Title: The Straight Road
Author: Arien
Rating: PG
Chapters: 4
Synopsis: Frodo and Sam's reunion and life in the West.
Disclaimer: These beautiful people and places came from the imagination of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Author's Notes: As always, no slash is intended or implied. New chapter postings will come a bit more slowly on this piece than usual, but they will all be coming, so don't worry. Also, it is best if you have read my previous stories "The Way to Healing" and "The Bridge" before reading this one.


1.

Frodo was having a restless night. He usually slept deeply and peacefully, but tonight he could not seem to get past an uneasy doze. He tossed and turned, unable to find a comfortable position to sleep in, shifting his pillows and sheets constantly, until he finally sighed in exasperation and lay on his back, trying to relax. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply and evenly for a few minutes. A thousand thoughts seemed to be running through his head at the same time, each flying away before he could grasp them like leaves in the autumn wind.

After opening his eyes and examining the ceiling for a few moments, he threw off the covers and sat up in bed. "This is useless," he muttered. It was like his body and mind did not want to stay still. He felt like getting up and running a mile through the streets of Avallone. He had a feeling inside that he had not had for quite a long time -- nervousness and excitement were entwined inside of him, like he was a young hobbit heading off to a birthday party in the morning. For the first time in years he longed for his pipe and a bit of Old Toby to calm him down.

Frodo considered getting dressed and going back to the hall where most of the Elves spent the nights telling stories, dancing, and singing. If he could not sleep, it would certainly be nice to have company, and they would welcome him. He could hear the murmur of their joyous and sweet music in his room. He was about to get up when a chill wind blew in through his open windows, the air smelling slightly of flowers instead of salt. Frodo shivered, pulling the light blankets closer. He thought about closing the windows, but he was used to sleeping with them open and he felt stuffy whenever they were closed. He lay back down, settling down on his side with a deep sigh. The wind blew in stronger and he curled up tighter, enjoying the warmth that his blankets and body heat made. 'Perhaps this is what I need to fall asleep,' he thought as he snuggled against the pillows. He felt very comfortable and finally had begun to relax. Frodo closed his eyes and breathed deeply as his mind cleared and a sudden peaceful feeling fell over him. Within a few moments he was fast asleep.



He was back in the Shire again. It was even more beautiful now than he had remembered it to be: the trees that had been just sprouting when he left were now full grown, and flowers bloomed in fields surrounded by rich green grass. The air still smelled of new growth and life that had not faded away in the least with the passage of time. The feeling was familiar to him, as Eressea had the same sense of life within it.

Frodo stood, looking around him at the landscape when he felt himself being pulled toward something and followed without hesitation. He was led to a quiet patch in the well-kept Hobbiton cemetery, underneath a towering oak tree that had stood there for generations, even surviving the invasion of Sharkey's men. There were neat, even rows of grave markers around him. Just off to his left side, directly underneath the oak tree, an elderly hobbit was bent over one of them. He had a bundle of sweet pink roses in his hand; they were exceptionally beautiful and Frodo knew a skilled hand had grown them. As Frodo watched, the old hobbit placed the bundle tenderly on the marker and wiped away some leaves that had fallen on it. A slight smile touched the old hobbit's face: a look of great love and shared memories. He sat for a few moments, running his hands across the marker, the soft smile still on his face.

Then, the old hobbit stood up. Despite his age, he moved nimbly and seemed very energetic. He stood straight, his broad shoulders still squared and his aged body remarkably strong. He wore beautiful clothing: his waistcoat was embroidered with leaves and had fine brass buttons, his shirt was starched white, and his coat and trousers were made of fine velvet dyed a rich dark green. Frodo walked closer until he stood next to the old hobbit, and it was then that he recognized him. It was Sam, though he was much older than he had been when Frodo had last seen him. His face had lines and wrinkles, but they were more from laughter than from care. His hair was grey but still curled tightly about his head, and his eyes were warm and bright, and sparkled with mirth even in this somber place. Frodo's eyes filled with tears as he gazed upon his old friend, and a deeply-set ache throbbed in his chest. He longed with every ounce of strength he had to touch Sam, but somehow he restrained himself.

Sam stood at the grave for a few moments, his head bowed, but no tears came to his eyes. "Goodbye, my Rose," he whispered. He raised his head, taking one last look around him, his head turning next to where Frodo was standing. Sam looked down at the grass for a moment, then raised his head and looked directly at Frodo. Frodo's heart skipped a beat and he let in a shocked gasp. A slight smile touched Sam's face, nearly the same one he had when he had been saying goodbye to Rose. Then he turned away and walked with surprising swiftness over the grass. Frodo's eyes followed him, and a few tears spilled over onto his cheeks, but he had a bright smile on his face.

Then, he saw Bag End, looking just as beautiful as the day he left, none the worse for wear after having Sam's large family dwelling in it. Below the hole, in the Party Field, the Gardener family was gathered, along with some of Sam's dearest friends, including Merry and Pippin. Frodo was amazed at how many people there were, and how large Sam's family actually was. He walked onto the Field and into the heart of the gathering like a phantom, silently watching all of them, recognizing each as easily as if they had all been his own.

Frodo Gardener, Sam's eldest son, looked almost exactly like Sam had looked in his youth, with the same carefree smile and jolly laugh. His son Holfast was already a tween, but he hugged his grandfather with such force that he nearly knocked Sam over. Then there was Ruby, Sam's youngest daughter, who wore red ribbons and who carried a healthy son in her arms as her husband sat beside her, nuzzling his face in her hair. Robin had freckles and a jolly smile, and he sat with his wife scolding their two young children, who were continuously poking each other. Tolman, the youngest of Sam's children, sat on the grass playing with some of the children while his wife looked at him with slight disapproval. Rose was the second-eldest of Sam's children in attendance. She had fine brown hair, bright eyes, and a warm smile that revealed dimples on each of her cheeks. She held a newborn daughter, bouncing her on her knee as the baby laughed. Her sweet-faced sister Daisy sat beside her. Sam's sons Merry and Pippin sat together at the same table, drinking ale and laughing at their own private jokes, best friends just as their namesakes were. Frodo followed Sam as he said his goodbyes to each of them. The Gardeners were an utterly beautiful family; each of them kind and strong and fair just as their parents had been.

Sam said his farewells to his son Bilbo and his family. Bilbo's daughter seemed a bit shy, she hid behind her mother's skirts until Sam opened his arms and coaxed her out. "Will you say hullo to Frodo for me?" the girl asked quietly. "Of course!" Sam said, kissing her on her cheek. "I'm going to tell him all about you when I see him." She broke out in a smile as lovely as summer and hugged her grandfather close. Goldilocks, true to her name, had golden hair like Elanor's and danced along the grass as gracefully as a hobbit maid half her age. With her was Pippin's son Faramir, her husband. Primrose was very pregnant and after Sam kissed her he lay his hands on her stomach. "Feels like a boy, this one," he said, and she laughed. "We hope so." She patted her father's cheek. "You take care of yourself now, Sam-dad," she said, and Sam nodded.

Last of all came Merry and Pippin. The three friends stood and spoke together on the grass. Frodo stood apart, quietly watching them. He realized how much he had missed all of them at that moment, as if the long years they had spent apart finally came down on him. But instead of sadness, Frodo's heart swelled with pride and love for his friends. All of them had truly become everything they deserved to be, and the Shire had loved them and healed them.

Then Pippin leaned forward and embraced Sam, and Merry joined in, and the three of them held each other for a while. Then they pulled apart and Sam walked toward the lane where a pony was waiting for him, led by his son Hamfast. Sam embraced him for a few moments, then was interrupted when a tiny hobbit lad ran towards him. "You nearly forgot about me!" the boy cried, and Sam laughed merrily and swooped him up into his arms. "Well, so I did!" They kissed each other and murmured goodbyes, then the lad ran back into the crowd that stood at the edge of the field.

Finally Sam mounted his pony and set off, waving to his children, grandchildren, and many friends. There were no tears for him: this was a happy parting, old Master Samwise's long-awaited and much-earned last adventure. Frodo's eyes followed him as he rode slowly down the lane and onto the Road, heading west.


Next Frodo saw Sam riding down a roughly-paved road into a small town with houses and buildings made of stone. The sun was setting but hobbits were still about, and they greeted Sam respectfully as he rode through. Beyond that was hilly farmland and forests that still showed their wildness by stretching into the road at times. This was Westmarch, the newest province of the Shire, further west than the Four Farthings. It reminded Frodo of his childhood home in Buckland and he laughed to himself, remembering how queer his Buckland upbringing had seemed to the folk in Hobbiton when he first arrived. Over the years he could never quite decide if either the folk in Buckland were too forward, or the folk in Hobbiton were too backward, but it gave Frodo a bit of pride to see that there were more hobbits who didn't consider the Bucklanders' way of life that foreign.

He rode straight on until he reached the Tower Hills and Elanor and Fastred's home at Undertowers. The lovely house was made of wood, stone, and mortar, and Elanor and Fastred had a nice stretch of farmland along with a few golden-haired children to work it. They looked very happy with their busy life -- Elanor was no spoiled hobbit lass but a hardworking farm wife and mother. Her golden hair was pulled into braids that framed her beautiful face. A few laugh lines had appeared by her eyes and mouth, but she was as lovely as ever. She ran to her father and greeted him joyfully, and after Fastred and the children joined her, the family ushered him inside.

Sam spent the night at the house, rising early in the morning and talking with Elanor. "This is yours," he said, taking the Red Book out of one of his bags and handing it to her. "It's your job now to keep these stories alive. My part in it is ended, just like Mr. Frodo's was."

She smiled. "We'll keep it safe for you; don't you worry about these stories fading away." She sighed. "Are you sure about going by yourself? Fastred or I could come with you, just to make sure you're safe."

Sam reached out his hand to stroke Elanor's cheek. "I'll be fine, my flower. Besides, you have too much to do here, with the house and the children. Autumn's coming in and you have to prepare for the winter. There's no need to put yourselves behind on my account."

"I wish I could go with you, to meet Frodo and see the Elves." A bit of sadness touched her features, but Sam chuckled softly. "I asked the same thing of Mr. Frodo when he left, and you know what he told me. I didn't wholly understand it then, but I understand it now. There comes a time when all of us have to leave what we love. Time catches up with us, and so we pass away and leave all we have to be taken care of by others. Your place is here, Elanor. You have to take care of those things now, along with all your brothers and sisters."

She nodded. "I know. It doesn't make my heart ache any less, though."

Sam smiled sadly and fastened his beautifully woven Lorien cloak around his shoulders, still clasped together by its leaf brooch. He put his arms on Elanor's shoulders. "Don't let your heart ache for the things you want. Let it be happy for all the wonderful things you have." Then they embraced for a long time, and after saying his goodbyes to the rest of the family, Sam headed out past the Towers and towards the Havens.


The afternoon was deepening toward evening when he reached the Havens. Sam rode past the docks to the shipyard, where some of the Elves were still working in the lowering light, hammering away at the wooden skeletons of the magnificent swan-bowed ships. One of the ships was nearing completion, and Sam rode towards it and dismounted off his pony. An Elf saw him and smiled gently, then disappeared inside the hold. A few moments later, Cirdan, Master of the Havens, emerged and walked towards Sam. "Good evening, Master Hobbit!" he greeted with a soft smile.

"Greetings, Master Cirdan," Sam said with a bow. "I'm not sure if you remember me, though I'm sure you remember many things. My name is Samwise Gamgee. My friend Frodo Baggins -- he was the Ringbearer, sir -- departed West from here with Gandalf and Lord Elrond and the Lady Galadriel."

Cirdan nodded kindly, his eyes bright. "I remember him, and you, Master Gamgee."

Sam nodded and lowered his head for a moment, then went on. "Thank you, sir. I've come this way to ask something very important, and I much appreciate your obliging me some of your time." Sam smiled, but it didn't quite reach his eyes -- he looked a little scared. "Well, Mr. Frodo told me before he left that I might have a chance to go West on one of your ships, when the time was right. And as you can see, I'm getting on in years, and now that my children are grown and my work's done, I've been feeling the call to come here more and more. Forgive me for overstepping my station, sir, but I would dearly like to see my friend again, if it's at all possible. It's all I really want, more than any riches or comforts; but if I am not allowed I understand why." Now he looked even more nervous, and his eyes were large with worry and anticipation.

But Cirdan smiled and put his hand on Sam's shoulder. "We have been expecting you. Gandalf told me before he departed that if you came seeking passage West, the Valar permitted me to give it to you, just as it was given to the other Ringbearers. There is nothing to fear; you are welcomed aboard our ships, and your journey will be a safe one."

"Oh, bless you, sir!" Sam said joyously. "Why, that's a weight off my shoulders!" He smiled widely and then a few tears he hadn't been aware he was holding in fell onto his cheeks. Cirdan summoned another Elf who led Sam and his pony towards the city of the Havens. Frodo watched them leave, a small smile on his face. Then he turned back around and Sam stood there again, but this time on a dock, at the end of which a ship waited. It was sunset and around him the Elves were preparing for their journey, but Sam stood still, his eyes on the ship looming in front of him. Slowly, he walked to the end of the dock and stopped in front of the quay that led aboard. He fidgeted nervously, his hands balled at his sides. Frodo walked up beside him, longing to place his arms around his friend and help him to make those final steps, but he could not. "Don't be afraid, Sam," Frodo whispered, but Sam did not respond. Then he closed his eyes and took a deep breath, then opened them and trudged forward with his head held high. Frodo broke out into a huge grin and then laughed.

Frodo stayed there at the end of the dock and saw Sam being led below deck. Then the ropes were drawn up and the ship slowly moved away and deeper into the clear blue-green water. As Frodo watched, the ship sailed off into the sunset, the sky glowing in vibrant peaches and oranges and pinks. Then his vision dissipated, and Frodo opened his eyes and was back in his familiar room again. He could hear the gentle music of the Sea in the distance, and the early morning sunlight was beginning to peek though the windows. He stretched and turned over onto his back, smiling softly, and then grinned and laughed loudly as he realized that Sam was coming -- that he would arrive today! His stomach felt a bit light and fluttery, and his body tingled with excitement. "Thank you, Lorien, thank you," he whispered.

Then Frodo sat bolt upright. Most ships bound from Middle-earth arrived at sunrise, and judging by the light shining in through Frodo's windows, the ship carrying Sam was already arriving. He still had to make his way down to the docks, and he didn't want Sam to panic if he was late. He tossed off the covers and raced out of bed, putting on his clothes as fast as he could and hurrying to find an Elf with a swift horse.



Underneath the clear blue morning sky, the Elven ship rocked upon the Western Sea. Old Samwise Gamgee was dreadfully frightened of the water, but in his great wonder and excitement, he could not divert his eyes. He had never truly conquered his fear of boats, even though he had learned to tolerate the water when he and the Fellowship traveled over the Anduin, all those years ago. He had stayed below deck for most of the thankfully short voyage, not daring to look at the calm water and imagine what sort of perils lay underneath. The Elves he traveled with had a great love for the Sea, as most Elves did; Sam's fear of it was not something they understood. "How could you bear to stay below, Master Gamgee?" they asked. "The music of the Sea is fair, is it not?"

"It is very fair. I've heard it in my heart for years, ever since Mr. Frodo went away. But just because I like the sound of it doesn't mean I'm not scared of it!" They laughed, the sound of their joy overcoming all fear and finally persuading him to come outside his cabin. "Mr. Frodo, only for you I would do something like this," he muttered as he reached the deck and the water came into view.

The shores of Eressea, the Lonely Isle, gleamed white before him. He could see the island now: there was a tall white tower with a pinnacle made of polished pearl that gleamed in the early morning sunlight. Many white buildings sat beneath it, and the forest was vast and rich around it. Alongside the shore of the white beach were high cliffs and green hills that sat underneath a thin layer of fog. Gulls flew into the air, whirling in circles and calling each other wildly. He stood for a few moments with a bright smile on his face, admiring the beauty of the country before him. The Sun was rising and it filled his vision with warm golden light. Around him the Elves sang in their fair voices, welcoming the Sun and the shores in front of them. His heart leapt with their song, though he knew only a little of the language that they sang in.

He patted his coat pocket, making sure his gift for Frodo was still inside. Sam had had quite a time thinking of something to give him; he was sure that Frodo could have had whatever he possibly desired from the Elves. But a few days before his departure, Sam's daughter Daisy had come into the study at Bag End with a small bundle in her hands. "This is a gift for Frodo, when you see him," she had said, handing him the bundle.

The bundle contained several envelopes; when he'd opened them he'd found letters from Merry and Pippin and each of Sam's children. "It was Uncle Merry's idea," she said. "He figured Frodo would like hearing about the Shire and about what we've been doing, since he's so far away from us. And Frodo's always seemed like part of our family, even though we never knew him."

"This is wonderful!" Sam had exclaimed. "Mr. Frodo will love them, I'm sure. Remind me to thank Merry next time I run into him." Daisy had tied the envelopes together firmly with ribbon and Sam had carried the bundle with him in his coat pocket to keep it safe. He hadn't read the letters -- they were for Frodo, after all, and Sam felt fairly certain that Frodo would read them to him anyway. Frodo had never been the type to keep something good all to himself.

He felt a gentle tap on his shoulder. A male Elf stood next to him, and he silently pointed down into the water. Sam was afraid to look at first, but the Elf smiled at him and lay a comforting hand on his back. Gripping onto the wooden railing for dear life, Sam leaned forward, looking into the clear blue-green water of the Sea. He saw shapes underneath the water that surged forward, and then broke the waves. They had exquisitely curved fins, and when their faces came up they almost seemed to be smiling, their long noses showing small white teeth. "They look like they're playing," he asked the Elf, filled with awe. "What are they?"

"Dolphins," the Elf replied. "They swim alongside the ships where the water is warm. I saw them when I sailed to the bays in the south, back when our relations with Men were closer."

"Dolphins," Sam whispered. "They're beautiful." He watched the sleek figures as they danced in the blue-green water until they swam out of his vision and toward the bow of the ship. "Thank you," he said, turning to the Elf, who nodded and smiled at him. He led Sam away from the railing and found a proper spot for him deeper on the deck where he could see the island, then joined the Elves in their exquisite song.

The shore became clearer, and Sam could see that the white city was quite large, larger than he had expected, and very beautiful. A pang of excitement twitched deep inside of him -- he tried to remember when he'd last felt this way and remembered the day of his wedding to Rose, when Frodo had spent most of the morning attempting to calm him down. He laughed blissfully at the memory, and some of the Elves turned around and smiled at him, glad that he was sharing in their joy.

It seemed like years before the ship finally came within sight of the docks. There was a small crowd of Elves waiting to greet the ship, but Sam did not see a smaller shape among them. He stood watching the land expectantly, trying to calm his shaky knees and nervous fingers. Finally the ship lurched to a stop, and the Elves began tying it down. The others on board went below and started to walk towards the place where a quay was being lowered to let them ashore. After a reluctant look back at the beach, Sam followed. He was one of the last to leave.

As he walked onto the dock his heart was throbbing loudly in his ears, while his stomach felt like it was somewhere around his knees. There was a croud of Elves walking slowly towards the shore, talking in their fair voices, and Sam followed near the end of them, trying to keep his head held high. As he drew closer, tears began to sting at his eyes. Where was Frodo? Did he even know he was coming? He felt so shaky...

Then someone called his name, and he turned his head, looking for the speaker. "Sam!" they yelled again, louder. A small figure broke through the crowd, running across the dock. "Frodo!" Sam yelled. He began to weep as he walked forward as fast as he could on trembling legs. Before he knew it, Frodo's arms were wrapped around him, hugging him tightly, and Sam gripped Frodo back with all his strength. He was alive, he was safe, he was real...in all of his life, Sam had never known such complete and utter joy. Every bone in his body ached with it -- he could have reached up and touched the stars at that moment. He breathed in Frodo's scent, and it was the same smells of ink and linen mixed in with something new, something earthy and Elvish. Sam was sobbing, and he heard Frodo in his ear, crying and whispering his name.

They embraced close for a long while, laughing and weeping on each other's shoulders. Then they pulled apart and studied each other's faces. Frodo cradled Sam's cheeks and Sam stroked Frodo's face with his nimble fingers, a bit softer now than his work-hardened hands had been in his youth. Frodo was familiar to Sam, and yet not; all the sorrow and regret that he carried at their last meeting was long gone. Sam knew that Frodo was well over a hundred, but he did not look more than eighty and his face had gentle laugh lines around his eyes and mouth. His hair was as soft and fine as it had always been, despite the fact that it had much more grey. His clothing was of fine Elvish make, the fabric wrapping around his frame, which looked fit and healthy, a far cry from the sickly thinness that had troubled him so many years before. Sam barely noticed these things, however: his attention was focused on Frodo's bright eyes, his wide smile, and his laughter. "Oh, Mr. Frodo, I'd forgotten how beautiful you are," he said.

Frodo smiled and wiped away Sam's tears with his fingers, and Sam grasped his hands, placing them together and kissing them as he had done so often when trying to comfort him. He saw that Frodo's finger was still missing and cradled his right hand, kissing it and pressing it to his cheek. Frodo laughed through his own tears, then kissed Sam's forehead and pulled him close again in an embrace. "Oh Sam...my Sam..." he said as he held Sam tightly.

"I could stand here forever with you," Sam whispered. His joy seemed endless; for the time he had stood on the dock with Frodo, the rest of the world had been utterly forgotten. Frodo's breath hitched and he cried harder. "I could, too, Sam." They held each other for a few long minutes, still laughing and weeping, until they pulled apart again and clasped each other's hands, Frodo's maimed right hand in Sam's left one. "Come with me, Sam," Frodo said quietly. They walked towards the end of the dock, then onto a high green hill with soft grass.

On top of the hill, a dark-haired Elf stood next to his horse, stroking the animal's shining coat. As Frodo and Sam approached, he smiled brightly at them. "Greetings, Master Gamgee!"

Sam was still crying a bit, but he bowed low. "Greetings, Master Elf." Frodo spoke up beside him. "Sam, this is Halior. He dwelt with Lord Elrond in Rivendell...he is a good friend of mine."

"I am glad to finally meet the faithful companion of the Ringbearer, whom our songs speak of." Sam lowered his head humbly, and Frodo smiled at him and squeezed his hand. "My friend Frodo has always spoken highly of you. I know he has awaited this day for quite a long time." Halior's smile became brighter. "He came to me in a panic this morning, insisting that you were coming and we had to come to the port as soon as possible. We raced here and Frodo nearly broke his neck jumping off my horse in his haste. I am glad to see that haste was well rewarded, though."

Sam looked a bit shocked, but Frodo smiled. "I slept longer this morning than I should have," he said. "I'm sorry if you were distressed because you didn't see me right away."

Sam smiled. "I was for a bit, but that doesn't matter much now." Frodo laughed, and then Halior spoke again. "Now, Master Gamgee, I am sure you did not come here empty-handed...where are your bags?"

"Oh, I have some things on the ship," Sam said, blushing. "It's a good thing you mentioned them; I'd plain forgotten! I just brought a few bags with me with some clothes and things I couldn't bear to part with. They shouldn't be too heavy, I can carry them."

The Elf laughed merrily and shook his head. "Do not worry about carrying them; I shall take them to Frodo's dwelling myself. Are you going to stay here a while, Frodo?" Frodo nodded and thanked him, and then Halior walked down the hill toward the docks.

Sam was surprised to find he was still crying, and Frodo's cheeks were wet with tears as well. He pulled Frodo close to him and embraced him fiercely. "I have to keep holding you, Mr. Frodo...I can scarcely believe you're real."

Frodo laughed quietly. "Me too, Sam. It's hard to tell dream from waking here sometimes, but I know this is real. And I'm so glad for it." He pulled away and looked at Sam teasingly. "But Sam dear, you don't have to call me 'Mr. Frodo' anymore."

"Oh, I'm sorry, but it just wouldn't seem right to me not to, after a lifetime of calling you that." Sam shrugged. "Perhaps someday I'll find it in me to stop. Old habits are hard to break, but I think I have some strength in me yet." They both laughed and sat down on the hill together, still holding hands.



More Elves came to the shore as word was sent into the city about who had just arrived. There were many happy reunions going around Frodo and Sam, and for a while they were content to sit next to each other and watch as they talked. They sat on the soft grass above the shoreline, gazing out at the rippling waters of the Sea and watching the Elves at the docks. To Sam's surprise, he saw that the grass bloomed with golden elanor, just like the grass of Lothlorien. He gently picked a single flower from the grass, twirling it between his fingers and then cradling it in his palm. "I never thought I would see this flower again," he said with a chuckle. "I did manage to take Elanor to Lothlorien for a short time, once when we were visiting Strider and Queen Arwen in Gondor. Oh, how she loved it! She said that she wanted to build a house there in the trees like the Elves, and she didn't care if she was afraid of the height or not. 'I'll get used to it,' she said, and we believed her."

Frodo laughed. "Is she doing well?"

"Oh, well isn't the word," Sam replied. "She's so happy she must be blessed. And she is beautiful, Mr. Frodo...like a rose in spring. Somehow all my little ones turned out that way...they all took after Rose more than me. You know I have thirteen? I have twenty-seven grandchildren, if you can believe that. And three great-grandchildren!"

"Thirteen children?" Frodo said in astonishment, though he already knew. "You were certainly busy, in more ways than one."

Sam grinned. "That's true, Mr. Frodo. We always had a house full of little ones and plenty to feed them and take care of them with. I ended up being Mayor, just like you said I would be, though it was the furthest thing from my mind when Wil Whitfoot retired and asked me to run. But I was quite happy doing it for a while -- I always had time to spend with the little ones and work in my garden." He paused for a moment. "Rose died, you know, this past summer. She was ninety-eight. The years didn't treat her as well as they treated me, poor lass, but she was happy right until the end."

Frodo nodded. "I'm sorry, Sam. You don't have to talk about her if you don't want to." But Sam smiled. "Oh, but I want to. I loved her dearly. I'm not sad about her death anymore, if that's what you're worried about. She was weary and glad to go when the end came. She said that she felt something deep inside of her was telling her she'd gone on too long and it was time for a rest."

"That sounds like what Bilbo told me," Frodo said quietly, but he said nothing more, and Sam did not press the issue. He noticed then the silver chain around Frodo's neck, and on the end of it the beautiful white gem, still gleaming brightly. "That's the stone that Queen Arwen gave to you! You still wear it!"

Frodo smiled. "Yes, I still wear it, though I don't need its comfort as much as I used to."

"Oh, she would have been glad to know it helped you so much," Sam said. "Though I daresay she knew it would help or else she wouldn't have given it to you. She was a good Queen and Strider was a good King; they had three children when I last saw them. Oh, there's so much to tell you!" He paused, then chuckled softly. "I remember I used to dream of this sometimes, thinking about how I would feel when I saw you again. I figured I wouldn't be able to say anything for days, and here I am talking your ear off! I'm sorry."

"You're not talking my ear off," Frodo said with a laugh and a pat on Sam's hand. "I'm thinking about all the things that I must show you here; there's so much I want you to see. This place..." -- he looked off into the city for a moment -- "...is remarkable. It's like an entire Elf kingdom by itself. The beauty of it never fades after the Sun sets: it stays just as alive in the starlight." He fell silent for a few moments, and Sam raised his head and looked around. Every color was incredibly vibrant and rich, as if Sam had not seen real color in years, and the very air seemed to carry a sense of renewal and rebirth. The land in the distance was filled with green hills and forests, and the beach spread as far as he could see in either direction. A cool, light wind blew in from the Sea, bringing with it the scent of salt, and the waves below were capped with white foam. The gardener in him was wide awake, and he took in every flower and tree he could set his eyes on, naming them in his head as easily as he could remember the names of his children. "Mr. Frodo? Are there mallorns here?" he asked with a glint in his eye.

Frodo grinned and nodded. "There's every kind of plant and tree you could ever wish for, all growing here on the same island." He pointed off into the distance, a bit to the right of the city. "There's a large grove of mallorns somewhere around there; it's a bit hard to tell from this distance. They're always in full bloom, and when you walk through the grove it smells so wonderful that you can scarcely believe it."

"I can't wait to see it," Sam whispered, smiling at his old friend. Frodo's face was as beautiful as anything else -- though much of his youth had faded away, he did not strike Sam as being old. His eyes sparkled again, and he laughed and smiled in pure joy. His sadness was gone, replaced by delight and wisdom, and the light within him was brighter than ever. Sam knew that there was nothing he could be given here that would equal seeing Frodo healed and happy once more.

Suddenly Sam was weeping, and he reached over and embraced Frodo tightly again. Frodo held him close for a few moments, rubbing his hands along his friend's back and rocking him gently, letting him weep. "Sam, what's wrong?" he asked after a few long minutes, a bit of concern in his voice.

"Nothing's wrong, nothing at all," Sam whispered back. "That's why I'm crying."