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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.
Gimli bounced from one foot to the other at his friend's side. Waiting. He hated waiting. The dwarf had traveled with the elf enough to be use to his irritating habits, but his patience was wearing thin. Side by side they had faced the worst Middle Earth had to offer, first with the Fellowship and now fighting the last of the Orcs. But no matter how far they went, or how much time they spent together this particular habit continued to annoy him.
Legolas stopped, tilted his head to one side, then he would say something completely mystifying.
"There is a question on the wind." Legolas spoke softly as though revealing an ancient secret. "The ground itself does not know what treads upon it."
"Clear as mud," Gimli grumped, crossing his arms over his chest and glaring at his companion. The only bright spot was knowing the end of this little ritual usually found them in the midst of a bloody battle. That always improved Gimli's mood.
The dwarf bounced back to the other foot impatiently. Legolas was taking an extra long time getting to the fighting. "Well, are there Orcs or aren't there?"
"There are Orcs."
Legolas smiled down at him as though he were a young child. Gimli could feel the irritation build in his chest. He may never see the years Legolas already knew, but he was no child. Legolas, it seemed, was determined to test his limits. "Then what are we waiting for?" He demanded
Legolas turned his eyes back to the forest. "We are not all that hunts the Orcs."
"Then hadn't we better hurry before we miss out on the fun?" he growled quietly. A dwarf or even a human would have missed the comment entirely, but Legolas missed nothing. It was another one of his annoying habits.
"Perhaps. But it is unwise to rush into battle without knowing what we face. There are still questions to be answered."
"Is the enemy of our enemy a friend?"
That was it. Enough of riddles and patience, it was time for action. With axe held at ready he marched past Legolas into the forest. Even he could follow Orc tracks.
"Gimli! Where are you going?"
"We aren't going to find out anything by standing around here. I'll just go see if the Orcs know what else is hunting them."
Gimli wondered for a moment if he should be insulted by the rich laughter that drifted after him. But when his friend fell into step beside him and spoke no more of ridiculous delays he decided to postpone this argument for the next fight.
As they walked side by side Gimli stole a glance a his tall graceful companion. Legolas was worried. He could read it in his face, the way he held his mouth, slightly open as though preparing to ask a question. The elf's eyes darted back and forth across the path, searching out and reading signs Gimli would never see.
Gimli knew the Legolas's preference would be to circle around for hours until he knew for certain what they were up against. As an immortal Firstborn, time meant little to him. Instead, Legolas would rush forward at his side to battle to unknown.
A secret smile stole across Gimli's lips. Warmth invaded his chest as he remembered how many times Legolas had forgone his own preferences to fight at Gimli's side. Was it merely friendship? Did the bonds between brothers-in-arms extend so far? Or had their unique relationship deepened into something more for the elf as it had for him.
With great effort, Gimli forced himself to focus on the battle ahead, but
no amount of control could remove the content smile from his face.
Gimli was not amused. The bloody remains of the Orc company lay strewn all around him, yet his axe was clean from lack of use. "Of all the confounded nuisances!" Gimli bellowed. "We tracked this bunch for days and still missed the battle." Disappointment was heavy in his voice.
Nearby Legolas picked his way through the bodies, examining the remains carefully. "No weapons cleaved these Orcs. They were torn apart."
Gimli wanted to roar in frustration. More riddles and he had not gotten to kill anything yet. "Did any of them get away?"
Legolas continued his achingly slow study of the scene as though he had not heard the hope filled question. The dwarf sighed and leaned back against a tree. He was prepared to wait, at least for the moment. Everything took longer when it involved the elves. Gimli had encountered enough of the race to know this trait was universal.
The dwarf often found himself wondering if that was true with everything they did. That was a dangerous question. The thought of having an elf, no, this elf, pour that much time and attention on him kept him up nights. Gimli imagined what it would be like to have those clever fingers exploring skin and exposing secrets in that wonderfully patient way. It had been a daydream that had remained carefully hidden. A fantasy to wonderfully impossible to wish for.
But things had changed. The relationship that had begun as a competition, then evolved into a friendship was changing once again. There was more in the way Legolas let his hands linger on the dwarf's shoulders. He often awoke in the mornings to find the elf staring at him, an intense look that held no answers, only more questions. There was an undercurrent in his teasing that was almost intimate.
Legolas had always worked hard to provoke him. But, lately, the elf had taken to wrapping them together, chest to chest whenever he pushed Gimli too far. It was not an apology. Not from HIS elf. Yet, it was more than enough. Wrapped in those long arms, listening to whispers in his ear about how glad Legolas was that he was with him, Gimli found a peace he had not known existed.
Gimli watched Legolas examining the forest and felt his ire raise as time passed. He had the sneaking suspicion his companion was drawing this out to irritate him. The graceful blond covered the area twice before answering. "There are but one set of tracks leading away from this place."
"Something survived?" Irritation forgotten he hurried over to where Legolas was staring intently at the ground. "What is it?"
"The enemy of our enemy."
"Legolas." Gimli moaned with disgust. The beautiful voice was tight with surpressed laughter. The elf flashed him a rare smile. Gimli felt his heart sink. The last time he saw that smile was at Helms Deep when neither of them expected to see the dawn. They stood together when the tide of Orcs hit them. Shoulders touching, and then backs as they were surrounded by the fierce foe. Gimli never knew what caused Legolas to suddenly slip but as he reached for him the tide of battle shifted. Their hands touched and clasped, eyes locked and Legolas smiled. Then the dwarf was swept away, his own name ringing in his ears.
Gimli knew then what that smile meant. It was a wall to keep out the inevitable. A barrier against the world. It was the way Legolas protected himself. That the elf was smiling now made Gimli nervous like few things could.
"I do not know what it is." The elvin prince finally admitted. "I would like to follow these tracks and find out."
Gimli looked off in the direction Legolas pointed. "Aragorn instructed us to return to Minas Tirith as soon as the Orcs were dead." He waved his hand around the battle scene. "They're dead." It was a way out. A way for both of them to avoid whatever put that smile on Legolas's face.
"It is alright, my friend. We have accomplished our task. You may return to the city." Now even the smile vanished. Legolas suddenly looked proud, aloof, and impossibly tall. 'He's hiding something.' Gimli realized. Again he felt the urge to bellow in frustration. Another riddle. He hated riddles.
Gimli sighed. It did not matter. There was no way he would let Legolas go on without him.
"Not without you I'm not." The dwarf shouldered his axe, preparing to move out. Again he glanced at his companion and could not contain the gasp of surprise. His expression had changed once more. The aloof look had dissolved into one of tender....love? It was gone so fast Gimli could almost believe he had imagined it. He stood for several moments, staring at the retreating back before hurrying to catch up with his companion.
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Issue No.: 2.6
Site Last Updated: 11 May 2003