Hello, all! Yes, it's another chapter one – I'm punching them out at the moment. No idea about why the Plot Bunny God's given me so many bunnies to shoot with the rifle of inspiration, but, seeing as He has, I'm firing and reloading as much as I can before I go down to Devon in a week cheers with glee at going to her favourite corner of the UK.

Disclaimer: I own none of the characters herein portrayed, yadda yadda yadda...

Summary: While traversing Caradhras, Legolas and Gimli get separated from the main group when Legolas' attempt to stop Gimli falling over the edge of the narrow pathway fails. Can they survive the rage of the mountain? More to the point, can they survive each other's company? No slash, don't do slash, no Ocs or anything like that. Possibly A/U – than again, what fan fiction isn't an A/U?


To Survive

We are all different, which makes us all the same. Tatamkhulu Afrika

Chapter One: Of Elves and Maiar

'Why did the Valar send me here in an old man's body?' Gandalf questioned no-one in particular as he lowered himself stiffly onto a flat boulder, teeth gritted against the protesting ache his limbs subjected him to. Caradhras still remained unconquered by the Fellowship, looming over them with an ominous presence and casting her shadow over them, a shroud of shaded cover.

Legolas stopped, observing the wizard with his head cocked to the side, keen eyes analysing the bent figure. He was attuned to the feelings of others about him, and so was perfectly aware that the wizard toiled on this journey up the mountain. He knew that the cold – though it did not touch the Elf himself – goaded at the others through their mortal flesh, despite the fact that they never uttered a complaint about it to each other. Something that he admired...

'I'm sure they did it for a purpose, Mithrandir,' The Elf responded as he leapt effortlessly onto a boulder and then alighted its partner with total ease.

'Yes, Thranduilion: more likely than not so that you could mock me on this cursed trek with your boundless energy and youth, while I trundle on as a hapless old man!'

'Come now, Mithrandir – I am a mere Elf, whereas you are one of the Maiar, with more power in your little finger than I shall ever attain in all my millennia; surely that is of some consolation to you.'

Gandalf frowned heavily at that observation. 'If the power is so very great, Legolas Greenleaf, then why is an Elf perpetually young and a Maiar incessantly decrepit with age?'

Legolas mused over this for a time, now balanced atop a jut of stone that protruded from the mountainside some twenty feet above the heads of the rest of the Fellowship.

'Do not ask such questions of me, Mithrandir – you were the one sent to settle the queries of this world, not I.'

Gandalf simply shook his head to himself at this, drawing out his pipe and stuffing it with weed. 'Elves...'

Though it had not been declared, the Fellowship knew that it was time for a rest, and none of them – save, perhaps, Legolas – held any complaint about it. Their limbs were heavy with the strain of gaining on the path up the mountain, the constant battle that they fought with the uneven gradient showing in their faces.

Legolas analysed the surrounding area - or, at least, what he could see of it past the slopes of the mountainside. Nothing presented itself to his keen eyes, nor did his ears pick up on anything untoward. Simply a peaceful day...

He took himself down from his observational stand, feet hardly making a sound as they placed themselves confidently and speedily on the rock. He made his way over to where Sam stood. The Hobbit was caressing the face of Bill, the aging pony's eyes closing in the animal's relaxed state. Legolas smiled.

'He likes you.'

Sam started, fixing his surprised eyes upon the Elf.

'Oh, it's you, Mister Legolas. You gave me a fright – I didn't hear you coming.'

'Sorry, Sam – I have that effect on people sometimes ... ask Strider and he'll tell you.'

Sam raised his brows at that. 'You can creep up on Strider?'

'Oh yes; it is not an easy task, but it's doable – though he's loath to tell anyone.' Legolas laid his own hand on Bill's neck, smoothing the short hair gently, his pale skin being thrown into contrast with the animal's coat of rich chestnut.

'Legolas-' Sam began, then stopped.

'Yes?'

The Hobbit hesitated, glancing nervously at the Elf, clearly thinking over whether what he wished to say were wise. He had, after all, little knowledge and experience with Elves, and Legolas knew that the small being was awed by him and slightly intimidated. Because of this, Legolas always tried to be gentle and placid near him, just to gain the Hobbit's confidence a little. Finally, Sam blurted out his query, faster than an arrow leaving the string...

'Erm - what's it like to live forever? I mean – Mister Bilbo always used to tell me stories about the Elves when I was a lad, but I never met one until I came on this journey, and I thought that you might be fairly old – meaning no disrespect, you understand, Mister Legolas,' he hastily added.

Sam was surprised when Legolas actually laughed at his question.

'Do not worry, Sam, you are not being disrespectful. Now, my age...' he mused for a time, trying to count the many, many years he had spent on this earth. 'You must understand, Sam, that we do not celebrate birthdays like mortals do: there are simply too many of them. There is, really, only one that we count as meriting recognition – I believe it is the same for you – our coming of age. My coming of age was at one thousand, eight hundred and twenty, which was-' he did another rapid calculation '-one thousand, two hundred and five years ago.'

'So you're three thousand and twenty-six?'

Legolas chuckled. 'Are you trying to age me?' he chided softly. 'No, I'm three thousand and twenty-five.'

Sam blinked, his facial expression conveying that he found it difficult to grasp such a large timescale. Finally he turned back to Legolas. 'But you look so young!'

'He is young.'

The pair turned to see Aragorn trudging his way up the slope to where they stood, a twinkle lighting his eyes. 'Were he a human, he would be no more than twenty-one – that, as far as I am concerned, is a youth.'

Legolas fixed Aragorn with a withering look that caused Sam to shy slightly, but against which Aragorn stood tall and grinned, totally impervious to such a glare.

'My profuse apologies if I am incorrect, Aragorn, but I did not hear anyone invite you into this conversation. And, seeing as there's only two of us in it, I do believe that I would have noticed.'

'Well, I just decided that you needed someone to tell Sam the truth about your age.'

'I never lied about it.'

'Ah, but you never told him that it is young so far as your people go either, did you? Which – from listening in on your conversation – is misleading. Because – were you a man – one-thousand, eight-hundred and twenty is the same as being twelve and-a-half.'

Sam looked from one to the other. He was quite amused by this exchange, yet he dared not laugh or even smile; Strider held a triumphant glimmer in his eye, whereas the Elven prince was glowering somewhat murderously at the other.

'Anyway,' Aragorn continued, not even slightly phased by the daggers being glared at him, 'I am here on more important business than annoying you, mellon nín, as entertaining as it is.'

'Oh? And what would that be?' Legolas' voice was silky smooth. Dangerous, in Sam's opinion.

'Gandalf bid me to tell you two that "we are continuing with the journey and for those two to get a move on"', to say it in his exact words.'

As Legolas passed Aragorn by, Sam distinctly heard him make a brief one- sided exchange with the Ranger in Sindarin. Aragorn's face flushed, all mirth totally dissipating from it in a flash and crossing over to Legolas' countenance instead. From the little Sam knew of the language, he was able to distinguish the words "beer", "girl" and "naked". He decided that he did not wish to know what the rest of the words had been, and he took up Bill's lead rein.