Will I pass the Wide Waters Lonely Sailing?
The dream is always the same: he smells the salt carried by the wind; he hears the gentle lapping of the waves against the hull of the boat; he feels his heart drawing him towards the legendary home of his people; but he sees only the mist surrounding him and he aches with the emptiness of it. He wakes fearing that the solitary journey would only leave him feeling hollow on the shores of Eressea - as hollow as he feels clinging to the woods of Ithilien.
"But not today," he reminds himself. Today he is meeting a friend. Gimli, Elf-friend, his companion of many journeys, must already be waiting for him. Legolas spurs Arod to a gallop. No more dwelling on solitude, he thinks, suddenly eager to see his friend. He breathes deeply the smell of pine needles and bark, banishing his dreams of salt and sea mist.
Gimli sits on a rocky outcropping on the eastern shore of the Anduin, comfortably smoking his pipe, watching the woods on the horizon for the appearance of a white horse and rider. On their last meeting in Minas Tirith, he had asked Legolas to meet him today for a hunt. In truth, he wants simply to spend time with his friend, away from the curious glances and blatant stares of the well-meaning folk of Gondor.
And he fears these days are numbered.
Legolas had said nothing new to awaken Gimli's fears, but in watching him closely Gimli noticed a gradual withdrawal; the sea longing was stealing away Legolas' heart and spirit. He sang of Eressea or not at all, and Gimli wondered why he had not already sailed for his Elvenhome.
Perhaps he could request a song from Legolas, a song about Dwarves? He laughs out loud at the prospect and knocks his pipe empty just as Arod breaks free of the distant wood. He is still grinning broadly as the horse and rider stop at his small camp.
"I'm glad to catch you in such good spirits, Gimli!" Legolas says, returning Gimli's grin as he dismounts. "Have you something in store for me..." - his grin widens - "...or have you just eaten?"
"Hah!" he says, clasping Legolas' elbow. "If I had, I would be smoking, not smiling. And I do indeed have something in store for you, but it is too early for drinking and singing."
Legolas gives him a knowing grin and sweeps an arm back towards the forest. "Than shall we begin the hunt?"
The easy companions organize themselves quickly. Leaving Arod to graze by the river, they make their way into the trees. For the next few hours they chat as they track game deeper into the wood, catching up on the events of Aglarond, Ithilien and Minas Tirith, letting many a choice bit of game slip past their sights. Before the sun begins to set behind the treetops, Gimli spies a tiny creek.
"Ah, Legolas, my feet ache. Shall we soak our toes a bit before continuing the hunt?"
He had walked a long way to reach their meeting place and his toes felt worn; seeing the clear water made him suddenly long to cool them.
"Or before starting the hunt?" Legolas says lightly, following Gimli to the bank.
Gimli grunts in return and settles within easy reach of the creek. He removes his boots and stockings, and begins to roll up his leggings before noticing that Legolas is doing likewise. It makes him pause and think: in all their many travels, in the multitude of battles, council meetings and plain old drudgery that they have shared, Gimli could not recall ever seeing Legolas remove more than his cloak. It makes him uncomfortably aware that he is about to get a glimpse of Legolas' bare feet.
He feels oddly light-headed, turning to watch as Legolas slips the last bit of leather off his left foot. He stares as Legolas rests pale marble skin on the moist soil of the creek. To Gimli the skin seems luminous, almost shimmering with each beat of Legolas' heart. He feels his own heart beating louder, keeping time with the glint of Legolas' skin.
Unaware of the extra attention being given to his feet, Legolas strips off his boots, setting them aside, and rolls his leggings up past his knees. He flexes his ankles, stretching his calf muscles with animal-like grace, before lowering his feet into the cool water. He leans back on his elbows and closes his eyes, letting the slippery tingle of the water on his feet spread throughout his body.
The dream of the sea touches the edge of his consciousness, but he is able to turn away from it; in his relaxed state he can almost sense Gimli beside him, almost hear the beating of Gimli's heart in time with his own, and it is enough to stave off the insistent longing for the sea.
He has always found comfort in the Dwarf's presence. Strange, he thinks, that one Dwarf can do what an entire settlement of Elves cannot. He smiles and turns, intending to thank Gimli for this moment of peace, and is mildly shocked to catch the Dwarf staring intently at his feet.
Gimli's glance stays long on the slim curves of Legolas' feet, admiring the perfection of each toe and each nail, but he gradually realizes that more skin has been exposed. His attention moves slowly up the swell of the nearest calf, sighing with disappointment as his eyes reach the rolled up leggings. A light chuckle snaps Gimli out of his reverie. He looks up at Legolas' smiling face with a start.
"Would you like a closer look?" Legolas grins broadly, turning his body to extend a leg in Gimli's direction.
Gimli feels heat rise in his cheeks, and thinks desperately for an excuse for his behavior, but as Legolas dangles one of his lovely feet within reach, the odd light-headed feeling returns, and he relaxes. He reaches out calmly to grasp the ankle.
"I was wondering if you would like a massage."
He can feel the bones beneath his fingers and begins to caress them lightly, bringing his other hand up to cup the heel.
"Dwarves are quite particular in their treatment of feet, you know."
He slides both hands down the length of the foot and begins gently fingering the joints of the toes. He is amazed by the smoothness and softness of the skin.
His voice nearly a whisper, he says, "Perhaps Elves have no need for such concern."
"No, I would like that," Legolas answers a bit breathlessly. The humor he felt in catching Gimli unaware falls away, lost in the seriousness of Gimli's tone and the shocking intimacy of the caresses.
He turns a bit more, placing both his feet in the Dwarf's waiting hands. Leaning further back on his elbows, he lets the massage relax him. The temptation to dream returns to the edge of his awareness, but in mixing with the physical sensation of the caresses the feel of it is different; Legolas succumbs.
The smell of salt assails him, as does the rocking of the sea and the lapping of the waves. But the mist has changed; it is cooler and thicker now. It swirls around him, solid enough to be felt, touching like a caress.
The caresses become more insistent, less like the touch of the wind, more like the touch of a lover. Legolas looks deep into the mist, straining to see what really touches him...but the mist has become the sea...and he is drowning...
Gimli continues to rub and stoke the smooth balls and slim bones of Legolas' feet, long after noticing that the Elf has slipped into a dream state. He is tempted to explore further; if the skin of his feet - surely the most abused part of even an Elf's body - can remain so supple, how glorious might the rest of his body be? But Gimli will not go where he has not been invited.
Instead, he begins placing feather-light kisses along the exposed curves and nips gently between the toes. His palms stroke the bare calves. His fingers caress the graceful arches. His thumbs massage the tiny joints. Then his hands are replaced with his lips, his teeth, his tongue.
Until Legolas cries out, coming out of his dream state, and Gimli pulls those lovely feet against himself, shuddering.
"Gimli?" He was sure he was drowning; his dream seemed so very real.
Now he is sitting on the damp earth by a stream, with his feet in Gimli's lap and an embarrassing stain spreading across his leggings.
"Yes?" Gimli stares at the feet he cradles in his lap; he seems reluctant to let them go.
"Was that your doing?" Legolas realizes there is dampness under his feet, and, strangely, his embarrassment vanishes.
"I did not think it would affect you so." He looks up at Legolas, a miserable expression on his face. "I did not think it would affect me so."
Indeed, Legolas thinks, though I should have realized.
He smiles at Gimli, motioning toward his own wet leggings. "Perhaps we should bathe and return to camp," he says. "The game can wait until tomorrow; it seems we have much to talk about tonight."
Gimli's face sags with relief, then lights again with renewed discomfort.
"Did you say 'bathe'?"