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”It was not the fault of the Dwarves that the friendship waned,” said Gimli.

“I have not heard that it was the fault of the Elves,” said Legolas.

“I have heard both,” said Gandalf; “and I will not give judgement now. But I beg of you two, Legolas and Gimli, at least to be friends, and to help me. I need you both.”

(The Fellowship of the Ring, “A Journey in the Dark”)

***

Once again, Bilbo thought, I seem to be quite in the middle of things.

Around him, Elrond’s council chamber was slowly emptying, Big People walking by in various states of unease, even the Elves, though it was harder to discern on their typically serene faces.

Bilbo really couldn’t blame them. His ring—the One Ring!—had been found and the Enemy was on the rise, and Frodo, his dear, dear Frodo, was in trouble and it was all because of Bilbo’s foolishness. He had already lost too many loved ones to cursed gold (and the wars that surrounds it); if he lost Frodo too, he’d—

“Bilbo!”

“Hm?” Bilbo looked up, shaken from his musings and glad to leave them behind. It was Gloin who had called his name, and Bilbo smiled at his old friend.

“Gloin!”

“Come,” Gloin said, clapping a hand on Bilbo’s shoulder, his touch light though Bilbo could feel the strength behind the control. “I heard you mention food, and it’s not like a hobbit to dawdle when lunchtime has already passed…especially when he has already missed elevensies.”

Bilbo laughed. “You know me well, my friend.” Carefully, he let Gloin help him from his chair. “You’d think they’d have a couple of hobbit-sized chairs after all this time.”

Gloin grunted. “Elves.”

Bilbo straightened with a pained grimace. Sitting caused such an ache in his bones, yet moving pained his muscles, his joints. Truly, getting old was a fool’s game.

“Common enough among all sorts of Big Folk, really. No need to single out the Elves on this one.”

Gloin humphed and Bilbo flashed a grin, full of his old mischief.

“Besides,” Bilbo said. “Your son is about to set out on a Very Important Quest with an Elf. Wouldn’t it be wise to demonstrate to him the proper diplomatic behavior as befits the better Hobbit—er—Dwarf?”

Bilbo and Gloin looked over to where Elrond was speaking with the Fellowship; Gimli and Legolas were standing next to each other, pointedly not paying the other any attention. Bilbo supposed it was better than the sniping. Honestly, they could give Lobelia a run for her money.

As they watched, Legolas said something, and Gimli turned to watch him speak. Legolas sneered when he saw Gimli watching, and Gimli scowled, turning away. Still, Legolas’s eyes lingered after the dwarf before returning his attention to Elrond.

To be honest, the whole affair reminded Bilbo of when Pearl Brandybuck met Rogo Took, and they fell in love so quickly they both mistook it for hate.

Bilbo blinked. Oh! Could it be…? He glanced at Gloin, who was watching the Fellowship with sorrow-tinged pride. Gimli was the guiding star of his life—he would not take well to the suggestion that his son was infatuated with an Elf.

Still, Bilbo was fond of Gimli, and if that’s where his heart lay, it was the least Bilbo could do to try and open Gloin’s mind to the possibility—in the most subtle way possible, of course.

“Well,” Bilbo said, hooking his cane over this elbow and clapping his hands once. “I believe you mentioned food? I promise I can offer you better fare than green salad and pilfered sausages.”

Gloin started, then laughed, long and deep. “Lead on, dear Bilbo, and show me how a Hobbit can improve on Elvish fare.” He offered his arm and Bilbo took it with a smile.

“Do you remember,” he asked as they walked away. “How Oin handled that flautist?”

“By putting his napkin in his horn, d’you mean?”

Bilbo giggled. “He looked so proud!”

“Aye,” Gloin laughed. “And, do you remember…”

And so they walked, trading memories. And really, it was not a bad way to spend one’s old age.

***

Legolas was away much among the Galadhrim, and after the first night he did not sleep with the other companions, though he returned to eat and talk with them. Often he took Gimli with him when he went abroad in the land, and the others wondered at this change.

(The Fellowship of the Ring, “The Mirror of Galadriel”)

***

Once, in conversation with a Man of Dale, Legolas remarked upon the odd manner of some members of a funeral procession as they happened to pass by.

“Aye,” The Man had said. “Greif is a funny thing,” and resumed the previous topic of exporting Elvish wine.

The phrase stuck with Legolas—Grief is a funny thing. True, Legolas spent less time than some speaking Westron, and it was possible that he had misheard, but…there was nothing funny about grief to an Elf.

Grief was a terrible, empty thing. A note of discord so strong it rattled teeth and shook bone. Greif changed all it touched, and many found they could no longer remain in Middle Earth after they had felt its presence, and sailed West.

Since that day, Legolas has had more experience with grief. He has heard the wrenching cries of Gimli at his cousin’s tomb, helped along the hobbits struck dumb after Mithrandir—

Mithrandir. His loss was a presence in Legolas’s mind, one that did not diminish in the fey light of Laurien. Legolas heard the mourning lament, and thought to himself, “Aye, grief is a funny thing,” even as it stilled his tongue.

The hobbits recovered first, as is their nature and that of all who are young. The life in them touched the Men, and though their minds were heavy still, they lingered not in their grief.

It was only Gimli and Legolas who remained, though Gimli hid it well and Legolas took to hiding himself. Still, with the familiarity of travel and the keen attention that was a habit of long adversity, Legolas saw Gimli’s plight, and wondered how he had ever thought Dwarves stone-hearted. Gimli mourned the loss of Gandalf, the loss of his kin, and the loss of his people’s legacy: Moria, and all within, was lost forever.

Here, too, Legolas saw the strength of Dwarves to endure. There was no wasting, though Legolas would say the light of Gimli had dimmed, and he spoke little and ate less.

“Cousin.” Legolas turned as an unfamiliar Elf in muted gold approached. “Come. Walk with us. Give us news of the North and we will show you the wonders of the Golden Wood.” Another Elf, in almost-copper, appeared from a tree, waiting.

“Yes,” Legolas said, and barely recognized his own voice. “Yes, thank you.”

So, they walked and showed Legolas how to read the paths and where to get food and drink. For a while, Legolas’s sorrow eased and he laughed (though not long) and sang (though not loud), and when they returned Legolas that twilight, a piece of his old life had returned. It was enough that he resolved to do the same the next day.

In the morn, long before the hobbits stirred, Legolas woke from his shallow repose and readied for the day. He turned to leave and paused; he was not the only one awake. Gimli sat by the embers of the fire, idly smoking as he stared at the remnants of heat.

Legolas remembered his harsh words that now seemed so petty, his behavior at the bridge that offered such great offense. What was the worth of such a feud, of such hatred, when they were facing such odds?

Gimli had done naught to deserve his ire; Legolas would make amends.

“Master Dwarf,” Legolas called softly. Slowly, Gimli looked up at Legolas, surprised and wary.

“Master Elf,” Gimli replied, low voice rumbling.

“I…” Legolas began, and licked his lips. Gimli raised an eyebrow, and Legolas cursed his hesitation. “I plan to explore the woods to the South. Would you do me the honor of accompanying me?”

Gimli leaned back, studying Legolas. Not used to such shrewd scrutiny, Legolas had to resist the urge to shift. At length, Gimli nodded.

“Aye. I think I will. I have found unlooked for beauty in these trees, and I would see more.”

Legolas nodded his head and waited for Gimli to gather his things. To his surprise, Gimli left his mail and helm, taking with him only his pipe and a small bag of pipe-weed.

They walked the first length in silence, adjusting with ease to the other’s gait. Legolas was surprised that he barely had to shorten his stride, and Gimli showed no noticeable sign of lengthening his, though he kept pace with nary a complaint.

Legolas led them South, following the markers he had been taught to read, and Gimli, who should have no reason to trust him, followed. As the sun reached its Zenith, they came upon a glade with a small waterfall that fell into a little pond. Here they paused to break their fast and find rest in the dappled leaves. After they had eaten, Gimli lit his pipe once more, and at length, spoke.

“Why?” He asked, voice feather soft.

Legolas counted his breath, one, two, and said, “Grief is a funny thing.”

Gimli snorted, but a wry twinkle in his eye made Legolas think it was not, actually, derision. “Aye, that it is.” He sighed. “That is is.”

“I have found that grief shared is grief lessened,” Legolas continued, realizing only now the depth of reasoning behind his invitation. “And I, who have caused you much grief, seek to lessen yours now, when it is so great.”

Gimli smoked, watching the light on the water. “If we were to each make amends for past grievances, we would be here until the end of the third age.” Legolas let himself smile, a faint curve of his lips, where Gimli couldn’t see. “Nay, you need not make amends. It was already done when you pulled me from Moria. I do not hold your past against you, if you do not hold me to mine.”

“Done and done,” Legolas said. “It gladdens my heart, truly. But you still mourn, as I,” he paused. “As those who are less long lived do not.”

“This is true,” Gimli said. “Though I am surprised to see you admit it.”

Legolas did smile then, wan and self-aware. “As am I, but that does not make it less true.” He cocked his head. “Indeed, you bring out many surprising things in me, Master Dwarf. I did not appreciate this in the past, but I do feel I am the better for it.”

Gimli raised his eyebrows, clearly surprised. After a moment, he said, “And you, I.” He cleared his throat. “And my name is Gimli, lad. I would be most pleased if you used it.”

“Gimli, then,” Legolas said. “And I, Legolas.”

Gimli raised his pipe in salute. “Well met, Legolas.”

Legolas nodded back. “Well met, Gimli.”

They remained in the glen in companionable silence until the sun started to shift to evening, and when they returned to the camp for supper, they were chatting amiably about the sights they had seen, laughing freely though it was still tinged with lingering sadness. It was a surprise, to be sure, but like most surprises, lost its edge the more it was seen. For the rest of their time in Lorien, they were by each other’s side as friends.

***
Eomer’s eyes blazed, and the Men of Rohan murmured angrily, and closed in, advancing their spears. “I would cut off your head, beard and all, Master Dwarf, if it stood but a little height from the ground,” said Eomer.

“He stands not alone,” said Legolas, bending his bow and fitting an arrow with hands that moved quicker than sight. “You would die before your stroke fell.”

(The Two Towers, “The Riders of Rohan”)

***

”It is old, very old,” said the Elf. “So old that almost I feel young again, as I have not felt since I journeyed with you children. It is old and full of memory. I could have been happy here, if I had come in days of peace.”

“I dare say you could,” snorted Gimli. “You are a Wood-elf, anyway, though Elves of any kind are strange folk. Yet you comfort me. Where you go, I will go. But keep your bow ready to hand, and I will keep my axe loose in my belt. Not for use on trees,” he added hastily, looking up at the tree under which they stood.

(The Two Towers, “The White Rider”)

***

For all the trials Aragorn had faced, they seemed less arduous when Legolas held aloft the pendant of the Evenstar, believed lost to him.

“We can any of us find love in the most unlikely of places,” Legolas said. He curled Aragorn’s fingers closed around the pendant. The edges pressed sharply into his palm, and Aragorn wondered at Legolas’s own unlikely love.

“Legolas!” Gimli shouted, his deep voice echoing off the stone. Aragorn thought that he had never sounded more dwarvish. Brightening, Legolas turned, eyes searching as his ears tried to track the path of the sound. “Aragorn! Where are you?”

“Over here, melon-nin,” Legolas called. Gimli poked his head over the edge of the balcony above them.

“There you are!” Gimli said. “This place is full of such wonders! If only the times were not so dark.” He went to pull back and paused. “You know, Legolas, I think this is the first time I’ve seen the top of your head?”

“Aye,” Legolas answered. “And the first time I’ve seen up your nose.”

“Ha!” Gimli laughed, a great booming crack that startled one of the young boys who was passing with a basket of small bread. “A fitting turn in these days, for you to see life above ground as a dwarf, and I to see perched like an elf.”

Chuckling to himself, Gimli pulled back. Legolas let his smile grow more fond out of his friend’s sight, but Aragorn saw, and saw the way Legolas drew it back again before turning around.

Yes, Aragorn thought. The most unlikely of places.

***

Gimli stood leaning against the breastwork upon the wall. Legolas sat above on the parapet, fingering his bow, and peering out into the gloom.

“This is more to my liking,” said the dwarf, stamping on the stones. “Ever my heart rises as we draw near the mountains. There is good rock here. This country has tough bones. I felt them in my feet as we came up from the dike. Give me a year and a hundred of my kin and I would make this a place that armies would break upon like water.”

“I do not doubt it,” said Legolas. “But you are a dwarf, and dwarves are strange folk. I do not like this place, and I shall like it no more by the light of day. But you comfort me, Gimli, and I am glad to have you standing with me with your stout legs and your hard axe. I wish there were more of your kin among us. But even more would I give for a hundred good arches of Mirkwood. We shall need them. The Rohirrim have good bowmen after their fashion, but there are too few here, too few.”

“It is dark for archery,” said Gimli. “Indeed it is time for sleep. Sleep! I feel the need of it, as never I thought any dwarf could. Riding is tiring work. Yet my axe is restless in my hand. Give me a row of orc-necks and room to swing and all weariness will fall from me!” (The Two Towers, “Helm’s Deep.”)

Legolas smiled softly; he had quickly become enamored of his friend’s fire of spirit. To see him thus before battle comforted him, but was little enough in the face of what was to come.

“Sleep, yes,” he said, but there would be no rest for Legolas. Even if he had need, and he did not yet, his mind would find no peace tonight.

 

Legolas had not lived such dark times as the Third Night of Helms Deep since the Battle of Five Armies. The starless night had seemed an ill omen, and hope seemed lost. Legolas’s arrows were spent. The Men fought valiantly but with no easing. Gimli had not been seen for hours Nay! Do not think it! Aragorn had said he’d seen him fighting, and Legolas knew there was none Gimli’s better with an ax. Still, he worried.

 

The dawn brought hope in the way sunlight chases away shadow, and Legolas found himself fighting renewed as the sun crested the hill.

The return of Gandalf had Legolas cheering with the crowd, and the ride of the Eorlings was truly a sight to behold.

Still, none of these gladdened his heart as hearing Gimli’s shouted count of “Forty-two, Master Legolas!”

Indeed, so strong was Legolas’s joy and relief that he barely heard Gimli’s lamenting of his notched axe. Happily, Legolas conceded their game, and looked his fill on his dear friend.

Somehow, Gimli had lost his helm, and had obviously wrapped a bandage ‘round his own head once the fighting had ceased. He had blood still smeared down the side of his face, and his beard was matted with it. Yet, Gimli was in good spirits, caring more for his weapon than for his head.

Without thought, Legolas raised his hand to Gimli’s face, hovering his fingers over the sight of the wound, as if he could heal it with a touch. Gimli’s grumbling faded away as he watched Legolas with a soft look.

“I’m alright, laddie,” he said, quietly. “I’ve a hard head, and my helm took most of the damage, besides. I wasn’t even rattled.”

“How could you tell?” Legolas short back, but his voice wavered and he had to breathe deep to keep back tears.

Gimli huffed softly. “Practice,” he said, and pulled off his glove, taking Legolas’s hand in his own. Dwarves burn hotter than Elves, and Gimli’s hand was hot around Legolas’s, hot and calloused, but not rough. Nay, it was soft the way work leather is soft—sturdy for all it’s suppleness and Legolas curled his long fingers around Gimli’s. Legolas’s hands had a bowman’s strength, but even he could feel the sheer power Gimli possessed, the power to wield his axe as if it weight naught but air, the power to hold on tightly and not let go.

Plans were made to travel to Isengard, and Gimli spoke for them both, refusing to be left behind. Legolas kept his silence; after days of battle, all the attention he could muster was on the press of skin to skin. The men were just as wearied; they would rest and set out on the morn.

“Come, friend Gimli,” Legolas said, but made no motion to move. “Let us rest, and you can tell me how you lost your helm.”

“Aye,” Gimli said, wearied. “It would be good to bathe, first. I am covered in orc stink!”

Legolas looked down at his own splattered tunic. “I seemed to have faired no better.

“All the more reason,” Gimli said, pulled gently, leading Legolas by the hand back into the keep.

 

The Rohirrim, traditionally, had bathhouses much as the Dwarves did. They were warm, steamy, and close, made for intimate conversations and were quite unlike the open, cool waters of Elvish baths.

Legolas spared a thought for those waters, they would certainly sooth the feverish heat that clouded his mind, but even he could not deny the pleasure as the heat seemed into sore muscles. Tucked away into a corner for more privacy, he sank into the water up to his chin and watched Gimli though hooded eyes. The Dwarf had more layers than Legolas, and was only now peeling away the last of his underthings.

It was not the first time Legolas had seen Gimli naked; the nature of their quest had been such that he had seen Gimli undressed even before their sojourn through ‘Lorien, and the baths there. Gimli had many choice words to say about the temperature of the waters, and few of them were in Weston. At the time it had made Legolas laugh and tease, and even now it brought a small smile to Legolas’s face. These waters would be much more to Gimli’s liking.

Gimli stretched, pressed a hand to his lower back and arched until something popped his his spine. He let out a gusty sigh, and Legolas was taken, once again, by the sheer vitality of his friend. He was just so alive.

And you nearly lost him, today, Legolas thought, and felt his heart trip and stutter. He pushed the though away; it was too terrible to consider. It was bad enough when they had though Aragorn lost to an orc and a cliff. Gimli had become very dear to him, and the thought of having to continue without him made Legolas shiver despite the heat.

Gimli groaned as he sank into the water. Even when sitting tall, the water covered his beard and mustache, making him tilt his head back to keep his nose in the air. Grumbling, he stood, and the water now lapped gently at his shoulders. Legolas ignored the looks and mutterings of the few Men who shared the room (is that the Elf? Aye, and the Dwarf.), and smiled fondly at Gimli.

Truly, he had grown more than passing fond of the Dwarf before him, and as he watched Gimli’s ablutions, he realized that his feelings had grown quite deeper than mere fondness, and had been for some time.

Surprised by his own emotions, Legolas sank quickly under the water, wetting his hair so when he rose, it fell like a curtain in front of his eyes. Still, he watched through the veil.

The water had darkened his hair from rich auburn to burnt umber, and Legolas desired to twist his fingers in the abundant mass. Gimli’s washing cloth left a soapy path though the grime on his chest and Legolas longed to press his mouth there, to lave at the ink-scarred skin. Would that skin taste different? he wondered. Would it be rough under my tongue? Gimli cleaned the blood from his face and Legolas saw his friend’s straight brow and strong profile, and thought him beautiful.

His breath caught. Gimli looked up at the sound and laughed when he saw Legolas.

“You must be tired, my friend,” He said with teasing humor. “To sit there looking so much as a drowned rat with narry a care for whom might see. Where is your Elvish vanity?”

Ai, yes, he loved this Dwarf, his Gimli.

Weariness fell away in the wake of this revelation, and Legolas ducked back under the water, only to rise closer to Gimli, his target, and spit a long stream of water at him. Gimli spluttlered and Legolas laughed, feeling not the weight of his centuries as Gimli growled playfully and splashed back with a war-cry. Then, they were playing like children, giddy and glad to be alive and in each other’s company.

At length they stopped, catching their breath though fading laughter in the happy glow of their companionship.

Legolas noticed that Gimli’s bandage was nearly soaked through. “Come,” he said, standing. The air was cooler than the water and it felt good on Legolas’s flushed skin. Gimli met and held Legolas’s eyes. “We have disrupted enough of their bathing already, and your dressing needs changing.”

“Aye, true,” Gimli said with a sigh. Side by side, they climbed from the bath.

There were no private rooms, so they made their way to the corner where they had piled their things. Gimli dried himself roughly, and Legolas watched in amusement as the rust colored hair on Gimli’s chest and arms turned from russet back to auburn.

Legolas tied his towel about his waist and pushed his hair back with his fingers. His hair did not change in the water as Gimli’s did, or even the blonde among the Men, though it did stay when he pushed it when wet. There would be time to braid it later.

“Sit,” Legolas said, gesturing at a nearby bench as Gimli pulled his trousers on. Still shirtless, Gimli complied. Legolas unwound the bandage, doing his best to ignore the proximity of Gimli’s bare skin. Dwarvish constitution was a hearty thing, and already Gimli’s wound had scabbed and was well on its way to healing.

“It is well you have such a hard head, my friend,” Legolas said lightly. “There is little damage to you, though I couldn’t say the same of the orc’s blade.”

“Ha!” Gimli laughed, and Legolas felt the warm, damp hair puff against his side. “I like that.” With no real reason to stay close anymore, Legolas moved to step back. ‘’

“Oh! Um…Legolas?”

Legolas stopped. “Yes, Gimli?”

“I, um, was wondering if…” Gimli sighed, tired with himself. “Would you do me the—no. Would you braid my hair?”

Legolas cocked his head. Oh, how he wanted to. But, “I have heard that there are meanings to Dwarvish braids.”

“Aye,” Gimli said. “In the weave and the weaver. But right now, it means that I care for and trust you. So, I ask again. Do me the honor of braiding my hair?”

“Yes, dear Gimli.” He did not say that he felt the same for Gimli, but he knew Gimli could read it on his face, in his acceptance.

Silently, Gimli handed over his comb and Legolas gathered Gimli’s hair (still wet, but better for working; thick and full and surprisingly soft). Legolas closed his eyes and gave into the urge, breathing deep the oxide-ozone smell of Dwarves, of the peculiar notes that were all Gimli.

Cared for and trusted, Legolas thought. Tis true enough, both ways. For now, at least, it will be enough.

Carefully, Legolas’s fingers began to plait.

***

“I will come, if I have the fortune,” said Legolas. “I have made a bargain with my friend that, if all goes well, we will visit Fangorn together—by your leave.”

“Any Elf that comes with you will be welcome,” said Treebeard.

“The friend I speak of is not an Elf,” said Legolas; “I mean Gimli, Gloin’s son here.” Gimli bowed low, and the axe slipped from his belt and clattered to the ground.

“Hoom, hm! Ah now,” said Treebeard, looking dark-eyed at him. “A dwarf and an axe bearer! Hoom! I have good will to Elves, but you ask much. This is a strange friendship!”

“Strange it may seem,” said Legolas; “but while Gimli lives I shall not come to Fangorn alone. His axe is not for trees, but for orc-necks, O Fangorn, Master of Fangorn’s Wood. Forty-two he hewed in the battle.”

“Hoo! Come now!” said Treebeard. “That is a better story! Well, well, things will go as they will; and there is no need to hurry to meet them.”

(The Two Towers, “The Voice of Saruman”)

***

It was good to have the hobbits back—Merry and Pippin, at any rate. Legolas would have like Sam and Frodo nearby as well, but he did not begrudge them their must urgent of tasks.

The return to Edoras was a cause for feast; they had survived. They would honor their dead and celebrate the living. Merry and Pippin, in true hobbit fashion, took to carousing as Serious Business, and were soon singing and dancing drunkenly on a table.

Legolas laughed at their antics, but found himself most entranced when Gimli produced a strange little instrument, stringed and perfectly tuned, and began to play.

The sound was…enchanting. Legolas felt the sounds of revelry fall away as he was swept up in the ringing tones of dwarvish music.

Then, Gimli began to sing.

Legolas’s breath caught, heart pounding. Gimli sang with all the dignity and depth of the Dwarrowdelf itself, and his voice echoed against Legolas’s breastbone, filling his chest. He watched and listened, transfixed.

It was the only reason Legolas could later give as to why Aragorn was able to sneak up on him.

“So that is Dwarvish music,” Aragorn said, close to Legolas’s ear. Legolas startled, whipping his head to see Aragorn’s smirk, but the music pulled at him and he could not keep hold of his anger.

“Yes,” he said, simply. “I have never heard such…” He trailed off as Gimli’s fingers picked out a complicated rhythm.

“I have heard dwarves play before,” Aragorn said, musing. “In taverns during my travels. But that was pub music. It was never like this.”

“It ensnares my soul,” Legolas said faintly.

Aragorn arched an eyebrow. “The music or the musician?”

Gimli finished with a flourish to much applause, and Legolas felt as if he was surfacing from a deep lake. He needed air; the press of Men was too much, too close. Without a word, Legolas turned and left the hall, not noticing or caring if anyone was watching.

Legolas strode quickly to the edge of the platform and stopped just out of the light of the corner torch. The night was cool, warmer than the nights in Mirkwood, but enough to bring a chill with the strong gusts that whipped and snapped across the plains. It took effort to stand still in the face of such force, and Legolas calmed as he focused on the wind.

He just needed a few moments away from temptation, away from the source of such sweet agony. He would listen to the night and the stars and when he was once more the master of his own emotions, he would rejoin the revelry and seek out Gimli.

A warm hand, broad, strong, and very familiar, pressed to Legolas’s back and when Legolas turned his head, Gimli was looking up at him with no small concern. Oh, Gimli!

“Are you well, Legolas?” Gimli asked. “You have not been acting yourself.” He frowned. “You were not injured in battle; it would be unwise to conceal an orc wound, and for so long. They fester.”

“Peace, nay,” Legolas said. “I was not wounded by any orc.”

Gimli narrowed his eyes. “But you were wounded by something.”

Legolas hesitated because how could he explain the pain in his heart? He paused too long and Gimli’s face grew stormy. “Who was it? One of the Men? That rogue Eomer? Tell me quick, and my axe will teach him his last lesson!”

“Nay!” Legolas stepped forward, stopping Gimli with a hand on his shoulder. “I was not wounded by any Man.”

Gimli took that hand in his own. “Then by whom?”

Legolas closed his eyes and heard Gimli gasp as he dropped Legolas’s hand.

“Me!” Gimli cried, stricken, and Legolas’s eyes flew open to see the anguish on Gimli’s face. “I don’t know how, but it was I that caused you ill.”

Legolas shook his head. “Nay…”

“No,” Gimli said, holding up his hand. “I will not stay to hurt you more.” He turned to leave, and Legolas cried out—

“Leaving would hurt me worst of all!”

Gimli paused, still not looking at Legolas. “So, you admit it was I.”

Legolas swore; it was a curse Gimli knew well for he heard it often, mocking it for sounding too fair to mean anything truly foul. Now, Gimli said naught. “I hurt myself, you stubborn—,” Legolas bit his lip, swallowing back his frustration. Gimli stared in shock and Legolas felt suddenly very tired. The strain of keeping this from Gimli, Gimli with whom he shared everything, was too great. He closed his eyes and spoke.

“My mind torments me with waking dreams of that which I desire and do not have.” He paused. “’Can not have’ may be closer to the truth.” He forced himself to meet Gimli’s eyes. “It was not until that black night at Helm’s Deep that I realized the depth of my feelings for you, or the nature that they have taken. But never before in the history of Arda has an Elf and a Dwarf been connected as we are and I cannot help but hope—”

Legolas swallowed and forced himself to continue. “I am not so greedy to require that you love me as I love you; I am happy and proud to be your friend, and if your feelings for me go no deeper than friendship, then your friend ever will I gladly be.”

Gimli stared for a long moment, and as Legolas started to despair that he had made a terrible error, Gimli spoke.

“But I am that greedy,” Gimli said, voice low and rough and so very dear, “For I love you as a Dwarf loves, as One with all my heart and soul, and it has been the greatest of agonies thinking that you did not feel the same. I would never take that which was never freely offered, and dwarves can bear an eternity of such agony if their loves are denied them. But once offered, I would take the Dragon’s share, and offer it back to you thrice fold. I had hoped…” Gimli trailed off, and Legolas stepped forward, heart in his throat. Could it be?

“You love me?” Legolas asked. “Truly?”

“Truly, forever, and always,” Gimli said with such utter surety, and then scowled. “Do you doubt my word?”

Legolas laughed, giddy. “Nay, meleth-nin. It was not your words I doubted, but my own ears. You love me!”

“I do,” Gimli said, and raised his chin, face softening in wonder. “And you love me.”

“Truly,” Legolas said, echoing Gimli’s words. “Forever, and always.”

Gimli cried out, a soft “ah” that seemed to hold all of his worry and fear as it was released, to be felt no more. “Then if you love me, stop this cruelty and come closer that I may touch you. Kiss me, that my lips may show my love for you in ways stronger than words!”

And Legolas flew into Gimli’s arms with all the fleet-footed speed of the Elves, and Gimli held Legolas with the enduring strength of the Dwarves as they came together, at last, in love.

There was not the time, nor was this the place for ceremonies of union. True, neither of them did know what such a bonding would look like. Still, they were both warriors at the end of an age, at the edge of battle, and they knew all to well how the morrow could bring an end to something not yet begun. So, when Legolas pulled back and drew Gimli deeper into the lee of the building, deeper into shadow, Gimli went willingly and they met with joy in their hearts for together they would keep this night.

***

Inside the hall, Gandalf suddenly paused in lighting his pipe, drawing Aragorn’s attention. Gandalf grinned, more friendly than he ever had in his past life, and laughed. He lit his pipe.

He blew a ring of smoke up to the rafters. “It’s about time,” he said, but for what, none could make him say.

***

“The Sea! Alas! I have not yet beheld it. But deep in the hearts of all my kindred lies the sea-longing, which it is perilous to stir. Alas! For the gulls. No peace shall I have again under beech or under elm.”

“Say not so!” said Gimli. “There are countless things still to see in Middle-earth, and great works to do. But if all the fair folk take to the Havens, it will be a duller world for those who are doomed to stay.”

(The Return of the King, “The Last Debate”)

***

Legolas and Gimli were wed in a private ceremony the day before Aragorn’s coronation. It was attended only by the members of the fellowship, Faramir, Eowyn, and Eomer. They gathered under the White Tree as the sun set, the light turning the stone to amber-gold; it caught on the beads in Gimli’s beard, on Legolas’s coronet.

They appeared as heroes of legend, dressed each in the finest style of their peoples, as befitting an Elvish prince and Dwarvish lord. Legolas shone in the deepening shadows, and Gimli burned bright in the setting light.

Gandalf led them in their vows as they pledged their love and fealty, swearing their bond to the end of their lives and beyond and exchanging their rings in Elvish fashion (Gimli had forged them himself a week before, repurposing a broach gifted to him by Aragorn as an engagement present).

Then, in Dwarvish fashion, in front of the witnesses, first Gimli, then Legolas, braided a lock of the other’s hair, securing them with the Wedding Beads Gloin had given Gimli on his centennial. The braids were set behind their left ears, awaiting the blessing of the king.

The ceremony ended with a kiss, and they met in love as the sun gave it’s last flair of brilliance before setting, and when they parted, they saw their love for the other reflected in torchlight.

“Oh, that was beautiful!” Pippin exclaimed. “Is it time for the feast?”

Merry cuffed the back of Pippin’s head, and Legolas grinned. Laughing, Gimli agreed that yes, it was time for feasting and celebration, and the retired to the happy little house they had occupied since the end of the battle.

The celebration lasted well into the night, and, when the guests finally slumbered, the newlyweds continued their own private celebration until dawn.

***

Now the guests were ready, and they drank the stirrup-cup, and with great praise and friendship they departed, and came at length to Helm’s Deep, and there they rested two days. Then Legolas repaid his promise to Gimli and went with him to the Glittering Caves; and when they returned he was silent, and would say only that Gimli alone could find fit words to speak of them. “And never before has a Dwarf claimed victory over an Elf in a contest of words,” said he. “Now therefore let us go to Fangorn and set the score right!” (The Return of the King, “Many Partings”)

“I had you at a loss for words last night,” Gimli muttered. Legolas felt the tips of his ears turn red.

***

But all save Legolas said that they must now take their leave and depart either south or west. “Come, Gimli,” said Legolas. “Now by Fangorn’s leave I will visit the deep places of the Entwood and see such trees as are nowhere else to be found in Middle-earth. You shall come with me and keep your word; and thus we will journey on together to our own lands in Mirkwood and beyond.” To this Gimli agreed, though with no great delight, it seemed.” (The Return of the King, “Many Partings”)

Legolas watched as Gimli grumbled his way through getting ready. Gimli caught his look and seemed vaguely ashamed. “Nay,” Gimli said, shaking his head. “I said I would go, and Gimli son of Gloin keeps his word.”

“It will be good for thee,” Legolas said, dryly. Gimli huffed.

***

Their homecoming was…odd. The war of the North had taken a great toll on their homes, and in continued alliance, the Elves and the Dwarves worked together to rebuild. There was still much mistrust, and the alliance was more business than not, but it was common enough that when Legolas and Gimli arrived in the Dale, they turned heads more for being part of the fellowship than for riding a single horse.

It was a big enough event that King Thorin III, the new King Under the Mountain, and King Thranduil, who had already turned his eye to the West though he lingered to see his son once more, held a joint banquet for their return.

Between Dwarvish exuberance and Elven excess, it was quite the party. Ale and wine flowed freely; dishes heaped with savory meats and succulent fruits were passed in constant procession. There was little mingling between the races, but there was peace, and it eased the worry in Legolas’s heart.

Gimli’s reunion with his father was spectacular, and involved many hugs and joyful tears. Legolas’s reunion with his own father was more reserved, but no less emotional.

It was good to be home, though Legolas still felt the call of the sea, and the desire to see Ithillian restored. It was while he was lost in a daydream of the joint settlements of Aglarond and Ithillian, that he, aided by wine, revealed his marriage to his father. Legolas tilted his head back, chasing the last taste at the bottom of the cup, wondering distantly if Gimli wanted more time alone with his father. He reached forward to pour more wine and felt his hair shift and drape over his shoulder, felt the bead rest heavy against his collarbone.

“My son,” Thranduil said, goblet frozen halfway to his lips. His voice was even, but Legolas could hear the strain. “Those are not elvish braids in your hair.”

Conversation around them stopped, and Legolas picked up his goblet, swirling it to watch the wine coat the sides of the glass. The pause at their own table spread as the others at the banquet wondered what had happened. Even the jolly ruckus of the dwarves had calmed.

“Indeed not,” Legolas answered. “For it was not an elf that put them there.”

Complete silence followed his words and Legolas sipped his wine, savoring the fruity burst on his tongue, the effervescent aroma that curled about his senses. It was no wonder this wine had been enough to distract the guards so long ago, to allow thirteen prisoners (plus one) to escape. If Legolas had been one of them, he’d have been just as distracted.

Opening his eyes, Legolas saw Gimli immediately. His hair loose from his traveling braid and his beard elaborately woven though with tiny braids secured by jeweled beads—braids that Legolas’s nimble fingers had twisted in the four-strand style of the elves scant hours before—Gimli was a vision, strong and proud and everything that Legolas adored. Gimli’s lips twisted in an amused smirk, but one only Legolas would recognize from this distance. He knew what Legolas was doing, and found it amusing.

Elbereth, Legolas loved that dwarf.

Looking back to his father, Legolas had to put his goblet to his lips to hide his smile. Thranduil was pale, save for two high spots of color on his cheeks, and his eyes were wide.

“You allowed a dwarf to braid your hair?” Thranduil said quietly. Not quietly enough, for whispers started.

“Not just any dwarf,” Legolas said. “My beloved.” He turned and raised his goblet in salute to Gimli. Gimli, bless him, started to laugh, quietly though his body shook, and raised his tankard in return.

***

When King Elessar gave up his life Legolas followed at last the desire of his heart and sailed over Sea. We have heard that Legolas took Gimli Glóin's son because of their great friendship, greater than any that has been between Elf and Dwarf. If this is true, then it is strange indeed: that a Dwarf should be willing to leave Middle-earth for any love, or that the Eldar should receive him, or that the Lords of the West [the Valar] should permit it. But it is said that Gimli went also out of desire to see again the beauty of Galadriel; and it may be that she, being mighty among the Eldar, obtained this grace for him.

(The Return of the King, “Appendix A: Annals of the Kings and Rulers”)