18. Chapter Eighteen
Silence becomes the Son of a prince,
To be silent but brave in battle:
It befits a man to be merry and glad
Until the day of his death
Gimli had said many farewells these last few days. Almost so many he thought he was growing accustomed to them. Farewell to the hobbits; to Aragorn; to the Glittering Caves; to Fangorn and the odd Ents; to Galadriel, fairest of all women. Yet the hardest one remained.
They had seen Fangorn and the Glittering Caves together, beauty that doubled in magnificence because they saw it together. Many stolen embraces and nights spent together there had been – even so it was not enough. He wanted more – though perhaps even an eternity had not been enough time. But now the time to part ways had come.
They both had to return to their own people, to go home. Home – but it would not be home any longer. He had changed; he was no longer the Dwarf who had left, in so many ways. The battle scars were only the scars visible; there were many more just inside his skin.
And here one more would be made, as Legolas had to head one way and he another. This would be the most invisible scar of all – a scar to his heart. Yet in so many ways the most felt scar of them all.
There was no home anymore, not when Legolas would be so far away.
"There is much to rebuild and heal," Legolas said after a while. The Elf's face was impossible to read, though his eyes seemed to be filled with longing. The sea… Alas for the curse of the elves!
"But there will come a time when healing completes and the time has come to live anew," Gimli replied, tensing. Would his friend now tell him to forget all that had happened? Could he? Even when he grew old and his mind failed him, would he not remember the embrace of Legolas and the fires that danced within?
"In a year. A year from now I will be here, ready to live. I will wait under the stars and the sun. Will you come?" Legolas asked, his voice strangely even.
"Of course," Gimli whispered fiercely.
They stared at each other for a long time as the sun was beginning to vanish beyond the horizon. Somewhere out there the hobbits were wandering homewards; Gimli hoped they found their home as they had dreamed of it. It was hard to return home when you had changed in body and heart and home had not.
"This is not farewell. We will meet again," Legolas said forcefully. "I will not leave my heart to wither and die. You have my heart, morn gîl. Treat it kindly."
"And forget not this stubborn and fool-hearted dwarf."
"All the ages of the world could pass and I would not forget you. Gimli…" the Elf's voice faltered and for a moment pain flashed over his face.
Impulsively, the dwarf flung his arms around his friend as best he could and they clung to each other. The dying sunlight embraced them one last time, a blanket of golden air swirling about. And then the sun vanished to let darkness reign. Until morning.
But until morning came, only the memories of the sun would warm. Only the faith that it would rise again could help you endure the darkness.
Faith and memories. Faith that Legolas would not forget him; memories to warm him in dark nights when his heart cried for its mate resting in the forest of Mirkwood. Memories were a poor comfort. But it was all he would have.
A year. An eternity. Much could change in a year. Fair eleven maidens would remind Legolas that love was easier among your own kindred; the sea would call to him in dreams and attempt to claim his Elven soul.
"I will lose you," Gimli whispered, feeling the Elf's heartbeats against his chin.
"No. I will lose you. Elves mate for life. You are mine, there will be no others."
"I should not have let you."
"My choice," Legolas replied, pulling away. He looked intently at Gimli. "Do you think you could have prevented my love for you?"
The dwarf averted his eyes, nodding just ever so slightly. A strong hand on his chin forced him to meet the bluest eyes – blue enough to shame the sea.
"There are greater forces at work than you and me, Gimli. I do not know why a dwarf was destined to take my heart, but I refuse to believe it was not meant to be or could have been changed by a simple decision on your part."
"I fear that belief. For it would mean I was destined to bring you pain," Gimli replied, willing Legolas to understand.
"I have never felt this alive. Never, though I have lived for many years. It comes with a price. I am willing to pay it."
The Elf leaned forwards, his hand still on Gimli's chin. Blue eyes filled with steel met his; steel, yet grief lurked behind the determination. Even if he denied it, Legolas would regret this choice when the sea called and mortality laid its claim on Gimli.
And the dwarf's heart wept for his friend. But even so he could not make himself regret what had happened. For it was too wonderful to regret and he was too selfish. He desired the Elf's heart more than all the gems under the earth. And he could not renounce it.
"Farewell. Till we meet again then," he said softly, just as Legolas's lips descended on his own. A gentle kiss at first, a simple touch farewell, a promise.
We will meet again.
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