Posting year-old challenge fic because I fail at updating my own journal in a timely manner.

Title: Dazzled
Author: [ profile] empy
Pairing: Legolas/Gimli
Rating: G
Disclaimer: The characters belong to the Tolkien estate. No infringement is intended.
Note: written for the [ profile] lotr_sesa, for [ profile] lordhellebore, who asked for "a story about how love, or at least temporary comfort, can be found with the most unlikely person.".
Note 2: many thanks to [ profile] caras_galadhon for both help and cheerleading.
Note 3: slightly AU in that I've taken some liberties with regards to where Legolas settles after the War of the Ring.

It does not take much in the way of stealth to let me sneak up on him. Or so I think. When I trust overmuch in the softness of my tread, I forget his keen eyes. I forget, also, the facets in the rock around me, each like a mirror polished to quicksilver shine. My reflection is cast around the entire hall, shaded here in gold and there in silver, further on in the muted tone of the sky on a summer night. The Glittering Caves truly live up to their name.

"Soft-footed as Queen Beruthiel's cats you may be, Legolas, but you are not invisible." His voice echoes in the wide space, rolls back softly to us in the time it takes for him to turn around and look at me.

"Betrayed by my reflections," I smile. "And by your guardsmen, no doubt. Word of my return must have travelled to you faster than I could."

Before I left Mirkwood for good, I was asked if I truly knew what I was giving up, if I realized that I would be doomed to live underground in low halls with little air and less light. I laughed at them. They knew nothing of the Glittering Caves, and fell back instead on those old tales they had heard of the Dwarves. I am certain many of those tales are ones my father once told.

It is no denser a canopy than the branchwork of Greenwood the Great, I tell them. The air no less free. And as for light -- ah, there is more light there than in the clearest of moonlit nights.

Those who had no questions for me let me know instead with gazes what they thought of my choice.

My father was by far the hardest one to face. When word had reached him of what I had done, the missive that he sent fair seethed with rage. When I met him, I will confess that for a moment I feared him as he rose from his throne, but I met his gaze without flinching. My father he may be, but this choice was mine. No matter how many unwritten laws it broke. I have had enough of war and will not play my part in one that has stretched over so many years it should have collapsed in on itself. I do not deny that there is cause for discord, nor do I deny that the history of both races is awash with blood, but to wage war in the hope of achieving peace is a venture doomed to fail.

My father disagrees. He has nurtured the same burning hate for centuries, fed it steadily to keep it alive. I know all too well what he did when Thorin's company passed through Mirkwood. I was there. I saw Gimli's father then. He might have seen me or might not, and time may have dimmed his memory. Sixty years in the reckoning of Men is far, far greater a burden of time to a Dwarf than it is to an Elf. His gaze was piercing when I met him at the Council of Elrond, but I could not tell if it was because he recognized me or because the very mention of my lineage raised his hackles. The second time I met him the gaze was just as stern. "Well met, Legolas Thranduilion," he said, and I hastily bowed to hide the look of startled surprise that must have flickered across my face at the unexpected use of the title. "You need not fear that I will treat my guests ill. Least of all when they are ones my son holds dear." When I raised my gaze again, I was astonished to find the vaguest shadow of a smile on the grizzled features. "I will not ask for tokens of loyalty or promises of alliance. What I will ask, however, is that you mark well the strength of your heart."

That I swore, gladly and without hesitation. I have done my best to keep this promise since.

I will admit with some reluctance that I was once as stiff-necked as all the rest of my kin, as proud. What else could I have been but offended when I was snarled at in front of not only my kinfolk but also an assemblage of dignitaries? And by a Dwarf, no less, one of a kin I had been told from childhood to mistrust. He seemed hewn from living stone, his voice a rumble like the rolling of rocks down a steep mountainside. His manners were as rough, as full of edges and unsmoothed angles.

And still... still there were such surprising little glimmers among all this unpolished bluster. Glimmers like the flicker of half-buried crystal catching torchlight, or the glitter of dew in the unfurling leaves of a tender shoot springing from the dead bole of some ancient tree.

Our journey took us through fire and ice, led us through the fair woods of Lothlorien and the ruined glory that was Dwarrowdelf, and the further we travelled, the clearer it became to me that I had sorely underestimated him. What I would once have dismissed as boastful chatter held wisdom when I stopped to consider it. His hands, which had seemed to me to be fit only to grip the haft of a battle-axe, proved to be skilled beyond my wildest imaginings.

I am startled out of my reminiscing by his laughter. "You hoped, perhaps, to catch me unawares, sunk in some grand dream of how I might carve out new halls, but it seems the roles have been reversed. Tell me, did the glory of the Glittering Caves dazzle you anew?"

The thousand reflections that surround us share my smile. "Nay, though the magnificence of their Lord did."

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