Trio: Lothlorien Counterpoint
"They shape things oddly here," said Gimli.
"Oddly?" Legolas let his eyes drift shut, then open again. He did not sleep -- no Elf ever did -- but he enjoyed relaxing into the drift of the wind and the sound of Gimli's voice.
"I can think of no better word," the Dwarf said. "There are no edges to your art here. Perhaps because you Elves shape trees and living things, rather than good solid rock and metal."
"We do not shape living things apart from trees," Legolas protested lazily, looking up at his companion. Gimli sat squarely on the ground, his legs folded under him, perhaps arms-length away from where Legolas had cast himself to the sward beneath the trees. The mallorns stood tall and fair all around them. "We taught them words, long ago when the world was young, but we had never reshaped a living thing. That was always the arts of the Enemy."
"The walls of your rooms continue growing," Gimli said. "A Dwarf thing, once made, remains the same as it was when created."
Unless it is destroyed, Legolas thought. Or perverted from its original purpose. The Dwarves had surely never meant the city of Dwarrowdelf to become a stronghold of Orcs and Balrog. But then, neither had Celembrimbor meant his Rings to become tools to enslave the Free Peoples. Better to let that argument pass unspoken. "Our craft is not the same as your craft, no," he agreed aloud. "But then, even the craft of Elves varies from one place to the next."
"Do you not weave trees in Mirkwood?"
Legolas smiled despite himself, up at the pale bare branches of the mallorns. "Not as they do here. We live below the ground, in fear of the darkness the Enemy has spread through the wood, and come out only for our feasts."
"So my father said," Gimli said, and for a moment Legolas cursed himself for a fool, bringing up an old bitterness. But Gimli went on: "Yet you still speak of woods and trees and this sort of place as if you yearn for it. All your years underground have not taught you a proper respect for stone."
Startled, Legolas laughed aloud. "Elves yearn for starlight, Master Dwarf, no matter how long they are away from it -- and we have never yet found it beneath the earth!'
"Stars," Gimli snorted. But there was more amusement than scorn in his voice.
"Yes, stars," Legolas said, and looked at Gimli again. Dark and rough, far more compact than any Elf, with none of the glorious fair beauty Elbereth had given her chosen folk. But no Elf would offer the silent comfort of company. Elves sang out their grief, framing everything in words. Gimli had walked with him, speaking only when asked, as Legolas roamed through the Golden Wood and the Galadhrim.
"Stars," Legolas repeated thoughtfully, and dared to reach out a hand to touch Gimli's solid presence. "But I begin to believe there is something worth seeking in Dwarvish darkness as well."
"There's no apples here," Merry observed, sitting down beside Pippin.
That got a reaction at last. Pip looked up at him, rather startled, as if he'd not seen Merry standing there -- which was simply ridiculous. Pippin sat curled up on the ground next to a tree, and Merry had been standing in front of him for nearly five minutes. But Pippin didn't say, 'I didn't see you,' or anything as silly as that. He said only, "It's January, Merry. Of course there aren't any apples." He subsided a moment, then added a thoughtful, "I think it's January, anyway."
"We came here on January 17th," Merry said firmly. "I counted it out."
"But we've been here..." Pippin fell silent a moment again, fingers moving against his leg as if he were trying to count it out himself, then he shook his head. "I don't know."
"Well, eat the tart I brought you anyway," Merry said, making himself sound cheerful instead of worried. "It's not apple, but it's very good."
Pippin accepted the tart, and munched at it, but without any real enthusiasm. He'd been very quiet ever since they'd reached Lothlorien, hardly eating, unable to sleep unless Merry curled up next to him and told him nonsense stories as if they were back in the Shire. At this rate he'd become a wra -- he'd be very very thin. Thinner than Cousin Frodo, and Pippin didn't have Frodo's excuse of that awful Ring making everything worse.
"I wish there was something I could do for you," Merry heard himself say.
Pippin looked up from his tart, eyes wide. "Merry?"
"You're -- you're so quiet, Pip." It felt foolish to say it out loud, but he was a Brandybuck, and Brandybucks didn't back down once they'd started a thing. "You used to talk all the time, but you've hardly said a word since we came here."
Pippin stared at him a moment more, then carefully set down the tart on the grass, leaned over, and hugged Merry so hard Merry felt his ribs creak. "I'm perfectly all right," Pippin said, his voice a trifle muffled from where he'd buried his face in Merry's shoulder. "Just thinking before I act."
"Peregrin Took, are you quite certain you're feeling all right?"
"Yes." Pippin didn't move away from Merry. If anything, he snuggled in closer, though he let go enough to pick up the tart again.
Merry sighed. He was a hobbit, not an elf. He didn't have fine words at his fingertips. He kissed the top of Pippin's head. "Love you, Pip. You're scattering crumbs down my waistcoat."
"I'll take it off in a bit," Pippin said through a mouthful of tart.
It took Merry a moment to realize what Pip had said. "You'll clean it off?" he said, just to make sure.
"No," Pippin said, swallowing the last of the tart. "Take it off. I haven't lain with you once since we've been here: I've been too busy thinking. Now take off your clothes, you silly Brandybuck. I'm hungry."
"We've missed dinner," Frodo said.
"We've missed the singing."
For a moment he wasn't certain Sam even heard him. They sat on the ground together (what few Elven benches Frodo had found were all too high for a hobbit's short legs), their clothing mussed from slow, exploratory caresses, Frodo's head resting on Sam's shoulder. But Sam at last said, "I'm not sure we can miss the singing here, if you take my meaning, sir. Seems like there's always music somewhere about, not only at meals."
Frodo hid his smile by turning his head and nuzzling Sam's neck. "Bilbo told me once that Elves need music and poetry as much as hobbits need food."
"Hobbits need poetry too, sir," Sam said, voice a little stronger. "Some hobbits anyway, I reckon." Strong fingers under Frodo's chin raised his face to Sam's, and they traded a kiss back and forth, deep and easy, until Frodo nearly forgot what Sam had been saying. But Sam at last drew back, one hand tangled in Frodo's hair. "Look at Mr. Bilbo himself, composing away," he whispered, so close Frodo felt the damp warmth of his breath puffing against his lips. "Look at you, with that poem of yours!"
Poetry? Sam thought him a poet, for that ill-wrought little thing about Gandalf? Frodo laid his fingers against Sam's mouth. "No, Sam," he said quietly. "I'm no poet, not like Bilbo or the Elves. Or even like you, with things like that troll-song."
Sam kissed his master's fingers, then reached up and took Frodo's hand away from his mouth. Frodo drew breath to protest, but before the words could pass his lips, Sam rolled them over so they lay on the grass full-length. Frodo's breath left him in a quiet gasp.
Sam propped himself up on his elbows, keeping Frodo pinned with his weight and one thigh thrown across Frodo's legs. "That wasn't hardly more than a bit of nonsense," he said, once Frodo managed to focus his eyes again.
"But we shall need even nonsense," Frodo said, reaching up to unbutton Sam's shirt. "I don't think there's much poetry, where we are going."
"None but what we'll bring with us, sir."
Was that agreement, Frodo wondered, or another argument? Before he could ask, Sam sat up, leaving him momentarily cold and bereft, and stripped off his unbuttoned shirt. Frodo watched, then reached out and laid his hand flat on Sam's chest.
Sam looked at him curiously, but held still while Frodo touched him, dragging his hand from Sam's collarbone all the way down to the waistband of Sam's trousers. Sam felt... warm. Comforting, even. Solid hobbit-flesh beneath his palm and fingers, though less of it than six months previous, as if Sam were being honed away into something else.
Frodo let his hand drop away, so he lay spread out before Sam, open for the taking. Sam hesitated only a moment before bending over him and working open the buttons on Frodo's shirt as well.
In the stories, a lover's touch made you feel beautiful. Music sang in the air with the sound of their voice. In the poems, love showed itself in noble deeds and fine words.
Sam's hands stroked down his belly, just light enough to make Frodo squirm. He tried to reach over and undo Sam's trousers to get back at him. For a moment their arms got tangled, and elbows knocked together. Frodo laughed. Sam chuckled, then quick as quick got both their trousers undone and rolled over so Frodo could touch him, too. Frodo leaned forward and kissed Sam again, opening his mouth to Sam's tongue. He tightened his grip and moved faster, and gasped when Sam did the same. Close -- so close --
They lay still for a few minutes in the aftermath. Then Frodo leaned over and kissed Sam's cheek. Sam blushed a bit as he rose and went over to a nearby stream that gurgled past them, to dampen his handkerchief so they could tidy up.
They simply weren't in the grand sort of story, Frodo thought ruefully, watching Sam bent over the stream. Sam loved him and he Sam, but not like Beren and Luthien. They were hobbits from the Shire, even if the Quest had changed them. Sam had learned poetry, and he...he'd learned things too.
"Here you are, sir."
Frodo jumped at the feel of the cold handkerchief on his skin, but it broke the dark trend of his thoughts. He allowed Sam to clean him off, hand and belly. Then he helped Sam set himself to rights, and rinse out the handkerchief.
The sun hovered on the edge of the world by the time they finished. Frodo looked up at it for a long moment. The darkness hung about his mind, a foreboding of some kind. They would have to leave the safety of Lothlorien soon.
"Would you like to walk with me, Sam?" he asked.
"Of course, Mr. Frodo," said Sam, taking his hand again. "Anywhere."
– end –
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