These characters and pretty much everything else belong to the brilliant J.R.R. Tolkien, though some of the inspiration might have come from Peter Jackson's film.  No copy write infringement is intended.

One Last Time

"Tomorrow…I will have to tell him."

Frodo Baggins sat bundled in blankets, his knees drawn up tightly against his chest.  His gaze was fixed on one bright star, which shone with a greater brilliance than all others in the autumn sky.  "The star of Earendil", Frodo thought, "I wonder how it will be to gaze on it from the Blessed Realm?"  Frodo sighed, then turned to look upon the small sleeping form by his side.  Samwise Gamgee was snoring softly, his breath rustling the dry brown and golden leaves which blanketed the ground.  Frodo and Sam had camped on this first night of their journey  in the Green Hills, and though the night was cool, it was somehow pleasant.  "Sort of reminds me of Captain Faramir's country", Sam had observed, as he prepared the evening meal over the campfire, "though we only saw that in the spring of the year."

Frodo snuggled deeper into the blankets.  Sleep had eluded him.  His mind was too occupied with the journey ahead, and even more so with what he had to tell Sam.  Frodo remembered with a pang of guilt the innocence in Sam's voice that morning when they rode out from Bag End.  "I'll be seeing Mr. Frodo on his way to Rivendell", he had told Rose before they left.  Rose's eyes had flown to Frodo's, and he could still see her stricken expression as Frodo had shaken his head behind Sam's back.  Rosie knew the truth, of course.  Frodo could not have left without saying goodbye to her and little Elanor, but he had begged her not to tell Sam; he wanted to do that himself.

Sam stirred in his sleep and sighed, a slight smile curving his lips.  Frodo smiled also.  It did his heart good to see Sam so happy and fulfilled in life.  Like Frodo's cousins, Merry and Pippin, Samwise Gamgee had returned from his adventure changed, and in most ways for the better.  Frodo had watched with pride as Sam had worked to rebuild the Shire, gaining confidence in his abilities, humbly accepting the praise for his accomplishments.  There was even talk around Michel Delving of how Sam would make the Shire a fine mayor when old Will Whitfoot's term ended.  Frodo was very proud of Merry and Pippin, and especially Sam.

Of course, Frodo had changed as well… but in a very different way.  And, though he tried, as the months passed, Frodo became aware that he could no longer be content with his life as it had been.  The Ring.  His lust for it still tortured him, still gnawed at his mind.. he knew there was only one place where he could find rest. 

Tomorrow, he would have to tell Sam.  He was leaving Middle Earth forever.

Very gently, Frodo stroked Sam's curls.  His eyes clouded over as memories came flooding to his mind..

His first day at Bag End.  A shy and awkward tweenager, he was already aware of the rumours that were being spread about his parents and his upbringing at Brandy Hall. He  desperately missed his cousins, and wondered whether he would ever feel at home or be accepted in Hobbiton.  Then his dear Uncle Bilbo had called him into his study.  Frodo had entered to find a small hobbit lad of about nine years perched on a stool beside Bilbo's chair, an old, weathered copy of an Elvish dictionary open on his knees.  "Frodo, my lad, this is young master Samwise, the most attentive and eager student I've ever had the pleasure of teaching.. besides yourself, of course", Bilbo said with a wink.  Frodo still had a vivid mental image of the young Gamgee at that first meeting.. huge brown eyes,  unruly tangles of golden-brown curls, a scattering of freckles over his ruddy cheeks, and a smile that completely banished Frodo's dark mood.  "Why don't we stop for today, Sam lad", Bilbo said. "You can take Frodo out and show him your garden."  Sam fairly leaped at the invitation.  Running around the desk, he took hold of Frodo's hand and said in a breathless rush, "C'mon  Mr. Frodo!  My name's Samwise Gamgee, but everyone calls me Sam and my Pa is the gardener at Bag End and someday I'm gonna be a gardener too and my Pa gave me a little patch of ground to plant myself and I've got daffadowndillys and peonies and marigolds and you must come see them Sir!"  Frodo barely had time to get over the bemusement of being called Mr. Frodo, when he found himself being tugged along after young Samwise.  "Mr. Frodo", Frodo whispered to himself. "After all we've been through together, he still calls me that."  Even though Frodo had been accustomed to being called "Master Frodo" by servants at Brandy Hall, he had never really thought of Sam as a servant.  From the very first day, Samwise Gamgee had been Frodo's dearest friend in Hobbiton.

"I was so lonely, Sam", Frodo whispered. "Did you know somehow?  Is that why you were so kind to me?"  Frodo's mind drifted to another memory.  A sadder one that occurred about four years after Frodo's arrival at Bag End…

Frodo had walked into the kitchen one morning to find Bilbo looking grim.  "What is it Uncle Bilbo?", Frodo asked, "What's wrong?"  "Mistress Bell has passed away..", replied Bilbo sadly.  "Mrs. Gamgee?", Frodo asked in shock.  "But I just saw her yesterday morning.  She was fine!"  "It happened very suddenly.  She took ill only last night, and …", Bilbo voice drifted away.  As Frodo recovered from the initial shock of this sad announcement,  he asked urgently, "Where's Sam.  He must be devastated.  I must go to him".   Bilbo's face grew even more grim.  "When poor little Samwise was told, he just ran off.  No one knows where he is, Frodo!  Master Hamfast is worried sick, but with all the arrangements that must be made.." Bilbo sighed.  "Some of the menfolk are out looking for him.  I'm going too, and knew you would want to come along.."  Frodo had already grabbed his cloak and was heading out the door.  He thought he knew where Sam had gone...

A few months after their first meeting, Sam had taken Frodo to his "secret" place.  Deep in the forest on the edge of Hobbiton, a wide flat rock jutted out from the side of a hill.  Here, Sam would come when he wanted time alone, away from his sisters.   Sam had gathered enough stones there to built a fortress under the rock, to guard against dragons and trolls and giant spiders, like the ones which populated Bilbo's stories.  Sam had told Frodo that he loved the woods, "Cause Elves live in the woods, Mr. Frodo, and I do believe I even saw one once.  Old Mr. Bilbo says I just might have.  He says there's elves, coming right through these woods, on their way to the Sea.  The Sea, Mr. Frodo", Sam had continued sadly, "I wish the Elves weren't all leaving us, it will be such a sad world when they're all gone."

"The Sea, Sam", Frodo sighed, as his thoughts returned to the present.  But his mind soon drifted back to his memories…

"This here's a special place, Mr. Frodo, and no one knows it's here but me, and now you", Sam had smiled up at Frodo.  "Cause you see, I think you're special, too."  Frodo had been deeply touched by the little hobbit's trust in him, and he had never told anyone, not even Bilbo.  Now Frodo raced to Sam's "secret place".

Frodo approached the rock cautiously.  From inside the fort, he could hear muffled sobs.  "Sam", Frodo called softly, as he crouched down to enter the fort.  Sam sniffled.  "Mr. Frodo"?  "It's me, Sam.  I've come.  I'm here."  With a sob, Sam sprung up, throwing his arms around Frodo and burying his face in his shoulder.  "Oh Mr. Frodo",   he cried, sobs racking his little body, "My mummy's gone away, and Pa said.. she's never coming back.."  Frodo held the smaller hobbit as tight as he could, his own tears falling.  He knew there was nothing he could say to make it better, nothing he could do.  He knew what Sam was feeling.  He knew exactly…Sam was exactly the same age Frodo had been…

Frodo blinked as tears threatened to spill down his cheeks at this memory.  Sam rolled over and mumbled in his sleep, and for a brief moment Frodo thought he might wake.  But he did not.  As Sam's breathing again grew even, Frodo drifted into another memory.. a summer night at the Green Dragon pub , some fifteen years after Bilbo had left Bag End.

"So Master Samwise, when are you going to tell Miss Cotton how you feel about her?"

"Wh-what Sir?", Sam, startled, looked up into the grinning face of his master.  "Beggin' your pardon, Mr. Frodo, but I'm not sure what your talking about!"  Frodo and Sam were sipping pints of ale as they watched Rose Cotton, the pretty barmaid, serve drinks to some other patron's across the room.  Frodo's smile widened.  "Don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about Sam.  I see the way you've been watching Rosie all evening."  "Sir, I don't understand", Sam stammered, going very red.  Frodo laughed.  "Well, if you don't Samwise Gamgee, then you're the only one in Hobbiton who doesn't!  The whole village knows you're sweet on her."  Sam's shocked expression faded into a sly grin.  "Is it that obvious, Sir?"  "Dear Sam", Frodo continued, "It's been obvious for quite some time.  And from what I've heard", Frodo's voice dropped into a confiding whisper, "She feels the same way about you."  Frodo looked into his young friend's eyes.  "Now.. don't you think it's time you spoke your intentions to her father?"  Sam blushed, "Now Mr. Frodo, here you are trying to play matchmaker between me and Miss Rose, and well, if I may make so bold, Sir..", Sam grinned slyly, "why, you're older than I am Mr. Frodo!  When are you gonna make your intentions known to one of these fine young ladies that's always making eyes at you?  Don't you find any of them to your liking, Sir?"  "Now Sam,"  Frodo chided, but then his eyes got a far-away, wistful look, "of course I do."  Frodo signed, "It's just… I've always believed that someday I would follow Bilbo, off on some great adventure.  And I don't believe it would be fair to leave behind a wife and children while I went off chasing dragons, now would it?"  "Beggin' your pardon, Mr. Frodo", replied Sam, "but I don't believe there are any dragons left in Middle-Earth."  Frodo laughed softly. "Oh, you know what I mean.  Anyway, I don't believe I should settle myself yet with a family.  I want to be free to travel when the time comes.  And I feel it will be coming soon somehow",  Frodo's voice trailed off.  "Well then", Sam said, "If you're planning to leave on this adventure anytime soon, then I'd just better wait about speaking for Miss Rose."  "Why is that, Sam?", Frodo asked.  "Well because, Sir, if you're going to be going off on an adventure, why I'm coming with you!"  Frodo laughed happily, "Maybe we'll even see elves, Sam."  "Maybe we will", agreed Sam.  Then they had walked home together, talking over all the wondrous adventures that Bilbo had related to them in his stories, and dreaming of adventures of their own.

"And we did have an adventure, didn't we Sam?", Frodo sighed sadly, his fingers caressing Sam's hand as he slept, "though it didn't turn out to be what either of us had imagined.."  Frodo struggled to drive away the terrible images that were trying to fill his mind.. the horrible memories of weariness, starvation, and pain.. and above all, for himself, the torture of defying the evil power that sought to consume him. Frodo's recollections  of those last days of the quest were mercifully blurred, but one memory remained... Sam's loyalty and devotion.  "If it hadn't been for you, Sam, I would never have survived."  Through the fevered nightmare of bearing the Ring across Gorgoroth, Frodo had been aware of Sam's strong arms steadying him, comforting him as he trembled with the weight of his burden, holding him in the night when the darkness had threatened to conquer his mind.  Sam's love had been the only thing that had kept Frodo alive in those dark days, the only thing that had saved him. 

 "And you did save me, Sam.  As much as I could be saved.."  A single tear rolled down Frodo's cheek.  "I tried Sam, I tried so hard..", Frodo's voice was a shaky whisper, "I tried to be whole againI wanted so much to watch your children grow up, to live out the rest of my days in the Shire, but it cannot be… Oh Sam, after all you've meant to me, after all you did.. how will I say goodbye..?"

He looked up at the night sky.  The moon was sinking below the crest of the distant hills, and Frodo knew that he should try to get some sleep.  He lay down beside Sam, and just before he passed into dreams, he reached out, and took Sam's hand in his own.  Then, just as he had so many times on their life-changing journey, Frodo Baggins fell asleep, hand-in-hand with his beloved Samwise Gamgee.

One Last Time…

A/N:  I'd love to hear what you think!  I wasn't sure how to present the change from memories to current events so that it would not be confusing, and finally settled on putting Frodo's present day thoughts in italics.  Did it work?  Any constructive criticism would be appreciated.J