It had begun to rain, as it always seemed to do when travelers were most adamant about staying dry. It had started in the afternoon as merely a sprinkle, then moved on to a drizzle. By sunset, it was pouring and the travelers and their two horses were soaked quite thoroughly. Legolas bore the weather the best. It turned his hair a darker shade of blonde and made him feel a bit chilled, but that was all. For the first few hours he had thought it rather refreshing, truth be told, though he stayed silent with this opinion. Gimli complained constantly with the most appropriate dwarf curses he could muster, and some not so appropriate which nonetheless got his disapproval across. Aragorn got the worst of it, though he was neither silent nor swearing. Instead, he shivered incessantly beneath his cloak and the one Legolas had lent him. The cloaks kept him dry for a long while, but even they had their limits. He sneezed continually, into damp handkerchiefs at first. Then he gave up on those to be replaced with free and loud explosions which sometimes needed a sleeve wiped under his nose and sometimes a congested snort and cough rather than a blow.
Many times Legolas was tempted to have them stop so Gimli could wring out his beard and Aragorn could catch his wheezing breaths. But just as there were no spare cloaks or handkerchiefs, there were also no spare moments. The sooner they reached the inn, the better off he would be. Which is why they finally came upon it, riding at full speed, they nearly ran right into its side. Their abrupt stop made Gimli slam into Legolas' back then fall off the horse with a squishy, muddy thunk. Aragorn fell off, too, losing his balance as a tremendous sneeze came at that instant. "huhRUSHHH!"
Legolas dismounted, rolling his eyes after taking in the appearances of his mud-covered companions. "Give me strength," he muttered, his words carried off by the wind. However, he did help them both to their feet. He collected the horses' reigns and handed them off to the stable assistant at the front of the establishment. Gimli trailed behind, wringing out everything from beard to shirt and trying to shake the mud off himself. Aragorn took up the rear, but a bout of harsh coughing stopped him completely in his tracks. Both Legolas and Gimli halted and waited for him. When he finally did stop, fist going weakly from covering his mouth to rubbing his nose, Gimli reached over and patted his back. Then the dwarf pushed him forward towards the door so that Aragorn was in front and he could keep an eye on the man while Legolas arranged a room for them.
The inside of the inn was not as busy as most, but perhaps that was due to the lateness of their arrival. There were vacant chairs and whole tables empty. Many of the patrons who remained were passed out from drinking or else unable to talk with companions who were so. The conscious ones, however, took notice of their curious party.
Legolas approached the counter, with the others right behind him. The innkeeper was a chubby-cheeked, stout, dwarf, as though there were any other kind, who smiled up at them from behind the counter. "Well, hello fellas. What can I do you for?"
"We would like a room for three nights," Legolas said with a smile, and put some money down on the counter. "Though we may need it for a few additional nights."
Aragorn stepped up, putting a hand on Legolas' shoulder to push him aside. "I will get this--" he rummaged through his pocket for some coins.
But Legolas pushed him back. "Not this time, Ranger." He looked down at Gimli. "Take Aragorn upstairs." The innkeeper had just switched the coins for a numbered key, and Legolas tossed it over to Gimli. "I will meet you there momentarily."
Key in hand, Gimli gave Aragorn a slight push towards the stairs. They walked so slowly, still soaked in rain and covered in mud, that Legolas guessed he might catch up with them before they even reached the room. First, however, he turned to the innkeeper. "Will the common area be cleared for the meeting tomorrow, as previously requested?"
The innkeeper nodded, stroking his beard as though in thought. "That there is the third time I have been asked that tonight."
Legolas nodded. "Then suffice it to say, it is an important question." Thinking back to Aragorn and wanting to get upstairs as soon as possible, Legolas tried to speed things up. "Could--"
Apparently, the innkeeper did not notice his impatience, which was probably the fault of Legolas' normally calm expression. "So what is this meeting about, anyway?"
The elf sighed, looking around the room to be sure there was no one intentionally listening in. "Just settling some land disputes," Legolas lied convincingly, and changed the subject quickly. "Could you tell me, have many groups of elves or dwarves checked in today?"
The innkeeper nodded, flipping through the yellowed pages of a log book. "Mmmm, yes. Indeed, seven groups in all. Can't tell you their names o' course..." Legolas saw his stubby fingers leave the pages of the book and rub themselves together as though inviting coin to come between them. He had a dwarfish half-grin and a front tooth missing amongst his other yellowed ones.
It was nothing so charming as Gimli's, and Legolas found himself remembering the time when he was less favorable towards dwarves. Flipping a meager coin his way, Legolas headed towards the stairs, after his friends. "If you are in such need of money, you can send up three warm drinks and keep the change. But had I wanted their names, I would have asked for them."
He mounted the stairs two at a time and found his companions just outside the bedroom. Gimli was wiggling the key in the lock and Aragorn was leaning against the wall with his eyes closed and handkerchief clamped to his nose and mouth. Apparently he was either finishing a bout of sneezes or just about to submit to one. Either way, Legolas put his arm around Aragorn's waist to support him into the room. Aragorn sniffled and tried to pull away, but Legolas was much stronger than he at the moment. "In you go," Legolas guided him, as the man began sneezing again.
"hurChoo! hutCHOO! huh... herCHUH!" He breathed out heavily through the handkerchief. "Excuse..." he breathed weakly.
Legolas rolled his eyes again at the utter futility of apologizing every time he sneezed. Then again, the simple apology told him that Aragorn was certainly not feeling like himself, so he humored the man. "Yes, yes. Now get into bed." Gimli pulled the covers down and Legolas guided the man towards it while helping him shed some of his clothes. By the time the man was sitting on the edge of the bed and his boots were eased off, all but his undershirt had been removed. He was shivering and trying not to make eye contact with either of them, and allowed them to lie him down beneath the covers. As if they had coordinated it ahead of time, Legolas pulled the covers back up over Aragorn, Gimli pulled the top two blankets off the other bed to drape them over Aragorn's bed, and Legolas tucked these around the man as well.
With a sigh, Legolas sat down on the other bed, facing towards Aragorn. Gimli, meanwhile, began to strip out of his own muddy clothes. Legolas stood up just as quickly as he had sat down. He walked over to Gimli and pushed the dwarf's cloak back on. "Would you mind running out for some things?"
Gimli looked drenched and exhausted and as though he did mind very much. But he nodded reluctantly and refastened the leaf brooch beneath his chin. The inn was on the outskirts of the village, and even at that time of night something was bound to be open.
A hand on the dwarf's shoulder, Legolas led him over to the far corner, bending over a bit so they could speak privately though in a whisper. "I do not know about you, but I am famished. The kitchens downstairs will most likey be closed, but see if you cannot get some food for a late dinner. And Aragorn will need some things--"
"Yes, I understand," Gimli replied in a harsh tone. His eyes seemed to want to hurry the elf on, especially as Gimli noticed that Aragorn was watching them both suspiciously.
But Legolas continued, passing Gimli a bit of money as he spoke, "See if the apothecary has any ready stores of healing herbs- perhaps goldenseal, and hyssop or elderberry for his cough--"
"Yes, I understand," Gimli repeated with more urgency, eager to go on and be done with it before he caught a chill, himself, standing there in his wet clothes. "I *have* been sick before. I know what to inquire about."
"hurCHIshhhhh! hurChooo!" Both Legolas and Gimli looked over to see the man lean back against his pillows, drawing in a breath with a loud, wet sniffle.
Though they had been whispering, Legolas dropped his voice yet lower as he turned back to Gimli, "And see if you cannot find some clean handkerchiefs for him."
Gimli chuckled and nodded in firm agreement. He stood on tip-toes and kissed the elf's cheek in parting. "Aye, I'll be back in a bit then," he grunted loudly so that all could hear and turned to Aragorn, who was trying to get comfortable beneath the blankets. "Look after the elf for me, aye?" and he nodded his head towards Legolas.
Aragorn smiled and gave a nod as a promise. When the door was closed again, he gave himself a moment to finally look around the room. It was indeed small, but in a quaint sort of way. He had certainly stayed in worse over the years and after nights of sleeping on cold, hard ground, a mattress and few blankets were all that seemed important. The room contained two double beds. Aragorn currently occupied the center of one of these, and Legolas sat back down on the edge of the other. Practically everything in the room was wooden, from walls to dresser, so that everything blended together in a discomforting sort of way. Even the blankets and curtains around the only window were a dull shade of brown. All was illuminated by a series of candles positioned all around the room in tiny glass jars. The only unlit one in the room sat on the small, scrubbed wooden table that separated the two beds. The room was so small and the candles so many, that the wood seemed almost shown golden-brown in some places.
"Feeling any warmer yet?"
Aragorn lifted his head to look over at Legolas. "I suppose so." His hair was still wet, cold, soaking into his pillow and chilling him. But he didn't want to complain to Legolas about that. And the elf was certainly not going to let him up to get a towel and dry his hair. "You?"
Legolas gave a soft laugh and nodded. He was looking around the room as well. "Yes, much. But then again, I am not the one who--"
"herUMSHH! Huh-CHUSHH! hurChushhh!"
The elf sighed, turning back to Aragorn. All that could be seen of the man was a head and arm sticking out from beneath the covers. He was sniffling into a damp handkerchief, and when he stuck his arm and it back beneath the covers, Legolas could see that his nose was bright red at the nostrils. His cheeks were flushed with a lighter shade of red, but the rest of his face was terribly pale. There were a number of occasions upon which Legolas had seen Aragorn look similarly awful. He stood, meaning to go to the man, but his ears caught the sound of someone walking up the stairs and towards their room.
At once, he had crossed the room, sure that it was not Gimli although the footsteps were heavy. Aragorn lifted his head as he, too, heard the visitor's footsteps mere seconds before the knock came on the door. Fingering his hidden dagger, Legolas cautiously opened the door. It was only the innkeeper, with three hot, steaming mugs. Legolas handed over another coin, which was accepted more graciously than the accompanying thank you, and took the drinks. Holding the mugs carefully against his body so as not to spill, he managed to bolt the door again. As he made his way back across the room, thoughts of possible dangers filled his mind and though the drinks looked good, he almost regretted not simply asking for hot water. It was, after all, virtually impossible to drop a poison into mere water and have it go unnoticed. Slightly paranoid, he gave each one a careful sniff, but decided they ran no risk of being poisoned if the other parties had already retired for the night. He settled on the edge of Aragorn's bed this time, putting down one drink on the small table for Gimli, and handing one to Aragorn.
Eagerly, Aragorn drank his, putting the cup to his lips before he had even bothered sitting up in bed. The warmth ran through him, going straight from head to toes, and once he had begun to drink, he did not stop until it was drained dry. Then his hand loosened on the handle, and the mug fell against the bed, empty and no longer needed. It looked as though the effort of drinking, though it had lasted only a few seconds, had drained him as well. His eyes closed.
But he did not sleep. Instead, he let out a soft moan and put his hand to his forehead. Legolas, who had not taken more than a sip yet though had been watching attentively, put his own mug down. "Come, Estel. Relax or it will hurt more." He reached over and replaced Aragorn's worn, tough hand with his own soft and smooth one. This seemed to calm the man considerably. "You know," he said softly. "You look awful." Aragorn opened his eyes briefly to show anger and mumble something not so nice that Legolas did not catch. Hoping that bringing up the memory might help pass the time, he continued, "But not as bad as that time in Rivendell so many years ago..."
* * *
That Time in Rivendell: So Many Years Ago
Legolas considered it a blessing when he was finally able to break away from the meeting unnoticed by all, including the twins. As much as he enjoyed their company, he did not care for it at the moment. He had been thinking upon Aragorn the whole morning, the whole visit, truthfully, and was determined to see the man, even if the man continued to refuse to see him. Aragorn had locked himself away from all, including Elrond most times, complaining of illness. Legolas had managed a glance into the young man's chambers but once on this trip, seeing a red-nosed Aragorn slide beneath the covers of his bed completely and uttering 'Llie kel amin!' with such conviction that they had all immediately obeyed, emptying the corridor outside the room at the same time. As Legolas had but two days left in his trip, he was determined to speak to the man at least once, illness or no, and made haste towards Aragorn's private chambers now that he had the opportunity. To the on-looking elves of Rivendell, it might have appeared as though he had very pressing business, for his strides were long and fast, taking him through the halls leading to the meeting chambers and out through the courtyard. It was the shortest route he could think of to get to the other wing of the palace, and afforded him a beautiful walk in the process. He was nearly to the other side, when a sight stopped him cold in his tracks.
Further ahead, just now visible through trees, was a mound of earth sufficiently higher than the rest of the area. At its center and top was a beautiful old tree, with knobly branches going every which way. Leading up to the tree were rows of beautiful flowers which were renewed each year on their own, though in differly colored patterns each time around. The whole thing was surrounded by a low stone wall, only waist high, preventing anyone from damaging the beautiful flowers by accidentally wandering onto the mound. He knew the spot well, and remembered having played there as a boy, swinging from the branches and navigating through the bed of flowers on light feet before his father returned to catch him. But there was something added now, something he had not been expecting.
That something was Aragorn, the very person Legolas had set out to find. He sat on the stone wall, legs dangling and swinging slightly in the breeze. One hand was on his thigh, rubbing absentmindedly, and keeping himself somewhat upright with it. He was not fully upright, however, rather slightly hunched over. His other hand held a pale handkerchief, unfolded and at the ready, hovering at chest level. It wasn't the sort for drying one's tears or dabbing up a spill. No, it was the large, thick sort that those of his kind used to catch their sneezes.
Although it hardly seemed possible, Aragorn looked even less willing to have visitors than the last time Legolas had seen him. Legolas, therefore, found the closest tree and hid himself behind it. He was still a ways off, and could see Aragorn much better with his elf eyes than he supposed Aragorn could have seen him, were he in a position to be looking. So he poked his head around to watch in fascination. Though he had not been around many men, he had seen one or two sneeze before. However it was not so much the sensation that caught his attention but the fact that it would be done by a man he knew well, a man he called a friend, a man he had taken to bed on occasion, a man he had taken regardless of any bed being present. Legolas knew every bit of Aragorn's body. He knew the sound the man made when he slept most deeply. He knew the way the man woke up each morning, with a rub to his eyes, a yawn, and a cough. He knew the man so intimately and yet had never even thought of ever seeing the man sneeze. But as an elf living with elves, that was not a thought he was likely to have. Just the same, now that it had bored its way into his mind, his curiosity was too much to let it pass, no matter how gruff and unpleasant the man looked.
Aragorn breathed heavily, as though he had to make a conscious effort to direct each breath inwards and back out again. Legolas' elf ears could hear the deep sounds of the breaths, even at this distance. Aragorn's right hand, the one with the handkerchief, tightened its grip on the cloth so suddenly that Legolas nearly missed the change in Aragorn's expression. The man's brow furrowed, the eyes squinted slightly, the mouth turned down at the corners. His nostrils flared as his mouth opened a touch. Each breath out now was more pronounced and audible, increasing in desperation and pitch. "huh...Heh...HAH-" and it was at this last, that the sneeze finally struck. "CHUHshhhh!" He lurched forward, his left hand moving from thigh to wall beside him to keep his balance. He curled downwards to meet the handkerchief just as his hand raised to bring it closer, the result being that the lower half of his countenance was almost completely hidden from view during the sneeze. And before he could make an attempt to straighten again, along came a second sneeze, with time only for a breath in between. "hur-TSHAHhhh!" With a shaky, stuffy breath inward that sounded as though he were halfway underwater, he then exhaled strongly to blow his nose into the handkerchief. Then he folded it and turned it, giving himself a clean area to use the next time.
The next time seemed close at hand, as the sneezey sort of expression that had come over Aragorn's face and posture had not yet left, even after emptying his nose a bit. Though while it looked like he needed to sneeze, the third sneeze did not follow as quickly after the second as his second had after the first. Instead, he sat panting, the same "huh"s and "hehh"s but less of the desperation and more of some fatigue. After several minutes of this, his whole body tensed, and he sneezed his third and fourth in quick succession. "hur-CHAH! huptShahhh!" They were strong, wet sneezes, that seemed to take everything out of him just to sneeze. When he had finished blowing his nose this time, he folded the handkerchief again, readjusted it, and straightened up, looking more like his normal self once again.
But though he looked more normal in posture, he was far from it in other ways. His nose was chapped and red at the end and beneath, his face almost a deathly pale, his eyes tired and bloodshot, his hair messed. Every few seconds, if not more frequently, he sniffled wetly. In short, he looked more miserable then Legolas had ever seen him, and that was enough to get Legolas out from behind the tree and walking towards him again.
Before he got very far, that same look came over Aragorn's face. His eyes narrowed, nostrils flared, mouth turned down, and he fell forward quickly at the force. "hurCHUH! HAH-tchuhhh! Huptchuhhh!" He stayed bent over as he blew his nose, then straightened, rubbing the handkerchief against his nose so hard that it bent the tip of his nose one way then the other. He lowered both hands into his lap with a sigh, mouth hanging open to breathe through it, as apparently his nose was of little use in that capacity. Then he folded the handkerchief another way, readying it for the next onslaught.
Legolas realized that he had actually paused in his trek to watch, and started back up again, navigating through the trees, around stumps which had been carved into beautiful statues in tribute to their fallen masters. Legolas smiled at the thought of being alone with Aragorn again, and wondered if they might even seek refuge behind the stone wall as they greeted each other in a more proper fashion.
Aragorn had to sneeze again, this time bringing the handkerchief closer as he apparently felt it coming on. But it did not come immediately, Legolas noticed, as he paused again, halfway hidden behind a tree. There was something about sneaking up on the man while he was distracted in the middle of sneezing that was not very appealing to the elf, or good for his safety for that matter. Aragorn was breathing heavily again "hehh...huh...heck...ehhhh..." but even as he brought the handkerchief to his nose, he gave no sneezes. Patiently, he waited, eyes closed, nose twitching, panting uncontrollably. Finally, he looked upwards at the sky though the branches, seemingly searching for something. Legolas couldn't imagine what could be above him that would help him to sneeze, but the answer came sooner than expected. His eyes squinted as he located the sun just above and to the right. Immediately his nostrils flared and he took a quick breath in. "hatSHHHHH!" The spray was caught in the sunlight before Aragorn had a chance to lift the handkerchief the full way up. His second sneeze was caught completely in the folds. "huhShmphh!" His shoulders hunched forward as he breathed out heavily and dropped his hand back into his lap.
It looked as though Aragorn was debating a return to his room. If Legolas were to act at all, it needed to be now. Striding through the trees quickly, he emerged with a smile. Aragorn looked startled to see him, and seemed to be considering jumping down and making himself look more presentable. But Legolas was too quick for his cold-dulled reactions. Legolas settled on the wall beside him, reached over, and folded the handkerchief for him. Aragorn, apparently embarrassed, tucked it away at once, hoping the sound of his clothes moving hid his sound of his several strong sniffles. Legolas, however, noticed and it was perhaps this that made him put his arm around Aragorn. "It has been a while, Estel," Legolas said, nodding in greeting.
Aragorn slipped out of Legolas' grasp and sniffled again as the movement covered the sound. "It has." There were a number of things he seemed to be considering, but in the end, they all amounted to, "I did dot wadt you to see be lige dis."
"Much too late for that," Legolas said, sounding soft but cheerful. "But I would rather be here with you 'lige dis' than in that stuffy old meeting right now."
Aragorn snorted in reply. "I highly doubt you will feel dat way for... for log..." Quickly he tried to retrieve his handkerchief, but did not make it in time to catch the first. "huh-Kushhhh!" He paused and sniffled, "hehChushhh! huhShehh!" He rubbed his nose, giving a bit of a moan.
"Go ahead and blow your nose," Legolas insisted, scooting over to him and nudging him. "I do not care."
He looked reluctant, but the urge to blow his nose was overwhelming so he gave in, folding the handkerchief again afterwards so that one of the few remains dry portions faced the top. "I hab beed lige dis for days," he explained, voice thick with congestion. "Sdeezig, I bead." He sniffed hard and rubbed the handkerchief at his nose.
"Sneezing or not, you are still you, and I want to be with you." Legolas put his arm around Aragorn again.
His voice was deeper than normal. "I ab sorry," he whispered. "I jusd did dot wadt adyode seeig be bore thad they had to. Or listedig to be for dat batter." With a deep, resigned sigh Aragorn laid his head on Legolas' shoulder. He shook with coughs, leaning closer into Legolas for warmth and support.
Legolas' hand reached over and stroked the man's cheek, rough with stubble. "I am sure the fresh air is good for you, but perhaps it is time to return to your room and your bed?"
Aragorn nodded. "Add you should go bag to da coudcil."
Legolas murmured, rising with his arm still around Aragorn. "I probably should."
He grinned. It was rare for an elf to grin so, but it was quite becoming of
him. "But I do not do everything my
* * *
"No need, no need for applause," Gimli said off-handedly as he shut the door behind him. "I have returned victorious." He brandished the bag in his hand, then spilled its contents over Aragorn's bed: fruit, bread, a bit of meat, and a pile of fresh handkerchiefs for Aragorn. "Dig in." He grinned at Legolas and tossed the elf a bundle containing some bottles of the requested herbs.
After Legolas tucked those away, he smiled warmly back at Gimli. Then he picked up a piece of fruit, and paced around the room as he ate. He was worried about Aragorn. More than a little worried, really. Truth was, they needed Aragorn in the meetings tomorrow and there was no way he was going to allow Aragorn to get out of the bed for anything until the man's cold passed. Short of holding the meetings in their own room at the inn, there wasn't much hope of Aragorn being able to participate.
"hurRUSHHH!" A deep, wet sneeze that didn't sound in the least like Aragorn's broke the silence.
Immediately Legolas' eyes turned from Aragorn to Gimli, who was rubbing his nose roughly with the back of his hand. "Out of those wet clothes right now," Legolas commanded, talking around the apple he held in his mouth as he went over to Gimli with outstretched arms. "I will not have you catching cold as well."
"huh-RUTSHHH! EHT-SHHHH!" Gimli sniffled wetly, bending in half at each strong sneeze, his hand over his nose.
Legolas snatched up a handkerchief and pushed it in Gimli's face. "Tend to your nose." Then he helped the dwarf strip down. He wrapped one of the blankets from the other bed around Gimli and rubbed the dwarf's arms through it rapidly to warm him. Gimli looked funny, covered in a blanket four times larger than himself, but looked much warmer as well. His arms were buried beneath the blanket, but through it he grasped the mug of warm drink Legolas handed over. Legolas was not satisfied to leave the dwarf's side until he had taken a few gulps of it and looked as though he were not in need of more sneezing.
"hehShahhh! hurChuhhh!" Now those were Aragorn's sneezes. Legolas restrained a sigh and looked back over. Aragorn took up one of the fresh handkerchiefs with much relief and rubbed his nose. His sniffles were full and wet, and he coughed from congestion.
"Go ahead and blow your nose," Legolas called over. Aragorn grunted his displeasure at the order, and Legolas shot him a look. "You would not do it if I did not tell you to. You would not take care of yourself unless I made you, and you know that." Aragorn opened his mouth to protest, and did not blow his nose. So Legolas walked over to Gimli and placed his hands on the dwarf's blanket-covered shoulders. Sounding more persuasive, "and if I must ask Gimli to stand guard over you with his axe, you will stay in bed and take care of yourself." He narrowed his eyes and bent over the bed, face-to-face with Aragorn. "And that *includes* blowing your nose when you need to." Aragorn looked defiant for a moment, then lifted the handkerchief back to his nose and blew.
Legolas sighed deeply, and the relief showed on his face for just an instant. Gimli had eaten quite a lot of the food, and Aragorn didn't seem keen to touch a bit of it. "I believe we should all get some sleep for the night," he suggested, though the way he sounded, it was much more than a suggestion. As Legolas stripped off his own clothes, Gimli went around extinguishing the lamps that lit the room. Then Gimli pulled off the blanket and draped it over the bed again before climbing into the bed.
Aragorn's heavy breaths could be heard in the pitch black darkness of the room before their eyes adjusted. "hurCHUH! hehSHUHH! hurCHOO!" The sneezes seemed quite a bit louder in the dark, or perhaps it was just Aragorn not holding back as much now that there were no prying eyes.
"Galu," Legolas blessed him through the darkness. His eyes adjusted to see Aragorn rubbing his nose with the handkerchief. But before he could open his mouth to tell Aragorn to blow his nose, the man did so several times. Legolas' smile was hidden to all in the darkness. Then he bent over Aragorn and kissed his forehead. "Īdh mae, Estel." Aragorn gave a reluctant smile back, then rolled over on his side. Legolas tucked the blankets around him more tightly. He may not have been happy, but at least he was warmer and more comfortable.
Then Legolas made for the other bed. Gimli pulled back the covers for him, and the elf climbed beneath the blankets, right over Gimli, and settled on the far side of the bed, against the wall. He enjoyed sleeping with a wall to his back, knowing he could not be snuck up upon. He also enjoyed curling his body around that of the dwarf's. Gimli was still a bit cold from the outside, but warmed slowly as Legolas pressed up from behind and wrapped his arm around him. "And how are you feeling?" he whispered into Gimli's ear, giving it a bit of a nibble while he was there.
"Cold and tired," Gimli replied in a low whisper. "But better now that I am in your arms." He sighed deeply, eyes closed. "How was Aragorn while I was away?"
"He was as he has been." Legolas thought not to mention the memories. "But with warm tea and a soft bed and clean handkerchiefs, I think he will be better soon as well."
Gimli grunted a laugh he hoped Aragorn could not hear. He whispered back, "And what does an elf know about such things as head colds?"
Legolas stroked Gimli's cheek in an act that was meant to indicate that his insult was not taken as such. "You would be surprised, Dwarf," Legolas replied. "I know much of this man's head colds, in particular."
* * *
Back Again in Rivendell: Still As Many Years Ago
"Come on, back to bed with you," Legolas said, sounding pained beneath Aragorn's weight, though he would not admit to it. Just as Aragorn would not admit to the fact that he was glad to have the elf to lean on.
Legolas eased Aragorn down onto the bed, and the man sighed as he felt the mattress beneath him. "Ooah..." He closed his eyes and smiled as Legolas pulled the covers up. "Dat is better," he whispered as warmth again surrounded him. "But I could do without a berssodal escort to the lavatory every tibe." He rubbed at his nose, and Legolas handed him a new handkerchief. "I ab dot so ill as all dat."
"No, I do not suppose you are," Legolas mused, tucking the blankets around him warmly. "But perhaps I was unwilling to take that chance... or perhaps I simply wanted to spend as much time with you as possible- water?" He poured a fresh glass and handed it over to Aragorn, who took it reluctantly but drank, the process slow and careful as he was lying on his side in bed.
"Add I dod't deed a durse baid," he said, glaring up at Legolas.
Legolas, buying himself time to decipher the congested argument in his head, sat down on the edge of the bed and rubbed his hand up and down Aragorn's side. "I know you do not need a nurse maid," Legolas said at last, quietly, hoping that he got it right. "But you look like you could use a friend, or a lover." He leaned over and kissed Aragorn's cheek gently. "And luckily for you, I happen to be both."
He gave Aragorn a few moments to consider this, but the man finally smiled and tugged Legolas' arm so that the elf rolled over him and laid down on the bed behind him. Legolas snuggled up from behind, spooning, his arm draped over, his light blond hair mixing with Aragorn's dark strands.
Aragorn tightened up with a quick breath in. Then he shook in place with the force of the sneezes. "hahChahhh! hurChuhhh!" He sniffled wetly and rubbed the handkerchief at his nose. Legolas clung to him, squeezing his shoulders, kissing the back of his neck. "I'b so tired of all dis... sdeezig... hehh..." he body tensed up again, despite Legolas' shoulder rubbing. "huhShahhh! heh... HUHChuhhh!" He sniffled and turned his head into the pillow. "I do dot lige dis at all. Cad you dot just dog be out?"
Legolas squinted in confusion. "Dog you out?" Figuring out Aragorn's stuffy talk had been an interesting adventure, but now it seemed he had met his match. While Aragorn blew his nose, Legolas amused himself by twisting a strand of dark brown hair around his finger.
"Dog be out..." Aragorn tried again after clearing his nose a bit. "Hit be, bake be udcodscious, but be to sleeb, dog be out."
"Knock you out," Legolas gave a soft laugh of understanding. "I am sorry, I should have guessed." Aragorn turned his head, looking somewhat hopeful. "No, I will not knock you out!" he laughed. "I will, however, smother you with kisses until you forget all about those annoying little sneezes. How would you like that?"
Aragorn grinned as Legolas eased him over so that he turned onto his back, then his side to face Legolas. "You really do dot bide seeig be lige dis?"
"Of course I do not mind," Legolas replied softly, placing a kiss on his forehead, then one on his cheek. "You cannot give me your cold, no matter how much you sneeze. And frankly, you are quite adorable when you get all needy like this." He kissed the man's other cheek. "It so rarely happens that you are anything but noble, tough, straight-laced Aragorn. Besides, it's nice to be the one to give you a little comfort." Without a word, he rolled off the bed, then crawled back on, underneath the covers this time. He wrapped his arms around the man and placed a kiss on the man's lips, then his chin, and worked his way up his cheek, stopping at the forehead. "Warmer, Nīn Melethron?"
Aragorn's cheeks flushed at the sound of Legolas' pet name for him. "I hate it whed you call be dat..." he mumbled. But the look on his face told that he did indeed feel warmer with Legolas under the covers with him.
"You *love* it when I call you that," Legolas corrected him with another kiss. He noticed that familiar look pass onto Aragorn's face, the one signifying that the man was going to sneeze. He eased the handkerchief out of Aragorn's hand, unfolded it, and placed it softly over his nose. Aragorn sniffled shook his head in protest, but Legolas gave him a firm look. "I am no nursemaid," he reassured Aragorn. "Why do you not trust your friend a little more?"
Not wanting to explain that it was not a matter of trust, Aragorn sighed and gave in to the sneezey sensation plaguing him. He shook, though held against Legolas, one arm around him tightly. "hurAhshhhh! herChushhh!" Legolas wiped his nose gently, folded the handkerchief, then wiped it again. Aragorn still seemed a bit embarrassed.
"There now, that must feel better," Legolas said softly, soothingly as he took the man fully into his arms, pressing him up against his body in a full hug. "What else can I do for you, Nīn Melethron?" He ran his hand through Aragorn's hair, massaging the scalp a bit with his fingers in the process.
"You cad stob callig be that, for ode. Add for adother... I..." his breathing caught and Legolas held him close, instructing him to sneeze into the elf's chest rather than spend the effort repositioning. "I hab to... heh...hehh-Harshuhhh! hehShuhhh!" Legolas rubbed the back of his head while rubbing his nose with the handkerchief.
"Bless you," he whispered. But before he could say or do any more, the sound of approaching footsteps caught his ear. Worse yet, he recognized the two sets all too well. Desperately, he whispered to Aragorn. "They are coming. I must hide." And as he slid beneath the blankets, Aragorn put his hand on Legolas' head and helped to push him under. Then he propped himself up and bent his knees, blocking the bulge beside him from the sight of anyone coming through the door. No sooner had he so moved than the door opened.
Elrond smiled and shut the door behind, giving Aragorn just a glimpse of the hallway, which contained Legolas' father, waiting though looking a bit impatient even for an elf. "They told me you would not let them in, even to bring you lunch," he said, bearing a tray from the kitchens.
Aragorn nodded, hoping that Legolas was indeed safe. Elrond had a way of knowing things that were secret and seeing things that were hidden. "I did dot wadt adybody to see be lig dis," he explained, sniffling into a handkerchief.
Elrond came closer, looking concerned, his deep, dark eyes running the length of Aragorn's body in inspection. He stopped, raising his eyebrow at something, but did not make mention of it, his voice as calm as always. "You should not refuse those who would wish to help, Nīn Ion, even if you are sick. If you believe that you will be judged solely upon your appearance, that is the only part of yourself you will truthfully project."
Aragorn rubbed his nose through the handkerchief to distract Elrond from seeing him roll his eyes. In truth, he felt the need to sneeze again and he didn't really want to do so in front of Elrond if he could help it. His nose twitched with tickles, and he rubbed his nose hard again. "I highly doubt dat with da way I look adybody will be lookig further idto be. I..." his nose twitched again and he buried his nose in the handkerchief, resigned to sneezing but trying to hide it. "hutCHMPH! hurChimphhh!"
"Galu, Estel," he said softly. He handed the tray over to Aragorn, who placed it on his lap, then he sat on the edge of the bed. The bed sagged a bit with his added weight, but it balanced out Legolas' weight well. He reached over and ran his hand down Aragorn's cheek gently. "Sut lle anta tyav?"
Aragorn shrugged. He was circling his spoon around in the bowl of soup. He couldn't smell it, but he supposed it would probably taste good if he could taste at all. Despite everyone telling him that he needed to eat, he hadn't had an appetite in days. The constant prodding from the elves bringing him food was one of the reasons he had requested no one enter his room. "I feel sick," Aragorn replied, looking away from the food. "Add sdeezey."
Elrond reached over and placed the back of his hand against Aragorn's forehead. "You still have not developed a fever..."
Aragorn agreed, sniffling. "It really is just all da sdee... sdeezig-Ada?" he managed desperately, trying to free himself from beneath the tray and hold back his sneezes at the same time. He handed the tray to Elrond with one hand, while the other pressed his handkerchief to his nose. The tray was commandeered just in time. "hehh... ehh-heh...heh-HEHChumphhhh!"
Elrond sighed and balanced the tray on his bedstand. "Promise me you will eat a little? And that you will try to get some rest this afternoon? You have had very little of both."
Aragorn shrugged, rubbing his nose to keep the runs back as best he could. What he needed was to blow his nose, but in front of Elrond he couldn't work himself up to do that, of all things. "I will try to tell da sdeezes to stay away lodg edough for dat." Sniffling, Aragorn watched as Elrond gave a satisfied nod and strode from the room.
Legolas waited a few moments extra before extricating himself from the blankets. "Is what he says true?" he said softly, the fresh air helping his flushed face return to its normal color once more. "You have neither eaten nor slept much?" Aragorn nodded, folding the handkerchief, positioning it, and blowing his nose into it with great relief. Legolas truly did not seem to mind. "Well, you cannot hope to get any better if you do not eat. And you really must try to sleep as much as--" he broke off as the sound of footsteps approaching returned. Quickly, he ducked back under the covers.
The visitor was Elrond, again, though he left the door open this time. Aragorn could definitely now see King Thranduil pacing in the hallway, back and forth in front of his bedroom door. Elrond looked around the room carefully, his eyes finally resting on Aragorn. "I meant to ask whether you had seen Legolas Greenleaf this morning?"
Aragorn was forced to do some quick thinking. He had no wish to lie to his father, and knew for certain that Elrond would detect a lie even if he did. But neither did he wish to give Legolas away. As much as he thought he would detest the elf lying beside him while he sneezed, Legolas had such a soft, comforting presence that he felt much better just to have him there. So he said the first thing that came to his mind. "Yes, I did see hib."
Elrond's eyebrows twitched in surprise ever so briefly. "Indeed. Did he perchance mention where he was going afterwards?"
"Ah," again, Aragorn told the truth. "Actually, he did dot. Why? Is there sobethig ibortadt I should kow about?"
Shaking his head, "No, no. His father simply wanted a word but it can wait until after the meeting. I will bring you some medicinal tea when we have adjourned for the day," Elrond promised. "It will help with the congestion."
"Thag you," Aragorn said softly from behind his handkerchief again.
Elrond left, shutting the door behind, and Aragorn sighed with relief. He guessed that Elrond had known all along as to Legolas' whereabouts, but trusted their desire to remain together. Aragorn lifted the blankets, peering beneath. "I thig it is safe. You cad cub bag out dow."
Legolas shook his head and ran a hand up Aragorn's leg. "I like it down here." His hand fell on Aragorn's crotch and tugged the waistband of his pants down a bit. "I think I shall stay a little while longer if you do not mind."
He pushed the blanket back so Aragorn could not watch as he pulled the man's pants down more and began his work. Aragorn sighed and leaned back in bed, taking in all the wonderful sensations that were happening down below. "Oh Legolas..." he muttered as the elf's tongue took over for his hand. If this didn't tire him out enough to make him fall asleep, he didn't know what would.
* * *
Legolas woke sometime in the middle of the night from a very deep sleep. His hand was down Gimli's shorts, and his head rested on Gimli's head like a pillow. He grinned, wondering if it was something the dwarf had done that woke him. If Aragorn were fast asleep, and they were uncharacteristically quiet, they might be able to get away with a bit of late night lovemaking. But Gimli was sound asleep, and Legolas' gentle prods did nothing to faze him.
On the other hand, Aragorn was wide awake, and looking imploringly over at Legolas through the darkness. "Legolas?" his whisper was hoarse, scratchy, and full of pain.
Feeling that he should be allowed at least one night of peace and rest, especially when he was not needed to stand guard, Legolas debated simply calling back to the man. But the expression on Aragorn's face matched the tone of his voice and neither was at all pleasant. With a reluctant sigh, Legolas pulled himself out from the warmth of his own bed, and went to Aragorn's. "What is the matter?"
Aragorn shook his head, coughing a bit but trying to hold them back, and shaking at the result. He looked away from Legolas and closed his eyes.
The elf was not amused. "I've gotten all the way out of bed for you, now tell me what is wrong with you." Aragorn remained silent, though he opened his eyes with a look that showed he was trying to decide what to say. "Well?" snapped Legolas impatiently.
"Water?" was all Aragorn said, his voice scratchy. The single word made him begin to cough again, and he cupped a hand over his mouth to muffle the sound as best he could. Legolas, of course, went for water.
Their clothes and bags lay in a soggy mess in the corner, and Legolas rummaged through it. He retrieved Aragorn's pouch, but found it had been completely drained, so he located his own and brought it back to Aragorn, who took several massive gulps. He handed it back with a relieved sigh. "Better?" Legolas asked in a whisper, though he knew that if Gimli wouldn't wake from a few pokes, he was not going to wake at the sound of voices. Aragorn nodded slightly and turned his face into his pillow. He shook helplessly with coughs, and Legolas reached over and patted his back until he stopped.
Finally, Aragorn lifted his head and said, in a very rough voice, "I cad't breathe." Then he began to cough again. No, it seemed the water had not helped him feel much better.
Legolas was suddenly more worried, and put a hand on Aragorn's shoulder. "You are not going to be sick to your stomach again, are you?"
A coughing Aragorn shook his head and while Legolas would have liked to have heard him say it, that was enough to convince him.
Legolas handed the water back over, though Aragorn couldn't catch his breath long enough to drink any. Each bed had two pillows, and Legolas used all but the one Gimli's head rested upon in order to prop Aragorn up a bit better. "Drink a little more. And blow your nose as well," Legolas commanded, tucking the blankets around the readjusted Aragorn. Aragorn followed his advice in reverse order, feeling a bit better afterwards. He forced a few throat-clearing coughs into the handkerchief, balled it up, and placed it to the side, taking up a new one. "You really do not sound at all good," Legolas whispered, sitting down on the edge of his bed. "Is there something I could get you? If it is the cold- another blanket? Gimli bought some herbs- a cup of tea?" While Aragorn was certainly much better off in bed than in the middle of the forest, his cold seemed to be giving him the same problems. And though Legolas had told himself that things would improve once they reached the inn, he found that he was just as worried as he had been while they were on the road.
Aragorn shook his head.
"Have you been able to get much sleep tonight?" he asked, knowing the answer.
Aragorn shook his head again.
Legolas sighed and stretched out on the bed beside him. He stroked Aragorn through the blankets, sure the man could not feel his touch so much as understand why he felt the need to pet.
"huh..." Legolas lifted his head and pulled back to give Aragorn room as Aragorn lifted the handkerchief to his face. "hurARSHOO! Eh-SHUHH!" He blew his nose, wiped, and tightened his grip on his handkerchief yet again. "herUHSHhhhh! hihCHUHHH! CHESHOO!"
"Ble--" Legolas began, but Aragorn cut him off.
"Just go away," Aragorn said with a gruff tone to his voice.
At the sudden rudeness, Legolas protested, "I am simply trying to make you feel better. There is no need to--"
Aragorn interrupted once more, "You do not understand. You cannot do anything for me. You might as well just go to sleep." Legolas made his petting heavier so that Aragorn might feel him there, but Aragorn simply pushed him away.
Rather than fighting him again, Legolas stood and stretched. Perhaps it was a good sign that Aragorn felt like himself enough to protest to being comforted. Or perhaps he was beyond caring at the moment. "If you get too cold, or you want..." he thought quickly to find the most appropriate and inoffensive word, "If you want a friend or two to keep you company and grow tired of lying here feeling sorry for yourself, grab a pillow and climb into bed with me and Gimli." He turned on his heels and climbed back into bed, under the covers and over Gimli. Having given his pillow to Aragorn, he stole some space on Gimli's, giving him as good an excuse as any to hold the dwarf close again. And before drifting back off to sleep, he slid his hand back down beneath Gimli's underwear.
Gimli was the first to wake the next morning, doing so as the morning sun rays caught his cheek and eye. He woke to find a rather full but undeniably warm bed. Legolas lay on his back in the middle, head on a pillow. Gimli lay half on the bed and half on Legolas' bare chest, held in place by an arm Legolas placed around him like an unconscious hug. Aragorn slept on the other side of Legolas, with Legolas' other arm around him as well. He slept on his side, curled and pressed against Legolas, though instead of using the elf as a pillow, he had placed a pillow on the elf's chest and used that instead.
Giving Legolas a bit of a poke, he looked up to see the elf's face staring back at him. "It looks like he finally gave in and accepted that offer," Gimli said, nodding towards the still-sleeping Aragorn.
"He finally looks warm, does he not?" Legolas whispered back, careful not to move, lest he wake the man.
Gimli was obliged to agree. He reached over and felt Aragorn's forehead. "Feels as though his fever is down as well. Here, have a check," he took his hand away, looking anxious until Legolas felt the man's forehead and nodded in agreement.
The dwarf sighed with a bit of relief, and Legolas tightened his grip around him like a hug. "Morning, Gim." He kissed the top of his head tenderly as it was the only part he could reach without moving too much and waking Aragorn.
Gimli grinned, savoring the warm, loving touch. "Morning," he returned. He turned onto his stomach and crawled a few inches up to meet Legolas' face. Gently he kissed the man good morning. The intention was to give a soft, tender sort of kiss, but Legolas clutched his beard as he leaned in, holding him there. Legolas returned the kiss with a more passionate one of his own before releasing Gimli.
It was only as Gimli pulled away, catching his breath and grinning, that either of them noticed Aragorn was awake. He glared at the two of them then, taking the pillow with him, turned over onto his other side in bed, his back to them. "I really do not have the energy to get up," he said, closing his eyes again. "So if you need to have each other, all I ask is that you do it quickly and quietly."
Neither Gimli nor Legolas could resist giving a laugh at this. They both eased Aragorn back onto his other side. "Good morning to you, too, Aragorn," Gimli said pleasantly, still smiling. "Sleep well?"
He shrugged with his reply, "I did not get much sleep, really." This point was accented by a tremendous yawn that shook him fully.
"A problem that will shortly be remedied. You have all day to catch up on sleep," Legolas informed him. "Meanwhile, Gimli and I will be downstairs at the meeting."
Aragorn looked a startled, as though the concept of missing the meeting was completely foreign to him. "First I have heard of this! I need to be there! My views, my kingdom--" he broke off, rubbing tickles out of his nose and thinking that they could not have chosen a worse time to strike upon him.
"--will be well represented," Legolas finished for him. "What you need is to stay in bed and take care of that cold." Evidently, Aragorn was not going to let this go without a fight, and pulled himself up to a sitting position with much effort. "We have at least three days here, maybe longer. There will be time for you to attend the meeting if you recover quickly and the only way to do that is bed rest and liquids." The look in Aragorn's eyes clearly showed that he did not like being lectured to about colds from an elf who had never had a cold in his life. But his expression changed before he could say any one of the hundred retorts he was quickly lining up.
Gimli noticed it at once, and sprang off the bed with a grunt. Aragorn followed him with his eyes for a moment before they shut closed. He only managed to raise a hand to his face in time. "hurCHISHHH! hehSHUHHH!" Gimli forced a clean handkerchief into his hand and patted his back as he quickly made use of it. After a particularly strong blow, he sighed and lowered the handkerchief, eyes still closed. "Urhh..."
"Aye, you're welcome Laddie," Gimli said sweetly, trying unsuccessfully to get a laugh out of Aragorn. Instead, Aragorn gave him a pained look and closed his eyes again. Gimli patted his arm. "Take it easy, now." He leaned closer, whispering, "I promise not to hover like the elf, but he is right. You do need to get some sleep, no matter what else you do today." Aragorn opened his eyes again and gave him a weak smile, mouthing a 'thank you' back.
Gimli pulled on his pants, shoes, and a clean shirt. It was a bit wrinkled from the journey but good enough to look presentable at the meeting. "I will go get a bit of breakfast for us downstairs," he said with his eyebrows raised to indicate that what he meant was that he would go downstairs and do some reconnaissance as to who had already arrived.
Aragorn could not answer, caught in the middle of another sneeze, "herTCHAHhhhh!" But Legolas nodded to Gimli in approval, and the dwarf headed out.
Aragorn snuffled into the handkerchief and gave Legolas a displeased look.
"Oh, come on now," Legolas said, sliding out of bed and pulling the covers back up over Aragorn. "Nobody wants you to get better faster than Gimli and I. But the way to do it is not spending time in a drafty inn common room while elves who do not understand give you shrewd looks when you sneeze and dwarves who do understand move away from you." The look on the man's face told that Aragorn was hardly convinced. "We are going to be here at least three days, maybe longer. If you start to feel better later, you can come down then. Otherwise, you're to stay in bed the whole time."
Gimli came through the door just then, which was lucky because Aragorn was about to begin his protest. "Breakfast cakes and tea for all," he announced. He settled onto the foot of the bed and handed out the food and drink. Legolas intercepted the first cup of tea as it was about to change hands over to Aragorn. He sniffed it warily, took a small sip, paused, then handed it over. "This one is okay, let me try the others." He repeated the procedure for each, keeping the third for himself. "No poisons. All clear."
"Really now, do you think anyone would wake up early to poison a few cups of tea?" The cakes looked safe enough, but Gimli allowed Legolas to take the first nibble from each just in case.
"If I really thought they were poisoned do you think I would have bothered to test?" Legolas replied with a grin. "Eat up."
Aragorn wasn't so much hungry as tired, but Legolas coaxed him into eating a few bites of the biscuit after dunking it in the tea. Not wanting to push too much, Legolas finished the rest of it for him. Gimli ate his in just a few bites and downed his tea quite quickly as well. Legolas at least paused to taste his own as he ate. Gimli explained that there were about twelve elves and a small group of about five dwarves already assembled downstairs. They had commandeered two long tables and were huddled around them, talking softly. "They looked restless. We should probably go down sooner than later."
Legolas nodded in agreement. "All right." He stretched, straitened his shirt, ran his hand through his hair, and patted Gimli on the back. He turned to Aragorn, gently tugging the blankets up a bit. "Stay warm and stay in bed. We will be up to check on you as much as we can. And finish that tea," Legolas gestured towards it.
"herIhshhh! huhCHIHshhh!" He rubbed his nose. "I do *not* need babysitters," he complained, but he drank more of the tea anyway.
"We have been over what you need already." He raised his eyebrows toward Aragorn. "Now get some sleep." Gimli started to leave, and Legolas made to follow. Then he paused, turned, and gave Aragorn a soft kiss on his forehead. "Feel better, Estel."
Just when he would have described himself as absolutely bored to tears, he felt Gimli's hand on his thigh. He looked down at the dwarf. "What is the matter?" he whispered, thinking that he must have missed something. Every time his mind wandered, it fell upon Aragorn with worry.
"You should go check on Aragorn," Gimli whispered back, looking around to be sure no one was listening to him. They all seemed rather immersed in their own discussions. "Take him some more tea, maybe?"
The gratefulness was easily communicated as Legolas rested his hand on Gimli's, squeezing tightly. "Keep them from killing each other," he whispered before sliding his chair out, muttering an arbitrary excuse, and headed to the counter on the way upstairs.
He could hear the sneezes from the outside of the room before he entered, then heard the coughing, and the sneezing again. With a deep sigh, he turned the doorknob and walked in. Aragorn lay back in his own bed again, three pillows behind his head, his nose buried in the crook of his arm, and his sword pointing straight at the door.
Legolas gave a cough of his own. "Ah, expecting someone else?" He shut the door softly behind.
Aragorn's hand and sword dropped to the bed as though the effort of holding them up a moment later would kill him. Then his eyes closed and he bent forward. "hurCHUH! heh-EHtchoo!" He rubbed his sleeve and shook his head. "Just feeling a little vulnerable." He coughed and sniffled.
"I brought you some more tea. Well, really it is only hot water now, but it will be tea in a moment," he rambled, attempting to distract Aragorn from his suffering. Legolas opened the bundle to find a half dozen small jars and, most thankfully, a spoon. He tapped a few bottles against the rim of the cup, so that just a bit of the herbs fell out, and he extracted a heaping spoonful from another bottle before swirling the mixture around the the cup. The water turned a rich brown and he walked back over to Aragorn with it. "This should help with that cough if nothing else... are you all right?" He realized, suddenly, that Aragorn had been uncharacteristically quiet since his arrival.
Aragorn had a dazed look on his face but was frozen in place. His mouth hung open, his breathing heavy. Then he bent forward at the waist. "heh-IHCHHH! hurCHIHHH! hehSHESHHH! hurCHIHH!" Legolas stared at him, a bit wide-eyed. Wearily he picked up a handkerchief and rubbed his nose. "Excuse me." He looked up at Legolas. "What?"
Legolas shook his head, still looking stunned. "I have seen you sick before... but never quite like this..." He walked over and settled on the edge of the bed. He felt Aragorn's forehead. "Your fever is back up."
"Do not look so worried. It is just a cold." He turned his head away from the elf and coughed hard into a raised fist, body shaking. Aragorn, normally so stalwart a warrior, looked absolutely weak and miserable now. And certainly his coughs had sounded better in the past.
"Whatever it is, it's settling in your chest," Legolas observed. His eyes zipped from Aragorn to the mug in hand, back to Aragorn again as he tried to think of something useful that he could do to help. The only things he came up with were, "Here, drink the tea right now," and "I know you will not like this, but perhaps we should contact Lord Elrond--"
"Absolutely not!" he exclaimed, nearly choking on a mouthful of tea as he instantly fought to make his displeasure known. "He has enough to deal with right now. He cannot come all the way over here just because I have a bit of a sniffle."
"It is obviously much more than a bit of a sniffle!" Legolas replied just as emphatically. "You have been sick to your stomach," he held up a hand and started marking off ailments, pointing to a finger for each. "Sneezing regularly, coughing badly, wheezing, horribly congested, especially if it is starting to settle in your chest. Then there's the fever and the chills and..." he had cycled through the fingers on one hand, and was currently pointing to the ring finger again. "And I am sure there is more, but I have lost track of the number already. The point is, you need healing that is beyond my skill as an elf and as a friend."
Aragorn sniffled and swallowed another mouthful of tea. "I will be all right, Legolas. As you say, I just need to stay in bed. And you and Gimli have been excellent caregivers."
Legolas, looking all the more worried at Aragorn's sudden wave of cooperation and grattitude, reached over and felt his forehead again. "You must be worse than I thought." He rose to his feet at once with a look of determination.
But Aragorn lunged forward and grabbed a hold of Legolas' wrist. Though he was out of breath, he summoned enough energy to sound forceful. "You are not to send for Elrond. I do not want to see him, nor Elladan and Elrohir. You will not send for... them..." he pulled back with a deep breath, turning his head. "hurAHSHHH! hehCHUSHHH! hahSHOOO! Heh-eh-IH-SHUHHH!" He wearily picked the handkerchief back up and ran it beneath his nose with what looked like the last of his energy.
"Galu," the elf whispered. He pried the handkerchief from Aragorn's hand and wiped his nose for him. Aragorn did not look the least bit pleased at this development, and tried to push Legolas away. But he had no energy and Legolas, at least, was doing something useful. "I am sure they could spare the time for you. I could send word to Rivendell and ask that if one of them were free, to come over and--"
At the sight, Legolas sighed and sat back down again on the bed. He reached over and pulled the man's hair back from his face. He started to say something, then closed his mouth again. With another sigh he lay down on the bed, facing Aragorn with his arm bent to prop himself up. He ran a hand down Aragorn's chest, through the blankets. "I can tell the lot downstairs I have an emergency, that I am needed elsewhere. I can stay up here with you."
Aragorn shook his head. "You need to be down there. Just as I need to be up here." Frankly, Aragorn wasn't sure he could handle the constant attention from Legolas the way he had in the past. He raised the mug and sniffled again. "But thank you for the tea. I could use some more... a little later." What he meant of course was that he could use more now, but he certainly did not want to make it sound like that. He lifted his wrist to his nose. "heh-ARCHHH! hihCHUSHHH! hehSHESHHH!"
Legolas picked up his handkerchief for him and rubbed his nose for him, briefly this time. "Are you certain you would not rather I stay?" He spoke softly, as though he were another person altogether. "I have taken care of you in the past."
This managed to put a smile on Aragorn's face, despite his feeling sick. It was entirely the memory of these previous occasions which made him smile. "I'm not as young and needy as I was back then."
"Well, you are certainly not old. And as for needy, give me credit. I have been around you when you were sick enough to know that you can be as needy as a toddler when sick." He brushed Aragorn's cheek with his fingers.
* * *
Yet Again Back in Rivendell: And Still As Many Years Ago
It was hot and stuffy beneath the covers of the bed, but Aragorn still shivered a bit. Legolas held the blankets up enough so that they could see each other well enough. "Maybe you should put your clothes back on. You would be warmer."
Legolas noticed how he gritted his teeth to keep them from chattering, though could not do so while he spoke. "Y-you b-bake be war-b-b-ber."
Legolas pulled him close in a hug, rubbing both hands up and down his body to generate heat. "Apparently not warm enough. To the touch you feel like you are on fire, yet you still shiver so."
Aragorn nodded, sniffling. He gave a faint whimper and turned his head into the sheets. "herChuhhh! hehChuhhh!"
Legolas reached down with a handkerchief and tended to his nose for him. "Galu, Nīn Melethron."
Aragorn sighed, sniffling back a runny nose. "I sniff thought I told you sniff, sniff, dot to sniff call be dat."
Pretending to look aghast, "What, take back a nickname once it has been given? Oh no, I would never do that." He rocked back and forth in bed slightly, still holding Aragorn in a hug. "I will, however, see what I can do about warming you up and making you feel better."
With some adjusting on Legolas' part, causing some shivering on Aragorn's part, they soon found themselves more comfortable in bed. Not only was Aragorn in a position to start feeling warmer, but Legolas could now breathe the cool, fresh air in the room again. He sat back against a pillow pressed to the headboard, which was massive and wooden and full of decorative slats and carvings. Aragorn sat back against him in a lounging position, Legolas' arms wrapped warmly around him as much as the blanket which covered them both from behind and the others that were pulled up to their chests. Legolas kissed every part available to him, from shoulder to cheek, with a concentration on his ear. "Warmer now?"
Aragorn nodded, realizing that he had indeed stopped shivering. Being held tightly against Legolas' warm, naked body made him warm in more ways than one. "Warber," he agreed, nostrils twitching again. "What habbed to dat hadky?" he asked, feeling another sneeze coming on and wanting to be prepared. But the handkerchief seemed to have been lost somewhere in all the shuffling of bodies and blankets. Aragorn held his hand up to his face sideways, pressing a finger to the bottom of his nose as his breathing started to get away from him.
Legolas let go with one arm and started searching for it. The number of sheets and blankets seemed to multiply the more he looked. But before he could locate it, he heard the unmistakable intake of breath and knew that time was up. "Sorry," he breathed with a bit of sympathy as Aragorn tightened in his arms.
"hehhh-URSHHH! Ihhh-Chushhhh!" he sneezed, bending forward so forcefully that he broke out of Legolas' hold completely. It disrupted the nest of blankets they had found themselves in, and sent a violent shiver through his body.
"Galu," Legolas whispered, taking him back, pulling the blankets back around tightly, and kissing his cheek. "I will find you another handkerchief. Let me just get up and--"
"Doe," Aragorn replied, shaking his head and dragging his wrist beneath his nose. "I will be all right. I just deed to be warb."
Legolas ran his fingers through Aragorn's hair, from scalp to the end of the long brown strands. "Whatever you wish." He hugged Aragorn tightly. "Mmm, simply tell me what I can do and I will do it."
Aragorn turned, so he was virtually sitting sideways in Legolas' lap. He gave the elf a soft kiss on the lips, and wrapped his arms around Legolas. Then with a yawn, he rested his head on the elf's upper chest and shoulder, and closed his eyes. "Just tage care of be."
Legolas made sure the blankets were pulled up to his chin before tilting his head and resting it lightly against Aragorn's. "I think I can manage that all right, Nīn Melethron." Aragorn lifted his head, looking a bit perturbed, then decided it wasn't worth the argument and let it fall back onto Legolas' bare chest. Before Legolas could move his own head back into place, Aragorn had fallen asleep.
* * *
"You were always very good to me," Aragorn agreed, returning from the memory with a smile on his face. "But rejoining the meeting and representing my views when I cannot helps me more than you spending the day with me in bed would..." a smile still on his face, he looked away so his bit of blushing couldn't be noticed. "As much as I might like the latter."
"If that is your decision, I will respect it," Legolas said, patting the man's arm, pulling up to a sitting position, then a standing one.
To go beyond the forced smile, Aragorn still looked rather dazed. It appeared as though their conversation had sufficiently drained him of the energy to do anything. "hehh.." he turned his head and slowly raised his handkerchief to his face. "her-UHSHHHH! IhhTCHHHhhhh!" The handkerchief had only made it halfway there before the sneezes started, but wearily rubbed at his nose when they had passed.
Pushing second thoughts about the decision aside, Legolas called out softly as he headed out. "Get some sleep, or I will think twice before leaving you to your own devices again while sick."
Though the sneezes were incessantly plaguing him, Aragorn managed to fall asleep on his own not much later, perhaps from sheer exhaustion. He remained asleep for much of the mid-day and afternoon, waking only a few times for water or to blow his nose. He was still fast asleep, and snoring loudly at that, when Gimli went in to check on him later that afternoon.
The dwarf crept in as softly as possible, although dwarves were not known for being light on their feet. He came bearing another mug of hot water for tea and a cup of soup for lunch, but set them on the table beside the bed rather than waking Aragorn up for them. He did, however, mix in a few of the herbs, taking care to get the quantities exact, as he promised Legolas he would.
After Gimli left the items on the table, he turned to Aragorn, inspecting. The man was buried beneath the covers, propped up on pillows. His head was visible only, turned to the side, mouth open. But his snores were enough to draw attention to himself. His face, which had been dead pale for days, was now flushed red with heat. Sweat beaded against his forehead and ran down one side of his face. Gimli reached over and pulled the blankets down a little, as gently as possible. He folded them at the man's waist neatly.
Aragorn stirred and snorted, and Gimli froze so as not to do any further damage. But Aragorn's snores started right back up again immediately. With a quiet sigh of relief at having not woken him, Gimli turned and made for the door. His hand seized the doorknob and began to turn it when, "Gimli?"
His shoulders sagged and he turned back around, looking defeated. "I was so sure I would get out of here without waking you." He spoke and sighed at the same time, "I'm sorry."
"Sorry," said Aragorn at nearly the same instant. He gave a weak smile and nodded his head slowly towards the door. "You can go if you want." He raised a heavy hand and fanned his face, tilting his head back with a deep breath in and out.
"Hot?" Gimli asked, though the answer was obvious. He went back to his bed and folded the blankets down another foot or two below the man's knees. Aragorn pulled the rest of his legs out from beneath with another deep sigh. He continued to fan himself for a few moments. Gimli reached up, having to stand on his toes to reach to the top of the pile of pillows, and placed his palm on Aragorn's forehead. It felt as hot as it looked, and Gimli did not look pleased at that fact.
He pulled his hand back and Aragorn groaned in response. "Please... put it back..." he whispered, closing his eyes. "Your hand is so cool. Feels good."
Gimli obliged, pulling himself up onto the bed, kneeling, and putting his hand back on Aragorn's forehead. "Better?" Aragorn nodded, relishing the coolness against his burning skin. Then his whole body shook with a shiver. Gimli pulled back, startled. "How about just a sheet and blanket, then? Compromise?" Aragorn nodded again, and Gimli crawled down, then pulled them up.
"How are things downstairs going?" Aragorn asked.
With a shrug, "About as one might expect. How are you doing upstairs?"
Aragorn smirked. He turned his head, not bothering to cover his nose any longer. "er-CHUHH! hehCHUSHH! Heh-eh-Arshooo!" He sniffled wetly but didn't bother blowing his nose. "About as one might expect," he said wearily.
Gimli understood and gestured over to the nightstand. "I brought you some more tea, so that should help. And Legolas *forced* me to bring you up some soup. I am supposed to stand over you and make sure you eat some before I leave." He rolled his eyes with a hard sigh. "Sometimes I think the elf doesn't understand quite as much as he thinks he does."
Aragorn nodded, looking a bit queasy at the idea of food, but took the tea. "It's not his fault." He took a few sips and gave a deep sigh. "Now that, on the other hand, is good." He closed his eyes lazily. "When was the last time you were sick, Gimli?"
For a moment, Gimli looked as thoughtful as it was possible for a dwarf to look. When he answered, he sounded awkward and uncomfortable. "A few years ago I had a bad case of the flu..." he grimaced at the memory. "Dwarves don't exactly like to talk about their weaknesses."
"Oh, and you think I do?" Aragorn laughed. He realized it was a mistake at once, as he dissolved into harsh coughs. He spilled some of the tea as he shook, the coughs sounding far worse than they had before. Gimli noticed this fact, but did not comment. Instead, he took one of Aragorn's used and crumpled handkerchiefs and soaked the tea up from the blanket. He kept a careful eye upon Aragorn to be sure the man wasn't going to be sick to his stomach, but it didn't seem to be that type of coughing. And he wasn't about to become a mothering old fool; feeling Aragorn's forehead had been bad enough.
When Aragorn was done coughing, and Gimli done mopping up, Gimli smiled. "Well, you brought it up, did you not?"
Aragorn looked confused a moment, then smiled, nodding. "I suppose I did." He took another deep breath and turned his head. Gimli thought briefly about handing him a handkerchief, but decided it was much too close being a mothering old fool. So he scooted back a bit to give Aragorn some room. "heh..." he looked back at Gimli apologetically, then snapped forward with sneezes. "herChishhhh! Hur-UHshhh!" The man raised a hand to his nose, sniffling. "hehCHUSHH! herSHUHH! Heh-Chuhhhh!" With a deep sigh of frustration and much stuffiness, "Could you had be a hadkerchief?" Gimli obliged again, picking up a fresh handkerchief and putting it up to Aragorn's face. Aragorn took over from there, rubbing and blowing his nose until he felt a bit better. "Thanks."
Gimli nodded. "Happy to help." He made sure to meet Aragorn's eyes. "With anything, Laddie."
After clearing his nose with a final blow and clearing his throat with a cough, Aragorn nodded. "I know. Thank you." He started coughing again, and Gimli reached over, giving the mug of tea a tap with his finger. Understanding, Aragorn quickly took a sip, which soothed his throat enough for the moment to keep him from coughing.
"You will be all right?" Gimli asked.
"I will," Aragorn agreed. "I will get some sleep, and even have some soup porobably." He looked suddenly a bit paler and one arm instinctively wrapped around his middle. "Ah... make that a 'probably not'."
means, Aragorn, do nothing that will make yourself
more ill." He leaned closer, whispering as though he were
Aragorn laughed at the thought of Gimli trying to tip-toe his way across the room silently. But he kept his mouth open afterwards, lifting his handkerchief to it as the tickles struck once more. "heh-URchhhh! hurChushhh! hehChushhh!" He blew his nose, not noticing as Gimli made his exit.
Aragorn closed his eyes, bracing himself for the yell he knew was coming, even if it was not directed at him.
"What do you mean, you did not make him eat any?" Legolas' eyes, usually a calm brown, were staring deep and hard at Gimli.
The elf's eyes were difficult to fight against, but dwarves had not received a reputation of being stubborn for nothing. "I *mean* I did not make him eat any!" Gimli replied.
Legolas spoke slowly, each word punctuated with emotion. "I gave you explicit instructions to make sure he--"
"And who are you to be giving me instructions?"
"Who are you not to make sure your friend gets fed?"
Gimli's eyes were burning with annoyance as he tried to make Legolas see reason. "He was not hungry, why should he eat?"
"Because it is *good* for him!" Legolas called back , frustrated with Gimli's reasoning as well.
"To be sick to his stomach? How good can the food be for him if he cannot keep it down?" Gimli snorted.
"Well, it will not do anything for him sitting and going cold on a table, that is for certain. Did you think of even *trying* to get him to eat some?"
"I do not believe it is possible to *get* Aragorn to do anything he does not already want to do. Of course I asked him if he wanted some."
"Oh, did you?" Legolas retorted.
"I told you that I would!" Gimli shot back, tightening his hand into a fist.
"hur-Chuhhh! herChoo! huhCHUSHH!" Aragorn sneezed suddenly.
Legolas, who sat on his right, and Gimli, who was on his left, both turned to look at him as though he'd made a point in their argument. He shrugged and raised a handkerchief to his nose, rubbing.
"Galu," said Legolas comfortingly. Then he glared at Gimli, who remained quiet. "The least you could do is bless him when he sneezes. Show some sympathy!"
Gimli raised his eyebrows. "Just because I do not fawn over him every time he sneezes does not mean I am not sympathetic."
"Well you could certainly show your sympathy a little better!" Legolas replied, leaping to his feet in anger. It would have been understandable to see him reaching for his bow at this point, but he restrained himself.
Aragorn coughed on purpose, attempting to distract them from arguing at least for a few more seconds. It had been clear upon their return that the meeting had not gone well for the day. They had both been in bad moods about it. Aragorn had managed to sleep through their entry, but had been woken soon thereafter. It appeared as though they were taking their frustrations out on each other, and Aragorn was caught right in the middle of it, both literally and figuratively.
Gimli acknowledged the cough by handing back the mug of tea. "At least I can be sympathetic. I know what it is like to be sick like this." His legs shorter, Gimli slid off the bed and stood firm, matching Legolas' stance.
"I may not be able to empathize," Legolas countered, "but I promise I can sympathize. Apparently better than you can."
"Just because I'm not breathing down his neck does not mean I do not sympathize! Or empathize! He does not want us watching his every breath. He's sick, not dying! Just because you have never been sick or even coughed or sneezed--"
At this, Aragorn began laughing. Not just a chuckle, but a deep, resounding laugh they cut them both off from their argument entirely. The laughter was so rich, so full, that it was also hopelessly addictive. After a few awkward moments, Gimli joined in, looking confused but amused at the sudden merriment in the face of previous anger. Even Legolas nodded his head and cracked a smile to hear his friends laugh.
"What... what are we... laughing... at?" Gimli managed, between laughs.
Aragorn, who looked as though he had been trying to explain since he began laughing, was able to break away with a cough long enough, "Oh... he has sneezed before."
Gimli raised a bushy eyebrow. "Has he now?" Laughing slowing, he looked over at Legolas.
Legolas waved his hand dismissively. "Old story. Not worth hearing, I promise."
Looking back at Aragorn. "Not worth hearing?" he inquired.
Aragorn shrugged, catching his breath. "I'm not so sure about that."
Legolas shook his head strongly. "I believe it is a bit too personal." He narrowed his eyes at Aragorn, as though trying to silently convince the man.
Interested, the dwarf climbed back up onto the bed and sat beside Aragorn again, as though to hear a bedtime story.
"Well then," Aragorn said, taking another sip of the tea, "I will leave out certain personal details, but it seems an appropriate time to tell." Anything to disrupt the elf's and dwarf's fight seemed appropriate.
* * *
Rivendell: Not Quite as Many Years Ago as Last Time
It was another lazy morning in Rivendell. The air was warm and smelled sweetly of something that tickled Aragorn's nose from the moment he woke in Legolas' arms. But he seemed to be better after a small bout of sneezing and a not so small bout of lovemaking. Their breakfast had been left for them while still asleep, but Legolas reached for one of the rolls as Aragorn rolled off from on top of him with a grunt.
Aragorn accepted a bite of the biscuit in his mouth as he reached beneath his pillow and withdrew a small handkerchief. "These spring mornings are starting to get to me more and more as I get older," Aragorn confessed, emptying his nose with a soft blow into the cloth. "Ohhh, hold on. That made it worse." Naked, he rolled from lying on his stomach, to his side. Then he sat up on the edge of the bed, handkerchief ready in hand and up in front of his face. Legolas, who remained on his stomach, looked over casually as he finished up the roll. Aragorn leaned forward with a deep breath out. "huhtchh! hurtchhh! Huhtchhh!" He sniffled and wiped his nose, then set the handkerchief aside. "Much better." He sniffed again and wiggled his nose with a smile. "It is always worst in the mornings but I think I am done. Ah, hand me a biscuit and jelly, would you?" he quickly changed the subject, turning and bending on leg on the bed while the other dangled over the edge. It gave Legolas a beautiful eyeful of the man's crotch. Legolas smiled at it, then dragged his attention back to the breakfast to fill the request.
"I marvel at how easily you are allowed to spend all morning in bed, Estel," Legolas said, spreading jelly over a biscuit. He handed it over, then retracted his hand, licking his fingers clean one at a time, tasting the deliciously strong peach jelly. "If I am not out of my bed at dawn, my father himself will hunt me down and drag me out."
Aragorn, having just taken a large bite, brushed his hair over one shoulder to show his grin. He swallowed and answered, "I do not believe it is some kindness which allows me remain without being bothered. Rather, I believe they are too nervous to approach and tell me to rise for the day, afraid they may come upon us in some indecent position."
Legolas laughed, burying his head in one of the many pillows that sat about the silk sheets. "I confess that thought had crossed my mind as well."
Laughing too, Aragorn gently slapped Legolas' bare rump. The sound was much worse than the feel, but Legolas played along, giving a loud moan. "Oh Aragorn!" he called out so that anyone in the general vicinity might hear. "I am humbled! I surely believed eleven was your limit for one morning! But that twelfth--" Aragorn launched forward and buried Legolas' whole head with a large pillow. The elf fought back, laughing, and pulled free, though now tangled in a mess of pillows, bed sheets, and limbs. To keep him silent, Aragorn attacked with a powerful kiss. Aragorn exhaled deeply through his nose as they kissed, lips pushing against each other, slightly open so that their tongues met briefly.
Briefly, because after a few moments, Aragorn was forced to pull away, turning his head to the side, into his fist. "her-Ihshh!" He sniffed and wiggled his nose. "Now I believe I am done." He looked back at Legolas with a sheepish smile. "Excuse me."
Legolas shrugged, propping himself up on his elbows as he lay now on his back. "Quite all right. I understand." He cocked his head curiously as Aragorn sniffled again and rubbed a knuckle beneath his nose. "Actually, to be honest, I do not really understand at all."
"What?" Aragorn said, lowering his hand and sitting back up, stretching his legs out in front of him so his ankles were even with Legolas' elbows on the bed. "The allergies or the runny nose or the sneezing--"
"All of it, actually," the elf replied. He snapped his head back, allowing the stray strands of his blond hair to meet and fall back behind his shoulders as though he had spent hours brushing it. It was always soft and perfect, unlike the man's which was completely frayed, tangled, and damp from sweat thanks to their morning activities. "Given that I have never sneezed before."
"What do you mean you've never sneezed before?" asked Aragorn with a casual laugh, staring in disbelief at his elf.
Legolas leaned on one elbow reached over to the bed stand and plucked a stem full of grapes from the bunch. He dangled it above himself in offering, and Aragorn turned onto his back beside him to take one with force just as Legolas gently went for another. Their lips met briefly by the stem, then parted to enjoy their grapes. Quickly they found each other again, and Aragorn covered Legolas' mouth completely in a passionate, open-mouthed kiss, opening and closing and drinking his lover like the juice of the grapes. When they parted, a look in Aragorn's eye told Legolas that the discussion was not going to be so easily forgotten, so he continued, "I have never had reason to sneeze." Even the word seemed foreign coming from him. "I have never known sickness or such discomfort from a cold chill."
Aragorn rolled over on top of Legolas, his elbows digging into the mattress on either side of Legolas' shoulders, his hands gently caressing the elf's face and running through his hair. Legolas allowed himself to lie back against the pillows and take in the caresses fully. The late morning sun shown down upon them through the large opening in the wall above the bed that was a window without glass. It lit them in gentle yellows and golds, catching their bare skin and making it glow. Thoughtfully, "But do you think it is possible?"
"What?" Legolas asked, preoccupied with tracing the sharp angles of the veins in the man's neck. "For you to take me twelve times in one morning?"
"No, Silly! For you to sneeze," he breathed, lowering his hands to help hold himself up as his bare chest pressed against Legolas' pale, sleek one.
Something told Legolas that the man was not about to let the subject pass idly by. "I suppose it is possible," he said, finishing off the last grape and tossing the stems outside the dwelling to be taken back into the land. "As all things are possible. But if you mean to mark me for the rest of my life to watch for it to happen, you may find yourself old and disappointed."
Aragorn laughed and nuzzled the elf's neck with kisses. Aragorn had been trying to grow a beard, but it was only half in, meaning that his chin scratched Legolas' skin on contact with a tickling, itching sort of sensation. Straddling the slender elf, Aragorn smiled to grind his loins against his lover's enticingly. "No, I do not mean to follow you. I mean to find out." And while Legolas was distracted by scratchy kisses and warm grindings, he pulled open one bed pillow at the seam and extracted a single slender feather.
Legolas saw it out of the corner of his eye, and pushed the man off himself with more laughter. "You mean to make a fool of me!" he protested, shrinking back from Aragorn as much as possible in the bed while still making himself look as though he wanted more contact.
"No, never!" Aragorn assured him, sounding terribly sarcastic but with a gentle and genuine smile. He leaned closer, but only to kiss his cheek, then his mouth, then his nose. Lying on his side, he took Legolas in his arms, stroking the elf's chest gently with the feather. "I simply wish to introduce you to the sensation." He reached down beneath the sheets, which wrapped them from the waist down, and ran the feather down the length of Legolas' member, then against the rest, from the insides of his spread thighs to the tip of his cock.
Legolas gave a shiver of pleasure and gripped his lover's arm hard. "I am convinced," he said, his face the normal calm but his eyes wide in disbelief at the new feelings. Then, giving a wide, rare grin, he whispered, "Have your way with me, Nīn Melethron." His deep blue eyes sparkled with passion-filled excitement
There was a gleam in Aragorn's eyes as well, as one arm slid beneath the elf to cradle him, and the other tickled the feather up the bare body. The elf shook with pleasure at the touch, waiting expectantly for the promised sensation of a sneeze. The feather tickled the tip of his nose, then brushed delicately at each nostril, before penetrating.
Legolas took a quick breath in, as though gasping at some unexpected sight before him. But instead it was an unexpected feeling, which raced through him with a chill and pulled at him entirely as his nose tingled. A second passed. Two seconds passed. Then three and four. But at the fifth, his eyes closed tightly and his slender, flawless nose wrinkled. His brow furrowed and his gentle mouth opened. "ehhhh-Kitchihhhh!" His whole body shook with the unrestrained spasm.
"Galu, Nīn Melui," whispered Aragorn, who had grown hard at the sight of Legolas' reaction. He gave the elf a soft kiss on the lips. "That was not so bad now, was it?"
Legolas shook his head slightly. "Not in the least." He reached behind his head to pull another feather from the opened pillow. Gently he worked it down the man's body, as though tracing invisible words. The feather circled each of Aragorn's nipples in turn, then danced around his defined abdominal muscles. Then he got to the crotch, where he let the feather remain for a while to play.
Meanwhile, Aragorn tickled his nose again, trying his other nostril this time. Legolas' thin mouth twitched at the sensation, drawing down ever so slightly at the corners. Then he took in a breath and "ehh-Chishhhh!" He shook again, though not as badly as the first time. Apparently, he had learned to control himself a bit better on the second go-around. He exhaled deeply, then breathed in with a strong sniff. He grinned and sniffed again. "This is rather fun, actually. And you get to do this every morning in the springtime?"
Aragorn chuckled, then gasped as Legolas' feather struck him in a most pleasurable spot. "Believe me, it is not as... much fun... when you cannot control... oh Legolas!" he gasped, going weak against Legolas' body, breathing in heavy gasps. "Oh I want you."
"Mmm..." Legolas licked his lips playfully. "Not until you make me sneeze again." Aragorn, slightly affronted, tried to turn Legolas onto his back submissively, but elf was not budging. He tried to spread Legolas' legs, first with force, then with kisses, then with tickles, but Legolas stayed strong. "Not until you make me sneeze again." He sniffed again, finding the congestion almost completely gone now. "Uncontrollably."
The man's eyes widened. "I do not think that is especially wise."
Legolas reached up with his other hand and cupped Aragorn's chin. "Wise or not, if you want me, you will have to do as I ask." He sounded stern, but had a particularly mischievous look in his eye.
"Whatever you wish," Aragorn whispered, and ran the feather beneath Legolas' nose again.
This time, he was ruthless, tickling, teasing, bringing Legolas to the point of sneezing, then backing off so many times that the look on Legolas' face practically begged him to allow him to sneeze. The elf's hand tightened and relaxed around Aragorn's upper arm as the sensations struck him. They made him gasp and pant and sniffle and cough with congestion and pressure. His other hand guided the feather against Aragorn's crotch in much the same way, tickling when Aragorn tickled and backing away when Aragorn did the same. And they were both breathing hard, hearts racing, when Legolas finally sneezed again. "heh-Kuchhhh! ehhhIhchhhh! ehh-Itchhh!" This time, he sneezed quickly and constantly, with time only to draw another breath in-between each sneeze. "eehhh-eh-Chshhhh! ehhTshhhh! ihhhTchhhh! Heh-CHIHshhhhhh!"
"Let me give you a hand." Aragorn picked up his handkerchief, folding it to a clean area. He pressed it against Legolas' nose gently.
"heh-IHkshhhh! Ihtchhhhh!" Legolas sneezed into the handkerchief helplessly.
"Blow your nose," Aragorn advised, putting his other hand on the back of Legolas' neck.
Legolas obeyed, blowing his nose awkwardly for the first time of his life to very little effect. He tried again, and after three more the tickle left his nose. He sighed and sniffled, lying back against the pillows. "Whew..." he panted. He rubbed a finger against his nose, testing it. But his nose felt fine, albeit a little tired. "That was a rush!"
Aragorn grinned, setting the handkerchief aside. "Glad that you enjoyed yourself, Nīn Melethril."
Legolas narrowed his eyes. "I hate when you call me that."
"You *love* when I call you that," Aragorn replied, taking Legolas in his arms as he lay beside the elf.
Legolas nodded weakly in agreement, still a little overwhelmed from the sneezes.
Aragorn began kissing him, starting at the nose and moving his kisses over to Legolas' ear. "It must be an elf thing," he said between kisses, "but your ears wiggle when you sneeze."
Legolas smiled softly, still looking and feeling a bit exhausted from the sneezes. "That was incredible," he whispered. "It was like... well..." he reached down and grabbed hold of Aragorn's package tightly to finish his sentence. "And you say you get to feel like this every spring?" He sighed again even more deeply. "No wonder you are always so raunchy in the mornings!"
Aragorn stared at him again, licking his lips and looking angry in a playful way. "Oh, you are going to get it good, My Elf!" Catching Legolas off guard, he rolled the elf over in bed and ran his hand over Legolas' rear.
* * *
"Thank you for leaving out the more personal details," Gimli said with heavy sarcasm. But he was good-natured about it. Gimli looked from Aragorn to Legolas, mouth hanging half open. "I suppose you do indeed know what it's like to sneeze."
Legolas opened his mouth, but Aragorn spoke first. "Listen, I do not mind a little coddling once in a while when I have a cold." He looked over at Gimli. "But not all the time. You are both dear friends and, between the two of you, give me exactly what I need to make me feel better." He paused to sneeze, his handkerchief in place this time. "her-Chooo! HerChuhhh!" Aragorn then took a deep breath and pulled himself up. He crawled off the bed past Gimli and pulled off one of the blankets that was now at the foot of his bed. He wrapped it around himself with a shiver. "Now, I'm going to go take a warm bath and stay there long enough for the two of you to make up." He headed out before either Legolas or Gimli could comment.
Legolas was shaking his head, following Aragorn with his gaze. Gimli smiled. "I did not mean--"
"Nor I," Legolas said. He held his hand out to Gimli across the bed and Gimli took it, allowing Legolas to pull him close. "You did not mind hearing...?"
Gimli's face twitched with minor agitation and shoulders rose and fell ever so slightly. "Not as long as you are *my* elf from now on," he replied quietly.
"From now until forever," he promised, wrapping his arms around Gimli and rolling with him across the bed. They then made their way over to their bed, pulling the covers up.
"You know, I can imagine you might look pretty sexy sneezing," Gimli whispered, the whisper drowned out almost entirely by the running bathwater. "We should try that sometime."
Legolas smiled and ran his finger from Gimli's forehead to the tip of his nose. "Next time you catch a sneezey little cold, I promise to let you make me sneeze to your heart's desire." His finger slipped down to Gimli's mouth, then continued on, lost in the thick beard for a moment, then tracing a line down the front of his shirt, and resting finally on the dwarf's crotch.
"And then you will be able to *empathize* all you like. And I will coddle you all I like." Gimli gave a half-grunt, half-sigh and began pulling Legolas' pants down. "Almost makes me want to go call Aragorn back so that he could give me his cold," Gimli admitted with a laugh.
"Do not mention it!" Legolas replied, pulling Gimli's shirt off over his head. "I do not even want to think of sharing you right now." He pulled the blanket completely over them as he fell on top of the dwarf.
Aragorn spent the better part of an hour in the bath. He wanted to be sure to give Legolas and Gimli as much time as possible together and was not at all keen to walk in on them doing whatever an elf and a dwarf did together beneath the sheets. When he returned, towel-drying his thick brown hair, he found Legolas and Gimli asleep in bed together and all their blankets lying about the floor in tangles. Legolas and Gimli were more or less tangled as well, bodies scantily clad and pressed close, arms and legs twisted, turned, and wrapped around, beneath, and on top of each other. He gave the sight of them a smile, and retreated quickly into his own bed, burrowing beneath the blankets. At first, he continued to shiver, but before long he gave a sigh as his covers began to warm against him.
Hearing his entry, Legolas stirred and woke from the light, blissful sleep. This time he pulled himself out of bed without any reservations, though tucked a blanket around the sleeping dwarf before leaving his side completely. The elf crossed the room and bolted the door as Aragorn had not done, then made his way to the other bed as Aragorn had. He sat lightly on the edge of the bed, taking up the towel and setting to work drying Aragorn's hair. "How was your bath?" he asked softly.
It had not turned out to be the wonderfully delightful and relaxing time Aragorn had envisioned an hour ago when the need to escape had struck him. The water cooled around him in the small metal tub much too quickly, making his teeth chatter relentlessly. Every few minutes, he was forced to pull himself out of the bath and reheat a few pots of water over the fire. But after pouring those in, the minutes that followed were filled with unimaginably comforting heat and steam. After a while, the constant back and forth just to keep from shivering took a toll, and he ended up simply wrapping up in a towel and curling up in front of the fire, basking in the warmth. "The steam cleared my sinuses a bit," Aragorn replied with the first positive thing that caught his mind. He sniffled and closed his eyes. "How are you and Gimli?"
Legolas hung his head with a small, sheepish smile. "Better," he admitted, his head bobbing once with a nod. "Though nothing as spectacular as twelve times, or even eleven for that matter." Aragorn laughed and picked up a handkerchief, coughing into it so that the harsh, raspy sound was quieted. Legolas stopped drying his hair and instead laid a hand on Aragorn's side through the blankets. "You sound as though you could use some more tea."
Reaching over, Legolas plumped his pillows so that they elevated him just a bit more. "Gimli and I are sorry about before," he said, trying to make it sound casual so as not to bring up another emotional argument, while still trying to sound genuinely apologetic. "And I am sorry for coddling you... maybe it was a bit too much. It just isn't so easy for me to see you hurting when there isn't much I can do to help." Especially when he couldn't help the way he had once been able to.
Aragorn gave him a weak smile. "I think I can sympa... sympathize... heh..." he buried his face back into the handkerchief, curling in on himself as they struck and shook him. "hur-UHSHhhhhh! hurChuhhh! herChooo! TChooo!" He sniffled and rubbed his nose dry. "But you do help. More than you know."
Legolas smiled and leaned over, kissing Aragorn's forehead gently. While there, he pulled Aragorn's damp hair back from his face and wrapped the towel loosely around his head. "I will go get that hot water for your tea now."
The man nodded in understanding and rubbed his nose again, most thankful that Legolas did not mention getting any food. "Thah... thank... hah..." Aragorn brought his handkerchief to his face again, mouth hanging half open in anticipation. "hur-ARSHhhhhh! HuhShoooo! Hershuhhh!"
"Bless you... and you are welcome." Legolas patted Aragorn's side and stood. He slipped his pants and shirt back on, and made his way back to the door. After sliding back the bolt and turning the doorknob, he paused before leaving.
Legolas glanced back at the room, taking it all in at once. There were heaps of discarded clothes and unmade beds. There were dirty dishes, mostly cups, on the top of the dresser and a pile in the far corner which consisted of packs buried beneath their many weapons. There was a dwarf on one bed who had, in his sleep, drawn the blanket around himself more tightly for warmth. There was a man on the other bed who had taken up a fresh handkerchief and was rubbing his nose, propped up with pillows and loaded down with layers of blankets. And there he was, an elf who was on his way to get one a pint of ale for when he woke and needed something to dull the memories of the day and the other a cup of tea for his cold and needed something to dull the tickle in his throat. There was not a stranger group of three companions in all of Middle Earth, nor perhaps a closer and more caring group. Fighting back-to-back-to-back with sword and bow and axe, sharing stories over a campfire and a bottle of ale, standing guard at night while the others tried to sleep. And for all the times Legolas felt he would easily give his life for them, what they gave him on a daily basis simply by being his friends was so much more.
(assuming that this is not a trilogy)
Īdh mae- Rest well
Llie kel amin- You all leave me
melethron- lover (masculine)
melethril- lover (feminine)
nīn ion- my son
nīn melui- my lovely
Sut lle anta tyav?- How do you feel?