Disclaimer: None of this is mine, except for the plot.

A/N: Once again I apologize for getting sooooo behind schedule with this story (not that there is an actual schedule, but you know what I mean). Thank you for being so patient, and thank you to those who reviewed. Any flames will be swallowed by myself (I'm a trained fire-swallower, but no I don't work in a circus).

***ALERT!*** I have a big favor to ask all readers. If any of you know the members of Legolas's immediate family (I heard he had two older brothers) and/or if you know what happened to his mother (heard she died, but the theories of how are endless) PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, either email me the info. or include it in your review. Thank you so very much.

I don't have much else to say, except enjoy this final (finally!) installation!

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~* A Winter's Tale Broken Hearts & Healing Warmth ch: 6

"Mum, I can explain." Sam Gamgee's voice broke the awkward silence. He surprised himself at how calm his voice was, considering the situation. He just had to keep it that way. "It's not how.how it l-l-looks." His voice broke; damn, not good.

Bell Gamgee held up her hand, halting any further justifications. "Don't, Samwise," her voice sounded uncharacteristically sharp, "I don't want to hear it right now. Just make yourselves look presentable and get in the kitchen for breakfast. *Now.*"

Frodo and Sam wasted no time in getting ready; saying nothing to each other. They entered the kitchen in silence and found that Mr. and Mrs. Gamgee had already started eating. The Gaffer looked up when they came in.

"Well, I see ye two've decided to join us! Bin wonderin' where ye were. We were ready to send in a rescue party, eh Bell?" The Gaffer winked at his wife, from across the table, and chuckled at his own joke. Mrs. Gamgee merely pursed her lips in a thin smile that didn't reach her eyes. Sam and Frodo seated themselves across from each other and filled their plates. The meal passed on relatively quietly, with little to no conversation. When the Gaffer finished his meal, he pushed back his chair and stood, wiping his mouth with his napkin.

"Well, that was a splendid fare, as always m'dear. I think I'll go and get that shovel from the pantry and start breakin' some paths around the house. Why don't you come help me, Samwise. There's a spare shovel or two in the shed. Mr. Frodo, you're welcome to come and watch."

"Oh no, I'd like to help you," Frodo said quietly from where he sat. Sam looked apalled.

"Mr. Frodo, there be no need for you to-"

"It's quite all right, Sam," the older Hobbit said, pointedly. "I want to help."

"That's all fine, but I would like Sam and Mr. Frodo to give me a hand with a couple things in here first, dear," Mrs. Gamgee broke in. "That is, if you don't mind." Mr. Gamgee detected something in her voice that said he'd better agree, and agree he did.

"O'course, dearest! You two can just come out and give me a hand when Mother is done with ye," and with that, Mr. Gamgee left the kitchen to get the shovel. After he left, an uncomfortable silence permeated throughout the room, filling every nook and cranny. Sam couldn't bear it.

"Wh-what would you like us to help you with, Mum?" he asked tentatively.

Mrs. Gamgee was silent for a moment. She had gotten out of her seat and was now standing at the sink, scrubbing the bacon pan. She sighed and turned to face the remaining two at the table. She was wiping her hands on the same red checkered dish towel that Frodo had seen her using the night before. Last night seemed so long ago.

"Neither of you will say a word 'til I've done speakin'," she began. "The scene I happened to walk in on was a very interestin' one, indeed. Now, just because I'm your mother, don't mean I'm stupid. I know perfectly well what was going on. I could tell even last night, the way you two was all snuggled together. I'm not the only one who noticed last night, either. Your father, Samwise, was awfully suspicious; however, I was able to convince him otherwise, saying you two're just good friends." Her face softened a little. "Now Mr. Frodo, I know yer feeling awfully alone right now, what with yor uncle leavin' ye and all. So I don't really blame ye for trying to find somethin' to take comfort in, but really Sam! I've known that you've had a little crush on Mr. Frodo fer some time now, but tisn't right for you to be taken advantage o' him while he-"

"Mum!" Sam interrupted, outraged and embarrassed. He was now on his feet. "I'd never take advantage of Mr. Frodo! Master or not, he's still my best friend, and I love him very much. You might as well know it. I do love Frodo," Sam boldly stated. From where he was standing he couldn't see the surprised, yet adoring look in Frodo's eyes. The older Hobbit stood from his seat and walked over to Sam.

"I assure you, Mrs. Gamgee, that I was not taking advantage of Sam, nor was he taking advantage of me. We were both very aware of what was happening. He helped me understand my feelings, and for that I'm grateful to him. Not to mention very much in love," Frodo smiled. Mrs. Gamgee sighed.

"But what about gossip? Don't get me wrong, Mr. Frodo, I'm not one to spread it around. I don't mean to slander any of your family, either, but you've probably already heard some o' the rumors of yer cousins, Masters Meriadoc and Peregrin. About.about," Bell looked uncomfortable, "about how they're-" she was interrupted, again. This time by Frodo's quiet laughter.

"I do know of those rumors, and I can assure you that Pip and Merry know of them, as well. They, however, aren't bothered by the gossip. It's not like it's made up, or anything. Merry told me that he wasn't going to get angry over something that's true," Frodo calmly said. Mrs. Gamgee stared for a moment before clearing her throat.

"Well.what about this whole 'love' situation? Sam, you're only 21. How do you know you.you.love Mr. Frodo? Not only that, but Mr. Frodo, you're 12 years older than Sam! Isn't he a little *young* for you?"

"I can feel it in my heart, Mum.

"But.but." Mrs. Gamgee stuttered. She seemed to be trying to find a substantial reason against Frodo and Sam's relationship. "What about Rosie, Sam? Your fathers had been plannin' on you two gettin' married! Besides.didn't you fancy her?" Sam's eyes flashed as he jumped from his seat. Frodo remained in his seat, all but forgotten by Sam and his mother.

"Plannin' on us gettin' married?! I will not marry someone I don't love; I don't care what the agreement was between Pa and Mr. Cotton! Rosie's a sweet lass and all and she'll make some lad very happy, but that lad won't be me!" With that Sam turned on his heal and stomped out of the room and down the hall. Frodo and Mrs. Gamgee flinched as they heard a bedroom door slam. Frodo stared at the contents in his teacup, swirling them around.

"I'm sorry.maybe I shouldn't have come," Frodo said dejectedly. "I've made such a mess of things, haven't I?" His blue eyes were downcast and melancholy. Bell turned, from her place at the sink, to face Frodo. She gave him a look of pity.

"O.o'course not, Mr. Frodo. You didn'.er.mess anythin' up," she replied, in a very unconvincing tone. Frodo looked up from his cup.

"Please don't look at me that way, Mrs. Gamgee. People have looked at me with pity ever since my parents died. It's alright, really. I'll go talk to Sam." He stood and, after bringing his dishes to the sink, headed down the hall to locate Sam's hiding place. Mrs. Gamgee gave a great sigh as a few tears snaked down her cheeks, and continued to stare at Frodo's now empty seat.

Although he didn't know the Gamgee residence well, Frodo was still familiar with it. He quietly walked down the hallway that lead to the bedrooms; at least he thought that's where the bedrooms were. Turning a corner, he came to another corridor; this one containing what he hoped were the bedrooms. However, all the doors were closed, so he couldn't rightly tell. Frodo tapped on the door closest to him.

"Sam?" No answer.

Feeling extremely awkward, Frodo eased open the round door. Inside, was a small guestroom, but not Frodo's. *Bingo!* Frodo thought. Sam was nowhere to be seen, but at least he was in the right area. Sam had to be in one of these rooms. Frodo closed the door and moved as quietly as a Hobbit could to the next door. He hit another dead end, and had to check four more rooms before he found the right one. He stood in front of a blue painted door, and pressed a large ear against the wood. He could hear a mattress creaking and a soft sniffle.

"Sam." he said softly; the sniffling stopped. "Please, Sam, let me come it." Without waiting for a response, Frodo pushed open the heavy wooden door, revealing a very distraught Hobbit. Sam sat at the edge of his four- poster bed, staring out of a curtained window. He didn't look up when his friend entered. The bed creaked as Frodo sat down next to Sam; they sat in silence.

"I'm so sorry, Mr. Frodo, getting' you caught up in this mess. I'll give you my letter o' resignation firs' thing tomorrow mornin'." Frodo looked up in surprise, then shook his head in mild amusement.

"Oh Sam.that's what I've always loved about you. You're always thinking of someone else. But Sam, don't think about me, now. Think about yourself. I'm fine.I don't need anyone worrying about me. I've done just fine on my own, and I'll continue to do so. But you, my dear Sam, still have all your friends and family. Now I don't know how they'd handle you having such a.different.relationship. I don't want you to sacrifice your happiness for me. It's all my fault, really, for allowing things to get so out of hand. I should have known better. Maybe we should remain friends.but I'd still like you for a gardner. As a matter of fact, I refuse to let you quit!" Frodo stopped to catch his breath, and stared at his hands in his lap. Sam felt numb.

"I.I don't want to.to lose you Mr. Frodo," he whispered urgently. "I said it afore and I'll say it again: I love you. I don't care what my family says. It's my choice who I love.I just happened to chose someone they didn't expect is all."

"But Sam, you're still young! How do you know that you truly love me? Who knows.maybe you'll find a lass that you fancy, or even another lad," the older Hobbit said, sadly. "You don't know yet."

"But I can feel it, Mr. Frodo! I knew from the moment I first met you, even though I was just a little lad of five years, I knew that there was something different about you. I knew that I wanted to be best friends with you. I knew that I wanted to be where ever you were.I still do."

"Sam-" Frodo said, pleadingly.

"Don't you love me? You said you did. Please don't tell me last night twas jus' a lie!" Sam begged.

"It wasn't, Sam, I do-"

"Then how can you sit there and tell me to just forget everythin'! Don't you want this?"

Frodo sighed and looked away. "It doesn't matter what I want. I have to do what is right. Please, Sam, don't make this any harder."

With that, Frodo stood and hurried out of the room, pulling the door shut, and back to his own. He shut his own door, and flung himself across the newly-made bed. He burried his face in his arms so to muffle the sounds of the great sobs that wracked his lean frame. Sam sat and stared at his own closed door, tears streaming down his cheeks. Bell sat at the kitchen table, breakfast dishes long since forgotten. She clutched the red- checkered dish cloth to her face as she cried for her son and for the unfairness of it all. After about thirty minutes, Frodo forced himself off the bed and, after washing his face in the frigid water basin, began to pull on his coat and scarf to go home. *What have I done?*

* * * * *

A raw, freezing wind whipped through the rocky mountainside, as Frodo and Sam sat huddled together.

"Mr. Frodo?" Sam asked, quietly. Frodo had been quiet for some time, now. At first Sam had thought it was the Ring's weight affecting his companion, but then he noticed the thoughtful look etched across Frodo's smooth face. The years had done nothing to the older Hobbit; Frodo looked as beautiful to Sam as he did the first time they met. "What is it, Mr. Frodo? Tell your Sam what's wrong."

Frodo slowly raised his eyes to meet Sam's, and Sam could see that there was much agony and regret in them. Frodo scooted closer to his sturdy friend, feeling the warmth that radiated off his youthful body.

"I think I made a mistake that winter, Sam, seventeen years ago."

Sam stared in confusion for a moment, until something in the back of his mind clicked. Painful memories flooded back, as Sam remembered that winter. That was the winter he had gained and lost everything. But he hadn't lost his love for Frodo. Even now, he loved him. Sam loved him when he was crying out in his nightmares; when he was half insane trying to fight the power of the Ring; when he lashed out at Sam simply because he hated himself. He loved him always.and Frodo knew that.

"Sam." Frodo's eyes bored into his. Sam wanted to hear him say it, but suddenly he found that he didn't need to anymore. Sam knew what Frodo was going to say and that was enough for him.

"Oh Frodo!" Sam cried, pulling the older Hobbit into a warm embrace.

"Oh Sam! My dear, loyal, wonderful.my Sam!" Frodo sobbed, burrying his face into Sam's neck. "I'm so sorry! I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry! I can't do this without you.without you loving me. Please, Sam! I n-n- need you s-so much!"

"Shhh, Frodo.it'll be alright.it's going to be alright. Shhhh.." Sam croned. He continued to hold Frodo, rocking him back and forth. Frodo tightly clung to him; as though he was in a storm-tossed sea and Sam was a piece of driftwood, keeping him afloat.

"It's so cold, Sam.everything is so cold and empty! And it reminded me of that winter, the winter that I learned what 'alone' really meant. And it feels as though my heart should burst, now! I should have never turned you away! But I can't anymore. I just want to love you, Sam. Oh Sam, I love you so much!"

And for the first time in several weeks, as they made love, Frodo felt warm. The warmth the two lovers created, under the layers of cloaks and coats, could have melted the snows off the Cahadras.

THE END

@~@~@~@~@~@~@~@~@~@~@~

Wow! I finally finished! (blushes as people faint from shock) I must apologize for the years it took for me to finish this (oh and sorry, but I think I spelled Cahadras wrong). Sorry for all the incorrect grammar and spelling; I really want to get this installed so I'm skipping the spell check. Well I hope you enjoyed the story. Hoped you liked the surprise ending. No I will not be continuing it! I'm just glad to get it DONE! Feels soooo nice..Ummm that's about it. Read, review, and recommend people! Thank you, thank you! Come again!

Bows and curtain closes.