Title: Cover-up

Author: tarotgal

Fandom: Lord of the Rings- set during RotK

Rating: G

Pairing: not quite Legolas/Gimli yet

Disclaimer: Tolkien, Newline, not me. In no way me.

Summary: Gimli's used to being around the elf more now. But when Legolas comes down with a bit of a cold he's startled by a few new things.

Notes: This was inspired by a brief mention of snoring on the Axe_Bow list yesterday. Sorry if I step on canon too much here!

 

 

Cover-up

     With calloused fingertips on smooth, soft leggings, Gimli kept his hands on the elf's thighs. There was also blonde hair brushing the dwarf's face and metal warming against his chest. He'd ridden behind the elf for so long that he now understood the sensations. With each motion he leaned into the elf, riding it out as Legolas did, like a ship upon the ocean. The strange jerkings and haltings were no longer so strange to him, and if he relaxed and pressed himself close enough to Legolas' back, they became easy to endure. The strangest part of it all, however, was how much easier it was becoming to endure the elf.

 

     Through the many hardships and adventures, their bond of fellowship had blossomed into a friendship neither could have predicted. But even more astonishing was how that had become something even more. They would not speak of it, even to each other, because of their current circumstances. Should they both survive the war, by some extraordinary chance, then perhaps they would come to discuss what their feelings meant. But for now, they were content with familiarity, friendship, and closeness.

 

     It was, perhaps, all three of these elements that made Gimli both notice and pretend to ignore when Legolas snapped forward in the saddle with a sneeze. Legolas kept his balance as always and Arod had not faltered, though he had surely noticed the movement as well. Gimli had said nothing at all and had, in fact, practically forgotten about it, shrugging it off as some fluke. That is, until it happened a second time.

 

     The elf moved back a tick, with a slow, smooth motion. Then, with the same smoothness, he lifted a hand up to his face and fell forward. "h'tchuhhh!" Then he straightened back up again and, in an instant, moved as normal on the back of the trotting horse.

 

     Gimli, however, stiffened and cleared his throat. Legolas waited a moment, then turned his head, glancing back over his shoulder at the dwarf. "Gimli?"

 

     "Aye?"

 

     "By any chance... you didn't happen to notice..."

 

     Looking serious, Gimli shook his head. Legolas seemed to relax considerably, though Gimli was sure he would have missed the slight shoulder sagging and twitch of the mouth that were the only giveaways in Legolas' usually calm exterior. "I think we will be stopping soon to make camp," Gimli said reassuringly.

 

     Legolas looked up at the sky, noting the sun's path and position just atop the tree line. "I fear that if we do not hurry, more will be against us than time."

 

     Gimli nodded back. He feared many things might come to pass, each just as likely as the next. But, unsettled by what he'd seen and heard from the elf just moments before, his mind was not on the fate of the world just now.

 

     With a roll and a thump Gimli was off the horse and onto the ground. He picked himself up and held Arod's reins while Legolas dismounted. "I'll get the tent set up if you'll take care of the horses," he said, reaching up to untie the bags from the saddle. "Unless..." He looked up skeptically at Legolas.

 

     But Legolas took the reins from him, eyeing a few of the men of Gondor heading towards them to help with setup. He quickly cleared his throat. "I can see to Arod, yes." Gimli noticed him rubbing his nose as he left, but only when sure no one was watching.

 

     While Legolas guided the horse over to where the others were being kept for the night, Gimli struggled with the tent. It was not very large, but it was large enough to make it difficult to assemble. With the assistance from several of the men, it was up in time for Legolas' return, though Gimli was not.

 

     The dwarf had a quick conversation with Aragorn, then grabbed a few helpings of dinner and drink before actually heading into the tent. He found Legolas sitting on the longer of the two bedrolls and Gimli closed the tent opening behind him. Legolas had to bend down a little to maneuver in the tent, but it was just the right height for Gimli. The dwarf walked over and handed the dinner over. "Long ride. I thought we might avoid the others tonight and turn in early." He handed over one of the mugs with a smile partially hidden by his beard. "And I thought you could use a good helping of tea."

 

     Legolas smiled back gratefully and held the mug in both hands as he sipped from it. "I'm not so very hungry. Would you like to eat my portions?" As the tea cooled, he drank it more eagerly.

 

     Gimli narrowed his eyes. "Of course I'd like to," he said. With the group as large as it was, and growing in size with every village they passed through, there wasn't much food to go around. And there certainly wasn't enough to keep a dwarf's stomach full. "But I won't. I would rather sit here and make sure you eat."

 

     Legolas shook his head. "Then it shall go largely uneaten and you will... will have..." He narrowed his eyes as well, but not in the same way as Gimli had. After a moment, his eyes closed and he took a deep breath. Then he snapped forward. "Yihh! KChuhhh!" He sniffled and straightened, using that as his excuse to Gimli.

 

     But Gimli was not moved. "All the more reason that you should eat something healthy, Elf." He sat on the other bedroll, facing Legolas. "You'll need your strength during the battle."

 

     Legolas gave him another soft smile. "I will be fine by then." He sniffled lightly. "Elf colds are quite brief."

 

     Surprised, Gimli gave a chuckle. Given the way Legolas had been acting all day, he hadn't expected the elf to come out so boldly with an admission of illness. "Dwarf colds are just the opposite. They can last weeks."

 

     Legolas, in the middle of rubbing his nose, replied, "I will try to remember not to catch one of those then."

 

     "Why don't you try eating a little, too?" Gimli pushed him again. Legolas sighed but went for the food. Gimli grinned.

 

     As Gimli had suggested earlier, they did end up going to bed earlier than usual. There seemed to be a hush over the whole camp as its members realized how close they were getting to the end of it all now. And though they discussed the upcoming battles, Legolas and Gimli spoke of it less and less as time went on and danger loomed nearer.

 

     This night, they spoke of very little as they got ready for bed. Having taken to catching a nap whenever and wherever possible, Gimli was asleep in seconds once he'd slipped inside his sleeping roll.

*

 

     Gimli was awakened not long after, however, by unsettling sounds. He opened his eyes to see Legolas shaking with silent coughs not far from him. He reached over, stretching his arm as far as it would go, and patted Legolas on the back. The elf jumped at the sudden touch, glanced at him, and smiled through the next several coughs. The fit passed gradually, and Legolas rubbed at his nose a few times afterwards. "Forgive me for waking you," he whispered.

 

     "Nothing to forgive, Elf. Can I get you a drink?"

 

     Legolas shook his head, rubbing a bit more vigorously at his nose. "ihhh... yihh-hihhhhhh..." He cupped both hands to his nose and mouth to muffle the sound as best he could. "HITSchhhhhh!" He sniffled wetly.

 

     Digging a handkerchief out of his pack, Gimli handed it over immediately. Legolas took it gratefully and wiped his nose. He moved with a smooth beauty, even in such tasks, and looked attractive to Gimli's eyes, even with even paler skin and a slightly more unkempt appearance than usual. "Try to get some sleep," he said.

 

     Taking to the suggestion, Legolas closed his eyes. "You should do the same."

 

     Feeling exhausted, Gimli yawned, stretched, and lay back down. He counted two more muffled sneezes out of the elf before he drifted back off to sleep.

 

*

 

     That sleep, like the last, was short-lived. Gimli woke to the sound of another sneeze and opened his eyes. Unless he was simply imagining it, Legolas had scooted closer to him again. There was less than a foot separating the two of them now. Gimli chose to say nothing about it, but did mumble a groggy "Bless" in Legolas' direction.

 

     "Thag you," Legolas said, conservatively snuffling into one corner the hanky. He had barely caught his breath before another crept up on him. "ehh-Yihhhhhhhhhh..." Legolas' blue eyes fluttered shut and the very tips of his ears began to twitch. "ehhh-ihhhhh... hih-heh--" A chill ran up his spine, making him shiver just as he shook from the sneeze. "YIHTChoooo!" Then he shivered yet again.

 

     "Bless," Gimli repeated. So exhausted, he could not help but close his eyes.

 

     "Gibli? Snfffff! Gimli? Ihhh-YIIHTChhhh! Cough! SNFF!"

 

     Gimli pulled his eyes open to regard the poor elf.

 

     "Is that offer still available? Sniff! Snuff! I should very much like some water."

 

     Gathering his energy and tearing himself away from his warm bed, Gimli grunted as he rose. Then he silently left the tent. From the front pole, holding up the overhang above the tent door, were their canteens. During the night, one of the young boys was in charge of filling them up with water again. But from the feel of the canteens now, they were still empty.

 

     A cool night breeze caught his nightshirt, making it flutter loosely around his body and causing him to shiver a little, just as the elf had. Determined not to catch a cold of his own just now, Gimli headed towards the mess tent, hoping-- and failing-- to avoid the men on watch.

 

     "Ho, there, Master Dwarf," said one, maneuvering himself between Gimli and the food. "Rations are--"

 

     Noticing the man's hand on the hilt of his sword, Gimli took the most sensible approach. "I have not come to sneak food. I only wanted a cupful of water. If you won't allow me that, I'll go all the way over to the river alone and unarmed to fill--"

 

     Taking his hand off his sword, he quickly motioned Gimli to wait a moment. Then he disappeared into the tent and returned not moments later with a full mug of water. Gimli thanked him and hurried back to the tent he shared with Legolas.

 

     He found the elf sitting up already, rocking back and forth slowly, on the verge of another sneeze. It seemed that what elf colds lacked in length they made up for in intensity. The sneeze had not even struck yet and already it seemed to have taken everything out of him. As Gimli sat down on his bedroll, which somehow seemed even closer to Legolas' then moments before, Legolas' breaths went from slow to quick. "ehhh... yehhhh... hihhhhh... heh-heh-ehhh-IHPSchhhhhhhh!" Legolas sneezed into the handkerchief pressed beneath his nostrils. The elf looked over at him for a moment apologetically, then blew his nose into the handkerchief.

 

     Surprised at how much the elf's nose seemed to hold, Gimli waited patiently and politely, staring down at the mug and his hands. Then he handed the water over when Legolas seemed to have a hand free to take it. The elf drank the water almost all at once, shivering a moment after the cold water started rushing through him.

 

     "Cover up," Gimli said, plucking at the bedroll. "It's a cold night." In truth, he had been chilly while walking outside in nothing but a nightshirt. But inside the tent it was quite warm. His words seemed to make Legolas feel better however, and the elf snuggled back into his bedroll with the blanket up to his ears. Gimli petted his arm and side through the blanket.

 

     "I have beed tryig to sleeb," Legolas told him through a stuffy nose. "But I caddot do so for all the coughig add sdeezig..."

 

     "Relax," Gimli advised. "Resting your body is almost as good. And perhaps if you do not try so hard, sleep will come when you least expect it." Legolas still looked worried and started to point out that he was keeping Gimli up as well. "Hush. I can sleep through just about anything. I should be the least of your concerns now."

 

     Legolas gave him a weak smile as he closed his eyes. Under his breath, "I ab bore codcerd about you thad adythig else..."

 

     Gimli withdrew his hand, not trusting it to stay on the elf's shoulder when his tired eyes seemed to be focusing on the light, blond hair that begged to be pulled back a little, away from Legolas' cheek. Using all the self restraint within him, he lay back down. Gimli rolled onto his other side, with his back to the elf. In no time he had given in to sleep.

 

*

 

     It was some time in-between very late at night and very early in the morning when Gimli awoke again to a loud sound. Unlike the elf's coughing and sneezing, which had quickly grown familiar to his ears, this was a completely different noise.

 

     Before he could place it, he started to sit up again, with the intention of looking over at Legolas. But he found himself unable to move properly and it took him a few moments to realize why: the elf was holding him. Legolas had curled up against Gimli from behind, front pressed right up against Gimli's back, knees still in the sleeping roll hooked beneath Gimli's rear, chin resting on Gimli's shoulder. Legolas had also wrapped an arm around Gimli and was hugging him tightly in his sleep.

 

     It took another two times hearing the sound before he came to understand what it was exactly: the elf was snoring. Gimli was forced to bury his face into part of his bedroll to keep from laughing out loud.

 

     He had known very few elves in his lifetime, but from what he'd observed, they all carried themselves with the same elegance and beauty as Legolas did, whether fighting in a battle or simply sitting about. The way Legolas had moved during coughing or sneezing fits had been likewise, with what seemed like deliberate smoothness and grace. This snoring, however, was far from all of that. It was loud, long, startling, deep and rumbling. It seemed to take over his whole body entirely and sounded as though it came from a wild animal rather than an elf. Gimli could sleep through nearly anything, but Legolas' snores were now at the top of his list of things that would keep him awake.

 

     "Legolas?" he called back softly, unable to move.

 

     Another sonorous snore right in his ear was his only reply.

 

     Gimli sighed and shook his head resignedly. As tired as Gimli was, Legolas needed his sleep more.

 

*

 

     A horn sounded at daybreak, which cut one of Legolas' snores short. The elf woke with a start, immediately sensing the light of day as it caught the beige canvas of the tent but did not penetrate. Then he realized his position and pulled away at once in surprise.

 

     "Calm yourself, Elf," Gimli said, rolling onto his back and sitting up. "The night grew terribly cold and it was only natural for you to seek out some warmth," he lied with reassurance. "I will breathe not a word of it."

 

     Comforted by that, Legolas nodded appreciatively. Then he raised the handkerchief to his nose and gave it a good but quiet blowing. "I do feel a considerable amount better. It did me good to finally sleep some."

 

     "I am glad," replied Gimli with a kind smile.

 

     Then the two turned their backs on each other to hurriedly change into their day clothes. As they did so, they talked of the progress of their procession. They would reach the encampment in the mountains by nightfall and, with any luck, there would be a great army amassed by then. Leaving their armor off until after breakfast, the changing was quick.

 

     They packed up their things and took down the tent, tasks Legolas managed to do with only one quick "heyCHIIHH!" sneeze into his shoulder. Though Gimli could see the great improvement, Gimli insisted Legolas hold onto the handkerchief for the rest of the day just to be sure. Then they headed to breakfast.

 

     Legolas seemed to have regained his appetite overnight, as he began eating practically the moment they sat down on a log around the fire outside the mess tent. Gimli ate hungrily as well, though he kept pausing to listen for signs that Legolas might not be as well as he seemed. Already he was starting to almost miss the routine sniffles and halting breaths he had grown accustomed to in a day.

 

     A man sat down on the log on Gimli's other side and chuckled. "That was some snoring you were up to last night," he said, nudging Gimli's arm with a sharp elbow. "Bet it woke up half the encampment! And don't try to deny it. I know it was coming from your tent."

 

     Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Legolas go a little paler again and a look of horror filled the elf's eyes. Gimli swallowed his mouthful of porridge and gave a broad smile. "Not to brag, but I've won a few titles in my day during dwarf snoring contests. It would be an unfair advantage of course to compete against men."

 

     The man laughed and turned to his side to laugh it over with a friend, giving Gimli an opportunity. The dwarf reached down and patted Legolas' thigh reassuringly a few times. The pats were slow, letting Gimli's fingers linger upon the warmth a moment more than usual. On the last one, Legolas reached down and wrapped his fingers around Gimli's hand, squeezing. Legolas smiled at him, looking exceedingly grateful. Gimli returned the smile in kind, trying to hold back a yawn so the elf would not feel guilty for keeping him up all night.