Promises: 5. Gifts

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5. Gifts

Late in the year of Plenty, 1420, on an evening in October, two strangers came walking along the road to Hobbiton. Both were cloaked though it was clear one was a young boy and the other a lady hobbit of middle years. The older hobbit walked with head bowed but the boy looked about him in wonder. They asked no directions, but walked on up to the New Row with hardly a hesitation – as if they knew the place well, until they came to the end and there the lady stopped. She asked the boy to wait and proceeded up the walk that meandered through the sheltered garden. At the door, she knocked timidly. After a bit of pause, it was opened by a sunny hobbit lass with large brown eyes.

“Yes?” Rosie asked the stranger. The stranger looked at her closely, appraisingly.

“Is Mr. Baggins at home?” she asked. Rosie blinked and nodded, wondering at the visual examination the lady gave her.

“He’s in the study. Can I say who is calling?”

The older hobbit hesitated, but, appearing to decide something, asked. “May I first know who you are?”

Rosie was taken a bit aback, but smiled reassuringly, “I’m Rosie Gamgee. My husband Sam and I take care of Mr. Frodo since he’s come back from the wars. He is a very good friend. And now, may I ask your name again?” Rosie’s tone firmed protectively. The older hobbit paused, and a faint smile flitted across her face.

“Please tell him Mae Burrows has come to call, if he’ll see me.”

Rosie nodded and allowed Mae through the door to wait. After a moment, Rosie returned and beckoned her forward. “He’ll see you. Though the name gave him a start.” Now it was Rosie’s turn to give her guest a once over. Mae nodded, sadly, as if what Rosie told her was not a surprise.

“Yes, it would. I will not trouble him for long, but I believe he will be glad of my visit.” Rosie then led Mae back into the bowels of New End to a little room with a fire. The fire surprised Mae, for the early evening was balmy and there seemed to be little need for it. Its warmth kept the little room close, but the air was fresh as it circulated through a small window. It felt like the kind of warm dry heat one might have expected in the home of an aged hobbit, heat that helped stiff joints and old bones feel less pained.

At a desk with his back to the fire, sat a dark haired hobbit with an evening robe on. He looked up when he heard the sounds of Rosie and Mae coming into the room. Mae drew a sharp breath when Frodo turned to look at her. He was much changed. When Mae had known him, it had seemed that a delicate fire had burned inside him, fragile and spirited. Now that fire was stronger, no longer delicate but of immeasurable fortitude, and, in it’s burning, it had shorn away the gloss of youth that had once been his. He seemed now more a burning ember coated in ash, a strong, pure light masked by a cloak of grey, his once bright countenance dimmed by years and toil. Mae was struck by this change and stood in the entrance to the room for a moment staring at him. Frodo thanked Rosie and told her he would like to speak with his guest alone. Rosie left quietly, but it seemed plain she would remain in earshot while Mae was alone with him.

“Hello, Frodo.” Mae said quietly.

He shifted in his chair so that he faced her directly. “Hello, Mae. Won’t you come in?” His voice was cordial but had no warmth. “I has been, what…?”

“Twenty seven years…” she finished for him. “A very long time between friends.”

“Are we friends, Mae?” Frodo’s voice was a bit sharp. Mae whinced. “I wasn’t sure what we were anymore. You,… you didn’t leave me with much to go on.” Mae drew a deep breath and seemed to steel herself. Frodo turned back to his desk, but he did not seem to see the papers before him. “If you are here to claim what I once offered you,…” he said in a soft, distant voice. “…you are too late. I cannot offer it now.”

“You could not offer it to me when you did.” Mae’s voice was tight and forced. “I knew it then, though you did not.”

Frodo turned to her again, frowning. It was a wound long healed, but her words rekindled some anger in him. “I offered myself in good faith. I would have married you. Did you think me so base that I would lie just to…?”

Mae shook her head, quickly confirming she knew he would not, and stepped forward, her hand outstretched to touch his cheek. Frodo stiffened and she stopped, her hand falling by her side. “Did you ever wonder,” she asked after a long moment of silence between them. “…why I left?”

Frodo frowned, but would not look up at her. “Yes,” he said at length. “I often did. I thought of many reasons, tried to find out where you’d gone…. But you disappeared well. I heard nothing of you. “ He looked up, towards the small round window. Full dark had fallen. He sighed. “For years I would look for you at fairs, parties… wherever there were large groups of hobbits together… but I never saw you. After a time, I stopped looking.” He looked down. “I thought once you left because,…” Then he shook his head, as if changing his mind about mentioning his thought.

A ghost of a smile passed over Mae’s face at that, but she did not dwell on it,…yet… “I wanted to tell you why then.” she answered. “But you would not have understood my reasons,… not until now.”

Now it was Frodo’s turn to eye her critically. Mae drew herself up and looked into the fire, as if taking strength from it to say what she must.

“It was soon after you had come to live here in Hobbiton, I was ill – I almost died,” Mae said. Frodo nodded, indicating he remembered it. “Something,…happened to me then.” she continued. “I started,…seeing things after that. Things that had not yet happened.” She looked directly at Frodo. “One of the first things I saw was you…. I saw you.” Now her eyes grew bright with the beginnings of tears. “I thought someone had told me a tale,… one of agony, of heartbreak and loss while I dreamed. But no one had. I saw what you would feel, what you would go through…” Now a few of the tears fell from her eyes. “It was not until I touched your hand next that I knew it was your future I beheld. Until that moment, it was no more than a story to me. A heartbreaking, touching story, but not real; not until I touched you.”

Frodo frowned. He remembered the incident. It was the first time he had noticed her. It was the first time he had felt the full power of her brilliant green eyes… He shook his head. That was a flame long dead, he reminded himself. “So you say you saw the things my future held?” His tone was highly skeptical. “And you didn’t run screaming from me?” It was a hollow, bitter jest.

“In the end, yes…” Mae whispered. “But at first I was drawn to you, like a moth to a flame. I saw only bits and pieces, shadows and feelings, but when I was with you, they were clearer and I could make out more meaning. I wanted to see if I could find something in those visions – something I could say or warn you about that might save you.” She shook her head. “All I saw was pain, and loss and heartbreak… In the end, it was more than I had the strength to bear.” She looked down at her hands.

Frodo looked at her grimly. He did not believe her, and was growing angry that she would dredge up feelings he had carefully closeted away. “If you knew these things,” he growled, “Why did you not tell me? Warn me? I find this tale of woe of yours just a little too fantastic to be believed. Especially told to me now,… now that the account of my adventures is well known. You will have to do better than this to curry my favor.” Frodo’s voice was becoming more bitter. He was rapidly coming to the end of his patience for her charade.

“Would you have believed me?” she countered. “Even now, after all that has happened you find it difficult. If I had said anything to you then, you would have dismissed me utterly. And I would never…” She stopped, drew a deep breath and sighed. “Do you remember the red lit room?” She saw Frodo stiffen. “Do you remember the taste of liquor being poured down your throat?” she continued, her voice barely above a whisper. “You were so frightened, in such despair,…you were prepared to die, but you were not prepared for what they did to you…”

“STOP!” Frodo was visibly trembling. “Enough,….” he whispered hoarsely.

Mae turned to him and Frodo could see the tears flowing down her cheeks. He remembered, she cried a great deal… The anger he felt ebbed and he began to doubt himself. She nodded faintly. “That was not in any tale, was it? You never spoke of what they did to you, the orcs, in that dark tower? Not to anyone. How would I know of it, if I did not speak the truth?” She closed her eyes, squeezing more tears from them. “There was much more, all of it horrible, and that was torment to me… I loved you desperately…” Her voice rose to a sob. “…but I was too weak.”

Frodo stood. He was still trembling from the memories she had stirred, but the pain in her voice could not be denied. He knew that pain. He took a step towards her and wrapped his arms about her. She buried her face in his shoulder as the sobs wracked her body. “I believe you now…” he whispered in her ear as the sobs eased. “And I am sorry. You have had to live with these memories longer even than I have.”

Mae reached her arms around him and held him too. He was still slight and wiry but he felt frail to her, as he never had before. “After I left, I began to doubt myself. For many years I saw nothing of your fate and began to wonder if perhaps I had dreamt it all, but I had made a life for myself and there was no going back. Then, two years ago, I heard that you had come through Bree. I was wild with joy and desperate to meet you, but by the time I came to town you had gone. I had missed you.” Mae laid her head on his shoulder. “After that, we heard nothing for months, but then bits of tales began to filter in from the north. The rangers left and we were beset by ruffians and wolves. I don’t think most of the Bree-folk knew how those strange men had protected us.” She drew a deep breath in the perfume of his scent. It was changed too, but still brought back the memory of nights of bliss in his arms. “When you returned to Bree the next year, I could not get away and missed your coming then too. It was a hard year for a healer. After you left and your tale was being told, I heard much that had been in my visions. I think that was the first time I really, totally believed that what I had seen was real. And because of that, I realized at last the depths to which you had suffered.” She caressed his shoulder with her cheek.

Frodo raised a hand to her hair and stroked it gently, comfortingly. “Burdens are often eased when shared, they say. You have given me more peace than you imagine. I am glad you came.”

Mae suddenly stood back from him and looked deeply into his eyes. A hopeful smile was growing on her face. “I’ve brought someone with me.” she said gently. “I would like you to meet him.” She pulled him towards the door, but Frodo hesitated. The drama of her visit had been stressful enough. He did not feel he would have the stomach to meet the hobbit that she had ‘made a life with’. He did not feel he could bear it.

“Mae, please…” Frodo pulled his hand from hers. “I am not the same hobbit you once knew. You would do well to forget me and get on with your life.”

Mae’s bright smile faded and she looked at him with such compassion that Frodo almost felt embarrassed. She came back to him and laid a soft hand on his cheek. “You wait here then.” She said, and was gone out the door with such a flurry of energy that Frodo did not have a chance to stop her. He shook his head and sat back at his desk. He was tired. He had known seeing Mae again would be painful and taxing, but it had been more draining than he had imagined. She still held his heart, and that was something he had not anticipated. It would hurt him more than he could admit to see her look with love upon another, but he could see no course of action he could take but to bear it and greet the one she would bring.

He heard Rosie’s exclamation first. A gasp of shock followed by her excited voice speaking too rapidly and softly for Frodo to follow. He heard the swish of a cape in the smial and the soft pad of hobbit feet on the tiles. Now they were at the door of his study, Frodo could hear someone’s soft intake of breath. He sighed and looked up.

Standing in the doorway was a young hobbit in a blue cloak. Both Mae and Rosie stood behind and to either side of him. Mae beamed with pride and hope and Rosie looked flushed and excited. The younger hobbit was studying Frodo with wide green eyes the exact color of new leaves,… eyes that were the same color as Mae’s… and yet the face of the hobbit… Frodo’s own mouth fell open as he realized that the face of the stranger was as like to his own as if he were looking into a mirror. The boy took a step into the room, his eyes never leaving Frodo’s. He moved gracefully, lithely and seemed to possess a youthful energy that fairly crackled from his slight frame. Frodo slowly stood, much less gracefully than the boy, for the shock of this vision seemed to be robbing his legs of strength. The two of them stared at one another, each studying every detail of the other. Standing together as they were, it was impossible not to see the resemblance between them, and Mae, seeing the two hobbits she loved most in the world side by side wept openly, for joy this time.

Frodo held forth his hand to the boy. It was trembling. “Hello?” he croaked in greeting, his voice would not stay steady. The boy looked at the proffered hand and, as if suddenly realizing he was to grasp it, did so. His hand was trembling too, Frodo noticed.

“Elan.” The boy said, meaning that that was his name. Frodo slowly smiled and the sight of that smile brought an answering one to Elan’s face. Behind them, Rosie choked back a sob of her own. She and Mae were in tears, but they both beamed in delight.

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At the kitchen table of New End, the four of them became acquainted, or reacquainted as the case might be. Frodo had found new energy or so it seemed for he could not keep his eyes from the young hobbit. He sat; listening intently to every word that the boy uttered and Elan was flushed and proud to be held so high in the esteem of his father. He had not known what to expect from the journey, but it was turning out to be far better that anything he had imagined. As Rosie laid out a large supper, Frodo reached under the table and squeezed Mae’s hand. Mae gazed back at him, lovingly and proud. Frodo had seen that look before, on Sam’s face, and Rosie’s, and on Merry’s and Pippin’s when they were in a particularly sentimental mood (or when the ale had been particularly free flowing). Those who knew and loved him gave him that look. Now there was another who loved him, and she had brought with her a gift the likes of which he had never dared dream.

As Frodo watched the bright, energetic boy, he noted every detail. His hands were long fingered and slender, but they had known labor more than books. His clothes, though not ragged, were well worn and patched. Mae had not done as well as she had claimed, it seemed. He wondered what she had had to deal with these long years raising the boy herself and that pained him to think on all that he had missed, all he had lost. He turned and looked at Mae who was now laughing gaily and realized that even if he could have gone back and lived his life over, he would never have valued this hobbit lady then as he did now. He would never have valued this child,…his child, he corrected himself, as much as he did now. With Sam and Rosie to care for him and to carry on as his heirs, he had thought his life complete but until he had set eyes on this boy, he had not realized how much he missed having a child of his own. After all such options had seemed long past and he had given up on any idea of a family one had been given to him.

Supper went long into the night and then pipes by the hearth. Mae hovered close by Frodo’s side as he and Elan talked. Rosie was warmed to see how well he had taken to the mother and son. It had only been a couple of weeks since she and Sam had told him they were expecting a child, and though he had been delighted, the sad thought had crossed Rosie’s mind that Frodo would never know such joy himself. She was happy to see herself wrong in that. Mae was content, as father and son talked, just to hear the sound of their happy speech, but after a time she noticed Frodo quieting. She reached for his hand and held it in hers. His slim fingers wrapped around her palm in a quick and quiet thanks. She smiled. This was all she had needed. To see him happy made her feel as if her life was fulfilled.

It wasn’t long after that that Mae felt Frodo’s fingers slacken and his grip on her hand fell gently away. She looked at him, alarmed, but saw that he had merely fallen asleep in the chair. Elan noticed it also and stopped in his tale. He looked worriedly at Rosie.

“Will he be alright?” he asked, frowning in concern. Rosie nodded.

“He hasn’t fallen asleep by the fire for a while, but it’s happened. My Sam usually helps me get him off to bed, or if it’s just me, I let him set by the fire. He’s just tired himself out, that’s all.”

With Elan there, they lifted Frodo’s sleeping form and his son carried him gently to his rooms. Rosie and Mae turned down the bed and the boy laid him in it. Frodo sighed softly in his sleep and settled his dark head into the white pillows. Rosie guided them out of the room, but Mae spared one worried glance back. He was younger than she was, by a couple of years, and yet she did not feel nearly as old as he seemed to be. She had not thought how the trials of his plight would have worn on his body and aged him before his time, but now the concept gnawed at her.

“You’re staying here,” Rosie was saying. “I’ll hear no argument. My Sam’s due back in a day or so and he would be heartbroken not seeing you.” This last comment she directed mainly to Elan, and the boy smiled brightly. Rosie put a hand to her throat upon seeing that smile and then shook her head. “Glory, it’s like seeing Mr. Frodo new again! Sam will be so happy you’ve come.” Rosie led them down past Frodo’s rooms to a lesser-used section of New End. There truly was room enough for all in the large, cozy burrow. She put them in two rooms with windows that faced the east, and which, probably for that reason alone, were not much used. Hobbits generally slept past sunrise if they could help it. After settling them in, Rosie took leave of her guests and retired.

Mae found she could not sleep. Though the bed was rich and comfortable and she could hear her son breathing softly in the next room, her mind was not at ease. She rose and wrapped a blanket around her shoulders. On silent feet, she walked back up the passage till she found the door behind which they had left Frodo sleeping. She slipped inside. It was dark in the room with only a touch of starlight from the window to illuminate it. She held hands outstretched and walked towards the bed. There. She could feel the coverlet beneath her hand. She felt her way along it till she touched his hand. He was sleeping peacefully. She had not disturbed him. To the side of his bed there was a large padded chair into which she now sank, and there, in the dimly lit room, by Frodo’s bedside, she at last found she could sleep.

Morning came. Frodo found that these days, he woke earlier than he had used to. He stretched and had almost settled back into sleep when the events of the day before leapt back into his thought. His eyes snapped open and he frowned, wondering if perhaps it had all been a dream. He sat up and saw that there, curled up asleep in the chair beside his bed, was Mae. Frodo’s heart leapt. It had not been a dream. He slid from the bed and knelt beside the chair. Even at middle age, she was lovely, though in the peace of sleep he could see the fine lines that age had started to etch there. But it was not her loveliness that drew him now. This was the mother of his son. The only child he would ever have and as fine a boy as any father could ever wish for. She had done this on her own, forsaken her honor, her security and the life she might have known,…for him – and he had known nothing of it. He touched her cheek in a gentle caress that opened her eyes. Mae drew a sharp breath upon seeing him so close, but it was the look on his face that melted her heart. Even in their happiest days, he had never looked upon her with a look of such pure and utter love. She dared not move for fear of loosing this most fragile moment. Then Frodo leaned forward and kissed her and Mae knew that she had not.

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“Oh…you are trembling!” Frodo sat back, alarmed. “Is there something wrong, Mae?” His voice was tender and concerned, soft and with a tone of warmth and compassion she had never heard from him before. She was shivering; it was a reaction to his nearness that she hadn’t anticipated. Frodo eyes grew wide as a thought occurred to him that hadn’t before. “I didn’t think,…you are married, aren’t you?”

Mae quickly shook her head, a nervous, apologetic smile crossing her lips. “No, I never married…” she shrugged. “I guess I never found the time to…” Then, pausing, she added in a surer tone. “And if I had, I would not be here in your rooms.” Frodo laughed, his soft voice growing husky.

“I never got around to it myself.” he said. Then he shook his head, a bit puzzled. “If you aren’t married, and you have come to my rooms of your own accord, why are you trembling?” He reached up to her face, guiding her to look him in the eye. Her expression brought him up short; it was one of shame and desperation. She looked as if, at that moment, she wished to be anywhere but in this room, and at the same time the hunger he saw there was undeniable. It finally began to dawn on Frodo what might be the matter. “Mae,” he asked softly. “How long has it been since you have been taken abed?”

Mae blushed, instantly crimson, but she forced her eyes to meet his, though she trembled as she did so. “Twenty seven years…” she replied in a whisper. Then she had to look away, for the expression on his face made her blush deepen.

Frodo sat back on his heels and felt a warmth spreading through him. He had thought he could not feel more love for this dear hobbit than he already did, but the surge of emotion he now felt belied that. He had known loneliness too, although for him, among the company of friends and family, it must have been easier to bear than what this dear lady had suffered. He smiled; he could not help it. It was a broad, knowing, loving smile that bathed her in its light. “Well,” his voice was very husky. “I know now what I must do.” He stood and went to the door. Mae’s tenseness began to ease, thinking her peril over, but when she heard the sound of a bolt being drawn across the door, she looked up. Frodo was standing by it looking down at her. The smile had not left his face, though his eyes were bright and his manner was decidedly more determined than before. Mae’s heart leapt back into her throat.

“It’s alright, Frodo. To be here is all I wished…” Mae began, her blood pounding in her ears. “I would not ask more of you…” She plastered herself against the chair’s back. If she could have disappeared into it’s padding, she would have. Frodo stooped and took her shaking hands in his.

“You have asked nothing, but I see there is something you need… And, perhaps I need it too. I have not been so chaste as you, but it has been a very long time for me as well.” He chuckled. “We forget, sometimes, to stop and taste the sweetness of life once in a while.”

“But,…” Mae sputtered, looking for all the world like she wished to escape. “…But, we… we never married! I could not presume now….” Her voice trailed off at Frodo’s raised eyebrow that seemed to say, as clearly as if he had spoken the words ‘that didn’t stop us before’. But instead of saying it, he held her hand close and spoke as soothingly as he was able.

“Mae, hear me. You have known me, you have borne me a child, you have kept yourself from every other hobbit for far longer than I would have expected…” He brought her hand to his breast as if to make a vow. “If those are not the actions of a wife, I do not know what they could be called. You are more wife to me than any other….” The mischievous glint returned to his eye and he chuckled. “And I have neglected my husbandly duties for far too long,…” He pulled her to her feet. She was as tense as a bowstring, but stood without flinching by sheer force of will. Frodo laid a gentle hand against her neck and pushed her hair back to expose the white skin. There he placed a gentle kiss. Mae quivered and drew in a breath sharply, but did not falter. Frodo smiled in admiration and began a series of long, slow, circular kisses along her neck. Mae closed her eyes and let out a soft sigh. Much of the stiffness left her as she leaned into his lips.

This was what she had needed, though she had not consciously known it when she had come to his room. She had only known that she needed to be near to him, know he was there, but as she felt tendrils of his curls against her cheek and smelled the musky, spicy scent of him she knew that this touch was what she had really craved. Her desire had been so long denied. She had thought herself long past heeding this song of flesh, but the force of her response made it impossible for her to refuse him. It was an animal hunger and it terrified her, but that terror was unbearably sweet.

Frodo saw Mae’s eye’s half close and felt her relax under his lips. It filled him with delight to be able to please her so; delight and an answering desire of his own. He found her mouth again and kissed her deeply, and, wrapping his arms about her, he held her tight. Mae could not help but feel the hard swelling that had begun to grow on him. Her knees threatened to give way, but Frodo held her up. Her head swam and she whimpered softly. It was too much for her to bear! Frodo released her from his kiss and held back a moment. Slowly… He needed calm himself. She was breathing heavily and trembling in his embrace – although at this point, he doubted it was from fear. Frodo willed himself to relax. After so long, he wanted both of them to savor this. He ran a hand up her back, appreciating the feel of her warm body through the thin gown. She opened her eyes fully and stared at him, breathless.

“Oh, please…” she moaned, her voice aching and Frodo had no power to refuse her. He began to undo the laces of her gown with infinite care and gentleness. Mae found the strength to stand and closed her eyes again to steady herself. Frodo spread the gown open and pulled it slowly from her shoulders. It fell to the floor to become a dusky white mass at her feet. Mae drew a trembling breath, suddenly vulnerable and opened her eyes.

Frodo stood before her. His eyes glittered; the graceful arches of his lips were ruddy from the kisses and a flush of pink lay across his cheeks. His breath came just a little bit fast, as if from excitement or exertion. Mae found her hands moving, almost of their own accord. They had placed Frodo in his bed that night in his evening gown. He still wore the clothes that he had under it. Mae’s hands shook as she loosened the gown’s belt and let it fall. The simple cotton shirt beneath was wrinkled but warm to her touch. Slowly, and focusing all her thought to just this task, she began undoing the buttons. Frodo looked down upon her, admiring her intense control as she attended to each fastening. He felt a bit giddy himself as she proceeded down to the front of his trousers. Before she could get the other side of the panel undone, the trembling in her hands forced her to stop. She blew out a breath and clenched her fists. The feel of him, hard beneath the wool cloth, made it impossible for her to concentrate and without concentration, she knew she would soon loose all control. Frodo shrugged out of the shirt and dressing gown, letting them fall to the floor, and then, casually, undid the last button on his trousers. Mae suddenly realized her eyes had been transfixed on that coarse wool and as he made to pull the pants down, she looked quickly away, embarrassed. If her face hadn’t already been scarlet, she would have blushed anew.

Frodo slid out of the brown wool and almost chuckled at her blatant attempts not to look at him. He wrapped his arms around her waist and, kissing her again, backed her towards his bed. Mae closed her eyes and stumbled against him. There was nowhere for her to go. Frodo lifted her gently and laid her back on the pillow. He was ready for her; she could feel him brush against her thigh. Her body tensed once again as she waited, but Frodo was patient. To her surprise he began gently smoothing her skin with his fingertips. Mae’s eyes were closed so she could not see him but she could feel him climb onto the bed and could sense the heat of his nearness. As he began touching her, gently, here and there across her body, she kept her eyes closed tight. She did not know where his feather touch would alight next. Then a feather kiss, soft and inviting, was on her breast. She drew in a startled breath and heard Frodo’s husky laugh. He was enjoying this.

“I missed you.” he sighed. “More than I ever thought I would. I won’t make the mistake of letting you go again.” He touched her face and guided her to look at him. She did and was startled by the nearness of the astonishingly blue eyes. She could loose herself in those depths forever. Holding her with that stare, he put his hand in the small of her back and lifted her up just slightly. Then, settling his hips between her thighs and forcing them wide, he pushed gently into her. She felt even the slightest movement he made. Her body was so sensitive it was as if she were on fire. Accepting him almost overwhelmed her but she could not look away. He drank in the sight of her eyes widening as he drove deeply in. She was to him, at that moment, the loveliest creature he had ever seen. He knew he would remember this one vision of her as long as he lived.

Mae felt more than heard Frodo’s deep groan of pleasure and at last she was released from his gaze. She could no longer think, only feel and the sensations were carrying her on rolling waves of intense pleasure. She moved with him, becoming one without a moment’s awkwardness or hesitation. It was as if she had been created only for this moment in time. Frodo controlled her. It was he who moved them both. He was no longer the eager, clumsy boy she had known but a skilled and ardent lover and he was rapidly taking her to heights she had never even dreamed of. How he could sense the moment just as she was about to be swept away, she could not tell, but he brought her right to the edge of it again and again. It was not until she felt she absolutely could not stand it another instant that he finally let her go. She rolled back on the wave as all conscious thought was overwhelmed.

Warmth and delight. Mae began to feel her surroundings again and she smiled from the exquisite pleasure. She was still in this moment and Frodo was still within her. Now, it was time for his pleasure. She could see him straining to control himself; the stress of the effort bringing beads of sweat to his brow. She arched her back and drove her hips up hard against his. He had not expected it. She saw him gasp, his eyes closed tight and he began to tremble. Now it was Mae’s turn to control him. She brought her thighs up against his sides and rubbed his smooth skin. There was the scar of the whip. She could feel the interruption of it along his ribs. She wrapped her legs about him and drew him into her. Frodo’s face contorted, she could see the tendons tighten in his forearms. Now he quickened. With each driving thrust of his hips a deep, guttural groan escaped him. It reverberated through them both and Mae felt her own rush hastening again in response to him. His whole body tightened and his face froze in a semblance of sweet pain. Mae felt him tense within her body and the delightful sensation set her off again. His hands clutched convulsively into the coverlet beside her shoulders and the tight muscles of his stomach slammed against hers again and again. Control was impossible now, and Frodo didn’t even try. He forgot gentle, forgot slow and let the wildness take him, knowing no power in the world could have stopped it anyway. His own culmination rocked Frodo. It had been far, far too long since he had felt this delicious sensation. His heartfelt, throaty moan thrilled Mae with the satisfaction it proclaimed. Finally he dropped against her, breathing heavily, and sighed. Mae held onto him, feeling the tremors that still shook his body. At last. It was what they both had needed.

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Passing by in the smial, Rosie was surprised to see the door of Frodo’s room still shut. He had usually arisen by this time of day. She frowned. Considering the circumstances of the night before, she wondered if, indeed, something was wrong. He had been ill, very ill, only weeks before, and yet he had tried to hide it from them. Perhaps the stresses of meeting his son and the child’s mother had been too much? She had almost touched the doorknob when a sound from the room stopped her. It was a moan of pleasure from a decidedly male voice. Rosie quickly took her hand away and felt her cheeks flush in embarrassment. Then, as quick as the blush had come, a broad smile grew in its place as she began to understand. Mae! She thought. She could have hugged the older hobbit right there. Mr. Frodo would be quite all right after all.

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“Frodo?” Mae whispered softly. She felt the muscles of his face against her cheek and knew that he smiled. His dusky curls tickled her nose. The sweat of their exertions was drying everywhere except where their bodies touched. She ran a hand slowly over his back causing goose bumps to rise where she touched him.

“Hmmm?” he murmured sounding quite pleased with himself.

“Do you think we should get up? The others, Elan and Rosie, they will be waking soon. They’ll wonder what has become of us?”

It felt as if Frodo smiled again. He wrapped his arms around her naked body protectively.

“Who says I am finished?…”

----------------------------------------

“You will, of course, move back.” Frodo sipped his tea as he and Mae sat in the kitchen watching the sun creeping along the window sill. “There is room enough for all of us here, and I would love to show Elan about the Shire. I fancy he would enjoy walking these hills as much as I once did.”

Mae forced her smile, but her eyes reflected a troubled heart. “He’s a hobbit lad nearly fully grown. Perhaps you should ask what is his heart’s desire?” She looked down into her tea. “It may be he already has a life he wishes to live.” Frodo noted the tone and looked at her closely. He reached across the table and touched her chin so that she would look up at him.

“What is it, Mae…? There is something. I just want to help you, take care of you, see that you are provided for, after all you have done for me.

She shook her head. “I didn’t come here to ask for anything. I came to make peace and ease both our troubled hearts. Elan and I deserve nothing from you.”

“But I want you to stay with me.” Frodo whispered taking her hand. “I want us to be together, I want to see my son…” He could see the pain in her face, the terrible struggle that swelled within her.

She brought his hand to her lips, kissed it gently and began to stroke the long fingers. Her face grew sadder as she sat, and when she spoke, her lip trembled. “You forget, Frodo. I am a healer and I have known your body. You may be able to hide the truth from the others, but I know….” She sighed tearfully. “How long would you be able to hide your illness from your friends? From your son?”

Frodo was silent. Though he stared at Mae he did not seem to see to see her for a long time. Finally, a long, low sigh escaped him and he looked down, resigned. “They don’t know.” he whispered in a small voice. “Sam should, but I don’t suppose he wants to see it. Why should I say anything? It would only cause him pain.”

“Yes….” Mae’s softly ragged whisper tore at Frodo’s heart. “If he knew, as I do, it would cause him great pain.” Her lip trembled more as she forced herself to speak. “I know I am being selfish. I know I am weak, but please,…” She looked into his eyes, pleading. “Don’t ask me to watch you die. I could not bear it!” She hugged the hand she still held to her cheek and Frodo felt her tears on his palm. It was an image he remembered from a world away, when she had first held his hand and cried into it. How could he let her go again? After all he had been through and given up, how could he relinquish someone who had brought him such joy? But,… what right did he have to ask her to stay? She was right, of course. He knew his time was growing short. He remembered the words of Elrond and knew that in the fall of the next year he would leave Middle Earth forever. It was not death, but to her and all those he loved, it would seem like it. His time was over. He had to think of those he would leave behind.

“You had strength enough to bear a child for me, Mae Burrows. I think you are stronger than you realize. But I will not ask you to stay if it would hurt you. I love you too much to do that.” She squeezed her eyes tight together and hugged his hand. “But,” he continued. “You must let me do something for you. Sam is my heir…” She opened her eyes and looked as if she was going to speak, but Frodo silenced her firmly. “Sam IS my heir,” he repeated, “for what he has gone through for me and for the great love we bear each other, he will always be. But for my son…” Frodo smiled and lingered on the word as if savoring it. “…my son. I wish to help provide for him.”

“We need nothing!” Mae assured him, but Frodo silenced her with a sudden, angry look. He would not be denied. Mae saw now the ember of his spirit surging into flame; indomitable, powerful.

“I have some funds that are mine to do with as I will. New End I will leave to Sam and Rosie and their heirs. It is theirs by right and I doubt Elan would be happy so far from the lands of his birth. I will leave him instead a cache of gold that was given to me by King Elessar. I have no need of it. I will also provide him a letter acknowledging him as my son, though none who knew me could deny that he was.” He looked into her eyes and now it was Mae’s turn to feel the power of his brilliant blue gaze. It always had taken her breath away, but now the might behind it stunned her. “You may ask nothing of me, but I will need much from you. You must swear an oath to me.”

Numbly she nodded. She could not have refused him. “By my life, I will,” she said. Frodo nodded and continued, holding her firmly with his gaze.

“No, not by your life… For I want you to swear that you will live. Swear to me you will live a long and fruitful life. Swear to me you will stay by the side of my son. Swear to me that you will do everything in your power to keep him safe and whole and happy, that he will live long, love and be loved. Swear to me, my dearest love, that he will have the life that was denied me.”

Mae gazed at him in wonder as her tears fell. “I swear…”

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For a fortnight Mae and Elan stayed with Frodo, Sam and Rosie. They were the most blissful days Mae had ever spent in her life. In their youth, she and Frodo had had only stolen moments. Now, though they had but a handful of days together, they lived every moment to the fullest. When Sam returned, Frodo sent Elan out to greet him and poor Sam had almost fainted away at the sight of the boy! It had taken many strong ale’s and the comfort of his good wife before Sam felt strong enough to take Elan’s hand. As October passed and November’s chill came, Mae knew it was time she should be going. When she was with Frodo it taxed his strength, but he would not take his ease. She truly feared she would be the early death of him. Finally, on a rainy November afternoon, she told him she would go with the morning. She gave him a gift, a small braided circle of her and Elan’s hair. It fit around Frodo’s forearm like a bracer. He wore it ever after, and it was one of the few possessions he brought with him to the Lonely Isle. Elan promised to return as often as he was able and he wept openly at the parting. In the short time they had been together, father and son had learned to love each other deeply. Frodo wept too, but the knowledge that Elan would live after him, be happy and grow old in Middle Earth was great comfort to him.

Then, at last, Mae came to him and Frodo held her long in his arms. He smoothed her hair, wiped her tears away and shushed her. “Easy, my lady, I am comforted. My work is done, but yours is just beginning. You have promises to keep and a long road ahead of you.”

This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.

Story Information

Author: Ariel

Status: General

Completion: Complete

Era: Multi-Age

Genre: Romance

Rating: Adult

Last Updated: 12/16/02

Original Post: 11/20/02

Go to Promises overview

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