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He stared for a moment in blank incomprehension at the bindings he found beneath Gimli’s tunic. At first he thought they were bandages, but there had been no battle to deliver the necessary blow to Gimli’s ribs; nor was there any difficulty in his movements. Then he recognised the swell that they covered and felt his hands tremble slightly.

He had believed his dwarf was male. Apparently he had been wrong.

Gimli’s jokes about other races believing there were no dwarf women rose in his mind. They look so like dwarf men that some believe there are no dwarf women – and that dwarves just spring up out of holes in the ground! Legolas had not taken his – her – words seriously then, and had seen no sign that the dwarf he loved was anything other than the man Legolas had believed her to be throughout their friendship and – more recently – their courtship.

That Gimli was female was…intriguing, but not in the slightest bit repulsive to him. Not at all. His hands caught up with his brain and he began to undo her bindings, stealing kisses from her soft lips in the process and relishing in the darkening of her gaze. And when they came free, he found himself cupping large, weighty breasts that spilled over his fingers. They were lightly furred with soft, copper hair, and he stroked them with fascination – revelling in their softness – before dipping his head to take one of her nipples into his mouth.

Gimli gave a wordless cry and clutched the back of his head. He grinned against her before nipping gently with his teeth.

“Elf,” she growled, and he laughed.

“My apologies, my lady,” he replied, glancing up at her face in time to catch the embarrassed flush bloom in her cheeks. He slid his hands downwards, skimming his fingertips over the curves that her clothes and armour hid, until he reached the lacings of her breeches.

He leaned up to kiss her again as he began to unfasten the ties, and she melted against him when he slipped his fingers inside to touch her for the first time. She was already wet, and she pressed eagerly down onto his hand as he teased her.

“Bed,” she demanded. “Now.”

Female she might be, but she was still certainly Gimli. He chuckled softly and stood, guiding her to their bed where she slipped out of her breeches fully – her back turned to him out of false modesty. He watched her disrobe, admired the rounded curves of her hips and buttocks – as generous as her breasts and just as lovely to his eyes. With a start, he found himself imagining her belly swelling with his child, and his cock throbbed as his heart fluttered in his chest.

Would she be willing? Time would tell with that, he supposed, and time they had – her mortal lifespan, at least.

She glanced back at him over her shoulder and snorted. “What are you still dressed for?” she asked. She climbed up onto the bed and rested back on her elbows, one leg bent and drawn up, revealing the damp curls between her thighs and…was that a metal ring?

“I was admiring the view,” he told her, and reached for the hem of his tunic while she laughed at him.

“The view wants you to get over here and start admiring properly,” she replied.

He undressed quickly, aided in his endeavours by the fact that she had already done away with his belt and unfastened the ties of his tunic. He moved to join her, only to find that her good humour had faded and that she sat now upon the bed instead of sprawled.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“You, ah – nothing,” she replied, and the blush he had caused earlier darkened further.

He frowned and reached out to touch her hair. The thick strands slid easily through his fingers as he tucked a lock of it behind her metal-studded ear. “Tell me,” he urged her. “I would know before this goes further what it is that makes you uncomfortable. Please, Gimli.”

She glared at him, but it was not ill-meant. “I thought you were a lass,” she said.

For a moment, his mind went blank. She had thought…what of him? But, he thought, he had done the same of her – had not he been surprised at uncovering her bindings just moments ago?

“Does it disappoint you?” he asked.

He could not make merry at their mutual mistakes before he knew her answer. To do so would be to deliver a wound to both of them. Instead, he forced himself to wait and watch and study her expression as she looked upon him.

“No,” she told him. “It does not. You are still Legolas, and so you are my One love. I was only surprised.”

Relief and joy spread through his chest, and instead of laughing he leaned in to press his lips firmly to hers once more. She responded as eagerly as ever and soon he was pressing her down onto the bed and settling between her thighs. He kissed a path down her body, pausing to worship each part of her: her breasts, her firm belly, her wide hips and strong legs, and by the time he pressed his tongue to her slit to taste her, she was shaking.

And it was indeed a metal ring, he discovered: two of them, in fact – one on each side of her entrance, piercing her inner folds. When he tugged them experimentally with his teeth, she made the most delightful mewling noise that he’d ever heard. He couldn’t resist doing it again and again, alternating the move with delicate flicks of his tongue against her clit, until she tugged him back up her body and into a kiss.

Her legs wound round his hips and she pressed herself against him. “Legolas,” she panted, and he bit wantonly down on her lower lip as he reached a hand between them to guide himself into her.

She was hot, and wet, and tight, and judging by the soft cry she made when he pressed deeper inside of her, she had been a virgin as well. He forced himself to pause and wait for her to adjust – it was torturous, but he could not risk paining her any more than he already had. The gift she had given him was beyond all measure; he could not treat it with callousness.

“Stop daydreaming and move, damn you,” she growled into his ear.

At least, not unless his lady demanded it.

He moved: withdrawing a little so that he could press back into her. It took all of his will to go slowly – the feel of her clenching around him was beyond all measure of bliss. He kissed her softly before bending his head to her breasts once more. The position was awkward – she was quite a bit shorter than him, after all – but it was made worth it when she dug her short nails into his back and arched up to meet his next thrust.

“Oh,” she whispered. “Oh.”

He knew when she came from the way that she tightened around him, and the guttural oath in Khuzdul that fell from her lips as she scored lines down his back with her nails. She clutched at him, and the open-mouthed kiss she pressed to the tip of his ear – the only part of him she could reach as he rested his brow against her shoulder – sent such a wave of pleasure through him that he barely managed to pull out of her before spilling his seed over the soft skin of her inner thigh.

She gazed at him in shock for a moment, before her lips quirked upward and she pulled him down to her again for a kiss.

Later, when he lay curled around her with his face buried in her thick hair, she spoke. She had dozed after their lovemaking and he had not realised she had awoken, so he was startled to hear her voice – even more so to hear her question.

“Am I forgiven?” she asked.

“What for?”

She shifted in his hold and looked at him with one eyebrow raised and an expression of disbelief on her face. He kissed her nose for the fun of it, and grinned when she swatted at his arm.

“For thinking you a maid,” she said.

Then, without his relief and his joy and his lust to distract him, he allowed himself to laugh. Immediately Gimli’s face coloured, and he kissed her again between chuckles to soothe her temper. “Only if you forgive me in turn,” he told her. “For it would only be fair.”

She eyed him suspiciously. “What did you do?” she asked.

He swallowed. His humour faded in the face of her seriousness, and he felt his stomach twist with nerves. He looked away from her and stroked a finger lightly down the outer curve of her breast to watch its nipple peak again rather than meet her gaze. “I thought you male,” he said.

For a moment, Gimli was silent. But then she trembled in his arms, and he looked up at her with fear only to find her stifling laughter. He laughed again – relieved that she too saw the humour in it; how could he ever have doubted that? – and pressed a kiss to her hair.

“A perfect match, we are,” she said once her laughter had faded. “Both of us fools and blind to boot.”

“In my defence,” he said, “your beard is rather distracting.” He curled his fingers through it to prove his point, and she snorted – digging her elbow into his ribs before relaxing once more into his hold.

“And in mine,” she said, “you sing at far too high a pitch for this to be yours.” Her final words were accompanied by her fingers curling possessively round his cock. Still sensitive, he felt himself twitch in her hold and begin to harden once more. He groaned and pressed himself further into her hand.

“Perhaps, then, Mistress Dwarf, you would care for further proof,” he said. He slid his hand from her beard to her breast and pinched at the nipple he found peaked there.

“Aye,” she breathed. “Perhaps I would.”