Title: Wins and Losses

Author: tarotgal

Fandom: Lord of the Rings, post-RotK

Rating: PG-13

Pairing: Legolas/Gimli

Disclaimer: Not my boys. I'd make them behave themselves more if they were mine. Actually, no, I probably wouldn't. In fact, I'm sure I wouldn't. But they really aren't mine. And I write about them only for fun.

Summary: Legolas and Gimli play. Aragorn sneezes. It's all good.

Feedback: would be grand. It's a little rough in places, I know, so feel free to pick it apart.



Wins and Losses


     Legolas swallowed and set down his goblet. He stared at it unblinkingly for a few moments. He had half a mind to suggest they should just go upstairs to their room and snuggle into bed together.


     "Come on. You enjoy it. You know you always win," Gimli coaxed.


     Finally, Legolas looked up at Gimli across the table. "All right. I'm in." Perhaps it was the effects of the wine or maybe just the sheer boredom of spending so much of the night in the same room, but he was feeling playful. Gimli grinned and pulled out a piece of scratch parchment and Legolas supplied a stick of charcoal. After ripping the paper in half and breaking the charcoal in two, they both sat with their heads turned towards the side wall.


     Roughly twenty paces away, past the crowd of men at the inn, sat Aragorn. He was talking animatedly with the men on either side of him, swapping stories over their multiple pints of ale. Aragorn's cheeks were flushed and his eyes bright as Legolas and Gimli saw him request another drink.


     "Closest without going over?" Gimli asked for clarification. Legolas nodded. Gimli then scribbled something on his piece of parchment, folded it, and set it in the mug stood between them on the table. It was empty as Gimli had drained it dry earlier that evening. Legolas eyed the dwarf suspiciously, took one more glance towards Aragorn, and then wrote on his piece as well. When both pieces were in the mug, Legolas turned it over and Gimli gave a nod. "All right then. Now we wait."


     Legolas took another sip of wine. "What is it up to now? Seven?"


     Gimli nodded again. "Yes, seven. With number eight on the way if I'm not mistaken."


     Interested, Legolas looked back over at Aragorn. By the room's dim lights, Legolas could see that the man had pulled back in his seat a little. His mouth turned down into a frown and his eyes closed. Slowly, his brow furrowed and his face turned towards his shoulder. Then his whole body shook as he sneezed to the side. Then he straightened and quickly jumped back into conversation with the other men.


     "Eight," Gimli confirmed. He reached for his own pint and took a good, full swig. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Aragorn and nearly choked as he started to chuckle. "Make that nine... and ten."


     With a few seconds in between, Aragorn sneezed twice more into the crook of his arm. But he sat back up immediately and reached for his drink as though nothing had happened. The men around him said nothing, though they had obviously seen him.


     Legolas leaned forward and kissed Gimli to keep him quiet. "It isn't that they are afraid of him," Legolas pointed out gently, in a voice so quiet that only the dwarf could catch his words.


     "They simply do not know what to say or how to say it," Gimli agreed.


     They watched from afar as Aragorn's face twitched with the recognition of another sneeze on its way. It started at the corners of his mouth, turning down into a frown. And then it showed with his brow wrinkling as his eyebrows raised and moved inward a little. Then his nostrils flared and his eyelids fluttered as though they wanted to close. By the time he raised a hand to cover his face or turned his head away to sneeze into his arm or shoulder, his eyes had indeed closed and his mouth had dropped open. And then it was an inevitable three or four seconds at most before he pitched forward with a sneeze or two if he was particularly unlucky. This time, however...


     "Three!" Legolas exclaimed, watching closely. There had been a bit of a pause in between the first two sneezes, and a slightly longer one between the second and third. But it still equated to a small burst and still seemed to tire and annoy Aragorn.


     "Which brings us to thirteen already," Gimli nodded. "The sneezes are coming a lot more now quickly than at the beginning of the evening."


     Legolas grinned. "Are you worried about your prediction, Master Dwarf?"


     Gimli shifted uncomfortably in his seat and pulled back. His voice rolled casually as though with laughter. "Certainly not, my dear elf. I am simply worried about our mutual friend there." He nodded towards Aragorn who seemed to be watching his current companions closely and rubbing his nose as soon as they looked away.


     With a slight sigh, and leaning back a bit as well, Legolas nodded in agreement. In addition to more frequent sneezing, the man was starting to show more visible signs of distress. He looked tired. He moved slowly. And he was clearly not following half the things that were being said by those around him. Legolas felt like going right over, grabbing the man, and walking him upstairs to his room. He would send the man right into bed and instruct him to stay there until he felt better. He and Gimli would spend the night on the floor standing guard to be sure Aragorn stayed put if need be.


     "And now it's fifteen."


     Legolas looked back at Gimli, realizing he hadn't really been watching Aragorn for a while. His mind had been elsewhere. "What happened to fourteen?"


     "That was a double," Gimli said, nodding towards Aragorn again. "Did you not see?"


     Legolas shook his head. "No, I was busy feeling worried." His shy smile was slight, but Gimli knew him well enough to notice it. Legolas covered it up quickly. "But just because I didn't see them, does not mean we disregard them."


     Grumbling playfully along with a few laughs, Gimli agreed. They sat back and watched Aragorn in silence for a while. Gimli finished his drink by sneeze number twenty. And by sneeze twenty-two Gimli considered getting another drink. Legolas, who had finished his by number eighteen, got up some time after sneeze twenty four and returned with refills by sneeze twenty-six. Sneeze twenty-six actually turned into twenty-seven, twenty-eight and twenty-nine rather quickly in a rare quadruple.


     By this time, Aragorn was making absolutely no attempt at hiding his considerable discomfort. The sneezes were too strong and too frequent. He had resorted to rubbing his nose against his sleeve and sniffling after and between sneezes. He barely touched his tankard much and refused more ale when it was generously offered to him. He looked as though he wanted to be anywhere but there.


     "He looks as though he's been tortured," Legolas said lightly.


     Gimli sighed. "He will be all right."


     "I know," Legolas nodded, realizing he did in fact believe Gimli on that count. Legolas watched Aragorn shift in his seat, then cough into his fist and wince. "You do not suppose he would actually leave, do you? Of his own volition?"


     Chuckling, Gimli shook his head. "He is far too stubborn."


     Legolas' smile was small, but there. "Sounds suspiciously like a certain dwarf I know." He picked up his goblet and clinked it against Gimli's mug. Then he took a liberal swallow of wine to help him forget his worry.




     The elf's eyes were immediately drawn back to Aragorn across the room. "I see," Legolas said, nodding. Aragorn did not seem to be fighting the sneezes any longer. He simply raised his hand to his face and waited for the sneezes to strike, knowing they would. He bent forward with the force of each, his face contorting.


     Under his breath and during the pause between each of the sneezes when Aragorn took in a new breath, Gimli muttered, "Thirty. Thirty-one. Thirty-two."


     Aragorn rubbed miserably at his nose. But the sneezes were not through with him yet, apparently, and as he tried to say something he snapped forward again. Aragorn put his hand down on the table to keep himself from falling forward into it. As it was, he had a grimace on his face and rubbed at his nose as he slowly sat back again in his chair.


     "Thirty-three," both Gimli and Legolas counted in unison. Quickly they exchanged concerned but anxious looks. Such a sneeze and such a reaction could surly not go unnoticed and ignored.


     And just as the elf and dwarf suspected, Aragorn's current drinking companions reacted. One went to put his hand on Aragorn's shoulder, but Aragorn moved out of the way to avoid the touch. The other went fishing around for a handkerchief in his pocket. Both looked concerned and were talking quickly to him about things Aragorn did not seem to want to hear.


     "That ends it, then," Gimli proclaimed gruffly, reaching for the mug.


     Keeping one eye on Aragorn, who was currently coughing into a fist and pushing one of the men back, Legolas got to the mug first and extracted the two bits of paper. From the tone of Gimli's voice, he did not trust the dwarf with the papers. Clearly Gimli had lost. He opened his own first, a beautifully-penned number thirty. The other paper contained a bold number thirty-four. "Closest without going over," Legolas repeated their arrangement. "Looks like I win again."


     Gimli grumbled and snatched his paper from Legolas' grip. He crumpled it and tossed it back onto the table. "I thought you would have gone for thirty-five, you pointy-eared pain in the neck!" he complained.


     Legolas sat back and crossed his arms over his chest, looking as smug as it was possible for an elf to look. "Not this time. Which means you have lost." Gimli muttered something about Legolas having known Aragorn for longer and thus having an unfair advantage. But Legolas was not listening too closely. Most of his attention was still trained on Aragorn. "You know the longer he is there, the harder it is to get him to do anything."


     "You do not have to tell me that," Gimli snapped.


     "Well, you had better get on with your punishment, then."


     Feeling that he would need more ale if he was going to succeed, he drained the rest of his mug in four generous gulps. Gimli then pushed away from the table and rose to his feet. He headed across the room at once, past the many tables of drinking men, over to the king who was about to sneeze again.


     "huhhh..." Aragorn cupped both hands to his face but fought the sensation, managing finally to hold the sneeze back.  


     "Too little, too late," Gimli muttered with a sigh. He reached up and shoved his own handkerchief into the man's hands. Then he grabbed hold of Aragorn's upper arm. "All right, Laddie. That's enough fun for tonight. We are going upstairs."


     Aragorn rubbed at his nose, sniffling. "Gibli..." He coughed from the congestion and cleared his throat. "I ab dot goig adywhere. You caddot order be aroud."


     Short but strong, Gimli gave Aragorn's arm a warning tug. "Do not try to be more stubborn than I. You are obviously--"


     "Fide. I ab fide," Aragorn croaked, sounding far from fine. He cleared his throat again, looking frustrated. The man on Aragorn's right chuckled, and Gimli shot him a stern look. He was not helping things at all.


     Gimli looked back across the room at Legolas, who looked calm and interested. It was not a smirk, but as close as Legolas ever came to one. This was Gimli's loss and Gimli's fight to win. He was certain that at this rate, however, it would take a miracle to get Aragorn to admit he was sick and excuse himself to go upstairs. Aragorn simply refused to show any more weakness than was necessary, and Gimli fully understood that. "Aragorn..."


     But before anything more could be said, the man had to sneeze again. He pulled back with a deep breath, "ahhh..." Aragorn tried to fight this one as well, but his strength was in short supply. Aragorn fell forward with a resounding, "HAHSchuhhh!" And, yet, he still tried to pull away from Gimli when the dwarf insisted he go upstairs.


     "Bless you, Aragorn." Both Aragorn and Gimli looked up as Legolas walked gracefully to Aragorn's other side and held onto the man's other arm.


     Gimli gave the elf a questioning look, and Legolas smiled kindly back at him. The bet had been fulfilled to the elf's satisfaction. And Legolas wanted to offer his assistance instead of having to watch them both suffering from afar.


     Aragorn still looked as though he had no intention to move. Legolas knew a new strategy was in order. "We know you would not go up to rest by choice. But I am afraid sometimes a king must do things he does not like in order to appease his people. So we are taking you to bed right now and that is final."


     With his friends flanking both sides, and the stubbornness of both the elf and dwarf combined which overtook his own, Aragorn rose from his seat without further protest. Legolas shot Gimli a triumphant smile, and the dwarf rolled his eyes once he had turned his head so the elf could not see.


     Once Aragorn had turned the corner to the stairway and was out of sight of all the men in the inn, he slumped forward. His shoulders fell, his head lowered, and he gave a few strong coughs. Supporting him on both his sides, the elf and dwarf escorted Aragorn up the stairs of the inn to the man's room.


     He made for the bed at once and crawled in without any complaint. There was no further need to keep up pretenses and he had little energy to do so anyway. Legolas pulled off his boots and Gimli propped up his pillows. Legolas tucked the blankets tightly around him and Gimli set a few spare handkerchiefs on Aragorn's pillow. Aragorn rubbed at his nose and looked up at Legolas. "Could I get a glass of water? By throat..."


     "Certainly." Legolas quickly headed down for a glass.


     In his absence, Aragorn turned to Gimli and smiled weakly. "Thag you for wadtig to get be ub to bed. That was very kide."


     Gimli shifted his weight from one foot to the other. Being called kind when it had been because of the loss of a bet had made him a bit uneasy. "Aragorn... I should tell you..." he started to confess, but again he was unable to finish thanks to the man's sneezes.


     "Harshhuh! HAHChuhhh!" Aragorn blew his nose into one of the handkerchiefs, looking grateful for it. And when Legolas returned, with a smile that told he had been listening by the door, Aragorn eagerly accepted the water. Then he turned onto his side and Gimli tucked the blankets around him again.


     Aragorn rubbed at his nose a little then closed his eyes with a deep yawn. Both Gimli and Legolas bid him goodnight and then made their way slowly from his bedchamber. "The elf wod the bet agaid, did he?"


     Gimli sighed and nodded affirmatively, though he looked as if he had expected that comment sooner.


     "You will beat hib dext tibe," Aragorn told Gimli reassuringly.


     "You should not let there be a next time." His eyes still closed, and not willing to make any promises, Aragorn smiled back at Gimli and settled in to sleep.


     Confident that the man would not attempt an escape at this point, Legolas and Gimli left the room, closing the door softly behind. "You know there will be a next time," Legolas whispered as they headed down the hallway.


     "Of that I am certain, my dear elf," Gimli whispered back with a nod. "But Aragorn is right. Next time I will win."


     Legolas led the way into their room and Gimli shut the door behind. "We have played this many times, and you have not won once," Legolas pointed out at a normal volume again. He pulled off his shirt and bent down. He unlaced his own boots, and then Gimli's while he was there. "If not for my intervention and quick thinking, you would still be down there trying to convince him to give in and go up to bed."


     "Perhaps and perhaps not." Gimli wrestled his heavy tunic off over his head.


     Legolas' smile was hidden as he pulled his shirts over his own head. "You lost the bet. And you still needed my expertise even then."


     "You do not have to keep reminding me of the fact I lost," he said, sitting down on the bed to pull his slacks off. He reached over and undid the ties that bound Legolas' leggings, as he was at the proper height for it. Legolas then slithered out of the leggings. "Besides, I lost by one lousy sneeze only. I think the game is fixed."


     "Fixed?" Legolas laughed. He poured water into a basin from the pitcher on the windowsill. Then he dipped a cloth in and brought it and the basin over to the bed. He started by wiping the cloth against Gimli's neck and chest.


     Gimli winced at the cold and shivered. "W-well, you always win." When Legolas finished with him, Gimli took the cloth and dipped it into the basin again. "And you created the game in the first place." He touched it to Legolas' chest. The elf did not shiver, but his nipples perked up.


     Legolas closed his eyes, enjoying the washing. "I might have created it... but it was your idea to play it tonight, as I recall."


     "Yes but you agreed to play," Gimli chuckled, finishing up.


     Legolas took the cloth and basin back to the windowsill as Gimli turned down the bed and crawled beneath the covers, still shivering. He turned onto his side and smiled as Legolas' arms and legs automatically wrapped around him from behind. Gimli leaned back into the warmth and soon stopped shivering. Some of the elf's long hair fell over his shoulder and onto Gimli's. And Legolas' absentmindedly kneaded a hand into the dwarf's bushy beard.


     With a kiss beneath Gimli's ear, and a nuzzle into the back of the dwarf's neck, Legolas chuckled as well. He lowered his voice to a whisper again. "That is because you are a bad influence on me."


     "A bad influence?" mused Gimli, softly.


     "Bad," Legolas agreed. With a light chuckle, he whispered, "Very bad." He squeezed Gimli in a tight hug that he did not intend to end any time soon. He closed his eyes feeling as though nothing, not even winning again, could ever feel quite as good as this.