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Axe and Bow

A Legolas and Gimli fan archive

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Between the Lines

by Yrchgrrrl

Category: Romance
Rating: NC-17
Warnings: None.
Disclaimer: They are not mine! Eternal thanks to Tolkien for the characters, Jackson for their images, and J.K.Rowling for the Harry Potter universe.
Feedback: Yes
Summary: An ancient Elf from Middle-earth--and a mystical memory device-- survive into the 21st century and come to the attention of tabloid reporter Rita Skeeter ("Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire"). As the story of "Lord of the Rings" is hot these days with the movies' release, she gleefully agrees to tell the story the Elf wants told.
A/N: None


I am so excited! It is only recently I received the most fascinating scoop on some of the most esteemed heroes of our Pre-history. As the Muggles have their Arthurian legends, we People of Magic have our Fellowship of the Ring. And although the history books, the Ministry of Magic, and other sources would have us believe that the noble Elves left these fair shores long ago, with just their sad little cousins the House- Elves remaining to harken back to their glorious ancestors, this just is not true.

Returning to the Fellowship of the Ring, the archer Legolas Greenleaf was said to be one of the most glorious Elves ever. Legolas lived about three thousand years before he disappeared into the West and was never again seen in Middle-earth. This is written. What is also written is that he and his friend Gimli the Dwarf, also of the Fellowship, sailed away together. Just what was the relationship between the tall, surpassingly beautiful Legolas and the Dwarf, whom all writings described as essentially an ugly, ill-tempered little gnome?

Without giving away any names and locations, I have to report that a civilization of Elves still lives in England, hidden from Muggle society much as our own is--with spells, charms, wards and the like. The Magic Arts--both Light and Dark--have evolved considerably over the millennia. What ordinary powers we have in Wizard society in the twenty-first century are equal to those of Gandalf or perhaps even Saruman. Presumably, there are no more Rings of Power around, or You-Know-Who would have possession of them. But I digress. I did visit with some of these Elves in the past month, and was amazed and delighted to learn that among these Elves lived an Elder of such great age as to have lived in those times! The Elves left Middle-earth within a couple of centuries after the War of the Ring and sailed from the Grey Havens to lands further West. This is written. What we did not know were available were the memories of Legolas Greenleaf. Within a year after the War of the Ring ended, he became King of the Elves of Ithilien, a branch of Mirkwood. While our recently discovered Elves are not descended from the fair Legolas, many were apparently descended from relatives both near and far. But the ancient Elf, while fragile, was still lucid to relate enough from his memory--and from another device I will not name yet-- so that Legolas's story could be told. It was something he felt he needed to do before "crossing over", as he termed it. Immortality, alas, is not truly forever, and eventually Elf- spirits must make their journey to the Astral Plane as do all souls. Shortly after I collected this information, the old Elf died. I learned this by owl post from his people. Ever wonder who first developed owl post, or when, or why? That story is told within these pages. One of the most cherished traditions of the Magic community can be attributed to the ancient Elves. But I digress once more. Before we get to the necessity of problem-solving, we need to get to the problem.

There are those that will find this story shocking, especially those who believe that the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy is a sacred history of our people. But in every book, sacred or not, that is based on history, there are lines to read between and blanks to fill in. Hopefully this treatise will fill in some of the blanks. Two friends of the Fellowship had one of the most unusual romances in recorded history! The story as told to me began as the Fellowship of the Ring entered the kingdom of Lothlorien. . .



When the Fellowship of the Ring departed Moria, their spirits were low over the loss of Gandalf. Perceiving him dead, they were all grieving greatly. Aragorn eagerly pushed them ahead, though, as they needed to reach Lothlorien, an Elf-kingdom dead ahead where security was tight and they could get some much-needed rest. Gimli, in particular, felt badly that the Company had been damaged because of his eagerness to see Moria again. . .but there was nothing he could do or say now. And he, additionally, had been traumatized by the deaths of his cousin Balin and his whole Dwarf settlement in Moria. But he, stoic as always, kept silent, largely out of shame. The Company trudged on until at last Aragorn cried out, "Lothlorien!" They all looked up and saw the lovely forest approaching.

Visitors to Lothlorien often became somewhat fearful to approach the enchanted wood. The place had a strange reputation anyway, what with the Sorceress-Queen and her creepy Consort; the lights in the trees that never burned out; and the unusual appearance of the Galadhrim. The Guardians were generally selected by Lord Celeborn, whose tastes ran to blond and pretty; and all the Galadhrim fit that description. They wore gray and black uniforms and cloaks to blend into the forest; but they were flashy with their hair, which ran from platinum to golden, and often included tiny little braids in front and fell to the middle of their backs.

The marchwarden, or captain, of the Galadhrim was a somewhat embittered Elf named Haldir. His face at least was kept from being too pretty by his regal, aquiline nose; his eyes were like quicksilver in color, and his lips were pouty and sensual. He was tall, and his platinum-blond hair fell like silk down his broad back. He usually had an unpleasant sneer on his face when he met outsiders, but if he warmed up to them, it would melt away and he would revert to a friendly nature; this usually only happened with other Elves. If the visitor was a Man or a Dwarf, he was wary. Haldir had two beautiful younger brothers, Rumil and Orophin, who were deadly with the bow but looked like tall, muscular women.

Men generally were not inclined to take orders from the girly Galadhrim, and a number of them had been killed over the years because they refused to leave or take said orders. Thus began the Wood's reputation for people going in and not coming out. The Rohirrim lost their share, and began calling the Guardians "Angels of Death." The Men of Gondor were a bit cruder; their nickname for them was "Killer Queens." Most of the time the Galadhrim guided visitors to the Palace to see Galadriel and/or Celeborn without incident. They had no use for Dwarves as a result of bad experiences in the past; yet there was no history of a Dwarf ever being killed by the Guardians.

That day in February in the year of the War of the Ring, the Fellowship of the Ring made their way into the enchanted forest looking for respite from the horrors of Moria. Their presence was immediately noted by the Galadhrim. The members of the Fellowship, already nervous, came along tentatively, and Gimli began swaggering a bit to ease his anxiety. Almost immediately he was confronted by the three brothers and a few other archers, bows drawn. Haldir gave his very best sneer when he threatened and tormented Gimli, and then he noticed an Elf's bow drawn among the Fellowship. When he realized the Elf was Legolas, he went weak in the knees.

Haldir and Legolas had a history dating back seven hundred years. The two archers once had enjoyed a torrid affair; but Legolas' father, King Thranduil of Mirkwood, probably the only homophobic Elf-lord in Middle- earth, had put a stop to that. Legolas had eventually recovered and gone on with his life, but Haldir had let the wound fester for centuries. When he saw his old lover, still looking as surpassingly golden and beautiful as he had all those years ago, Haldir refused to let on that he knew who he was, and he turned his bow in the direction of the Prince of Mirkwood. Legolas, of course, did the same to Haldir. While the two old lovers drew a bead on one another, Aragorn stepped in and negotiated for their passage. The Galadhrim would not let Gimli through without a blindfold; Gimli refused; Legolas argued with him; and to resolve it, Aragorn decided the whole Company would wear them. Legolas grumbled at that, and he heard one of the brothers snicker at his elbow. They trudged along uncomfortably, but Haldir and his brothers guided them safely.

Queen Galadriel had watched the Company's progress in her magic Mirror. She was quite psychic and knew what they had recently suffered--the fear, the battles crossing Moria, and the apparent loss of Gandalf. She shed tears, as the wizard had been a close friend of herself and her Consort, Celeborn. She watched as the Hobbits bravely marched towards their destination, tears even yet trickling from their eyes. The Men, Aragorn and Boromir, tried their best to be tough leaders. But where were the other two? Soon she smiled to see the Elf, Legolas, solemnly holding his head high as he brought up the rear. A few steps ahead of him was the Dwarf warrior, Gimli, head hung low, feeling much guilt over the disaster in his people's country. She could sense a strong chemistry between the two of them, although the tension between them blocked it. When she saw all the hard feelings over the blindfolds, she chuckled, especially when she saw Haldir and Legolas squaring off against one another. No matter what a male's persuasion, and how intense a past affair might have been, they all get macho when provoked. As she watched the diverse group pass, Galadriel smiled. She knew she would be meeting with all of them; but she couldn't resist taking a step which should remove any last remnant of hostility in the group. She reached within the folds of her robe and removed a small bag. Opening it by its draw-string, she reached inside, drew out a soft white powder and blew it in the direction of the Company.

"Oops", she giggled. "I did not mean to send them quite so much. . . this should be interesting!" Then she called for a messenger to be sent to the group.

After a short time the messenger came to the travelers saying the Queen said it was all right for the blindfolds to be removed, so this was done and relations were less strained. After showing them the sights along the way, Haldir eventually led the group into the city and to the Palace, where he took them to meet with the Queen and her Consort. He hung around, trying not to listen to the discussion, feeling uncomfortable somehow. He did hear that Gandalf was missing and presumed lost, and he felt very bad, as the wizard had been an old friend. Eventually they were done and the Fellowship came trooping out, faces less anxious than when they went in. He led them downstairs, and Rumil picked them up once they got at the edge of the courtyard and guided them to their guest quarters.

Legolas dragged his feet, hoping he would see someone waiting for him. Sure enough, his heart skipped a beat as he saw Haldir at the bottom of the steps, his arms crossed and a half-smile on his handsome face. The Lorien Elf tossed his head, and silky platinum hair flew over his shoulders and halfway down his back. Mimicking Celeborn, he said,

"Eight went in, but only seven came out. Who are we missing?"

"Gimli," Legolas replied. "He was flirting with the Lady and she was encouraging him. I am sure he will be down soon."

"No doubt she was doing it mainly to torture Celeborn. He dislikes Dwarves."

Legolas gave him a wistful smile and changed the subject.

"I did my best back in the wood to pretend we had never met. And I think you did an even better job."

"You gave me a start there when you aimed that arrow at me," Haldir told him. "If you had shot me, Rumil or Orophin would have taken you out."

"I had to look like I was protecting my friends, Hal," Legolas said. "I would not have hurt you."

"I hope so. I would like to spend some time with you, Legs."

"And I you, Hal. It has been far too long. What, seven hundred years? And you look the same as always."

"As do you," Haldir said. He wanted to take Legolas in his arms so badly he hurt, but he could not do that out here in the royal courtyard. "Here is an idea: I have orders to go to the northern border and patrol the fences. It is only a couple of hours from here on horseback. Are you tired? Do you need to sleep here tonight, or would you like to come along? It might be a couple of days before I come back."

"I would come with you, Hal," Legolas said eagerly. "It might get boring around here, as I expect the rest will be doing naught but sleeping for days."

Haldir smiled. "I hoped you would say so. Go talk to your people and make sure it is not a problem for them. The Lady would have my hide if I got you into trouble! I shall go get the horses. Bring your pack along, and your bow and quiver--you never know what we might run into."

Legolas nodded. "I shall meet you over by the fountain with a yes or no in a few minutes." + Haldir nodded and went off in the direction of the stables.

Legolas returned to the Fellowship's camp and approached Aragorn, blushing. "Estel," he said, "A friend has asked me to accompany him to the northern border for a couple of days. I can see up close what kind of security they have here."

"Are you up to traveling again, Legolas? I know Elves have great stamina, but--"

"We will be traveling on horseback," Legolas said. "He said it would only take a couple of hours tonight."

"And when did you meet this *friend*?" Aragorn asked, suspicious.

"We met him coming in, Estel," Legolas said with another blush. "I have known Haldir for centuries, but that was not the time to talk over old times."

Gimli, still glowing from his encounter with Galadriel, suddenly joined the group. His smile disappeared when he heard Haldir's name. "That arrogant border-guard is a friend of yours? You should teach him some manners, Legolas!"

Legolas laughed as he collected his things. "He was just doing his job. He did apologize to you, after all. I shall see you all in a couple of days. If any emergency comes up, I am sure Haldir told his brothers where he could be found."

Aragorn and Gimli looked at each other in disbelief, but said no more.

Legolas walked across the courtyard, across a lawn of soft grass under mallorn trees, over to the beautiful fountain. Haldir was standing there, holding the reins to two lovely white Lorien horses.

"What happened?" he asked.

"They were shocked," Legolas chuckled. He took his pack and bow and arrows and attached them to the horse Haldir gave him. Then the two Elves mounted their steeds, which trotted away out of the city and through the forest.

They rode close enough together to carry on a conversation, so Haldir thought it would be therapeutic for Legolas to tell him about the trials the Fellowship had undergone over the past few months. Of course the hardest part for Legolas to tell was when Gandalf went missing, and tears came to his eyes while his voice went trembly. Haldir wished he was close enough to put a hand on Legolas' shoulder, but he did offer sympathy vocally. Then he added,

"You know, Legs, Mithrandir may yet live. He has the power to neutralize a Balrog and certainly can keep himself from hitting the ground. He is a wizard, not like you or I. Do you not remember one night when we were in Mirkwood, him and Radagast telling of the scrapes they got out of that would kill lesser beings?"

"And he did get away from Saruman," Legolas mused, pushing back the tears. "Where is Radagast, anyway? I have not seen him in years."

"That I do not know, Legs," Haldir said. ''Radagast is a touchy subject around here."

"Why would that be?"

"Because of what happened between him and the Lady Galadriel, oh, about five hundred years ago," Haldir replied. "One time he was visiting and while Celeborn was in Rivendell at some conference with Elrond, they became involved. Or perhaps they had been involved for some time and this was the first any of us knew about it. My brothers and I knew, as well as some of the Palace servants. When Celeborn came home, none of us were around to warn them, and he walked in on the Lady and Radagast in bed. Like your father--"

"Ai!" Legolas cried. "I do not believe that, Hal! Surely you are jesting me, and that is cruel at a time like this. Two of the people I had the most respect for of any in Middle-Earth were illicit lovers?"

"It gets even worse," Haldir went on. "Celeborn did not challenge Radagast to a duel--the standard response to such a discovery--because he knew he would not stand a chance against the wizard. But he did tell Saruman about it, and Saruman banned Radagast from Lorien from then on. This was in the days when Saruman was the trusted head of the wizards' order. Then Celeborn told Galadriel she disgusted him, that he no longer desired her, and that he would go back to the ways he gave up when he married her."

"I almost hate to ask what ways," Legolas sighed.

"You do not have to know, Legs," Haldir suggested.

"Now that you brought it up, you must tell!"

"Before Galadriel bewitched him all those millennia ago, Celeborn was an Elf like you and me, with a sexual appetite for males. He returned to those ways."

"Does he have a lover?"

"He has no serious lover, just casual partners he calls on regularly."

"That is tragic and terrible to hear," Legolas said. "I thought they had a happy marriage. How could Radagast have done such a foolish thing?"

"The Lady bewitched him, too," Haldir said with a shrug.

"I bet she could not have bewitched Gandalf--Mithrandir," Legolas said sadly.

"I would not hazard a guess on that, Legs, but I still bet Mithrandir will return. Wait and see. Do you want to place a bet?"

"Not on something like that, Hal. I would want you to be right too much!"

They rode on silently for awhile until Haldir pulled the reins in on his horse and bade Legolas do the same.

"Where are we?" Legolas asked. The forest did not look much different than it did just outside the city. But he knew that the Elves who lived in this land would be attuned to even the slightest changes in terrain. There were lights in the trees throughout Lorien, so the forest never got that dark at night.

Haldir slid off his horse and tied it to a nearby tree. "We can stop here, Legs. I dare not get any closer to the edge of the forest without being seen."

Legolas sighed and dismounted. The two set up an Elvish tent in the low branches of a nearby tree. It did not look stable, but Legolas knew it was; Elvish craftsmen were meticulous about such structures. Then Haldir took what looked like a blanket out of his pack and threw it over the tent-- and it disappeared!

"Hal--what did you just do?" Legolas gasped.

"Invisibility cloak," Haldir said. "A wonderful discovery by Radagast. All the Guardians have them now. It is very unfortunate that the Lady did what she did with him. He was a good friend to the Lorien Elves."

"As he was to us in Mirkwood," Legolas said. "Now I shall worry about him as well as Gandalf. Saruman is the wizard who deserves to perish in this conflict, not the good wizards who were our friends and mentors."

"Agreed," his friend said. He handed Legolas a bedroll. "Set this up inside the tent. Can you figure out where the entrance is?"

"I think so," Legolas replied as he began climbing into the tree. Soon he disappeared.

Haldir came over closer to the tree and saw him peeking out. "Good work! Now I shall go scout around for awhile to make sure we are free of enemies and nosy Elves alike up here. If you would like to do something besides sleep, feel free to undress."

Legolas snickered and started pulling off his boots.

It was half an hour later before Haldir returned, but he was satisfied that there were no intruders in the area. He saw Legolas' bare chest visible from inside the bedroll, and his heart began pounding. Seven hundred years had passed since the last time he had been intimate with his great love, seven hundred angry and lonely years. There had been no other partner that he had called lover, just casual liaisons such as Celeborn partook of. In fact, Celeborn partook of him regularly, but he was not about to tell Legolas this unless he had to. He undressed and got into the bedroll with Legolas.

"Are you comfortable with this, Legs?" he asked. "Because if you are not-- "

"I am comfortable," Legolas sighed. He stroked the side of Haldir's face tenderly. "But try not to make too much of this, Hal. We are just old friends now, finding comfort in the woods. I would make pleasure with you, as always, but this is the wrong time to rekindle a relationship, what with the Fellowship Quest and the war."

"I understand," Haldir replied. His face was impassive.

"But Hal--I really need you tonight." Legolas' tone of voice showed his pain.

"I know," Haldir said gently. He clasped Legolas to him, so that their bodies touched all the way to their feet, and began kissing him. Legolas responded, and began running his hands down Haldir's back and caressing his butt lightly. They started kissing more passionately, and soon both Elves were fondling each other, becoming really aroused.

"Who is going to do what to whom?" Legolas asked, trembling with desire.

"If you want me to do you first, I will," Haldir said, "but we are going to have to get back out of bed." They crawled out and lay on top of the blanket and pads.

Legolas giggled. "At least nobody outside can see us."

"That was the idea," Haldir snickered. Legolas groaned as the other Elf began tasting him all over, from his lips to his neck to his chest and nipples, down his stomach-- then treated him to an unforgettable act of oral pleasure. He wondered who in those seven hundred years had taught Haldir such? Soon his brain was too disoriented to think any more, as the pleasure grew more and more intense, and it was over, all too soon. Legolas cried out in ecstasy, and Haldir looked up at him and smiled.

"Sweet, sweet Legolas," he sighed. "You taste so good. That has not changed."

"But you have, my sweet Hal," Legolas cooed. "You always did that well, but now your skill level has surpassed--"

"Surpassed what?" Haldir teased. "Like I tell my apprentices about archery, practice makes perfect. Your lovely mouth is going to get you into trouble, Legs. So why do you not put it to better use?"

Legolas just smiled and bent his head to Haldir, returning the favor. Haldir lay back, eyes closed, and sighed while the younger Elf transported him to paradise. Ai! How he had missed Legolas! He was the best at that in all Middle-earth, he remembered well; and soon he was moaning in pleasure. Afterwards, Legolas moved up to lie right on top of him; and Haldir kissed him again and wrapped his arms around him.

"Ai! Legs, you are still amazing," he raved, then joked, "That would be a nice service to have available every time I am on patrol in the woods," he joked. "Although I fear not much patrolling would get done. That is probably why the Lady usually sends my brothers along with me and not one of the pretty young boys we are training."

Legolas laughed. "Probably so. And your brothers, Hal--they are like you, right? No heirs for the family despite three lovely sons?"

"My father would say 'alas, alas', but that is true. No grandchildren to pass on the name. Three ugly but manly sons would have made him happier."

"But your mother loves you all just the same, I'll wager."

"Yes. She is the one sweating out this war, and whether we will be called into service."

"Ai!" Legolas gasped. "I had not even thought of that. The Galadhrim would be Lorien's army, would they not?"

"Yes. We are warriors, after all. At least if we become war heroes, my father would be proud. And he knows we did not choose to be what we were to cause him pain, unlike some fathers we know. Did Thranduil ever become more tolerant?"

"Not really," Legolas said. "But I never attempted to take my lovers home to the Palace again, either."

"At least we are Elves, and our culture does not disapprove. The mores of Men are far less tolerant of male/male relationships."

"And then there are the Dwarves--" Legolas said. "Gimli says they are almost entirely bisexual, men loving both men and women. There are far too few women to go around."

"That is odd," Haldir said. "So is Gimli married?"

"No," Legolas said. "I have not talked with him that much about his personal life. We have had our differences and have not yet grown close, although that may change. But he did say once that he was unmarried, as are all of us in the Fellowship."

"That makes sense. It would be a tragedy for a family man, whether Man or Elf or Hobbit or even Dwarf, to go on a mission like this and be lost to his family. But why do you think your relationship with Gimli might change?"

"Because he hated Elves with a passion, and now he has met the Lady, he is infatuated with her," Legolas laughed. "Now he thinks Elves are beautiful and exciting, and wants to be my friend as well."

Haldir raised an eyebrow. "And lover?"

Legolas gave him a funny look. "It has not gone that far, Hal. But one never knows about these things. He does have a great passion about the things he likes. If he decided to turn it towards me. . . who knows?"

"Who knows indeed," Haldir quickly changed the subject. "I want to turn my passion towards you again, Legs. Could you stand that?"

"What do you desire?" Legolas giggled.

"I brought a little container of Elvish love potion along, if that suggests anything to you," Haldir said seductively.

Legolas shivered involuntarily. "I would enjoy that!"

"I thought so," Haldir said with a smirk, taking out a container of the scented oil that gay Elves nicknamed 'love potion' for its invaluable use in lovemaking. Soon they were as vulnerable as they could possibly be--two beautiful, naked Elves, unarmed and with nothing on their minds but raw lust. Fortunately there were no enemies out and about, and the tent structure held in the tree, for their lovemaking got rather heated and the tent shook violently. Eventually they collapsed, exhausted but blissful.

"Are you all right, Legs?" Haldir asked. "I mean, it was presumptuous of me to ask you to leave your Fellowship at a time like this and come out here in the woods so I could ravish you."

"I like being ravished, especially by you, Hal," Legolas sighed. "And it does make me feel better. What you said about Gandalf makes me feel better, too. Maybe he will yet rejoin us. That is why they call lovemaking in the face of tragedy healing. It gives hope and makes you feel alive."

"Of course," Haldir smiled, stroking Legolas' hair. "So what about your other friends, are they traumatized as well? Do they have anyone to heal them?"

"Oh yes, poor little Frodo was really close to Gandalf. I shall tell him your words of hope. I do not know how Halflings feel about healing this way. And there is Gimli, he lost a cousin and friends in Moria. Their fate was a terrible shock to him. Perhaps I should comfort and console him as well, now that I have been healed." Legolas suggested with a twinkle in his eye.

Haldir made a face. "Legs, I am sorry I brought it up! I fear you are indeed attracted to that Dwarf, and will end up comforting him in *this* way before you leave Lorien. But I would not conjure up that image tonight. All I want to see is your beautiful face looking at me with great love and tenderness, even if it is just an acting performance worthy of the stage in Minas Tirith. Can you do that?"

Legolas kissed him and gave him a sad smile. "I can do that," he said.

Eventually Legolas fell into a deep sleep and Haldir slipped him carefully back into the bedroll. He dressed and made another trip out to patrol the area. He thought this was probably one of Galadriel's more pointless assignments, as there would probably be no Orcs coming this way from Dol Guldur. Mordor and Isengard were to the south, and it was unlikely Orcs would be attacking Lorien from any other direction. Then another thought came to mind. Could Galadriel merely have been trying to get him out of the way while the Fellowship was in Lorien so what was happening between him and Legolas would not happen? She had never really approved of the two of them being together, he remembered with a scowl.

But what had happened in Mirkwood--Legolas' father King Thranduil summarily booting Haldir out of the country after catching him and Legolas in flagrante delicto--and what might have been worse, Legolas acting equally eager to get rid of him the next morning, had left Haldir in a funk for centuries. He absolutely hated Legolas for the first hundred years, grieved for him the next, then nursed a barely scabbed wound for the next five hundred years. Then the Fellowship of the Ring showed up in the woods of Lothlorien, and Legolas was among them--and when the two finally interacted after the Fellowship had met with the Queen and her Consort, it was like Mirkwood had never happened and centuries had not passed. Legolas and Haldir were pals again; and when they crawled into their tent in the tree on the northern border, they were lovers again, as passionately as ever before. Legolas had warned him the timing was wrong to attempt to rekindle the flame of that relationship, but that had not stopped the younger Elf from giving a good impression of it. But Haldir guessed that Legolas was not himself due to his grief, which did occasionally make one's thinking erratic. He reminded himself that what Legolas needed now was healing, and he was the best one to give it.

Haldir sighed as he returned to the tree and Legolas, still sleeping soundly. He wondered how much sleep the members of the Fellowship had gotten on their journey. He bet the road from Moria had been so haunted that the most deeply affected, at least, were going over and over the events in their minds, trying to see where they had gone wrong. He had tried not to listen to the discourse between his rulers and the Fellowship; but he had heard Celeborn cut to the chase, telling the Fellowship that if he had known in advance that they were considering Moria, he would have forbidden them to go through. Then Galadriel, to spite him, had made a special pet of Gimli. He wondered just what kind of relationship Gimli and Legolas really had. They would certainly be an odd couple if it was romantic; and for sure Gimli would hate Haldir's guts for sleeping with him, compounded upon the insults on the way into the forest. Well, Haldir refused to feel guilty about that. He crawled into the bedroll beside Legolas and kissed him on the forehead. Legolas turned over, put an arm around him and muttered, "Hal", with a slight smile on his half-asleep face. Haldir snuggled close to Legolas, and they both slept till morning.

That day they followed the boundary of the country for many kilometers, never seeing a single Orc or other threatening personage. Eventually a couple of Mirkwood Elves on horseback approached the border from the other side of the fence and were stunned to see their Prince, also on horseback, with the Lorien Guardian, as if he was a partner. Legolas implored them to keep quiet on that knowledge back home, as the last thing he needed was Thranduil learning he had been keeping company with Haldir again-- especially at a time like this! They teased him that they now had blackmail material for the next millennium on Legolas. The Prince, in turn, reminded them that they had strayed far from Mirkwood, and that fact might be hard to explain when they told their tale at home. Haldir made some threatening remarks as well; so they snorted, as did their horses, and rode away.

"In the middle of nowhere, and somebody recognizes me," Legolas grumbled.

"You are entirely too recognizable!" Haldir chuckled. "There is no Elf in Middle-earth as beautiful and striking."

"And you are looking through the eyes of love," Legolas retorted. "I wonder what the Lady's mirror would show should we look into it?"

"I wonder if she will do that with the Fellowship," Haldir mused.

"Probably," Legolas said. "I do not look forward to that."

"It never seems to be comforting, whenever someone views it," Haldir said.

"Have you ever looked into it?" Legolas was curious.

"No, but I have heard horror stories. Come, Legs, we have a lot of territory to cover before we can camp again."

But soon enough it was evening; they put the tent, bedroll and invisibility cloak in the most suitable tree, and took their water skins, some fruit and waybread out of their packs. Haldir did not want to build a campfire and call attention to themselves. He and Legolas sat at the edge of a stream, eating silently for awhile and watching nature. A herd of deer, totally oblivious to the Elves, came only a few meters away to graze. Birds flew in and out, feeding on berries in a bush nearby.

"Remember when Radagast said that someday he would train birds so that they were as tame as dogs?" Haldir asked.

"He must have trained the giant eagle that flew Gandalf out of Orthanc," Legolas replied.

"The giant eagles are a breed apart. I think he was talking about regular- sized eagles or hawks or owls."

"Those birds are predatory, it is highly unlikely they could be tamed," Legolas remarked. "But Radagast said he was so sure, and he had some kind of spell he was planning to use."

"And he and Mithrandir were partaking of the same Gondorian whiskey you and I were that night, so some of their tall tales may have been just that," Haldir chuckled. "That stuff was vile! I was sick for a week and so were you."

"I remember," Legolas chuckled. "But Gandalf and Radagast showed no ill effects whatsoever. They just said it probably was not wise for Elves to partake of strong drink."

"Rivendell wines were all right," Haldir recalled. "Wish I had some now."

"Going to get me drunk and take advantage of me?" Legolas asked seductively. "It does not take that much." Then Legolas' mood abruptly changed. "I wish I knew for sure that Gandalf was alive," he said wistfully.

Haldir put an arm around his friend. "Legs, the Quest would be too important to Mithrandir for the Dark Forces to keep him down. I swear on the light of Earendil that you will see him alive again."

Legolas turned and drew Haldir into a kiss. They climbed up into the tree and into their tent once more. And before long, if the deer had been interested, they would have heard some rather interesting sounds being emitted from an invisible spot in a tree. And had the invisibility cloak not been in place, they might have seen a tangle of supple, ivory limbs and two cascades of moonlight-colored hair moving rhythmically. After the two Elves had made love to exhaustion, they curled up in the bedroll together, purring like contented cats, and soon both fell asleep and slept till dawn without interruption.

The next morning they packed up and rode back to Caras Galadhon. They arrived around mid-day, tended to the horses and left them in the enclosure outside the stable. Legolas looked around for members of the Fellowship and soon spotted the four Hobbits watching an Elf-woman weaving something out of leaves. Frodo and Sam were holding hands, as were Merry and Pippin. Legolas was surprised but amused.

"I think they may have begun healing already," he chuckled to Haldir.

All they dared do here was touch hands, but they did this; they parted, and Haldir approached the Palace to report his findings to Galadriel. She was waiting for him and did not look happy in the least.

"Haldir," she sighed, "Will you never be rid of the spell of the Prince of Mirkwood?"

"I do not wish to be rid of that spell, My Lady," he replied honestly. "He is the dearest love of my life. If it was at all possible, my greatest wish on this earth would be to be bound and sealed to him for all eternity."

"But it is *not* possible," she said sadly. "Legolas has a destiny to fulfill, and this destiny does not include you--at least, not as more than a friend. You have no idea now, but if things go the way my Mirror shows, you will eventually have the love you crave and honors more than you ever imagined! But you must give him up, Haldir. If you persist in this foolish course of action, I will have no choice but to use a memory charm on you which will erase all memories of Legolas from your mind."

Haldir gave her a horrified look. "Please, my Lady, I must have my memories of him! They would be all I had left of him."

Galadriel replied, "It is important to have memories of love. I know what love can do for one's heart and soul, and I know the depths of despair it can send a person to. But sometimes the timing is wrong, and that is the case now. I will not forbid you to speak with him, but you *must not* sleep with him again. Try not to become too emotional, either, as you will be expected to say your goodbyes to the entire Fellowship when they leave and help them into their boats if necessary. But that is all!"

"Yes, my Lady," Haldir said, his gray eyes brimming with tears.

"So what was on the northern border?" she asked.

"A herd of deer and two nosy, trespassing Mirkwood Elves," he replied, trying to smile and brush the tears away.

Galadriel laughed her musical Elf-laugh and was in a good mood again.

Haldir left the Palace, feeling tortured, and walked out into the main square. He heard someone calling his name.

"Haldir, Haldir!" A young, beautiful male Elf clad in the Galadhrim's uniform approached him, a bow and quiver of arrows on his back. Haldir recognized him as Karmiel, one of the Guardians' new trainees. He smiled.

"Yes, Karmiel, what can I do for you?" Haldir replied.

"You have been gone and I have been missing my lessons," the boy pouted.

"Lessons?" Haldir's mind had been so possessed by Legolas he forgot what he had been doing with the young man. He knew what kind of lessons he would *like* to be giving him, but that would be highly inappropriate.

"My archery lessons," Karmiel said. "You said I could never pass the test to be one of the Galadhrim unless I got better, but that you were going to teach me."

The boy Karmiel looked a great deal like Legolas, Haldir thought dreamily. No! His conscience practically shouted at him. This is not the time nor the place, and you should be satiated from Legolas already!

"Then let us go into the forest and practice," he sighed, putting an arm around Karmiel, who looked adoringly up at him as they walked towards the forest.



Everything was fairly calm the rest of that day. Legolas rode with Rumil and Orophin while they showed him the security measures for the southern end of Lorien, which was much more likely to be in danger. About half the Guardians were stationed there, with a year's supply of arrows. The two brothers never badgered Legolas about what had happened with Haldir; they probably knew, Legolas thought sheepishly. They spent the night in two tents, as celibate as monks, and returned to the camp the next morning to a bit of an uproar.

Haldir and Aragorn were talking animatedly, and both were wearing tense expressions. The Hobbits were standing around with frightened looks, Boromir appeared enraged, and Gimli was sitting on a bench with his head down. They all looked up as Legolas joined them.

"What is going on?" the Prince asked. "Why is everybody so upset?"

"The Lady sent a message, a vision from her Mirror," Haldir said. "Saruman is loosing his new breed of monsters on Middle-earth and they will be near us soon. She wants the Fellowship to leave first thing tomorrow morning."

"And that we will do," Aragorn said sharply. "Are you through running around, Legolas? Is there anything else you need to do of great importance? Then do it tonight," he implored. His blue eyes were anguished. Then he turned around. "That goes for all of you."

Haldir started to walk away, but Legolas touched him on the arm.

"I cannot see you again, Legs," the Guardian said sadly. "The Lady has forbidden it. I am sorry."

"So am I," Legolas assured him. "But I could not tonight anyway. This is oh, so awkward, Hal--but I have not done my healing of Gimli yet. Tonight is his time."

"Ah," Haldir said stiffly. "So did you want something of me?"

"Would you tell me--or show me--a place we can go where we will not be interrupted? Someplace outside under the stars, preferably. I am also trying to cure him of his dislike of forests, and this is the one place that might do the trick."

Haldir knew he should be furious at Legolas for using him this way, but when the beautiful Elf looked at him with those dark green eyes, so earnest- -and that sweet mouth, so persuasive (memories of it were starting to drive him mad) he knew he would give in.

"Come along, then," he said. He led Legolas up the hill which the camp fronted. A path led through a forest of mallorn trees and eventually led to a waterfall, not as spectacular as the ones in Rivendell, but still lovely and peaceful.

"Young Elves love to come here and do it, but I suppose they will have to be kept away tonight," Haldir sighed. "You might also suggest to the Halflings that if they want to do the healing they have been leading up to, this is the time and place."

"You are a Prince of an Elf, Hal," Legolas cooed, giving him a brief kiss. "And we will always have the memory of the northern border," he added seductively.

I have been had, Haldir thought sadly. There was nothing he had rather *not* do than baby-sit Legolas and Gimli and four randy Hobbits while they performed sexual healing in the wild, but somehow he had been roped into it. He found himself wishing for a bottle of that Rivendell wine or even the disgusting Gondorian whiskey.

In the meantime, Legolas returned to the camp. He calmly ate rations with the rest of the Fellowship and began packing as they all did. Following word from a house servant that Galadriel wanted to see them, the Company all returned to the Palace while she showed them each visions of their possible futures from the Mirror, an enchanted basin of water on her terrace. Some of the visions were terrifying, others merely shocking. They returned to the camp, thoughtful. Later, Legolas whispered in the Hobbits' ears, and each blushed in turn. Then he smiled, screwed up his courage and approached Gimli, tapping him on the shoulder. Gimli was stripping off his many layers in preparation for retiring for the night.

"What do you want, Elf?" Gimli demanded gruffly, although his heart leaped into his throat at the sight of him. Legolas was clad casually in a light tunic, leggings and moccasin-type shoes; he obviously was interested in venturing out of the camp, so Gimli stripped on down to wear the same style of dress.

"Would you like to explore the forest with me?" Legolas asked, and his eyes were bright. "It is our last chance, you know." Gimli shrugged; and they walked quickly out of Caras Galadhon into the nearby forest, up the hill, past the trees with the knotted roots above-ground, into an area covered with moss and soft grass. The temperatures were as warm as mid- summer, although it was February; the forest was still lit with the magical lights of the area, adding to the generally enchanted feel of the place. Eventually they reached the waterfall.

"How are you doing, Gimli?" Legolas asked as they sat down and pretended to study the waterfall. "Do you still need healing?"

Gimli snorted and raised an eyebrow. He tried to be calm, but his hands were starting to tremble slightly. "Healing? Am I sick?"

"Ai, Gimli, you *know* what is wrong. Gandalf. Balin. All the horrors we have seen, and no way to purge them or even grieve them."

"Should we not be doing that with the entire Fellowship?" Gimli asked.

"And have Hobbits crying? And Boromir glaring? And Aragorn feeling like a cur once again for pushing the Company along? No, Gimli. What we need is a renewal. My people have the tradition of--when an unnatural death occurs--that we celebrate life with the ones that remain. Do you know what I mean?" Legolas looked embarrassed suddenly. What if Gimli was repulsed by the idea?

"I think I do," Gimli replied, feeling somewhat shy himself. "My people have been known to do that too, especially in times of war. But it usually is preceded by a great deal of drinking and singing songs in the honor of those who were lost."

"Umm", Legolas replied. "Ours is too--well, the songs at least. But it generally takes a rather large group of Elves to do that, as I imagine it does with Dwarves. Here we have two."

"Two indeed," Gimli said. "You and I. I wonder why?"

"Did you not meet with the Lady Galadriel today?" Legolas asked.

"Of course. She is utterly enchanting, the most beautiful creature I have ever seen," Gimli sighed dreamily.

"Did she also give you some advice? Show you something?" Legolas asked.

Gimli blushed but remained silent.

The Elf went on, "What she said to me--well, *thought* to me, in my head, not in spoken words--was 'search yourself, Legolas! Search the deepest corners of your mind, your heart, and you will know who is the only one with whom you can find happiness.' Did she not say something like that to you, Gimli? And I looked in her Mirror and kept seeing one and only one answer. Did you not?" His beautiful face was anxious.

"She did say that to me in thoughts," Gimli replied. "Something almost identical. And like you, I kept seeing one image. But I found it hard to believe--we have been a thorn in each other's foot since we met."

"Do you know why we got under each other's skin so immediately?"

"Because you were an Elf and I a Dwarf?"

"Ah, but Dwarves are dense!" Legolas chuckled. "That is only part of it. At least as far as I was concerned, it was because I was attracted to you and resistant to it."

"Yes," Gimli replied. "That is it exactly. But Legolas--you have shown no indication of being interested. I assumed Dwarves were not your type as far as sex goes. Did you not spend a couple of nights with Haldir since we arrived?"

"Haldir and I have a history," Legolas said. "He offered to help heal me, and it worked. I am not in pain emotionally any more, and he has me believing that Gandalf may yet return to us."

"The arrogant Elf must know some amazing healing techniques," Gimli snorted.

"I know them too, Gimli. Would you be interested?" Legolas' eyes twinkled.

The Dwarf suddenly met Legolas' eye, and his expression was both tortured and hopeful. "Yes," he replied.

"Of course, there could be complications," Legolas warned, "which we do not want. I know you are not married, but do you have a love partner of any kind, waiting under Lonely Mountain or anywhere?"

Gimli gave a wistful look. "To be sure, I have no wife or lover of any kind. I cannot remember the last time I mated with anyone," he grumbled. "And I desire males and females equally, like most Dwarf- males." he added bitterly.

"Then it is quite amazing you have no partner at all!" Legolas laughed. "Most Elves of your kind have double the lovers."

"Maybe no one finds me attractive enough," Gimli grumbled.

Legolas sidled up close to Gimli on the soft moss. "Do not believe that for a minute, foolish Dwarf. Yes, you are short. Yes, your face is craggy and furry where mine is smooth. But your body is strong and well- built. Your smile lights up the day like the sunshine, and your eyes sparkle--like they are doing now--like the stars in the sky. I find you very attractive, quite exotic, like a rare flower--nay, *jewel* I would like to examine more closely." He ran his hands through Gimli's bushy auburn hair and long beard, stopping to finger the braids in his beard more closely. "Interesting," he said. "Not so different from the braids in our hair."

"What about you, Legolas?" Gimli asked. "You managed to avoid discussing your marital status."

"Oh, me?" Legolas laughed. "I have desired males and only males for almost three thousand years. I thought you would have guessed that. No wife, never! And I have had no regular partner for many centuries. Nobody has a legitimate reason to be jealous if you and I are together."

"But I expect someone will be," Gimli smiled, stroking the Elf's silky blond hair. "You are so incredibly beautiful, Legolas, strong like a man but pretty like a woman. The best of both worlds."

"Then I should suit you quite well, should I not?" the Elf asked as he grabbed the Dwarf by his beard braids and pulled him into a kiss. The kisses quickly grew passionate, and soon the two were rolling on the moss groping each other; as stirrings of desire grew intense, they began undressing one another. Soon they were naked and inspecting each other's bodies, and Gimli felt inadequate. Legolas was exquisite, perfect and ivory like some marble statue, while he was stunted and practically as furry as a small bear from chest to groin. But the godlike Elf was exploring his body with his long, slender hands; and he looked at Gimli, giggling, and said, "I think you measure up, my friend!"

Gimli groaned with pleasure, and the two lay down together while he did the same exploration on Legolas' body. He shivered with desire, but he still could not take the first step towards the act; and Legolas sighed,

"What is wrong, Gimli? I assumed you would want this as much as I."

"It is just--that I have never lain with an Elf before, Legolas," he confessed.

Legolas chuckled, "Nor I a Dwarf! But you can see we have the same parts, after all. Would you like me to show you how an Elf like me makes love to another?"

Gimli could not resist that suggestion, and he nodded silently.

Legolas bent over him, and before he began, Gimli saw a mischievous twinkle in the Elf's forest-green eyes. Both smiled. And when Legolas had finished his ministrations, the Dwarf cried out so loudly he feared he could be heard in Lonely Mountain. Legolas raised his head triumphantly, and Gimli grinned from ear to ear.

"Now you see that Elves do not bite," Legolas said with a grin.

"Ai, Legolas! Where did you learn to do it like *that*? I mean, Dwarves do it, too, but--" Gimli's head was spinning.

Legolas snickered. "That was Elf-loving, Gimli. What would a Dwarf know about the practice most favored by Elves?"

"Was that a challenge I heard?" Gimli's eyes twinkled. He was always up for competition with the Elf, and this should be fun. "Lie back, Legolas!" Gimli gave him the same kind of impish look as Legolas had given him and went to work with gusto. He had Legolas moaning within seconds.

Afterwards, Legolas exclaimed, "There is more to you than meets the eye, my Gimli! That was loving worthy of an Elf for sure!" And the Dwarf smiled proudly. They lay clasped together, spent, for awhile; and then Gimli said,

"When I have regained my strength, then I would like to show you how the Dwarves do it."

And Legolas laughed. "Well, if Dwarf-love is what I think it is, we are going to need some supplies to maximize our pleasure." He got up and went over to the pile of clothes, fishing a small jar out of a pocket in his leggings. Gimli, surprised, asked,

"What is that and where did you get it?"

"An Elvish 'potion' to ease the friction of certain body parts. And the-- um--Galadhrim gave it to me," Legolas added with a blush.

"Or one in particular," Gimli snorted. "Hand it over. We must try it out! I would not have the Elves get ahead of us Dwarves in something as important as love!"

Dwarf-loving was somewhat more strenuous than Elf-love, but it was equally exciting for both of them; again they took turns. When they were done, both were sweaty and exhausted, satisfied and happy--if more than a little sore, especially Gimli. He was grousing, trying to find some fault with a perfect session of lovemaking, or so Legolas thought, once his head had cleared a bit. Legolas cooed into the Dwarf's ear,

"Did I hurt you, Gimli? Please forgive me. It is not the way of Elves to inflict pain when making pleasure."

"It is not the way of Elves and Dwarves to make pleasures together, either," Gimli grumbled. "Maybe this is why."

Legolas was horrified. "Do you wish you had not come here with me? Not done this at all? I thought it was glorious! Besides, I get hurt like that every time I do it with a Man--it is just one of the hazards of interspecies loving."

Gimli regained his senses in a hurry, and could not help laughing at Legolas' last remark. "Hazards, eh, my beautiful--if clumsy--Elf?" he said with a wry smile. "No mind, then; despite that little mishap, this was the best sex I have ever had! And to think it was with an Elf . ." He rolled over again, grinning, and marveled at the beauty of Legolas, who was smiling proudly.

Legolas gave a sigh of relief. "I am flattered, Gimli. I enjoyed loving with you, too, very much--although I, too, never thought I could be so aroused by the touch of a Dwarf! I will be more careful next time."

And Gimli shuddered with pleasure to hear him say "next time."

"Well," Legolas said, "Do you think our honored dead would appreciate the way we decided to celebrate life in their memory?"

Gimli's jaw dropped open--and then he broke out laughing as hard as he could. "I know Balin would!" he said.

"And Gandalf would be so relieved to know we were no longer fighting!" Legolas added, chuckling himself. Soon he was laughing as hard as Gimli, and they both laughed until they were in tears. And soon the tears were grief for Balin and for Gandalf, and they were cathartic, even for Legolas, who thought he had healed already. They embraced each other tightly until the tears were gone, relieved that they had not had to show them to the entire Fellowship. Eventually they grew sleepy; they pulled on their leggings, but decided against fully dressing and returning to the Company. The forest was lovely, the lights were haunting, and they wanted to stay together a little longer. And that night both Legolas and Gimli realized they had forged a bond--beyond friendship, beyond sex--although neither was quite ready to give it a name. Gimli snuggled into the curve of Legolas' arm, and they slept peacefully until morning.

They never even realized that two Hobbit couples were enjoying the same experience less than a kilometer away--or that a lone Elf sentry had been patrolling the area silently. Tears came into in his quicksilver eyes each time he saw the growing bond of passion between the Elf and Dwarf.

The new lovers woke at the same instant and smiled at each other, Gimli somewhat sheepishly. Legolas kissed him impulsively.

"And how are you feeling this morning, Gimli?" he asked.

"I had the most amazing dream," the Dwarf said with a mischievous smile, "about a beautiful Elf who took it on himself to teach a Dwarf about the power of sexual healing. It was a lovely dream," he sighed. "But it must not have been entirely a dream, because now"--and Gimli frowned slightly--"I am wishing we did not have to take that long boat trip, today of all days!"

"Oh, dear," Legolas moaned. "I really did hurt you! I am sorry, my friend. But at least one thing is good, and that is that you and I share a boat! You will not have to explain to Aragorn or somebody why you are sitting so gingerly!"

And Gimli chuckled ruefully as they dressed and returned to the place where the Company was camped. They had walked away from their trysting-place hand-in-hand; but they dropped their hands quickly as they approached the Company.

As the two approached the camp, Aragorn called out,

"And where have you two been? We are supposed to leave within the hour!"

"Out seeing the sights," Legolas chuckled.

"And getting healed," Gimli added dreamily.

Aragorn just growled, "I have heard enough of that from the Halflings. They missed their 'second breakfast' for being late. You may miss your first."

"I am not in the least hungry," Gimli sighed, as he went to pack the last of his stuff.

"Nor I," Legolas purred. And as the Elf bent to collect his things, Gimli pinched him on the butt. Then Legolas turned and kissed him. A horrified Boromir roared,

"The sooner we leave this enchanted fairyland the better! First we had Legolas run off with the border-guard. Then the Halflings started pairing off. Now Gimli seems to have caught the disease from Legolas. Aragorn, if you pinch me on the arse, I shall have your head!"

Aragorn scowled, "Do not worry! You are not my type, Boromir!"

But Boromir persisted, "What is the reason for this devilry, the Ring or the Witch?"

"If it is love, it is the Lady Galadriel's work," Gimli said blissfully. "She wanted me happy and Legolas far from Haldir's clutches."

Legolas stuck out his tongue.

Boromir just gave them both a scowl.

As if he had been conjured by the saying of his name, Haldir showed up. "The Lady wants me to help you gather your things to pack in the boats."

"We are putting all our goods and packs in the boat that Legolas and Gimli are riding in," Aragorn told him, "since it has the most room. Please start with the Halflings' packs."

Haldir went over to the Hobbits, and they all burst into giggles on seeing him; he smiled at them in return. They kept giggling as they handed him their packs and he walked off towards the boats.

"What was that all about?" Aragorn demanded.

"Last night. . ." Pippin managed to get out between giggles. "He was patrolling the area up the hill and got an eyeful. Two eyes full. Well, maybe *three* eyes full," he added, looking at Gimli.

Gimli gave him a horrified look. "I thought we had privacy!"

"Who do you think was protecting our privacy?" Legolas asked. "He was keeping trespassers away, at great cost to his feelings."

"Now listen, all of you," Aragorn began. "I realize you all had to let off some steam or release some tension last night. There certainly has been a lot of tension around here lately! But we are on the water today, and danger could be lurking around every bend. This is not the time to be at less than your best, and that means all of you."

Boromir snorted and started to walk away.

"That means you too, Boromir. Just because you did not feel the need to wallow in debauchery does not mean you are not under pressure. Yours is probably the worst of all of us," Aragorn added, thinking of the Ring.

Up in the terrace behind the Royal Palace, Galadriel and Celeborn were looking into the Mirror and listening to the conversations.

"So what did you do to make them all so sex-crazed?" Celeborn demanded.

"Aphrodisiac powder," she replied. "I blew some at them as they entered the forest the first day--a little too much, as it turned out. All I was trying to do was to get Legolas and Gimli to stop fighting, but I overdid it. I certainly did not mean to get the Halflings--or, alas, Haldir--all worked up!"

"Why would you send them aphrodisiac powder to stop fighting?"

"Because in smaller doses it just serves as inducement to friendship and pleasant feelings," she replied. "Actually it turned out not to be such a bad idea after all. Gimli was on the verge of wanting to remain here and sniff around me for the rest of his life, and Haldir would have rowed off with the Fellowship in his place, to be with his beloved Legolas. And we could not have that happen, now could we?"

"There is a new boy among the Galadhrim. I did not select him. Where did he come from, Galadriel?" Celeborn narrowed his eyes.

"You mean Karmiel? He is adorable! And he looks so like Legolas. He is the illegitimate son of one of my handmaidens and has been living in Rivendell for his own protection. His grandfather wanted him dead. But the grandfather had a fatal accident with his horse a few months ago, and the boy came home."

"Young Karmiel appears to have a crush on Haldir. He follows him around like a puppy."

"And if you so much as touch young Karmiel, I will unman you, Celeborn," Galadriel said, narrowing *her* eyes.

"And the horse?" Celeborn demanded. "Did it have a *push*?"

Galadriel said nothing, and her face was a blank.

"If all the people who worship you knew how evil you really were, my Lady-- " Celeborn growled; and Galadriel just gave him her most beautiful smile.

When the Fellowship left Lorien by boat, Galadriel and Celeborn were there to see them off, as well as members of their court and the Guardians. Galadriel gave gifts to all of them, and it was an emotional time. Haldir bit his tongue as he held the boat for Gimli to climb into and then for Legolas, as he crawled in behind him.

"Well, Gimli, this is it," he finally said, bending over the boat. "And if you let this one fall in battle on your watch, I am coming after you!"

Gimli smirked at Haldir. "If I let Legolas fall in battle, it will be because I am already dead, Elf."

Haldir snorted. "I feel so much better."

Legolas reached out and took Haldir's hand, and he squeezed it in both of his, not knowing what to say.

"Thanks for everything, Hal," Legolas said. "I'm really sorry about last night."

"You owe me for that," Haldir said with a somewhat sad smile.

"I shall not forget," Legolas assured him. "There will be happier days for all of us," he added cheerily. "Soon the war will be over and the Quest behind us and we all shall get together with Mithrandir and Radagast and have a drink together for old time's sake."

"That is a wonderful dream to have, Legs," Haldir said, trying to smile, but with tears starting to come into his eyes. "May the Valar be with you," he added in Elvish, and Legolas returned the farewell, giving him a sad smile and a wave as he began to row away. Haldir returned the wave and watched until the boats were out of sight, too proud to turn around and let the people of Lorien see the tears that were filling his eyes and running down his face. Legolas could be killed in this war; and if he survived it, he would no doubt bind with the Dwarf. Haldir was not sure which fate would be worse. Then he felt an arm link through his, and he turned to see Karmiel smiling at him.

"What was worse, Haldir?" he asked. "Seeing him row away out of your life forever or watching him make love with another?"

Haldir raised an eyebrow.

"I saw it all, too. I was hiding in a tree. You looked in pain," Karmiel said, his ears turning red.

"I was," Haldir replied. "And I am wondering if his being killed in the war would not be preferable to his being bound to the Dwarf," he confessed guiltily.

"Now I am just a young Elf, and inexperienced in these things," Karmiel said, "but it seems to me that you would be better served to find comfort and *healing* here in Lorien and put the Prince of Mirkwood behind you. So--what are you doing when you go off duty?"

"You know where to find me," Haldir said to Karmiel with a wistful smile, and the younger Elf grinned at him.

And it was only a few weeks later, after the Fellowship had split and Boromir had been killed after being weakened by the Ring's evil power, that an amazing thing happened. In the woods of Lothlorien, Haldir was once again giving young Karmiel lessons in archery and horsemanship. But the teacher and the pupil were now more than friends, and the lessons were cherished, by both Elves, as time spent together. Suddenly the loud shriek of an eagle could be heard, and their ears picked it up immediately.

Karmiel looked terrified. "What kind of bird is that, Haldir? It sounds enormous!"

"If it sounds enormous, it probably is," Haldir replied. "The giant eagle, Gwaihir the Windlord. He does not fly over our wood for no good reason, and he will most likely be touching down in that clearing we passed. Come, Karmiel!" He turned his horse back in the direction in the way they had come, quickly speeding into a gallop, and the younger Elf followed him.

In a few minutes, they had reached the clearing. The giant eagle, as big as at least ten Men, was on the ground, a naked figure with long white hair and beard sliding off his back.

"By Valinor, it cannot be!" Haldir cried. He ran to the man's side. The eagle, meanwhile, flapped his wings and flew away. Haldir turned the man over. He was barely breathing but--it was Gandalf!

"Mithrandir!" Haldir gasped. "Are you all right?"

He nodded weakly. "Barely," he replied. "But I must get to the Lady as soon as possible!"

"I shall take you to her," Haldir promised. He turned to Karmiel. "Ride back to the Palace immediately and let her know to prepare for him. He lives, but he is very weak!"

Karmiel nodded and galloped off in the direction of Caras Galadhon. Haldir removed his cloak and gently wrapped it around the naked wizard. Gandalf moaned softly.

"Are you in pain, Mithrandir?" Haldir asked. "I do not wish to hurt you."

"Putting me on that horse is going to hurt, but there is no way that can be helped." Gandalf gave the Elf a weak smile, and Haldir returned it. "I have not seen you smile in seven hundred years, Haldir of Lorien," he commented.

"They were rare, Mithrandir," he agreed. "There have been more recently, but that is another tale for another time," he added with a blush, which was not lost on the wizard, even in his state. He lifted Gandalf, now as light as a Hobbit, and put him on the horse in front of him. With one arm around the wizard and one holding the reins, he cried out to the horse in Elvish and they galloped away.

When they reached the city, Galadriel was in the courtyard along with Karmiel, Rumil and Orophin, waiting with a gurney. Haldir lifted Gandalf off the horse and put him on the gurney, and the four Elves, carrying Gandalf, followed their Queen up the many staircases to the Palace to the room used for Healing. Galadriel thanked the Guardians and then pulled the door shut.

In a few days, the Queen said the wizard could receive visitors, and Haldir was first at his side.

"Mithrandir," he said, taking Gandalf's hand as he knelt beside the bed. "Seeing you alive again is a joy that defies words."

"Thank you, Haldir," Gandalf said. "I think I am quite myself again. And how did you perceive the Fellowship?"

"They were grieving you terribly. I kept trying to tell them that you would come back to them, but they were unconvinced."

"Galadriel said that you were the only one who had faith," Gandalf remarked. "And she also said that you helped heal them in the Elvish way."

Haldir blushed. "I did it for Legolas, and that made me smile. Then he did it for Gimli, who lost so many in Moria. And the Halflings. . . well, they followed our lead and healed one another. They were all strengthened when they left here." Then he remembered. "Except for the Men. Boromir and Aragorn acted totally disgusted with Elvish healing."

"Their ways are different," Gandalf reminded him. He tried to sit up. "I must rejoin my Company. They need me, and they will soon be in the throes of war, if not already!"

"You are not ready for war yet, Mithrandir," Haldir chuckled, gently pushing Gandalf back down on the bed. "Even the Lady's medicine is not that strong!"

And at that moment, Celeborn burst in. "You cannot think of leaving, Gandalf! We have not had our talk!"

Haldir knew when he was not needed and slipped out the door. If Celeborn had ever once thought of anyone's feelings but his own, he had never witnessed it. As he had done often, he wondered what Galadriel could ever have been thinking, loving and marrying him. Gandalf, on the other hand, had inquired about Haldir's smile when he had been at death's door. The wizard was an amazingly kind and perceptive person, and Middle-earth was better off with him than without him.

In a couple of more days, Galadriel judged Gandalf as being fit for travel, and so he prepared to go on his way. He refused a horse, so Haldir offered to walk him to the border. He caught Gandalf up on the news of the Fellowship as they walked along.

"The Halflings seemed in good spirits, Mithrandir. Let us hope it sustains them on the road to Mordor."

"Halflings--or Hobbits--are always stronger than we give them credit for," Gandalf said. "They may look and act like children, but there is steel in their spines."

"Aragorn, on the other hand, seems to be under a great strain and will not allow himself to relax," Haldir said. "Rumil said he even offered to help 'heal' him, and Aragorn slapped him! When he and Rumil have known one another for years."

"I expect Arwen is the only Elf Aragorn wants helping him in that way," Gandalf chuckled.

"Perhaps. But he has been acting strangely, anyway. And that Boromir has, even more so. He looks as if he might explode at times."

"He is bewitched by the Ring," Gandalf mused. "He showed an unhealthy interest in it early in our journey. If the obsession persists, it will destroy him."

"That would be a shame," Haldir said. "He appears a strong and capable warrior."

"Ahhh, Haldir, you do not want to talk about Boromir, now do you?" the wizard said, putting a hand on the Elf's shoulder. "What is happening with Legolas?"

"Legolas and the Dwarf, you mean," Haldir said grimly. "They seem to have gone straight from feuding to loving. If there is friendship, it is around the edges and will be forged along the way to Mordor."

"Yes, you said that Legolas had been healing Gimli. So he indeed loves the Dwarf," Gandalf added with a smile.

"Strongly indicated," Haldir grumbled. "I told Legolas I would protect their privacy--and the privacy of the Halflings--while they did, uh, healing in the woods the night before they departed. No matter how much I tried to look away, I could not help but be drawn to Legolas. I tried just to look at his face, and that was actually more painful than the other would be, because I kept seeing a light there as he was holding and loving Gimli that I had never seen on his face when he was with me."

"Your timing with Legolas was always wrong, Haldir," Gandalf said gently. "First, when he probably did love you, his father interfered. Now, seven hundred years later, it is too late for you, since he is in love with someone else."

"Has he been interested in Gimli long?"

"I perceived that he and Gimli were drawn to each other immediately when they met," Gandalf chuckled. "But both were so consumed by their racial prejudices they refused to acknowledge it. As they went along and gained camaraderie sharing hardships and fighting alongside each other, their admiration of each other as warriors began to erode the prejudice. By the time they reached Lorien and the Lady's aphrodisiac powder, presumably they were ripe for the plucking."

Haldir was horrified. "Ai! Then it is a miracle Gimli did not behead me with his axe. Not only was I rude to him when I first met him in the wood, but before the night was out, I had bedded his beloved."

"You 'healed' Legolas, Haldir. From what Galadriel said, he was in a great deal of emotional pain over my disappearance. He would have been worthless to Gimli then, and likewise, Gimli was in far too much pain to notice Legolas'. Your love for him brought Legolas back from the edge, and he was able to go on. I know that does not make your heart ache any less, knowing that you helped heal him for another's love," Gandalf added.

"Well, what will be will be," Haldir said stoically. "I do have a young man now, did you know? Karmiel is his name, he is one of my trainees for the Galadhrim. I think the Lady sent him to me," he added with a chuckle. "I probably will never feel the same way about him I do about Legolas, but he is a comfort to me and he worships me entirely. That is a new experience."

"It is good you can make that adjustment, Haldir," Gandalf said. "Both Galadriel and I were worried about you. She never thought Legolas was right for you, and she desperately wanted to keep you in Lorien. She said your services were invaluable to them."

"Them meaning her and Celeborn?" Haldir asked sarcastically.

"I talked to Celeborn," Gandalf said. "I do not think he will be bothering you any more. If he does, let me know--well, we probably will not be able to do that until after the war is over."

"Thank you, Mithrandir," Haldir chuckled. "And now, I fear we must part company. Lorien ends and the road to Mordor begins. May the Valar be with you!"

Gandalf hugged the Elf tightly, thinking that whatever may have happened between him and Legolas, it had ended well. Or maybe it was the new love that had done it for him; at any rate, the marchwarden of the Galadhrim was as happy and positive as he had seen him in many centuries. He drew apart from Haldir and gave him a wave, which was returned with the same and a beautiful smile. Gandalf took his staff and started off down the road. Haldir watched until he was out of sight, no tears this time, and quickly disappeared back into the "enchanted" forest of Lothlorien.



Of course as all who read the books know, the war ended; the Fellowship reunited from all their various paths, and the Dark Forces were defeated when the Ring--with Gollum attached--fell into the volcano on Mt. Doom. Frodo ended up minus a finger and poisoned by the spider Shelob and lost much of his strength, but he survived. The Fellowship lost Boromir of Gondor in an early battle with Orcs, but of course Gandalf survived his ordeal with the Balrog and had rejoined the company--as Gandalf the White, with even more power--in time for the fall of Isengard. Many were killed on both sides, including Haldir's brother Orophin at Helms Deep, but no further members of the Fellowship or their families were lost; and the forces of good defeated Sauron utterly in the War of the Ring, once the Ring was destroyed. Afterwards, Aragorn, hero of the war and the Heir of Isildur, was crowned King of Gondor and promptly wed Arwen, his longtime betrothed.

At the wedding, Elrond was as unhappy as a father-of-the-bride could be, knowing that his precious daughter had renounced immortality to marry her beloved--even though he *was* the King. He elicited sympathy from Galadriel, the girl's maternal grandmother, and she tried to be appropriately comforting. But the Lord of Rivendell and the Queen of Lorien made deeper eye contact and shared longing gazes that Legolas noticed--but dared not comment on. Was there something between those two? Certainly Elrond's wife Celebrian, Galadriel and Celeborn's daughter, was long dead; Galadriel was probably looking for any reason to replace and/or divorce Celeborn as well. But would Middle-earth or even Valinor be accepting of an Elrond/Galadriel match? He wished he were sitting closer to Haldir, as his former lover was quite a gossip and would know if anybody did. For sure, such a relationship would have to be as secret as possible, as Arwen and her brothers would be scandalized for sure. But this day was Arwen's as the bride, and Aragorn's as the newly crowned King, and nobody wanted to spoil it for them. Legolas decided that discretion was the better part of valor and said nary a word to Gimli about his suspicions.

Finally the group, rather rag-tag by now, headed home. The King and a group of knights accompanied what was left of the Fellowship as well as the people of Lorien first to Rohan, as the presence of King Elessar was required at certain ceremonies--the funeral of Theoden and the subsequent Feast. As the Fellowship and the Galadhrim were headed the same direction, they traveled together, despite the discomfort their presence provided Legolas and Haldir--especially the latter. The marchwarden of the Guardians felt acute pain at being forced to witness Legolas and Gimli riding together on the horse of the Rohirrim--and nuzzling and holding hands as it suited them. Galadriel felt bad it had turned out that way for him, but could think of no way to avoid the situation or make it less painful.

Legolas, on the other hand, now felt nothing more than friendship for Haldir, having given his heart to Gimli the night of their healing in Lorien. But the war had strained the intimacy of his new relationship. Legolas and Gimli had become inseparable friends; they had ridden Arod, the horse of Rohan, together. They had fought and killed many Orcs side by side- -appearing as nothing less than two steely-eyed warriors--and counted coup on the Orcs in macho competition with each other during the battle of Helms Deep. But they had never had the privacy they had enjoyed in Lothlorien to commune with one another in an intimate fashion. During the war, they might make a stop at the end of the day, see a large tree here and there, and duck behind it for a quick hug or kiss, but that was all. Even when the war ended and the Fellowship spent a few days in Minas Tirith, overcrowding forced them to share quarters with all four Hobbits and Gandalf, making lovemaking well nigh impossible. As they rode along and Legolas caught glimpses of Haldir continuously giving him wistful looks, he sighed, thinking his Lorien friend could probably have found a way to obtain privacy. He was skilled at that. Ah, for an Elvish tent and an invisibility cloak! But neither he himself nor Gimli had that kind of imagination or preparation, and they were getting pretty frustrated.

Then the caravan approached Helms Deep, and Gimli yelled to Legolas,

"Glittering Caves dead ahead, my friend! You promised!"

"Ah," said Legolas with a smirk that the Dwarf could not see. "I did indeed promise to visit them with you. Doesn't seem like I can get out of it now!"

"And how many days shall we spend here?" the Dwarf asked, a wide smile on his rugged face.

"As long as it takes," Legolas replied as he turned to Gimli with a wink.

"If you want to travel with us, be ready to ride again in two days," the King growled.

"Very well, Your Majesty," Legolas said, still smirking.

"One bedroll--that's all," Gimli suggested, nay ordered; and Legolas laughed in reply.

Gandalf heard them and chuckled pleasantly. "I think you two have shown admirable restraint not to try and share a bedroll before now. Your growing feelings have been obvious, even to the densest Hobbit."

"It has been hard, Mithrandir," Legolas said. "To be indoors, even, as we were in Minas Tirith, and to have no privacy--"

Four Hobbit-laughs rang out across the road. "How much privacy does one really need? Tell them, Haldir!" Pippin cried, and the Lorien Elf merely snorted in reply.

"Your romantic inclinations are your own concern," Aragorn said. "But have you given any thought to what will happen at the end of the road? A Dwarf would not be welcome in Mirkwood, even as the companion of a Prince. Nor would an Elf, under Lonely Mountain. There are prejudices much more deeply ingrained than those against sexual aberrations, you know."

"We should go back to Lorien," Legolas joked. "The Lady Galadriel had a hand in bringing us together; perhaps she would give us sanctuary."

"Not as long as Haldir is alive," Gimli grumbled.

"Thank you, Gimli," Haldir sniffed. "That performance I saw by the waterfall is not something I would care to see repeated on a regular basis."

Galadriel put in, "I expect your respective Lords will have something to say about where you spend your time, my starry-eyed friends. So enjoy your Caves now!"

"My Lady," Gimli bowed respectfully to the Queen, not easy for a Dwarf to do astride a horse. He and Legolas waved goodbye to their friends and rode up to the entrance of the Caves, where a couple of Dwarves stopped them, took the reins of the horse and helped Gimli down. They pretty much ignored Legolas, which amused him.

Inside, the Caves were unimaginably beautiful, illuminated by unearthly glittering lights. If he hadn't been so claustrophobic, Legolas would have enjoyed the lights as something similar to those in the trees of Lothlorien. And Gimli had been right in his description of the walls themselves as translucent and shimmering, almost worthy of Elves indeed. And the caverns were occupied, strangely enough--occasionally they would pass by other Dwarves, often Dwarf women in the company of their husbands. Legolas chuckled--they were almost as bearded, hairy and homely as the men; no wonder Gimli was always telling him he was the luckiest Dwarf in Middle-Earth! Eventually it dawned on Legolas that the section of Caves they were passing through was the Honeymoon Suite!

"Ummm--Gimli," Legolas stammered. "If we meet any of your acquaintances along here, they will know why we are here!"

Gimli chuckled. "Do not worry, my beautiful Elf. For we have reached our destination!" He led Legolas into a cave, which led to one after another inner caves, until they came to one with not only the glittering lights, but also a small stream with waterfall and steaming hot springs.

"You were not joking about the springs!" Legolas marveled. "They are not too hot to relax in, are they?"

"Not too hot for Dwarves," Gimli replied. "I cannot say about the delicate skin of Elves."

"Let's see," Legolas said as he began stripping off his clothes, starting with his tunic, and Gimli immediately followed. Soon they were embracing in the steamy but not uncomfortable water. They paddled around and bathed for awhile; and Gimli, now sitting across the spring, abruptly asked Legolas,

"Do you have a nickname?"

"Hmmm", said Legolas. "Haldir always called me 'Legs'. How does that suit you?"

Gimli laughed. "That's perfect, even if it did come from Haldir. You are all long legs to me when we are walking down the road or standing side- by-side in battle! I shall use it."

"What about you?"

"Oh no", Gimli said. "Dwarves' names are pretty short anyway. But alas! I talk too much!" He splashed back into the water, which was not too deep, and climbed up into Legolas' lap.

"Now," Gimli said from his comfortable perch, smiling as he felt Legolas growing hard beneath him. Legolas drew him close and kissed his lips softly, then they opened their mouths and continued the kiss passionately. Then Gimli nibbled Legolas' delicately pointed ears while Legolas made a couple of affectionate tugs on Gimli's beard. It took them a few minutes to determine the logistics of lovemaking between tall and short in the hot springs, but their motivation made it quick indeed. Over the next two hours, the odd couple twisted into multiple exotic positions as they pleasured one another, and if anyone had been passing by, they would have heard a variety of moans, growls, screams and other sounds of love. Only too soon they were curled up in the bedroll.

"Did you say we could get lost here for weeks?" Legolas asked.

"You could," Gimli replied. "One could get lost here permanently if he did not know what he was doing. Woe to the Elf who once got lost in these caverns. . . "

"I hope you are joking," his Elvish lover said. "Nothing could be more terrifying to an Elf who was unprepared and unaccompanied."

Gimli squeezed him and said, "Do not worry, my Legs. You are not unaccompanied, and I will make sure you are prepared."

Legolas laughed jokingly. "That may already be too late. I do not recall how much lembas I brought from Minas Tirith!"

"In the morning we will sort it out. Now watch this," Gimli told him. The lights slowly began to dim until they were barely visible, just enough light to see to get around. Legolas made a soft sound and fell asleep, eyes open, in Gimli's arms.

The next morning, they discovered that Legolas had indeed forgotten to pack sufficient waybread, and this would require Gimli making trips to the Caves' trading post for food. When he came back with something Legolas failed to recognize and remarked "what is this Dwarf food," Gimli could not resist retorting, "My friend, I have tried everything Elf that you have thrown my way and have liked it. It is certainly your turn to return the favor." And Legolas agreed sheepishly.

They spent another day in the Caves, and Legolas never completely got over his claustrophobia. When Gimli would go for food and leave him alone, the Elf became nervous, even though they both knew that it was safer that way than continuing to risk having Dwarves see the two of them together. The dinner trip, it seemed that Gimli would never return, being gone for hours or so it seemed. Legolas tried to nap, but he could not sleep well in the caves in the daytime--and without Gimli beside him. Eventually Gimli returned, a puzzled look on his face.

"Where have you been, Gimli? I was afraid you had been killed by a cave troll," Legolas scolded him.

"Sorry to have abandoned you, beloved," Gimli replied. "But I ran into some Dwarves I knew. They wanted my opinion on something."


"A number of Dwarves want to break with their current Lord and set up their own little state--here!"

"There goes the neighborhood," Legolas grumbled. "No more honeymoons here."

"Probably not for us," Gimli said sadly. "And here I was hoping I had helped you to like this place. Well, Legs--that's not the worst of it. They want *me* to be their Lord!"

"Oh, no," Legolas said in horror. "Can you refuse? This does not mean another war, does it?"

"I do not know," Gimli said. "But they want me to give them my decision within a month. And here I've already promised Aragorn to help rebuild Minas Tirith!"

"Ai!" Legolas cried. "And I have to go back to Mirkwood first to check in. Who knows what horrors they have planned for me."

"Will Thranduil expect other great things of his son, since he refused to provide an heir?"

"I do not know. My father will probably be leaving for the Grey Havens soon, and my older brother Lindorin was to assume the throne after he left. No doubt they have discussed what they would like me to do. Then there is no telling what King Elessar himself will require of me."

"Does Lindorin know Aragorn?" Gimli asked.

"They met years ago when I met him for the first time," Legolas replied. "But I do not believe they have a close relationship."

Gimli sat down and began to brood, and Legolas knelt behind him and massaged his back.

"It may not be so bad, Friend Dwarf," the Elf teased his companion. "Perhaps I could live nearby to the Caves and we could see each other often."

Gimli turned around and put his arms around Legolas. "I have a bad feeling about all this, Legs. I fear I may never see you again, and that thought pierces my heart."

"We still have a long journey to go," Legolas reminded him. "Certainly let us enjoy our last evening here." He drew the Dwarf into yet another hungry kiss, and things progressed from there. Before the night was over, though, when the couple were lying quietly together in the bedroll, Legolas turned to Gimli and said, somewhat sheepishly, "We have been together for several months now, have we not?"

"Agreed," the Dwarf replied. "Why?"

"I do not believe I ever told you I loved you," his lover replied. "I do, you know, Gimli. And that is the first time I have ever said that to another in hmmm--seven hundred years."

Gimli was shocked. "I am honored. But surely you know that it is mutual, that I love you more than even the air that I breathe!"

"So long as we both know," Legolas said wistfully. "Your remark about perhaps never seeing me again made me think that it was about time for it to be said! I commit my heart to you, Gimli. If we were both Elves, there is a 'sealing' ceremony which would take place, but since we are not, we decide ourselves. For myself, we are bound, in the way of my people. And that is forever."

Gimli grew misty-eyed. It was more than he ever could have hoped. "It is the same way among my people, Legs. I will be bound to you, and I shall love and be faithful to you until I die."

"It goes without saying that I shall remain faithful to you, too," Legolas assured him.

They embraced silently for a long time that night, as they had on their first night together, finally realizing what that night in Lothlorien had led them to.

On the road again, the travelers passed through Isengard, delighted to see that the Ents were rebuilding the former stronghold of Saruman into a garden paradise. Treebeard happily greeted his friends and showed them all around. Then Galadriel and her party left in one direction through Fangorn towards Lorien, and Legolas and Gimli prepared to depart in the opposite direction. Again Haldir threw tormented glances Legolas' way, and he responded with a wave and a sweet, dimpled smile that only tortured the other Elf. Then they said their goodbyes to the Fellowship, and the lovers began their trek through Fangorn. Soon they located a secluded glade and made their camp. A creek ran nearby and they bathed there, then tumbled naked onto a blanket in the grass nearby.

"At last I have you completely alone," Gimli gloated. "My beautiful Elvish prince!" They kissed long and deeply and rolled around on the blanket, Legolas' fingers tangled in Gimli's thick, auburn hair and beard, while the Dwarf stroked the silky golden strands on the Elf's head.

"My handsome Dwarf warrior," Legolas sighed. "How do you want me, my lord?"

"If you put it that way. . . Dwarf way. Bend over!" Gimli ordered.

"Well, get the potion first, Gimli! Otherwise I shall be as sore as you after Lorien!" Legolas quipped, and his partner, grinning, went back and dug through his pack to find it.

Of course due to their height difference, Legolas ended up face down on the blanket, moaning in ecstasy as Gimli entered him from behind. It amused Gimli how much pleasure Legolas derived from being taken. Of course he liked it all the other ways too; the Elf was insatiable. It was many hours--and much pleasuring on both sides--later when they finally ate, washed again and curled up together in the bedroll.

"Mmmm, that feels good," Legolas purred as Gimli curled up behind him; they fit together like a pair of spoons.

"But I have no more energy for anything but sleep," the Dwarf told him drowsily. "It is so good that we survived the War of the Ring, and these woods are now safe for travelers to pass through--and to enjoy carnal pleasures in," he sighed, holding the Elf tightly.

"Mmm-hmm," replied Legolas. "We have far more privacy than in your Caves. The Ents will not let any undesirables in these woods. I had to swear on my life that you would not use that axe of yours," he reminded Gimli with a snicker.

"Grmf", Gimli replied, and he dozed off to sleep under the stars. His companion lay awake for awhile, staring up at the stars and feeling full of joy at being alive, in love, and in a safe forest for a change.

Of course Fangorn, beyond *all* forests, had eyes; and a curious Quickbeam inquired of Treebeard, "Would not Elves and Dwarves have females waiting for them in their homelands? Or did they all run away like the Entwives?"

And Treebeard shook his branches and replied, "That I do not know, my son. But if these two are *friends*, I wonder what lovers do?"

Of course the Ents had no idea how good the hearing of Elves was. Legolas heard every word at a distance of a hundred feet. He buried his face in the blanket to keep his laughter from waking Gimli, and his shoulders shook with merriment at the judgment of the tree shepherds.

The Ents said not a word to Legolas and Gimli when the two departed Fangorn.

"So, Gimli, you survived my forest encounter," Legolas grinned.

"That I did," the Dwarf said. "My companion and the games he liked to play made it worthwhile."

Then the inevitable could no longer be avoided. Both had to return home and deal with their respective families. Legolas waffled as to whether he planned to tell Thranduil about Gimli, but Gimli had no doubt whatsosever--that he would *not* disclose the identity of Legolas, even if Gloin was aware he had a new lover.

"He would roast me over a slow fire," Gimli explained. "And I would not want to risk his subjecting you to the same!"

"At the worst, our romance could result in a war between the Elves and the Dwarves, and I doubt anybody wants any more war," Legolas agreed. "Well, my friend, Mirkwood comes first. The easiest way to do this would be for me to hop off there and let you ride Arod on to Erebor."

"I do not like riding that horse by myself," Gimli grumbled.

"Well, perhaps you could trade it for a pony in Mirkwood," Legolas said. "But if you do that, there is no way you could avoid being seen and identified."

"That is putting me between a rock and a hard place," Gimli groaned. "Or a Balrog and a chasm, like Gandalf had to endure. Let us head out for Mirkwood and see what develops, Legs."

When they approached Mirkwood, they saw the population out and about. It was clear that they were not going to be able to do something as complex as horse-trading without causing a great deal of interest among the Elves, so Legolas slid off Arod, drew the horse behind a large tree so that nobody could see them, and gave Gimli a passionate kiss.

"The Valar only know when we will see one another again," the Elf sighed. "Hopefully it will be in a few weeks in Aragorn's palace when we are assigned to new jobs, but one never knows."

"Legs, it near torments me beyond belief to be separated from you now that we have become bound and joined," the Dwarf moaned. "But what will be will be." He unfastened Legolas' pack from the horse and handed it to him. They kissed again, and Gimli nervously rode away in the direction of Lonely Mountain.

Legolas watched him ride until he was out of sight, then began walking through the beautiful Mirkwood forests in which he had spent his childhood. It was peaceful for only a few minutes, however, because soon he was surrounded by almost a mass of Elves--cheering him, welcoming him back home as a conquering hero. He felt rather foolish, but knew Thranduil did enjoy pomp and circumstance, and there was no way to avoid it in his father's kingdom. As he was on foot, quickly an armed guard dismounted to allow his Prince a ride home. And when they arrived at Thranduil's palace, an underground cavern much more ornate but less beautiful than the Glittering Caves, the King, his latest consort (he changed them every century or so), and Legolas' brother Lindorin were there to greet him with smiles and hugs.

"It is about time, Legolas," Thranduil scolded his son. "Where have you been?"

"Why, the Fellowship had to travel together awhile and visit our allies along the way," Legolas replied, glad that this was at least partially true. "We spent time in Rohan, in Helm's Deep, in Isengard and in Fangorn. So now here I am."

"With no horse?" Lindorin inquired. "Surely you were not walking all this way."

"I had to part with the horse for a comrade who had none," Legolas said, wishing that this line of conversation would dry up.

"We had a great feast planned for you several days ago, but it would not keep," his father scolded him. "So the people were allowed to go ahead and eat it."

Legolas shrugged. "That is fine. I wished no ceremonies, parades or parties. I was not the hero of the Fellowship, after all; Frodo and Sam-- and Aragorn--were. I was just one of the soldiers."

"Well, your soldiering days are over, brother," Lindorin said. "King Elessar sent an emissary to us the day he was crowned, asking for you to return to Minas Tirith when the dust settles, a month from that day. He has plans for many of his friends and acquaintances."

"King Elessar traveled with us for the past week or so. Odd he did not mention it then," Legolas mused. That did not bode well, he thought. What was Aragorn up to?

"At any rate, he will be requiring your services soon," Lindorin went on. Then he excused himself to attend to some more pressing business.

"Of course I shall be happy to do whatever the King requires," Legolas sighed. He looked at Thranduil, who appeared to be about to explode if he did not speak immediately. "What is the matter, Father?"

" I have heard rumblings that you have a new companion, Legolas. Why did you not bring him to Mirkwood to visit?"

"By the Valar, Father! Why do you ask? You never approved of my lovers before. Seven hundred years ago I brought home a fine, handsome Elf from one of the best families of Lothlorien, and you treated him like he was an Orc. He has been as bitter as gall ever since," Legolas added.

"That was a long time ago," the King mused. "So is it true, Legolas?"

"I see no reason to lie," the Prince replied. "Yes, I have a lover. His name is Gimli, and I met him on the Fellowship Quest."

"And you did not bring him here--why?"

"Besides the obvious, he had to rush home as well."

"And home is?"

Legolas took a deep breath. "Erebor--the Lonely Mountain."

"And Gimli is what race? That does not sound like an Elvish name." Thranduil was apprehensive.

"He is a Dwarf, Father," Legolas said, head held high.

"Of course. . . Gimli, son of Gloin. Ai!! You were right not to bring him here!" Thranduil spat. "And you *love* this Dwarf?"

"Yes," Legolas said with a smile. "We got to know each other well during the Quest and the War. A finer person cannot be found anywhere. He is my perfect match and I his. I would have never believed it either, Father, not at the beginning. He and I were always arguing over Elf-Dwarf issues-- until we realized just how unimportant they really were in the scheme of things."

"Hmpf!" the King said. "Well, I hope your Gimli has more sense than to invite you to Lonely Mountain. I can guarantee Gloin would offer even chillier a welcome than I would."

"Because you imprisoned him," Legolas reminded him.

"For trespassing in our wood!" Thranduil said. Then he changed the subject. "Does Aragorn know about you and Gimli?"

"Of course, Father."

"What did he think about the relationship?"

"I am not entirely certain. But I never got the feeling he was wildly approving of it," Legolas said glumly.

Thranduil gave a wry smile. "Well, Legolas, there is no longer much I can and would do about you and your Dwarf. My time here is almost up. Before you meet again with King Elessar, I and my companion Floriel and our servants will be well on our way to the Grey Havens. The affairs of Mirkwood will be in the hands of Lindorin."

And exactly three weeks from their last night at home, Legolas and Gimli made their separate ways to the capital of Gondor. They each had two attendants, as befitted royalty (Gimli went ahead and agreed to head up the small lordship at Aglarond, Helm's Deep) and had arrived on appropriate steeds--the Elves on milk-white geldings and the Dwarves on chestnut- colored ponies. On arriving, Legolas and Gimli spotted one another, and were able to slip away from their servants and into the the nearest bar to the Palace, the Arrowhead Bar. The place was full, but a table opened up quickly when a regal-looking Elf wearing green robes showed an interest, and soon a small red-bearded Dwarf dressed all in gray joined him. Legolas got a tankard of wine and Gimli one of ale.

Gimli sighed. He had never seen Legolas looking quite so fine. "My friend," he said so as to offend no one, "the Queen herself cannot possibly outshine the Prince of Mirkwood here today!"

"Shhh, Gimli, that will get you into trouble with King Elessar more quickly than anything!" Legolas laughed. "Did I overdo it on the finery, do you think?"

"Oh, no, Legs," his companion said. "It is just that it is true what they say about you--that you are fair of face beyond measure of man!"

"I think that is what *you* say, Friend Dwarf," said a blushing Legolas.

"Fair of face indeed," a new voice sounded beside the table. "Look at her- -the exquisite Queen of Mirkwood." A tall, bearded Man scowled down at the two.

Gimli's hair-trigger temper reacted immediately and he jumped to his feet. "How dare you insult the Prince! Will you step outside?!!"

"Gimli, *sit*!" Legolas commanded. "This is not the time or the place for a confrontation!"

"What about you, Legolas Greenleaf?" the Man went on. "If you won't let your lapdog fight for you, will you defend yourself?"

"Why are we fighting?" Legolas asked. "People have been calling me 'queen' for most of my life. It's never been worth fighting over." He eyed the Man again and thought he looked familiar. "Do I know you? Did we not meet on one of my ventures?"

"My name is Bain," the Man said.

"I remember you now, Bain," Legolas smiled and winked at Gimli, who was still bristling. "I remember you quite well," he added, now turning his smile to Bain. "If that embarrasses you, why bother me now? Take the memory and bury it in a cave, or hide it in a *closet*."

Bain stiffened. "I work for King Elessar now. He wants the scum cleared out of Minas Tirith."

"Scum!" Gimli snorted. "I'll have you know King Elessar personally invited Legolas and myself to the city. We all did serve together in the Fellowship of the Ring. I thought everybody in Gondor would have known that. It was so recently that Gondor still smells of all the carnage that was wreaked here."

Bain looked thoughtful and then said, "I shall alert the King that his *friends* are here." He gave Legolas a tormented look and walked away.

"Surely Aragorn will not come down to this rude place," Legolas said.

Gimli's eyes narrowed. "You slept with that scum, did you not, Legolas?"

Legolas blushed. "When I was a soldier of fortune, I took it whenever it was offered to me. It was my way of punishing Father for the incident with Haldir. I'm sorry, Gimli, but this was long before I met you."

"And why did you need to become a soldier of fortune? Your father was the richest Elf-king in all of Middle-Earth. Did he not hoard jewels like us Dwarves he despised?"

Legolas sighed. "You must remember my father was very disappointed in me. Did you know? Long before Aragorn was even born, Thranduil and Elrond attempted to arrange a wedding between Arwen and myself. Ai! He could have killed me when I refused. And the thing was, I really liked--and still like--Arwen. If I had been a different Elf, I would have been honored to marry her. Then I got brave and brought Haldir to Mirkwood to live. After that also blew up in my face, I decided to offer my bow to whatever decent army needed one, and I did that for seven hundred years. By the time the Fellowship of the Ring came along, I had been back in Mirkwood for awhile, but when that opportunity was given to me, I was more than happy to take it. And my reputation as an archer by then was such that they were eager to have me. And there I met you. End of story."

Gimli drained the last of his ale. "I hope it is not the end, Legolas! I hope our story goes on a long time, as we have planned! But I do not trust this Bain, and I think he will make trouble for us with Aragorn. Why does he hate you so much?"

"He hates himself, Gimli. That is all. It is quite easy for him to blame what happened on me, though after half a dozen tankards of that ale you are drinking, he was willing to try anything."

They each ordered another tankard of what they were drinking and hung around the bar for another hour, thinking that perhaps Bain had gotten a message to Aragorn and the King would at least send for them. When it did not happen, they had to rejoin their respective delegations and went to their designated quarters. Neither Legolas nor Gimli slept much that night, so anxious were they about what the morrow would bring.

The next day, representatives of the Crown came to both the Elves and the Dwarves and escorted them to the Palace. Aragorn chose to meet with his royal subjects individually, so the others remained in inner rooms while waiting. Legolas noted the Palace was already decorated in an Elvish manner, as befitting Arwen's heritage. She had probably had many of the wall hangings and objets d'art shipped in from Rivendell or even Lothlorien. Legolas thought a number of them looked familiar. He chatted with Elrohir, Arwen's brother, briefly; he was representing Rivendell.

"So is Elrond off to the Havens already?" Legolas asked.

"Not quite. He was planning to go with Grandmother as well as Gandalf, Bilbo and Frodo, but none of them are ready yet. He is really chomping at the bit. He does not really want to spend another day in Middle-earth."

"Why is that?" Legolas was curious.

"He is so unhappy over Arwen and Aragorn," Elrohir said with a strange glint in his eye. "And Aragorn is not entirely satisfied with the arrangement--"

"I thought he had been looking forward to marrying Arwen for years," Legolas said, confused. "Is their--uh--love life less than satisfactory?"

"That is a very personal question, Legolas of Mirkwood," Elrohir snapped and moved to the other side of the room.

Coming from an Elf who has been sleeping more or less openly with his twin for years, it is strange that Elrohir has taken a prudish bent, Legolas thought to himself. Where in Mandos is Gimli? He had been escorted to a different part of the Palace; why was that? He began to feel uncomfortable. Eventually Faramir, the new Steward of Gondor, came out of the King's meeting room and called to Legolas.

"Legolas! The King wants to see you next. You and I are going to be neighbors," he added with a pleasant smile.

Legolas smiled and nodded to Faramir, not knowing what he was talking about in the slightest.

He went into the door that Faramir had vacated and entered the Great Hall. Aragorn was there on an elegant throne, and he was wearing a crown with many jewels. His handsome face was solemn. Arwen sat on an adjoining throne, and she had tears in her eyes as she looked at Legolas.

Legolas bowed in front of the King and Queen of Gondor and rose when Aragorn indicated he should.

"Thank you for coming, Legolas. It is important to me that as many members of the Fellowship as possible could take part in the remaking of our kingdom, damaged as it was by the war."

"You knew we would come," Legolas said.

"Yes, Legolas, your loyalty has never come into question. But I shall be blunt. I have an important task for you, one that will take many years. Out of an Elf's life, it is a mere drop in the bucket, though."

"And what is that, Your Majesty?" Legolas asked. His heart was already beginning to sink.

"Ithilien," Aragorn said. "The city-state was abandoned during the War of the Ring and much damage was done. The Mirkwood Elves would like to rebuild their portion of the country. I have spoken with Lindorin through an emissary already. He has plans for this area and who he would like to see oversee the lengthy operation."

"Let me guess, Queen Legolas?" Legolas said flippantly.

"King Legolas," Aragorn said firmly. "That is how he must appear and how he must be. Do I make myself plain? The King of the Ithilien Elves must be above reproach in his behavior and in his morals. The rebuilding of the Elvish sector of Ithilien will be a major challenge, and there can be no distractions."

"And this means--" Legolas could not believe what he was hearing.

"It means, my friend, that Helm's Deep is off limits. You are not to go there, nor is Gimli to come to Ithilien. I'm sorry, Legolas, you men were excellent soldiers for me in the War of the Ring, and it was easy to overlook some things. But eventually it comes time to grow up and put aside childish things."

Legolas was furious. "No! You cannot do this to us! We have done *nothing* to you, Your Majesty! Aragorn! Estel!" Legolas pleaded to his former comrade on every level he could think of, but Aragorn merely gave him a steely stare, and Legolas' heart sank even further. He remained defiant, however, and spat, "Does Gondor have that kind of power over all the kingdoms in Middle-Earth?"

"Let us just say the Elves of Ithilien could suffer should a challenge to the authority of Gondor be made. It does indeed have that power."

"Of course," Legolas sighed. He certainly would not risk harm to the Elves he was to reign over, and Aragorn knew that. "Will you be coming to check on our progress from time to time?" he asked.

Aragorn had a coughing fit before he replied, "No, although there are people who report to *me* from time to time. And you are welcome to visit Minas Tirith with reports any time you wish, of course," he added.

Spies, Legolas thought. And if he thinks I will be cheerfully coming to visit with reports after what he just did. . . then, the King immediately dismissed him. He never even apologized, Legolas fumed. He bowed long to Arwen and tried to smile for her; but the beautiful Queen was crying like a baby. Legolas bet it was unlikely that Aragorn--the great King Elessar--would have any happier a love life than he had been experiencing, any time soon--but that was of little comfort. He turned and asked the King one last question:

"Where is Gimli now?"

"He is on his way home, a little the worse for wear," Aragorn said. "He became combative and had to be restrained."

Legolas came close to becoming combative himself. "What did you expect? This is *Gimli* we are talking about. I am the only one who can really manage him!"

"That is unfortunate, is it not, Legolas?" the King sneered.

Legolas gave him one more miserable look and left the Great Hall. He ran into Faramir again.

"You are reigning over the Men's part of Ithilien, correct?" he asked the Gondorian.

"Yes. And now you will be close by. We can visit frequently! Eowyn would love to entertain you and your family--"

"You and Eowyn know little of my circumstances. There is no 'family', nor will there ever be. And now the great King has destroyed any hope I had of happiness," Legolas mourned.

"I am sorry, Legolas," Faramir replied, stunned. "I had no idea this arrangement would make you so unhappy. What did the King do?"

"Someday I shall tell you, my friend," Legolas said sadly. "But it is too close to my heart to do so today." He shook Faramir's hand and left the Palace in a daze. He rode in silence back to Mirkwood with his servants. He tried his best not to show his emotions to them, but there came a time when the pain was so intense that he felt he had to sing a mournful song to prevent from crying. As he saw the weeping willows hanging over the creek alongside the road, he sang an Elf's lament; the servants tried not to listen, but they could not help hearing the sad and bitter words of of love lost. While the Prince managed to keep his eyes dry, his companions began sobbing as sorrowfully as Arwen had.



Legolas was still beside himself with misery by the end of four decades apart from Gimli. He missed his friend's company almost unbearably; even though it had been so long, he had almost forgotten the sex. In fact, that was fairly easy--Elves had the ability to sublimate their libidos indefinitely if necessary. But he knew Dwarves did not, although they were capable of bearing great sorrows and hardships. He wondered if Gimli still felt the same about him, or did he force himself to be so busy with establishing a city and small lordship at the Glittering Caves that he would have no time to even think of Legolas. He sighed. On one level he was proud. The Elvish part of Ithilien was now quite well established, and no crises were on the horizon. He could leave for a few days . . .he packed for several days' travel, lembas and clothes; and out of habit, his bow and quiver of arrows and his battle knife, and then loaded them onto his horse, Starlight. Of course he could not even step outside without his "helpful" bodyguards flocking around.

"Majesty, you cannot just take off alone like that! Give us some time to pack and join you!" his chief bodyguard Argollo cried out.

"I do not want to wait," Legolas snapped. "If you wish to follow, I am going to Lothlorien to see the Lady Galadriel."

"Is she expecting you?"

"I have not told her. I do not even know if she is still there, I keep hearing stories about her and Celeborn going to the Grey Havens with Gandalf and Elrond . . .they were supposed to have gone shortly after the war, but did not."

"If you could wait a few days, I could ride over to Lothlorien and find out for sure," argued Argollo.

"I do not want to wait, Argollo," Legolas repeated. "If the Queen is going to be leaving soon, then I must hurry! You know where I am going; pack your things and follow me if you want to come along."

"You must not go to Helm's Deep," Argollo reminded him. "The King said that was strictly forbidden."

Legolas blushed deeply to the tips of his ears. "I know that, and I was not going to risk anything by going there. I need the help of the Lady, that is all." He took up his reins--although still riding bareback--and urged his steed on its way. He was soon at a gallop.

"If he *wanted* to go to Helm's Deep, we could not stop him now," Argollo grumbled. "He better be going to Lothlorien, or we are all in trouble."

"What is in Helm's Deep?" asked Carfalas, a very young Elf--who had been born after King Elessar had ordered the Separation.

"Oh, Carfalas, you are so young--and we never even talk about it any more," Argollo said grimly. "Helm's Deep is where the Dwarf settlement of the Glittering Caves at Aglarond is--and where lives King Legolas' lover, Lord Gimli, son of Gloin."

Carfalas' eyes grew big as tea-saucers. "I did not know King Legolas had a Dwarf lover! When did this happen?"

"During the War of the Ring. Legolas and Gimli were among the Fellowship of Nine. It is said they disliked each other at first, then something happened in Lothlorien; after that they were bonded for life. King Elessar--when he was still Aragorn, son of Arathorn--disapproved of the relationship. When he was in a position to do something about it, he issued the Order of Separation."

"But they were both loyal soldiers in his army, were they not? They helped put him on the throne of Gondor," Carfalas said, puzzled. "And I know of several relationships between male Elves--"

The guards went to the storehouse and began packing, and Argollo tried to explain the intricacies of the scandal and the Order of Separation to the younger Elf. This was complicated by the fact that in the past forty years, attitudes between Elves and Dwarves had modified somewhat; and the two races were no longer openly hostile, although they were far from cordial. Ironically, this change could be attributed somewhat to the plights of Legolas and Gimli. Why the King of Men was still so hostile to their relationship was a mystery to Argollo and all the Elves of Ithilien.

Legolas rode until Starlight began to tire, then he stopped for a rest near a creek. Both he and the horse drank water, and he rubbed the sweating animal down with a chamois.

"Oh, Starlight," he moaned to the horse. "What are we doing here? Galadriel is probably gone already. If only there was a way to get messages to people quickly. . . a bird might, but how does one train a bird?" Then he thought of someone, the wizard Radagast, from the same order as Gandalf and Saruman. He had been nicknamed the Bird-Man of Mirkwood for his affinity with the flying creatures. If Radagast was around, then perhaps he could suggest something; Legolas remembered him once saying he had a spell that would tame birds. Radagast had not been seen in centuries, however, and Legolas feared the worst. But he and Galadriel had been friends--in fact, Haldir had once said that Galadriel and Radagast had had an ill-advised affair many years ago. It certainly would not hurt to ask her if she knew where he might be found. He sighed, mounted Starlight once more, and rode on towards Lothlorien.

A few days later he arrived, sighing in relief to see that the Golden Wood, at least, appeared as it always had. He rode along until he reached the main road in. Predictably, a blond-tressed Guardian met him just inside the border, bow drawn. Legolas recognized the Guardian as Haldir.

Legolas dismounted and approached his old lover; he reached out a hand in greeting. Haldir put his bow down, smiled in delight, took Legolas' hand in both of his, then he spoke.

"King Legolas of Ithilien, what brings you to our woods? Are you enjoying your reign?" He had a devilish twinkle in his eye.

"That title is like a millstone around my neck," Legolas said. "And it is not funny, Hal. I have come to see the Lady, if she still lives here."

"At the moment, she is here," Haldir said. "But within a month she hopes to be on the way to Grey Havens and from thence to the West."

"And she is still here. . .why? I thought all the Ring-Bearers were supposed to have left years ago."

"Ah, then you were misinformed," Haldir said. "Sam Gamgee remained in the Shire to marry, raise a family and become Mayor."

"What did Frodo say about that?" Legolas was stunned.

"He was said to have said tearful goodbyes, but went on with Mithrandir and Lord Elrond. He had a book to write, and Sam promised to join him when he could. The Lady then decided it was not imperative she leave immediately either, and stayed on to see her great-grandchildren be born and raised, something that Elrond could not bear to do."

"Ah," Legolas said. "Will she see me, Hal?" .

"She always liked you, Legs," Haldir replied. "I can think of no reason why she would not wish to see you now. Come along," he added, mounting his own steed which had been tied to a tree in the forest; and they made their way through the forest.

"Are you in trouble, Legs?" Haldir asked nosily. "Why do you come to the Lady--and alone? That is not usual or proper for a Lord or a King, is it?"

"My business is my business, Hal," Legolas snapped. "This is not in the realm of your duties as marchwarden, is it? That is not even your due as an old lover."

"My, but you are touchy today," Haldir grumbled. "I am allowed free rein in carrying out my duties, and if I was a *real* bitch, I would even ask you what you and Gimli did to offend King Elessar so deeply that--"

"That is enough, Hal. As for the question, I do not know. We were all good friends during the War of the Ring. I know he found our relationship distasteful, but he never came right out and forbade it."

Haldir shrugged. "Maybe Gimli opened his smart Dwarf mouth one time too many."

"If he did, he never told me about it," Legolas replied. He was relieved that they were approaching Caras Galadhon. Soon they reached the city, and other Elf servants came to take Starlight to the stables. Shortly they were at the giant tree housing Galadriel's palace, and he started to ascend the stairs. But first Haldir grabbed his arm.

"What?" Legolas asked.

"Legolas--please help me! I cannot stay here after the Lady leaves. I cannot bear it. It will not be the same Lorien at all. Word has it that Celeborn's nephew Lothor will be taking over when they are gone, and he is not someone I could work for."

"Not another old romance, I hope," Legolas sighed.

"Just the opposite. He is like Elessar, or your father, in his attitudes. I will be out of favor."

"And what do you want from me?" Legolas asked.

"I implore you--even beg you--to let me come to Ithilien and work for you. I'll do anything you ask--be a Guardian as here, or even be a house servant if I have to."

"You know, Hal, that there can never be anything between us again as there was before," Legolas said gently.

"I know that," Haldir said, his ears turning red. "And I would not expect that. I am bound to someone, anyway. I am just asking for sanctuary from a hostile regime, so to speak."

"I'll have to think about it," Legolas said. "At least let me have my meeting with the Lady." He turned and smiled impishly. "This is a new experience, seeing you groveling instead of arrogant. And you, bound to someone? We must talk later."

Haldir gave him a dirty look, but simply bowed and went to alert the Queen that Legolas was visiting.

Galadriel was delighted to see Legolas, and she kissed him on both cheeks.

"Legolas, my child! I thought I would never see you again! How well you look!"

Legolas looked at the Queen and felt a pain. She used to be the most beautiful woman in Middle-Earth. Now she was showing signs of care. But he supposed that at many thousands of years old, he might not look so hot either.

"My Lady," he said. "You know you will see me again in the West. I do not know how long I will want to remain here in Middle-Earth anyway. Things are changing. All the people are so happy with the reign of King Elessar; but there are those whom he oppresses, even people who considered themselves his friends and supporters."

"And you feel utterly betrayed," Galadriel said. "I am so sorry, Legolas. I would not know why our Aragorn would have done such a thing. Every night he lies down with my granddaughter, you would think he would be so grateful for love that he would never want to deprive others of it."

Legolas hung his head and tears came to his eyes. "And it is *love*, my Lady. People may have thought us an odd couple, a very odd couple, but we came to a love so true. I suppose I can blame you for pushing Gimli and myself together," he said with a wistful smile.

"Is that what you have believed all these years, Legolas?" Galadriel sighed. "That I bewitched you and Gimli? Oh, no, that is not what happened at all. I could see that you two were arguing, bickering, and it was causing dissension in the Fellowship. I knew that deep inside you both was a strong need for a love, a companion, and I also knew that neither of you would ever mate to a woman. You were made for each other, like the Mirror said. All I did was sprinkle a little stardust at you, hoping you would stop fighting and become friends. A little too much stardust slipped out, and the friendship potion was transformed into an aphrodisiac! And you two ended up sleeping together in the Lothlorien woods, as did the four Halflings." She giggled.

Legolas was embarrassed. "Ai! At least that is a relief to know!"

"And Gimli needed a push, did he not?," the Queen replied with a musical laugh. "At any rate, it was not a magic, permanent spell such as the stories tell of the Sorceress of the Wood. When you and Gimli fell in love, you fell on your own volition. That you remain bonded says a lot about your loyalty. Does he feel the same way?"

"My Lady, I truly do not know. I have not seen him in over forty years. I am forbidden to approach Helm's Deep and he is forbidden from Ithilien. There is no way to send a message without sending it through another person, and they could always be captured. I am so distressed! If I could only communicate with him."

Galadriel took both of Legolas' hands. "My child, I wish I could help you. I cannot think of any spells I know that can send messages behind walls, miles away."

"I don't know about behind walls," Legolas said, "But I had thought that possibly a bird might carry messages back and forth. I was hoping perhaps you knew where I might find Radagast, as he used to have affinity with the birds."

Galadriel gave him a pained look. "When we speak of forbidden. . . " and she almost began crying. Then she regained her composure. "Radagast is gone," she said sadly. "He tangled with Saruman at Isengard and was killed during the War of the Ring."

"Ai! I am sorry! We were in Isengard during the War!" Legolas moaned. "If I had known he was in trouble, we could have helped. . .but we had not seen him in centuries!"

"Radagast traveled to the Far East many years ago and remained there until right before the War of the Ring. He should have stayed in the East," Galadriel said sadly. "But when he lived in Middle-earth, he was very fond of the Mirkwood Elves. It is too bad you were unable to help him. But. . .one of his Elvish friends brought a package of things after his death. He said that Radagast wanted me to have them if ever something happened to him. Let me see--" She got up and went to a trunk set in the Y of the giant tree. "This is what you want, Legolas." She held up a bag held together by a drawstring. "This is Radagast's bag of tricks, as he liked to call it. His spells, his potion ingredients, and his instructions, written in Elvish."

Legolas took the bag and began sorting through the items. There were a number of spells and charms that were written for the taming and training of birds. He smiled.

"Thank you, my Lady! If such a spell is possible to perform, it should be with Radagast's materials. How can I ever thank you?"

"Oh, Legolas, there is no need to thank me! If you can keep your love true despite all odds, that will be the most gratifying to me--and it would have been for Radagast, as well." They embraced, and at that moment Celeborn walked in.

"Galadriel, we have company?" he chided her.

"It's Legolas, dear," she replied. "We have not seen him in years!"

Celeborn gave Legolas a brief hug, noting that the younger Elf was showing signs of wear--small lines around the eyes and mouth which never used to be visible on the perfect face. "What brings you this way, Legolas?" he asked.

Galadriel and Legolas shared a look, and she nodded.

"I needed to see the Lady about some old spells she had inherited," Legolas said as cautiously as he could. "She had them. I'm hoping they will revolutionize communication between villages."

"Communication? How?" Celeborn said.

"I was hoping with birds," Legolas said.

Somehow they managed to discuss the subject for nearly an hour without Radagast's name being mentioned, and Galadriel breathed a sigh of relief. Legolas had dinner with them that night, and they talked much of the War of the Ring; and the subject stayed off anything controversial. Even Gimli was only mentioned in connection with the Fellowship, as Legolas remembered that Celeborn disliked Dwarves. Legolas enjoyed his first dinner away from Ithilien in years. Galadriel set aside a flet for him, and he smiled at this. At some point Haldir came to his tree, and they had their discussion. Haldir could not resist greeting Legolas with a kiss, and Legolas stopped it there.

"I am bound to Gimli, Hal," he reminded him.

"And I am bound to Karmiel," Haldir said. "But what we once had was special. You are still incomparably beautiful, Legs," he said wistfully.

"As are you, Hal," Legolas conceded. "This Karmiel should know what a lucky Elf he is. I hope he makes you happy. Gimli did me, before we were parted so cruelly," he added dramatically.

"I am truly sorry about that, Legs," Haldir said. "You deserve happiness, not misery. How long is this separation to last? Might you never see Gimli again?"

"I do not want to think about that," Legolas moaned. "But we may well have to wait for Elessar to die. Alas, whether Men or Dwarves live longer these days is debatable. At any rate, I promised to be faithful and I shall."

"You are a better man--well, Elf--than I," Haldir sighed. "So what do we do? Must I stay here and take abuse from Lothor?"

"Surely he would not do anything to harm his prized Guardians," Legolas said. "And for sure he would not expect sexual favors like Celeborn!"

"I have heard rumors that in his youth he spent a lot of time in Mirkwood at the knee of King Thranduil," Haldir replied, trying not to grin. "Rumil, Karmiel and I might end up being made into Orcs."

"I think the Orc-making business is done for good," Legolas smiled. "But my father--or my brother, the new King Lindorin--might have given him all sorts of vile ideas. Exile into the desert lands of the far South, perhaps."

Haldir sighed. "Playing games with you was once fun when it involved the bow, horseback riding and various sexual practices not discussed in polite company; but when it comes to my future, I have absolutely no sense of humor."

"All right, Hal," said Legolas. "You can come to Ithilien when Galadriel leaves. You can bring Karmiel if you wish; we have plenty of room and can always use more guards. Would you like something more challenging to do this time? Are you tired of being a warrior? Would you like to also use your brain?"

"What kind of brain-work would you have for an Elf like me?" Haldir was stunned.

"I need a bodyguard and a secretary. The right person could combine the two jobs. What languages are you literate in?"

"Elvish and Common Tongue, as always," Haldir replied. "Are others required?"

"Not at present," Legolas assured him. "That is a good start, Hal. With experience, you could work your way up to the top!"

"You are joking, right?" Haldir asked, eyebrows raised.

"One never knows," said Legolas. "Well, Hal? You said I owed you a favor after what I subjected you to the night before the Fellowship left Lorien. Are we even?"

"When I see what the job is like first-hand," Haldir said with a mischievous twinkle in his quicksilver eyes. His acute Elvish hearing noted a sound outside, and he hurried down the rope ladder. The sound of horse-hooves also attracted Legolas' attention, and he followed him down. In the courtyard were Argollo and Carfalas, in the "custody" of Karmiel and Rumil, who had escorted them from the Lorien border.

"You are slow as a snail's pace," Legolas scolded them. "I have concluded my business with the Lady, have broken bread with the household, and was preparing to retire for the night."

"But Your Highness, we did have to pack and all--and our horses are not as speedy as Starlight--"

Legolas turned to Haldir. "Do you have another talan where these two could be put up for the night? They are my so-called bodyguards," he added with a chuckle.

"It sounds like you definitely need some assistance in this area," Haldir smirked.

Legolas laughed and nodded.

When Legolas returned from Lothlorien, he spent endless hours going through Radagast's bag of tricks. He studied the wizard's writings concerning training birds and spells to facilitate their training. And eventually he took the bag of tricks into the forest and began chanting the incantations found therein. On the third day he attempted this, he had success. When Argollo ventured into the woods to check on his King, he marveled to see Legolas with an owl perched on each shoulder. One was a snowy owl, the other a great horned. They were magnificent animals, each as beautiful and elegant as the Elf they served--and served him they did. Within a week, Legolas had taught the birds to carry items away and return them to him; these items included arrows and pieces of parchment paper. He made sure to feed the owls each time, to insure their cooperation-- catching rabbits and squirrels for their eating enjoyment, and the owls grew bolder, flying messages on parchment from the woods to the royal lodgings, where Carfalas was waiting. The guard would write a brief reply and send the birds back to Legolas. The King of the Ithilien Elves marveled at how easy this had been, with the help of Radagast's knowledge. He wondered why the wizard had not attempted anything like this in his lifetime, for it could revolutionize communication among the Elves and any other cultures they cared to correspond with. Soon it was time to test its intended purpose. Hands trembling, Legolas sat at a table and wrote a letter on parchment paper:

"Dear Gimli, I sincerely hope you receive this letter. I finally decided it was unbearable not to be able to contact you, so I went to the Lady Galadriel to see if she could help in any way. She gave me a bag full of spells that had belonged to the wizard Radagast. (He died in Isengard during the war. What a shame it was that we were unable to save him.) I do not know if you ever knew Radagast, but he specialized in contact with animals, especially birds. Only a few days' practice had owls coming and using my shoulders as branches! Within a month I had them carrying messages. What has shown to work so far is to touch the owl on the head and think strongly of the person to whom you are sending the letter. So far we have been able to send mail from one end of Ithilien to the other, but it was sending to you that I wanted to do most of all. The day does not go by that I do not think of you, beloved, and miss you with all of my heart. If you still have feelings for me and would like to communicate, please send a return letter by owl post. Please feed the owl, if you do not mind. I have not taught them to do this task without a food reward yet, and this is the first long trip. Love always, Legolas.

P.S. I have an odd bit of news. The Lady Galadriel said she never cast a love spell on you and me in Lothlorien, just something to make us stop fighting and become friends. Guess it worked, did it not?"

He folded the pieces of parchment together, sealed them with sealing wax bearing the crest of Mirkwood (having never bothered to develop one for Elvish Ithilien). He addressed it to Lord Gimli, Son of Gloin, Glittering Caves, Aglarond, Helms Deep, and tied the letter to the snowy owl's leg with a bit of twine. Then he put his hand on the bird's head and thought deeply of Gimli, which was easy enough for him to do. And the bird flew away. Legolas was encouraged by the direction the owl was flying--as the crow flies, so to speak, she was on a straight path to Helm's Deep. Legolas clasped his hands together and sighed. "May your aim be true, Friend Owl!" he said aloud.

Argollo, who had stood beside him to witness the historic event, remarked, "You wrote the letter in the Common Tongue, Majesty. If anybody intercepts it, they can read what you said. Might it not have been better to write in Elvish?"

"No," Legolas chuckled. "Gimli cannot read Elvish. I do not even know how much Common Tongue he reads, but have seen him read notices and signs."

That night Legolas barely slept for thinking of the letter and Gimli. Would he receive it? Would he reply? He tossed and turned and allowed himself to be tormented by memories of himself and Gimli in Lothlorien all those years ago--under the influence of the Lady's aphrodisiac. He sighed again and tried to sleep.

It was around dusk the next night that the snowy owl returned. Legolas was sitting in the forest in the place where the birds' training had begun; he heard a soft hoot overhead and nearly jumped for joy, for as she landed on his shoulder, he saw a letter tied to her leg! Hands trembling, he removed the letter and indeed saw it addressed, in a barely legible scrawl, to Legolas Greenleaf, King of the Ithilien Elves. It was short but complete, and had been delivered efficiently. Legolas was pleased to see a proliferation of squirrels in the immediate area, and he gestured to them as he said to the owl, "Well done, my faithful servant. The squirrels are yours!" The owl flew off and caught a squirrel as if he understood every word the Elf-lord had said. Legolas tore the letter open and read:

"My most precious Legolas, What a joy to hear from you! And what a great and wonderful surprise to learn you have tamed the owls and taught them to do your bidding! We did not have contact with Radagast under Lonely Mountain, but he must have been a powerful wizard indeed. I have given up counting days out of despair that they will never pass quickly enough. My only hope is that someday the Great King in Gondor will change his mind and allow us to be together, for what possible slight did either of us ever commit against him, our great friend? Alas! But Glittering Caves is now a thriving city of Dwarves, and for that I suppose I should be proud. My workmen have even rebuilt the gates at Minas Tirith, and it has all kept me busy. I hope your Ithilien is as successful. It grieves me that none of our efforts have swayed His Majesty's heart. I am glad to learn that the Lady Galadriel did not actually bewitch us in Lothlorien! As I always suspected, you were the one doing the bewitching, my golden Elf-king. I think of that night often, as well as our sojourns here and in Fangorn, and remember those times as the best times of my life. At least we can communicate again, Legolas, unless Elessar puts an end to owls! Till we meet again--Love, Gimli"

And so they did communicate regularly by owl, about three times a week each. Legolas learned everything that was going on in Helms Deep, and Gimli heard all the news of Ithilien. And occasionally one or the other would receive second-hand news from Gondor. King Elessar and the Queen Arwen had three children, a son--Eldarion, the heir--and two daughters. The family remained healthy and strong, there were no wars or even skirmishes in the country, but still the King remained firm in his separation order. And Legolas and Gimli grieved, grumbled and even cursed to each other in their regular letters. Eventually they both got the idea that perhaps it would be a good idea for owl post to spread, so they trained other Elves and Dwarves to use Radagast's spells. Eventually the folk in Lonely Mountain caught onto the practice, as did those in Mirkwood, Lothlorien and Rivendell. Elrohir and Elladan even decided to try and owl Elrond in the West, and he took to it immediately, being pleasantly surprised that Legolas had been the one to develop the means of communication.

Meanwhile, barely a month after Legolas had visited Lothlorien, Haldir and Karmiel showed up at the gates of Elvish Ithilien, asking to see the King. Guards recognized them as Lorien Elves and snickered behind their backs-- having heard about the "Killer Queens" from Faramir's people in the past-- and sought out Legolas to tell him of their arrival. The King was out in the woods playing post office with his owls, and Haldir's eyes went wide with amazement when he discovered what he was doing.

"Is this what became of Radagast's bird spells?" he asked.

"Yes!" Legolas said after he had hugged his friend in greeting. "It amazes me that he never tried to use them himself."

"So you can contact Gimli now?"

"Yes! And eventually we can contact people all over Middle-earth and even the lands of the West. Poor Radagast. This invention could have made him rich."

"He had to leave Middle-earth in a hurry, is what I heard," Haldir said. "And if he had been smart, he would have stayed away."

"So the Lady told you?"

"Yes, I was nosy and asked--when I was helping her load her things onto the barge."


"Very big, very flat boat. She apparently decided to take all her worldly possessions West, and this was the only way to get them down the Anduin. Took a couple of older Guardians and some of her servants, too, including Karmiel's mother. He was not too happy about that."

Legolas just shook his head.

As time went by, Legolas and Gimli learned via owl what was happening in the other settlements of their people. At sixty years into the Separation, Gimli learned of the deaths of his father Gloin and mother Nadya; while he was sad, he had to accept that they were not built to live much past two hundred and fifty years old. He shuddered to remember that he was one hundred eighty-five himself and not immortal like an Elf. Would they be able to reunite before he was too old and feeble to enjoy it? But he chuckled to learn from the Dwarves of Lonely Mountain that they were now trading with Elves, even those in Mirkwood, without hostility.

Legolas learned a shocking bit of news--that Celeborn had not followed Galadriel to the West after all, but had remained in Lorien, much to the dismay of his nephew. He teased Haldir about his bad guess and asked him if he wanted to go home; but Haldir, equally shocked, assured him that Ithilien was his home now. He no longer had the patience to endure Celeborn, and was quite happy with his duties in Ithilien. Legolas had put him in charge of his appointment schedules and even organizing and conducting meetings in his absence, and was told Haldir did an excellent job. About this time, Haldir and Karmiel finally became sealed--the Elvish same-sex marriage. Legolas stood up with his old friend in the ceremony, despite the fact that one was the King and the other his employee, and that they had once been lovers themselves. Both of them found the occasion to be bittersweet, but Karmiel was ecstatic and blushed like any *bride* would.

Legolas and Gimli corresponded back and forth on the topic that they hoped there would be time for them before the Dwarf withered and died. Gimli did not tell Legolas that his hair and beard had already turned snow-white and he was said to be the spitting image of Gloin. Would Legolas be turned off by that? This gave him insomnia frequently.

In the hundredth year of the Separation, owl post had found its way to Gondor, Rohan and other strongholds of the Men. And one day Legolas received a very strange letter from Arwen. It read,

"Dear Legolas, I thought you should know, King Elessar is very ill. None of the doctors can put a name on the illness, and it comes and goes. But his strength is slowly failing, as is his eyesight, and the doctors say it is unlikely he will last out the year. If you had put off making any preparations for the day you become free, I suggest you start making them. I am sending the same message to Gimli, so that if even something happens to one message, then the other can pass it on. Sincerely yours, Arwen"

Legolas' hand trembled as he held the letter. Months now. . . maybe weeks. . . and they would be free from Aragorn's betrayal. There *was* something he had wanted to do, and now he was running out of time! He summoned the Elves of Ithilien together and told them what he was planning. While the people adored their King, they knew well that he had been living essentially as a prisoner for a century. If he was free to live his own life again, they could not, in good conscience, try and stop him; and if he needed help in his venture, they would help him. Starting the next day, they followed Legolas to the nearby River Anduin and helped him with his project.

And in Helm's Deep, Lord Gimli of the Glittering Caves received a cryptic owl post from his best friend and lover, and he puzzled it over in his mind. "Has Legolas finally gone 'round the bend? Yes, I got the same letter from Arwen and thanked her very much for the update, but I do not see that this is going to happen in the immediate future. Why did he ask me if I got seasick? I was in a boat on the Anduin during the run of the Fellowship, and I never got sick then. And Legolas was with me then, and we were both still enjoying the afterglow of Lothlorien. . ."

A couple of months later, a grey ship was built--or at least that is what Legolas called it. The blueprint had also been included in the papers of Radagast. He had written that it would be light but strong and was well nigh unsinkable. But it was a relatively small "ship", and there was really only room for two to live comfortably aboard.

And soon, as if on cue, Legolas received another letter from Arwen:

"At last it has happened. Elessar is gone. He passed from this Earth in the wee hours of the morning. His two little Hobbit companions followed him shortly, as they were of greatly advanced age for their kind. If you write Gandalf or Frodo, you must let them know." (Legolas felt badly, for he had been in contact recently with both of them, and they were pleading for him to bring Merry and Pippin when he came West). "And Legolas, I must tell you this, although it breaks my very heart to do so and although I know you will be shocked to the core of your being. But last night I went to the bed of Elessar to turn over his pillow, bring him water and make him comfortable. And he rose up on one elbow and touched my hair, pulled me closer and kissed my ear like he used to do in the old days. And he said to me, 'My most precious heart, you have come to me at last. But alas, alas, it is too late for us now, my Legolas!'"

Legolas dropped the parchment on the ground. Aragorn had loved *him*? Had he been pining for him all those years, torturing him and Gimli out of mistaken hope that Legolas would come to him in his loneliness? "Ai!" Legolas moaned. He went on reading Arwen's letter:

"And I said to him, 'it is I, Arwen, Elessar--your wife of many, many years. What mean you this foolishness about Legolas?' And Elessar murmured back, 'I am not myself, my wife,' and he turned over in bed with his back to me. He never spoke again. So, my longtime friend, read into that what you will. What I see is a marriage that was a sham, that every time he caressed an Elven-ear, he was pretending it was yours, and that the Separation was a way of punishing you for tempting him. Did he dream it, Legolas? Or did you once have a 'special friendship' with Aragorn, too? You do not have to answer that. It is not your fault, I do not blame you. And even if you were at fault, you have certainly suffered long enough. Anyway, you are free, Legolas. You and Gimli can go to the Havens or wherever you wish to go. I know my grandmother will smooth the way for you if the Eldar give you trouble. I suggest you two do leave Middle-earth, though, before Eldarion decides it would be a good idea to retain all his father's policies. I shall not be coming West. I did give up immortality to marry that royal horse's arse, so I will be going to Lothlorien to live out my final days in the place I loved most in all of Middle-Earth. I am very old and tired now. Good-bye my friend, may the rest of your path be happy. Yours, Arwen Undomiel"

When Legolas stopped crying, he wrote Arwen a note of condolence and assured her he had never done anything to alienate Aragorn's affections from her. He sent another owl to Gimli, giving him the news and advising him to pack his bags, that he would be coming for him within 24 hours. And he called Haldir to him. . .

The next day, two milk-white horses with Elven riders left Ithilien and proceeded to Helm's Deep, to the Caves of Aglarond. Haldir went to the Caves' entrance and pulled the bell-rope there. Several Dwarf guards appeared almost immediately.

"What business do Elves have here?" one of the guards asked brusquely.

"Lord Gimli should be expecting King Legolas," Haldir said with his most arrogant, withering look.

The guards looked at each other in shock. "Is this true?"

"King Elessar of Gondor is dead," Haldir said. "Our respective monarchs are free to travel as they wish. And it was our understanding they intended to travel together."

The first guard put up a hand and ran back inside the cave.

Legolas went cold all over as he waited. Had something happened to Gimli? Had the owl not made it to him? Had Gimli changed his mind? Then he breathed a sigh of relief. Gimli appeared, a couple of servants behind him bearing his things.

Haldir snorted. "Now I understand the two horses." He helped the Dwarves load Gimli's baggage onto his steed's back.

Legolas slid off his mount and tried to maintain dignity as he approached Gimli. The Dwarf had changed much in the century since they had been apart. His hair and flowing beard were as white as the horses of Ithilien. If anything, his size had shriveled a little bit. But the most ethereal smile was on his face--that made the Dwarf lord look almost handsome. Legolas beamed back at him, then knelt to take his friend in his arms.

"Legs, you look even more beautiful than you did the first time we met," Gimli sighed. And at that moment, not caring that their servants were standing around, already looking embarrassed, Legolas and Gimli clasped each other tightly and kissed like newlyweds. The Dwarves gave them a round of applause that stunned but pleased them totally. And Legolas helped Gimli aboard their steed; he slid in behind him for a change. Gimli dismissed his servants with a smile and said his goodbyes. Haldir never cracked a smile, but he climbed on the other horse in front of the baggage, and gave it a slap to begin. And they rode away back to Ithilien. When they reached the docks on the Anduin, Gimli gasped,

"Is that the ship, Legolas?" he asked. "That is fine!"

"A tad nicer than the rowboats we had during the Fellowship, eh?" Legolas replied proudly.

"But you should have as warm memories of the trip out of Lothlorien as I do," Gimli chuckled.

"Ah," Legolas agreed. "That is when our love was new. But this, Gimli, this shall be our grandest adventure yet--to actually sail on the sea! I have yearned for this for years!"

Gimli raised an eyebrow but said nothing.

They dismounted, loaded Gimli's things onto the boat (Legolas' were already there) and prepared to leave. There were maybe a hundred Elves down to see them off, so Legolas gave a brief speech thanking them for all their caring and cooperation in the building of the boat. Then he dropped a bombshell. He left Haldir in charge of Ithilien! Haldir not being of royal blood, he was unable to make him King, Legolas explained; but he had the authority to make him Lord of Ithilien. Haldir was stunned, but utterly delighted. Finally he was to be entrusted with something important! Now he understood why Legolas had been increasing the complexity of his duties every year--and it meant that Legolas thought of him as an equal.

"Are we square now?" Legolas asked.

"I think so," Haldir replied with a smile.

Tears were in Haldir's eyes as Legolas placed his mithril crown on the older Elf's head, and Haldir's partner Karmiel actually sobbed out loud out of joy. Gimli noted with amusement that Karmiel was almost a dead ringer for Legolas, but again said nary a word. They all said their goodbyes, and Haldir even had something nice to say to Gimli, whether it was sincere or not we will never know. Legolas reminded Haldir to send him an owl in a couple of weeks to make sure the post worked. And Legolas and Gimli boarded their vessel, made themselves comfortable, and sailed down the Anduin to the sea and out of Middle-earth forever.



The trip took a lot longer than Gimli would have liked, as he did finally feel a little seasick once they were out on the open sea.

"Legs, do you really know where we are going?" he asked irritably. "I have never heard of Elves sailing directly to the Undying Lands of the West, they always go through the Grey Havens, with a group."

"I did not want to go with a group," Legolas replied. "You and a group of cranky old retired Elves might come to some disagreement or other that I would have to mediate, and you know how I would hate to do that."

"And are we sure I am welcome there? Does it not have to be approved for outsiders to enter the Undying Lands?"

"Galadriel has cleared it with the authorities, as she promised Arwen. They said that since we considered ourselves bound in the Elvish way, then you were welcome."

At first Gimli balked at the expression 'bound in the Elvish way', but figured that had to be accepted. He still had complaints, though. "Legs, this is not a comfortable trip. I am anxious to *be* with you, and it is not like we are able to love ourselves senseless here," Gimli grumbled. "It is cold and wet and the ocean is as bumpy as it can be! And my stomach feels like it has been kicked around in battle."

"Grumpy old Dwarf," Legolas sighed. "It will not take us forever. When we get to the West, there will be luxurious lodgings for us to live in. Think, a bed with sheets and pillows! Have we ever made love in a bed?"

Gimli scratched his head. "Come to think of it, no! It was always in the out-of-doors, in the moss at Lorien--although in Fangorn and the Caves we did have a blanket--or in those hot springs. . .I cannot imagine how comfortable it will be to hold you in my arms in a real bed with sheets and pillows!"

"So think about it," Legolas suggested. He snuggled up as close to Gimli as he could and still be able to pilot the boat, and the Dwarf compromised as well, giving up his uncomfortable seat for one even more so, just to be closer to Legolas. They kissed tenderly, and Gimli nibbled Legolas' pointed Elven-ear.

And Legolas sighed, "I think I missed that the most, beloved."

A few hours later they were still no closer to the Undying Lands, and even Legolas was showing signs of impatience--and seasickness--which Gimli noticed with a smile.

"Have you seen about all you can stomach of your precious sea, Grumpy Old Elf?" he chuckled.

"Alas!" Legolas replied. "I am now beginning to think it will look much better from a beach somewhere. Somewhere with trees and grass and all sorts of living things!"

Eventually they saw land in the distance, and it grew closer and closer. The land was a brilliant deep-green, except for the mountains which were blue, and the beaches which were white. Exotic trees and flowers flourished, but unlike any they had ever seen in Middle-Earth. And they soon saw a small settlement of cottages and some tree-dwellings such as there had been in Lothlorien.

Gimli's eyes grew wide. "I thought this was a retirement community for Elves. There are all kinds of dwellings here!"

"You could call it that," Legolas chuckled. "But more and more Elves are bringing companions with them--a Wizard, Hobbits, and now a Dwarf. Those folk would not be happy living in trees."

"Well, I see no caves, as there are no Hobbit-holes, but I suppose I can be happy in a cottage with you," Gimli decided.

"That's quite good," Legolas laughed. "Because that is what I arranged-- or rather Elrond and Galadriel arranged for us."

"Ah, you did say Galadriel is here?" Gimli's face lit up. "And did you just say she is with Elrond?"

"Yes, they have been together for a number of years now. Gandalf owled me with the news, as he thought I better know-- but it was a big secret, as Galadriel did not want Arwen to know! Arwen's mother has been dead for many years, but it would still shock Middle-earth, and Galadriel could not do that to her granddaughter the Queen! She and Celeborn separated, somewhat bitterly, and he stayed in Lorien. But Galadriel and Elrond, ancient Elves that they are, have found love again, late in life. See, Gimli, if you were an Elf, you could look forward to thousands and thousands of years of beauty, love and passion."

Gimli touched Legolas on the arm. "But what does an Elf look forward to when his mortal lover leaves this Earth?"

"We have a long time before we have to worry about that, melme," Legolas said, but the forest-green eyes grew misty.

Soon a harbour was visible, and Legolas sailed their little ship into it. After they were processed by the authorities, some Elf-servants met them and took their bundles to a cottage maybe a quarter of a mile away from the harbour, but close to a beach. Gimli marveled at the sand and the surf, as he had never seen these things except for their glimpse of the sea in Gondor. The cottage had a little terrace behind it which faced the ocean. Legolas helped the servants put their things away; the servants showed him where food was, and the Elf took his Dwarf dinner on the terrace. For once Gimli did not make any disparaging remarks about Elf- food, he was too overcome with joy to be living here with Legolas at last.

"I want to show you something," Legolas told him as they walked back inside after dinner. "This place has a place to bathe inside," he pointed out. "And there is an outhouse outside. This place was built by modern- thinking Elves from plans designed by Men. They have interesting customs!"

After they finished exploring, they bathed and got all the salt out of their hair and Gimli's beard. Then they went to bed and did what they had been missing for a century. We shall allow them some privacy this time, as Gimli was now over two hundred years old and more self-conscious about his body than ever. Of course that made no difference whatsoever to Legolas, whose eyes were as adoring as always. And when they were through making love, they did it again and even again, even though Gimli was no longer even reasonably young and they were certainly not in Lothlorien, although Gimli did point out that Galadriel was nearby and could certainly have put something in their food--and probably had, just for fun.

After the third time, Gimli lay back against the pillow, weak as a lamb and totally sated. He looked at Legolas lying beside him and smiled. After a hundred years, the flaxen-haired Elf was still the most delectable creature he had ever seen, much less had. He smiled even wider. Legolas propped up on his right elbow, took Gimli's hand with his left hand, and smiled an equally satisfied grin back at him.

"It is still good, Gimli," he sighed. "We never missed a step."

"We perfected it before we were torn apart," he said. "But it was sorely tested over a hundred years."

"Gimli, do you remember the first time--" Legolas began.

"In Lothlorien?" Gimli said. "Of course!"

"You did not let me finish," the Elf chided him. "I meant, the first time we ever laid eyes on each other."

"Council of Elrond?"

"Yes. I rode up on my horse and came out on the patio to join the others. Something made me turn around and I saw you and your father, sitting there next to Elrond. Gloin was dozing, but you were looking right at me, and your eyes were bright. I thought, 'oh, look at little Gloin, junior--he's so cute.'"

"Cute?" Gimli snorted. "Well, Friend Elf, you better believe I was looking at you. 'Achiwawa'! I muttered, and Elrond gave me a funny look. So I asked him, 'Who is that???' And he looked amused and said, 'That is Legolas of Mirkwood, son of Thranduil', and I felt a cold chill-- because my father stirred and said 'Thranduil? Is that lying son of a Balrog here?' And I patted him on the shoulder and said 'no, father, just his son.' And he looked up and didn't see you right away. I pointed to where you had sat down next to Elrohir and he just snorted."

Legolas laughed. "Can you imagine the explosion if your father had ever realized that you and I were lovers?"

"Ai!" Gimli said. "The big Dwarf-Elf war of the century might have started."

"More likely he would have killed us both."

Gimli nodded. "Gloin would have roasted me over a slow fire. Didn't I say that once, years ago?"

"I think so. But I have a confession to make, Gimli," Legolas said almost shyly.

"What is that?" his partner asked.

"I told Thranduil about you and me. In Mirkwood before he left for the Havens."

"You what??" Gimli was horrified. "Is that why Aragorn separated us?"

"No, by then Thranduil had given up his power, and I do not think he would have gone that far anyway. He was angry, but he was ready to head West and was happy to wash his hands of me. That decision had already been made by Aragorn and Lindorin in my absence. Betrayed by my own brother--and by our friend of the Fellowship."

"Why *did* Aragorn want us separated?" Gimli was apprehensive.

"According to Arwen, it was because he had coveted me himself--but due to his inhibitions never did anything about it."

"Dog in the manger!" Gimli cried. "I'd take my axe to him if he were here!"

"The only reason we are here now is because he is gone, Gimli," Legolas reminded him. "Let us think no more of him and his betrayal. At least as it turned out that over the century we were apart, the Elves and Dwarves mended their fences on their own--and neither race was hostile when we reunited. Your people even cheered. I could not believe that!"

"Your people might have cheered, but they were so stunned that you handed your crown over to the queen bitch," Gimli snickered.

"Yes, I suppose that was a shock," Legolas said with a smile. "I hope Haldir can handle the job he was given."

"I think part of Haldir's problem was just that--that before he came to work for you, he had never been given anything important to occupy his time, so he spent all his time roaming the woods and pining for you and the love that could no longer be," Gimli replied.

"You're probably right," Legolas said. "At any rate, Haldir passed all the secret tests I set for him, including accompanying me to Glittering Caves to retrieve you without complaint. And he has his own companion now as well, so he hopefully will not be lonely for me. End of story. Now, Gimli, what did you think when I joined the Fellowship?"

"Have you forgotten already? As soon as you offered your bow, I offered my axe!" Gimli laughed hard.

"You did," Legolas remembered. "So you were interested, even then. Why did you act so shy when I proposed we take the plunge in Lothlorien?"

"Panic set in. It is one thing to lust from afar, quite another to have to act on it."

"Then what I suspected was true. That if I had waited for you to make the first move, we would still be waiting!"

Gimli looked embarrassed.

They lay in bed together snuggled up and talking for most of the night, and it was almost dawn before they finally dozed off to sleep.

They had missed most of the sun during their long nap, as it was sunset when their heads peeked out from under the sheets again. And there was a rather impatient owl hooting at them from the back of the chair in the dining room. Legolas jumped up and ran to the owl, patting its head and taking a parchment addressed to simply "Legolas and Gimli". He hunted around for owl-food and could find none, but soon the bird flew outside and caught itself a rabbit. Legolas felt less guilty at that. He opened the letter and saw that it was from Galadriel, an invitation to dinner that evening. Remembering how late the Queen had served dinners in Lothlorien, he figured they were not too late already. He tried to help Gimli get dressed, as he was moving rather slowly (the damp air affected his joints, he said). He made the Dwarf put away all his armor, as such would not be needed here.

"And did you not bring your bow and arrows, Friend Elf?" Gimli asked.

"Umm--yes," Legolas said. "But they are stashed in the back of the storage area behind all my clothes. I surely hope you brought some royal clothes, if we are going to be dining with the former Lord of Rivendell and Queen of Lothlorien from time to time," he added.

"I did," Gimli replied. "Now, do you know where we are going?"

"The servants will direct us, I am sure," Legolas said, and he was correct.

They both looked rather royal when they arrived at Galadriel's home, Legolas in his trademark green and Gimli in his preferred gray. Galadriel herself met them at the door and smiled.

"I am so glad to see the both of you, that you arrived safely with no more delays. Are you both well?"

They both nodded. Gimli was still somewhat in awe of Galadriel, and marveled that she was still the beautiful young woman as she had appeared before. Then he looked at Legolas and realized that his lover could no longer pass for a youth of twenty Man-years, that perhaps he looked almost forty or so--and actually older than the ex-Queen. Of course, he was still surpassingly beautiful, and Gimli still had to pinch himself to believe that his golden Elf-king really did belong to him. Legolas, on the other hand, was pleasantly surprised to see that Galadriel's youthful appearance had been restored. He supposed that she was just under great stress from her marital misery with Celeborn when he last saw her, and her new romance with Elrond had renewed her.

Galadriel led them into the living-room and they saw Elrond, Gandalf, Frodo, and Sam all waiting for them! The Hobbits had aged a great deal, and Frodo looked much like Bilbo had the last time they had seen him. Servants came and brought them all wine in regal-looking glasses. Legolas saw the crest of Lothlorien on the glasses.

"So, we are all that remain of the Fellowship of the Ring," Gandalf sighed.

"I think we are doing pretty well to be this many," Frodo said, and they all agreed, knowing how ill the Hobbit had been until he came to the Elves' paradise and had access to their medicines.

"It was a blow to lose Merry and Pippin too when Aragorn died," Sam said sadly. "I really wanted to see them again," and the others all agreed once more.

"Is it true what we heard, Legolas?" Frodo asked. "That Aragorn went mad before he died?"

Legolas was surprised. "Where did you hear that?"

"Other friends in Gondor. You created a monster, Legolas, coming up with that owl post. Now people send owls all the time, sometimes just for gossip."

Legolas sighed. "People will be people. And I take it there are Hobbit- people and Elf-people doing those foolish things, just like Men. But to answer your question, I got an owl from Arwen right after Aragorn passed, and she told me about his madness herself." He did not upset them by telling them that Aragorn had been mad for at least a hundred years before he died. . .

Elrond sighed. "Poor Arwen. I never thought she would be happy with that Man."

"Oh Elrond, you exaggerate," Galadriel chided him. "Arwen and Aragorn were happy for many years."

"While we were quite miserable," Gimli could not resist putting in. "He kept Legolas and me apart for a hundred years!"

"I hate to be the devil's advocate," Gandalf said, "but look what you and Legolas accomplished during that century. Aglarond is a thriving Dwarven city; the Elvish Ithilien is equal if not superior to its human side in beauty and culture. And the owl post has revolutionized communication in Middle-earth--and beyond. In the past when Elves migrated to the West it was like they were sailing off to Valhalla! Now, like you say, they can gossip with friends as always."

Gimli made a little grumbling sound in his throat, and Legolas put a hand on his arm. He changed the subject before Gimli started an argument.

"So these owls that live here--what do you feed them? I do not see so many small animals around like those that lived in Mirkwood and Ithilien. There was one rabbit today that the owl that brought your invitation caught, but that was all."

"No squirrels," Elrond said. "But I think our servants catch fish out of the sea for them, is that not right, Gandalf?"

"And how do you catch the fish?" Legolas asked.

"Why with a pole, and bait just as we do in fresh water," the wizard chuckled. "I forget you grew up in the lap of luxury as a pampered Elf prince! I know Frodo and Sam know how to fish."

"Oh, of course!" they both said aloud and laughed. "We'll show you, Legolas, when it is daylight again."

And the old friends spent a fond evening eating Galadriel's regal Elf-food and drinking her wine; and they reminisced about life in Middle-earth before the Dark Times (the Elves had many more memories there) and then went back over the Fellowship Quest. For the most part, Galadriel just sat and watched, feeling a warm glow all over. She felt so lucky to have found Elrond as a partner late in life, and hoped perhaps people would not gossip over the fact that he was once married to Galadriel and Celeborn's daughter. But she really did not care about that. She was sorry Celeborn had grown into someone she could no longer tolerate, but she did not miss him at all. She could see Legolas and Gimli were aging fairly rapidly and wondered how long they had. And Frodo and Sam? She never quite figured out what their relationship was. It could well be that Sam had simply promised never to let Frodo out of his sight, and this would remain until the two Hobbits died! She never saw the constant touching between them the way she did Legolas and Gimli. And Gandalf? The wizard was a mystery wrapped up in an enigma. Had he ever loved? She knew that there was a rule in his Order against romantic involvements. Surely Saruman had never had a mate. Radagast, however, had been more than willing to break such a rule. . . she still felt a pain when she thought about him--and his untimely death. Wizards should theoretically be able to live as long as Elves. But they could be killed, as Radagast and later Saruman had been, so she could not hazard a guess as to how long Gandalf would be around.

It was probably three in the morning before the party broke up and Legolas and Gimli returned to the cottage. Gimli was so sleepy that Legolas had to carry him the last hundred yards or so. Servants came running to meet them and offered to take him, but Legolas shook his head, whispering,

"If he woke up and one of you was carrying him, he would start fighting and squirming. Let me do it. If you want to help, just prepare our bed for sleep again."

The servants nodded and ran off. Legolas gave a bittersweet smile. Those Elves have probably never seen a couple like Gimli and me before. They probably have never even seen a being like Gimli at all!

The next day the two went down to the beach with Frodo and Sam and learned how to fish from the ocean. Gimli really took to it, but Legolas quickly became squeamish. He did not relish even touching the fish. Logically he understood they were for the owls; and he had no more moral qualms against feeding the fish to them than he had squirrels and rabbits in Ithilien, but he did not enjoy the practice and was welcome to leave it to Gimli. But he was happy to stand by and watch his friend standing in the surf, trying his best to lure one of the slippery creatures into his clutches. Gimli would look up at him and grin occasionally and Legolas would smile back at him. At least they had each other now, and nobody would ever take that away from them again.



And so the days went by. Retirement really was that--a lot of sitting around visiting with old friends, fishing (on the part of Gimli) and writing (on the part of Legolas), long walks on the beach, languorous lovemaking on the wonderful sheets, and a great deal of just plain boredom. Legolas often wondered how the Elves were content to live in this place forever, despite its beauty, when it held so little of the qualities they found charming in Middle-Earth--great forests, familiar scented flowers, and the structures and memories of antiquity. Gimli was already getting bored with no caves and no materials with which to carve and otherwise create projects. Did the two of them miss something important by not going through the Grey Havens, he wondered? Was there some kind of drug or Elvish potion that one bought and consumed there, to convince himself he was in an eternal Paradise? But he was far too embarrassed to ask any of his friends.

One day Legolas and Gimli decided to hike to the top of the nearest of the blue mountains, only a few miles away. The Dwarf was still sturdy and could make the trip without undue difficulty, but Legolas could not help but notice how slowly he moved in comparison to his Fellowship days. Bitter feelings towards Aragorn rose in his heart again until he banished them. The mountain itself was beautiful and covered with many exotic plants and birds, but it bore no resemblance to the Misty Mountains of Middle-Earth. No cave could be found that was larger than a home for a raccoon. Gimli sighed,

"Not a cave, nor a vein of gold, nor mineral deposits anywhere in this mountain. And of course, not a Dwarf to be seen."

"Well, of course not, Gimli, this is Elf-heaven," Legolas chuckled. "That is the sad choice you made when you agreed to leave your precious Glittering Caves and come here with me."

"Legs," his companion said, "I spent a hundred years in that place I loved best, doing the kind of work that gratified me most. But you were not there. I would rather spend the last short years I have left with you than in any kind of Dwarf paradise without you. The Separation has proven that to me."

They sat down on a rock with a view of the ocean, and embraced closely. Gimli and Legolas gave each other a tender kiss, one of love and devotion but surprisingly devoid of passion, and Gimli noticed.

"Where is your usual fire, my beautiful Elf?"

"Somewhat banked at the moment by the reminder that what time we have together will be short," he said sadly.

Gimli patted his hand and asked if it would be all right if he rested here for awhile. Legolas of course agreed, and Gimli lay down across the flat rock. Legolas smiled. Dwarves really did not mind hardships, he thought, trying to imagine how uncomfortable that rock must be. Legolas wandered around in the woods and gathered some sweet-scented yellow flowers and braided them into a chain, which he whimsically placed as a crown on top of Gimli's bushy white hair. An hour later Gimli woke up and they descended back down to the community. The Dwarf had no idea of his lover's decoration until they ran into Frodo and Sam on the beach.

"What's with the crown of flowers, Gimli?" Frodo chuckled.

"Crown?" Gimli asked, then touching his head discovered the flower chain. He took it down and chuckled. "Elves!" he pretended to grumble.

"The only Dwarf-Lord of Valinor should have his own crown," Legolas said, and the Hobbits nodded in amusement. Gimli just shook his head and smiled at his Elvish friend.

Legolas was glad at least that he and Gimli could be together in their boredom, as they never got tired of talking. Legolas discovered that he had never told Gimli about his mother's death, so he related the story one day when they were debating on caves as a place to make one's home: When Legolas was a little Elfling of about five Man-years, his eccentric Veela mother Deena decided she wanted to explore the mountains of Mirkwood and took the child along, but no servants! She thought Thranduil was overprotective and essentially an old fuddy-duddy. Unfortunately, Thranduil had been right--the mountains were dangerous. A thunderstorm came up, and Deena took Legolas and went into a cave for protection from the storm; but what was inside the cave was far worse. A giant cave troll lived there and was disturbed by the presence of the two strange creatures--creatures which were just the right size for troll food! It attacked Deena immediately and she screamed for Legolas to run, but his little feet were rooted to the ground out of terror. He saw the troll tear his mother apart and eat her, and it was then that the child realized that he would be dessert if he did not run. Even at his tender age, the Elf blood in him made Legolas run like the wind. Eventually he ran into a party of searchers sent by Thranduil, and some of them took him home while the others ventured into the mountains to see what had become of the Queen. In the cave, they saw a great pool of blood and torn, tattered clothing which she had been wearing, but that was all. One brave Elf ventured further into the cave and saw the troll, sleeping off his dinner. They grabbed Deena's clothing and sped from the cave, back to tell Thranduil the horrible news. Of course little Legolas had told his father his story by then, and the King of Mirkwood was overcome with grief for his beautiful, exotic and foolhardy wife.

"So that is why I never liked caves," Legolas said. After three thousand years, he was no longer emotional about his mother; but the trauma of what he had seen would last forever. Gimli was sitting in shock.

"Why did you not tell me about this when I was trying to persuade you to go to the Glittering Caves?" Gimli gasped.

Legolas shrugged. "Maybe I needed to overcome my fear of caves. As I recall, you made the experience quite enjoyable for me!"

"Oh, my Legs!" Gimli sighed. "You are so complicated, Elf--or should I say Veela-Elf. Why did you never tell me about that part of your heritage?"

"Because you would make fun. And that I know. Nobody takes Veela seriously, because they are just these sexy little tarts who are so seductive, but so stupid. Thranduil was the laughingstock of his own people for years after Deena came into his life after the death of his first wife, trapped him into marriage and then got herself killed."

"What about giving him a strong and brilliant and beautiful son?" Gimli asked.

"Ah, you forget--I was even more of an embarrassment to my father, because of my lifestyle; I would never have a royal wedding, not even with Arwen when Elrond and Thranduil tried to arrange it; and I would never give him heirs. I think he blamed all my inadequacies on my Veela blood."

"You have never told anyone about that, have you, Legs?"

Legolas shook his head. "No. And I would not have told you had you not been too old to run away from me." A mischievous twinkle appeared in the forest-green eyes.

Gimli laughed. "As if I would run away from my beautiful Veela-Elf. After years of denying it, I finally came to believe that Elves were the most beautiful beings in creation, and now I learn the most beautiful of all those Elves was also a Veela. Sexy tart!" He chuckled again and invited Legolas inside for a roll on the sheets.

Another time when Gimli and the Hobbits were fishing and Legolas was walking along the beach, just soaking in the beauty of the ocean and the smell of the salt air, he heard Galadriel call his name. She was approaching from the opposite direction, and her still-golden hair and her ephemeral gown made her look like some goddess from the sea.

"My Lady," he bowed and greeted her.

"Silly child, I am not a Queen any longer," Galadriel said. "But I have a question for you, and it is quite a nosy question, so feel free to refuse if it offends you."

"You could never offend me, Galadriel," Legolas assured her. "What do you want to know?"

"You are aging, Legolas. You are far less than half my age, but you are showing age. Are you ill?"

"No," Legolas said. "Not so far as I know."

"How long do you suppose Gimli has?" her voice was gentle.

"Quite a long time left by Dwarf standards, I imagine. Fifty years, perhaps?"

"And that is assuming he remains in good health."

"I thought that was what this place did for everyone, gives good health until we are ready to die of old age. Look at Frodo," he added.

"Would you wish for you and Gimli to be sealed?"

"They do not 'seal' couples like us," Legolas said somewhat bitterly. "The priests told me that in Ithilien."

"The Elf-priests can be so intolerant," Galadriel sighed. "If you could, would you take those vows with him?"

"I do not think Gimli would want something like that, not an Elf ceremony. He loves me, and is fond of you and Elrond of course, but he does not want to be even an honorary Elf, any more than the Elf-priests want him to be. It does not matter to me, Galadriel. But thank you for asking."

"Can you endure living without Gimli, Legolas? I worry about you. I have seen Elves grieve themselves to death when a spouse or lover dies, and it is a horrible thing to behold."

"I lived without Gimli for a hundred years," Legolas replied. "And as Gandalf pointed out, we were both most productive without the distraction of passion around," he added with an embarrassed smile; but the pain in his eyes belied his confidence.

"Then you will be all right?" She was not convinced.

"Galadriel, you are the mother I never knew," Legolas said as he hugged the old Queen. She always smelled like those scented mallorn flowers in Lothlorien, he noted, although she had not lived there in years. Then he thought of something and his eyes grew wide.

"What is it, my child?" Galadriel asked. "Something forgotten just came to you, did it not?"

"It is about my mother. I told Gimli about her the other day, and he was the first person outside of Mirkwood who knew about her and her race and how she died."

"All I know is what Thranduil would admit, that she died in some sort of accident in the mountains, and that it was due to her own carelessness--and you were threatened too. What do you mean, her race? Was she not an Elf? You look as much like an Elf as your brother."

"No, she was no Elf," Legolas confessed. "She was a Veela! And she was killed and eaten by a cave troll," he added. "I was a mere Elfling."

"Oh, Legolas, I cannot imagine such a horror," Galadriel gasped. "And she was a Veela?? I cannot imagine that of Thranduil." She tried to smuggle a giggle.

"I forgot to make you promise not to laugh," Legolas pouted.

"I'm sorry, Legolas, it should not be funny, but to think of stuffy, arrogant Thranduil married to a Veela--what could he have been thinking?"

Legolas shrugged. "He and I were never close. I do not even know where he is now, to ask if I wanted to."

"But Legolas, that changes everything with respect to your life span. Did you know that?"

"Know what?" Legolas was anxious.

"When a Veela marries someone of a different race, it does something to her body chemistry. She--or he--will die within a few hours of their mate."

"Marries, Galadriel. Again that word. What happens to the Veela--or the Veela/Elf--if the partnership is same-sex?" Legolas asked eagerly.

"I do not know, Legolas," Galadriel said gently. "But I think a prolonged sexual relationship of any kind is what triggers it. And it does not seem to matter if the Veela is full blooded or partial," she added.

And Legolas smiled, although somewhat sadly, at that news.

And that was the beginning of the end. There was very little information on the lives of Legolas and Gimli in the land the Elves called Valinor or The Undying Lands of the West after that day up until the last few days of their lives. That was forty years later, so by our standards Legolas and Gimli had a long life together; by Middle-earth standards it was very brief. Eventually Gimli developed a heart condition that even Elvish medicine could not cure. The last few months of his life, he lived in that bed with the sheets and pillows. He was far too sick even to make love with Legolas, and that is probably what killed him the most surely. Legolas spent as much time as he could sitting beside his bed and telling him stories of the old days, as that is what the Dwarf enjoyed most. Gimli slept a lot, and this was when Legolas tried to write his memoirs. One day Galadriel dropped by and saw him scribbling away on parchments. She slipped back home and then came back with something that looked like a large, round basin, with Elvish runes written on the outside and a silvery substance within.

When she returned to the cottage, Legolas glanced up. "Galadriel," he smiled. "You didn't need to bring us any soup. I do not think Gimli can eat a bite, and when he cannot, I cannot."

"No, silly," Galadriel laughed. "This is no soup. This is a Pensieve. It is a much more efficient way for you to record your memories than on parchment. Parchment will fade away. The Pensieve will last forever."

"But how does it work?" Legolas asked.

Galadriel put the basin on the table. Then she removed a wand from her robes--no doubt Radagast's, Legolas suspected. She touched Legolas' head with the wand and touched it back into the silvery material.

"Now watch," she said. Within a few seconds, Legolas began to see images all around him. It was of the first night he and Gimli spent together, in the woods of Lothlorien, all those years ago.

"No, Galadriel, you must not watch this," Legolas said, his ears turning red. "Can I make it go away?"

"Think of something else, Legolas, something you would not be embarrassed to show me," Galadriel said. "Then use the wand again."

Legolas thought of a battle scene during the War of the Ring, when he and Gimli were competing for the title of Most Orcs Killed. It was bloody, but it was not embarrassing.

"Legolas, Legolas," sighed Galadriel. "Is there not a time in your life that was memorable that did not include either sex or violence?"

"Somebody thousands of years from now will look at this and see what I saw?" Legolas asked.

"That is what I was told," Galadriel said.

"Did the one who gave you the . . . Pensieve leave his memories within?"

"Yes," she said. "But depending on how many you put into it, the older ones may be overridden."

"You do not want to see them?"

"Not any more. I want you to keep it, Legolas. It can take the place of the journal you are trying to write."

"Oh, Galadriel, I cannot accept such a thing!"

"Legolas, you have very little time," Galadriel said sadly. "If you want to leave your memories behind, you need to get started. Besides, if Gimli enjoys hearing the stories, would he not enjoy watching them even more?"

"Yes!" Gimli cried from his bed. He had awakened again. "I want to see the night in Lothlorien, Legolas, but we can wait till Galadriel leaves."

"There are probably a lot of things you would like to see that would be best to wait until after I leave," Galadriel laughed. "I must get home. Elrond expects me."

"Thank you, thank you so very much," Legolas said. "And what should be done with this Pensieve when we are gone?"

"I would suggest you owl somebody in Ithilien to come get it. Somebody you can trust, somebody you would not care if they saw the memories in lifelike imagery."

"Haldir," Legolas said with a smile. He began writing a letter for the owl to carry to Ithilien, as Galadriel fluffed Gimli's pillow, kissed the Dwarf on the forehead--to his great joy--and left the cottage.

And that night he and Gimli watched one after another after another of Legolas' memories come to life and then be stored in the silver matter of the Pensieve. They slept very little that night, for watching. Gimli was terminally ill, but he still enjoyed the sex scenes--watching his beautiful Elf from a different angle was fascinating. They watched all day again the next day. Gimli watched in horror as Deena was killed by the cave troll. The Fellowship Quest was there in living color, including the horrors of Moria--seeing the Balrog pull Gandalf down into the abyss was hard to stomach Seeing Boromir full of arrows was also hard to take. Seeing Aragorn betray the two of them to the Separation was difficult as well. There were many images that Gimli recognized, and many more he did not--Legolas' adventures in Ithilien, for example. But something was odd. . .

"Legs?" he asked.

"Yes, my darling," the Elf--who was now looking quite old himself, with hair as white as any Veela's--replied.

"Are you not going to save any more from before we got together? The one of your mother is the only scene I did not recognize as being after we met."

"Ahh," Legolas laughed. "If I am to entrust this to Haldir, I had best save the scenes he and I shared."

"I think I shall roll over and go to sleep before you do this," Gimli grumbled.

Legolas kept "recording" for hours until he finally thought he had enough. He was quite sure there would be no tomorrow for Gimli or for him. He blew out the candles and crawled into bed beside his lover, taking the Pensieve and the wand into bed in order to record his end; he left a note for whoever finds them in the morning.

"Legs?" Gimli said in a very cracking voice. "I cannot hold on much longer."

"Then let go, Gimli my most precious heart," Legolas said, blinking back the tears and holding Gimli tight. "Do not fear, I will be right behind you."

And Gimli nodded. Within a minute, Legolas felt him go limp. And Legolas lay back, still holding the Dwarf close; he closed his eyes, and he simply stopped breathing.

Galadriel woke up in the middle of the night from a dream, and she gave a little cry. Elrond rolled over.

"What is it, my dear?" he asked gently.

"Legolas and Gimli are gone," she said. "I shall miss them so."

"Are they all right?" Elrond was curious.

"Yes," she said. "In my dream I saw them riding together on that old horse of the Rohirrim, Gimli sitting behind Legolas as they used to do. They looked like they did in those days, and they were smiling as they waved to me."

And then they noticed Gandalf standing in the doorway. "I saw them too," he confirmed. "They are fine. They were very lucky, they got to go together. Now Haldir, when he comes, he is going to be totally devastated."

That same night in Ithilien, Haldir awoke from a very lucid dream of Legolas--it was as if his friend was sitting at the foot of his bed. And as he sat there, Legolas took his hand and told him goodbye.

"It is time for me to go now, Hal. Please do not grieve too much; it will hurt Karmiel, and he loves you as much as you do me. I have a big favor to ask of you--you must keep my story alive for posterity. Someday the people all over the world will want to know what happened to us here in Middle-earth, and you will be able to do that with the information I will give you. You will be getting an owl soon with directions on what to do. Now I must go. Gimli awaits me. There is nothing to fear in Mandos, Hal, but you still have a job to do on Arda. Good-bye, melme, we shall meet again."

And Haldir nodded dumbly. The Legolas-spirit had not even given him a chance to speak. As he regained consciousness, he heard an owl hooting softly and saw Legolas' old snowy owl, Elwing, sitting at the end of the bed with a letter tied to her leg. He trembled as he took the letter; the owl flew out the window and caught a squirrel on cue. In the letter Legolas announced that Galadriel had given him a Pensieve in which he was recording all the memories he wanted to save for the future, and that he must come to Valinor and get it--Legolas trusted no one else. It was then that Haldir realized that the dream was true, and he howled in pain-- like the agony of Elves tortured to become Orcs--when he realized Legolas was gone. Beside him, Karmiel awakened in terror. Then he saw the note; he did not even need to read it to know what it said. He took Haldir in his arms and let him cry out his misery on his shoulder.

It took them a couple of days to make arrangements to sail to Valinor. It just was not *done*, that Elves should go West and return, but there was no reason to believe it could not happen. Haldir owled Lindorin in Mirkwood and told him of Legolas' death. He did not really expect the King would grieve his brother, but he needed to know--and he really needed to send a family member to tend Elvish Ithilien in their absence. Lindorin had castigated both Legolas and Haldir in owled messages about Legolas' crowning Haldir Lord, but he had not actually forbidden it. This might be his opportunity to put a foot in the door in the new Lord's absence, but it was something Haldir had to risk; he could not ignore Legolas' last wishes. Surprisingly, Lindorin sent condolences to Haldir and promised his son Arahilion would fill in for as long as needed. Haldir had met that particular son and liked him, found him gentle and sensitive, much more like Legolas than either Thranduil or Lindorin; so when he and his entourage arrived at the gates, they were met warmly by Haldir and Karmiel. The crown again passed--temporarily--and Lord Haldir, his Consort and their own chosen servants rode to the Grey Havens.

In far less time than it had taken Legolas and Gimli to sail to the Undying Lands--Cirdan laughingly told the Ithilien Elves how Legolas had unnecessarily prolonged his trip by not taking the path from the Havens-- they arrived and were met on the docks by Gandalf, who took Haldir into his arms and let him cry again. Karmiel and the servants went on to the cottage prepared for them. Eventually Haldir got his wits about him, and Gandalf led him to Galadriel's house. It was strange seeing her living somewhere other than the Palace of Lothlorien, Haldir thought, and even stranger seeing her living with Elrond instead of Celeborn. But he guessed he would not have to get used to it right away.

"This is the Pensieve, Haldir," Galadriel said promptly after their arrival. "Do you know how to use it?"

"I have heard of them, My Lady, but have never used one," he said, wiping his eyes once more.

Galadriel handed him the wand. "You put this in the silvery matter and draw out the memories."

"But how do I know which memories I wish to see? And how do I know they are there?" Haldir was confused.

"It might be difficult for someone who never knew the owner of the Pensieve," she told him, "but I expect you know Legolas well enough to know what he might have put inside."

"Dare I look at his last recording?" Haldir asked.

"You may. It will probably be painful to you," Galadriel warned.

"There is nothing that will prevent that," Haldir mourned. But he put the wand into the Pensieve and drew out the vision of Legolas bidding Gimli goodbye and telling him he was following him--then it was as if a twinkling candle was blown out. Naturally Haldir began sobbing again. It was a couple of hours later before he had the nerve to approach Legolas' grave; it was still fresh, of course, and naturally he and Gimli were laid to rest side by side. The tears flowed once more, and this time when he regained his composure, Haldir asked Gandalf,

"Mithrandir, why Gimli? Did he ever tell you? Why did he choose a mortal life with the Dwarf when he could have been happily immortal with me?"

"Oh, there is no explanation, Haldir--at least not something we could understand. Perhaps one soul recognized the other across that vast expanse of space and time and knew they were here to do great things--and needed each other to do them."

"And if I said something like that, people would say I was being arrogant and grandiose," Haldir said with a sad smile.

Gandalf chuckled. "And because I am a wizard, I can get away with it. Let us go back to Galadriel's cottage. I think she had a funeral feast prepared."

"Like the one for Theoden," Haldir recalled. "Legolas was an even greater hero, but I know not if I can eat a bite, even in his honor."

But he did, and a few days later he was up for traveling again. He packed the Pensieve carefully--as well as the parchments Legolas had been scribbling on--and promised to save the memories until such time that somebody could make use of them for historical purposes. But he made no such promise not to look at the memories in the meantime--or even add to them, himself. That old arrogance would never die. And he and Karmiel, with their servants, boarded the ship and took the first reverse trip to the Havens by visitors from Valinor ever recorded. It was uneventful, as was their return to Ithilien.

And when I went to visit the Elves of Mirkwood 2, it was at the invitation of Haldir. He was now ten thousand years old and looking as fragile as a porcelain doll. But he was still beautiful, with long, silky, silver hair. His voice was equally silky, and he told me of his eternal love for Legolas and how Thranduil had thwarted them. He told me of how jealous he had been of Gimli, especially since Elves and Dwarves had long been enemies, but of how he came to forgive them when Legolas was gracious enough to make him Lord of Ithilien. That reign did not last long, no more than a few decades, because eventually all the Elves went West.

After Faramir died, the Men coveted the Elves' part of Ithilien for their own, and the Elves were not up for a war over it, so Haldir and his people left and migrated to Valinor within a year of Legolas' death. Eventually Middle-earth was no more, but the descendants of the people spread out all over Europe and America. The immortality of Valinor did indeed become boring, and most of the Elves eventually died and were reborn like folk everywhere. Some of them came back and rebuilt their culture, though, and the Elves of what became Mirkwood 2 wound up in the UK, discouraged at what Men had done with the Earth they loved. It used to be possible to breathe the air, drink the water, and eat any foodstuffs desired without having to worry about pollution. Karmiel was eventually killed by a train in the nineteenth century, having had no idea of its speed and power. It was distressing for the Elves to live in this culture. But they kept as much as they could of the ancient ways, and had adopted over the years the ways of the wizarding culture; in these ways they could set themselves apart from the Muggles of the 20th and 21st centuries, whom the Elves naturally saw as "Men".

And when young Elves learn about their history in school, among others they read of the brilliant Lady Galadriel and wise King Elrond; but the most popular figure in Elvish history is always Legolas Greenleaf, the bold, beautiful and daring archer who helped win a war, build a city-state, developed one of the greatest inventions of all time--and defied two societies and a mighty king by loving a Dwarf!

Respectfully submitted, Rita Skeeter


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