A/N------wouldn't ya know, the Chapter 3 I said I wouldn't write led to a Chapter 4 I didn't know existed? And meanwhile, no less than five other fics languish, unattended. Sigh.

**Peppermint Tea**

Sam sat quietly with Frodo's head in his lap, savoring the moment, for he knew it was the last. He stroked Frodo's hair until his eyes gently closed. Sam watched his master's face for a long while, memorizing every line, just as he did on their journey all those long years ago. Now, as then, Frodo's face looked peaceful, old and beautiful. Sam could still see the light shining through. Briefly it blazed brighter than ever, before it began to dim.

Frodo's breathing grew more and more shallow. With each exhale, Sam found himself thinking "This is it, this is the last." But then Frodo would inhale once more, and Sam would stroke his brow, to soothe his master and let him know he was not alone.

Finally, just as the lingering colors of twilight gave way to full night, Frodo did indeed breathe his last. Sam bent down and kissed his best friend gently. "Fare well, dear Frodo," he whispered, his voice breaking.

Afterwards, Sam was never entirely certain how long he remained there, tears streaming unheeded down his face as he cradled Frodo's cooling body. He stayed long enough to lose all feeling in his legs, just as he'd lost all feeling in his heart.

They were still like that when Gandalf stopped by for his customary evening chat. So silent and still were they that the wizard nearly passed them by on his way to the front door. But no lights were lit inside the small house, so Gandalf realized something was wrong. He looked around for his friends, quickly spotting them on the front lawn.

Sam gave no sign of acknowledgement as Gandalf approached. The wizard took in the scene. He saw Frodo, apparently sleeping peacefully with his head in Sam's lap. He saw Sam's tear-streaked face, lost and lonely. He sat down on the grass next to the hobbits.

"He is gone, then," Gandalf said sadly. Sam nodded. "I had hoped he would last until Legolas and Gimli arrived."

Again, Sam just nodded. He knew his old friends were due soon, but that did not seem so very important now. The only important thing was to stay here, with Frodo, so he would not be alone.

"He is not alone, Samwise," Gandalf replied. Sam had not realized he'd spoken aloud.

"But I am," Sam muttered, "I am all alone now." He broke down, bending over Frodo and weeping his heart out.

Gandalf patted him gently on the back until Sam regained some of his composure. "Would you like me to make the arrangements, Sam?" he asked.

Sam nodded. He was in no shape to plan a proper hobbit wake, even though Mr. Frodo deserved one. He knew he could trust Gandalf to take care of everything, just as Elanor had taken care of everything when Rosie died. Thinking of Rosie set off a fresh wave of grief. Sam had now outlived the two people he loved most in the world. He did not think he could handle it.

Gandalf remained for awhile, staying silent to give Sam his space, yet offering comfort in his presence. But the night grew cold, and the hobbits could not remain outdoors forever. Gently, the wizard took Frodo from Sam's lap, brought him into the house and laid him on his bed. Sam tried to protest, but his throat was closed with tears. He tried to follow, but his legs would not move. Before he could drag himself after his master, Gandalf returned, picked him up, and brought him also into the house.

Gandalf knew better than to try to put Sam to bed. Instead, he settled the hobbit into a large, comfortable chair pulled up beside Frodo's bed. Then, he left to seek out Elrond and make the necessary arrangements.

Frodo's funeral was more of an Elvish affair than hobbitly. Those who knew him spoke a few words, he was laid to rest, and it was over. No singing, no raucous jokes about his life and habits, none of his favorite foods set out for his friends to remember how much he enjoyed them. Sam was silent throughout the whole thing, feeling empty.

He remained that way for some time. He did not go down to the shore when Legolas and Gimli finally arrived a few weeks later. They visited him, of course, and tried to share memories of Frodo, for they were saddened to learn of his death, but Sam remained withdrawn, and they left quickly.

A couple of days later, Legolas showed up on Sam's doorstep alone. When the hobbit did not invite him in, he entered anyway. The elf made his way to the kitchen and puttered there awhile, as Sam sat in the drawing room and stared out the window.

Presently, Legolas joined Sam bearing a tray with a teapot and two cups on it. He sat down across from the old hobbit, and watched him, but said nothing. He simply poured two cups of tea and waited. The scent of peppermint filled the room.

Very few beings can remain composed under the full weight of an elvish stare. Samwise Gamgee, for all his bravery and friendship with this particular elf, was not one of them. He turned to face Legolas. "Hullo," he said dully.

Now that the Legolas had Sam's attention, he handed him a cup. Sam took it automatically, but did not move. "Drink that. I remember you used to say that is good for what ails you," Legolas instructed.

"Nothing is good for what ails me," Sam muttered.

"You miss him, do you not? So much so that you cannot breathe," Legolas took Sam's free hand. "You are dying of a broken heart, little one."

Sam blinked, and reclaimed his hand. Whatever he had been expecting, it was not this. He sipped his tea just to avoid speaking. The silence stretched. Legolas watched Sam with sympathy. Finally, the hobbit could no longer stand it.

"I'm afraid to go alone," he admitted.

"You are not alone, Sam," the elf replied. "Can you not feel Frodo near, comforting you? He is waiting for you, when you are ready."

Again, Sam was surprised. He thought elves valued life above all other things. And so they do, but they also hate to see needless suffering. Legolas had watched elves die of a broken heart before. It was an unpleasant death, one he would not wish on anyone, let alone this innocent friend. If Sam needed permission, and company, then he would have them, no matter how hard it would be on the elf. Legolas had Gimli to lean on, when this was over. Sam felt he had no one. Legolas wanted him to know that he could lean on him, until the end.

All this communicated itself to the hobbit without words. Sam suddenly felt peaceful, and hopeful, for the first time since Frodo died. He began to chat aimlessly with Legolas, mostly about Frodo and their other friends. Together, they finished the pot of tea. When Sam rose to do the cleaning up, Legolas stopped him.

"I will take care of this later. Take yourself to bed, little one, and get your rest. You are not alone," the elf said.

Sam smiled gratefully, and obeyed. As he opened the door to his bedroom, he turned. "Would you stay with me? Please?" he asked shyly.

"Of course," Legolas replied, following Sam. He tucked the elderly hobbit in, then pulled up a chair and sat with him until he fell asleep for the last time. Around midnight, Gandalf and Gimli came in to share Legolas's grief.

"So, you got here at last, Samwise Gamgee!" Rosie cried, sweeping her love up into a joyous hug.

"Rosie?" Sam asked. "Where am I?"

"You're here, silly. With us," she replied, gesturing around at the gathered hobbits.

"We've been waiting for you, Sam," said a familiar, beloved voice.

"Mr. Frodo?" Sam cried. He rubbed his eyes, not believing what he saw. Frodo stood before him, hale and whole, and smiling happily.

"Yes, Sam. I waited for you. I knew you would be coming along soon. But don't call me 'Mister' anymore. Not here," Frodo smiled.

Sam could stand it no longer. He launched himself at Frodo, hugging him tightly. Frodo patted him on the back, while Rosie wrapped her arms around Sam from behind. Then something knocked the three of them down.

"Hullo, Sam," said Merry.

"It's about time you turned up," added Pippin, untangling himself from the mess of hugging hobbits.

Merry helped Rosie up, earning himself a smack on the shoulder. Frodo assisted Sam, who was grinning madly. "You're all here!"

"Yes, son, we're all here," the Gaffer said. Behind him, Bell Gamgee smiled at her son. Several of Sam's siblings were gathered around her, as well as Frodo's parents, old Mr. Bilbo, and many others.

There were hugs and kisses aplenty. Time held no meaning, but it seemed like years before everyone was properly greeted. Then, a few at a time, the hobbits began to drift away into the mist. Soon, only Merry, Pippin, Rosie, Frodo and Sam were left.

Merry looked at Pippin. "Well, Pip, now that everyone's turned up, shall we be moving on? We do have a ways to go yet, you know."

Pippin grinned. "I'm right behind you. Are you three coming?" he said to the others.

"In a minute, Pip," Rosie replied. "You go on ahead."

"Where is everyone going?" Sam wanted to know.

"On," Rosie replied. "Which is where we should be headed, but I want a few moments with my husband before I turn you over to Frodo. You and he should journey together."

"Rosie, you don't need to...." Frodo began. She shot him a look that caused him to snap his mouth shut, take the hint and move away. Rosie threw herself into Sam's arms, and kissed him so that he blushed right down to the hairs on his feet.

"What was that for?" Sam asked.

"Remembrance. And a taste of what you're in for when you join me," Rosie grinned.

"Join you? I thought I'd already joined you. Rose, I don't want to be parted again so soon," Sam protested.

"Who said anything about being parted? We're together forever now, but we've just got a little ways to go before we can settle down. This is just the waiting area. There's still a journey for all of us, but we were waiting for you. And now you're here, and I can go ahead and get everything settled, and you can join me with Frodo. All your journeys have been with Frodo. I see no reason to change that now," Rosie explained.

There was nothing Sam could really say to that, and from the look on Rosie's face, any attempts at disagreement would get him in very severe trouble. Also, Frodo was there, patiently waiting for him. So Sam kissed Rosie as thoroughly as she had kissed him, and asked, "I'll see you soon?"

"But of course, silly," Rosie replied. Then she, too, headed off into the mists.

"So, Sam, the journey is just you and I again, eh?" Frodo said, stepping up to his friend.

"Just like old times?" Sam asked.

"Nothing like old times, Sam. Nothing at all," Frodo replied. He took Sam's arm and set off after Rosie and the others.

"Where are we going, Mr.....I mean, Frodo?" Sam asked as they walked.

"On. I'm not sure where. Someplace wonderful, I'll wager," Frodo answered.

"Do you think they'll have good food there?" Sam wanted to know.

"I should think so," Frodo said.

Sam looked ahead. A bright light was just before them, and a peaceful, happy feeling filled him. "Do you think we're nearly there?" he asked.

"Yes. We're nearly there. It's not so very far, nor so difficult a journey as all that," Frodo said.

"I hope they have ale. And mushrooms. I remember how much you love mushrooms. I'd like to prepare some for you again," Sam said.

Frodo smiled at his friend as they entered the light. "I'm sure they will. But mostly, I'm hoping they have peppermint tea."

FIN