The day had been perfect. Lily struggled not to blush at the memory of her husband’s tender waking of her. He had patiently waited until he was certain she was indeed leaving sleep and dreams behind, then he began his gentle pursuit. Never had she imagined such fire could exist between two people; she wondered briefly if it would dim and mayhap go out, with time and the burden of family responsibilities. If they were indeed ever blessed with children... She pushed the unhappy thought away.
Lily realized it was true that for now their passion for each other flared easily. But their shared love was fresh and new. Would there come a time when they took each other for granted? She did not believe her beloved Frodo would ever do so, and promised herself neither would she. The near miss of their lives joining still frightened her, when she thought about it.
The decision was hers, every day, to be thankful for what Ilúvatar had given her, and to show that gratitude. Then she realized it meant nothing if she kept the joy inside, unshared. Every day, she promised herself, Frodo would know of her love for him, and her boundless happiness at being able to spend her life with him.
They had spent this day with Bilbo, and Gandalf for a time; but the wizard had left after elevensies, with no explanation. Lily smiled to herself, not that he ever offered any kind of explanation for his comings and goings.
Today, she felt her heart more keenly drawn with gentle persistence toward home, and yet a part of her longed to remain in Rivendell. She understood better Bilbo’s love for the Last Homely House, and why he had never returned to the Shire. This was now home to him. Her heart whispered it was home to Frodo as well, after a fashion. With a clarity that startled her, she realized she was all that held Frodo to the Shire, and mayhap to Middle-earth.
For a fleeting moment, she wondered at his choice. Had it indeed been his choice? She remembered again the darkness, and the agonizing days they spent talking of what would be best, and the hours they prayed, alone and together. And she knew more assuredly in her heart that Frodo’s home was with her.
Now, uncle and nephew sat at the little table in the older hobbit’s rooms, engrossed in quiet conversation. The pair were bent over a map, and Frodo was taking meticulous notes of what needed adding to his own map of Middle-earth at home in Bag End.
As though he felt her eyes on him, Frodo glanced up, and they shared their private smile. Then he once again bent his head to more carefully inspect some small detail Bilbo wanted to be sure the younger hobbit noted.
Bilbo asked once more about the Stone Trolls, and her husband recounted again how the creatures of the forest were claiming the statues for their own. So skillfully he diverted any question that might lead to how they themselves had spent their time there that Lily scarce could believe anything at all had happened, until Frodo winked at her surreptitiously. Then he returned his attention to his uncle, a small smile still upon his lips.
Lily felt herself blush, and smiled. She was comfortably settled in Bilbo’s rocking chair, savoring the pleasure of watching the two Bagginses interact. It surprised her to realize how many mannerisms the two shared. Frodo may not have grown up with his uncle, but the older hobbit had definitely influenced her husband in many ways.
Felena entered quietly, and shared a knowing smile with Lily. “The dinner hour is fast approaching.”
“Not fast enough,” observed Bilbo dryly.
The Elf maiden endeavored to hide her smile, but failed. “It shall be a special occasion, indeed, this last night in Rivendell.”
“Already?” Bilbo sighed. “Where did the time go? It seems like you only just arrived...”
Lily left the comfort of the old hobbit’s rocking chair to stand at his side. She reached down and kissed his cheek, then she grinned as he blushed to his toes.
“Yes, Uncle Bilbo, the time has simply flown. It has been so wonderful to be here.”
The old hobbit’s eyes brightened. “Then why don’t you stay here, my dear?”
Before Lily could answer, Frodo gently took her hand in his own. “If we don’t leave now, dear Bilbo, we shall find ourselves traveling mayhap too late in the season. It will be beautiful during the day, but uncomfortably cold at night. You’d not want us caught in an unexpected early snow, would you?”
“You didn’t seem to mind traveling in late October, last year,” Bilbo grumbled.
Frodo laughed. “We wanted to be home, Bilbo. By then, I think, we were willing to travel in a blizzard, if only we could see the Shire again.”
“Yes, well...” mumbled Bilbo, “I suppose... Off with you, then.”
“Will we see you at dinner?” Lily invited.
The old hobbit glowered, then sighed. “Yes, yes. I’ll be at dinner, and the festivities after.” His face softened, and he smiled at Lily. “Don’t want to miss a moment with you.”
Lily pinked, and Frodo laughed, “Now, Uncle Bilbo, you’re not going to try and steal her from me, are you?”
Bilbo lifted his chin. “Maybe.”
Frodo studied his uncle with a twinkle in his eye. “Mayhap we do not leave too soon, but too late...”
The two stared hard at each other, then laughed.
“Frodo, my lad, I shall miss you, and your lovely bride, but it is indeed time for the two of you to be heading for home. Now, off with you, before Felena takes me to task for making you late for dinner!” He glanced at the Elf and winked.
Felena gave the old hobbit an imperious gaze, then smiled and escorted the younger Bagginses from the room.
Lily watched her husband straighten and re-straighten his waistcoat in the mirror. “The bells haven’t rung, but I’m ready.” She smiled at his questioning gaze.
Frodo’s face turned crimson, as he realized he had been fidgeting, and his wife knew it. “We could go early. Would you like that, sweet?”
“Yes, I would.” She grinned, and took his proffered arm.
They walked arm in arm to the Feasting Hall. No one was present but one or two Elves preparing the tables, so the couple slipped quietly onto the balcony.
“I’ve never seen the sky such a soft blue,” Lily murmured. “And look how the clouds are tinged in pink by the setting sun. It’s so beautiful.”
She noted her husband nodded, but did not reply, and she followed his gaze to the south. They could not see far, for the mountains shielded the valley, but the view was breathtaking. To Lily’s mind, the forests of Rivendell seemed wild and tame at the same time.
As the Sun sank deeper, the sky in the west turned dark red, blending into the coming black night. “It looks almost as if the forest is on fire,” Lily murmured.
Frodo pulled her closer, but said nothing, his gaze still searching the far away horizon.
With a silent sigh, Lily leaned her head against her husband’s shoulder, content to stand with him in the gloaming.
The Sun was nearly gone, and the final meal of the day would soon begin.
“What are you thinking, my love?” Lily wondered aloud softly.
A deep sigh escaped Frodo. “We’ve a new King and Queen, sweet. Did I ever tell you the Shire was protected by Men, like Aragorn and Boromir, for centuries, without the hobbits ever knowing it?”
Lily sensed her husband was not sad. “We’ve been so blessed.”
“Yes.” Frodo turned fully to his wife and gazed into her eyes. “We are very blessed, indeed.”
They watched the golden orb dip lower still, then vanish into the West. Then they turned together to see the white-faced Moon peeking over the mountains into the valley, from the East.
Frodo softly kissed his wife’s forehead.
An inviting smile touched Lily’s mouth as she gazed up into his eyes.
His heart leapt, and his breathing quickened. Slowly, he lowered his head, pausing to share several breaths with her. Then he caressed her lips with his own, tasting the sweetness she offered.
The bells for the evening meal sounded throughout Rivendell.
Lily sat at table quietly watching and listening. Adber had been invited to join the meal, but had declined, wishing to serve the Ring-bearer and his consort for as long as possible, including their travel to the Last Bridge together.
Her husband had smiled at her, and whispered he thought it endearing that she found such adulation baffling, but accepted the request with grace and appreciation.
The quick grin from him now told her she had unwittingly squeezed his hand, then he returned to his conversation with Gandalf and Elrond.
Across from her, Felena and Elrohir spoke quietly. What would it be like to know one you loved would be leaving, never to return -- that they might not ever meet again? Lily swallowed and hoped, by the grace of Ilúvatar, someday they would all meet once more.
Felena glanced across the table at the little hobbit, and smiled reassuringly. Lily returned the smile, then overheard Frodo speaking to Gandalf.
“I believed I could never pick up the threads of my old life...”
“Did you?” Gandalf queried. “What of your life now is like your old life?”
“I live in Bag End, see Sam, and Merry and Pippin and Fatty...”
“What else is the same as your old life?”
Frodo drew his brows together, considering for several moments. “I did not pick up the old threads, at all...”
“No,” Gandalf smiled fondly.
Lily saw the small twinkle of affection in his eyes, which she had come to know so well. She watched Frodo look straight ahead, and blink once, then turn to Gandalf once more, and knew there was a question in his eyes.
Gandalf went on. “You started with the new threads given to you, though a very few of the old were included, offering a comfortable familiarity to the weaving; but all is new for you, dear Frodo.”
Lily’s breath caught in her throat at the sight of her husband beaming up at the old wizard, reflected clearly there in Gandalf’s eyes for her to see. She must have tightened her hold on her lover’s hand again, for he turned to her and offered her the same dazzling smile. She felt her heart skip several beats.
She watched him lean forward and knew he meant to kiss her, then he stopped, realizing now was neither the time nor the place. He sighed, and she sighed with him, each holding the gaze of the other. Then Frodo turned again to Gandalf and Elrond, and Lily gazed around the table.
The mood was cheerful and subdued at the same time, and the paradox of the Elves stuck her once more.
Beside her, Bilbo woke from his dozing with a slight start. Lily touched his arm to ensure he stayed atop his cushions.
The old hobbit stared first at the small hand on his arm, then allowed his eyes to travel gradually upward, until he met the warm expression on Lily’s face.
“You are quite lovely, my dear.”
Lily blushed pink.
Bilbo seemed to realize he had quite unintentionally voiced what he was thinking, and shifted uneasily on his cushions. Then he declared irritably under his breath, “I’ve not prepared a single poem or song for tonight’s festivities.”
A smile crept across Lily’s mouth. “Then Frodo and I shall be able to sit with you by the fire the whole of the evening?”
It was Bilbo’s turn to flush crimson. “Well, yes, I suppose so... that would be nice... very lovely... very nice of the two of you to...” the old hobbit sputtered. In an effort to regain some control of his emotions, Bilbo abruptly added, “Is there anything else you’d like, my dear?” He made a sweeping motion with his hand over the table. “There’s still plenty of food...”
“Thank you, Uncle Bilbo... I’m -- I’m quite satisfied. I shall miss the Elvish delicacies...”
Bilbo settled more comfortably. “Yes... Shire food is the best there is, but the Elves decidedly possess a few tricks of their own. I did try preparing some of the dishes after my adventures with the Dwarves, when I returned home again, but it simply wasn’t the same...”
Lily kept a giggle loosely in check. “I suppose Sam would declare it is because of the dash of Elvish magic thrown in.”
The old hobbit laughed out loud. “Indeed, he would! Indeed, he would.”
As Bilbo finished speaking, Elrond smiled and stood, indicating it was time to proceed to the Hall of Fire.
Frodo helped Lily down, and with a rascally grin, Bilbo took Lily’s other arm, walking slowly with the couple into the festivities.
A soft sigh escaped Lily as she settled beside her husband, at Bilbo’s feet, and then she lost herself in the beauty of the words and music. From the corner of her eye, she watched as the old hobbit tentatively laid his hand lightly on her husband’s head. Her heart tightened as a fresh realization dawned; it was not unlike a parent tenderly stroking his child’s hair. Then she felt her husband gently enfold her hand within his own, and a deep sense of longing and well being echoed through her.
Lily allowed herself to lean closer to her husband, her head nestled against his shoulder. She gazed about the room, carefully studying the faces, wanting to remember each and every one, for someday, when this moment had slipped far into the past. She tightened her hand about her lover’s, then she carefully interlaced their fingers, finding an unexpected comfort of her own in being able to lay her finger across the empty space; this moment was real, not of dreams.
The moon rose higher in the sky as Frodo found his gaze drifting to the view beyond the minstrels. His wife’s warmth beside him was a comfort. Feeling Bilbo’s touch awoke a long-lost memory of his mother. She had stroked his hair in the same manner, whenever he had sat at her feet while listening to stories told by his uncle. So long ago it had been, and yet the memories swelled his heart still. Would his Lily give their children the same memory?
His heart beat a little quicker as the center of his thoughts shifted closer to him, and a not entirely unexpected flash of desire filled his breast. With an effort, he concentrated on the lyrics being sung by one of the Lothlórien Elves. As the last strains faded into the night, he realized his attempt was pointless, with the sweet honeysuckle fragrance of his wife wafting around him. And he began to wonder if he had eaten anything at all this evening, as his hunger for her grew. Would she be too weary from the night’s festivities?
He cut his thoughts short, struggling to enjoy the moment, this last night in Rivendell, with Lily beside him. Never had he dreamed such bliss might be his. He reflected more deeply. In truth, his dreams had always held a peaceful and yet faintly lonely feeling; this had never stirred any sorrow within him... but now... now, the mere thought of not sharing his life with Lily roused an aching grief. Then, just as swiftly, his heart soared, knowing his lover was with him, now and always, no matter what the future would bring.
The moon rose higher until it could no longer be seen through the open archways.
Bilbo snored softly, and Lily found herself searching for and finding Felena, where she sat with Elrohir, their heads close together. Lily was certain the pair were endeavoring to share enough to last until they met again, if they met again.
Then Felena glanced up, and caught Lily’s gaze. The Elf turned briefly to her companion, and Elrohir also glanced in the same direction. They stood together, and unobtrusively made their way to the hobbits.
Felena bent low and whispered, “Are you ready to retire, my lady?”
Lily glanced around the room once more and realized the singing might very well go on all night. She sighed, “Yes...” and turned to Frodo. “If you are...”
Felena watched the Ring-bearer search his wife’s eyes, without looking about the room.
“I’m ready,” Frodo murmured. He determinedly dismissed his fleeting disappointment that his lover was weary, pushing away the thought that this was their last night in a bed.
They left Bilbo sleeping peacefully, and bowed and curtsied hand in hand, as all the Elves present paused and bowed to the couple. Then Frodo escorted Lily back to their rooms, with Lily stopping here and there, wanting to take in the sights and sounds of Rivendell in the deep of night one last time.
When they reached their room, Frodo closed the door and set to readying himself for bed, reminding himself his wife was weary. When he entered the bedroom, he glanced about and found her standing on the balcony. He blew out most of the candles, steeling himself to join her and not ask her for anything.
With a steadying breath, he stepped beside her, and gazed out over Rivendell. His breath caught in his throat as she twined her arms about his neck and pressed herself close to him. He took a shuddering breath before carefully wrapping his arms about her.
He allowed his eyes to close as she slowly caressed the line of his jaw with her soft lips, working her way up to his ear. An uncontrollable trembling started at his head and rippled down to his toes, and he tightened his hold on his wife.
Then she slid her hands into his thick dark curls, pulling his head closer, so she could whisper in his ear, “I love you, Frodo Baggins,” and she kissed the tip of his ear.
“Lily Baggins,” Frodo breathed, and swallowed hard, “I love you.”
A soft sigh escaped his lover, and she tenderly kissed his cheek, then murmured, “This is our last night in a feather bed...”
Before he could reply, Lily covered his mouth with her own, revealing the depth of her hunger for him.
21 August 1420sr
Lily stretched lazily, and felt her husband tighten his hold about her waist. She smiled as he murmured incoherent words in his sleep, then buried his nose in her hair and settled quietly once more.
Gently she turned to him, then gathered him tenderly into her arms. She reveled in their soft bed, not needing to remind herself they would not see another for weeks.
She trailed the tip of her finger across the warmth of his bare shoulder, down his arm to the back of his hand, then up to his shoulder once more. Her husband stirred but did not awaken, so she continued to lightly caress her lover’s skin.
When they undressed each other yesternight they agreed between kisses to enjoy this night to the fullest, for neither wished to end the perfection of the slight breeze caressing their skin. Soon enough, Lily knew, the nights on their journey home would be too chill for this luxury...
The lightening of the sky hinted at the coming dawn. Her smile broadened as she remembered purposefully waking her lover in the middle of the night, and doubted he would mind if she woke him now. In fact, she was certain he would welcome it, if the night were anything to go by...
A shiver raced through her when he shifted his weight, holding her closer still, his furred foot brushing hers. She struggled to calm herself, to more clearly sense his feelings. He would wake soon.
Then he nestled his head against her, and all thoughts flew from her mind but the pleasure of sharing this moment with the one she had dreamed of for so many years. Now, he was here, in her arms, warm and loving. Then she felt the change within him. He was awake, but not yet aware. She had learned on this very journey it was important to him to be alert enough to be more perceptive of her wants and needs; she persisted in caressing him lightly.
He curled into her, and she caught her breath. Why did this simple response affect her so?
“Good morning, Lily-sweet,” Frodo murmured against her.
She closed her eyes at the feel of his breath feathering across her skin. A sigh slipped out as she whispered, “Frodo, my dearest love, good morning.”
He raised his head just enough to gaze into his wife’s eyes. Unexpectedly, relief flooded through him. She showed no weariness at all. His heart leapt as he recognized the desire in her eyes. He knew the smile he felt inside himself was quickly spreading across his face, and all words left his mind but a few...
“You are so beautiful...” He watched in awe as she lowered her eyes in blushing acknowledgement of the compliment, then met his gaze again. His breath caught in his throat; her eyes were almost completely green. For a brief moment he thought he must surely look away, for never could he have imagined such love and devotion, meant solely for him. How had this happened?
“How could you be?” he whispered.
Lily searched her husband’s eyes, questioning. She was not yet ready to tell him, and Elrond had told her to wait...
“No shadows,” Frodo smiled, and stroked her hair, studying its colour. His eyes met hers again. “I did not expect an answer. I had forgotten you possessed one. When the time is right will be soon enough for me to know, beloved.”
Then he closed the small space between them, and offered a tender kiss. He trembled as his lover slid her fingers into his curls, lengthening the caress. The suddenness of his deepening desire took his breath away once more, but it no longer mattered.
The morning was spent lazily, in Bilbo’s company, as the old hobbit had risen early, so as to be able to spend the brief time left with the couple from the Shire.
“Before second breakfast!” he declared, in an injured tone.
The hobbits laughed. Frodo knew they were all trying to pretend their departure was not coming at all.
Lily struggled to keep her tears at bay, as she remembered gratefully there was no need to pack. Felena had assured her it would be done. The Elf then told the hobbits they need only be ready and waiting in the main courtyard when the Sun reached its apex. Felena had explained to Lily that though the Elves usually traveled by night, under cover of darkness, they were making an exception this time, at least to start. As they were traveling with the hobbit couple, they would travel in the full light of day for the first few days, until they parted ways at the Last Bridge.
Bilbo did his utmost to ignore the tears he saw in the hobbit lass’s eyes, and endeavored even harder not to notice his nephew’s solicitousness towards his bride. A part of him had been disappointed at first, upon learning of his nephew’s marriage. He had hoped that he might be with Frodo once more. But having watched the couple for almost a month now, he knew more certainly than ever that his nephew’s place was with this lovely lass.
The hobbits stood together quietly in the courtyard as the midday breezes cooled them in the face of the Sun’s heat. Lily gazed about her one last time, as Frodo and Bilbo talked in low tones. She endeavored to think of other things, not of goodbyes. Gazing up toward the Sun, she recalled how many times she had seen her husband glance up at the Sun, only to look away instantly, as if it carried memories too painful to bear. She knew what those memories were, for Frodo, and for Samwise... she would think on something else...
Then she watched Frodo walk over to check on their ponies, greeting each in turn, and the old hobbit patted her arm. “Not to worry, dear; once you’ve seen Rivendell, you never forget it. I know,” he assured.
Lily had not intended to voice her thought, but then it slipped out. “I know I shall remember it all my days, Uncle Bilbo, but already I wish I could see it again, one day...”
A knowing smile spread across the older hobbit’s face. “It does have that effect, but you have other things to draw you home to the Shire. It’s where you belong...” Bilbo leaned in close to her, and nodded to Frodo who was returning. “It’s where he belongs.”
“Thank you,” Lily whispered, for her voice was gone.
Elrohir offered his farewells to the couple, assuring them he would give his warmest regards to Aragorn and Arwen, on their behalf. Then he took Felena aside.
And Lily noticed Elrond take his place, in the same spot on which he had waited for their arrival almost a month before. Everyone present turned to him; then Gandalf appeared from one of the corridors and stood just behind the Elf lord. Lily held Frodo’s hand in her left, their fingers intertwined, and she gently clasped Bilbo’s hand in her right.
The Master of Rivendell pushed away the sorrow engulfing him.
“My friends, the Last Homely House has been richly blessed by the presence of your company. Thank you for sharing the beauty of your homes in song and verse. And to our friends of the Shire...”
No one missed the catch in the Master’s voice.
Elrond found himself unable to continue. He struggled, then finally murmured, “Nai Tiruvantel ar varyuvantel l Valar tielyanna nu vilya. May the Valar protect you on your path under the sky.”
To the surprise of all, Lily broke from her husband and his uncle and flew into the somber Elf-lord’s arms. He knelt and held her awkwardly, then gently wrapped his arms around the small weeping form.
Then Lily stepped back, but kept her hands on the Master’s shoulders. She whispered through her tears, “Thank you, so much, for everything.”
Elrond searched her eyes and knew those few words encompassed a wealth of meaning. “I shall never forget you, my lady,” he admitted. The tears he did not shed were evident in his voice.
“Nor I you, my lord.” Lily smiled, then kissed his cheek, and released him.
She turned to Gandalf, who was slightly more prepared as he knelt to receive the embrace offered him. She pulled back a little, and studied the old wizard’s face, tears still streaming down her cheeks.
“Gandalf,” she whispered, “shall we see you again?” Her bottom lip trembled, and her tears flowed more freely. “I shall not, shall I...”
Though she had uttered it in the form of a question, she knew it to be a statement of truth.
Tears pricked Gandalf’s eyes. “One never knows, dear Lily, what Ilúvatar has planned. We cannot see all ends.”
Lily smiled appreciatively. “But you shall see Frodo again...”
Gandalf’s eyes widened in surprise. “Your gift has grown stronger.” Then he smiled. “Do not tell me more, my lady. Ever shall you be in my thoughts...”
“And you in mine, dearest Gandalf. Thank you... no words are adequate for all you’ve given...”
“Nay, my lady,” the wizard murmured. “You have given a gift I can never repay.” And he glanced once at Frodo standing beside Bilbo, then back into Lily’s eyes. “I shall not tell you all I see, but know this: your courage to accept the adventure given to you shall be richly rewarded.”
Lily’s heart leapt and she held the wizard tightly once more, then she reluctantly released him and quickly brushed the tears from her face; the wind picked up in that moment, and she blinked harder. She glanced at her husband, and he smiled as he joined her, then he briefly embraced both the Master of Rivendell and the wizard, without a word.
They bowed and curtsied and made for their ponies, but stopped at the sight of Bilbo. Lily embraced the old hobbit, and kissed each wizened cheek, tears shimmering in her eyes. Then she stepped away, to allow Frodo to say his goodbye.
A small smile touched Frodo’s lips.
“Well, goodbye then,” mumbled Bilbo, struggling to hold back tears.
The older hobbit gasped in surprise as his nephew pulled him abruptly into a tight embrace.
“I’ll miss you, Bilbo,” Frodo choked.
The old hobbit sniffled loudly, then managed to hoarsely reply, “And I you, lad.”
They stood together for several moments, then gradually drew apart. Both wiped away their tears with a sleeve, then chuckled weakly.
Bilbo cleared his throat. “Give the Gaffer my best.”
“Indeed we will,” Frodo promised.
Each searched the other’s eyes for a moment longer, then Lily lightly touched Frodo’s arm; the Elves were ready and patiently waiting, their magnificent steeds pawing the ground in anticipation.
Frodo glanced at his wife, then back at his uncle, and they exchanged a smile.
“Take care of yourselves,” Bilbo ordered.
“We will,” Frodo and Lily answered together, and they shared a final laugh.
Then Frodo helped Lily up onto her pony, Merry, and swung up onto Strider. Felena and Adber held their horses back, waiting for the couple.
With a final glance and raised hands in farewell, Lily and Frodo turned their ponies to the path, leading away from Rivendell.