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Mithril in his Beard

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For all that he had reassured and cajoled his father repeatedly, arguing over and over again that he understood the realities of his choice, Legolas was still taken by surprise. But then, the first signs were not in Gimli.

It had not seemed a real or present danger, not standing in the full flush of first love before his father, his hand gripping Gimli’s with all the fervour of a passionate lover and a defiant son. The day when time would steal his life away had seemed so far off and remote. It meant little enough back then, with his heart high and beating brimful in his breast, the world freed at last from darkness, and the glow of love in Gimli’s dark eyes.

They were in Minas Tirith once again when it dawned on him.

Aragorn laughed as his two youngest daughters ran through the corridors, chasing each other towards the garden. The girls – nearly young women, really – barrelled into him, giggling and shrieking with laughter. Aragorn propped up the elder of the pair, unhooking her gown from where it had caught upon one of his coat-buttons. Smiling and shaking his head, he told her to be gentle with her old papa – and Legolas blinked, surprised and a little taken-aback. Anxiously, he began to catalogue the changes in their old friend; changes he had glanced over and never really marked before. They were more numerous than he realised.

He had always been weathered, rough-skinned and worn from his travels. But now his hair had fine threads of grey showing through the dark. He kept it long and clean these days. The white hairs were particularly stark where it was bound together in a half-tail at the back of his head. His beard was neat and trim, and again the frost was creeping here, edging around his mouth and beneath his ears. His eyes were cracked at the corners from his rare smile, and from years upon years of squinting into wind and snow and sunlight.

It was not as though he hadn’t known. Legolas had always been perfectly aware that his dearest friends were mortal; that their flesh would change as it aged.

Aragorn’s eyes were a little deeper, a little more measured. He moved with greater deliberation, as though he held more strength in his centre than before; less the tough and whipcord Ranger these days, with his long legs and thin meals. Good food and heavy armour had thickened him and made him solid, added layers of muscle to his frame. His shoulders were a little rounded, from stooping over his desk, from lifting up his children.

Gimli had not changed so much. A few more scars, a few more adornments. He was little changed from the Dwarf who ran by his side all across Middle-Earth

Legolas stared at the fine, hairline cracks at Aragorn’s eyes, and pretended that he didn’t feel Gimli’s gaze resting upon him, heavy and calculating.

“I saw you look upon Elessar tonight with the eyes of an Elf,” he remarked as they were undressing for bed. Legolas glanced up from untying his soft buckskin shoes.

“Meleth, I have some rather shocking news for you, in case you have not yet spotted it…”

“Oh, hush. You know what I’m referring to. You looked at him as though he were made of paper. As though he were dissolving before your eyes.”

“Don’t be foolish!” Legolas stood and began to untie his breeches, turning his back upon Gimli so as to hide his expression. “I was merely noting the changes. Nothing more.”

“Sanâzyung,” said Gimli, firmly.

Legolas blew out between his teeth, and kicked off the last leg of his breeches. “All right, it surprised me. I was not yet expecting such things.”

“Things being grey hair and wrinkles?”

“Aragorn is not yet old, by the count of his people, surely?”

Gimli snorted. “Aragorn is one hundred and twenty-five, laddie. For most of his race, that’s long past his allotted span. Only the blood of Numenor grants him a longer count of years.”

“Oh.” Legolas sat upon the bed. There was an unsettling feeling in his chest.

The bed creaked as Gimli, clad only in sleep-pants, sat down beside him. “Does it disturb you?”

“No, not so much,” Legolas scoffed at once, but Gimli’s eyes were very warm and knowing as he looked out from under his brows. With a gusty sigh, Legolas capitulated. “It seems strange to me that Aragorn’s body changes without his will. He has no choice: it will change whether he says yea or nay.”

“It’s not only Men that must endure it,” Gimli rumbled, and he took Legolas’ hand and squeezed comfortingly.

“I know,” said Legolas, and he squeezed back. “Meleth nin, I am not disturbed, nor saddened. Truly, I am not! I find it odd, and strange, and somewhat fascinating. But I do not weep for the long life of my kind and the fleetness of others.”

Gimli searched his eyes for a moment. “Good, then.”

With a yawn, he shuffled over in the bed and dragged the covers up to his waist. Gimli would overheat in the summers if he had them up to his neck, he claimed – though Legolas knew that Gimli was an inveterate blanket-thief in the wintertime. Legolas had long held the suspicion that he did it in order to display his back and chest to best effect.

(It often worked extremely well.)

Smiling, he lay down beside his love and blew out the candle. He would indulge in wakeful dreams tonight. The journey home would need him awake for many nights without rest. He smoothed his hand over the flat of Gimli’s shoulder-blade, the subtle differences between inked skin and clear whispering beneath his palm. Then he kissed the top of the thick ridges of Gimli’s spine, and wrapped his long arms around the Dwarf. The lights from the city below crept through the curtains at their window, and sent dim shadows flickering upon their walls.



“How old are you, by the count of your people?”

There was a sleepy chuckle. “Daft Elf. One hundred and seventy-seven is not old; I will not be changing to perturb you just yet. Go to sleep.”

Legolas smiled and held him closer, fingers brushing against the soft sleep-warm skin of Gimli’s chest and belly. He was asleep before he had time to think of another question, but he had odd unfinished dreams, as though it sat at the edge of his thoughts all night long.

There were new lines around Gimli’s eyes.

Legolas stared at the visitors to Ithilien, and his heart began to pound. There, the new hair-thin lines, pressed deep into the skin, the kiss of every ray of sun, the memory of each smile. And there were many, for Gimli smiled broadly and often…

“Finally!” Gimli said, grinning, and he dropped from his ram. He had never warmed to horses again after Arod had died, and had returned to the battle-goats of his youth. They were hardy and agile, and gave milk and cream and a thick wiry wool, perfect for keeping out the bitter winds that howled over the plains of Rohan each winter. “Tell me you’ve more to drink than water, Legolas: I’m parched bone-dry, and I’ve a powerful thirst!”

“Water is best for a thirst, Master Dwarf,” he said, as demure and aloof as he could manage.

Gimli’s eyes suddenly smouldered, hot and wanting. Under the weight of their gaze, Legolas could feel his heartbeat stutter and skip, before it settled into a steady low throb at his temples. “Oh, I really don’t think it will satisfy, lad. I don’t think it will do at all.”

“Right, so that’s enough of you two,” said Éomer, from behind Gimli. “Lord Legolas, where can we stable our horses?”

Legolas shook his eyes away from Gimli, blinking. Horses, of course. Stables. But unlike the Rohirrim, Elves needed no stables. The horses they kept stayed nearby at the least of their words. Would that it worked on Dwarves half so well! The notion of squirrelling Gimli away for the entire visit and determining if there had been any more changes kept pushing itself into the forefront of his mind. He would have to be extremely thorough, naturally. It would not do to have an incomplete and out-of-date account of his Dwarf.

“Legolas,” came Gimli’s amused rumble. Legolas swallowed at the sound; his trews were causing him some discomfort. “Éomer asked you a question.”

Legolas rubbed his damp palms upon his thighs. Gimli’s eyes – those tracery-adorned eyes, threaded with love and time and gladness – dropped to watch the motion with a renewed flicker of interest. Elbereth help me. “Yes,” he croaked. “No stable. I mean, we have no stables. We have a field. The horses will enjoy it; they may roll to their hearts’ content.”

“No stable?” Éomer looked affronted. At his side, Lothiriel laughed softly.

“I’m sure they will find it most pleasing, Lord Legolas.”

“But won’t they run away?”

“They don’t run from Elves,” Gimli said, with grudging respect. “Only from Dwarves. Which suits me down to the bedrock.”

“I’ll convince you to get on a horse again eventually, Uncle Gimli,” said Elfwine. Gimli grunted, but his face softened as he looked up at the young lad. Elfwine had, after all, been named for Gimli.

Legolas tried to tear his attention away from Gimli and onto his other distinguished guests. “There are refreshments spread out upon the main lawn,” he said, and gestured for his people to unburden the Eored and the small entourage of Dwarves that accompanied them. “Would you first wish to bathe?”

“I would,” said Éomer, but Elfwine shook his head.

“I’m starving, father.”

“I vote for food,” Gimli said.

Lothiriel gave Éomer a sweet smile. “You’re outnumbered, dear. Food first, washing after.”

Éomer wrinkled his nose, and then said, rather questioningly, “I’m the King?”

“Has that ever worked, any of the times he’s tried it?” Legolas asked Elfwine conversationally. The prince laughed.

“Not appreciably.”

Éomer limped a little when he walked these days. It made Legolas sober up a little, but he brightened again when Gimli joined him at his side, where he should be. “You look well,” he murmured.

“Mmm, as do you,” Gimli returned, the low burr of his voice intimate as a caress. “I wasn’t joking when I said I was parched. Should our pleasantries take too long, it shall be a different manner of refreshment I take, spread out upon the lawn.”

Heat flooded Legolas’ chest and face, and he took one or two deep, slow breaths. His trews were now extremely uncomfortable. “Oh, would you now?” The option of spiriting Gimli away was growing more and more likely by the second. Surely the others could cope without him for a short while?

“Indeed, I would. And I too would roll to my heart’s content, as happily as any horse,” Gimli said, and his hand crept to touch Legolas’ hip, palming it softly. The heat of his hand was as blazing as ever, the fingers trickling and trailing over his hipbone with skilful dexterity.

“That’s it, I’ve had it!” Legolas grabbed Gimli’s thick wrist, and pulled as hard as he could. “This way! They can deal as they please for a time. I have pressing business!”

“Aye, I can see how pressing!” laughed Gimli as he was tugged along through the trees. “Pressing right up against your placket, if I’m not mistaken! Ah, my love, I’ve missed you too, but shouldn’t we-”

“You will not taunt and tease me so without making good upon your rash promises, my Lord of Aglarond,” snapped Legolas. He dragged Gimli through the winding paths far away from the other visitors, far away from any of the meeting-places of his folk. He spied a familiar mossy divot: they were not far from one of his talans.

Gimli was laughing still as Legolas pushed him down into the springy moss. He landed with a solid thud, and Legolas was covering him an instant later, his mouth seeking Gimli’s with desperate need.

They kept Éomer waiting for quite some time.

Gimli did not quite move the same.

Legolas studied his husband with narrowed, suspicious eyes. Gimli had done all he could to conceal it as the journey progressed, but he could not hide from an Elf’s sharp gaze forever. It was no short jaunt to the Shire, either.

Gimli had ridden upon his newest goat (“a mite flighty and nervous, this one. So we called him Fearless.”) and Legolas his horse. They did not walk, nor run as they had long ago, and so it had been difficult for Legolas to spot the subtle difference at first. Gimli’s customary bulky mail-shirt was excellent at covering both his hide and his gait, and so Legolas did not see it until Gimli was lighting the cook-fire one evening, not far out from Bree.

He grunted, ever so softly, as he crouched down upon his haunches.

It truly was very slight, but now that he had seen it all of Legolas’ attention was focused upon it. It was not just the noise that attracted his interest: Gimli’s actions were slower. His prodigious strength was undiminished, but he no longer whisked the old flint with brisk, rapid-fire strokes of his forearm. Now, every movement was deliberated, economic.

It would have gone unnoticed by another. But Legolas knew Gimli’s body as well as his own, and he knew when it was subtly different.

What else, what else had Legolas not seen? How could one person be made of such endless, enthralling variety?

There was no white that he could see in the wealth of red hair that still cascaded down his back, and his beard was as ginger as ever. It seemed a little thinned at the peak of his forehead and the temples, perhaps. He had taken to wearing his braids differently, framing his face far more closely than the loose working and travel plaits of old. They suited him. The lines had proceeded apace, and now stretched beside his mouth. Some of those by his eyes were deep and creased. Legolas loved them, loved how they looked as Gimli grinned or squinted into the fading daylight.

Surely his own unchanging body must seem monotonous and lacklustre by comparison, when the marvel that was Gimli became a myriad of new treasures and discoveries as the years passed?

“Legolas?” Gimli stopped, and looked up at Legolas. There was a guarded expression upon his face, as though he were hiding some great apprehension.

“Have you not lit the fire yet?” Legolas said, affecting a great show of nonchalance. “I have here two wood-pheasants ready-plucked, but if you wish to dine upon twigs and berries instead…”

“Oh, mockery now? I’ve eaten twig and berries often enough for you to know that I enjoy it,” Gimli said, and his eyes twinkled with mischief.

It was truly amazing how Gimli was able to turn his silver tongue to flattery and innuendo both, and with equal success. That was the thought that raced through Legolas’ dizzy mind, even as he pounced upon his husband. The pheasants lay forgotten, and the fire unlit.

They continued their ride into the Shire, and Legolas watched closely, but said nothing of his observations. Yes, Gimli did indeed move with extra deliberation, but it was the slowness of an unhurried and measured walk rather than the stiffness of joint and sinew that Legolas had seen in Men.

It reminded Legolas of Aragorn in the fullness of his Kingship, in those days when Eldarion had been but a child still. Yet Aragorn was no Dwarf. In Gimli’s case the extra muscle in his core, the heavy weight of his step, even the gravity holding him fast to the ground, was magnified beyond anything Legolas had seen yet. What had seemed as immovable as the mountains was growing even more so.

Gimli was beginning to remind Legolas of those great statues by the doors of Erebor: full of dignity and grandeur and power. Even barefoot in a Hobbit’s garden with his shirtsleeves pushed up beyond his elbows, he was something stately and splendid.

Oh, but Legolas was falling in love and lust all over again with this new version of his husband.

Gimli patted Sam’s work-worn hand. “Last time, eh?” he said, grinning. It made the lines around his mouth bracket his smile perfectly. There were whisper-thin lines along his top lip also, from long years of sucking at his pipe.

Legolas wrenched his enthralled eyes away from his Dwarf. “Elected seven times! Sam, you are a wonder.”

Sam tucked a thumb into his waistcoat, and took a sip from his mug. “Don’t know if it’s right, but if the people say it’s so, it’s so. I think I’ll pack it in after this term, though. I’m getting on a bit, after all! Seven times a mayor’s plenty, I should say, and the office in Michel Delving’s starting to feel a mite too snug. I thought I was done the last time, to be frank. I thought I could hand it all over to some younger folk and spend a bit more time in the garden. I’d like to see the grandchildren more often, too. They like my old stories.”

“I daresay they would.” Legolas had met one or two of them. Gimli had remarked that he’d never seen the Elf more wide-eyed and eager, like a child himself that day. For their part, the small Hobbits had stared at Gimli and Legolas both, before peppering them with questions and demands.

“It’s a long way from Undertower,” Sam sighed, and he shifted a little on the old bench outside Bag End. “Elanor doesn’t get to come back into Hobbiton as often as she’d like, poor lass. And I know she wanted to be here when Holfast arrived.”

“You’re not too old for the journey yet, Sam lad!” cried Gimli. “If I can make it all this way to you, surely you can make it across to Westmarch?”

“Begging your pardon, Gimli, but I’ve not been a lad for many a year now. And I’ve never been a Dwarf. I doubt I could climb even four rotations of one of the mallorns of Lothlorien now, never mind all the way to the top! I’ve given myself to what I love, and then I’ll be finding my place at the end of it all. Mister Bilbo had one last journey in him. And so, I think, do I.”

“You’re thinking of moving?” asked Legolas, confused.

Sam peered up at the stars as they began to peep through the purpling sky. “Oh, eventually. Not just yet. But one day.”

“Dwarves grow harder and stronger as we get older,” he remembered Glóin saying, in those warm heady, apology-scented days after their wedding. “‘Stone-years’, we call them – and it is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing, for our limbs will not fail us. We endure in something very like our prime, until very near the end. Dwarven bone will not become brittle with age like a Man’s, no. But we grow stiff and unyielding also. Our strength may rob us of what speed and agility we have.”

“You said until very near the end. What happens then?” Legolas asked (not understanding, not yet).

Glóin had looked at him steadily. “All stone crumbles, lad. Ours does all at once.”

Gimli’s skin was a fascination to Legolas. The texture had grown ever so slightly different, undetectable to the eye, but Legolas’ sensitive fingers could discern it.

He had always been able to sense the difference between tattooed and clear skin. But now there were yet more sensations beneath his hungry fingertips: dry, softer, looser perhaps. Soft, yes. Buttery and beautiful.

Gimli indeed grew stronger, slower and unyielding before Legolas’ avid eyes. His eyes were ringed in lines and threads and thorns, and the whorls upon his knuckles were deep. Legolas loved the taste of them beneath his tongue.

But still, no white showed in the mane of fire-bright hair upon head and chin. Legolas drew a brush through the river of blood, and found the bare patches behind the braids, and nodded to himself. As he had suspected.


Gimli’s eyes were half-lidded, drowsy with contentment. He had always enjoyed having his hair and beard attended to. “Mmm, no. I am not here to answer,” he mumbled.

Legolas smiled to himself, threading one of the heavy marriage-beads upon the braid he had just re-done. “Then to whom am I speaking?”

“I hardly know my own name, not with your magical hands in my hair. You must be more specific, kurduh.”

“Ah, I see. A forgetful Dwarf, then.” Legolas smoothed his thumb over the new braid, and marvelled at how cleverly Gimli had arranged his new plaits. The bare, thinning spots at temple and forehead, even beneath his lower lip, had been very cunningly concealed. Legolas might not have discovered this for many years yet, had he not taken the opportunity to brush Gimli’s hair while the Dwarf was still mostly asleep. “This explains much.”

Gimli grunted blissfully, and smiled up at Legolas. His hand rose up to touch Legolas’ cheek. “Does it? As I am a forgetful Dwarf, you will have to remind me.”

“Aye,” Legolas said, and steeled himself. “For instance, this forgetful Dwarf has neglected to tell his husband that he has been plucking out his white hairs, one by one, and hiding the spaces as best he may.”

Gimli’s eyes snapped into focus and locked onto Legolas, guarded and wary.

Legolas continued to calmly arrange Gimli’s hair in the new configuration, running the rough-bristled brush through the fall of it with strong even pulls. “You should know by now, stubborn one,” he said, in the same easy and unruffled tone of voice, “that I am mesmerised by these changes in you. That I do not find them to be unsightly, nor a harbinger of sadness to come. Quite the opposite. You are beautiful to my eyes in all your variety. You should not alter yourself to fit some ridiculous fancy of what I might wish. Grow old, Gimli, and do so magnificently.”

“But. I thought you would wish me to remain unchanged-” Gimli began, stuttering and shocked. “As you do, and I-”

“You thought a great deal of foolishness,” Legolas said, and kissed him. “Aye, I do not change with the passing years as you do. Not to look upon, at any rate. So you must do so for both of us, and I will delight in it.”

Gimli blinked, evidently thrown by Legolas’ manner of looking at the issue. Perhaps he had been seeing with too much a mortal’s eye, thought Legolas fondly, and he picked up the huge and powerful hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze.

“Elves are strange. Every time I think I have you fathomed, you confound me,” Gimli said eventually. “All right, Âzyungel. I will let the snows fall on my hair as they will. Though Mahal only knows what you will think when you see.”

It was to be an occasion of especial magnificence, it was said. Not only was the feast celebrating the 50th year of the dazzling realm of Aglarond, the most stupendous Dwarven city since Khazad-dûm itself, but also the 190th birthday of its famous lord.

From all over the Reunited Kingdom and Rohan and even from the far north came many illustrious dignitaries. Legolas had offered himself and his people as guides and escorts for those travelling from Erebor and the Greenwood. His folk made the journey to and from the North more often than any others, after all.

So it was that he had spent the last few months escorting a mismatched party through the Greenwood and across the Gladden Fields, over the Wold and south into Rohan.

The old King Stonehelm would not make the journey, much to his own dissatisfaction. He had sent his daughter in his stead, the Crown Princess Thessa. Many nobles of the court travelled with them also, as well as a handful of new settlers wishing to see the glory of the glittering city and to be a part of its wealth and legend.

It was not Dwarves alone that accompanied him, however. The newest Prince of Dale, Dain son of Bail son of Bard, fifteen years old and a bright merry scamp of a lad, was being sent to foster at Aglarond for half a year.

Lastly, Thranduil himself had joined them. “I would be remiss not to pay my respects to my son-in-law upon his nameday,” he had said, in his cool languid way.

(Legolas had his suspicions about how genuine those respects were – particularly as his father seemed to have emptied the entire Greenwood for his entourage. Perhaps an attempt at inconveniencing Gimli’s people? No doubt Thranduil believed that they would be hard pressed to accommodate so many Elves at once.)

And now, with this odd assortment of nobility and royalty and settlers, Elves, Men and Dwarves, in his train, Legolas was at last arriving at Helm’s Deep, to attend his husband’s rather opulent ‘birthday party’ (Pippin’s letters had been most amusing), after an absence of more than eight months.

They were led through the usual paths to the first cave, the one now generally referred to as the Front-Door. Most of Legolas’ travelling companions gaped in astonishment. It had once housed barrels and stockpiled weapons for the Rohirrim at need. Now the warm sand-coloured rock had been carved into intricate swirling patterns upon the walls, the floors had been polished until they glowed like warm marble, and huge glass lights hung from the roof, glowing like miniature suns.

Even Thranduil looked rather impressed, and Legolas hid his smile. He was rather looking forward to his father’s reaction to the massive, sparkling Hall of Stars.

The Dwarves welcomed them with deference and courtesy, as well as tremendous efficiency. The settlers were given billets until they could be properly housed, and the visitors were led to the honeycomb of guest rooms. The presence of so many Elves could never shock the Dwarves of Aglarond, not after seeing decades of Legolas’ visits. Legolas could even recognize two or three, and greeted them by name. Thranduil watched with hooded eyes, and said little.

Of Gimli, there was no sign, but Legolas did not expect to see him until the feast. No doubt there were hundreds of last-minute tasks to perform and oversee.

There were enough guest rooms, thankfully. And they were opulent enough to satisfy even his father. Thranduil allowed his hand to follow the streaks of opalescent stone that snaked through the walls, and let his eyes rest upon the crystal bowl of fruit upon the table. “I will meet you at the celebrations,” was all he said. Legolas ducked his head to hide another smile, and bowed out of the room to seek his own.

Their quarters were empty. Unsurprising. Legolas quickly filled their stone tub and sluiced himself clean, before rebinding his hair in the intricate formal style that Gimli had taught him. There was a new set of lapis and platinum clasps upon the table: styled too narrow for thick and woolly Dwarven hair, but perfect for cornsilk Elf hair. He threaded them into his braids, and resolved to find an answer for the gift as soon as he was able.

Legolas then dressed himself in his festival finery as swiftly as possible, sparing a glance for their low, long bed. The pillows had been pressed back by the headboard – Gimli had been working in bed again lately, no doubt – and the green coverlet was dented where Gimli had probably sat, to tug on his boots.

Enough. That was it. He could be patient no longer, not with Gimli so close, the evidence of him everywhere he looked. His heart was yammering and demanding to see his husband after so long. Legolas did not even bother with tying the last of the clasps at his neck, but strode from the room to seek the Hall of Stars. The banquet would begin at sundown, but Legolas would feast his eyes until then.

He did not bother stopping even when the Princess Thessa joined him, her booted feet striking the stone by his side. He nodded politely, but if anything he hastened his stride. She seemed amused.

“In rather a rush, aren’t you, your Highness?”

“I’ve someone important to see,” Legolas replied, as shortly as courtesy permitted him.

“No doubt. Don’t mind if I tag along after you, do you? I don’t know my way around this place.”

“I shall not slow my pace,” Legolas warned her.

She snorted. “And what did your important person say to you when you told him that?”

Legolas blinked, and then barked out a laugh. “Very well, keep pace with me, your Highness! We veer right here.”

She grinned in return, and followed his lead all the way to the Hall of Stars. The sound of many voices raised in both song and speech greeted them long before they entered. The blast of heat from the door was like facing into summer, and the lights danced and shimmered upon the floors as they approached.

Gimli’s seneschal was one of Bombur’s many children, an irreverent, informal and honest Dwarf called Nyrath. He knew Legolas well, and nodded to him from his place at the door. “I’ll announce you, wait up a mo,” he said. “Who’s your friend?”

“The Heir of Durin,” she said dryly, and watched Nyrath’s face drain of colour. Legolas got the impression that she was rather enjoying herself. The true granddaughter of Dain Ironfoot, this one.

“At your service,” said Nyrath, rather hoarsely. “I’ll go do the honours, shall I?”

Legolas took pity on him. “Don’t bother on my account,” he said, and slipped into the Hall on whisper-soft feet.

He barely heard Thessa’s soft gasp of awe behind him, but Legolas had no eyes for the starlit glory of the chamber. The beauty of Aglarond had never lost its grip on him, but today he was of a mind to see a rather different sort of star. He searched about the churning crowd of Elves, Rohirrim, Dwarves and Men of Gondor, his eyes darting, looking for the familiar head of coppery hair. Gimli was not at the high seat, and neither was he by the food tables.

“Magnificent,” breathed the Princess, and then Legolas saw him.

He’d been looking for copper hair.

Thick white streaks, of course. So much wider than he could ever have guessed at! Not grey but purest white, like snow indeed, glowing in the firelight. At each temple, yes, and strands at the peak of his hairline, and even a stripe in the beard beneath his mouth. The bright blood-scarlet stood out even more brilliantly, splashed with vivid frost where each bare patch had hidden its secret.

Legolas’ knees were weak, and he was glad beyond measure that he had not done up the clasps at his neck. How could Gimli have concealed this from him? It transformed his face once more, he seemed new and undiscovered all over again. He looked like a statue, or a painting of ancient kings. In his Durin blue and silver, the circlet of mithril upon his head, and with sapphires gleaming at his throat and in his hair, Gimli was more resplendent than any wonder of the world that Legolas had yet seen.

“Aüle have mercy on me, for your work is great indeed,” he murmured, rather giddily.

The Princess Thessa gave him a startled look, before she laughed. “I see. Better go and sneak him away for a while before the speeches begin, hmm?”

Legolas turned his dazed eyes onto her. “What a kind suggestion,” he said, beaming. “What a Queen you shall make.”

Her laughter followed him into the crowd as he darted through the press of bodies to his husband – his beautiful, beautiful husband, crowned in silver-white! He was breathless by the time he neared, and Gimli turned just at that moment to see him approach.

The brown eyes flicked over the lapis beads and warmed, before they grew apprehensive. “Ghivashelê, at last,” Gimli said, and his hand twitched at his side – was he forcing it not to touch the thick band of white at his temple, perhaps? Legolas trembled in impatience. “I hope the journey was kind.”

“Excuse me, gentles, but I have pressing business with Lord Gimli,” he blurted, and grabbed at Gimli’s forearm. “Come on, stubborn Dwarf,” he whispered.

“Legolas, I cannot leave, this is my damned-”

“If you do not leave now, then I cannot be held responsible for what your folk may see,” Legolas hissed in his ear. Gimli’s cheeks flushed, and his lips parted.

(Curse it, and now Legolas could see more of Gimli’s mouth, more of that full lower lip, because of the white fall beneath it. Once the realisation had struck, Legolas was fixated and could not tear his eyes away, could not think of anything else.)

“Then let us go elsewhere as soon as we may,” Gimli rumbled, and his eyes were glowing. “I have missed you so. Do you like the beads?”

“I love them, as you knew I would,” Legolas said, and pulled at Gimli’s arm. “Where? Our rooms are too far.”

“Later, there shall be time enough for patience and pauses and precipices,” said Gimli. “For now-”

“For now, you must be silent,” Legolas said, and pulled him along towards a service corridor. “Where does this lead?”

“To the Eastern tunnels, the other side of the Mountain…”

Not the kitchens or cellars, then. “Good.” And he shoved Gimli inside and pushed him against a wall, hands hovering over the bulky shoulders. “Then we shall not be disturbed.”

“Legolas-” Gimli’s expression was still rather wary, though he was smiling. “You are the furthest thing from blind, and you have not even remarked upon it. Surely you dissemble, now that you have seen how often the fingers of time have run through my hair?”

Lifting his hand, Legolas allowed himself to touch the crisp warmth of the tightly-bound braids at Gimli’s temple. His fingers, sensitive as ever, could discern the difference: the white hair was smoother, finer even than the copper. Soft as feathers, and yet crisp to the touch.

“In some ways, Gimli, you never change at all,” he said, barely more than a sigh. “You are still the most contrary creature I’ve ever known.”

“I can think of one who could put me to shame,” Gimli retorted, the response mostly automatic. “He’s around six feet tall and has pointy ears…”

Legolas shook his head, laughing. “Gimli, Gimli my sweet fool, stop. I think you are the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. I always have. I always will. And you are made even more wondrous by your differences, do you not understand this yet?”

Gimli’s eyes flicked up to him, wide and amazed.

“When I walked into the Hall and saw you there, my first thought was of one of the frescoes of Erebor, perhaps of some great King, a legend from the ages of heroes,” Legolas continued. He dared to press forward, to bury his face into the cloud of white-and-red. The familiar scent of Gimli’s skin greeted him, and he breathed it in. “It’s beautiful. You are grown so grand now I half-feared to touch you! What a marvel then, to crowd you close and find that the legend wears my beloved’s face and speaks with his voice. I am permitted to touch as much as I please. And here your hair glows twice as brightly. I wonder if it will reflect starlight and moonlight.”

His expression caught somewhere between embarrassed and wondering, Gimli said in his gruffest voice, “it’s not Ithildin, daft elf.”

“It looks it.” Legolas turned his face to nose at the thick cuffs around Gimli’s ears. “Meleth, Gimli-nin, do you believe me?”

A sigh rose from the barrel-chest, and then Gimli’s hand rose to cup Legolas’ head, the pads of his fingers stroking the nape of his neck ever so gently. “Aye, I do. More fool me, for allowing my pride to do my thinking for me.”

“You should be prouder of this than of your unmarked pelt of bygone days,” said Legolas, and he clasped the heavy jaw in his cupped hands, his thumbs hovering over that patch of white in Gimli’s beard below his mouth. The lip stood out full and pink above it. “There’s mithril in your beard, my love.”

“You’re full of odd fancies, aren’t you?” Gimli said, smiling, but Legolas had no more restraint left in him, and dove forward to kiss Gimli as passionately as he could. The dwarf’s mouth opened easily under his, hot and greedy and searching. The silky whisper of the white hair beneath his hands made Legolas shiver.

“You were gone so long,” Gimli muttered hoarsely, even as Legolas began to nip at his ears and neck. “And I thought - I thought that perhaps…”

“You think a lot of very stupid things,” Legolas breathed, and he kissed him again. Gimli’s moan was a rumble in his chest and belly. His broad hands smoothed over Legolas’ flanks, up over his thighs and to his waist, where they flexed and kneaded.

“They’ll be searching for me,” he said, between kisses, his breath coming in rough gusts, his hands working at Legolas’ flesh with barely-contained need. “I can’t be gone long. Mahal wept, Legolas, you left the future Queen unaccompanied!”

Legolas scrabbled at the heavy silver gilet Gimli wore, trying to find the secret to the many layers he was wearing. “I am absolutely certain that Princess Thessa will be fine. I will not be, however, if you do not put your hands on me and quickly!”

“My hands are on you!”

“Not nearly close enough, I cannot feel your skin, I wish to feel the heat of you. It has been too long.” Legolas pressed his full length against Gimli, wrapping around the Dwarf like a curling vine around a tree, his knee hitching up to Gimli’s waist and tugging him closer – yes, closer still -

“Legolas,” Gimli groaned, and he kissed Legolas as though he never wished to stop. His beard was the usual delicious scratch – but now, there was a silk-soft whisper added, a smooth glide against Legolas’ chin where the white hairs were. “We must go back. We cannot stay here, much as I wish to.”

Legolas pretended he did not hear, and continued to kiss at Gimli’s ear and throat, pressing his lower body close and closer, his leg wrapped firmly around Gimli’s hips. And yes, there was the usual answering heat to greet him, the impossibly thick round head already pressing into Legolas’ lower belly…

“Legolas – Legolas, darling one, my mad Elf, my sweet,” Gimli groaned, rusty and regretful. His hand landed upon Legolas’ uplifted thigh, the fingers tightening and stopping him from pressing forward. “We must. I am sorry.”

“How dare you start being sensible now,” Legolas muttered against Gimli’s cheek, before kissing it and slumping back upon his haunches. Gimli’s hands reached after him, before he let them fall by his sides.

“I dislike it as much as you, kurduh,” he said, helplessly. He rubbed a broad palm over his breeches, pressing down rather firmly, and wincing. “Damn it all. But it is my blasted birthday party, after all, and I run the place. I cannot be absent so long.”

“I would think you were permitted to do anything your heart most desired,” Legolas retorted. His length was insistently throbbing, as though it was angry he had stopped. His lips were smooth and tingling.

“At the very first opportunity to leave,” Gimli said, his voice thick and promising, “then I will most certainly be doing that which my heart most desires. In the meanwhile, I must be the Lord of Agalrond, and you must be the Elf-Prince of Ithilien, and we must do our duty and be collected and polite to our esteemed guests.”

“One of whom is my father,” Legolas said, sullen in defeat.

Gimli’s face screwed up. “Ah. Indeed. Well, all the more reason to put on a good showing.” He smoothed down his beard and hair, readjusting the mithril circlet, and straightened his gilet with a firm tug. Then his eyes glittered with mischief, “before you give me another good showing, eh?”

Legolas’ blood pounded hot and needy in his veins, and he stared at Gimli. “You had better get out there, or I may never let you leave this little corridor.”

“A moment. You have a little,” Gimli reached up and pulled away a hair that had caught upon the embroidery of his tunic. “There we are.”

“I would have kept it,” Legolas said, sticking his chin out.

“You Elves and hair! I do not understand it in the slightest,” Gimli said, making his way back towards the Hall of Stars. He looked mostly put-together, except for the cresting flush over the top of his neckline, and the deep brown, nearly black colour of his eyes.

“That is rich coming from you, Lockbearer,” Legolas snorted, sloping after him. He did not feel nearly so composed. He was sure his trews did not allow for much in the way of concealment, unlike Gimli’s long tunics and thick wide-shouldered sleeveless gilets with their length falling to his knees. He was also positive that his ears were a damning, burning red, if any cared to look.

The dinner that followed was a torment to Legolas. The food and wine was excellent, and the music was exquisite enough to suit even Elven sensibilities. Thranduil was impressed into true silence when he entered the Hall of Stars. His only remark, in fact, was about Gimli. “Your… beloved,” he said, in his distant and delicate way, after they had been shown to their places amongst the Elven delegation. Legolas was not beside Gimli, for this occasion, as he was there in state as Prince of Eryn Lasgalen and Lord of the Ithilien Elves. Thranduil’s face was drawn and assessing, his brow ever so faintly furrowed. “He begins to remind me of someone. But I cannot place whom it could be, only that he resembles them.”

“Gimli is of the Line of Durin,” Legolas reminded him absently, and could not tear his eyes away.

All through the meal, in fact, Legolas had trouble keeping his gaze from drifting over to the High Table where Gimli sat in honour. He was flanked by the Crown Princess of Erebor and Elfwine of Rohan, and between them his hair glowed like sun-touched snow in the torchlight, like a ruby crowned in diamonds. Legolas’ body had not grown quiescent after they had left the corridor. If anything, he was twice as heated as he had been before, for he was gazing his fill of Gimli: a heady vintage after a long drought.

Every so often Gimli would catch his eye, and hold it. He seemed to have made it his sworn task to surreptitiously drive Legolas entirely mad. Legolas had caught a glimpse of metal as Gimli ran the bar through his tongue along his lips - a trick he knew full well made Legolas catch fire. He had run his fingers through his hair, as though to settle it – shameless Dwarf! – and his hands had fiddled in a seemingly casual way with his glass. Seemingly! If only their esteemed guests were aware that those gestures were more commonly used on the nipples of a particular Elf.

“To fifty years of hard work and good friendship,” was Gimli’s only real contribution to the speeches, his glass held high. The pads of his fingers stroked up the crystal stem as he lifted it; Legolas nearly broke his own into two pieces.

By the time the final toasts were being called, Legolas was in a fit state. Thranduil was sending him peculiar looks every so often, his eyebrow raised in the faintest sign of concern. Legolas tried with all his might to look composed and attentive, but it was a lost cause. His hearing was strangely muffled: overeager to catch any sound from Gimli’s lips, disregarding all else. He was glad of the great oaken tables that had been set out for the taller guests: his erect state would have been shamefully apparent at one of the low Dwarven tables with hardly room enough to cover him to mid-thigh.

Finally the tables were cleared and the musicians began to strike a loud and bright tune. Many Dwarves shouted in happy recognition, and rushed all at once towards the space before the small band, already dancing as they went.

Gimli leaned back in his chair, crossing one foot over his knee. Then he met Legolas’ eyes, and slowly, deliberately winked.

“I will eat him alive, the earth itself be my witness,” Legolas grated beneath his breath. “I will endure no more of this!”

By his side, Thranduil choked on a sip of wine.

Enough of sitting and gazing at Gimli’s beauty, burning alive for want of Gimli’s touch! Decision made, Legolas stood all at once, knowing that if anyone cared to look, they would see how fiercely he desired his husband. He gave Gimli (wretched tease!) a flat glare filled with heat, and stalked towards the dance-floor. The other dancers politely made room, shouting and jostling in the crowd and the noise. Legolas closed his eyes and allowed the beat of the drum to catch in his blood. Swaying at first, he moved into a spin and then began to dance in earnest.

He was not dancing alone for long.

A hand caught at his wrist, and Legolas smiled to himself. Opening one eye, he looked down to see Gimli’s hot eyes blazing back at him. “Is it the very first opportunity yet, or may I dance longer?”

“If you would, I have a different dance for you,” Gimli fairly growled, and he yanked at Legolas’ arm. “I’ve made my apologies as fast as earthly possible, and I am no doubt thought a dreadful boor, but I can’t stand this further. Legolas, come to bed!”

“You are the one who wished to wait,” Legolas sing-songed, and he curled his arms around Gimli’s neck, gently moving to the music like a river-weed caught in a current. He was solid and heavy, somehow less regal, less remote for being real and there, but also more imposing: the width of his shoulders, the firm tread of his step, the strength in those huge arms, all clasped within Legolas’ embrace. The heat rose from Gimli’s body as though from the mouth of a forge-fire, and the brand of his palms upon Legolas’ back was scorching.

“With the both of our peoples and half of Rohan waiting to see me? Legolas, I will allow you to despoil me in every corridor from here to the Deeping Wall if you will join me now!”

“Such impatience,” Legolas mocked him, knowing it would drive Gimli to wordless spluttering.

True to form, Gimli harrumphed and scowled, before responding with: “t’was not me who sulked with impatience all evening!”

“No, you were the one who teased and taunted me all evening,” Legolas said, suddenly dangerous. His arms curled closer around Gimli’s neck. “That business with the wine-stem, do not think I missed that.”

Gimli grinned broadly, before burying his grin against Legolas’ chest. “Good,” he said, smug. “It was directed entirely at you, after all.”

“First you deny me, and then you goad me,” Legolas said in a mock-stern voice, fingering the end of one white-tipped braid. So soft, such a brilliant white, like a dove’s feather. “I feel it is only fair I do the same.”

“But then you would be denying us both, would you not?” Gimli said, and he turned his head ever so slightly. His breath puffed, warm and scented with wine and spices, over Legolas’ collar and through his untied laces. Legolas reached for whatever resolve he had, and found nothing.

“Bed, then,” he croaked.

“What a genius I married,” Gimli said, and smiled up at Legolas. “Lead the way, Yasthûn.”

Mercy – even in his eyelashes? Deepest shining brown was now framed in thick white and red, and Legolas was lost for a moment, marvelling.

“Legolas,” came Gimli’s amused rumble. He blinked, and cleared his throat, discomfited.

“Right, let’s go,” he said, abrupt in his embarrassment. Turning, he scanned over the heads of the dancers, and realised he had no idea which way he was facing. The glittering roof of the cavern gave him no clues. “Uh. Gimli? Which way?”

Chuckling, Gimli threaded his blunt fingers through Legolas’, and tugged him along gently. “Poor Elf, as lost as a wee babe underground.”

“You were no better in Fangorn!”

“Aye, true enough,” Gimli conceded, tipping his streaked head. Legolas watched the torchlight shine off vibrant red and purest white, brilliant in contrast. He held his breath, his chest aching with it. “The place is a dizzying maze of tangles and shifting half-alive trees, no Dwarf could find their way in such!”

An imp of mischief prompted Legolas to slip his hand free as they neared the Hall doors. He hovered upon his toes, nearly dancing to the faint music they had left behind them. His body still sang with want, and his blood was high. “Then surely you will have no trouble catching me, as this is your territory and not mine, Master Dwarf?”

Gimli blinked, before he grinned – full of heat and promise. “I can assure you, ghivashelê, I shall have you exactly where I want you soon enough.”

“You are full of assurances,” Legolas said, and he touched his lips with the fingers of one hand, remembering the kisses they had shared in the little side-corridor. Tossing his head in his most haughty manner, he added over his shoulder, “perhaps when I have had more than your kiss, I shall believe them.”

With that, he took off running, hearing Gimli’s startled exclamation behind him. Then the rhythmic booming of Gimli’s iron-shod boots against stone began to sound, and Legolas laughed aloud in delight. There now, that was more like it!

He darted as fast as he dared away from his pursuer. Through the star-studded tunnels, past crystal-filled lakes and opalescent domes, he led Gimli on. The Dwarf followed doggedly, his steps heavy and unceasing as he ran. He charged after the fleet Elf as though not even the stone of the Mountain could stop him, and Legolas marvelled at it. He wondered if this had been the case two years earlier, when they had travelled to the Shire.

It was a comfort to know, too, that no matter how kingly and grand Gimli might become, he was still on occasion a rather foolish Dwarf wedded to his stubbornness. Legolas smiled to himself, and turned the last corner, racing upon winged feet to their door. Upon opening it, he hesitated and turned back around.

“I should lock the door, teach you a fine lesson!” he called, and grinned at Gimli’s shout of indignation.

“You’d lock a door in a kingdom full of Dwarves? You’d find it wouldn’t stay locked for long!” came the answering bellow, and Gimli at last came into view. His chest was rising and falling rapidly, the massive muscles there quite easily delineated by his clinging, sweaty tunic. Strands of white were escaping his braids, and Legolas shivered slightly.

Oh, but he was glorious.

“Would you have it said amongst all the western Dwarves,” Gimli said, one hand leaning against the gem-flecked walls, “that Gimli of Aglarond left the celebrations for his kingdom and his nameday both, to chase a flighty Elf through his halls and ravish him silly?”

Legolas only raised an eyebrow at him, cool and unperturbed. “Yes. And?”

Gimli gave a soft snort, and pushed a hand through the long fall of streaked silver-and-red, shaking his head and smiling to himself. Then he took the few short strides to Legolas, his fingers clasping easily around the back of Legolas’ neck and tugging him down into a hot and searching kiss.

Legolas wrapped himself around Gimli at once, his legs lifting to snake around the Dwarf’s waist. Gimli held him easily, one hand gripping him under his thigh, his strength rooted to the ground as always. His mouth opened and his tongue swiped at the roof of Gimli’s mouth, brushing over the barbell in his tongue, and Gimli let out a pained rumble.

“I want that,” said Legolas, his mouth moving constantly against those plump pink lips, his fingers already busily undoing every braid and bead. “I want your tongue upon me, that piercing rubbing against-”

“Durin’s beard, Legolas, let me close the door first!” Gimli gasped, and he carried Legolas inside with a little less than his usual efficient and powerful grace, kicking the door shut behind him. Then he spun upon his heel and pressed Legolas’ back full-length against the door. The bunched muscles of his arms made his tunic strain and ride up. “My tongue you shall have, and more besides,” he murmured, and kissed Legolas again. “But not for all of Rohan to see, if you please.”

“I would not care,” Legolas gasped, as Gimli’s teeth scraped over the length of his neck. He shifted all of Legolas’ weight to one arm, bringing the other hand around to work at the ties of his tunic. “I would not care, let them see you stretch me full, let them watch as you ride me, let them see how I worship you-”

“Durin’s beard,” Gimli said, hoarse and fervent. His hips pressed firmly down upon Legolas’, rolling and nudging, the thick ridge of his desire sliding along the crease of Legolas’ thigh. He tightened his legs around Gimli’s waist, bringing them even closer together, and Gimli muffled a curse. The pressure against his placket was now unendurable. “My tongue you had best have, and soon, before yours runs away with you.”

“Finally!” Legolas let his head fall back against the door with a soft thud.

Gimli’s free hand had slipped under his tunic, roaming over the soft skin of his belly and smoothing its way up to his chest and back down again. “Would you have me taste you upon the bed, my love? Or has Elven patience grown so thin these days that you cannot wait even that long?”

Legolas arched against him. “If my patience grows any thinner, Gimli, I shall take matters into my own hands!”

“Well, we can’t have that,” Gimli murmured, and he set Legolas onto his feet without a single sign of effort or strain. Stronger as you grow older indeed, thought Legolas in dazed arousal, finding his balance on legs made shaky with desire.

Then without a word, Gimli dropped slowly and inexorably to one knee, and his deft hands were undoing the knots of Legolas’ breeches and letting them fall to the floor. Legolas had time enough to take one or two gulps of cooler air, before there was hot wet suction around the length of him. “Ai – ai, meleth, a elo, elo, an ngell nîn,” he choked, and his head slammed back against the door. This resulting thud was not in the slightest bit soft.

“I’ve missed your songs,” said Gimli, his hand stroking along the shaft as he looked up at Legolas through his white-and-red framed eyes. His hair, unbound, was a glorious riot of curls. Then the suction was back, tight and unrelenting just as Legolas preferred.

Gimli’s tongue pressed the join where the cap and shaft met each other, the muscle pointed and probing, before he smoothed the flat of it over the entire underside. The unyielding ball of his tongue-piercing ran firmly along the veins, and Legolas let out a gasp and a short, shocked cry of pleasure. The piercing was then rolled along the crease of the crown, smooth and silky. Gimli’s breath was coming in little gulps, and it scorched upon the skin of Legolas’ thighs.

Gimli’s mouth bobbed back and forth as he found his rhythm. Legolas could feel the ratcheting tension in his thighs, the drawing up of his stones, the liquid lightning in his spine.

His release was gaining upon him with embarrassing suddenness, but Legolas was mesmerised by the sight before him: Gimli’s wild head, clad in his new fox’s colours. His mouth stretched red and wet around Legolas’ cock, which stood out even prouder against the white than it had against the ginger. The gentle strength in the hands that wrapped around his thighs; the fond smile in those warm, brown eyes.

“Not long…” he croaked, and Gimli only hummed in assent. The vibrations of that low voice travelled through the piecing and into his flesh, and Legolas nearly lost himself then and there. Yet he managed to claw back his spending by a blade’s-width, his breath whistling hard and loud through his teeth.

“Gimli,” he tried again. For answer, Gimli’s hands tightened upon Legolas’ thighs as though in warning. Legolas half-wondered if he was about to be pinched.

Then, to his shock, Gimli began to stand with the same inexorable slowness as he had knelt, lifting Legolas with no more than a slight grunt and an exhale of breath. Without any apparent hurry, he then brought the Elf’s long legs up to rest upon his shoulders, before returning his mouth to his task.

Unbalanced and astonished and not a little aroused, Legolas wobbled and clutched at Gimli’s head and shoulders. Gimli did not help him in the slightest, still eagerly lipping and licking and sucking at Legolas’ length, utterly unperturbed.

“Why,” Legolas gasped, but Gimli did not answer with words. Instead, he grabbed at one of Legolas’ wandering hands and laid it in his hair. His other hand kneaded at the underside of Legolas’ thigh, ever so gently encouraging him onwards.

“Elbereth, you,” Legolas said, and buried his hands into that thick untameable mass of hair, the silk and the scratch of it together driving him wild. The rasp of Gimli’s beard against his bare skin sent his senses spinning. The sheer easy power that Gimli wielded now made him gasp and thrust as best he could, heedless of anything and everything around him. He felt suspended in the air, weightless and flying, trusting in Gimli’s strength. “You – you – Gimli, I can’t, please, darling one your mouth, it- oh please, yes-”

“Come on, maralâl,” Gimli murmured against the smooth skin of his belly, blowing cool air over his rigid length before giving him a broad, wet lick. His desire was hard as steel now, the head pushed completely clear and proud of its shroud, shiny and a deep dusky pink from Gimli’s attentions. “You could add to the white in my hair, if it pleases you so…”

Legolas groaned and spent with sudden and shocking ferocity, his cock pushing at Gimli’s chin and mouth with awkward need. Gimli’s fingers closed about his length, stroking the last of his release from him.

Slumping bonelessly over Gimli’s head, Legolas let his eyes slide shut and tried to make sense of the mad pattering skipping of his heartbeat.

“Ready to get down?” Gimli said, amused, and Legolas let out a slurring mumble in response. He felt thoroughly dazed. Knowing Gimli, too, this was only the first sally.

He was lowered gently onto their bed, and Gimli’s face came into view. There were indeed white streaks across his cheeks and chin. Legolas stared up at him, and small after-shocks of pleasure raced over his skin at the sight. “I trust that your patience is somewhat assuaged,” Gimli said, smiling.

“You are a wonder,” Legolas told him, and he wondered if perhaps his answering smile was a trifle foolish. “I cannot believe you thought to hide yourself from me, you ridiculous Dwarf. Did you not realise that I would see the differences in how you move, if nothing else?”

Gimli ducked his head, embarrassed. “Aye, well. I was mistaken. And I’ll not be thinking such things again, I promise you. I know now that I am still fair to your eyes.”

“Fair!” Legolas sat up. “Gimli, you must get your ears cleaned. I tell you, you are beautiful. And you have always been beautiful, and shall always be beautiful – if not terribly wise.”

The full-lipped mouth, reddened and swollen, twitched with laughter. “Well, we can’t all be as wise as the Elves, can we?”

“Nor as beautiful as Dwarves,” Legolas agreed serenely, and he flopped back onto the bed. “Come now, I am waiting.”

But Gimli took his time, stripping to his bare chest and wiping down his face with his balled-up formal tunic. Tossing it into the corner, he then sat upon the edge of the bed to remove his boots. Legolas made a rude sound of annoyance. “You’ll have to wait even longer for me as the years pass, ghivashelê,” Gimli said. “And I’m in no mood to have my trousers trapped around my ankles, like that time in Minas Tirith.”

Legolas chuckled wickedly. “A memorable occasion.”

Gimli stretched out his bare feet, and then scratched at his stomach. It had softened with time, no longer diamond-hard and densely carved as it had been during the Ring War. He was still massively proportioned in his arms and shoulders, and his chest was broad and deep as ever, decorated with metal bars and angular ink. The dusting of hair over pectorals and on his soft belly now boasted the occasional stray white in its number. “Do you remember how Faramir laughed until he couldn’t breathe? I thought he was going to be sick.”

“He’d predicted for years that we’d be caught,” Legolas said, shrugging. He felt loose and languid, all the knots in his muscles unwound, perfectly content with the world. “And it was terribly public.”

Gimli turned where he sat, bare feet flexing. His laugh-lines crinkled as he smiled at Legolas. “Are you recovered, love?”

“Enough.” Legolas opened his arms, lifting his chin imperiously. “Come here.”

“As you command, my Prince,” Gimli said with warm affection, and he crawled over the rumpled green coverlet to where Legolas sprawled. “What would you have of me now?”

“Hmm.” Legolas pretended to consider that, but Gimli was all too acquainted with the patterns of their lovemaking and knew exactly what Legolas wanted. “I don’t know. After all, it has been longer than our normal separations…”

Gimli nodded solemnly. “I see. Then perhaps you require some relaxation?”

Legolas tipped his head, enquiring. Gimli’s hand smoothed over the bunched and sweat-marked fabric of his woodland tunic, before rucking it up.

“You are entirely too covered,” he said, low and intense. “You should remedy that.”

It was the work of seconds only before Legolas was sitting before him, entirely nude. “Not entirely sated, then,” Gimli said, his eyebrows high.

“Not entirely,” Legolas agreed, as demurely as he was able. Gimli chuckled, before rising up on all fours to press a kiss against his mouth. Legolas immediately arched back to receive the kiss, pulling Gimli down atop him and allowing his mouth to roam, smooth and syrupy and unhurried.

Gimli was still quite erect, his cock startlingly hot against Legolas’ thigh. Here too, he was proportioned in a manner that was prodigiously broad and thick. As the shape of it made itself known upon Legolas’ body, his impatience made a resurgence. Yet he reined it back. He knew that Gimli preferred to spend but the once, and that it took him some time to do so. He smoothed his hand over the small of Gimli’s back instead, allowing his fingers to travel over the small bumps and slight roughness of the tattoos inked there.

Gimli’s mouth probed and teased, gently coaxing at Legolas’ lips until time itself seemed to hang poised on the next movement of teeth and tongue. Legolas chased each kiss until it blended with the next, even as Gimli’s hand began to ruck his tunic up past his chest.

Then Gimli bent his head to Legolas’ nipples, his mouth working at the one while his fingers pinched and swirled about the other. “I have not forgiven you that wineglass,” slurred Legolas, and Gimli’s teeth against his breast answered him.

“You’ll forgive me after this. On your belly, umraluh, over you go.”

Legolas sighed out happily, and did as he was bid.

Gimli straddled his legs, the heavy weight of him pressing his knees into their bed. Legolas could feel the wisp of his beard against his back before the heat of his mouth arrived, laving gently at the nape of his neck. He did not rush, but kept mouthing and kissing at Legolas’ neck as leisurely as he might smoke his morning pipe, savouring every new taste. Legolas let out a slight whine, shivers lancing up his sides and a rush of cool sensation slipping over his skin, pooling over his shoulders and up over his scalp. The whine became a moan as Gimli’s mouth travelled lower, following the length of Legolas’ spine.

“Insatiable,” he murmured against the small of Legolas’ back, and Legolas made a noise of protest and pushed his arse upwards.

“If you are,” he said, his teeth pressed together so tightly in anticipation he could hear them grate.

“Oh, I am,” Gimli said, and sank his teeth into the globe of one cheek. Legolas’ startled cry was strangled, and he lifted his hips again, spreading his thighs apart and wordlessly asking for more. “I am. Be patient now, lovely one.”

“You dragged me away by the wrist, you – ohhhhh!”

Gimli shifted his weight again, and thumbed over Legolas’ hole, where he had just laid two or three firm, wet strokes of his tongue. “Is this what you desired?”

Legolas turned his head around, the tears already beginning to spring in his eyes. “It’s moving in the right direction,” he managed through a tight throat. “I think you will have to try a little more, just to be certain.”

“Spoken like a true craftsman.” Gimli bent forward, the weight shifting upon the bed, and breathed over Legolas’ newly-wettened hole. Legolas could already feel himself twitching in response. Then the tongue was back, pointed and searching, pushing past the outer ring and tugging gently.

Legolas’ forehead slammed into the pillows, and he breathed heavily as Gimli pushed and delved and kissed. Every time the intensity neared the point of overwhelming, he backed off and laid broad, flat strokes over Legolas’ hole until he was able to resume his torturous, lavish exploration.

The Elf was panting and trembling visibly when Gimli rolled him over onto his back again, and his cock had begun to twitch, half-hard and filling once more.

The bed bounced a little as Gimli stood again. He was a suggestion in the gloom, a low broad silhouette. The firelight glanced over him, gilding his edges in red-gold as he made his way over to their shelves. He dipped a cloth into a broad ewer of water and wiped down his face and beard, before briskly smoothing it over his chest and arms. Then he shucked his trousers, quick and businesslike, before palming the small pot of oil in the topmost drawer. Lastly he filled a cup and brought it to the bed.

“Relaxed now?” came his soft whisper, and Legolas took the cup and drained it in two long swallows.

“Enough for what I desire,” he answered. “Gimli, I’ve missed you so.”

Those arms, capable of such phenomenal strength, gathered him close with infinite gentleness. Gimli’s kiss was pressed, loving and tender, against the side of his head. “And I you. So very much.”

Legolas turned blindly towards him, his mouth seeking Gimli’s. They kissed languidly for some time, until Legolas began to squirm. Gimli’s hips were gently, insistently pressing against Legolas in soft pulses, the flared cockhead already leaking. Legolas wanted it desperately.

“I wish to ride, if you will permit me,” he whispered, and bit carefully at Gimli’s throat.

“Are you sure? Been a while, as you,” Gimli broke off as Legolas wrapped a hand around him at last. He gave a punched-out noise when Legolas gave him a few firm, confident strokes. “Oh, ghivashelê, my heart, my own,” he moaned, and clutched Legolas tightly. “Please. Yes.”

It was a not-insignificant task, preparing Legolas to take Gimli after such a long absence. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, it was his favourite bedroom pursuit. He was loose and wet still from Gimli’s mouth, and he gave easily to the first oiled finger.

Gimli sighed out a little, pushing in and out, pressing against his walls with expert care. “We may be here some time, love.”

“I am not complaining,” Legolas answered, and he threw a leg over Gimli’s shoulder and laughed up at the Dwarf’s startled face. “I find myself perfectly content where I am.”

“No doubt!” Gimli slid another finger beside the second, up to the first knuckle, watching Legolas’ face for any signs of distress. “I marvel at my past self, thinking the Elven race so cold and collected, with river-water and rain in their veins! My poor past self would not know that you would be content to be toyed with for hours, until your little hole was open and reddened and swollen from my touch.”

Legolas pushed back upon the two fingers without hesitation, and hissed at the usual burn that accompanied the expected stretch. “And my poor past self would not have even considered the remarkable thickness of Dwarven fingers and their many, many uses,” he managed, and rolled his hips until he had them settled deep, where he preferred them. “I pity his lack of imagination!”

Gimli closed his eyes and breathed through his nose a moment. “More?” he said eventually, and his free hand stroked at Legolas’ cock. “Before you are the very death of me?”

“Mmm. Move them,” Legolas said, and wriggled a little. Gimli began to prise his fingers apart, slowly at first, and then with more rapidity as Legolas’ body loosened further. The burn settled into a dull ache that seemed to throb along with the pounding of his blood in his ears.

“Are you all right?”

“Better than ever,” Legolas said, “though I shall be better still when you deign to add a third, and positively blissful when you get around to finding my inner gland-”

“Your point is, as always, bluntly made,” snorted Gimli.

“Not as blunt as yours, my love,” Legolas retorted, feeling devilish. He wriggled upon Gimli’s fingers again, knowing that his skin shimmered in the firelight and that his eyes caught the gleam of gems and magnified it. Surely Gimli would relent and give him a third now?

“There’s not a drop of patience in you,” Gimli scolded him, a smile lurking at the corner of his mouth.

“I’d prefer a drop of something else in me anyway,” Legolas sang, and he bounced his heel against Gimli’s back where his leg was hooked over his shoulder. “Come along, hervenn. My appetite is not for slow play this evening, not when we have been so long apart. I would not be lying here waiting until your every hair is as white as the snows of Caradhras!”

“Are you trying to outdo me in impatience?”

“Why, are you proposing a competition?” Legolas grinned up at Gimli, who laughed in helpless joy.

“Very well, hasty one! You will have a third, if you can hold still for it.”

Legolas tried, but he still squirmed and writhed as the thick blunt finger pressed at his slowly stretching entrance. The ache had settled low behind his sac, and he breathed deeply and evenly through his nose, willing his body to match the pace his mind so desperately wanted.

“Sanâzyung,” Gimli said, and his free hand closed over Legolas’ softening erection. “You need to slow down.”

“I need you to kiss me again,” Legolas said mulishly.

“I can’t reach your lips,” Gimli said, and he shrugged a little. “You’d lose my fingers.”

That, Legolas could not abide. “Then you shall have to improvise,” he said, and slid his leg from Gimli’s shoulder. “I tell you, I will have something in my mouth.”

Gimli lifted his other hand, wiggling his fingers enticingly. Legolas gave a disdainful sniff.

“Then you will have to move, Âzyungele,” said Gimli, shaking his head with a mock-sorrowful air. “If you will not have my fingers in your mouth, I can think of a better. But it’s even further away than my lips.”

In a trice, Legolas slipped off the hand that was now gently scissoring within him, and swung his legs around so that he was lying with his head to the footboard. “Simplicity itself,” he said, and beamed at Gimli’s look of startled lust. “Lie down, my love. As you tend to me, let me do the same to you.”

Gimli smoothed his hand, slick and wet from the oil, along Legolas’ inner thigh before gently bending the long leg, propping it up to give himself access. Then he lay down upon his side with his head towards the headboard, and kissed one of Legolas’ knees. “Can you take all three again, without slipping them in one by one, I wonder?” he murmured.

“I shall take a fourth, if you don’t mind, but it shall not be your finger,” Legolas said archly. Gimli’s cock was standing proud and angry-red before him, the metal at the tip and at his pouch gleaming dully. His mouth was already hungry for its weight upon his tongue.

Gimli huffed, and then bit off a curse as Legolas set to sucking enthusiastically. His fingers slid away from Legolas’ hole, circling and pressing absently, twitching with every movement of Legolas’ mouth - but not entering.

Legolas pulled away from Gimli’s rock-hard shaft, feeling the usual stretch at the corners of his mouth from opening so wide. “You’re distracted,” he said.

“Apologies,” Gimli rumbled, low and pained like tearing rock, and abruptly Legolas was filled again – three of those blunt broad fingers at once, spreading him out. His hole clamped tightly around them, and he whimpered. “Better?”

“Mmmmnnngh,” Legolas managed, and his hips moved restlessly, ceaselessly, seeking more. And there would be more, much more; indeed, he would be filled to his satisfaction at last before this night was through. “Almost.”

“Ah, then this is what must be missing.”

Legolas cried out, surprised and roused to a new height: the warm liquid jolt filled his insides as Gimli’s fingers gripped gently around the bump of his inner gland. Two of those fingers, as nimble in this as in any weaponry or craftwork, squeezed ever so softly, allowing pulses of pleasure to fill Legolas and ratchet his tension sky-high. The third rubbed between them. The pressure was unrelenting, and Legolas writhed, his head thrashing from side to side as his body fought at cross-purposes to itself; seeking an end to the maddening pleasure, grinding down and begging for it never to end.

“Ready for a fourth,” Gimli said to himself, and Legolas gasped and shook. His legs were visibly trembling.

“I have my fourth,” he said, nearly vicious in his overwhelmed state, and latched back onto Gimli’s cock like a starving man.

Gimli growled, and from the tension in his thighs Legolas could tell that he was ruthlessly restraining his thrusts. He was hard and musky, the blunt broad head closing off the back of Legolas’ throat as he sucked and licked and gasped. Spittle was running from his chin, he knew, but Gimli’s girth was such that he was never able to keep from drooling: he simply couldn’t close his mouth enough. Gimli had never complained. If anything, the sight generally made those dark eyes even darker.

“All my fingers now, ghivashelê,” Gimli managed, and Legolas moaned around his mouthful, and rocked back on the new stretch. He was nearly full now, and his body was singing with it. Fat Dwarven fingers: Elbereth Githoniel, he could write lays to them! “Let me know when you wish to take me.”

“Forever and always,” keened Legolas, arching and rolling his hips. “Gimli, now. I have missed you so; I cannot wait longer.”

“Then here.” Gimli’s fingers eased out, and Legolas hissed at the sudden feeling of hollowness, his hole clenching hungrily around empty air. The clink of the jar-lid brought him back to the room, and he blinked up to see Gimli lathering his proud cock in oil – too much oil really, but then, Gimli was overcautious.

“I will leave a trail,” he commented. “Like a snail.”

“And like a snail, you will be unable to walk, and will have to drag yourself wherever you go,” Gimli retorted, and he pinched the base of his length carefully as he lay back against the pillows. The piercings at the tip were shiny, glistening from the oil. “Come here, my love.”

Legolas swooped upon him, kissing him urgently and wrapping his fingers around his cock, giving it one or two last fond pumps. “Here, this way,” he said, and flung his leg over Gimli’s hips, bracing his hands against Gimli’s shoulders. The thickness of Gimli’s build forced his knees to splay out. “Can you-”

“Aye,” Gimli said, his voice rasping. He held himself still as Legolas pushed back, hips canting, finding the angle. The tip slid over his hole several times, too slippery from the excess oil, and Gimli had to adjust his grip.

Then finally, finally he was being spread blissfully, torturously wide, yielding around that broad, flared head. Legolas let out a slow, shuddering sigh of delight and allowed gravity to claim him bit by bit. Gimli inched slowly inside him, ploughing him open in one agonisingly slow stroke.

“Damn, you are hellishly tight,” Gimli choked, “been too long, should have spent more time…”

“You are perfect,” Legolas breathed, and he sank down some more, feeling the throb of Gimli’s hard length even in his spine and low in his belly. He knew, too, that were he able to run a hand across his abdomen, he would find the head of Gimli’s cock prodding back at his palm. “So perfect – this is perfect, Gimli-nin, my beautiful one…”

“I have to,” said Gimli, and his hands clutched at Legolas’ waist. “Please, Maralâl. Please!”

“Yes,” said Legolas, and no sooner had he spoken but Gimli was lifting him with ease by his waist, higher into the air, and then bringing him down with a heavy jolt upon that hard, merciless length. He cried out, staggered and reeling, and Gimli lifted him again and brought him crashing down even harder. “Yes!”

“Legolas, I will not last,” Gimli said, his voice sounding very nearly broken. “Ach, you are a sight, Legolas, my fair one, my dancing beauty!”

“I can taste you still,” Legolas gasped, and he rose up onto his knees and thrust back down, feeling the scratch of hair against his buttocks. His heart was scampering; his body soaking up every sensation, craving more.

And Gimli delivered, his fingers busy upon Legolas’ nipples and his hair splayed over the pillows like a storm of fire and ice. Legolas cried and jerked upon his cock, juddering and twitching. His own was leaking copiously onto Gimli’s belly.

“Will you come apart around me, ghivashelê?” Gimli groaned, and one huge hand kneaded at Legolas’ arse, before slipping down and around the rim of his taut-stretched hole. The noise that Legolas made had no words in it. “Will you use me as your toy, bounce on me until you break, I wonder?”

Gimli,” was all that Legolas could voice, but he was able to put Gimli's words to action. He lifted up again, the shifting pressure inside him easing. Then he began to plunge his hips rapidly. Every time he bottomed out, it felt as though he were likely to split wide open. The piercings rolled over his gland upon each down-thrust.

“Not long… for you either,” said Gimli, his breath hot and sweet upon Legolas’ chest. His head tipped back, the curls tumbling around him like a frame. “Ohhh, that I should have you to call my own…”

“My own,” Legolas repeated, and with a final hard drive, he was coming in thin strands all over Gimli’s chest. “Haaaaah..! Oh... uh…” he panted, his arse milking and spasming around the unforgiving thickness inside him.

Gimli pressed a hand to the small of his back, and helped him ride out his orgasm with tiny little rocking motions. “Beautiful,” he said, when Legolas came back to himself, twitching and shuddering.

“I’ve added more white to your beard, I fear,” he said, his tongue strangely cumbersome in his mouth.

Gimli chuckled, his belly jumping with the sound. “It was inevitable, I suppose. You were always going to turn my hair white.”

Legolas tugged the barbell at his nipple. “Be kind.”

Gimli sucked in a breath, and his hips jerked ever so slightly. “I shall be very kind,” he promised, his voice deepening.

“Mmm, good.” Legolas kissed him, his tongue licking at the roof of his mouth before sinking his teeth into that plump lower lip. “Roll over. I would see you above me.”

“You just don’t want to do any more of the work,” Gimli mumbled, grinning rather foolishly. Yet he rolled them both with no apparent effort anyway, rising up onto his knees and hooking one of Legolas’ legs over his arm. “Ready?”

Legolas gazed up at him, at the cloud of hair streaked with mithril and the laugh-lines framing those eyes that danced with love. “Always.”

Gimli planted a kiss in the centre of his chest, before sinking into him once again. It ached, but the burn had transmuted into a slow delicious stretch that made Legolas whine high in his throat. The angle forced Gimli deeper, and Legolas wriggled and shifted until he could accommodate it. His skin felt tingling, his lips numb.

“My king of Dwarves, my beautiful Lord,” he said, and he ran a thumb over the patch of white in Gimli’s beard. Gimli’s breath came fast and wet against his skin. “Would you have all the Southern Elves say that Legolas of Ithilien could not walk nor sit nor aim his bow the day after he was chased from his husband’s birthday party?”

“Mahal… save me,” Gimli choked, and deep within Legolas could feel the first stirrings of his release: the impossible heat and hardness, the arrhythmic pulsing. “Yes – yes I would… and you would have them add that Gimli of Aglarond... his eyes beheld nothing else… all that day.”

“You would not answer when spoken to,” Legolas teased, and he wrapped his legs around Gimli’s plunging hips. “You would be looking at me.”

“Course I would,” gasped Gimli, and he buried his head against Legolas’ shoulder. “I... already do.”

“Each time I winced,” Legolas whispered in the nearest ear, and bit down hard. The earrings clacked against his teeth. "Each time I sit and shift; each step that hitches. You'd look at me, and you'd see this moment against your mind's eye."

Gimli let out a pained rumble, and warm wet heat began to spill inside Legolas. His hips began to lose their pace, bucking and thrusting jerkily, making Legolas’ limbs judder.

“You’d remember this,” Legolas finished, and licked up the shell of the ear.  “Each time.”

With a last deep groan, Gimli pressed himself flush against Legolas’ arse and froze there, his muscles taut and trembling. The throbbing grew along with the wet slide of him inside, and Legolas rejoiced.

Filled to his satisfaction at last.

Gimli was still as stone, his arms bulging as he held himself high. Then he seemed to melt all at once, his head lowering to Legolas’ chest once again, his fast breath making his shoulders heave. He was silent for a few moments, before saying, “you do realise, I won’t be able to concentrate at all tomorrow. I am likely to be watching your every movement.”

Legolas kissed the top of his crown, the silk of the white hairs brushing over his chin. “Good,” he said, smugly.

“You’ve made a dreadful mess of me, you know.”

Legolas pushed Gimli’s heavy head up, scratching beneath his chin as though he were a lazy cat. “Hmm. Yes, it suits you. You are even more beautiful this way.”

Gimli simply smiled up at him, the laughter-lines crinkling. “You have an odd definition of beauty, my darling one. But as it benefits me, who am I to argue?”