Disclaimer: Tolkien has not sanctioned my work, and I'm sure he would most definitely not sanction the following. Thankfully, the only payment I get is laughter and comments.


Warning: Rated PG-13 for comments regarding male anatomy just to be safe. Nothing graphic.


Written for the Middle-earth Express Prompt #77:


In Hot Water

by Nieriel Raina


Legolas climbed in the large metal tub and sighed in delight as the warm water washed over his body. Leaning back, his knees bent so they stuck up over the sides of the tub, he could sink his tired, aching shoulders under the steaming water. He moaned as the water washed away not just dirt, but soreness he had ignored for longer than he cared to recall. After all they had been through, this was his first chance at a hot bath since leaving Lothlórien, and the offer of baths in an undamaged part of the stone city had been more than welcome.


The clank of metal reminded him he was not alone in a private washroom, but in a more public bath, though he had been granted a smaller room, curtained off from the main and open areas. Despite what some thought, due to ridiculous rumors of elves among other races, his people valued modesty. And it was one thing to parade around openly in front of his troop, with whom he was familiar, and quite another to bare himself to others, particularly Men.


A few feet from his tub sat another steaming bath awaiting its occupant. Glancing up, surprise raised his eyebrows when he found it still unoccupied.


Legolas sat up when a man suddenly popped his head through the curtain, drawing a curse from the other occupant in the room. "If ye gents be needin' anythin' else, ye jest give a yell, and I'll bring it right away! Hot water, soap, a shave...." The bath keeper trailed off as he glanced between Legolas' smooth face and the dwarf's long braided beard.  "Or anythin' else ye be needin', sirs."


'Thank you," Legolas answered for them both. Once the curtain closed shut, he started to close his eyes and enjoy the warmth again, but remembering Gimli had yet to get in the tub, turned to see what kept him.


He noted that the dwarf had removed his heavy chain mail shirt, boots and outer tunic and was now unlacing his mud spattered trousers. Legolas began to glance away, giving Gimli his privacy, but the dwarf peeled the clothing down, revealing another pair of trousers beneath the first. Legolas blinked, and unable to draw his eyes away, watched the dwarf continue to undress.


Gimli untied his undershirt, a shirt that looked more like a regular tunic to Legolas, and the elf grimaced, thinking such a heavy garment would be harsh against skin. But low and behold, it *was* a regular tunic, for underneath was *another* shirt, this one made of soft linen. The trousers came down next, revealing long linen drawers, and Legolas couldn't keep his mouth shut another moment.


"I knew you brought extra changes of clothes, Gimli, but must you wear them all at once?" He couldn't disguise the amusement in his tone.


Gimli's head jerked up, and there was a blush on his cheeks as he met Legolas' curious eyes. "You be turning your head and minding your own business, Elf, before I am tempted to use my knife in a fashion your nakedness makes all to easy!"


Legolas gulped, his hands moving to cover the most private parts of his body without his really being aware of their movement, and he turned away. "I apologize, Gimli. I am merely curious why you wear so many layers of clothing. Do dwarves chill easily?"


"D-do we wh-what?" the dwarf stuttered, anger creeping into his voice. "No, we do not chill easily, though we are not immune to it like *some* people! There are reasons for our wearing clothing as we do."


"I've angered you. Please, forgive me my foolishness. I meant no offense, truly. When we were traveling to Edoras, you admitted you were cold. I assumed you needed such clothing to keep you warm. I admit, I am not familiar with dwarven customs."


"Of course, you aren't," Gimli replied more casually, a thumping followed by a splash indicating he had submerged himself in his own tub.


"Would you explain? Or is it secret?" Legolas, tempted to tease his friend about dwarven secrecy, kept his tone serious and interested. He did not desire to make Gimli uncomfortable about his culture and customs.


"Nay, not secret." Gimli chuckled, and Legolas released a sigh of relief, picked up the cloth for washing, added soap and began to scrub. Gimli did the same as he explained, "Unlike elves, dwarves value modesty. When traveling abroad, it is custom to wear at least three layers of clothing."


Legolas' eyes widened, and despite the dwarf's threats to, person, he looked over at his friend. "Elves are modest!" he declared with some heat.


Gimli began to chuckle. "Truly? Yet, you had no problem baring yourself to my eyes before scampering into that tub!"


Legolas blushed. "You are a friend! We have traveled together for many months...."


Gimli was laughing and not listening to a word he said.


But it was true, with his hating to be unclean, Legolas had shed his clothing quickly.




"What?" the dwarf asked between chuckles.


"You aren't the only one who knows how to use a knife."


He smirked when the dwarf's hands jerked to the center of the tub.


Gimli turned and glared at him. "Very funny, Master Elf. Now, pass the soap."


Grinning, Legolas did so, and a time of quiet followed as they washed. 


Suddenly the curtain parted, and Aragorn appeared, a knife in his hand. Before he could say anything, two soap covered cloths landed on him, one in his face and the a more personal area.


"Get out!"


"I just wanted your whetting stone!"


A bar of soap followed the cloths. "Out!"


Aragorn retreated, wondering at the modesty of his companions, and came face to face with the bath keeper. The man took one look at him and shook his head. "Now, sir, if ye would be puttin' that knife away, I can show ye a bath that is free. No need to be disturbin' other customers." The man paused to look him up and down. "Ye be needin' a good scrub from the look of ye. Mother!" he called, and a round woman stepped out of a doorway, ignored by the men in the open tubs. The bath keeper kept talking as he led the ranger to a free tub in the open space.  "We be needin' that fancy soap, the one that ye say can take away all smells."


From behind the curtain came laughter, then a fair voice called, "While you're at it, give him a shave!" Followed by a gruff, "And make sure you scrub behind his ears!"


Aragorn blushed and looked around the room. "But..."


"Now none of that! Take off those clothes and get in that hot tub. I jest filled it, and ye don't want it gettin' cold."




Behind him, the large woman approached with a cake of pink soap. "Ye heard me husband. Off with yer clothes! Ye smell to high heaven!"


Behind the curtain, Legolas grinned at the dwarf, before leaning back in the warm water. "If you want to speak of modesty, Master Dwarf, I have never met another more modest than the future King of Gondor."


Gimli's laughter echoed off the walls of the small chamber as he sank back like Legolas, who had thrown his legs over the sides of the tub to sink lower in the water. They closed their eyes and smiled at the muffled complaints coming from the other side of the curtain, only disappointed they didn't get to watch. And then there came a splash.


With eyes closed, Legolas commented, "If only I had  some wine, this would  be perfect."


A head peeped in the curtain, and both elf and dwarf jumped, covering themselves with their hands as best they could. The bath keep's wife smiled appreciatively.


"Wine it is then," she said before disappearing. When she returned, the elf and dwarf were completely dressed.


Epilogue: Cooling Down


Aragorn entered the tent, and Legolas looked up from sharpening his blades. From the corner of his eye, he noted Gimli did the same. Both of them were fighting grins, while the man glared at them.


It was with some relief, the elf saw Aragorn still had his beard, though it was much neater than it had been. Legolas also noticed his friend's face was flushed and his ears seemed to be red, as well. The man held up a hand to point at them, and Legolas gasped. Aragorn's fingernails were clean! Looking more closely, he could see the redness could be found on the man's hands and up his wrists, disappearing under the sleeves of his shirt. The elf's eyes then strayed to the exposed skin at the man's neck. Red!


Before Aragorn could speak, Legolas said, "You are clean! Scrubbed raw practically!"


Gimli snorted, then looked away from them, coughing. No doubt trying to hide his laughter.


"Yes, I am clean. Very clean. From the top of my head to the bottoms of places I would rather not discuss!" Aragorn fumed.


Legolas covered his mouth with a hand, trying unsuccessfully to hold in his laughter.


"It is not funny, Legolas! I am to be these people's king! And I doubt I will ever be able to look the bathkeep's wife in the face again!"


"I doubt she will be looking at your face anyway," the elf mumbled from behind his hand, drawing more chuckles from the dwarf.


When the man turned his fury on the dwarf, Gimli shook his head and raised a hand. "Oh, no you don't, lad. You weren't the only one humiliated today, and I know enough about how bath houses work to know it wasn't the bathkeep's wife who was doing the scrubbing." At the man's sigh, he continued. "Sure, you were compelled to strip and bathe, which you needed, but I'm also sure you weren't sprawled in a tub, your manly bits exposed for the world to see while that woman poked her head in the room either!"


To his horror, Legolas felt his face flame with embarrassment. "Gimli!" he hissed, darting a heated glance at his friend. It was mortifying alone without repeating the affair.


Gimli shook his head again, smiling and chuckling. "Aye, you were, Elf, and I wasn't much better! I don't doubt me she caught herself an eyeful! Probably the best day she's had in a while too; after all the death and destruction, she has the honor of three handsome warriors like us brightening her day."


Legolas gaped at his friend a moment, then burst out laughing.


Aragorn looked between them a minute, frowning, before joining in, laughing so hard tears streamed down his face. "Well, when you put it that way," he managed to get out amid the laughter.


Legolas grinned at the man. "Maybe when you are king, you can make the bathkeep and his wife head of the royal baths!" This solicited more howls from Gimli, but only for a moment.


A wicked gleam flickered to life in Aragorn's eyes, and he looked between them with a feral grin. "Maybe when I am king, I will insist you both bathe there."


Legolas was never sure afterwards, but he almost thought he heard amid Aragorn's gleeful laughter, Gimli mutter under his breath, "I will never bathe again."


And for the first time since he was an elfling, the elf found bathing something to dread.


The End




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