Not Alone

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction and nothing is mine, I am only borrowing Tolkien's wonderful world for a moment.

Summary: Legolas and Gimli's friendship was forged under the eaves of Lothlorien. But how did they find common ground after so many weeks of rivalry?

Mithrandir was dead.

Legolas closed his eyes and focused on the sensation of the wind upon his face. It was a very comforting feeling. Far better to think of that than to think of…Moria. And the balrog. And…Mithrandir.

He sighed softly and opened his eyes. It was of no use. He had escaped dealing with the wizard's death thus far – it had been easy to put aside those thoughts whilst they fled the mines, seeking the safety and shelter that Lorien's eaves offered. There had not been time to rest, eat, or wash, let alone…anything else.

Nay, that would not do. He was not some frightened, naïve elfling to tiptoe around the reality of the situation, no matter how hard to bear it might be. He could recognise the sorrow in his own heart. The truth was simple:

There had been no time for grieving whilst they fled the goblins of Moria.

He paused to reflect upon this thought for a moment, delighting in the sincerity of it. Surprisingly, he felt as though a weight had been lifted from him. A small weight, true – perhaps the size of a single pebble against the plenitude that rained down upon him – but it was a relief nonetheless.

It was time to grieve, he decided. Privately, and whilst hidden from sight in the comforting branches of a mallorn tree, of course. He did not want the remaining fellowship to bear witness to this. Not because of pride – although he had to admit that was probably a part of it – but because he did not want to remind them of the loss they had all suffered. Mortal as they were, they had surely already found the relief he so craved. Having slipped away from the fellowship's sleeping place, he allowed his body to relax fully into the arms of his tree and opened his mind to the thoughts he had previously chased away. He closed his eyes again but not, this time, to hide from unwanted truths.

In his fingers he held a leaf, fallen from some higher branch, and turned it over in his hands. Idly, he traced the veins that threaded through the specimen. It was a golden colour unlike any he had known in his home. Absolutely beautiful and completely alien to him.

He sent the leaf ground-ward and thought of his home. How he missed it! Lorien was every bit as enchanting as he had been told, but felt in his heart that it did not hold a candle to the jagged loveliness of his forest. Though wood-elves lived in these trees, protected by their lady's enchantments as they were, they were no more his kin than Elrond's people in Imladris. He was as alone here as he had been since he stepped out from under the shadow Taur-nu-Fuin's trees cast upon the ground some months ago. Mithrandir had at least been a weak connection to his home, for the wizard had known his father and people better than any other in the fellowship. Now that link was broken, and he did not know how much further this quest would lead him away from all he had known thus far in his life.

A gust of wind blew and the trees that surrounded him rustled in the disturbance. He laid his head on the trunk of the tree and felt its song flow into him. It seemed pleased to have Legolas in its boughs. He deigned to remain here a while longer, seeking what comfort he could from the song of the woods, before the sun rose and he was forced to return to his companions.

Gandalf was dead.

No matter how many times Gimli turned the sentence over in his mind, he still could not make any sense of it. For the wizard to be lost to them, stolen by such a fell beast as the balrog… he had not thought that would be the fate of their kindly leader. There had been something comforting in the wizard's presence. Aragorn was a fine leader, aye. But heir of Isildur or not, he was only mortal, like the rest of them.

Well, apart from the Elf, of course. But the idea of that flighty creature leading them…it was ludicrous! He frankly would have had more faith in Pippin bringing them to Mordor than that foolish being.

He harrumphed and cast his eye around the camp. All was silent. His companions slept, wandering in peaceful dreams, he hoped. He knew that he himself would find no rest in this strange place, for fear of waking with a blade to his back. There was no trusting elves, and this was an odd place, odder even than Rivendell had been. Here, he felt that eyes watched him, following his every movement, biding their time until he at last he closed his eyes, and they could show their hand. Looking about, he spied no-one, but that in itself sent a shiver through his spine.

Nay, he could not allow his guard down. But nor did he wish to be tied to this clearing for the entirety of their stay, unwilling to venture out into the natives' midst. Why, he was no trembling babe, hovering at his mother's knee! He was a warrior of Durin's folk – one of the Nine! He had faced the shadow-monster of Moria and would not cower from these Elves. Gimli stood in defiance and made his decision. He could find no comfort here, but that did not mean that elsewhere he would not.

Gimli made his way through the camp, careful not to disturb his sleeping friends, and set out through the trees, patting his axes in satisfaction as he went. He did not want to get lost in this place, though it seemed far too easy to do so, for it all looked the same to him. so he moved in one direction. He would not go so great a distance that he could not get back in a jiffy.

In no time at all he found his feet dampened by a small stream, barely more than a trickle, really. Perhaps it was an offshoot of the larger one the Elf had pointed out to their company when they first had entered the woods. It mattered not, he thought, and followed it downstream a way.

He was glad he had left the camp. Even here, still so close to the Elven city, their influence seemed lesser. None seemed to live in this area, and it showed. The eerie blanket which had covered the elvish dwellings seemed to have lifted somewhat. Here the wind blew, the trees rustled and the birds sang. He settled at the base of a wide tree, facing the water and thinking about home.

Gimli held his axe in his hands (was it his imagination, or did the trees seem to move as one as he ran his hands over the handle?) and gazed thoughtfully around him. His father might have a thing or two to say if he saw his son now, guest to the mythical elven witch, and living in their treetop realm. Aye, he was far from home.

He winced as something pointy fell on his head. A single stick came to rest on the ground next to him. He stared at it. Without further ado, a bundle of similar twigs, acorns and other tree produce rained down on him.

"Ouch!" he cried. He raised his eyes to the dizzying heights of the tree he rested under. "Why-" He got no further than this, for his words were extinguished by shock at what he saw above him.

The elf peered down at him in astonishment.

Several beats passed while they locked eyes with each other. Heat rose to his face, blood pounded between his ears. Gradually, the elf settled on his branch and Gimli lowered his gaze.

"You are far from the camp tonight, master Dwarf," the elf said silkily. Gimli bristled.

"As are you, master Elf," he replied with as much courtesy as he could muster.

"That is true," Legolas agreed easily. "Should you wish to remain here, master Dwarf, I would advise you to put away your weapon, and the trees might respond more kindly to your presence."

Gimli scowled at what he saw as superstitious nonsense, but nonetheless he returned the axe to its place on his belt. After all, the deposit of a pile of painful tree-objects precisely upon his head had been no coincidence, and he did not believe the Elf had done it. Pitiful, foolish creature or not, he doubted the Elf would risk word of such childish pranking reaching their companions' ears.

Silence reigned, and Gimli shifted uncomfortably. He could not very well get up and walk away, but oh, how he wished he had chosen some other tree to sit under!

When the elf spoke again, Gimli startled, for he had not expected the other to encourage discourse between them.

"The trees called me to them," Legolas continued easily. "Though I suspect the same cannot be said for you, master Dwarf."

"Certainly not," Gimli replied haughtily. Trees! What ridiculous creatures these elves were.

Legolas smiled. "Indeed. I merely wonder what drew you away from our friends."

Gimli looked steadfastly ahead of him. "We all need some time alone to think now and again."

"That is true," Legolas agreed but he said no more, and Gimli looked up at him sharply. There had seemed to be more than polite accordance in the Elf's voice that he couldn't quite put his finger on. Oblivious, the Elf gazed idly into the distance, wandering in far-away lands and memories.

The Dwarf was suddenly reminded of something Aragorn had said to him once, about the Elf being considered so young by his own kin that he was really the youngest of all the Fellowship. Gimli had dismissed it at the time, no doubt muttering something about maturity, or lack thereof, but now the words rang in his ears.

If the elf was truly so young, and immortal as all his kind were, it was possible he had never known anyone to die before.

He could not imagine the wizard's heinous passing to be his first taste of such a thing.

Pity stirred in him, and though his immediate reaction was to quash it flat, he reminded himself that a few comforting words were the least he would do for one of the hobbits. Of course, he had consoled the Halflings many times since fleeing the mines, as all in the group had, but he did not recall anyone doing so for the Elf. Perhaps that been an overlook on all their parts and Elf or not, he was sworn to help those of the Fellowship in any way he could.

Gimli cleared his throat and spoke in as gentle a voice as he could conjure. "The past days have been hard on us all, lad." There was no reply. He squinted up into the branches above him. The Elf made no sign of hearing his words. Cursed thing!

Undeterred, he took a deep breath and tried again. "Gandalf was a dear friend to all of us. There is naught in this world so terrible as losing such a person-"Gimli felt the Elf's eyes slide onto him at this declaration. He blustered on. "Know that we all feel the same pain you do, Legolas," he sighed. "Aye, the first time's the hardest." He had now convinced himself that his speculation regarding the Elf was correct.

A laugh sounded from the heights above him, though there was less mirth in it than usually spilled from the Elf's mouth. Gimli glowered up into the tree, as Legolas contemplated him from above. There was no sneer or menace on the Elf's face, though, as he had expected, merely bemusement. Reading Gimli's no-doubt volatile expression, the Elf became serious.

"Peace, my friend," Legolas said quickly, holding both hands up to demonstrate the concept. "I mean no offence. In truth your words comfort me, Gimli. You are correct in guessing what I came here to ponder. It is…a relief to know that I am not alone in these feelings."

Gimli was not entirely mollified by the Elf's placating explanation, but his next words had no sting to them. "Then why do you laugh, lad?"

Legolas frowned, and Gimli noted the movement did not suit him. "You assume that Mithrandir is the first I have known to die, but that is not so. I have known death my whole life, since before your grandfather's grandfather was alive. There is none in my home who do not; the shadow's ever encroaching hold on our forest has ensured that. I have seen my friends fall to the shadow's servants." He sighed deeply and finished quietly, "Mithrandir is but one of many."

Gimli said nothing. He had heard of the darkness that had fallen over Mirkwood; he had been raised with his own father's testimony to the bleakness that engulfed that land. In Erebor it was well known that the Great Forest that lay to their west was tainted. Its trees were sick and its creatures fell, its people wild and its king a cruel and covetous ruler. No light permeated its heavy canopies and if they were smart, outsiders would do well not enter its boughs either.

He had never believed those adjectives to be an exaggeration, but his sojourn through Mirkwood on his way to the Council had shown him just how truthful those portrayals had been. Yet he was ever surprised that such a grim place could produce a character like the Elf's. Legolas of the fellowship was light-hearted and quick to smile, polite and composed, despite all the hardships they had faced so far. If he had not seen it with his own eyes, Gimli would never have believed one raised in such as dismal place could be so merry. True, the Elf was suspicious of the Dwarf, but he had expected nothing less and had never shown the Elf anything but suspicion in return, if not outright distrust, in all their time together. Still, Legolas was not the fey, sullen thing he had expected.

Legolas broke the tense silence. "Forgive me," he murmured. "I know that I am not the only one who has suffered thus. I know of the terrors your people have faced. Surely your losses have been great over the years, also."

Gimli still could not find the words to speak; this direction of conversation was no better than the last one had been. He was surprised, and a little impressed, with the Elf's sincerity. He supposed one thing they had in common was that their people had both fought to protect their homes from evil, though from his perspective, the elves were not being as successful as his own kin had been.

"I did not expect Mithrandir to be taken from us," Legolas admitted.

"No," Gimli agreed, "None of us did, lad."

"Aragorn will be a strong leader," Legolas stated, as though he felt his shock at Gandalf's death might be taken to mean he thought poorly about Aragorn's abilities.

Gimli nodded. "He has led us well so far." He pondered the Elf's opening up to him. He knew that Legolas was close to Aragorn, if no-one else. Surely it made more sense for the elf to have sought the man out, rather than divulge to him?

He did not have to query this much longer. The answer he was looking for was revealed in the Elf's next sentence.

"Do you think of your home, Gimli?"

Gimli glanced upwards. The elf watched him with interest. He nodded. "Aye. We have both come far from our homes and will go further still before we return to them. I remember the Mountain often." The images came to him then, of cavernous halls, gilded with gems and fine metals, lit by warm fires and skylights, cleverly designed to illuminate the room without endangering it inhabitants to attack. He heard the steady murmur of his people celebrating some holiday, saw them filling the room, their rich laughter and sonorous voices flooding his ears. For a moment that cheerful atmosphere almost slipped from his imagination to his reality, but the Elf shifted on his branch above him and he again saw the Elven land about him.

Legolas was looking down at him curiously. Gimli saw a flicker of something cross his face - satisfaction? Relief? It was gone as quickly as it had appeared.

"Mayhap when we return, our homes will be free from the shadow," Legolas intoned. Gimli again thought of the infested woods that were the Elf's home. He felt that he himself had little to complain about in comparison; Smaug was gone, and once the great gates were shut, little of the outside world could inflict itself on his people.

"I raise my glass to that," Gimli said softly. "Your people have fought valiantly against Dol Guldur's reach."

"As have all the free people of Middle Earth," Legolas said modestly. The Dwarf smiled. That was true. Inexorably, their minds were drawn back to the last time their folk had met, in the halls of the Elvenking and again on the slopes of Erebor, at the Battle of Five Armies. How strange life was, that they should be brought together again, in such a way as they were.

"There is no love lost between our people," Gimli stated.

Legolas, naturally, seemed to know instinctively of what he spoke.

"My elven-lord merely wanted to keep his people safe," Legolas said softly. "Your kin were an unknown threat to us, and a threat to themselves, too, so weary and lost they were. Our king could guess well enough the fool's errand that brought them into the forest. An errand which he saw would have dire consequences for our people. No just ruler could allow such a threat to pass uncontested."

Gimli could not dispute that. And though his father may claim their party was treated unfairly by the Elves, he had never insinuated that they were treated unkindly, either. He remembered, too, that Legolas' people had come to the aid of an impoverished Laketown, where his own had not. "Your people were benevolent towards Lord Thorin and his companions, though."

"It is not our way to be needlessly cruel," Legolas answered.

"Aye," Gimli nodded slowly. "Nor ours." Legolas did not reply, and he suspected the elf's thoughts were lingering on the same memories his were; of Thorin, barricaded in his newly reclaimed mountain, turning the new lord of Dale and the needs of the people of Laketown away. But the prince had been a hero once; heralded as the saviour of the homeless dwarves that had scattered throughout the lands. His father bowed his head at the mention of their late king's name; it was spoken in reverence by most of his homeland. Some still recalled tales of the kindly and generous prince Thrain's son had been. There was no doubt that the mountain would still be under the dragon's claw had it not been for Thorin's determination and drive to reclaim it as his own.

"We are fortunate to have reached a place of safely," Legolas murmured. Gimli was not fooled by this. As many centuries as the elf must hold to his name, Gimli suspected that he was still too young to know how to lie realistically. For a moment he considered going along with the façade the elf was evoking, then disregarded the idea immediately. What good would it do to ignore the oliphant in the room?

"I would have thought you'd be more comfortable here among your own kind., lad," Gimli stated gruffly.

A heartbeat's silence passed, and then another. As the pause stretched to a minute, he looked upwards. Legolas watched him, an expression akin to wonder on his face, no doubt as a result of being so easily read, and by a dwarf at that.

"Are these not your people?" Gimli asked. His knowledge of elvish factions and the like was, at best, scarce, but surely one elf was as good as another.

Legolas inhaled deeply and shook his head. He seemed to have made peace with the oddity of the conversation. The gentle ring of his laughter floated down to the Dwarf's ears, and his voice soon followed.

"This was a Silvan land, once, like my own, but millennia of foreign rule – first by the Sindar and now, by the Noldor – has erased most ties to wood-elven culture. The people have adopted their ways, their languages and their politics. The trees here do not recognise the Silvan tongue. We are not so removed from our roots in Greenwood. We are less learned, it is true, but merrier for it."

It was true, Gimli thought, that Legolas did seem out of place here. Merry these ethereal Lorien elves certainly were not. Legolas, with his ready smile and cheerful countenance, was not like these sombre elves, who kept their distance from even the young hobbits. And whilst Legolas had conversed with the march-wardens upon their arrival, it was Aragorn who now spoke on behalf of the fellowship to the natives.

"This concept is odd to me," Gimli stated seriously. "Of being an outsider with your own people. A dwarf is at home with another dwarf, no matter what their clan." He thought carefully of his next words, and softened his tone. "But a Dwarf is a stranger among all elves no matter their House, as are Men and Hobbits." Reconsidering, he added swiftly, "Save perhaps Aragorn." Though he did not look up at his companion but directly ahead of him at the stream, he could feel the elf's eyes boring into him. "You are not alone here, Legolas, Greenwood elf or no. We – the Fellowship – are with you."

There was no reply. In truth, Gimli did not expect one. Even he was surprised by his kind words to the elf. Really, it was easier if Legolas did not reply and this sentimental conversation could be over and done with.

He heard no sound from above. Admittedly, the elf could well have slipped away and he wouldn't know a single thing about it. With some pride left in him still, Gimli refused to look up and check. He doubted that he would be able to see anything even if he wanted to; night had well and truly fallen by now. All around was darkness of varying shades, which would allow him to distinguish the trees from the open pathway. A silver slither signposted the water before him, but other than that only a minuscule amount of moonlight was filtering through the immense trees. He squinted and tried to discern the city lights in the distance. There were none that he could see – had he come further than he'd thought?

There was nothing for it but to start walking, he reasoned. Using his axe as support, Gimli got to his feet and surveyed the land. Was that the flicker of a lantern in the distance? Most likely, he decided. He studiously ignored the possibility that his desired destination was in the opposite direction. This chance route seemed as good as any – better, even, since it appeared to follow the stream, and he was certain he had used the water to guide him on his way.

He would need some light. Perhaps an elf could walk this journey gracefully, but the dwarf knew better than to think he wouldn't stumble over every tree root in his path. After fumbling in his pockets, he withdrew his box of matches, lit one and held it before him. The effect was unimpressive, illuminating only a hand span of the area around the match.

"Blasted thing," Gimli muttered, stooping down to inspect the ground for some stick or small branch he might transfer the flame to.

No sooner had he done this when the match was knocked ferociously from his hand and snuffed out.

He jerked upwards sharply and squinted through the darkness, spying the glimmer of the elf's blond hair. Legolas?

"What in the-"

"Be still, dwarf," the elf snapped, and Gimli did so, out of confusion if not obedience. "Do you wish to burn our woods down?" This certainly was not good-natured Legolas.

"Nay," Gimli protested, "merely find a light to guide me back to the camp."

He heard, rather than saw, the smirk on the elf's face when he spoke. "I see. Forgive me; I forget that your kind are not blessed with the senses that my people have. But that is neither here nor there. Why did you leave your camp in the first place, dwarf?"

Gimli's eyes narrowed. "What business is it of yours? Is it a crime to wander in your lands, elf?" As his eyes adjusted to the darkness he saw that his accuser held a long knife in his hand. It was pointed at the ground and not him, but nonetheless, Gimli would have preferred for it to be in its sheath.

"Not a crime," the elf replied slowly. "A liability."

Gimli scoffed. "What danger would I find in these woods, elf?"

"That is not for me to say," the blond said silkily. "Your company has led a band of goblins to our borders. Whereabouts are those foul creatures now?"

The dwarf ground his teeth together and stood at his full height. "I dare say I could hold my own against any strays." The very thought that he could not was preposterous. Who was this elf to insinuate such things?

As though he had read Gimli's mind, the elf, with a sly smile, explained, "I am a warden of Lorien, dwarf. It is my duty to protect our guests from finding…trouble."

Gimli was stood in stunned silence, so that he did not notice immediately when Legolas leapt down from his perch in the tree until he stepped beside him.

"What trouble could master Gimli, of the fellowship, possibly find in the safety of the wood?" Legolas asked softly. The guard did not miss the warning in his voice, and was silent for a moment.

Where before the Lorien elf was arrogant, he was now humble. The presence of one of his own kind – a prince at that – had apparently shaken some humility into him.

"I know not, my lord. My captain instructed me to stand watch over your company's camp tonight, and I am merely following those orders." The elf was a poor liar, Gimli thought, if this was the best response he could muster.

"Your concern for our welfare is appreciated, but unnecessary. I suggest you report to your captain and return to your home." Legolas' tone of voice hinted that his words were not intended as a mere suggestion. The guard appeared torn.

Gimli stood silent throughout the exchange. He had never been one to allow others to fight his battles for him, but he was no fool. Perhaps this was not a battle he could ever win.

He did not dare to turn to Legolas as the elf, obviously deliberating over his predicament, finally offered a short bow. No more words slithered from his lips as he darted into the shadows and disappeared from view. At least, he was not visible to Gimli. He was sure that the woodland elf beside him kept watch over his retreat for far longer.

After the warden's departure, Legolas glanced at him, a slight frown on his face, as though he was not sure if he would be thanked or berated for his actions.

Gimli had always welcomed the help of his friends, of course.

He inhaled deeply. Aye, his father would have a thing or two to say if he saw his son now.

Hesitantly, he offered the elf a smile. Verbalisations of thanks were not something he handled well and he felt such an act would now be even more troublesome for him than ordinarily.

The flash of relief on Legolas' face was quickly replaced by a shy smile of his own.

Aye, whether he liked it or not, Gimli had been helped by a friend tonight.

As had Legolas.

Together, they returned to the Fellowship's camp to rest for what little of the moon's course remained.

A/N: Thank you if you have made it this far! I hope it was enjoyable for you. This is my first posting in 3½ years, so I would dearly appreciate any feedback you could offer – please leave a review! :-)

Also, I wrote this in a different house to the one my copy of the book is in, so I apologise if this strays from canon in any way. I was unable to check this against the book.