Bigger Things (2/2)
Beta: Stephanie, as ever. (hugs)
Disclaimer: Am I Tolkien? No. Do I want to be? Yes. Any questions?
A/N: I apologize for the semi-abrupt conclusion to this story--places to go, people to meet, and a score of other bunnies to attend to.
Legolas had never, ever been so shocked in his life as he was when Haldir leaned forward to kiss him. Frankly his mind had not been on the conversation, so he never knew in hindsight what had caused Haldir to feel that he was welcome. In fact, it took him a few moments to pull his brain out of its dwarf-inspired reverie and react to what was happening.
When he did manage to come back to himself, Legolas pulled away violently. He turned his head sharply to seek Gimli, but all he saw was a glint of axe and the end of a bushy braid disappearing into the gardens.
Legolas cursed. This had not been a part of his plan for the evening.
He started to run after Gimli, only to find himself annoyingly prevented from moving. He turned back to find out what was impeding him and was stunned to realize that Haldir's arm was still around his waist. By Eru, couldn't he take a hint? "What are you doing?" Legolas hissed, panic quickly translating itself into anger at Haldir.
"I should think it was obvious," Haldir replied with his usual amount of cheek, putting his other hand on Legolas' waist. "I was kissing you."
"But why?" Legolas stammered. Why, why did this have to happened now?
Haldir raised an eyebrow. "Legolas, are you being deliberately dense?
Legolas barely heard him; his attention was still focused solely on getting away. He tried to take off after Gimli again, but Haldir still had hold of him. "Why do you keep running away from me?" he asked with a pout.
"I should think it was obvious," Legolas hissed. "I wish to be elsewhere."
"You are not being very cordial, Legolas. I think you owe me an apology." Haldir leaned forward, ready to steal another kiss.
Legolas was ready for him this time. Before Haldir could notice and react to the shift in Legolas' body weight, Legolas had hooked his right ankle behind Haldir's left and pushed firmly on the other elf's chest.
Haldir managed to save himself from falling, but it was a near thing. Legolas didn't wait to be recaptured. He turned quickly and disappeared into the gardens, paying no heed to the startled murmurs and glances the sight of the Prince of Mirkwood nearly shoving one of Lothlorien's Marchwardens to the ground had caused. He did not even notice Aragorn's speculative gaze; his only thought was to find Gimli and explain.
Gimli had fled without a thought to where he was going; he only wanted to get away. He soon found himself wandering aimlessly deeper and deeper into the maze of cul-de-sacs and meandering garden paths prevalent in this part of the city.
He was well aware that he was lost, but he kept going. Maybe he could get so lost that he would never have to find his way out again. He wouldn't have to face up to what he had just witnessed; wouldn't have to watch Legolas flirting and kissing with other elves. Why was he so upset over an elf anyway? It was utterly ridiculous. A dwarf, pining for an elf? Dwarves loved only once in their lifetime, and elves--elves could be holding your hand one moment and kissing someone else the next. Did they not even realize the effect they had on mortals?
Gimli hastily backed out of the cul-de-sac he had wandered into when he found a kissing couple in it. Just what he needed--to observe the happiness of someone else. Someone who had been wise enough not to fall for an addle-pated elf. By Mahal, what was Legolas playing at? Didn't he know what he was doing to Gimli?
With a sinking feeling, Gimli suddenly realized that it was entirely possible Legolas didn't know what he was doing to him. After all, they had never talked about it--Gimli had no right to assume that Legolas viewed their relationship the same way he did. Legolas was immortal. What to a dwarf might be the sheerest bliss on earth, the finding of a once-in-a-lifetime love, might prove only to be a passing fancy to an elf. Legolas had spoken to Gimli once about his brother's marriage, which was entering its fifth century. What could a battle-forged bond mean to someone who had watched love endure like that?
The next cul-de-sac Gimli wandered into was mercifully empty. It held only a stone bench in the center, situated so that a pair of lovers might watch the sun descend over the city. Gimli trudged in and flung himself onto the bench, all his nervous energy suddenly dissappating and leaving him with nothing but depressed lethargy. Perhaps he would just spend the night here. It might become chilly, but he had certainly endured worse. All he wanted was to not have to face Legolas, not tonight when the elf would surely come looking for him. He would not have to face anyone, not have to put on a happy face or, Mahal forbid, explain what was troubling him. Who would think to look for him here? Only a dwarf that was hopelessly infatuated with an elf would choose to spend the night in a garden when there was a cozy bed in a sturdy room awaiting him. Gimli pulled out his pipe to remind himself that he was still a dwarf.
Gimli choked heavily on the first drag of his pipe. Coughing and spluttering, he turned his back to the entrance and dumped his pipeweed out onto the ground, rubbing his heel over the smoking mass.
"Gimli, what's wrong?" Legolas asked.
"Choked on my pipeweed," Gimli managed to say. He took his time clearing his throat, wanting desperately to delay the moment when he would have to turn around and pretend to be normal.
"That's not what I meant." Gimli felt Legolas's body heat as he sat down on the bench behind him. "Gimli, I am so sorry. I didn't mean for that to happen."
Cursing himself for a fool, Gimli turned around. He couldn't help himself. Legolas sounded so desolate, so different from his normal self. But whatever he was going to say died on his lips as he caught sight of his friend. Legolas' hair was mussed, pulled slightly out of the ceremonial braids, and there were tiny pieces of leaf and bark caught in it and in his clothing. "Legolas, what happened to you?"
Legolas flushed. "I couldn't find you," he said defensively. "Why are you hiding like this?"
Anger prickled underneath Gimli's skin. He knew it would only make the situation worse but he seized on it nonetheless, eager to feel anything but loss. "Who said I was hiding?"
"You are," Legolas insisted, perplexed. "You weren't there when I turned around. I couldn't find you."
"Am I never allowed to leave your sight, then?" Gimli stood and moved to the wall, unwilling to look at Legolas, ever so bitterly aware that Legolas had deliberately stayed where Gimli could easily find him all night, and did so every night. "Am I a lapdog to come and go at your command? Your very own trained dwarf, perhaps?"
Legolas inhaled sharply, like he had been dealt a sudden blow. Gimli strove not to feel guilty--guilt was not as comforting to him as anger. Yet after that little gasp of hurt he simply could not continue in his tirade, not for the world. So he squared his shoulders and looked stubbornly out into the night, refusing to turn around.
"I came after you," Legolas said again after a long silence, though his tone was different this time. "I didn't have to. I could still be dancing."
"Aye, and still kissing Haldir."
An edge came into Legolas' voice. "I told you, I didn't mean for that to happen."
"Didn't look like you objected much, though, did it?"
"Don't be daft," Legolas said impatiently. "If I hadn't minded, I wouldn't have pushed him away. Or did you run away too quickly to see that part?"
Hope flared in Gimli. "You pushed him away?" he asked cautiously, turning.
There was a small silence. Legolas was sitting with slumped shoulders, looking hurt and subdued. "What made you think I wouldn't?" he said shortly.
Gimli sought the shreds of his anger. "Like I said, you didn't seem to find it displeasing."
Legolas' eyes narrowed. In a slow, deceptively casual tone, he said, "What business is it of yours, Gimli, if I choose to find pleasure in Haldir's touch?"
There it was--the knife, the dagger, the pain that was at the root of this whole situation. Gimli had assumed--but they had never really said anything--he didn't have the right to care, he didn't have a reason to object. "None," he said hoarsely.
Instead of seeming pleased or triumphant, Legolas's eyes widened and his mouth fell slightly open. "None?" he asked in a stunned voice.
Gimli opened his mouth and found himself unable to speak. By Mahal, Legolas really was trying to kill him; giving him hope and then snatching it back, and then giving it again. He couldn't stand any more of this--and yet, he could not speak to end it.
When Gimli persisted in silence, Legolas looked down. "None," he said, his tone hollow.
"Well, if you wanted me to say something different then you shouldn't have asked," Gimli said, temper rising again. "I can't read your mind."
"I never asked you to!"
"Well, then, don't sulk at me like that!"
"Are you saying that there is nothing between us, Gimli?"
Gimli faltered. There was a slight tremor in Legolas' tone that didn't come from anger. "Well--no, no one could say that. That's ridiculous. It's just--"
"It's just what?"
Gimli roared. "It's just that you shouldn't leave me to kiss Haldir!"
"I didn't want Haldir to kiss me, Gimli!" Legolas snapped.
"Well who did you!"
Legolas stared. "Gimli, are you being deliberately dense?"
The air stilled between them; even the crickets seemed to pause in their chirping for a moment. Gimli's breath had left him. Legolas was not--could not--be saying what he thought he was. Cautiously, Gimli took a step forward. Legolas neither moved nor looked away--he seemed to be frozen. Slowly, like a mountain moving, Gimli closed the distance between them step by step until he was so close he could feel Legolas' breathing. Their eyes were locked, and neither reached towards the other--yet they were so close, so close they were almost...if Gimli leaned forward, just a little, he could....
"Legolas," he breathed. Legolas' head was tilted upwards slightly, now that Gimli had come so close to him, to maintain eye contact; Gimli knew that his breath was gusting across Legolas' lips. "Earlier...when you said--when I said I was jealous, and you said 'good...'"
Gimli let the rest of his question go unsaid, and after a moment Legolas wetted his lips and admitted, "I was trying to make you jealous."
Only one question mattered now. "Why?"
He could feel Legolas' breath on his own lips, now. "I thought..." Gimli thought he saw the slightest motion of Legolas' head, as though he had started to turn away but mastered the impulse, but he couldn't be sure. "I know you dislike Haldir. I thought...I thought if I danced with him, it might make you jealous enough to do something to...to claim me."
There was a pause--a pause large enough to hold all the days and nights Gimli had walked alone, and all the future days and nights he suddenly knew he never would.
Then his mouth was on Legolas'. He did not recall getting there, but he was suddenly moving inside the sweetness of the elven mouth and both hands had gone up to cradle Legolas' head. Legolas' mouth was warm, warm beyond all belief, and his slim archer's hands had come up to rest against Gimli's shoulders.
Gimli kissed him until he became dizzy; then he broke away with a gasp, feeling as though he had suddenly come up from underwater into cool, clean air. Legolas also gasped and fell forward slightly, his head leaning against Gimli's shoulder. Gimli's arms closed spasmodically around the slender elf leaning so earnestly into him. His fingers clenched in Legolas' hair and he tilted his beloved's head back, desperate for another kiss.
Legolas' mouth was as warm as fire, yet soft like a flower's petal. And yet even as he yielded, inviting Gimli in further, Gimli could sense the incredible strength that was lying quietly inside Legolas, in both his body and his soul. It humbled Gimli to think he might share in it--to think how much he already had been given freely from it, and that he might be permitted to have even more.
They broke apart for air again. This time Gimli felt like he had just taken a large swallow of pure alcohol; dizzy with the heat of it surging through his veins. His arms encircled Legolas, and Legolas' hands still rested against his shoulders, the elf completely enclosed in his possessive circle. They looked at each other for a moment and Gimli was going to say something--what, he did not know--but before he could Legolas surged forward with a barely audible noise from the back of his throat, and they were kissing once again.
Gimli could never recall afterwards how long they stayed there, one sitting and one standing; kissing each other tenderly, then passionately, then lovingly, then passionately again; exploring all the dear surfaces that had so long been denied. Their fingers wandered up and down each other's backs, idly caressing. They might have stayed like that forever except that Gimli's hand, without his realization or intent, suddenly slipped underneath Legolas' tunic to encounter warm flesh, and Legolas' breath hitched.
Gimli pulled back and stared into Legolas' eyes, amazed by everything he saw there. How could he have not seen it before? But Legolas spoke, as though he could read Gimli's thoughts: "This could not have happened before. This moment--we had to wait for it to be like this."
Gimli nodded breathlessly. He wrapped his arms tighter around Legolas, even though it was not possible to pull the elf any closer. "If we--hadn't spent the time to become friends, to know one another--then we couldn't have had this."
Legolas nodded. "Gimli?"
Gimli knew what he wanted to ask, and that he didn't know how to say it. He leaned forward and kissed Legolas again, sweetly, and Legolas leaned forward eagerly. But Legolas' gasp had changed everything, and the effect of this kiss on Gimli was as though they were already in his rooms, tearing at each other's clothing, revealing skin. His knees nearly gave way at the thought. "Legolas."
Legolas stood, hands on Gimli's shoulders for support; Gimli was relieved to find he was not the only one shaking. "Come," Legolas said firmly. He bent down for another kiss and Gimli pressed into it, wrapping his arms around Legolas' waist, yearning for the heat of the elf's body.
Legolas was gasping when they pulled apart. "No more of that," he said, mock-severely. "We'll never make it out of here."
Gimli chuckled. "Well, that's not good at all. I have...ideas...that simply won't work in here."
Legolas shivered. Gimli felt an uncontrollable surge of pride that he was the one who could provoke this response. Not Haldir, not Elladan--he was the one that Legolas wanted.
As if to prove the point, Legolas gently ran his fingers through Gimli's hair, finding the dwarf's ears and caressing their edges, smiling brightly when Gimli shuddered in his turn. He opened his mouth and Gimli knew he was about to say 'I love you'--and suddenly found it was very important to be able to say it first. "I love you, Legolas."
Legolas' eyes had never been so bright, Gimli was certain of it. They were like two stars come down to earth. "And I love you also, Gimli."
They stayed frozen for a moment, swaying gently back and forth, neither able to break the tableau. Then Gimli tugged at Legolas' hand. "Come, elf. If we stay here any longer I am not going to be able to keep from pinning you down on that bench."
Legolas raised his eyebrows. "What made you think I would object?"
Before Gimli could respond--brain admittedly slowed by the sudden lack of blood in that area--he found his arms empty and Legolas hovering about ten feet away, laughing gently. Gimli growled and started forward. Legolas skirted backwards, eyes twinkling.
Gimli gave chase, as he knew he was intended to do; happily winding his way back through the gardens he had stomped through so angrily less than an hour before, letting the sound of elven laughter and the gentle scent of Legolas on the air lead him onwards.