Within the comfort of their bower, Lily nestled deeper into her husband’s embrace and remembered the past several days...
No one had spoken as they rode out of the valley. She had endeavored to drink in every sight and sound, even the aromas -- to make the very air of Rivendell and its valley forever a part of herself. She knew it was impossible. Nevertheless, she opened her senses, realizing her memories must last a lifetime; forever.
Frodo had shared their private smile with her from time to time.
Felena and Adber rode behind them, ready to provide anything the couple might need.
Then they had reached the Ford. Lily studied it, wanting to remember her husband’s story and the impression it made upon her, as well as her brief vision of him on the Elvish steed.
The small company stopped long enough to water the horses and ponies, and then moved on again.
As they rode into the late afternoon, Lily wondered if they had yet passed the cave where she and Frodo had spent that rainy day, short on food, yet warm and happy to be together.
Then Frodo drew abreast of her and pointed through the trees.
“Sweet, if you are searching, the cave we took shelter in is just through there. I imagine some creature of the forest inhabits it now.”
Lily smiled. “Mayhap a family of foxes? Like the fox we saw?”
Frodo returned the smile. “Mayhap.”
“It seems so much longer than a mere month ago,” she murmured.
“Before long, it will seem like only yesterday,” he assured with a grin. “It is the way of things, when Rivendell is involved. Its memory seems only to grow sharper with time.”
“I’ll miss it, my love, and Bilbo.”
“Yes, as will I, but Rivendell has a way of lodging itself irrevocably in your heart...” His voice suddenly caught. “To have been permitted to share it with you...” He swallowed hard, but could not continue.
Shimmering tears echoed in Lily’s eyes. “We have been blessed, so very blessed.” Then her eyes widened as she sensed her husband open himself more fully to her.
He searched her eyes, and she knew his purpose was to share what he was feeling, knowing she would understand even if the intimacy could not be reciprocated openly because of their company.
As the Sun set, the Elves situated their camp in a clearing just off the road, and provided everything needed for the comfort of the hobbits and the horses.
Felena and Adber ensured food and drink for the hobbit couple was meted out swiftly. Adber had found a bower perfectly suited for them as well, a little away from the company. It offered the couple some privacy, and the opportunity to sleep comfortably.
Lily had encouraged her husband to chat with the Elves as long as he wished, knowing he did not need as much rest as she did. He smiled and accepted her gift, but only for an hour. Then she felt him come to their bed, and without hesitation, she nestled close to him. A smile touched her lips as she felt him chuckle and wrap his arms about her.
They had slept well, and had risen in the morning to find the Elves ready to depart but for breakfast. Then while they were riding, Felena taught Lily all she could of herbs and their benefits, while Frodo and Adber spoke of the history of Lothlórien.
The Elves provided for all their meals, and Adber took care of their ponies, allowing Frodo and Lily the opportunity to rest as much as possible. Even so, Felena knew the Ring-bearer’s consort would be unable to continue at this pace. A few more days of travel, and then they would need to continue on ahead, leaving the hobbit couple behind to take a day of rest. Her heart quelled; then she reminded herself that the couple needed to finish the rest of the journey alone.
That evening, once again, Adber found a bower for the little couple to sleep in, far enough away for a bit of privacy, but still they would be able to hear the singing of the Elves throughout the night.
And again, Lily encouraged her husband to stay and enjoy the company of the Elves for a time, while she retired early. For a brief moment, she felt an unexpected jealously that her husband could spend this extra time with the Elves, without her, but just as quickly a surge of gratitude flowed over her that she felt safe enough to encourage him, knowing it would be a very long time before such an opportunity arose again for him, and knowing it was more important to him than to her.
It was several hours later when Frodo finally joined her in their bower. A part of him worried she might not be aware of his return; then he chastised himself for the thought. She was ever aware of him, and he worried he might wake her.
He settled carefully beside his wife, and breathed deeply, wondering if he would smell her honeysuckle, but the scent of pine all about them was too strong. Mayhap if he had retired earlier, as yesternight, she would have sought his embrace. And again he brought himself up short, reminding himself she had encouraged him to keep company with the Elves, knowing how much it meant to him.
He lay awake, on his back, gazing up through the branches; a few stars were visible. A silent sigh escaped him, and he closed his eyes, wishing he could take his wife in his arms. Instead, he turned his thoughts to her, increasingly aware of her nearness and warmth. How grateful he was for her.
Gradually he relaxed, peace stealing over him. Then he turned on his side, so he could face her. He smiled to himself, surprised to realize this simple action helped him feel closer to her.
When he woke in the morning his heart constricted. Lily was nestled against him, her hand tucked inside his waistcoat, and her fingers curled around his back, holding his shirt tightly. When did he unbutton his waistcoat for her? Or had she done it herself?
He wondered if she were awake or asleep, and did not wish to move until he was certain. Then he heard her voice, soft and unintelligible. A smile crept across his face, for he recognized the sound as one she made only when she was close to waking. He gently stroked her auburn tresses, reveling in the softness.
Then he felt her wake, her hand opening wide against his back, pulling him closer. He heard Lily sigh as he slid his arms about her, then he trembled, for she nestled her head against his shoulder. His breathing quickened.
Frodo was wholly unable to help himself; he kissed his wife’s forehead, then her temple, and her cheek. He took a shuddering breath, and kissed the tip of her ear, then tenderly covered her mouth with his own. His own heartbeat quickened at the sound of her pleasure in their kiss. Then he heard musical voices in the distance and remembered the Elves. Lily seemed to become aware of them as well, for she buried her face in his shoulder. His breath caught in his throat when she finally raised her face to his, for he saw clearly the desire there.
They took deep breaths together, and shared rueful smiles, then rose together to greet the day, and the Elves awaiting them.
As on the day before, Felena rode beside Lily, sharing herb lore with her, and Frodo rode with Adber, delving further into Elvish history.
From time to time, Lily glanced about her, endeavoring to recognize where they were.
Toward the end of the afternoon, Frodo nudged Strider to catch up to her, and Felena held her horse back to ride with Adber.
Frodo leaned in close to his wife and murmured, “Just through those trees is where the Stone Trolls are.”
Lily followed his gaze, then looked back at him and smiled, and though she struggled to stop herself, she suddenly realized she was blushing, and giggled.
Frodo chuckled with her, then wondered aloud, “Are you sorry we shan’t be visiting?”
Lily considered the question before answering. “I think not, for it wouldn’t be the same, would it? And this way, the memory of our time there is singular.” She wrinkled her nose, then smiled. “I like that idea. It somehow seems right, for such a singular place.” She searched her husband’s eyes, wondering if he understood. Then her smile broadened, matching his.
As the Sun hid herself from view, streaking the dusk with blue and purple, the Elves guided them off the road to a clearing, where they would share their last night together.
Lily chose to remain with Frodo and the Elves, knowing that the travel on the morrow would end in the early afternoon, and that afterward she and her husband would have an extra day to rest before continuing on.
Lily did not recall being carried to their bower, but she must have been, for the last thing she remembered was nestling close to Frodo, listening to the Elves sing. Today would be their last day with them. Her heart constricted at the thought. To her startled surprise, she realized her husband must have sensed her distress, for he gathered her closer gently, and rubbed her back.
“I’ll miss them, Frodo-love,” she whispered.
“Yes, sweet,” he murmured, and kissed her hair, just above her ear.
Lily took a deep, shuddering breath, then released it slowly. Her husband continued to rub her back gently with one hand and stroked her hair with the other. Finally, she gave in to her heart, and wept against his shoulder. He held her more tightly, and kissed her cheek several times. It warmed her further that he did not shush her, nor utter meaningless assurances about seeing their friends again someday. Then she felt a warm tear on her forehead, and she realized her lover was weeping with her. And she wrapped her arms about him, holding him snugly.
Their tears gradually subsided. Then they rose together; it was time to start this, their last day with their friends.
Felena rode beside Lily, but this day they rode quietly. Lily opened herself more fully to her friend, and was rewarded by Felena wordlessly sharing her feelings more freely. They both found an unexpected comfort in the giving.
Lily could hear behind her that Adber had managed to coax Frodo into speaking of his own time in Lothlórien. She could also sense that both of them drew strength from the telling. Fresh tears neared, and Felena laid a gentle hand lightly on her shoulder.
They shared a smile, and talked of the day’s late summer warmth and calm, the blue of the sky, and the woods about them, until they both suddenly stopped. Lily and Felena gazed at each other, then back at Frodo and Adber, who returned the knowing look.
Felena spoke. “It is the river. We should reach the Last Bridge soon.” She gave each of her three companions an encouraging smile, then they all nudged their mounts forward.
Less than a quarter of an hour passed when the path cleared away to reveal an open gorge, spanned by a stone bridge.
Adber murmured, “The Last Bridge. We shall set up your camp in the clearing of which Frodo told me, and rest our horses, then be on our way once more.” He looked sadly at the hobbits, knowing he did not need to mention they would not be accompanying the main party further.
The four friends shared another sad smile, then moved across the bridge, the last of the company to reach the other side, leaving the Trollshaws behind.
Lily glanced back, and a flood of memories washed over her. She hoped Felena’s attention was elsewhere, as she did not wish to share these.
Frodo pulled up Strider beside his wife, and followed her gaze, then he laid his hand tenderly over hers, still holding Merry’s reins.
With a heavy sigh, Lily turned toward him, resting herself in his gaze.
He rewarded her further with a smile, and her heart sang, then he spoke. “It was a wonderful visit, sweet. Thank you.”
“For what?” Lily drew her brows together in confusion.
“For wanting to make the journey with me -- the whole of it.”
Lily smiled softly. “I shan’t forget it.”
“Neither shall I.”
“And ne’er would I have willingly been denied it, my love.”
Then Frodo leaned close and brushed his wife’s lips with his own. He whispered against her mouth, “Tonight, Mistress Baggins, we’ll create new memories...”
Lily blushed and choked a little, then murmured, “I look forward to it very much, Mister Baggins.”
The couple shared a mischievous smile, then clicked their ponies on to catch up to Felena and Adber.
Strider whinnied, eager to be going on, and Merry snorted in reply.
As Frodo and Adber took the ponies to settle them for the night, Felena drew Lily aside. She stood with her back to the others to afford more privacy, then she presented Lily with a large rich brown leather-bound book.
“I regret it is not smaller, my lady.”
Lily drew her brows together. “Is there a reason I should endeavor to conceal it from Frodo?”
Felena smiled, grateful Lily was able to discern her meaning. “He may not be entirely at ease with it, just yet. In time, share it with him.”
“Why would he not care for it?” Lily wondered, unable to hide her discomfort at the thought of needing to hide anything more from Frodo. Hiding the truth of his healing was growing burdensome, and more so when Lord Elrond had admonished her to wait another year longer yet...
“Do not fear, my lady. It is the history of the Elves, down to the end... to now... Here...” She quickly found the page she was looking for, toward the end of the book. “Let me translate for you.”
Lily stared, wide-eyed, as the Elf read the brief account of Frodo, the Hafling, and his servant destroying the Ring. Her voice dropped to a whisper. “But there is no mention of--”
Felena delicately covered the hobbit’s lips with one finger, looking behind her briefly, then removed it. “No, my lady. This is the tale that shall be told in Valinor... No other. Many years from now, give this book to your husband to translate. By then, I think, he shall be prepared.”
Lily nodded, and gently ran her hand over the volume. “I’ll find a place for it... I cannot imagine where I shall keep it on our journey home...” She raised worried eyes to the Elf’s.
Felena gently removed the book from the little hobbit’s hands. “I wanted you to see it, so you would recognize it when you returned home. I have sought permission from Lord Elrond, and received it, to deliver this book to your home, as we shall reach the Shire well before you. Is there a room in which I might place it? Where only you might find it?”
Lily thought for only a moment, then smiled. “Yes. Inside the front door and straight down the front hall, there is a room to the right. It is my room. I think you’ll be able to tell by the things there. It’s quite cluttered, as I haven’t yet had the opportunity to find proper places for everything.”
“I shall place the book there, my lady,” Felena nodded in satisfaction.
A tear slipped down the hobbit’s face. “I shall miss you, Felena. You are a good and dear friend.”
Though the Elf blinked furiously, tears streamed down her cheeks. “My lady,” she bowed low. “I shall miss you all of my life.”
Lily’s eyes widened. “That is a terribly long time, my friend. I believe I understand far better the sorrow of the Elves that I have been feeling all this time. Perhaps we will meet again, at the end of all things.”
“My dearest wish, my -- friend.” And the Elf’s voice disappeared.
Frodo watched afar off, as the Elf maiden and his wife embraced. A new gratitude filled his breast at being blessed with a wife such as his.
Adber tentatively laid his hand on Frodo’s shoulder. The Elf’s breath caught as stark blue eyes met his, then he smiled.
“It is time.” The Elf noted with an ache in his chest the sudden pain in Frodo’s clear face; then the hobbit nodded.
They watched as Lily reached up and took Felena’s hand as they walked across the clearing toward them.
Finally, the four friends stood together, surrounded by the rest of the Elven company.
Adber bowed low, then dropped to one knee. “It has been an honour to serve the Ring-bearer and his consort. Thank you for the privilege.”
Frodo and Lily stepped to either side of him, and each laid a hand on the Elf’s shoulder.
Lily waited until Adber met her steady gaze, then she murmured through her tears. “Thank you for your kindness and friendship.”
She kissed his cheek, quickly embraced him, and released him.
Frodo smiled. “Thank you, Adber, for your service and friendship.” Then he embraced the Elf as well, releasing him swiftly.
Adber stood, and stepped aside for Felena.
Frodo held Lily’s hand tightly. He smiled up at the Elf maiden. “Thank you for everything you’ve done for us.”
Felena inclined her head. She smiled as Frodo took her hand and kissed the back of it.
Then Frodo released Lily. She glanced at him, and he nodded.
Lily turned to Felena, who dropped to one knee. The hobbit wrapped her arms around the Elf’s neck, and wept. After a moment she eased back, and searched her friend’s eyes. They smiled, realizing no words were necessary between them. Gradually, Lily released Felena.
The other Elves bid silent farewells; then they mounted their noble horses and departed, disappearing into the gold of the late afternoon light, softly singing.
Frodo and Lily watched and listened until all sign of the Elves had passed.
Lily turned to her lover, and gratefully found herself wrapped in his warm embrace, sharing their tears at the parting of dear friends. A heavy sigh escaped her, as her tears finally subsided.
“Sweet, you need to eat something. The Elves have left more than enough food for us, not including everything packed on Pippin.”
“I’m thinking we’ll not need to worry about running out of supplies this time?” Lily smiled.
“Decidedly not.” Frodo grinned. “I confess though, I am looking forward very much to your cooking again, at Bag End. At home...”
A frown crossed Lily’s face, and Frodo searched her eyes. “What is it, sweet?”
“How do they bear it, Frodo? This sorrow of parting, knowing they shall never journey to the same place as -- as mortals?”
Frodo sighed, and drew Lily with him to where the food was waiting on a blanket covering a large, flat rock.
When still he did not answer, Lily murmured, “Frodo-love?”
“I do not know, Lily-sweet.”
They filled their plates, settled on the blanket spread for them, and ate their meal in companionable silence, enjoying the Sun’s warmth on their faces.
Frodo had not forgotten his promise to create new memories, but he was no longer certain Lily desired such attention. He knew she struggled to hold back tears. With an inward sigh, he put away his desire for her, while he put away their plates and the food they had not eaten. There would be plenty for supper as well as the whole of the next day without opening anything packed for their journey.
Out of the corner of his eye Frodo saw Lily lay down on their blanket, curling up on her side. He set the plates back on the blanket-covered rock they had used as their table, and laid on his back beside Lily. He clasped his hands behind his head, and gazed up into the blue sky. It would be a few more hours until the Sun set.
The ponies could be heard snuffling as they grazed in the grasses not far from them. Frodo was glad to realize there would be no need to bathe the animals on the morrow, as they had on the journey to Rivendell. He and Lily would simply be able to enjoy the whole of the day, relaxing and resting.
Frodo glanced at his wife, expecting her to be asleep. His heart clenched, and his throat tightened as he watched a tear squeeze out from beneath her lashes and drip to the blanket. He pulled Lily into his arms gently, where she wept against his breast, clutching the lapels of his coat until she fell asleep.
He shifted slightly to hold her more comfortably. He could feel her hands relax, releasing his coat, then she settled against him, and he gathered her closer. A shiver rushed through him when he heard her wordless murmurs, as she shifted her weight more atop him.
He allowed himself to center every thought and feeling on her. The honeysuckle fragrance of her hair filled his senses with her sweetness and warmth. His hands caressed her softness, aware of her every breath and merest change of position. The length of him reveled in the slightness of her form partially covering him. Then her furred foot rubbed against his. His heart soared; never would he be parted from her, never.
“Frodo...” Lily breathed.
He kept his voice low. “Are you hungry, sweet?”
She sighed. “Not yet, love.” Then she nestled closer. “I want those new memories you promised.”
Lily felt her husband tense, and raised herself up enough to gaze deeply into his eyes, where he unabashedly revealed the hunger he had kept reined in tightly for several days. She smiled and buried her face in the warmth of his neck, then kissed him there softly, as she deftly unbuttoned his waistcoat and shirt.
It seemed to Frodo that all air left his body as he felt her soft hand touch his breast. He found himself returning to his earlier exercise, concentrating solely on her... her lips against his throat... her breath feathered there... the length of her fit snugly against him... her warm hand shielding him from the cool late afternoon breeze... her palm and fingertips caressing his skin... He swallowed hard, and his concentration wavered.
He wondered if he might ever be able to breathe again as she trailed kisses from his neck down to his breast. Then he realized her slight shift in position allowed him to reach her vest. A chuckle stuck in his throat as he remembered the first time he was faced with removing her vest; he realized he had become quite adept, since then... He slowly untied the bow on her chemise, easing it from her shoulder.
His concentration shifted to encompass what she was doing to him and what he began to do to her. For a few moments, he mirrored her touch, then he struck out on his own exploration of her.
He smiled against her every time he successfully distracted her, requiring -- he changed the thought -- not requiring, offering -- offering her more than her mind and heart could hold, causing her to pause in her giving to him. He could not say why it pleased him so, only that it added to his pleasure. He wondered if it was the same for her. Then she caressed and kissed him, distracting him in turn.
They fed each other a brief supper, wordlessly agreeing to an early turn-in.
“But not to sleep,” Frodo whispered against Lily’s shoulder, then kissed her there.
She sighed, and murmured, “Not to sleep?”
Her husband pulled only slightly away, and searched her eyes. She gave him an overly innocent look, she knew, then smiled, not bothering to hide the glint in her eye.
“Not to sleep,” he assured firmly.
Then he offered his wife a caress, ensuring sleep would be the farthest thing from her mind for some time...