22. Peace and Healing
Gimli paused in the process of chewing his last piece of bread to glance at his companion. Legolas had, when forced by subtle Dwarven threats, taken food although he had picked at his dinner more to appease Gimli than from any actual desire. It had seemed to the Dwarf that his friend was content simply to lean back against the trunk of a tree and drink in the sight of the stars for days. Apparently he had misjudged. This was made worse by the fact that he had been about to say much the same to Legolas, but the Elf had spoken first. Gimli swallowed and glared at his friend.
"You are half right, Master Elf," the Dwarf responded loftily, "which ought to go down in the histories as a remarkable event, for an Elf to accomplish even that much. Only it is your hurts we shall be inspecting first."
"Nay," said Legolas with a dismissive wave, "we saw to mine in the—cave." His voice trembled ever so slightly and his eyes flickered a moment in shadow but he continued calmly enough. "Yours have yet to be looked at, so the sensible route would be to start with them."
"And if the Elves ever showed sense, then you would realize that they will remain that way until we know how you fare," Gimli replied firmly.
"It is not the fault of the Elves that the Dwarves cannot recognize sense when it is given."
"And it is not the fault of the Dwarves that the Elves do not know how to make any."
"If you seek to draw me into an argument in order to distract me from my purpose here, Master Dwarf, you will soon learn that I cannot be so easily swayed."
"Then it will be a first, for a flighty Elf to hold one thought when another presents itself."
"Simply because the Dwarves do not know what thinking is does not mean that the Elves are not capable of doing so."
"Perhaps not, yet I have seen no evidence that they are capable of such a feat."
"A feat it may seem to lesser races, Dwarf, but I assure you, it is not so difficult a task."
"I assume you heard that from a hobbit? For I know that to the Elves, thinking steadily is all but impossible."
"It is fortunate for the Elves that we can handle more than one thought at a time. Alas, that the Dwarves are not so equally accomplished. Now cease this, Master Dwarf, and let me see your injuries."
"I will do so gladly, once I have seen yours."
"I think not, Master Dwarf. You are the first patient tonight."
"As an Elf, you cannot help that you do not think," Gimli retorted. "After all, if memory serves me—which it does—the first patient this night was Eldarion. You had best leave the thinking to me, and allow yourself to be the second."
"We would all be doomed, were I to trust to the thinking abilities of a Dwarf," Legolas shot back. "But as it seems that intelligence is too foreign a concept to penetrate your thick skull, perhaps incentive will move you. If you do not let me see your hurts, I shall inform Aragorn of your stubborn refusal to be tended to."
"In which case I shall do the same, and you will receive the same lecture as I do," Gimli replied smugly. "But if you wish to use incentive, I shall do so as well. You will allow me to see your wounds, or I shall be forced to tell Éomer what truly happened to cause Arod to become so filthy on your journey through the marsh when the princess was born."
"In which circumstance, I shall have no choice but to tell his sister what truly happened to her potted flowers outside the balcony door."
"Were that to happen, I would have to relate to the Twins how truly musical your rendition of the Lay of Nimrodel was last New Years."
"Which would then leave me no option but to regale them with the feats of horsemanship you showed in Rohan last year."
"That would force me to enlighten Arwen as to the culprit behind her daughters’ refusal to seek sleep at a reasonable hour."
"Causing me to enlighten her as to who is responsible for their recent sweet tooth."
"Which would lead me to tell your father what happened that night in Aglarond…"
"Which would mean that you would have to talk to my father, the sight of which would be well worth the potential embarrassment such a recital might engender."
"Humph. I believe that we both are in possession of far too much knowledge to ever successfully blackmail the other, Legolas. It would be too suicidal an endeavor."
"I am afraid that I must agree with you, my friend, shocked ‘though I am to see such intelligence leave the mouth of a Dwarf."
"And I am equally shocked to see it penetrate Elvish ears successfully."
"Then you must be far too shocked to make an accurate assessment of my condition. Please, allow me to examine you first while you recover."
"Nay, I would insist upon allowing you the time to get over your far greater surprise."
"I would have to agree that a Dwarf speaking wisdom is far more shocking an occurrence than an Elf recognizing it," Legolas nodded sympathetically, "but fortunately I have had many years to learn how to cope with strange events, and am certain that I shall be all right in moments. I suggest you bow to my greater experience and acquiesce."
"And I suggest that you bow to my greater understanding of the situation."
"The day a Dwarf shows greater understanding than an Elf—"
"Is the day he will be named Elf-Friend," Gimli interrupted.
Legolas opened his mouth to argue, then shut it again abruptly. "You realize we could go on like this the entire night," he observed dryly.
"And well into the next day if Eldarion does not interrupt," Gimli agreed.
"Then you had best give in if you wish for us to accomplish anything ‘ere sunrise," Legolas pointed out calmly. "Elves are stubborn."
"And Dwarves are less so?"
There was no suitable argument for that particular observation, so the Elf said nothing. Instead, he fastened an intense glare on his friend which Gimli, for his part, returned almost in full. They sat thus for a large span of time. Around them crickets chirped, owls hunted, trees whispered, and the moon slowly crossed the sky. The Elf and Dwarf sat motionless, locked in a silent battle of wills.
Gimli shifted slightly with a groan for his stiffening joints. "I am getting too old for this," he muttered half in jest to himself. Legolas’s sharp ears easily caught the words and distress for a moment flashed with painful intensity through the Elf’s eyes before he buried it behind an ancient mask of serenity. Gimli could have slapped himself.
Age was something to laugh at with Éomer when a young colt proved feisty or with his fellows when they discovered noble strands of grey in their beards, but it was never brought up around Arwen and Aragorn, who would become quiet and withdrawn at the thought. As for he and Legolas, they joked about it—joked desperately, too terrified to do anything less than retreat behind the full force of their banter.
But now, with his friend’s nerves already strained and his customary calm only just beginning to reknit itself from his fright, was not the time to bring up any mention of time’s flow or mortality’s span. Fool of a Dwarf! Gimli cursed himself heartily as he watched Legolas retreat frantically behind his mask of immovable Elven Warrior. And stubborn Elf, he added with a grumble. Gimli’s eyes narrowed as he watched his friend pretend that nothing was wrong, and realized suddenly that Legolas had not stopped pretending since he had found him in that accursed cave. The Elf had done such a good job of it that he had even managed to fool Gimli, but now the Dwarf could see what his friend was doing. Legolas did not want to have to think about what had just happened, and so he was attempting to distract himself.
"I have decided," he said aloud, "that Elves are the most stubborn creatures on all of Arda. Arguing with one is more fruitless than arguing with a rock, for rocks at least can be reasonable."
"As if a Dwarf were capable of recognizing reason," Legolas said to himself just loudly enough for Gimli to hear.
"If you wish to sit here all night and contemplate the stars or talk to the trees or some other trivial insanity, that is your desire," Gimli continued as if the Elf had not spoken. "I intend to sleep this night, and if the only way I can make you give me the peace to do so is to allow you to satisfy yourself that I am unscathed, I see no choice but to give in to your Elvish foolishness."
"At last, a Dwarf that can recognize sense when it is dangled in front of his eyes," Legolas replied as he rose—smoothly enough to annoy Gimli, who felt quite stiff from his long immobility—and joined Gimli by the fire. "Tunic, Dwarf—off. And perhaps while you do so, you might inform me as to the manner in which you acquired that black eye."
Gimli paused from unbuckling his ever-present chain mail and looked at the Elf curiously. "I have no idea of what you speak."
Legolas raised his eyebrows pointedly and Gimli tentatively probed his eyesockets. One was decidedly larger than the other, and quite puffy. Doubtless it was a remarkable shade of crimson and violet, as well. Gimli shrugged. "I suppose I must have run into something."
"With your face?" Legolas asked with a smirk.
Gimli scowled. "I must have tripped."
"Ah-ha," said Legolas with far too much smugness for the Dwarf’s happiness. "I suppose you must have, at least once or twice. You know," he continued as he reached to help Gimli wrestle his chain mail off, "for someone whose lectures on safety in caves are legendary, you might do well to heed such words of caution."
Gimli gave the Elf a scowl dark enough to have made Sauron quiver. "Less editorializing, Elf, or I shall change my mind. And leave me be! I need no aid to remove my armor!"
Legolas sat back complacently and stared blandly at Gimli as the Dwarf struggled to work his way out of his mail. When he attempted to raise his right arm high enough to pull it off over his head, he could not quite restrain a gasp and curse. He glared at Legolas, who schooled his face into complete innocence. Gimli sighed and rolled his eyes, then nodded agreement. Hiding his grin, the Elf rose and helped work his friend’s armor off, doing his best to cause the Dwarf as little pain as possible.
"Why do you wear such things?" the Elf asked as he lifted the heavy links and deposited them across a low tree branch. "Such weight, for such little reason…" he shook his head sorrowfully.
Gimli ignored him, having been involved in more discussions about the merits of armor opposed to that of mobility, knowing that they would never reach a suitable consensus. The Dwarves of Erebor valued the protection of their elegantly fashioned armor. The Elves of Eryn Lasgallen valued the nimble speed and agility of their race. Both were quite firmly convinced that they were right, and neither would allow any evidence to change their minds.
Gimli managed to get his tunic half-off without assistance, but Legolas had to pull it the rest of the way; the Dwarf’s right arm simply would not extend that far upright. Gimli realized that he ought to have done this earlier, before the muscles stiffened, but that would have meant giving in to the Elf too early. There were some things that simply had to be done properly—even if it meant a painful shoulder later.
Legolas drew in his breath with a hiss and Gimli glanced down to see some very impressive colors dappled across his skin. The Elf muttered something that could only have been a curse and started gently probing the injured areas. Even his light touch made Gimli flinch. The Dwarf quickly steeled himself to sit still and quiet as his friend worked. Eventually he had to close his eyes to keep his concentration from slipping and giving away the fact that he was, in fact, in pain.
"What did you do," Legolas asked once, "crawl beneath the foot of a mûmakil?" Gimli just glared. The Elf sighed and sat back at last. "Well," he said as he pulled bandages and the jar of salve from one of their packs, "I have seen you in worse condition on a few occasions."
"A few bruises are hardly going to affect the endurance of a Dwarf," Gimli retorted confidently.
Legolas raised an eyebrow. Gimli glowered. Blasted Elf, he knows me too well, the Dwarf grumbled to himself. Legolas smirked, earning him a silent reprimand which he pretended not to see.
"You shall be sore for quite some time," he went on as if their silent conversation had not occurred. "Aragorn should look at you when we return to Minas Tirith in order to be certain that there is no lasting damage, but from what I can tell you have but a few cracked ribs and a heavily bruised and strained shoulder. I am going to put it in a sling—and if you argue with me, I shall retreat to the top of this tree and you shall have to come up to me if you wish to see my injuries," the Elf promised.
"That is not fair."
Legolas smiled innocently. "I do not take your meaning," the Elf lied through his teeth. Gimli delivered his harshest glare but it was ruined by a sudden hiss of pain as the Elf slathered some of the athelas-imbued salve on his abused shoulder. "I am also going to bandage your ribs to make certain that their injuries do not worsen," he informed the Dwarf. "And I suggest that you refrain from sleeping on your right side for some time. It would not be comfortable."
Trust an Elf for understatements, Gimli thought as he rolled his eyes. "What would I do without you here to advise me, Master Elf?"
"No doubt you would be in dire straits indeed, Master Dwarf, without me here to look after you."
"No more dire than you own," Gimli retorted. "Now if you have appeased your curiosity, off with that tunic and let me see what you have managed to do to yourself this time."
Legolas turned a shriveling glance on his friend. "Do you honestly think that you managed to hide your limp from me?" he asked with a smile. "Oh no, my friend, I fear that my senses are keener than that."
"Curse all the Elves and their sense then," Gimli scowled. "I tell you it is nothing."
"And I tell you that I shall believe you when I have seen that for myself."
Elf and Dwarf had another staring contest, but it is difficult to beat an Elf at such a game; they rarely blink, and stubbornness can only carry one so far. They argued silently, but both of them knew that Legolas was going to win. At last the Elf smirked and Gimli sighed, rubbing his forehead in defeat. Grumbling, he removed his right boot and rolled his trouser leg up to expose his knee, which had already swollen to almost half again its normal size and was turning a delightfully putrid purple.
"And might I inquire as to how you accomplished such an impressive swelling, Master Dwarf?" Legolas asked lightly as he gently prodded the affected area.
Gimli hissed in pain but managed not to flinch away from his friend’s hands. The Dwarf looked down, embarrassed, and muttered, "there might have been a reason that I warned you about the slipperiness of those rocks…"
Legolas sighed and shook his head. "I swear, Dwarf, you shall be the death of me." He looked up as Gimli hissed in suppressed pain again. "Perhaps we shall take a closer look at your knee tomorrow, when the swelling has gone down," he suggested. Gimli nodded, trying to look as if he did not care. "Good. Then let me see your head."
"My head? Elf, simply because your brains as in a state of perpetual addlement—"
"Master Dwarf, if you fell from that so-called ‘staircase’ of yours, then in all likelihood you hit your head on the way down. Now let me check it for damage. I know the skulls of the Dwarves are hard, but I should not like for you to lay down to sleep only to refuse to awake again."
Gimli heard the current of fear hidden by his friend’s bantering tone and nodded agreement. The Elf would never be able to rest easy until he had ascertained for himself that the Dwarf was fine, no matter how many reassurances Gimli gave. It was a trait they had in common—although perhaps they merely knew each other well enough to know never to trust the other for an accurate assessment of an injury. It was not something that they could be consistently relied upon to do, which gave Aragorn no end of grief. But while tormenting the Elf was highly entertaining, Gimli decided that it was not fitting in this instance.
"Very well, Elf, you may reassure your silly little head that mine is intact, or as intact as your company can leave the mind of a saner being. But if you touch one hair of my beard, I shall string you up by your own bowstring."
Legolas hmmed noncommittally as he carefully felt through Gimli’s thick hair for any contusions or bumps. Both of them knew that he would never carry out that particular threat. Legolas’s bow had been a gift of the Lady Galadriel, and Gimli would do no harm to anything that Lady had once touched.
That was not to say, of course, that he would not find a substitute method of revenge should such a thing prove necessary.
"I can find no more wrong than usual," Legolas said after a few minutes. "You are fortunately unharmed, thanks no doubt to your thick head. You are, however," he added sorrowfully, "unfortunately still a Dwarf."
"And thank Mahal for that," Gimli retorted sourly. "Contagious, plague-like beings you may be, but no amount of time spent in the company of an Elf is ever going to turn a solid, sensible Dwarf into one of you brainless, flighty, foolish creatures."
Legolas appeared shocked. "There is such a thing as a sensible Dwarf?" he gaped.
"Ay," said Gimli firmly as he laced the ties on his tunic. "And this Dwarf is sensible enough to know that the foolish, flighty Elf in front of him is merely trying to distract from the next part of this procedure. It will not work, Elf; Dwarves are tenacious creatures."
"And here I would have said ‘stubborn to a fault,’" Legolas muttered, "but I suppose semantics are beyond you."
Gimli glared but refused to rise to the bait. "Tunic, Elf. Off, now."
Legolas sighed and made a great show out of reluctant obedience, rolling his eyes as he slowly pulled it off. Gimli could barely restrain a snort when the Elf paused with it half-past his head. He struggled for a moment before sighing.
"Gimli, I am afraid that with my shoulder in its current state I cannot further extricate myself without assistance," the prince admitted reluctantly and with as much dignity as he could manage. Considering that he was sitting on the ground with one arm stuck in his tunic, which was completely obscuring his head from view and muffling his words, that was not much, but Legolas did his best.
Gimli had to bite his lip to keep from laughing, but he managed both to do that and to pull the shirt over his friend’s fair head without causing the Elf a great deal of pain—only embarrassment. Gimli’s only regret was that he was trying so hard not to break into loud guffaws that he could not speak any of the ever-so-perfect comments that occurred to him while he was doing so. If he opened his mouth, he would have burst out laughing and then Legolas would sulk and refuse to allow the Dwarf to tend his hurts. So Gimli kept his mouth shut, but it was a sorely tempting trial.
He could not help but mutter a curse when he saw what lay beneath his friend’s tunic. If the bruising had looked dreadful on his flesh, it was obscene against Legolas’s Elven paleness. The Elf, for his part, regarded it calmly.
"That is not so bad as I had thought," he said lightly.
Gimli glared at him. Elves! he swore to himself and started feeling for damage. Legolas stayed perfectly still and made no sound as Gimli gently probed his injuries, but he could feel the Elf quivering slightly beneath his fingers. He kept his touch as light as he could, but when he felt a rib shift knew that he had to be causing pain. "That is decidedly broken," he informed the Elf who gave him a humorless glance that said he was already fully aware of that fact, and if Gimli wished to sit there and inform him of what he already knew, the Elf had better things to do with his time. Gimli snorted, asking like what? but refrained from further comment.
At least until he looked at the Elf’s shoulder. It was a deep, mottled purple and slightly swollen. He knew that it took a lot to make Elvish flesh swell, and while he had already previously assured himself that it was not dislocated he checked again, carefully. Legolas winced but gave no other sign of discomfort.
"I would suggest that you refrain from archery for a time, Master Elf," the Dwarf said lightly. "It is not, in fact, dislocate—as we noted earlier," he added before Legolas could do so for him, "but it is very badly wrenched. If I am to be in a sling, then you shall as well," he finished firmly, daring the Elf with a glare to argue with him. Legolas glared back, but knew that this was a battle he would not win if he wished for Gimli to take the same care.
"Good, I am glad you agree. Now, let me see your ankle," he continued hurriedly before they could start arguing. Legolas sighed but did as he was told, gently removing his soft boot. It was made difficult because the ankle was rather puffy and larger than its normal slim state. Gimli winced; it did not look as bad as his knee, but considering that it was an Elf he knew that it had to be a serious sprain at the least to cause such a reaction. And the nimble, graceful Elves did not twist ankles easily. Both Elf and Dwarf braced themselves, but Legolas had to bite back a cry of pain when Gimli touched the injured area. The Elf bit his lip and averted his face, but when Gimli asked if he was all right he nodded determinedly.
The Dwarf decided to be as gentle but more importantly as fast as he could. He knew that no matter how careful he was this was going to cause his friend pain and he did not want to draw the ordeal out. Trying to ignore the fact that he was hurting the Elf, Gimli felt the ankle carefully. It was difficult to tell with the swelling, but he thought it might be fractured.
"No," Legolas whispered with a carefully controlled voice, "just sprained."
Gimli looked up and raised an eyebrow.
"Trust me," the Elf breathed, "I have done both often enough to tell the difference. If anything, it is a hairline fracture. That might be better, as it would likely heal faster."
"You mean to say that clumsiness is common enough to you that your have injured yourself like this numerous times?" Gimli teased, trying to distract the Elf.
It worked. Legolas glared at him. "I would like to see you survive a leap from the top of one of the great trees of Eryn Lasgallen with little more than an injured ankle," the Elf replied crossly.
"Ah," said Gimli, "but I would be sensible enough not to leap from the top of one of those trees. I have seen how high up they are, and how far the ground is from their tops."
"You would do so if there were Spiders on your tail," Legolas pointed out sourly.
"Perhaps," Gimli replied, "but I would have to be up the tree in the first place."
"And that would be a rare enough feat that the spiders would doubtless have all died of shock at the sight of a Dwarf managing to display such agility."
"Not to mention such Elvish foolishness," the Dwarf agreed quickly.
"Wisdom doubtless seems foolish to creatures who are too limited to understand it."
"Ah!" exclaimed Gimli. "At last I understand why the Elves so often call the intelligent acts of the Dwarf foolish!"
"I was not aware that we had bothered to find anything to call such an event. If it does not exist, there is no reason to name it."
"I fear your brains have become addled," Gimli sadly informed his friend as he finished wrapping the Elf’s ankle tightly.
"It is to be expected when one spends any great deal of time in the company of a Dwarf," Legolas replied with equal sorrow. "Alas, I am the victim of such ill fortune."
"Ill fortune indeed," Gimli scoffed. "The Elves should be grateful for my company."
"Grateful?" Legolas echoed with a laugh. "Say rather that the Elves are indeed generous and tolerant to put up with such company for the sake of the Dwarves."
"And here I was unaware that Elves and Dwarves were on such friendly terms," Gimli observed with a smirk.
"Compared to previous days? They might as well be kin."
"Which is a terrifying thought."
"It is indeed."
"I do not know how Aragorn stands it."
"Gimli, I fear it is your wits that are addled. Aragorn has no Dwarvish kin."
"I was speaking of the Lady Arwen."
"In which case you are speaking of the granddaughter of the Lady Galadriel, yes?"
Gimli felt it was beneath his dignity to respond to such a comment. The Dwarf turned away from the grinning Elf with a sniff and reached for one of the pieces of bandages that Legolas had wet at the stream in preparation for cleaning wounds when he had brought their water. "Let us see how bad that wound on your head really is."
Legolas leaned backwards, hands slightly raised as if to fend off an attack. "Nay," he said quickly, "I have already assured you that ‘tis but a scratch, and I shall clean it myself."
"It has bled quite a bit for being nothing more than a scratch. I think not."
"It is not your fault that you are a Dwarf," Legolas responded. "None blame you for your inability to think."
"By Mahal, Elf, you will let me see your—your hands! What have you done to them?"
Legolas glanced down at the appendages in question and blushed faintly. He quickly hid them behind his back and attempted to look innocent. "Nothing, Master Dwarf," he bluffed vainly.
"Give me those hands," Gimli practically growled.
Legolas sighed. "Gimli, ‘tis nothing. They are barely scraped."
The Dwarf fixed his friend with a glare powerful enough to be vaguely reminiscent of Thranduil when the Elven-king was at his most regal. "If you do not let me see those hands of yours, Elf, I shall tell the princesses that you do not love them."
Legolas’s jaw dropped. "You would not!"
"I would indeed. I would further tell them that you do not enjoy their tea parties, and that you will not be coming to see them on their begetting day."
Legolas glared, his own frown conjuring vague images of his father as well. "You would not do such a thing, because you know that the children would be upset."
"Then if you do not want to risk such an occurrence, let me see what you have done to yourself."
Legolas scowled unhappily but extended the limbs in question. They were bloody, but it was as the Elf had said; they were only scraped a bit across the knuckles.
"And how did you manage to do this?" Gimli asked as he glared daggers at his friend.
"The rock beneath which Eldarion was trapped was rough on the bottom," the Elf informed him haughtily. "And there was not much room in which to maneuver the boy’s legs."
Gimli’s face darkened. "If I had been able to raise that cursed rock only a bit higher…"
"It quite possibly would have tumbled sooner and done far worse damage than a few scratches," Legolas interrupted sharply. "Gimli, it barely stings. By morning it shall be nearly healed. I assure you, the damage is negligible."
"But…but…" the Dwarf protested, "but Legolas, it is your hands!"
"Oh Elbereth!" the Elf muttered. "Gimli, I am hardly going to be incapable of archery because of some scraped knuckles," he informed his friend shortly. "If you persist in this foolishness, I shall have to tie you to the tree by your beard until you come to your senses."
Gimli scowled but fell silent. He knew Legolas was right; it really was little more than a few scratches. But the sight of his friend’s precious hands stained with blood that did not belong to an enemy unnerved the Dwarf. He had been anxious enough when the Elf had risked them beneath that rock; to see that injury had been caused because he could not raise it high enough off the ground sat ill with Gimli. "You are right," he said aloud. "But here, let me clean the blood off—solely so that I may feel better at seeing how small the wounds really are."
Legolas rolled his eyes but obediently held his hands out for the Dwarf’s ministrations. Gimli had to admit that once the blood was cleaned off, the injury really did look negligible. A few scrapes were hardly going to inconvenience his friend. But that did not stop Gimli from feeling vaguely guilty that the Elf’s hands—of all things—had been hurt, small though that hurt was. They were, after all, his hands.
Gimli had heard horror stories of archers in wars that, when taken captive, were "relieved" of the first two fingers of their arrow-drawing hand in order to prevent them from returning to the battle. Only humans could be both so ingenious and so cruel at the same time, but that had been long ago even by the reckoning of an Elf. Yet the story—and more importantly, the way Legolas had paled and shuddered when it was told—had stuck with the Dwarf vividly. Ever since, he had become protective of his friend’s hands, irrational though it was.
The Dwarf swallowed, and forced his mind away from the chilling image. "Very well, you have reassured me as to the state of your hands. Now let me see your head," he said firmly.
Legolas inched away. "Nay, Gimli, that is all right. I shall clean the blood away myself." The Dwarf scowled. "I swear to you by Elbereth and Eärendil, Master Dwarf, ‘tis but a scratch!"
Gimli’s glare intensified. "And why, pray tell, Master Elf, are you so insistent that I do not see this ‘scratch,’ if scratch it truly is?"
Legolas’s cheeks flushed lightly and he dropped his head from the Dwarf’s accusing eyes. "Well," he said with some embarrassment, "if you must know, it is because the blood is dried and matted in my hair, and I know from experience that it will not be enjoyable to remove."
Gimli sat a moment, processing, then with a mixture of amusement and exasperation sputtered, "you are afraid that I will pull your hair?"
Legolas’s blush deepened and he nodded. Gimli blinked, then chuckled. Soon he was laughing heartily, his mirth increased by the deeply offended Elvish glare the prince was directing at him. Bringing himself back under control, helped by the pain in his side when he laughed, Gimli wiped his eyes and tried to force his grin to become a suitably serious expression. "I solemnly swear, Master Elf, that I shall do my best not to pull your fragile hair," he said gravelly—then chuckled, ruining his straight face.
Legolas muttered something decidedly uncomplimentary and silently gave in with a sigh. Swallowing his chuckles, Gimli took one of the damp cloths and began to gently scrub the dried blood away from the wound in his friend’s fair hair. He did his best to keep a somber expression, too, he really did.
Legolas gradually relaxed and ceased his affronted huff. Gimli patted the Elf on the back helpfully—only to find that the Elf was trembling, and visibly. The Dwarf frowned.
"I am not really pulling your hair, am I?" he asked, confused.
Legolas started and looked at him, then laughed, but the laugh was almost a sob. "No, elvellon, you are being quite gentle," the Elf assured him in a voice that he was desperately trying to keep steady.
"Legolas," Gimli stopped his ministrations and laid a soft hand on his friend’s shoulder, "what is wrong?"
The Elf quivered for a moment, then suddenly broke into tears.
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.