Boundaries Crossed

by Sarah

Rating: NC-17

Pairing: Gandalf/Gimli

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

Disclaimer: They belong to Tolkien. I claim only the original ideas and characters.

Feedback: Please.

Beta: Nefertiti. Thank you! Any mistakes left are mine.

Chapter 2

Gimli felt that each easy, rolling stride of the pony's steady canter brought him closer to some forbidding destiny. This sensation of discomfort had started when Gloin had said to him, "We should reach Rivendell soon if I remember correctly."

With those simple words, Gimli had suddenly felt that if he set even one foot in the Hidden Vale, everything would change for him and nothing could ever return to the way it had been. These feelings made him uneasy because, try as he might, he could not dismiss them as merely irrational thoughts.

He couldn't stop thinking of Gandalf either. Now that he could not hope to avoid going to Rivendell, he strongly wished Gandalf would be there. Knowing that he was fine was better than the constant, tormenting worry that had begun to insist that the wizard was in great peril. Gimli was prepared to endure the pain of dealing with the fact that Gandalf was with another. He had even started trying to accept seeing the wizard with this nameless elf. Just let him be all right. I'll survive everything else, he told himself over and over.

Five days later, Gimli sat on a bench in a quiet corner of a garden in Rivendell. He had discovered this particular spot on his third day here. He came to it often because it was private, secluded by the surrounding bushes and two big trees on each side. The bench also faced Erebor, and Gimli would gaze in the direction where he knew the mountains must be.

He had visited Bilbo shortly after their arrival and learned from the hobbit that Gandalf was not in Rivendell. Gimli did not sleep well after this news.

It is like a small piece of rubble in the clothes, continually irritating, Gimli had thought, only I can't shake it out. The yearning and anxiety won't go away and it wears on me worse than any water on rock.

Yesterday, after breakfast, Gimli had gone to the bench. The lack of sleep had caused him to nap. He had missed the noon meal and arrived slightly late for the evening one. Gloin had, over the meal, said quietly, "Son, he arrived this afternoon. One of the elves told me. They say he is fine, too."

Gimli had closed his eyes as relief flooded through him. His lover was well. If the wizard was upset because Gimli's decisions were not the correct ones, if he insisted on an agonising conversation about other lovers, or if Gandalf paid Gimli no mind at all, the dwarf felt he could bear it. At least Gandalf was safe. Until next time, his thoughts had reminded him, and he had sighed.

Later in private, Gloin had whispered, "I don't deem he has it. I believe his heir does."

Gimli's thoughts were still on the wizard and he had asked, "Gandalf?" puzzled at what his father was referring to.

"No. Bilbo. He doesn't have It. I don't think. His heir, a hobbit by the name of Frodo, does."

Sheer horror had gripped Gimli then. A hobbit in the Shire had what the Enemy was desperately seeking. Did this hobbit even know what he had?

Today, when Gandalf did not appear for breakfast or the noon meal, Gimli had assumed that the wizard was with his elven lover.

As Gimli sat on the bench and gazed toward the mountains, his reflections went to Frodo. Gandalf was not with this hobbit. Surely he was aware of the danger Frodo faced. The wizard would not be here if Frodo was not somewhere safe, Gimli reassured himself. He could not avoid the nagging fear that if he had convinced the King to send someone to Rivendell after the arrival of the first messenger the hobbit would be guarded by Gandalf now.

Gimli was not the only one anxious over Frodo's welfare. As Gandalf stood in the archway looking toward the Bruinen, he fretted over Frodo. He did not know where in the wilderness Frodo was. Wherever the hobbit and his friends were they would have to cross the Bruinen. Elrond assured him that he would try and help them by means of his magical control of the river. By remaining in Rivendell, the wizard could lend his own power to aid the group if the Riders ambushed them at the Ford. If he spent time searching in the wilderness he might not find Frodo at all and he would risk not being nearby when the hobbit arrived in the valley.

He did trust Glorfindel and realised that if anyone besides himself could save Frodo and the others, it would be this elf. Glorfindel had left Rivendell nine days before Gandalf arrived there, so he would be far ahead of Gandalf if the wizard left now to search. So, reluctantly, the wizard had decided to stay in Rivendell.

Yet to stay idle was extremely taxing. The waiting was making him tense and unsettled. He had returned to Rivendell only yesterday. After giving strict orders that he was to be notified if there was any report of Frodo, Gandalf had gone straight to his rooms. He had slept many hours, awakening to find that the elves had put a simple meal in his chambers for him. He had eaten and gone back to sleep. Gandalf had risen late today and had gone to the kitchens for an early lunch.

Then he had gone to Elrond's study to hear the news and to inform the Lord of many matters including the betrayal by Saruman. They had conversed for several hours now, and Lord Elrond was relating the more minor events that he felt the wizard should be aware of. Gandalf's mind registered the information even as his thoughts raced out to Frodo.

"The dwarves arrived three days before you did. Gloin is here with his son, Gimli."

The shock of these words poured through Gandalf's veins, and as casually as he could, the wizard asked, "Where are the dwarves lodging?"

"They are in the east wing. The rooms in the back nestled against the bluff. They tend to prefer chambers with less open areas." Elrond answered.

Gandalf nodded. "I think that you have told me all I need to know of Frodo, my friend. There is no point in standing here worrying. Can the rest of what you have to relate wait?"

Lord Elrond smiled and Gandalf wondered if his reaction had been very obvious. The elf's next words assured him that it had been.

"There is no rush. The important matters have been discussed." The Elven Lord appeared amused. "At this time of day, you won't find Gimli in his rooms. He has an interesting habit of sitting for hours on a bench in the garden. The same one that you favour. I realised when he took a liking to it that it faces Erebor. And now with your sudden wish to depart, yes, I can see reasons why you want to leave. Go visit with your friend for awhile. I will know where to find you when it is necessary."

Yes, Gandalf thought, Elrond does find this amusing. Well, Lord Elrond can be entertained all he wants. I have a dwarf to talk to.

As Gandalf made his way through the halls and then the gardens, his thoughts were on Gimli. For a few minutes, he wondered why the dwarf had not sought him out, but comprehension was speedy. There could be three reasons for it. Gimli might believe that Gandalf would be with another lover here. A second possibility was that with all the elves around Gimli did not want to risk others knowing that they were lovers and so had not looked for Gandalf. It was also simply possible that the dwarf was not aware that Gandalf was in Imladris.

Gandalf paused as soon as he saw Gimli. The dwarf had not noticed him. Gimli was staring off toward the mountains. There was a slight slump to his shoulders, and Gandalf sighed at his friend's clear unhappiness. The desire to rush forward and hug the dwarf was powerful, but Gandalf had an equally strong notion that Gimli would not appreciate such an action in so public a place without the two of them having discussed what their relationship was to be in Rivendell.

Deliberately making some noise to draw Gimli's attention, Gandalf stepped through the bushes.

Dark eyes suddenly focused on the wizard, and Gimli stood up. The dwarf felt as if his breath had lodged into his throat, and sorrow gripped his chest. How very arduous this was! To be so close and not even be entitled to a hug. Gimli hastily sat down.

Gandalf's impressions were confirmed. There would be no hugging until the two of them talked. He was very disappointed that matters should be so strained between them.

"Gimli, Lord Elrond just told me you were here. How good it is to see you, my dear dwarf!" Gandalf moved to the bench and sat next to Gimli.

Gimli smiled. "I am so glad you are well." He was indeed happy and very relieved. He had discovered through the years, though, that it wasn't until Gandalf's arms were around him that he could release all the worries that had built during the wizard's absence.

Alarm over Frodo and guilt over his own actions surged through Gimli, and he blurted out, "It's my fault. Frodo would be fine if I had told my King. Only I didn't know what to do. I've been so worried about you. I don't even want to be here."

Gandalf was surprised and confused at Gimli's words. "What are you blaming yourself for?"

Gimli took a deep breath. He began to pour out the indecision he had lived with since that first messenger.

After the dwarf had told his tale, Gandalf put his hand on Gimli's shoulder. "You should not think that way. There are too many mights in all that has happened. Your King might have sent you early but he might not have. A message might have finally came to me but most likely it would not have. I was not in Rivendell. Lord Elrond might have sent a letter to Frodo, and the hobbit might have left earlier. It might not have gone any differently at all. You did as I told you to and kept faith with me. You realise that it is possible that Erebor is being watched and anyone leaving earlier could have led the Enemy to Bilbo?"

Gimli stared at his friend in shock. Gulping, he managed, "It never occurred to me."

Gandalf rubbed Gimli's shoulder. "It is a possibly, and if Erebor was being watched, then you'd have been lucky to arrive at Rivendell alive once your destination was known. The Riders would not have wanted anyone warning Lord Elrond. Now those same Riders are somewhere west of here, hunting for Frodo and his companions. Still, I know that Frodo is with Aragorn and should soon be here. I admit that I worry greatly over him, but you are not in the least responsible for the current circumstances or whatever happens."

Gimli had heard Gandalf speak of Aragorn before and comprehended that the Man was trusted. He leaned against the back of the bench and gratefully let the burden he had carrying so long fade.

The nearness of the wizard reminded him of many very pleasant memories, and inwardly he sighed. He hoped they weren't going to have to go through an anguishing discussion about other lovers. Surely Gandalf discerned that Gimli was already aware of the situation.

The closeness of his lover of many years was enticing, and Gandalf shifted slightly. Best to divulge the situation as quickly and directly as possible. Besides, Gimli preferred news delivered that way. "Shortly after our sixty-year anniversary, I ended the relationship with my lover here. I found that my thoughts strayed far too often to you no matter who I was with, so it seemed only fair." That should be blunt enough to be satisfying. Gandalf thought. He glanced at Gimli.

A rush of very different emotions hit Gimli forcefully. Dismay, because he had not wanted the wizard to be alone, and happiness that warred with it. He wondered why Gandalf had stated the revelation so bluntly. He usually liked news declared with no delay, but this was a bit to take in. He said nothing, trying to adjust his feelings and thoughts to blend with the facts instead of with the false belief he had held.

Gimli's silence was disturbing, and Gandalf studied the dwarf's face. His lover appeared to be upset. Perhaps Gimli was unhappy because he did not desire the wizard to be alone. Before Gandalf could respond Gimli started to laugh. "Care to share the humour?" the wizard asked.

"I suppose you never told me because you perceived that I did not want you to be lonely." When Gandalf nodded, Gimli chuckled. "Right after your visit on the sixty third anniversary I was miserable. I realise you wouldn't want me to be, but I can't help but feel some distress at your departure. This time, I did not go back to my lover for comforting. I only needed you. When I did renew the relationship, I discovered that he was no longer content. Neither was I. If I love you enough to feel certain things then I should not be with another."

Gandalf wondered what these certain things were. Perhaps jealousy? He had never observed any possessiveness on Gimli's part, but dwarves were known for such feelings. And he had experienced them himself over Gimli.

"He wanted a commitment from me. I was unclear on what to do until I descried that my cousin was very fond of him. You know Daren."

Gandalf nodded. She was ten years younger than Gimli but the two were as close as siblings. It was not surprising that they would both like the same person.

"I brought the two of them together as often as I could for awhile. Easily enough done as I was usually in the company of one or the other. Then when I thought the time was right, I ended the relationship with my lover. He and Daren are married and have a little lad now. I didn't think you'd approve of me devoting myself to you, so I never disclosed it to you."

The urge to hug Gimli arrived again, and the wizard suppressed it. He did not like the fact that Gimli was going to have many lonely nights, but he could not help but feel joy over the dwarf's love for him.

Gandalf smiled. "You and I should talk more. I need to tell you some things." Gandalf did not want Gimli to hear about Saruman from someone else. "My rooms are more private. Let us go to my chambers and..." he ceased speaking when Gimli shook his head.

"No. Rivendell is very open. I would not be surprised to know that elves never sleep. There are always some about."

Gandalf answered, "I understand that dwarves are very secretive. You do not wish them to know of us?"

Gimli's reply was firm. "I do not care what they realise. I just do not want them to think less of you."

Gandalf frowned. "I am not swayed by arrogant viewpoints, and if they think less of me because of my love for you, then I doubt they were truly my friends to begin with."

"I would not have anyone esteem you less because of me!" Gimli said fiercely.

Gandalf could not recall Gimli ever arguing with him before. He was already tense from worry over Frodo, and his next words were said sharply, "It has been three years and seven months since I last saw you. I have been without a lover for those years, and you've just told me that you have as well. I am not enjoying it, but perhaps you are and would like to abstain for another three years, all so that we take no chances of offending a few elves. I am tempted to set your beard on fire!"

Gandalf instantly concluded that he was being too harsh. He had seen elves cringe at his impatience. He added more softly,"I do not wish to speak on certain matters in the garden where anyone can happen by."

Gimli said, "Your temper has not improved over the years. I believe it is worse. I do, however, see your point. Mayhap you are right and we should retire to your chambers. To talk."

Gandalf sighed. "My patience may not be better, but your stubbornness has grown even more!" He stated these words with fondness instead of the harshness he had used before.

Gimli looked over at him, "Dwarves survive by being stubborn."

Yet he stood up, and Gandalf did too. He had dealt with dwarves and their persistence many times in his long years in Middle-earth. He could handle this too.