It was the middle of his favourite song on the album, Legolas had just hit 4096 for the third time this week, and... someone was knocking on the front door.
He took off his headphones and listened closer. Hobbits, he determined, and they were now discussing ringing the doorbell, which would definitely wake the rest of the house and not make them very popular with Gimli or Aragorn.
He rose from the computer desk and threw a dressing gown on before running lightly down the stairs to the front door.
Merry and Pippin stared up at him, blinking. "Are you the only one up?"
"It's a Saturday," said Legolas. "It's 10 AM."
The Hobbits did not appear to consider this an excuse. "It's Frodo's birthday next week," said Merry, as if this were an explanation.
Legolas waved them inside. "Neither of you are Frodo," he pointed out.
"Frodo is still asleep," said Pippin. "He's moping because his birthday is on a Sunday and it's too close to the start of term to go home this year. We left Sam to keep him company."
"He and his uncle always throw a huge party," Merry explained. "You should have seen last year's, it was incredible, there were fireworks and speeches and--"
"So we're going to throw him a party instead," said Pippin.
"Not really a party, more of a... restaurant crawl. We're here to invite you all."
"And," said Pippin, "we need some ideas."
Upstairs, Legolas could hear that at least two of his housemates had noticed the noise and given up on sleeping through it.
"Aragorn and Faramir should be down soon," he said. Gimli was still asleep, at least for now. "Why don't we wait for them so you don't have to explain twice? I'll make tea." He left them sitting at the dining table and went to put the kettle on.
Kettle, water, mugs, teapot, tea... He pulled things down from the cupboards and set them out on the bench.
Aragorn and Faramir appeared shortly thereafter, Aragorn fully dressed and Faramir in pyjamas and dressing gown.
"Dare I ask?" said Aragorn.
"We're planning a birthday celebration for Frodo," said Pippin. "You're invited."
Faramir rubbed his temples. "I like Frodo as much as the next person, but it is too early for this."
The kettle let out a shrill whistle, and Legolas busied himself with the tea. They'd had to buy an extra set of four mugs to accommodate their neighbours' habit of dropping by unexpectedly at any time of day. Hobbits, they had quickly discovered, could eat and drink at any time of day.
While he was filling the teapot, Gimli stomped into the kitchen, yawning.
"I've got tea on," said Legolas.
Gimli frowned at him from under lowered brows. "Elf tea or real tea?"
Legolas had, without thinking, prepared a teapot with his own tea and a separate mug with Gimli's preferred type of fermented tea. He stared at it. "Both," he said, after a moment's contemplation.
They'd been living together two weeks. It seemed a little early to be automatically preparing tea for his dwarf housemate - particularly since he couldn't have even told you how his other two housemates liked their tea.
Gimli seemed equally surprised by this development. When Legolas handed him the mug, he managed to stammer out a belated "thank you".
Once they were all gathered around the table with tea and biscuits, Aragorn cleared his throat. "What, exactly, do you need help with?"
"We thought we'd start with afternoon tea at home," said Merry. "And then we can do the Great Eagle Gastropub. They have Shire ale there, and the chips aren't bad."
"Not as good as the Green Dragon," Pippin clarified. "But adequate."
"We'll do dinner at that place on second Frodo keeps dragging us to."
"But we need your advice on what to do afterwards," Pippin finished.
They contemplated that in silence for a moment.
"Dessert?" Aragorn ventured, at length.
"Before dessert," said Merry earnestly. "We'll go to the ice creamery, then back home for cake. But we need to do something in between or it's not really a celebration."
"Tapas?" suggested Faramir helplessly.
"I can get us a discount at any of the Greenwood wine bars," said Legolas, without really thinking.
Pippin and Merry's eyes widened. "Wine and cheese! Brilliant!" Merry scribbled it down in his notebook.
Gimli was scowling into his mug. "I don't know if that's a good plan. It might get us arrested."
The hobbits looked puzzled.
"My father and his party were arrested and thrown out of a Greenwood wine bar when they were students," Gimli muttered darkly.
Legolas winced. "To be fair," he pointed out, "they were quite rude when asked to keep the noise down."
The hobbits exchanged glances. "Never be rude to your host. It might cost you a second invitation," said Pippin. "Especially if the fare is good. We Hobbits know this."
"They were paying customers!" Gimli protested.
"I apologise on behalf of my father," said Legolas quickly. "It was a long time ago and he isn't... Well, he isn't directly managing any of his bars anymore."
Gimli's expression lightened a little, although he still looked disgruntled.
"So, wine and cheese, then what?"
"Coffee?" said Faramir. "There's that fair-trade place on Fifth."
"I prefer the place on Seventh," said Aragorn thoughtfully.
Gimli cleared his throat. "There's a very fine Dwarf bakery on Third that has a wide range of hot drinks and chocolate--"
"Chocolate!" said Merry and Pippin unison.
Legolas got up to make more tea.
Consequently, Legolas found himself sitting in one of his father's bars on a Sunday night, very full of beer, fried potatoes, kale and quinoa salad with lembas croutons, and wondering if his father would be more ashamed of Legolas's inability to finish his glass of aged Rohan wine or the fact that Legolas was pretty sure he wanted to bang his dwarf housemate.
For his part, Gimli was wearing well under the onslaught of food and alcohol. He was slightly more tipsy than Legolas, but still capable of holding up his side of a coherent conversation.
Frodo was definitely looking cheerier than he had been the last week, although it was hard to say whether that was the company or the alcohol.
Two of Frodo's human classmates on the other side of the table were in the middle of a heated argument about whether digital was capable of capturing all the nuances of Elven music and if it really sounded better on vinyl. They had tried several times to draw Legolas into the discussion, but he pointed out that vinyl had been an obsolete technology since before he was born and he'd grown up listening to CDs.
Faramir was chatting to Merry's friend Eowyn, apparently for the first time. There was a faint blush on both their cheeks.
Gimli was telling Aragorn and Eowyn's brother about some amazing caves he'd visited over the summer, and he described them with such passion that Legolas found himself with a burning desire to see them for himself.
Preferably with Gimli.
He looked into his glass of wine again. Perhaps this was all some kind of alcohol-fuelled impulse and it would go away in the light of day. Perhaps he should drink more so that he stopped thinking about it.
The Hobbits launched into the fifth iteration of their happy birthday song.
Legolas was glad he'd managed to convince the bar to open to them exclusively.
Elves don't get hangovers. From previous experience Legolas knew that his presence around the house after a night of drinking would not be appreciated, so he resolved to leave early and try to get some study done before classes.
The downside of this was that he had very clear and vivid memories of everything that occurred the previous night.
They'd made it back to the house in one piece, but Gimli fell asleep on the doorstep before Legolas managed to get the door open.
Somehow, he managed to get the Dwarf onto his shoulder, carry him up to his bedroom and dump him on his bed.
Jeans were not at all comfortable to sleep in, but even slightly tipsy, Legolas was not emotionally prepared to undress his unconscious housemate. He compromised by popping the fly on Gimli's jeans and the top button of his shirt, then fleeing to his own bedroom to have a quiet freak-out.
The desperate hope that the alcohol leaving his system would make the feelings of the previous night evaporate proved futile.
His thoughts were too scattered, and gaming just gave him more space to think. He went downstairs to make tea.
Operation "Don't Let The Dwarf Know You Have A Crush On Him" was going to require some careful planning. He didn't even know how to begin.
His plans to make a quiet getaway were ruined when Aragorn walked into the kitchen, seeming only slightly under the weather for his own excesses the previous night.
He looked at Legolas curiously. "Now, I know you don't have a hangover. So why do you look like hell?"
Legolas raised his head from the table. "I'm just thinking about something."
Aragorn poured himself a cup of tea and returned to the table. "Did something happen between you and Gimli last night?"
Legolas stared at him in dismay. "No!"
"Then... you've realised you wish something had happened?"
Legolas let his head thump back onto the table.
Aragorn patted him on the shoulder. "It had to happen sooner or later. Just tell him."
"But how?" he mumbled into the tabletop.
"The usual way?"
"I don't think there is a usual way. Elves don't date Dwarves."
"How unnecessarily speciesist," said Aragorn.
"I'm not... It's just that I--"
"Legolas. Just ask him out."
The feet currently coming down the stairs paused. "Who is Legolas asking out?"
Of course, that had to be Gimli, it couldn't have been Faramir. Legolas stood up abruptly. "I'm going to the library. I'll see you tonight."
He managed to avoid Gimli all day, although he did have to skip their shared class. He'd be able to download a recap from the website later, it would be fine.
He hadn't counted on Gimli ambushing him in his bedroom that night.
"Can I come in? I've brought honey cake."
He unlocked the door and let Gimli in, sitting back at his desk immediately afterwards.
Gimli looked around the room for a moment before putting the cake on the desk and sitting on the bed.
"I didn't know you dated men," said Gimli, in a very neutral tone.
"I didn't realise it was something I needed to tell people," said Legolas frostily. "Why should it matter?"
"It matters because if I'd known I might have asked you on a date six months ago instead of getting you to join my study group."
"You didn't even like me six months ago," said Legolas. "Gandalf only convinced me to join the study group by not telling me you were in it."
Gimli muttered something under his breath, too indistinct for even Legolas to make out, then burst out with, "I was trying to get your attention!"
"You were trying to get my attention by... disagreeing with everything I said?"
"It worked, didn't it?"
"In that I was convinced you hated me and everything I stood for, I suppose so!"
"But we got past that in the end," Gimli pointed out.
They had, and now he would count Gimli amongst his closest friends. Only, he didn't usually want to kiss his closest friends silly.
"You really wanted to ask me out?"
Gimli let out a frustrated noise. "The question is, would you have said yes?"
Legolas hesitated. "Not back then," he admitted. As Gimli's face fell, he continued quickly. "But now? Who do you think Aragorn was telling me to ask out? It certainly wasn't Frodo."
And then Legolas suddenly had a lapful of Dwarf, but he didn't really mind.