Title: Silence is a Virtue

Author: tarotgal

Fandom: Lord of the Rings

Rating: G

Disclaimer: LotR was J.R.R.Tolkien's brain child and New Line Cinema owns the movie rights. I don't own a bit, none of it's mine, I don't get any money of any kind from this, and it's all for harmless fun and entertainment.

Summary: Legolas needs to stay silent but he also needs to sneeze.

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Silence is a Virtue


     Silence was a virtue. That was the lesson of the day which had been made painfully clear already as they moved through the brush, alert and on edge but not afraid. They were warriors, with no fear in their hearts. And they were elves, with such a kinship with nature that they seemed to move with nature rather than through it. They came to a stop, just short of an open meadow.


     Crouching in the bushes, the twigs and prickly leaves scratched his arms and legs. The long grass stuck to his sweaty legs, bent but at the ready to spring him upwards the instant they needed to run. It made him itch dreadfully, and he longed to scratch and brush the bothers away. But to move unnecessarily would be too dangerous. So instead he let these parts of the meadowlands have their way with him. He did not scratch, he did not twitch, and he did not flinch. Even when a wind picked up and the bushes that supplied their cover were filled with the rush of air. The leaves quivered, some of them shaking against his face, and causing more than just the immediate discomfort.


     Whether it was the cold wind or the plants or a combination of both, something had sent his nose running. He longed desperately to dig out a handkerchief and give a good blow to clear it, but he could not risk doing so. Even if he managed to move without being seen, an additional flash of white amongst the bushes would be enough to give their position away. On the other hand, he could not allow his nose to run freely like some barefooted toddler. So he closed his eyes and breathed in as quietly as possible through his nose.


     The result was a wet sniffle which did nothing to help his nose whatsoever. If anything, it struck up a light tickle in the back of his nose. It was the sort of tickle a good sniff and rub would do away with in a moment. But at this moment, he was not able to risk such a thing. However, his nose continued to run unattended and tickled unrubbed. With his eyes still closed, he decided it would be much better in the long run just to sniff quickly and be done with it, else the tickles plague him for the next hour as they crouched, waiting. "Sniff!"


     Young Legolas opened his eyes warily to receive a harsh glance from his companion. Haldir was crouched to his left, a hand on the ground to feel for vibration and keep himself steady. Haldir's deep elvish eyes bore straight into him, and Legolas looked away, ashamed.


     Ashamed, but in need of another sniffle. The first had done its job exceptionally. It had held back the runs and the tickles, but not for as long as Legolas had hoped. His nose was running again, and perhaps tickling worse.


     "Htshh!" Haldir hushed him with a snappish tone in his whisper. Then the warrior elf licked his lips and spoke so softly that the wind carried away his words. Legolas was able to catch them by watching his mouth closely. "They may be close. You cannot make noise."


     A flash of anger appeared on Legolas' face. It was not as though he did not know this and was making noise, ignorant and uncaring. This was simply not something he had any control over. His nose was going to run on its own, and tickle enough to make him sneeze on its own, and if he did nothing to stop this, there would be much more noise to deal with. Frustrated, Legolas raised a hand to his face, pushed away the leaves, raked fingernails against his chin and cheek, and then swiped his hand and wrist beneath his nose. Simultaneously, he gave another "Sniff!" Then, looking over at Haldir, "I cannot help it."


     It was Haldir's turn to momentarily look angry. But Haldir's normally stern and annoyed expression did not bear the flash of added emotion as well as Legolas' calm face. It looked for a second as though the elder elf would explode with a tirade about this. But instead, he mouthed again, "You can and you will. You must learn to live with discomfort. If you are wounded in battle, it will heal. If you are caught in a cold rain, you will dry. If you are buried to your neck in the mud, you will eventually be cleaned. If you cannot learn such a simple--"


     There was a rustling sound, and Haldir went silent as he and Legolas looked about. Only their eyes moved behind the bushes, darting this way and that, but failed to see anything. Legolas' ears strained, but failed to hear anything. Haldir's hand was flat on the ground, but failed to feel anything. Legolas sniffed the air, but failed to catch the scents he was looking for. He caught another scent, however, and spiraled quickly into regret.


     His nose tickled terribly, ran, and itched. A sneeze was inevitable. Even as he rubbed the side of his hand back and forth beneath his nostrils, he knew it was no use. He bent his hand in half, cupping roughly over nose and mouth. He drew a deep breath, squinted his eyes, and pursed his lips. "epttchhh!" Horrifyingly, his nose was not appeased by just the single sneeze. Instead, he drew a shaky, nervous breath and sneezed a second sneeze. "ehptfff!"


     Haldir was again watching him, but this time with wide eyes that were filled with alarm. "What do you think you are doing?" he hissed, this time loudly enough for Legolas to hear, and feel duly ashamed.


     "I..." he gritted his teeth, not knowing how to begin, whether with an explanation or an apology. He had not made up his mind one way or another when yet another sneeze tried to strike. His hand still in place, he pinched his nose shut, trying to hold it back. Every effort was futile, from holding his breath to sniffling to pinching his nose tighter. But in the end, "heptifff!" He exhaled with a soft moan. He rubbed his nose with the back of his hand to relieve the wetness of the spray, then did so more roughly to relieve the itchiness which lingered. He sniffled, his nose pushed so it was turned up at the end, his knuckles running against twitching nostrils. His hand dropped, scratching his chin again, on the other side first, than the first side again.


     Legolas had forgotten why they were there. He had forgotten what they were doing, crouched and on alert. He had forgotten about what dangers might come from moving and making sound. Silence was a virtue forgotten in the face of a twitchy, tickly nose.


     Haldir grabbed his arm, shaking him roughly but holding firmly so that Legolas could not struggle free. "What is this?"


     Legolas closed his eyes a moment. He had no answer. Only now, with Haldir's fingers digging tightly into his arm, that he remembered what they were there for. He looked pained, brows furrowing. "Haldir..." he began. But this time, too, he was not allowed to go any further.


           The sound they had been dreading caught their ears and made them both freeze with realization. To the untrained ear, it was merely another gust of wind. But the wind brought with it a steady rhythm on the ground and a familiar scent. Legolas was too stunned to react, especially with Haldir still holding him. But Haldir responded. He pushed Legolas face-down into the ground and covered the elf's body with his own. Neither moved any more, Legolas not doing so because he was stunned and Haldir not doing so because of his training and instinct. They did not need to move to be noticed, however. All that needed to happen was for Legolas to sniffle again. Which, unfortunately, was exactly what happened.




     There was another sound, like a smooth rush of wind that hit nothing in its path. Then there came a voice, dull, calm, "You two are dead."


     Legolas tried to move, but Haldir's weight prevented this. Haldir looked up, eyes flaming, face wearing as stern an expression as always. "Very well. Though with this liability," he nodded his head towards Legolas, "I should have given myself up for dead long before now." He pulled himself up. Then he pulled Legolas up.


     Legolas felt hot from it all, squished for so long between warm grass and a warm elf, breaking out in a sweat for a dozen reasons. Sweat ran down his face from his forehead, and trickled down the back of his neck as well. He wiped it away roughly from his cheek, then scratched the area, it having been irritated already. He looked up to see a very disapproving Haldir, and two other elves with crossbows aimed at him. The two elves looked as though they had been caught slightly off guard for a moment. "What...?" one of them began.


     Haldir brushed the grass off himself. Then he pulled out a handkerchief, reached over to Legolas and wiped the nose Legolas was not aware was even running again. Then he forced the cloth into Legolas' hand. "I will take the young prince back home," he said suddenly. Legolas had expected a telling off, or more angry looks. But what he got from the others now was more like confusion and concern. "Collect the others and inform them."


     The two elves nodded, lowering their bows, turning with perfect synchronization as though of the same mind. Haldir turned to Legolas with a sigh. "Now that we have failed abysmally, perhaps you would be kind enough to finally answer me: what is this?"


     It was Legolas' turn to be utterly confused. In fact, he had been so ever since Haldir's surrender and mention of their going home. Normally such circumstances called for warriors to become prisoner or even be tied to a tree as hostages or bait. But never before had he been told to go home simply because he had made an error so minor as to need to sneeze. "I... I do not understand what you mean," he replied softly.


     Pulling the young elf to his feet as he , himself, rose, Haldir let out a sigh of annoyance. Then he grabbed Legolas' wrist tightly, one finger rubbing over the back of his hand. The back of his hand which, Legolas now suddenly noticed, was covered by large, red blotches. Startled, Legolas pulled his hand free to hold it up in front of his face and examine it further. "Sniff! Sniff!" He was sniffling again without realizing it, as he looked at his hand, appalled. He pushed up his sleeve and saw the same splotches continue just a few inches in, the remainder of his arm looking normal. The red spots were mirrored, he realized, on his other hand as well. "Sniff!" With no understanding of this recent development, he looked up at Haldir pleadingly. "Please... what is this?"


     The elf warrior laughed. "That is what I have been asking you." He put a heavy hand on Legolas' shoulder. "Do not be alarmed, but it is all over your face and neck as well."


     Entirely alarmed, Legolas' hand shot to his face, feeling around. There were  indeed bumps covering his neck and chin and cheeks, even his forehead. Before he could get worked up enough for the fear to show through, his nose tickled badly again. His hand already close, darted over to cover his nose. "huheptshhhh!" This sneeze was louder, wetter, less restrained. His nose itched terribly after the sneeze, and he rubbed. But that only made the rest of his face burst out into itchiness.


     "I may not know precisely what this is," Haldir said softly as he pushed the young elf forward to start him walking. "But right now, we will call it the reason for my taking you home."


     Legolas nodded, eyes closed as he felt another sneeze coming on. "heh... eheptshhh! ihptifff!" Haldir's grip on his shoulder tightened, this time out of comfort. Legolas looked up, sniffling into the handkerchief. "I *am* sorry about failing the test and revealing our position."


     Haldir chuckled so lightly that the sound was as though a mere memory of laughter. "It was your test, not mine. I am not the one you must apologize to." He watched as Legolas scratched madly at his cheek then his chin, working his fingers all over the red blotches. "Besides, you did not know you were allergic to those bushes." Legolas nodded a nod which was barely visible. The young elf was squirming as he walked, apparently trying to scratch other places, such as his side, through his several layers of clothing. One hand was raking at his back, trying to catch a, itchy spot there that was eluding him. With another chuckle, Haldir reached down and scratched for him. Neither had anticipated that these warrior hands would be used to scratch the prince's back through three layers of clothing this day. But Legolas was most grateful for this development.


     The young prince stopped dead in his tracks, shoulders sagging at the pleasure of the touch. When the intensity of the itch had left and Haldir's hand slowed, Legolas looked up again, smiling. "Thank you," he breathed, voice filled with deep gratitude. Then, hesitantly, "You do not suppose we could clear this up without my father knowing, do you?"


     Again, Haldir chuckled. "I believe, Legolas, that today's lesson will be about humility, admitting defeat, and knowing when to ask for assistance." He patted Legolas on the head and prodded him to continue along. Legolas seemed to understand, and bowed his head as they continued on, resigned to work up a good enough explanation for his father.


     "hehh..." Legolas stumbled forward at the push, taken off guard as his nose acted up again. "ehh-Imphishhhhh! ehteeshhhh!" He buried his nose in the handkerchief, rubbing madly though the folds. "ehhIhshh! Ehhteshhh!" There seemed to be one more sneeze there, waiting off in the distance to catch him off guard. But Legolas would not stand for this. He rubbed his nose with the handkerchief and breathed out hard, trying to draw the tickle out. It worked like a charm. "ihhkshfff! ehhkshh!" He gave a soft whimper upon his next breath and sniffled hard.


     Watching the boy blow his nose miserably then resume scratching, Haldir finished, "Especially considering that silence is not a virtue you possess at this particular moment."