Well, guys this is it. The last chapter. Guess it did turn out to be as long as "The Long Way Home". Ah well! I hope you all enjoyed reading it. I can't tell you how much your reviews meant to me. I don't know that I'll be writing any more Sam fictions for awhile (might try a "Hogan's Heroes one though, I always like that show!). I think I've made poor Sam suffer enough for awhile ( and I'm not really interested in writing romance). But, who knows?

IFF: Your reviews and comments have always been insightful and helpful. I certainly appreciate constructive criticism and encouragement. You have been a great reviewer!

I would also like to thank Minty, Gamgeefest, Samwise the Strong, Bookworm 2000, Aemilia Rose, Amrun, Guyuumajo, FrodoBaggins87, Person of the Cheesy Names, for your many reviews. I truly appreciated the encouragement!

I would also like to thank Motormouth, Wanda, ElvinPirate, Tinuviel of Ringzone, Senni, Three-fifthling Ringwraith, Entwife, and Kay for taking the time to review! You guys are the best!

Anway, here is the end. I hope you like it.

Chapter 18 Forgiveness

Frodo sat by his friend's side, hour after hour, rarely straying more than few yards. He talked to Sam, reminiscing about their lives in the Shire, talking of the friends they left behind. He told him stories. He sang to him in a low soothing voice, every song he could remember. He held his hand, gently bathed his pale, feverish brow with water steeped in athelas, but most of all, he loved him.

They stayed in the glen for two days, giving Sam's condition time to stabilize. Frodo never left him, his own pains forgotten. Finally, Gandalf declared they must be on their way. Aragorn carefully examined Sam and decided it would be safe to move him. So, on the morning of the third day, the Fellowship packed up their camp and departed for the north. Still deep in his dreamless sleep, they carried Sam carefully on the long journey towards Moria.

It was the laughter that woke Sam. He heard it first from far away, then gradually it became louder until he realized it was coming from right beside him. He didn't want to open his eyes for fear that it would disappear, proving to be no more than a dream. He listened and heard what sounded like Gimli the dwarf telling some rollicking tale involving a love- sick cave troll and a band of lost dwarves. Others were laughing as the tale went on. If I open my eyes, thought Sam groggily, I know it will all be dream, but it certainly is a nice one. With a smile on his lips, Sam slept once more.

When he woke again, all was quiet. He slowly opened his eyes and saw the silver dusted sky above. It was night. He blinked trying to figure out exactly where he was. He felt a gentle touch on his brow. He started to move, then winced at the sharp pains in his chest and side. A quiet voice said, "Lie easy, Sam." Sam froze, then turned his head slightly to see Aragorn, his pipe glowing in the darkness, smiling down at him.

"Strider?" whispered Sam in confusion. "Am I dead?"

Aragorn gave a small laugh, "No, Master Gamgee," he replied, "You are still alive, maybe not well, but most certainly alive! You have been in a healing sleep for these past few days, but I felt it was time to wake you before we reach the mines of Moria."

Sam lay quietly for a moment as he digested this. "Mr. Frodo? And Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin? Are--are they all right?" He chewed his lip anxiously.

"Yes, Sam." Aragorn said, still smiling, "They are well. They have all been very worried about you."

Sam closed his eyes. He suddenly felt weary beyond words. "I don't see why. How can Mr. Frodo ever forgive me for what I tried to do to him? I deserved all that I got!" A glistening tear slipped unbidden down his pale cheek.

Aragorns's face softened as he saw the anguish in Sam's face. "Sam," he said, laying a hand on the hobbit's arm, "You are not to blame for any of this. In truth, you are the only reason that Frodo still lives. Not many could resist the Command of a powerful wizard such as Saruman. Saruman wanted Frodo dead, but you prevented that. Even to the point of sacrificing your own life. Frodo does not hate you! He understands more than anyone what you have suffered and his affection for you is stronger than ever. He risked his own life as well, to save yours. You are very important to Frodo, Sam."

Sam looked at the Ranger sitting beside him, doubt clouding his eyes. "Do you really think so?" he asked uncertainly. "I couldn't bear Mr. Frodo hatin' me, but I would understand if he did. I did some terrible things." His throat constricted with unshed tears. "I could have ruined everything." he whispered.

"But you did not, Sam, and that's the main thing." Aragorn could tell convincing Sam to forgive himself might be the hardest thing of all. "You did not give the Ring to Saruman and you did not kill Frodo. You single- handedly ruined Saruman's plan. Do not punish yourself for what you did or did not do!" Aragorn smiled again and gently lay his hand on Sam's brow. "Now, Samwise Gamgee, I think it is time for sleep."

When Sam woke the next morning, he knew it was not a dream. He could smell food cooking over the fire and his stomach gave a loud rumble. He opened his eyes to see Frodo, Merry, and Pippin smiling down at him. "It's about time you woke, you lazy, layabout!" scolded Pippin laughingly. "Strider told us you would wake this morning, so Gimli and Merry prepared a special breakfast for you! It will be ready in a bit. I fancy you must be starved!"

"Pippin!" chided Merry, "Give poor Sam some peace! He just woke up!" Merry turned back to Sam. "We've been that worried about you, Sam! Frodo wouldn't leave your side for a moment!" He paused a moment, looking very serious. "I . I wanted to thank you for rescuing me from that orc." he said quietly. He lay a hand on Sam's shoulder. "I've never met a braver hobbit!"

Pippin stared at Sam with shining eyes. "Did you really slay an Uruk- hai, Sam?" Boromir, who sat nearby, looked over at this question, a smile playing at the corners of his mouth.

Sam felt his face flush with embarrassment. "Well, I couldn't have done it without Mr. Bilbo's ring." he said uncomfortably. "I reckon I didn't really know what I was doing!" They all laughed at that.

"Come on, Pippin," said Merry getting to his feet. "Let's go find Sam's breakfast!" With that, Merry and Pippin headed off to the fire, obstensibly to get Sam's breakfast, but in reality to give Frodo and Sam a moment alone.

"How are you feeling, Sam?" asked Frodo, a concerned look on his face.

"Oh, I'm fine, Mr. Frodo!" claimed Sam bravely. He made an attempt to sit up and gasped in pain, his face going pale as a wave of dizziness swept over him.

"Let that be a lesson to you, Master Gamgee!" called Aragorn from a few feet away. "I suggest you lie quietly."

Sam looked back at Frodo as he settled back down. "Well, maybe I'm not quite as fine as I aught to be." conceded Sam sheepishly, still wincing in pain. "But, I'll be right as rain in another day or two!"

Frodo laughed. "I think it might take more than a day or two, but Strider assures us you'll recover. As long as you don't over exert yourself! He said he would have preferred to keep you asleep for a least a week or two, but it would be best if you were awake when we go through Moria."

Sam looked puzzled at this. "Why should it matter if I was awake or not?"

"Because, Samwise" Gandalf had joined them, his eyes gazing fondly at the two hobbits, "There are dark things lurking in those mines and we may all have to fight at some point. It would be best if you were awake in case you need to defend yourself." He smiled warmly at Sam. "Good to see you awake again, Samwise. I am sure Saruman will think twice before trying to abuse hobbits again!" With a small laugh, he gave Sam an encouraging pat, then strode off to start packing up camp.

Sam and Frodo stared at each other. Then, Sam turned away, unable to meet his master's gaze any longer.

"Sam?" asked Frodo gently, looking questioningly at his friend.

Sam closed his eyes, his jaw clenched as if in great pain. He was fighting back the tears of guilt and remorse. He was silent a moment, then taking deep breath said, "I . never meant to hurt you, Mr. Frodo and I understand if you don't want me to be your gardener any more." He said this very quickly and still could not meet Frodo's eyes.

Frodo stared at Sam totally nonplussed. Somehow, it hadn't occurred to him that Sam would really blame himself for what had happened. They all knew it was Saruman's doing and no one held it against the humble gardener. "Sam!" he exclaimed in disbelief, "You saved my life! You defeated Saruman! Why on earth would I hold that against you!?"

"I tried to kill you, Mr. Frodo! Not once, but twice! That's not somethin' you're likely to forget!" Sam looked more miserable than ever, still looking away.

"Samwise Gamgee!" exclaimed Frodo, a touch of outrage coloring his tone. "Do you honestly believe that I would cast you aside because of what Saruman made you do? It was NOT your fault! When will you get that through your thick Gamgee skull!? These past days have been a nightmare and even now, I worry you won't recover! You mean the world to me and I would as soon kill myself than have anything happen to you!"

Sam turned and gaped at Frodo, not expecting this emotional outburst. Then flushing, he looked down at his hands. A moment later, a tear trickled down, then another. Sam wiped them away self-consciously. "Thank you, Mr. Frodo." was all he said.

Frodo smiling in relief, took Sam's hand and said, "You're welcome." The two stayed like that for a few moments until Merry and Pippin arrived with breakfast. They gently helped Sam sit up a little. Sam tried not to wince, but sighed in relief when he was comfortably settled. He then eagerly tucked into the first food he'd had in days.

"Mr. Frodo?" asked Sam hesitantly, swallowing a mouthful of porridge, "After all the horrid things we've been through since we left the Shire, surely you don't think what's ahead can be any worse than what we've already been through?"

Frodo looked out across the clearing where they were camped. "I don't know, Sam." he said distantly, absently fingering the Ring beneath his shirt. "I fear there are many more terrible things out there waiting for us." He blinked then smiled down at Sam again. "But, with Gandalf and the others with us, I'm sure everything will work out."

A short while later, with Sam nestled securely in Boromir's strong arms, and the camp all packed up, the Fellowship of the Ring began their final ascent to the Mines of Moria. It was time to resume their quest to destroy the One Ring. Sam took a last look behind them and thought, "Surely, it won't be any worse." Then with a sigh, looked on ahead, hoping he was ready for what was to come.

The End