Author Notes: Major angst warning, people, but I hope it's good angst. Please review after you read and tell me what you think. The whole thing is Sam's POV. The last paragraph I paraphrased from Elie Wiesel's Night, just in case you're wondering.

Stairs. Oh, god, the endless stairs; they just went up and up and up – my knees! I swear they'd never move again if we didn't have to go on. Going on, out of all necessity. I've learned Necessity to be a powerful motivator. So I forced my legs to move, and my knees to bend, and needles of fire shot through my body. But I moved. I went on, pausing constantly to push him forward.

Because he might have stopped. He might have stopped, and once stopping, never started again. It weighs so heavy on him, now, so horribly heavy, and his body might take it if not for his mind. His mind. That thing is ruining it, taking over by slow degrees. It whispers in his dreams, and he won't say so, but I know. He is my other half, we complete eachother. We are one together, and there is no pain he feels that I don't feel as well.

I'm thirsty, Father. Save me, but I'm thirsty, and there's no water. Water. Forget water, I'd drink anything as long as it was wet. My lips are cracked and bleeding, my voice reduced to a strained whisper. The water bottle in my pack thumps hollowly against the ridge of my backbone, saying empty, empty, empty. This thirst is a torment worse than any I could have imagined, and I would weep, but I cannot waste what little water's within me for tears.

Another staircase? No, no… How can there be another staircase? That vile creature knew, he knew there was another one, a longer one. I wish looks could kill. If they did, he would be dead at my feet, the wretched animal. I have never hated anything so much as I hate him. I would have killed him at the first, but for Frodo. I do not trust this creature, this – Gollum. Smeagol, yesss, my Preciousss. No. Maybe to Frodo, but not to me. He's Gollum; miserable, hate-filled child of darkness. Master, he calls him. Liar. He knows no master but the Ring.

I do not trust him, I do not trust him and yet I follow. As if I had a choice. Frodo follows Gollum, and I follow Frodo, no matter where he goes. He stumbles and I catch him, and his blue eyes are glazed and weary, with a fathomless weariness that seeps into my soul. For a moment, he leans heavily against me. I hold him close, giving him as best I can what strength I have to spare. Then we go on.

So this way is guarded, too. I might have known. Least guarded, he rasps, but the gleam in his eyes tells otherwise. Something is happening, he knows, and won't tell us. I turn to Frodo, to say we need to go back; that we have to get away. He's not even looking at me, just staring straight ahead with a queer, blind look. I touch his arm and he looks up. "Almost there," he whispers, his chapped lips twitching in a weak parody of a smile. My own lips twitch in response. I nod, and hold my silence.

Dear Eru, what is that smell? As if things weren't bad enough already. He can't seriously expect us to go in there, into that foul, dank hole. If there were anything in my stomach, I'd be retching. The fumes are dizzyingly strong, and I sway a little. Whatever part of Frodo's mind that isn't concentrated on the Ring saw me, and he catches me as I fall. "Sorry," I whisper. He shakes his head, squeezing my hand gently before letting me go.

Darkness. I never thought there could be such darkness in the world, such absolute darkness. It's like blindness, only worse. When you're blind you know there's light, even if you can't see it. Not here. Light is dead in this place, this black and endless passageway. The air is so still, so heavy, like a weight on my chest. It's impossible to breathe. Where's Gollum? He was ahead of us, I could hear him, but no more. He deserted us. I should have known, I should have known. Oh, treachery! Lost in the dark and the dead still silence, how are we to escape? How?

There is a fear growing in me, like a cancer, a burning in my center that spreads as we stumble forward. A dark and heavy horror is weighing on my heart, and my reason screams in warning, but I go on. I have no choice but to go forward, always forward, and my dread increases with my every step. My hand has trailed along the hard stone wall, a poor sort of guide in my blindness. Soft and stringy, things touch my face, my hands. I flinch away in disgust, and suddenly my hand leaves the wall and meets air. Cold terror thrills up my spine, and I shrink away. I reach out my hand, and it meets yours. They clasp tightly, and we go on.

The air is thicker still, and the darkness, and the stench. We seem to be going downwards, walking uncertainly along. Oh, Father! I'm fainting with the noisome reek, and you lurch sideways suddenly. "Up!" you cry in a voiceless whisper, heaving me to my feet. The blackness and the fear, it all emanates from the emptiness into which you fell. We have come to the center of the darkness, and the fear on me is so great I almost can't move. Your hand grasps mine again and I feel your terror match my own. Run! I cry in my mind, and you hear me.

We're running, stumbling, past the opening and further down the passageway. It branches, but which way to go? The first tunnel's blocked and the second's our only option, but what if it's a trap? Oh, treachery of Gollum! If I ever lay eyes on you again, it will only be in the moments before I kill you. Gollum or no Gollum, we have to go on, to get away. Something is watching us, I can feel it – a heavy, hostile glance bowing my shoulders. We have to get out, and you agree, out of this horrible, watchful darkness, and now. Whatever is watching is coming closer, closer…

The darkness, this blindness, it makes it all worse – to die in the dark and never see your enemy! To die helpless and all unknowing! If only – if only we had some light! Just a little light, to kill the darkness of this place! But how? …for you I have prepared this. "Frodo, the star-glass! The star-glass, quickly!" I scream. You're reaching into your tunic, and you pull it out, shimmering milky like moonstones. Lady, we need more light than this. The glass blazes lightning and silver fire, and I'm blinded again, but with light instead of darkness.

Aiya Eärendil Elenion Ancalima!

The blindness passes, and you're holding the light high, but it doesn't stop those baleful eyes from advancing. Evil and hunger and ancient malice all burn like pale fire in those eyes, and they're coming, coming. We back away, and they advance in a twisted satire of a children's game. "Stand!" you cry. "Running is no use!" No, it's no use. Whatever that – thing is, we cannot run from it. Galadriel! I pray, even as you speak her name, and it hesitates. Frodo, no! what are you doing! You're walking down towards it, the glass held aloft and Sting flaming in your hand. It halts before the radiance, and begins to back away, slowly, so slowly. The pale fires of its eyes go out, and it retreats into shadows.

I ran behind you, and now I'm beside you holding you back. "No further! No further! Let's go while we can!" I cry, and turn you around. You sheath your sword and take my hand, and again we're running up and away. The air thins and cools; we're nearing the exit, we're almost there. Hold on, hold on, we're almost there, your voice sounds in my mind. I grip your hand and we sprint desperately the final few feet, we're almost there, almost – and we're thrown back as though we'd struck a wall.

"What?" you whisper, and hold the Phial up to reveal – cobwebs. Just cobwebs. I can deal with cobwebs. I laugh bitterly and hew at them with my sword, but to no avail. Strong magic is woven into these horrible threads, and we're trapped. There's no way we can clear this all before the Spider catches us, no way we can get out. I'm sick with fear, but you steady me. Wait. Hold this. Watch. I take the star-glass and hold it high against the darkness. You unsheathe Sting and with a curse, you tear it through the web. The threads shear away from the cold blue steel, and rent after rent is made in the terrible trap. A hole we have now, a hole to escape through, and your wild joy sings in my heart, but I am afraid. It follows, it follows, we are not free, run faster, my love, faster still! It's coming!

I'm running with my glance fixed over my shoulder, not daring to look ahead. It's coming, I feel it, it will catch us if we don't move faster, and still faster we must run. How fast is fast enough? I shove the star-glass into my tunic and run through the darkness; my hands need to be free. You're ahead of me, run faster, further ahead now, go, for the love of Eru! now you're almost lost to sight, keep running, keep running, there's no light to protect us now.

Oh god oh god what is that? It can't be, it was behind us, beside you Frodo look out! You pause, whirl round, no! don't stop! Run! Run! It's too fast for you, it's overtaken you, oh, Father, no, I'm coming, Frodo, I'm – A hand clamps itself over my mouth and a leg twines around my own. I'm falling backwards, what in Eru's name is – "At last, my precious, we've got him, yesss…" Gollum! Desperation lends me strength far beyond what I would have presumed, and I heave him off in rage.

He's got my throat and he's breaking my wrist, my sword clangs on the ground. I tear away and strike him with Faramir's staff, and now he's scrambling to get away. I will kill you, and strike again, the staff breaking. He leaps away and is gone suddenly, but I will find you and you will pay for delaying me like that – Frodo! I'm running, all pain forgotten, running to find you, where are you?

No! It has you, it's bound you, it's bending over you to drag you away. Sting has fallen by your side, and I have ceased thinking as I run forward. Your blade I grab in my left hand and in a blind and savage fury, I fall upon the Beast. I'm not thinking, not feeling, hardly even breathing as I tear into it, my voice one endless scream. Never in my life have I been so afraid, yet fear leads to desperation, and in my desperation is a deep, abiding rage. That thing has dared to touch the one I hold most dear, and nothing matters anymore.

It lowers its hideous head, and I plunge the blade into its eye. The pale fire goes out, and the Beast lurches forward, no Beast, but Fear in spider-form. I am under it, and the stench is unbearable, I'm fainting, fainting – but no.. They say the deepest kindness gives birth to the deepest hatred and my rage has crossed all boundaries, transcends all fear, all pain. I have bared a part of my soul I didn't know existed; savage, primal, and absolutely black. I am no longer in my control, all reason has fled as I attack, and attack, and still again, attack. It shall not have you, I will die before that is so.

My mind is a storm of fear and trembling, but my heart is perfectly clear. I know my purpose. It has hurt you. It will die. I'm panting, and it heaves the huge bloated bag of its stomach over me. It's crushing me under its horrible weight and the fumes are clouding my thoughts, but still my heart holds true. I will kill it with your sword, and I'm driving Sting into the Spider with all my rage and desperation, I will kill you, I will kill you, no matter what it takes…

I can't believe it, the thing has sprung away. I hear its hideous screeching as it drags itself backwards, and through the mist before my eyes, I see you. I fight through my pain to your side, and see its one eye watching me. Death I read in that glance, my own and yours. What do I do, what do I do? Lady, help me! The Phial! I pull it from my tunic and hold it high. "Galadriel!" I cry, and suddenly, my tongue is not my own.

Gilthoniel A Elbereth!

A Elbereth Gilthoniel

o menel palan-diriel,

le nallon si di'nguruthos!

A tiro nin, Fanuilos!

What am I crying? I don't know, but the Elves have not failed me. The glass flames again in my hand, like a living diamond, like lighting from heaven. The Spider quails and pulls back as I advance upon it, and the tables are turned, you spawn of Hell! I have you now! It's dragging itself back to the opening to its lair. I leave it, and run back to your side, for I care not what happens to it, now or ever.

"Master, dear Master," I whisper breathlessly. You do not answer, and dread grows in my heart. "Frodo?" Frodo, my love, my heart, my soul, you do not answer. Frodo! Frodo, answer me! Show me you're there! Your mind is silent, and your thoughts are stilled. I'm pressing my ear to your chest now, no heartbeat, no, this can't be real, so I feel your wrist for a pulse, but there's nothing. Frodo? Frodo, please! I press my mouth to yours, and there is no answering breath. No. No. I will not accept this, this isn't real. No.

My thoughts are racing, and a picture forms in my mind of you lying asleep under a dark cliff. The Lady's Mirror, I remember now. Asleep. No, not asleep, you're dead. I've stopped breathing, and I sit perfectly still as the thought comes to me. You're dead. No. No, it cannot be so. It cannot, I will not let it be so! "No," I whisper brokenly. "No. No, no, no, no, nonononononono no!" My voice rises in a wail of anguish, and throwing back my head, I scream. You're dead. You're dead. My heart is broken and my soul is torn from my body. I'm clutching you, rocking you back and forth as I scream on and on in an endless breath. Such a sound has never been heard in all the ages of the world; a cry of pain to shake the earth to its very foundations. It doesn't begin to touch upon the emptiness of my soul.

Never shall I forget this night here in the pass, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget this darkness. Never shall I forget your face as you lay here in my arms, so pale and dead. Never shall I forget this nocturnal silence which has deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget these moments which murdered my light and my soul and turned my dreams into ashes. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live forever.

Never.