1. Chapter One
Author's Note: Special thanks to Iocane and Ysabel for beta-reading, and to Cat for her kind and encouraging comments. I have tried to stay true to canon – hopefully I have not strayed too far. This is my first story, ever written or posted, so I'm totally horrified.
The evening sun still lingered in the west over the hills of Emyn Arnen, casting long shadows across the grounds of Prince Faramir's home in Ithilien. Gimli trudged wearily through the grand front entrance, only to be stopped by a smiling servant. "He is in the garden," she said, cocking her head towards a side entrance, propped open to take advantage of the fresh breeze.
Gimli acknowledged the information with a nod, and crossed the hall to the side door. Outside, a flagstone path meandered away before him, flanked by mounds of flowering plants, shrubs and trees. Bees and butterflies danced over the nodding blooms, and birds twittered and hopped about in the underbrush, taking advantage of the warmth that still lingered from the day. But Gimli saw little of all this. He was weary – bone weary, from long days of working with his kinsman from Erebor and the Iron Hills.
At the request of Prince Faramir and King Aragorn, the dwarves were using their considerable skills at stonemasonry, building a wharf down at the banks of the Anduin to facilitate ferry travel to and from Minas Tirith, and repairing roads in and around Gondor and Ithilien. And while the work was immensely satisfying, it was also exhausting. He passed a hand tiredly over his face as he rounded the last corner of the path.
Here, the pathway widened into a lovely clearing, surrounded by graceful trees and flowerbeds. In the centre, a fountain splashed merrily, sending sparkles of water up into the air. The air was sweet and mellow, and the slanting sun filtered through the tossing leaves, filling the glade with dappled light. There, kneeling by a flowerbed, was Legolas.
As Gimli had been asked to help to rebuild the kingdom with stone, so Legolas had been asked to bring beauty back to the lands with growing things. He was now working on the gardens of the Lady Éowyn, and many of his fair kindred had come bearing gifts of beautiful and unusual plants from around Middle Earth.
Gimli walked heavily over the grass and sat down with a deep sigh, not far from Legolas. The elf looked over at him briefly with a warm smile, but did not say anything. His face bore the focused, inturned look that he normally had when working in the gardens – as if he were listening to the sounds of the growing things, the dry whisper of the roots spreading through the earth, the hushed unfurling of new leaves. He continued to work steadily: mellowing the earth with his hands, then gently coaxing the newly arrived plants into their new homes. It seemed as if all the plants and trees in the clearing leaned in towards the elf, drawing from his radiance and becoming greener and fresher because of him.
Gimli leaned back lazily, his eyes following the confused path of a bumblebee up into the sky and out of sight. How strange it seemed to him to be relaxing in this quiet garden, when his ears still echoed with dwarvish grunts and shouts, the sounds of hammer and chisel, and stone grinding against stone. He held his hand up before his eyes, looking at the hard callused palm, the small cuts and abrasions, the rock dust that coated it even now. And then looked at the hands of Legolas, as they worked in the earth. Slender, pale hands, unblemished by dirt even as they dug into the loam, carefully setting a small plant into a newly made hole. Suddenly he was struck by a memory of those same hands, covered in filth and orc blood, gripping white knuckled around the haft of a long silver knife, dealing out death and destruction. That same face, now set in lines of tranquility, a warrior's mask of battle rage… he shook his head to dislodge the vision. Opposites and contrasts, he thought sleepily to himself. Strange indeed to be here at all, in this peaceful place, when not so long ago he wouldn't have wagered one gold piece on any of them coming out alive. To have stood in Mordor, at Sauron's doorstep… his thoughts drifted as his eyes closed.
Gimli's eyes flew open with a muffled curse as something smacked against his chest. Sitting up stiffly, he brushed off the small clod of dirt from the front of his tunic and shot a glare over at Legolas.
"Do you find my garden so boring that it sends you to sleep?" enquired the elf, his eyes twinkling merrily.
"Boring indeed," said Gimli with a yawn. "I do not know what you see in places like this that keeps you entranced for hours." He lay back down again.
"Yet you must find it pleasing here, to let it lull you into such a relaxed state," teased Legolas gently.
"It is quiet, certainly," said Gimli, with his eyes closed. "And therefore most suitable for sleep, but I do not think I would consider it pleasing."
"No?" Legolas seemed surprised, and somewhat hurt. "Yet you find pleasure in beautiful things. Do you not see the beauty in the trees and flowers?"
"No," Gimli replied. There was a silence.
"You would, of course, have to open you eyes to actually give weight to your judgment, my friend. How can you find beauty when you do not even look for it?"
Gimli sighed and opened his eyes. His gaze roved around the glade, finally falling on Legolas' face. "I am sorry, my friend, but one plant looks very much like any other to me. And as for trees – they are altogether too tall, too leafy and too unstable for my tastes."
Legolas frowned slightly. "And yet you would say that no two stones are alike, and that great beauty can be found in the dark depths underground…"
"Of course." There was another silence.
"Gimli, when we went together to the Glittering Caves, I wished to accompany you because you moved me with your words. And when we stood together in those caverns, I felt the great weight of the stone pressing upon me, and I thought that I could not bear it, until I saw you… and how enthralled you were. And with your passion I could see the caves as if through your eyes, and they were beautiful, Gimli. They were as beautiful as anything I have ever seen." Here the elf paused for a moment. "Can you not try to see what I see? Can you not try to see and acknowledge the beauty that is in this garden?"
Gimli rolled over onto his side and looked at Legolas. He was kneeling in the grass, a grave look on his face, and the wind stirred his long fair hair about his shoulders. A small plant was still in his hands, and as he reached up to brush an errant strand of hair out of his face, his fingers left a smudge of dirt across one high cheekbone. Gimli smiled. Beauty indeed, he thought.
But out loud he said: "I see you." And reached over and brushed the dirt from his cheek with a gentle hand.
The evening breeze stirred the grasses, and sent the flower heads nodding and bobbing, as their eyes met. A hint of a dimple appeared in the elf's cheek by his mouth. A long moment passed.
Gimli stirred and sat up. "So my friend, why don't you teach me all about these posies that you are planting?"
Legolas laughed. "These are not "posies", my dear dwarf, these are violets."
"Posies, violets, they all have green leaves…" Gimli couldn't resist teasing the elf.
"Nay!" exclaimed Legolas in mock outrage. "All plants are different – they have differently shaped leaves, flowers, root structures, growing habits and needs…"
"So then. Teach me."
"I believe it may be beyond the comprehension of a mere dwarf to understand the complexities of the natural world." Legolas' eyes sparkled with mischief.
"Nonsense. If a bunch of flighty elves can master it, I am sure I can manage." Gimli hitched himself closer to the elf. "Now then. Let's start with the one in your hands."
"As I already told you, this is a violet." Legolas leaned further out over the flowerbed, searching for just the right spot to place the small plant. "They like shady moist conditions, and bloom with purple flowers in the spring."
"Hmmm, violets," said Gimli, and snaked an arm around Legolas' waist. The elf looked about. "Gimli, what are you doing?"
"I am assisting you with your planting. I do not wish for you to fall into the flowerbed and crush the… ahhh… violets." The dwarf's expression was innocent as he gazed into the clear grey eyes so close to his own.
"I see." Legolas' face was solemn, but his eyes danced with a mischievous light.
"Shall we continue with the lesson? What, pray tell, is that plant over there?" Gimli tightened his grip a little and ran his free hand up and down the elf's side.
"That is a mayapple. It also thrives in shady conditions, and bears a yellow fruit after flowering…" said Legolas, leaning slightly into the dwarf's embrace.
"A hosta. Another shade-loving plant…"
"Ah, but we are in the shade, are we not?" Gimli's hands were now busy with the fastenings of Legolas' tunic.
"We are… now what are you doing?"
"I am removing your tunic, as I am afraid that it is getting dirty with all this gardening."
"That is considerate of you." Gimli could feel the elf's body shake with suppressed laughter as he stroked the soft skin now exposed to his appreciative gaze.
"Mmmm. So then, let us continue. What is that over there?" The dwarf spoke against the elf's neck.
"That is… a bleeding heart."
"I see… and that?" Gimli eased the elf down onto his back on the ground as he spoke.
"…sweet woodruff." Legolas seemed to be finding it difficult to concentrate.
"And that over there?" The dwarf's head was now buried in the smooth juncture between neck and shoulder, kissing and nipping lightly.
"Over where? You are not even looking!" The elf tried to sound exasperated, but succeeded only in sounding breathless.
"Does it matter?"
The elf gasped as Gimli's hands and lips moved lower.
"Come now. That plant right there, what is it?"
"That is a…. aahhh, Gimli!" Legolas' back arched off the ground, fingers clutching tightly at the dwarf's muscled shoulders.
"An "Aahhh Gimli"? I did not know that a plant had been named in my honour! But I would think that it is not an appropriately rugged plant to be my namesake…" The elf could feel Gimli smiling against his stomach.
"Gimli! It is a shasta daisy…"
"And what is this that we are lying on?" Gimli was trying to remove more of Legolas' clothing, but found himself temporarily stalled by the intricacies of elven lacings.
"Surely even you know that this is grass!" The elf raised his hips in an effort to assist the dwarf in his endeavours.
"No, not the grass! This small thing here, it is still unplanted…"
"What small thing…?" Legolas craned his head around, then pushed suddenly at Gimli's shoulders. "Ai, Gimli, let me up!"
"What is the matter?"
"That plant! We are crushing it! `Tis a gift from Haldir of Lothlorien – a rare and delicate fern that only grows in the Golden Wood!" Legolas' face was the picture of distress.
"A rare and delicate crushed fern, I would say…" said Gimli, as he extracted the sorry looking thing from beneath them.
"Oh, no…" The elf eyed the mangled plant in horror.
"There, I have moved it." Gimli pushed the fern behind him and out of sight. He prided himself on his excellent work ethic – no task that he had started would ever remain unfinished, and this was no exception. He turned his attention back to Legolas. "Now then, where were we in the lesson?"
But the elf never got a chance to answer as Gimli's lips covered his in a deep kiss, effectively distracting him from the damaged fern, the image of Haldir's disapproving face, and gardens in general.
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.