A slash AU bubble growing off my Unbinding universe, and if you want to blame anyone it's Theresa's plot bunny's fault.

Familiarity with Unbinding the Box will explain some allusions in the story, but Unbinding is not set in a slash universe so you don't have to go back and re-interpret all the relationships in that. (Unless you want to of course. Oh, shut up, Rose.)

WARNING DO NOT READ IF YOU DON'T LIKE L:G SLASH

All hail Theresa Green the funniest writer, and truest Beta an author could ask for.

Look for her wonderful guest chapter in the middle of this.

Rose Sared.

Beasts and Bees

Late in the summer, a bumblebee flew its meandering course over Gimli's inert body. He lay in the prickly grass, indolent, enjoying the comfortable ease that follows hard work, a full stomach, and a more than adequate supply of ale.

The bee's raucous buzzing prompted him to open his eyes and idly follow the departing black dot as it flew down the line of vine supports he and Legolas had laboured at fixing in the stony soil today. Gimli sighted down the last half-dozen posts they had completed by themselves, put in with the strength of his arm and the leverage provided by the much taller elf. He sighed in the satisfaction of a job well done.

It was a mighty task, this preparation of a new vineyard on a south facing slope of Emyn Arnen in Ithilien. Five dwarves started the hole-digging six weeks ago, a whole crew of elves supplied the substantial spruce supports, and the work progressed at a pace only co-operation could have achieved.

The rest of the workers left at day-meal to prepare a feast in celebration, by mutual agreement leaving the two Lords to finish the job to their satisfaction. Gimli mentally shook his head. Those flighty elves took any excuse to have a party.

The two of them finished the work about an hour ago and then fell ravenously on the provisions left for them. After their meal they both lay on their backs on the springy straw of the meadow grass to soak up the last rays of the sun like a pair of turtles, baking in her kindly warmth.

He let his head roll to the side and looked at the Lord of Ithilien lying beside him, his eyes shut against the sun's golden glare. The afternoon light painted the elf in butter tones and Gimli let his gaze roam across the glitter of Legolas' slightly sun-bronzed skin, following a loose strand of pale hair that trailed out of his workaday braid and ran teasingly across his bare shoulder to rest on the sculpted muscle of his chest. Gimli shifted his gaze to look down the length of his own body, from his beard-covered torso to the sunburnt mahogany of his muscle-knotted forearms.

Could there be a bigger contrast?

Gimli sat up, all over gooseflesh from the tug of desire that moved him. He would not even think of going there. Minuial at least defined Legolas' preferences for him. His own were an understood thing amongst his close kin, he formed no lasting liaisons and had named his heir, so was tolerated in his orientation.

But did his friend have to be so beautiful? Beauty disarmed Gimli.

He risked another look at Legolas, who lay on the ground with the boneless relaxation of a cat, a small smile playing around his lips, his eyelashes brushing his cheeks in shameless profusion.

Gimli reached for his ale-skin and took a swallow of the lukewarm liquid, any action being better than thinking.

"Give me a mouthful," Legolas drawled.

 Gimli looked at the elf's wineskin that was hanging on the nearest post, out of reach unless the elf chose to move.

Gimli snorted. "You hate ale." He got to his feet and started over to the post. "Why would I waste good ale on you?"

Legolas sighed and stretched, arching his back so every muscle tensed, then relaxed again.

Gimli swallowed against the sudden obstruction in his throat, if he didn't know better he would think the elf was displaying himself specifically to torment him.

"Here." Gimli dangled the wineskin over his supine friend, who still had his eyes shut against the sun.

The elf's smile became a grin. He reached up a careless hand for the wine, and caught Gimli's wrist instead.

A current, like static, ran from that joining straight to Gimli's heart. He closed his eyes against the bittersweet pain of it, his emotions still raw from his long illness earlier in the year, his usual defences as thin as gold leaf.

When he opened his eyes again he became captured in the midnight intensity of Legolas' gaze.

"Why will you never ask me?" Legolas questioned softly. "You fight and fight this."

He sat up and released Gimli's wrist, relieving him of the wine skin. Then stood when he saw the dwarf's reaction to his words.

Gimli froze, as paralysed as any rabbit under the eye of a hawk. He felt hot shame flood his being, and then he turned away abruptly knowing his face had betrayed him.

All of his most secret fears rushed to overwhelm him. His imagination sped him into a future without his beloved friend. Showed him the looks of scorn and amusement on the faces of the other elves when Legolas told them of his folly. Showed him the blackness under his mountain where he would crawl away to die like some wounded beast.

 "Gimli?"

Legolas laid a gentle hand on his bare shoulder and this time the dwarf controlled his urge to either shudder, or turn and throw himself into the elf's arms.

"Gimli, I'm sorry I did not mean to distress you, but could we not at least talk about this? I cannot help but know how it takes you, when you are so close to me. Here."

 Legolas pressed him into sitting again and handed him his ale, then sat back down himself and took a swig of his own wine.

The silence lengthened for perhaps a minute. Then Legolas remarked conversationally.

"And shall we sink on the shoals of our differences, yet again, Gimli? All over something as trivial as sex?"

Gimli spluttered around a mouthful of ale and turned his hot gaze on his friend.

"Trivial?"

Legolas looked solemnly at his friend for a moment then laughed, a quick mirthless bark that rang harshly in the balmy air.

"Well, how would you call it, Gimli? Unless it for the purpose of breeding, sex has no more significance than a full or empty belly, it is a physical need that can be a mutual pleasure."

Gimli stared at the elf, made acutely aware of the great tail of years that trailed behind Legolas' ever young and beautiful body. For the first time since the very beginning of their relationship he tried to imagine the nearly twenty centuries of Legolas' life. Hundreds of years in which the drives of his body and the pull of his emotions must have been mastered in ways that Gimli could never grasp. Leaving everything old, everything explored, everything unsurprising.

No wonder elves were serene. It was more remarkable that they could relate in any meaningful way with mortals at all.

Gimli looked at the incised hop leaves winding round the leather body of his much-depleted ale-skin.

He knew that to take their relationship to a more intimate level would change it forever, and he granted that to an extent Legolas was right. Certainly Gimli had not let emotions cloud his brief liaisons with other dwarfs of like mind and taste. Infatuation, in fact, meant he often would chose not to follow a lust. Dwarves were jealous by nature and he had never fancied being the subject or object of some feud.

"Do you not know that I love you, flighty Elf?" Gimli looked up at Legolas from under his heavy brows and in his dark eyes was transparent emotion, as deep as the sea from which Legolas fled. "If we were joined of our bodies, instead of thus," he touched his chest over his heart and traced an imaginary string to Legolas' heart, "I would be able to suffer you no other, be parted from you never. Your breath would be my breath and I would live only by your grace. Sex with you would not be trivial to me, Legolas."

Now it was Legolas' turn to avert his face, a faint blush painted his cheeks and he became as interested in his wineskin as Gimli had been in his ale a moment or two before.

"So am I rebuked for my arrogance, my friend. I am sorry." He turned his intense gaze back to Gimli. "You have given me much to think on, but know this, I love you also, and in a way I have never experienced in all my long life.  And while I desire the sweetness of your body, it is your spirit that moves me so that I can stay in this world, despite the demands of the sea."

He unfolded gracefully to his feet, held out a hand to his friend, and then pulled Gimli to his feet also.

Then he stooped, and placed a sweet chaste kiss on Gimli's mouth. To Gimli it felt like a promise.

Gimli tucked the memory of both the kiss and Legolas' confession of desire into his heart, even as he tucked the remains of their picnic under his arms, and then he followed the elf as he shouldered their tools and set off down the prepared vineyard heading for home.

The Ruby Glow of Fine Wine

The dwarf visitors experienced the best of elven hospitality, a small feast, with just those who had formed or renewed bonds of friendship during the previous weeks. Their tables were laden with the first bounty of the year's harvest, grapes bunched in generous droops, crisp and aromatic bread, tender succulent beef.

Their hosts made careful sport of the dwarf's fondness for ale over their native wines, mindful of their allies' touchy natures. The elves even managed to coax a few of the braver souls to attempt the more robust reds of the last five years, explaining carefully the finer points of taste and quality, until the quantities consumed by both parties reduced the appreciation to silly drinking games.

And Legolas wooed Gimli, not that was obvious to any of the other attendees of the feast. But Gimli knew, and set his stubborn will against that of his friend.

Legolas placed him by his side, on the chair especially made for him. Other short folk balanced somewhat insecurely on piles of cushions, but not Gimli. His chair had been extended so that he could sit comfortably at table. Gimli's plate was always full, topped up by titbits, this dainty pastry or that morsel of meat speared by Legolas' long arm from the platters that arrived on the table full and departed empty. Ever anon Legolas plied him with ale, and proposed toasts to his people, and their strong arms and to the continued friendship they were building.

Gimli strove to remain unmoved by his laughing companion, whose festive crown of twined leaves sat rakishly over one eye, and to ignore his shirt of sinfully fine grey silk, that alternately gaped then clung to his body in a peep show that Gimli had no doubt was deliberate.

The evening wore on in jolly conviviality.

The dwarves sang a rousing chorus, their deep voices blending in complex harmony. They praised the values of brotherhood and hard work shared. The elves recovered from their surprise and replied likewise in song. Their lighter voices blending with the night airs as they praised Yavanna for her bounty and thanked Manwe and Sulimo for their care and protection. Finally the elves ended with their customary song of praise to Elbereth, Lady of Stars.

More toasts were obviously required.

Eventually the moon sank far enough to become entangled in the topmost branches of Ithilien's trees and the last of the revellers left the table to stagger off variously to their beds, leaving Legolas and Gimli, Lords of their people, to the diminishing firelight and each other's company.

Legolas leaned forward onto the table and propped his head comfortably on his hand. He reached into the skeletal remains of a bunch of grapes and removed the last berry, offered it to Gimli, who shook his head in sated negative, then popped the fruit into his own mouth.

Gimli watched him chew and swallow, fascinated as ever at how the elf could take the basest of animal functions and turn them into a work of art. He felt passive and happy, and nearly at the end of his ability to resist the blandishments of his tormentor.

Legolas' eyes glittered in the fire's spluttering light, he reached again and this time he ran a gentle finger down the length of one of Gimli's beard braids, following the fire's highlighting of the rich red in it

 "This hair of yours always delights me, did you know?" He smiled seductively at the dwarf, who attempted to frown at his liberty taking.

"Addle-pated elf." Gimli put his hands on the edge of the table preparatory to pushing himself back, but Legolas stayed him by moving his hand to cover the dwarf's.

"Will you walk with me, Gimli? To clear our heads."

Gimli cast a suspicious eye at his friend, and then shrugged.

 "If you wish, I have gone past weary to wakeful, and mayhap I will spot some prime timber for my axe." Legolas' lips twitched, acknowledging the standing joke, and then they both pushed back and stood, stretching limbs grown stiff from inactivity.

"No climbing, elf." Gimli fixed his friend with a no-nonsense glare.

Legolas sighed. "Nay? Then, let us visit the river and see the moon's reflection on the water."

Gimli rolled his eyes but followed happily enough, if a little unsteadily. He could not remember the last time he had imbibed so freely, perhaps at Gleowyn's wedding, in a vain attempt to block out the thought of Legolas with his cold partner, Minuial.

Legolas teased him all the way to the grassy banks of the Anduin. Laying a warm hand on his shoulder whilst pointing out a bright star, or taking his elbow as they negotiated a fallen tree-trunk, little touches and looks that allowed Gimli no time to find his emotional balance, and left him with no will to resist. At last Legolas lay back on the sloping bank and propped his head on his crossed arms to drink in the shimmering silver reflection of the moon on the smooth running river. Gimli sat down beside him, straight-backed and still resolute, until Legolas looked up at him and asked, "Kiss me?"

Damning himself for a fool Gimli lent down and captured those demanding lips with his own. Instantly sunk in the hot, sweet sensation of the elf's response, he simply could not tear himself away, despite the frantic voice of common sense that tried to get his attention. If he lost himself, the price was fair.

He felt Legolas shift under him, and then was encircled by the archer's arms, their strength burning desire through the white linen of his shirt. With a groan he reached himself, slid a hand into the opening of that tempting silk top and contacted the smooth iron of Legolas' muscled torso.

For a moment he wished he could simply cease to exist right then, wished that time would stop and all the complications that would arise from this coupling would never happen, wished them to either never have met or having met, wished they had sorted all this out years ago.

Then Legolas rolled him so he was underneath, and the weight of his friend's solid, beloved body removed any thoughts from his head except roiling sensation. So he surrendered his senses and his soul into the keeping of the only mate he had ever really wanted, who also, in some miracle of perversity, wanted him.

Of Lust and Laces WARNING EXPLICIT L:G SLASH

By Theresa Green

Gimli was no longer sure what his senses were telling him; the ale from the evening's feast and the overwhelming arousal stirred by the Elf's body atop him, made it impossible for him to concentrate. He was a being of pure sensation no logic was involved. He was conscious of the hot, wet heat of Legolas' mouth on his; could feel the Elf's tongue plunging frantically into his mouth; hear a groan of pleasure forced from his own throat. The slight weight of the Elf's svelte form pressed down on him more heavily than anything he had ever felt, which made no sense to him whatsoever. Gimli moved his hands under Legolas' silk shirt and found skin smoother than the sheer fabric that covered it. Gimli dragged both hands down the Elf's back, the bones and muscles hard under his touch. For a split second the thought crossed his mind that Legolas would never have felt such coarse, work-hardened hands on his body before. Irresistibly Gimli's hands moved lower to Legolas' narrow waist. He dug his fingers into the flesh and was rewarded by a soft moan from the Elf. The sound sent shivers through Gimli.

Legolas pulled back from the kiss and stared into Gimli's eyes. The Dwarf had never seen such a delightfully lascivious expression and in that moment realised that this act of sex was going to be frantic coupling rather than gentle, exploratory lovemaking. They had both waited too long for this. Well so be it, he thought. Subtlety could come later. To Gimli's delight, Legolas moved his head down to the Dwarf's chest and began to pull the buttons off Gimli's shirt with his teeth, spitting them out enthusiastically in all directions. Having disposed of the buttons, the Elf pulled open Gimli's shirt and ran his hands greedily over the dark hair that covered the Dwarf's barrel chest.

"Oh, gods, Gimli!" Legolas moaned as he lowered his head to bite at the dark nipples that were almost obscured by hair. Gimli gasped as the Elf's teeth pulled at the nub and groaned as Legolas soothed the bite with a long lick of his tongue. Gimli reached out to pull at the Elf's shirt, but his hands were batted away by an impatient Legolas. The message from the Elf was clear, he was in charge, and Gimli was content for it to be this way, for now.

That teasing mouth moved lower and the Elf's hands were demanding on Gimli's body. The Dwarf groaned and arched his back as Legolas' fingers stroked the aching hardness of his erection. Subtlety? The Elf had none whatever and Gimli was glad of it. He rocked his hips to increase the contact with Legolas' hand, all inhibitions gone as lust for this Elf washed over him. Legolas kept the contact of his fingers with Gimli's hardness, but moved his face close to the Dwarf's so that he could watch his expression. Gimli could not quite fathom the look in the Elf's eyes. Lust was there, overwhelming almost everything else, but curiosity also, and concern. "Was this how Gimli wanted it?"  Legolas' eyes seemed to say. "Or should we slow down and take our time?"

Gimli answered the question by growling deep in this throat and pulling the Elf's head down to take him in a searing kiss, thrusting his tongue into Legolas' mouth in time with the bucking of his hips.

Having received all the reassurance he needed, Legolas did not hold back. Pulling reluctantly away from the kiss, he began to unbuckle Gimli's belt and drag the Dwarf's breeches down.

"My boots! My boots!" Gimli hissed. "Take my boots off first, you daft Elf!"

Legolas realised that Gimli was right; he wouldn't be able to get the trousers off over the boots. He turned his attention to the Dwarf's feet and began pulling impatiently at the laces. His long fingers, normally so deft, tugged too hard and in all the wrong directions, turning the double-bow into a triple knot. The Elf swore colourfully and, grabbing the boot in both hands, tried to pull it off with the laces done up.

"Aargh!" cried Gimli. "My foot!"

This was getting ridiculous. Legolas turned his attention to the other boot and demonstrated, by his attempt to remove this one that lust clouded his ability to learn from his mistakes. Within seconds the laces were a tangled mess and the Elf was panting with frustration and desire.

"Take them off, Gimli. Take them off!"

"I'm not sure I can now. What, in Morgoth's name, have you done to them?" Gimli tried to sit up but found himself pushed roughly down again as Legolas resumed his attempt to pull his breeches down over his hips.

"They won't come off unless…"

"They will come off far enough, Gimli. Far enough for what I have in mind!"

"Legolas! The belt isn't undone properly! And the lacings…" But the Elf had ripped the belt from round Gimli's waist and tossed it away to join the shirt buttons. Now he was undoing the lacings with trembling fingers. Gimli lay back, enjoying the way the Elf's hands pushed against his arousal as he tried to undo the lacings. He closed his eyes and gave in to the delicious sensation of his hot flesh being buffeted by those long, long fingers. The exquisite fondling went on and on. And then the fingers left him to be replaced by the Elf's mouth as he tried to bite at the lacings. What on Middle-earth was Legolas doing? Gimli's eyes shot open and he looked up at the Elf.

"Erm, Legolas?"

"Mmm?"

"Not that for one minute I want you to stop, but what exactly is it that you are trying to do."

"I tryin oo et a aces unun!"

"What?"

Legolas lifted his head. He was breathing hard.

"I said, I am trying to get the laces undone, but it is dark and I cannot…I seem to have made it worse and…your boots…and…oh, by Sauron's black balls. This is so embarrassing!" The Elf collapsed back onto the grass next to Gimli. The Dwarf could not help but smile, despite the distraction of the insistent throbbing of certain parts of his body. Legolas, normally so full of serenity and composure, was totally exasperated. The darkness, the amount of wine imbibed and the desperation bred of lust had combined to make Legolas' sexual conquest of Gimli an abject failure. The Dwarf rocked with silent laughter at the utter ridiculousness of the situation. They wait goodness knows how many years to bring their relationship to this beautiful moment of consummation, and then Legolas, a creature with centuries of experience of the bedroom arts, fails even to get his lover's breeches off! As that thought hit him, his laughter could not be kept silent. Legolas looked at him sidelong from underneath a tangle of blond hair.

"I am so glad that you can see the funny side of this, Gimli, because I cannot."

"Oh, Legolas!" Gimli sat up and held out his arms to the Elf. "Come here, my dear, sweet Elf. Come here!"

Legolas sat up slowly and, a very small smile spreading over his face, he moved into the Dwarf's arms, jostled very slightly by the shaking of Gimli's laughter.

"Perhaps," said Gimli, gathering his self-control just a little, "this is a good thing, my beloved Legolas. Perhaps a frantic rut by the riverside is not how we should begin our lovemaking. Perhaps we should just calm down a little and wait for our wits to return, and then we can pay proper attention to one another. Savour the moment, I think? Yes?"

Legolas took a deep breath and looked longingly into Gimli's dark eyes. "I am sorry, Elvellon. It was my fault. I…"

"Shhh!" Gimli laid a finger on the Elf's mouth.

"But I should not have…"

"Hush, now!" And leaning forward, Gimli planted the most delicate kiss on Legolas' mouth. "Speak of it no more, my love. It matters not a whit. Now," he said standing up and holding out his hand to help Legolas, "let us find my belt, my shirt…"

"Your buttons!" laughed Legolas.

"Well, I can forget about the buttons. But what I am absolutely sure we need now, Legolas, is my bed and," he looked down at his tangled laces and then grinned up at the Elf, "a knife!"

Insubstantial Rock and The Permanence of Leaves.

End bit by Rose

Dawn slowly painted the interior of Gimli's guest room in tones of grey and silver. Outside, in the thick canopy of leaves, birds roused themselves noisily to greet the day. Inside, in complete reversal of their usual roles, Gimli sat propped against the carved backboard, eyes open but not entirely in the moment. Legolas slept so deeply that the merest glimmer of white could be seen under his nearly closed eyelids.

Gimli, disturbed from his reverie by the birds, looked fondly down at his lapful of limp Elf and tried to imprint the moment on his brain. But how to chose which image to keep? His heart rested in smug happiness, his body in complete satiation. Not a minute would he waste in sleep, and not a minute was less important to him than any other.

He shifted slightly and Legolas rolled onto his other side, still asleep, trailing his bounty of pale hair in a tickling mass across Gimli's short thighs. Gimli picked up a strand or two to enjoy the texture, and then tucked all of it down the elf's back and wriggled himself carefully out of bed. Stooping he snagged Legolas' soft grey shirt and pulled it over his own head. The surprising warmth of silk covered him to his knees and it smelt deliciously of his lover. For a moment his chest tightened, making him sway slightly in the intensity of the emotion he felt for the Elf, and then he impatiently pulled his beard free of the fabric and wandered over to the window. A leafy branch waved gently into and out of the balcony in the morning breeze. Gimli eyed it with disfavour.

Elves, he thought. Anyone else would have trimmed the limb so it wouldn't intrude, but they probably used it as a staircase. Then the robust summer green of the leaves caught him, and he let the oscillating branch stroke the palm of his hand as he breathed in the new day and his new life.

"Should I be jealous?"

Gimli managed not to jump, and then turned to meet his lover's touch. Legolas held out his hand from the balcony door, his lithe form as beautiful in the morning as it had been in the night, shining in his nakedness just as brightly as he shone in any clothing he graced with his form.

Gimli suffered himself to be kissed most thoroughly awake. But when Legolas' questing hands suggested more, he pushed him away laughing.

"First, my insatiable love, I must satisfy the baser demands of nature, and then perhaps we should make ourselves a little more presentable so that we do not shock both our races in one morning with the evidence of our depravity."

He bent down and shook his button-less white shirt and fastening deprived boots and leggings at the elf, mocking him for his clumsiness of the night before. The 'knife of liberation' he thought he might frame, and display on his bedroom wall to remind him of the fallibility of immortals.

Legolas laughed out loud, remembering his drunken attempts at seduction. Then he got a look of mischief on his face.  Intent, he stalked his lover around the room then caught him, skinned him easily out of his silk shirt, and then swung him back onto the bed for a session of tickling and kissing that nearly caused Gimli to embarrass himself before he could finally make his way to the privy.

Legolas was waiting for him when he returned with a selection of clothes plundered from Gimli's pack, bundled up with a pile of towels.

"Shall we bathe then, my fastidious dwarf?" That, coming from the pristine elf, made Gimli laugh again.

"Lead on." He enjoyed the view as he followed Legolas up to his room to collect a change of clothes for the Elf, and then down the winding stairways all the way to the bathing halls. They both had enormous difficulty restraining their touches to those sanctioned by custom for comrades.

Luckily the few other early risers either paid no attention to the old news of the pair, or were not wakeful enough after the excesses of the previous night to notice the unmistakeable aura of happiness that surrounded them.

When they returned to the covered landing that led either up to the Elf's room or down to his guest quarters, on the way back from the bathhouse, Gimli finally plucked up enough courage to lay his hand lightly on Legolas' arm, to stay him a moment.

"What are you going to tell Minuial, Legolas?" His face betrayed little of the pent up distress he was feeling for lancing their happiness with this pain. But he could not bear to put the issue off. Sharing was not an option for him, although a rational part of his mind knew that Legolas could probably cope with it, given the flexibility of elven attitudes to sex. The hand he lay on his beloved's arm positively thrummed with tension.

Legolas was not so cautious, whether because his elven senses told him they were unobserved or whether he did not care if anyone saw them, Gimli did not know. When the Elf sat on the bottom step of the stairs leading to his room and opened his arms to embrace him Gimli stepped into his hug with no hesitation, feeling safe in his lover's strong arms.

But Legolas did not immediately reassure him verbally, and Gimli felt his anxiety build again.

Finally he pulled back a little so he could try to read an answer off the Elf's face, but all he saw there was the love he already knew the Elf  felt for him.

"Legolas?" He pleaded gruffly, anxiety sparking anger, to cover his fear.

"I will tell her, Gimli." Legolas dropped his eyes and slid his arms down the strong muscles in Gimli's shoulders ending up grasping the Dwarf's elbows. He reached and tangled his fingers of one hand in the lush damp beard in front of him before meeting Gimli's eye again. "But what I tell her depends on how public we want to be with this."

Gimli shut his eyes. And so it starts, he thought.

"Gimli, I love thee," Legolas said in an intimate voice, "but our love will not be sanctioned either by my people or yours. This is truth, not the wishful thinking of a hopeful heart."

Gimli swallowed and looked again at his shining partner. "And I love thee, and would like to make things easier for you. But I cannot share you. I can hide the true nature of our love from the gossip of common folk. I can carry on with my duties to my people and miss you every day I am away from you. But I have to know you are mine, my Love."

Legolas nodded and ran a caressing hand down the side of Gimli's face.

"Will you help me to write a letter then, friend of my heart? For I have no idea how to phrase such a missive."

Gimli snorted in amusement. "And have I?"  He smiled ruefully at Legolas and even the Elf had to share the ridiculousness of the situation.

He stood up and gazed solemnly at his friend for a moment then looked up the stairs to his room. "Put your things away, then come up. Gimli. I'll attempt an opening or two, while I wait for you.

Sitting at breakfast an hour later, Gimli tried to keep an uncharacteristic silly grin off his face, while he made serious inroads into the bountiful meal. He had not been in the Elf's room upwards of ten minutes before consultation became kissing and then letter writing degenerated in its turn to more interesting exploration of parts of his Elf's anatomy he had not fully worshipped in the dark of the night before. Legolas caught his eye at the breakfast table then, and shifted in his seat in what he could only call a suggestive manner, Gimli was extremely hard pressed to remain calm.

He turned away from his minx of a friend, and enquired of the stolid dwarf, Forin, who sat beside him, of his plans for the return journey. Forin showed no surprise when Gimli indicated he would be staying on for another couple of weeks and then went on to detail his travel plans in such mind numbing detail that it was not long before Legolas was almost choking trying to suppress his laughter at the fix Gimli found himself in. Forin his part was pleasantly surprised to find his Lord was happy to listen to him for a change instead of cutting him off when he had just got up a real enthusiasm for his subject, so he rambled on for longer than even was his usual want.

Gimli was dimly aware that a messenger had approached Legolas with a pouch of scrolls and wished he had such a handy diversion. His head whipped around though, when he heard his lover cry out in surprise at the contents of one of the missives. The whole table went quiet as all eyes fixed on the Elven Lord, who was turning a delicate shade of pink under the scrutiny.

He waved a regal hand in dismissal. "Family business, my apologies." But his brilliant eye caught Gimli's for a significant second, although Gimli could read nothing from his look.

It was a frustrating eight hours later before the two of them could snatch a private moment, and Gimli had a chance to find out what had so excited his lover that he had called attention to himself at table.

The dwarven party had to be properly farewelled and then administrative matters had delayed Legolas and so on, until Gimli wondered if their secret was written large on their backs and everyone was conspiring to keep them apart. Surely it was not usually this hard to find time to be together.

Finally Legolas sought Gimli out in the forge, where he was teaching a complex inlay technique to an attentive audience of Elven jewellers. Gimli, at the end of his demonstration, was able to excuse himself, leaving the craftsmen to surge forward with all the eagerness of children to examine and copy his work. He doubted if they noticed he was gone, an attitude he found entirely laudable. He took off his leather tool apron and stood looking up at Legolas, simply filling his soul with the sight of his love, and Legolas gazed just as intently at him, but with a joyous smile on his lips that would have melted the precious metal he had been working with should it be endowed with a soul.

"The Valar love us, my friend."

Gimli raised an eyebrow at his mate, wondering if he was feeling well. "I have never doubted it, but what causes you to be sure, of a sudden, Legolas?"

Legolas produced the scroll he had received at breakfast with all the flourish a hedge magician would use to produce a rabbit from his sleeve, and then he glanced around, looking so guilty that had there been anyone passing they would have been sure he was up to no good. Gimli sighed.

"And?"

"Minuial regrets," he looked at Gimli again as if his attention might have wandered. Gimli glared at him. Legolas started again fairly shining with joy. "Minuial regrets she can no longer be associated with me. I am a danger to her Fea because of my continued association with mortal kind. She gives me the required formal notice that we are no longer 'Feast Day Friends'."

Now Gimli's eyes were shining also, and his face was lit with mischief.

"How very sad you must be. Legolas. Beloved, of the gods, and myself, how you will have to grieve over this sad betrayal. In fact you might have to go away for a little while to get over the shock. In the company of your good friend, even." Now his face was split with a grin Legolas hadn't seen since the last orc raid they had been on. Oh, years ago. He had missed it.

Legolas shared Gimli's mischievous look, and then schooled his features into a suitable mask of solemn sadness.

He placed a hand on the Dwarf's shoulder and Gimli placed a comforting comradely hand on the middle of his back. "Let's go and tell some of my people, Gimli. The sad news."

And stifling giggles that is exactly what they did.

The End

Well that was fun. The next bit will be called Cadenza, and it's a long tale again taking in as much of middle earth as I can stuff into my head.

Also its back to non-slash land or at least to ambiguous slash land, so my sixteen-year-old daughter will speak to me again.

I dare say a few slash bunnies will be started.

TTFN Rose Sared