A/N: Finally, the new chapter! Please be forgiving folks, it's been a year since I've written in this fandom much less this story. Also, for those of you who are wondering, I do know that elves die when molested. See the little AU sign at the front of the story? Yeah. :)

Chapter Eight

It took what felt to Gimli like ages, but what he knew from the darkening of the sky had to be less than an hour to find an acceptable hiding spot: a small cave, dry and uninhabited by animals, and discreetly blocked from view by a large hawthorn bush.

Legolas was shivering by the time they found it, which worried Gimli greatly. He had not shivered on Caradharas; now, he held his arms tightly to himself and shuddered in weather Gimli found only mildly cold. Of course, his clothing--or lack thereof--wasn't helping. The elf still stepped gingerly on the soft forest floor, and pulled Gimli's cloak around him protectively.

Gimli led Legolas into the cave with soft words, assuring him repeatedly that it was safe, that no one would see him there, that he would be safe. Finally he managed to coax the elf inside.

Legolas crawled into the low-ceilinged cavern and sat down cross-legged, promptly drawing his arms tight around himself again. Watching him, Gimli held an interior debate over the pros and cons of a fire. On the one hand, there was no clearer way to say "here I am" to a tracker than to send a plume of smoke into the sky; on the other hand, Gimli seriously doubted that between the thick canopy of trees and the fact the fire would be within the cave, that they would be able to see anything. And Legolas clearly needed the warmth.

Legolas did nothing to help as Gimli gathered kindling and larger, slow-burning branches; he sat and watched with no trace of emotion on his face while Gimli built and then lit the fire, coaxing flame from the brittle wood.

After it was lit Gimli sat back for a moment, watching Legolas. Legolas looked only into the fire, showing no response to being under observation. The unseeing look in his friend's eyes frightened Gimli badly, so much that he began to feel that he could not look at it for a second longer. "Sleep, Legolas," he instructed softly.

Legolas blinked, and looked at him in mild surprise. Gimli's worry grew. "Sleep," he said again, firmly. "I will keep watch."

Gimli didn't know whether to be relieved or even more worried that Legolas did not resist him when he slid his travel pack over to serve as a pillow. Legolas lay down on his side, clutching the cloak around him as though he was still cold, and lay staring into the fire. He did not move; after a while Gimli thought he might have been asleep, but he could not tell. The elf's eyes were glassy, reflecting the light from the fire.

Gimli dozed a little through the night, sitting near the mouth of the cave, his axe resting in his lap. He didn't think they would be found--he didn't even know if they were still being pursued for certain--but it would not do to be careless. One of the times he jerked awake and looked over at Legolas, the elf's eyes had closed, and they remained closed through the rest of the night. For once Gimli understood the puzzling behavior; Legolas had slept with his eyes closed on the march to Pelargir, and when Gimli had worried aloud for his health Elrohir had informed him that if an elf was truly exhausted, their eyes would close in rest. It made Gimli think that Legolas had not been asleep before, but there was nothing he could do about that now except to resolve to let him sleep until he woke naturally. They wouldn't continue on their journey to Edoras for a few days at the least, giving any potential pursuers a chance to become discouraged and return home, so there was no reason not to let the elf rest as much as he could.

It was nearly midday the next day before either of them moved. Gimli glanced towards the embers of the fire when he heard stirring; he found Legolas rising into a sitting position, blinking and rubbing his eyes.

Gimli remained motionless, waiting for Legolas to discover his presence on his own. He did not feel like chasing the elf if Legolas took a fright and bolted. Before long, Legolas looked up, his face contorting in confusion.

"Gimli?" he said, softly but clearly.

Gimli's heart leapt. "Yes, it's me," he said softly.

Legolas' brow furrowed. After a moment, he said quietly, "I thought I was dreaming."

"No. It's real," Gimli assured him.

They stared at each other for a few minutes. Gimli was afraid to say anything else; Legolas appeared lucid, for the first time, and Gimli thought that any attempt to discuss where they were or what had happened might drive that lucidity off.

"How did you find me?" Legolas asked suddenly.

Gimli did not want to speak directly about Billy, so he answered half-truthfully. "I asked everyone I saw about you, and finally someone knew where you were."

"And the others?"

It took Gimli a moment to follow Legolas' train of thought. At first he thought Legolas meant the others he had asked, but the reproach in the Elf's voice caused him to remember how Legolas had been reluctant to leave the brothel last night, even through his obvious terror of it. "We'll save them all," he promised. "And see those who did this brought to justice."

But that proved too much for Legolas, thinking about "those who did this." He turned away abruptly, and when Gimli spoke his name he didn't respond.

After a period of silence, Gimli began haltingly to tell Legolas about his half-formed plans. Legolas reacted with alarm when Gimli mentioned leaving him, but Gimli held firm. "You can't go about in that cloak and without boots for any longer,' Gimli said. "You just can't travel that way. I will go find some clothing for you, I will be back, you don't have to see anybody."

"They'll find you." The first words he had spoken since asking about his friends.

"You must trust me, Legolas," Gimli said gently.

Legolas bowed his head. With some difficulty he said, "Go then."

"I will be back before sunset," Gimli promised, rising. "You can rely on that."


Gimli started at the insistence in the Elf's voice, and wondered briefly if he was angry, if he felt abandoned. But there was no help for it. "I will be back," he vowed one more time, and then he left, praying as he did that Legolas would be there, both physically and emotionally, when he got back.