Here we go, last chapter. Many, many thanks to those who reviewed this story. I wasn't expecting for it to be too well liked--but you guys have honestly surprised me and encouraged me to post more stories once I get them finished. Thank you!!!!!!!! And now, last chapter....

Disclaimer: For the sixth (or is it seventh...or fifth...) time, nothing Cold Mountain is mine. Ne rien pas.

Chapter 6: We have come now to the end

His stay had finally come to an end. The moment her eyes drifted open, she wished it wasn't so, but she knew all things must come to an end. She rose and set languidly about her tasks. If they took her long enough, it might delay his leaving just that much longer. She had left him to sleep in, for surely that extra strength would prove helpful along this last stretch of his journey. She stopped on the porch and looked out to the east. Oranges and pinks streaked across the sky creating a brilliant and beautiful mountain morning. Clouds off to the west suggested that weather would soon move in. And the westerly breeze indicated they would reach likely there before noon. How could he possibly leave on a day like today?

"We have come now to the end..." she muttered to herself, wishing there was a way to convince him to change his mind. She let go a melancholy sigh before pulling open the cabin door, and shutting it quickly behind her.

"Good mornin'." She raised her head to the voice she knew so well.

"Morning, Inman." He stood dressed in his traveling layers, with his loaded pack waiting by the door, his hat and jacket draped across in waiting.

"Your welcome, Maggie." Her smile told him she remembered last night.

"I see that you're...ready to leave." Her smile faded somewhat.

"Uh, yeah, I plan on heading out after breakfast." He said, somewhat glad to finally be on his way home...to Ada.

"Well then, I'll get started." She crossed the room to the stove. Heat radiated from it and a pan had been set atop it that was softly steaming.

"You...you started breakfast...?" she asked, pleasantly surprised.

"I figured it was the least I could do to help out one last time." He said, trying to hide a faint flush of embarrassment.

"Thank you." A pleased smile grew on her face as her eyes stayed fixed on his. His eyes had lightened some, she noticed. Some of that hurt she'd seen so often had disappeared. He silently nodded his head before he turned to finish making his bed. No matter how she tried to convince herself otherwise, she loved him and would miss him more than words would ever be able to say. And it pained her to think of him leaving, but he had no business staying any longer. A silent sigh of longing escaped her before she turned back to the stove to finish breakfast.

Time moved by too fast. Breakfast was over and cleaned up. After drying the last dish, he moved towards the door to gather his things. She turned from him and stared out the window, fighting back a sad sigh. The thick clouds had rolled in already, winter's full strength was about to hit, but once it had, all would turn to spring. She turned to him again with a warm smile. She resolved not to let him know how much she loved him and hated his leaving.

"You look like a true outdoorsman in your hat."

"Oh," he looked up at it, "It works to keep the snow off my head." She laughed softly and noticed him trying to straighten out his jacket collar.

"Here...let me get that." She walked over to him, raised her hands and smoothed down his upturned collar. She looked up at him in his green eyes and neither one could seem to pull away.

"Well, I should...uh, be going." He broke their gaze and turned towards the door, trying not to think about that look in her eyes.

"You probably should before it gets much later—or the snows start to fall." She followed him out onto the porch that was now shadowed by the thick clouds.

"Don't worry." She said. He turned at the bottom of the stairs with a confused look in his eyes.

"You'll get there...to Cold Mountain. I know you will." Her smile reflected the hope and trust that he'd come to know over his stay. She blamed no one for her surroundings and kept living day by day with that genuine nature. And for that, he respected her beyond words. But for all she knew, there was one thing he had been able to help her learn, that it isn't weak or wrong to accept help from others.

"Good luck. And thank you so much for your help." She smiled and extended her hand to him. She didn't think he'd take too kindly to a hug, having only willingly touched her yesterday, and she didn't want awkward last memories of him. Inwardly impressed by her, he reached out his hand and grasped hers firmly.

"Your welcome. I'm glad I was able to be of some use." He released her hand and she looked with her longing hazel eyes into his green.

"Thank you Maggie, for everything." He said quietly before leaning closer to her and placing a soft kiss on her cheek. Her eyes instantly lit up. He took a step back and turned as if to go.

"Inman. Would you kiss me again?" She asked quickly before she could stop herself. He faced her again, looped his arm around her waist and pressed his lips gently against hers in a sweet, warm kiss that she would remember always. He withdrew slowly, moved his arm from around her and stepped back, ready to leave.

"Bye Inman." Her voice was laced with sadness, and it sounded as though she were on the verge of tears, yet a smile formed on her face. A small smile, his trademark silent, quick nod, and he turned away from her, slinging his pack over his shoulder. That look on her face was almost enough to break his heart—he had seen it once before. It was the same look he saw on Ada's face when he'd left Cold Mountain, and he hoped he would never have to see one like it again. She thought she could feel tears forming in the corners of her eyes just at the sight of him walking on in his life...and out of hers. Lazily, her hand rose to her cheek and brushed tenderly the skin that still tingled from his first kiss.

She could have easily asked him to stay with her. Lord knows she desperately wanted to. But that surely would bring him more pain—knowing that he was breaking her heart by leaving to return to a woman who might have forgotten him completely. And Maggie couldn't do that to him—he had enough hurt swirling around his green eyes. But her last look, in his mind, showed clearly that she was torn by his leaving. And he couldn't stay, he knew that as well as she did. His true love lay in Cold Mountain, and so did his true happiness. If you love someone enough, you want them to be happy, even if it means not being with you—she understood this and let him go. The winter wind whipped wildly about her and snowflakes fell every which way, but she cared not—her mind and heart were with him who was walking away. He stopped at the forest's edge and looked back—she still stood on the porch steps in the lightly falling snow, with a hand resting on her cheek. He raised his hand in the air and gave her a quick wave. Her hand rose up and sent a return wave to him. He then turned and disappeared amongst the trees. Her hand sank reluctantly down to her side—now he was gone. At that instant, the bitter chill of the winter's morn hit full strength. The heavier winter snows fell suddenly in thick sheets. She crossed up the steps, shivering and casting hopeful glances over her shoulder in hopes that Inman had changed his mind and come back. ...but no such luck. He was gone—but the past five days would live forever in her memory...and his kiss. A soft, dreamy smile spread across her face as she reveled in the remembered feel of his arm around her and the warmth of his kiss. With that feel of his lips upon hers lasting a lifetime, she turned and headed into the cabin to pray and hope for his safe journey, his happiness and hers.

end.


Again, merci beaucoup to those who followed this story to the end. It has really encouraged me as a writer.
End of my Cold Mountain story, now on to others...in hopes of finishing another one hopefully soon.