Title: Gift for Lady Korana

Author: tarotgal

Fandom: Lord of the Rings, RotK movie-verse for the most part

Pairing: Legolas/Gimli, minor current Aragorn/Arwen and Faramir/Éowyn, past Legolas/Aragorn implied

Rating: PG13

Disclaimer: These characters and their world are as not mine as they could possibly get.

Summary: While suffering from a head cold, Legolas attempts to survive a celebratory dinner.

Notes: Written for Lady Korana for the winter holidays, 2004



Gift for Lady Korana


     "Frodo?" Legolas inquired as Gimli tied a sheer green sash around the elf's waist and adjusted it until it was perfectly in place.


     Gimli shook his head. "Frodo is taking dinner in his room still, I believe. And Sam will be eating with him. The healers here are exceptional but it will take more than a few days for Frodo to heal after what has happened to him." Gimli looked up at his elf and narrowed his eyes. "The significant part of that being how exceptional the healers here are."


     There was a flicker of a smile on Legolas' face. Then the elf's head turned to the side. Chest heaved with the build-up. Mouth turned down into a frown. Eyelids fluttered closed. "ehhh-hehhhhh-IHChhhhhhh!" Gimli left Legolas' side to retrieve a handkerchief from a dresser drawer. He waited for an answer on Legolas' part as the elf dabbed the handkerchief at his nose. "As I have told you before, Gimli, I do not need to go to the Houses of Healing. It is true that elves do not often catch colds but it is not a thing unheard of." Gimli still looked doubtful, suspicious. "Elf colds are heavy the first few days but then they vanish quickly. By the time they give me something, it will be gone on its own. Besides, they have more than enough patients to tend to still after the battles."


     Legolas was certain that had not convinced Gimli in the least, but Gimli dropped that particular subject. "Come. Let me re-do your braids. You must have slept on them funny." Gimli led Legolas to the bed and the dwarf climbed up. He knelt on the edge so that he was at a perfect height to attend to Legolas. "You know," he said, as he worked his fingers through the long blond hair, "If you wish to go back to sleep instead of attending the banquet, I am certain everyone will understand."


     But Legolas shook his head, which tugged his hair from Gimli's grasp just as the dwarf had begun a braid, causing him to redo it. "We will be missed, if absent. And I would prefer it if you were the only one to know I am feeling unwell." He coughed lightly. "In addition, I doubt very much I shall be able to fall back to sleep any time soon. I feel restless and my nose is so stuffy after being up and sneezing so much. I shall not be able to get comfortable again for a long while. Thus, I might as well attend."


     Gimli grunted in understanding. If he had his way, Legolas would be back in bed and attended to by healers as well. The elf's cold was a miserable one, whether the elf would admit it or not. And the last thing he needed was to be dressed up in formalwear and sitting in a drafty hall during a ceremonial banquet. But Legolas was many times just as stubborn as Gimli, perhaps one of the reasons Gimli had been attracted to him in the first place. And Gimli would not insist the elf lose that. He was also rather certain Legolas might actually be able to make it through the dinner without looking too sick. If Legolas was game to try, Gimli would support him in that decision.


     As Gimli continued to comb and braid, Legolas sniffled lightly into the handkerchief and tilted his head as necessary for the braiding. "Gimli," Legolas whispered as the dwarf tied off the last braid with a bead and ribbon. "I'm afraid I need to... hehhh... need to-ehhh... ehhh-IHKShhhh! HeeeShhhhh! Oh..." He rubbed his nose into the handkerchief then folded it into a small square. "I need to take along another handkerchief or two to the dinner, I think."


     This was something with which Gimli could not disagree. He supplied Legolas with several and snuck a few extras into his own pockets just in case. Then they headed down to the banquet hall.


     Banners were strewn across the stone walls of the room, to hide the large chunks missing from parts of the walls. A large fire burned in pits at either end of the room, making it warm and light in the room even though it was growing dark outside. The room was mostly filled by a large table with dozens of place settings and lit candelabras along the middle.


     Many attendees were already there in the hall already, milling about with glasses of wine or seated and talking across the table. Gandalf, who had said there was something to take care of, was conspicuously absent. But the fellowship was represented there already by Merry, Pippin, and Aragorn. Arwen hung off Aragorn's arm and was engaged in conversation with Éowyn. Not feet away from them were Eomer and Faramir, also conversing. There were men of Gondor and Rohan about as well as some rangers. Some of the leaders of the dwarves and elves still remaining in Middle Earth were also there, though the two groups seemed to prefer to stay on opposite sides of the hall for now, talking amongst themselves.


     Legolas and Gimli floated around, making small talk and listening to stories of what had gone on during the day in preparation for the coronation. Legolas had spent much of the day napping in bed and Gimli had spent the same amount watching over him. Gimli had seemed unable to do enough for his liking, though Legolas insisted there was nothing more Gimli could possibly do for him.


     Now, however, Gimli could do something. As they stood listening to a story of Aragorn's, he felt the elf lean into him more. The slender but strong fingers gripped his shoulder and used it to keep himself upright. Looking up, Gimli saw Legolas looking a little dazed. Gimli was still getting used to the fact that elves, in all their perfection, could actually get sick; he did not like the idea of finding out if elves could faint as well. So he cleared his throat and interrupted in a voice loud enough to call attention to himself... and away from Legolas. "Aragorn, when you said banquet I thought, foolish dwarf that I am, that there might actually be food involved."


     Aragorn broke off in the middle of his story and smiled. "You are not incorrect. Food is on the way as we speak, if I am not mistaken. We are simply filling the time beforehand with some conversation."


     Much as Gimli hated playing up his dwarvish characteristics, especially with a group of elves present, he had no choice at the moment. "Are we incapable of conversing while sitting and eating? It is getting late and I'm not getting any fuller standing here."


     Aragorn laughed, as did many others, including Legolas. But the comments did the job. Everyone began to find their seats at the long table. Gimli pulled one out for Legolas, just as Aragorn and Faramir were doing for Arwen and Éowyn respectively. Legolas looked rather adoringly back at Gimli as he was pushed up to the table. In answer, and to let Legolas know he was still looking after him, Gimli managed to sneak in a quick kiss on his cheek as he sat down in the chair beside.


     Drinks were provided first, which consisted of a glass of water and a goblet of wine to each diner. Legolas eyed his water longingly, but humored his company by taking the goblet by its stem and raising it into the air along with everyone else. "First, a moment of reflection for our fallen friends if we may," Aragorn suggested, and the lot of them bowed their heads. Legolas noticed that the two hobbits looked especially thoughtful, wearing expressions of sorrow that he could not have imagined seeing on their faces at the start of their journeys together. He also noticed Éowyn and Faramir finding each other's hands upon the table and touching in reassurance. He might have liked to have reached out to Gimli likewise, but one hand held his goblet aloft and the other was positioned upon his face, pressing against his nose to keep it from tickling and disturbing the silence.


     The moment passed, and Aragorn lowered his glass a little. "I would also like to thank you all for joining me tonight. I hope you enjoy yourselves and I appreciate the steps we have already made together towards rebuilding both city and land." He brought the glass to his lips and drank. Others followed suit, and Legolas took the smallest of sips. The alcohol stung his raw throat, and he coughed lightly. But there was no risk of feeling intoxicated from the wine even were he to drink every gobletful on the table.


     He was sure, at the first sip of water, that all the water on the table would have done him much good. He drained what was in his glass quickly, letting the cool liquid linger against the back of his throat as long as he could before swallowing. Then he helped himself to Gimli's water and worked his way through it. Gimli did the same with Legolas' wine. Both considered the trade more than fair.


     The first course arrived almost immediately thereafter, and Gimli was quite glad of that as he felt somewhat vindicated for suggesting they sit down when they had. Gimli enjoyed his soup, breaking off large pieces of bread and using it to scoop out the bits of beef, carrots, and potatoes. Gimli had been slightly worried about Legolas' appetite, but the elf seemed to make good progress on his soup as well. Legolas was far from fine, however. Several times Gimli heard him sniffle and saw him tense up as he did whenever he felt a sneeze coming on. No sneezes struck, however, but Gimli supposed that was not just luck. The elf seemed preoccupied and did not react as one might have expected to points in various discussions. Luckily, elves displayed very weak emotional reactions to things as it was, so no one seemed to much notice when Legolas did not burst into laughter or look gravely concerned.


     After the soup came platters of breads and cheeses. The hobbits helped themselves freely, but Gimli waited until most of the others had taken some before picking up a few pieces of each for himself and Legolas. Legolas seemed less interested in eating these, however. He nibbled at a piece for a little while, then his breath caught. His lips were pursed. His eyes were closed. The tips of his ears twitched. But then he relaxed in his seat, looking cautious and quite weary.


     Quite knowledgeable about battles and well aware of the one Legolas had just won against part of himself, Gimli reached out to Legolas. Beneath the table, hidden by the low-hanging tablecloth, Gimli's hand sought out Legolas'. Legolas jumped, startled at the sudden, unexpected touch. Then he smiled pleasantly and took Gimli's hand. Long, thin fingers entwined with shorter, stubbier ones and both hands squeezed.


     Gimli wished he could do something to help Legolas now. All he could do was watch and do damage control if something happened.


     Something happened sooner than either Gimli or Legolas would have liked. Legolas tensed again, and drew a sharp breath. His eyes closed, and he tried to pass it off as a thoughtful look. But this time the sneeze was too strong even for Legolas. He brought a hand up to his face and turned towards Gimli. "ehhh..." He exhaled deeply and shuddered. Then drew another sharp breath and shook from the sneeze. "ehhh-IhShhhh!" The sound was slightly muffled by his hand, but was already a rather quiet sneeze.


     For a few moments, they were not sure anyone had noticed. The dwarves did not even look up from their food, and neither did the elves. Gimli was busy looking them over to be sure none looked suspicious when Aragorn met Legolas' eyes with concern. 'Are you all right?' Aragorn asked silently, a look in his eyes echoing the question.


     'Just a cold,' Legolas mouthed back.


     Aragorn nodded, then cleared his throat to draw attention to himself. He was about to speak, when Pippin, instead, piped up. There was a bit of impatience in his voice, but his tone was generally casual. "Well if no one else will say it, I will. Bless you, Legolas."


     "Thank you very much," Legolas said, trying to give him an appreciative nod. He was a bit shaken to have it pointed out so boldly, but the sentiment was indeed appreciated. And it seemed, for a moment at least, that that would be the end of it.


     However, Pippin spoke again, even more casually, as he took another bite of his bread. "Don't think I've ever heard an elf sneeze before. Is that normal?"


     "Pippin!" Merry said with a chuckle and gasp. "I don't really think this is proper to talk about such things in the middle of dinner."


     Pippin shrugged apologetically. "Sorry." Then he looked from Legolas to the platter of food in the center of the table. Without missing a beat, he inquired, "Could you pass the food over?" His arms were too short to reach it properly.


     Faramir, who had been reaching to help himself to seconds anyway, lifted the platter and moved it right in front of Pippin, though hovering an inch or so off the table. Pippin took quite a few pieces of bread and cheese. Seeing that Merry looked equally hungry, Faramir offered him the platter, and Merry took a large helping as well. Laughing and shaking his head, Faramir finally took one for himself. "Be sure to save some room for the main course, my friends."


     "Oh, we will," Pippin insured him. He layered several pieces of bread and cheese together and took a bite of it all at the same time. "Must be what you're doing, Legolas?" Pippin asked, again sounding innocently casual as he pointed out how little the elf had eaten.


     Legolas tried not to look uncomfortable at the question. He tried to remember that only he, Gimli, and now Aragorn knew he was ill. The others would not immediately jump to that explanation, no matter how obvious it seemed. "Yes, I am. I hear it is delicious."


     "Oh?" inquired Merry, looking interested at the open discussion of food. "What is it?"


     As an elf, Legolas was good at looking cool and calm no matter what emotions were raging within him. He was glad for that talent, honed over many, many years because, otherwise, he would have looked extremely startled by the question. He should have known one of the hobbits would have asked about the food when he had mentioned it in small talk, but he had absolutely no idea what it was.


     "A variety of game fowl, I think," Gimli said quickly for Legolas. "With vegetables on the side."


     Before Legolas had a moment to wonder how Gimli could possibly have known this, he saw several people walking in with the trays. Cooked birds of different sizes and different colors from orangey-tan to golden brown were brought out on more platters, and with them bowls of seasoned potatoes, green beans, carrots and more. When finished serving, the people then sat down at the end of the table and helped themselves to the food as well.


     Thankfully, the appearance of the main courses distracted everyone from Legolas who, despite his attempts at holding them back, found himself needing to sniffle a little. Several times it looked as though the elf was about to sneeze, with twitching ears and hitching breath. One sneeze even began to build up audibly, which made Gimli a bit nervous. But Legolas skillfully held each of these back in turn.


     That is, until roughly halfway through the main course. Whether he was growing tired of fighting or whether this one was too strong for him to fight against, Gimli could not tell. All he knew was that, suddenly, Legolas needed to sneeze again. He was not quiet with this, either. Anyone could have easily seen. "ihhhh... ehhhhh... hehh-EHHH..." Legolas clamped another hand to his face to contain the sneeze. "ehhh-HShhhh!"


     Not wanting a repeat of the last time, Gimli quickly and discretely blessed Legolas. Pippin, and Merry as well, took notice but neither said anything about the sneeze. They seemed much more preoccupied by the food and Éowyn's story about a mule she had known as a child.


     After this last sneeze, Legolas' nose was much less cooperative, and much more difficult to control. His sniffling was frequent and louder. Gimli pulled a handkerchief out and, beneath the tablecloth, passed it over to the elf so that Legolas would have it handy if truly needed. Legolas knew sniffling at the table was not polite, but neither was blowing his nose. Or sneezing, for that matter.


     However, he did not have much of a choice. Leaving his dinner relatively untouched, Legolas pushed back from the table a few inches and buried his nose in his handkerchief as another sneeze built. "ehhh..." He wavered, leaning forward in his seat.


     Loudly, Gimli asked, "Has anyone tried the squash yet?"


     "ihhhh-hehh... ehhhh...HEHH..." Legolas' building sneeze overshadowed the question of food, and no one even bothered replying to Gimli.


     Deciding it would take something more than food this time, Gimli quickly tried again. "Have I told you the story of--" Gimli did not have time to finish, but he was relatively sure it would not have worked anyway. A sneezing elf drew too much attention. Not just because it was a rare occurrence, but because of how beautiful a sight it was.


     Legolas' gentle eyes shut. The very tips of his pointed ears twitched so slightly it was almost unnoticeable. His brow furrowed, then relaxed just as his mouth opened. His jaw dropped halfway, then fully. His chest filled more and more with each quick breath in and out, and each breath made his nose twitch. He leaned back slightly in his seat. His tongue moved forward slightly, pressing against his bottom teeth, then sliding over them towards his lower lip. One of his breaths finally caught, and his head tilted back along with the rest of his body. There was a pregnant pause, where the elf looked desperate and unwilling to sneeze both at the same time. Then he snapped forward. His whole body fell forward, his chin hit his chest, his shoulders hunched. The tips of his ears pointed backwards for a brief moment. Strands of his hair flowed over his shoulders, brushing his cheeks then coming to rest upon his chest. His pale face and his hair were bright against the dark blue formal robes he wore.


     "ihhhHIHHSHHH!" This time, he caught the sneeze in the handkerchief Gimli had given him and kept his eyes closed to those around him as he sat back up. But unfortunately it did not stop at one. Hardly upright for a moment, he drew another sharp breath, then snapped forward twice more. "ehhhh-IHShhhhuhhh! IhhhhhKushhhhh!"


     Legolas wiped his nose and sniffled weakly. He began his apology before he had even opened his eyes. "I am terribly sorry."


     It was Aragorn who was expected to do the forgiving, and he did so at once. "Quite all right, my friend. A few sneezes are not to be minded."


     "Besides," Pippin said, gesturing to the table, "You did not even sneeze on the food. So everything is all right."


     Behind the handkerchief, Legolas smiled for a moment. Then he wiped his nose clean and nodded. Both man and hobbit were very sensible. But there was now no denying he was ill. His only hope was that he might be able to hold off his sneezes for the remainder of the meal and escape before the subject of his health was inquired upon.


     "You know you don't look so good," Merry told Legolas softly from across the table.


     "Do elves catch colds?" Pippin asked curiously, cocking his head and looking at Legolas.


     As Legolas, and Gimli as well, tried to figure out how to answer, one of the other elves sitting several seats down addressed the question. "There are a few viruses elves are susceptible to catching. So, yes, it is indeed possible."


     "ihhhh-ehhhhhh-HIHChhhh!" Legolas could feel everyone staring at him again. And he was certain that if they had not been suspicious before, they were now. He wiped his nose and dropped his hand and handkerchief to his lap. Then he apologized again. "I am so sorry. I think... I may be coming down with a bit of a sniffle."


     Under any other circumstance, Gimli might have laughed outright at this declaration as it was perfectly clear Legolas was much further into his cold than simply coming down with something. Instead, Gimli only looked sympathetic. He reached over and reassuringly squeezed Legolas' hand around the handkerchief. The voices of two elves further down the table made their way to Gimli's ears.


     "This is where it might come in handy to have an elf as a lover. Instead of a mortal."


     "A dwarf, no less."


     Gimli was not the only dwarf to have heard the comment. It was not like a dwarf to stay silent after such words, and from the other side of the table, one spoke.


     "And what is wrong with having a dwarf as a lover?"


     Gimli cringed. With Legolas feeling ill, this was not at all what they needed to be in the middle of. Both figuratively and literally. Gimli could just feel the animosity building both to his left and to his right. He should have known it would take more than a few good words and cooperative acts to end centuries of discord.


     "Not a thing," Arwen spoke. She smiled slightly, glancing at her husband then towards the dwarves, and finally towards elves. "There are simply some things immortals have difficulty with, and illnesses are one. Mortals have so much experience with them and we so little. Though symptoms may be similar, I promise they take much different tolls on an elf's mind. And I have found that mortals' sympathies can be effective and much appreciated." She bent a finger and tickled Aragorn's chin as much as scratched at his thin beard. Aragorn smiled back.


     Arwen's candidness ended the debate that could have easily turned violent. The rest of the dinner was eaten along with mild conversation and very few sneezes. It was not that Legolas' cold was backing away, but that drowsiness was taking over. Several times he nodded off for a few seconds, but only Gimli really seemed to be paying attention.


     After so much of dinner trying to hide his cold from everyone, now that they knew they hardly seemed to notice him. Not to say they were not each of them concerned, but it was clear he was being looked after. After finishing what was on his plate, he scooted his chair closer to Legolas' and wrapped an arm around the elf's torso to keep him upright. And he made sure Legolas always had a dry handkerchief at the ready. Grateful, Legolas rested his cheek against the top of Gimli's head and smiled as he followed along in the various conversations but did not participate much. Gimli knew Legolas wished to be there and did not hint at the possibility of leaving prematurely.


     Dinner plates were taken away and glasses refilled. Gimli picked up Legolas' glass the moment the last drop was poured and handed it to the elf. Legolas drank it slowly but enthusiastically. He sniffled a little into his handkerchief when he had finished and handed it back to Gimli.


     Dessert followed dinner. And though it was little more than some fruit and cookies, it was symbolic of better things and better days. They all dug in at once. All except for Legolas, that is. His ears twitching and his body swaying, Legolas was on the verge of another sneeze. "hehhhh... Gim?" he whispered rather breathlessly. "ehh-IHhhhh!" Gimli unfolded a fresh handkerchief, the last one he'd brought, incidentally, and pressed it into Legolas' hand. "ehhhh-hehh-IHKShhhh! Ehhhhehshhhh!"


     "Bless you," Gimli said softly, as several of the elves as well as Aragorn blessed him in elvish.


     Pippin blessed him as well, then immediately asked, "If you are not hungry for dessert, would you mind if I had yours?"


     Merry nudged Pippin and told him it was rude to ask. But as bad as he felt, Legolas found it impossible not to smile at the question. He reached forward and pushed the dessert across the table. Even if he had been sneezing near it, he did not hesitate. If men and dwarves could not catch elf colds, he was relatively certain the same applied to Hobbits.


     "hehhh-hehh-HIHShhh! Ihh-EHSchuh! ehhhSchhhh!" Legolas sneezed wetly into the handkerchief again. Instead of straightening up right away, Legolas stayed hunched over. Gimli could tell the elf did not need to sneeze again, but he saw a dazed, feverish gaze in Legolas' eyes.


     The moment he saw that, Gimli decided they could not stay a minute more, no matter what Legolas' wishes were. Gimli addressed everyone loudly, breaking into the middle of conversations without much regret. "I do apologize to all, but I believe Legolas and I must take our leave. We have some work that must be done before bed."


     Legolas shook his head. "No work," he insisted, as though trying again to keep up appearances.


     "We do need to leave," Gimli reiterated, this time looking straight at Aragorn.


     Aragorn nodded to both formally excuse them and thank them for coming.


     However, Legolas did not seem to want to budge when Gimli tried to help him up. "You had better go with, Master Elf," came a deep-voiced dwarf from their right. "Now is not the proper time to see a demonstration of the stubbornness of dwarves."


     There was much laughter at this comment, and it was this laughter that masked the grunt from the elf as he was urged to his feet. Gimli wrapped an arm around Legolas still, holding him upright as best he could. Legolas swayed dizzily and Gimli with him, but the dwarf stood fast, legs apart, keeping them both upright.


     "Do you need some help?" asked Merry cheerfully, as no one else would have dared to.


     Before Gimli could respond that he did not, Legolas shook his head. Then the elf glanced over his shoulder, long blond hair going with the turn of his head as though to follow his gaze. "No. Gimli has not had all that much to drink. I shall be able to get him back to our room all right." There was more laughter which covered their exit, though 'feel well's and 'good night's could also be heard.


     Once outside the dining hall, Legolas leaned back against the wall with a deep exhalation. He closed his eyes and breathed heavily. He waited for the dizziness to pass as he pressed his palms against the cool, stone wall. "Gimli..." he breathed softly, then opened his eyes. No longer did he look like a calm, collected elf. Instead, a look of pain crossed his face. "Thank you for excusing us. I would not have lasted much longer."


     Had Gimli the ability, he would have immediately scooped the elf into his arms and carried him to their room. As it was, all he could do was nod and ease the elf onward. Several times, as Legolas swayed and threatened to faint, Gimli considered clearing away some rubble and laying the elf down right there in the corridor. But Legolas clung to Gimli for support, especially when he had to sneeze, and somehow they made it back to their room intact.


     Feeling as though they had come out alive after a hard battle, Gimli sighed as he bolted the door to their chamber shut behind them. "Finally. To bed," Gimli stated with no room for Legolas to refuse. Legolas nodded. "I know you are light-headed. Would you care to lie down while I get everything together?" Legolas shook his head, insisting he could prepare for bed without passing out.


     They instantly broke into their nighttime routine, moving with fluidity and coordination. Gimli bent and untied the laces of Legolas' boots and leggings. Then Legolas bent and did the same for Gimli, and Gimli undid the braids in the elf's hair as Legolas' head was at that convenient level.


     "I thought the dinner went well, all things considered," Gimli told Legolas. "I do not believe anyone noticed you were sick until well into dinner."


     "My one rather strong sneeze gave it... away," Legolas agreed. "ihhh-hehEHShhhh!" He smiled at the irony.


     Gimli smiled back. "One would have to be both blind and deaf not to have noticed it. But until then, even Aragorn was fooled, I think."


     Legolas shook his head. "No. Aragorn knew. I could see it in his eyes." He coughed lightly and sniffled less than lightly. "He has seen me sneeze before. He has taken care of me several times when I've come down sick."


     Gimli's mind jumped immediately to Arwen's words. When she had said them, Gimli had been glad to hear them indeed. But he had imagined his friend Aragorn, warrior and healer, sitting by her bed and nobly nursing her back to health. Now he felt foolish for not having thought of Aragorn doing the same for Legolas, considering their past.


     Caught in thought, the dwarf's fingers had paused halfway through a braid. "Gimli?" Legolas whispered hesitantly.


     The wave of jealousy passed quickly. It was hardly a wave and more like a ripple, really. He spoke firmly and with resolve. "Well, now it is my turn to look after you."


     Looking up at him, Legolas smiled. "That it is. And I would not have it any other way."


     Gimli tried not to let his great relief show, but he was not as good at hiding his emotions as the elf was. He quickly finished the braid and gave Legolas a hand to help him up again. Legolas took the hand and then Gimli's shoulder, looking dizzy for a moment. Then the feeling cleared up and they resumed their nightly routine.


     Legolas went straight for the window and opened it, just as Gimli collected the basin from the top of the dresser and carried it to the window. He passed Legolas on the way, their sides brushing lightly. Legolas withdrew the two nightshirts they kept in the top drawer of the dresser. Night clothes and leggings in the top, tunics in the middle, and all else in the bottom drawer. Meanwhile Gimli dumped the water out of the window into the garden several stories below, one of the few that had not been burnt completely in the war. He contemplated leaving the window open. He loved watching Legolas wash in the moonlight. Streaks of water against pale peach skin. Light dancing against his curves and catching in his eyes. And though it was a warm night out, Gimli finally decided it would be warmer in their room with the shutters closed and the fire blazing. It would be a safer bet than hoping the late night would not bring chilling winds. Gimli was not known for making safe bets, but he could not do otherwise when the matter at hand was Legolas' health. He folded the shutters into place and latched them shut. Then he returned to the dresser and took the clothes from Legolas, indicating he wanted the elf to wash first.


     Legolas poured fresh water from the pitcher into the basin and picked up one of the cloths. As he dipped it in the basin, Gimli helped him undress. Legolas washed quickly, still beautiful lit only by firelight, and Gimli found himself at once enraptured by the gorgeous yellows, oranges, and golds upon the slender elf's body. He paid attention to Legolas' body language as much as his body, however, and was ready with a fresh handkerchief when another sneeze came upon Legolas.


     "ehhh..." Legolas took the handkerchief, but did not raise it to his face yet. "ihhhhh... ehhhh..." His lower lip quivered and he turned his head, sneezing freely but directing it away from Gimli. "ihhh... ehhhhhISCHUKKHHhhhh!" Every bit of him shook at the considerable force, and Gimli was at his side in no time at all to help steady him. Legolas dabbed the hanky at his nose and smiled sheepishly. "Feels good to be able to let it out now."


     "I should think so," Gimli agreed, taking the damp cloth from Legolas. He saw small chill bumps upon the elf's arms and was glad he had chosen to close the window. "Hurry and get yourself into bed before you die of a chill, Princeling." He rubbed Legolas' forearm so Legolas would know he was aware that the elf was so close to shivering. Legolas obeyed, taking his nightshirt back from Gimli and slipping it overhead just as Gimli was stripping down to nothing.


     Legolas climbed into bed and settled in while watching Gimli wash. Grateful to Gimli for having closed the window, Legolas watched delightedly as the firelight shone upon the dwarf's bare body. The vivid colors danced upon the dwarf's skin tone which was not quite olive, not quite tanned, but something in-between that made Legolas think of rock and dirt meeting. On any normal day that would have been more than enough to make Legolas leap out of bed and drag Gimli back to it. It would have sent fiery heat to his loins and compelled him to ravish the dwarf for hours before feeling satiated. But tonight there was already a fire in his head with fatigue and heavy congestion as well. And all he could do was to lie beneath the blankets and watch the strong, handsome dwarf wash. He enjoyed the sight, to be sure, but he felt too poorly for it to move him as was usual.


     "ehhh..." Gimli's head snapped up, watching Legolas closely. "ihhhh-hihhh-SHHKUhhhhhhh!" As Legolas blew his nose, Gimli saw the elf shiver. Gimli washed more quickly.


     "I have been making a list in my mind," Gimli said as he washed, repeatedly dipping the cloth into the water, wringing it out, and wiping it against his body. "Pillows, blankets, water, more handkerchiefs of course. Is there anything else you need for the night, Legolas?"


     Legolas smiled and shook his head. "Just a warm dwarf to hold. If that could be arranged."


     It was rumored that dwarves were physically incapable of blushing, but Gimli proved that false. The flush in his cheeks could not be seen for his beard, however, which was probably how the rumors had begun in the first place. "Aye, I think I can manage that." He finished and pulled his nightshirt on.


     Legolas was lying on his side on one side of the bed, with most of the bed stretching out behind him. Instead of taking up that empty space, Gimli got into bed in front of Legolas. He, too, lay on his side, showing the elf his back. Legolas was quick to snuggle into him, wrapping not only his arms but his legs around the dwarf. His body curved, curling around Gimli. He shivered again, then relaxed to gently hug the dwarf. "Ohhh..." he exhaled softly.


     Gimli tilted his head back a little, looking at Legolas out of the corner of his eye. "Are you all right? Do you need something?"


     Legolas hugged him more tightly. "I have everything I could need." He sniffled a few times, then his breath caught. Understanding, Gimli passed a handkerchief back. Legolas snuffled into it briefly, then sneeze. "hahhh... huhhh-IHSHhhhh! uhhh... ehhhh... IhHushhhhhhh!" He blew his nose briefly, then hugged Gimli close as though the sneeze had not happened.


     Gimli reacted similarly. He smiled and shook his shoulders, snuggling back against his elf's warm body. Legolas nuzzled his face into Gimli's dark hair, sniffing in hopes of taking in a bit of his lover's scent through his stuffy nose. Gimli was so good to him, so tender but so normal. With the cold or without it, he knew Gimli would have snuggled up with him in bed. That was something he would not have found in an elf lover. An elf would have worried of catching cold every time Legolas got close. An elf would have treated this as some strange occurrence. Even the hobbits, who had seemed curious about it during dinner, were more casual than an elf would have been. But Gimli saw it as just a head cold. A reason to stay close. A time to see to Legolas' every need. Legolas did not need to hold back or pretend. Gimli understood how miserable he felt and wanted to be with him anyway. And Legolas was glad not to have to pretend in front of him.


     "ihhhh?" Legolas began again, his voice raising at the end as he fumbled for the handkerchief. "ihhhh... ehhhhh-KUShhhhhh! ihhhHehShhhhhhh! HEHHShhhhhhh!"


     Gimli felt Legolas shake against him with each strong sneeze. Then he felt Legolas' nose against his chin. Gimli reached back and touched Legolas' cheek. "Galu," he whispered.


     Legolas blew his nose and shook his head. "If I had wanted an elf for a lover, I would have taken one."


     Gimli chuckled, though feeling quite pleased at hearing this. He blessed Legolas in dwarvish.


     "Thank you." Legolas hugged him close. On any other night, such closeness would surely have revealed something and then led to more. "I only wish I felt well enough to show you how much I appreciate your care."


     Again, chuckling lightly, "Just wait until I get sick some time. You will have to accumulate many thank you's in order to deal with me then."


     "Gimli!" Legolas laughed.


     Out of the corner of his eye, Gimli could see the elf grinning. "It is not so much my attitude as my fierce sneezes." Then, before Legolas could point out the obvious, "Yes, I know yours are long and building, but they're nothing compared to mine. Mine are loud and terrible."


     Legolas gave a laugh. "I find it hard to believe..." he stopped to yawn. "I find it hard to believe that someone so sweet could have such terrible sneezes."


     "Just you wait," Gimli warned.


     Legolas relaxed with another laugh. And before he could figure out if Gimli was saying that for the sole purpose of making him laugh, Legolas fell to sleep without any of the difficulty of earlier that night.