She entered the room and closed the door behind her with thump. Once inside the room, she leaned against the door and groaned. Her back hurt abominably.
At the beginning of the sixth month of her third pregnancy, she already felt heavier than she had with her first two children. She knew that she was not really heavy yet. While her belly was very obviously round and ripe and pregnant, she was not yet close to giving birth. But three months before her time she already felt like a mÃ»mak this time, even if she did not look the part â€“ yet.
This pregnancy was different from her first two.
Her back never seemed to stop aching this time. She was more tired than she had been during her first two pregnancies. She was also â€“ she felt her cheeks heat up even at the thought â€“ hornier. And less able to do anything about her desires than when she had carried either of her two older children.
When her desires for Elrond had grown so very strong during her first pregnancy, she had been too embarrassed to say anything about it. How he had known her feelings still escaped her. But he had. And everything had been fine. Everything.
She had floated through her second pregnancy.
For some reason she had expected her third to be the same.
But of course there was no real reason for this child to be the same as his or her older siblings.
Wistfully she eyed the large bed that took up most of the space of the bedroom. How she wanted to lie down on her back and relax!
But it was more of an adventure to lower her awkward body onto the bed than she needed right now. Even if she managed to lie down on the bed, there was no way she could lie on her back and still be able to breathe. At least she was still able to turn from side to side without her husbandâ€™s help. But that would not last for very much longer, either. She put one hand to the small of her hurting back, while she supported the round swelling of her stomach with the other. As if on cue the inhabitant of her womb stretched and curled around inside of her. It was a feeling that made her laugh and gasp at the same time.
No. The bed was not an option for a nap anymore. Slowly she walked to the easy chair next to the large glass windows that offered her a splendid view of the valley of Imladris in all its springtime beauty. There was a padded stool to go with that easy chair. She could sit down and put her feet up. And best of all, she would probably be able to get out of it again on her own â€“ without having to call out to her husband for help.
She allowed herself to very slowly and carefully sink down into the chair and closed her eyes, luxuriating in the feeling of reclining there, unmoving, the firm mattress supporting the cumbersome weight of her body.
When Elrond entered the room, Nihil was fast asleep.
She had fallen sleep on the spot, her feet still on the ground, reclining on the easy chair next to the window. Her rounded belly pressed upwards against her loose gown like a ripe fruit. He felt an almost desperate urge to go down on his knees in front of her and caress her womb, her precious, loving and beloved body that had borne his children, and now carried his seed again. Her breasts were already swollen and tight, the nipples no longer tart and hard like wild strawberries, but lush and sweet like cherries at the height of summer. They beckoned to his lips, to trace their silky skin, his fingers trembled with the urge to gently massage their toffee coloured beds.
A sigh drew his eyes upwards and made him hesitate.
He stood unmoving, looking at her face, watching her breath widening her lips in another soft, soft sigh. The love he felt for her closed around his heart in a feeling that was almost painful.
His heartbeats echoed a memory of a silvery day in Aman the Blessed.
I live for you.
I die for you.
He remembered the words that had led his soul from darkness to light. She had risked her soul for no reason at all. For no reason but that she could not bear the knowledge of his suffering.
Thank you, Eru and all the Valar for this second chance.
He traced the sweet, clear lines of her face with his eyes. She was not beautiful like an elleth. The dark days of pain and torture had left an indelible mark on her face. But there was also a light to her face that touched his soul deeper than the most perfect elvish face he had ever seen in all the millennia of his life. This bittersweet beauty of mortality. The tiny lines around her eyes and around her mouth, from laughing and crying, from good days and bad days alike. Lines he had watched growing on her face as the days of their shared lives went by. Not for the first time since their souls had been joined to one another he asked himself, if the choice he had made so long ago, when he had chosen to belong to the firstborn had been the wrong choice. Now, with his Nihil, for the first time in millennia, he felt as if he could almost understand his brother and his choice of mortality.
There were dark circles under Nihilâ€™s eyes. This pregnancy was taking a lot out of her. Elrond gave an inaudible sigh. He would let her sleep. He would let her rest and recover her strength, although his desire for her was so great that at the moment it would prove more than awkward should someone else enter the room and see him. Involuntarily he lowered his hand and placed it on his swollen and straining thela. He inhaled sharply as Nihil moved in her sleep at this moment, her right hand gliding down her stomach to cup the sweet garden of her desire. She arched her back ever so slightly, rounding her belly just a little more.
Suddenly there was one of the rare moments of clarity that allowed him to see beyond. Beyond the constrictions of mind and matter, beyond time, beyond crossings of ways not yet reachedâ€¦
A small, dark haired boy and a slightly more delicate girl were walking hand in hand down to the river of Imladrisâ€¦
That was why she was so tired this time!
For the first time Elrond could easily discern two separate heartbeats in his wifeâ€™s womb. The sound of two butterfliesâ€™ wings beating against each other in a realm of warm, soft darkness.
He felt a huge smile spread on his face. He wanted nothing so much as to hold her right now, to stroke her belly, to hold her against him, kiss her lips, her breasts, her bellyâ€¦
He closed his eyes for a moment to keep the feeling of happiness at bay that threatened to bring tears to his eyes. Then, disregarding the hard desire of his body, he moved noiselessly to the bathroom that adjoined the bedroom and closed the door behind him.
The bathroom was a spacious, bright room. The tub was huge and sported two seats carved from maple wood, smooth and comfortable.
He felt his lips curl into a smile. A bath!
She would love to have a bath when she woke. And he would love to take that bath with her.
The pipes went from the bathroom into the hot springs that welled up in the clefts behind Imladris, under the peak of the Amon Lanthir. Ereinion had devised the clever mechanism that brought the hot water right into the bathroom, with the delighted assistance of Gimliâ€¦
Now Elrond was grateful for the ingenuity of his friends.
He opened the silver tap and watched the hot water rush into the tub. The water smelled slightly of the sulphur and minerals it carried from the fiery depths from whence it rushed to the light of day in the crags of the Misty Mountains. He would add some of the lotion he had devised. Soap and lavender, oil of olivesâ€¦ a special mixture that created fragrant foam which left a pleasant scent on the skin. He would have to take care to allow it to cool, though. In her condition, really hot water would not be beneficial for Nihil. It should be comfortably warm, but not hot.
But that only meant that he could take his time to seduce his love into the bath.
When Elrond was content with the amount of water in the tub and the temperature, he closed the tap. He got a blue glass bottle from the shelf and poured the thick liquid carefully into the hot bathwater. Soon the room was filled with the sunny-spicy fragrance of lavender and honey.
He inhaled deeply.
Now to see if his love was ready to wakeâ€¦
â€œNihil?â€ In a rustle of silken robes he moved to stand next to her.
Although she had not moved much, only turned halfway to her left side, her hair was tangled and her cheeks were flushed in a rosy hue from her slumber.
As always, she opened her eyes at once. As always there was this expression of happy amazement in her eyes, as her eyes sought his. As if she still could not believe that this was true, that he was hers, and she was his. For as long a time as Eru would grant themâ€¦
There was that smile, that smile he remembered from a day blurred with the darkness of impending deathâ€¦
Nihil raised herself up slowly, propping herself first on her elbows, groaning slightly.
He did not even stop to think. He was on his knees by her side, reaching under her back with one arm, while reaching for her hand with the his other hand. He held on to her hand tightly. There was this part of his heart that always mirrored this happy amazement in her eyes, this overwhelming incredulity that here was someone who was willing to give up her life for his, someone, who knew all his heart and all his soulâ€¦
â€œHow about a bath, melethril-nÃ®n?â€ He wanted to run his hand across her naked belly. He wanted to stroke her round stomach until he felt that tiny fluttering movement from deep within. She opened her mouth to him, beckoning him to kiss her.
Her lips were like hot silk to his touch. Her hand tightened the hold on his. He could barely suppress a gasp. His desire flared up again sharply as his member strained against the confinement of his robes. To feel her so close, to smell the warm fragrance of her skinâ€¦
â€œA bath?â€ he whispered. â€œOr would you have me undone here and now?â€
A low laugh answered him and he carefully helped her to sit up completely. She groaned slightly as the inhabitants of her belly protested the movement.
â€œA bath!â€ She gasped and allowed herself to be towed on her feet. He would have carried her, had he not known that this would cause her more discomfiture than pleasure in her present condition. Instead he merely ascertained that she had regained her balance, a balance that was now less than stable with her point of gravity so much lower than she was used to. He opened the door for her and enjoyed the whiff of perfume and sleep-warmed skin that drifted towards him as she passed.
â€œBut might I have the pleasure to undress you?â€ he could not quite conceal a note of breathless anticipation.
She turned towards him with her eyes shining brightly with happiness â€“ and something darker. Desire.
â€œYes,â€ she whispered and reached out for his head, gently trailing her fingers down the sensitive curve of his ear. â€œYou may.â€
He drew a deep breath.
Then he reached out for her.
She wore a simple gown today. It was nothing more but a loose robe with a long row of mother-of-pearl-buttons travelling down the front of her body in a neat row. Accentuating her round breasts, her ripening bellyâ€¦
He kissed her then, a soft, deep kiss. A peaceful kiss of two hearts joined, of two souls in tune with each otherâ€™s song.
â€œShall I tell you, how I love thee, melethril-nÃ®n?â€
He traced her beloved face with his fingertips, the cheekbones, the jaw, the chin. He trailed his fingers down her throat to the neckline of her dress.
â€œI think I cannot even begin to count the ways that I love thee. But I could try!â€
She laughed softly at that, the warmth in her grey eyes a mirror for the fire that burnt in his own silvery gaze.
â€œWell, then,â€ he murmured, as he kissed the soft spot between her collarbones. â€œLet me try, my love. Let me count the ways in which I love you!â€
He opened the first button of her dress, toying with the small knob of silvery white pearl. He wanted to engulf her with his smile. He wanted to bath her in the warmth and the depth of his love.
â€œI love thee to the depth and breadth and height of your body!â€
He traced his lithe fingers down the rounded front of her body.
She closed her eyes at that. And when she opened them again, there were the tiny lines of mirth and delight visible at the corners of her eyes that he loved so much.
â€I love thee to the level of every day’s most quiet need,â€ he continued, slowly unbuttoning her dress, one tiny button after tiny button. â€œI love thee by sun and candlelight!â€
Now she snorted at him, only a little, the humour broken by a gasp of desire.
â€œHow about some candlelight?â€ She raised a questioning eyebrow at him.
â€œIndeed, my dear!â€ After another kiss to tide her over, he quickly lit the thick candles that were set out around the bathtub. When he turned back to her, she held her hands out to him. He thought his heart would burst with love at her sight and with happiness at the touch of her hands. â€œI love thee freely, I love thee purely and I love thee with a passion beyond the shadows of all of my old griefs.â€
Her dress pooled around her feet. She stood in front of him in all her naked, pregnant beauty. She bore her scars with pride, both the scars of the evil land and of the birthing of his children. Never had he seen such beauty or such grace, or so it seemed to him at least.
â€œI love you with more faith than I ever had since the days of my earliest childhood,â€ his voice was shaking now. He did not even know why. He led her towards the tub and helped her to get inside. He felt how she relied on his strength and balance to lower her gently and safely into the foamy warm waters of the bath, and he thought his heart would stop with the love he felt for her. She gasped at the heat of the water, but as soon as she was seated, buoyed by the water the gasp turned into a low moan of pleasure.
Elrond quickly shed his robes. Then he lowered himself down into the tub behind her, on the smaller of the two wooden seats of the tub. It was a tight fit. But his body was delighted with the arrangement, his thela straining against the small of her back with ferocious desire. For a moment he had to close his eyes to keep control of his body.
Then he reached for the sponge that rested on a tray at the edge of the tub. He soaked the sponge with water and then gently, ever so gently touched his wifeâ€™s rounded belly with the sponge. She arched back against his body, seeking the shelter of his arms, her moan more a kittenish purr now.
â€œI love thee with every breath I take,â€ he went on, his voice low and soothing. â€œI love you with every smile I smile. I love you with every tear I cry.â€
He felt her warm, wet buttocks press against him. A rush of pleasure flooded him that was almost more than he could bear. Slowly, in sensuous, languid movements he circled her fruitful belly. Little by little, he lowered his caresses. With a low gasp she greeted the touch of his hand between her thighs and spread her legs for him. Tenderly he moved the sponge where she urged him to.
He inclined his head to meet her lips as she strained towards his every touch.
His heart was pounding like a drum. The tension of desire was sharp like a swordâ€™s edge.
â€œI love you with all of my life,â€ he groaned. â€œAndâ€¦ moreâ€¦â€
â€œDonâ€™t talk,â€ Nihil gasped. â€œMove!â€
And he did.
And he did.
Her pregnant belly heaved in a joyful undulation.
His legs curled around hers in a passionate shudder, the sweetest release.
He held her close against the pearly white expanse of his chest in the aftermath of shared pleasure.
She closed her eyes.
Relaxed, released, completely safe in the arms of her husband and lover. Weightless, buoyed by the warm lavender water and the strength of his love, she drifted back to sleep.
The wind of springtime caused the woods of Imladris to whisper in the blue shadows of the evening. It almost seemed as if the trees were singing a song of love and life.
â€œI love thee with all of my life.â€
â€I shall but love thee better after death.â€
A/N: This story was inspired by the poem â€œHow Do I Love Thee?â€ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning which was brought to my attention again by Annmarwalk and the question on my character meme by Aranel Took. The details of Nihilâ€™s pregnancy in this story owe their existence to Aranelâ€™s patience in answering my questions and her detailed and friendly advice.