by Ladyhawk & CRB
30 May 1420sr
Frodo tossed once more in his bed, then threw off the covers and sat
up. He sighed and left the comfort of the pillows to stand at his
window. Only one more night must I sleep alone...
But for how long? She'll grow weary of always lifting you,
dragging you along on the journey. She'll let go, just as you
"Please, Ilúvatar, help me," Frodo pleaded. "It grows
inside me. Lily did not ask me not to doubt, but she did ask me
not to question our decision, and I shall hold to that promise."
But she's not here...
"It doesn't matter. I promised."
You made another promise, and did not keep it... What's one more?
Frodo cringed, and closed his eyes tightly. His voice emerged
strangled, but strengthened as he spoke. "That wasn't a promise I
made to her. She trusts me. I shall never betray her
trust. It means more..." He paused in his thought.
"You do not understand trust. I pity you..."
He felt an unexpected rage swell up from the darkness. Then It continued Its rant.
Pity is what took your finger and that which you cherished...
Frodo sighed. "It saved her. A small price to pay... Now, go away."
Where would I go?
But this is my home; this is where I belong... always.
Frodo shuddered at the sinister intent. "Please, Ilúvatar..."
An increasingly familiar sense of peace spread through him; the same peace Lily offered, but deeper.
Trust to Me. Remember her.
Frodo sighed heavily, and turned his thoughts to the past fortnight.
Everything had gone as planned. Sam and Rosie left Deephallow
with a loaded wagon of Lily's belongings on the 13th, and Frodo and
Lily, with Will and Bell, returned home on the 14th. Sam and the
Gaffer completely unloaded the wagon before the other two couples
arrived back, and Rosie had a warm supper waiting on the table.
The Gaffer declined the invitation to stay, saying he'd be eating with
the Widow Rumble. The six friends enjoyed the meal, sharing their
new memories of their trip to Deephallow.
Lily had told Frodo later she felt a little uncomfortable at first,
staying in Sam and Rosie's home, only because of them being just
married, but they assured her they were more than happy to have
her. Both Lily and Frodo admitted that rather than it being
difficult to be just up the Row from one another, as they had imagined
it might be -- so close, and yet separated -- it was unexpectedly
The days had passed more quickly than any of them anticipated.
Sam and Frodo helped Will daily with the building of his new home in
Bywater, though he made sure it wasn't for too long each day. He
chuckled about his younger sister devising some way to make his life
miserable if he stole too much of Frodo's time.
Will also admitted to Sam and Frodo there was no rush, as he did not
expect it to be finished until the end of June, or perhaps even
July. He wanted to take his time and enjoy the crafting of the
place. A blush, starting at his collar and reaching up to his red
hair, revealed before his words did that he wanted the home to be
Bell and Will had completed all the toys they were making for the
children, while the gifts Frodo ordered from Bree for the adults,
escorted by Merry, Pippin, and Fatty, arrived on May 22nd, the day
before the festivities were to begin. The buzz throughout the
Shire was deafening. This would be a wedding like no other.
Fatty, Merry, and Pippin enjoyed dinner at Fatty's cousin's smial in
Bywater that evening. Fatty decided to stay and visit his cousin,
while Merry and Pippin returned to Bag End.
They knocked, and walked in and found Lily and Rose chatting together
on the settee in the greatroom, while Frodo and Sam were bent over
papers at the kitchen table. The cousins greeted the ladyhobbits,
then entered the kitchen and looked over Frodo's shoulder; he and Sam
were studying a sketched layout of a garden.
"What are you doing?" Pippin could not hide the confusion he felt.
Frodo smiled broadly. "We're finishing up the plans for the summer garden."
"Yes," Merry nodded. "We can see that. But why aren't you
with your lasses? You're married" -- he looked pointedly at Sam
-- "and you're getting married in just over a week!"
Frodo's face became serious. "Yes -- that's why we're in here, and they're in there."
Sam could not hold inside the laughter that burst out at the comical
look of confusion on the younger cousins' faces. He whispered to
them, "It's getting harder for them to be together without really being
together, if you take my meaning. No disrespect to you, Mr.
The cousins stared in amazement as Frodo turned several shades of red.
Pippin persisted. "What're you saying?"
Sam sighed and tried to give Pippin a meaningful look. "I'm
saying, if they could wed and be done with it tonight, they would, but
seein' as how it's not for more than a week, they're doing whatever
they can to keep things proper -- if you'll forgive me for being so
bold, Mr. Frodo..."
Frodo had been staring blankly at the fireplace; he turned and looked
at his cousins, beseeching them to understand. He was trying to
imagine how red his face was. It was warmer than he had ever felt
Understanding dawned in Merry's eyes. "You're saying they want... now? Even without a wedding?"
"Yes," Frodo hissed, and blushed an even deeper shade of red.
"But, we also both want even more to wait, so everything's right and
"And being in separate rooms makes it easier?" Pippin observed, still confused.
"Yes, Pip, it does, a little," Frodo sighed.
Merry shook his head. "Good thing there's all the festivities and
such beforehand, to keep you occupied, or this last week would be
"Indeed." Frodo did not bother to hide his growing frustration.
Sam decided to take matters into his own hands before the cousins could
make matters worse. "Are you two here to help or hinder?"
"Help," Pippin replied meekly. "Sorry, Frodo. Didn't mean to make things difficult."
Frodo sighed and smiled. "It's not your fault. What say you
we have some songs and stories this evening? Have you eaten
Pippin cheered. "Songs! and supper! -- No, we've not had supper as yet, dear cousin..."
"Stories and songs and a good solid meal sound like just the thing to
get your mind off--" Merry's eyes grew wide, and then he
laughed. "Maybe not completely, but hopefully it'll help."
When they joined Lily and Rosie in the greatroom a few moments later,
Lily gave up her seat on the settee so Sam could sit next to
Rosie. Then Lily and Frodo sat on chairs next to each other, but
a little apart. They held hands, but nothing more; Merry and
Pippin thought they looked a touch forlorn, somehow.
Frodo had asked Sam for advice several days ago, Sam being an
experienced married hobbit now. His friend was so embarrassed,
Frodo wondered if he would be of much help.
But Sam took his request seriously, and thought a moment, then cleared
his throat. "Don't you go worritin' about that, Mr. Frodo.
It'll all work out. You and Miss Lily love each other, that's the
important thing, and if you remember to put her -- well, her, and her
wants, that is -- first, everything'll work out just fine. She
might be a little afraid of -- well, you see, there's a little pain for
them, the very first time, and all -- it's just a bit, Rosie said--"
Sam was blushing now. "And -- well, try not to rush things, Mr.
Frodo... And it's all right to have a laugh now and then, if you
take my meaning, sir..."
Frodo didn't take his meaning at all, but endeavored to hide the
confusion he felt. I hadn't imagined there was so much to it, he
mused, although I'd never assumed it would be easy... I so want to make
To Frodo's surprise, Sam continued, warming to the subject. "If
she's anything like my Rosie, she'll have a way of knowin' how to help
you through the rough spots."
Then Sam had turned bright red, as if he had said far too much.
Frodo laughed and thanked him, then apologized to his friend for
putting him in such an awkward position, as it should have been his da
advising him, or mayhap Uncle Saradoc...
Sam had assured him it was no trouble at all, then coughed nervously,
and said he needed to run and check on the new morning glories he
planted the day before.
Frodo was pulled from his reverie by a soft tapping at the front
door. He shook his head. It was still pitch dark.
"Surely it's not yet four o'clock in the morning... Who?..."
She's leaving. I told you she would.
She's fallen sick. She'll not be able to marry you, now.
You've made her far too ill. It's your fault. Your
doing. You should have stayed away from her.
Fear grew in Frodo's heart. What if she is ill? he wondered.
Frodo flew down the hall, and without a thought for wearing only a nightshirt, he flung open the door, out of breath.
It was not the healer. It was not Rose, nor Samwise... Lily was all right! But who--?
"Easy, my friend," a rich, deep voice soothed.
Frodo looked up, and then up some more, into a well-loved face, lit by
the porch lamplight. The tall man was flanked by two others whom
Frodo loved as dearly. Seeing them, tears stung his eyes.
The Man in well-worn Ranger garments knelt so he might speak face to
face with the hobbit, and pushed back the hood of his Elven cloak, and
Frodo threw his arms about his friend and protector.
Aragorn's smile deepened; then he gently enfolded the weeping hobbit in his arms.
He's still too thin, Aragorn worried; his smile dimmed. How he
longed to ask Gandalf to explain more of the healing he intimated would
take place at Frodo's wedding! -- but Gandalf had warned him no mention
was to be made of it. His smile broadened again when Frodo pulled
away from him.
Frodo swiftly embraced both Legolas and Gimli, unable to speak for a
moment for his sudden, joyful tears, then composed himself quickly and
invited them into the smial, taking their cloaks and knapsacks, and
hanging them on the hooks in the front hall. Frodo paused for a
moment, and glanced up at Aragorn.
"What is it, my friend?" Aragorn gave him a knowing smile.
"Why have you come?"
Aragorn laughed. "Why, for your wedding, dear Frodo! I would fain miss the wedding of the Ring-bearer!"
Frodo's eyes grew wide. "Lily and I prayed you would come!... But how did you know?"
The Ranger-garbed king gave the hobbit another broad smile. "Gandalf, of course."
"Is he here? Did he come with you?" Frodo could not hide
the excitement he felt. He started to make for the front door
Aragorn put out one gentle restraining hand to Frodo's shoulder.
"Not yet; and no, he didn't, but I'm certain he'll be along in plenty
of time," Aragorn reassured him. "No Butterbur, nor anything
else, to interfere this time."
Frodo smiled, and the entrance hall, lit only by the low fire from the
greatroom beyond, seemed suddenly brighter. It was infectious;
his three guests smiled in return.
Frodo could not contain himself. "He is coming, then?"
Gimli chuckled, a low, gruff sound. "But of course he is, laddie."
Legolas added, "Nothing could keep him away." His voice was musical and light, just as Frodo remembered it.
Gimli continued, "He probably just wants to make an entrance. You
know what these wizard folk are like. Big on unexpected
Frodo laughed, and his friends joined him. "Come in, come in. I'll put tea on."
Lily turned over in her bed again. She murmured softly to the
moonlight shining through her bedroom window. "The cock shall
crow soon, Lily Burrows, and I think you've not slept the last hour, at
least. You need rest. How else shall you make it through
the day properly?
"Only one more night, and then I shall be Mistress Lily Baggins."
She giggled and covered her mouth with one of her pillows. The
smile disappeared from her face. "But where is Gandalf?"
She turned her thoughts to things closer to home and more in her
control. The preparations, and the week of feasting and music and
dancing before today had seemed endless. All she wanted was to be
with Frodo, every hour of every day. The months of courtship had
been a sort of exquisite torture for them both.
Now there was only one more day; one more day of being together and yet
separate, one more evening of saying goodbye, and parting to sleep in
different homes, different beds... She hoped the day would pass
swiftly, as swift as a summer night...
Merry and Pippin and Fatty stumbled into the kitchen at Bag End
complaining of being awakened, until they took in the scene. The
cousins crowed for joy and embraced their friends. Fatty was
quickly introduced, and then the old friends fell into catching up on
what they had been doing the past months, until they came to the past
"How did you come here?" Frodo smiled, still awed his friends were
truly present, sitting in his kitchen, when not an hour ago this room
Aragorn smiled. "We met south of Bree, where I left my
entourage. We hoped to avoid undue attention, which of course
would have been impossible had we not traveled as commoners. This
is your day, dear Frodo. We left our mounts with a Ranger outside
"Remarkable men are these Rangers," mused Gimli. "Everyone knows everyone, and they're spread far and wide."
"Indeed," Legolas added. "We'd no sooner arrived at the appointed meeting place than a Ranger appeared."
Aragorn smiled quietly. "It was unexpected, but very good, to see
Anborn again. He served with Faramir, in Ithilien. Mayhap
you met him, then..."
Frodo furrowed his brow. "There is much I don't remember..."
"It matters not. Sometimes, forgetting is for the best."
Aragorn's heart tightened at the sudden cloud in Frodo's eyes.
"Tell me," Aragorn continued, with a gleam in his eye, "when shall we
be privileged to meet the fair lady? ...who has clearly won your
heart--! One need only mention her in passing, I see, for her to
stir you to the depths. She must be quite remarkable."
Frodo smiled and blushed. "She is indeed..."
"I'll fetch her for first breakfast, and Sam, and his Rosie, too... shall I, Frodo?" Pippin suggested eagerly.
"Seeing how as the Sun only arose a short time ago, don't you think it's a mite early, now?" Gimli wondered.
"She's a game lass..." Merry assured them.
Fatty placed a hand on Frodo's shoulder. "She'd have to be, to marry a Baggins," he laughed.
Laughter rang through the smial, and more yet at Frodo's blush.
Aragorn finally caught his breath. "So, the Baggins' legend lives
on: thieves worthy of hire by Dwarves and Wizards. Now, you've
stolen a lady's heart."
Frodo's eyes softened. "Nay, my dear Aragorn. She's given
it to me freely, with full knowledge of what an alliance with me
entails." Wonder filled his face. "Even still, she chooses
me..." His voice trailed away.
"She seems to be a lady of clear understanding," Aragorn replied
gravely. "And in possession of a rare gift: knowing what is of
true worth. I look forward to meeting her."
"I'll see to it." Pippin turned and dashed out the door.
Lily opened the door with a curious smile, wondering who would pound on it so early in the morning.
"Pippin! Come in!"
"Pardon me, Lily, but you're wanted up at Bag End."
Worry immediately etched Lily's face.
"No! It's nothing like that. Sam and Rosie are wanted
too. You're all invited to firsties, but please do hurry."
Lily relaxed as she noted the twinkle in Pippin's eyes.
"Pippin, I thought we were all having firsties here? Scones are on the fire."
"Bring them with you, and finish them at Bag End. You must come
to Bag End." His voice took on a pleading tone, "Please.
And do hurry, but truly it's nothing to be worried over."
Rosie and Sam stepped up behind Lily. Sam cocked his head,
yawning, and gave Pippin a dubious look. "What's this I'm
hearin'? We're having firsties at Bag End, instead of here, where
"Please! Why must this be so complicated? It's quite
simple, really. We're having firsties at Bag End just as soon as
you can get yourselves there, and the sooner, the better."
"And nothing is amiss?" Lily searched Pippin's eyes.
His agitation subsided, and he smiled broadly. "Not a
thing. We've a surprise for you, and you too, Sam. So
"Don't worry, Pip," Rose smiled. "I'll get them there in two
shakes of a lamb's tail. I'll bring what I've readied so far and
finish it there."
Pippin smiled his gratitude. "Thank you, dear Rosie." He
turned to go, then stopped and turned back. "I'll help you carry
Pippin entered Bag End first, calling behind him to the three who followed.
"Come in! Come in! Make yourselves at home in the greatroom!"
Lily passed Pippin with a sidelong glance of question and curiosity,
followed by Rosie and Sam. She turned toward the familiar room
and stopped, her eyes wide, then she tore her eyes from the strangers,
Frodo stepped forward from his place next to the tall Man, and held out
his hand to her. She crossed to him, and returned his smile when
their fingers touched. Then she felt the darkness lurking, and
all but Frodo faded away. She slipped her arms about his waist,
and pressed her head against his shoulder, willing the darkness back to
Its distant corner.
Frodo breathed deeply of her, and wrapped his arms tightly about
her. He closed his eyes, and breathed more easily, then whispered
in her ear. "Thank you."
Lily lifted her head. Searching the blue in his eyes, she smiled warmly.
He returned her smile. "Dearest, it's early, I know, but I've
received some very special guests; please, let me present them to
She eased away from her beloved and grasped his hand, then turned to the three strangers.
Frodo gently squeezed Lily's hand, and gave her a reassuring smile, then cleared his throat.
"Lily, may I present Aragorn--" Frodo blushed. "Elessar, the King
of Gondor and Arnor, the leader of all the Free Peoples of
Lily paled for a moment, then realized her mouth was open. She
closed it and curtsied deeply, still holding Frodo's hand; the gesture
between the couple was lost on no one.
"Aragorn," Frodo continued, "Miss Lily Burrows... soon to be Mistress
Lily Baggins." He grinned, and tightened his hold on Lily's hand.
Aragorn bowed, and eased her hand from Frodo's, then kissed it
lightly. "Now that I see you, I understand well... Frodo's
wisdom reveals itself again, to allow the capture of his heart by one
so fair in appearance and manner."
Lily blushed crimson, smiling. This Man truly was a king.
Her gift of sight revealed it at once, but so did his bearing, and his
Her voice trembled, despite her attempts to steady it. She could
only meet his grey eyes for a moment. "Thank you, Sire."
"Get out of the way, laddie! You're not the only one wanting to meet the lovely lass," the Dwarf scolded gruffly.
Lily's eyes grew wide.
He then stepped forward and tipped his head slightly to one side,
indicating Aragorn. "We knew him before all the fancy titles and
what-not," he continued with a grin.
"Lily, this is Gimli, son of Gloin, with whom Bilbo went adventuring,
long ago." Frodo's voice was now outwardly calm, but still she
felt the intensity of his excitement and joy at the presence of these
three beloved friends.
Lily curtsied and extended her hand. She was surprised by how gently he held it.
"Master Gimli," she offered, smiling.
"I'm honoured to meet a lady of such beauty and intelligence.
Sometime perhaps you'll tell me how you caught this hobbit, when no one
else ever could, I hear? I love a good story!"
Lily saw his eyes twinkling, and he was smiling as he bowed over her
hand without kissing it, then released her and stepped back.
Finally, she raised her eyes to meet the Elf's. He smiled slowly,
almost shyly, it seemed to her, and stepped forward, his grace at once
startling and calming...
"Lily, Prince Legolas, of Mirkwood."
She again held out her hand and began to curtsy. Then she felt
herself becoming faint -- this was all so much to take in -- these were
her beloved's guides and protectors on the Quest, his friends, just
like dear Sam... With an effort, she breathed as evenly as she
could, and prayed for calm.
"Nay, dear lady, the honour is mine." He went down on one knee,
and smiled into her eyes. "To greet such a maiden, so fair of
heart and face..."
"Thank you..." Lily smiled shyly at Legolas, then glanced at the
other two once more. She leaned over and whispered in Frodo's
ear, blushing crimson, again, for doing so in front of company.
"Please forgive me," she asked of the three guests, before Frodo could
Frodo grinned broadly up at Aragorn, full of teasing affection.
"No, I don't suppose he looks much like a king, but it's how he
appeared when we met the Ranger, Strider, in Bree." Frodo's eyes
twinkled. "Though mayhap this morning he's a bit less unkempt..."
The friends laughed together, Pippin and Sam still nearly beside
themselves with happiness and surprise. Merry's joy seemed
deeper, Lily decided, then smiled to herself. Perhaps he was
still simply trying to believe they were here...
Aragorn went down on one knee to more easily address Lily.
"We did not wish to draw attention to ourselves. This is your
day; yours and Frodo's. And yet we desired to share in the joyous
occasion and hoped by appearing as mere travelers, we'd pass with less
"Thank you, Sire." Lily warmed to the Man. "May I
ask--" She blushed, glancing down, and then up again.
"Where is your lovely queen? Frodo has spoken of her beauty and
kindness, and I wish to thank her..." Lily glanced at the jewel
hanging at Frodo's throat.
Aragorn stood slowly, and followed her gaze. "As I told Frodo
when I first arrived, my Lady Arwen sends her warmest greetings and
wishes she could join in this celebration..." He smiled
suddenly. "...but she is expecting our first child."
Lily's eyes widened. Aragorn's smile was quiet; everything about him was quiet, she sensed.
He continued gravely. "She insisted I come, dear lady, though I
shall stay only through the ceremony on the morrow. Then I shall
depart as quietly and as quickly as I may, for indeed I do wish to be
Lily curtsied deeply again. "Thank you, Sire. And please
thank your gracious queen for us as well. We are delighted for
you. What joyous news!"
Frodo's smile broadened with her every word.
Aragorn inclined his head. "Your sweet lady would outshine most
of those at court, dear Frodo. Thank you, Miss Burrows."
"No, Sire..." Lily's voice caught. "It is I who owes you a debt of gratitude I shall never be able to repay."
"How is that, my lady?" Aragorn eyed her, softly questioning.
"Without you, Sire, Frodo would not be standing next to me now, living,
and breathing, and warm." Tears gathered in her eyes. "Such
joy have I known since his return from the Quest... and it all would be
lost to me, but for you and the others." Several tears spilled
Aragorn took her hands in his and raised them to his lips to kiss
them. "Nay, dearest lady, we all only did our part, as Frodo and
Sam did theirs..." Aragorn glanced past her to the gardener, who
blushed and held Rosie more closely to his side.
"Without them, my kingdom would be in ruin and slavery, as would all of
Middle-earth, as I am certain you realize -- for I see it in your
eyes. And without you, fair Lily, I would not now be privileged
to share in Frodo's joy..."
Lily saw his grey eyes clearly for the first time, and blushed at the
admiration she read there. Aragorn released her, and she leaned a
little against Frodo. He wrapped his arm around her; her dear
hobbit was sharing a knowing smile with the King.
"I have a personal message for you both," Aragorn continued. "The
Lord Faramir and his Lady Eowyn wish to express their deepest regrets
at being unable to attend the ceremony on the morrow."
He broke into a grin, suddenly less like a king and more like -- Strider? Lily guessed.
Aragorn looked to Merry and Pippin, meeting their eyes as he
spoke. "The Lady Eowyn is in all likelihood delivering her
firstborn as we speak, so it was quite impossible for them to
attend. Her time was very near to my Lady Arwen's. I have
taken the liberty of expressing your felicitations to them in your
The young cousins at first stood speechless, until Pippin broke the
silence. "Aragorn, what happy news! If there's any more,
I'm not sure I could bear it; I might burst!"
Merry stood beaming and silent, but there were tears in his eyes.
"Have no fear, young Master Took," Aragorn soothed. "You've heard
all the news of great import. I've plenty of stories to share;
perhaps there might be time this day before tonight's festivities..."
He smiled down indulgently at all the hobbits, then met Frodo's eyes once more.
Frodo bowed slightly. "Thank you, my Lord... Pippin speaks
truly... what happy news this is!" Frodo's eyes were alight with
excitement. "Lily, we'll send a gift to them, as is the custom of
Men!" He turned back to look up at Aragorn. "Lily is a very
gifted seamstress. Her creations would grace even the Lady Eowyn
and her child."
He realized suddenly he was showing her off, and for a moment regretted putting her in such a position; but Lily seemed pleased.
Aragorn put one of his large hands on Frodo's shoulder, and the hobbit looked up again at the King.
"Frodo Baggins, your Lily is as beautiful as her name. I see her
heart is full of kindness and wisdom, and it is plain she loves you
deeply. Fortune has smiled on you, my friend. May I ask --
how did you find her?"
Aragorn was smiling down at her again. Lily sensed within him
humility, power, and compassion -- an amazing mixture, to be sure...
and... he was a healer. That was what she had not been able to
place, until now. She heard Frodo speaking.
"This had nothing to do with good fortune, my Lord." His voice
lowered to nearly a whisper; he looked at Lily, but spoke to the King.
"I did not find her, except by happenstance -- or what seemed like
happenstance -- for I was not looking for her. Lily is a gift,
given to me by Ilúvatar, the One... she has loved me from before
the Quest -- from a time when I didn't even know she was here in the
Shire at all."
Frodo held her closer and placed his hand on hers. His voice took
on a new note. "Aragorn, her love keeps the darkness at
Lily glanced at Aragorn, and saw the King staring at Frodo with wonder in his eyes. His voice dropped as well.
"I understand, my friend. I am happy beyond words for you
both. It is fitting that the Ring-bearer should have such a
gift. This time you shall not be deceived by a treasure, Frodo,
but richly rewarded. Cherish her."
Frodo's eyes filled with tears. He searched Lily's eyes, then
whispered, "I shall, with all my heart." A soft smile touched his
lips. "One cannot disobey the King."
As the couple embraced, Aragorn turned his attention to the other couple in the room.
"Come, Master Samwise." Aragorn held out his hand.
"Introduce me to the lady who is so clearly fond of you." He
The couple stepped forward. Rosie glanced at Lily, who offered her a reassuring smile.
"Rosie-love, this is Strider. Strider, this is Rosie Gamgee, my wife."
Rosie curtsied, then raised her eyes higher and higher yet to meet the
King's eyes. "It's a privilege to meet you, sir -- Sire."
She blushed lightly.
"There's no need to stand on formality with me, Mistress Gamgee! Your husband never has."
Rosie giggled as she caught the twinkle in his eyes. She glanced
again at Lily. "Beggin' your pardon -- Sire, but might we have a
bit of firsties?"
"Of course; please forgive me. It has clearly been too long since
last I enjoyed the company of hobbits. I've somehow forgotten
your need for frequent nourishment." He glanced sidelong at
Pippin, who grinned back at him somewhat defiantly. Aragorn
laughed, and looked to Rose once again.
"Please, all of you, make yourselves comfortable. I am Strider for my time here in the Shire."
He turned to Merry and Pippin. "I wish to become better
acquainted with these charming ladies. Do you think the two of
you can manage to put a meal together?"
The cousins bowed. "Yes, Sire." Then they smiled.
"Good to be in your service again." They laughed and disappeared
into the kitchen.
As the meal drew to a close, Aragorn sighed with satisfaction. "I
must remember, from time to time, to request of my kitchen staff a bit
of hobbit fare." He turned to Sam. "Would you fetch my
satchel by the door? And handle it gently. It's the one
Sam grinned. "I reckon I can guess which one it is... Back before you know it."
Within moments, he returned and handed the knapsack to Aragorn.
"When my Lady Arwen and I learned you were to wed, we discussed long
what gift we might offer the Ring-bearer and his bride." He
gingerly opened the pack, extracting a sackcloth-wrapped package, a
leather pouch, and a book. He gently removed the coarse cloth of
flax revealing a plant within.
"Kingsfoil," Sam breathed.
Aragorn smiled. "Athelas. This healing herb is from my own
garden, ready for planting in yours, Frodo, and in this pouch are dried
leaves, ready for use. This book I asked my scribes to compile;
it includes instructions on the care and uses of athelas."
"I know right where it ought to go in the garden, Mr. Frodo!" Sam exclaimed excitedly.
"Thank you, Aragorn -- my Lord," Frodo corrected himself. "These are gifts without price..."
"Thank you, Sire," Lily murmured, blushing. "You are too kind."
Frodo ran his fingers reverently across the book's cover, his
expression clouding for a moment as dark memories of Weathertop came
unbidden. He composed himself quickly, and turned bright eyes to
"Would you like the book for your library, Sam?" Frodo asked, with a smile for his friend's enthusiasm.
"It's yours, Mr. Frodo; yours and Miss Lily's."
Lily smiled. "We'll share it. Keep it at Garden Hill so you
may learn all you need to ensure it thrives. Rosie and I shall
learn all we may on how to use it..." Her eyes widened, and she
turned to Frodo and Aragorn.
"Sire, I know you wish to keep your presence secret. There is
someone who desires to meet you; not--" Lily hesitated, hoping she was
phrasing her request properly. "Not Elessar, the King, but
Aragorn, the Healer. She's our own healer; she serves Hobbiton as
well... May I bring her to meet you? Would that be
Aragorn glanced at Frodo.
"Mrs. Longburrow, our healer, noticed how well my hand mended," Frodo
explained; then he smiled. "She declared it fine work, and did
express a desire to meet you."
"Can she be trusted?"
"She's the healer for Bag End," Frodo stated simply.
Aragorn nodded. "And loyal to you, above all others... Fetch her here."
Secondies and elevensies were spent in pleasant conversation, mostly
between Aragorn and Mrs. Longburrow, with occasional questions from
Merry, Pippin, and Rose. Sam, Frodo, and Lily listened intently.
Luncheon was nearing when a knock came at the front door.
"I'll get it," Fatty offered. A moment later he returned.
"Mrs. Longburrow? They're needing you down at the Hornblower
place. Seems young Largo ate a few too many of the new apples..."
"It's not serious, then," Mrs. Longburrow replied. "Why his
mother can't take care of such things... Oh, fuss and
bother. I'm sure she's heard I've spent the morning here, and
wants to know why."
Aragorn eyed her calmly. "We shall not make our presence known
until this evening, and even then, we'll not reveal who I am."
Mrs. Longburrow raised one eyebrow, but failed to hide a smile.
"If it's gossips you want, then we'll need to fetch Belba Greenholm,
Dalfinia Bracegirdle, and Prisca Goodbody."
Aragorn smiled appreciatively and bowed. "Please, forgive me, dear lady. I did not intend to offend."
"Of course not," Mrs. Longburrow stated matter-of-factly. "It's
not like no one's going to notice you the moment you step out the door,
but that doesn't mean the whole Shire needs to know exactly who you
are, now do they?"
Aragorn threw back his head and laughed. "My lady, if ever you
find yourself in Minas Tirith, your company would be most welcome in my
court." His grey eyes twinkled. "But then again, I believe
our dear Frodo has greater need of you. I wish my Lady could but
spend a little time with you, Mrs. Longburrow. How it would
gladden her heart to know one such as you looks after our dear friend
and his new bride!"
Mrs. Longburrow's confidence melted into girlish blushes. "Oh,
bosh." Then she giggled. "Mind how you talk there, or you
may find yourself with a hobbit healer on yer doorstep sooner than you
"We would be honoured and delighted, I assure you..."
The healer struggled for composure, between more blushes and
giggles. "It's a good thing my Filby's passed on. He'd
never let me hear the end of how I let a lad get the better of
me." She took a deep breath and released it. "It was a
pleasure meeting you," -- she paused, then smiled -- "sir, whoever you
Aragorn bowed over her hand. "The pleasure was entirely mine, dear lady."
Mrs. Longburrow curtsied and smiled broadly, then turned to Lily.
"Thank you for fetching me. Please do call upon me for anything."
The healer recovered her self-assurance. "You're a fine mistress for Bag End, Miss Lily, and long overdue."
With that, she swept out of the smial.
After luncheon, Merry and Pippin invited Gimli and Legolas to the lush
back garden for a pipe. Aragorn declined, preferring to remain as
unseen as possible.
Lily excused herself to nap in the room Frodo had given her.
Frodo kissed her cheek, and watched her go, then Aragorn murmured, "Is she all right? There was a weariness about her..."
Anguish filled Frodo's face. "My fault. It's my fault..."
"Stop it, please, Frodo," Rosie scolded gently, laying a hand on his
arm to soften her tone. "She'd not let you speak that way, if she
were here, and I'll not let you, either."
"It's that cursed darkness, left behind by the Ring," Sam explained bitterly.
"Please, Sam, that's enough," Rosie warned, suddenly choking back
tears. "No brooding, today! Or tomorrow, for that matter."
She composed herself, and turned to Aragorn. "Lily can sense the
darkness; we don't know what else to call It. But we do know It
refuses to leave Frodo... Lily can ease the darkness, somewhat,
though It wears on her. They've managed -- with patience, and
hard work -- to keep a fair balance. Sure and certain, it's quite
a feat, by my way of thinking..." She almost mentioned Frodo's
illness in March, but caught herself. After a quick glance at
Frodo and then Sam, she realized there was so much she could not tell
either of them. She addressed Aragorn again. "It's
something I'd've never reckoned anyone could do."
Rose sighed and went on, directing her pleas to her husband and Frodo, as Aragorn listened in silence.
"So don't be feedin' the nasty creature with any more despair. It helps itself quite well enough, thank you."
"I'm sorry, Rosie," Frodo replied, hushed. "You're right."
"So that is what you meant, my friend, by her choosing you, despite
what an alliance with you might mean." Aragorn smiled in
wonder. "I underestimated her."
Frodo smiled ruefully. "You're not the only one. She truly
is my gift, Aragorn; a gift of indescribable value from
Ilúvatar... priceless. I only hope I may love her as she
Aragorn considered the hobbit's words for a moment. "Frodo, from
my own experience, I've learned Ilúvatar does not seem to offer
one-sided gifts. More times than not, His gifts work two ways..."
Frodo eyed the Man quizzically. "Do you mean... as she is my gift from the Creator, so am I hers?"
"But what she must endure to be with me... What she must
sacrifice... I must endure nothing, and I only benefit from being
with her. Surely, Ilúvatar would not require sacrifice
from one and not the other..."
"Frodo, sacrifices are seldom required simultaneously--"
Before Frodo could pursue the conversation further, they were
distracted by a knock at the door. He glanced toward Lily's room,
and hoped she slept still, as he excused himself from his guests and
hurried to the door. He hoped it wasn't a peddler. Hadn't
everything for the wedding already been delivered--?
He opened the door quietly, then whispered, for he could not find his voice.
The wizard laughed, then found himself hushed.
"Is she well?" Gandalf asked, though he knew the answer already.
Frodo paused before answering. "Well enough..." He searched his dear friend's eyes for understanding.
It occurred to Frodo he had not yet invited Gandalf inside. He
stood aside and held out his right hand in welcome. Gandalf
nodded once, but made no attempt to enter.
"Mayhap I should visit her presently..."
Frodo's blue eyes lit up with hope. "Would you? Oh, please,
Gandalf..." He reminded himself to keep his voice low.
"Please, come inside..."
Gandalf nodded again. "I trust the others are here?" he winked.
Frodo offered his first unshadowed smile. "In the kitchen. Thank you."
The wizard ducked into the hall. "No need to thank me, dear
Frodo." He glanced beyond Frodo, to the end of the hall.
"Is she in her room?"
Gandalf continued down the hall to Lily's room. He squeezed into
the crowded space, now filled with her things. His eyes caught
sight of a simple basket, next to a chair close to the fireplace.
Slips of fabric spilled from under its hinged lid.
Then he saw Lily curled up under a single coverlet, asleep, and
smiled. Carefully, he pulled up a sturdy-looking trunk of oak and
sat on it next to the bed. He braced himself and laid his hand on
He almost gasped in spite of himself. "So much more do you bear,
child... and only since March. How?" he whispered. He eased
his hands away from her head, slowly.
Lily woke with a start. Her eyes popped open wide. "Gandalf?"
"Yes, child. I am here. Just as I promised." He gave
her a warm smile, then startled when she burst into tears.
She threw her arms about the wizard, and sobbed into his robes to muffle her crying.
He hesitated for only a moment, then gently enfolded her in his arms.
Amidst hiccups and sniffles, she whispered, "I feared -- something
might have happened -- to you and -- and you would not come and -- I
would marry Frodo anyway, but then -- you wouldn't have been here to --
to lift the darkness from me -- and I would become ill -- and Frodo
would never forgive himself, and--"
When she paused for breath, Gandalf laid a single finger on her
lips. "I am here, and there's no need to fear, dear child.
I see the darkness is working Its way in you as well. But still,
I am amazed and heartened by how well you've held up. How do you
feel, now that your fears are at rest?"
Lily took a deep breath and released it slowly. "Better... much
better--!" She paused and cocked her head. "You refreshed
me, as you did last March, just now--"
"I did. It only seemed fitting you should be with Frodo,
especially now... Tell me, dear Lily. What else troubles
She fingered his robe, then gazed up at the wizard, all her worry revealed on her face. "I fear It knows."
"Knows what, Lily?"
"Its end is coming," she whispered.
"Mayhap It does, but I think not. You see, what you speak of is a
truth, and the darkness is unable to conceive of it. More likely,
It knows something important is coming only; but no matter. I am
here -- we are both here -- and together, by the grace of
Ilúvatar, It shall be defeated. Breathe easy, child.
You've borne the burden well; just a little longer, now. You're
Lily sighed and nodded her head. "Yes, Gandalf. I'm all right." She met his kind blue eyes, and smiled.
"Good. Let's join the others. I'm quite certain I'm not
mistaken a particular gentlehobbit would welcome your company."
Lily blushed and giggled, then grew serious again. "Gandalf, thank you..."
Gandalf bowed slightly. "I am at your service." He needed to leave the room first, as he was blocking the door.
He carefully entered the kitchen and greeted the circle of
friends. Frodo had called in his cousins and Gimli and Legolas
from the back garden.
Aragorn and the others stood immediately when they caught sight of Gandalf, resplendent in his shining white robes.
Frodo gazed up at the wizard, only the slightest fear clouding his eyes. He trusted his friend. "Is she all right?"
Lily appeared from behind Gandalf's robes, and smiled as Frodo caught
his breath. He wrapped his arms about her, unaware of anyone else.
"I'm quite all right, my dearest Frodo." Then she whispered in his ear. "Good as new."
Frodo pulled back and searched her face.
Lily allowed all her love for him to shine in her eyes.
A tear slid down Frodo's cheek. "I--" He glanced at Gandalf. "Thank you," his voice trembled.
Lily reached up and kissed the tear away, then tightened her hold on
Frodo as she smiled at Gandalf. He blushed slightly at the
radiant look in the couples' faces.
"What must a wizard do to get a spot of tea around here?"
Laughter filled the room. Frodo and Lily briefly tightened their
embrace, then took their seats at table as Rosie, with Merry and
Pippin's help, prepared an early tea.
The afternoon passed amid stories and songs, and shared food and
laughter. Lily and Rose were not accustomed to the presence of a
Dwarf, an Elf prince, and a king -- a real king -- in their
midst. They spent much of the time simply watching and listening,
Lily delighted in the regaled story of the battle of Helm's Deep, as
told by the three hunters; she noticed they call themselves by that
name, much as the Shire folk called Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin the
"For we were hunting stray hobbits," Gimli explained, then eyed Merry
and Pippin severely as he laughed. "It turned out these rascals
were taking very good care of themselves, even indulging in the stores
at Isengard, including the best leaf... and somehow, during our brief
separation, they seemed to add a few inches as well."
"The Ent-draught!" Rosie giggled. "Glad I am, my Sam got none of it, as he's quite tall enough."
Sam blushed and kissed her cheek.
Lily felt Frodo's eyes on her often, as they listened to their
visitors. She met his gaze with love and warmth, reveling in
sitting closely, held against him, his arm encircling her. She
held his right hand in her lap, their fingers intertwined.
This was the closest they had been since returning to Hobbiton.
She struggled to remember others were in the room, and not give in to
her desires, mirrored there in Frodo's eyes.
Just after dinner, and before guests were to begin to appear on the
party field, Hal and Daisy arrived arm in arm, with Will carrying Pearl
on his shoulders. She was happily singing a wordless, tuneless
song, clinging tightly to Will's hair. He struggled not to wince
when she pulled harder and shrieked when she saw Frodo and Lily.
Daisy laughed. "She had a good nap. Can you tell?"
The babe dove trustingly into Frodo's arms, then chortled and gasped at
the expected kiss from Lily. The family laughed at her shrieks of
delight as Frodo danced her around a few turns, landing her safely in
Hal's arms. Then the much-anticipated game started all over again.
Soon thereafter, the guests began to arrive in droves, and side by
side, Lily and Frodo welcomed each of them to the supper, games, and
Frodo could hardly contain his excitement. Nearly all the
Fellowship was here -- Aragorn was here! And Gimli, and
Legolas... and Gandalf would give them a blessing tomorrow, as part of
Gandalf had made Lily feel immeasurably better. It was a blessing
unlooked-for, and welcomed; for Lily had become emotionally exhausted
after a week full of crowded parties, despite her daily naps.
Mayhap the miracle he had prayed for...
The darkness attempted to reach into him again, but Lily was by his
side and It could not gain purchase. Frodo sighed deeply before
greeting their next guests, the Hornblower family.
As Frodo asked after Largo's health and the green apples, Lily squeezed
his arm gently. She knew the darkness was lurking, waiting only
for Frodo to weaken and fall into despair.
Frodo sent the Hornblowers on toward the tables laden with every
delicacy Hobbiton and Bywater could boast. As he watched them go,
he felt Lily's touch on his arm, and the darkness retreat
further. He refused to think of what living with him might do to
her, and clung to what faith he possessed. They would take each
day as it came...
The evening was fair and warm, and the crowd was the largest of any
that week. While it was common for the party on the wedding's eve
to be well-attended, rumours had flown throughout all four Farthings
that Gandalf the Conjurer was here, and his fireworks were not to be
missed. Still, he was passing strange...
To make matters worse, a Man, a Dwarf, and -- it was said, although
many would not believe it -- an Elf were here, in the largest of the
pavilions... These Bagginses had a knack for attracting
foreigners. The Dwarf fit in well enough, being almost the same
size, but for that beard... Several of them had seen the
Man. Tall he was, but not very well-dressed; not for a wedding,
Lily and Frodo greeted the last guest. She pointed to a small pavilion close to the fully-leafed mallorn, and giggled.
"Look, Frodo, the children have found Gandalf..."
Frodo laughed. "I cannot tell which amazes them more -- his small
fireworks, or his beard! No doubt the youngest ones haven't ever
seen one before, and now they've seen two, Gimli's and
Gandalf's... But look--! He's setting up the real fireworks
The first of the fireworks drew the visiting members of the Fellowship
out of the pavilion, where Frodo and Lily joined them to watch the
show. Legolas made his way past the others to stand next to the
four hobbits, Lily, and Rose.
A spectacular firework burst into the shape of the White Tree, filling
the entire sky and turning night into day, causing the crowd first to
gasp and then to roar in delight.
Legolas spoke in a hushed tone, so that they had to strain to hear him over the hum of the celebrants.
"That was for Boromir," he said simply.
"And fitting it was," answered Pippin softly.
"Aye," whispered Merry.
The others were silent, and Lily felt a mournfulness in all of them,
but most especially Merry and Pippin and Frodo, who tensed with
sadness, his hand holding hers.
The Fellowship watched as the crowd murmured and gasped in awe,
exclaiming and applauding as the displays appeared, each one grander
than the last. Parents held their small children in their arms,
and pointed skyward.
As the last magnificent shower of colours faded, the stars took their
place, sparkling bright white against the black canopy of night.
"The stars are more beautiful than ever, now that you love me," Frodo whispered to Lily.
"Dearest Frodo--" she answered back, and she felt his wish to kiss
her. But they could not kiss in public until the wedding; instead
they joined the dancing.
Lily and Frodo danced together most of the evening, though from time to
time they were spied to be sitting alone, in plain view but wholly
unapproachable even by the most brazen busybodies. Rosie nudged
Sam and smiled as she noticed Belba Greenholm attempt to sidle closer
to the couple, mayhap to overhear their words, but promptly found
herself swept into the dancing by a Dwarf.
Closer to midnight the festivities began to wind down, and it was
permissible for Frodo and Lily to retire. Daisy had put Pearl
down for the night several hours earlier, with Rosie's mum offering to
keep an eye on her. She returned to keep Hal company and finish
the night, while Rosie and Sam accompanied Lily and Frodo home.
Sam and Rosie entered their smial, stopping at the door. Sam
grinned at the couple, though they were barely aware of him.
"We'll give you fifteen minutes, then I'll see you home, Mr. Frodo."
Frodo nodded absently, his eyes returning Lily's searching gaze.
The door to the smial closed and Frodo whispered, "After tonight, I'll not be able to say this ever again..."
Lily drew her brows together, questioningly, and gave him a curious
smile, her heart beating madly. There would be no more goodbyes
"I love you, Lily -- Burrows..."
Lily's breath caught. "Beloved Frodo," she sighed. "Never
again to be separated..." She began to tremble, and her breathing
became uneven. She laid her palms on his chest, and whispered
against his lips, "I love you..."
Then she gave in to their desire, kissing him softly,
tentatively. She was not sure it was even allowed, but Sam had
left them alone...
Frodo's breathing stopped. He held perfectly still, and the teasing glint vanished from his eyes. "Lily..."
He abandoned his voice as she tenderly caressed his lips again.
Her attentions were slowly breaking down his control, and desire sang
in every fiber of his being. He trembled with the effort to
remain calm, and then he tenderly returned her offering, taking her
face into his hands and teasing her with only the lightest of kisses.
She shuddered, and they smiled at the same time within a kiss, knowing
each other's hopes and dreams. Frodo gave her one last kiss, his
mouth searching against hers, still gentle.
She tasted sweet. He had to stop.
"I love you, Lily." His voice was resonant against her cheek. "Can we manage, for one more night?"
"We have no choice, but I can wait... barely," she breathed. "I love you."
As they prayed, giving thanks, the warm soft breeze of May transformed
into June around them, full of blessing and mystery. In silence
they held fast to one another, until Sam returned.