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36
The End of the Road

Vistula's favorite character is Sam, and she asked for Sam interacting with the drabbler's favorite character. Here is a quadruple drabble for her, and a bookend to Strange Bedfellows.


~~~

"He is in Master Elrond's hands, Samwise," Gandalf had said, as if that were reason not to fear. But the door had shut, and so Sam had found himself wandering the halls of the Last Homely House alone. Last time I let them pack me off to the baths, he thought, feeling betrayed. Well, 'betrayed' was a bit strong, perhaps, but though he could not rest, he was weary, and words were hard to come by.

At length, he came upon the porch, and after standing awhile, sank down upon the steps and sat there, chin in hands, watching the shadows wax before a red horizon. It was some time before he realized he was not alone.

"Oh, it's you," he said to the other's knees, which in truth were all he could see without craning his neck. But he knew the boots by now, and Strider descended a few steps before settling himself in a rather sprawling posture upon the stair just below. He slouched against the railing, eyes closed, and it occurred to Sam that their erstwhile guide was exhausted—as exhausted, perhaps, as Sam himself. An awkward, uncomfortable revelation, that, as all the mistrustful days made themselves felt suddenly, and with them inevitably all the times he might've been more helpful, might've made the journey less wearing.

Doubtless that was why his voice sounded a bit gruff when he ventured to ask, "Beggin' your pardon, but should you be out here?" And when the Ranger tipped his head back and looked a question at him, he explained quickly, "You look a bit run out."

"I am a bit run out," Strider admitted wryly. But his eyes were grave as he said more pointedly, "Nearly as much as yourself." A pause. "He is still with us, Sam."

"I know," Sam replied, then hesitated, before he said softly, "And so are you, after all's said and done." Strider said nothing, but something flickered in that keen face, as Sam rose suddenly and stuck out his hand. "I said I'd be first to say 'I'm sorry' and 'thank you'," he declared, with a sudden rush of confidence. "Well, I am sorry. And I do thank you."

A slow smile spread over Strider's face, as he replied, "A long road we've come already." Sam found his hand engulfed in a firm grip, then, as he finished, "May it lengthen between friends."

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