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Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JRR Tolkien. No money is being made and no copyright infringement is intended.
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Summary: They started out as uneasy allies...
A/N: Dedication: To the ladies of the LoM, for running this challenge and for running the LoM!
Note: Some dialogue lifted from FotR (and three words from ‘The Hobbit').
I was singing as I climbed the stairs to join my kin at supper. It was the old barrel song from home, stuck in my mind thanks to the letter I had sent to my father earlier; at last he, too, would know just how we had managed to lose hold of thirteen Dwarves. I had just reached the last few lines, those of ‘and South Away' when my voice was joined by that of another. I turned to see a length of silver hair and beard at my elbow. "Master Glóin," I bowed respectfully.
"Legolas of Mirkwood," he greeted me politely. "An old song of your realm, was that not?" he asked. He did not wait for a reply. "It brings back a sort of fond memory, every now and again."
"Ah," I agreed faintly. The absurdity of the situation struck me and I bowed. "I am sure it might at that."
The old Dwarf smiled slightly at my words and turned to the one who walked beside him. "Gimli, you have not yet met Legolas of the Woodland Realm, formally. This is he." I was glowered at in a not-entirely unfriendly way. "Master Elf, my son, Gimli."
The Dwarf, Gimli, bowed. "At your service," he proclaimed gruffly. I noted the look of irritation he aimed at his father.
"At yours," I returned, bowing in turn.
Between us three, for a few moments, there was a waiting silence. At last I gestured down the corridor that lead to the main dining hall, "I am afraid I must take my leave of you," I said, though I was not sorry at all. Dwarves were curious folk and I was not much comfortable around them; around these, in particular, I was even less so, despite the fact that I had not been home during the time that my father had held the one captive. "I was on my way to supper."
"Us as well," said the elder Dwarf. "Shall we all walk together, then?"
Something of the way he said those last words gave me pause, though I did not show it. "We shall, if we are going to the same place," I bowed again to the two and began to walk, keeping my pace slow for the benefit of their shorter legs. I needn't have, however, as they walked apace by nature.
"It is kind of you to accompany us," said Gimli suddenly and I did not believe I was greatly mistaken in thinking he'd suffered the jab of his father's elbow.
"Not at all," I replied as we passed into the hall we had sought. I dipped my head politely and sought out a seat far from that of the Dwarves, near to the recently-returned sons of Elrond. Over the course of the meal, and the length of the table, I cast many glances at the young Dwarf I had walked with. I oft found myself meeting eyes with him and resolved to speak with him again before the council tomorrow.
Mayhap he had made similar plans, for we met at the stairs as though prearranged.
"So," said he, folding his arms. "You have been asked by our host if you would join the Hobbit on his mission?"
I sat myself on the top step and gazed out at Imladris, cloaked in dusk. "I have, and have agreed. Mirkwood teaches many lessons on the ways of darkness," I told him. "An Elf of the Wood is best at stealth and hardship; this quest shall require both."
"True." Gimli dropped himself down several feet away from me. "You have already guessed that I was invited to join as well?"
"So I have."
I was studied intently; I studied him, who was to be a companion on the journey, in turn. He looked away at last and said, "Erebor owes much to Bilbo Baggins; I am honored to aid the son of his adoption in any way I might." He shot me a swift glare before looking away again, "I have traveled much, besides, and so have skills that will be useful in the out-of-doors."
Uneasy were we with each other; I waited for him to say something of my father, or his. He, I think, waited for me to do the same. "It is…good," I said at last, determined that we should not have enmity between us if we were to be in close quarters for time unknown. "The axes of the Dwarves are sharp and well-wielded. I am sure yours will be most needed."
I did not surprise him, that stout child of stone. "No more so than the swift bow of the forest," he said. "The Hobbits will be most reassured by the presence of Elvish wisdom and experience."
We exchanged wary looks and said nothing more. I'm sure any who looked on us thought us to be of one mind as we stood, bowed, and left each other's company, walking in different directions. But I was glad to be away from him with the knowledge that we could be in each other's company without anger or strife. The Nine Walkers left Rivendell eight days later, Gimli and I among their number. We had not spoken together since those few words upon the stair and we did not speak as we began to walk.
At the Doors
"It was not the fault of the Dwarves that the friendship waned," Gimli said. I turned to stare at him. Was he insinuating…?
"I have not heard that it was the fault of the Elves," my voice was colder than the approaching night. Odd though the Elves might have been that had struck up friendship with Dwarves, they were most certainly Elves and I would not have them spoken against.
"I have heard both," Mithrandir said just as the Dwarf, Gimli, opened his mouth to speak again. "And I will not give judgement now." I glanced side-long at the other not receiving judgement. He was looking at me and as one we turned our eyes back to the Wizard. "But I beg you two, Legolas and Gimli, at least to be friends, and to help me. I need you both. The doors are shut and hidden and the sooner we find them, the better. Night is at hand!"
And so it was, most in earnest. Boromir was agitated, the Hobbits restless and afraid; Aragorn, too, was showing weariness. Mithrandir was most certainly right-we would need to find the entrance, as quickly as possible. As he turned away to unload the pony I met the eyes of Gimli and then looked to the wall at our backs. "Have you any suggestions, Master Dwarf?" I asked. The door we sought was of Dwarf make and Dwarves are strange folk. They were his kin; he should have known something, should he not?
I could not see his face but in profile, yet it was easy to see his discomfort. "Yes," he said at last. "But I will need your assistance, Master Elf." He faced me as though he expected me to say no.
"Mithrandir needs our assistance," I said calmly, having no intention of bringing up the fact that he also wished us to be friends. "And so you shall have mine. What do you need for me to do?"
My companion for the nonce motioned to the wall with a nod. "Listen to the rock; it is deep and I fear only Elvish ears would pierce it."
Listen…? "I am afraid," I said, stiffly, "that I would not know what to listen for. Elves have little to do with rock."
Stroking his beard and looking thoughtful, Gimli studied me. I found it disquieting. "True enough. I have not the words to teach you what to hear and even had I those, there is not time." He shrugged eloquently, "You'll know when you hear it. Place your ear to the wall and you will hear the stone."
Though I was not at all certain that I would hear anything of note, I was…moved…by the trust Gimli placed in my abilities. If he would trust me so, I could do him no less. I put my ear to the rock and was silent. There was the sound of the wind on the water, the noises of the others as they shifted our supplies; closer at hand was the sound of Gimli's boots moving away from me. I was about to lift my head when a new sound came to me; a thump, but not. It was something deeper, more like to a heartbeat. The large, hollow reeds at river's edge make a sound much like it when the breeze pushes them against each other. I opened my eyes to find that I was watched yet again by an axe-wielding Dwarf. "You made that sound?"
"Aye," he answered. "That is the sound of solid rock. The doors will sound different from that and it is that change we seek."
Altogether a stout plan, though, I thought sourly, it might have been better if the Dwarves did not make doors that disappeared when closed. I shut my eyes again, listening but… "What if you tapped the correct spot just now? I would not know the difference."
Perhaps there is something to be said for the company of Durin's children. The look of irritation, resignation, and bemused frustration-for I did have a valid argument-was most amusing. I smiled and was rewarded with a deepening scowl. Ah, the beard only magnified the effect. I tried my best to look guileless and helpful.
"I didn't," Gimli snorted at last, "my luck is not that fey." He raised his axe and rapped on the stone I leaned against. "Ready?"
I let my eyes drift shut in answer and I listened closely to the unfamiliar sounds of stone. Merry spoke, Gimli answered, but I headed them not. I would not have said it, but the songs in the walls of Moria were pleasant to listen to; they reminded me of home, the place I would pause to fill my skins at the edge of the water. Sometimes it reminded me of the steadfastness of the trees. I was listening. Listening to the work of Gimli's people as it sang.
"Look!" So startled was I by Mithrandir's voice that I flinched, scraping my cheek as I started back from where I had been pressed to the walls. "Can you see anything now?"
Shining in the meager light was the tree of the High Elves. I said as much at nearly the same time as Gimli's awed voice carried the meaning of the other symbols onto the night air. The mark of Eregion supporting the emblem of the Dwarf lord; Celebrimbor's name set next to the name of Narvi. I looked from the script on the doors to the Dwarf beside me. My eyes lingered there for long moments, as he and Mithrandir spoke, before gazing back at the doors with unseeing eyes. The good that comes from an Elf and a Dwarf together is shadowed and sorrowed. I vowed that I would remain away from him in the mines of Moria.
Two days of wretched darkness we walked; dank, foul, pressing dark, with only the dim and bobbing light of Mithrandir to give us any relief. Though I longed to be closer to the paltry light I placed myself always in the middle of our column. Gimli walked first behind our guide. He was not bothered a whit by the terrible gloom of Moria; his head turned ever from side to side as though seeking the glint of gems or gold or other such things as Dwarves love.
"We must be near to the main hall," Gimli said softly, far in front of me. "The beauty of that inlay, the intricacies…such workmanship has long been lost."
I looked in the direction that I last recalled him looking, seeking beauty. If it was the same design that Gimli had seen I did not know, but its lines were finely wrought and the shape was both grand and pleasing. I did not see anything of fairness to it. Nothing in that pit filled with fell things could be lovely.
"So it has been," Mithrandir released a sigh that sounded exceedingly tired. "I am glad that the works of the craft remain."
"We're lost, I just know it," Sam muttered directly in front of me. "Whispering between themselves the way they are doesn't disguise the fact. I reckon they should just tell us we're dead lost and let us stop for a rest while they try to figure it out."
"Nay, Samwise," I said when Frodo, who normally comforted him, remained silent. "It is not so. Gimli merely comments on the architecture of this place. He finds it very much to his liking."
Sam titled his head back and I saw his eyes trace the walls and ceilings as high as they went before they disappeared into shadows and darkness. "Oh."
"There is much splendor in the work, though you may not see beyond the fetid covering of all that has happened here." I did not know what pulled those words from me. Sam's expression changed from vague confusion to consideration and I returned my gaze to the path before us only to see that Gimli was looking back over his shoulder at me. And smiling. He turned his face away before I could avert my eyes from his.
As it chanced, I was glad that he did for had I looked away from him I would have missed what came in his next step. In Moria Gimli walked with confidence, as all Dwarves must, I supposed, when beneath the mountains; but with that one step he faltered for half a second and I saw his arms come up from his sides, ever so slightly, as though for balance. I tensed, but Gimli took a second step; he was alert but did not seem overly worried and so I took two steps, three. A fourth and fifth step revealed exactly why Gimli had acted as he had; the walls seemed to vanish and I had to breathe deeply to adjust to the sudden void as I walked into a chamber beyond the scope of vast.
"If anything hunts us this night they shall have the devil of a time in finding us," Aragorn said from behind me as Mithrandir's light flared swift and bright. "If we are to sleep here tonight," he said more loudly, "then we must move to the nearby corner so that we might avoid the cold draft of this room."
I was not steady as we moved and ate our evening meal. I hated the unprotected, impenetrable blackness more than I had hated the closed-in passages that had come before. There was little comfort to be had for even with two solid walls at our backs icy currents of air found their way among us. And it was loud in the way that only whispers can be. Perhaps the Men and the Hobbits could not hear the way the room caught sound and tossed it to and fro. Even Gimli's voice, ringing with the steady song of the stones themselves, did not bring me comfort, though it eased me to some extent. I laid myself, wakeful, on my blankets and listened to the wind echo itself on the polished walls; I did not sleep as Frodo sat his watch and relieved him early, though he probably did not know. "Sleep, Frodo. Tomorrow will come soon, and perhaps the light!"
"Do you see anything, Legolas," he asked, ignoring my false cheer. "Out there…is there anything?"
Had there been, I most certainly would have heard it long before; still, I scanned the space around us, seeking any movement or sound. "There is nothing. Peace, Elvish senses are keen and true; we are as safe as any could be in this place."
Without another word he left and soon I heard sleep come restlessly upon him. I kept my watch in silence. I longed for morning and the light Mithrandir thought it might bring us. It was my decision to sit the next watch as well and wait. I would not sleep in this place.
Though I thought to spend the rest of the night alone, that was not to be so; ten minutes into the start of the third watch Gimli spoke. "It is my time to stand guard, is it not, Legolas?" I looked to him as he sat, pushing his covers aside so that he might stand.
"Gimli." I motioned for him to return to his place as he came to my side, "I have no need for sleep and will take the remaining watches. Better for everybody to be rested for the road tomorrow."
For the first time in certainly many, many years an Elf was forced to look up to meet the countenance of a Dwarf. I wondered if that Elf had a chuckling Dwarf at his side, as did I. "Are you not one of ‘everybody'?" he asked. His face became kind and one of his hands, bare of the customary leather gloves, came to push lightly at my shoulder. "Sleep," he said softly, much as I had done to Frodo earlier. "Your eyes have looked enough on these darksome holes."
Perhaps it was the compassion of his tone that bore me back onto the blankets on which I sat. I could not say. Gimli did not move from his stance beside me and I could hear, above the echoes of the room, the sound of his breathing. I slept.
Now, I had said to myself, would be the time. We were the only two of the company yet awake. I longed for sleep and I knew that Gimli was weary with sorrow and journey, yet we were neither of us on our couches, sleeping as the others did. I knew that I should speak, that I should apologize to Gimli for not telling him of the blindfold until the moment came to wear it. I should have it made certain that he knew I did not tell him from sheer dull-wittedness and not as an effort to spite him; and that I was glad he regained his humor when I lost mine. I should give him my thanks for his hand being firm in my own as we walked, not limp with distaste or hard in anger. These things, I decided, I would tell to him and thus clear the air between us.
"When I was young, younger even than the youngest of our companions, my brothers used to lie in wait and attack me," I heard myself say.
Gimli raised his eyebrows at me, surprise plain on his face and confusion also. "Truly?" he said. I nodded and walked to the fountain. I was confused myself as to why I said the words I did.
Dipping my fingers into the cool water I waited for him to join me there. "Daily, or so it seemed to me at the time," I said, glancing over at Gimli, "I would be walking the halls of the palace and Nevanor, my eldest brother, would come upon me and walk with me for a whiles. He would lead me, subtly, to some chamber or deserted corridor and there would be waiting Lindoliath, with rope at hand. From behind, having followed us at great distance, would come Nimelin and he would wrestle me to the ground."
"An unfair fight," rumbled Gimli, laying a hand on my arm. "They must have injured you badly."
"They did not," I smiled, shaking my head in remembered fondness. "Nimelin and I were closest in age and he was more of a size to me than the others. Bruised, certainly, a bit scraped, but not hurt badly, I would be sat upon while the ropes were tied around me and something stuffed into my mouth to gag me." I thought for a moment, surprised that I needed to search my memory. It had been long ago, though before it had never seemed so. "Honey cakes," it came to me at last. "They were Nevanor's favorite. The cooks would not have wondered why he'd seek so many."
"Ah." When I looked at him Gimli's lips were twitching with a suppressed smile. He patted my arm before releasing it. "I see. So, you were tricked, tied, stifled, and…carried away to another deserted location for some nefarious purpose?" he hazarded.
I worked to hold back my own smile, for some reason wanting to appear solemn. "Yes." After a long moment, feeling that we were both fighting laughter, I told him why. "They wanted to braid my hair."
Now he did laugh. "Elves are strange," he said.
"I found them strange, too," I confided. "Perhaps they were jealous that only I had hair that was fair and fine like that of our father. Whatever their reason, they would spend the day long, if they caught me early, washing and braiding my hair; all the while feeding me sweets to buy my silence and calling me ‘Aimir' so that nobody passing by would know who they held down. Worse," I laughed, sinking to sit on the ground at the base of the fountain, "worse, I was never wise enough to avoid them!" Gimli sat himself beside me, smiling warmly. "Several hundred years later I still fell prey to them. Though only," I said in my defense, "because our younger brother would aid them. He would pretend to have lost his cloak, or one of his favorite baubles, or that he had fallen and skinned his knee and I, sympathetically, would offer him my aid."
"And Nimelin would jump on you from behind?"
"No, by that time I was taller than he and quicker. Lindoliath would jump and Nimelin stood ready to help while Nevanor collected the ropes from my traitorous infant brother."
"This younger one, this is Noldohin? The guardian of the Northern borders of Mirkwood?"
"You know him?"
"Our trade routes bring us past an area where he is sentinel. I could see why you might fall for his deceits; he ever seems quite the innocent. Many of our traders have lost to him in games." Gimli shrugged, "I learnt the better of it after the first ruby he won from me, but the others succumb to his tricks without fail and continue to claim him harmless."
I felt my smile fall away. "Gimli," I said sadly, "Aulë and Yavanna shared a great love. The Elves of Eregion and the Dwarves of Moria held a strong friendship. You and I serve the same purpose on this quest and there have been friendly relations between your people and mine since Dain became King under the Mountain. We are not so very dissimilar from each other. Why is it that we are not friends?"
He regarded me long in silence. Then, "I know not. You have an odd way of seeking to change our outlook on each other, Master Legolas."
"I did not think to tell you such a story," I told him, tipping my head back to look at the stars above. "But Mithrandir bade us be friends before he fell and…" I trailed off, suddenly melancholy. "And it was during one such attack that I first met him. One moment my hair was being undone so that it could be done again a different way and the next moment I was untied and in the hands of an Istari. ‘The King's little gem is a little green leaf!' he cried. ‘I shall have to speak with Thranduil about his sons' idea of a treasure!' I do not know what was said between them, but that night my father himself combed our hair before sending us to Mother to be put abed. I miss…" my brothers, my father, my mother long over Sea, the innocence of those days, "him." I looked down to study my hands and wished again that I had not dropped my bow in Moria.
The night was cool and we were quiet; I began to think of going to my bed when Gimli spoke. "I met Tharkûn, as my kin named him, when I was thirty-seven and throwing my axe in the beer cellar. I was missing most handily as I was also very drunk."
Before my eyes floated such a picture of Gimli that I was forced to smile and I felt the sadness drop from me. "What could possibly have been in the beer cellar that required the use of your axe?"
"My cousin, Hepti," he answered, sounding sleepily amused.
I started; he was most obviously caught in a pleasant recollection. "You were throwing blades at your kinsmen?"
"Mm," he yawned. "Not so much at him as at the space between his chin and his shoulders. His mark, as best I could judge it, seemed much the same as mine, though his aim far worse. Tharkûn came upon us and plucked both our axes from our hands and we were brought before our mothers. After that night it was much said that I had the patience of the Firstborn for it took much to rile me into lifting so much as a hand to my cousins. In truth I never wanted to find myself between a Wizard and my mother ever again."
I had to smother my laugher so I would not wake the others. Standing, I offered to Gimli my hand. "Come, it must be late indeed if you would give an Elf such a confession." He took my hand and I pulled him to his feet. Together we walked to our couches and settled ourselves. "Gimli," I said into the shadows. "I think I should like very much to be your friend."
Came his answer out of the darkness, "Then let us be fast friends, Legolas, and hold each other high in our hearts."
"Good night, my friend," I bade him and a very drowsy ‘Good night, friend Elf,' returned to my ears. Weariness pulled me quickly to the waiting arms of sleep and a thought came to me that though I had lost Mithrandir and I grieved, my heart was lighter than the weight of my grief. I had found laughter in a shared sorrow. I had found, in my loss, a friend already dear to me where I had not thought before to find one; in a Dwarf.
Pelargir, on the shores of the Great River
My heart has ever been foolish. Valiant as well, there are none who would claim otherwise, but foolish most of all. To this fact Gimli could attest with great confidence. Few hours had passed when we were not in each other's company, despite the many days that came after our time in the Golden Wood; he heard many of my stories, and I more of his. It seemed to me that he learned from his adventures and mishaps, unlike my heart, which should have cherished the friendship of Gimli but did not. It did not and I knew myself for a fool.
Dwarves take but one mate in all their long lives. My heart demanded to be such to Gimli. Independent of my mind, my heart had declared that respect and companionship and brotherhood were not enough; nothing less than Gimli's love, singular and possessive, could possibly be enough. On the Path of the Dead I saw him crawl upon the ground as he faced the shadow that all mortals fear and I saw then in him courage and strength beyond any I had ever known. At that moment, I would have given my life for his love. It was not the first time I had had that revelation. "Ah, my friend," I sighed quietly. "At least it has chosen well if not wisely. And I have come to understand my brothers at long last."
"How so, Legolas?" asked Gimli; I jolted and scrambled back a few inches so that I was no longer wrapped around him. It was one thing to be tangled in sleep and another thing entirely to be tangled while awake. He stopped me with a hand heavy on my shoulder. "I don't require that you move, Elf. It is cold and you are a handy block for the wind."
"I did not realize you were awake," I said, bringing my eyes from his beard to his face. His eyes were yet closed. "There is some little time left to sleep, if you'd like. Though dawn is coming, lighting the sky to a gray that reminds me of birch trees in frost, the ships are still being loaded."
Gimli's eyes, bruised with tiredness, opened. "I may not have your ears, but I hear well enough," he yawned. "I have been awake some several minutes but thought it best to let you stare at me until you spoke your troubles."
I flushed. "I am not troubled."
"Hmm." Gimli blinked blearily at me several times. "I am not fooled but if you wish to fret, do so. Tell me then, before Aragorn comes to kick us awake, what drives you to tell my sleeping form that you understand your brothers?"
Trapped neatly, was I. If I told him what I understood, the things desire would drive a soul to do, it would be the same as confessing myself; he would make me speak the reason why I had come to my new knowledge. If I did not, he would guess that it was related to my ‘troubles' and so pry at me in different ways in an attempt to figure things out for himself. I could neither tell him my feelings nor let him guess where my thoughts lay; to do so was stupid, which I was not.
"Legolas," he destroyed me with that one, soft utterance and the movement of his hand from my shoulder to my cheek. "Speak, my friend."
My voice trembled on the admission, "I want to braid your hair."
He smiled broadly and placed two fingers on my forehead, pushing lightly. It was an affectionate gesture he used whenever I was being, to his way of thinking, particularly thick. "You wouldn't know what to do with such hair as Dwarves grow."
Oh, but I did. I would sink my fingers into it, stroking past the hair cooled by night and down to those strands that were warmed from resting against his skin. It would need to be unbound, untangled, but I wished for that as well. I longed for the welcome inherent in his allowing me to do those things for him. "I would know," I said at last and lifted my hand to the dark hair that had fallen loose during the night. "But I fear you would not like what I have in mind."
"Ah," he chuckled and the fingers on my head moved to push my own escaped hair back from my eyes. "And if I denied you, you would dodge now for your rope and bind me?" I nodded and he chuckled again. "But you have no sweets with which to gag me and now I am forewarned."
I could not meet his eyes, for all the world. I watched my fingers wrap themselves in his hair; it was soft and thick, lush. "The sweetness of a kiss, Gimli," I whispered. "I have as many as it could take to quiet you."
"Legolas…" his hand, which he had lifted away from my hair before I spoke, hovered uncertainly between us. I caught it in my own but did not draw it to me, instead returning it to his side and reaching to let his hair fill my hand again.
More was coming free as I stroked and I was captivated by it. I continued to whisper, unable to be silent now that I had spoken. "Removing the tangles would be a simple matter; your hair rarely flows loose. A basin of warm water, a bit of soap…your hair would be like thick satin in my hands, when wet. You would have to remove your shirt before we began," I felt as though I were in some uncontrollable dream, and not awake at all, as my hand drifted down and shifted his beard to bare the lacings of his shirt. The knot there occupied my fingers. "You would not be cold," I met his wide eyes with my own, and the feeling that came over me was akin to that madness which assaulted me with the cry of the gulls; a desperate yearning for something I could barely name. "Our fire would warm you. And if you would but lie across my lap, you would be comfortable as well. I would kiss you all the while. It would be easy, Gimli." My voice trembled. I trembled. "So easy. So very…" I lost the words as the laces of his shirt slackened and my fingers met with flesh. I moaned faintly and curled forward so that I could not arch against him.
Our foreheads rested together and I did not open the eyes that had slipped shut. I could not. I listened to my breathing, loud in the space between us. Gimli released his breath in a long exhalation. "Legolas," was all he said to me and we were silent and still.
"I would have liked to have seen the caverns at Helm's Deep with you," I said sorrowfully when the silence had become too much for me to endure. I did not move away from him or take my hand from the hair-roughened skin of his chest. I could not leave him. He would have to move me away from him, telling my foolish heart to break.
Gimli leaned away from me and I squeezed my eyes tightly shut; I had no desire to watch him leave. "You would kiss me, but now you will not come to the caves with me?" he asked. I felt a slight tap to my forehead. "I shall have to go for my axes." My eyes snapped open at the amusement in his tone; a goodly portion of Gimli's hand blocked my view of his face; his fingers remained resting warmly against me. "Though," he said musingly, "it would probably be best if I didn't throw an axe at you while sober. Perhaps you would be so kind as to lend me the use of your ropes, instead."
My mind reeled, my heart twisted, and I batted his hand away from my face. It did not escape my notice that my hand was quickly wrapped in the one I had just brushed away. "Gimli…" I shook my head at my inability to find words.
His smile was sweet for all its open merriment. "You would not?"
If my voice trembled again, it was for very different reasons. "I would give you anything that was within my power to give."
"Doubtless I could find my own rope on the ship," Gimli told me, voice solemn, eyes dancing. He raised our joined hands to his lips. "So I shall have no need to ask that of you." A soft kiss was pressed to my fingertips. "I will think on what I might ask you to give to me and tell you now that I was not turning down your offer to braid my hair, if you were indeed asking." He turned my hand over and laid a kiss into my palm and his next words were formed there, "Legolas, do you not know that I could refuse no offer you might make me?"
I stared at him. "When?" I asked, and I was breathless with the wonder of it all. "When did you start to feel thus?"
"A fire is kindled into the heart of each Dwarf before he is ever brought into this world. It burns there always, as embers banked, until he finds the one for whom his love is meant. I have loved you with my every breath, even if I did not realize it until the day you called me ‘friend'."
His mouth was soft under mine, his kiss warm and slow. I cared not who might see us; the world, in those few heartbeats, was encompassed entirely in the circle created between Gimli and I. "My friend," I sighed into his mouth, deepening our kiss, "my love." I moaned as he pulled his mouth away. "Please, Gimli," I whispered, seeking his lips and getting only his cheek as he turned from me. I was not deterred and moved my mouth, with small kisses, to his ear. "Gimli…"
"Enough, Legolas," he laughed when he pushed me bodily away, for I had made some small mewling sound at the loss of him. "Enough! If you persist in this we shall miss setting sail. Aragorn is already requesting our presence."
And so he was; he sounded quite impatient as he must have been calling us quite a while. I had not heard his voice above the love that sang in Gimli's eyes.
The madness rises uncontrollably within me, fierce and desperate. The blood that thunders in my ears sounds akin to the rivers as they rush to empty themselves into the deeps. The taste of salt is on my lips. "Gimli!"
"It is too soon," his voice is rough; the words managed only with great effort as his body pins me fast beneath him. "Be still, Legolas," he cries. His hands are hard on my wrists.
"I can't!" It's too much. I push, arching against him, and manage to flip our positions. "I can't," I gasp feverishly, "I can't. Come with me, Gimli." I'm reduced to begging; I can't hold on any longer. For all my pleading, I do not give him time to answer. Cannot. The kiss I press his mouth with is far more of a bite and over quickly. I nip his lower lip, his cheek just above the line of his beard, the cusp of his shoulder. The tang of salt burns on my tongue like flame and I lave a trail from shoulder to ear, moaning.
He releases my wrists with a growled, "Legolas!" and pulls my head up, tearing my suckling mouth from the muscle of his arm. Our kiss is wild as we press together as tightly as we are able. The sweat that sheens us both eases the passage of my thrusts against his belly. The short hair that grows there, now dampened, seems a dozen stroking fingers to me. "Legolas, please!" he calls again.
"I'm sorry," I moan into his mouth, and truly I am for he sounds both cross and frenzied. He takes pity on me, catching my mouth in a hard kiss as his hand moves between us. His fist closes tight around me and the first stroke is the last I can take; my voice is gone on a wail of agonized bliss.
Collapsed against him, I am content. I nuzzle his shoulder and a moment later I feel his hand card roughly though my hair. "By your reaction I would almost guess that I had been away longer than just a few months." Frustrated amusement colors his voice and I lift my head to smile at him.
"Months? It seemed like longer. Each time we're apart seems longer than the last." I drop a kiss onto his collar bone. I use the braids of his beard to bring his mouth to mine for another kiss. And another. Gimli has not yet reached satisfaction…and neither have I. Again and again this night I have shattered myself upon him as a wave will shatter itself against a sturdily built sea-wall. I could not help myself. Gimli is the only force that can soothe the madness of the sea longing; the salt of his body the only thing to quench the fire in my blood for the salt of the sea. These moments, where our bodies roll like the waves and our breath sounds of the sea wind, are the only true bliss left to me in Middle Earth "Legolas," Gimli begins, but stops and makes a face down at the sticky mess I've made of his stomach. I smile brightly before reaching for his beard again. I'm rudely shoved aside, but I find I do not care; Gimli, stalking across the room for a cloth to clean himself with is a sight to behold.
I prop myself up in the bed for a better view of him. "Yes, Gimli?" Irritation, exasperation, and a vast amount of resignation parade across my lover's face when he follows my gaze. Ah, there is most certainly something to be said for the company of Durin's race. I roll invitingly onto my back as he rejoins me.
One broad hand strokes from chest to hip and I shiver. The shiver turns to a sigh as that capable hand discovers my renewed erection. "I'm not certain, after all these many years, my love, if Elves lack stamina or have it in abundance," Gimli makes one, short stroke and my hips follow his hand of their own accord. He smiles. "At least I shall not have to speak sternly to you regarding your behaviour."
"You could speak most sternly to it," I inform him, trying to thrust into his loose hold. I whimper in frustration as his hand lifts away.
A two-fingered push on my forehead preludes his next words. "I have already done so, if you will recall, to no avail. Or I should rather say, to your avail. What am I to do with you?"
"Use me mercilessly to satisfy your own desires?" I put forward shamelessly. "Come, kiss me and I will repay you in kind."
He comes willingly into my arms and the taste of his mouth is enough to make me sigh with need. "You shall learn, Legolas, what ‘endurance' means," he murmurs against my lips.
My smile feels sharp and feral. "Good." I lunge. I lunge and am rebuffed. "Gimli?"
"Not swiftly. Not this time. I will take my pleasure and my time with you." He kisses me, gently, and the back of his hand soothes across my cheek. "I know you well, my friend; I can all but hear your thoughts. ‘My love is mortal and the passing of time now seems swift and terrible', is that not what stirs in your mind? The longing comes upon you and all seems bleak, gray, and unending; our passion comes and the flame is too much not to be grasped at when I will soon be gone from you again?"
"Gimli…don't. Don't speak of this. Tonight you are with me. These times…these times you are the sea and I yearn only for you; I long to drown myself in you. Let us not waste our time."
"Time spent is not wasted. It is not an enemy, Legolas," his eyes are soft and his lips softer still as they ghost over my forehead. "Did we not spend many months becoming friends? And more time after that until we became lovers? We do not begrudge that time of learning each other…do not begrudge us both this. To go slowly reveals a wealth of sights more beautiful even than Aglarond. How else should I know that touch which causes you to come up off the bed, curved as gracefully as your bow? No other way could I have heard that no other has reduced you to such a state, for you say it without words when our kisses make your breath hitch in your chest. I would take such time with you that in all the lonely nights apart I would still feel the exact touch of your hands."
"Whatever you want of me, you shall have," my voice is thick around the lump in my throat. "I would give you anything."
"This, then," he answers and draws my hand to his skin. He drags our joined hands across his chest, up his side and I close my eyes at the feel of him.
Hard muscles, smooth, hot skin; the softness of the inside of his wrist, the feel of his hip against the inside of my thigh act on me like a drug and I cry out as I am rolled beneath him, surrounded by my love. Gimli is heavy and I have little movement beneath him; it does not matter. I fill my hands with him and learn again the way the muscles of his shoulders cord as he lifts himself above me. My questing fingers find the burn-scar, raised and smooth, just below his left shoulder blade; a smile lifts my lips as I trace its edges. "Time has recorded us."
"And will continue to do so," he sighs in answer and I gasp as his tongue glides from my navel to the hollow of my throat. He shares the taste with me in a kiss that seems to last an age. I circle the scar again as our lips part. "Continue it shall, but," he rebukes, "never again in my smithy."
"I like to watch you work."
Slowly, maddeningly so, Gimli begins to impale himself on my shaft. "You," warring desires nearly rob me of speech. "You are not prepared..."
"Taken without hurry," he groans, "it will not be a hurt. Carefully, my dear Legolas," triumph glitters in his eyes as I force myself to be motionless beneath him. I am not silent and in the drawn out moments of our joining I say many things--desperate, prayerful, obscene things. When at last he is seated, I have no words. I have nothing beyond the choked cries of need. His movements on me he keeps slow and measured, and he has made certain that I have no leverage to move significantly. Gimli speaks, but I hear not the words for they are only extensions of his caresses; a sound for the hard rub of his thumb over one nipple, the firm grip that brings my leg up, so that he may lean back against my knee for support as he changes the angle of his trusts. He is never still, his pace steady as he moves to touch, to claim breathless kisses. His possession of me is complete and I can not begin to take the measure of its time. It is more than I can bear. It is not enough.
"Gimli, come with me." I do not speak of release. His face shows a mind lost in pleasure and it is good that he controls me so well now; without effort he stops the snap and roll of my hips as I attempt to drive us faster. "Please!" and I am not sure what I am asking anymore as the rhythm stutters, becomes swifter. "Please!" I'm sobbing as fulfillment dances just out of my grasp.
"Yes," the word is hissed into my ear and Gimli's voice breaks on me like a storm. "Yes, Legolas." It is my only anchor as completion washes me, and him with me, into oblivion.
Perhaps we sleep after that, perhaps we don't. My mortal lover has destroyed completely my sense of passing time. An hour, a year, it does not matter; he is in my embrace, breathing deeply, and his arms are heavy with sleep around me.
"Come with me, Gimli," I whisper into his hair. "Promise me that I will not lose you. Promise me that you will come with me over Sea and I will not be without you."
He rouses slightly, and a kiss is sweet against my shoulder. "I have promised every time you have ever asked me and I shall promise anew every time you will think to ask; when the time comes, Legolas, if the Valar will allow it, then I will sail into the West with you."
"To hold to your promise to me?"
"In part, yes, but for other things as well," he answers sleepily, tucking his head into the curve of my neck. His beard is a familiar, much loved prickle against my skin.
"Such as the love you bear for the Lady Galadriel?"
I can feel his smile. "Yes, for that too."
"And because you wish to be Aulë's student?"
"What Dwarf would not desire that?" he asks reasonably.
His heart beats, strong and steady, beneath my hand and I draw him closer to me, asking softly, "And because I am the treasure of your heart?"
"The very greatest treasure I have ever known," Gimli's hand covers my own; he twines our fingers together. Dreams of the time that will come stir in my soul, glad to be awakened again with his promises.
"In Elvenhome, we will live together every day, yes?"
"And every night you will sleep beside me?"
"Yes," the word is nearly lost in his yawn. "Legolas? If it would mean sleep tonight, we may set sail tomorrow."
"Ah. Sleep, then." He is already drifting away into dreams. I am content to hold him and to sing. It is a song of an Elf and his mortal love and how they journeyed together into the Undying lands, their joy a bright note in Ilúvatar's song.
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Issue No: 2.4
Site Last Updated: 25 Feb to 03 March 2003