A cool breeze whispered across Frodo’s skin, waking him. With his eyes still closed, he smiled to himself, knowing how easy it was for him to reach for the comforting warmth of his lover. A frown replaced his smile as he wondered why she was not already in his arms. Briefly, he marveled at the habit acquired in the few months they had slept together since they wed. Then he patted the space beside him where Lily should have been. His brows drew together as he rolled onto his back. He opened his eyes slowly and stared at the ceiling for several moments, listening to the morning sounds, one of which did not fit. He closed his eyes, and tuned to the muffled... crying? His eyes flew open, and he glanced to the balcony. He could not at first see anything, then he noticed furred feet, poking out from behind one of the far archways.
“Lily?” he murmured.
When no answer was forthcoming, Frodo threw back the covers and swung his feet to the floor. He padded across the room to the balcony, stepping beside the outer wall. Looking down in surprise, he found his wife sitting on the smooth stone floor, her knees drawn up to her chin, her arms wrapped around them, and her head bent with her forehead resting on her knees.
“Lily?” he whispered, as he knelt gradually beside her.
Hesitantly, the weeping hobbit broke her silence with a sniffling indrawn breath, though she did not lift her head. “Frodo, I shall not remember to say it as often as I should, but -- I know I can be difficult... thank you for being so patient with me.”
He swiftly searched his mind, struggling to understand the meaning of her words. “Dearest Lily, I love you. How could I not show you the same patience you have given me?”
Lily no longer endeavored to hide the sounds of her weeping.
Frodo struggled with his own uncertainty. What to do? He lightly placed his hand on his wife’s shoulder.
With her face still buried against her knees, Lily reached her hand up and covered her husband’s, giving him a gentle squeeze.
Frodo managed to steady his breathing before he spoke. “Dear heart, let me get you some first breakfast.”
His wife released his hand, and nodded her head.
“Rest here, Lily-sweet, and I’ll take care of everything.”
Her voice was tinged with tears. “I love you.”
“And I you. Rest, beloved. I’ll be back with breakfast presently,” he soothed.
Moments later, Frodo returned with the tray Felena was bringing, after meeting her just outside the bedroom door. Without a word of explanation, he thanked her and took the tray, then closed the world outside. He breathed deeply, then returned to Lily’s side. Setting the tray on the floor, he sat beside his wife. He ached to hold her in his arms but did not know if it would be acceptable to her, and could not bring himself to ask. He lightly touched her arm.
A tear-stained face was lifted to him.
Frodo’s chest constricted, and his eyes filled with tears. Only with concerted effort was he able to voice his trepidation. “What is it, beloved? Please tell me.”
She sniffled, and more tears slipped down her cheeks. “Another month has passed, Frodo-love, and still I do not carry your child,” she sobbed softly.
Sorrow touched Frodo’s heart, then he pushed it away and thought of the last time she suffered. He remembered how her body was uncomfortable, almost as if adding insult to injury. “And you are in pain, your back and head?” he finished.
Lily nodded. “And here,” she whispered, laying her hand where she hoped to carry their child.
“What may I do?”
With a shrug and shake of her head, she mumbled, “I do not know.”
Frodo grappled with the unanswerable question, then reminded himself she needed to eat. He placed apple slices, strawberries, a scone, and a scrambled egg on a plate, then handed it to his wife, with an encouraging smile.
She sighed, accepted it, and began to nibble without interest on a strawberry.
Frodo desperately searched his mind. “Lily-sweet, I want to understand. I do not remember you suffering so during our courtship. Was I so unaware?”
Lily leaned her head on her husband’s shoulder as she took a bite of scrambled egg. “Frodo-love, you are not unaware in the least. At the end of February, you returned to Hobbiton; at the end of March, I returned to Deephallow. April was skipped, for some reason, and May... May was so busy, with the plans for our marriage, and Rosie provided me with warmed towels in the morning and evening and during my naps.”
Lily nodded her head against her husband’s shoulder.
“What of June, sweet?”
“We were at the Free Fair, and in truth, the pain was hardly noticeable. I thought mayhap it was an added blessing from Gandalf.”
“I see. Then in July?”
“It was early,” Lily fairly whined, but caught herself.
“Terribly unpredictable, isn’t it?”
Lily giggled. “Indeed.”
Frodo relaxed at the sound. “Shall we rest, and spend the day quietly, sweet?”
“That would be very nice.”
“I shall see if Felena can arrange for some warmed towels.”
Frodo started at the hesitancy in his wife’s tone. “What would you like, beloved?”
Her voice was quiet when finally she spoke. “I imagine you would prefer to spend the day visiting with Bilbo...”
Frodo murmured gently, “Tell me what you want, beloved, truthfully, not what you think I want.”
Tears again caught in Lily’s throat. “Would you hold me?”
“Yes,” he breathed. “For the whole of the day, if it pleases you. Today shall be ours alone.”
Lily began to weep again, softly. “Dearest Frodo, how I love you. How grateful I am for you.”
Frodo’s heart tightened. He endeavored to smile for her. “I love you more.”
Lily giggled again. “I love you even more.”
“I love you so much more.”
Lily giggled louder. “You win this time... I am tired...”
Frodo kissed her temple. “Finish your breakfast, and then we shall rest.”
Without another word, Lily finished her food.
Frodo arranged their empty plates on the tray, scribbled a swift note, and placed all outside their door. Then he helped Lily settle on the bed, with her back to him, pulling her close with his hands on her belly, gently massaging for a few moments, then simply lending the warmth of his hands against her.
Lily sighed and relaxed against her husband. Drowsily, she murmured, “Never has the pain seemed as though it might be a little bit worth it, until now... simply to have you like this...”
A smile spread across Frodo’s face, and he was glad she could not see it, for he was certain it reflected an interest she did not desire at the moment. “Is there anything else I may do, sweet?”
“No, love, just this... thank you.”
Frodo heard the tears in her voice, and reminded himself they did not suggest sorrow or joy; and he wondered if he would ever reach a point where her tears did not affect him... Sad indeed it would be, if ever I ignore her tears, he decided, for whatever reason they fall...
“Sweet, would you like me to tell you the story of Eärendil?”
As the silence stretched, Frodo quickly thought back to the previous month and remembered her silence that long day.
“Or we may not talk at all, if you prefer...”
Lily sniffled, then her voice came out small and uncertain. “Please, I want to talk, but it’s difficult to think...”
“Then I’ll hold you quietly.” Frodo nestled closer, as Lily pressed her back against him.
He started at the light knock on the door.
Felena peeked around the door and spoke softly. “I have brought the warm towels...”
Frodo nodded her in.
“Lily,” Felena asked gently, “are you not well?”
Without opening her eyes, the hobbit mumbled, “I shall be fine...”
Frodo tenderly arranged the towels. “Better?”
“Mmm, yes, love... thank you.”
“Ah,” Felena nodded in understanding. “When I return with your second breakfast, I shall also bring a small pot of red raspberry leaf tea. It does not cure what ails you, but it does ease the discomfort.”
Lily’s words were muffled. “You must tell me more... later...”
“Yes, when you are feeling better. Rest now. I shall see to your meals and also to ensuring Bilbo and Mithrandir do not disturb you this day.”
“Thank you,” Frodo whispered, realizing Lily slept.
Felena returned with second breakfast and the promised raspberry tea. She quietly set it all on the table, near the balcony. Returning the nod Frodo gave her, she slipped silently out of the room again.
“Lily-sweet,” Frodo whispered. “Secondies is ready, and Felena brought the raspberry tea.”
He felt his wife weeping softly. “My sweet, I’m so sorry it hurts as it does.”
“It isn’t that...”
“What, then -- ” Sudden insight flashed in Frodo’s mind. So accustomed he was to dealing with the pain of the moment, he had forgotten the dreams... “I’m sorry, beloved. Mayhap the time is simply not right for us...”
Her question was out before she could stop it, nor could she cover her pleading tone. “You do want children, do you not? You said you did...”
Frodo was careful to keep his voice level and calm. He now understood more fully her fears. “Yes, I do... and I, too, wish you were carrying my child... our child -- but dearest... surely you don’t believe I’m disappointed in you--? For ne’er could I be, not ever. Please tell me you don’t believe this of me.”
Lily turned in his arms and wept against his shoulder, holding him tightly. When her tears subsided enough to speak, she whispered, “I know you are not disappointed in me. Please, forgive me...” Her tears overwhelmed her once more.
“Shhh... shhhhh... Lily-sweet. I love you... there is nothing to forgive...”
He returned her tight embrace, allowing her to weep until she was spent.
“Come, sweet, let’s get a bite of secondies into you.”
When she nodded her head against his shoulder, Frodo helped his wife sit up, then helped her to the table.
As Frodo tucked into his food, Lily pushed hers around on the plate. She glanced at her husband, then at her plate again. She drew a steadying breath and murmured, “What must you think of me?”
Frodo stopped, and laid his fork on the table, cautiously choosing his reply. “What do you mean?”
“That I might question you, particularly as I never behaved this way before we were married; you have been caught completely unawares. I never warned you... I should have, but I feared...”
“Feared what, beloved?”
Lily continued to stare at her plate, though she knew Frodo was watching her intently. “I feared -- I feared you would find this -- this side of me... less than endearing. My brother Will hates it when I am like this, and would rather be anywhere than with me...” Her voice caught.
Frodo slid his finger under his wife’s chin and lifted until she met his steady gaze. All trace of humour was gone from his face as he spoke. “I am not Will, and there is nowhere -- nowhere in all Middle-earth I would rather be than with you. Beloved Lily, do you not see how little you ask of me? You do not ask that I give my life or -- or endure an unbearable evil; you ask only that I keep you company, a favour I would beg of you to grant me. I know such peace with you, even in the storms of our lives; there is an undeniable blanketing peace when I am with you. I love you, not just during the days of sunlight and warmth but even more during the cold, stormy nights, for with you, I need not face them alone.”
Tears streamed down their faces.
“I love you, Frodo. I wish I could show you.”
“You do, sweet, every time you look at me.”
“As do you, beloved,” Lily whispered.
Frodo smiled warmly. “No more doubts... today.”
Lily returned the smile and nodded. “Not today.”
She finished the meal, and sipped at her cup of raspberry tea.
Felena entered with more warm towels, a soft smile touching her lips. “If you are finished, I shall clear away the dishes and remove those cooled towels.”
“Yes,” Lily smiled. “Thank you. This tea is truly quite lovely.”
“You might try it with a bit of honey instead of your favoured sugar,” the Elf smiled.
Lily giggled. “Next time.”
“I shall bring you another cup, with your next meal.”
“Tomorrow, or the next day, I shall tell you more concerning it.” Felena bowed, and left.
And Frodo and Lily curled together on their bed again.
To Lily’s surprise and delight, Frodo softly sang to her, until she drifted into a light slumber once more.
As he held his lover, Frodo allowed his mind to wander and a dim memory glimmered brighter. He was pleased he was able to grasp it and bring it to the fore. It was March, his illness, and Lily was caressing his feet.
When his wife woke again, Frodo slid down to the end of the bed and took her feet in his lap. “Would this be pleasant for you?” he asked kindly.
Lily nodded, shifted, and sighed.
Frodo started by gently running his hands over the bottom of each foot, then he combed his fingers through the hair on the top of her feet, delighting in the hints of auburn. He had never noticed the colour before. He was so accustomed to his own darkly furred feet; this was the first time he had carefully inspected the feet of another hobbit since those days, a lifetime ago -- in another life -- when he had rubbed his mum’s tired feet at the end of a long day.
He noticed Lily’s feet were smaller and more delicate than his own, but there were other differences as well.
“Sweet, what is this scar, on the top of your left foot? I’ve never noticed it before.”
Lily glanced down. “Yes, it’s barely noticeable now. When my friend Violet became a tween, -- she was born in August -- she decided to invite five of her friends for a picnic and water play, at the Brandywine, with every intention of enjoying a bit of a water fight.” Lily smiled, as the memory became clearer in her mind. “One of the lasses let on to the lads what was happening and invited them as well. One of the lads brought a cousin, from Longbottom, who pushed me in. I hit a rock when I fell.”
Lily glanced at him. “What? You are uncertain. I can feel it. Why?”
A rueful smile touched Frodo’s lips. “Sweet, how am I ever to hide anything?! I’m simply unsure of how to react. A part of me is furious someone hurt my dearest Lily, and yet I also know such things happen, from time to time, and it is truly neither malicious, nor even intended.”
Frodo absently combed through the hair on her feet. “I remember one of the lasses at Brandy Hall pinched me. I was perhaps nine or ten, and she was eight or nine. It surprised me, and I pinched her back. I did not mean to hurt her, but I did. She cried. I didn’t think I had pinched her that hard, and said so. My mother was quick to inform me I owed the lass an apology for hurting her. I obeyed, albeit reluctantly; then my mum took me aside to our rooms. She asked me to pinch myself as hard as I pinched the lass. I admitted it was harder than I thought. Of course, I reminded my mother that the lass had pinched me first. She then reminded me that I had been asked to apologize for hurting the lass, not for pinching her. She did not approve of me returning in kind, but she did understand why I had. But that did not concern her near so much as the thought that I didn’t care I had hurt someone else.”
“He didn’t mean to, Frodo... Everyone laughed at first, until they saw the blood. Then he apologized over and over, until it was almost as if he was hurt more than me. I assured him I was fine, but thought it best if I returned home, for my mother to see to the cut. I didn’t tell him it was a blessing, for I was quite tired by then, but did not want to spoil the fun everyone was having.”
“So you were able to enjoy some time there, and still leave when you were weary, without having to call attention...”
“Yes. In truth, Violet, when she first decided on the party, worried about me. I told her I would simply leave when I grew weary. So I didn’t have to explain, and Violet knew the real reason I was leaving. It was a memorable day, pleasantly so, overall. I haven’t thought about that scar in years.”
Frodo smiled, and began rubbing her feet again. He stopped abruptly, and blushed, when Felena silently entered with elevensies.
The Elf smiled. “Let me get you something.”
She slipped out, and returned moments later with a jar. “Use as much as suits you. There is more. You might start at her heels and work up to her toes.” She bowed slightly, and left the couple alone again.
Frodo opened the jar carefully and sniffed. “Smells like lavender.” He touched it. “It’s cool, and soft.” Then he dabbed his fingers in it and, starting at Lily’s heels, gently massaged the cream into her feet. He struggled to hide his self-satisfaction when his wife smiled and sighed contentedly.
Throughout the day, on and off, they chatted of childhood memories; some they had shared before, but enjoyed hearing again. And all the while, Frodo alternately held Lily and tenderly massaged her back and feet, with her murmuring her appreciation and drifting in and out of sleep.
13 August 1420sr
The hobbit couple spent the morning in their rooms. For their luncheon, Felena brought their food, along with another pot of raspberry tea.
“Thank you,” Lily smiled.
Felena noticed the merest reticence in the hobbit lass’s demeanor. “Please tell me what it is that concerns you, Lily.”
“I do not wish to be ungrateful. I thoroughly enjoyed the red raspberry leaf tea yesterday, and the first cup this morning, but the second wasn’t nearly as good...” she finished uncomfortably.
“Ah! You have less need of it, now.”
Lily’s eyes grew wide.
Felena smiled. “It is not an uncommon occurrence. What one needs is frequently sweet and delicious, but when one no longer needs the goodness offered, then it loses flavour. I suspect you shall enjoy another cup tomorrow morning. Mayhap some chamomile tea for now?”
Lily nodded, and smiled. “That would be lovely.”
Felena offered the customary bow and departed.
Frodo watched his wife’s eyes, amused he could almost see her mind working. “You must ask Felena to tell you more. Mrs. Longburrow would be very put out if you missed the opportunity.”
Lily laughed. “Indeed.”
“Would you like to spend tea with Uncle Bilbo?” Lily sought her husband’s eyes.
She sat on a chair in front of the empty fireplace in their bedroom, with Frodo sitting on the floor before her. He held her feet in his lap as he massaged them and combed the hair atop them.
Frodo paused in his task and glanced up at his wife. “Are you certain you’re up to it?”
Lily smiled. “I’m actually feeling remarkably better.” Her face became wistful. “There’s so little time left, my love.”
“Are you ready to return home, Lily-sweet?”
“No, and yes,” Lily giggled.
Frodo laughed. “Mayhap we have been here too long already, that you should sound like the Elves!”
Lily smiled broadly. “Listen to you! The pot calling the kettle black!” Then she became serious. “I look forward to being home again, but I think we could spend years and years here and still it would not be enough. Be that as it may, I’m feeling considerably better, and time with Bilbo is not Rivendell time, and it is far too short.”
Frodo smiled appreciatively. “Then we shall spend the rest of the day with Bilbo.”
With a nod from his wife, Frodo finished rubbing in the last of the cream, then washed his hands in the bowl of water he had set nearby. Then he patted dry her feet and his hands, and stood, offering Lily his hand.
After dinner, Bilbo nodded off, so Frodo and Lily followed through with their plan to make their way back to their rooms in a leisurely fashion, wandering through the gardens in the moonlight.
14 August 1420sr
Frodo and Lily sat side by side on a low bench in a garden filled with a diverse array of flowers -- daffodils, iris, hydrangea, lavender, clematis -- and many more they could not name. They had spent the morning there, mostly in companionable silence. Frodo held Lily’s hand in his own, content to enjoy the feel of her head on his shoulder. They shared an occasional smile, both reluctant to disrupt the peacefulness.
Lily allowed her mind to wander. Even a year ago, she could not have imagined they would be together now. A year ago, Frodo had already heard the vows of the King and Queen, and did not know he would use them for his own wedding to her.
“Frodo-love, would you tell me of the wedding of King Elessar and his Lady Arwen, again?”
They spoke only briefly of the previous summer, of what they were about, and what had transpired in those warmer months, before Frodo’s return in the autumn. Lily’s mother had already passed, and Frodo and company were headed to Edoras and home. Their conversation was interrupted by the appearance of a dark-haired Elf.
“Elrohir!” Frodo laughed. “We have seen you every night at supper, but nowhere else. If I did not know better, I would think you were avoiding us.”
The Elf bowed and sat lithely upon the ground beside the couple’s bench. “I needed to be certain information was not drawn from me too soon.” He smiled at Lily. “Felena warned me of your gift, my lady, and I dared not risk anyone knowing the reason for my journey.”
Lily blushed. “I cannot read the thoughts of others, sir.”
“No, my lady, but you do understand the hearts of others, even Elves, I have learned, and I dared not risk you guessing my purpose.”
Frodo raised his brows. “But you are able to reveal it to us now, or you would not be here -- do I surmise correctly?”
“As discerning as ever, Master Frodo,” the Elf smiled. “It is good indeed to see you so well. And yes, my journey’s purpose is finished. I have convinced my father to return to Minas Tirith with me, in a fortnight, to see his daughter’s child. She is beautiful, and shall break every heart in the kingdom.”
Frodo smiled and wanted to ask when and how the Elf had learned such an old Shire expression -- Men must use it, as well, he decided -- but Lily sat up straight beside him, her face full of excitement and eagerness.
“How wonderful!” she delighted.
Then Frodo watched the smile fade from her face. Her voice reflected the sadness she seemed to discern in Elrohir.
“What is the sorrow I sense within you -- ? -- oh! I’m terribly sorry. I’ve no business at all asking such a thing!”
Elrohir smiled sadly. “Please do not worry yourself on my account. I see now Felena did not underestimate your gift! I confess I am torn, my lady. I must choose between staying with my sister, in Minas Tirith, and leaving Middle-earth with my father. I have served long with Men, and find them worthy company. The choice is difficult, but it must be made.”
“I am so sorry,” Lily murmured. “What a horrible choice.”
The smile on Elrohir’s face softened. “My lady, we are all given difficult choices, are we not?”
Lily blinked. “Yes -- yes, we are, and choices are made alone, but they are somehow easier, if we may share an understanding with those we love.”
Elrohir glanced between the two hobbits. It had bothered him at first that his father had told him precious little about the Ring-bearer’s wife, but now he realized it would have been superfluous. All he needed to know was there before his eyes.
The Elf gave a respectful nod. “I noticed the map of Minas Tirith was on the table in the Conservatory.”
Frodo smiled. “Lily wished to see where the Quest led me. We were about to explore Minas Tirith, when Bilbo spirited us away.” The hobbit’s eyes brightened, and he turned to his wife. “Lily! Elrohir has just been at Minas Tirith; he could tell you ever so much more than I could. I imagine it has changed more than a little since I was there.”
Frodo turned back to the Elf. “That is, if you have the time...”
“Indeed, I do, and in fact had come to see if my services would be needed.”
The three made their way to the Conservatory, where Elrohir described the White City in elaborate detail.
Lily delighted in knowing each place Frodo had been, and Frodo was pleased to hear with what swiftness the city was being rebuilt.
On more than one occasion, Elrohir raised his hands in surrender when the couple asked different questions at the same time, then laughed. Silently, Elrohir watched the pair, knowing he would be queried thoroughly upon his return to Minas Tirith. His heart warmed, knowing the report would be pleasant indeed to relate.
And all too soon, it was time for the evening meal.
Lily and Frodo enjoyed the evening’s offerings, fingers intertwined.
Gradually, Lily felt the excitement of the day ebbing away, but also sensed at the edges of her thoughts her husband’s tightly reined desire for her. Soon, beloved, she sighed silently. Then she encouraged Frodo to stay in the Hall of Fire with Bilbo. Smiling, she murmured in her husband’s ear, “It will be easier on both of us, I think, if I’m asleep before you join me.”
Frodo grinned broadly, then kissed her cheek. “Thank you,” he whispered. “Sleep well, beloved.”