Legolas was standing by the door, pressed against it, listening intently. His knife was in his hand and he was poised to strike. He had moved the storage chest from before the door.
"What...?" Gimli began, but the elf put a finger to his lips and tipped his head. Gimli fell silent and listened as well.
There was a shuffling racket from outside, as if many pairs of booted feet were scrabbling among the stones and debris outside. Gimli eased towards his axe in the corner and hefted the weapon onto his shoulder.
The noise stopped, and an ugly voice muttered a command.
Gimli moved to Legolas's side. He tapped his friend's arm and the elf shifted slightly, carefully sliding behind him.
With a sudden movement, Gimli threw himself at the door, tearing the hinges outward, catching the first orc in the face. The thing stumbled back, stunned. Another orc rose up at the side and Gimli leapt out of the doorway to meet it. He swung his axe with a force born of much pent up frustration and rage. He cleaved it through the midsection, slicing it nearly in twain. Blood drenched the ground and dripped from his axe. Gimli's face was a mask of fury and he had to swallow the cry of satisfaction that welled up within him at the kill. He whirled back to face the orc with the broken nose and with a wide stroke of his blade he beheaded it before it could squeak.
Panting from his exertions, the dwarf turned to face more attackers, only to find that Legolas had neatly dispatched the remaining two orc lurkers and was carefully drawing his long white knife from the gut of the last enemy. The elf cast a look at him and nodded. They had slain them all with hardly a sound.
Gimli wiped the gore from his axe upon the rags of one of the bodies and grinned. "Still ahead in our game, my friend." He looked cautiously out upon the Deep in the dark. It seemed deserted now, and nothing moved but the wind and the odd fluttering scrap of cloth among the corpses of men and orcs that lay scattered across the battleground.
He glanced upwards. It was indeed past midnight. The sky was now utterly dark. Even the moon had fled, and the stillness of the heavy air foreboded storm. Gimli was wary, heeding the noises in the distance of swords clashing and shouting and small skirmishes still raging on.
"It might be possible, Legolas, to make it to the caves or the Citadel under moonlight, but in this darkness I am unsure of the layout of the Keep and we might well meet foes along the way. Not all, apparently, are following commands and staying with Saruman's main force at the gates. He tugged his beard pensively and studied the elf. "What say you? Do we move on?"
Legolas's voice was soft as the night air. "I fear these orcs will not be the last deserters to pass this way seeking easier plunder, and I doubt this place is safer than any which lies ahead. If we do not go, we may be facing worse odds at dawn." He sheathed his weapon and stepped over the orc that lay at his feet. Lightning touched the sky overhead and thunder chased it close behind. Rain began to lightly fall.
Gimli regarded his companion apprehensively, wondering at Legolas's seemingly swift recovery from the malady that had gripped him such a short time ago. He narrowed his eyes and closely watched the elven prince in the dark. His skepticism proved well founded. Though he struggled mightily to maintain it, it was not long before the elf's semblance of strength left him. Thunder crashed once more above their heads and Legolas wavered as he stood over the bodies of his vanquished foes. Gimli bounded over the dead orcs, sliding through the blood and rain now mingling upon the ground, and caught him before he fell. He helped Legolas to stand and regarded him gravely.
"Safe or no, you cannot go on tonight."
Legolas protested, but the dwarf shook his head adamantly. Legolas whispered a bitter oath and allowed Gimli to lead him back to the guard house.
"I hate this, Gimli. I hate this weakness." He bit off each word angrily. "I feel as helpless as a child. We should not be here. We should be at Aragorn's side...."
"You should not even have been out harrying orcs like this. We will face whatever the morning brings when the sun rises, but we are staying here until then."
Gimli sealed the door behind them again as Legolas slid shakily to the floor. It had grown chill in the small room. Normally resistant to such things, the cold from which Legolas suffered was beyond his defenses, and now damp from the rain, he shivered moreso in the darkness.
The dwarf felt the night air seep into his bones as well, and his back twinged from sleeping in a sitting position for so long. Even the fray with the orcs had not worked out the kinks. He stretched and yawned, wincing. He sighed, then removed his cloak and crouched back down next to Legolas, wrapping it around the elf's shoulders. He was disturbed at the iciness of the elf's skin, and taking his hands in his, he began to chafe them until he felt them begin to warm a little.
Legolas looked at him and his eyes widened. "You are wounded," he said, seeing the trickle of red bright against the traces of dark orc blood.
Gimli lifted a hand to his forehead and grimaced. "Aye. 'Tis shallow. A bit of steel splintered from the armor of that last filthy orc. He was wearing an iron collar, I think. Yet I would say that I came away from the fight better off than he," the dwarf smiled, teeth bared.
"Gimli," Legolas said, "If I am no better able to continue at first light, you will have to leave and make your way to Aragorn and the others. It may, in truth, be wiser if you left now and took advantage of the cover of night."
"And leave you here alone?" He sniffed. "A ridiculous suggestion that is, my dear Elf, and no."
Legolas cast him an irritable look. "A plague on dwarves and their stiff necks." He clenched his teeth and stifled an aching groan. When he could speak again, his voice was hardly a whisper, resigned and tinged with bitterness. "The pain grows less... Gimli... but I... I have no strength left, no feeling. A fine hindrance I am upon you. Forgive me."
"A plague now upon elves, and their simple wits," Gimli countered. "You are apologizing because you are hurt?" He shook his head and rose to fetch water from the barrel in the corner. He tore off a bit of cloth from his shirt and dabbed at the cut above his eye and hastily bound it. "Legolas, my friend, I am not leaving your side. Do you believe me to be that faithless?" The dwarf's tone softened when he heard the elf choke back a weary cry. "This will pass." He took a long draught from the cup in his hands and then refilled it. "The dawn will come, you will heal, and you will be yourself."
There was no answer. Gimli turned and paced back to kneel at the elf's side. Legolas lay beneath his cloak and the dwarf reached out to gently shake him. The elf did not move. He set the water in his hand aside and lifted him. He looked into Legolas's face, and saw that his eyes were dark and empty.
He was losing him.
Gimli cursed his helplessness. Fear rose within him and he gripped the elf's hand tightly in his own. "I will not leave you," the dwarf said, his deep voice breaking. "Just do not leave me."
He was not sure the elf heard him, or if he did, was not sure he understood. He suddenly needed very much to be close to Legolas, to assure him that he was still there, or if this truly was their time to part, to share that last bit of life with him. With uncertain fingers he caressed the elf's face, then with extreme care and a warrior's expedience, he lightly kissed the cool lips.
Legolas did not respond. Gimli gritted his teeth, hissing his name, and then kissed him again, harder. "Fight this!" he growled. "You do not give up this easily, elf!"
His heart leapt as Legolas stirred slightly, then seemed to rouse a little, his eyes focusing. Gimli gripped him severely and kissed him again. After a moment he returned the embrace with what strength he had left, passionately matching the dwarf kiss for kiss, feeling the roughness of his beard upon his face, the leathery hand against his cheek. He gasped a little, and Gimli met his lips lovingly twice more with brief touches of his strong mouth.
Gimli tasted the elf's sweetness, savouring it, and tears came to his eyes. His love for this remarkable being, his comrade-in-arms and dearest friend, flooded through him. He felt the suffering in Legolas and wanted so much to rid him of it. He trailed his hand from the elf's cheek, down the firm muscles of his neck to his throat, feeling his life pulse beneath his fingertips as he touched the hollow there.
Legolas lay still, awareness returning, the aching chill subsiding. He hardly dared to breath, dizzy with pain and emotion. He let the sensual pleasure drive away the dull agony within him, the coldness that was inexorably stripping him of warmth and life now slowing, now holding back. He focusing upon nothing but Gimli's hands and the dwarf's steady presence at his side. He shuddered as the hands moved lower, gently now, running across his soft skin beneath his shirt.
Flawless, Gimli marvelled, stroking the elf's slender body, thrilling at the slight response to his touch, feeling life return for his companion. He watched colour return to his face, felt his breathing deepen. Gimli's brow furrowed. He did not wish to overstep the lines drawn between them, yet the slow heightening of Legolas's heartbeat felt so good to him, so hopeful. He traced Legolas's molded chest, moving downwards, steadily lower.
Legolas remained motionless yet a little longer, but finally he tensed. "Ahh! Gimli... Gimli, I... I do not know if I can...." He swallowed hard and said haltingly, "I am so.... Gimli.... Gimli, please.... ne marioneth n.. nial...." He lapsed into his own tongue.
Gimli lifted himself and kissed the elf reassuringly. "Shhh.... easy, Legolas. I will be gentle. Lie still and let me do this, dearest heart. I cannot bear to see you in such pain. I do not know how else to draw you away from it. I promise I will be so very gentle with you."
Legolas wept, closing his eyes. "Gimli... I need... Gimli, p... please do not let me go."
"Be still, Legolas," the dwarf murmured, a little taken aback by open emotion in his voice, but too far gone to even toy with the idea of retreating. There was no turning back, and none of the doubt, the confusion, the fear. The world was reduced to this small, dark room and the two bright souls huddled there together; pretense had no place anymore between them.
He caressed the elf's body ever so carefully, loosening the clothing that was stained black with orc blood and casting it aside. He drew the cloak about Legolas warmly, tucking it around his shoulders. With a tenderness Legolas would not have imagined from those rough, calloused hands, used to chiseling stone and forging steel and wielding death, Gimli soothed his tired flesh and awakened him to delicate sensations. The hurt and chill were there, insistent, but they were reduced to nothing more than a distant echo at the dwarf's patient touch. When the deadly cold surged to the surface, Gimli refused to let it take hold.
Gimli was pleased to feel the elf cease to shiver. He planted loving kisses upon Legolas's fingertips, his breast, along the nape of his neck... lingering as he went. He removed his armor in between caresses, laying it aside with his boots and belt until he was clad merely in his trousers and shirt, giving himself freedom to move. He felt a tentative hand against his shoulder, and light as a feather, Legolas let his fingers wander across his back. The elf tried to lift himself a little, to return the love- making, but he was so weak.
"Nay," Gimli admonished, and pressed his lips to the elf's throat, then to a delicately tipped ear. "Do not tax yourself. Let me give you pleasure, and do not mind mine. This is beyond anything I could desire, Legolas," he breathed, "Be at ease, and just rest."
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.