Title: 2005 Gift for Lady Korana

Author: tarotgal

Fandom: Lord of the Rings, post-RotK

Rating: PG-13?

Disclaimer: These characters and their world are not mine. I've no rights and no money.

Summary: Legolas is ill but desperately wants to spend the holiday with his friends.

Notes: Written as a gift fic for Lady Korana during the 2005 holiday season.



2005 Gift for Lady Korana

     Bare, sweaty elven skin. Irresistible, even to a dwarf. Gimli ran his fingertips against it so lightly that it made Legolas shiver with anticipation. Leaning closer, Gimli could practically feel the elf's heartbeat and could actually feel the breaths, hot and heavy against his cheek. Gimli felt himself falling forward... into Legolas...


     "Ermph!" Gimli grunted, jerking himself back in his seat and opening his eyes. It took him far longer than it should have to realize he had not only been asleep but dreaming.


     "Gibli?" Legolas inquired at once.


     Gimli cleared his throat and said quickly, "What? No, of course I wasn't asleep. What?"


     Legolas smiled and turned his head, looking over his shoulder at Gimli as best he could. "I was just woderig if you could had be by cub."


     Gimli reached over to the side table beside the armchair he was in and gripped the goblet of wine. He stared at it doubtfully. "Are you so sure you should have more?" he asked. "You have had a fair amount already."


     Legolas nodded. "I bay be a little sick, but I ab still baster of by owd body. Add I say I cad stad to hab a little bore wide." He reached up, fingers stretching and curling.


     Reluctantly, Gimli finally handed it over and Legolas took a sip.


     "Besides... it warbs be ub."


     "Of course, 'Baster' Elf," Gimli said with amusement. "But I am equally capable of warming you up." His arms were already draped over Legolas' blanket-covered shoulders, but now he hugged tightly.


     Nonetheless, Legolas drank his wine, but he took only a few small sips before handing it back to Gimli. Logically, it made the most sense for Gimli to take charge of the cup, but not in fear that Legolas might drink too much and become intoxicated. It was because there was a table just on Gimli's right-hand side on which to set it. And it was because elf sneezes were so thoroughly overpowering and Legolas preferred drinking his wine to wearing it. It was certainly warmer that way, at least.


     "YIH!" Legolas brought up his handkerchief and cupped it around his nose and mouth. Thankfully, his sneezes always gave him ample time to prepare. "ihhh..." He felt the hands resting against his chest pat him reassuringly. And he felt something that sounded like a kiss from Gimli brush against the back of his head. "hiiihhhhh-Eh-EH!" The sneeze hung there for a moment. Two. He closed his eyes. Three. He pitched forward, bending at the waist and shuddering with chills and the strength of the sneeze which passed through him. "IHHH-Chew! Sniff!"


     There seemed to be more sniffles than sneezes as of late, though he had seen far too much of both for his liking since the beginning of his cold. Legolas felt exhausted and his head felt stuffed and drippy and all the things he detested to show friends but could not help. Aragorn's herbal remedies had been of no help. And Gimli's dwarven solutions had not either. All that remained was to bear it and wait it out and hope that it grew no worse than it was right now.


     "ihh-ihh-hih-IHHSchhhhh! K'Schhhh! heh-hehh-CHISHH!" Legolas gingerly massaged his nose through the handkerchief, rubbing at his nostrils until the sneezy feeling left him alone and gave him a little more peace. Then he sat back, blowing his nose just a little.


     The elf, seated on the padded footstool, was lounging back against Gimli's legs and the armchair. He was wrapped in several thick blankets, given to him by his friends who repeatedly told him he looked cold. They had been right, for the most part. The large sitting room was full of warm bodies and there was a roaring fire in the fireplace, all helping to make the coldest winter night of the year not quite so cold. Despite that, Legolas could not remember a minute of the night when he did not feel at least a little bit chilled. Naturally, Legolas had selected the spot in the room that was closest to the fire. It also allowed him to snuggle closely with Gimli and not be the center of attention in the room. He left that up to Aragorn and family.


     "May I stay up for it this year, Naneth? Please?" asked young Eldarion. He sat on one of the two window seats, legs bent beneath him. When he spoke to his parents, he looked over his shoulder at them half-way across the room. They sat together on a couch. "May I, truly? Ada said I was allowed to."


     "Oh he did, did he?" Arwen asked, giving her husband a playfully annoyed look. Aragorn met hers with an apology, and she laughed pleasantly. "Of course you may stay up until the Zenith," she said to her son. "If you think you can do so this year."


     "Of course I can!" exclaimed Eldarion, too excited by the answer and too determined to be grown up to give it a second thought. Judging by the looks the king and queen gave each other, however, they knew better. But they said nothing on that subject and the young princeling did not see the exchange. He looked out of the window again, gazing up at the moon where it sat as though sitting on the dark, silhouetted treetops.


     "What if there are clouds outside?" young Elanor asked he father from her place at the other window seat. "How can you then tell when the moon is at the top of the sky?"


     Eldarion answered for Samwise, however. "You just know. You can feel it."


     "And how would you know if you have never stayed up for it before?" Elanor replied quickly. Then she looked back at her father for a proper answer.


     Samwise smiled. "Elves do say they can sense when the moon is at its peak," Sam said. "I am afraid we shall have to take their words for it. I do not think it works the same for Hobbits." He sat in another arm chair, his son, young Frodo, on his knee. His leg bounced up and down to keep the young one quiet, though it also made him sleepy.


     "Nor for dwarves," Gimli put in. He rubbed Legolas' shoulders through the blankets, and Legolas hung his head, eyes closing similarly to young Frodo's. "Though I still count myself fortunate to be included in the festivities tonight." He nodded towards Aragorn, who smiled and nodded back.


     The festivities had been Aragorn and Arwen's excuse to gather friends and family once again, though few had been able to attend. There was business in the Shire Merry and Pippin had needed to see to. Likewise, Faramir and Éowyn had not accepted the invitation. She was pregnant and due any day. Even for an experienced horsewoman, riding was not a terribly good idea, despite the fact that it was a short journey to Minas Tirith. Samwise, however, had been eager for the chance to visit and had brought along his family, such that it was at the moment. Rose sat in the chair beside him, knitting absentmindedly as she watched the children play and anxiously await the celebration.


     Legolas and Gimli had traveled there from afar, as well. Aragorn had long since given up on keeping track of their movements from one's home to the next and had simply sent letters of invite addressed to both of them to both the Glittering Caves and the forests of Ithilien. Judging by the state the elf had been in at his arrival, though, it was rather evident that they had just been staying at the caves.


     "heyyy-YIH-ihhhh-HIHKuhshhh! Snff! Snffsnff! ehhhhYshuhhh!" Despite Legolas' obvious ailment, he had insisted upon celebrating in the company of his friends. Gimli had allowed this so long as the elf promised to take things easy.


     So far, Legolas had upheld his promise, for the most part. The most exhausting moments of the night thus far had been sitting up during the suppertime meal, making his way to the sitting room from the dining hall, and sneezing, naturally. The sneezes were, perhaps, the most tiring for their frequency. "ehhh... Ehhihh!" Legolas hastily folded his hanky to find some remaining unused portion with which to cover his nose. Sore from his cold, Legolas' nose seemed to fare better with dry cloth against it, rather than a damp one. Undoubtedly, Minas Tirith had an excellent selection of handkerchiefs, but Legolas only had a few at hand at the moment and hoped they would last until the end of tonight's holiday when the moon hit its place at the top of the sky. "heh-egghhhh..." Legolas hand the handkerchief in place as he breathed heavily into it. "HIHYehshhhhhh!"


     Legolas certainly appreciated the hug and shoulder rub Gimli gave him along with the standard blessing. He still bothered to excuse himself every time, however. As the room was sparsely lit and quiet, there was no need for it to be above a whisper.


     Legolas shivered again. "Perhaps another log for the fire?" Gimli suggested, eyeing the flames that were slowly shrinking as they devoured all wood currently available to them in the hearth.


     "We cannot!" Eldarion exclaimed, shocked by the suggestion.


     Aragorn kindly explained before Gimli had a chance to react. "It is tradition on this night to build a large fire at sundown and not feed it again until after the zenith. That way, at midnight, the rooms are dark and one may properly appreciate the full moon directly overhead. It is said to be bad luck if one interferes with a fire on this night."


     Gimli's eyes were wide. To deliberately not feed a fire tonight, on the coldest and longest night of the year? That was madness. And they called dwaves unrefined and superstitious! His hands tensed on Legolas' shoulders. "And you knew about this but still thought it best to sit up all night in such a condition?" Gimli asked his elf, who nodded a bit sheepishly.


     "I will be fide," Legolas insisted, trying not to shiver or let his teeth chatter during the comment. "I would buch rather be here celebratig with by frieds thad id a warb bed subwhere."


     Gimli was still tense and still uncomfortable, but knew better than to fight Legolas over this again. He resolved to keep a better eye on the elf and bring up the subject of bed again only if Legolas grew worse. "Are there any other traditions I need to be told about?"


     "Oh, yes. Many," Aragorn said. "There are the games," he gestured to the floor where the ruminants of the game the children had been playing lay. "The wait for midnight is another, as you well know by now, and it is said that if you can make it to midnight you will have good health and fortune for the next year. The wine and having a late night snack are also traditional," he glanced towards Sam as he said this, knowing hobbits too well. "Most elves go outside at midnight and many climb into trees to be closer to the moon."


     Gimli chuckled, but not in jest. He leaned forward, his mouth against the back of Legolas' ear. Whispering, "You used to do that, am I right? I can picture you doing just that." Legolas nodded and snuggled back against Gimli with appreciation.


     Aragorn continued. "There are fireworks and there is dancing. And, of course, there are the songs."


     At this, Arwen began singing a beautiful song in elvish. It was a gentle melody, soft at first, then gaining strength. The words rhymed and flowed like a stream trickling along and then gathering speed as its banks narrowed. The song was given even more power as Aragorn quickly lent his voice to it, and the two streams ran together to form the beginnings of a river. Eldarion joined in a moment later, his voice lovely and high in pitch like his mother's, thanks to his few years. But when Legolas began to sing as well, there was a perfect balance of tone and the sounds of the song filled the room. Sam joined in eagerly, not knowing or understanding the words but having a good enough grasp on the repetitive melody.


     Elanor climbed up onto her mother's lap to listen, and Rose welcomed her with a warm embrace. And Gimli, who had long ago developed an appreciation for the sounds of elves singing, though he would not admit how quickly that appreciation had come about, listened with a smile and a cautious ear. He heard a few words he recognized, 'moon' and 'dreams' among them, but the words were too fast for him to translate. So, instead, he sat back and listened to the beauty of the song.


     Gimli could hear Legolas' voice amidst the others' and could hear the stuffiness and roughness in it. He was certain that it would be better for Legolas to rest his voice, but the elf seemed to be enjoying his ability to participate in something tonight. Aragorn's comment about going outside at night seemed to have been carefully worded to make it plain that that particular tradition should be broken this year for Legolas' sake. The elf seemed cold enough indoors.


     Legolas' words faltered as he shivered again, and then his voice caught in his throat. Immediately he doubled over with moist coughs, punctuated by stuffy snuffles. The coughs were far more sudden than the sneezes, and it took him a few moments to get the handkerchief to his face, muffling the terrible sound so it would not ruin the song.


     He finished coughing just short of the song, and waited until it was over to blow his nose in a much-needed way. He would not admit how he felt, for he knew the dwarf would take him to their guest room at once to rest properly, but his body cried out in need of comfort and he was not foolish enough to ignore it. Luckily, Legolas knew how to be comforted. As he struggled to regain normal breathing, Legolas turned to the side, tilting his head and resting it upon Gimli's thighs. Instinctively, Gimli ran his fingers over Legolas' head, caressing his forehead and cheeks and gently petting the soft hair. Legolas closed his eyes, gave one more cough, but relaxed just a little. He felt terrible about being unable to sing along, but knew he would feel much worse if he allowed himself to fall asleep before midnight. He was not so worried about bringing himself bad luck in doing so, for he could not imagine life ever being so bad with Gimli at his side, but he was worried about sleeping through the festivities and his time with his friends.


     "Can I get you another cup of tea, Legolas?" asked Aragorn.


     "Doe thadk you," Legolas replied. He reached up and rubbed a finger under his nose until the tip of his ears stopped twitching. He left his hand nearby, on Gimli's knee. "I'b fide."


     Everyone in the room, with the possible exception of baby Frodo, could plainly see that Legolas was not the least bit fine. But the elf would not admit otherwise and the night was too special to fill with arguments, as Gimli had reasoned to himself earlier. So they tried their best to held Legolas without making mention of how terrible the elf's cold was.


     "hihhh-ihhhhhh-HEHTChhhh! Ihhh-yihhh..." Legolas was tense with expectation, wincing slightly as the damp handkerchief touched his irritated nose. "ehhhKShuhhh! Snff! Excuse be. Sniff! Sniffsniffsniff!" He winced again, briefly, but the pain he felt in his head dulled when Gimli's palm pressed against his forehead. It was warm, but Gimli could not tell whether it was warmer than usual. It was possible the elf was running a fever, though. Either way, Legolas relaxed again at the touch.


     "Papa?" said Elanor. "I want to hear the tale about the Fellowship in the mines."


     Smiling, "But you have heard that story a dozen times."


     She nodded. "Yes, but I've heard you tell it. You and Uncle Pippin and Uncle Merry. All tell it differently."


     "Ahhh. I see." Samwise nodded. "You want to hear it from someone else then?"


     She nodded again, and Samwise looked around the room at his friends. Aragorn looked willing to oblige and that particular tale from Gimli's point of view might be interesting to them all. Legolas, perhaps, would be able to offer an interesting perspective.


     "ihhh-hihhh..." Legolas' ears twitched, and all the rubbing of his nose in the world was doing nothing to quash the tickle. "hehhh-hehhhh-YIHShhhh! IhhhShew!" Legolas snapped forward with each, shivering as he pulled the loose blankets more tightly around himself afterwards. Gimli looked worried, his eyes trained on Legolas.


     "Perhaps Aragorn might humor us with the story?" Sam quickly suggested.


     "I would be happy to." Aragorn slid his arm around Arwen's waist and held her close as he told the tale, starting with the opening of the doors to the mines.


     Aragorn told an entertaining tale, even to those who had been there and lived through it. When the Fellowship found Balin's tomb and discovered the details behind the fates of the dwarves, Legolas reached up and took Gimli's hand in comfort. He could still rub his nose with the other one, though the blankets kept falling open around him when he was in that position.


     When they got to the part where Gandalf fell, Legolas and Gimli squeezed each other's hands tightly. Even knowing the truth of Gandalf's return, Aragorn's retelling brought back vivid memories, and the reminder that Gandalf was gone again, this time for good.


     Legolas did not make it far past that point in the story, however, before he needed to sneeze again. "hihhh..." He looked up at Gimli, who looked pensive and caught up with the story. Legolas shook his head. "I... I deed to... sdeeze..." One hand squeezed Gimli's tightly and the other waved in front of his face. His eyelids were fluttering, his breath catching, his ears twitching. He tried to hold it off. "ihhhh... Gib... hehh... deed a dew hahhhh-hadkerchief-Hih!"


     Understanding finally, Gimli searched his pockets and pulled out a fresh handkerchief he'd been keeping for Legolas. Legolas reached for it and Gimli met him halfway.


     "hih-YIH-Hihshooo! Heh-IHHShuhhh!" Legolas rubbed his nose into the handkerchief with relief. "Thadk you. Sniffsnffsnff! Add excuse be." He shivered and recovered his blankets. He looked over at Aragorn. "I'b sorry. You bay codtidue."


     But there was little else to say about the story from then on. The party ran, killing foes along the way, until they were out of the mines. "And then you headed to Lothlórien?" Eldarion asked, having heard the story many times, himself. His father nodded. But that was a story for another time.


     Gimli was on the verge of falling asleep, but a loud booming sound snapped him wide awake. Sam sat up in his chair, holding Frodo against his chest as he moved. His eyes were fixed on the window. "What is going on out there?" he asked with one part concern and two parts curiosity. All eyes turned towards the windows. Outside, not far off, there were explosions of colored lights. From where they sat, it sounded like a gentle thunder.


     Eldarion was bouncing in place at the window seat, looking at the display with great excitement. "Is it time yet? Is it?"


     Aragorn shook his head. Midnight was still several hours away. It was far too early for the fireworks to be set off. These did not look like the sort of fireworks he had arranged, either. He had a feeling as to whom they belonged. "Eldarion," he said, smiling. "I think your other uncles have arrived."


     True enough, not minutes later, Elrohir and Elladan came through the door to the sitting room with a warm greeting. They were technically the young elf prince's only uncles by blood. But three of his many honorary uncles were already present in the room.


     The twins announced that they were glad to have made it in time and were happy to see them all again. Eldarion waited until the light show outside was over before he went over to greet his twin uncles. Arwen had stood and welcomed them with warm hugs, and Aragorn had likewise risen and gave each squeezes on their shoulders.


     Legolas, however, did not rise. He felt too tired to bother and did not see the point in forcing himself to stand up only to sit back down again. He shivered and gave them both a wave. Trapped between the armchair and an elf who did not stand, Gimli could not move, either. He nodded to both. Samwise did not get up, either. Young Frodo was falling asleep now and Sam did not want to disturb him. He did say his greetings as soon as he could, however. "When I saw the sights and colors just now I could not help but think of Gandalf," he told them with a smile.


     "We like to make an entrance," Elladan replied, grinning. "And from the quiet state of this celebration, it looks like you could all use it."


     "What, no singing?" Elrohir said, kissing Rose's hand in greeting and ruffling Elenor's hair.


     At this, the twins broke into a lovely song. It was much more upbeat than the last and Eldarion joined in at once, bouncing and clapping. Those who knew it sang along and those who did not hummed or clapped along. Even Gimli had heard this one before, though recognizing it was as far as he could go with it. His voice was not made for such singing.


     This time, Legolas did not even attempt to sing, as though he'd learned his lesson. Instead he sat with a handkerchief pressed to his nose, trying to make as little noise as possible. His sniffling was getting worse, Gimli noticed, and he was starting to look quite tired. Though he wore a calm expression which translated to an elf-smile, Gimli knew him well enough to tell that Legolas was feeling far worse than he was letting on. Another urge to sneeze rose within the elf, and it was all he could do to hold it back until the song's completion. Not only did he fear interrupting, but he truly wanted to enjoy the song they were singing. He gasped silently into the handkerchief and pinched his nose. The build-up was quieter than usual but nonetheless strong. Legolas' whole body swayed and rose with each sharp breath in and each wavering one out, not knowing which might be the one to lead directly into the sneeze.


     Fortunately, Legolas held off sneezing until the song had finished. But then the sneezes came quickly and harshly. "HIHRShhhh! Hershuhhh! ehhhh-Shuhhh! Heh-eh-IHHShhhh!" He shivered afterwards and tried to hide himself in his blankets and against Gimli as he blew his nose. Gimli's hand softly stroked the elf's head, reassuringly.


     "Caught another cold, have you, Legolas?" Elladan asked from across the room. Feeling foolish to answer with anything but the truth, Legolas nodded. Elladan was leaning forward against the back of the armchair Sam occupied, arms crossed upon the back of it. His expression was one of sympathy.


     "This one looks like a real beauty," Elrohir said, walking over. He bent down and studied Legolas more closely. He was silent a moment, then reached forward and squeezed Legolas' shoulder. "Some good, hot soup will help clear you right up. And a hot bath." He looked to Gimli. "Has he had a bath?"


     Legolas cleared his throat. "I bay be sig, but by bathig habits are really dode of your busidess, Ro." But his smile showed through, and Elrohir knew he was not insulted and merely joking.


     Elrohir walked over and sat down on the window seat beside his nephew, gazing out at the sky. The moon could still be seen out of the window as it slowly moved along its path in the heavens. But soon no amount of squinting or craning necks would allow them to catch a glimpse of it as it traveled overhead and the ceiling got in the way.


     "ihhhhh..." Left to themselves again, Legolas sneezes quickly returned. He wanted very much to spend the holiday with his friends, but there were certainly moments like this one, with all of them watching him closely as he sneezed, that made him double-think his position about not wanting to go to bed. "ih-YIH!" It was so much easier sneezing when Gimli was his only audience. His eyes already closed, Legolas gasped almost inaudibly and pitched forward. "HihShoo!" He half snuffled and half blew his nose, then a smaller sneeze escaped him as well. "Ehtchhh!"


     The fire was slowly dying, and Legolas was shivering more often. Usually a few rubs of his arms beneath the blankets and leaning towards the fire was enough to drive the shivers away. But Legolas found himself leaning closer and closer to it, trying to stay warm.


     When Legolas started to move out of reach, Gimli decided action needed to be taken. He traced a finger along the ridge of Legolas' ear, along the curves, towards the point. When he reached the tip, Legolas leaned back towards Gimli, tilting his head and nuzzling into Gimli's touch with affection. It got the elf's attention, at least. "Legolas," Gimli said softly, so the others would not hear. "Would you like to try to squeeze up here with me?"


     Legolas shook his head. They had already established that there was not room enough for them both in the chair. And Legolas preferred to stay as close to the fire as possible, even if it would soon be gone.


     Legolas extended his arms with his hands out to the fire and rubbed his palms together vigorously. His shivering slowly abated. Legolas' eyes closed as he enjoyed the warmth from the small flames. However, he had more than one reason for closing his eyes. His jaw dropped open and his face went slack. "huhhhhhhhhh..." He gave a warning as he recognized the urges. "uuhhhh... ehhhh?" He brought his hand back only at the moment when he realized the sneeze was about to strike. "eyhh-hehhChoo! EhhhShuhhh! Kehshuhhh! Sniff!" He blew his nose into the handkerchief. Then he looked up to see Gimli watching concernedly. But a reassuring pat from the elf made the dwarf relax and back off. Gimli was not the only one paying attention, however.


     "I could get you another handkerchief, if you require one," Arwen offered concernedly.


     "And are you certain you do not want that tea?" Aragorn pressed. "It would really be no trouble."


     Eldarion, apparently, could not resist joining in as well. "Ada makes very good tea."


     Legolas was starting to feel overwhelmed. Even with Gimli's gentle pettings, Legolas did not feel completely calm. He felt as though his friends thought he was dying, rather than simply suffering from a bit of a head cold.


     Before he had a chance to try to explain and justify himself yet again, the food Aragorn had arranged arrived. The trays and platters brought in were filled with plenty of treats of the season. There were gingerbread cookies and tarts with apple and cinnamon. There were fruit cakes and plain cake with fruit and chocolate dipping sauces. There were treats of peppermint and pumpkin and rich, butterscotch puddings.


     Legolas, however, requested onto water.


     "Oh, but you must try these cakes," Rose insisted, in the middle of a piece of raspberry cake with white icing. "It is delicious."


     Have a tart at least," Elladan said, practically swooning as it melted in his mouth.


     Everyone had a suggestion about what he should eat. Even though Legolas was not hungry, he had to admit it all looked good. Finally he chose some budding as it would be kind to his throat if nothing else. Sadly, with his stuffy nose, he could not taste it well. And with his sore throat, it hurt every time he tried to swallow. Holidays and head colds were not a good mix for more than one reason.


     Eating took a backseat to shivering and coughing, however. He pulled his arms under the blankets, leaving the bowl on the floor beside him. No one noticed that he did not finish.


     Gimli noticed that he was inching closer and closer to the fire, though. Elrohir and Elladan engaged the little ones in a game with stones and cards. Elanor had trouble keeping up with it as she was fading fast despite the attempt at the snack obviously aimed at giving sugar fixes. She rubbed repeatedly at her tired eyes and seemed glad when he mother hopped down off the chair to collect her for bed. Eldarion looked nearly as tired, but was forcing himself to stay awake. The game and the prodding his uncles were giving him certainly helped. There was no helping young Frodo, however, nor was there any reason to. The babe had fallen fast asleep against his father's chest.


     Legolas remembered the first time he had met Sam and remembered the overwhelming amount of loyalty and friendship the Hobbit had as he stood by Frodo. He had joined the quest not knowing the dangers that awaited them. None of them had known truly how terrible it would be. Though, in a way, deep down every one of them had felt the possibility of a failing outcome. Legolas simply had not expected, year after, to find themselves like this.


     Samwise sat back in the too-large chair, his son draped across his chest. A hand rested upon Frodo in a sort of hug and one finger gently stroked the tiny hobbit as he slept. There was Samwise now, with several children. And Aragorn, too, with a wife and quickly-growing son. Several members of the Fellowship were away on the seas to the Undying lands and nearly all remaining survivors had their own families and positions of prominence.


     And though Legolas had no children to his name, he was not wholly untouched by the passage of time. He had lived through many generations and would see a few more before he took his leave of Middle Earth, he knew. But he also knew he would never find such friends as these, no matter how long he lived.


     After a while Samwise spoke, his voice soft, "We had best get them to bed." Elanor, too, looked tired. She could barely keep her eyes open, and Legolas was empathetic. Sam held onto Frodo tightly as he stood, not wanting to disturb him. "We will be right back," he told his friends as he followed Rose out of the room and down the halls towards the guest rooms where they were staying.


     Legolas inched closer to the fire. The extra bit of warmth made him sigh and made him feel an extra bit drowsier. For an elf who did not require even half as much sleep as a mortal, Legolas' eyelids felt heavy. He did his very best to keep his eyes open, however. He fought hard, because he knew the moment he closed his eyes he would be much closer to sleep than he dared get this side of midnight.


     As fortune had it, sneezes helped somewhat to keep him awake. "Heyyyihhshhhh! ehhhShuhhh! Snffsnff! Sniff! hih-hihh-HIHShooo!" The sneezes forced him to close his eyes, however. And he did not bother to open them as he worked to clear his nose as well as he could. But the colder temperature in the room made his nose run more. "Sniff! Sniff!"


     "You look as though you might fare better in bed as well, Legolas, my friend," Aragorn said.


     Legolas immediately pulled his eyes open and gave Aragorn a harsh look. Gimli, who wanted to say the same thing but would never, suddenly perked up with the hopes that Aragorn might talk Legolas into going to bed. With the look Legolas was giving the man, however, that hope was very small. Samwise and Rose returned and sensed the tension in the room at once.


     "I certainly want you here," Aragorn went on, trying to justify himself now. "I only meant that perhaps you might feel better to be in bed."


     "He has a point," Elrohir said. "You do look pretty sick and miserable."


     Legolas was well aware of that, but there was not much time left before midnight and there was no point in leaving now. If he did not, however, he would have to put up with this again and again.


     Case in point, "You are shivering quite a lot," Rose observed. "Is there anything we can get you?"


     "I think I could track down a hot water bottle," Arwen offered.


     Legolas had had quite enough. He groaned and cleared his throat. "Blease, everyode, stob fussig over be! Sniff! SNIFF!" Legolas dabbed at his nose, then lowered his handkerchief to speak frankly. "I dow I bust look awfully sick. But the fact that I feel terrible should dot be cause to bake be feel worse."


     Silence met this for a few moments, followed by a few quiet apologies. Then they broke into a discussion regarding spending this holiday in Rivendell and Lothlórien. Legolas shivered violently and hugged the blankets around himself more tightly, leaning even closer towards the fireplace.


     The fire had nearly died out now. There were a few small flickering flames and the cinders were red and glowing. It gave off very little heat now and Legolas could hardly cease shivering. Under the blankets, his body shook violently, and that translated to shaking hands which held the blankets around himself and chattering teeth. He tried to clench his teeth to keep his jaw quiet, but had only a limited amount of energy which was fading as fast as the fire.


     Suddenly, Gimli was at Legolas' side. Gimli pulled at the blankets and squeezed under them with Legolas. He sat beside the elf, their legs tangling, sides pressed against each other. Legolas looked at the dwarf inquisitively and Gimli gave him a stern look in reply. "Don't you go giving me some speech about not fussing over you, especially as you're so sick. I'll fuss if I want to." He wrapped his arm around Legolas' middle and cuddled close. He could not imagine how Legolas could be shivering so much if not running a fever now.


     Legolas might have smiled, if not for his chattering teeth. "I d-did d-d-dot bead y-you," he managed, practically unintelligible. "Sniff! Sniff! You are al-always welcobe to f-fuss over be." He rubbed at his nose, then wrapped his arms around Gimli, holding the dwarf so tight and so close that Gimli was nearly in his lap. He had absolutely no intentions doing otherwise for a long, long time. "T-time goes quickly," he muttered thoughtfully, practically clinging to the dwarf. It was amazing how warm Gimli was.


     "Yes," Gimli replied, hoping that midnight was not much further away, and hoping his presence would help.


     Slowly, Legolas warmed up. The shivering finally went from constant to sporadic, and Legolas tilted his head, resting it against Gimli's head. They both felt sleepy as they watched the fire die out, and Legolas had to nudge Gimli to be sure the dwarf was awake and would not miss the event.


     Sleepy as Gimli was, he did not nod off again. Not with Legolas sniffling and sneezing more. It was not long before Legolas tugged at Gimli's tunic and Gimli pulled out a fresh handkerchief for the elf to use. Timing could not have been better. "hihh... hehhhhh..." Legolas pressed the handkerchief against his face. "huhhChuffff! Snff! Sniiifffff!" Legolas cupped the handkerchief to his face with both hands as he blew his nose. Meanwhile, Gimli took care of the blankets, keeping them wrapped snugly around them both. And when the elf's nose was in check again, at least for the moment, Legolas leaned into Gimli, breathing though his mouth exclusively and sniffling every few moments.


     When the moon reached the center of the sky, the elves could indeed all feel it. Elrond's daughter and sons- including foster son- broke into a celebratory song. Legolas sang along in parts, but his voice was rough and stuffed and it made more sense for him to stay quiet. The four did a beautiful job without his help.


     Eldarion was quiet as well, having fallen asleep just short of midnight. He was curled up in a ball on the window seat, oblivious to the fact that fireworks were going off loudly outside. Aragorn got up and made his way over to his son. He stroked Eldarion's dark hair with a heavy touch and the young prince woke groggily. He looked around the room and then caught sight of the fireworks. Slowly it dawned on him. "I did not make it after all, did I Ada?"


     Aragorn shook his head regretfully, but Eldarion seemed too tired to take the news badly. "There is always next year, In." He petted Eldarion's head again and then they sat there and watched the fireworks. They were nothing quite as fine, elaborate, or magical as Gandalf's, but they were still beautiful in their way. They rose high above the treetops and exploded into every color imaginable, glittering and sparkling as they fell down in trails like fountains. Faster and faster they came, until there were twenty at once in a very grand finale. Then Aragorn squeezed his son's shoulder. "Now it is time for bed."


     Eldarion nodded obediently, a sure sign that he must have been tired to agree so quickly. He gave a strong, body-shaking yawn. "Is everyone going to bed now?" he asked.


     Aragorn hesitated to answer, so Legolas did so for him. "Yeehhhhh..." Rather, Legolas tried to answer. He pressed his handkerchief hard to his nose as it twitched and his lips quivered slightly. But he could not prevent this one. "hehhh-YEHShooo!" He kept his handkerchief up, rubbing at his nose, as he tried again. "Yes. We are all retiring to our beds now."


     That was the answer Eldarion wanted to hear. He pawed at his father who turned, letting the boy climb up onto his back for a ride to bed. Everyone else seemed equally glad to hear Legolas' answer. Not because they were tired, but because Legolas had finally agreed to go to bed, where he most certainly needed to be. Slowly, everyone began to pick themselves up, stretching and exchanging good wishes, and moving towards the door.


     "iiiihhhhh!" Legolas quivered on the spot, then fell forward with ample amounts of grace and beauty, despite the cause. "EHH-Yeshhschhhh!" He sneezed wetly, concerned with his slightly dripping nose when the sneeze ended.


     Thus, Gimli took it upon himself to help Legolas with the rest. He eased Legolas back and snuggled into the elf's chest. Then he pulled the strands of bright blond hair back from Legolas' face, revealing again the handsome features, rosy cheeks, and forehead. His eyes lingered upon Legolas' forehead a moment. Bare, sweaty elven skin. Legolas certainly had a fever now, but Gimli was not so thoughtless as to announce the fact to everyone there.


     The others left one or two at a time, towards their rooms, with a final series of goodnights and well wishes. Soon Legolas and Gimli were alone together in the room. Both seemed quite content to remain a little longer. "Is there anything preventing me from building up the fire again?" Gimli inquired, hesitating for the sake of elven customs. "I would not wish to deny you good health and fortune for the year, after all."


     Legolas hugged Gimli tightly but shook his head.


     "I will be quick," Gimli said reassuringly. He pulled away and crawled out. It only took him a few minutes of stoking and blowing before the fire was built back up again. He returned to Legolas, who was shivering again already, but stopped once his arms were around Gimli. And though Gimli still said nothing about the fever, he did, however, press his hand against Legolas' forehead to wipe it and cool it a little.


     Legolas shivered at the touch and Gimli, startled, pulled his hand away. "Doe," Legolas said, looking appreciative. "I like your touch. Do codtidue." So Gimli replaced it, and then he rested his head against Legolas'. Despite the warmth and comfort and the crackling fire before them, Gimli did not dare doze off again. He wanted to stay awake in case Legolas needed him... but also in order to savor the moment. Legolas had been right: time did pass far too quickly. And, despite Legolas' ailment or maybe because of the comforts that came with it, Gimli wanted this night to last so he could remember it for as long as possible.