A Distant and Long-Beloved Light
Summary: In Edoras, Gimli wonders on what it is to pocket starlight.
Disclaimer: The following story depicts a relationship between two men.
Disclaimer of another kind: I make no money from this strange pastime, and I intend no offense or copyright infringement to Tolkien or his universe.
"…they shaped and wrought, and light they caught to hide in gems on hilt of sword…" – J.R.R. Tolkien
My feelings are not new to me, though it took long hours and longer days for them to form. Like water falling in a cave, some of my thoughts and some of my moments have drifted away, lost in dark passages. But some have deposited themselves, layered with each new droplet, diamond-shining as it falls. Aye, some have stayed. And what remains when all is cleared away is that which I cannot deny, even unto my own heart. An elf. I have lost all, and to an elf.
What would I do with an elf? An elf? A child of Durin, dreaming on the Firstborn! It is so absurd as to make my sides ache with mirth, but the ache is higher and brighter and something I think I must learn to live with, or perish from. "Fool dwarf!" I curse myself aloud, hoping the words will offer a lesser sting to distract me from a greater pain. "Next you'll be trying to find a use for starlight and thinking you can carry it about in your pockets! This is what comes of leaving the mountains…"
"Funny," came the voice of the man leaning in the doorway. "I'd long thought dwarves strung starlight on necklaces and trapped that cold light in the hilts of swords."
I let go of a breath I don't remember drawing in. "Ah, lad, you scared me, creeping up like the Ranger you pretend to be instead of the lord you rightly are."
I am about to make some comparison between him and the King of Rohan – and in his favor – when he speaks again, "Elves walk much softer, Gimli. What words would you have spoken to him?"
He knows then, by the light in his dark eyes and the smile that plays about his lips. His keen eyes have pierced through and seen the change that has come over Gloin's son. My only defense lies in my gruffness, my armor against his obvious pleasure in my folly. "I have nothing to tell to the elf," I declare as bravely as I can, turning from my dreams of carrying the light of the stars in my pockets and near at hand.
"Ah," he says, and his smile blooms and brightens. "A plague on the stiff necks of dwarves. You will love no other, Gimli. Might you not tell him?"
I take care not to show my wonderment; few know of the hearts of dwarves outside of our own race, and I would not have gambled on Aragorn, son of Arathorn, holding such knowledge. Every day he shows himself more and more fit to rule over the kingdoms of men. "Nay," I say at last and my gaze falls. "Tell him? Tell him and be shamed by all the wrongness of it? There is much between us, Aragorn. Our races, our maleness, that his father held captive mine. Could a few words of love from a fool dwarf mend so much as all that?"
His face is thoughtful, even noble in the fading light. "Love mends much and bridges many chasms. I, too, love an elf, Gimli. I have battled the fight you fight against yourself, and spoken every harsh word you have now speak in the quiet of my own mind."
I snort at that; against dwarves, even men are considered fair.
He ignores me. "Animosity lay between our lines as well, and yet love endures, even as Middle Earth wanes." As if to prove his point, a last ray of the setting sun shines against the Evenstar, worn about his neck.
I have glimpsed Arwen, jewel of Rivendell, from afar. In my mind, I see her at the shoulder of this man who will be king of men, and smile painfully at the fitness of it. "I thank you for your kindness, lad," I tell him, knowing it useless to speak what he will not understand. "But I can be naught but unwholesome in his elvish eyes. I will be content to fight at his side, and to look on him awhile."
Aragorn turns from me and crosses the room with his long stride. "I will leave you to it, then."
And Legolas appears where he had stood.
He is smiling.
The damn elf is smiling.
He speaks something in the words of his people and I imagine it the spell by which he claimed my heart for his own. Had I more strength – from where comes this cursed trembling? – I would turn my axes upon myself.
"You know I don't speak a word of that birdspeech, elf," I growl, frightened.
His expression has not changed. "Did it sound an insult, Master dwarf?"
"Never trust an elf?" He is teasing and I am lost.
He comes closer and kneels before me so that we are of a height. "Aragorn told me that dwarves love only once. Gimli, elves, too, bare their hearts only to one other, though they may take many lovers before that one is found. Would you, dear one, trust the heart of an elf?"
Truth comes to my lips. "Past death or darkness."
He laughs for joy. "It seems that men, in their way, have more courage than either elves or dwarves. I could not tell you. I could not lose a friendship so rare and so precious."
My voice is gruff, hoarse with joy-tears, with disbelief. "I could not pocket starlight."
"And now?" he asks.
I reach for him, and know myself complete, even if all Middle Earth passes away. What glimmered, once, out of reach – his love- has cast its light on me, and I will treasure what I have been given. "Now, I will give it a home in my arms."