voice. “Do you think he regained his honour?”
Frodo gently grasped Lily by the shoulders. “Aragorn sought me out privately, in Ithilien, after the very end -- after Sam and I were rescued... He told me Boromir told him everything, before he died. He gave his life, Lily. He could do no more. In truth, he could have left, after -- after what happened -- after the Ring provoke and baited and lured him to despairing folly... but he chose to stay, and it cost him his life.”
Lily smiled softly. “Frodo, he fought, not for Gondor, but for Merry and Pippin. The Man who sought only to save his country, chose to give his life in an effort to save two hobbits, who could, as far as he knew, do nothing for his country.”
“He did change, Lily.”
“Yes, Frodo, his honour was not lost, after all, nor was yours; tested and found wanting, mayhap, but not lost.”
“But it was wanting...”
“It only means you both discovered the utmost of how much you were capable of overcoming, beloved; then you both chose to persevere and surmount even more...”
Frodo gazed into his wife’s eyes, revealing openly the gratitude he felt for her. She smiled for him, and he took her in his arms, holding her close fiercely, his tears breaking free. Lily returned the strong embrace, and they stood there together, unaware of the passage of time.
“Felena?” Bilbo whispered. “What’s happening?”
The Elf maiden smiled and leaned down to whisper in the old hobbit’s ear. “Everything is very well indeed.”
Bilbo wrung his hands. “Are you certain this is the right thing to do? I’ve been worrying about the lad. He does look more like himself, with dear Lily beside him. But when he was here -- with Sam and Merry and little Pip, though those two aren’t so little any more -- well, be that as it may... young Frodo seemed older than me.”
Felena knelt down, and searched the elderly hobbit’s eyes. A soft smile crossed her serene features when he blushed down to his furry feet. “Thank you for your help, today.” She stood and straightened her shoulders. “Now, do not worry, Master Bilbo. And please do go and fetch the lovebirds.”
Bilbo grinned. “Nice not to be the only one calling them that.”
The Elf whispered conspiratorially, “I learned it from you. Now, off with you,” she cajoled.
The hobbit bowed as low as his creaking joints would allow, then tottered away from their hiding place, remembering to sing a Shire tune to warn the couple of his approach.
They spent the rest of the day with Bilbo, the old hobbit sharing one poem after another; some were his own, and some were favourites he had learned from the Elves.
After supper, Frodo and Lily excused themselves to their room, and locked the world outside. They walked to the balcony and gazed out over Rivendell, as Lily stepped into Frodo’s gentle embrace.
She wrapped her arms around her husband’s waist, and rubbed her head against his shoulder. “Frodo, would you like to tell me of Boromir?”
Frodo tightened his hold. “Yes, if I may. There are so many stories. Faramir looked very like him. If ever we travel south, you will see...”
Lily nestled closer. “I’d like that.”
Her husband sighed and began to share all he remembered of the warrior, talking well into the night.
And his heart was full, when he prayed with Lily before sleep overtook them, thanking the Creator for His care and for the vastness of His love. They prayed for Sam and Rose as well, for their cousins, and Lily for her siblings, and for little Pearl.
Sleep came, a finespun quilt tucked all round them, warm, and welcomed.