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."
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