A Prince's Question
"Ada," Eldarion asked, "are Uncle Legolas and Uncle Gimli lovers?"
Aragorn choked, spilling wine down his front, as he hurriedly put down the goblet he had been drinking from only moments earlier. He gasped for a breath a bit, then, when he got it back, turned to look at his only son with shock in his eyes. "Who told you that?" he asked, incredulous.
Eldarion shrugged, not wanting to get anyone in trouble with his father. "I heard some of the other boys talking about it," he said evasively. He looked up at his father, frank curiosity in his eyes. "Are they?"
Aragorn sputtered a moment. He wondered what sort of gossips his son was spending time with, and resolved to check. "I—I—" he stammered a moment, seeking an escape, then sighed and gave in. "I suppose you ought to ask them," he replied at last. "Or perhaps," he mused, thinking of the two in question, "you should ask Gimli. Although it would probably be better if Legolas was nearby."
Eldarion blinked. "Why wouldn't I ask Uncle Legolas?" he asked in puzzlement.
Aragorn hid a smile, thinking about the easygoing (for an elf) Prince of Eryn Lasgallen, compared to the somewhat more temperamental Lord of Aglarond. He knew he shouldn't have, but sometimes you just needed something really amusing to break the responsibility of kingship. He exchanged a conspiratorial glance with his son and shrugged. "You know elves..." which really had absolutely nothing to do with anything, but it was as good an answer as any.
"And why are we disparaging my people now, meltha?" Arwen asked as she entered the room with a faint rustle of silks and velvet.
"Er..." said Aragorn, but Eldarion was less reticent.
Sensing his father was not going to answer his question, the boy turned to his mother. "Are Uncle Legolas and Uncle Gimli lovers?" he asked her inquiringly.
Arwen raised an eyebrow. "Perhaps you should ask them," she replied calmly, ignoring Aragorn's repetition of the earlier wineglass incident. "Or better yet," the queen continued, "ask Gimli. Although I would suggest that Legolas be near enough to come when called," she added thoughtfully.
Eldarion frowned. "That's what ada said."
Arwen turned to her husband with a half-smile. "Did he now?" Aragorn nodded helplessly. "Well, occasionally your ada can be a very wise man. I am glad that we are in agreement on the issue." Aragorn gaped at his wife, wondering if she could possibly be thinking along the same lines as he was. The mischievous twinkle in her eye gave her away. Normally polite and reserved, Arwen was possessed of a vicious sense of humor that matched her husband's.
Aragorn sighed and shook his head.
Eldarion did not have to wait long to broach his question. Not two days after the discussion with his parents, he found his uncles outside in a garden. Or, more accurately, he found Gimli leaning against the corner of a doorway that led out into a garden, smoking his pipe and occasionally shouting instructions to Legolas which the elf ignored as he whispered to the trees and examined the flowers.
Judging from his experience with his mother, Eldarion decided that Uncle Legolas was far enough away that he would not hear a quiet conversation, although he was certainly within range of Gimli's shouted (and disregarded) instructions.
"Good morning, Uncle Gimli," Eldarion said politely.
Gimli turned and grinned at the boy, already almost up to his bearded chin. "And to you, my lad. I'm sure Legolas would say the same, but his flighty elvish mind can only handle one conversation at a time, and it seems to be the trees that must endure his babbling today."
Eldarion nodded seriously, used to the constant baiting between his favorite uncles. Before the conversation got off track, he voiced his question. "Uncle Gimli, are you and Uncle Legolas lovers?"
The dwarf's face went utterly slack for a moment, then bright red as blood rushed to color it. "Whaaaat?" he bellowed after a moment or two of gaping like a fish. "Elf! Did you put him up to this?"
Eldarion, used to loud noises from this uncle, hardly jumped at the loud yell.
"What is the matter?" a light, musical voice asked in amusement, as Legolas suddenly stood next to them.
Gimli sputtered, unable to form words, pointing and gesticulating wildly. The elf stared at him curiously, waiting for the dwarf to finish the spasm. "He—he—the boy—he asked—if we were—were—lovers!" Gimli at last managed to get out.
The elf tilted his head at Eldarion, who nodded eagerly in agreement. Legolas looked completely puzzled, and just stared at the small boy blankly, as Gimli continued to make noises that resembled a boiling teakettle left on the stove too long. Then a smile suddenly twitched the elf's mouth with comprehension, and he burst into merry laughter. The elf bent nearly double, clutching his stomach with one hand and the frame of the door with the other in an effort to remain upright. Gimli's face, if it was possible, went an even darker shade of crimson.
Eldarion stared at his uncles in curiosity, wondering if they were going to answer him or just stand there and make funny noises. He waited patiently for them to bring themselves back under control, trying to look just like his father did when the two were being particularly impertinent, crossing his arms and tapping a foot lightly against the stone.
Suddenly Legolas's face lifted, and his eyes were shining brightly. "Ai, Gimli!" he exclaimed.
"No!" the dwarf barked, panic in his voice.
"Oh, but Gimli—"
"Absolutely not!" the dwarf roared.
"But think of—" Legolas tried again.
"Whatever evil prank has come to your mind, Master Elf, you will forget it at once! It will not be happening!" Gimli bellowed, a slight tinge of fear in his tone.
"But can you imagine—"
"I don't want to imagine anything!" the dwarf shouted in terror. He rounded on Eldarion. "Now see what you've done? You've given the flighty elf an idea! An idea! Do you have any concept of the horror—? But no," Gimli interrupted himself, "you're too young and innocent to know what it means when he gets an idea." The dwarf shuddered, as if in memory of past incidents.
Eldarion looked up at his uncle in confusion. "So, are you?" he asked, not understanding what their reactions meant in regards to his question. Legolas burst into renewed laughter, weakly hanging onto the doorframe with both hands now.
Gimli's eyes nearly bulged from his head. "Are we?" he repeated loudly. "A—a dwarf—and a—a—silly, flighty, brainless, pointy-eared—especially him!—any of—but—I never—you—don't—" Gimli sputtered incoherently a moment. "As if a dwarf would ever—never—an elf—ever think—" he lost track of words again, and returned to being a teakettle.
"You know," Legolas said lightly, "I believe I'll just examine these trees over here. They look like they could use some attention; I fear your smoke must be getting to them..." So saying the elf quickly headed off, but Gimli was having none of it.
"Oh no you don't!" he roared. "I know what that look in your eyes means!" He made a wild lunge past Eldarion and caught Legolas's belt in both hands.
The sudden unexpected weight caught the elf off-guard, and he fell—most ungracefully—to the ground, landing on his rear in garden dirt. He started to leap back up, but found a heavy dwarven boot planted in his stomach before he could move.
"You," Gimli growled at his captive, "are going nowhere right now. I won't have any more plots!"
"Gimli," Legolas pointed out reasonably, "you're getting mud all over me."
"If you behave," the dwarf replied. "Otherwise you'll be going to dinner far more disheveled."
"Nay, Master Dwarf, I know your axe is out of reach," Legolas laughed.
Gimli shook a fist menacingly. "Who says I'm talking about my axe?"
"Ah yes, the fearsome speed of the dwarves and their abilities to fight unarmed is unmatched by any other race," the elf retorted, making the dwarf's scowl deepen.
"You still haven't answered me," Eldarion pointed out as politely as he could.
Gimli turned quickly to face the boy. "I want to know who you've been talking to that's been so besmirching the name of the Dwarves!"
"The name of the Dwarves?" Legolas exclaimed from his supine position. "Nay, rather, who has been so offending the name of the Elves!"
"Offending the name of the Elves?" Gimli exclaimed in surprise. He snorted. "The Elves should be so lucky! Dwarven love is given to higher pursuits than flighty tree-monkeys!"
Legolas gave a cough that sounded suspiciously like Galadriel, but when his shorter companions looked over at him, he was staring up at him innocently.
Gimli's eyes narrowed as he looked at the captive beneath his boot. "Be careful, Master Elf," he warned his friend. "In case your addled brains have not thought to inform you, you are now at my mercy."
"Oh really?" said Legolas with a grin that often warned saner people to flee. "Is that what you term it in the dwarven tongue?"
"Ay," Gimli said with a glare, "You are lucky, Master Elf, for I am a merciful dwarf, and will forgive you your elvish shortcomings, as you cannot help them."
"What would I ever do without so noble a friend?" Legolas asked in a voice that dripped with innocence.
Gimli's glare deepened, but before he could speak, Legolas had nimbly rolled from beneath the foot, scrambled to his own, and dashed across the garden. Giving a furious roar, the dwarf took off in hot pursuit, the boy forgotten in their feud.
Eldarion frowned. He still hadn't gotten a serious answer to his question. Deciding that the best thing to do would be to seek out someone who wasn't nearly so silly as his uncles nor so evasive as his parents, the boy trotted off.
The blonde woman turned at the small voice, and looked down to find Eldarion staring up at her, frustration evident on his face. Judging from the furious dwarven shouts she heard distantly outside her window, and the light elvish laughter that mingled with them, she had a feeling that the boy had been talking to his uncles and—once more—was seeking out one of the few sane heads in the palace to make sense of the conversation.
"Yes, Eldarion?" she asked with a smile. "What may I do to help?"
"Are Uncle Legolas and Uncle Gimli lovers?" the boy asked frankly.
Éowyn's eyebrows shot upwards. "Where ever did you hear such a story?" she asked in surprise.
"Some of the other boys," was the vague answer.
Chuckling, Éowyn led the child to the large window, and lifted him so he could peer over the edge. They could see that now Gimli was stuck in a tall tree, apparently unable to find the way down, while at its roots Legolas was howling helplessly with laughter. Loud dwarven epithets assigned the blame for his precarious position to the elf rolling on the ground beneath him.
"Look at your uncles, lad," she instructed him. "If they were anything more than friends, don't you think one of them would have killed the other by now?" she asked seriously. "Or," she amended, "perhaps they would have simply killed each other—hmm?" She peered down at the boy in her arms.
Eldarion seemed to be mulling over her answer.
"After all, look at your parents. How many times have they nearly killed one another over a small spat? Or Faramir and I? Could you imagine your uncles?"
Eldarion giggled, remembering the last argument he hadn't been supposed to overhear. His adar had been trying to get out of a fancy dinner by saying he ought to go scouting to check out some rumors of Orcs in the area, and his naneth had been having none of it.
Then he frowned. He looked up at his aunt. "I don't understand," he said. "Do you mean Uncle Legolas and Uncle Gimli aren't friends? I thought they liked each other sometimes..."
"No, Eldarion," she responded, "that wasn't what I meant. They're very good friends. If they didn't like each other, they would certainly have killed one another by now."
Eldarion frowned again. "Then ada and nana don't like each other?"
"Of course they like each other!" She sighed, trying to think of some way to explain these concepts to a five-year-old. Why did he always come to her with these questions? She shook her head and smiled wryly. She knew why: his parents were too elvish—for all that Aragorn was a man—to give him a straight answer; Faramir would inevitably stutter and flee (she couldn't wait until it was his sons asking the questions!); and Legolas and Gimli were undoubtedly insane. Thus, by default, it fell to her to enlighten him.
"Do you know why people get married, Eldarion?" she asked, thinking she had found the proper track at last.
Eldarion nodded sagely. "Because they're adir and nanith," he replied promptly.
Éowyn hid a smile. "But what about Faramir and me? We don't have any children." Yet, she added silently. The boy frowned, mulling it over, but couldn't seem to find an answer when it was presented that way. "It's because they're so in love that they want to spend the rest of their lives together," she prompted.
"Oh," he said. "So Uncle Legolas and Uncle Gimli are married?"
Éowyn couldn't restrain her laughter. "No," she said, chuckling, "no they aren't."
"But they're always together," Eldarion pointed out with the indisputable logic of the young.
"Not always," said Éowyn. "Gimli lives in the Glittering Caves in Rohan, and Legolas lives nearby in Ithilien. You just always see them together because when they come to Minas Tirith, they are."
"Oh," said the boy, unsure of what to make of that. "So then they are lovers?"
Uncle, lend me strength, Éowyn though with a tired smile. "No," she said gently. "I—Eldarion, have you ever seen them kiss?"
The boy wrinkled his nose up so far it almost disappeared into his small face. "Kiss? Eeeeeeew!" he exclaimed, shaking his head emphatically. "Kissing is yucky!"
Éowyn bit her lip to hide her grin. "But your mother and father kiss," she pointed out.
"Yes, but they're nana and ada. Nanith and adir are supposed to kiss," he informed her sagely.
"Faramir and I kiss."
"Because we're married—we're lovers. Lovers kiss."
"Oh," said the child in a disgusted tone. "That's yucky."
Éowyn nodded seriously. "Yes, but that's what you're supposed to do when you're married to someone," she told him sadly.
"I'm sorry," he said regretfully, patting her arm.
"Thank you." She hid a grin behind her hand and set him on his feet.
He continued, "I didn't know you had to kiss someone to be their friend. That's icky. I don't want any friends now. I'll just pretend to be friends with people so I don't have to kiss them, like Uncle Legolas and Uncle Gimli do."
Éowyn paused, a stray question forming in her brain. "Eldarion," she asked calmly, "what did you think it meant when someone told you that Gimli and Legolas were lovers?"
He looked up at her curiously. "That they were friends," he said, as if it should have been obvious. "Why? What does it mean?"
But Éowyn was laughing too hard to answer.