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: 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 8

Gandalf arrived back at his chambers to quiet rooms. He was surprised not to find Gimli there. He had conversed with Elrond for a long time and had thought Gimli would be back by now. They had not talked much since Frodo's arrival in Rivendell. They had shared a brief time of love after Frodo had recovered but there had been no long conversations. The wizard settled into a chair by the fireplace with a book and a goblet of mead.

Gimli came to the rooms he shared with the wizard. His hand reached for the doorknob when the smooth voice stopped him.

"Have you lost your way?"

Gimli groaned inwardly. He did not like the quiet footfall of elves that made them impossible to discern and he was leery of having yet another chat with one in the hall. "I am not lost."

"Perhaps you do not realise these are Mithrandir's chambers. I do not feel it is wise for you to barge in on our wizard."

Gimli tried to hold back the rising tide of anger. "I did not realise that Gandalf belonged to elves but since you imagine that you have some claim on him, you may knock. I was told that it was not necessary to knock and I shall not do so for your sake."

Inside the chambers, Gandalf was instantly on his feet and headed toward the door. He could not descry the words but he could detect the low rumble in Gimli's voice. During moments of passion, he had many times heard his lover's sounds in that deep bass that only dwarves could achieve, but he knew that the noise he now perceived was a warning to someone. Jerking the door open, he took in the sight of a clearly angry dwarf and an upset elf. Addressing the elf, he asked, "What is the trouble, Tean?"

"This dwarf, Gimli, I believe..."

"Aye, it is."

Gandalf discerned the small trace of humour in his lover's voice.

"Gimli was going to just walk right into your chambers as if he lives there!"

Gimli felt for Tean now, and the sense of the sympathy increased at Gandalf's, "He does!" The dwarf also saw that the elf did not yet comprehend the full meaning of this statement.

Tean stared at Gimli.

Gandalf watched as the implications slowly came to the elf. The widening of eyes, the slight flush and the embarrassment showed that Tean understood.

Gimli must have felt for the elf for he said, "No harm done."

Gandalf said to Tean, "Surely the gossip is such that you have heard rumours of this matter."

Tean replied indignantly, "I do not listen to idle talk!" Directing his focus to Gimli he said, "My apologies."

Gimli shrugged, "You meant to be kind. I am not offended."

Nodding, the elf left.

Gimli headed for the wine cabinet.

Gandalf watched as Gimli helped himself to wine, took a big gulp, and called, "Do you want something to drink?"

"No, thank you. I already have some mead." He studied Gimli as they settled into chairs by the fireplace. The dwarf appeared to be distressed. The Council had revealed many things that might have caused Gimli dismay. The wizard sipped his mead and waited patiently.

After several sips of the wine, Gimli said, "We need to talk."

Gandalf nodded. He pulled his chair as close to Gimli's as possible. He missed the chair in Erebor where they could sit together.

Gimli moaned, and the wizard felt a tinge of worry. What was his friend brooding over?

"We need to talk," Gimli repeated, "about a few issues. Have you spoken to Legolas?"

Legolas, the wizard thought, startled. He had expected Gimli to mention Erebor or some personal concern. "No. Why?"

Gimli stared into the fire. "When I left the Council I went to the bench that I like in the garden. I mused over many concerns. I went over everything mentioned and began to feel very angry again about the episode with Gollum. The fool did not even fully realise what the consequences might be."

Gandalf stated, "Legolas did not have as much information on the topic as you did. He was never told about the Ring and Gollum's connection to it."

Gimli sighed. "All the more reason I should not feel wrath over it. When I was pondering the matter, I remembered how much it distressed me trying to guess what you wanted me to do when the messengers came to Erebor. And he does not seem to have enough respect for you!" Gimli took a deep breath and had more wine. "I sat there a long time, infuriated and contemplating this and other problems.

"Then it occurred to me that I would have been miserable had you told me that my judgement was not correct when I concluded that I should not tell my King about Bilbo. If it had been my fault that Frodo was endangered...I would not want you to dislike me over my lack of wisdom."

Gimli grabbed Gandalf's hand. "It was a mistake on Legolas' part. You should go speak with him. I am sure he is saddened that he failed you and needs to know that you do not hold it against him. We can talk afterwards. Will you?"

Gandalf stared at Gimli. Then he placed a kiss against Gimli's lips and softly said, "Yes. You have a kind heart."

"Aye, and it shall cause me trouble one day. I am certain of it." Gimli grumbled, but he smiled and he caressed his lover's face.

Gandalf rubbed Gimli's shoulder. He kept Gimli's hand clasped in his own. "Before I go, there is something you should know. I have had a long conversation with Elrond. He is going to have a meeting with the Mirkwood elves. He feels that they are here at this time for a reason. I agree. Elrond is going to ask them to choose a representative to send with Frodo."

Gimli did not understand why this related to him but he replied, "You deem that Legolas will be selected."

"Yes. Lord Elrond intends to make the same request of the dwarves."

"I see." Gimli did grasp what Gandalf was hinting at. "It could be decided either way. I will be needed at home."

They moved together again, lips brushing, and then Gandalf stood up. "I shall go speak with our elven friend," he teased.

"No! Not 'our'!" Gimli protested. "I cannot even talk to the creature and understand him!"

Gandalf laughed. He laid his hand on Gimli's shoulder and said, "You are far more understanding than you imagine yourself to be."

Gandalf tapped on the door. The house steward had informed the wizard that Legolas lodged here.

"Enter."

Gandalf stepped into the room, and his gaze found Legolas. The elf was sitting in an open window at the far end of the room.

Legolas smiled and stood up when the Istar entered the room. "Mithrandir, welcome. May I get you some wine?"

"Yes, thank you." Gandalf sat at the small white table. He could hear the melancholy in the voice and see the sadness like dewdrops on bluebells in Legolas' eyes. It was good to see his friend again, but Gandalf disliked the slump of the shoulders in the otherwise graceful figure.

As soon as Legolas sat down he began, "I am sorry. I will not bother you with explanations, for there is no excusing it. You gave me a responsibility, and I did not keep trust with you." His eyes held the wizard's as he talked, but his gaze went to the table as soon as his words were finished.

Gandalf said gently, "I am not angry at you, nor do I intend to hold you to account for Gollum's actions. I would like to hear about Gollum's stay in Mirkwood."

There was a nod from Legolas, and he began, "I would take Smeagol his fish each morning so that I could make sure he was being treated well."

There was an almost imperceptible shudder from the elf, and Gandalf said, "I understand. Gollum's manners are nonexistent. Go on." he encouraged.

"I would ask of his welfare, but it was hard to distinguish real complaints from simple whining. He said that elves had a bad stench and he would choke if he could not have some fresh air. Awful was our scent to him, and he repeatedly complained that our speech hurt his ears and our bright eyes brought him pain. He would often declare us the cruellest of beings. I saw no way that Smeagol would be cured if we truly were so odious to him. He was always gagging and gasping. He asserted that even our skin's glow was difficult to abide."

Legolas' orbs are not so bright now, Gandalf reflected. They are more like the sea on a cloudy day. The wizard descried that Legolas valued their friendship and was hurt over the imagined failure. This had to be mended.

Legolas remembered the pity he had experienced for the creature. "Smeagol had many things he was upset about, and I could not solve any of them. I did attempt to make the situation easier for Smeagol in many ways, including asking that no one sing in areas where he might overhear them. I let him keep the fish bones in his cell, because he said the odour was better than our smell."

Legolas did not mention that some of the wood elves had started resenting Smeagol for calling them cruel and hating everything about them. They did not like Smeagol's aroma anymore than he enjoyed theirs, and the fragrance of dead fish disgusted them, too. Legolas soon found that very few could be trusted to give Smeagol much attention, and he had taken over the majority of the work that was needed to see to it that the person was tended to.

Smeagol would often cover his ears and shriek one of his many complaints such as, "Their voices hurts us" or "Staring at us they are, trying to cause pain, precious..."

As he tried to rest, Legolas had recalled the creature's cries each night that Smeagol had been imprisoned, and his spirit had been downhearted.

Gandalf observed the despondency ripple through Legolas, and his own heart felt dejected. "I am pleased with your actions, Legolas. I know without having to be told that many would have given Smeagol a great deal less consideration."

Legolas sighed sadly. "I took him out to the courtyard by the gate. But it was not enough. He could see and hear us, and the air reeked of our odour, according to him. I picked trusted guards and let him climb trees so he could get away from our presence and find the fresh air he claimed to need." He realised now that Smeagol had used his concern.

Gandalf sorrowed over Legolas' discouragement. "Legolas, I see no error in your decisions. You are carrying unnecessary guilt. Smeagol's escape was carefully planned and executed. Not something you could prevent unless you kept Smeagol locked up constantly. Gollum saw your care for him and played upon it. The enemy watched very closely and was poised for attack the second the opportunity arrived. You cannot control the intrigues of Sauron or his servants."

Legolas considered the words. His mistake had been in being too kind, but at the time he had feared for Smeagol. Mithrandir had said that the individual had done evil but might still be redeemed from it. Yet how Smeagol could recover any goodness anguishing in some dungeon, Legolas did not know. He wished he had ignored Smeagol more, but his heart had insisted on feeling mercy.

Gandalf observed Legolas, hoping that the archer would accept his consolation. The elf was studying the wizard thoughtfully. "I did not tell you about the Ring and the darker forces seeking Gollum. I felt the fewer people that knew, the better. You did not see any reason for confining Gollum permanently, because I gave you no rationale that would lead you to do so. You took what precautions you could. What you had power over, you dealt with as well as anyone could, maybe better, especially given the adversaries you were facing. Enemies that you were not aware of were willing to aid Gollum."

Gandalf paused, trying to judge if the silent elf across from him was feeling less remorse. The eyes that held the wizard's reminded Gandalf of the ocean at dawn when the sun's first rays fall over the water. Legolas was clearly starting to allow the regret to fade.

There was something else the Istar could say that might aid his friend. "My dear elf, you are a warrior and have been in battles. You know events sometimes occur over which we have no command. Even with our best efforts, people die or are injured. It is not anyone's fault. You did all you could under the circumstances. You are not to blame for what happened, mellon nín.

"I agreed to allowing you to be in charge of Gollum because I was certain that I could rely on your compassion. I did not want Gollum to be ill treated, and you saw him as an individual with feelings. Most people find this impossible to do, given Gollum's behaviour. You respected his emotions even though they were antagonistic of you. Not many would have done so because Gollum is burdensome. All I required from you is that you act toward Gollum as you would any living mortal, showing the warm heart that is a part of your nature. You more than fulfilled your obligation to me."

Legolas nodded, and he felt as if suddenly the trees that had been blocking his view had been removed and he could see across a wide clear valley. A valley that refreshed his heart and spirit with its beauty. Mithrandir was right. Thranduil's son recognised that he had made the best decisions that he could have at the time.

Gandalf could see the change in Legolas. The elf's eyes now held the light from the sun that dances across the ocean waves. His own heart soared with happiness like the eagles he loved.

"Thank you."

Now Gandalf heard the happy lilt that he was accustomed to perceiving in Legolas' tone. Smiling, he asked, "How is your family?"

They talked of Mirkwood for awhile.

After Gandalf left, Legolas perched in the open window, letting the soft breeze surround him. For the first time since Smeagol's escape, he felt like singing. His voice lifted in a happy melody.

Outside the door, his hand still on the latch, Gandalf smiled.

When Gandalf arrived back at his quarters, Gimli was sitting at the table. The dwarf had some parchments spread across the table and was studying them. His hair had been loosened from its braids and fell over his shoulders. The light from the chandelier played with the highlights of red in Gimli's tresses.

Gandalf came to Gimli's side, and his fingers stroked the glints of bright colour in the dwarf's hair.

Gimli smiled up at him. "Is your friend all right?"

"He was singing happily when I left, but I did need to talk to him. He was very dispirited over Gollum." Gandalf's fingers strayed down to Gimli's neck to rub lightly. He glanced at the papers Gimli had been pursuing. "Are you making a harp?"

"No. Father is. Lindir is impressed with the flute father made. I do not have much experience making such items, but I offered to help father. As soon as it is done we will go back to Erebor, so Lord Elrond needs to have his meeting within the next two weeks. We have no other work, so this will be done quickly."

Gandalf did not care to dwell on Gimli's departure. He massaged Gimli's shoulders. "Have you encountered any trouble with the elves here?"

Gimli leaned into the delightful caresses. "I have always loved your fingers. And to answer your question, I rather like the elves here. Most of them, anyway. I've spoken with Glorfindel often. He reminds me of you, although I am not sure why. No one has outright said anything to me about us. A few of them must know or suspect, because I've been told several tales about you." Gimli grinned up at the wizard. "All good. Except for the one that advised me that you have a temper. There was also the elf that seemed to be trying to decide if I was good enough for you. That was rather irritating."

Gandalf paused in his touches. He had a suspicion that he could guess the name of this elf. "And who was this elf?"

Gimli reached for Gandalf's hand and squeezed it. "I can't tell you that. I handled it. We are both still alive."

"Still alive! Gimli, that is not encouraging."

Gimli chuckled. "He is not overly agitated, and I am not very insulted."

"That is better but not the best I could hope for."

Gimli's thumb stroked the palm of the wizard's hand. "Could we take this conversation into the bedroom and perhaps discuss there? I realise we have yet to talk about the Council but there is a more personal matter that I wish to speak of, and I would prefer to do that while holding you close."

"Yes." Gandalf heard unhappiness in Gimli's voice and glanced down at his lover.

Gimli shook his head.

Gandalf's unease increased. Gimli was despondent enough over something that he longed for the wizard's embrace to vocalise the difficulty.

Only after their clothes were removed and Gimli had wrapped his arms around Gandalf and rested his head on the wizard's shoulders did the dwarf speak. "After the Council, my first thoughts were of you. The danger you are going to be in. And I remembered how you told me that you were here to aid in the fight against the Shadow. You also said that you would leave Middle-earth if Sauron was defeated."

Gandalf's fingers moved through the thick strands of Gimli's hair. He did not try to sooth Gimli, as he was aware that his lover did not wish him to.

"So..." Gimli took a shuddering breath and then said, "If Frodo fails, then it is only a question of how long before Erebor falls. Boromir is right. None of us can stand alone and hope to last. If the Quest does not succeed, then perhaps we are doomed whether we battle together or not. Should we win, you will leave. Victory will for me be bitter indeed." He closed his eyes.

Gandalf did not try to hide his own sorrow when he answered, "It is not a choice that I am given, my dear lover. I consented to help Middle-earth, and part of what I concurred with was leaving when my work was finished. Were it my decision, I would stay with you." Gimli's life span was not that long compared to the years he had already been in Middle-earth, and if he could he would certainly remain. For him, it was only a matter of when he would mourn, whether it was at Gimli's death or at his own departure. He said, "I love you."

"I know." Gimli opened his eyes and glanced up at Gandalf. "It will bring us both grief." His hand found the wizard's beard. "What cannot be changed must be borne." He moved Gandalf's beard and kissed his lover's chin. "That is why I got angry over Gollum again. I would rather be furious than have to dwell on the perils you face and what might happen in the future."

Gimli recalled going to the bench after the Council. His thoughts had been in turmoil over the risks Gandalf might have to take in the future. He had mused over it until he felt as if anxiety had buried him under an avalanche. He had struggled to overcome his disquiet by reviewing the revelations of the Council, only to have his treacherous thoughts go to what would occur if they won. The knowledge of Gandalf's leaving had made him feel as if his heart was being shredded like pieces of parchment torn by a rough hand. With great effort he had wrenched his reflections back to the Council.

This brought fears for Erebor. Gimli had begun to feel overwhelmed with sorrow and dread for his loved ones and his home. He had endeavoured to bring calm to his heart by going over everything that was said, and those reflections had turned to wrath over Gollum. His displeasure at Legolas had lasted until he looked back on Frodo saying he would take the Ring. Then Gimli saw the circumstances differently. If he had been the one that had erred, he would have been devastated to think that Gandalf might condemn him over it.

Later, as he had conversed with his father, Gimli realised that he had been using fury to shield himself from what was truly bothering his heart.

Now he laid his head on the Istar's chest, shifting Gandalf's beard so that it rested against his face. He lazily licked across Gandalf's nipple. He understood there was more to discuss, but he craved the comfort that intimacy brought.

Gimli lifted his face toward Gandalf's. The wizard waited until Gimli was close and then tenderly pressed his lips against the dwarf's. His tongue traced a path across his lover's lips.

Gimli parted his lips, asking for more and moaning when his lover's hot tongue delved deeply inside, exploring and tasting. The dwarf kept his eyes open so he could hold the wizard's gaze and watch as his lover's eyes darkened with passion. As the moist tongue flicked over one spot and then restlessly found another to slide across, heat rushed to Gimli's loins, hardening him. He reached out and cupped the wizard's neck. He could not stop his eyes from closing as his tongue met the wizard's to engage in an amorous battle.

Their tongues capered together, and the Maia's body responded with joy and need for his lover. He shifted to his side, pulling Gimli up tightly against him. They both moaned as heated flesh made contact, and Gimli began to glide his chest over the Istar's. Gandalf eased back and teasingly nibbled Gimli's bottom lip. The wizard's breath came in gasps that matched Gimli's panting.

Intensely gazing into Gimli's eyes, he cradled the dwarf's face with his hands. Dark grey eyes searched dark brown orbs, and the wizard softly stated Gimli's secret name and then said, "I love you. Ten thousand years from now, still you shall reside in my heart, and I will never forget your love and devotion to me. Though we deplore a parting, yet our spirits will always hold the other, for the love will remain."

Gimli nodded. "Always I will love you, Tharkun," he whispered. His lips sought the wizard's, and their tongues joined in a feverish frenzy. Gimli wrapped his arms around his lover and lay down, tugging the wizard to rest on his chest.

Breathless, they eased apart, and Gandalf shifted to straddle the dwarf, his beard falling forward to find Gimli's delighted fingers. Gimli's chest heaved as the wizard's ardent hand skated over his torso, discovering a nipple to agilely brush across. Moving down to collect a kiss, Gandalf gripped his lover's hips.

Gimli met his advance gently, his tongue coiling around the wizard's with soothing, swirling strokes. Their tongues engaged eagerly. Reaching between them, Gimli ran his hand over Gandalf's stomach, relishing the smooth firmness. His thumb made slow swipes over the moist head of his lover's erection.

Gandalf hissed into the hot cavern he was investigating as delectable thrills of pleasure and need wound throughout his loins. His arousal nudged Gimli's hand, asking for more, and the dwarf's fingers enclosed the wizard's shaft to start an easy back and forth rhythm.

Breaking the kiss, Gandalf shifted down and nuzzled Gimli's neck. Gimli inclined his head, exposing his neck to the wizard's licks and kisses, interchanged with nibbles from the hot mouth. Fervent lips made a wet path to Gimli's shoulder as the dwarf's hand continually brought desire, mingled pleasure with each lusty motion over the wizard's cock. Nipping his lover's shoulder, Gandalf's fingers grazed over dusky nipples, tweaking one. Gimli's body curved upwards, and he uttered a soft cry. His hand paused its actions on the wizard's cock, but his fingers lightly rubbed the heated flesh.

Gandalf turned so that Gimli's hand could continue to play and he would be able to reach his lover's chest. Grasping an erect nipple with his mouth, the wizard's teeth skimmed over the tip before taking it with sultry lips and suckling.

Gimli's hand slipped off the wizard's erection, and Gandalf moaned. As the wizard's tongue travelled over the dwarf's chest creating blazes wherever it touched, Gimli thrashed under him, lifting his chest upwards to meet the rapturous sensations.

Gandalf reached out and grabbed the oil. He plucked the top off and poured the liquid over his fingers, aware of Gimli's acute scrutiny and his lover's panting.

Eagerly spreading his legs wide, Gimli brought them up against his chest, watching as the stopper was put back.

Gandalf moved between the open legs and let his finger rub over the waiting entrance before carefully dipping in. At Gimli's moan of pleasure, the wizard slid the finger in farther. Pulling the digit back and forth, he caressed the tight channel while his other hand rested on his lover's stomach, enjoying the soft hair there. Curling his finger, Gandalf watched as Gimli's eyes flew open, only to quickly close as the dwarf cried out his bliss.

The wizard's finger whisked across the mound again, and the bolts of thrilling heat shimmered through Gimli once more. His body ached to be filled, and he began pushing downwards onto the invading digit. A kiss on his stomach as another finger entered and crooked caused the next cry to catch in his throat.

Swirling his tongue around Gimli's naval, Gandalf stroked the area, feeling the channel gripping his fingers. He moaned as his cock jerked in answer, pining for the joy the clinching passage would soon bring him.

Gimli groaned a complaint as the fingers left. He opened his eyes and whimpered as grey eyes filled with desire met his own. His focus journeyed downwards to the erection between Gandalf's thighs that proudly proclaimed its longing. Yearning seized Gimli, and he picked up the bottle of oil, and opened it. Gimli poured the liquid on his fingers and finding it sufficiently warm, he surrounded the wizard's shaft with wet fingers, moistening it with a firm stroke.

Gandalf cried out as the damp warmth encompassed his cock. His sac tightened as Gimli released him and nodded. Settling between the dwarf's open legs, he pushed the blunt tip of his erection against his lover's opening. Attentive to Gimli's face and the dwarf's hand that he was clasping, Gandalf slowly breached his lover. The hand was relaxed and he moved forward into the passage, gasping at the velvety fire that licked his cock.

Locking his legs around the wizard's back, Gimli leaned up and kissed Gandalf's chest.

Pausing so that Gimli could adjust, Gandalf savoured the breathless kisses placed on his chest and shoulders. At a push upwards from his lover the wizard began slowly thrusting. He slanted his hips, and Gimli groaned as the rigid cock rubbed over the spot that brought delight.

Shoving upwards, Gimli's movements invited harder, deeper plunges and the wizard increased his lunges into the snug heat. The dwarf grasped Gandalf's arm with one hand while the other roamed down the wizard's chest, halting to pinch erect nubs. Gandalf bucked hard inside his lover's channel, and Gimli cried out as the small ridge inside was repeatedly nudged. Moving his hands to Gandalf's hips, Gimli pulled his lover closer.

Adrift in the exhilarating emotions, the wizard immersed himself over and over deep inside the embracing passage. Taking Gimli's leaking erection in his hand, he stroked the heated flesh in accord with his thrusting.

Panting heavily, Gimli called out, "Tharkun!" as he discharged his essence over the wizard's hand and onto his own stomach. The excitement and rapture pounded through his veins, overwhelming his senses as everything centred on the satisfaction of release.

Gimli's muscles trembled and clamped around the wizard's torrid flesh. Throwing his head back and softly crying out his lover's true name, Gandalf drove far inside the dwarf and emptied himself. His body shuddered as the exuberant bliss overtook him, leaving him gasping and trembling.

Gandalf dropped down upon Gimli. The dwarf's arms enclosed him as they quivered and panted in their shared ecstasy.

They lay recovering for quite awhile, and then Gimli sighed. They still had to talk.

Gandalf went to slip off his lover, and Gimli held tighter. "A little longer." he muttered. The wizard nodded and burrowed his nose into Gimli's neck. He would gladly relax longer in the arms of someone that clearly cherished him. His love for Gimli would cause him pain later, but he would never regret the consent that had made them lovers.

Gimli embraced the wizard and thought only of the love he felt for Gandalf.

Gandalf relaxed against Gimli. He understood the dwarf's feelings. He had been at Erebor once when a funeral had taken place. He had spent the rest of the visit distressed over Gimli being a mortal and had wanted his lover to stay close. Gimli must have suspected what was happening, as he had adjusted his schedule so that his time was completely his own during Gandalf's visit.

The wizard rubbed Gimli's muscular shoulders and sighed. He did not want to leave Gimli.

Gimli's hands caressed the wizard's back, and then he said, "I am ready to talk."

The wizard slid to recline beside Gimli. After they were both cleaned, Gimli said, "I reckon you wish to speak of the Council."

"I would like your opinions concerning what was revealed."

"I am uneasy about Balin and those that went with him."

Gandalf caressed Gimli's chest. "I am anxious myself, but they might be in Moria in some deep cavern. Still, like you I wish Balin had sent news recently."

"I, too, hope he is safe deep in Moria. How I long to see them again!

"As for Lord Elrond's history of the Ring...he has seen much sorrow and it makes me believe that being mortal does have advantages, for all I would spare you from suffering over my death. Even elves fall in battle, and Gil-galad has not returned to Middle-earth to aid us now. So though I am guilty of asking you to be my lover, yet even if I were immortal, still you might one day mourn over my death. I find that a two-edged weapon, because little comfort does it bring. For the knowledge that you too can die shakes my heart worse than anything I have ever felt. For two thousand years have you survived and so you shall always continue. So I tell myself, but my heart is often troubled." He shifted downwards until his head was again on the wizard's shoulder.

Gandalf asked, "I do not recall telling you that I have been in Middle-earth for two thousand years. Why that number, Gimli?"

Gimli chuckled. "Because it is the correct one. I know because of your stories. Any tale over two thousand years old, and you will say things like, "So it is recorded" or "This is how it was related." A more current narrative gets told as if you were there or as if you heard it soon after it occurred. I fear I study every thing you do in great detail. You are a most fascinating being, and I love you deeply." His fingers curled into the wizard's beard.

Gandalf smiled. "Thank you, my dear lover. I love you, too. You are correct about the years."

"As for Lord Elrond's tale. Isildur." Gimli sighed. "Ah, sadly, I understand. His family had been taken from him, and the Man had a right to claim what he could as compensation. Yet the object he would own has only one Master. Aye, I sympathize with Isildur. Boromir, too, thinks much like a dwarf. He has difficulty seeing the higher good. His concern is first and foremost for Gondor, not Middle-earth. So, too, would many of my people perceive matters. Boromir is the Steward's son, and that is his responsibility: to put his people first. He cannot be blamed if he does it all too well.

"I realise that you and Aragorn are good friends, and perhaps you want my opinion on the Man." He kissed the arm that wrapped around him.

"Yes."

"I've spoken to him a few times since his arrival here. He is a very caring person. Yet I noticed at the Council that he is capable of seeing the good of Middle-earth as a whole. He certainly has the qualities of a good King. He can view matters from many angles, and I believe he would not forget the common people doing so. Merry and Pippin like him, too.

"That which Frodo carries I would not talk much of. It makes me uncomfortable. A curse designed to destroy us all. Aye, I appreciate Isildur's feelings, but naught would persuade me to take it, for one would always be a hair's breadth from betrayal by it. It will continually try to get back to its true Lord.

"I have already dwelt on what Saruman's treachery will mean, especially to Erebor. The knowledge must have been disheartening to Boromir, too. It is good that we have had this Council, or else we all might feel that the Wise have abandoned us, knowing there is no hope that we will defeat the darkness. You cannot be in every place at once to encourage those that need it.

"You did not mention that Gollum stank, but Aragorn seems to have had the most difficulty with his smell.

"I am afraid Saruman is right in this: the time of Men has arrived. My people have prospered in Erebor, but this may be the last tremor before the earth shakes under us and we are gone."

Gandalf rubbed Gimli's back. "I do not know, but I believe if we succeed in this war, long yet will dwarves be in Middle-earth. I hope that I am correct. Middle-earth will lack much when all that is left is Men."

Gimli nodded. "I tend to agree with Boromir. I do not deem that Rohan is buying their peace with horses. I reckon that Boromir would know Rohan well. If they love their horses as we do our gold, they will not part with them for the sake of an armistice that anyone can see will be brief. His gaze will turn to Rohan soon enough if he gains victory in other lands.

"As for your tale, it is good to have such an account from you! Holding off Black Riders! That is quite a feat! They cast a spell of darkness, gloom, and evil. I was close by when the second messenger came to Erebor. Wicked they are, and foolish would most be to try and conquer one."

"You already knew of that battle."

"Aye, but at the time all I was concerned with was your hurt over Saruman." Gimli debated mentioning something else, but he was not sure Gandalf wanted that topic openly discussed, and he decided to leave it unspoken. If he was chosen to go with Frodo, and Gandalf elected to journey with the hobbit then the issue would need to be brought out, but for now it was not necessary.

Gimli's fingers strayed to Gandalf's chest. He was apparently finished, and the Istar said, "My dear dwarf, you have not stated what I most desired to know! What are your thoughts on Frodo taking the Ring and destroying it?"

"I agree that the only resolution that is wise is to rid ourselves of it once and for all. I am uncertain whether sending Frodo is best. He is not a warrior. Still, that is not my decision, and Isildur was a warrior and yet could not bring himself to throw it into the fire. The task seems impossible, and an untrained hobbit probably has as good a chance as any. I do feel strongly that it is right to send Sam with him. Love will keep a person on a dark path long after courage and hope have departed. And he loves Frodo. That is clear. I would say the same for Merry and Pippin. I have talked with them many times since they arrived."

"There we are agreed, but Elrond feels someone should be sent back to the Shire to warn the hobbits and Pip is not of age."

"It would be good to caution the Shire. But the hobbits obviously felt Pippin would be capable, or they'd have left him at home. He has proven himself by continuing on despite what must have been a scary time for him. Having those creatures chase you is not an entertaining race! He could have stayed in Bree.

"This, too, is not my decision, and I am quite glad to not be counted as one of the Wise! It is difficult enough to watch you bear these burdens. I do not want them myself."

Gandalf laughed. "You, my friend, have eased my burdens many times over the years. Let us see if we can renew the passion between us and forget the cares and sorrow for a time."

Tender kisses slowly ignited the fire of love as the worries which the day had brought were temporarily dissolved.