Sam and Frodo sat together by the fire at Bag End. As usual, Sam had no idea what to say; then again, he enjoyed spending any time at all with his master, silent or otherwise.

Now that spring had come again, gardening – and his little Elanor – took up most of his time. Even Rosie, who loved Bag End and spent almost all of her time there, had not noticed how often Frodo sat alone in morose silence, nor noted how pale and weak he had grown. Sam chided himself for his negligence as he watched Frodo now. His heart ached to see his master so, and knowing that he himself was partially at fault.

From carefree childhood onward, Sam had loved Frodo with a love too strong for words. He himself had hardly been aware of it until their perilous quest had rekindled it and forged in steel the bonds of their friendship. Now, as they enjoyed the fruits of their long labor, Sam found himself spending less and less time with his dearest friend.

"And he needs me more than ever, now," he muttered, taking in Frodo's pale, lined face. "He's been hurt – don't I know it! And it's changed him, or I'm a dwarf."

"Which you most certainly are not."

Sam jumped.

"Odds bodkins! Didn't think you could hear me, Mr. Frodo!"

Frodo chuckled half-heartedly.

"I find that I can hear whispers and murmurs much more clearly these days." His tone became almost imperceptibly sadder. "There were days when we spoke only in whispers, you and I. Do you remember?"

"Yes, but..." Sam looked worriedly at his master. "We shouldn't speak of those days, Mr. Frodo, my dear. We're home and safe now."

"Safe, yes," agreed Frodo. He sighed. "But it hardly feels like home anymore. The Shire is more wonderful than ever, but..." He clenched his right hand, with its stump of his missing finger. "...I'm too changed to feel at home here. It's marked me with an indelible mark." He gazed sadly at the cheerily crackling fire.

As Sam observed him silently, it occurred to him that his thoughts would make an excellent poem. He set about the making of it at once.

It came out something like this:

I watch him watch the flames, and think

Of what is passing through his mind

As he sits gazing at the fire

Perhaps of standing on the brink

Of Cracks of Doom, while I stood blind

As Gollum fought for his desire

Worn-out he is, so pale and thin

Marked by the trials of yesteryear

Not like a hobbit ought to be

Well do I know where he has been

And still he lives in quiet fear

Or my name isn't Sam Gamgee

He clutches with a calloused hand

The gem fair Arwen gave to him

So long ago, in Rivendell

Whenever he thinks of a land

We traveled to when all was grim

He holds the jewel, his fears to quell

And skin me if I haven't been

Blind once again; oh, master dear,

You know the way things have become

There's Elanor to think of in

These quiet days – oh, but it's clear

My head's as hollow as a drum

But now he turns to me and smiles

Fair as an elf, soft as a lamb

The firelight plays upon his face

"It's worth the pain and countless miles.

It's worth it all, my dear old Sam,

For peace now in this peaceful place."

Frodo closed his eyes. Sam reached over and took his maimed right hand.

"Is it truly, master?"

For a moment, silence reigned over the hall. Sam stroked his master's hand gently; dark thoughts of Gollum and the battle on the mountaintop crept into his mind.

"Oh, Sam..." Frodo leaned his head on Sam's shoulder. "We're together, aren't we?"

"Yes, Mr. Frodo, that we are." Sam felt a sob thicken his throat. "And I'll never leave your side again."