Boundaries Crossed

by Sarah

Pairing: Gandalf/Gimli

Rating: NC-17

Disclaimer: Tolkien owns them. I make no money on my story. I claim only the original characters and ideas.

Feedback: Please.

Warnings: Slash. Sex between two males.

Archiving: Meddling in the Affairs of Wizards. Others please ask. Beta work and lovely suggestions: Nefertiti. Thank you very much! Any mistakes left are mine.

Summary: The sequel to Barriers Broken. The story deals with the time of the Quest and afterwards.


Chapter 18

Gandalf leaned wearily against the parapet and watched the scene below. Men were clearing the battlefield of the dead and wounded. Aragorn had given Gandalf some of the details of the conflict. He had told how Legolas and Gimli had a contest to see which one could kill more orcs. He spoke of being separated from Gimli.

Gandalf had let the Man speak and had said nothing at this report. The wizard had seen Gimli and knew the dwarf had survived the battle, though he had been injured. Aragorn related speaking to Legolas shortly after the enemy swept him apart from Gimli. Aragorn did not mention Legolas being overly upset, and Gandalf assumed that the archer thought he would sense it should Gimli die. Or perhaps Aragorn felt any distress from Legolas should be kept confidential and not casually talked about.

Aragorn reported his concern when he realised Eomer had not made it back to the Hornburg. He shared Theoden's decision to ride out at dawn and told Gandalf of his parley with the Orcs.

Then Aragorn had departed to tend Gimli's wound, adding as he left, "I will come back when I'm done and tell you how he is."

Now Gandalf waited and observed the scene below him. The battle for Helm's Deep had been won, but the war was not over. Far too much remained undetermined.

Gandalf sighed. He hoped to get some sleep soon. Afterwards he could think deeply on the situation with Gimli. Hearing footsteps behind him, Gandalf turned and saw Aragorn. The Man came to stand by him at the wall. A hand was placed on his shoulder, and Aragorn said, "I just examined Gimli. The wound has already begun healing and should not leave with him with a scar. Gimli is tired, and he fussed declaring that he did not require my attention, but he is well."

Gandalf nodded. "Am I so obvious to everyone?" he asked.

Aragorn gripped his shoulder. "No. We were two weeks on the Quest before I realised, and I knew of your frequent trips to Erebor. I was aware from the first day that he is devoted to you, but all the Fellowship are, so that is not unusual."

Gandalf smiled. "Thank you, my friend."

Aragorn sighed. "Gimli sent me with a message to you. He wanted to find you himself, but I would like him to rest! Hopefully, Legolas can encourage him to do so. He and Legolas wish to speak to you. I do not know what about, only that Gimli said it was important."

Aragorn added, "They have one of the far caverns. Possibly Gimli's doing, but they've moved way back into the caves. You will know the correct chamber when you see the door. They've taken fabric and decorated it." Aragorn smiled now. "I believe you are the sun."

Gandalf asked,"What do you mean?"

Aragorn grinned. "You will see." His smile faded, and his gaze met Gandalf's. "I don't know everything that has happened, but I hope it works out, and you will be happy."

Gandalf replied, "I will be fine. It just takes time to adjust." He hoped his words would prove true. "I should go and find out what they want. Try to get some rest, my friend."

"I will." Aragorn gave Gandalf directions to the cavern Legolas and Gimli had claimed, and then he departed.

Gandalf walked slowly down the passageway. He was tired and reluctant to face the two of them together in a private setting. Maybe it would help quell the deep longing that resided in his heart, but Gandalf would have preferred to find some place to sleep. I will take a look at Gimli's wound and listen to what they have to say. Then I can leave and get some rest.

Gandalf was beginning to think that he missed the chamber when he spied the door. Despite everything he smiled. They had taken a piece of blue fabric and cut a mountain from it, a brown cloth was used for a tree, and they had found a green napkin and made leaves out of it. The remains of a yellow tunic had become a sun. The design was nailed to a rough wooden door.

He knocked.


The instant Aragorn departed, Gimli was up on his feet.

Legolas frowned. "Aragorn said you are to rest. What are you doing?"

"I want to get water ready in case he wishes to bathe and..."

"I can do whatever needs done."

"I always..." Gimli paused, his gaze finding Legolas' blue orbs. He would have to change if this was going to work. He would have to let the archer do many things that Gimli considered his right alone.

Gimli eased back down into the bed of furs that they had made. "Very well. Put the towels by the fire, Legolas, and remember he will feel the heat from the water before you would. Don't get it too lukewarm but not excessively hot, either. Place some cloths over there, too. And..."

Legolas started to laugh. "I understand! No wonder he loves you so much! I don't believe we need to worry about that elf in Rivendell. I'll wager that he had no concept of dwarven devotion and could not even imagine what he was competing against!"

Gimli smiled and watched as Legolas busily set about his tasks. After a moment, Gimli said, "When I was wrapping this," he motioned to his injury, "I thought of something. If Gandalf bonds with us will you outlive my death?"

Legolas had been using a ladle to check the water's temperature. He paused and glanced at Gimli. They had bathed before Aragorn arrived, and the warrior's hair and beard were still damp. They had pulled the curtain while bathing and had not touched, agreeing to await Gandalf's decision.

Now Legolas scrutinised Gimli. Was there more to the question than the obvious meaning? Was Gimli concluding that in time the dwarf would mean less to them because he and Gandalf would always have each other?

Legolas replied, "Nay. I will not. My spirit will be united with yours, too. It will be rendered with your death. Perhaps Gandalf could prolong my time, but my spirit would be wounded and eventually decline."

Legolas continued, "As for Gandalf, I am certain that he will be very aware of our demise. Given that Gandalf is not an elf, though, I am unsure if his spirit would suffer or not. I do not judge that it would be fatal to him. He will mourn, of course."

Gimli blinked. His simple question had earned him much to ponder. He wished he wasn't so exhausted. It was difficult to think with tiredness clouding his mind. Gandalf was a spirit. What would happen to him if he was united with another and that person died?

Gimli rubbed his bleary eyes. Gandalf would surely consider this matter before giving his consent, but it was too important to not be sure. "Best that we discuss this with him, Legolas."

"Yes." Legolas was placing towels on the back of a chair. "How many towels, meleth?"

"Three. One for the body, another for the hair, and the last for..."

"For the beard!" Legolas answered.

A tap on the door interrupted their discussion. Gimli glanced anxiously at Legolas. "He could refuse us."

Legolas nodded. "If he does, we will be left with each other. It was enough before and can be again, if necessary."

"Aye, I agree." Gimli got up and went to the table.

Legolas opened the door, and motioned for Gandalf to come in. "Will you eat with us? Gimli says you like chicken, and we located some."

Gandalf hesitated. He had not intended to stay, but it had been some time since he had eaten. "I am hungry. I'll share a meal with you." Gandalf took a place at the small table.

As they ate, Gandalf glanced around the chamber. It was more of a cave than a room, with the exception of a very small fireplace with buckets of water hanging over it. The room was dimly lit with a huge scented candle on the table, one torch on the wall, and the fireplace's glow. The chamber smelled of vanilla and sweet bread due to the candle.

A wooden tub set in a corner. Towels were heating on chairs in front of it. Legolas and Gimli had moist hair, which indicated that they had already washed. Gandalf's packs rested against the chairs. The wizard guessed that they had instructed the hostler to have the packs brought to this room. It was clear that he was expected to bathe here. A rod had been fastened to the coarse wooden roof. Attached to the rod was a black wool drape. When the drape was pulled across the rod, the tub would be hidden from the rest of the room.

Gandalf's focus shifted to the bed of furs in front of the fireplace with a stack of pillows and three blankets placed at one corner of it. Reminded again of what he had lost, he wrenched his attention back to the meal of chicken, roasted potatoes, and bread. He assumed that Gimli was not talking because the dwarf was dining.

Gimli noticed the direction of Gandalf's gaze and the slight wince from the wizard. He had intended to wait until everyone was finished eating, but now he decided to begin. "Legolas and I wish for..." Gimli stopped. Gandalf had reached for his drink. The dwarf waited until the wizard was no longer drinking.

Gandalf set his mug down. He was very curious now. Whatever Gimli was about to impart must be of great import, since the dwarf feared he might choke if he heard it while swallowing mead.

"Legolas and I wish for you to become part of our relationship. We hope that eventually the three of us might bond."

Legolas had wondered how Gimli was going to ask Gandalf. He thought this approach was far too frank, but maybe that was how Gandalf preferred to have requests stated.

Grateful that he had not been drinking when Gimli made his offer, Gandalf sat silently and tried to let Gimli's statements filter through his surprise. "I...I am not sure... I cannot..."

Taking a deep breath, Gandalf addressed Legolas. "I am finding the circumstances far more arduous than I thought I would when Gimli found his one. But I have no desire to take him from you, my friend. You are his one, and I will not interfere with your relationship!"

A fleeting look was exchanged between Gimli and Legolas. Gandalf wondered if his response had been predictable.

Legolas replied, "I do not have any desire to give him to you. I thought we would share. As for interfering, you were part of our relationship from the start. At first we often sought each other in Lothlorien for comfort in our grief. Even when we grew much closer, we never stopped loving you."

Gimli felt that he needed to let his two loved ones reason this out without his intruding into it. He took a big bite of chicken to help him resist opening his mouth and stating his opinions. Silence covered the room like a quilt over a bed. Gimli looked up and realised that they were both waiting for him to make a statement.

Legolas said, "It is obvious that he considers eating far more interesting than our conversation!"

Gimli shook his head.

Legolas said, "I still have feelings of affection for you, and Gimli's love for you is strong. We are sad without you. We have talked about it, and we both want this. It's the only solution that will bring happiness to everyone here. I will be glad to have you as part of our union. I've even fantasised about it. I want to bond with you, too."

Legolas saw Gandalf's astonishment and quick glance at Gimli. "Gimli knows of my dream. Gimli has been your lover for far too long to be able to just..."

The archer paused and with a look of irritation at Gimli said, "You started this discussion in the middle of the meal, and now you are the only one getting to eat! You can cease long enough to talk for yourself!"

Having swallowed his food, Gimli smiled. "You were doing an excellent job of speaking for me." He became serious as he turned to Gandalf. "I love you. I deem it is the only way we can all be content. I need to have you back in my arms. Legolas will benefit, too. I can be more devoted to him when I am no longer pining for you."

Legolas added, "And I can feel I have a small place in the memories you two share, because I will become part of the love you have for each other."

Gandalf sighed to himself. He could understand the two of them arriving at this in seeking a solution, but many things in life could not be easily solved. Gandalf was very unsure that he would be able to watch Gimli love another, and he had no desire to be intimate with anyone besides Gimli. "I am flattered, but I cannot accept."

Gimli bit his lip and nodded. Legolas just looked down at his plate, letting his hair fall around his face, hiding his emotions from view.

Quiet descended into the room. Gandalf tried to eat but misery seemed to wrap like bindweed around his throat making each swallow painful. He observed Gimli chopping his chicken into miniscule pieces. The dwarf would not look at him, and Gandalf knew that Gimli was holding back his tears until the wizard was no longer there. He will cry later in Legolas' arms, and that is how it should be, Gandalf told himself sternly. And yet...

Gandalf focused on Legolas now. He could not see the elf's face because of the curtain of blonde hair shielding it. The archer was shoving a chunk of potato around on his plate, but he was not eating. He may have Gimli, but this is not easy for him, either. Legolas may be the one holding Gimli later, but the dwarf will be mourning for me. How very difficult that must be for him! Gandalf thought.

Sensing Gandalf's attention, Legolas glanced up and for a brief instant the Istar was granted a glimpse of eyes filled with unshed sorrow. Then Legolas went back to re-arranging his food.

Gandalf's heart constricted within him. Perhaps he had been too hasty in his decision. It would not be painless to see Gimli hold Legolas close, but could it possibly hurt as much as they were hurting now? Maybe they were right, and it was the only way to achieve happiness, not just for him but them, too. "I will consider the matter," Gandalf said.

Legolas' voice trembled as he said, "We understand that you will need time to decide."

Gimli did not answer. His eyes closed tightly, and he struggled to hold back tears. It was not a yes, but it was not the flat refusal of before. He knew Gandalf might still deny them, and he could imagine hundreds of reasons why his friend might do so. All of these reasons seemed like a tight knot around his heart. Gimli would far rather talk about everything, even if it meant rejection than have the awful silence that had earlier invaded the room.

Gimli put his fork down. "I am certain you will think of things we have not considered yet, but one issue concerns me more than anything else. What will happen to you if you bond with us and I die? For I will and Legolas..." Gimli sighed. "Legolas will follow me."

Gandalf closed his eyes briefly, disliking the thoughts Gimli was provoking. "If we had made no plans for this event, and it happened suddenly while I was with two, I would suffer. I would not die. If I was in a body at the time..." he paused for a moment at Legolas' expression of surprise. There was no change in Gimli. "...my spirit might be damaged enough that it would be difficult to sustain the body, and I would have to depart from it. All that is speculation on my part. The most likely consequence is that I would be weakened but not be harmed beyond that."

Gandalf did not mention that this might be a valid reason for the Valar to refuse to grant him permission to bond with them. Instead he said, "Hopefully there will be no abrupt demises and Gimli will live long and die of old age. In that case, I will probably be in Valinor. Whether I was bonded with you both or not, I will seek Gimli at the time of his death. The Valar are going to have quite a dilemma!"

Gandalf paused. He wanted to state his next words carefully. There was no point in upsetting both of them if they had not thought of what he was about to bring up: the possibility that Gimli being a dwarf might not be able to bond with Legolas. Gently Gandalf asked, "Legolas, if Gimli had died on the battleground tonight, would you have sensed his spirit departing?"

This was a difficult subject for Legolas, and he reached for Gimli's hand, clasping Gandalf's with his other. The wizard did not pull away, and taking strength from their comfort, Legolas stated firmly, "Yes, I might not have been certain of what exactly had occurred at first, but I would definitely know something dire had happened."

Legolas' certainty was enough to settle Gandalf's doubt. If Legolas was already sensitive to Gimli, than clearly it was possible for them to bond. "Good! Then I suggest before bonding that you two state the vows typically said and invoke Eru's name so that Iluvatar will sanctify the union. With Eru's uniting of your spirits, Aule might spare you a death of fading, Legolas. He might be willing to take you too, when Gimli's time is finished. If only for the simple fact that it will be easier for all concerned."

Gimli's hand slid under the wizard's and around so that his fingers touched Legolas'.

Legolas had been paying close attention to the Istar's statements and felt very confused. What was Gandalf talking about?

Gandalf noticed that Legolas was listening to him intently with an anxious expression. It was understandable, given the nature of Gandalf's words. The wizard continued, "Gimli's spirit will be intermingled with yours, and the taking of it will impair you. You will have an element of Gimli's which Aule will not want to leave with you. It will be less trouble to just take both. I think we can expect that option will be granted. The difficulty begins..."

Legolas' fork clattered to the table. "What do you mean?"

Gandalf took in the distraught elf. Gently he answered, "Aule takes his people to a different place in the Halls of Mandos than..."

Legolas realised it was rude to interrupt yet again, but he had to know. "Gimli is going to the Halls of Mandos?"

Concerned at the amount of anxiety in Legolas' voice, Gandalf answered, "Yes, my friend, what do you think was going to happen?"

"It is said that when dwarves die they become a part of the stone their Creator made them from. I thought I would have to spend forever mourning him in the Halls of Mandos! Never to see him again!" Legolas wailed.

Gimli shoved his chair back and got up. He went to Legolas, pulling the elf against him. He had not realised that Legolas had this misconception, and he loved his friend all the more for the archer's willingness to face such a bleak future for their love.

Legolas was gripping the wizard's hand tightly. Gandalf felt as if someone had reached inside his chest and clasped his heart far too hard.

Gandalf reached out and rubbed the archer's arm with his other hand. "No, my dear Legolas! That is a teaching of elves that I did not realise was truly believed. Aule will come for Gimli, and I shall try to convince him to let me be with him."

Gimli's hand had glided back under Gandalf's to alternate between squeezing and letting go. Gandalf could feel the tremble in it. Gandalf wrapped his fingers around both their hands and grasped reassuringly. He said, "I believe it will be allowed. I also think it quite likely that Aule will be merciful and not wait for you to fade, instead taking you along with Gimli."

Legolas' words were muffled by sorrow but Gandalf heard the, "What will happen to you if you are bonded with us?"

In spite of all the anguish Legolas had experienced, his concern for Gandalf's welfare was still a constant care in the elf's mind. Gandalf had not realised just how much Legolas must have loved him before. He had believed that the archer's motivations were due to a fond affection for him and a desire to make Gimli happy.

Gandalf replied,"If I were bonded with you two, the time of death would seem more like a reunion to me than a rendering of spirit. I would not be hurt." He squeezed Legolas' arm. "The difficulties begin after that, which is another argument in favour of having Iluvatar's blessing. The Valar will not attempt to separate your spirits from each other if Eru has united them."

Gandalf perceived the shudder from Legolas and Gimli's soft murmur of love into the archer's ear. The wizard waited for the jealous feelings to arise, but while there was a slight tinge of envy, the dominant emotion was compassion. "I would not worry about Eru withholding his consecration. If he was going to do so, you would not feel any connection to each other now."

The wizard continued, "How the Valar are going to keep you together will be challenging to resolve. Aule embodies his people so he can teach them. Elves are only to be in the Halls of Mandos as a spirit for a time of reflection, and then they are re-born." Gandalf did not add that this was another reason for the Valar to disapprove of him uniting with the two. It would complicate matters even more, since whatever fate they chose for Gimli and Legolas would involve the Istar, too.

Legolas' fingers were entwined with his now and Gandalf rubbed his thumb over the archer's hand. "As I said, quite a dilemma for them! Do not fret too much over it, though. We will think on it ourselves and trust that they will honour your love when the time arrives."

Blue eyes filled with tears met Gandalf's. "Thank you." Legolas said softly.

Gimli's gaze came to Gandalf's also. The dwarf's eyes were bright with moisture and gratitude. "Aye, thank you."

Gimli sat back down and reached for a clean napkin to wipe the archer's tears away.

Legolas pressed Gandalf's hand. "Please do consider bonding with us, mellon nín. We love you."

"I will think on it." They released his hand so he could finish eating, and Gandalf suddenly felt bereft. He began to eat and to try to recover from the shock of Gimli's announcement trailed by Legolas' distress.

There was much to deliberate. Gandalf glanced at the two sitting across from him. He had permitted Gimli an intimate closeness that he had given to no one else. Gandalf would have never dreamed of attempting a union of the spirit with anyone, but he was familiar with the light that was the dwarf's essence. He would be able accept Gimli easily.

The restless sensation Gandalf had experienced on the plains of Rohan stirred to life. Gandalf perceived that even though he would have never considered this kind of joining, he did desire such closeness with Gimli. He would probably have no difficulty uniting with Legolas, either. If the elf had hidden darkness within then it would have displayed itself during the time Legolas had spent in the company of the Ring.

A part of Gandalf continued to resist the idea. He had not planned on taking another lover after Gimli. Yet Gandalf could not help but admire Legolas' brave spirit and his heart that would freely face a sorrowful eternity for the sake of love. It was plain, too, that Legolas' feelings for the wizard went beyond the warmth of friendship and were a love that could be deep if encouraged. If Gandalf was going to accept another lover, Legolas would be a good choice.

There were other issues, too. Neither of them knew his true nature, but Gimli probably suspected. Legolas might have a notion especially after their previous discussion. Gandalf thought of the Valar now and sighed. They would probably never permit him to actually bind his spirit to another. That had been done before. Melian's grief was most likely one reason the Valar had chosen to clothe him in an elderly body. They did not wish the occurrence of a similar event.

Did he want to do this? Just as important was the question: would the Valar forbid it? Setting his bread down, Gandalf said, "I do not believe I would be given consent."

Legolas said in distress, "Why would anyone deny you love and pleasure?"

Gandalf comprehended that Legolas was still shaken from their previous conversations. The wizard caressed the elf's arm and made his response gentle. "They have not denied me love and pleasure. A binding of my spirit is a different matter. They might feel that doing so will mean I will come home mournful. And, my dear elf, I have to go home when the War is won. I will not stay in Middle-earth."

This was new information to Legolas, but it only increased his desire to have Gandalf join them. If they had only a little time then they must make what they could of what was left. If he was ever to have a chance that Gandalf would love him then it would have to be soon. The archer concentrated on one thing. "Yet you will be sad when you leave even without our bonding. With it, you will have a part of us within you to bring solace."

A surge of longing to experience such closeness blossomed inside Gandalf. His spirit had been alone for all of his existence. "That is true." Gandalf hoped the Valar would view it the same way.

Legolas and Gimli were sheltering both his hands now, waiting for his next response. Legolas' hand was over his while Gandalf's palm rested on top of Gimli's. The two linked their fingers together. Gandalf pined for his spirit to be so harboured in love.

Gimli's other hand come to rest over them. He said to Gandalf, "Legolas and I are aware that there is bound to be feelings of jealousy at times. We don't expect everything to go without any problems. We both understand that we are going to have talk among ourselves a great deal. I guess I will start." He stopped. The notion of having a long conversation about emotions was unappealing under the best of circumstances, and he was weary. Still it would be better than the dreadful hush that had captured the room when Gandalf had turned their proposal down. Gimli reached for his beard, only to have Legolas seize his hand and bring it back to join them. Gazing into Gandalf's eyes, Gimli began, "I have felt very possessive over you for several years now. I do not fancy giving you to another. Legolas does belong to me and, in every other situation I would not be inclined to share him."

Gimli halted, trying to find the right words. "The alternatives, though, are very unpleasant to me. I could hope that you would not take another lover...but..." Gimli sighed, looking away from Gandalf and then back to him. "I hate knowing that you would be alone while I lie loved and sated with my one! That is not what I want! Ever!" His eyes filled with tears, and once more he glanced away.

Legolas rubbed Gimli's back with his free hand. Gimli had not told the archer of these thoughts, but Legolas was not surprised by them.

Gimli continued, his voice very quiet now. "The other choice is to allow you to take another lover instead of Legolas and me. I abhor that even more! I thought...well, I understood it would be difficult to know you might take someone else after me...but I never imagined how much it would hurt to even think about!"

Somehow knowing that Gimli shared some of the very emotions that Gandalf felt made the wizard more willing to accept their offer. Gandalf gripped Gimli's hand. "I overestimated my ability to just let you go to another also, my dear dwarf! I was not intending to be intimate with anyone else, Gimli, so do not be anxious over it."

Gimli nodded. "I do not want you to be lonely, either! There is one way I can look at things that does not bring pain. I can view it as if Legolas is my diamond and you are my mithril."

Gimli squeezed Gandalf's hand. "I love you dearly, and I am willing to give you that which means most to me. Legolas is everything to me, and I can give him the other person that I love.

The dwarf studied the table now. "I know it's not the best attitude on my part, but I am pleased with the idea that I can bring my diamond and mithril together and claim both!"

Legolas grinned. "I have no objection to being called a diamond. I believe that Gandalf and I both need a sense of belonging. Maybe a possessive dwarf is just what is required! Do not feel guilty over it."

Gandalf smiled fondly at Gimli. "I have longed for you to feel possessive toward me, since that is often a sign of love for a dwarf."

Legolas' blue eyes and Gimli's dark brown orbs met the wizard's grey ones. Elf and dwarf waited. Gandalf could see the hope on both faces.

Gandalf's heart had no doubts, though his mind said there was much to consider. "I will see if I can decipher their wish in this matter. If they do not disallow it, I will agree."

There was a cheer from Legolas and an, "Aye!" from Gimli. Gandalf smiled. "Remember it may be forbidden," he cautioned.

The rest of the meal was conducted with soft touches. Gimli and Legolas often reached for Gandalf's hand to caress. Gandalf realised they were reassuring themselves that he was with them and that he was well.

After the meal, Gimli came to Gandalf and with a firm grip on the wizard's shoulder said, "I love you." He headed toward the fireplace.

Legolas stated, "I'll do it."

Gandalf was unsure what this exchange was about, but Gimli clearly discerned what the elf meant. He nodded and went to the bed to rest.

Legolas went to the fireplace and began to get the water ready.

"I can do that." Gandalf said.

"Yes," Legolas answered, "you can. If you had joined us when we first arrived here, that would have been acceptable. As it is, we wanted to make you feel welcomed."

"My dear elf, I definitely feel welcomed!" Gandalf laughed.

When all was in readiness, Legolas pulled the curtain and came to Gandalf. Leaning over, he whispered into Gandalf's ear, "I love you." Legolas did not wait and let the wizard feel awkward because he could not return the sentiment. Legolas joined Gimli on the bed, but he did not tug the dwarf close until Gandalf was behind the curtain.

Gimli was very drowsy as he rested against Legolas' chest. He glanced up at Legolas, "My elf, I do truly believe he will come to love you quickly. I do understand, my one, the risk and that you must be worried over it." He wrapped his arms around Legolas and said, "Remember that I will always be here for you. Nor do I love you less than him. My heart learned to truly love someone alongside him, but you are my one. That makes it equal as far as I am concerned."

Legolas nodded, his fingers nestling into Gimli's hair. "You shelter me, and I shall always love you. I may come to love him as much as I do you, but it will never be more than my devotion to you. Sleep now. I will wake you if a decision is made."

Gimli removed his tunics and tossed them next to the bed. He snuggled against Legolas. His last awareness was of Legolas tenderly covering him with a blanket.

Legolas relaxed against Gimli, but he did not sleep. He listened to the sound of pouring water and reviewed what Gandalf had said. He dwelt for a second on the mysterious "they" who might deny Gandalf permission. He guessed that "they" were the Valar but quickly decided not to muse on it. He could easily imagine that "they" might say to Gandalf, "We do not mind you binding with the dwarf, but the elf is far too curious." Legolas concluded it was best not to think on it much at all.

Still...if Gandalf had to ask then perhaps he should too. Legolas sent a silent plea to Yavanna for consent. As he rested his chin on Gimli's head, Legolas added an appeal to Aule. Then he let his mind drift to a little glen in his forest home and waited for Gandalf to finish bathing.