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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.
Summary: Sometimes one must sacrifice their own life for the love of another
A/N: *hands out kleenex* This is a weepy.
Black, blue, red, white, gold. Jewels. Hundreds of them. Some set smoothly within the stone, some sharp enough to slice flesh. Some large, some small. Some bright, some pale. More pale. Perhaps it was just his eyes but no jewels looked as bright as they once had.
Except one. The most precious treasure in the world. The one whose light had never seemed to dim, even in the darkest of places. The one whose flawless surface shimmered in starlight, glowed in the golden rays of the morn, shone in the sinking shadows of dusk. He was but a small candle beside this glowing form, but a tiny flame whose light was waning.
The Elf, to whom time had no regard, looked every bit as lovely as when he had first cast his eyes upon him over a century ago. If anything, time had carved his loveliness even deeper, lighting his beauty with a dim flame of sadness that seemed to grow evermore. But where he had once stood tall and proud, he now knelt on the stone floor with his shoulders stooped in grief, as if his spine had been broken.
"Aragorn is dead."
The three soft words echoed around the cave as if the walls protested the declaration.
Gimli nodded. "We expected it," he moved to Legolas's side to lay a hand on his shoulder as he heard the shuddering exhalation of a sob. He had known the man for only a short while compared to Legolas and he knew his death would wound the Elf deeply.
"Everyone I love is leaving me, Gimli," Legolas leaned his cheek into the hand. "What am I to do?"
Gimli reached to catch a tear, but he was not fast enough to stop it trickling into the corner of the Elf's mouth. A small gasp rang out as loud as bells and Legolas raised a finger to his lips, touching the teardrop, holding it on his fingertip as if it were nectar from the Gods.
Salt water upon his lips. And the cry of gulls could be heard outside. They had flown far inland, not heeding the distant. Perhaps they had come for him? Come to take him away at last. Gimli swallowed the lump knotting in his throat and ran his fingers through the soft length of flaxen hair, reaching around to cup the fine jaw as tears rained onto his hand.
"You long for the Sea, my dear Elf," he stated plainly. "Why do you linger?"
"For my loved ones," the musical voice was merely a flat whisper.
"And now they are all gone." He pressed a kiss to the top of his head.
"Not all of them are," he replied, "not yet."
Legolas turned his head to face him and the sight of him nearly broke Gimli's heart. Though they shone with unshed tears, his eyes had all but lost their light. He was dying inside. The grief had begun to twist within his heart. Gimli reached out to embrace him, but stopped himself. He was being selfish.
"Damn those birds!" Legolas jumped to his feet and pressed his hands over his ears in at attempt to block out the squawking. "Can they not give me peace?!"
"They *offer* you peace, my love, and well you know it," Gimli took Legolas's hand and stroked it gently. He had long decided what he was going to do, rehearsed what he was going to say, but now it came to doing it, his resolve was weakening. It hurt, it hurt so much, but he could see no other choice. He would not see his love suffer to his death to appease himself. "I am old, Legolas. Look at me; my beard is white, my mind will soon be fading, not even my body is capable of giving you the pleasures it once could. I will not have you wait to watch me cripple and wilt."
"Gimli, no…" Legolas sunk back down, crouching at the same height as the Dwarf.
Gimli put a finger against the soft lips. "Shh. Say no more. You want to go; I see it in your eyes, I feel it in your heart." He reached beneath the silken fabric of the Elf's tunic and pressed his palm against the slow heartbeat. Ever beating.
"While there is life in your body I go nowhere!" Legolas cried defiantly.
Gimli looked away so Legolas wouldn't see the tears that coursed his cheeks. "Then…" he took a breath, "then you leave me with no choice but to release you." The words stuck in his throat and he wondered if they had even come out loud enough for Legolas to hear. He did not want to have to repeat them.
"Gimli!" Legolas grabbed him by the shoulders and forced him to face him. "You cannot release me. I am forever bound to you by our blood!" He took the Dwarf's hand and traced with his finger the small scar on his palm, where Gimli had cut the flesh and mingled their blood the night they had confessed their love. "We promised! *Forever*!"
Gimli turned the Elf's hand over. The cut he had made there had left no scar upon the perfect skin. "You can see forever. I cannot." He pulled away and turned his back on the pleading eyes, unable to look into their depths for a second longer lest he be weakened. "Go Legolas," he whispered, trying to find it in himself to walk away. "You must leave now. And so must I – the Halls of my Fathers await me."
"Oh! Let me cry again: a plague on dwarves and their stiff necks!"
Gimli felt strong hands grip his shoulders but made no attempt to remove himself from the familiar grasp. Just a moment. Just a moment longer in that embrace. A moment. A year. A lifetime…
"Hold on, Gimli. For me? Please?"
"I cannot hold on. I want to sleep. I get no younger, Legolas, and no stronger. You will be left here loving an old fool. You cannot want that."
"You are a fool indeed if you believe that."
Lips brushed his cheek in a tender kiss and Gimli knew Legolas had again tasted the salt in his tears. "I will not see you hurt."
"But you *are* hurting me! I want to be with you for as long as I can, even if it is not for much longer. You cannot deny me that." Legolas tried to turn Gimli around, but he stood rooted. "Look at me! Please look at me, Gimli!"
He had known the Elf was going to be difficult and he had decided if Legolas would not leave, then he would have to. He could do it. He could walk away now, and not look back at him. He could do it. He *had* to do it... Maybe one last night together wouldn't hurt? And then he would leave. No. He would never be able to if he did.
"*Please*!" Legolas cried, clinging to him as hard as he could. "Do not leave me!"
Gimli swallowed acrid tears. He had thought that nothing could hurt more than leaving Legolas, but staying seemed to pain him a hundred times more.
"I stay here as long as you do." Legolas tugged his arm and Gimli turned to face him at last. "Do you hear me, Gimli?" As shaky as his voice was, his tone was firm. "You don't get rid of me so easily."
"Now let us cry: a plague on the stiff necks of Elves," Gimli muttered, with no humour in his tone.
"We are as bad as each other." Legolas pulled the Dwarf into his arms.
Gimli embraced him, pressing his face into the warm neck, unable to look into those dying eyes as guilt clutched at his heart. He could not argue with Legolas once his mind was made up. And whatever Legolas desired, he would never deny. "But when I die, you must promise me you will follow your heart and sail from this place. And there you will heal. And you will love again."
Legolas crushed Gimli to himself, sinking his fingers into his thick white hair. "Nay, Gimli, I will not take another lover. When I said `forever' I meant it. Though your body be cold beneath the earth, your soul will still reign in my heart. Oh, why must I lose you after so short a time? Though the time is not short to you – it is nearly half your life – to me it is but a blink of the eye."
"Half my life is not anywhere near long enough." Gimli turned his head to capture the Elf's mouth in a kiss, pouring all his pain and hunger into that gesture, tasting the bitter sweetness of their mingled tears, and they lay down together in silence. Gimli prayed that time could be slowed, so the moments they spent in each other's arms could be an eternity. But it was not meant to be for him. Eternity overlooked the hearts of Dwarves, and the hearts of men; it only looked to the hearts of the immortal ones, not looking as deeply enough to see the pain it caused.
A murmur in his ear: "Come with me."
"I beg your pardon?"
"Come with me," he repeated.
"If only I could, my love." A laugh stuck in Gimli's throat, choking him as he realised the absurd words were spoken with heartfelt truth. "It will not be allowed!"
He felt a slight shrug against him. "It may. You have Galadriel's favour. And Gandalf's. Perhaps they would allow it."
Would he want to live forever? With Legolas, he would. But as he was now? He had heard in the Undying Lands wounds were healed and youth was restored. But would they allow a Dwarf to step upon their fair shores. To be so close, to be turned away. He would not be able to bear it. "And if they do not allow me? What then?"
Legolas looked him in the eyes. Perhaps there was a bit of light left there. If he looked deep enough.
"Then we will return," the Elf pledged solemnly. "And I will follow you."
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Issue No.: 2.6
Site Last Updated: 11 May 2003