Boundaries Crossed

by Sarah

Rating: NC-17

Pairing: Gandalf/Gimli. Gimli/Legolas. Legolas/Gandalf/Gimli.

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

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.

Chapter 20

Time had never been a great concern to Legolas. Now as they cleaned from their loving and prepared to part from Gandalf, each minute seemed something to hold onto. Legolas observed as Gimli paused in pulling on his undershirt to rub Gandalf's arm and smile up at the wizard.

Gandalf noticed Legolas' silence and suspected he knew the reason for it. He tugged his leggings on and then reached for the elf. "Unless something unexpected happens, we will not be separated right away. After all, you are going to Isengard, too! And remember, you carry my love with you." This last statement earned him a smile and a tight hug.

Legolas buried his head in the Istar's shoulder. He took a deep breath and then moved back. "Just see that you take care! And Gimli and I do not expect you to take our part in the disagreement, if there is one."

"Aye." Gimli said putting on his second shirt.

Picking up his tunic, Gandalf said, "What do you mean?"

"Aragorn has threatened to make Gimli stay here if his wound is not healing well. If Aragorn finds something to be concerned over, then of course we will stay here, but Gimli seems well to me. I am not a healer, but Gimli has survived our recent activities."

"I am well!" Gimli's voice was muffled, as he was under the third shirt that he was tugging over his head.

Legolas shared a smile with Gandalf and patted Gimli's leg. 'You wear too many clothes, meleth nín."

When Gimli had his garments on, Gandalf added, "I believe Aragorn will find that Gimli has healed enough to travel. Though I would not be surprised if he still feels that Gimli should rest. If he asks me, I shall tell him that dwarves recover faster than Men, and Gimli will be fine. That would be my opinion even if we had not loved!" Gandalf said sternly, ignoring Gimli's and Legolas' exchanged grins.

A quarter of an hour later, Gimli sat in a chair while Aragorn examined his injury. "I hope you realise that most dwarves would not allow this at all!"

"I believe you've mentioned that a few times, Gimli." Aragorn replied patiently. "But I only want to look at your injury. I'm a healer!"

"Which you have also stated more than once! Yet I see no reason at all for you to know how quickly a dwarf mends! You are a dear friend, and so I permit it."

Legolas grinned. They had been talking like this since Gimli had reluctantly consented to Aragorn removing the very wrap the Man had put there not too many hours ago.

"I suppose," Aragorn continued, "that no one has ever told you before how stubborn you are!"

"I have never seen this trait in Gimli." Legolas chimed in, barely able to restrain his laughter at the wicked look Aragorn gave him in response. The archer observed as the Man inspected Gimli's wound. To the elf's eyes, the injury appeared to be almost completely healed. "It seems fine to me," Legolas stated, not quite able to keep the slight anxiety out of his voice. It was possible that Aragorn discerned something about Gimli's injury that he did not.

"And now you are a healer!" Aragorn teased. "Yet your diagnosis is correct enough. I would still prefer Gimli to rest, but if he insists..."

"I do!" Gimli answered.

"Then a trip to Isengard should not cause more harm."

As they departed from Helm's Deep, Gimli glanced nervously around. He had not liked the forest before they had entered it, and he found it even more unpleasant now they had ridden a short way into it. The trees were grey and frightening. The air was hot and stifling. Gimli complained, "Why did I argue with Aragorn? I do not like these woods! Stay close to Gandalf!"

Legolas desired to be next to the wizard himself and had not intended to stray far from Gandalf.

They were silent for a while and then Legolas said, "These are the strangest trees that ever I saw, and I have seen many an oak grow from an acorn to ruinous age. I wish that there were leisure now to walk among them: they have voices, and in time I might come to understand their thought."

Gandalf was speaking with Theoden, but he heard Legolas' words and the protest from Gimli that followed. Neither response surprised him, but he was taken back over the conversation that ensued.

Gimli asserted that there was a greater wonder in the land than the trees, and he spoke of the beauty of the caves of Aglarond. "My good Legolas, do you know that the caverns of Helm's Deep are vast and beautiful? There would be an endless pilgrimage of Dwarves, merely to gaze at them, if such things were known to be. Aye indeed, they would pay pure gold for a brief glance!"

Legolas claimed that he would pay gold to be excused from seeing them. "And double to be let out, if I strayed in!"

The dwarf retorted, "You have not seen, so I forgive your jest. But you speak like a fool."

Gandalf bit back the reprimand that was on his lips. Legolas and Gimli should be permitted to have their own relationship despite his being a part of it. Besides, Gimli's tone had been kind even if the words were not.

Gimli described the caves to Legolas concluding with,"The Caverns of Helm's Deep! Happy was the chance that drove me there! It makes me weep to leave them."

The elf's tone was affectionate as he told Gimli that he hoped the dwarf would have the good fortune to see the caves after the War. He added, "Maybe the men of this land are wise to say little: one family of busy dwarves with hammer and chisel might mar more than they made."

Gandalf found the discussion dismaying. He had thought all such negative exchanges between the two were over. He was aware that every relationship would have its disagreements, but he did wish they would strive to speak to each other with more love.

The wizard was pleased when they came to an agreement: after the war Gimli would visit Fangorn, and Legolas would go to Aglarond with the dwarf. As he reflected over his lovers' banter, Gandalf appreciated that the elf and dwarf had been attempting to communicate in spite of the vast chasm between their two cultures. They may not have done so as patiently as Gandalf would have wanted them to, but they had been successful in conveying their viewpoints and in finding a solution.

The peace was short-lived, for as soon as they went past the trees, Legolas halted with a cry. "Eyes! Eyes looking out from the tree boughs! I never saw such eyes before."

Before Gandalf could take two good breaths, the elf was headed back into the trees, with Gimli yelling to be let off the horse. "No, no! Do as you please in your madness, but let me first get down from this horse! I wish to see no eyes!"

"Stay, Legolas Greenleaf!" said Gandalf. "Do not go back into the wood, not yet! Now is not your time."

Legolas instantly stopped and turned back to Gandalf. He gave the wizard an apologetic glance, but his gaze kept returning to the trees. Gimli was clearly both upset and angry. Resolved to let elf and dwarf deal with each other without his interference, Gandalf resumed his conversation with King Theoden.

It was not until they came out of the shadow of the hills, that Legolas' desire to investigate the trees faded and thoughts of his actions and how Gimli and Gandalf might perceive them started to trouble him. It occurred to Legolas that neither of his lovers had spoken to him since his dash for the trees. The realisation that he had been willing to force Gimli to go somewhere against the dwarf's will caused Legolas to wince. The archer peered over at Gandalf and imagined that the Istar must be very disappointed in him. And Gimli must be furious. Legolas shuddered.

Gimli had been furious for a while. Gradually he had calmed and begun to be more understanding. Legolas was a wood elf and no doubt found those trees more alluring than gold. Gimli could not fully comprehend how the elf could feel that way, but it was obvious that the archer did. When a shiver ran through his lover, Gimli knew Legolas was thinking of the possible consequences for his conduct. Placing his head against the elf's back for a second, Gimli said, "I don't plan on holding this against you, Legolas."

Relief raced through the elf's veins. Quietly Legolas replied, "I would not blame you if you did. I am sorry, Gimli. I should have let you off the horse first."

"Why did you not?" Gimli rubbed the elf's stomach as he spoke and made sure there was no hint of condemnation in his voice.

"I do not know! It was as if some madness seized me! I had to see those trees, Gimli! I had to! And if I was among them again, I'd probably do it once more! I am sorry!"

Legolas sounded distressed and ashamed, and a memory flashed into Gimli's mind. "Legolas, will you take us to the outside flank so we can talk with less chance of being overheard?"

When they were slightly apart from the company, Gimli said, "I have never shared this with anyone before." He added silently to himself, And I never envisaged that I would tell an elf, and it is a risk I'm taking, for Legolas might not see the similarities at all. After a deep breath, Gimli began, "Once I was trading with another dwarf. All went well until he brought out a small crystal of galena." Gimli sighed. "Legolas, I'm sure that you've heard..." The dwarf paused.

Discerning that Gimli was struggling to share a confidence, Legolas said, "Whatever you tell me will never be revealed to anyone, nor will it change my devotion for you. My love for you is more stable than the mountains you cherish."

Reassured, Gimli continued, "I reckon you've heard about the lust of gold overtaking a dwarf. The galena was grey. A dark silvery grey. It reminded me of his eyes when... when..."

"I have a notion. Go on."

"The strangest sensation took control of me. I had to have that crystal. I just had to! I bid far too high for it. My father was with me and was very shocked at my actions. Luckily I was bartering with an honest dwarf, who was willing to make a profit but would not cheat me. I received quite a lecture for it from my father in private later, but even then I did not regret it. I did not confess to my father all the feelings the crystal caused in me. I don't think one should excuse bad behaviour. Just apologise for it and deal with the penalties. But I never forgot how it made me feel. For months afterwards, I would wake up in the morning and lecture myself about what is important in life: the people I love, my family and friends.

"Often I have studied the galena with the intentions of putting it into a ring, but I've never been able to make changes in it. I detest the emotions it invoked in me, but I love it. I would not trade it for mithril." Gimli fell silent now, worried over Legolas' reaction.

Legolas was overwhelmed with feelings of love. How difficult it must have been for Gimli to disclose that story, knowing Legolas might judge him harshly for it. "Thank you, Gimli. I comprehend what you are saying. Our natures can betray us, and because you understand that, you can be forgiving. I am grateful! Do not fret that I will think less of you. At least your time of madness had motives due to love. Mine did not."

"I could debate that, my elf. For reasons I cannot fathom, you love trees."

Legolas smiled. "You are a kind dwarf. My heart chose well."

"I think we need to have an understanding between us. Legolas, I don't expect you to be Gandalf. You both give me things I cannot get from anyone else. I'm not going to start comparing one of you to the other."

Legolas instantly grasped why Gimli was talking about this subject. "How did you know?"

Gimli patted Legolas' stomach. "If I had been the person to head for the trees, one of my thoughts afterwards might have been that you deserve someone as wise as Gandalf. But I do not love you for your wisdom, my one. Though I do not consider you to be without it! I love you because of who you are, and I cherish Gandalf for who he is; not for his wisdom or any other quality. Nor am I going to put one of you before the other. If it appears to me that I am forced to make such a choice, we will all sit together and talk until we come to a satisfactory resolution. Legolas, the next time you start to criticise yourself, remember how much I love you and banish the thought. I won't be thinking it and neither should you."

"I will do as you wish, if you will do the same."

"Agreed." Gimli vowed.

They travelled in silence, Legolas hoping Gandalf was not so disappointed in him that the new love was damaged. Perhaps he views me differently now and cannot love what he sees.

Gimli ventured, "I believe it would be best to let you have your own relationship with Gandalf without my constant intrusion. I will tell you, though, that you will not find him to be less understanding than I am. You should go to him now and wait for a chance to converse with him."

Legolas decided to speak his heart. "He called me Green Leaf. Yet he did not do so during passion."

"He did not need to get your attention then, as he already had it." Gimli massaged Legolas' stomach. "We've only loved once, my song bird. Do not be discouraged yet. We bonded just hours ago."

"You are right. I shall see if King Theoden can spare Gandalf's concentration for a short time."

Gandalf had also been pondering events. He wished that he had not needed to state Legolas' name as a command, but it had been necessary. He doubted anything else would have granted him the elf's attention. He noted when Legolas and Gimli separated themselves from the company. When Arod was bringing them back, Gandalf turned Shadowfax toward the couple.

Seeing Gandalf headed toward them, Legolas did not re-join the Rohirrim, keeping them slightly apart. "Gimli, can I expect him to be angry?"

"I would be surprised if he is." Gimli said.

Legolas was still formulating an apology when Gandalf rode up next to them. Leaning over, the wizard whispered, "Are you well, Green Leaf?"

Gandalf had known Legolas was beautiful, but the smile that lit the face of the elf made the archer truly breath- taking.

Legolas answered, "I am now. I am sorry for my disobedience. I hope you know that it had nothing to do with our connection. I would have acted the same no matter who ordered me to avoid the trees."

Gandalf was of the opinion that the Valar themselves might have had trouble gaining the focus of the elf from the trees that so fascinated him. "I realise that. I was probably the only one that could put a halt to your actions. The trees are an irresistible lure to a wood elf. I was aware of your nature before we bonded and was willing to love you. The love that began this afternoon has not diminished, my dear elf."

Another brilliant smile from Legolas, and the archer said, "I am fortunate to have such considerate lovers. I shall be more confident in our love next time."

Gandalf glanced at Gimli. The dwarf's dark eyes met his, and Gandalf discerned the gratitude Gimli was feeling due to the wizard's kindness to Legolas. Assured that the warrior had recovered from Legolas' actions, the wizard reached out and squeezed the elf's arm.

After Gandalf had left them, Legolas sighed happily. "How does he know exactly what to say?"

Gimli laughed.

At midnight they camped beside the bed of the Isen River. Legolas and Gimli spread out bedrolls next to each other. Gandalf was headed toward them when Aragorn joined him, laying a hand on his arm. Quietly the Man stated,"You appear to be doing well, my friend. In fact, I would say that you seem positively happy! Quite a change since I spoke with you at Helm's Deep. I hope I am right, and there is a joyful explanation. Although I cannot imagine how there could be."

Gandalf's thoughts had been on Saruman. He was reluctant to depose the other Maia should Saruman prove to still be rebellious. His notice switched to Aragorn as he heard the care, worry, and cautious optimism in the Man's voice. Gandalf met Aragorn's gaze and beheld all the apprehension he had been experiencing over the wizard's welfare. It occurred to Gandalf that he had not discussed with Gimli and Legolas what, if anything, to tell others about their new relationship. Motioning toward Legolas and Gimli, the wizard said, "Let us talk together."

When they were seated, Gandalf said to Gimli and Legolas, "Aragorn wanted to know if I was well."

Insight was quick to elf and dwarf. Gimli thought back to Rivendell, but this was different. The warrior was certain that Aragorn would never think badly of Gandalf or of them. A quick look at Aragorn and the dwarf realised how much the Man was concerned for the Istar. He must have known that Gandalf and I were lovers. He watched Legolas and I grow close in Lothlorien and is afraid Gandalf is hurt. Gimli was very well acquainted with fretting over Gandalf and was not keen on Aragorn experiencing any unnecessary anxiety. Gimli said, "Might as well tell him. That's my opinion."

Legolas recognised that Aragorn was a dear friend to Gandalf, and perhaps the wizard would not want to keep their new bond a secret from him. Still, it was a very private matter to discuss so bluntly, and Gimli's words surprised him. He gave the dwarf a quick glance of disbelief. The archer muttered, "I do not understand dwarves!" Legolas turned to Gandalf. "I agree with Gimli."

Aragorn asked, "Tell me what?"

Gandalf answered, "I have bonded with Legolas and Gimli. I am happy about it!"

Aragorn sat stunned for a moment. Then he said, "I can easily see how this might be the best solution. I am aware of other unions of three. The joining of three in Rivendell is shaky at the best of times. The ones in Lothlorien seem to work, but I know Lady Galadriel has had to give counsel to one of the threesomes. Still, I think this is the only resolution that could bring happiness to all three of you. I will give my blessing." He smiled now.

Legolas and Gandalf were sitting close together, and Aragorn placed a hand on their shoulders. He rested his other hand on Gimli's shoulder. He said, "May Eru guide this union, showering it with love and giving you consideration for each other. May you never be plagued with jealousy and petty discord. Instead aspire to have hearts filled with love for one another. Let your words be gentle, and may you be ever alert to your lovers' perspective. In Eru's name, I request that Legolas', Gimli's, and Gandalf's spirits always be united tightly together in love."

Legolas and Gimli gripped Aragorn's arm. Gandalf hugged him. "Thank you!" Legolas exclaimed.

Gimli added, "Aye, I thank you."

Gandalf told Aragorn, "I am grateful, my good friend. Your blessing means a great deal to us."

After Aragorn had departed, they sat silently together for a short time. Then Gimli rummaged in their travelling gear and retrieved a blanket. He gave it to Legolas, asserting, "The wind has a chill to it. You may have the honour."

Tenderly, Legolas wrapped it around Gandalf. Surprised, Gandalf said, "I do not consider being able to give me a cover an honour. Though I thank you both for it!"

"It is an honour to us, and one that Gimli treasures. He shares it with me only because he acknowledges my love for you."

"Thank you, my friends." Gandalf replied.

Gimli stretched out with another blanket and fell asleep using one of his packs for a pillow. Legolas lay next to him.

Some time later, Gandalf glanced down at them. Legolas was on his back between Gimli and the wizard. He was staring at the sky, the fingers of one hand playing with Gimli's braid. He smiled up at Gandalf, but said nothing. The wizard realised that the archer was respecting his need to contemplate events. Drawing the coverlet over himself, Gandalf settled in next to the elf, resting on his side.

Legolas scooted closer until his side was against the Istar's. "Gimli says that the Men do not see well in the dark. We can rest closely and no one would notice."

Gandalf moved down so his head was against Legolas' shoulder. The archer gently brought Gimli close. "He may call for you. He does so quite often in his sleep." Under the blanket, Legolas' fingers found the end of Gandalf's beard, which he placed on his own chest.

Gandalf answered, "Aragorn asked that we not be plagued by jealousy, but I wonder how you can not be when he does that."

Curling his fingers into Gandalf's beard, Legolas replied, "There are things that I envy, but I understand that he sorrows still after Moria, and only your presence assuages that grief. I am not jealous of his love for you or yours for him. I knew when I accepted him in Lothlorien that he would always love you. I would have difficulty trusting someone to love me if that person easily forgot his lover at their death. Gimli loves deeply, and that is to my benefit too.

"Nor does intimacy between you two bother me when I am included. Perhaps in time, it will not trouble me even when I am not part of the loving. And one day I hope to just watch the two of you love and enjoy the beauty of it.

"The things that give me difficulty are matters that will be solved by time, and I am content to wait. For instance, I covet the way you two can communicate without speaking. But our bond will aid all three of us in being sensitive to each other. I have only to be patient."

Gandalf placed his arm around Legolas, "How beautiful is your spirit, my Green Leaf! I think you are closer to that time than you realise. Gimli and I communicate so well because of shared experiences. Your discussion about the blanket tonight shows you are well on your way to achieving your goal. You knew what Gimli was referring to without asking him."

Legolas smiled and gazed down into Gandalf's eyes. "I love you!" He stroked Gandalf's arm. "How are you doing, meleth nín?"

Gandalf kept his hand on Gimli's chest, his arm over Legolas. "I have been fortunate to not be bothered with jealousy often. I have felt it during my time in Middle-earth, but it has always been a fleeting emotion. I am glad for that, as I found the sensation very unpleasant. I cannot help but feel a little envy of your being Gimli's one. It is not a strong feeling, and I certainly will not dwell on it or in any way encourage it. I concentrate on my happiness concerning it. And I do have some joy over it! During the Quest, it began to hurt me: I would leave Gimli one day and then who would bring him solace? My heart ached over it often as I gazed upon him sleeping so peacefully next to me. Knowing you will be there to help him through his bereavement does bring me gladness."

Legolas caressed Gandalf's face. "Nevertheless, Gimli is bonded to an elf and a wizard. That surely sets him apart from what is typical for dwarves. I may be his one, but the bond between us makes all three of us one. You are united with me and therefore a part of me. This makes you his one also, since we are not truly separate from each other. I believe if you are content to wait a little longer, you will discover that Gimli will look upon you and see you as he does me. Our unity is such that in time it will make no difference who started as Gimli's one, he will behold us both in that fashion."

Gandalf listened to the elf. He did not know if it would truly happen that way, but his heart was comforted. His love for the archer increased as he realised Legolas was willing to share even his importance to Gimli with him.

Placing his hand over Gandalf's heart, Legolas said, "I can feel our association. My spirit is infused with power and strength that is not my own. And mingled with it all is an undercurrent of joy and hope that makes me rejoice. I can sense Gimli, too. He is similar to a candle but his flame never flickers. His spirit blends with ours, a steady fire. I can feel our link easily, so surely you must be conscious of it."

Gandalf nodded. He found Legolas' hand under the blanket and squeezed. "At first, I found it a bit disconcerting. My spirit has been solitary for a long time. It was..." He searched for a way to express how it had felt. Spying Shadowfax nearby, the wizard said, "It was as if my spirit had been free to roam and then for the first time I encountered a fence." Gandalf smiled at the expression of distaste on Legolas' face. "Fences are not all bad, my elf! They can give one a home. I realised it was far more akin to a pleasant stone border around a cottage. I am surrounded with love and sheltered by it. Now I've had time to adjust, I..." Holding Legolas' gaze, Gandalf said, "I fully comprehend how lonely I was, and I would never want to return to the way I was before."

Legolas smiled.

They huddled together, and Gandalf napped for a time before he got up to walk around the camp and think. The upcoming meeting with Saruman weighed heavily on his mind. He had circled the camp once and had stopped to talk to Shadowfax when he heard Gimli's drowsy voice call him. Gandalf came to sit next to the dwarf. Legolas sat close to Gimli. Gandalf was not certain, but he suspected that the elf had an arm around the dwarf.

When the wizard had seated himself, Gimli scooted back a little. His strong hands started to massage the Istar's back. "You are causing yourself to be tense." His fingers sought out each tight muscle.

Legolas kneaded the Istar's stressed shoulders.

Gandalf wondered if he had awakened Gimli. During the Quest, he had noticed the dwarf's increasing sensitivity to his moods. The bond they now shared would likely multiply that awareness. He hoped that he had not been the cause of Gimli's being awake, because if he was, the dwarf was liable to have many sleepless nights. "Did I wake you?" he asked the dwarf.

"I do not think so. I just woke up. I did not intend to sleep long." Gimli could feel his lover relax under his touch.

Legolas' eyes met the wizard's, and Gandalf saw that the elf understood what he had been asking, too. The archer answered, "He started to stir about mid-way through your pacing around the camp."

Gandalf tried to recall at what point he had begun to feel anxious, but he could not narrow it down to a certain time. "That feels good. Thank you." Gandalf said to both of them.

It was almost ten minutes later, when a strange darkness crept along toward them. Gandalf stood up to call to the company around them. "Stay where you are! Draw no weapons! Wait! And it will pass you by!"

A mist gathered about them. Above them a few stars still glimmered faintly; but on either side there arose walls of impenetrable gloom: they were in a narrow lane between moving towers of shadow. They heard voices, whisperings and groanings and an endless rustling sigh; the earth shook under them.

Gimli buried his head into Legolas' chest. Then as if fearing that Legolas would be as curious about the gloom as the elf had been about the trees, the dwarf put one leg over the archer's. Gimli entwined his other leg around his lover's. The warrior's arms enclosed Legolas tightly, and Gimli held on as if trying to anchor the elf to him.

"This is not something I want to investigate." Legolas whispered in Gimli's ear. "It frightens me."

Gimli did not budge. His voice could barely be heard as he answered, "Aye, me too."

"It will pass." Gandalf informed them.

Indeed the darkness did pass, though it lasted far too long for the frightened company. The wizard spent the remainder of the night going among the Rohirrim and encouraging them. He came to Gimli's and Legolas' side several times. They were exchanging their lives' history in quiet voices. Each time, the Maia visited them he was treated to a back rub and an "I love you" from the two.

Slowly the night hours passed. At dawn, they continued the journey to Isengard.

Gimli knew dealing with Saruman had to be an ordeal for Gandalf. Yet if it had not been for worry over how Gandalf was faring, Gimli would have enjoyed the time at Isengard. He was re-united with Merry and Pippin, he had a pipe and pipe-weed, Legolas got to see Treebeard, and the dwarf had been able to compare Saruman with Gandalf. Perhaps the earlier union of spirit with Gandalf was the true cause, but somehow the events at Isengard seem to solidify matters for Gimli. The dwarf had beheld both wizards and realised that there was one difference that was all important. Gandalf belonged to Legolas and him.

Gandalf had noted the fretful looks Gimli occasionally threw his way. After his conversation with Treebeard, the wizard managed to join Legolas and Gimli. The two were standing by Arod a short distance from the group that was preparing to leave.

"So, Gimli, am I like Saruman or not?" Gandalf asked.

"Aye, and yet different also."

Gandalf laughed. "That is a tactful answer, my dwarf! If I promise to say nothing disagreeable about your opinion, will you grant it to me?"

"Aye, if you'll tell me how you fare." Gimli smiled up at Gandalf.

Legolas grinned and shook his head. They sounded like two bargaining dwarves to him.

Gimli shrugged. "It is just the view of a foolish dwarf, but I will share it. Remember you promised! No sternness and no use of the eyebrows!"

The statement about Gandalf's eyebrows puzzled Legolas. He wasn't fond of having Gandalf direct that particular gesture at him, either, but it seemed odd that Gimli would dislike it enough to mention it. Legolas' bewilderment increased when Gandalf laughed.

Gimli began, "You are alike because when I behold either of you there is a sense that I am not seeing what really is. I doubt that I am even observing a reflection. There is something that you both are that is beyond your appearance.

"You are unlike in three major ways. You are sunlight and perhaps once he was too, but now it is as if a shadow has come in front of the sun."

"You are very perceptive." Gandalf said. He was not able to keep the sorrow from his voice.

Instantly Gimli moved closer and Legolas placed a hand on the wizard's shoulder and squeezed.

"Continue, my dwarf." Gandalf encouraged.

"His words are sweet, but even when you are trying to persuade, your manner is not as his is. And I am not certain you are correct about another matter!" Gimli declared.

"One thing at a time, Gimli! So you think my words are not as pleasurable to hear as his!" Gandalf frowned, but his eyes were lit with amusement.

"They may not be as honeyed as Saruman's, but they are better. Far better! Anyone with intelligence would rather have truth than lies no matter how much sugar has been mixed with the dishonesty! I'm very familiar with all your manners of speech and never have I heard deceit when you attempt convince someone on an issue."

Gandalf smiled. "Thank you, my dear friend! And the third way I am dissimilar?"

Lowering his voice, Gimli declared, "You belong to Legolas and me!"

Smiling, Gandalf said happily, "Yes, I do! What matter do you believe I am incorrect about?"

Gimli glanced at the Men around them. It would soon be time to leave. He sighed. "It is true that I did not recognise you after Moria."

Legolas resisted the impulse to assert that people that died were not usually expected to come back, and Gimli could hardly be blamed if he had not thought it possible.

The dwarf continued, "You said that I would see what Saruman wanted me to. There I think you were right. But if I spent hours in the company of Saruman, I believe I would know that he is not you."

"You may indeed be correct. You certainly were influenced less by his voice than those around you. I have not had the opportunity to reflect on recent events. It pains me to have to judge Saruman. My joy in our newly formed union eases the ache a great deal." He gripped Gimli's shoulder reassuringly and smiled up at Legolas. "I regret that Saruman chose this path, but I am doing well." The wizard noticed that the Men near by were almost ready to depart. "And time presses! Let us leave Isengard. There is much still to be done!"

Gandalf turned to leave and then looked back at Gimli. "You may explain the joke to Legolas, if you wish."

"What jest does he speak of?" Legolas asked, as Gandalf called to Shadowfax.

"About his marvellous eyebrows! And I do not call the discomfort involved humorous!" Gimli protested.

"Discomfort? What exactly did you do..."

Gimli leaned up and Legolas shifted down so the dwarf could whisper in his ear.

The sun was setting as they left Isengard. Ents were in a solemn row at the gate, but even his fascination with them did not prevent Legolas' thoughts from wandering to another subject. The elf was musing on something he had never considered dwelling on before: Gandalf's eyebrows.

They camped in a dale, two hours or so before the middle of the night. They lit a fire in a hollow, down among the roots of a spreading hawthorn. After a meal, Gimli and Gandalf joined the hobbits and Aragorn for a quick smoke before sleep. Legolas left the shelter of the hawthorn to walk around the camp and gaze at the stars. Finding a spot against a moonlit hill, Legolas dodged a thorn bush, and settled down into some bracken. Isengard had given Legolas many things to muse about. He was not sure what he had expected Saruman to be, but he was positive that the reality was far removed from his anticipation. Legolas was certain that he had figured out who Gandalf was. The archer grinned as he imagined trying to discuss this subject with Gimli. The dwarf would be very uncomfortable with such a conversation and would probably refuse to talk at all.

Finished with his smoke, Gimli carefully put his pipe away. He bade Aragorn and the hobbits a good night. Softly he said to Gandalf, "Legolas and I hope to speak with you later."

Gimli stood up and looked around the camp. Legolas was nowhere to be seen. Gimli tried to guess where an elf would go. Somewhere in the darker part of the camp where the archer could see the stars better seem logical, but some instinct guided Gimli toward an area aglow with moonlight. When he had approached the base of a small hill, he heard Legolas call, "I'm here, Gimli."

"I thought I might find you basking in the moon's glow." Gimli answered. "Do you need to be alone or were you just trying to escape our smoke?"

"I wanted to enjoy the night, but your company is most welcomed. I wish you to speak with you, mellon nín. Gandalf must be tired. We will go back in a while and see if he is ready to sleep. How are you faring?"

"The injury is a bit sore, and I'm weary, but I wouldn't mind conversation with you before slumbering." Gimli answered. "This place is overrun with thorn bushes!" the dwarf complained as he tried to find a place to sit next to the elf.

Legolas scooted down and then patted the ground. "Here, my love."

When Gimli was next to the archer and at ease, he asked, "What did you want to discuss?"

"The stars, the moon, and why dwarves think as they do!" Legolas joked.

Gimli laughed. "I shall get no sleep tonight!"

Glancing around to make sure no one was listening to them, Legolas answered, "Gandalf does seem to be doing well, although it must be difficult for him. Saruman, that is."

"Aye." Gimli answered. "I suspect that he hated having to confront Saruman. He said that he hasn't had much time to dwell on it and maybe that is for the best."

Sighing, Legolas said, "I wish he did not have to bear such burdens."

They were silent for a moment. Gimli was wondering if the wizard was agonising over what Saruman's fate might be. He suspected that Gandalf often thought about it.

Legolas was reviewing the occurrences at Isengard. He glanced fondly down at Gimli who was resting against his chest. "What a sensible person you are!"

"And what did I do to deserve this compliment?" Gimli queried.

"I am glad you told Gandalf that we desired a closer view of Saruman. I wanted to stay near Gandalf."

Gimli smiled. "We are the only representatives of our people here."

Legolas said, "It troubles me that for a second there, I thought Gandalf would go into the tower and leave us."

Gimli could hear the guilt in Legolas' voice for believing Gandalf would desert them. "Humph! Not likely after Saruman's hospitability last time! Though I thought it myself for an instant, but I don't feel guilty over it and neither should you. That was entirely Saruman's doing. I reckon he could convince a dwarf to leave a mound of gold untouched, if the dwarf was so foolish as to keep listening to him!"

"You are more resistant to his voice than the rest of us. I don't think he liked that much! Still, if you assumed it yourself briefly, then I can stop feeling disloyal."

"You can! He has a persuasive voice." Gimli stated firmly.

"The other issue is that seeing Saruman made me consider who Gandalf really is and..." Legolas paused. "Stop squirming so much, Gimli. I am not going to ask you to divulge anything you might know about him. I just realised that Gandalf is the only wizard helping us. I discerned that before...but what I'm trying to say is that when the time comes we not only have to let him go home, we have to help him do so if he needs us to. Otherwise..." Legolas sighed.

"Otherwise there will be no wizards that can claim they did all they were supposed to. It is possible that Radagast is aiding us in ways that we are not aware. Although from what Gandalf has told me I would say he is not."

Gimli leaned against Legolas and the elf wrapped his arms around the dwarf. Gimli looked up at the archer and said, "How hard it will be for us to let Gandalf depart! Yet you are correct. We must."

They sat quietly for a time. Legolas was about to suggest that they hunt for Gandalf when the elf realised that Gimli was almost asleep. Legolas shifted to get comfortable. He smiled in happiness when the dwarf sleepily muttered, "Love you, my song bird."

Legolas let Gimli nap for a short time. He was about to awaken the dwarf, so they could find Gandalf and rest next to him, when a piercing cry rang through the cold night air.

Elf and dwarf were instantly on their feet. "Which of the hobbits, Legolas?" Gimli asked.

"Pippin, I think. This way." Legolas headed in the direction the scream had come from with Gimli close behind him.

The events that followed went far too fast in Gimli's estimation. It was apparent that Gandalf had been sleeping with the palantir; a fact that made Gimli feel remorse for slumbering before joining the wizard. The news that Pippin had stolen the palantir and looked into it scarcely registered in Gimli's mind before the Nazgul darkened the skies above them. And then faster than Gimli could blink, or so it seemed to the dwarf, Gandalf was gone. He had taken Pippin and departed for Minas Tirith. Gimli was staring after his lover in consternation when Legolas tapped him on the shoulder. "Does that qualify as an abrupt departure with no farewell?"

"Aye, isn't it wonderful?"

"Wonderful." Legolas repeated as if discovering the word for the first time and not finding it to his liking.

"Aye, wonderful," Gimli insisted firmly despite the worry in his heart. "I suspect it is one reason the Valar gave him permission to bond with us. He has let nothing deter him from doing as he should. I am proud of our wizard!"

"So I am!" Legolas answered. "You are right: it is wonderful!"

The two turned their attention to Aragorn, and soon afterwards they left with the company for Hornburg.

They arrived at Hornburg shortly before dawn. Legolas and Gimli went to their chamber. After bathing, they collapsed together on the furs. Legolas snuggled close to Gimli and sighed. "If there are guidelines for a union of three, I do not know them. I do strongly believe that we should not go beyond this." He placed a quick kiss on Gimli's lips. "Gandalf did not give us any restrictions, and I doubt he would. This is exactly why we should not be intimate. He needs to view this as his relationship, too, with all the rights to it that we have, including the privilege of limiting our actions to those that he is comfortable with."

Sliding his fingers into Gimli's beard, Legolas continued, "And most of all it is essential that he feels you are his dwarf. You are mine, also, but I love him, and I won't have Gandalf imagining that my desires are first in your heart."

"I concur. Hopefully it will cause Gandalf to see you as belonging to him, also. It is not just your behaviour that is being confined, after all. Mine is too!"

"You are right. I do not find it so easy to finally be alone with you and yet not love. You smell enticing..." he sniffed Gimli's hair.

"Like spices," Gimli muttered good-naturedly.

"Yes, delectable spices." Legolas whispered. "And now we had best sleep."

Gimli closed his eyes, but they opened at Legolas' question, "What does our connection feel like to you?"

"I guess elves can talk and doze at the same time! I don't have an answer for you. I'm not an elf, my one, and I'm not constantly aware of my spirit."

Gimli's eyes shut again, but Legolas was cognisant from the pattern of the dwarf's breathing that the warrior was thinking and not napping. Legolas' judgement was confirmed when five minutes later, Gimli stated, "It feels as if I'm lying between both of you, listening to your heartbeats. It's soothing and relaxing. I can sense each breath from both of you, and my own heart seems to slow to match my mates.

"I understand why elves die from grief now. Our union is a peaceful, secure sensation. I am already becoming accustomed to it. If it was ripped from me, my sorrow would be great." As gently as he could, Gimli added, "I believe if you both were to die together at the same time then Mahal would need to take my spirit. I'm not sure that I would keep enough of my own essence to sustain life. It would be too much."

Legolas' gaze held Gimli's, and the archer nodded. "I suspected as much. You are unique among your people."

Laughing, Gimli said, "Wonderful!"

Legolas shook his head. "I hardly call it wonderful to assume that one will die if one's spouses do!"

"Aye, that is true. All the same, it is wonderful because it means I have the two of you!"

Gimli closed his eyes again, and lulled by the dwarf's steady breathing, Legolas slipped into repose.