While clearing out some old files, I ran across this story I had started long ago, but never finished. I debated about continuing it, then decided to change the beginning so that it follows movie canon (as do various parts of the story) and finally decided how the story would end. I still debated about posting it, but decided to go ahead. It may not be the most exciting story on earth (or Middle Earth!), but I hope you enjoy it!

Chapter 1 Awakening

It was the laughter that first woke Sam. It was a sound so out of place that he found it almost jarring. He lay still for a few moments, his eyes tightly shut as he strained to hear. For merest sliver of a moment, he thought for sure it was Frodo, but just as quickly, he dismissed that notion. He hadn't heard Frodo laugh in so long, he wasn't sure it was even possible. He continued to listen harder and slowly he realized that it was indeed his master's own warm, musical laugh! Sam's eyes flew open and with amazement, he found himself in such an unlikely place, he thought for sure he must be dreaming!

He was in a soft bed in a small, but airy room. The brilliant morning sun was streaming in through a large window, creating a warm glow throughout the room. Where was he? His attention returned to the laughter. It was coming through the doorway of an adjoining room. He couldn't see into the room from where he lay, but the sound was loud and clear. In a moment, it was joined by another, deeper, fuller laugh, so full of joy it made Sam smile to hear it. Then he frowned in confusion. Gandalf? It sounded exactly like the old wizard's laugh. But how could that be? Gandalf was dead, wasn't he? His question was answered when he heard his beloved Frodo's voice cry out the wizard's name! Sam lay quietly in his bed wondering what this meant.

A few moments later, more sounds came through the door and quickly Sam identified the voices of Merry, Pippin, Legolas, Gimli, and Aragorn. They were all there! All safe! For a moment, Sam was tempted to leap up and join the reunion, but suddenly, he felt shy and reluctant. As much as he dearly wanted to see Frodo and his former companions, after being with no one but his master for so long, Sam felt strangely uncomfortable about being with others. He had never felt as at ease with big people as had the other Hobbits and for the moment, he was content to wait. He lay back and decided to close his eyes for just a moment, but soon, he was again fast asleep.

Frodo could not believe his eyes. Gandalf was alive! Merry and Pippin had raced into his room and were now leaping about on his bed in a joyous reunion. A few moments later, Gimli the Dwarf's booming laugh echoed throughout the chamber. He was soon followed by a more reserved Legolas and Aragorn, both of whom looked delighted to see him. Frodo felt as if he were in the middle of a dream. Wasn't it just moments ago that he and Sam were marooned in the middle of a sea of lava? Suddenly, he froze. Sam! Eyes wide, he began searching frantically about the room. Where was he? With growing alarm, Frodo turned to Gandalf who simply smiled and laid a comforting hand on Frodo's shoulder.

"Sam is fine," Gandalf said quietly. "He still sleeps in the next room. You were both on the very brink of death when you were brought here. He should wake up some time today or perhaps tomorrow. You Hobbits are hardy creatures!"

With a sigh of relief, Frodo relaxed back onto the soft pillows. It was then he noticed the bulky bandages encasing his left hand. So it was all true. Somehow, laying here in this sunny chamber, his friends all around, Frodo was finding it hard to believe that his last waking memories had been of Mordor. That almost seemed more of a dream to him now or rather the worst of nightmares.

Gandalf chased everyone off but Merry and Pippin, who absolutely refused to go. Shaking his head with a chuckle, Gandalf went to arrange for some food deciding that what Frodo really needed most was to simply be with his cousins.

"We couldn't believe you were still alive!" Merry was saying. "After Mt. Doom exploded and all of Mordor collapsed, we were sure you and Sam were dead."

"Even when Gandalf came back with you, we still figured you must be dead," agreed Pippin solemnly. "You both looked so awful!"

Frodo glanced towards the room where he was told Sam was sleeping. "It was awful," he replied in a low voice. "And I can honestly say that I never could have done it without Sam. He was the only reason the quest was successful. I doubt anyone will truly understand how important he is! " He then grinned happily at his cousins. "Now, tell me about what you have been doing!"

The next time Sam awoke, it was to the enticing, smoky smell of bacon. He heard his stomach growl loudly followed the sounds of quiet laughter. Cautiously, he opened his eyes and there by his bedside sat Frodo, holding what was obviously a well stocked breakfast tray. Behind Frodo, stood Pippin and Merry beaming down at him. "It's about time you woke up, you sleepyhead!" laughed Frodo again. "I've been waiting since yesterday for you to come round! You'd think after sleeping for a solid two weeks, you would have slept more than enough!"

Sam just blinked at him in confusion. "Mr. Frodo? Two weeks?" He shook his head as if to clear it. "I..I don't understand!" The other Hobbits laughed again. Merry moved forward to help Sam sit up as Frodo carefully lowered the tray onto his lap.

"We're in Minas Tirith, Sam!" said Frodo with a grin. "Gandalf and the Eagles rescued us from Mt. Doom. We've been in some kind of healing sleep for two weeks! I know, I couldn't believe it either when they told me! I woke up yesterday morning and have been waiting for you ever since!"

Sam stared dumbfounded at his master. He didn't think he'd heard Frodo say so much at one time since they'd left the Shire. He felt his heart soar with joy as he looked at Frodo's smiling face. Yes, he was still thin and pale, but his eyes were bright and clear. There were no shadows lurking there. He smiled back at his friends, still shaking his head bemusedly. "Two weeks you say? Well, who would have thought I could sleep so long! My old Gaffer would have a thing or two to say about that!" He then laughed and without further ado, began a systematic attack on the breakfast tray.

He was up soon after that and before he knew it, he and Frodo found themselves at places of honor at Aragorn's table later that very night. There were so many glittering lords and ladies that Sam found himself befuddled. He was seated on the left side of Aragorn (Sam still had a difficult time thinking of him as a king) with Faramir on his other. He was thrilled to find Captain Faramir had survived the war. Earlier, Pippin had explained to Sam how Faramir brought the first word of Frodo and Sam since the Fellowship had broken at Amon Hen. With some surprise, Sam spotted Pippin and Merry in the livery of Gondor and Rohan serving the high table. Everyone seemed to recognize them and called greetings to the congenial Hobbits.

Despite all the honor being bestowed upon them, Sam felt overwhelmed. Never comfortable with big people at the best of times, being in a banquet hall full of them was almost more than he could bear. Frodo looked sympathetically at his gardener friend from time to time, but Frodo didn't seem fazed by the situation in the least. Self consciously, Sam huddled lower into his chair, playing with the food on his plate. He peered at the people seated around them. Those that noticed him at all, smiled kindly in response, but there was one woman who did not seem to appreciate having the halfling seated at her table. Scowling down her patrician nose at the uncomfortable Hobbit, her lips were pressed tightly together in obvious disapproval. Sam found himself hunching even lower in his chair. He hoped the dinner would end soon.

When the banquet was over and the guests were slowly making their way to the ballroom, Sam looked around for an opportunity to slip away. He felt exhausted and had no desire mingle freely with all the different people. He could hear Pippin and Merry singing one of their innumerable tavern songs much to the boisterous approval of the crowd. Frodo sat with Gandalf, Aragorn, and several of the tall, blonde people Sam had been told came from Rohan. Sam made his way to the edge of the ballroom, figuring that would be the easiest way to find the door. As he moved through the crowd, he found himself blocked by a deep blue velvet gown. Looking up, he saw to his dismay it was the disapproving woman. She looked down at Sam as if he were some sort of foul smelling vermin that should be removed immediately. She quickly moved out his way, continuing to glare at the confused Hobbit. His face burning with embarrassment, Sam scurried away and out the door.

Sam breathed a great sigh of relief as soon as he reached the outdoors. The cool night air refreshed him. With a brief backwards glance, Sam stuffed his hands deep into his pockets and hurried away from the palace, the sounds of the ball falling away behind him.

When he finally reached his chamber, Sam wearily climbed onto his bed and lay staring up into the darkness. He thought about the day's events. He had certainly enjoyed reuniting with the other members of the Fellowship. He thought perhaps they had seemed almost as happy to see him as they had been to see Frodo. He considered the banquet and ball and his thoughts strayed to the strange woman. Why did she seem to dislike him so much? Maybe she just didn't care for Hobbits. He frowned. No, that wasn't right. He had seen her talking to Frodo, Merry and Pippin at one point and appeared to enjoy their company. It just seemed to be him she didn't like. Well, maybe he wouldn't see her again. It was a big city after all. He closed his eyes and as his exhaustion finally overtook him, he fell asleep.