No Place Like Home

Disclaimer: Nothing is mine :)

Part Six: Answers

Surreptitiously, Legolas glanced around the room. He was finding it hard to believe that it was here Gimli had grown up. The apartment was the complete opposite to what he had expected – it was homey, and comfortable. Soft chairs, an abundance of family portraits, a little clutter. Looking at Glóin now, Legolas conceded that this was undoubtedly Gimli's mother's influence. He smiled despite himself. He had yet to meet this lady – he certainly intended to get his first look at a female Dwarf before he left.

Gimli's voice broke the uncomfortable silence that had settled over the room. "You have had time to rehearse your excuses," the Dwarf intoned softly. Legolas raised his eyebrows when he heard this. He was surprised to realise that he had seen this quiet fury in the eyes of his father many times before. The comparison made him smile again. "Now we shall hear them."

Silence continued to ring in the air for several moments after Gimli had stopped speaking. The other four Dwarves seemed utterly miserable, at least to Legolas. Finally, Glóin stepped forward.

"We have no excuses, my son. You deserve to hear the truth. That is what we will give you."

Gimli nodded. "We are glad to hear it," he replied, sparing a quick glance at Legolas.

Seeing that none of his companions intended to open their mouths, Glóin took a deep breath and opened his own for a second time.

"I admit that it was all my idea," he confessed. "We were all very excited when we got word that you would be coming home, as you can imagine. We were curious when we heard that you would be bringing the Elf with you. Curious still when, several weeks ago, a rider from the Elf's realm visited here inquiring about your whereabouts." Here he paused, and made eye contact with his son. "I did not know what to think. I did not know where you were and neither, apparently, did the people you were supposedly staying with. Your mother and I were worried for you."

More confident now that another had begun the tale, Azaghàl jumped in to continue. "Then you finally arrive, barely on speaking terms with the Elf you had written so highly about for years. You would not tell us anything…you still will not." He broke free of Gimli's angry gaze, looking instead to Glóin for guidance. "I admit, by that point we had already decided that we would play a trick on the Elf. But it would only have been for fun – light-hearted fun. Between friends."

Here, Zahurûn took up the recollection. "We were sure you would ask one of us to take the Elf to his guest room briefly whilst you greeted you parents privately. Of course, you did just that." He paused, obviously uncomfortable. "I had gone along up to that point because I had thought it would just be a prank. Our intention had been to simply leave him there alone for a few hours, and when you began seriously questioning his whereabouts, we would tell you. He would be unlocked within time for the celebratory feast and the entire incident would be forgotten." He looked at his friend very intensely for several moments. "If I had known, then, that it would escalate into this, I would never have become involved," he admitted. "As it was, I found it very hard to tear myself away from the whole thing. I wish very much that I had looking back – the Elf may have told you that he very nearly talked me into letting him out." He smiled, slightly bitterly. "And of course, I was with me that he did eventually escape."

Gimli nodded once. "It did not escape my attention. However, the fact remains that you did continue to go along with it." He raised his eyebrows. "Well?"

Zahurûn sighed. "I did indeed," he agreed. "We took the Elf down to the room we had decided to keep him in and locked it. Returning to the more populated area of the mountain, your father met us. He told us that there was an amendment to the plan." Now, he faltered, obviously unwilling to relate this part to his friend. Glóin took up the story.

"I did not leave to follow your mother, Gimli. I went instead to meet the other two on their way up. I had spoken to you, and your countenance was…different. I cannot explain exactly how but I could put two and two together. I knew that if we simply extended our prank a little, we could extract all the information we needed from the Elf." Glòin stepped forward, until he was within touching distance of his son. When he spoke again, his voice was gentler. "I assure you, it was never our intention to harm him. We fed him. We had not planned for him to spend the whole night in the room but I had not been able to give him the time to talk that I wanted, as I was with you at the feast, that is what happened. I promise you that he would not have spent another night there even if you had not found out what we were doing."

The younger Dwarf merely looked at his father blankly. "One night in that room was one night too many," he said. "If that is meant to be some kind of excuse, then it is a poor one. Surely you do not think that I would be gratified to hear that?"

Glòin closed his eyes and loosened a breath. "No, my son, I do not think that. I told you that you would hear only the truth from us." He looked intently at Legolas. "I wanted to know why the two of you were not talking and what had occurred in the Elf's homeland that had caused – did you say it was his brother? – to journey here." He addressed Legolas. "I tricked you into thinking that I already knew all of this. I tried to pretend that I was on your side whilst the others were against you. I thought I could get you to tell me what happened that way – without you yourself knowing what you were doing." The old Dwarf frowned. "You still did not seem to trust me. I had expected this. I planned for Zahurûn, who I was sure you would prefer, to become friends with you in the hope that you would confide in him."

Glòin stopped, and returned his gaze to his son. "That is all, my son. I have nothing else to say. I am sure that the other's do not either."

Gimli regarded the others carefully for a few moments. He raised his eyebrows at Legolas. Eventually, he turned back to his father.

"But…I still do not understand why. I mean, why was it so important? Surely you knew that I would tell you in the end, if you were so interested."

The older Dwarf looked back apologetically at the other two. "I was not sure of that," he answered. "You had changed. That I had expected, of course – one does not simply journey to Mordor and back only to return home unaffected by their experiences. But my first clue that something was truly different was the fact that you had brought home an Elf."

Neither Legolas nor Gimli so much as twitched at Glòin's weak attempt at humour.

"To go to such lengths –"

Glòin interrupted with a shrug. "In any case," he concluded. "He and his father may be forgiven for the unfortunate incident in his home many decades ago."

Legolas's eyebrows climbed very far up his forehead. "In the eyes of your people, that incident occurred a very long time ago," he said coolly.

"My memory is long," Glòin informed him. "You will be pleased to hear that you have fully repaid that debt."

Legolas blinked, unsure whether or not the Dwarf was serious or not. He finally said, "My memory is also long. I have managed to forgive you for it."

Gimli was also unsure of his father's seriousness. The older Dwarf's tone betrayed nothing. He decided to ignore the comment.

"It is clear to me that you have spoken the truth," he concurred finally. "I accept that. It seems I have no choice but to." He sighed. "Have the four of you nothing to say for yourselves?"

Eagerly, Zahurûn stepped forward. "Gimli," he turned to Legolas. "Master Elf. I offer you my apology. It is a pity that it is often only on reflection that the best course of action may be seen." He paused, seeming uncertain, before continuing. "I hope that in time you will both forgive my mistake and that we can move on from this to become friends." This last part was directed purely at Legolas, who smiled.

"I would like that very much," he agreed.

Following Zahurûn's example, the other three stepped forward to echo their own apologies, Azaghàl only slightly more reluctantly that the others.

"You are an excellent disciplinarian, Gimli. Truly. Are you sure you do not want children? You would raise them very well, so long as your wife is forgiving in nature." Legolas laughed lightly at the aggravated expression on his friend's face. "No, really, Gimli, it was very amusing to watch you treat you own father as though he were a child."

"If he is going to behave like a child," Gimli justified. This only made the Elf laugh harder. "For someone who recently spent a night locked in a Dwarven dungeon, you are in good spirits," he noted. "Why?"

Legolas smiled. He had agreed to remain in Erebor for at least a few more days – he had yet to meet Gimli's whole family and he was very interested about learning more about the murals which covered almost every wall in the mountain. He also planned to spend time, as promised, getting to know Zahurûn better. Even now he was surprised to find that he looked forward to each of these activities.

The two friends were sat outside on one of the few balconies of the entire mountain. Gimli had arranged for Legolas to spend his trip in this room earlier in the afternoon and he too had decided to sleep in it to keep his friend company. They had recently returned from visiting Arod, who had been only too happy to see the both of them, before which they had enjoyed dinner in the Great Hall.

"I am no longer in the Dwarven dungeon," Legolas replied, but he offered nothing more. The pair sat in a comfortably silence for many minutes.

"Aragorn will be pleased to know that we had the uneventful trip he predicted," Gimli said finally. Legolas shot him an amused glance.

"I agree. There is, of course, no reason why he should know all the details of our trip…"

Gimli raised a single eyebrow. "Which particular details do you have in mind?" He asked dryly.

"All of them, I suppose." Legolas admitted. He smiled at the Dwarf. "Can you imagine what he would have to say about it?"

Gimli considered this. Finally, he made eye contact with the Elf. "Very well," he agreed with false seriousness. We will discuss what exactly we do not plan on telling Aragorn on our return journey."

A/N – Thanks very much for reading. I'd really appreciate any feedback and concrit you can offer :) :)

ebbingnight - I'm glad you liked it :) and hopefully you have your answers now! Thank you so much for the review :)

I really cannot believe that a story of six chapters has taken me more than a year and a half to complete. If I'd known that at the beginning then I would never have started it! I am so glad it's finished. I'm sure you are too if you bothered to read this far!