What To Do When Your Pillow Refuses to Remove His Armor
On the road to Isengard, the Rohirrim had set up camp and eaten their supper, and were now beginning to settle down for the night. Watches were set, and those not chosen were rolling out their bedrolls and chatting with their fellows, preparing for the coming dark. The men clustered close together, but the strangers amongst them remained on the outskirts of the group, courteously not imposing themselves on old friends. In a bedroll somewhat removed from the main camp, a heated debate was going on.
"You," Gimli announced sternly, "are not supposed to be moving."
Legolas barely glanced up. "If you were a little less lumpy I would not be moving so much," he replied, clearly unimpressed, and continued to adjust himself around the dwarf.
"It is disconcerting," Gimli insisted. "When you hold still I can pretend that you are nothing more than a warm blanket; you hardly weigh more than one, all things truly told. But I have never before encountered a blanket that could move about under its own power!"
Legolas ceased trying to find a comfortable place for his head amongst all of Gimli's armor long enough to look severely at his companion. "If it comes to that," he said, "I am not entirely certain you are permitted to talk. Pillows, in my experience, do not. Neither do they wear armor," he added in an aggrieved tone.
"You have never experienced a Dwarven pillow," Gimli rumbled. "And I will stop talking if you will stop moving."
"Somehow I doubt that," Legolas grumbled under his breath. But of course, lying as close as they were, Gimli heard him.
"You doubt it? You, the one who awakens me every night without fail singing to the stars and the trees and Mahal knows what else whilst you sleep?
"I do not sing in my sleep."
"You do, elf. You think I can't hear you when we're lying this close to each other? You sing in your sleep, and you sing on the road, and you sing while you fight--you never bloody stop singing."
Legolas tried without success to retain his dignity while responding. He was still trying to maneuver his body into some kind of truce with Gimli's armor, which the stubborn dwarf refused to remove even for sleep--some arrangement of limbs and metal that would provide them both with heat but would not result in Legolas waking with more bruises than he had suffered at Helm's Deep two days ago. "If my singing bothers you--and mind you I am not conceding that I do sing in my sleep, which I do not, but let us presume for the moment that you are right--if it bothers you so much, you are welcome to seek sleeping quarters elsewhere. I am of course capable of sleeping standing up," the elf added smugly.
Gimli grunted. It was true, he could have easily bid his companion farewell and wandered off to share one of the Rohirrim's fires, or to find a blanket a little less mobile and noisy. But somewhere in between the breaking of the fellowship and their arrival in Rohan he had grown accustomed to the elf sleeping curled up next to him at night, sharing their body heat primarily for Gimli's benefit. For some reason Legolas had not ceased to sleep beside Gimli when they had joined up with the Rohirrim and his services as a blanket were no longer required--and Gimli did not intend to send him away, ever.
"I would not wish to deny you the rare pleasure of a dwarven pillow," Gimli finally declared, but it had taken him much longer than usual to come up with a retort. He couldn't simply admit that he enjoyed the elf's company and found his bodily presence comforting; that would have spoiled the game.
"You're too kind," Legolas murmured, extracting several strands of his hair from between the links of Gimli's chain mail.
There was silence then, but it only lasted a moment. These two could never be silent for long; they had been known to banter the whole night away like this. "Oh, for the sake of Mahal!" Gimli declared. "Will you stop moving?"
Legolas flung blond hair out of his eyes with a practised flick and raised himself up onto both forearms, leaning somewhat menacingly over the dwarf. "If you would consent to remove your armor, I would not be moving so much trying to get away from it."
"Nothing could convince me to take my armor off," Gimli said smugly. "You never know when we might be attacked. And I fail to see how a creature who brags so constantly of his ability to sleep sitting or standing or any which way he chooses can be so troubled by it."
This time it was Legolas who struggled to come up with a retort. Gimli grinned at him, enjoying his discomfort. "It is not the habit of elves to sleep in armor," he finally said sulkily.
"Ah, but is it the habit of elves to sleep next to dwarves?"
Legolas arched one eyebrow. "Apparently not, for if it were we would have long ago begun sleeping in armor as well merely to protect ourselves!"
"I reserve the right to wear my armor whenever I chose to."
"And do you reserve the right to make me suffer through it as well?" Legolas asked plaintively.
"I do indeed. After all, I am the victor of Helm's Deep," Gimli put in smugly. He brought this point up with the elf a bare minimum of a dozen times a day. "You are indebted to me for that."
"Oh, no!" In some corner of his mind Gimli began to wonder if they were going to get any sleep tonight, or if they would banter all the way through to the dawn--Legolas sounded particularly emphatic. "No you don't. Don't you dare bring that up again. One orc, one measly little orc, and I must have repaid it to you ten times already. I will not have the debt of that single orc held over my head for the rest of my days!"
"And just what are you going to do about it?"
Legolas regarded him levelly for a moment. "I am going to ask you to name your forfeit, once and for all, and then I will pay it. And that shall be that!"
Well now! This was an interesting turn of events. "Forfeit, eh?" Gimli said, rubbing his beard thoughtfully. "Forfeit."
"Yes, forfeit," Legolas said testily. "F-o-r-f-e-i-t-, forfeit. As in one person wins a bet with another person, and then claims some sort of prize from the person who lost. And then it's over."
"I much prefer lording it over you."
"I refuse," Legolas said adamantly. "Name your prize, Master Dwarf. And then we shall have it over with until the next battle, at which time you may well find yourself beholden to me."
"I doubt it," Gimli said, just to annoy Legolas.
"We shall see," Legolas replied, smiling a tight-lipped smile at the dwarf. "Now choose."
Gimli stretched, thinking about what he wanted to claim as a prize. It would have to be something spectacular enough to make up for the loss of teasing material, but of course he wouldn't ask anything of Legolas that would make the elf truly uncomfortable. For some reason, he was having a hard time concentrating while Legolas's breath was ghosting across his neck like that.
When Gimli remained silent for some time, Legolas cocked his head at him. "What's the matter, Gimli? Do dwarves not have such a custom--to give and receive a prize after a bet was won?"
"Oh, we have such a custom," Gimli assured him.
"Then what is the usual forfeit, in a case such as this?"
Gimli grinned at him. "Guess."
"Gold, no doubt," Legolas said with a resigned sigh, settling his head on Gimli's shoulder.
"You are close. I would usually demand of another dwarf some piece of jewelry he was wearing--a ring or a brooch or something of the sort. Gemstones, you see. But you wear no jewelry!" He smiled at Legolas fondly. "So I cannot demand a dwarven forfeit from you." An idea struck him then. "What do elves do in such situations?"
The question caught Legolas off guard; after a moment, he began to chuckle, and Gimli could swear he could see a light blush spreading across the elf's cheekbones. Or maybe it was just the light from the fires shifting. "Oh, something you shall undoubtedly complain about."
Legolas's eyes were dancing with mirth, that much Gimli could be certain of even in this light. But he was more and more sure he really was seeing a blush as well. "Yes, you shall puff your chest out and declare us romantic and flighty and many other things as well, I am sure."
"You have me curious, elf," Gimli rumbled. "I insist on hearing what this strange custom is."
Legolas did his best to look innocent as he replied. "Well, Gimli, it is simply that in elven society, such bets are often undertaken for the honor or praise of a great lady, such as Galadriel. And the prize for winning is a kiss."
"A kiss?" Leave it to the elves, Gimli thought, uncertain why his pulse had suddenly picked up.
Legolas nodded, biting his lip to contain his amusement. "Nothing more, nothing less."
Before he could realize what he was doing, Gimli said, "Well, I'll have that then."
Legolas raised both eyebrows. He spoke in a low voice. "You wish an elven forfeit of me?" he asked, making sure he understood.
Gimli nodded, not quite trusting his voice to work at the moment. Suddenly his mouth had become very dry. He swallowed, trying hard to calm his breathing, trying to convince himself that this was still all just a part of the game--but he had a feeling that he had just crossed a line, one that there would be no going back over.
Legolas tilted his head to the side, seeming to consider. A trace of a smile passed over his face. "Very well." The light of challenge was still in his eyes as he leaned forward.
The kiss started simply, and Gimli could tell that Legolas had meant for it to end that way as well--a jest between friends, a forfeit, and nothing more. But the second Legolas's lips touched his own something changed. Without meaning to, Gimli parted his lips slightly; Legolas pressed more firmly against him, then suddenly pulled back.
Neither of them spoke for a moment; Gimli was having enough trouble just breathing. He snuck a glance at his friend; Legolas was still leaning over him, a curtain of golden hair falling around both their heads. All traces of playfulness and competition had left the elf's face, leaving a confused and somewhat vulnerable visage behind. Legolas's eyes were downcast and he was biting his lower lip, something that did nothing to aide Gimli's efforts to slow his breathing--in fact, just the opposite. Gimli could think of nothing but taking that lip between his own teeth, gently. The game was definitely over--or at least the rules had changed.
Somehow, Gimli found his voice. "I believe," he offered cautiously, "that I also slew more orcs than you inside Moria, and am due a forfeit."
Legolas blinked, surprise washing over his face--it was followed by a gentle happiness that Gimli had in no way anticipated. Silently he moved, with slow deliberate motions, until their lips were pressed softly against each other once more. It was indescribably sweet, but just as Gimli was beginning to lose track of his surroundings Legolas gently severed the kiss. He pulled back only a few inches and lay there regarding Gimli expectantly.
"And at Amon Hen," Gimli said when he regained his breath.
Legolas's smile was sweet, but he shook his head. "Nay, you did not slay more than I at Amon Hen," he said softly.
Gimli mustered his remaining faculties of thought. "Perhaps not, but is not orc-slaying in and of itself worth a prize?"
Legolas pretended to consider this while an uncontainable smile spread across his face. Then he met Gimli's eyes, and the dwarf felt a jolt of fire shoot through his body at the expression in the elf's eyes in the split second before Legolas's mouth was on his again.
This kiss lasted slightly longer and was slightly deeper than before, and when it was over Gimli took a moment to regain his ability to speak. Legolas waited docilely, arms somehow having become twined about the dwarf's neck. He watched Gimli's face with an intensity that would have been disconcerting were it not for the tender joy in the elf's eyes. Again he had only moved a few inches away, just far enough to be able to focus his eyes on Gimli's. He said nothing--he was waiting, Gimli realized, for Gimli to give him another excuse for a kiss.
"Well," Gimli began, "when I was forty-three there was this marauding party in the Iron Hills--"
Legolas moved forward and swiftly captured Gimli's lips with his own, teasing gently with his tongue; again Legolas ended the kiss before Gimli was anywhere near ready to surrender the elf's mouth and pulled back slightly, expectantly. As Gimli mentally groped for another excuse it occurred to him that though it might appear that he was calling the shots, Legolas was really in control of the situation. It seemed like the elf was merely waiting for Gimli's invitations, but the reality was that Legolas held a commodity that Gimli had suddenly and desperately discovered he would pay any price for--his kisses.
Not willing to abandon a tactic that was working, he continued. "And there was the time my cousins and I surprised a band on our way home from Dale."
Moving with deliberate slowness, Legolas closed the distance between them again. This time, when their mouths made contact, Gimli snaked a hand around to cradle the elf's head and prevent him from pulling away after a brief, lingering tease of a kiss. He felt a small tensing of the elf's body when he tried after a moment to pull back and found he could not--just a small one, and then Legolas submitted to Gimli's desires and allowed the dwarf to deepen the kiss, tasting the inside of Legolas's mouth and lightly rubbing their tongues together. This time, when they broke apart, it was from the physical necessity of breathing.
Gimli caught his breath first. "The next day we killed two stragglers that had escaped."
Legolas kissed him briefly, oh so briefly, and was away before Gimli could capture him again. "One," he said softly, and then leaned in for a deeper kiss, sucking gently on Gimli's lower lip. "Two."
"Ah, are we counting by individual orcs now?" Gimli panted. "You owe me forty-two for Helm's Deep alone."
"Forty-two?" Legolas pretended to ponder this, then smiled a devious smile that went straight to Gimli's groin. "This may take me a while."
Neither spoke again for many moments, but it was far from silent. Little exclamations of need, whimpers coming from the throat and muffled in each other's mouths, escaped them both, encouraging the other. If any of the Rohirrim had wandered past then they would have known exactly what was going on, but fortunately the elf and dwarf were far enough away from the main camp to protect their privacy.
Gimli gave a noise that was half a growl, half a moan when Legolas pulled away from him for a moment, flicking hair out of his eyes and taking a few deep breaths. "My dear dwarf," he said huskily, "I am afraid that we will be up all night and beyond if I attempt to kiss you for every orc you have ever slain, and I would not want to deprive you of your rest. Might I suggest a different method of payment?" His tone, and the hand placed on Gimli's groin, left no doubt as to his meaning.
They found it necessary then to remove themselves even further from the Rohirrim camp; and Legolas was delighted to discover that there was, in fact, one thing that could compel a dwarf to remove his armor. And afterwards, as a spent Legolas curled up next to him, Gimli realized he had been missing out on something by keeping that metal barrier in between them. The feel of flesh on flesh, the ability to wrap his arms around Legolas and hold him this closely, was far superior to teasing him. Legolas curled about him like a cat, seeming perfectly content and disinclined to move in the foreseeable future. Gimli could hardly blame him; after their exertions, he had a wry feeling he wouldn't be the only one reluctant to mount a horse tomorrow.
For a little while nothing but gentle kisses and incomprehensible murmurs of satisfaction passed between them; their smiles spoke everything, and Gimli was far too overwhelmed to form a coherent sentence anyway. But before drifting off, Legolas tugged on a few strands of the beard he had been lazily twisting around his fingers and said, "So, Gimli, do you consider the forfeit paid?"
"Good. Then tomorrow night you may begin to repay me for all the orcs I have slain. We can begin with the forty-one from Helm's Deep. Though I will remind you, Gimli, that I have lived many hundreds of years longer than you, and you will not find it so easy to repay me."
Legolas fell into reverie shortly after that, too sated to continue to tease. But Gimli lay awake for a long time, imagining with delight all the various ways he could begin to repay his elf. He was awake long after his blanket had begun to sing, softly, in incomprehensible snatches of Sindarin. "You do sing in your sleep, my love," Gimli whispered fondly. Then, satisfied at having had the last word, he too drifted into sleep.