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Sacrament

by Ladyhawk Baggins and CRB

10 September 1420sr continued...

Lily smiled to herself as she followed Rosie into the kitchen. She had been stopped moments before by a beloved voice.

“Lily?”

She had turned to the sound of Frodo calling her from the other side of the greatroom.

“Lily, we’ll put the baggage here in the corner. Does that suit you, or would you prefer it somewhere else?”

“There is fine, for now, Frodo dear. We’ll take care of it later.”

They had shared their private smile.

“Rosie-lass,” Sam had called from the front door. “We’re takin’ the ponies to the livery and’ll be back afore you know it.”

“Hurry, Samwise, the food’ll be on the table, ready and waitin’.”

Then Frodo and Sam had turned to head out the door.

But then Frodo had stopped and turned back. He crossed the greatroom to her. He kissed her cheek and whispered in her ear, “I love you.”

Lily could not help herself; she had smiled, and blushed lightly. Then she reached up and whispered in her husband’s ear, “And I you, my love.”

They shared another smile, then Frodo hurried to catch up to Sam, who was still holding the door open for him. Then they were gone.

Now she was gazing about her kitchen, the comfortable familiarity of it easing the weariness she felt. She startled slightly at the sound of Rosie’s voice.

“Lily, you sit and rest a bit while I prepare luncheon.”

Lily turned away from her thoughts and back to her friend. “I can help you.”

“I know, but you’ve been traveling and’ll be coming to tea at our home before you’ve had a chance to catch your breath.” Rosie grinned. “We invited Will and Bell and Hal and Daisy and of course dear little Pearl for tea. We talked of makin’ the last of the arrangements for the festivities for the next five nights ‘afore the weddin’ -- the little details, and such -- but truth be told, everything’s set and ready. Bell’s family, far and wide came together and there’s nothin’ left to be done, and a good job they’ve made of it from what I can tell. They started preparing the Party Field yesterday, even though tonight’s the first night.”

“Frodo and I didn’t even notice anything different!”

“No, because nothin’ is. They just made sure it was cleared of anythin’ unexpected, if you take my meaning.” Rosie rolled her eyes and chuckled. “Bell said it weren’t difficult seein’ as how she and Will have been planning all this for months already. And o’course, your brother, Will drew up plans -- drew up plans, mind you -- for where everything would go! I could hardly believe it when I saw every last table and chair mapped into place! Not that anythin’ll stay where it’s put once folk start arrivin’. Be that as it may, setting up’ll begin afore tea. Sam and me thought it’d be nice if someone else prepared tea for the couple and his family this afternoon. Bell’s family decided to have a brief tea in the field so they could get right back at it when they finished, but they were grateful we’d take care of the groom’s family.”

Lily sighed. “It will be wonderful to see them! I’m so glad we arrived home in time for the celebrations.”

Rosie grinned as she glanced up from the bread she was slicing. “‘Tweren’t difficult to arrange, I must say, as the Lady Felena told us you’d be home round about today.”

Lily stared in open wonder. “How could she know...” Then she smiled. “I think I know. Tell me about meeting her.”

Rosie eyed her friend curiously. “You were close?”

Lily smiled, reflecting on the previous months. “She took care of us while we were in Rivendell.”

“Did she, now?”

“Indeed. And Rosie,” Lily’s smile broadened, “she shares my gift.”

Rosie’s eyes grew wide. “Your gift of sight?” At Lily’s nod, Rosie rolled her eyes and shook her head. “Well, if that don’t beat all. That explains it, doesn’t it?! I knew meself I was carrying a child, almost right away, but hadn’t really wanted to share it with anyone, not yet, least ways...”

“Not even Sam?”

“Sounds odd, doesn’t it? Just for a bit, it was my little secret. I knew I couldn’t keep it from my Sam for too very long, and then I found myself enjoying the game too much to just out and tell him.”

“Game?”

“Indeed yes! I hinted to Sam, little things, you know? Like baby’s breath and daisies in almost every room in the smial. In the evenings I knitted a wee blanket, and I started clearing out the room next to ours. But he just couldn’t seem to figure it out. I think the idea was too new for him to catch on.” She laughed again.

“So you’ve known for a while?”

“Oh, yes. As soon as I missed my monthly course, in July, I was fairly confident, and then I missed it again in August and I knew of a certainty. Then the Lady Felena congratulated me and Sam. I knew I had to arrange for Mrs. Chubb to come visit. She’d’ve not liked it at all, being the last to know, so to speak.” Rosie giggled.

“And you knew simply by missing your course?” Lily sighed. “That doesn’t mean anything for me.”

“It does for me. My course is as certain as the rising of the full moon. So I was fair certain when a few days passed without any sign of it.”

Lily opened herself to her friend’s joy and excitement. “Whom have you chosen for your acolyte?”

Rosie grinned. “Me mum. She’s as pleased as a kitten with a bowl of cream.”

Lily giggled. “Who wouldn’t be pleased with a bowl of cream? You said the babe is expected in March?”

Rosie laughed. “Aye! And me mum says at least I’ll have the added advantage of the babe’s warmth this winter! Sam’s so excited he’s beside himself. He’s already got the nursery all ready and he’s built a cradle as well. It’s beautiful. I’ll show you the room when you come for tea. Oh, Lily, we’re so excited.”

“And you’re feeling well?” Lily smiled, enjoying her friend’s enthusiasm.

“The best of my life! Mrs. Chubb says I’m lucky. I’m one of those lasses meant to bear children, she says. I had a bit of the sickness in the morning, but not much and not often. And for the most part, I hardly noticed at all. And I truly feel better than ever before in my life. I’m able to do so much more and I don’t need as much sleep it seems like. Sam teases me that I wear him out just watchin’ me.” Rosie laughed.

“There,” Rosie declared, “everything’s ready, all we need now are the lads to come home.”

Both Lily and Rosie turned to the sound of laughter, as Frodo held the door open for Sam.

“We’re back!” Sam declared triumphantly.

“So we hear, and see!” Rosie laughed. “Hurry up then. Let’s get some food into our travelers so they have a little time to rest afore tea.”

The four friends shared a prayer of gratitude, then set to devouring the meal Rosie had spread on the table.

Sam took a pull of small ale, then glanced at Frodo and Lily. “I suppose you need to know. Daddy Twofoot passed away. Nice and peaceful like, in his sleep. And Mrs. Longburrow has taken over #2, what with her being his oldest daughter. Not that she hadn’t taken over as soon as she moved in, o’course.” Sam met Lily’s questioning gaze. “She and her husband and children have lived at #2 with him for years and years. He only had daughters, so the smial was passed on to the oldest. And with her bein’ all alone there now, she decided to taken on an apprentice, a Miss Brownfen, from Northway. It seems they’ve no healer up that away.”

Rosie nodded. “She’s a mite shy, but seems nice enough. Once she’s learned what she can, she’s goin’ home to her family.” Rosie smiled. “She finds Hobbiton a bit too big for her liking.”

Sam gaped at his wife. “When did you learn all that?”

Rosie gave him a demure smile. “We’ve stopped to pass the time at market. Mrs. Longburrow sends her to do the marketing so she has to meet folks. I tried tellin’ you yesterday, Sam dear, but you were worriting about Frodo and Lily coming home and checkin’ the road every few minutes and askin’ me if I’d found everything at market and then checkin’ the road again, and then checkin’ the gardens to be sure they looked just right...”

Sam blinked, then turned to Frodo. “Mis --” He rolled his eyes at the slip.

Frodo chuckled and turned to their wives. “I made him practice, to and from the livery.”

“Frodo,” Sam stated firmly, then smiled, “do you ever feel like your missus is smarter than you, and you’re maybe a bit of a burden to her? Seein’ how it seems almost as if your lass could get along just fine without you?”

Frodo glanced at Lily, briefly meeting her gaze, then spoke softly. “No, Sam.” Then Frodo grinned. “Who else would she get to rub her feet and brush her hair?”

At the stares of the other couple, Frodo suddenly realized he had revealed intimate details without thinking, and blushed.

Rosie quickly recovered and turned to Sam, her brows raised up her forehead and her tone became demanding. “Tell me, Samwise Gamgee, why don’t you ever do that for me?”

Sam blinked, then followed his wife’s lead. “You never hold still long enough!” He turned to Frodo and Lily. “You should see her! She’s up at first dawn’s light taking care of the cow and chickens, all afore I’ve managed to set foot to the floor! She cooks the meals, cleans the smial, and then there’s her special days, like making butter and cheese day, and wash day, though that’ll be ending soon, seein’ as how I’ve found a laundress to take care of that -- and then there’s bread baking day, laying up fruits and vegetables from the garden day, and my favourite: jam-making day... Oh! You should see your blackberry bushes! You can hardly see the leaves for all the berries!”

“Not to worry, Lily,” Rosie smiled, “I’ll help you with your jam when you’re ready. I’m thinkin’ next week’ll be soon enough. Now, we’ve chattered on long enough. You two need a rest before tea at four; there’s still time. Sam and I’ll clean up here, not to worry. Go rest!”

“Thank you, Rosie, Sam,” Lily smiled, bemused.

“Yes, thank you,” Frodo added, warmly.

“Go!” Rosie’s command was softened by a giggle. “Oh, but it’s so good to have you home!”

“My Rosie’s right; it’s good to have you both home again,” Sam grinned.

Frodo and Lily rose from the table and were met by Sam and Rosie in another embrace.

“It’s good to be home,” the couple whispered.

Rosie wiped her eyes quickly. “Off with you now. It’s a busy next few days. Take the rest while you can.” She waved them out of the kitchen.

As the Bagginses slipped into the hall, Rosie reached out her hand and grasped Sam’s. He tightened his fingers around his wife’s.

She whispered, “It’s truly good to have them home, and did you see it? Frodo’s his old self again.” She smiled. “No, better.”

Sam could only sniffle.

They embraced briefly, then Sam roughly cleared his throat. “We best get things cleaned up, Rosie-lass.”

---------

In the hall, Frodo reached for Lily’s hand. He trembled as he felt her fingers wrap around his own.

They took several steps, then Lily stopped. With her free hand, she ran the tips of her fingers along a tree root embedded in the wall running the length of the hall.

Frodo paused with her, and smiled at the gentle caress. Then his wife gazed up at him, her eyes brimming. His heart tightened in his chest. He drew her into his arms.

“Come,” he whispered. “You need to rest. You’re doing so well. So much is happening all at once and still you continue. But you’ll not be asked to go any further.”

Lily smiled weakly. “Mayhap it is the magic of the Elves.”

“Mayhap,” Frodo grinned.

He gently lifted her into his arms. She tightened her hold about his neck, and nestled her head against his shoulder. He breathed deeply. Then he carried her down the hall to their bedroom. He knew she was already almost asleep.

At the bedroom’s doorway, Frodo paused and glanced about the room. A soft smile touched his mouth. My room... our room. “We’re home,” he whispered.

Lily nodded her head against his shoulder and sighed but did not open her eyes.

Frodo laid her gently on the white quilt that covered their bed, since their wedding day. He reminded himself fondly it was her gift to him. He shook his head; she was all the gift he needed or wanted.

Another sigh escaped her, as she relaxed into the pillows, and though she loosened her grip, she would not relinquish her hold on his coat.

He grinned, and carefully settled himself beside her. She murmured incoherent words and burrowed deeper into his embrace, her head finding its way to the familiar comfort of his breast, and he sighed as well.

---------

Frodo woke and knew there was yet time for them to ready themselves before tea. He noticed Lily’s hand had released him, but was splayed across his chest. His heart beat a little faster at the sight of her lashes fluttering against her cheeks. She was very near to waking.

He softly kissed her hair, just above her ear, and she sighed deeply.

“Lily-sweet, we need to get ready for tea.”

He smiled as he realized she was not yet fully awake by her reply.

“Do you think Bilbo would mind if we met him at dinner instead?”

Frodo struggled not to chuckle. “Lily-sweet, I’m certain Bilbo would be thrilled to see us, but it would be a bit of a feat indeed to make it to Rivendell in time for dinner.”

He grinned at the way Lily’s eyes remained closed as her brows drew together.

Then he kissed her forehead and whispered, “We’re home, in Bag End and are meeting your brother and his bride-to-be and your sister and her husband and their daughter at Sam and Rosie’s in Garden Hill in another half hour...”

Lily’s eyes blinked open wide. She murmured, “We’re home.”

“Yes, sweet, we’re home.”

Frodo’s heart skipped a beat at the smile that lit his wife’s face.

“We get to see the rest of my family,” she sighed dreamily.

Breath stopped in Frodo’s chest at her words... the rest of my family... he was her family now.

She briefly cupped his face in the palm of her hand, then stretched and shifted comfortably against the pillows. “I suppose I must move from here. Pity.”

“We’ll return this evening, sweet.”

Lily smiled, and giggled. Her eyes strayed to their ceiling and she murmured, “One thousand three hundred and sixty four.”

Frodo followed her gaze, drawing his brows together, then he laughed. “Yes, beloved, one thousand three hundred and sixty four.” He kissed her cheek. “And I can remember when I counted the times you touched me or I touched you and it did not even come to sixty four, and then I remembered when it surpassed one thousand three hundred and sixty four, even before our Promising.”

Lily sighed, eyed her husband provocatively, and rolled out of their bed.

Frodo’s eyes widened, then he laughed again. He followed her quickly and pulled her gently into his arms. His heart beat faster as she laughed breathlessly.

“Sweet, every day I shall tell you of the things I thought of as I counted those leaf tips.”

Lily lightly brushed his lips with her own, then murmured, “I look forward to it.” She offered him a lingering kiss.

Frodo broke it, struggling to catch his breath. “If we continue like this, we’ll miss tea, my darling.”

“I want to go and I want to stay, my dearest love...” Lily sighed.

“As do I.”

They shared another brief kiss, then readied themselves, and slipped out their rounded front door just before the four o’clock hour.

---------

Frodo held Lily’s hand all the way down the row, enjoying the cool refreshing breeze, despite the late-afternoon warmth. They waved to the hobbits preparing the field for the night’s celebrations.

Then at Garden Hill, Frodo pulled the bell and swiftly kissed his wife’s cheek. His chest tightened as she smiled up at him and giggled. Suddenly he wished he could whisk her back home. Her wide clear gaze spoke more than any words of her complete trust and adoration. How had this happened? How blessed he felt.

The door flew open and Sam crowed, “You’re here! We wondered if you mightn’t sleep through! Come in! Everyone’s already here.”

Then Sam guided them down the hall to the parlour.

Frodo and Sam allowed Lily to enter first, where Daisy was already on her feet and rushing into her sister’s arms.

Daisy stepped back, tears streaming down her face. “Don’t you look pretty as can be! This material is beautiful. Was it a good trip? Of course it was, or you wouldn’t look so wonderful. I hope you didn’t ever get wet. Did you eat like you should? Never mind, I’m certain Frodo took good care of you. It is just so good to see you!” Then she embraced her sister again.

Lily giggled. “Thank you. I did eat very well, and Frodo took very good care of me. It was a wonderful journey and we’ll tell you all about it, another day. Today, I want to hear all about everything with all of you... clearly a lot has happened!” She eyed her brother grinning at her, sitting beside his bride-to-be and holding her hand.

Hal approached with Pearl in his arms. “First things first.”

He wrapped one arm around Lily, still holding Pearl with the other. The babe reached out a hand and roughly patted Lily’s shoulder, then began to babble.

“She has teeth!” Lily leaned closer, and found a little hand placed on her mouth. Lily giggled, then Pearl giggled and clapped.

Frodo was surprised by the sudden pang of feeling as the outsider, then Daisy slid an arm around him and pulled him close while she watched Hal and Pearl with Lily. The feeling vanished as quickly as it had come; Frodo realized it was only a passing memory, and let it go.

Hal quickly embraced Frodo, with Pearl squealing gleefully. The babe dove unerringly into Frodo’s arms.

He laughed. “Pearl, you’ve grown so! I hardly recognize you!”

Pearl giggled and grabbed for Frodo’s hair and crowed at her success.

“Pearl!” Daisy cried.

Frodo chuckled and carefully pried the little fingers free. “Pearl! You’ve changed in many ways, and more than I expected. You’re much faster now. I’ll be careful next time, though it’ll not be easy.”

“Come here, lass,” Daisy chided. “Let your Uncle Frodo and Auntie Lily say hello to Will and Bell.”

Will and Bell rose from the settee and approached, beaming. Will gathered his sister into a tight embrace, then released her and handed her to his bride-to-be, while he quickly embraced Frodo, slapping him on the back and laughing, accepting the congratulations offered and blushing up to his ears.

Bell embraced Lily, giggling. “We’re so glad you made it in time. Sam and Rosie assured us over and over you’d be here, though how they could be so certain I’ll never know, but no matter, you’re here and that’s all that matters. Everything is perfect now, as long as it doesn’t rain during the next five days! Only because we’ve no place large enough to welcome everyone coming! Will drew up the most perfect plans and you’ll have to come and visit us! The house simply leaves me breathless, every time I look at it, still! It’s that beautiful! He thought of everything. He’s so clever and handsome to boot, but you know that, being his sister and all. Every girl in the Westfarthing I know is jealous. I’m so happy!”

Bell quickly embraced Frodo as well, then was reclaimed by her soon-to-be husband.

Before Frodo and Lily were seated, Rosie invited her guests to fill plates from the sideboard while she poured tea for everyone.

Daisy stared as her sister added both sugar and cream to her tea.

“Lily, when did you start adding cream?”

Lily smiled. “It was a taste I acquired in Rivendell, though in the herbal teas Felena gave me, I found I preferred honey instead.”

“Do you, now? You’re going to have to tell me all about it.”

“I look forward to it. In fact, Frodo and I could host tea on the morrow. That would give all of you a bit of a rest.”

“That would be wonderful.” Daisy smiled, then whispered to her sister, “better settle yourself comfortable like, as you’re about to hear the entire tale of their courtship, down to what they wore and every bite they ate.”

Lily smiled. “I suspected as much.” Her brows drew together. “Who are their fyllans?”

Daisy leaned in close. “Bell’s sister, Holly and her husband Paddo Puddle. They live just the other side of Will and Bell. They agreed to let them come to tea and let Hal and I chaperone. She’s in a family way and needs to rest in the afternoons, so we’ve been sharing the responsibilities.”

Once their plates were filled, they settled in the chairs provided around the parlour hearth.

Frodo hid his smile as he enjoyed the repast. He and Lily need not have worried about missing anything, for Bell described every detail and nuance so thoroughly Frodo felt as if they had been present for every moment.

When he finished he set his plate on the floor next to his chair and draped his arm across the back of Lily’s chair. He delighted in watching her skillful interaction with her new sister. His wife was able to ask the right questions at exactly the right moment, so as to not interrupt the oration. Then his attention was drawn to his niece... he smiled and repeated to himself that the child was indeed his niece...

Hal and Daisy had passed the child back and forth between them, so they each had an opportunity to eat a little. Finally, Hal set the babe on the floor, where she promptly reached for her mother’s skirts and pulled herself up on two feet. She stood at her mother’s knee for several moments, then sat down, then pulled herself up again, and then sat down again.

Frodo was fascinated to realize that Daisy was hardly aware of the child, so this must be a game with which they were now well acquainted. He watched in wonder, as the child once more pulled herself up, then stepping sideways, worked herself around to her mother’s other side. Pearl then reached out her hand to the next nearest object, Sam’s leg. Frodo watched as Sam glanced down and grinned, then returned his attention to Bell’s narration. Clearly, this was a familiar game to all those present. Pearl proceeded around the circle, occasionally stopping to sit and then pulling herself up once more and sidestepping around the circle. She reached Frodo and grabbed his leg. He was surprised by how she spread her hands wide, as if being careful not to pull any hair. She glanced up and met Frodo’s broad smile. Pearl wrinkled her nose and scrunched her eyes and grinned widely, then giggled. She reached up one hand, and wobbled. Frodo reached down his hand, and she grasped it, wide-eyed, then she scrunched her face again and giggled. The babe began bending and straightening her legs, then reached up her other hand.

Lily leaned close and whispered, “She wants you to pick her up.”

Frodo met his wife’s smile, then lifted the child into his arms.

Pearl gasped and squealed and insisted on standing on Frodo’s lap while they made faces at each other.

It was a struggle for Lily, but she knew it was important that she stay focused on Bell’s story, especially now that Frodo was thoroughly distracted. Still, she stole glances in his direction, wanting nothing more than to enjoy his delight.

Finally, Bell drew the chronicle to a close.

Will announced with a broad grin, “Now, you know everything that happened while you were gone, so you don’t need to feel like you missed anything.”

Bell nodded. “I tried to be sure I didn’t forget a single thing.”

“And you didn’t, my dear,” Will assured. “I’m so glad it was you telling the story, for I’m certain I would have left out far too much. Now, your family is expecting us back for dinner. Thank you so much, Rosie and Sam, for having us all to tea. Lily and Frodo, it’s good to have you safely home. We’ll see you tonight.”

They embraced Frodo and Lily, then swept out of the room. They were followed by Hal and Daisy, who offered their thanks and stopped long enough to extract Pearl from Frodo, much to the dismay of Pearl.

As tears welled in her eyes, Frodo cooed softly, “Not to worry, dear Pearl. I’ll see you tonight. Be sure to save a dance for your Uncle Frodo, won’t you?”

Pearl’s lip trembled, then answered Frodo’s smile.

Hal and Daisy quickly embraced both couples. “We’ll see you this evening.”

Sam saw the others to the door, while Rosie announced, “You’re staying for dinner.” She smiled. “Supper’s o’course out in the Party Field, and then the celebrations after, but you’ll not need to stay for all of it, though now Frodo is promised to at least one dance with a certain lass.”

Frodo blushed.

Lily giggled. “I can see I must be more vigilant with my niece around.”

“You’ve nothing to fear, as well you know, my dear.” Frodo grinned. “The rest of the dances, after all, belong to you.”

Lily pinked.

Sam strode back into the parlour and began gathering dishes.

Frodo and Lily quickly joined him, diffusing the sparks quickly growing between them.

“No need,” Sam started.

Then Lily turned to him. “Samwise Gamgee, we are not going to simply sit about while you and Rosie work.”

Rose laughed. “Come along, Lily. Help me get dinner started while they clean up things here.”

Sam chuckled. “If we hurry, Frodo, we’ll still get to put our finger in whatever they’re makin’.”

Rosie glared at her husband, then smiled. “You best hurry then.”

Lily searched her husband’s eyes. She felt his longing for her, and offered their private smile, before he turned to help Sam with cleaning up the dishes.

---------

The friends chatted all through dinner, Sam wanting to know more about the affairs of Rivendell, and Rosie wanting to know more about the foods, clothes and accommodations.

They cleaned up together, then left for the evening’s celebrations. As it was the first night, it was the least formal, so what they were wearing suited. With all that was going on, they would also stay warm enough.

Lily paused, gazing over the festively decorated field, and Frodo stopped with her, nodding for Sam and Rosie to go ahead. He slid an arm around her shoulders, and held her lightly.

“What is it, sweet?”

Lily sighed. “The last wedding we attended was our own.”

Frodo pulled her closer to his side, and she leaned her head against his shoulder. “Much has happened since then, sweet.” He kissed her forehead.

Lily giggled. “I remember how much I wanted it all to be over with, so I could be with you.”

Frodo noticed she did not blush and felt a fierce love for her, that she wanted him and was not embarrassed by it. His voice was serious when he found the words. “I remember how much I worried for you.”

Lily turned to face her husband, and smiled softly. She reached up her hand and caressed his face, smoothing his furrowed brow. “I am well, beloved. More well than ever before in my life.”

“And still I wonder how, but I am not asking,” he assured her, “and I’m terribly grateful.” He gently took her hand from his face, and kissed her palm.

Her breathing caught. “We needn’t stay very long, not tonight...”

He could not hide the desire flaring in his eyes, and murmured, “No, we need not stay very long...”

A high-pitched squeal announced the approach of Hal and Daisy and Pearl, the babe laying claim to her suitor as soon as she laid eyes upon him.

Daisy laughed. “One dance only, now, then it’s time for bed.”

Lily watched her husband dance with the babe in his arms, and her heart constricted. She quickly brushed the tears from her face.

When the music finished, Pearl happily kissed Frodo and Lily, at the very next moment yawning, as she held her arms out for her mother. Daisy winked at Lily and Frodo, then turned to join Hal. Their child was already asleep, her head heavy on Daisy’s shoulder, as they left the Party Field.

Then Frodo held out his hand to his wife, and smiled.

Lily’s heart skipped several beats. She laid her hand in his, and allowed him to lead her through several dances. How different it was now, without even a hint of the darkness. And when the crowd became too much for her, she remembered what Gandalf had taught her: she opened herself more fully to Frodo’s joy, allowing him to shield her and protect her.

Frodo was uncertain, but thought he could see the day’s events taking their toll. He guided Lily through thanking their hosts and friends, assuring them they would see each other on the morrow, and reminding them tea would be held at the Baggins’ home.

They left the Party Field together, hand in hand, and climbed toward Bag End, the well-worn path cool under their feet. Frodo opened the gate for his wife, and followed her to the door.

Then they paused there on the doorstep, turning back to gaze over the celebrations.

Frodo slid his arm around his wife, and drew her close. “We’re home, Mistress Baggins. And all is well and right.”

“Yes,” Lily sighed, and briefly embraced her husband.

Then they turned together.

Frodo opened the door, and stopped. He lifted Lily into his arms and carried her inside. Then he set her gently on her feet again, and closed the door.

Lily gazed up at her husband, and her heart swelled. She whispered softly, “So much as happened since the first time you carried me over the threshold of our home. Never did I imagine I could love you so much more, but I do.”

“Yes,” Frodo murmured, then brushed her lips with his own. “Never did I imagine I could be happier, the day I married you, but I am.”

Lily could feel his love and his concern for her, and knew why he worried. They were finally home, and she would not give over to any weariness, not yet. She slid her fingers into the rich dark curls, and pressed herself against him. She heard him catch his breath, and wound her arms around his neck, teasing him with soft, quick kisses, barely brushing his lips with her own. She could not hide the smile she felt with each caress as she felt his arms wrap around her, holding her so tightly she almost could not breathe, almost...

Then he buried his face in her neck, and whispered her name. She felt her knees go weak as he trailed kisses from her neck to her shoulder, his breathing ragged, mirroring her own. She clung to him as he drew her gently with him to their bedroom, pausing every few steps for more feather-light kisses, allowing their breath to mingle before simply touching, then taking another step.

They stepped through the doorway and stopped, holding very still, their breathing loud in the quiet of the bedroom.

While searching the green of his wife’s eyes, Frodo slipped one hand into her tresses, supporting her head, and slid the other down her back, pressing her close. He felt one of her hands in his curls once more, the welcome, light caress of his ear, and felt the other releasing the buttons of his waistcoat. He could not silence the sound of his wordless pleasure, rising from deep within him. His knees almost buckled, as he heard her soft echoing response. Then he tightened his hold on her.

She seemed to need to stop and catch her breath; then she offered several kisses down his neck to just above the top button of his shirt. She began releasing those buttons as well, following each with a gentle kiss.

He remembered their wedding day. She had been so afraid. He knew she felt no fear now. There was instead within her a confident knowing that caused him to shudder down to his toes.

Then Frodo felt his beloved tremble, and held her more tightly, yet.

Silent prayers were answered then, as Lily stole his breath, claiming his mouth with a hunger matching his own.