Tired didn't even begin to describe the bone-weary fatigue that pulled at every muscle in Gimli's stout and usually resilient body. Between riding on that hell-horse that Legolas insisted on calling by its "proper name" and the battle at Helm's Deep, the absolute last thing Gimli wanted to hear was that they would be moving on as soon as possible. Irritated and cranky though he was, he tried his best not to voice any displeasure... grunting and grumbling under his breath was as much as he would allow himself. After all... Legolas looked as though he were ready to take on a few more armies of wild men and orcs. Gimli had to keep up pretenses, after all... especially after having so recently won their little game by only one.
Taking advantage of the fact that Aragorn and Gandalf were currently engrossed in conversation with Eómer, who Gimli still had a vague dislike for... the dwarf chose to settle down against a convenient rock and rest his aching everything. Not far off, Legolas knelt, squaring his slight weight on his toes while he cleaned and sharpened his white-bladed knives.
As always, Legolas was alert and working, glancing up briefly whenever a new battered but victorious troop would arrive. He had to admire that... there was no possible way that the Elf was not weary as well, yet he remained upright and busy.
That was not all he admired in his companion and so-recently-acquired friend.
It was no secret that Dwarves and Elves disliked each other on a very basic level... but more and more, Gimli was finding every sneered rumor he had ever heard of the Elves to be less than truthful. Granted, they were egotistical, condescending, impractical... he could go on and on, his father's voice growling in his head. However, after spending so much time in Lorien and in Legolas' company, he was starting to find them fascinating. Legolas especially. The young (by Elven standards) princeling could be arrogant and disdainful... but he was oftentimes compassionate and understanding.
His looks did not do him badly either.
Gimli was sorely tempted to smack himself over the skull... however his recent head injury drove that thought from his mind. Legolas was his friend, and just barely! Why in all of Middle Earth was he admiring the way the Elf's hair shone like burnished gold in the light of the setting sun? Or the way that those sharp blue eyes flicked up at every movement? Or the way his hands worked so nimbly and quickly whenever he drew an arrow? Why was he suddenly wondering if Legolas had ever looked on him with anything other than either disdain or amusement? It was fairly common knowledge that Elves were did not limit themselves in love or lust; a habit befitting creatures with equally limitless life-spans... male or female, elf or otherwise... maybe even the occasional Dwarf-
He sat upright suddenly and world tilted madly, little stars swirling in his vision clearly despite the blurriness that his surroundings had taken on. With a stifled groan, Gimli began to pitch forward to his knees.
"Gimli!" he heard Legolas voice by his side and wondered briefly how the Elf had gotten to him so quickly. "My friend, what ails you so?"
His vision started to clear almost immediately. "Nothing..." he growled, sounding entirely too much like Gloin for his tastes. "Just a passing weariness. I am well."
Legolas' brow furrowed skeptically. "Are you certain? Has anyone seen to that wound?"
"No one needs to." Gimli replied, shouldering away roughly. "It will take more than a knock on the head to stop a Dwarf."
For a split second, Legolas almost looked hurt by Gimli's brashness, but just as quickly, he broke into a gentle grin that Gimli knew well by this point. It usually preceded some friendly jest at his expense. "Indeed, I know this to be true, friend-dwarf, you are as sturdy as the mountains you hail from... but that is a trifle more than a 'knock on the head', is it not?"
Gimli narrowed his eyes. "Stop coddling me, Elf. You are confusing me with the Halflings."
Legolas sighed, muttering under his breath about the stiff necks of Dwarves.
It was Gimi's turn to tease. "Must we start that again?"
"If you did not persist in being so stubborn, we would not need to bring that up once more." Legolas stood, crossing his arms over his chest and assuming a stance befitting a prince.
"I am a Dwarf... what would I be if I were not stubborn?" Gimli shrugged, trying desperately to think of a way out of this conversation.
"Sensible, perhaps?" Legolas suggested.
"Sensible?" Gimli repeated, keeping his serious tone. "Now where is the fun in that?"
There was a brief pause before Legolas laughed lightly. "I had never thought to hear such a jest from you, Gimli! Very good! We will make you light-hearted yet!"
"Valar forbid." Gimli shrugged, trying to stamp off where he could pretend to take some rest once more.
"Now where do you think you are heading off to?" Legolas caught the hem of his cloak quickly.
"Elsewhere... do not argue with a cross dwarf, Elf... if you value your pretty head." By the dragon! What had possessed him to add that one word in his speech?
Legolas tilted his head at him curiously, considering. "As you would have it, my friend... I shall leave you to your Dwarvish grumblings. Do not forget that we shall be leaving as soon as Aragorn and Gandalf situate everything to their satisfaction."
"Do not remind me." Gimli sighed, finally continuing his path to a further off grouping of random rocks and brown grass. He settled himself on the ground this time, so as to avoid any future bouts of dizziness, propping himself up against one just tall enough for one of his height.
Legolas had also risen from his kneeling position and had wandered back to where his bow and quiver were resting against a straggly tree with sickly yellow leaves. As Gimli watched, Legolas placed an absent hand against the thin trunk, looking up at the disheveled foliage with a mild air of sadness. A visible sigh moved the Elf's slim shoulders as he stepped forward, leaning his pale forehead against the trunk.
Gimli frowned as he watched him. Was the Elf disturbed by the sorry existence of the strangled tree? Or was something deeper bothering him? They had had precious little time for idle talk since leaving Lorien. Gimli wondered if perhaps Legolas was still saddened by Boromir's sudden death. Or perhaps he was concerned for Frodo and Sam.
With a muttered curse in Dwarvish, Gimli stood with fair stability and trotted over to where the Elf stood, still pressed to the tree. Legolas certainly heard his approach, but did not turn to face him.
"What ails you, Elf?" he asked in his usual gruff manner, although it was somewhat forced.
Legolas heaved a deep breath. "Must you insist on calling me that? I do have a name, Gimli."
"Do not make me strike you just on principle, Legolas." Gimli said in a somewhat softer tone. "I asked you a question."
"I cannot think to tell you." Legolas replied after a short pause, the phrase sounding as though he were struggling to choose just the correct words.
"Why ever not?" Gimli countered impatiently.
"You will not like to hear it... I would save you the discontent." Legolas' voice dropped in volume so that Gimli could barely hear him despite the settling quiet of twilight.
"I shall be discontented anyway if you do not tell me what ails you and insist upon embracing this pathetic excuse for a tree." Gimli pointed out in his typical stubborn fashion.
Legolas finally turned his head to look at him. "If you insist... but on one condition."
"And that would be?"
"That you leave your weapons behind and come with me to where we will not be heard."
"I do not understand."
"What I will tell you may very well upset you... and since I seem to have an attachment to it, I would rather not lose my pretty head'." Legolas explained with a hint of a smile.
"Sometimes I think you know me entirely too well, Legolas." The Dwarf relented, disengaging his throwing axes and other assorted weapons from his armor and placing them next to Legolas' bow and quiver.
Legolas nodded, whispering under his breath... something that sounded vaguely like "If only..."
Deciding not to pester the Elf about it, Gimli followed his companion's footsteps off, away from the main part of the gathering warriors, giving Aragorn a dismissing wave to indicate that all was well. The Ranger sent them a curious look, but quickly reimbursed himself in his conversation with Gandalf. They did not wander far, but the burgeoning campfires danced in the distance like playful fireflies by the time they stopped. The smoldering embers of an older fire glowed red in the darkening night and, ever his father's son, Gimli set about building it up. If he was going to be unhappy with whatever Legolas was going to tell him, he might as well be warm. Legolas seemed content to let Gimli stall for him.
Once the fire was burning brightly, Gimli sat on the ground across from Legolas, who slowly followed suit, gracefully folding his legs up against his chest and resting his chin on his knees. Gimli tried no to think of how everything Legolas did seemed to have been deliberately contrived to be as lithe as Elvishly possible.
"Well?" Gimli prompted.
Legolas sighed. "I know not where to begin... since Lorien... everything has changed so much..."
"That goes without being said..." Gimli nodded. Before they had escaped Moria into Lorien, the two of them never spoke except to argue... so much so that Gandalf had soundly scolded them both on several occasions.
"Please... let me speak, Gimli..." the Elf said with a note of pleading in his fair voice.
It was that note that surprised Gimli into silence, only nodding his assent. Legolas was many things... beseeching had never been one of them. Legolas sighed once more and focused his attention on the crackling fire.
"We have never been enemies in the truest sense of the word, Gimli... at first we disliked each other, influenced by petty disparities between our two races. And now... I should like to think that I could truthfully call you a dear friend."
"You could." Gimli whispered, his gruff voice softened. Where in Middle Earth was this conversation going?
Legolas' eyes met his swiftly, a light shining in them. "And for that, my heart is glad. I have never known another like you, Gimli. By this, I do not mean I have never known another Dwarf, although that is the case... my meaning is that I have never known another being who strikes me as you do? Elves... by virtue of our immortality and our reputation as 'the fair ones'... we are justly confident... even arrogant, as you so often have pointed out to me. You... you have that same fierce loyalty to yourself... but it is not innate... it is rightly earned."
"I appreciate the compliment, Legolas... but if I am about to be displeased with you, you need not coat it with honey... just spit it out." Gimli sighed, jabbing a stick into the fire.
Legolas swallowed, his fair face showing only a hint of distress. It was perhaps the only time that the Dwarf had seen him seem nervous. Not even the Balrog had unnerved him this much... frankly, it made Gimli antsy.
"Out with it. You are making me edgy and both of our energies are better reserved for what lies ahead." Gimli gestured for the agitated Elf to continue.
Legolas' fingers twitched anxiously on his shins. "I have been... very worried of late."
"As are we all." Gimli replied.
A slim hand was raised in a plea for quiet. "Please, Gimli... I will never get through this if you insist on interrupting me."
Chastened, Gimli nodded, waiting for the Elf's next words with as much patience as he could muster.
"It is not the sort of worry you might expect. Although I am dutifully concerned for Frodo and Sam, their safety is not what weighs so heavily on my heart."
"What is, then?"
Legolas closed his eyes, bowing his head against his knees as if he were ashamed of something. "Do you recall," he began slowly, as though he were choosing his words with extreme care. "When we were separated just now during the battle... in the midst of our coup?"
"Yes." Gimli nodded. "Legolas, what are you getting at? You are making even less sense than usual."
"Please... allow me my hesitancy." Legolas sighed. "When I found I could no longer exact your location in the fight... I became... afraid... very afraid... as I have never been before."
"Afraid? Afraid of what?" Gimli asked.
"That... you might not return." Legolas said in a soft voice.
"Not return?" Gimli repeated. "Why would I not return? It would take far more than a band of orcs and wild men to keep me down, you know that."
"True enough. But even under the most favorable circumstances, we cannot be certain of the outcome." Legolas reached a tentative hand to touch the bandage swathed around Gimli's head meaningfully. "A mere scratch, you say... but with just a touch more force..." he drifted off, unwilling to complete the thought.
"You need not remind me of my own mortality." Gimli said quietly. "Even if you need not think of your own, seeing as you have none."
"That is precisely my worry!" Legolas exclaimed intensely. "Your mortality is what troubles me... that any day, you may be stolen off by cold arms."
Gimli shrugged uncomfortably. "The same could be said of any of us... even you."
"This I know..." Legolas sighed. "And yet the very real threat of death against me... or Aragorn... or the little ones... it does not concern me as much as does the idea of death for you, my dear friend."
Gimli felt a thick lump form in his throat at the heartfelt term of endearment. It was some time before he managed to choke out, "Why?"
Legolas squeezed his eyes shut again, even as he moved to sit next to Gimli, each line of his body reflecting pain. "I am not certain how to say it. We Elves have always possessed a great gift with our speech... and yet I know not how to tell you of the feelings that beat so fiercely in my heart. They swell up in my chest, but lodge in my throat and refuse to be cast into the air on my voice."
"By the Valar, Legolas, do not shroud your heart in cloaks of flowery speech." Gimli placed a hand on the Elf's slender shoulder, dismayed by the agony apparent in his posture.
The Elf took a shaky breath that made him shudder. "I... I care for you Gimli... far more than perhaps I should. An Elf's love and loyalty are one and same... and you, my dear Dwarf, seem to have acquired both."
Silence reigned, punctuated only by the distant chirp of singing crickets. Gimli held his breath, his heart thundering like a war drum in his chest. Legolas, the dear Elf that he had only so recently discovered his own love for... loved him? It was unreal! An Elf and a Dwarf pining for each other? Unthinkable! Unimaginable!
The silence stretched out for several minutes of eternity, neither male daring to move or look at each other. Gimli finally realized that the paralyzed Legolas was waiting for some kind of answer to his declaration. The silence was taken as dismissal and the saddened Elf rose slowly, not meeting Gimli's eyes.
Gimli seized his hand suddenly, quick as lightning. "Legolas, no... stay."
"And bear the agony of your refusal?" Legolas whispered raggedly. "No... there are things that even an immortal heart cannot tolerate."
"I have not refused you." Gimli said simply. "Nor do I intend to."
The golden-haired Elf looked up at last, a spark of hope flaring in his blue eyes. "Do not intend to?"
It was Gimli's turn to look down anxiously. "Dwarves have no such gifts for pretty speech... but I, too, have been struggling with certain regards towards you. When I admitted them to myself, with no hope that you might return them... I deemed them inappropriate. How pathetic... a Dwarf hopelessly infatuated with an Elf... like a mole enchanting by the burning sun."
Legolas graced Gimli with a brief smile. "You have a touch of a poet in you, dearest.... However, you do yourself insult by referring to us as such."
Gimli waved the comment away impatiently. "Never mind that now... the point is... the point is... that... you are not alone in such emotions. I only lacked the courage to voice them."
"And now?" Legolas prompted hopefully.
"And now... I am still not certain how to say such things to you... an Elf... and a male Elf at that." He sighed.
Legolas' face fell at that and Gimli hastily picked up his train of thought. "Here now! Hear me completely before you start enchanting me with such doleful looks. I only meant that... while you Elves may love freely, it is not so with Dwarves. This is very new to me... to feel love for... another male."
"It is not so new to me... although it has been some time since I even dallied with another, male or female..."
Gimli snorted gruffly. "You expect me to believe that? With that string of females trailing in your wake at Rivendell... and in Lorien as well?"
Legolas had the grace to turn slightly pink about his pointed ears. "My dear Dwarf... do I detect a note of jealousy in your tone?"
"Damn right you do." Gimli agreed bluntly. "A Dwarf's jealousy knows no bounds... consider yourself warned."
Legolas laughed outright. "Indeed, I shall have to beat off would-be admirers with my bow for their own safety."
Gimli grunted in agreement, glad for the return of Legolas' light mood, but still anxious over what had just passed between them. They had both just admitted to loving each other, amazingly enough... that was supposed to be the hard part.
Legolas saved Gimli from the trouble of worrying by leaning against him, his head on the Dwarf's wide shoulder, nuzzling his beck gently, almost uncertainly.
"The only question left now is... what do we do now?" Gimli asked as softly as his gravelly voice would allow.
"Hmm... that will depend. Legolas replied. "Do you want the practical answer, or the romantic one?"
Gimli cleared his throat." Ahem... under normal circumstances, I would insist upon the practical one... however, I am tempted to hear the romantic one."
He could almost hear the playful smile in Legolas' voice. "My, my... is my beloved dwarf falling victim to Elvish temptations already?"
Gimli smiled in return. "Can you truly put any blame upon me? How is anyone supposed to resist this particular Elvish princeling?"
"Ah... so it is all my fault?" Legolas played along, echoing their many arguments of earlier days.
"That is what I said, Elf." Gimli growled, taking advantage of Legolas' rather submissive posture by pulling him into a sudden, passionate kiss. Legolas' eyes widened briefly with shock, but he adapted quickly, meeting Gimli's kiss with equal fervor, twining a slender hand in the Dwarf's thick beard. Gimli remained the aggressor, holding Legolas still when he would have surged upwards. The Elf's lips were soft and smooth to the Dwarf... as he would've expected a female's to be, but stronger... more demanding. He had always accused Elves of being too ambiguous, androgynous to the point where telling males and females apart was near impossible. Now he found that very androgyny irresistible in his own Elf. Lithe, elegant, golden-haired... Legolas combined everything he'd ever wanted in another being. The fact that he was also male made it all the more delicious with its forbidden taste.
Speaking of taste, Gimli found that he had forced the kiss deeper, delving his tongue into Legolas' mouth. A low, growling moan began in his throat as Legolas slid his hands around the Dwarf's neck. With each gasping breath that Legolas took, Gimli felt as though a part of him were being drawn into the Elf's soul...and in return he could feel Legolas' spirit permeating through his own soul. A soft cry, muffled by the kiss, escaped Legolas and Gimli pulled back reluctantly.
"I am sorry... I was too forceful." Gimli panted.
"No... I was not protesting, Gimli..." Legolas assured him, running one slender hand over his cheek in a gentle caress. "It seems that you are as skilled in the arts of love as you are in combat, although thankfully gentler.
The Elf rested his forehead against Gimli's, so that they were nose to nose, his hot breath against the Dwarf's lips. "You make my head spin, Gimli... I could easily forget the remainder of the world within the span of your arms."
Gimli flushed, his tanned cheeks turning red as he tried desperately to keep from blustering or babbling. He didn't succeed in the slightest, going so far as to lapse into Dwarvish before he remembered that Legolas did not speak that language at all. "I... you... we... phw... much as I would dearly enjoy gallivanting with you by the fire... we still have... we, as in, you, me, Aragorn, Gandalf... the hobbits..."
"Gimli... you are entirely too charming when you gibber about like that... absolutely endearing."
"Oh dry up." Gimli grumbled in mock annoyance. "What do you expect of me? I start this mission out with no romantic entanglements whatsoever, cheerfully hating Elves... now I have several many pounds of Elf prince strewn across my lap and making my legs fall asleep and I have no desire to complain."
Legolas placed a playful kiss on Gimli's nose. "Encouraging to hear, beloved... now... you were so eloquently saying before?"
Gimli growled once more, getting the distinct impression that growling was never going to intimidate the Elf ever again. "I was trying to say that if we are missing for much longer, Aragorn will send someone to find us. We should be continuing soon... there are more battles to fight and backs to watch."
Legolas pouted for a moment before nodding. "Indeed... we should return to the encampment. It would not do for one of Eómer's men to find us thus... they already believe we are strange, there is no need to remove any doubt."
"Yes... whoever heard of an Elf and a Dwarf being friends?"
"Quite... what is Middle Earth coming to?"
They both laughed as they rose and headed back to the scattered lights, hand in hand.
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Story notes: WARNING - This is my first ever M/M slash pairing, so be kind to me! Done M/F plenty of times and even a little F/F, but this is strange territory for me. Also, as always all characters belong to their respective owners. I am only borrowing Gimli and Legolas for my own delightful purposes. They will be returned to JRR Tolkien upon the completion of this ficlet in exactly the same condition upon which I received them. Well... maybe not *exactly*... but close enough.
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