Rating: PG for referenced M/M Dwarvish relations and oblique adult innuendo (Gimli/OMD)
Word count: 1200
From a pocket in his overvest, Gimli drew out his pipe and tinderbox. After a furtive look around, reassuring himself that he was alone, as much as one could ever be alone in this Elf-beleaguered land, he lit the tobacco. He waved out the flint with a sated sigh, leaning against the stone column on the outskirts of the enchanted city in which he still found himself. It was reassuring, the warmth of the smoke as he drew it into his mouth, the flavour familiar and grounding. He'd heard the hobbits go on about their beloved Longbottom leaf, but Gimli had been raised on what he now understood to be Old Toby. To Gimli's mind, its name in khudzul reflected far more accurately the acrid qualities of the pungent weed. If it came down to theirs or none, should he run out of his own store, he suspected he'd put the Longbottom or whatever else they had in his pipe without hesitation. Dwarves were proud, not unreasonable.
After several contemplative puffs, Gimli returned his focus to the parchment in his lap. He'd needed time away, time to get his thoughts together before committing them to ink. While he appreciated his father's concern, the older Dwarf's gruff statements of caution and enthusiasm for this singularly momentous adventure, Gimli was out of sorts. He'd woken refreshed that morning, and the unmistakable, though faint odour around him let him know why. He'd had one of those dreams. They were nothing to be ashamed of, and he was not nearly old enough for his desires to have faded as it inexorably did with their kind. Of the dream he remembered only snatches: fingers with jeweled bands; deep, warm laughter; a long, plaited beard that trailed down his abdomen to Gimli's most hidden parts.
He shook himself from his reverie. It wouldn't do to be caught in the throes of such thoughts, even though he trusted in his solitude. He had his suspicions that both the Elf-lord Elrond and Glorfindel could read minds, should they wish it. The idea of anyone sharing these personal dream-visions was unbearable; that it should be Elves was horrifying. He took a calming puff, reviewing what he'd written previously. It wasn't florid, that wasn't at all his style. He'd written to this particular recipient upon arrival to Rivendell, two months prior. The correspondence had supposedly been routed first to Bree before making its way to the Lonely Mountain.
Gimli knew that his father would not find this second letter odd. He'd been glad of the long-standing loyalty and friendship between Gimli and Vram. The rockwright and lapidarist had begun their apprenticeships in the same year, now so long ago. As the years went on, neither had sought a wife, preferring to pour their energies into their respective callings. There was much to be done in Dale after the destruction of Smaug, caverns to be delved and arms to be wrought for Men and Dwarves alike. The battle of Five Armies had made inescapable the truth that the creatures of the dark grew ever stronger and numerous. All Dwarves — with Bombur as notable exception — ensured that they remained hale and in fighting strength, their munitions plentiful, sharp and in good repair.
What Glóin would never know, nay, what no other Dwarf had reason even to contemplate, was that they had found solace and fathomless companionship such that Gimli had never before seen in any of his kind. The other reason why Gimli had never considered the few females in their ranks was that he had no reason for such. When, on occasion, such physical urges occurred, Vram had warmed his bed. It had progressed far beyond that, however; after two decades, on a night when they had drunk much ale and the stars were unbearably bright, he had revealed his true name. Several years later, Vram had done the same. It was tantamount to a binding for eternity.
Returning to his writing, Gimli filled in some details of his time of forced immersion with Elves, Glóin, Gandalf, a Man of Gondor and the few hobbits that scampered about. Nearly finished with his letter, Gimli revealed that he had been selected to join a group of nine, destined to travel farther south than any Dwarf in recent memory had gone. He was glad in many ways; provided the remaining scouts returned with favourable news, their route would take them near Dwarrowdelf, over the lands of their great ancestors.
In closing, Gimli allowed a rare vulnerability. Only to this chosen one did he dare reveal any worry, or acknowledge what he had willingly reconciled deep within himself: there was a good chance he would never return. Clenching his teeth on the stem of his pipe, Gimli retrieved his quill and finely-carved inkpot. He pondered the phrasing of his thoughts before drawing the lines and cross-hatches that configured the fitting runes of his people.
As long as I wield my axe, I live, and you with me, he wrote, looking fondly at the etchings on his axe-blade where Vram's name had been inscribed. His trusted weapon was made dearer by the runic symbols of the one who understood Gimli at least as well as he knew himself. Yet it may be in the care of Mahal that we see each other again. I look forward to our reunion, whenever it comes. Would that King Dáin had chosen you instead of Glóin, who today begins his return journey to the Mountain. Perhaps you, too, could have joined this foolhardy band. We attempt the unspeakable with hobbits and one hot-headed Elf of Mirkwood. I have faith in the Men and Gandalf, but this will be a long road we travel. I doubt not my own strength, but even I cannot carry four hobbits for days on end.
He paused and noticed that his pipe had gone out. Just as he reached into his pocket to pluck out the tinderbox again, he heard a sussurative rustling and quickly turned his head. Sure enough, one of Elrond's house stood there, giving Gimli what he was sure was meant to be a disapproving look. Gimli only half-heartedly suppressed his satisfaction of relighting the bowl under the near-unblinking gaze of the Elf.
"Your father, Glóin, requests your presence," the statuesque being said, his nostrils flaring slightly as the fragrant smoke rose in the air. "He departs at mid-day."
"I know that," Gimli said crossly. "I'll return to our rooms momentarily."
The Elf appeared only too grateful that their exchange had been so brief. He vanished as quietly as he had appeared, his nacreous robes blending in with the silvery bare trees of winter. Smoking his pipe with renewed vigour, Gimli looked at the sliver of blank space at the bottom of his parchment. How could he bring this to a close? How could he articulate what could be a permanent farewell to the one whose hands were both bruising and gentle, having tended to Gimli's body with loving and masterly skill far beyond the most accomplished stonewright?
Gimli snarled at himself, frustrated. "It's no use," he growled. "You'll simply have to survive."
When there is peace, you will see me again.