Title: "Divided Loyalties"

Author: Darkover

Rating: K

Disclaimer: The characters of "The Lord of the Rings" were created by J.R.R. Tolkien. No copyright infringement is intended. I believe the good professor would understand that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and would not want anyone to sue me.

Characters: Gimli and Aragorn

Summary: Gimli has a problem, and Aragorn offers some much-need counsel. Not slash.


"You seem troubled, Master Dwarf."

Gimli, hearing the quiet voice of Aragorn just behind him, jumped slightly and forced down his annoyance with himself at having been taken unawares. Well, to be taken off guard by a Ranger is no shame, he reasoned as he turned to face the Man behind him. "Troubled? Who says so?"

Aragorn arched an eyebrow. "You have been fidgeting ever since we entered Moria. As I am sure no Dwarf, particularly one of Durin's line, could be ill-at-ease in the depths of the earth, no matter how dark, I assume there is something on your mind." Taking a seat beside Gimli, he brought out his pouch of pipe-weed and offered it. Gimli accepted it with silent gratitude. A smoke might be just the thing to calm his nerves.

A few moments passed while the Man and the Dwarf prepared their pipes, lit them, and then drew on them until each was able to blow a few smoke rings. Gimli started to feel a little better, although his essential problem still remained.

Almost at the same time, Aragorn spoke again, indicating he had not forgotten what had brought him to the dwarf's side to begin with. "So, tell me, my friend. What is on your mind?"

"The Elf," Gimli muttered.

He received a sharp glance from the keen gray eyes. "What about him?"

Gimli hesitated, wondering how well his concerns would be received. Man or not, Aragorn had been raised by Elves, and even though Legolas was not of Imladris, it was more than possible that the Ranger and the son of King Thranduil had been acquainted even before the Council of Elrond and the forming of the Fellowship. "Being so close to him…it is disturbing," he managed at last.

Aragorn's expression was undecipherable. "Legolas has acquitted himself well as a member of this Fellowship."

"Aye, he has. That's part of the problem."

"I fail to understand you, Master Dwarf."

"Yon lad isn't just some spoiled Elvish princeling, I'll grant you that," Gimli admitted. "His keen eyes have helped us more than once, and he acquitted himself well at the Gates, fighting off that monstrous thing that came out of the water. That has made my situation all the harder."

Aragorn frowned slightly. "And your 'situation' is…?"

"Damn it, Man, can't you see?" Gimli snapped. "I respect Legolas! I'm fond of him! I'm becoming *friends* with an Elf! And not just any Elf, but the son of King Thranduil, the Elf-tyrant who imprisoned by father and the other companions of Thorin Oakenshield, on their quest to defeat Smaug!" Gimli took a deep breath. "If I become friends with yon princeling, am I not being disloyal to my father? How can I face him after this? Why, I might even become known as 'Gimli, Elf-friend.'" The dwarf shuddered.

Aragorn's lips twitched as he fought to hide his smile. "There are worse fates."

"So says the Man who was raised by Elves," Gimli growled.

Aragorn smiled at that, but his eyes were thoughtful. For several moments, both man and dwarf smoked in silence. Gimli continued to brood. They were almost at the end of their pipes when the Ranger spoke again.

"Your father fought in the Battle of the Five Armies, did he not?"

"Aye, that he did," Gimli asserted with pardonable pride. "Acquitted himself well, too. Many the orc-neck and warg-head did my father hew with his axe."

"Tell me," Aragorn said conversationally, "when Gandalf the Grey appeared in the midst of those gathered at the foot of the mountain—dwarves, elves, and Lake-men alike—did they not immediately dismiss their quarrels, and band together against a common foe?"

"Of course. It would have been folly not to."

"Do you—or any other dwarf—blame Thorin Oakenshield for fighting alongside the warriors of King Thranduil? Do you blame your father for doing so?"

"No! They were brave dwarves who did what was right!"

"Then it seems to me, my friend," Aragorn concluded reasonably, "that if your father could put aside his grievances against an Elven-king who once held him and his comrades prisoner, and fight alongside his former foe in battle, then no one, least of all your father, will consider you disloyal because you pledged your axe to a Fellowship that includes the son of that king. Especially since Legolas Thranduilion is a fine warrior, too, and an equally dedicated member of the Fellowship."

"Aye," Gimli murmured. He had not considered matters from that perspective. "If my father could fight alongside King Thranduil, I can forge a friendship with Thranduil's son with no shame."

"Well said," Aragorn replied. Together, they knocked out their pipes, and Gimli looked up at the tall Ranger.

"Thank you, Aragorn," he said. Both of them knew he was not just talking about the smoke. Gimli added in a generous tone, "You have the wisdom of a Dwarf."

The Ranger chuckled, just as Gandalf indicated that he knew which way to go.

"Come, Gimli," Legolas called. "Elves do not walk beneath the earth. In Moria, I trust your eyesight more than mine."

"Fear not, lad," the Dwarf called out. "I'll not leave you in the dark!" He hurried forward until he was walking alongside with his Elven companion. Aragorn, bringing up the rear, smiled, and the Fellowship continued on together.