Lily pulled their blanket around them more firmly. The early morning air was chill. She swallowed a giggle as her lover nestled against her, seeking her warmth. Gratitude flooded through her. Though she missed Rivendell, and her people, it was a relief to sense nothing but Frodo. When they began the journey...
Was it only two months ago? She shook herself mentally and remembered she had worried about being in the wilderness, all alone. Never in her life had she experienced anything like it, but now, she found an intense pleasure and release in sensing only her husband and nothing else but the actual physical surroundings of the wind, the Sun, the birds and the insects, as well as the myriad fragrances about them. She welcomed the soothing stillness of the wild.
Her sleeping husband rubbed his cheek against her, and she smiled. She would give him such dreams...
They enjoyed a leisurely first and second breakfast, unconcerned about anything but relaxing. They could hear the River Hoarwell churning over the rocks in its path. Warblers, sparrows, and finches sang in the nearby trees and bushes, and occasionally took flight. The buzz of insects filled in any spaces in the quiet.
Their talk drifted through gentle reminiscing of their time in Rivendell, Bilbo’s tour of the butterfly garden, and evenings spent in the Hall of Fire.
“Sweet, did you know the Hall of Fire was only used for high holidays, until more recently? Gandalf told me that Elrond wanted the Elves passing through on their way to the Grey Havens to enjoy the beauty...”
“Frodo, it has only just occurred to me that we don’t actually have -- going-away parties in the Shire, do we?”
“No, I suppose not. I’d not thought of it that way before, but hobbits don’t generally go anywhere, so there’d be no reason for such a party...”
Lily’s tone turned more thoughtful. “No... we’re truly not -- usual -- as far as hobbits go, are we...”
Frodo could not help the smile spreading across his face. “No, sweet, we’re not usual. Does that distress you?”
“Not really. I’d just not thought about it very much before.”
Lily nestled closer to Frodo as they lay on a blanket in the clearing, gazing up at a sky holding autumn within its blue expanse.
“This spot is very nice, Frodo-love. Thank you. The ground isn’t too terribly hard. And the breeze is lovely.”
“Indeed, my sweet.”
They indulged in languid caresses, grateful for each other’s company. Lily felt she was floating, lost in sensation, then her lover swept her away, awakening her body and soul to even greater pleasures.
After elevensies, Lily studied the cloudless, azure sky, dazzling in its warmth and light.
“I don’t suppose there’s anywhere just a bit cooler,” she wondered aloud. “Now the Sun is shining into our clearing, its warmth is...” She realized the warmth was not the Sun only.
Then she sat up straight, startling her husband. “What of the pool where I went swimming before?”
Memories of their first time in this place flooded over her. At that time they had kept their desires tightly reined in because of her courses, but now... now there were no such restrictions.
Frodo smiled. “I imagine the pool is still there, and should be quite warm by now...”
Lily giggled. “Come wading with me.” She searched the fringes of the glade and quickly got her bearings, then threw her husband a teasing glance. “Race you.”
She leapt to her feet and darted across the clearing before Frodo could do more than sit up. She heard him laugh gleefully, and knew the chase was on. Just when she thought she had won, stepping into the shallow water, she heard her husband’s breathless chortle behind her, and then felt his arms wrap about her waist as he hauled her into the water with him; they fell together with a splash.
They came up laughing and spluttering. Frodo wondered briefly when last he had played like a child; then his wife swam close again, and he realized this was nothing like swimming with his cousins. All thought left him when she unceremoniously dunked him with a delighted squeal.
Lily was glad they both wearied of the game at about the same time.
They tried floating side by side. Their fingers would touch and clasp, then release and touch and clasp again. Frodo gave up on his attempts to float, and discovered an unexpected pleasure in holding Lily so she could close her eyes and relax completely.
The afternoon waned, and the water cooled. Lily righted herself, and gave her husband an inviting smile, then waded ashore. She lay down on the grass beneath a willow tree that was stretching its roots from the bank to the pool for a lifelong drink.
Frodo joined her moments later, and grasped her hand in his own. They thought to doze side by side, but Frodo found himself unable to keep his eyes closed. He turned his head to watch his wife breathing softly. A deep ache filled his breast. How he longed to hold the child she would bear for them. Would the child have his lover’s eyes, or her hair -- perhaps both? Why was his Lily unable to speak of children without pain? He wanted to share his hopes for them, but worried about hurting her unintentionally. Surely the time would come when those fears, whatever they were, would be wiped away. Had not Gandalf blessed them when they wed, promising them children?
Suddenly, Frodo snapped from his reverie, wondering when last they had eaten.
Lily breathed in the taste of her husband’s lips against hers, then smiled and stretched.
“Sweet,” Frodo murmured. “The Sun is almost gone, and I fear we’ve missed a meal, or more likely two...”
“I feel well enough, love. It’s been quite some time since last I neglected eating. I think this once shan’t hurt, particularly as we’ve been fed very well indeed of late.” She opened her eyes and gazed up into Frodo’s concerned face. “Come, we’ll return to camp.” She hid the smile she felt as his face instantly cleared.
They hurried back, arm in arm, and devoured their repast, laughing as they realized how hungry they both were. Their talk slipped easily into conversation of the day as they nibbled piecemeal all the way through supper. Both sighed contentedly in front of the fire, and discussed the stars appearing overhead.
Frodo felt Lily nodding off, her head nestling against his shoulder.
“To bed, Mistress Baggins,” he whispered with a smile.
“A lovely thought,” Lily murmured, a tiny giggle escaping her.
Frodo laughed, and helped her rise. They walked hand in hand to their bower, pausing for one kiss, then another and another...
26 August 1420sr
They woke lazily to the new day, savoring the morning.
Lily could feel her husband’s contentment and wondered if he had ever known this, then remembered his talk of his life before the loss of his parents. He had known a child’s happiness then. She also knew he had grown content simply being the Master of Bag End, before the Quest, but those memories were now tainted by a shadow he could not easily dismiss. She hoped one day he would be able to release the regrets. Her heart lightened knowing the darkness was gone, and now they could grow together. And yet, she did not feel she could curse It for because of It they knew a closeness and satisfaction many would never know, nor understand.
Frodo nestled close to his wife, and sighed. He knew she was awake, not only by the change in her breathing and the slight quickening of her heartbeat beneath his ear, but most of all by the touch of her hand, gently caressing his back in long, slow strokes.
“Sweet,” he murmured against her throat, not wanting to move, “would you like to spend another day here?”
Lily’s breath caught as her husband followed his words with a soft kiss, momentarily lost in the feel of his lips touching her. She trembled and fought to steady her breathing.
“Not the whole of the day, I think. A part of me...” Her voice hitched, and she breathed deeply. “A part of me longs for home... the Shire... Bag End...”
Frodo shifted slightly, to gaze into his lover’s eyes. “We’ll stay a little this morning, then move on, and travel only as far as we like...”
A soft smile spread across Lily’s face. “That sounds lovely.”
She laughed softly as Frodo murmured his assent and kissed a velvety trail from her throat to her cheek, then to her ear; but she could no longer make out the low words he spoke. She was lost in the feel of his mouth against hers, and gave herself over to the beauty of his love.
They traveled at a steady pace, the ponies settling into it easily.
Lily reveled in her husband’s tales; as they rode he recounted stories Bilbo had told him when he was a lad. She could sense the lightness of his spirit. How very different was their homeward journey. Fears and sadness were put aside, put behind them.
“It is difficult for me to grasp that Bilbo has traveled this same road several times himself,” she mused. “You shall have to tell me the whole of his tale now, Frodo-love.”
Frodo laughed, then saw her expression and realized she was serious.
“Let’s see how much of it I remember.”
For the next several days, they took a leisurely pace, enjoying each other’s company and the beauty around them. They intended to camp in the meadow where they had watched the deer, but when they arrived they found it grazed over. Their disappointment was short-lived when they discovered a bag carefully hidden and protected by a pile of rocks. They recognized the Elvish pack carried by Adber. He had filled it with two flasks of Rivendell wine and several well-wrapped loaves of rich brown bread, as well as a jar of blackberry preserves.
Frodo turned to his wife in open wonder.
Lily’s voice was filled with awe. “Felena did not tell me she’d packed those things. She must have planned from before we left...” She wiped a tear away.
Frodo slid his arm around her shoulders. “We are blessed beyond measure.”
“Yes, Frodo-love.” Lily gazed up into her husband’s face. “But where shall we spend the night?”
“Are you worried, sweet?”
“Not particularly, but we cannot stay here.”
“True. We’ll need to continue a bit further. However, along with a few other things, Adber has included a map to a clearing not far from here.”
Lily laughed with a hint of tears in her voice. “They are still taking care of us. It makes the parting seem not quite so... I don’t know... not so final, I suppose.”
A warm smile spread across Frodo’s face. “Beloved, she shall always be a part of you. You are forever changed simply by the sharing of your lives, even for such a brief time.”
He returned his wife’s searching gaze, and continued. “Never will we be able to eat blackberry preserves without thinking of her. Whenever you make one of the special teas she taught you about, she will be in your heart and mind, and I think she will know it, no matter the time and distance. You two share a gift, and mayhap, you will also be able to know she is thinking of you, but even if you cannot feel it, your heart will tell you the truth of her love for you. You are in her thoughts, just as she is in yours. Adber too shall live forever in our hearts, as will all those who have touched our lives for good.”
Lily gazed into her lover’s eyes. She hesitated, but found she could not hold back the question in her heart. “What of those who have...” Her eyes clouded, and she drew her brows together, struggling for the right words. “What of those who... who... are not good?”
A sigh escaped Frodo. He turned away from Lily and stared into the East.
Lily stepped close to him, wondering if she should have remained silent. Then he enfolded her in his arms.
“Sweet, all those we meet change us, some in small ways, some in large, but we decide, I think, if it is for good or ill.”
“But Frodo,” Lily whispered, close to tears, “some of those who touched your life were so evil.”
Frodo kissed her forehead, then searched her eyes. “But you have taught me that just because evil had touched my life it did not make me evil. I could choose to give into it, or I could choose a different way. The choice was mine, not theirs, to accept what they did to me as they intended it or to re-forge it anew. They could not choose for me what I made of what was done. I could let it shape me, or I could shape it. I chose to shape it into a new life, with you.”
Lily offered her husband a tremulous smile, then her tears spilled over. She threw her arms about Frodo’s neck, and whispered, “Thank you for choosing me.”
“Sweet,” Frodo choked through his own tears, “I’d have been a fool indeed to choose anything else.”
Lily giggled and sniffled at the same time. She drew back, and searched her lover’s eyes. Gradually, she reached up and caressed his lips with her own. Her heart soared as her husband took her mouth with an unexpected fierceness, revealing more clearly than any words the depth of his feelings. And she opened herself to him, accepting and reciprocating in full all he offered.
29 August 1420sr
Lily was grateful for the respite they shared. The previous night still echoed within her, filling her with warmth and peace. Though they were less than a day out from Weathertop, Frodo still did not speak of it, and neither did she. And it did not worry her. She felt no distress from him, for which she was grateful.
As Lily washed their clothes in the chilly stream, she reflected on their journey to Rivendell, and now their return. The two sojourns were very different indeed. She and Frodo laughed more now, and had grown increasingly comfortable with each other. Lily never imagined she would share such intimacy with anyone as she had with her husband. She remembered her friends, when she became a tween, and how much they thought they knew...
She wrung out Frodo’s shirt, and laughed to herself. How odd it was that washing his clothes seemed nothing like washing her father and brother’s clothes. Laundry had been one of her least favourite things to do, and everyone knew it, but somehow doing this task for Frodo meant something entirely different. Mayhap her feelings would change over time, but then again, it was no longer a customary task for her now that she was the Mistress of Bag End. She shook her head in wonder.
The memories of her daydreams from the days just after meeting Frodo filled her mind. Then, she only imagined being able to gaze into his eyes, to feel the touch of his hand on her arm, to cook for him, clean... She had not known then of the laundress, though perhaps she should have guessed it. How could she not have realized? she giggled to herself.
She hung her chemise next to the other clothes to dry on the rope Frodo had strung between two gnarled alder trees for her. Then she headed upstream to their camp. Frodo had bathed the ponies earlier, a little downstream from where she had washed their clothes.
When she entered the glade she found him still brushing Pippin, which meant he was finished with Strider and Merry. Lily smiled to herself, realizing his routine was so comfortably predictable. She stood beside an aspen and leaned against its smooth trunk to watch her husband work. He was as yet unaware she had returned. She loved so much seeing him like this: noticing his grace and strength, and his patience, in undertaking even the most common task of brushing down the ponies.
Watching his gentle handling of the pony pushed upon her mind his gentle handling of her. Warmth rushed through her at the sudden thought of his hands upon her. Never in her daydreams of long ago had she imagined what feelings he would evoke in her by a mere thought. Her heart raced a little faster, and she struggled to calm herself, then wondered why she need hide her desire at all. She covered her mouth, endeavoring to smother the giggle.
She knew she was unsuccessful when her husband turned to her and smiled. Her heart skipped several beats at the sight.
“You’re finished, then, Lily-sweet?”
“Yes, love, and it appears you are almost finished as well.”
“Indeed. What would you like to do with the remainder of the day? No deer to watch, this time...”
Frodo nodded. “A walk it is.”
“I’m getting used to riding, but it would be pleasant to stretch a bit more.”
Frodo put the brush away, then approached her and bowed. “My lady.” He offered Lily his arm.
She giggled. “Thank you, my lord.”
They walked in companionable silence, enjoying the feel of the forest beneath their feet and the sounds filling their ears.
Lily was gazing up into the tops of the trees, searching for the bird singing nearby, when she felt her husband tighten his hold on her. She glanced at him quickly, and the wonder on his face enveloped her. She followed his gaze to the path before them. Laid out like a rug were golden, elegant parasols. Mushrooms.
“Well...” Lily smiled. “It seems our meals for the rest of the day are decided.” She turned an innocent face to her husband. “I do hope you like mushrooms.”
Frodo gaped at her, then realized she was teasing, and he laughed.
Lily schooled her innocent look and blinked. “Whatever shall we use to gather them? I didn’t think to bring a basket...”
Frodo squared his shoulders and schooled his face to match Lily’s. “If I must sacrifice the use of my waistcoat and shirt, so be it.”
A giggle bubbled up within Lily and broke free. Still catching her breath, she continued, “We’ll start with your waistcoat and then my vest.”
“Agreed!” Frodo quickly unbuttoned his waistcoat, and slipped it off. He spread it on the ground and with Lily beside him they began harvesting the unexpected treasure.
First they piled the mushrooms on the waistcoat, stopping when it could still be carried without spilling a single cap, but only barely. Then Lily removed her vest, and they filled it as well. They carried their precious cargo back to camp, laughing all the while.
Lily carefully cleaned off the mushrooms while Frodo sliced them for frying, grateful for the butter the Elves had thought to pack for them.
“And whatever we don’t eat, Frodo-love, I’ll use to start a stew for tonight.” Lily smiled at the look he gave her. “I’m quite certain there will be a few left over, and we can always go back and harvest a few more.” She laughed as her husband’s concern evaporated into a broad grin.
“You spoil me, Mistress Baggins.”
“Indeed I do, Mister Baggins. Now, if you’ll retrieve the raspberries we gathered last night, it should make a feast the likes of which even a king would be envious.”
“He might indeed, Lily-sweet.” Frodo laughed and winked at her. “And we can add potatoes, thoughtfully provided by Adber in that sack he left us, and the rest of the coney from last night.”
“Mmmmm... I’m hungry just thinking about it. I’m glad these cook up quickly!”
Frodo retrieved a flask of the Elvish wine and a loaf of the brown bread, and their meal was ready.
As they ate, they talked and laughed about hunting mushrooms.
“Not an easy thing,” Frodo said earnestly, with his mouth full, “especially as most lands are claimed by someone.”
“Like Farmer Maggot’s farm?” Lily asked with a twinkle in her eyes.
Frodo’s eyes grew wide, and then he laughed. “Yes, sweet... like Farmer Maggot’s farm. Those were especially excellent mushrooms, I might add.”
“Indeed,” Lily giggled, “or so I’ve heard.” Then she stole a mushroom from Frodo’s plate. She watched horror briefly cross his face, followed by an indulgent smile. “Mister Baggins, it humbles this fair maiden’s heart to know you would so willingly share your mushrooms with her.”
“No other,” he stated sternly, then grinned, and stole a mushroom from her plate in turn.
Lily gazed at the fry pan, still filled with mushrooms. “I think we’ve enough for the stew.”
“Mmmmm... delicious, sweet, simply delicious. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome, love.”
Lily scraped what was left of the mushrooms into the stewpot, with the coney meat and vegetables, while Frodo swiftly cleaned their plates. When she finished adding the herbs, she set the pot near the fire to heat.
Frodo settled on their blanket, and lay back with his cloak as a pillow. Once he was comfortable, he motioned for Lily to join him.
She smiled eagerly, and lay beside him.
“Almost as delicious as you,” he grinned, letting his eyes close.
They sighed contentedly, and drifted into an easy slumber.
The smell of their stew wafted over them, gently waking them to a soft evening. Frodo helped his wife rise.
“It feels like fall,” Lily murmured, unwilling to disturb the stillness about them.
Frodo gazed up at the deepening sky, the stars not quite yet visible. He turned to Lily, his eyes serious.
“You’ll ride with me to the crown of Weathertop, tomorrow?”
She knew that though he asked it in the form of a question, he was in fact offering her the opportunity to reassure him. There was no doubt in her heart that he knew she would agree, but it seemed to give him comfort that she willingly chose to be with him through these difficult trials.
“Yes, Frodo. I shall ride with you to the top of--” she sought her memory and was pleased when the name surfaced “--of Amon Sűl.”
She watched him breathe deeply, then release it in a sigh. A rush of love filled her breast, and she returned his smile.
He shook himself lightly. “I’ve such an appetite smelling that stew! I do hope it’s ready.”
Lily giggled. Within her thoughts she reveled in how very hobbitish he sounded. “It is, if you’ll get the bowls.”
“Gladly!” He pecked her on the cheek, then retrieved bowls, a flask of wine, and bread.
They spoke of nothing but the joy of the moment.