Disclaimer: Legolas, Gimli, et all, belong to J.R.R. Tolkien and co. No copyright infringement intended.

AN: This story was inspired by the song "Into The West" from the Return of the King. Again with the tissue warning.

Mellon Gaearon

Gimli grunted as he pulled himself up the uneven rocky ledge. He wished briefly for Legolas's nimble hands and feet; the elf had little difficulty scaling such surfaces as these, much to the dwarf's annoyance. Snatches of a strange tune drifted down to him on the wind; the object of his climb. He toiled on.

Finally his perseverance was rewarded and he scrambled up onto the flat of the rock and found Legolas seated cross-legged, facing out to sea and playing softly upon a wooden flute.

Gimli settled down beside him, listening quietly to Legolas's song, a weird, melancholy tune punctuated here and there by strangely dissonant notes that seemed nevertheless to fit.

After a few moments Legolas faltered and took the flute from his lips, his hands falling to his sides. A sea breeze played with his hair, tossing strands across his still face.

"What music do you play, Legolas?" Gimli asked.

"Can you not hear?" The elf replied. "It is the song of the sea."

And to Gimli's surprise he could hear it. He listened to the dull roar of the waves as they beat against the shore and the hiss as they receded off the beach and back whence they had come. The wind moaned softly, and whistled, and the cries of the gulls sounded overhead.

He thought of what a strange picture the two of them must make; the tall, slender wood elf and the short, stocky dwarf of the mountain, side by side on that rocky lookout, gazing out to sea as the wind played with beard and braid.

"Legolas my friend," he said. "If someone had told me before we met that I would someday be sitting here beside you, preparing for a journey only the chosen of the Valar have ever made, I would have been sorely amused."

"And if such a one had told me that I would one day be preparing to leave this world with a dwarf by my side, I should never have believed it."

Gimli chuckled. "I guess we must both be thankful that fate has proved other than we might have thought."

"Indeed, we have a great deal to be thankful for," Legolas agreed. "I am glad that I must not make this journey unaccompanied."

Gimli grunted. "You never seemed the type to grow lonely."

Legolas sighed, blowing an errant strand of golden hair from his face. "Never before have I been so alone."

Gimli heard what was behind the veiled words. He knew that Legolas and Aragorn had been close, and the elf had taken the man's death hard. He put a comforting hand on Legolas's arm.

"I miss him too, lad."

Legolas shook his head. "It is not of Aragorn that I spoke, though his loss is still heavy upon my heart."

Gimli was puzzled. "What is it, then, that troubles you?"

"It is of little consequence," Legolas said lightly. "Let it be."

"Nay, my friend," Gimli countered. "These past few weeks you have been melancholy and quieter even than is your wont. I thought it was Aragorn's death; if there is something else, I would you tell me."

"It is not something easily put into words," Legolas said after a long pause. "Nor am I sure you might understand should I find the means to explain it."

"Legolas, I am your friend. Forget your stubborn elvish pride for the moment and tell me what troubles you."

Legolas turned his gaze back to the sea. "You have seen it, Gimli," he said at last. "Eryn Lasgalen, the trees of my home. They are even more beautiful than I remembered, for when I was a child darkness had already begun to creep beneath the branches. Lorien itself cannot rival that forest for beauty since the Shadow has been driven from its depths.

"It was a long and hard battle I and my people fought to save our home from the Dark Lord's power, a battle we never thought to win. To hear the voices of the trees again, to walk among them unarmed and unafraid, to revel in their beauty... I never thought to wish for more.

"Now I am here, on the shores of the sea, far from the woods that bore me, from all that I have ever held dear, preparing to leave forever the forests of Middle Earth."

Gimli saw the elf's fists clench and there was a fierceness in his face that the dwarf had rarely seen, save in battle.

"Yet I cannot stay. I have seen the gray waters of gaearon, of the great sea. I am lost; I would not go, and yet I cannot stay. Alas, Gimli. Alas for the wailing of the gulls!"

He turned to look at Gimli beside him, his eyes glistening.

"In the weeks we have been here, Gimli, you have been so impatient to have the ship finished. I must confess I have not understood how you could choose so easily to leave your home behind."

Gimli did not know what to say; he reached out and placed his hand of Legolas's still-clenched fist where it rested on the rock.

"It would, perhaps, be less difficult in my own tongue," Legolas said, looking away. "Westron has not the words."

"I think I understand, a little," Gimli said. "Perhaps a dwarf cannot understand an elf's mind, but I have seen your pain these past few weeks, Legolas. I know your sorrow. I am only sorry I cannot ease it.

Legolas gave him a small smile, and freed his hand to place it on the dwarf's shoulder.

"Your presence alone has eased it greatly, mellon nin," he said. "A hundred times have I been grateful that I need not make the journey alone." He considered his companion's weathered face. "Indeed, there have been many times I have been glad for your company.

"I think the hobbits had the right of it," he mused. "They of all races best understand friendship. Merry and Pippin, Frodo and Sam…"

"Aragorn and yourself," Gimli put in.

"Yes, Aragorn understood a great many things that others sometimes do not," Legolas said fondly. "He was wise beyond his years and the ways of men."

"I suppose it comes of having Lord Elrond as one's adopted father," Gimli joked.

"Perhaps." Abruptly Legolas changed the subject. "The ship is finished. Would you like to see her?"

Gimli said he would, and so they clambered down the other side of the rock to the sand beach below . There, in a small cove sheltered by the rocky outcropping that had been their perch, sat a small, shallow ship of gray wood. She reminded Gimli somewhat of the canoes the Fellowship had been given in Lothlorien, with slender sides that sloped slowly and elegantly upwards. She was, however, nearly three times as large as the canoes had been, and carried two single-spared masts rigged with crisp white sails, carefully rolled and secured so they would not catch the wind at anchor.

Although a stranger to water vessels of any kind, Gimli's craftsman's eye was easily able to appreciate the sturdy elegance of the ship.

"It… she's beautiful, Legolas," he said, a little in awe. "Does she have a name?"

Legolas considered. "What would you call her if the choice was yours?"

"Perhaps…" Gimli hesitated, looking up at his friend in contemplation. "…Mellon?"

A smile spread of Legolas's face. "It is a good name," he said. "But perhaps I will add to it. Mellon Gaearon, Friend of the Sea, our companion on this last journey."

They stood together, elf and dwarf, watching the little gray ship bob gently on the waves.

Legolas stood in the stern of the Mellon Gaearon, gazing back at the land upon which he would never again set foot. The tide had turned, and a pale-faced moon looked back at him, bathing the shore, the ship, and the snoring Gimli in a soft white light. The sea was black and calm, like a polished mirror reflecting the darkness of the sky.

A great weariness lay on his shoulders as he looked back at the shore, and he felt tears coursing down his cheeks. The last journey, he had told Gimli, and now as he set himself to follow in the footsteps of his people, he felt indeed that all his voyages had at last come to an end.

Was this like the death that awaited all other races at the hands of relentless time, leaving all one knew and held dear for a fate feared, yet as certain as the steady beat of waves upon the shore? He didn't know, but he felt as he imagined many dying men and dwarves must feel, struggling against a fate that they knew would come from the day they were born.

He turned then toward the sea, moving to the prow of the ship where the anchor line slid over the side into the darkness of the water. The glow of the moon made a long white strip of light that stretched as far as his elven eyes could see, like a path left by his people for him to follow.

He could almost hear their voices as they bid him farewell and left for the Undying Lands, and he realized for the first time how he missed the songs and laughter of his own. He had learned much of men and dwarves in the past years, but he would never understand them the way he did his people, nor they him. He thought of his father, waiting for him beyond the sea, and felt a great longing to feel Thranduil's strong arms about him once more.

Resolutely he bent and grasped the slender anchor line in strong hands. Drops of water fell from it as he pulled the rope up, falling to shatter like glass upon the rippling surface of the sea.

In his mind he saw Aragorn, not as the aged King he had been before his death, but as Legolas had known him best; as Estel, friend of the elves, young and strong, dressed as a ranger in dark greens and browns. Even the Hope of Men himself was now naught but memory, fading into legend until and finally lost in darkness. So it would be even with his race; they, too, would be forgotten at last.

Such was the way of the world; all things must come to an end. But the white shores were calling him, and he would meet again his father and his people, to dwell in Valinor until the ending of the world.

Released from her anchor's hold on the sandy bottom, the Mellon Gaearon began to drift out with the falling tide. Clearing the shelter of her cove she met a soft and gentle wind, and Legolas unfurled the sails and watched as they slowly filled. Secure in the knowledge that she would find her way, he lay down on the smooth deck and folded his hands across his chest, his eyes on the flickering stars above his head.

And then he slept, knowing that the way would be open to him, and that he and Gimli would wake on the shores of Valinor, safe in the very arms of the Valar.

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