Title: Understanding is the First Step

Author: tarotgal

Fandom: Lord of the Rings

Rating: G

Pairing: Legolas/Aragorn past implied

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: Sequel to 'Forgiveness if Fundamental' where Legolas seeks shelter in a certain bush and must face the consequences

Feedback: If you have something to say, say it because I'd love to hear it :-)




Understanding is the First Step



     They stopped to rest for the afternoon, all very glad to be off their feet for a little while. Sam took the opportunity to light a small fire to cook, and though they were all hungry, the prospect of a warm fire was equally enjoyable. Sam had the first shift on watch, but Aragorn kept a sharp eye out as well as he sat, smoking his pipe. Merry and Pippin were with Boromir, who attempted to teach them how to handle themselves in battle. However, it was Boromir who was doing most of the learning as the two hobbits ran about him, tripping and confusing him. Legolas paced back and forth nervously, requiring less rest than the others and wishing they could have stopped in a more protected area. There were large rocks and bushes about, allowing anyone to easily sneak up on them from any direction in an ambush. Gimli sat against one rock, arms crossed across his chest, eyes closed, light snores emanating with every breath. He had just presented a weak argument to Gandalf about passing through Moria rather than pursing their current route. Gandalf sat, looking over the whole group fondly, his feet propped up on a rock. And Frodo, Frodo sat quietly in thought, fingering the ring through his tunic.


     It was Sam who saw it first, the dark spot between land and sky which seemed to be coming towards them. Legolas noticed it not a second later, eyes widening as he stared off into the distance. Aragorn, alerted by their actions, looked as well. "What is that?" Sam asked nervously, looking around. By now, Gandalf and Boromir had joined in on looking.


     Waking with a snort, Gimli glanced in the direction Sam had indicated. "Nothing. It's just a wisp of cloud," Gimli said, though it sounded as though he were himself trying to believe it was only that.


     "It's moving fast," Boromir said, squinting as though hoping to make out a shape in the darkness. He put a hand on Aragorn's shoulder, leaning forward as though to see past them both. "And against the wind," he added as the wind picked up from behind, bowling his hair forward against his cheeks.


     The tension grew terrible and even the hobbits were silently waiting. Then, finally "Crebain, from Dunland!" Legolas called back to them. He hopped down from his perch on a rock where his elf eyes allowed him to make out the danger before any of the others.  


     "Hide!" Aragon shouted to them all, springing into action as he went for the packs and then Frodo and Sam. "Take cover!" They squeezed beneath a bit of protruding rock bed. Sam had managed to extinguish the little bit of fire that was left so it was only a small bit of smoke remaining.


     "Merry, Pippin, here with me!" shouted Boromir, rounding up the other two hobbits, one under in each arm and pulling them to a bush. He lay flat on his back beneath while the two hobbits crouched together beside him.


     Gimli crawled easily beneath a nearby rock, and Gandalf did similarly between two that stood upright against each other, unable to see any of the others from his position. Legolas swept the rest of the packs beneath the bushes with him, just as the dark cloud approached.


     They came as though a cloud on the roll of thunder. They were actually immense black birds, with bodies like crows' and eyes like the seeing-stone of Saruman. The flapping of their wings generated wind that tossed up the dirt and dismantled the remains of the fire. As the birds turned, the dirt blew into the bushes where Boromir, Merry and Pippin hid. Pippin coughed in reaction, and both Boromir and Merry clamped hands over his mouth to dampen the sound, though Boromir's chest shook with spasms as he suppressed coughs as well. The soft hobbit cough could not be heard over the thunderous flapping or the high-pitched cawing of the birds, who circled around the hill where they had made camp.


     Legolas' eyes were trained on the skies, trying to determine exactly where each bird was looking. One, it seemed, saw the line in the dirt that had been made from a pack being dragged beneath the bushes. Legolas stiffened up, urging the bird to let it go. Then Legolas felt the sharp end of a leaf scratch his cheek. It did not pierce the skin, but caused discomfort he certainly did not now need, and he lifted a hand to scratch at his cheek. The spot where he had scratched burned for a moment, then the rest of his face broke out in tiny itches.


     Legolas' eyes widened suddenly in understanding, as they tore away from the birds and focused up close on the leaves of the bush he had taken shelter in. The leaves were shiny, prickly, and far too familiar. Beneath his breath, "Oh... no... not ah-" he pinched his nose tightly as the urge to sneeze filled him. "Not... ehh... not now!" he whispered to himself so softly that even he could not hear his words above the racket the birds were making. Though they might not be able to hear his whisper, they would surely hear his sneeze were he to let one escape. The danger of being seen was immense, but the tickle in his nose was equally unbearable. He buried his nose in the crook of his arm, hoping that would dampen the sound if his resistance faltered.


     The birds left nearly as quickly as they had arrived, moving in a black cloud back from whence they came. After waiting a few moments, the members of the fellowship crawled out from their hiding places. Pippin coughed as he crawled out, followed by Merry and Boromir, who got the hobbit a cup of water to finally soothe his throat. Boromir's coughs subsided without any assistance. Sam helped Frodo to his feet, patting the dirt off them both. Aragorn smiled at them, then turned towards Gandalf, his expression grave. Legolas brought the packs out, sniffling and still trying hard not to sneeze. He stood, waiting for the decision from Gandalf as well.


     "Spies of Saruman," Gandalf explained, getting to his feet with the aid of his staff. "The passage south is being watched. We must take the Pass of Caradhras."


     "ihtchh! ehtchh! ikshh!" All eyes turned upon Legolas, who stood right behind Gandalf. The elf looked suddenly shocked, as though the sneezes had taken him unawares.


     "And what was that?" inquired Sam, asking what the others all seemed to want to, and looking concerned.


     "Nothing," Legolas said with a dismissive swish of his hand. His eyes fell on Pippin, who continued to cough every few seconds. "Just the dirt."


     "But you are not covered in dirt," Merry observed, looking curious rather than concerned. "And I have never heard an elf--"


     "--I have," interrupted Aragorn quickly. He strode quickly over to Legolas and took the packs from where they sat on the ground. Looking up closely at the elf, he understood. There were small red blotches on the elf's face, barely noticeable up close, let alone at a distance. He saw Legolas sniffle, and knew exactly what was wrong before he had even taken a look at the bushes. "Oh Legolas..." he sighed, closing his eyes.


     The elf sniffed and twitched his nose, flaring his nostrils, as though to stem the oncoming tickles. It seemed, however, that his efforts were not working half as well as he'd hoped. Legolas raised a quick hand to his nose and bent forward with the force of more sneezes. "IHshhh! ikchuff! ihchuff!" He opened his eyes briefly, getting and eyeful of the others, who now looked more confused than anything else, then his eyes snapped shut again. "ihtchff! ehchiff!" He bent forward again. Aragorn reached out, holding his arm, steadying Legolas. But before the man could say anything to him, he looked around again. "Where is Gimli?" Aragorn looked suddenly affronted, but then noticed Legolas had a point. The dwarf was nowhere to be seen.


     "He took cover over there," Gandalf said, pointing to the grove of rocks where Gimli had been sleeping. Aragorn and Boromir led the way over, with Legolas right on their heels.


     They found a bushy-haired head poking out from beneath a rock. "Oh, nice of you to finally come by!" growled Gimli, trying to extricate himself from the rock.


     "The danger has passed, you can get up now," Boromir said, patting the rock.


     Gimli gave a frustrated grunt. "Oh, I would like to, really. But I bloody cannot get out, in case you had not noticed!"


     A laugh burst from Aragorn, and Boromir had to clap a hand over his own mouth this time to contain his own laughter. Legolas rolled his eyes.


     "Oh, oh. And just wait. If you ever get stuck somewhere, just see if I help you out!" Gimli shook, again trying to free himself. But the rock held him tightly around the middle and his attempts just seemed to make it worse.


     "All right," Aragorn coughed to keep from laughing any more, though his face lit with amusement. "Boromir, get on that side. Legolas on the other." Aragorn crouched down right in front of the dwarf's head and grabbed hold of his clothes at the shoulders. "On the count of three. One... two..."


     "ihshtt! ikshh!" They all turned towards Legolas, except for Gimli who could not turn at all. Legolas sniffled, rubbed at his nose, then and scratched at his cheek. His nose was running, and his sniffling more frequent. He had tears in his eyes, which he blinked back. "Oh just pull!" he snapped, feeling self conscious on top of miserable. He longed to be rid of them all for just a few minutes and allow the sneezes to come out in full.


     On Legolas' request, the three pulled hard, and with a disgruntled shout, Gimli came free from the rock, along with a load of dust and dirt. Gimli stood, brushing himself off and stretching, "Ah, yes, that is better."


           Boromir and Aragorn both coughed and waved away the dirt, letting it settle back down. Legolas, on the other hand, felt his nose tickle even worse. He cupped a hand around his nose and mouth and stumbled forward, pushing past the men and dwarf with a wave of his arm. He rounded the hill and, eyes closed, fell back against a rock. "eh-IHshhh! ihchuhhh! ehchuhhh! Ih-heh-IKtshhh! ihtchhhhh!" The sneezes were quick, wet, and barely waited long enough for him to take a breath in between. "ehshhh! ihtchhh! ehtchuhh! ikchuhh! heh-ihtshhhh!"


     While the elf could not be seen by the rest of the fellowship, he certainly could be heard. His fit of sneezing washed the amusement out of their systems, even Gimli's, though he was still sore from being stuck. Boromir started forward to go after Legolas, but Aragorn put a hand on his chest, holding him back. "Go help the hobbits load Bill." Boromir nodded and headed back to where they had left the others.


     Then Aragorn went forward, carefully climbing over the rocks and came around to the side of the hill. Gimli followed from behind, having to walk quickly just to keep up. But for a dwarf of his girth, he was remarkably balanced as he went. "I have never heard an elf sneeze so much!" said Gimli.


     Aragorn smiled. "I have." He thought for a moment, then added, "And if you want to live, I would suggest not mentioning anything of that sort in front of the elf."


     They spotted Legolas in no time. The elf was crumpled at the base of a rock, sitting on the ground, sneezing hard and fast and without stop. His ears twitched as he heard them approach, but did not look up, continuing to sneeze into his cupped hand, face buried beneath his folded knees and arm which rested upon them.  "ihhktchh! ehteff! ihktschhh! itchufff!"


     "Galu," Aragorn said, coming to a halt at Legolas' side. He crouched down and gently swept the long blond hair from Legolas' face. Legolas moved his arm, hiding the side and front of his face from their view, though trying not to let the fabric of his shirt so much as brush against his cheek for fear of more itching. "Come, let me have a look at you."


     Legolas shook his head and moved his arm again, this time to push Aragorn back. "I'b... ihchufff! ehtchhhh! Sniff!  I'b fide... ihktchhh!"


     "No you're not," replied Aragorn. He pulled out a handkerchief and forced it into Legolas' hand.


     The elf hesitated, not wanting to lower his arm and give them a look at him. "ihhshhh! hetchuff! chuff! cheff!" His nose tickled dreadfully, his eyes watered, and his face itched all over. But worse of all was the constant running of his nose and of course the sneezing, which just didn't seem to want to stop for anything. Desperate to blow his nose, he finally swapped the handkerchief for his cupped hand, which he wiped discretely on the cloth before lowering it. He blew his nose a number of times, then sighed, leaning back against the rock as the tickles backed down for a little while.


     Aragorn and Gimli now both saw the light rash that covered the elf's normally pure and perfect pale skin. It was on his cheeks and chin, right down his neck, and also on his hands. Feeling revealed, Legolas hung his head and scratched one cheek, unable to resist the sensation any longer for the sake of looking fine. The few scratches there led to more across his face, and in seconds he was sniffling and scratching without stop. "Oh Legolas..." the man repeated, shaking his head at the pitiful sight. Aragorn sighed and pulled out his pouch of water. Sparingly, he poured a bit out onto his hand, and then quickly patted his palm against Legolas' face, before the water could slip through his fingers. The elf closed his eyes pleasantly at the sensation. Then Aragorn turned to Gimli. "Tell the others to look for some callia root, Sam and Gandalf will know what it is." Gimli nodded, but remained a moment, looking down at Legolas. At hearing no movement, Legolas opened his eyes and gave Gimli such a look that the dwarf quickly took off.


     Smiling weakly at the feeble accomplishment, Legolas leaned against Aragorn. "I feel like...ihkshh... ihtshhh... like a fool." He continued to rub at his nose, sniffling.


     "But this time, it is not my fault," Aragorn said, trying to get the elf to laugh.


     Unfortunately, the comment made Legolas' smile fade away completely. "No, this time it was--"


     "Saruman's fault," Aragorn finished quickly, before Legolas could blame himself. "He sent the crebain."


     "ihhtchh! ehshhuhh!" He blew his nose into the handkerchief miserably, then looked up and nodded.


     "Come, we should get going as soon as possible, and that means making you feel better as well. Has the rash spread much?" He helped Legolas to his feet.


     "Not as much as last time," the elf admitted, still scratching at his face. This time, of course, he had simply crouched and not rolled naked in the bushes. Aragorn poured a bit of water against the side of his face, letting the cool drops trickle down against Legolas' neck.


     "Ah!" Legolas jumped in surprise of the sudden coolness, shrinking back from the man's touch.


     But Aragorn leaned closer, his rough hand softly caressing the elf's face. "There is no need to worry. I understand. Remember?" Legolas nodded a bit reluctantly, but let Aragorn repeat the motion a few times until the itches died down a bit and the urge to scratch was not so overwhelming at least.


     Legolas looked hopeful for a moment. "Will you still take care of me as you did last time?"


     With a smile as they started back, "Perhaps not exactly as last time. But I will see to it that your symptoms are relieved as soon as possible. We have a much better chance to find some remedies here than up in the mountains in the snow." He held a hand out and helped the elf to his feet.



     Upon their return, they were met by a crowd of worried faces. Gandalf looked up from a pot on the fire which he was gently stirring. "All right?" he called over, and both Aragorn and Legolas nodded.


     "hektiff! ektchh!" Legolas restrained himself as best he could from scratching while in the presence of the others, but the sneezing was another matter. He soon found himself going through Aragorn's handkerchief and accepting Gandalf's with an embarrassed flush in his cheeks and another few sneezes.


     Merry and Pippin circled around Legolas curiously, inspecting him all over. "Do you have a cold?" asked Pippin, cocking his head but keeping his distance. Aragorn sat beside the elf, carefully sharpening his sword in an action that was meant to keep everyone else a few feet away at least.


     Before Legolas could answer, Merry stepped in, "You know when I catch the sniffles, I have a good meal, then a long sleep, then some--"


     "He is not sick, nor in need of advice from you," Aragorn said with a warning tone in his voice.


     "ihkshhh! ehtshefff!" Legolas blew his nose miserably, then wiped it. "There is no need to... to... IHHshhhh! ihshehh!" He sneezed, snapping forward. "No need to worry about me. Sniff! Sniff!"


     But they all did seem to worry about him nonetheless. Gimli kept casting his wary looks, as though suspicious that whatever the elf had might be catching. Boromir looked restless, as though he wanted to do something but felt useless. Samwise hovered nearby, as though working up the courage to offer something to eat or drink. And Frodo just watched him with a sympathetic expression, wincing slightly at each especially bad bout of sneezing.


     "So if it isn't a cold, what is it?" asked Pippin, sounding so chipper that it made most of them cringe and feel even sorrier for Legolas.


     Legolas, sneezing again, tried his best to explain. "It... ihhshhh! Sniff! It... is only... ehtchh! ikutchh! Only an al... IHChiff!" He looked imploringly at Aragorn over the folds of the handkerchief.


     "An allergy," Aragorn finished for the elf.


     "An allergy?" Pippin repeated, letting the words roll off his tongue. "What--"


     "You know, Pip, like when my mother smokes too much of the leaf and starts coughing."


     It was clear that Pippin did not understand. He waved a hand towards Legolas. "But he is not coughing at all like Aunt Esmeralda! Nor has he smoked anything." Curiously. "Maybe he has a fever..." he scrambled over quickly and made to touch Legolas' forehead.


     Legolas shrunk back, out of reach. It was all he needed for his forehead to break out in a rash as well. And though Aragorn had made to hold Pippin back, Boromir's sword got there first. The flat of the blade pushed gently against the small hobbit's stomach. "I do not believe that is a smart idea," he said softly. Then, with anxious look up at the sky to see that the day was already slipping away from them, "Perhaps we should go back to practicing those fighting moves again?"


     At first, Pippin seemed reluctant to let the matter of Legolas' suffering drop. But then he rolled beneath the man's sword, slipped Boromir's knife from its spot on his belt, and ran with it, laughing, to slightly higher ground. Merry laughed and followed along behind. Boromir chuckled and took off after the two.


     Legolas sniffled, half of his countenance still hidden behind the handkerchief, watching the three go. It was foolish, he knew, but he felt a bit more comfortable sneezing with less people watching him. "ihhhtchhh! Ihtchh!" He blew his nose, then scratched his chin where the handkerchief rubbed against it.


     Gandalf continued to stir the contents of the pot, and Aragorn continued to sharpen his sword. Sam gave up trying to be helpful towards Legolas after seeing the reaction to Pippin, and now doted on Frodo who let him. 


     "An allergy, is it?" Gimli asked suddenly to fill the silence. "I have never heard of an elf who--"


     Again, Aragorn interjected. "Well, now you have," he spoke shortly but sternly, and Gimli did not press the matter any further.


     "I understand," came the dwarf's rumbley voice.


     "ihhtchhh! ihutchhh!" Legolas sneezed, sounding worse and worse each time. His scratching increased as well, to the point where he needed to scratch at his neck and his shoulders beneath the shirt.


     "Maybe you should not be scratching so much?" Aragorn asked, reaching over and easing the elf's hands out from the collar of his shirt.


     "I cannot, sniff, help but scratch!" Legolas whispered back in a desperate hiss. His fingers tore at his shirt from outside, rubbing his shoulders through it.


     "Ready!" Gandalf called. He removed the pot from the fire.


     Sam held out a cold bowl and Gandalf transferred the mixture into it. When the steam no longer wafted from the solution and the bowl had grown cold in his hands, Sam brought it over, placing it gingerly on Legolas' lap. "Just a little bit should do it, really, but best to use a lot."


     "ihhchhh! ehtchhh! Iktchhh!" Legolas blew his nose again and nodded. "Thank you Sam. And thank you Gandalf. I... ehhhh..." he closed his eyes, bracing for the sneezes which shook him. "ihkshhh! ihtchuff!"


     Aragorn put his arm around Legolas, steadying him. "Sam, could you and Frodo look for more of this root? I am sure another treatment would be good, but we will not have time to stop for such things when we reach the mountains."


     Sam nodded. "That is a good idea. Are you game, Mr.Frodo?"


     "Of course, Sam," Frodo replied with a smile, rising to his feet. He patted Sam on the back as they headed off to a small grove of trees.


     Aragorn wasted no time in running a hand beneath Legolas' shirt and slipping it off over his head rather gracefully. He dipped his hand into the bowl, the lotion cool against his palm. He slathered it on thickly, first on the elf's shoulders, then his face. It was nothing as sensual as the last time, when they had made love to the movements of the itches and the rhythm of the sneezes. Now there were others all about, and they were at a different time in their lives. Legolas smiled back at Aragorn, knowing well what the man was thinking about. He leaned forward and kissed the man's forehead gently. "Does that mean you are feeling better?" asked Aragorn softly.


     Legolas shrugged. "Perhaps. The itches are dying down, at least." He bent backwards so Aragorn could rub some on his chest, but found himself snapping forward again quickly. "IH-chufff! Heh...heh-eh... iktchuff!" He blew his nose once and folded the handkerchief, searching for a dry spot upon which to rub his nose. But this handkerchief, too, was pretty well used. "ikshhh!" Legolas sniffled miserably. "Bud dese sdeezes keeb... ehh...IHKshhhh!"


     "Then take mine." They looked over to see Gimli standing up with a grunt and extending his handkerchief.


     Legolas bowed his head in appreciation and immediately brought the handkerchief to his nose to rub it dry. His nose was already feeling sore from too much attention, and the soft dry handkerchief was just what was needed. It was soft and small, but remarkably clean considering it was a dwarf's. "ihchhh! imphshhh!" He blew his nose, sighed, and leaned against Aragorn, exhausted. Aragorn put his arm around Legolas' shoulders. It took a lot to tire out an elf, especially this particular elf. And though he would not say it, Legolas looked most thankful for the compassion.


     "So if you don't mind my asking," said Gimli, settling back down on a rock, closer to Aragorn and Legolas this time. "What exactly are you allergic to?" The question piqued Gandalf's curiosity as well, who leaned a little closer with a smile, listening for the answer.


     It was one thing to admit he had such a weakness, but another altogether to admit he had sought shelter in those bushes when he knew he was allergic to them. Legolas sniffled, half hiding behind the handkerchief as he thought quickly.


     "Certainly it could not be the birds?" Gimli suggested.


     Legolas had no desire to lie to the dwarf... but that seemed a much better answer at present than the truth. After all, it was the birds which had drove him to hide in the bushes in the first place. But before he could voice a reply one way or another, Aragorn answered for him, jabbing him in the ribs with an elbow. "You see, Legolas? I told you it would be pointless to hide the truth from Gimli. The hobbits maybe, but not the dwarf. He is too smart for that." Legolas sighed inwardly with relief and nodded. Gimli simply beamed with pride. And Gandalf turned away quickly, his eyebrows raised.


     They had meant to make camp there until the sun started to set, but they needed to move on before the crebain had time to return to Saruman. Still, they were able to spare a little while longer, for otherwise they would not get very far with Legolas. Legolas yawned and sniffled weakly, looking at Aragorn with a soft expression of hurt. "Rest a while," Aragorn whispered, applying another handful across the elf's shoulders so it would not itch as he put his arm around Legolas. Legolas' bare torso shown in the sun, looking wet where the lotion had been rubbed in. The splotches were starting to fade, now a dull pink where they had been a strong red. "You have time to get some sleep before we move out again."


     Legolas snuggled against Aragorn, clutching the handkerchief tightly in his hand. Aragorn did understand, much more than Legolas thought he would have. And while this was nothing like the last time he had shown this affliction, the caring and concern were still there. It was sort of a different way of making love. "ihchfff! iktfff! Sniff, sniff, sniff!" Sleepy in the sun, and exhausted from the sneezing, Legolas closed his eyes. "Thank you for understanding Estel," he whispered before falling asleep.