Written for the Iconography Challenge.
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Sky as Grey as Your Heart
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It was evening, and the sky was smeared with pink and gold and dark purple. The wind that swept Legolas's hair was laden with salt and the secrets of the sea; the gulls sang, and the waves were laced with the white foam, but Gimli would not come.
He would not come.
There were some of his kin with him, waiting patiently, uncomplaining though the sea longing was on them also. They did not speak, and would not reproach if they did, for what Elf had not felt the sting of love? Who did not know the bond it placed upon the heart, impossible to break or to escape? If his tastes were strange, that was no matter for reproach. No Elf could choose where his heart lay.
Yet perhaps there were Dwarves who could, or having chosen unwisely, could turn away from the choice, and settle for the lesser doom. Legolas had sent to Gimli, but Gimli's reply had been cold -- the messenger's fault, perhaps, or Legolas's own fear, for Gimli had never been a wordsmith except when speaking of empty caves and dead stone. Even so, his words had been too ambiguous for comfort.
I had hoped to forestall this parting, yet my heart has told me that it is time, and that you have lingered overlong.
No word if he would follow Legolas, as Legolas had begged in his letter. And what Dwarf would leave Middle-earth, for any love? Surely there was no hope. He would not come.
Thus Legolas tried to stay his heart with the anticipation of loss, but as the hours passed and he saw no sign of Gimli, disappointment mastered him, fight it though he may. He had known this would be the outcome of loving a mortal, for his choice would not be Luthien's. It was weak, to let expected grief overpower him to this extent.
But Legolas averted his face from his kin, and did not trust himself to speak. The sea longing was heavy on him, as it had been for every hour since he had first heard the cry of the gull, but for that moment he would have forsaken Eldamar if it had been given to him to stay.
But then a cry went up, and when he turned there was a moving darkness on the horizon. Gimli had not failed him.
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The Elves had songs for all things, but especially this -- this joy and sorrow too great to contain in pale words. What beset Legolas was not happiness, nor relief, but a symphony of these and grief -- grief like a descant. It was the same grief that leavened all that was marred and lovely in Arda, the same grief his kin hoped to flee when they traversed the Sundering Seas. It was the grief that haunts those who choose to love mortals.
The joy was stronger, a poignant ache in Legolas's throat, but when he went forward and took the familiar hands in his, he smiled.
He had no words, and if he sang Gimli would think him mad. He would chide Legolas, only half in jest, his eyes narrowed and glinting, and that would be good. But Legolas said only,
"You have come."
Nothing was enough, but nothing else was important.
Gimli hrumphed, embarrassed.
"I could not call myself your friend if I left you to spend the rest of years amidst Elves, with not a Dwarf for company," he said. "Songs are all very well--" cocking an eyebrow at the Elves who stood around -- "but one who has tasted other dishes will wish for more substantial fare, once in a while."
But there was unease in his eyes, beneath the laughter. Legolas feared -- he knew not what he feared, or did not allow himself to know it, but it quickened his voice.
"It is well that you have arrived," he said. "There is time yet for you to make your preparations, but we must leave soon. The winds are favourable, but they may change."
Too hasty; he would arouse Gimli's suspicion. How strangely graceless, this love. Legolas wondered if Arwen ever felt this haplessness, so alien to every other love he had experienced. His other courtships had been elegant, graceful, joyous as a dance under moonlight, but never clumsy. With Gimli, it was a constant stumbling over their differences. He remembered their love as a series of rough-and-tumbles, arguments and contests and laughter. It lacked the smoothness his other loves had had, but it had a vibrancy, a life and depth the others could not have dreamt of.
The others had been games, dreams of the truth that was to come. He could not have expected this, but he could not trifle with it.
Perhaps this was why he paused suddenly, and said,
"If your heart is against this, I would not ask it of you." The words stuck in his throat.
Gimli took too long to answer, but finally he did, with an abrupt snort.
"And would you have me break faith, to leave you when I swore to follow? No. I will trust in your boat to carry me across the water--" he looked doubtfully at the ship -- "though it looks flimsy enough."
"It is Elf work," said Legolas. He would not let his smile free, but it curled the edges of his mouth; he could feel it shining from his eyes. "It will withstand any contest the waves may offer, as long as you do not try it with your axe."
"I will have other things to try with my axe, no doubt," said Gimli. Legolas laughed, and his heart was light.
"If I am fortunate," he said. It had been a long time.
"It will be good to see the Lady Galadriel again," said Gimli later. "If her grace be but a portion of the glory of the lands over the Sea, as they say, what great beauty must be in those lands!"
"Great indeed," said Legolas. And yet not more than he had found in Middle-earth.
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They sailed as the sky turned to grey. Middle-earth was behind them, receding into the mist, but the sea was around them and the stars above and Gimli by his side, and Legolas's heart was at rest.