A Different Gift by Claudia
Summary: An AU of my already AU Lantern Gift universe. Frodo and Faramir are living peacefully together in Bree. They get unexpected news.
Categories: FPS > Faramir/Frodo, FPS, FPS > Frodo/Faramir Characters: Faramir, Frodo
Type: None
Warning: MPreg
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 3 Completed: Yes Word count: 7033 Read: 6589 Published: August 06, 2012 Updated: August 06, 2012
Story Notes:
Written for aprilkat!! I dont' even remember why or how I promised this, but I did...and here is part 1 (of 3). The rest of it is written, but I still need to tweak Part 3 a little before posting it.

1. Chapter 1 by Claudia

2. Chapter 2 by Claudia

3. Chapter 3 by Claudia

Chapter 1 by Claudia
On a rainy fall day I arrived home from my duties, tired and hungry and ready to settle in with Frodo in front of the hearth. I removed my dripping wet cloak and pulled off my muddy boots, puzzled that I did not smell freshly baked bread or stew. In fact, the cottage was quite dark and chilly. A miserable groan sent me running to the sitting room, my heart pounding in fear, and there I found Frodo curled on the couch, a blanket pulled tightly up to his chin. I rushed to him, dropping to my knees in front of the sofa. His face was pale and beaded with sweat and he looked utterly miserable.

I smoothed back his sweaty curls from his chilled brow. "When did you fall ill?"

The fire had burned out, and so I started a new fire. I wondered how long Frodo had lain here, ill and unable even to warm the cottage.

Frodo opened his eyes a crack, and he groaned again, pressing his sleeve to his mouth. I stroked his damp curls, feeling heartsick. I had been gone since dawn, and when I had left, he had seemed a little pale and quiet, but not ill. At last he managed to speak in a weak, halting voice. "It's been like this all day. Normally it passes by second breakfast but today it's gone on all day. I am sorry, Faramir; I haven't gathered anything together for supper."

"Of course not." I cared not for supper when my darling was so ill, but whatever did he mean by "normally?" Come to think of it, he had been pale and quiet all week. If he had kept his illness a secret from me, I would be irked at him.

Frodo let out a frustrated sigh. "Oh, it's been like this all week. I didn't want to worry you, but I thought I'd caught a bug from Allin's little ones. They were all sick last week when I stopped by with the apple sauce."

"And you've not seen the healer about this?" I touched his brow again, alarmed by how clammy it was. "I shall send for him at once."

"No, no," Frodo said, grabbing my arm with a surprisingly strong grip. "Please don't. I am not that sick. But I promise you, I shall see him in the morning. At any rate, I must stop by Mr. Barly's and apologize for not showing up to his shop today. I had promised him I would help him take inventory of his items." During the past year, Frodo had taken to helping villagers with an array of odd jobs. He was so well loved by the Breefolk, Big and Little, that his cheery energy and willingness to do just about any job, was in high demand. It was not that we needed the coins – Bilbo sent him plenty, but he abhorred spending day after day in our cottage alone.

I kissed his cheek. "I am certain he will understand. You rest now, and I shall fix you some broth and toast."

Frodo slept on the sofa in front of the hearth all that night. I went to bed as usual, but I did not sleep well. I woke on and off throughout the night. Sometimes I wandered into the sitting room to check on him, making certain he was not in pain or in need of anything. He seemed to sleep peacefully.

But the next morning, I heard violent retching, and I rushed to him, whereupon I found him heaving over a bucket. When he was done, he collapsed back on the sofa, utterly spent and so pale that his blue eyes looked nearly black in contrast. My stomach turned. I had only once seen him this ill, when he had come down with the fever, and he had nearly perished.

"I will bring back the healer," I said, not waiting for Frodo's protest, as I threw on my cloak and tore out the door.

The healer did not answer my knocking, and when I peered in his window, I found it dark and apparently uninhabited. My shoulders slumped in frustration. I would leave a note for him to come as soon as he could. I did not want to leave Frodo alone for long.

"He's not there. I understand that Mrs. Rushlight is birthing twins today."

I started at the voice, and then I saw the cloaked stranger. I had not heard him approach. Strider the Ranger. I nodded courteously. Frodo occasionally spoke well of him, so he must be good folk.

"Is there anything I can do to help?" Strider asked. I could see why many of the Breefolk felt repelled by him. He had a rascally look, his hair looked filthy and stringy, and his clothes looked as though they had seen far too many days in the wild. There was a dangerous gleam to his eyes that I envied, especially after enduring Frodo's teasing time and time again about how gentle my eyes were.

I shook my head. "I think not. My hobbit friend Frodo – you know him – is very ill, and I had hoped the healer could attend to him this morning. I fear for him. I've not seen him this ill in a long time."

"Frodo?" Strider's voice colored with concern. "He's the only hobbit that will even speak to me. He is ill then?"

"He has emptied his stomach nearly every morning this week, so he says. And yesterday he was ill all day and into this morning. He cannot hold down even a small amount of water."

Strider glanced at the healer's cottage. "The healer will not be back for quite some time, but if you will allow me, I will look at him. I have skills as a healer."

By the time we arrived back at the cottage, Frodo had managed to dress, and he was sitting on the edge of the sofa, eating burnt toast. He startled when he saw the Ranger.

"Strider!" he cried in surprise. "What are you doing here?"

"Faramir says you've been ill."

Frodo glared at me, his cheeks reddening. "Faramir...This is completely unnecessary..."

"You need to be looked at. No arguments."

Frodo crossed his arms, and I could tell he wished to parley with me over it, but was shy to display his usual stubborn streak in front of Strider.

Strider pulled a stool in front of Frodo. "How long have you been ill?"

"About a week," Frodo said quietly, glancing at me. "On and off."

Strider peered into each of Frodo's eyes. "It starts in the morning?"

"Yes...But by afternoon, usually I'm ravenous and I've nearly forgotten I've been ill. Not yesterday, though. I was ill all day. And this morning it began so early."

"Hmmm... Will you take off your shirt please?"

Frodo looked at him, suspicious. "Why?"

"There is something I must check."

Frodo unbuttoned his shirt and took it off, flinging it carelessly aside. He met my gaze and managed a shy smile, and I was newly struck awe by his beauty, and gratitude flowed through me that I was the one he had chosen, that I was the one he loved.

Strider prodded at the skin just under Frodo's chin, checking for life pulse. Then his hand moved down to Frodo's nipples and paused, tweaking and stroking several times. I swallowed against a growing irritation. Aragorn's hand had lingered there for far too long, but I relaxed when I saw nothing but concern in his eyes. As his hands roamed down to Frodo's belly, stroking and prodding, Frodo smiled at me again.

"Have you felt any tingling here?" Strider tapped Frodo's nipple again.

Frodo blushed and glanced at me again before whispering, "Yes."

"Well, Faramir and Frodo," Strider said, standing with a nearly dazed expression. "I've not seen such a thing in a long, long time. Only once before in Breeland."

I demanded, "What is it? Is he very ill?"

"Faramir," Frodo whispered in embarrassment. "Let him speak."

"I suggest you have a seat, Faramir."

I obeyed, sitting beside Frodo on the sofa, feeling a little dizzy and confused. If Strider was ready to give bad news, he certainly had a twinkle to his eye.

"I do not quite know how to say this," and now Strider's lip curled up in amusement. "So I will be frank and let you later make of it what you will. Frodo...you are with child."

Frodo stared at him, half-smiling, as if waiting for the jest.

"Pardon?" I finally managed. Surely Strider knew better than to joke at such a time.

"It has happened in Breeland before. In rare alliances between men and male hobbits—"

"With...child..." Frodo muttered, standing. "You're ... this is a jest --"

"No. No jest."

What little color in Frodo's face drained and he swayed. A dart of fury pierced my chest as I helped him to sit again.

I spoke furiously. "Frodo is ill and you come to us with falsehoods! I had considered you a friend, but please go now and leave us in peace until such a time as a real healer can come."

"I understand your bewilderment, but I am afraid I do not waste breath on jests," Strider said.

Frodo looked at me, utterly bewildered, and I was encouraged by the new color in his cheeks. "But I can't...I don't understand!" He laughed a little and leaned into my embrace. He sat up suddenly and met Strider's gaze. "And you say this has happened before?" He stroked his slightly rounded belly.

"With a male hobbit, yes," Strider said. "And after he spent only one night with a man. And among the Elves--"

Frodo's hand flew to his mouth. "But...but what's to be done? I cannot birth a child. I'm not...I do not have...I am not..." He giggled a little. I could not see the humor in it because a horrible fear had curled in my belly.

I took Frodo's hands in mine, kissing them several times, and cleared my throat. "But can it...can the babe survive? And..." A more alarming thought twisted my stomach. "What of Frodo? Is there danger for him?"

Strider's eyes darkened and he paused a moment before answering. "I must be forthright and say that yes, there is." I held Frodo in a close embrace as Strider continued. "The babe will be large for him, being only half hobbit." Frodo flushed terribly at this, but he held his hand over his belly. "He...well, he should be able to birth it. Nature has a way of working wonders in these cases –"

"You said it's only happened once before," I broke in.

"Here in Bree," Strider said. "I have lived among the Elves for years."

My voice came out rough and loud. "The Elves are immortal, with healing powers beyond any that we have here in Bree. What about the other male hobbit? Did he survive?"

There was an awkward silence.

Strider let out a rough sigh. "No. Regretfully, neither of them survived. But..." He held his hand up before I could say anything more. "This hobbit tried to birth it alone, with no help, so ashamed he was about it. Had he had help, he would have had a good chance of surviving."

"I shall have to leave Bree," Frodo said suddenly, flushing. "What in the world will everyone say to this?"

"No, Frodo, no. That will not be necessary," I said, kissing his head. "Already the folk of Bree think we are queer, taking up with one another. But you are so loved here in Bree, Frodo, and they will come to accept it. Soon enough you will be sitting with Viola, begging her advice —"

Frodo stood and pushed me away. "Do not jest right now." He clutched his arms in front of him. "I cannot do this, Strider. Is there a...is there some way to get rid of it? An herb I can swallow?"

I stared at Strider, dry-mouthed. I would not dare say so in front of Frodo, but I hoped there was a way to rid Frodo of this strange phenomenon. Even for a healthy lady, there was always a risk that she would not survive, and for Frodo, this risk would be tripled or worse.

Strider paused. "Yes..." He swallowed. "There is such an herb."

"Then let us have it," I said. I gestured to Frodo's belly. "This is not natural."

"This herb is guaranteed to work," Strider said, his voice low and grim. "But there would it come as an enormous risk to Frodo, more so than if he went through the birth. Many times this herb causes far too much bleeding. And I would not know how much to give a hobbit. I will do much for you, Frodo, but I will not be responsible for your death."

"Then somehow we must bear this," Frodo said. I took his hand.
Chapter 2 by Claudia
I stared at the ceiling, unable to sleep. My back had ached all day. A few days ago, my stomach had only been slightly rounded, and like magic, the next day, there had been a noticeable protrusion. Some folk of Bree had already begun to gossip, and Allin and Viola already knew about it. They had found it strange, but delightful, and Viola was expected the next day, with the promise of baby clothes, blankets, toys, and other things that she no longer needed.

Beside me, Faramir snored, deeply asleep. The poor, dear man was so fretful, always worrying about whether I was on my feet for too long or whether I should ride on his horse in front of him or what I should be eating.

A slight fluttering inside my belly made me curl up on my side. I hoped the nausea was not returning. Three months of it had been quite enough. But the flutter happened again, and this time my eyes widened and I clutched at my belly. The baby had moved! I shook Faramir's shoulder until he groaned and turned to face me.

"What is it?" Faramir squinted at me, leaning on one elbow. Moonlight spilled over the bed, so that even without a lantern lit, I could see his face clearly.

"Dear heart, feel here." I grabbed his hand and guided it to the slight mound that was once a belly far too flat for a healthy hobbit. His large hand covered a great portion of it. The baby moved again.

"He's moving!" Faramir whispered. "Our baby..." He laughed. "I wonder if he shall have hairy feet and pointy ears." Faramir ran his finger along my ear.

"Or," I added. "He might have tiny feet, like you, and yet still manage to walk about like an oliphaunt, like all Big Folk."

"He might eat enough at one meal to feed Gondor's army."

"Or all of the above," I said, smiling.

"I love you," Faramir said, leaning over and kissing me deeply on my lips.

He soon fell back into a deep slumber, but I stayed awake much longer, holding my belly and grinning each time I felt the baby move.

Viola stopped by as planned the next day, carrying a sack full of baby supplies. "How are you feeling, Frodo?" She dumped the sack on the floor in the front entrance. I could not wait to go through it, because like all hobbits, I adored mathoms of any kind.

"I am feeling fine," I said. There had been no more nausea. In fact, just that morning, I had eaten an enormous breakfast of eggs, bacon, pancakes, strawberries, biscuits, and a huge slice of pound cake.

"May I see?" Viola asked shyly.

I grinned and stood so that Viola could see my profile. I smoothed my clothing over my round belly.

"Look at you!" Viola said. "Oh, I can't tell you how excited we are. At first we thought it was strange and unnatural, but it's you, Frodo, and your dear Faramir, and how can that be unnatural? You are both so dear to us and when the baby comes, I will help you in any way that I can."

"Thank you." I felt a little embarrassed. I pointed to the kitchen. "Would you like anything to eat? A pound cake? There might still be some left."

"Just tea, thank you."

A few moments later we sat on the sofa drinking tea.

"And thank you so much for bringing your old baby things here. I wouldn't have the faintest idea where to get them otherwise."

"I won't need them any more," Viola said. "At least I hope not. How are your ankles? I swelled up dreadfully with my first. But I've noticed the hobbit lasses don't suffer so much from it. Such sturdy feet you hobbits have."

I laughed. After a few moments, I asked, "Tell me, Viola. Who was your midwife?"

"Oh, it was Mrs. Rosethorn. But she wouldn't..."

"I'm not asking for me," I said, laughing in embarrassment. "Strider will be attending me. In fact, I expect him at any moment today to check on me."

"Oh, will he?" Viola whispered, suddenly uncomfortable. "Isn't he...aren't you afraid? He's so queer." She looked nervously behind her as if she expected Strider to sneak up behind them, a knife between his teeth.

I smiled. "Fear not. Strider is a friend. Faramir doesn't much care for him, I think, but that may be because he gave us the news."


I sighed and set down my teacup. "Faramir will not relax until the babe is born. He fears for me."

"Aye," Viola laughed. "I remember poor Allin when our first came. He drank himself into a stupor. Poor thing."

"Oh, dear." I could not picture Faramir drinking himself into a stupor, no matter how frightened he became. But then again, this was an entirely new situation for him.

"Your Faramir is made of sterner stuff, I should think," Viola said, patting my knee. "Do not fear, Frodo. It is an ... unusual circumstance. But you will come through just fine."

After Viola left, I took a fancy to baking bread. Faramir had last used the flour, and he had set it on the cupboard. To get to it, I had to step onto a stool. But as much as I stretched, I still could not reach the top cupboard, so I stretched on tiptoes. Just one bit...one little stretch --

I was not prepared for the utter balance problem that my distended belly would cause, and I tottered, flailing for balance. There was nothing to catch hold of, and I crashed the ground, clutching at the wooden counter in a desperate attempt to break my fall. Faramir would be so awfully angry with me. How many times had he told me not to climb on the stool – particularly in my condition?

I lay on the floor in stunned pain. I had knocked my head badly, my left arm was numb, but I held my stomach in horror, expecting the pains to begin at once. I was afraid to move, even when I heard insistent knocking on the door, the door being pushed open, and Strider's footsteps.

"Frodo?" Strider knelt beside him immediately. "Did you fall?"

I nodded, afraid to talk, afraid to move. Tiny pains like pinchers clutched at my abdomen.

Strider lifted me, setting me onto the table. He looked worried. "Not very comfortable, I know. But we must check to make certain no damage has been done. Are you in pain?"

I did not need to answer because a shooting pain gripped my middle, and I grasped my belly, crying out.

Strider quickly unbuttoned my shirt. He tugged down my breeches, wriggling them past my hips.

I bit my lip. "So foolish...Faramir will be cross—" I gasped again as another pain took me.

"Hush." Strider said. "You're lucky I came. I am certain Faramir has warned you off that stool. Why did you get on it?"

I bit my lip, but I could answer because another pain had gripped me. At the beginning, I had wanted to get rid of the babe, but now that it seemed I might lose it, I couldn't bear it. Faramir had warmed to the idea, had even become excited about it and I had felt him move inside.

"Never mind. I will be right back," Strider said and rushed out the front door. Another pain came, pinching my back with hot razors, and I felt something wet and warm between my thighs. I was afraid to touch it. I knew it was blood.

Strider returned almost immediately. "I must be forthright and say that you are likely to lose the babe today, but I will do everything in my power not to have that happen. I have sent for Faramir."

"Oh..." I groaned, and devastation filled my throat. "No...No...Strider, please, you must do something..."

"Swallow this." Strider pushed a bitter herb to my lips, forcing me to swallow. I nearly choked on it. "Get it all down. It will slow the bleeding. Normally we could put this in a tea, but there is no time to lose."

Strider wetted a cloth and wiped my bottom. I tried not to look, but the cloth came away red. He put a stack of towels at the foot of the table and lifted my feet so that they rested on them, elevated. "I know this is uncomfortable, but we must keep it like this for a time. I do not want to move you."

Faramir burst into the cottage, shouting, "Where is he?"

He reached the kitchen, still in his cloak, with all his weapons attached still to his belt, his eyes frantic with worry. "Frodo...Strider, is he...what is happening?"

"I haven't felt a pain in awhile," I said, massaging my belly.

"That is a good sign," Strider said. He put both his hands on my belly, feeling.

"What happened?" Faramir asked again, pacing. "The boy only said there was an accident. I feared the worst." He wiped his brow, trying to catch his breath.

"I fell from the stool," I said.

Faramir nodded and added brusquely, kicking the stool with all his might as if the stool had been to blame for my fall. "And you shouldn't have been up there. I've told you many times--"

"Let us not discuss it now," Strider broke in, his hands still over my belly. "Frodo, take in a deep breath."

I obeyed, trying to keep my breaths calm.

"Good news," Strider said with a grim smile after nearly a half an hour of him prodding at my belly. "I do not feel more tightening. I think we might have stopped it. All the same, I am going to take you to the sofa and bid that you stay on full bed rest for a week."

"Shall I stay home with him?" Faramir asked.

"That should not be necessary, but it would be wise if someone could check in with him frequently."

After Strider had laid me on the sofa, put pillows behind my head, and covered me with a blanket, I reached to take his hand. "Thank you, Strider. I do not know what I would have done if you had not come. I was a fool."

Strider smiled and pushed the curls back from my brow. "Do not forget. One week. Do not get up for any reason, except to use the privy."

After Strider left, Faramir sat on his knees beside the sofa, stroking my hair, face, and taking my hand in his, kissing it. The fire crackled comfortably in the hearth, and I felt warm and sleepy. The memory of the pains nagged at me, and I wondered if they would feel like that when the actual time came – or if they would be worse. If that was the case, I hoped it would be quick.

"I hope I'm like one of those lasses who practically can't make it from the garden to the bed before their babe is born."

Faramir laughed a little and kissed me. "I hope so, too."
Chapter 3 by Claudia
When I looked at Frodo, I barely recognized him. His dear eyes still held the same loving expression when turned toward me, but he was terribly bloated. Even on full bed rest, he could barely breathe, and the only way he got any rest at all is if I piled the pillows behind his back and neck in just the right way so that he was nearly in an upright position. Even so, his belly bulged outward like the body of a spider after a good meal. Strider expected the birth to happen any day.

"Hot..." Frodo groaned. "And it's still early morn." He glanced at the window, and I opened it. It did no good. Summer had begun in earnest, and barely a breeze stirred outside.

I then sat cross-legged at the foot of the bed and took Frodo's feet in my hands. I rubbed them both in soothing circles, and he leaned back on the pillow, his eyes closed in contentment.

"I shall never fail to be fascinated with your feet, sweetheart."

"Keep rubbing them."

I stroked and massaged, sometimes letting my fingers purposefully get tangled in his foot hair.

"Oh, Faramir," he whispered. "This is perfect. Thank you so much. The only thing that would make this more perfect is if you brought me another plate of those pickled mushrooms. And the grape jam."

I set his feet down with a grin and went to fetch his mushrooms.

When I came back, he had gone pale, and he clutched at his belly.

"What is it?" I set the plate on the bedside table and took his hand.

"It hurts...just like the day I fell..." He looked at me, his eyes enormous with pain and fear. "I think it's started."

"I'll fetch Strider."

"No..." Frodo clutched at my hand. "No, not yet...It will take a long time. No use in him sitting here all day with me. There...it's better now." He took several deep breaths.

"But Strider can best decide that. And I would rather he know so that he does not go off into the wild or other such foolishness, not to be found when we really need him." My heart had begun to thud in an uncomfortable, flopping way. I could only hope that Strider had not gone anywhere on this day. I remembered Frodo telling me that Allin had drunk himself into a stupor when his first child was born and now I surely wished for a couple of ales. In a few hours, it would be all over. Perhaps even by noon.

I fluffed the pillows, made certain Frodo was comfortable, and I set off to fetch Strider. I left a message for him at the Prancing Pony, and a servant was sent to find him.

When I returned, I found Frodo curled on his side, his face white. He managed a trembling smile when he saw me. "Faramir...Faramir, I'm sorry." He reached his hand to me.

"There's nothing to be sorry about," I said, but Frodo shook his head and moaned.

"Make sure he...or she grows up like you," he murmured. "You could even take him home if you think your father will not be too angry..."

"What do you mean by this?" I demanded. I hoped that Strider would arrive as soon as possible and quell us both of dark fears.

"I don't think I will survive this," Frodo said. "These pains are dreadful, but it will only get worse. Tell Strider to just cut the baby out of me and be done with it...at least spare the babe the pain of pushing out."

"Hush," I said roughly. "You're not going to die. Stop speaking nonsense. Strider's on his way right now. You'll see."

Frodo swallowed and closed his eyes. "I'm sorry. I'm not being brave at all."

I stroked his cheek. "You are...you are...but you must be strong, too."

When Strider arrived, he started water boiling on the hearth and said, "We'll want to get him out of these clothes and into something more comfortable. Brew some tea, Faramir, and I shall get some herbs into him to ease the pain while he can still keep anything in without vomiting."

I rushed off to do as Strider bid, and my heart had begun to thud in unpleasant cold fear. Although I had lashed out at Frodo's earlier words, it was possible that he was right, that he could perish this day, and I was not ready.

By the time I returned to the bedroom with a mug of hot water, Strider had helped Frodo into one of my shirts, which allowed plenty of room for his belly. He wore no breeches.

Strider nodded his thanks and took the mug from my hands. "I need you to do something else, Faramir. I need you to crawl behind Frodo so that your body is supporting him and then I need you to hold his legs apart for me."

I obeyed, crawling behind Frodo and leaning against his sweat-dampened pillows. I pulled him between my legs and then pulled his knees back. Frodo tensed and dug his fingers into my arms.

"A little farther apart," Strider said, pushing Frodo's knees.

"Is this necessary?" he asked, flushing.

"It won't take but a moment." I could not see much of what Strider was doing over the mound of Frodo's belly, but he seemed to be reaching deep inside him, feeling and prodding. Frodo gritted his teeth and closed his eyes, flinching at times. Finally, Strider pulled his hand out.

"We're only at the very beginning stages. He has not opened much. And his pains seem to be very far apart. It will be a long time, probably until sundown at least, until you will have need of my services. In fact, I do have some other business to attend to, and I will leave you for now."

"You're leaving?" I asked, trying hard not to sound worried in front of Frodo.

"Yes, I must go for now, but I assure you, Faramir, that you will have no need of me. I shall check back in the late afternoon to see how things are progressing."

"Late afternoon..." I felt light-headed. It was only mid morning now. "What can I do for him in the meantime?"

"Only this." Strider smiled. "Start timing his pains. Look at the clock when one starts and take note of the time. Then look at the clock again when the next one starts. Have him drink as much of that tea as he can stomach. It will cut the pain a little. Keep him as comfortable as you can. Help him to walk around in between pains, keep him cool, but don't let him get chilled. If something should go wrong, if he should start bleeding profusely or the pains come very close together (less than three minutes), send an urgent message to the Prancing Pony. I will make sure someone there knows how to find me." He clasped Faramir's arm. "Do not fear, Captain Faramir. He will do fine. Hobbits are extraordinarily resilient, and Frodo has spirit."

"Thank you."

After Strider left, I arranged Frodo so that he leaned again on the pillows and wiped his brow with a wet cloth. Another pain was coming on him, and I remembered to note the time. He clutched his belly and kicked his feet, groaning.

"There, hold onto my hand and squeeze as hard as you like."

Frodo did, and I nearly regretted the offer. His grip was shockingly strong and I feared for my fingers. The pain ended, and he leaned against the pile of pillows, gasping for breath. I again wiped the sweat from his brow and went to work massaging his feet again.

"Tell me a tale from Gondor," Frodo whispered, rubbing his belly.

I began telling him the history of Osgiliath. Frodo listened in utter contentment, occasionally taking sips of his tea. But soon he grew noticeably uncomfortable, taking in deep breaths and curling to his side.

"Is another one coming?" I asked, looking at the clock. Ten minutes.

Frodo nodded, and his face scrunched. "Wait...wait to tell the rest of the tale until this is done. I cannot bear it...Let go of my feet...I don't want to be touched."

"Take my hand," I said, releasing his feet and offering my other hand. I would need to find for him a dishrag or scarf. He grabbed my hand, groaning and biting his lip. It ripped at my heart to see him in such pain. I lay beside him and kissed his cheek.

The morning dragged. The pains did not seem to come any closer together, but there were so many. In between pains, he listened to my tales, read, dozed off at times, and sometimes I helped him to walk around, as Strider had suggested.

At noon he ate a little toast, but he threw it up almost immediately as a wretched pain took him. His face was pale and slimy with sweat and he already looked weary.

"How much longer can this go on?" he whispered, and I had not the heart to tell him that a time would come when there was no rest between pains.

When Strider arrived late that afternoon, he asked, "His pains have not come any closer together?" He looked deeply concerned. "I will examine him and see if he has opened any wider."

I spread Frodo's legs apart for Strider, although this time, I felt a terrible amount of guilt because Frodo was in enough pain as it was, and to ruin the few moments of peace he got between pains with this indignity was unfair. Once again, Strider felt inside him. When he was done, he prodded his belly, too.

"He has been in labor for nine hours and there has been no progress."

"What does this mean?" I asked. "Can you not do anything?"

"What does this mean, no progress?" Frodo asked in a huff. "I have been in pain all day for nothing?"

Strider nodded and rubbed some herbs between his finger and thumb. "These herbs will increase the pains and hopefully move it along. There is a slight risk of bleeding, but never yet has anyone bled to death because of it."

"More pain?" Frodo whispered, shaking his head. "No, I can't."

"Yes, darling," I kissed his head and released his knees so that he could relax. "Otherwise this will go on much longer."

"No, no," Frodo moaned. "Not longer."

He swallowed what Strider offered slowly, and his throat hitched, and I feared he would throw it up. He bled a little, but nothing too serious.

When next he had a pain, he arched his back and yelled in monstrous pain. I held him, soothing his belly the best that I could, but he thrashed at me. "Leave me alone! Don't touch me!"

"Best not to touch him," Strider said. "He may not want anyone near him at times."

When the pain ended, he went limp and pale against the pillows, gasping for breath.

"That was a bad one," I said to Strider. "But it was only eight minutes."

The herbs acted quickly because soon the pains came faster and lasted longer. Dusk fell outside, and the chirping of insects filled the air. Frodo became delirious in his pain, shouting for Bilbo, weeping hoarsely, thrashing his arms around, kicking, shouting for me, screaming, shuddering, and sometimes losing consciousness for a short time.

"Is there progress?" I asked. "He cannot go on like this. Strider, we must do something to ease his pain."

Strider examined him again, poking and prodding while I held Frodo, who shuddered and moaned in my arms. "He is open wider, but still not enough. The babe's head is nowhere near, unfortunately. I expect this might go on all night. Faramir, if you need to rest or to eat, now might be the time to do so."

"All night?" I said in horror. "Can he? Does he have the strength?"

"He is doing well so far," Strider said. "And he is made of stern stuff, far sterner stuff than I had first suspected. But I will not deceive you with falsehoods. This will not be easy, Faramir, and we all know that. The babe is very large."

The sun went down fully, and I tried to lie down on the sofa for a time, but I could hear Frodo moaning and screaming and I just could not possibly rest while he was in such pain. I returned to the bedroom and lay beside him, holding him when I could. But soon he turned against me in a fury.

"Leave me alone!" He shouted hoarsely, his eyes wild with pain, barely recognizing me, pounding his fists into my chest. "You did this to me! You caused this! Don't touch me."

I pulled away from him, sick from seeing him in such helpless agony. Frodo writhed on the bed, tangling in the sweat-soaked sheets. The next pain gave him no reprieve. And the next. And the next. The evening passed and soon became night.

Frodo's cries soon became hoarse and weak. He thrashed his head from side to side on the pillow, but the rest of his body had given up the fight. I wiped his brow. I lay beside him, resting my burning eyes, and slipped into a dream about battle and the clashing of swords and tall mountains in the distance. I snapped awake, and I was ashamed to see that it was four in the morning. I felt Frodo's clammy face, and his eyes opened halfway, looking almost serene. The fight was gone from him, and I despised myself then for sleeping.

"I...can't...tell him..." He eyed Strider, who was preparing clean towels in the back of the room. "...cut...take the baby...I can't."

"No..." I put my hand over his brow. "You're almost done. You can do this."

But another pain took him.

"Strider, is he anywhere near to birthing? He can't go on like this."

Strider directed me again to hold Frodo and pull his legs back. He stuck his hands at Frodo's opening. "I can feel the babe's head. It's coming."

Strider reached his fingers in Frodo's opening, aiding to stretch it. Bright red blood leaked on the bed sheet.

"He's bleeding," I said in a panic. "Is that normal?"

"Some bleeding is normal. Now we must get Frodo to push."

I kissed Frodo's sweaty curls. "Push, Frodo, push. You can do this."

Frodo seemed to get a second wind then and he thrust back against me, groaning and pushing with all his strength.

Strider laughed. "I can definitely feel the head, he's coming out. Frodo, you need to give it another big push. I know you can do this."

"No...no..." Frodo sagged into my arms. "I cannot."

"Yes, you can," I said. "It's almost over. You did such a good job with the first."

Frodo took a deep, shuddering breath and pushed with all his strength again. And again. Another hour passed like this. My shoulders were sore, Frodo was drenched in sweat. His fight was back, but in truth, he could not go on much longer. I saw how his arms trembled, how everything shuddered, how his breath wheezed.

Then Strider pulled out a tiny, pink, slimy head.

I grew hoarse in my excitement. "It's coming, Frodo, push again!" Frodo saw the head and it gave him new strength. He pushed with all his strength again, and now the shoulders came out, blood stained the towels, and all at once, as the rising sun made the horizon pink, the rest of the baby slid into Strider's hands.

"It's a boy," Strider said, laughing. Frodo panted, still leaning against me, limp and sweaty.

"I want to hold him..." Frodo whispered. He turned, looking up at me, tears falling from his eyes. "We did it..."

Strider took the babe and washed him, at which time, he began to squall. "Faramir, I want you to massage his belly. The placenta should be coming out soon."

I obeyed Strider, although I was concerned about hurting Frodo. His insides must be torn apart. Soon he writhed again, although not as miserably as earlier, and a slippery mass came out.

Strider had meanwhile wrapped the baby in a linen blanket. "He can hold him for a time," he said to me. "But he will need much rest." He placed the baby in Frodo's weak arms. Frodo looked up at me again. "Blue eyes."

"Most babes begin with blue eyes," Strider said, clearing the bed of the towels and placing a clean towel under Frodo's bottom.

"They are blue," I said. "Far too bright to ever turn gray." I stroked the tufts of dark hair.

"He has your nose, Faramir." Frodo said.

"He has a cleft in his chin," I said. "And did you check his feet, Strider?"

"Hobbits don't grow hair on their feet right away," Frodo said. He tapped the baby's nose.

"All right," Strider said. "Frodo needs to rest, as does the babe. Faramir, do you know of a woman who has just given birth who might help with...well, I am certain that Frodo cannot."

"Oh..." I said. "Milk. We have already spoken to Viola and her sister is still nursing one of her little ones. She will help."

"What will you call him?" Strider asked.

I kissed Frodo's head again.

"Allin Bilbo," Frodo said quietly. "It was Allin who introduced Faramir and I, long ago that night in the Prancing Pony."

"That is a nice name indeed," Strider said.

For a long time the three of us stared down at this baby, this marvel who had already clutched all of our hearts. After Strider left, I put the babe in the crib, and made certain Frodo was comfortably asleep, I blew out the candle in the lantern, the very same lantern I had given Frodo long ago, at that time not foreseeing the precious gift he would bestow on me these many years later.
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