Title: Settling

Author: tarotgal

Fandom: Lord of the Rings

Rating: PG

Pairing: Legolas/Gimli, past Legolas/Aragorn implied

Warnings: Implied (slash) sexual relations, but nothing more than (smarmy) hugs and kisses are actually seen. Also very, very mild stomach flu-like scenes over halfway into it. Very mild, I promise.

Spoilers: I don't think this gives anything away

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: Aragorn comes down sick as he, Legolas, and Gimli are off on a journey.

Feedback: Yes please!

Notes: Translations can be found at the end of this story.





     The woods were thick and the air was crisp. The leaves had already begun to fall for the season and dryly crunched beneath their feet. Aragorn's steps crinkled several at a time, Gimli's were the heaviest and loudest, and Legolas' the lightest. The passages between trees were quite narrow and they had to go on foot to get the two horses through well enough. Thus they had to move relatively slowly. They trudged along, their pace slowing more and more until Aragorn stopped completely. "We should set up camp here," he said, clearing his throat to sound dignified.


     "We can go a bit further still before it starts getting dark," Legolas observed, looking up at the sky. "We are still a long ways off."


     But Aragorn shook his head, his mind made up. They had been awake since before dawn, with barely anything to eat and little time to rest. His body ached desperately for it. And though he knew they really should go on until after dusk as Legolas suggested, he simply did not have the energy. Besides, this was the first clearing in the woods they had found since journeying and there was no telling where another might be. Luckily, no one objected further. "Set up here." He slung his pack down and rubbed his stubble-covered chin as though in thought. "We will need a fire and I will clear some space for us to set up."


           Gimli put down his things at the foot of a tree and heaved a relieved sigh. His legs weren't as long as his companions', and for every step they took, he had to take two. While neither Legolas nor Aragorn outwardly showed signs of fatigue, Gimli was more than ready to stop. "I shall get some wood then." And he headed into the woods decidedly, leaving both his axes behind.


     Aragorn watched Gimli go. He took in a sudden, involuntary breath, closing his eyes tightly, pursing his lips. Then he sighed, his body relaxing, nostrils twitching with the remnants of a tickle that had been pushed away. He sniffed and ran a knuckle beneath his nose to rid himself of the rest of the sensation. He looked over at Legolas and saw the elf turn his head quickly away with a look of understanding Aragorn did not like.


     Glad for a few moments alone to speak with Aragorn, Legolas put down his things as well. "Do you remember that time many years ago when my father and I visited Rivendell? I spent the whole week with your brothers because you were ill and did not want anyone near you while you coughed and sneezed and such."


     Aragorn recalled the incident only too well. Aragorn had barely permitted Elrond entry to his chambers, and that was only to deliver food and medicinal teas. His nose had been so full and his throat so sore. He hadn't wanted anyone to see him, but above that hadn't wanted anyone to hear him talk. "I remember." Legolas said nothing, simply looked at Aragorn with suggestive suspicion. "Are you trying to insinuate that I might be unwell?" Slowly, he raised an eyebrow, prodding Aragorn forth. "Well you can put your astute Elvish observations away because I am well enough." He found himself backing into a tree as he crossed his arms firmly in front of his chest. "But I appreciate your concern."


     Legolas hesitated for another moment, then nodded. "Fine. I shall go help Gimli with the firewood then." And his mischievous smile showed that he greatly looked forward to some time alone with the dwarf as well. At Aragorn's approving nod, he headed off into the woods in the direction Gimli had gone in.


     Aragorn waited to hear the elf's soft footsteps disappear before heaving a deep sigh and sliding down with his back to the trunk. He gave another sigh as he wrapped his arms around bent legs and lifted his head upwards, sniffling from a runny nose. He didn't exactly like lying to Legolas, but he hadn't wanted to admit that the elf's comments were bang on.


     He allowed his body to relax, and as it did, his nose tickled madly and his body took in a deep breath. "HUHH..." He fished around in his pocket desperately for a handkerchief, sniffing and wiggling his nose in a way that would embarrass him utterly had he been watched. But the measures managed to keep the tickle at bay just long enough for him to produce his handkerchief and lift it to his face in time. "RUSHOO! Ahhh-HURSHOO! ARSHOO!" he caught his breath for a moment after the three quick and forceful sneezes, but the tickles persisted. "hahh-HEH-shoo! hur-Choo!" He sniffed and wiped his nose, looking around instinctively to be sure he was still alone. And he coughed, clearing his throat again and wincing as he tried to swallow. Why did the elf always have to be right about these things?




     Gimli and Legolas returned to the clearing close to three quarters of an hour later. Legolas was tousle-haired and flushed in the cheeks. Gimli was panting heavily. And neither came bearing any firewood at all. They stopped as they came upon the campsite, looking quite as they had left it, apart from Aragorn. Gimli made to trudge ahead, but Legolas held out an arm to stop him, hold him back. "Wait," he suggested, looking over at Aragorn. "He's fast asleep."


     "Asleep?" Gimli whispered back. Aragorn was, indeed, asleep. Asleep with his back against the tree, his arms crossed over his knees, his head sideways upon his arms, and his mouth hanging open with gentle snores.


     "He's sick," Legolas explained softly, sounding sympathetic. "Though he would surely rather fight off an army of Orcs single-handedly than admit to it."


     Gimli looked up at Legolas with a mix of shock and confusion. "Sick?" he asked.


     Legolas chuckled. "Sick. Do dwarves not fall sick from time to time? Must I explain the concept to you?"


     With a grumble, Gimli shook his head. "What should we do about it?"


     Legolas thought for a moment. He sighed and wrapped an arm around Gimli's shoulders. Then, decisively, "All that we possibly can." He gave Gimli's far shoulder a gentle squeeze. "We should boil him some water, and make sure he stays warm and dry tonight. We should try to get him to eat a bit tonight, but let him sleep all he can." He bent down a bit and gave the dwarf a strong kiss on the top of his head. "And we should actually go get some firewood this time and keep the fire going all night to keep him warm."


     Gimli looked worried, but nodded. "For an immortal, you seem to know much about sickness."


     "For a mortal you seem to know little." Gimli scowled. "It appears to be just a head cold. Congestion, coughing, sneezing, a mild fever at worst. Give him a good night's rest and he will be fine. No need to worry."


     "Who said I was worried?" he snapped. "I never said that I was worried."


     Legolas gently stroked the dwarf's head, running his hand against the bushy hair. "You did not have to say it. Besides... I am a little worried as well. I would like to be able to give him some tea or have some medicinal oils at his disposal to help the cold move quickly through him. But I suppose we must settle for what we do have and what Aragorn will allow us to do for him." Which, Legolas feared, was not much. But Gimli smiled and embraced warmly, which was enough to drive any immediate worries back. Then the two headed back into the woods to retrieve some firewood, this time accompanied by one of Gimli's axes.




     The sun was on its way down for the night, making things dimmer and dimmer in the forest. Shadows seemed to stand out more and every crack of a twig or crunch of a leaf had Gimli's hands tensing around the handle of his axe. Though each time it turned out to be only a breeze or a squirrel scurrying home for the night, Legolas paid close attention to each as well.


     Aragorn woke with a soft cough, looking up to see Legolas and Gimli a bit away, huddled around a fire. The dwarf was sharpening the blade of his axe with a familiar yet nonetheless unsettling scraping sound. The elf was attaching feathers as the fletching of a new arrow, then stroking the shaft to be sure it was smooth, strong, and uniform. Neither of his companions seemed to notice that he was awake, which was possibly for the best as he felt the need to sneeze again. He closed his eyes and pinched his nose, trying to will the sensation away. But his nostrils flared in desperation and he snatched up his handkerchief instead. "hur-ahCHOO! hurtSHOO! hetSHHHH!"


     At the sudden noise, Legolas had lifted his bow and pulled back the strings with his newly-made arrow. It had been a beautiful, liquid movement, which would have been slightly more impressive if the weapon were not aimed directly at Aragorn. Aragorn sniffed his runny nose back and glared at him. "Last I checked, we were on the same side."


     Gimli reached over with a hand on Legolas' arm, easing the bow down. Legolas sighed and let go of his weapon.


     Aragorn raised an eyebrow that only Legolas could see at the distance. "Planning on killing me?"


     His frustration ebbing away slowly, he spoke as calmly as any elf. "The next time you startle me like that I just might"


     Aragorn, on the other hand, looked angry, insulted. The sneeze hadn't been his fault and somewhere deep down Legolas must have known the same. His hand clenched in response, and he opened his mouth. But Gimli spoke up before he could. "Settle down, lads," he said calmly, but with a firmness in his voice that told them both not to disagree with the dwarf. "Come over to the fire, Aragorn," Gimli called, patting a piece of earth beside him.


     Aragorn looked reluctant for a moment, but the snapping of the fire was a comforting sound and the prospect of heat from the flames even more comforting. Slowly, he crawled over to the near side and sat down, wrapping his Lorien cloak around himself to keep warm. But he stuck his hands out from beneath the folds to hold them near the fire. It made him shiver in contrast but hoped that wasn't noticeable. "I must have dozed off," he said softly, catching the look Gimli was throwing his way.  


     "It has been a long day," Legolas said softly with a nod, as though to make peace. He held up a piece of lembas bread. "Have some dinner?"


     Aragorn shook his head. "Not really that hun--" he broke off as Gimli thrust a piece of bread at him from around one side of the fire. He took it reluctantly and ate a bite from one corner. "Thanks. Huh..." Quickly he dropped it to his lap. One hand rubbed vigorously beneath his nose while the other retrieved his handkerchief. He unfurled it with a snap of his wrist and buried his face in the folds. "huptchoo! hurshoo!"


     "Blesses," said Legolas, not looking up at Aragorn. Instead, he unfastened the leaf pin beneath his chin and pulled his cloak off with a flourish. He reached around the other side of the fire and held it out. "You look cold."


     Aragorn shook his head, his eyes glaring with refusal. "N-no. I'm fine." His teeth were chattering, though he was trying his best to hide that. His grip tightened on his handkerchief, and he gave a violent shiver just before three somewhat explosive sneezes. "huh-CHOO! HURSHOO! Uhh-CHuhhh!"


     "Still fine?" Legolas asked. Aragorn shrugged, refusing to say anything. "Take the cloak or I shall be forced to put it on you myself."  Aragorn still did not take it. "I have no need for it tonight. I will not suffer the cold winds as much as you and Gimli will." Then, softly, "Please? For me?"


     Aragorn made a face but snatched the cloak and draped it over his legs and front while tightening his own around his shoulders. He did stop shivering and did look quite a bit warmer, though certainly would not admit to it.


     "We've some hot water. No tea I am afraid but I have found a bit of herbs to give it flavor." He passed a mug to Gimli, who nodded his thanks. He held one out to Aragorn as well, who again did not readily take it. "Oh, go on. We are all having some. It is a chilly night after all." To prove the fact, he sipped out of his own mug and smiled. Gimli did the same.


     Aragorn took it then, sniffling, and breathed in the warm steam as he held it tight with both hands. Though it wasn't much more than hot water in taste, it was still soothing to his throat. The steam, however much it warmed his face and cheeks, also tickled his nose. "hihERHshoo! hihChoo! IHHH-shoo!" He set his mug on the ground, recovered his handkerchief, and rubbed his nose through it. He sniffled wetly and kept his eyes averted so as not to make eye contact with either of them.


     "This fire is making me sleepy," Gimli said, draining his cup, stroking his beard, and looking about. "Have we enough wood to last the night?" he asked, looking up at Legolas for the answer.


     Legolas nodded and patted his arm gently in reassurance. "I will take the first watch."


     Aragorn nodded, his eyes closing. He adjusted his pack to act as a pillow and draped Legolas' cloak around himself along with his own. "Good night," he called to them both, sniffling into his handkerchief and retreating under the cloaks as though they were blankets until only his eyes and top of head were showing.


     "Good night," Legolas replied, sounding soft and soothing over the crackling fire.


      Gimli nodded and curled up into a ball beneath his cloak. "Good night, Aragorn. Good night Legolas."


     "And good night Gimli," Legolas said, bending over with a warm hug and exchanging a kiss with him. Then Legolas gave him a gentle kiss on the cheek, and another, and another, kissing him to sleep. Gimli drifted off quite quickly with the attention, more quickly certainly than Aragorn.


     Aragorn sniffled for a while, coughing to clear his throat, blowing to clear his nose. "huhChooo! HURchoo! Huh...huh...ERChooo!" He sneezed every few minutes as well, sounding weaker and sicker at every moment.


     After over half an hour, Legolas stopped trying to ignore the sounds of his sniffles and sneezes. "Cannot sleep, Estel?"


     Through the flames, he rubbed his nose and looked up at Legolas. "If only I could stop snee... sneezing... heh... long-enough-hurCHUFF! hurChoo! huh-huh-Sheoo!" His nose was buried in the handkerchief, and he blew hard. When he looked back up, Legolas was no longer across the fire from him but by his side. The elf's hand stroked his arm through the cloaks, but Aragorn moved his arm with a jerk to shake the touch off.


     "How am I supposed to help you if you will not allow me to touch you?" he asked softly.


     "I do not need your sniff, sniff, your help..." he located a dry portion and rubbed at his nose through the handkerchief.


     "Without it," Legolas said, "you will get no sleep and be utterly cranky all day tomorrow. And neither Gimli nor I care to have that in our travel companion or in our friend."


     Aragorn muttered something in Elven that was really much too rude, even for him. He turned over onto his side, away from Legolas, retreating again beneath the cloaks. After a few hard coughs, he managed a slightly less rude "Kel amin" though with the same angry tone in his voice.


     Legolas, following his friend's wishes, did just that and left him to himself. They did not include him in watch rotation for the night, allowing him to sleep as much as he possibly could. As much as he could, however, was not very much at all. He tossed and turned, trying to get comfortable. First on one side, then the other. Then he tried his back, and his stomach, but nothing seemed to allow him the needed comfort to drift off to sleep. For every few seconds of movement, he spent a few minutes trying to readjust the cloaks to cover him warmly enough. He sneezed violently, trying to keep the sound to a minimum so as not to wake whoever was sleeping or call further attention to himself. After a while, he stopped using the handkerchief for all but blowing his nose, else it not be good for anything. He drifted off to sleep and back awake again so many times that he hardly felt rested in the morning when they extinguished the fire, packed up, and started off again through the woods. Aragorn made a mental note not to act cranky, thus proving the elf right yet again.


*                      *                      *


     "We should probably give the horses a bit of a rest by the stream," Legolas called back to Gimli. The horses had been at a gallop all morning since they had emerged from the woods. Recently, though, the horses wanted to slow to a canter and had to be prodded to keep up their pace. There were undoubtedly thirsty from it all as well and the sound of the stream they had been following for a good hour was helping them to slow.


     "Aye, Laddie," Gimli replied, having noticed the gentle prodding Legolas was doing every few minutes lest the horse break its stride. "Ah, have you caught a look at Aragorn lately?"


     By the immediate turn of his head, it was evident that he had not but was eager to. The man was neither coughing nor sniffling, which had been the fashion all morning. Instead, his eyes were shut and his head hung so that his chin touched the base of his neck. Slowly, with every bump of a gallop, he leaned a little more to his left. Clearly the man had fallen asleep sitting upright in the saddle. Legolas sighed and directed his horse closer. His legs tightened on both sides of the horse as his hands left the reins of his horse to recover Aragorn's fallen reins. Meanwhile, Gimli reached over and gently pushed Aragorn more upright so that he would not fall off. Gimli nearly fell, himself, as Legolas jerked both horses to slow, but managed to grab hold of Legolas' middle to steady himself in time.


     Aragorn was jolted awake by the slowing as well. He gave a snort and a cough and tried very much to look as though he had not been sleeping. He rubbed at his eyes and at his nose. With another few hard coughs, he doubled over in his saddle with pain.


     "Aragorn?!" Legolas came to a stop immediately, hanging the reins over to Gimli as he jumped off his horse and reached up to Aragorn on his. "What is the matter?"


     Aragorn coughed weakly, winced, and shook his head. One hand clutched his stomach and his other pushed Legolas away. He swallowed hard, his adam's apple bobbing visibly. "I'm fine," he croaked. With a deep breath he dismounted. He led his horse to the stream and bent to take a long drink from it himself. However, he did cough as much as drink.


     Legolas and Gimli exchanged worried looks. Legolas patted Gimli's leg in reassurance and helped him down from the horse. Together they loosened the girths and bridles and removed the bits from the horses' mouths so that they could more easily graze, for the area around the stream was filled with long grass.


     "We will let the horses rest for a little while," Legolas said, looking hesitantly over at Aragorn who was usually the one to make the decisions about these sorts of things. "Otherwise they will not carry us very far or do so very fast."


     But Aragorn did not seem to want to object. Perhaps he had not the energy to speak, or perhaps he felt to speak risked more coughing. He merely nodded and lay down in the tall grass. He had been wearing both cloaks, upon Legolas' urging, and now wrapped them both around himself as he curled up. He was not completely covered by them, and though it was bright, sunny and somewhat warm, he still shook a bit with chills and sniffles "hur-CHUSHH! Huh-CHOO! hur-CHUHH!" and with sneezes. "Cuiv amin ne ai coias... huh..." he covered his mouth and nose with his sleeve. "hur-SHOO! HUHSHOO!" He sniffled and finished, "coiasira."


     Gimli, standing close to Legolas, looked up at him. "What did he say?"


     Legolas smiled, watching Aragorn sniffle and close his eyes. "Roughly, he said that he wants to be woken in a short while," Legolas whispered. It was good news that he acknowledged his fatigue enough to be sensible about it. It was, after all, much safer to sleep on a soft bed of grass than on horseback.


     The man looked miserable as he rubbed his wrist beneath his nose, having abandoned his overused handkerchief long before. Legolas made to go to him, but Gimli held him back. They exchanged another look, Legolas gave in, and this time Gimli went to Aragorn. He unhooked his cloak and draped it over Aragorn's lower half, covering him. Aragorn looked up with annoyance. But Gimli took out his own handkerchief and tossed it over at him as well. "Take 'em, Laddie, and that's the end of it." He backed away quickly before Aragorn could refuse them.


     As Aragorn blew his nose then fell to sleep in the warmth, Gimli returned to Legolas' side. "How long should we let him sleep?" he asked, feeling Legolas' arms wrap around him tenderly.


     "At least an hour. Two if he does not wake up sneezing before then. Otherwise he is liable to fall off his horse again when you are not watching him so closely."


     "I have the eyes of a hawk, Master Elf," Gimli joked. "He will no more than breathe without me noticing." Legolas found comfort to hear Aragorn's steady breathing, and that gentle click in the back of his throat as he breathed in through his mouth, his nose too stuffed. "So we must amuse ourselves in the meantime?" Gimli prodded, sounding as playful as it was possible for a dwarf to sound.


     Legolas laughed and bent, kissing Gimli on the cheek and stroking his beard alluringly. "I've some ideas."


     "Oh have you now?" he asked, sounding curious on top of playful this time.


     "Yes, I have." And he took the dwarf in a strong hug, toppling them both over onto the soft grass and rolling with him a bit in laughter before getting on to other matters.




     "It is getting dark!" Legolas called over to Aragorn above the stamping hoof sounds as the horses galloped on.


     "hurCHOO! Huh-CHISHOO! HUHChoo!" Aragorn sneezed and sniffled wetly into Gimli's handkerchief for possibly the hundredth time that day. A bit breathlessly, he called back, "All right. We can stop at the edge of the meadow and set up... set..." One hand dropped the reins and recovered the handkerchief. "HUH-Chooo! HUR-Chahh! Huhtchoo!" He rubbed again. "We lost a lot of time today as two *someones* did not wake me up until this afternoon."


     Gimli, who had managed to restrain his growing annoyance in Aragorn's ways thanks to some soothing words from Legolas every so often, growled. "If ya wanted to be woken at a specific time, you should have specified the time!" he called back. Legolas smirked at how right the dwarf was in that. And the comment also managed to quiet Aragorn, who had been complaining profusely.


     Luckily, the edge of the meadow came soon enough, and they dismounted for the night. Legolas gave the horses water and removed the saddles. They would need a good brushing, but that could wait until they had cooled down a bit. And could wait until other more important things were taken care of. Aragorn unpacked, albeit slowly, and Gimli went to collect the night's firewood before it got too dark to distinguish rock from bush.


     Legolas made his way over to where Aragorn was, cautious but caring. "Sut lle anta tyav?" he asked softly.


     Aragorn merely shrugged.


     "You are starting to sound worse," Legolas tip-toed around him.


     "You are starting to get on my nerves," Aragorn replied.


     "Only starting?" Legolas asked, raising his eyes. "Then it seems I have a ways to go before I get on your last one." He held up a piece of lembas bread. "Food?"


     Aragorn shook his head, sniffling. "hur-Choo! Sniff, sniff! HETChooo! Sniff!"


     "Bless you," said Legolas with a smile.


     Gimli returned just then, which was lucky as Aragorn was shooting daggers at Legolas for the sentiment. "I will start the fire," Gimli offered, piling the wood and twigs expertly.


           Soon they were reliving the familiar picture of the previous night. The fire burned brightly, throwing light on their faces. They had boiled water again and all had some to relax themselves after the long day's journey. And Aragorn lay on his back with his head on his pack and the cloaks around him for warmth. His sneezes were coming harder, faster, and wetter. He nearly kept the handkerchief raised an inch above his face expectantly all the time now, for he if was not actually sneezing he was about to sneeze or just finishing a sneeze, or he was blowing or wiping his nose. For Legolas or Gimli to look over and see the man with his nostrils flared and his mouth hanging half open was not at all out of the ordinary for that night. And yet, neither dared say anything further to disturb him. A sick and cranky Aragorn was nothing at all compared to a sick and cranky Aragorn who was also annoyed from being pestered relentlessly about being sick and cranky.


     "Are you sure you do not want your cloak back for the night?" Aragorn asked Gimli as he found his breath and control for long enough to ask.


     "I am certain," Gimli replied with a dreamy smile. "I have Legolas to warm me." Legolas was, in fact, doing just that. Legolas sat with his back to a rock, legs outstretched. Gimli sat more or less on his lap, one leg on top of his. Legolas had his arms wrapped tightly around the dwarf, holding them together in warmth as much as love. Every so often, Gimli would reach back with a berry or a cup of water, guiding each to the elf's mouth so that Legolas would not need to break the hold for such trifles. Legolas kissed the top of his head from behind in response to Gimli's statement.


     "Go ahead and get some rest," Legolas advised Aragorn, though knowing the man's nose too well to believe it were so simple. "Do not worry about us."


     Aragorn cast a sideways look of suspicion then, deciding that he knew all the details he ever wanted to know about what they did when they were alone, closed his eyes with a sigh and tried to obey.




     Several hours later found Legolas in the middle of another first watch. The elf was not in need of much rest, compared to his companions. Therefore he frequently volunteered to stay up first and typically slept for a little while just before the sun rose.


     He lay on his side, leaning on his elbow, the rest of that arm beneath Gimli. Gimli lay on his side as well, though curled into a ball more or less in the curve made by Legolas' long body. He was comfortable and warm, and seemed to be dreaming about some sort of battle. Every few seconds, the dwarf's face twitched and his hands tensed and released as though around his axe handle. Legolas ran his other hand against Gimli's cheek and against his hair, petting softly in hopes that the comfort might send the dream towards positive outcomes. Every night he enjoyed watching Gimli sleep, touching the sleeping dwarf so tenderly when his rough demeanor was not there to pretend to resist, whispering "mela en coiamin" in his ear and wishing the words would soothe his subconscious, fantasizing about the next morning when he might fall to sleep with Gimli in his arms but awaken with Gimli's arms around him instead.


     "hehrushhh! HUR-Chuhhh! HEH-Chushhh! CHESHHOO!"


     Legolas looked up and across the fire at Aragorn, who was awake once more and sneezing once more. Aragorn looked back, pure hurt and misery on his face which he tried to hide with a forced smile. Legolas, however, did not buy into it and instead made to get up. After trying to tug his arm away with little success, he shook the dwarf gently, rousing him from the dream long enough to pull his arm free. Gimli went on sleeping with a snort and a mutter about taking an Orc's head off. Legolas strode to sit behind and beside Aragorn. "I am sorry if I woke you," he apologized without basis, trying to make Aragorn feel better about waking.


     "You did not wake me. This cold did," he muttered in reply, forgetting to be rude and forgetting to deny what was so blatantly obvious already to the three of them. "I mean the cold air," he tried to cover himself.


     Legolas nodded. "I can make you another cup of hot water and herbs," he offered, and Aragorn did not snap angrily back at him, so he carried on, hoping that it would help. "I am afraid we have very little left so it will be almost entirely hot water, but it should help warm you and perhaps soothe you back to sleep."


     After a few moments of sniffling and considering, Aragorn accepted the offer. He shivered violently as Legolas passed between him and the fire to retrieve the water and cup. "huh-CHUSHH! Huf-CHOO! HETCHOO!"


     "Blesses," whispered Legolas as he sat back down and handed a hot mug of water to Aragorn. He helped the man sit up to drink it without spilling. "Feel any better?"


     Aragorn glared at him, sniffling. "I'm fine." He drank a bit of the water, wincing at the first few swallows. Then he urgently handed the cup back to Legolas as his nostrils flared. He held his breath and rubbed his nose to try and relieve the tickle, but it was no use at all. "huh-CHISHOO! hehCHOO! hehSHOO! hurTSHOO!" The sneezes threw him forward, making him weak, making him wheeze between each. "HURSHOO!" His shoulders ached from the effort. "hupCHOO! CHISHOO!" He dragged his wrist beneath his nose with a powerful sniffle and another shiver. "Water?" he requested with a few coughs. The water soothed his throat a bit, but did not last for very long at all. In a few short minutes, he was coughing again, without stop. Legolas reached out to him, but Aragorn pushed him away so hard he might have fallen backwards if not for his excellent sense of balance.


     He groaned and fought against curling up, arm around his middle. Instead, he rolled onto his knees, then rose to his feet. Still coughing, he stumbled quickly towards the trees. After passing three or four, he stopped, dropped back to his knees, and was violently ill. It lasted only a short while, just long enough for Legolas to walk over to him. Legolas bent down, wanting to reach out and comfort him but not wanting to be pushed away yet again. So he simply held out the cup, now filled with cool water. Aragorn coughed and looked skeptical, but took it and rinsed his mouth out a number of times before standing and going back to his spot by the fire.


     Aragorn roughly pulled the cloaks over him as he sat by the fire, shivering. He coughed again and sniffled, rubbing at his nose. "heh..." Legolas returned silently to his side. "her-CHUFF! Huh-CHOO! HUR-CHOO!" He recovered his handkerchief, searched for a clean spot, and wiped his nose dry.


     Then he leaned back, finding Legolas there. The elf's warmth was inviting, and he found his eyes closing as much as his nose running. Legolas stiffened and tried to pull away before Aragorn could be angry at him for the touch. "Deri?" Aragorn requested, looking back, putting a hand on Legolas' thigh. Then, softly, defeatedly, "Im ihaew." He shook again with a violent shiver.


     Finally. Legolas nodded. "Im ista, Estel." He ran a slender hand over Aragorn's head. "Come, settle down. Lay your head on my lap and I will cover you back up properly." With a bit of convincing force, he guided Aragorn's head to his lap and reached over, readjusting the cloaks so that they covered every bit of him from toes to chin.


     Aragorn still shivered, and he still sniffled terribly. There wasn't much more Legolas could do for him on either account, but when he heard Aragorn's breathing catch he put a hand on Aragorn's back to steady him and offered his own handkerchief. "Hutshuhh! Harshoo! ARSHOO!" He blew his nose gently with great relief as Legolas pulled strands of his dark hair back from his face. He gave a bit of a weak moan and a cough.


     "Hush now," Legolas said, sorting pieces of Aragorn's hair to one side or the other in accordance with a part that had been messed up from too much tossing a turning. "Just try to get some sleep," Legolas instructed, rubbing a hand up and down the outside of the blankets to keep him warm.


     Sounding pathetic, "I could not possibly go to sleep, feeling like this." He blew his nose again.


     "You can and will sleep," Legolas said softly. He found himself looking over at Gimli to be sure that at least he was still asleep through all of this. But he needn't have worried; the dwarf could sleep through anything. "Relax, my friend."


     But sleep did not come until after at least ten more bouts of sneezing, and one of coughing in which he nearly got sick again. Legolas held his shoulders firmly, sweeping his hair back, rubbing his back soothingly. He would have done more if he could have. But he did manage to relay enough comfort to finally send the man off to sleep.




     It was far into the night when Aragorn finally reached the dream state. He moaned and thrashed about, sweating terribly at the effort, but his body shook with heavy chills. His head slipped from Legolas' lap to the ground with a hard thunk that worried Legolas so much that the elf tried to rouse him. It took a little while to break through, but finally Aragorn woke, disoriented and coughing. "Calm," Legolas said softly, petting the side of Aragorn's head. "You were having a bad dream, and you hit your head. Does it hurt?"


     Aragorn nodded, and swallowed hard, wincing.


     Legolas reached out for him, tightening his grip. "Are you going to be sick again?"


     But Aragorn shook his head, swallowing, holding back the nausea that came from his sickness and the pounding headache which he did, indeed, have.


     "You are freezing cold," Legolas continued, looking him over. Then he gently pressed a palm to Aragorn's head. "And you are burning with heat."


     Aragorn nodded at this, sniffling, teeth chattering. The man looked beyond pathetic this time. Legolas made his decision at once and pulled back two of the cloaks. He lay on his side, up against Aragorn's back, wrapping his arms around the man after readjusting the cloaks over them both. "Legolas," he snuffled weakly, feeling the elf's body pushing against his. "You do not have to--"


     "Do you remember that tumble I took over the crystal falls many years ago?" Legolas replied, trying to distract him.


     "To recover my... my pah... pack..." his voice trailed off and his nostrils flared with purpose. "hehCHOO! hurSHOOO!"


     "Yes," Legolas continued quickly so that the quiet night would not be filled only by the sound of the man blowing his nose. "And I was nearly frozen solid by the waters. You did not have to strip me down and warm me under our cloaks then."


     The recollection had the effect of making Aragorn chuckle. "The way you say it makes it sound so indecent, my friend."


     Legolas raised both his eyebrows, glad Aragorn could not see his slightly surprised expression because of his position behind. "The way I remember it, it was."


     Aragorn continued to chuckle. "So it was. Heh...heh-ARSHHH! HatChooo! Sniff, sniff! But you need not describe it as such. And I admit that I am too weak to be taken advantage of in such a way this time."


     "My dear friend," Legolas replied, kissing the man on the cheek. "I have no intentions of anything but warming up your cold-ridden body and seeing you back to sleep. Gimli is all I need to fulfill those particular desires. Though I would hope that my proximity might inspire you to dream less violently during this go-around." He gave the man a tight squeeze, then gently stroked his cheek and forehead, pulling sweaty hairs from his face, rubbing soft fingers against his stubble and partial beard.


     Slowly the shivering died down and though did not stop altogether, it was enough to ease him back to sleep. Nevertheless, Legolas continued to pet him soothingly for a long while afterwards.




     Gimli woke a few hours before dawn, as he had the day before and the day before that. The dwarf woke with a shiver to find himself cold and alone on one side of the fire. He stood with a mighty yawn and stretch, and scratched himself as he walked to the other side. Legolas looked up at him with a smile from beneath the cloaks, his body pressed warmly against Aragorn's sleeping one. Gimli knelt down in front of them both, with neither jealousy nor confusion. Instead, he leaned over Aragorn and kissed Legolas good morning. "He stopped shivering?" Gimli whispered softly so as not to wake the man.


     Legolas nodded. "Only just. His fever has gone down, too, unless I have caught his ailment and can no longer judge such things."


     With a smile at such silliness, Gimli reached over and placed his palm on Aragorn's forehead. "Aye, a little warm only." With some soft laughter, he placed his hand on Legolas' forehead. "And you as cool as always." He could not resist administering another kiss. "But are you tired?" Legolas nodded, looking a bit relieved to have Gimli relieve him. After retrieving his axe, Gimli settled down beside Legolas, stroking his cheek and running his hand through his hair, silvery-blond in what was left of the moonlight. "I will watch after you both then."


     Legolas nodded and yawned. His eyes closed, his breathing slowed, and he slipped onto the dreamscape at once with Gimli's reassuring hand upon his shoulder.



*                      *                      *


     Despite Aragorn's ailment, they had an early start that morning. The woods were sparse enough to allow them to ride at a trot or canter at least. Aragorn's coughs and sneezes were frequent, but contained behind another of Gimli's spare handkerchiefs. Several times they were forced to stop while Aragorn was again sick to his stomach.


     At the fourth such instance, Gimli lost his patience. He and Legolas had been snogging on horseback, and stopped as they noticed Aragorn slowing and dismounting with harsh coughs. Legolas slowed their horse and Gimli tumbled off the side as was his standard dismount. He paced over to the tree Aragorn had chosen to hide his shaking body behind. Though the man had been man enough to admit his illness, he was still not fond of being stared at while he sneezed or lost his breakfast.


     Gimli offered a drink when Aragorn emerged, along with a pat on the arm. "There you are, Laddie," he said as Aragorn spat out the first few mouthfuls then drank a bit of the water. "Nice and slow to keep it down. We shall rest here a while."


     Aragorn looked down at him, shaking his head. "No. We need to keep going."


     "We made fine time thus far. Taking a day from that will not harm us at all. We need to be sure you are all right before we can continue."


     But Aragorn could not be persuaded quite so easily. "I am all right. We should go on. I am not tired."


     Gimli laughed. "If it were only a light fever and some sneezes, perhaps we would. But the fast riding greatly upsets your stomach." As though in affirmation, Aragorn's stomach, empty apart from the recent bit of water, gurgled. "Your body needs rest, even if you are not tired."


     Forced to agree for his stomach's sake, Aragorn nodded and followed Gimli to the spot where Legolas was tending to the horses. "All right?" Legolas asked, peering around the horse as the two returned.


     Aragorn wiped his sleeve across his mouth and sniffled with a firm nod. Gimli answered, "Everything is just fine. We will set up camp here for the rest of the day and the night and be off again tomorrow morning."


     The elf easily hid his feelings of relief at hearing the decision. "At the pace we have been keeping, we shall reach the inn by this time tomorrow." And once there, Legolas would tuck the ranger under so many blankets that he would not dare get up until well again. But for the time being, they would have to settle with what they had at their disposal, and cloaks from Lorien were nearly as good as blankets.


     Another fire was made, this one small as the clearing they were settling down in was not too large and they did not want to risk spreading a fire. Soon they were relaxing in front of it, Aragorn sitting closest as he still needed some warmth. He sat with his back against a very thick tree, legs folded, handkerchief in one hand and a cup of water in the other. Legolas sat beside him, against the same tree, his legs stretched out in front of him. Gimli lay on his back with his head in Legolas' lap, having a mid-day nap. Legolas passed the time by braiding bits of Gimli's thick hair, which hadn't been properly done in days and sorely needed it.


     "heh...hurCHHH! huhCHIHHHH!" Aragorn sneezed weakly, then wiped his nose with the handkerchief.


     "Bless you," Legolas said as casually as possible. Aragorn had started sounding worse, if that were at all possible. His sneezes, wet and forceful, were taking so much out of him that Legolas was very glad they had decided to stop until the morning. He didn't like to think of what Aragorn might be like trying to keep his balance on horseback while sneezing like this.


     Aragorn nodded a thank you, his mouth still hanging expectantly half open. "I, uh, I..." but he should have known better by now to try fighting the urge to sneeze. He lifted the handkerchief. "huh-CHESHHH! hurCHOO! HAH-TCHOO!"


     "Blesses," Legolas said again, finishing another braid of Gimli's and looking over at the man.


     Aragorn seemed to still expect a sneeze, and was panting heavily. The corners of his mouth twitched, his nostrils flared, and he was thrown forward yet again. "huh-hah-HAR-CHISHHHH!" He sniffled wetly, shivered, and rested his head on Legolas' shoulder. "I want to be back at home, in bed."


     Legolas nodded with sympathy and slid his arm behind Aragorn, around his shoulders in a hug. "With warm blankets and pillows, and hot tea with honey?" he inquired.


     Aragorn nodded, still looking miserable, still sniffling.


     "With a soft mattress rather than hard ground to sleep on? With warm meals that are soothing to the stomach prepared especially for you?"


     Aragorn nodded again, but otherwise remained unchanged.


     "And with Arwen to look after you?" Legolas asked, craning his neck and looking down to see a smile spread across Aragorn's face. "Will you settle for us in the short term?" he said, first gesturing to himself and Gimli, then giving Aragorn a soft kiss on his warm forehead.


     Aragorn chuckled and nodded. "I will, my friend. My thanks to you both for putting up with me."


     He closed his eyes as Legolas gave him a tight squeeze of his shoulders. "I figure it evens out. You had to put up with us hovering over you these last days."


     With another laugh and a cough, he relaxed and fell asleep against Legolas.





Elven-to-English Words and Phrases:

Kel amin- Leave me

Cuiv amin ne ai coiasira - Wake me in little time

Sut lle anta tyav?- How do you feel?

mela en coiamin- love of my life

Deri- Stay

Im ihaew- I am ill

Im ista- I know