Like a Tattoo by Almas Muse

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My breaths come in short pants as I collapse on top of him in exhaustion. The echoes of the last remnants of our passion vibrate throughout my body and I find myself unable to do anything beyond laying in satiated oblivion. His arms come about me and I feel a lingering kiss on my brow. It is all I can do to tilt my head towards the gesture in acknowledgement, eyes half closed, breaths finally slowing.

He smiles against my sweat-dappled brow, sighs and is quiet. The steady beating of his heart calms me where moments before it ignited my soul during our fierce lovemaking. The soft richness of his beard tickles my nose and I smile, burrowing deeper into its warmth. I allow the coolness of the room to caress my heated flesh and I lay in weary content against my lover's strength, closing my eyes to savor the sensations.

The gentle rise and fall of his chest tells me that he has slipped into his mortal's sleep and I take care not to disturb him. I like to watch him sleep. I lift my head and gaze into his face, imagining I can smooth away the lines of mortality. My fingers lightly trace the fine lines out the corners of his eyes, down his cheeks until they feather lightly over kiss-bruised lips.

A slow breath warms my fingertips and I resist the urge to kiss him. Not yet. I do not wish to end this moment too soon. Within this small span of time I can delay the inevitable. The sea holds no power over me and my only sense of time is now.

I have yet to tell of my fate, although I suspect he already knows. He has seen my melancholy on enough occasions to know the root of it. Yet we do not speak of it. To do so is to acknowledge our time together is short. He has faced many hardships and so have I, but this burden I cannot bear. I do not have the kind of endurance he does. I choose to live in denial a little while longer.

My hand glides effortlessly down his throat, treasuring the feel of his pulse, drags tenderly across a collarbone and rests on his shoulder. I marvel at our differences here. How one whose people spent years toiling within the mountain's belly would have skin as though it was bathed in sunlight, whereas I, a child of the forest, am as pale as a moonbeam reflected off water. I blink at the contrast, my pale hand against his tanned shoulder. 'How is it that he loves me?' I wonder not for the first time.

I linger here, mulling over the question but not for long. My fingers make their way to the patterns on his arm that never cease to fascinate me. I study the markings reverently, tracing over stars and dwarfish runes remembering the first time I saw them. We were bathing by a river and he removed his shirt to clean it. I was captivated by the unusual patterns inked into his skin. The markings appeared to come alive as the massive muscles underneath stretched and rippled with his movements. 'Tattoos,' he had called them when I inquired. A strange word, I often have difficulty pronouncing it but I was enthralled no less.

Later that night I asked him what they meant. He became thoughtful, his eyes growing distant as if looking back on a memory. "So I'll never forget," he said with quiet remorse and said no more. I did not ask again, sensing his reasons were too personal to share, even with me. There is still so much I do not know about my lover's past and as I trace the blackish-blue lines, I realize that they symbolize his past pains and perhaps shame.

He wears his burdens for the world to see and I admire his courage and vulnerability at the same time. Would I be so brave? My heart tells me no.

I press closer to him, needing his warmth, reaching out to touch the scar near his hairline. His eyes open slowly and we stare at each other for what seemed like an eternity. He tries to read my face but I forcibly keep it neutral, not wishing to start a difficult conversation but he frowns at me, seeing through my façade. "Legolas..." he begins but I seal his lips with my own in a slow, desperate kiss.

"I cannot speak of it, Gimli," I say softly as I break the kiss. "Do not make me, please."

He sighs but relents and I know I have avoided the undeniable once again. He draws me close and I rest against him, memorizing each heartbeat, each line and every texture.

A war wages inside of me: my love for him against the call of the sea. I cannot speak of my crumbling resolve but he knows it.

It is visible.

It is irrefutable.

I wear it, like he wears his tattoos.
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