Title: To the Sea

Rating: G

Spoilers: none

Disclaimer: Don't own them (*SOB*) never have, never will. Not making any money, and if you sue you'll probably lose more than you gain.

Feedback: Always!! Love it, need it, can't live without it!!

A/n: I had this posted before, but the more I looked at it the more I decided it could definitely be better. I'll also be breaking it down into chapters, and will add them as I get them edited. As for those who reviewed this story previously, I thank you very much, and those reviews have been saved on my computer.

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Samwise Gamgee started, snapping out of his half-doze to find his daughter Elanor watching him closely, concern written clearly in her aging, though still beautiful, features. He gave her a sheepish smile and picked up his pony's reigns from where he'd let them drop, shaking his head and blinking to rid himself of the last vestiges of the weariness that had overtaken him. He sighed to himself; it seemed that lately all he ever did was sleep.

*Well, Sam Gamgee, you are nearing a hundred and one, now,* a voice in his head reasoned. *It's a small wonder there's little left for you but sleeping, day in and day out.*

Elanor returned the smile, though it was still touched with concern, and said, "We're almost there, Dad."

Sam glanced around, his still-keen hobbit ears straining. Faintly, he realized he could hear the sound of the waves crashing against the shore, and of gulls crying to each other in the air. A salty-sweet breeze caught his thin, curly white hair and lifted it gently from his weathered brow. He breathed deeply, closing his eyes as memory caused a great flood of emotion to course through him. He'd been here before, once.long, long ago.

"Dad?" Elanor asked again, the concern and doubt in her voice clearer this time. "Are you sure you want to do this?"

He raised an eyebrow, his small smile conveying his amusement that she was once again broaching the subject. She caught the look, and straightened somewhat defensively. "I just am not so sure this is a good idea," she began. "After all, you're not in good health as it is, and weeks out at sea." her small shudder conveyed her very hobbit-like fear of the water. "I just don't think you-"

Sam raised one calloused hand, forestalling further argument. "We've been through this already," he said. "Yes, I'm certain I want to do this!" Then his voice softened as he continued: "Don't worry, Ellie, the Elves are wonderful folk; they'll look after me as well as even you could."

Elanor watched him a moment, looking as though she might say more, but after a moment she merely gave him a tight-lipped smile and turned away. Sam sighed. He knew she was opposed to his going; she had been from the start. But there was nothing for it now. He'd made the arrangements with Glorfindel, and with Rosie gone, the desire to leave middle-earth and cross the sea had become too powerful to ignore.

It was time to let go.

They traveled in silence, allowing the ponies to plod along at a leisurely pace. As the sound of the waves grew increasingly louder, Sam found himself leaning forward, eagerly anticipating the first glimpse of gray through the green of the forest. An inexplicable excitement was growing within him, and for the first time in months, he felt truly alive again. Elanor, however, remained silent as they drew near their destination, and if she noticed the change coming over him, she said nothing.

Finally he saw it: shimmering gray, white-capped waves that turned to misty spray as they crashed upon the rocky shore. The salty smell of the ocean was strong now; it surrounded him, filling him up, and seemed to almost lift the weight of the years from him. His stooped back straightened a bit in anticipation as he leaned further over his pony's neck to get a better view. Elanor gave him a sideways glance, and couldn't help but smile-she'd not seen him this happy in quite some time. She sighed sadly. It wasn't easy, letting him go, but she knew in her heart this was what he wanted. How often he'd spoken of it to her; the wish he held deep within him, to someday see his friend and master again.

Her thoughts were abruptly interrupted as they rounded the corner and the road left the forest. There it was: the great Sundering Sea, all green and gray and blue stretched out as far as she could see. She couldn't withhold her gasp of wonder; nothing she had seen before could have prepared her for the sea in all it's majesty. When she'd recovered from her initial shock, she noticed the large, beautifully carved ship anchored near the shore, and the tall slim figures hurrying about gracefully as they checked supplies and tested ropes and sails.

One figure, presumably in charge, turned and noticed the two hobbits emerging from the forest. He raised a hand in greeting, and began making his way towards them, his long, graceful strides gliding over the land as though his feet were hardly touching the ground.

An elf.

The sound of a grunt from her father snapped Elanor from her reverie. She turned and saw Sam beginning to dismount his pony. She hurriedly leapt from her own and strode towards him quickly, offering him her arm as he lowered himself gingerly to the ground. He nodded his thanks, wincing as he stepped away from his mount. "Long trip for someone my age," he said. "These old bones don't take so kindly to being in one position for so long." He grinned at his daughter, who managed a small smile in return.

"Ah, but we shall remedy that soon enough," came a voice from behind them. They spun around to find the elf who had waved to them standing now before them, flanked by two others. He smiled at the pair of hobbits before them. "Well met, Samwise Gamgee."

"And you, Glorfindel," Sam replied, returning the smile. Glorfindel bowed slightly, then turned to address the two elves standing behind him, speaking a few words in elvish. They nodded and moved forward, unburdening Sam's pony of the bags it bore and carrying them back towards the ship.

Glorfindel returned his attention to Sam. "The preparations for departure are nearly complete," he said. "We shall set out as soon as you are ready."

He turned his attention then to Elanor, who was gazing up at him in awe, her sensible hobbit-face suddenly filled with childlike wonder. She had never seen an Elf before, though she had heard many tales of them from her father; and now here was one whom she'd heard tell of since her childhood, standing before her like something from a dream.

Sam smiled at her. "Glorfindel, this is Elanor," he said. "Elanor: Glorfindel, of the House of Elrond in Rivendell. I've spoken of him before, if you recall."

Elanor nodded hastily and managed a somewhat clumsy, but very deep curtsy, blushing to the tips of her gracefully pointed ears.

Glorfindel looked amused at her astonishment. "Greetings, Elanor daughter of Samwise!" he said, bowing in his turn. "It is truly an honor."

Elanor's mouth moved, but no words came out; she was still too awe-struck to speak.

Glorfindel laughed merrily, then turned back to Sam.

"I'll see to it that your things are taken to your quarters," he said. Sam bowed his thanks, and Glorfindel turned and strode back towards the ship.

Sam turned back to Elanor, watching her with hidden amusement. She was still staring after Glorfindel, her blue eyes very wide, her mouth slightly agape. Sam put a hand over his own mouth to hide his grin; she must, he realized, look very much as he had himself, many, many years ago, upon his first meeting with the elves.

After a moment, however, Elanor shook herself and turned to meet her father's warm gaze.

"Well, Elanor," he said softly, "this is the end, I'm afraid."

Elanor's lip trembled slightly at this, her eyes filling with tears. He was going. He was really going. Somehow, it hadn't seemed quite real, until now."Oh, Dad," she whispered, then threw her arms around him. Sam returned the embrace, running his gnarled old hand over her long blonde curls. "I never thought you would really go," he heard her whisper, and felt the warm wet of tears on his neck. "I always thought it was just talk; just an old notion that you would never really act upon."

Sam held her tighter for a moment, then pulled away. Smiling softly, he reached up and brushed the tears from her face. "Don't cry, Elanor-lass," he whispered. "You have a very full life here. I know it will hurt at first, but you will heal. You were meant to be whole, and you will be." The words resounded sharply in Sam's memory, bringing up suddenly a vivid picture.but he pushed it aside. Now was not the time for reminiscing...there would be plenty of time for that later. Now was the time for goodbyes..

Then, suddenly, he slapped his forehead. "Ah!" he exclaimed. "I very nearly forgot!" Turning away from his daughter and back towards the pony, he opened the saddlebag and, after a moment of fumbling and muttering, pulled out a very old, very worn red book.

"I want you to have this," he said, turning back to his daughter and holding out the book.

She took it gingerly, as though it were made of some brittle material that would crumble to dust if she wasn't careful. She gazed at the book in amazement, then looked up at her father. "Oh, Dad!" The Red Book had been something of a legend in Bag End; their father would often read to them from it, as they often requested him to do so, but no one was allowed to touch it, and she knew he kept it as close as his dearest treasures.

Her father smiled again. "It's time the book was passed to you," he said. "You must read from it now, and keep it safe; you must keep alive the memory of all that has happened. The book, and the keeping of the tales, is yours now."

Elanor gazed for a moment longer at the book, then looked back up at her father. There were tears in her eyes, but she was smiling.

"Thank you," she whispered.

Sam smiled, cupping her cheek in his rough palm. She reached up and took his hand, and bringing it to her lips, kissed his fingertips once before releasing it.

"Goodbye, Dad," she said softly.

She then turned and quickly mounted her pony. Sam handed her the reins to his own, and she gave him one more quick smile before turning and setting out at a quick trot, disappearing back into the forest. Sam watched her go, a small, sad smile on his face. But he was not worried. Elanor was strong; she would be okay. And besides, he was not leaving much sooner than he would have had to, anyway.

He turned back towards the ship. Glorfindel was walking towards him, smiling gently.

"Well, Samwise Gamgee, are you ready?" he asked.

Sam nodded, slowly at first, then with more conviction. "Yes," he said, almost to himself, "I've been ready for a long time now."

Glorfindel nodded, taking him by the arm. "Then we must be off. It is time." He walked alongside Sam, guiding him, steadying him whenever he stumbled, until they reached the ship. Sam climbed slowly aboard, then turned to look one last time at the shores of Middle Earth. The sight held him, mesmerized, as the Elves unfurled the sails and the ship began to glide silently across the silver-grey waters.

"Goodbye," he whispered softly, feeling a small tug at his heart as his homeland disappeared over the horizon. But as he turned away, he felt a much stronger tug coming from the west.

With the aid of one of the elves who had taken his bags, he slowly made his way to his quarters. Collapsing onto the soft bed that had been prepared with him, he fell quickly into a deep sleep, lulled easily by the steady rocking of the waves and the hopeful whispers of his heart.

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