I swear I'm working on my other stories too. Honest, I am. This just came out first.

Gift for Rosa Cotton. It's a prequel to her LOTR story, Stay.


Never trust an elf,his father tells him when he is but a wee dwarrow, kneeling at Gloin's feet. The firelight always seemed to darken the scowl on the older dwarf's face. His hand heavy as it lay upon Gimli's curled hair. All elves are flighty. You put your trust in them and they'll break it the first whiff of adversity. Stick to the races more rooted in the earth, my son.

Gimli remembers this and many other cautionary tales from his father.

Thrain trusted them. They were so willing to be his allies when he had silver and gems to give, but then a dragon comes, and what do they do? Sit on a hilltop and watched us burn. That, my son, is what the loyalty of an elf will get you.

Elves are flighty, timid creatures, Gimli knows.

He believes this with all his heart still.

Yet, he also knows Legolas is nothing like this. Flighty, the lad may seem, aloof even, and almost cold, however Gimli has seen the hidden steel beneath, has felt the hot brush of Legolas' anger when awoken, has been overwhelmed by the possessive fidelity that is Legolas' friendship.

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"I will not." Legolas clenches his teeth, his hands rigid where they are fisted at his sides. Around them, the elven guards' glance at each other. Below them the river gurgles under the bridge. Legolas plants his feet firmer on the stone. "He is one of the Nine and my shield brother."

"He is a dwarf," the king says, his eyes flat with an inflexible resolve. The white elk he sits upon shifts, as if sensing its master's ire.

Gimli stays the hot retort that almost issues forth.

This is Legolas' battle…for now.

"He has saved my life more than once, and I his." Legolas draws himself up and narrows his gaze. "He is my friend. I will not renounce him."

"Then you are no longer welcome here," comes the immediate, level challenge.

Legolas' back stiffens, but he does not relent.

"The other elven nations and allies will be informed of your status," the king continues.

It is only because Gimli is just beside the lad that he hears the slight stutter in his companion's breath. To be barred from all his kinfolk, that is the threat. Gimli growls, but a soft touch of Legolas' hand against his arm stays his ready tongue.

"Then I take my leave, Your Majesty," Legolas says.

"You will not again be granted entrance until such time as you have devested yourself of the dwarf and made recompense to Us," the king replies, leaning forward on his mount.

Legolas grips his bow tighter. "Then I shall never return."

The lad turns away, but Gimli pauses long enough to see the flash of sorrow dart through the king's eyes before the wall of anger hides it. That such a demand was even made astounds him, but that it's the lad's father who commands it…Gimli follows Legolas before he gives into the urge to throw his ax at the pompous, arrogant elf.

"Hold," Thranduil commands.

Legolas turns, one elegant eyebrow raised – and Gimli thinks he has never seen the lad resemble his father so greatly.

"You are injured," the elder says, his gaze going to the bloodied wrap on Legolas' shoulder. "Glanthorin, see to his wounds."

"And Gimli's?" Legolas challenges.

Gimli steadfastly ignores the way his leg twinges at the reminder.

Thranduil sucks in a breath. "He will be treated as well."

Legolas glances down at Gimli. Is this acceptable? his gaze asks.

Gimli nods. He'll not be the fool who forces Legolas to leave without proper treatment, no matter how ill the will it is given with.

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Gimli stifles a sigh and glances over at his companion – no, his friend. The pale figure might as well be carved from stone. Only his golden hair moves as the warm evening breezes play with it. Those sharp, elven eyes stare unseeingly into the stars. What they seek, Gimli never knows.

"It is worth it," Legolas whispers.

Gimli never knows if the elf says this to convince himself or Gimli.

"It will not be forever," he says instead.

"I will not apologize."

"Your father loves you, lad."

"I will not renounce you."

Gimli reaches over and pats the icy hand, frowning at the boney feel of it. "Nor I you."

Legolas lays his palm upon a tree root between them. Gimli can feel the hum of something thrumming through the elf's veins. Ancient eyes turn to him. "You are sure you wish me to be there?"

"I am not ashamed of our friendship."

"I did not say –!"

"Peace, my woodland friend. I only meant I felt the same as you."

"And if Erebor has no room for an elf?"

"Then we shall visit Aragorn all the quicker and seek out a new adventure for ourselves." Gimli gives the hand beneath his a tight squeeze, letting go and grasping his ax. "I will not stay in a place that does not welcome you."

"They are your kin, Gimli."

"And Thranduil is not?" Gimli sighs and looks into those old yet young eyes. "Nay, lad, they will either accept us both, or have neither of us."

A shadow darkens the flawless features. "What a pair we make."

"A testament to our two peoples."

"Stone and wood, living in harmony."

Gimli snorts. "Or at least without squabbling too often."

A smile plays softly across Legolas' lips. "Aye."

"Rest, lad," Gimli requests, hefting his ax up as he rises to his feet. "I will take first watch."

"I am well, Master Dwarf." Legolas also stands, limbs uncurling like a graceful fern. "Let me take this watch."

Such sadness surrounds this primal creature. It is not cruelty or heartlessness that causes the elves to stand aloof from the other races. No, Gimli knows better now after all these weeks of travel. It is not callous selfishness, but rather fear.

For how often can a heart take being broken before it dies?

How many friends can an elf watch wither and die before their souls cry out for a release from this pain?

And yet Legolas would risk all that for him.

It humbles Gimli as naught else can do. "Very well. But I insist you wake me for second watch. I will have none of this coddling as if I am a babe in arms."

A breathy laugh. "Very well, mellon nin." The pale face turns towards the moonlight. "Rest, for we have many miles yet to walk."

"Yes, yes, Erebor is a long distance." Gimli waves a hand and smirks. "One would think you had more endurance than this, elf. It is only a two-week journey."

"This coming from the dwarf who asked to stop for the day?" Legolas playfully retorts.

"Whatever you tell yourself, elf," Gimli rejoins as he lays down on his side, ax close by. "Just remember who it was who caught us supper this night."

"My eyes?"

"And my ax."

"Stone and wood…"

"Living in harmony," Gimli finishes. "Now hush, some of us are trying to sleep."