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We Will Journey On Together

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The question of to whose home they would return first - for neither of them desired to be separated so early in their relationship, nor to face their families alone - was still unresolved when they came within sight of Dale and found the decision made moot.

The Elvenking stood with a small retinue alongside a party of Dwarves, all of whom let out a loud cheer as they approached.

Legolas attempted a bow, as should be appropriate for one returning from a long diplomatic engagement, but his father drew him into his arms and just held him for several long moments.

Legolas closed his eyes and leaned in. He catalogued the familiar feel of his father's arms - hair tickling Legolas's cheek, strong hands clasped behind his back.

"You are not the same Elf as you were when you left," said Thranduil at last.

Legolas drew back a little. "Indeed I am not, for I fought a war that seemed hopeless but for the tiniest chance, and I have heard the cry of the gulls and no longer will my heart be satisfied in the forest of my youth."

His father's arms tightened around him. "I had received news of this fate, though I dared only hope it would not come to pass."

"I, too, had warning of its coming and hoped it would prove false - and yet I could not avoid it, and once I heard the gulls calling my heart was bound."

"And you have married the Dwarf." His father's tone was one of both wonder and utter confusion.

"Yes," Legolas admitted, "though that was later, and under the influence of some very fine Dorwinion wine on the night of the High King's marriage." He blushed. He had been happy to avoid mentioning that fact to any other who asked, but he could never lie to his father.

His father's brow furrowed in concern.

Now that was something to be resolved as soon as possible. "Although the decision was made lightly, do not think that the feelings that prompted it were also so easily influenced," said Legolas. "They were forged in both joy and sorrow over three battlefields, and only strengthened after the war ended."

Thranduil mulled this statement over for long moments. At last, he gave the tiniest quirk of a smile. "In the elder days it was not considered a good wedding if it didn't result in at least one engagement."

Legolas had attended a wedding but once, as a young child. And he could count on one hand the number of times his father had ever talked of his life before coming to the Greenwood. He held his tongue.

Thranduil spoke again. "It is not a union I favour, for to love a mortal is to bind yourself to their fate. But you tell me I would lose you to the West regardless." His father's eyes were heavy with sorrow.

"Our time is ending," said Legolas. "I have seen the works of Men. I have fought beside their king. He is a great man, and Middle-Earth will prosper under his hands."

His father gathered him close again. "I am not ready to leave this world yet, but I take you at your word. I have been in contact with the Lord and Lady of Lothlorien. Together we felled Dol Guldur, before even a week had passed beyond the defeat of the dark lord."

Legolas sucked in a breath at the loss of that lingering evil. "That is a story I long to hear in full - and I am certain my companion would want to hear of the Lady Galadriel's valour."

At this, Thranduil's eyebrows rose almost to his hairline.

They turned back to Gimli, who was in the middle of a passionate argument with his parents. The subject seemed to be his insistence that he wanted to marry Legolas because of his own will, not to give legitimacy to the barbaric customs of the Elves.

Gimli had been very uncomfortable with the - to his mind - unequal nature of their relationship, as to his mind they were merely engaged and their union could not be formalised until their return to Erebor. He was by nature possessive, and although he acknowledged the unlikelihood of any other Dwarf wishing to lay claim to an Elf, he nonetheless wished to mark Legolas as his as soon as possible.

It seemed his parents were less enthusiastic.

"Should we leave them to it?" asked Legolas, so quietly he knew no Dwarf would be able to hear it. Gimli didn't feel distressed or even particularly angry, just stubborn and determined. Legolas let himself bask in that feeling for a moment.

"You know Dwarves better than I," said his father, startling Legolas back to the waking world.

"I don't think this will be resolved shortly," Legolas admitted.

"Then come with me, I know the new King of Dale is eager to meet you." His father swept off, and Legolas spared a moment to wonder at Thranduil showing concern for the desires of Men before following.

--

Gimli found him again as the sun was starting to slip below the horizon. "My parents insist that if we are to be married, we must do it properly."

Legolas frowned, confused. "Is that not good?"

"It will take months to arrange the wedding," said Gimli, huffing through his beard in frustration. "We will need to have outfits commissioned, invite my entire extended family - including the ones who are still in the Blue Mountains - and have catering arranged... "

Legolas smiled. "That is something at least the Elves can help with. I am happy to delay, if it means the job is done properly."

"I, however, am not," said Gimli. "I managed to extract the marriage oath from my father, in promise of allowing them to arrange a more traditional wedding at a later date."

"I suspect my father would want something similar, if the choice were his," said Legolas. "It is too late to call it a wedding, of course, but there is ordinarily a party associated with the marriage. A wedding celebration, perhaps."

"One hopes that your wedding parties do not disappear into dust the second one draws close," muttered Gimli.

"That depends on how much we like the guests."

Gimli snorted.

"But you said you had obtained the oath from your father. Did you wish to take it now? Is there some ritual we must perform?"

"You will need to memorise your half of the oath, in our language," said Gimli. "But my father would not teach me that. For that you must go to my mother." He gave Legolas a sheepish smile. "Ordinarily you would learn it from your parents, but for obvious reasons we decided to compromise."

Legolas stared at him a moment. "So I must talk to your mother?"

"She bids you to come to her room after dinner."

They were to celebrate their return with a grand feast in King Bard II's halls that evening. The bonds of war had brought the three kingdoms of Elves, Dwarves and Men even closer together, and all would be represented at the feast.

"Then I will do so with pleasure," said Legolas, although he knew Gimli would be able to sense his apprehension regardless.

--

As Legolas had suspected, Gimli's mother did not wish to merely teach him the marriage oath and send him on his way. She invited him into the room and poured him a cup of hot, earthy tea. He held it between his palms and let the warmth seep into his fingers.

"My son tells me you are already married, by the standards of your people."

"Yes, that is so."

"He also tells me that he did not realise this at the time of the act."

Legolas dropped his gaze down to the mug in his hands. "I can offer no excuse for that, my lady. It was poorly negotiated on my part. I had not accounted for cultural differences, and my own mind was clouded by alcohol."

"Your shame does you credit, but I do not raise this subject to cause it. My son assures me that his feelings are true, and that yours are the same. But since you were denied the opportunity to answer this question before, and I am honour-bound to ask it, I must ask you: do you wish to be married to my son, Gimli?"

Legolas's head whipped up. "Yes, yes! Even if you were to ask a thousand times, I would still say yes."

She looked him up and down with such care that Legolas found himself reddening under the intensity of her gaze. At last, she nodded sharply to herself. "My son is old to be entering into a marriage. You are not what I would have chosen for him, but Dwarf weddings are rare and I suspect there would have been none in his future without this."

"I am long past the age my people commonly marry," said Legolas. "I was born into a growing darkness, and I had precious few playmates as a child."

She met his gaze again, perhaps seeing him in a different light. She spoke suddenly in what had to be the secret language of the Dwarves. "This is what you must say to him," she finished.

"Will you tell me what it means?"

"I am forbidden," she said, although she sounded apologetic. "After you are married, Gimli can tell you, if he chooses."

"I understand," said Legolas. "Can you repeat it?"

They went back and forth until Legolas's pronunciation was enough to satisfy her. "Can you remember that?" she asked.

"It would be the end of the world again before I would forget it," he assured her.

"Then go, return to my son," she said. "I know he is eager to formalise your union."

Legolas made his way back through the halls as quickly as propriety would allow.

Gimli was pacing along the far wall when Legolas entered the room, his feelings a mess of nerves and anticipation. He looked over, stopping in his tracks, but said nothing.

Legolas took a few steps into the room and sat on the bed. "How do we do this?"

"We're not exactly doing this in the traditional manner," said Gimli. "By rights we should say it at the wedding, before we enter the feast." Legolas took this to mean that he had no answer.

"Do we need witnesses?"

"Not for this part. This part is between the couple and the Maker." Gimli tugged at Legolas's hand until he rose to his feet again. "We should be standing."

Legolas felt his own height keenly in this position. Gimli was stiff and tense in front of him, gaze fixed somewhere in the vicinity of Legolas's collarbone.

After a moment's consideration, Legolas dropped to one knee. Gimli frowned at him, as he always did at the slightest reference to his height.

"I would look into your eyes," said Legolas. "It costs me nothing to do this and gains me much."

Gimli's shoulders relaxed a little. "I would rather look into your eyes than your shoulders," he admitted. "Ah, nothing about this is the way I imagined it."

"That goes for both of us, and our parents as well," Legolas pointed out, with a gentle smile.

"Close your eyes," said Gimli gruffly. "And hold your tongue for a moment, if you can."

This Legolas did. When Gimli touched his shoulder, he opened his eyes again and met Gimli's gaze calmly.

Gimli's vows were the same as Legolas's, except for one phrase. The shape of it was strange to his ears, but it was still recognisably Legolas's name, followed by a second word.

Legolas let the unfamiliar Khuzdul syllables of his own vow fall into the silence of the room, not even letting himself smile as Gimli's eyes widened in astonishment.

"Will you tell me what it means now?" he asked lightly.

"I would like to wait until after the wedding," Gimli said. "It will be something to bind us, one last step to complete after we sign the marriage contract."

Legolas decided to save the matter of the contract for another day. "Then, will you tell me what this means?" He repeated the word that had come after the Khuzdul-mangled form of his name.

Gimli snorted. "That's just the translation of your name. 'Green leaf'."

Legolas laughed. "I see."

He didn't ask about the phrase from his own vows that was different, but he repeated the syllables to himself again so he would not forget.

"Are we married enough for your heart to be satisfied?" he asked instead.

Gimli took his hand and laid it on his breast. "As long as it beats, I will be by your side," he promised.

"And I yours," he returned. He felt the warmth and gentle thumping of Gimli's heart beneath his palm and closed his eyes. "Always."