Sleep had been elusive, not to say barely existence, since Moria.
With a small sigh, Gimli sat up and carefully folded his blankets aside, rubbing his face and beard to get rid of the strange prickling feeling in his skin that his insomnia seemed to bring on. It was no use; he’d find no more rest tonight no matter how he tried. Better to stop laying here in the dark and watch the images of his killed kin dancing before his eyes. It seemed every time he closed his eyes all the horrors of Moria came back to haunt him. The many dead, Balins tomb, the horror that had drained him of all courage. Had drained them all of courage, except Gandalf, and all that had led to was the death of the wizard as well.
No, he could find no rest no matter what he did and it was wearing him down. He might not need as much sleep as Men or Hobbits, but he’d soon be a liability to the Fellowship if he had continue like this. And for all the magic and wonders and gifts of Lothlorien, it seemed it could not give him what he was desperate for.
So he’d taken to wandering in the nights, trying to wear himself out enough that his exhausted body forced him to a few hours of fitful sleep. The elves left him alone for which he was grateful. He didn’t want anyone's company, grumpy and foggy headed as he was.
He’d even moved his blankets and pillows some way from the rest of the Fellowship so that his twists and turns and inevitable nightmares wouldn’t wake them from their own rest.
He was wandering as in half a dream, stumbling clumsily on the grass when his wear eyes registered that his steps had taken him back to where they all camped and was just about to turn around when a few snatches of song reached his ears. That in itself was nothing new - damn elves always seemed to be singing - but this was a voice he recognized even in his dizzy state. And the song made his eyes clipp with sleep before it slowly faded out.
Gimli rubbed his eyes and managed to focus enough that he could make out a taller form sitting in the dark surrounded by blankets and pillows. Around him, four smaller sleeping figures could be made out.
it was such a strange scene that for a second Gimli thought he’d walked in on a father putting his elven children to bed until the elf moved ,not with the stately grace of Galadriel’s people but the dangerous suppleness of a Mirkwood warrior.
Perhaps Gimli made some noise he wasn’t aware of, because suddenly Legolas looked up and met his eyes. Surprise and perhaps a touch of embarrassment lit the expressive elven eyes - more expressive than and elf’s face if you knew how to look - but then he put a long finger in front of his mouth in a gesture that transcended all species and Gimli nodded.
He kept quiet as Legolas gently entangled himself from the sleeping hobbits and Gimli couldn’t help but smile at the endearing sight of it even as the elf stepped out to him and beckoned to him to follow so they could talk without disturbing.
“Where you singing them a lullaby?” Gimli smiled, but without any trace of mockery as Legolas gave him a sharp glance. As always the elf’s first reaction to anything he said was to bristle with indignation, but he visibly calmed himself.
“In a way.” he answered stiffly, not really looking at Gimli. “They have had trouble sleeping since...since Mithrandir fell, Frodo mostly but it has afflicted them all. I do what I can to soothe their fears and give them a peaceful rest.”
“You can do that?!” Gimli could only gape. Lady Galadriel and Lord celeborn he could believe of having gifts beyond mortal means, but this slip of a wood elf?
Legolas gave him an irritated glance.
“Your father has told you about the protection of my father’s land, has he not?”
Gimli suddenly remembered what Gloin had told him; the enchanted river, Bomburs dreams about food when they were starving.
“I do not have the powers my father have, but…” he made an expressive gesture. “Enough to put a worried mind to rest, yes. Four of them, apparently, if they are close. But it takes time and requires me being very close, physically. Do not expect me to lull orcs to sleep.”
Gimli nodded, still a bit stunned and more impressed than he cared to say. He battled his pride for a few heartbeats, but there really was no way to win. If he wanted to continue to be of any help to the Fellowship….
“So….would it work on a dwarf?” he asked more grumpily than he had intended, but asking for a favor still needled him.
Legolas threw another sharp glance his way, but then relaxed a little and answered with a soft smile.
“I cannot see why not. It worked on Thorin’s friend, did it not?”
“Aye. So would you be willing?” The glance he cast was almost pleading, but he kept his words strikt.
Legolas stood quiet for a while and then, without looking at him, reached down and gently took his hand.
He didn’t explain and Gimli was too weary to ask as he was led deeper into the mallorn woods until Legolas found a place that seemed to fulfil some kind of elven criteria, although Gimli couldn’t see what that would be. He sat down on the dry ground and golden leaves and crossed his long legs, and then beaconed Gimli closer until they sat shoulder to shoulder with the smooth treetrunk behind them.
Legolas started singing. Gimli had heard him sing before, but not like this. It was a soft song, like the rustling of leaves and Gimli felt his eyes start to sink close at the first notes. His head fell aside onto a broad shoulder and he jerked upright again, embarrassed. But Legolas just kept singing and Gimli’s head started falling down again and that shoulder was just too comfortable, better than any feathered pillow. He felt safe and cared for like he hadn’t done since he was a child.
True sleep started to descend upon him like a blanket of night and suddenly all his nightly terrors reared their ugly heads and he sat up with a gasp of fear. A long fingered hand landed on his shoulder, pushing him down gently and he realized dimly that he was laying with his head in Legolas lap, but he couldn’t bring himself to care.
“Hush. You will dream of your heart’s desire, nothing more, on my word. You will wake tomorrow at sunrise and feel better. No demons will haunt you tonight.” The words reached him as through molasses and he laid back down. The song continued to lull him to sleep, relaxing as the hot springs in the Iron Hills, steady as the mountains themselves. He let himself go, into it’s embrace.
It was dawn when Aragorn found them, Gimli snoring curled up in Legolas’ lap and the elf’s eyes full of living night and deep dreams even as he sat up leaning against the mallorn tree. Aragorn stood for a little while and watched them, surprised at the closeness before he quietly walked away. He would not dare to guess what they dreamt, but from the content look on their faces it was beautiful dreams indeed and he was glad for them.