There’s a knock on the door.
It isn’t quite dusk; it isn’t too dangerous yet. But still, it’s late to be out on Midwinter’s Night. What if he was held up somewhere?
Legolas takes a nail with him when he opens the door. “Gimli. It’s late.”
Gimli looks at him for a moment, smiles. There’s an iron ring through his lower lip. “But not too late.” It’s true enough, Legolas supposes, and lets him in, making sure that Gimli’s hand touches the nail in his palm as he leads him into the house.
(Even iron is not always as it seems. A ring of pure copper with an illusion laid over it, a necklace painted black - all these have been tried on him before, and he is warier now.)
The house is a simple thing; Legolas built it himself, when he first moved into the tiny village that used to lay here. The town has grown, but the house has not, but Legolas lives alone and doesn’t foresee that changing; he doesn’t need more.
They don’t speak for a time, simply existing in the same space. It feels, not comfortable, not tonight, but almost as comfortable as being alone, and Legolas finds that if all interaction were like this, he truly would not mind it - but it isn’t. Gimli is different; always has been. Legolas doesn’t understand why, but nor does he try to unravel it - he did not choose his father’s heritage, but he never did feel the need to question all as true humans do.
“You seem shaken. Are you alright?”
Gimli speaks more softly than Legolas has ever heard him do, like he’s talking to a horse that’s about to bolt. Suddenly everything is much less comfortable, and Legolas is reminded of why he tries to live in solitude.
“I - am always unsettled at Midwinter.”
Do not speak the name. It draws them toward you; at least, that’s what the people here still believe, and belief has power. Especially over this.
But Legolas does not lie. He is, every year, hungry around Midsummer, and either skittish or vicious - prey or predator - at Midwinter. He is not ruled by his blood, but he has not denied it entirely.
Gimli opens his mouth to speak again, but is interrupted by footsteps. A running man passes in front of the window.
“He may as well be dead already,” Legolas says softly, and closes the drapes. It is Midwinter. He knew the risks.
There are wolves howling, not close but not far away. Legolas ignores the spike of terror in his throat, the rising dread in his stomach. He has lived through hundreds of Midwinter Nights, and this will not be his last.
(It very well may be his father’s, though.)
(Every Midwinter may be his father’s last. Thranduil’s days have been numbered since he first took his place astride the elk he will ride tonight.)
Legolas sits down next to Gimli at the small, battered kitchen table, very carefully attaches the iron ear-cuffs he left there an hour ago. Normally he doesn’t wear them - they deaden his senses, slow his fingers and his feet, dull the power that sparks at his fingertips - but on Midsummer and on Midwinter, he does not need or want the part of his heritage that urges him out the door and onto the streets.
(He made this choice. His blood does not rule him.)
“Don’t those stop you from using…” Gimli doesn’t finish his sentence. To invoke the name of the Fae is never wise; tonight, it is almost suicidal.
“I don’t need the attention tonight.” Legolas keeps his voice soft. The Hunt will, as always, pass before his door. Thranduil knows him, will slow for a moment; this, and the need to run is temptation enough. Relying on his nature will only make it stronger.
Gimli nods. “That makes sense.” It’s something Legolas rarely hears, in reference to this; the workings of the Fae very rarely make sense to anyone else.
But Gimli is different. Gimli is - good. Good for Legolas, and just good in general. He’s a blacksmith, never without something iron, and although Legolas usually tries not to keep in contact with the metal for too long its presence is still grounding.
There is a reason Legolas chose to leave the Wood, and to spend his life among mortals.
Beside him, Gimli freezes. “Did you hear that?”
He nods, more nervous now. He did. The howling of a hundred wolves is hard to miss. “Any moment now.”
They sit in perfect silence and listen for a moment - they’re so close - another - sweet hazelwood they’re so close - another - I should run with them - another - what would i have to lose? my father leads the Hunt, I should join him I SHOULD RUN WITH HIM -
“Las!” Legolas doesn’t realise he’s trying to stand up until Gimli’s hand is on his wrist, holding him down. “What are you doing?”
He can’t breathe - the iron, he needs iron, he reaches out blindly and searches for that nail - Gimli presses something into his hand and suddenly he can breathe again.
“Are you alright?” Gimli’s standing behind him now, strong arms wrapped around Legolas’s waist, his voice soft in Legolas’s ear.
“Mostly.” Legolas leans back against him, eyes flickering shut. There’s an iron rod curled tightly in his palm. “Thank you.”
Gimli nods and holds him tighter. “Any time.”
And Legolas breathes, and for the first time in days he feels truly calm.