Let Him Go, Lad

By Char

K_lara7@mckeeler.com

Summary:  Missing interaction between Legolas and Gimli from the time Aragorn falls off the cliff, until Haldir arrives.  This was supposed to be two pages, but turned into so much more. 

A/N: To all those that sent me helpful reviews, thank you for the corrections, I think I've fixed everything.

Gimli stood next to Legolas as he watched the river rush by.  He'd never seen such a look of loss and fear on the fair face before.  When they had left Rivendell, Legolas had been the voice of calm in the fellowship.  Even entering Moria, the elf never lost it.

When Gandalf fell into shadow, Legolas and Aragorn kept the group going.   At first the elf seem lost, but just kept going.  Then when they came to Lothlorien, Gimli realized just how much the death of the wizard affected the young elf.   Death among dwarves was not so uncommon and not cause for more than a passing acknowledgement. 

When the elf explained to Galadriel that Gandalf had fallen, Gimli heard the break in his voice and realized that the elf was holding his composure by a thread.  The sight of the young elf, so obviously feeling alone, affected the Dwarf, and he later found himself sitting next to Legolas as he tried to come to terms with his feelings.

"Elves die, don't they?  Why is this such a shock to you then?"

"Mithrandir has always been.  He was visiting my father the year I was born and I have always been aware of his existence."

"So Gandalf is older than you?  By how much?"

At that Legolas' face was lit by a small smile.  "He would be at least four thousand years older than I."

"So would that make you a child by your people's standards?  It seems that you are the youngest elf here."

"I believe I am."

Aragorn had finished arguing with Haldir and come to check on Legolas.  Of the Fellowship, Aragorn knew Legolas had known Gandalf longer and was hiding his feelings better.   Hearing Gimli call Legolas a child had been too good an opportunity to pass up.  This gave the man a chance to help lift the elf's spirits.

"In fact, Gimli, by elven standards, Greenleaf here is younger than I am by Human standards.  Why he would only be twenty in human years."

At that Gimli started laughing, big belly-full laughs that caused a smile on the face of everyone who heard.  "So, lad, if your twenty, how old would Aragorn be?"

Legolas smiled down at the dwarf sitting next to him.  "He would be an old man, say thirty-nine."  At that Gimli laughed even harder.

"So I would be the oldest then?"

"And how old would that be Master Dwarf?" 

"A fair bit older than thirty-nine.  So the oldest is the youngest, the youngest is in the middle, and I be a far sight older than both.  I'm among children." 

And now as they stood together looking at the last place their friend had been.  Gimli looked over at Legolas and saw the elf look down at the pendant in his hand again.  For the first time since Lothlorien, Gimli realized just how human the elf really was.  The elf was angry and lost.  His best friend had just fallen off a cliff and the elf stood frozen.

With more compassion than most would think the dwarf capable of, Gimli grabbed the elf by the arm and turned him away from the cliff.  "Come lad, we need to keep moving.  Let's go."  As they started moving, Gimli was struck by the thought that he was grateful that the elf had not fallen as well.  Losing one friend was hard enough. 

With a little gentle prodding the dwarf got the elf mounted and somehow got up behind him.   Without much thought, Legolas followed the rest of the soldiers to Helm's Deep.   As they entered the fortress and dismounted, Gimli realized how lost the elf truly was when he let a lad take his horse from him.   Looking up, the dwarf realized Eowyn stood off to the side watching the soldiers enter.  She walked up to the king and spoke with him.  When Theoden left, Gimli walked over to the shield-maiden.

It was with a heavy heart that Gimli informed her of Aragorn's fall.  After Eowyn left, Gimli looked around for the elf and just managed to catch a glimpse of blond hair as the elf enter the keep behind the king.

Gimli quickly hurried to catch up, and found the elf in a dark solitary corner.  Legolas sat dissolutely on the floor, his legs crossed, back to the corner, removing his arm braces.   The elf rolled up his sleeve and looked down at a cut he had sustained during the warg fight.  It was a nasty gash from the inside of his wrist to the elbow that already looked inflamed.   How they had missed the injury before, the dwarf would never know.  But for now, the elf needed his help.

Grabbing some bandages, salve and a flask of water from a woman tending to the soldiers, Gimli approached the stubborn elf. 

"Here lad, let me look at that."

With a lump in his throat, Legolas answered, "I'm fine Gimli."

"Lad, no matter how talented you are, you can't properly clean that.  We can't allow it to become infected.  You'll be no use to us half dead.  And as much as that prospect might once have appealed to me, I would hate to loose you now."

"Alright Gimli.  Here."  With that the elf laid his arm out so that the dwarf could see the cut clearly.  It was worse than Gimli thought, but with proper care and a little elven healing, it wouldn't scar.  As Gimli started cleaning the wound, he looked up into the elf's eyes to see the tears he was trying not to shed.

"Talk about it, lad.  Let the grief out now.  You can't afford to have it creep up on you later."  With care more gentle than any would suspect, the dwarf spread the salve into the cut.  He had started to believe the elf wouldn't talk, when Legolas whispered, "We just left him there, Gimli.  What if he wasn't dead?  What if he's out there dying somewhere and we just left him?  How could we?"

"Legolas, you still have that necklace of his, don't you?"

"Right here."  He pulled it out of his pocket.

"You hold tight to that.  Aragorn will be back for it.  He might have fallen but he will be back."

"How can you be so sure?" 

For Gimli it was heartbreaking to see Legolas loose his light, his hope.  It made him look fragile.  "He's lead us this far, he won't leave us now.  Don't despair.  You hold his heart in your hand.  One way or another he will be back for it."

Gimli picked up the roll of bandages and wrapped the cut.  Tying off the bandage, Gimli said, "That's done.  Now come we need to get washed up and fed.  This warg smell is offensive."

Trying to get back into the spirit of things, the elf said, "I hadn't noticed the smell was that much different than what I'm used to."  Gimli knew he should be offended, but he couldn't help but smile.  The elf was starting to show a little spirit. 

"Now off with you lad, get that dirt off you, while I go find us something to eat.  As Gimli turned away, Legolas laid an arm on his shoulder, "Gimli wait."  The elf paused, "I … thank you."  With that, Legolas finally made his way off to wash up.

With the elf's eyes off of him, the dwarf turned to look at the now sealed gate.  With a swipe at his damp eyes he moved off to get the food. 

Twenty minutes later, he met up with the elf in the same corner.  Extending a plate, Gimli said, "Eat up, lad.  And after you've finished that, stake out our sleeping roll and I'll join you after I make myself more presentable."

They ate in silence, the dwarf refusing to let the elf stop until the food was gone.  When the meal was finished, Gimli took Legolas' plate.  "I'll be right back, don't loose our spot, I've kind of become attached to it and the view of the stars."

A few moments later, Gimli returned with two bedrolls.  "Here, Elfling, you make the beds and I'll go wash up."

"Aye, Gimli."  Perhaps it was the quiet acquiescence in the elf's manner, but Gimli truly started to worry.  So Gimli hurried through washing his beard and dusting his clothes, then returned to the elf's side.

He found Legolas staring at Aragorn's necklace.  The young prince looked even younger than usual.  Gimli sat down next to him.  "Do you wish to talk about it?"

"Master Dwarf, you are perhaps the only one who would understand, but I think tonight, I will just try to rest up."

"Get some sleep, the watch can stand guard tonight."

"Alright."  With that, Legolas laid down on the cold stone and wrapped himself in his bedroll.  Laying his head down on his rolled up cloak; he closed his eyes and was amazed to feel sleep come over him.

Gimli laid next to him, hearing his even breathing and saw the elf past the exhaustion point.  He was sleeping with his eyes closed, something he never thought to see.

Sometime during the night, Gimli drifted off to sleep, and sometime after that, Legolas dreamed of water, and a vast army of evil coming his way.  He felt rather than knew that he was seeing what Aragorn saw, and in his dream he shouted for him.

Gimli awoke to the first soft cries coming from his companion.  "Legolas, everything is alright.  Come on lad, relax."  And somehow the rough dwarf's voice calmed the elf's nerves and he returned to sleep.  Gimli tucked the blanket a little closer around him.

The next morning, Legolas awoke next to Gimli and realized that he had managed to rest, but his dreams had been strange indeed.   With a shake of his head, Legolas got up to get breakfast.  A few minutes later he returned to find Gimli rolling up their bedding.   "I figured it was my turn to get the food."

"Thank you." 

The sat down to share their food, and Gimli was surprised to hear Legolas say, "Is your offer still open?"  At Gimli's blank look Legolas clarified, "To talk that is."

"I'm here anytime you're ready laddie."

"I dreamed last night, about water and Orcs.  I feel he's alive Gimli.  He has to be, for I would know it if he was not.  And I left him there."

"Lad, you didn't leave him there, you did what he told you to do.  You helped get these people to safety.  He would not want you to despair, but to have hope."

"But it was my duty to protect him.  I promised Arwen and his father that I would."

"And do you not remember that since you are the youngest, he should be looking out for you."

"Gimli…"

"Listen lad, war will come to this keep soon enough.  You must be prepared.  Aragorn would not want you to dwell on his passing."  

They sat together, quietly eating their meal, when a scout on the wall hollered down at Legolas.  Master elf, we need you on the wall.  Something approaches, but we cannot make out what."

Legolas stood up and walked up the stairs to the ramparts.  Looking out over the grasslands, Legolas saw a figure riding up.  "What do you see?" 

"Unless my eyes deceive me, that's Aragorn riding up."

"That would be good news indeed."  They stood there for quite awhile, until even Gimli was certain it was Aragorn. "We need to go down and greet him lad.  It is good you did not loose hope."

"How will I face him?"

"As you always have, with pride and certainty at his return.  Then give him back his trinket.  There will be time for talk later."

As the two went down to the lower level, Legolas moved back into the shadows, and Gimli rushed toward the gate.  He heard a woman in the crowd shout, "He's alive," as he caught sight of the missing ranger. 

"Where is he?  Where is he?  I'm going to kill him!"  Gimli rushed up and hugged Aragorn.  "You are the luckiest, the canniest and the most reckless man I ever knew."

Aragorn hugged the dwarf back and then looked down and asked "Gimli, where is the King?"

The dwarf nodded toward the inside of the keep.  Aragorn turned to go see the King and keeping his eyes downcast walked swiftly in the direction of the keep.  He came to a dead stop as a pair of green boots appeared in his vision.  Looking up he came face to face with an exhausted looking elf.   He didn't quite expect the response he received.

"~You're late.~"  At that Aragorn looked stunned.  He noticed that the elf was sporting dark patches under his eyes.  Legolas' facial expression changed as he took in the ranger's appearance.  "You look terrible."  That sparked a tired and ironic smile from Aragorn.  Legolas lifted his hand and showed Aragorn the necklace he had been keeping safe.  With a smile of pleasure, Legolas put the pendant in Aragorn's hand, signaling his happiness in Arwen's choice.  Aragorn clasped it gratefully.

Then Aragorn became all business and turned towards the keep.  Legolas and Gimli were right behind him.  As they entered the King's room, Aragorn approached Theoden.  Legolas stayed a few steps behind him with Gimli at his side. 

Theoden was responding to the news of the Uruk-Hai army that Aragorn brought.  "Great hosts you say, how many? "

"All Isengard is emptied.  Ten thousand strong at least. "

"Ten thousand?" 

"It is an army bred for a single purpose, to destroy the world of men.  They will be here by nightfall."

"Let them come."  Theoden said as he exited the hall, Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas right behind him.  Theoden stopped Gamli and said, " I want every man and strong lad able to bear arms to be ready for battle by nightfall."

Then the king led them outside the gate and gestured around him, "We will cover the causeway and the gates from above.  No army has ever breached the walls of the Hornburg."

The arrogance in the King's voice finally got to the end of Gimli's reserve.  "This is no rabble of mindless orcs, these are Uruk-Hai.  Their armor is thick and their shields broad."

Theoden looked down at the dwarf with contempt in his eyes, "I have fought many wars master dwarf, I know how to defend my own keep."  He led them across the walls and up to the top of the ramparts.  "They will break upon this fortress like water on rock.  Saruman's hoards will pillage and burn, we've seen it before.  Crops can be renown, homes can be rebuilt, but in these walls we will outlast them."

At that, Aragorn's calm had finally met its limit.  "They do not come to destroy Rohan's crops or villages they come to destroy its people, down to the last child."

Theoden looked back at him, finally showing some of the fear he felt.  "What would you have me do?  Look at my men; their courage hangs by a thread.  If this is to be our end, then I would have them make such an end as to be worthy of remembrance."

Aragorn couldn't believe that Theoden had missed the biggest aid he could give his people.  "Send out riders my lord, you must call for aid."

In frustration, Theoden looked back at him.  "And who will come, elves, dwarves; we are not so lucky in our friends as you.  The old alliances are dead."

Aragorn searched for an answer.  "Gondor will answer."

Theoden turned back, now very angry.  Years of war starting to show warn edges on his calm.  "Gondor!  Where was Gondor when the Westfall fell?  Where was Gondor when our enemies closed in around us?  Where was Gon…"  He paused to collect himself, "No, my lord Aragorn, we are alone."

With that the King turned and shouted at Gamling, "Get the women and children into the caves."

"We need more time to lay provisions..."

"There is no more time.  War is upon us."

"Secure the gate."

Aragorn looked over at his friends.  Legolas hadn't said anything during the exchange, and Gimli looked angry.

"Come let us see what we can do to help," Aragorn said.

Gimli realized that Legolas wanted to say something to Aragorn, so he said, "Lad, I'll be of better use right now checking the defenses of the caves, for no one knows cave fighting like a dwarf.  Take the elf with you.  His sight is keen."  With that Gimli sent Legolas a look that said, 'Talk to him,' and went to see where he could be most helpful.

Legolas had been following Aragorn all around the keep, and could see the exhaustion behind the ranger's movements.  So far Aragorn hadn't let an opening in for Legolas to talk to him.

"We will place the reserves along the wall, they can support the Archers from above the gate."

In frustration Legolas finally shouted,  "Aragorn, you must rest.  You're no use to us half alive." 

Aragorn turned to answer, but was interrupted by Eowyn. 

"My Lord.  Aragorn," she shouted stopping the ranger in his place to wait for her.  "I'm to be sent with the women into the caves."

Diplomatically, Aragorn said, "That is an honorable charge."

"To mind the children.  To find food and bedding when the men return.  What renown is there in that?" she asked frustrated.

Calmly he explained, "My Lady, a time may come for valor without renown.   Who then will your people look to in the last defense?" 

"Let me stand at your side."

"It is not in my power to command it."

She looked over at Legolas who still stood right behind him, "You do not command the others to stay."  She looked back at Aragorn, "They fight beside you because they would not be parted from you.  Because they love you."  Realizing what she said, she stepped back, whispered, "I'm sorry, " and disappeared into the crowd. 

Several hours later, Aragorn and Legolas met Gimli in the Armory.  As Aragorn moved off to talk to one of the Rohan soldiers, Gimli turned to the elf, "Did you talk to him?"

"No, he hasn't stopped moving since he arrived."

"You must talk to him, lad.  Don't carry these feelings into battle."  Legolas looked around at the people who were getting their swords.  So many faces, so many that wouldn't be here in the morning, yet so many that hadn't even lived yet.  Just then Aragorn came back toward them.

"Farmers, ferriers, stable boys, they are no soldiers."

"Most have seen too many winters!"  Gimli explained.

With a look of desperation, Legolas added, "Or too few."  Then without thinking about the audience, Legolas said loudly, "Look at them.  They're frightened.  I can see it in their eyes."  Suddenly all conversation around them stopped and Legolas became conscious of their audience for the first time.  Needing to say what he felt, and not thinking much at this point, Legolas switched to Elvish.  "~And they should be… Three hundred… against ten thousand.~"

Aragorn answered back in kind, hoping to reassure his friend.  "~They have more hope of defending themselves here than at Edoras…~"

Legolas shouted back, "~Aragorn, they cannot win this fight.  They are all going to die!~" 

The pain of the last two days finally set in and Aragorn lost his temper.  "Then I shall die as one of them."  He turned and stormed out of the room.

As Legolas moved to follow him, Gimli reached up and laid a hand on his arm, "Let him go lad.  Let him be."  Legolas looked down at the stalwart Dwarf with an unmasked look of despair in his eyes.  He was the only other person in the room who seemed to understand his feelings in a sea of men and children.  "He needs his space to prepare for the battle ahead, and so do we.  Come lad, let us go for a walk, we need to get you some armor."

"No Gimli, I just need to be alone for a few minutes."

"After you come with me and get yourself some armor."  And with that the dwarf started pushing the elf out of the room.

"Gimli, I don't wear armor.  It interferes with my knives and makes it really hard to use my bow."

"Well, I was talking with Gamling, and I think I have that problem solved.  Come this way."  He led the elf down the corridor to a small room with a table in the middle.  Laid out in the middle were two leather shoulder guards.  "These should be light enough to be able to stay mobile, and still allow use of your bow."

"Thanks, Gimli."  Legolas was touched by the consideration of his friend.  The shoulder guards were the perfect length to maintain bow control and still allow movement.  With the dwarf's help, Legolas got the shoulder guards on. 

"Now, lad, in all the time I've know you, you've never lost your composure before.  What's going through that elvish mind of yours?"

"Gimli…"

"And don't try to avoid the question."

"Fine then."  And for the second time that day, Legolas lost his composure.  "I've mourned him once, I don't want to do it again.  He hasn't rested all day and there are ten thousand Uruk-Hai about to march up to that wall.  When he fell over the cliff I left him behind.  I knew in my heart he was still alive, but I didn't look for him.  I fear this coming battle, Gimli."

"And these are new feelings for you?  We've been here before.  In Moria and at the falls.  We haven't lost him yet."

"No we have lost and Boromir, and we thought we lost Aragorn yesterday.  I do not know if I could let him go again."

"Lad, I know how you feel.  We both thought him dead yesterday.  If we falter now, all will be lost.  We're still here and we have a chance.  Yesterday you had no choice but to leave him, today that choice stands before you.  But we both need to let go our fears and trust that Aragorn is right.  He's led us this far." 

We a wave of his hand the dwarf said, "Now let me see to that wound of yours, without arguments, Master Elf."  Quietly Legolas unstrapped his arm brace and extended is arm.  Unwrapping the bandages, the dwarf turned the cut toward the lighting.  It was almost healed, just a faint red line.  "Well, I think we can skip the bandages."

Gimli looked at is axe.  "I will need to get this sharpened.  Laddie, you've been running all over this keep and you didn't sleep well last night.  There's a dark corner over there.  Try to get some rest.  I'll come back and wake you.  Things will feel better rest."

"Thanks Gimli."

As the elf turned toward the corner, the dwarf went off to find the ranger.  He'd never seen the two at odds before.  This greatly disturbed him.  If something were to happen to either of them, they would never forgive themselves if anger was all that passed between them.

He found Aragorn heading into the inner hall, having just handed a sword back to a young lad.  "Aragorn!"  He shouted.  "Can I have a word with you?"

"Of course, Gimli.  What is it?"  Aragorn to in the intensity in the dwarf.  "Is something wrong?  Legolas is alright?"

Gimli pointed toward the corner he and Legolas had slept in.  "Come over here.  Out of the way.  Legolas is fine in body, it's his spirit I worry about.  I have never seen him speak to you like that before."

"He's only feeling the same stress we all are.  I'm surprised he hadn't said something sooner."

"That's not the problem.  He worries for you.  Since you went over the cliff he's withdrawn even more into himself.  Aragorn, he knew you were still alive, even though there was no reason to.  He kept waking up all night with dreams about you falling.  That elf is stubborn and he won't admit to you just how much the thought of loosing you hurt."

"I made it back in one piece.  He should be pleased with that."

"Aragorn, when you fell off the cliff, we had to load the wounded and leave the dead.  The King ordered it so, as would you in the same situation.   He hasn't forgiven himself for leaving you behind when he didn't think you dead.  Legolas has tried to talk to you about it all day.  He means to ask your forgiveness."

"There is nothing to forgive.  As much as I would not wish to, I would have made the same decision in his place."

"By the standards of his people, he is young.  The deaths of Gandalf and Boromir have hit him hard.  Even though Gandalf came back, Boromir is still gone.  It is a void he feels strongly and loosing you made it worse.   He thinks he left you there to die.  Go and talk to him."

"I promise I will as soon as I get my armor on.  I will make him understand."

"That room over there is empty.  I will join you in there when I get my chain mail."

Aragorn moved toward the room as Gimli made his way to the soldier passing out mail.

***

As Gimli left the room, Legolas moved over to the corner and sat with his back to the wall.  He knew he wouldn't sleep so he just closed his eyes and tried to clear his mind.  Lost in thought, time passed, he wasn't sure how much time, but the clatter of a sword on the table brought him back into awareness.  Aragorn had come in.  This would finally be the chance to apologize.  Quietly, he stood up and made his way over to the ranger. 

Legolas picked up the sword as Aragorn finished dressing and held it out to him, when the ranger was ready for it.  With a look of apology in his eyes, Legolas said, "We have trusted you this far, you have not led us astray.  Forgive me, I was wrong to despair."

Aragorn looked back at him trying to make him understand.  "There is nothing to forgive, Legolas."  He leaned forward and put his hand on Legolas' shoulder. The elf leaned in and returned the gesture.  Realizing that any transgressions committed had been forgiven. His heart was lighter.

Just as everything seemed to get to weighty, Gimli dropped the bottom of the chain mail he had just finished putting on.  It fell two feet below his boots.  "If we had time I would get this adjusted, it's a little tight across the chest."

Just then a horn blew.  Legolas looked over at Aragorn, "That is no orc horn…"  They ran out of the room to the ramparts just in time to see Haldir greet Theoden.

"How is this possible?" Theoden asked.

Haldir responded "I bring word from Elrond of Rivendell.  An alliance once existed between elves and men.  Long ago, we fought and died together; we come to honor that allegiance."

"Mae govannen, Haldir.  You are most welcome."  Aragorn shouted as he rushed up to embrace him.

Legolas ran up to greet Haldir, and then stood directly behind him as Haldir told Theoden, "We are proud to fight along the side of men once more."