Title: Isolation II

Author: tarotgal

Fandom: Middle Earth (pre-Hobbit); tg's polyamorous dwarves 'verse

Rating: NC-17

Pairing Overall: Oin/Frár/Eagen/Nord/Toron/Gloin/Sima

Disclaimer: No money made, no offense intended, no relation to any companies

Summary: After the events in Isolation, it's only a matter of time before Gloin and Sima come down with the cold as well.

Author Notes: Thank you to Masking for allowing me to use (steal) the name for Gloin's wife and for providing lots of support for this piece in general!


Isolation II


As Sima lay down in bed that night, she felt different. Lonely wasn't the right word for it, because Gloin snuggled up close to her, his head on her bosom, nuzzling into her beard. But it was strange to not have another husband up against her back. It was strange to not feel more than one set of feet meet in the middle of the bed with hers. It was strange to have only one hand slip under her shift and caress her jewel.


Days had passed since their Oin-husband had taken their sneezing Nord-husband to the isolation room. One by one, she had watched her husbands fall ill with coughs and sneezes and fevers and so very many sniffles. And though she would have liked to have gone with them to comfort them, she knew they were best cared for by Oin. And she knew someone had to stay well for little Gimli, and for Gloin as well. He had to be noticing the empty bed around them the same as she was.


“Gloin-love,” she whispered, “Do you...”


“...miss our husbands?” he finished for her.


She nodded and laid kiss after kiss upon his forehead. “Don't catch their cold. Don't leave me here alone in this big, empty bed.”


“Oh my bright gem, my heart, never. You will never be alone.”


“Not even if you come down with a terrible cold in your nose?” She ran her finger down the bridge of his nose.


“Not even,” he replied, his voice deep but breathy from arousal.


“Not even if you can't speak for sneezing? I know how deep and rich and overpowering your sneezes can be.” Her fingertip circled one of his nostrils and rested just beneath his nose.


“Not even,” Gloin replied, wrinkling his nose in reaction. If she kept up this tickling, he might actually sneeze.


“Not even if you have to sneeze and sneeze so much you can't hold me any more or touch me any more?” She craned her neck and kissed his nose, which was rough and strong and sweet like he was. He was her romantic husband, the one who brought home flowers after a long trip away, the one who plumped all their pillows before bed, the one who knew all the best dwarven love songs by heart. 


Gloin snorted and lifted his head, catching her lips with his own. He pulled back, amusement alight in his eyes. “Ye'll always have a place in my arms.”


She snuggled into his embrace, feeling his arms wrap around her. The bed hadn't felt lonely, exactly, but it had felt strange with just two in it instead of seven. But with his arms around her, and his promise still lingering on his lips like the kiss, she was overwhelmed with love. She felt protected and safe and adored just as she would have if their bed had been as full as normal.




The cold spread. In truth, they had been lucky it hadn't spread more quickly; dwarf colds were not known for being merciful or slow.




Nor were they known for being small, minuscule little things. Dwarf sneezes in dwarf colds were wet and harsh and irrepressible.


“Bless,” Gloin said to his wife, as Eagen picked up wee Gimli and swiftly removed him from the room, Nord pulled out a handkerchief, and Oin glanced at the door.


Oin reached across the table and palmed her warm forehead. “Looks like you've finally come down with this ailment, too. What starts with a single sneeze is going to end up with your nose being all red and sniffly. You'd best get yourself to isolation immediately.”


“I will take her,” Gloin said, linking a protective arm around hers. “I thought I might escape this time, but if Sima's ill, no doubt I'll come down with it as well.” He was thinking of his promise to not leave her. And even though now it was she who would be doing the leaving, he couldn't bring himself to be parted from her. But it was Oin's responsibility to give care in this family and Oin's call ultimately. Gloin held his breath.


After a minute of thought, Oin answered, “I will need to keep close watch over Gimli; we can't have the wee laddie getting ill. But I will check in on the two of  you after a while to be sure you have all you need. The room should be clean and restocked now, but even so, there may be things you require.” He looked upon Sima now, and all could see the hurt and conflict playing out in his eyes. “My dear one...”


“I will be in good hands with our Gloin-husband,” she said, scrubbing a thick finger under her nose again already. “Oh, I n-need to sneeze so bah-badly alrea... ehh... already.”


“Hold it for just a minute more,” Gloin begged. Now that she was officially his responsibility, he would look after her as best he could, and it would not do to have her spreading germs all over the place. With an arm around her plump waist, he guided her from the room. All their husbands still there called after her with well wishes. They knew too well what sort of miserable, overpowering ailment she had, and they did not want her to suffer. The whole point of isolation was to spare wife and child; this time, it seemed, that had not worked as well as anticipated.


“Gl-gloin?” They moved so quickly, she was almost out of breath. Between that and hitching gasps as the sneeze threatened to build, she clung to Gloin and wheezed. Down one corridor, around a corner, and to the end of one more hallway, it was a miracle when they reached the room and Sima had not yet succumbed to her sneezing fit. “ehh... eh-hehhhhhh...” The desperation was great.


Gloin pulled the heavy dwarf-made door shut behind them and immediately wrapped both his arms around his wife. “Here, love. Sneeze into my chest all you need to.” He petted the back of her head reassuringly, his hand sliding easily against the fine auburn hair.


ehhhh-PITChhhihhhhhh!” The sneeze burst from her at once; he could feel its force against his chest, even through his shirts and tunic. And she did not stop at just the one. “ehhhh-Ihhhtihshhhhh! H'KTihshhhhhh! Tschihhhhhh! Eh-heh-ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhh-eh-HIHTIHShhhhhhhhh! Tihtchhhhhh! Tihkschhhhh! H'tihshhhhh!


All the while, Gloin held her tight to him and murmured sweet words to her. “That's it. Just let all those sneezes out. You did so well, holding them in until we got here. That nose must be bothering you  terribly. It's going to be so red soon, but I'll care for it, I will.”


“Aye? Sniiiifffff!


“Oh, your runny, runny nose. Come. Let us find a dry hankie for you at once.” 


Sima pressed the back of her hand to her nose. “I'll be fine. Just feeling a little cold and sniffly.”


Dwarf colds set in quickly. And by the time they found the clean stack of hankies that Oin had laundered and left in the room and lit the candles throughout the room, Sima was shivering. Gloin dragged her to the rug on the floor and wrapped her in all the furs and blankets. “Better?”


She smiled and nuzzled into Gloin. Warmer she was, but now there were so many layers between them. Too many layers. So she shook her head. “I need you under here with me. Sniff! Sniff! I need you to wipe my nose and keep me from shivering. I need someone warm to cuddle with sniff to fall asleep. Sniff!


He burrowed beneath the blankets, grinning as she giggled from his tickling touch. He murmured sweet things to her in Khuzdul until she settled against him. “I promised you I would not leave you,” he whispered.


“You're sniff going to sniff sniff catch this from me,” she whispered back, nuzzling her face into his beard and rubbing at her nose.


“Aye, my love. But it will feel good.”


“Hm?” Her hand slipped beneath his tunic. She understood all right, she just wanted to hear him say what they were both thinking, what they were both feeling.


“Can't ye just imagine what our husbands got up to here in Isolation? I'd wager they made love right here on this very rug over and over again.” Dwarf sneezes were so strong they tended to overwhelm a body, leaving no alternative but to sneeze helplessly, uncontrollably. When they came out, however, they felt amazing. All that pressure and need was instantly gone and, in its place, was a pleasant relief that most dwarves found sexually arousing. Their husbands were no exception in this, though Oin took it to an even further degree with his desire for care-giving. A few sneezes here, a few sneezes there, and there was no question in Gloin's mind that their husbands had taken advantage and pleasured each other.




“Aye.” Gloin agreed not just with a word but with a stand. “Do ye think they sucked each other? Nord's mouth around Oin's cock? Oh, but if he had to sneeze while he was doing it, spraying Oin's crotch with a light, tickling mist? Or Toron with his strong arms wrapped around Eagen, holding him as he coughed?”


“Gloin... would you sniff touch me?”


Gloin's hand fell upon her breast. “Here?” His finger flicked at her nipple through the soft shirt. “Here?” His hand slid upward, stroking her lips then her cheek. “Here?” His hand dove much lower, cupping her crotch hotly. His fingertips walked downward, pressing and teasing at what he and their husbands called her jewel. “Here,” he said, taking her hand and guiding it down to the rug. “Here where our husbands had each other. We'll have each other here, too, as if they were still here with us.”


She moaned. And her breath caught. “ehhh-oh Gloh Gloin-ehhhh!” He pressed a finger under her nose, scrubbing at her large, round nostrils for her. She relaxed, catching her breath a little. “Oh when you eh when you take your finger away, I'm going to sneeze so powerfully. I I c-ah can feel it building.”


His fingers of his other hand still teasing at her, he felt wetness down below and knew that meant she wanted him to go further. “Is something else building, love?” His hand beneath her skirt. His hand inside her soft, warm panties. His hand with two fingers dove inside her glorious cave while his thumb rubbed her jewel. She swayed forward, rocking against his touch, beautiful and teetering close to losing herself to it. “Sima,” he breathed excitedly. “My heart, ye're so wet.” His slick fingers slid out, swirled over her jewel, then dove back into the squelching wetness already dripping out of her. But there was more; her nose ran against his finger still pressed there. Her nose needed to run, needed to sniffle, needed to sneeze. “Now?” he asked.


She whimpered and bucked against him. “N-nearly. Keep... sniff keep going.”


Gloin was patient; he loved her stamina. When she felt well, she could make love all night, letting each one of her husbands take her in turn and, often, stroking herself to climax while watching her husbands pleasure each other. But with only two of them here now, there was no reason to wait or delay gratification. He wanted to make her feel good before the worst of the cold took hold in her nose. Luckily, Gloin knew just how to touch her. He sped up his rubbing and plunging while rubbing at her nose as well to keep her twitchy nostrils quiet just a little longer. Her sneezes would feel so good he feared one good one now would send her over the edge before she was truly ready. So he rubbed and stroked and called her every sweet name he had for her, cherishing the fact that tonight she was his and his alone to adore.


Finally, she gave a nod and he dropped his hand from her face. It took several seconds, but then her great chest rose, filling with air. Her eyes closed and nostrils went wide. Back went her head and body with it. Then she was thrown forward with the force of the powerful sneeze, impaling herself on his fingers once more. “EHHHHH-PITCHHEWWWW! EH-GIHTchhhhhhh! EHH-CHISHoooo! H'KTchooooo! EhhTihshhhhhhh! Eh-eh-ehhh! Ehhhh-IHTschhhhhhhhhhh!


As she sniffled, he pulled his hand out gently. As she snuffled, he wiped his hand on a handkerchief. He cupped a second clean handkerchief to her nose so that as she blew into it, he wiped her sweet treasure dry beneath her skirt as well.


In the end, he lay on the rug with her snuggled against his chest. “I'm afraid that won't be sniff the last of these sneezes. I do hope I don't keep you awake.”


“If it means more of this, I hope you do.” He kissed her deeply, reassuringly. “And if this means I get to catch that cold in your nose from you and have you rub my nose for me, I will kiss you all night long.”


“Ohh,” she sighed happily. “I miss the others so much already, but am glad to have you. I don't want you to sniff feel sick and miserable, but if we were both sneezing... we could play with each other and care for each other the way our husbands did here.”


“We could,” he agreed. “I would love for you to sneeze on me as I'm mining for your jewel.”


Her soft laugh betrayed her fatigue, and he stroked the back of her head, petting with a firm touch and steady rhythm.


“There now. Get some rest. I'll be right here.”


“Here,” she repeated again, one hand patting the fur beneath her. “Do you think our husbands thought about us when they touched each other, the way we're thinking of them?”


“I'm certain of it.”




Gloin woke in the middle of the night to an uncomfortable dampness. At first, he did not understand what it was, but he could not fall back to sleep because of the extreme, uncomfortable heat he felt and realized it then. “Sima,” he whispered. “My dear one...” He touched her forehead with the back of his hand and was not surprised to find her burning as hot as the fires in Eagen's kilnes. “Sima, wake, love. Wake.”


His deep, rumbling voice eased her out of her deep sleep. Her eyelids fluttered open, revealing eyes that were too-bright with fever. It was no wonder she had soaked through her clothes; he should have insisted they strip before falling asleep anyway. Now, it would be more difficult to do so. “Hot,” she told him. “So hot...”


“I understand.” He pawed at her shirt, diving under her beard to undo buttons. The wet fabric clung to her body, forcing him to pull and tug in different directions, working the garments off her voluptuous,  overheated form. Trapped under so many thick blankets with her, his own clothes had been sufficiently sweated through as well. So he stripped them both down to nothing and cleared away all the heavy furs. Of course she shivered at the change. But he eased her back down before swirling a dry woven blanket around them. And between the blanket and his warm body, there seemed to be enough warmth to drive her shivers clear away. “There now. Ready to try to sleep again?”


She was and she wasn't. Though her head bobbed up and down in affirmation against his bare chest, her breaths came as quick, shallow gasps. He wrapped an arm around her to steady her and keep her close. One great sneeze could dislodge the blankets now and make them both shiver with cold. This was a dance that required forethought, balance, and of course care. Of their husbands, Oin had always been the most tender, the most considerate. Gloin tried to channel some of that now as he took up a handkerchief and pressed it to her nose.


The very second it was in place, it was as though she had been waiting for it in order to sneeze. They burst from her, weak in strength but still terribly wet and entirely uncontrollable. “heyyehhhhhPTshhhh! EhhhKfffchhhhhhh! Ehh-ihhhhK'ddshhhhhhh! Kuhffchhhhhh!


“Blessings, blessing, my love.” He readjusted the handkerchief, which was sopping now but good for just one more thing. “Best to blow that drippy nose ye have. Maybe if ye clear it out, it will give ye  peace enough to sleep through the rest of the night.”


It was an unusual amount of optimism, given how her nose was already wrinkling more with the need to sneeze. But she blew the way he'd told her to, gurgling and messy and filling up the last bit of hankie, as Gloin knew she would. The force of the blow and the congestion made her cough a few times, but she settled down again and another blow came easier to her nose, and the next even easier than that.


“There's a good lass. Get all that out, all the sniffles and tickles. Clear out your poor, lovely nose.” Soothing words made her face droop and eyes fall closed. It was late, and she was ill. She needed this rest. They both did.


“If ye need me, wake me up. Understand, my heart? I don't want ye awake, feeling miserable and alone.”


She smiled and promised. Feeling reassured, Gloin closed his eyes, petting her until he drifted right off as well.




Gloin woke in what he assumed to be the morning to a disturbingly empty bed and a fierce itch at the back of his throat. He knew the latter indicated this cold was already in him, and the idea sent a thrilled shiver through him. All too soon he would soon be just as sniffly as his wife was. He listened for her sniffles and located her in the far, back corner of the room. Most of the candles he had lit last night had burned themselves down to the quick, but a few held fast and by their dim light, Gloin could just make her shape out amidst the shadows. She straddled a chamber pot, gripping it between her sizable thighs as she used it.


He suddenly felt a rush of urge to be between those thighs himself. Last night had been about her, about making her feel good despite her ailment, and he would not take back those moments of generous touching and cherishing back for anything. But he had certain needs as well and a morning hardness that just would not quit until he got some relief. Silently, internally, he urged her to come back to him.


She seemed to take forever to relieve herself. But finally she was back, slipping under the blanket and cuddling back up to him. She noticed his standing cock at once, of course. And she rubbed her hip against it enticingly, sniffling even as she felt it jerk with excitement and anticipation. “Good bordig, by Gloid-husbad.” Her nose was so stuffed up with cold already, and there was still fever in her eyes. But her smile was warm and inviting. And though his stomach already rumbled for breakfast, the rest of him cried out for her. If only she felt up to having him.


“I will go take care of myself,” he told her. His voice felt a little rough and he cleared his throat out of instinct, though he knew it would do no good if he really was starting to get sick. It would only get worse.


“You dod't trust be?” She sounded hurt but playful. And she proved her skill to him immediately with fingertips running the length of his erection.


He moaned with desire and need and had to use every ounce of self-restraint not to reach out to her and hold her to him so he could thrust up into her wet cave. “I don't trust myself. You're sick with fever and sniffles. It was fun last night before the cold grew so overpowering, but now it wouldn't be fair to you.”


“I'b a growd dwarrowdab. How about you let be decide for byself what I feel up to? Hey... heh-Yekkkschhhhh!”


She had a good point. But so did Gloin. “I would if ye could pronounce all those words right and keep from sneezing. Yer precious nose is so very stuffed and sneezy.”


“Yes, but by hadds are fide. I wadt to blease you the way you bleased be last dight. Sniff! Hehh ehhh-IHkkshhhhhh! Sniff! Besides, my sdeezes bake be feel good, add I wadt to blay with by husbad. Would you dedy be that bleasure?” Her smile was so genuine and so alluring at the same time. She coughed, and he watched her breasts bounce; he could not help looking. They were right in front of him, large and inviting. He wanted to wrap his mouth around a nipple and suck. He wanted to bury his face in-between her two large mountains and soak up her warmth. Most of all, he wanted her to stroke him until he came all over her hand. And the blanket. And the rug. No. No, this wasn't a good idea at all. He would refresh himself with some cool water and deal with this stiffie privately without bothering his poor, sick wife.


It was then that she wrapped her hand around his dick and began pulling. He gasped, startled, and her hand pulled away. She wriggled about a little, as though trying to get comfortable or adjust something. And when she touched his dick again, her fingers were slick with her own juices. He had never been so glad of his wife's stubborn streak. “Oh Sima!” he gasped.


His throat itched just then, the sudden intake of air scratching at it. So he did the only thing he could and scratched the roof of his mouth with his tongue. The momentary relief was wonderful, but when he swallowed afterward, pain shot down his throat. Miserable already, he tried to put it out of his mind. He was here to look after Sima, not to complain about his own cold. Besides, she was not complaining, so he had no right to either. She was sniffling and rubbing her nose with her free hand, fingers slightly splayed, but her other hand was making quick work of his erection. Unable to resist temptation, he leaned forward and took one of her nipples into his mouth. The pleasured sound she made as he touched his tongue to the hard as a diamond point made him leak.


As did her many reassurances. “Gloid-love, you're hard as a rock” and “I love whed you touch be like this. Do you like how I'b touching you or do you wadt be to stroke faster?” and “You're so close dow. Do you wadt to be idside be? I'b so ready for you to slide id already.” 


Gloin wanted to do just that. But the mere image of it in his mind was enough to set him over the edge. He had just enough time to grab a handkerchief to come copiously into.


His cheeks flushed with embarrassment, and he dared not open his eyes. He had come like a wee dwarfling just discovering his prize for the first time. What must she be thinking of him now?


Suddenly he felt her lips on his, wet and lush. Their mouths opened as the kiss deepened, transporting him to a place where he knew, no matter what had just happened, he was loved, adored. He dared open his eyes when the kiss ended, and looked into her beautiful eyes. “You'll catch by cold dow for certaid.”


He smiled at this. He was still a little out of breath, both from the orgasm and from the kiss. “I think I already have. My throat's all ticklish and scratchy this morning.”


“Ohhhh,” she crooned. “Oh, that bakes be so wet. Will you satisfy be dow? I deed your exbert touch. I feel so sdeezy add hot.”


Gloin's dick would not be hard again right away, so sliding into her would have to wait. She knew that as well as he did. There was still plenty he could do to please her, however. “As you desire, my love. I am here for you.” Gloin had never before met a dwarf who didn't like a good sneeze. The release was just as good as an orgasm. So when the sneezes started, it was difficult to keep from feeling hot in more ways than one. It was difficult to keep from wanting to be touched. Gloin might not have his Nord-husband's ability to tell a good story or his Toron-husband's strength or his Eagen-husband's cleverness or his Oin-husband's healing expertise. But he could do this much for her. He had promised to take care of her.


He could have touched her the way he had last night. She would have liked that very much. But, instead, he plumped up the pillows for her and laid her back upon them. Her auburn braids fell upon the pale white pillow. He pulled over a blanket, draping it over her and tucking it just above her chin, wanting to be sure she was as comfortable as possible. Finally, he pressed a handkerchief into her hand in case she had to sneeze while he was pleasing her. He was certain she would need it. Her nose was already twitching with need and sniffles.


So Gloin began with a strong kiss. He loved the way her tongue lapped back at his and her lips played hungrily at his. It was a kiss so good, he considered staying where he was and kissing her as he touched her beneath the blanket. He imagined how she would sniffle, and he would feel her nose twitch against his cheek, her nostrils a formidable presence against his skin. He imagined how she would sneeze, and he would feel the spray against his face.


But this wasn't about turning him on. This was all about her, and he wanted this to be special for her. That was why he eased out of the kiss gently, delivering one more loving peck on her lips for good measure. Then he slid down. He lifted the end of the blanket and nestled himself between her strong legs, right where he'd wanted to be since he'd woken up that morning. He covered her thighs with tiny kisses and nuzzles, his beard tickling her tender skin. She shivered in anticipation even before his warm mouth found her jewel and placed the tenderest kiss he had upon it.


“Oh Gloid. Yes. Yeh-ihhh-hehh-YIHchphhhhh!” He could tell from the beautifully muffled sound of the sneeze that she must have sneezed right into the hankie he'd given her. That gave him a bit of a thrill; he imagined her wiping her nose as he pleased her.


After Gloin ran his hands up and down her thighs, he gripped them to give himself a better position. He bent his neck and went in with loving technique, his tongue lapping at her jewel. His mouth covered it with heat and wetness even as she cried out in pleasure. After a minute, his tongue plunged into her wet cave for a taste of her sweetness, then he resumed his attentions on her jewel.


He'd known this cold would be making him sneeze soon. It wasn't all that surprising that he needed to do so already. It wasn't even surprising that the sneeze came out so quickly, before he could draw back at all. “hahhh-URRUTCHHHHHH!


Sima shrieked in sudden pleasure, surprised as well but oh, so excited at the sensation.


He drew back, out from under the blanket, sniffling. “So sorry, my heart. It came on so suddenly. I just couldn't help sneezing.” He sniffed and scrubbed a thick finger under his nose. “Think I'm getting sick. I think I caught your cold.”


She groaned and reached down, digging her fingers into his hair. “Do it again,” she told him. “It felt so woderful whed you sheezed od be. Do it agaid.”




“Yes. Ohhhhh yes blease. Sdeeze od be there.”


“I can't sniff! I can't refuse you, Sima.” So he threw the blanket over himself and dove back in like a swimmer in an underground lake, looking for hidden treasure. He didn't feel much like sneezing again right away, but as he rubbed his nose against her nest of curly, dark hair, the urge flared back up. He put his nose right up against her hard but sensitive jewel so that she could feel his nostrils twitching and leaking just a little.


He gasped and gripped her legs tightly. His fingers twitched. So did his nose. Then “uhhh-URTChhhoo! HURTSChhoo! Uhhh-Sim-urhhhh-HUR-URTSHAHHHH!


It took three whole sneezes for the tickle to have its way with him and work its way out of his nose but only one to help his wife reach her climax. Even after the sneezes had passed, he continued to caress her jewel with his wet nose until she stopped shaking and moaning. Then he wiped his nose against her thigh and emerged from beneath the blanket again.


He didn't need to ask if she felt good. Her grin and the pleasure-glazed look in her eyes told him that much. It had been quick for her, just as it had been for him, but she looked happy enough about it. This time, when he went under the blanket, it was to cuddle up to her side under it. He took her hand where it lay on her chest, slowly rising and falling.


“Did it feel good to sdeeze?” she asked him.


“Of course. Sniff! Sniiiffff!” There was nothing like a good, strong dwaven sneeze. It was like blissful relief when one came out, and three in quick succession was even more pleasuable. “Felt theb sniff through my sniff whole body.”


She raised her hankie to his nose for him, and he nuzzled into it with his sniffly nose. “They felt good agaidst by treasures as well,” she told him. “I wadt to feel that agaid. I wadt to feel your sdeezes all over be whed your cold gets worse.”


“Whatever ye want, my love. But, in the meantime, how about breakfast?”


Sima agreed with an eager nod.


Gloin got up and replaced the candles around the room. He sneezed on one as soon as he lit it, immediately extinguishing the flame and causing it to fail to relight. But there were boxes of candles by each holder throughout the room, so he pressed his hand to his nose to contain any further sneezes as he lit another one in its place.




Gloin had a handkerchief clutched beneath his nose with one hand as he dipped a cloth into the basin of cool water. Sima's fever had been up and down all day. When she had told him she wasn't interested in sex, only sleeping, he had known there was a problem. And he had thought, at first, of calling in his brother. But a cool bath would probably bring down her fever, and Gloin could handle that much.


In fact, he was enjoying it. Even with a nose that refused to stop running and his own fever that made him feel a little dizzy and touch-sensitive, his wife could still make him feel good. And there was such a beauty in her just now, laid out on her back with him on one side and a roaring fire a few feet away on her other side. Her voluptuous body shone with droplets of sweat and water. He wiped cool water across her brow, down her cheek, over one shoulder, and along her arm.


She was fast asleep, unable to enjoy his touch or his sneezes. Unable to enjoy much, in fact, as it seemed she was suffering from bad fever dreams. He had tried already to wake her from them, but she was too deeply asleep. So all Gloin could do was try to lower her temperature and wait for the dreams to pass.


He wasn't doing well on either count. She still seemed so hot to the touch, which was saying a lot as he knew he was running a fever as well. Gloin had considered getting a cut of meat out of the chest in the far corner of the kitchen here. There was a cold current from the caves below that ran through the rocks there, which conveniently kept their food cold.  He could wrap the meat in a cloth and press that to her forehead or neck. But he was worried that anything too extremely cold might not be good for her. And he was just generally worried. He liked to see her sneeze, but he did not like to see her miserable or suffering. And he felt useless to help her. It was so difficult to be patient when he felt so worried.


After dipping the cloth back in the basin, Gloin lifted her beard and placed the cool, wet cloth between her breasts. She shivered suddenly, involuntarily. “Sorry,” he apologized, though he knew perfectly well she couldn't hear him.


And, indeed, instead of answering him, she whimpered and gave a most un-dwarfish squeak before turning her head one way, then the other, a slave to whatever nightmare had hold of her.


“You're all right,” he reassured her, hoping his words would somehow reach her. “I'b here for... for... for yehhhhh... uhhhh... UHHHHERSchhhhhhhh!” He sneezed freely, forgetting his handkerchief until the sneeze had already had its way with him. He beat the next one back by blowing his nose and quashing the tickle. He knew it would soon return. This cold was too intense for that. In fact, he felt sneezy all the time now. He just wished Sima was awake to enjoy it.


He dipped the cloth into the bowl again and placed it on her belly, watching the water droplets rain down either side of her body. The reflections of flames from the fire were caught by many of the drops, flashing golds and oranges.




In the middle of the night, Gloin felt himself being shaken awake. His first reaction was, naturally, panic. Looking after Sima that day while suffering from his own head cold had been more difficult than he had imagined. He had thought it would be romantic for both of them to have colds at the same time. He had thought it would be easy to take care of his lover, even if he were sneezing, that the sneezing would mean they would be making love over and over again. Instead, he just felt tired.


And ill.


And panicked. “What is it, love?”


And sneezy. He rubbed at his nose. Awake three seconds and already he felt like sneezing. This was such a tickly cold they'd caught.


“I c-cah-ihhh-yihh-YEHTschhhhh! Cad't stob sdee-sdeezig ehhh-Kehtschhhhh! HehKehtchhhh!


“Oh, sweet Siba,” he sat up to face her and slid a hand around to the small of her back, rubbing in concern. “How cad I helb?” Some time during the day, he had noticed he sounded stuffed up. He had tried blowing his nose a hundred times to clear it, but his nose just kept running no matter how many times he blew it. It even ran when Sima held the handkerchief for him to blow into; it had no respect.


She shook her head at him. “Doe. I dod't wad it to stob yet. It's bakig be... Gloid, I... I... I ehhh-IHKTschhhhhh!


“Let be get you a hadkerchief. At the very least, you deed subthig to sdeeze idto.”


“You. I wadt... ehhhKIHHShuhhhh!


h'URSCHhhhhh!” Gloin echoed, the sneeze bursting suddenly from him, as if in sympathy. Or excitement. “Uh.” He cupped a hand to his nose, sniffling. It had felt so good. Too good. Despite feeling ill, he also felt the arousal that came with such release. Was that what she had been trying to tell him? “Siba? Sniff! Are you...”


She was. Oh, yes, she was. Sima moved in close, her breath already hitching, and grabbed hold of his shoulders. “I wadt... wadt ehhh... wadt...” She rolled them to the side so that she was on her back and he was on top of her. “Ehhhhh-IHHHPTShhhhh!” She sneezed, her whole body shaking even though his weight held her down. “Wadt you,” she finished, charming and sheepish in an endearing way.


He was captivated by her sneeze. There were droplets in her beard... in his too. Despite what she'd said before, he leaned over and grabbed a handkerchief. But immediately she shook her head. “Dod't... wadt to blow. ehhh-IIHHHHHKShhhhhh! Dod't wadt to sniff stob sdeezing yet.”


“All... all right.” He dabbed their beards dry before setting the handkerchief down. If she was going without for a few minutes, so could he. Her stamina and strength was enviable on the best of days; they some of the things he had first loved about her. And they had served her well today, as they'd made love numerous times. But Gloin worried he might not be able to live up to her expectations this particular time. He was still exhausted and really not feeling so well. But if she were ready for this, he didn't want to disappoint her. Besides, her sneezes really were magnificent. “Uhrrr-SHIHKKSHHHHH!” And his weren't so bad either.


She moaned, bucking under him, as the cool, fine mist fell upon her fever-hot body. She arched her back, breasts so high and closer to him now he could have leaned forward and sucked a nipple. And he wanted to. But, instead, he sneezed again. “uhhh Sib-uhhh UHHERTCHHhhhhhhh! Uh just could't helb it, love.”


She moaned again. “Your ehhh-EhhhKTPtchhhhh! Sniff! Oh, your woderful, sdeezy dose! Feels so good whed you sdee-sdeeze od be. Ehhh! EhhhTKKShhh” She reached up, touching her finger to the tip of his nose. That made it tickle all the more. “Do it agaid. Right here...” She slid her hand to the back of his head, fingers getting lost in his thick, brown hair. She pulled his head toward her, directing his head toward her breasts, as if he wanted to be anywhere else just now.


“I'b uhhhI'b godda uhhhh sdeeze od yer yer yuh--”


“Oh!” Her breath was racing. “Yes. There!”


But, sneezy or not, Gloin was determined to finish his statement. “Yuh! Yer b-breh huh! Uhhhhh! Breasts uhh Uh-HERSHHHUHHH! UHKK-TRRCHHhhhhhh!


For a moment, Gloin was worried she might reach her peak. But his wife held back; she didn't want this to be over yet either.


Sniffing wetly, wiping his nose on his shoulder and arm. He tingled with warmth and need throughout his body. He needed to sneeze. And he needed relief.


He needed her.


“Siba? Are you--”


“Dribbig,” she answered. “Your sdeezes are so strog.”


“Ye're wet edough already?” She nodded, sniffling. He believed her, but wanted to give her more reasons to be wet and dripping. “I dod't believe you,” he chuckled and slid down. A taste revealed she'd been telling the truth, but he gave another chuckle. “Oh, dot wet edough yet. I thidk I deed to... to helb. Sniff!” He looked up at her from below. “Would you like that?”


She bit her lip and nodded fervently.


It didn't take two seconds. “Uhhhh-URSchhuhhhhhh!” This time, he not only sprayed her jewel, but everywhere between her legs and part of her belly, too. “Sniff! Uh still could be uhh-huhhh wetter. Uhhhh... Sib-uhhhhHURRSHUHHHHH!


She laughed, reaching down for him. “I'b wet! I'b so wet!” She cocked her head, smiling down at him. “Dow get idside be, love.”


That didn't take two seconds either. This was just how he'd imagined their time in isolation would be. Just the two of them making love over and over again. He had to ignore the lightheadedness he was feeling right now as he panted and thrust into her, but that was easily done compared to how good it felt to be inside her. And he had to ignore the itchy, runny nose that he secretly really did want to blow, even if she didn't want him to. And the ache settling in his head. And shoulders. And back. And the raw, constant scratchiness of his throat. And the intense fatigue he felt washing over him. He wanted her, yes, but he also wanted to be asleep again.


After this, he knew he could be. After this, he could swirl the blankets around himself and cuddle up with his head on her bosom and sleep soundly until morning.


Ehh-YihhhkTIHShihhhh!” She sneezed up at him.


And “URRCHHHH!” He sneezed back, unable to control his nose, so full of cold it was.


Ehh... have to... ehhhhh sdeeze so buch. But ehhhh it feels so good Ehhhhh-PIHTSChhhhh! So good to sdeeze with you.”


She was doing this for him. He loved the way the sneezes threw her upward, bringing her closer to him as he slid ever deeper into her. She was a cavern he could never reach the end of.


So of course he came first, in the end. He lost himself in her hot body and luscious red nose and dripping wet cave. He came powerfully, gasping and coughing, then collapsed on top of her without meaning to. “I'b sorry,” he said, weak beyond belief. His orgasm had robbed him of his strength, leaving him a grateful pile of heavy dwarf weighing Sima down. “I... tried, but I cuh I... could't...”


“Oh sdeeze. Yes. Yes, sdeeze!”


He did. “Uhhhhh-HURSCHHHHH!” He sprayed her with his loud, strong, unrestrained sneeze. His hands reached down, squeezing her slippery breasts, caressing her sneeze-soaked nipples. She shook beneath him, quivering and crying out in fierce pleasure.


When he finally pulled out of her, they were both still out of breath from it all. But she looked up at him with such gratitude and adoration he hardly noticed how dizzy he felt. “Are you all right?” Even dizzy and ill, he thought to ask it of her.


She nodded at once.


Gloin rolled off her, coughing a little. Then he raised his head. “How about that hadkerchief dow?” He hoped that she wouldn't hear the pleading tone in his voice.


She nodded again and lifted her head to facilitate the snuffling and rubbing into the clean, dry cloth he held out for her. Then she wriggled out from beneath him as he helped himself to a handkerchief and few fierce, full, gurgling blows. His nose felt sore as he blew it, and he wondered if it was as red as hers yet. It was amazing how he could be both miserable and attracted at the same time, even after such spectacular sex as that with her.


“I really ab all wet,” she laughed, looked down at herself and feeling between her legs with one hand. “I woder how that habbed.”


“Cad't ibagine,” he played along. But sleep was threatening to sneak up on him again already. Knowing that when it came, it would be strong, he wanted her all wrapped up and comfortable before he crashed.  “Would you like be to get you... a bladket? Or—”


“Oh doe,” she replied. “I'b still too worked ub to be able to get ady sleeb. And dow you've sdeezed all over be. I defindetly deed a bath. I thidk you brobably do as well.”


She was right. Between their juices and their sneezes, he was a mess. And just because his nose was terribly stuffed-up so he couldn't smell didn't mean they shouldn't be clean.


So he pushed off the floor and demanded a standing position from his aching body. Then, bracing himself, he helped her to her feet and bore part of her weight as she leaned on him during the journey to the far corner of the room. It wasn't until he was done drawing the bath, alternating hot and cold to get the perfect temperature from the clever faucet their Eagen-husband had installed, that he realized he had left the handkerchiefs back by their blankets. It was only across the room, but it was much too far for him to go, feeling dizzy and weak as he did now. Besides, if he went near those blankets again, he risked them calling out to him. He might accidentally curl up in them and fall right to sleep and leave her alone here. He couldn't allow himself to do that.


So he held out a hand to her in offering and helped her climb safely into the tub. Her body sank beneath the water, inch by inch, until her chin touched the water. Her smile was lovely, but the wet sound of her sneeze as it hit the water was irresistible. “ehhh-Hihjjschxxxt!”


Gloin grabbed soap and cloths for washing before climbing into the bath as well. The tub was large enough for three grown dwarves, so the two of them fit perfectly with room to spare. And the water felt as pleasant as he had imagined it would, especially as he washed the sweat and stickiness off his skin.


It felt good to be clean. It felt good to be warm. It felt good to share this with Sima. He soaped up a cloth for her and washed her chest, her neck, her back where she could not reach. She purred with happiness as he cleaned her and she him. He loved the care she took as she slid the other soapy cloth against his skin. Everything went well, in fact, until he started washing her hair. As Gloin lathered up, he realized too late that he'd used altogether too much soap.


The bubbles went everywhere, covering her hair as he kneaded his hands into the dark auburn curls but also her back and the surface of the water. If he hadn't been ill as well, he might have been able to escape without incident. But the tiny bubbles tickled his already sensitive nose and he just couldn't keep from sneezing, no matter how he tried to scrub his nose back and forth against his wet shoulder.


UhhhKDSCHHH! Buh uh-KERSCHHHH! KEHTChooo! B'lady, I cad't uhhh uhhhURTSChhhhhh! Cad't helb this. The buh uhhh uhhh uhhhhhhhhhhh HURSHUHHH! Snrfff! The bubbles tih-uhh tick-uhhhh!” Somehow, he managed to pull away from his beautiful wife and climb out of the slippery-sided bathtub without hurting himself. But even away from the bubbles, they tickled his nose dreadfully. “uhhh uhhhhHERTSChhhhhhhh!


He huddled on the floor, wet and shivering and sniffling, in such a helpless mess. The only saving grace was that Sima could hear him but couldn't see how miserable he was feeling. He didn't want her feeling guilty for waking him up and sending him down this path. “uhhh-HURTSchhhhh! HERSchuhhhhh! Heh huhhh uhhhhh huhhhhh-URTISHHHHHHHH!


“Oh Gloid!” she gasped, and he heard movement in the water. “Hnngh! Yes...” He just knew she was touching herself to the sound of his sneezes. Just as hers sounded wonderful to him, she loved the sound of his. And if he felt any better, he'd help her along with her arousal. He'd reach under the water and caress her breasts while her fingers slid back and forth across her jewel. He would whisper and sneeze against her fever-sensitive neck, teasing her with build-ups and trailing wet against her skin.


But Gloin felt especially bad just now. Exhausted and sneezy, with all the energy in him completely drained away. He needed proper sleep, though first he needed to sneeze out this current, ever-lasting tickle.


“Gloid... bore. So close... blease?”


He could not reply. He was just too sneezy, the feeling stuck in his nose, flaring up every time his nostrils flared with a tiny breath. He tried clearing his throat and sniffling back tickles in his nose so he could reply properly. But that didn't work quite as he'd intended and only made his nose tickle all the more. “huhhURTSchh! HERShuhh! HuhShuhhh! KERSHHHooo! KEHTCHoooo!


She came with an overwhelming shudder and a great moan of satisfaction, which he was happy to hear.


He just wished he could have enjoyed it more. He felt worn out and his nose was dripping unchecked like a great mountain waterfall now. Eyes full of tears but shut tight, he blindly felt around for anything that would help. “KERChooo! HEHarchhhh!” His hand seized upon something warm and thick and dry and immediately pressed it to his suffering nose. It turned out to be a bath towel, a fluffy beige bath towel, that he buried his sneezy nose into, hoping for some relief. “KERCHffffffff!


That had felt good. In fact, sneezing into the towel felt better than he'd felt in some time. The thickness was reassuring against his strong sneezes. “heuh heyahhhh... KEHHRuffffffff!” And the softness didn't even hurt his sore nose that much. He wondered if Sima would mind if he brought the towel back to bed with him after this; she would be welcome to use it herself, when she sneezed, if she wanted to so long as he got part of it when he felt an especially big sneeze coming on. The towel was just so big, it would be able to contain so very many sneezes. Oh, he needed it again already. “hah hurrr-CHISHufffffffff!


He lowered the towel and leaned back against the tub, clunking his head against it in a way that sounded worse than it felt. He kept his eyes closed, unable to find the strength to so much as open them.


A dripping hand came from above and touched his forehead. It somehow magically felt both warm and cool against his skin. “Are you all right?” she asked her husband.


“Tired,” he tried to explain, though the word came out in something closer to a grumble. He didn't mean to complain, he really didn't.


“Oh.” She sounded disappointed. Then she seemed to understand. “Oh! Add I woke you ub frub deep sleeb add kebt you up! I'b so sorry!”


He forced a smile, knowing she couldn't see it but that she would be able to hear it in his tone of voice. “It's all right. I told you at the start of all this that you should wake be up. I beadt it.” He had meant it, truly. He wouldn't have been able to live with himself if something had happened to her and he'd slept through it all.


But the truth was he was really feeling terrible now. His head was spinny, dizzy, and body covered in gooseflesh from his shivering. And the tickle was still there. “huhhh uhh HurtCHHFFFFFF!” He wiped the towel at his runny nose.


“Oh Gloid... whed you sdeeze like that, it bakes be feel like sdeezing too. Ihhhhh-kikkktttshhhhhhh!” she sneezed into the water, then groaned again. “So good. Sniff! Feels so good to sdeeze. I thidk... I thidkt I deed to bleasure byself agaid already.”


“Take your bleasure, by love.”


It was good, Gloin thought to himself, as he heard her steady, rhythmic gasps and the water lapping against the side of the tub, that there were so many dwarf men in their family. Sima could outlast all of her husbands combined, on a good night. That was just how dwarrowdams were made. Though on a night like tonight, when it felt so good to have sneezes take over her body and to listen to her lover sneezing right beside her, it was no wonder she couldn't stop being turned on.


“Nnnn... ihhhhh!


“I'b right here,” he promised. “Dot goig adywhere. Huhhh Add by ticklig dose isn't either. Huh-uhhhh!




Maybe he couldn't bathe her the way he wanted. Maybe he didn't have the energy now to climb into the tub and slip inside her or even rub her to climax. But he could sit here and sneeze for her. That much he could do. “huhhh...” he lifted his head from the towel so she would be able to hear his breaths as they hitched uncontrollably. “uhh huhh huhhhh uhher... Hur-CHIHshooo! H'URSChhhhh!


“Ohhhh! Ihh-YIHtchhh! OH!








When she reached her peak this time, she screamed out with pleasure so loudly Gloin wondered if one of their husbands might come running over in concern, though none did. And, this time, she sounded fully satisfied. As he blew his nose into the towel, she washed quickly. By the time she stood up in the tub to get out, he'd managed to find the strength to stand and reach out to help her. “Back to bed?”


He wrapped a clean, fluffy towel around her and then also wrapped his arm around her. Leaning on each other, they got back safely to their nest of blankets near the fireplace. The fire had long since burned out, and Gloin knew he wouldn't have the energy to relight it until after he had a few good hours of sleep. He could still see her by the light of a few candles around the room.




And he wasn't going to get any sleep if they kept sneezing like this. Desperate to clear his thumping, ticklish nose, he found the towel Sima had slithered out of in favor of the blankets. With a deep breath, Gloin blew his nose. It took more than a dozen snuffles and blows to finally drive the sneezy feeling from his nose. When he moved to settle back down, he found Sima already curled up and snoring. Full of adoration for his wife, he was glad to get to snuggle up beside her and sleep for a little while, at least.


Except now that he finally had opportunity to sleep, he found himself unable to do so. It wasn't that he wasn't exhausted, because he was definitely tired. The problem was that he was over-tired. “Hurrruhshhhh!” And so congested his head felt thick and full with it. It thumped when he tried to close his eyes, and he became acutely aware of his own heartbeat and ragged breathing. It seemed too loud, too painful. There was something wrong, and he couldn't wake Sima up to tell her, couldn't bother her with his complaint.


Gloin didn't want any of his husbands to fall ill again; he wouldn't wish this sort of misery on any of them a second time. But he felt lonely again and missed them all. Having so many people in the family meant there was almost always someone to complain to when you needed to get something off your chest. It meant there was always someone to stay up with you when you had insomnia and couldn't sleep. He missed that so much now.


There was nothing to do except lie there and hope that sleep would eventually take him like it had taken Sima.


An uneven, stuffy snore came from his wife, and Gloin was filled with both love and jealousy. He wanted to sleep like that. He felt hot and sniffly and altogether miserable; he just wanted to go back to sleep and be ignorant of it for a little while.


He tried closing his eyes and counting cave cats. He tried relaxing his body as much as possible. He tried singing to himself. He might have drifted off for a few brief moments, but nothing seemed to put him to sleep.


A few hours later, as Sima began to stir, he was glad to be awake to see it. Her fever was hitting another of its high peaks. He tried to wake her with a shake to her shoulder, but all she did was whimper and thrash. She was so hot to the touch he couldn't stand being trapped under the blankets with her. He tried fanning her with his hand or flapping the blanket in her direction. Most of the candles around the room had flickered out or burned down to a puddle of wax now, but by the dim light of the few that remained, Gloin could see how his wife's skin shone with sweat, making it look gorgeous for all the worry that came with it. If only he knew what he could do for her now.


When it came right down to it, it had been a rough few days and even rougher few nights.


He didn't just need any one of his husbands there, he needed Oin. Oin would know what to do. Oin would know how to help. But he didn't want to call his big brother to clean up his problem. He didn't want to show his brother he couldn't handle this.


The idea that he and Sima could take care of each other had seemed so perfect, so romantic even. They could wipe each other's noses and keep each other warm. But neither of them were in any position right now to do any care-giving. Sima was unconscious with a high fever and Gloin felt so weak with fatigue he could barely hold a handkerchief to his constantly bothersome nose. He needed someone else to do that for him. He could feel his nose dripping even now, sliding down toward his mustache and upper lip. He sniffed madly, constantly, trying to keep it in check, but so many sniffs were making him feel lightheaded.


Sima whimpered in her sleep, another nightmarish fever dream taking hold. And Gloin tried to reach out to her, tried to comfort her. But he felt hot like he was sitting too close to a fire and high like he was at the top of a mountain where air was too thin. His heart started to race. His body began to sway. And a moment later he crashed hard.



When he woke, he found his upper body elevated, head cushioned upon several feather-filled pillows. In each of his hands was a fresh white handkerchief. And covers had been drawn up to his waist. He looked around, finding the isolation room lit once again in a cheerful, bright glow from tall candles. He spotted Sima not far away, a cool compress upon her forehead and her Oin-husband sitting just behind her, holding her up with one arm. She leaned back against him, covering his left half, but on his right thigh rested a bowl of what looked like broth. He had one arm around her body and the other he used to spoon broth to her lips.


Oin looked past their wife and saw that Gloin was awake. A gentle smile greeted him. “I found ye passed out on the floor. Does your head hurt?”


It did hurt, but it was only a dull ache, nothing so sharp as one of Toron's axes. “Ndot badly.”


“Glad to hear it, love. I could not find a bump on your head, though I checked.” He switched gracefully now from concerned lover to worrying older brother. “Why didn't ye call for me?” Gloin had no answer. Now that it was out there, hanging between them in the air, it did appear to be such a good solution. He had wanted Oin, and now Oin was here. All he would have had to have done was call for him. Yet, he hadn't wanted to do that. “Did you want to keep our Sima all to yourself, hmm?”


A shiver ran through Gloin. “It has beend good. But I did ndot wandt to bother you. You spbendt over two weeks id here, carindg for our husbandds. Add you had to look after Gibli.”


“And I will spend however long it takes in here until you both are felling better. Wee Gimli is well. The lad is in the good hands of his other fathers. The best way to help him is ensure that the two of you get well again. This has been a terrible cold sweeping through our home, but I've learned well how best to fight it.”


huhhhhhh...” Gloin huffed, raising a tired hand and pressing the soft, clean hankie to his sore nose. “huhhhhhh HUH HUHHHHH-URKJJDShhhhhhhhh!” He was tossed forward from the force, right off the pillows, but his nose was buried in the handkerchief's deep folds and he fell back onto the soft mountain of pillows afterward.


“Goodness! Bless you. Come,” Oin beckoned. Or was it more of a command from his big brother? “Cuddle up with me.”


But Gloin did not move. He could not move. He had made a promise and had broken his word so badly now. He had sworn to their wife that he would care for her, even if he were ill and sneezy. And the moment that had been too difficult, he had passed out. Even before that, he had desperately needed his big brother to take charge of the situation. And now, here he was doing just that. Gloin was no longer necessary. “I dod't thig there's roob for be.”


Oin smiled back kindly, softly. He could not have known the thoughts racing around inside his brother's mind, but he couldn't have missed the tone of voice, the dejected deepness, the sad slowness. “I think ye'll find there is,” Oin said with a familiar tenderness. “You can come over here and let me hold you tight as you hold our wife.” Oin cuddled Sima to his chest and patted the spot in front of him. “We already miss you.”


It was Sima's whimper and hand reaching out to him that made Gloin's up for him. Taking his handkerchief with him, he crawled over to them. It took some shuffling, which came with its own share of grunts and nudges, to get settled. But, once they had, Gloin felt even worse. This was a sham. Taking care of the ill was what Oin was good at. Gloin had no place trying it. He had been placated and tricked into thinking he mattered to them now. Hot, angry tears welled up in the corners of his eyes, threatening to roll down his cheeks. If he weren't so sick still, he would leave the room. But now he was doubly stuck and with nowhere to go.


“Godda-yih!” Sima gasped. Instinctively, Gloin reached around and held a handkerchief to her face just  in time to catch a sneeze. “yihh-KIHTshhhhh! IhhhHihschhuhh!” But even this gesture left him feeling empty and shamed. This was a farce, a play. Oin was the real caretaker in the family, not him. That had been proven already today. A sob caught in his throat. Sima felt like an immovable weight against his chest, trapping him there. His heart began to race as panic took hold. He had to go and, if he couldn't do that because he didn't want to break isolation with this cold, then he had to move away. Oin could care of Sima well, and Gloin could curl up on the far side of the room. He could lie there, miserable, as he listened to his brother and wife cuddle. She would sneeze into his chest instead. He would be there to hold the handkerchief to her dripping, cold-filled nose instead. And they would touch each other in pleasure without him.


“Did ye know,” Oin began, his voice still soft but now also full of reason. “When I was in here, trying to care for our husbands, I passed out?”


Gloin's breath caught. His head jerked to the side, catching sight of his brother out of the corner of his eye. “Truly?”


“Aye. I was terribly ill and overworked. It is difficult to take care of someone when you do not feel well yourself. And this is an especially awful cold. I know that sneezes feel amazingly good for a while at first, but once that turns into a sore red throat full of coughs and a sore red nose full of runs and a fever that just won't break, it's no fun at all. It can become overwhelming.”


Gloin swallowed hard. That was just how he had felt—all of it. And then Oin had come in and taken over, cleaning up the mess his baby brother had made. “So... what habbeded whed you bassed out?”


“The others took care of me until I was strong enough again. And they took care of each other, too.” Oin paused to take a deep breath. Or had it been a little sigh? “At first it was difficult letting them do that. My place is to take care of the sick. It's what I'm the best at. And if I could not do that, what good was I to them? But, as I watched Frár tend to Nord's running nose and watched Eagen wrap fireside-warmed blankets around them both, I realized that what mattered the most to me was that my beloved husbands were taken care of and comfortable.” He paused again, taking an arm from around Gloin and easing the other clean handkerchief from his hand. He wiped beneath Gloin's nose then at Gloin's teary eyes before the tears dared fall. “After that, we all took care of each other, and I let them care for me as well when I wasn't feeling especially good either.” His voice went impossibly softer, so that only Gloin could hear, right in his ear. “I would be honored if you would let me care for you when you don't feel so good.”


Gloin turned his head further, straining his neck to be able to see Oin. “I would like that, by husbad.”


Oin took one of the handkerchiefs from him and pressed it to Gloin's nose, wiping tenderly. Content in the knowledge that Oin would catch his sneezes in it, when they came, Gloin cuddled Sima closer against his chest and closed his eyes.