Title: The Art of Adjustment
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Dislciamer: Not my characters or world! Fara, however, is my creation.
Summary: Legolas and Gimli take in a helpless little kitten, which requires some adjustment.
Author Notes: Written for LadyKorana's birthday in 2017. Fun fact: I was watching the Season 2 Sanctuary episode about The Adjuster as I finished and needed a title. I also just attempted to read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
The Art of Adjustment
On the back of Arod, Gimli leaned into Legolas' back. The wind was growing colder and wilder around them, and snuggling close to his elf was the best source of warmth. The only source of warmth, really, apart from his thick, fur-lined cloak. Legolas' didn't feel the cold the way Gimli did, so his cloak was thinner. And for this reason, he had suggested that Gimli take the kitten. But Gimli, still not sure they should have the feisty little feline at all, had insisted that if Legolas wanted it so badly, Legolas could carry it.
Now he was regretting that decision slightly. The kitten had been a small ball of warmth he could use right now. Mercifully, they were nearly home. Another hour of enduring the jerky rhythm of the galloping horse and the harsh, cold wind around them and the elf would never need know his complaint about the weather.
His complaint about the cat, on the other hand, was something he was not prepared to keep to himself. “But what are we to do with it?” Gimli asked, watching Legolas lift the ball of gray fur from his pocket and place it down on the floor of their sitting room.
Legolas settled next to it, petted it a few times, then began to build a fire in the hearth to warm their home, grown cold in their absence over the past month. “We will love her and live with her. I grew up with cats in Mirkwood. Honestly, Gimli, have you never had a pet cat before?”
“Oh we had a cat or two. But they were mousers. Useful around the caves. But we don't have a mouse problem here.”
“And now she ensures we never will—no!” Legolas lunged forward and grabbed the kitten around the middle before she could crawl into the fireplace where the flames were just beginning to catch the logs.
Gimli chuckled and sat down on the couch, sinking into the cushions. After a day bouncing about on the back of a horse, his rear end was glad to meet comfort once more. “There's one thing the cat's good for.”
The kitten, not thrilled about being held around the middle instead of being allowed to explore, started thrashing and scratching at Legolas' hands. He set her down right away and she darted under the couch, reappearing on the far end of the room and trying to climb up the side of a small table where a Hobbitmade pot housing a houseplant sat. Legolas was up at once to save the kitten again, and Gimli chuckled. “Providing amusement!” Gimli finished his statement.
As Legolas followed the kitten around the house, relocating breakables and scooping the kitten up each time it came close to getting hurt, Gimli unpacked their bags. This mostly consisted of their weapons and a few changes of clothing that had been dirtied. There were a few other odds and ends—Gimli's pipe, a new book, a few stones that had attracted Gimli's attention on the road.
Gimli was carrying their clothing to the bedroom when he heard a crash. He raced to the kitchen to find the kitten up on a counter, looking proud of herself, while Legolas knelt on the floor, rounding up the pieces of what had up until just now been his favorite mug.
“Do not gloat,” Legolas instructed. “She is young, curious, and finding her way around her new home. Once she is familiar with everything, she will be well behaved.”
“I did not say a word,” Gimli said, retrieving the dustpan from one of the lower cupboards. “Let me, elf. You might cut yourself.” Though it would be difficult to tell, given the small scratches the kitten had already made on them. “Perhaps we agree on some boundaries for the kitten?”
“Not allowed on the kitchen counter?”
Gimli nodded in agreement. “And not allowed up on our bed.”
Legolas shot him a look. “Are—”
“I'm not budging on that, elf. That bed is just for us.”
Having deposited the last piece of mug into the bin, Legolas stood up, scooped the cat out of the sink, and hugged her to his chest. “Why, Gimli. You almost sound as if you are jealous.”
Gimli watched the little kitten nuzzle his elf's chin and snuggle close, purring. “I am,” he replied flatly. He turned on his heels and headed back toward the bedroom.
Legolas called after him, “I will sleep out on the couch with her, then!”
“It'll be too cold!”
“We have a fire!”
“You'll be chilled when it dies down!”
“She should not be alone on her first night in a new place! Besides, I'm an elf. I'll be fine!”
“Fine!” Gimli growled back, tossing a blanket and pillow out into the hallway then closing the bedroom door perhaps more forcefully than needed.
Alone in the bedroom, he almost regretted his actions. Legolas' heart was full of sympathy and generosity. It was one reason he had fallen in love with the elf to begin with; so many elves kept to themselves without much thought for others. But Legolas was caring and kind, so of course he would take a tiny, helpless little kitten into their home. But there had to be boundaries. And he refused to allow the little furball up on their bed. He could imagine waking up to find it chewing on his hair or opening a hole in his feather pillow or claiming a spot in the center of the bed so that he and Legolas could not snuggle. He could imagine reaching for Legolas' hardness in the early mornings and having the kitten drawn to the movement, pouncing with sharp little kitten claws out. He could just imagine making love to the elf and having it sitting at the end of the bed, watching every thrust with wide, judgmental eyes.
Gimli stripped down to nothing and slid into bed. Conflicted feelings rushing around in his head, it was the fatigue from the long journey that finally put him to sleep.
* * *
Gimli woke to the sound of scratching. At first, he couldn't quite place it. He thought it might be a branch that yesterday's wind had loosened that was now rubbing against the side of the house. But then he saw movement in the form of a tiny kitten paw stretching under the bedroom door. He sighed, knowing from experience how much cats hated closed doors. And, in his heart, he hated this one being closed. He hated waking up in a bed without Legolas beside him and knowing that had been his choice, though one made in anger.
Gimli pulled on some clothes, wearing more layers than usual. Recalling that he wanted to do some work in his workshop, he dressed warmly. And knowing how sharp kittens' claws could be, the extra layers could only be a benefit. The kitten made another desperate grab under the door as it heard his footsteps coming closer. He half expected to open the door to see Legolas sitting there beside the kitten he was still shadowing, perhaps waiting for Gimli to wake so he could apologize for being so foolish. But when Gimli opened the door, only the kitten sat there. She looked up at him with her curious little eyes, as if she had forgotten about him entirely. Then she darted past him into the bedroom.
“Oh no you don't!” he said, chasing her around the bed and catching her before she could jump onto the bed. She squirmed in protest, but he knew how to hold a kitten by the scruff close to his chest, so she could hear his calming heartbeat and snuggle into his beard. It only took a few seconds for her to settle down and go limp against him, purring. “Let's go find our elf,” he whispered to the kitten.
They found Legolas sprawled out across the couch. For an elf who didn't really need to sleep, he sure was snoring loudly. Gimli frowned and set the kitten down on the arm of the couch. She dug her claws in and stretched, front half down and back half high. Then she burrowed under one of the blankets. It seemed, during the night, the elf had liberated every spare blanket in their linen closet and somehow piled them all up on the couch on top of him. Despite this, parts of the elf stuck out—a foot here, a forehead there. Gimli tugged a bit of the blanket down to cover Legolas' foot and touched his fingertips lightly to Legolas' forehead. The elf shivered at the touch and snuggled further into the mass of blankets, not waking fully, not even with a kitten wriggling around under the covers with him.
Frowning, Gimli went to the kitchen and heated up water. He got out two mugs, one being the elf's second favorite. There wasn't much to eat in the house, having cleaned out their perishables before their recent journey so nothing would spoil while they were gone. There was a lot in the storeroom, but Gimli would need to raid the garden later for some fresh vegetables and perhaps go to the market for breads and cheeses. He supposed he would need to get some milk and fish for the cat as well. But at least the one thing he wanted right this moment they had in abundance.
He scooped a heaping spoon of tea leaves into the kettle, followed by two more. He wanted the tea strong and flavorful. A bit of honey helped cut down the bitterness without losing any of the herbal benefits. This would help Legolas to feel better and keep warm, though it did little to alleviate the most obvious of symptoms.
Gimli carried the tea to the sitting room and hovered beside the couch for a moment. The tea was best when hot, but Gimli still hated to wake him.
Luckily, he didn't need to make the call. Legolas began laughing and sat straight up. He pushed off some of the blankets. His hands emerged from beneath the covers, the squirming little kitten held in them. He set it down on top of the nest of blankets and it scampered about then jumped down and pranced around the room, attacking shadows. Legolas lifted a hand and rubbed at his nose. “Morning,” he said, his voice a little deeper than it should have been. He gladly accepted a mug of tea and sipped it at once.
“Good morning. May I sit?”
Legolas nodded, still drinking, and Gimli checked to be sure there was no kitten on the couch before sitting down on the side where Legolas' legs weren't.
They drank in silence for a few minutes, watching the kitten romp around the room. She seemed especially taken with the early morning sunbeams streaming in through several of the windows. One moment her little eyes were closing and she was nodding off in one. The next she was leaping from one patch of sun to the next, tail held high in excitement.
Then Legolas set his mug down on the arm of the couch and cupped his hand over his nose and mouth. Gimli reached into his pocket and withdrew a handkerchief, knowing his elf would need it. But Legolas was struggling with hitching breaths and his eyes were already tightly shut. “yehh... ihhhhh... ih ihhh yihhh hihhhh! HIH! IHH! IHTushhhhhhh!” With the sneeze, he snapped forward, rocked back, and then pitched forward again. “Hhhtshhih! Oh...” He snuffled wetly and his eyes fluttered open.
“Galu. Hankie?” Gimli offered, holding it out to him.
Legolas sniffled and nodded, taking it with his free hand. He made a point of avoiding eye contact while he quietly but efficiently wiped his nose. He cleared his throat before speaking again. “You have not said it.”
“Said what?” Gimli had to work to keep his tone gentle, soft.
“The 'I told you so.'” Legolas sniffed. “For catching cold after sleeping on the couch.”
“Nay.” Gimli smiled. He turned and crawled and reached, retrieving the mug and handing it back. “I could tell you were already coming down with this yesterday. All that sniffling when we were riding, and it wasn't just from the wind. And you had a look in your eye that just screamed that a fever was setting in. Y'must have caught this from someone in town before we left for home.”
Legolas' hand tightened on the handkerchief as he brought it back up to his face. His eyes closed. His mouth opened. His ears twitched. And his nostrils flared. “ihhh ihhh... ih HIHSHjjschhhh!” His reaction was to cup both hands to his face, so the mug slipped from his fingers and crashed to the floor in a mess of ceramic pieces and warm tea.
Gimli waited patiently as the elf blew his nose. Then Gimli handed over his mug of tea. “Drink mine. I'll clean up.” He tugged a blanket up over Legolas' lap, kissed Legolas' forehead, then went for the dustpan in the kitchen.
The kitten had found one of their bags from the journey and was half-hidden in it, reaching out every so often to attack one of the straps. Gimli was mildly amused, but mostly just happy she was keeping away from the broken mug and keeping herself entertained.
By the time he got back to the couch, Legolas was snuggled back under the blankets, having finished Gimli's tea. Gimli cleaned up, saying a sad farewell to Legolas' second-favorite mug.
“ihh yihhh Ehtchhshhhh!” The blankets shook as Legolas shook beneath them.
“I will bring you some more hankies. Try to get some sleep.”
Legolas sniffled in response. Then his voice came through, muffled by blankets. “Look after Fara.”
Gimli reached out and pet Legolas' golden hair. “Is that the kitten's name now?”
“Faralavan,” Legolas said, his head bobbing with a nod. “If you... you... I... I h-have to HIH! Ihhh ihhtishhhhhh! Hehhtshhhhhh!”
“Faralavan. It's a fine name. I'll keep an eye on her.” And he would keep an eye on Legolas as well. “Now get some rest.”
As soon as the elf was asleep, Gimli dropped to his knees and hunted around until he found the kitten on her back under a table, showing him her fluffy belly. “Nice try. Can't fool me with that one.” He grabbed hold of her, cradling her upside-down in his arms. She looked up at him with innocent, blue eyes. Then she swiped at his beard and started chewing on the end of one of his braids. He sighed but let her. “I've got a box downstairs I think you'll like. And there are probably some cave crickets around for you to chase,” he told her as he headed down to his workshop. He had big plans and needed to get started right away.
* * *
“Come to bed,” Gimli said, swiping at Legolas' streaming nose with a fresh handkerchief.
Legolas seemed undecided. He looked about, probably trying to locate the kitten.
Gimli pinched the elf's nose between thumb and forefinger through the handkerchief and wiped again. “Come to bed with me this time.” Gimli's tone was more insistent now. “I don't want your cold getting worse.”
Legolas leaned into the touch, snuffling wetly. In the end, he gave in and let Gimli move him from their sitting room couch to their bedroom bed. He climbed wearily into bed and let Gimli cover him with blanket after blanket. Only as he opened his eyes to give his thanks did he notice the addition to the room.
All along one wall was a giant wooden structure. Parts were covered in cords and rope. Other parts had cushions. There were ramps and stairs and dangling feathers and little boxes with holes on the sides or on top. “Gibli? Ihhh... ihh-Yihtschihhhhh! Sniff! What...?”
“I thought you said you grew up with cats. Did yours never have a structure of their own?” He gestured at it with a swish of his hand. “This way, she can be in our bedroom without being on our bed.” He raised his voice in pitch just a little. “Isn't that right, Fara?”
A tiny mew came from that side of the room and a pair of gray, tufted ears appeared from inside a padded, wooden, bowl-shaped portion. Then down went the ears and the soft sound of purring filled the room.
“See?” Gimli traced the outline of one of Legolas' pointy ears. “Now it's your turn. Go on, get warm.”
Smiling gratefully, Legolas slid further down under the covers. And when Gimli had shed his clothes and joined him there, Legolas wrapped arms around him and drew his dwarf close at once.