Fandom: Lord of the Rings, post-RotK
Disclaimer: J.R.R. Tolkien's characters and world. My fanfic. No money whatsoever.
Author's Notes: Written for the Sneezefic in 132 Moods challenge. This fic obviously doesn't fit with my usual LotR fics
There was a pain in his head. It seemed to be in two places at once, however, both at the top of his forehead and in the back of his head just above his neck. Confused, he peered into the mirror in hopes of seeing what was wrong. He could not remember an injury either recent or past that would have resulted in such pain. His last few encounters sparring with Aragorn had been intense and his last few nights in bed with Gimli had been quite physical, but there had been no blows to his head either in the paining spots or in any other. Furthermore, the lack of bruising on his forehead was perplexing. He gathered his hair into a hand and lifted it up. Then he turned to the side and peered out of the corner of his eye at his head in the back. There was no blood, no sign of a wound, no sign of anything amiss at all. And, yet, the sharp pains continued.
Elves did not usually need much sleep, but Legolas supposed his head was telling him that he should have had more. With a light sigh, Legolas pressed a hand to his forehead and closed his eyes. While the pain continued, it grew less intense for a few moments. Legolas knew, unfortunately, that he would not be able to stay like that all day. True enough, he heard footsteps just outside the washroom. He lowered his hand and turned with a smile to see Gimli standing on the threshold between the bedroom and washroom, naked and glowing in the morning sun. "Here for a bath, or did the dwarf just want to show himself off to me?"
Gimli flashed him a wide grin and shrugged. "Both, perhaps. Have we time before breakfast?"
Legolas smiled back. "Suddenly I'm not hungry." He held out a hand and Gimli wasted no time in closing the gap between them and embracing his elf.
It was late in the morning when Legolas finished breakfast. He had not managed to work up much of an appetite, and had forced himself to eat what had been placed before him. Gimli, on the other hand, had taken seconds of everything and ignored teasing from Aragorn about how unusual it was that he was now suddenly taking to elvish food with fondness. Aragorn, who had not been late to breakfast, had finished on time but stayed in the dining hall to provide company for his friends.
"I need to take care of a few things, but then I shall be free for the day," Legolas said, making a mental list of the few tasks he needed to get done. "Do either of you have-" He broke off, coughing. He cupped a hand to his mouth and hunched over a little, knowing he was drawing attention to himself but not caring for the harsh tickle in his throat which wasn't going away.
Feeling Gimli pat his back firmly, Legolas reached forward and managed to grasp his water goblet. He brought it to his mouth and gulped down the contents. The water soothed his throat and in a few moments the urge to cough had died away. Legolas sniffed and rubbed tears out of his eyes. "Pardon me," he said, looking a bit stunned. "Something must have gone down the wrong way. Now, what was I... oh, yes. Plans for the day."
As Legolas discussed with his friends what they would like to do that day, he couldn't help but feel rather uncomfortable and confused about the coughs. Not only had they come out of nowhere, but the water had only soothed him temporarily. His throat still felt dry and scratchy, even as he finished off the water in Gimli's goblet as well. It was a strange, unsettling sensation and one that nagged at Legolas even as he carried on as usual.
The first order of business for the day was to check the food stores. Aragorn stayed put, halfway through composing a letter back to Arwen, but Gimli tagged along, never missing an opportunity when good food was involved. The storerooms, which had been inspired by Gimli in the first place, consisted of underground passages and series of small rooms, each for a different type of food. There was no natural light of any kind there, so the rooms and passages were pitch dark. With the dark also came the cold, though wooden supporting structures and boarded walls kept the damp away for the most part.
Holding a candle in one hand, Legolas surveyed the contents of each room in turn, glancing from the stacks of crates, barrels, and sacks to the list he'd been given by the elf he'd put in charge of inventory. Delineating tasks allowed Legolas much desired free time, but in many cases he preferred a hands-on approach and he wouldn't have his elves starving this winter just because there had been a small error in the bookkeeping. It would only take a few moments to go over the list at any rate.
After checking the vegetables and grains, Legolas was comforted by the fact that they at least had enough lembas bread to last everyone a few months. But he shivered as he moved on and Gimli, somewhat distracted by the mead and ale in another room, noticed the shivering elf not long after. "Are you cold?" Gimli asked, heading over and clinging to Legolas' side with a warm hug.
Legolas accepted it gratefully and rubbed his cheek against the top of Gimli's head. "Quite," he admitted. "Don't you find it chilly down here?"
Gimli shrugged. "Suppose I'm used to it," He walked with Legolas as they headed over to the meat, staying close and hugging when able.
And while having Gimli at his side was warm and comforting, more than anything else Legolas was confused. The temperature was indeed cooler down beneath the ground, which was the whole reason for building their stores here. However it was not significantly colder. In the past, he had walked through blizzards unscathed, barely noticing the cold. But now he felt chilled right to the bone, with tiny bumps on his arms as nearly-invisible blond hairs stuck up. Violent shivers shook his whole body even when he attempted to control them. Repeatedly he was distracted from his task by the thought that these clothes were not sufficient and he desperately longed for his Lórien cloak or at least a tunic with longer sleeves.
He was quite relieved when the job was done and he was back in the warm air and sun once more. Though, strangely, he did not seem to warm up quite as much as he should have. His confusion was beginning to make his head hurt even more so he simply tried to ignore the chills and his need to clench his jaw once in a while to keep it from chattering.
His next quick stop was the library. Gimli gave that one a miss and volunteered, instead, to retrieve Legolas' cloak for him. While Legolas assured the dwarf that he would be fine once he got a bit more sun, it was as good an excuse as any for Gimli to keep from dying of absolute boredom in the stuffy old elf library.
Though there were still elves scattered all over Middle Earth, the majority of elven wisdom had been compiled in libraries in Minas Tirith and the settlement here in the woods of Ithilian. There was always a guard standing watch over the collection, but everyone was able and welcome to browse through the documents at any time.
This day, Legolas was looking for something in particular pertaining to the field of medicine. Arwen had requested, through Aragorn, something in the way of histories of multiple pairs of twins born within families. It was well understood that the blessing of twins occurred far more in some families than in others. But Arwen had been especially curious and wanted some actual documentation to back up the assumption. Though she felt in good health, she was large and carrying low and not at all fit to travel even to Ithilian for a visit. Legolas was more than happy to look it up for her and send his findings home with her husband. He rather liked spending time in the library and today found he had it all to himself.
It was one enormous circular room built around one of the oldest and wisest of the trees. It had row upon row of books piled high to the top branches of the tree, requiring a good ladder to get to anything much of interest. The heaviest and oldest volumes as well as the scrolls were kept in waist-high cabinets beneath the shelves so they would not be damaged in retrieval or replacement. There were a few small podiums forming an inner circle in the room so that an elf could stand and read at one, standing straight or resting with his back against the tree trunk for support.
Legolas needed only to climb up a half dozen feet to find the section of books he felt might be useful. Long, slender fingers walked their way across the spines as he read the names of the books to himself in his search. He chose the most likely, reached up, and slid it out of its place. It came to him easily, but brought along a thin layer of dust that fell right into Legolas' face.
Reacting quickly but carefully, he coughed and sputtered but did not fall from the ladder. He descended a few feet, then jumped gracefully to the floor, landing with bent knees, one hand on the floor, and his other arm wrapped tightly around the book to keep it from harm. As he stood, he lifted his hand to his face in a fist to cover his coughs and one rather wet, strong sneeze that seized his nostrils and pulled at his lungs. "heyyyihhhhCSHhhhhhh!" He sniffled wetly and cleared his throat several times. But the irritant seemed to have been expelled. Legolas sighed with relief, ignoring the fact that his throat was hurting much more now than it had less than an hour ago at breakfast. By all logic that should have been going away as well. Legolas could not understand why that was not so.
Legolas sniffled again and, not equipped with a handkerchief, resigned himself to rubbing his nose against his shoulder a few times. This was not the first sneeze of his life, not even one of the first five. But a few handfuls was where the tally stopped.
Legolas set the dusty book on one of the podiums, clearing his throat repeatedly and sniffling here are there as he flipped through the pages in search of something about pregnancies, birthrates, and twins.
The text he had selected was full of cases elvish healers had studied and documented for their own reference for the benefit of future generations. Legolas flipped past instructions on how to set a bone and only paused briefly on one section detailing lovesickness and heartache. He reminded himself, as he did often, that Gimli was strong and safe and had many good years ahead of him before Legolas should have to worry.
As he skimmed, something caught his eye and he paused, then quickly flipped back a few pages to see it again. Perhaps it was the strangeness of the day or the incident a few moments ago with the dust, but Legolas' eye had been caught by an illustration of an elf sneezing.
Curious he read the associated passage which was entitled 'Elf Illnesses'. "Strange," said Legolas, narrowing his eyes and cocking his head slightly. "Elves cannot fall sick," he told the book. But the book, or at least the author of this passage, disagreed. The text explained that elf illnesses were rare but not unheard of, and that there were, in fact, just as many illnesses which could strike elves as belonged to men or any other species. At this, Legolas tried to empty his mind of all images of sneezing orcs, especially as his own throat still hurt and his nose was still feeling a little sniffly. The last thing he needed was to believe he was getting sick. He'd never been sick before, nor had he even seen another sick elf. Contrary to what the author of this passage seemed to think, with all his years of experience Legolas did not believe it possible.
He continued skimming until he found what he was looking for. He took a quill and piece of parchment from the drawer within the podium and took note of what the book said. As he finished and headed back to the shelves, his nose filled again with the urge to sneeze. It was a strange, prickly sensation and thinking about it made his aching head ache all the more. He closed his eyes, relaxed, and let the tickles work themselves out. "ehhhhh..." he breathed. "eh-yehhhhh..." His breaths were unsteady and his whole face felt like it was twitching around his nose. "yih-ihh-" He bent forward slightly, head hanging, then pulled back. "IHH-Chooo!" The sneeze practically doubled him over, and he looked up to see the library guard poking his head in through the doorway.
Legolas straightened and rubbed his finger beneath his nose. "There's quite a lot of dust in here, isn't there?"
The guard nodded. "I'll form a group to do some cleaning."
"Thank you. I am certain there are many who would appreciate that." He sniffed slightly, then climbed the ladder to put the book back into place. That second, more recent sneeze was weighing heavily upon his mind. He had a terrible feeling that it had nothing at all to do with dust and everything to do with something he had read in the book. He rubbed his finger hard at his nose and shook his head. He was only thinking about being sick because he'd just read about it. Because, as everyone who wasn't that author knew, elves did not get sick.
"Dust," he said out loud, as though trying to convince himself of it. "Had to have been the... duhhh..." He cupped his hand over nose and mouth and grabbed hold of the ladder so he would not fall. "ihhh..." He held his breath and pressed his palm against the end of his nose, applying pressure. After a moment, the urge backed away and he sighed with relief as he climbed down and headed out of the library.
Over the last few nights there had been sightings of wargs to the north. They had not yet penetrated the woods and Legolas was confident his archers would make swift work of the beasts if they came close. Still there were defensive and offensive plans to go over and Legolas wanted to oversea the area before making final decisions about courses of action. He was leaning towards sending out a few hunting parties, and Aragorn mentioned he could send some men on patrol as well. So Aragorn accompanied Legolas and they headed north by way of the tree bridges.
Gimli had met them just before heading out. And though he had elected to stay behind, he had brought Legolas his cloak. Legolas had claimed he was not chilly any longer and pretended to wear it just to make the dwarf happy, but in reality he was quite grateful for the warmth it brought. He really had expected to warm up in time, but it had been an hour since he'd gone through the storage rooms and he was not much warmer at all. If anything, he was colder. Which was quite confusing considering his swift walking now and the fact that he was sweating.
"Wild wargs, then?" Aragorn said, sticking to business in their conversation as they walked. There was plenty of time left in his visit to speak of more pleasant things, and he seemed to be of a similar opinion in that completing his work first would be the best course of action. "There weren't any riders spotted?"
Legolas shook his head and was suddenly glad he was leading the way through the rope bridges because the movement had sent a sharp pain through his temples and he had winced quite clearly. "No riders," he replied. To his ears, his voice sounded tired and rough. His throat felt dry but when he swallowed there was pain equal to that in his head. Legolas sighed silently with frustration, unable to explain what was going on with him all of a sudden. None of it made any sense.
Aragorn was going on, "That is troubling, but at least they will not be on the move. It should not be difficult to track them down." Wild packs of wargs are incredibly territorial.
Legolas managed a smile and he gently turned his head to look over his shoulder at his friend. "Unluckily for them, so is this elf."
Aragorn grinned back at him and they quickened their pace to reach their destination sooner. Moving across the tree-top bridges was a far more efficient way to travel than by ground. That is, once one got used to the swaying and swinging of the bridges, which grew worse when those on it were on the run. Gimli, though gaining familiarity with living amongst the trees, had not yet embraced it as his preferred method of travel on days when he liked to keep the food he'd eaten in his stomach. But Legolas and Aragorn were at home and at ease there. And though Legolas was usually a bit quicker, Aragorn seemed to have no problem keeping up with him today.
In fact, Legolas' pace began to slow as they traveled on. When they reached the northernmost lookout station, Legolas gripped the railing where there was one and bent over it slightly to hold himself steady. Then run had made his already aching head throb overwhelmingly. He felt warm and cold at the same time, which felt quite strange indeed.
Aragorn stood beside him and put a hand on his back. "Legolas... are you out of breath?" he asked, looking at him quizzically.
Legolas thought for a moment, not sure how to explain it away, especially as he was still a bit short of breath. He looked upwards for help, taking in the bright sun and the branches overhead that suddenly seemed to be spinning. Confused, he narrowed his eyes at the scene which was starting to grow dimmer all around him. "How strange. The trees... and sky... they are..." He looked down into Aragorn's face for the briefest of moments before the world went completely black and he fell backwards.
"Maybe we should send for some tea."
"Not that you seem to have heard a word I've said, but he doesn't need tea!"
Legolas stirred, expecting to be outside still, but finding blankets touching his cheek and a featherbed beneath. His eyelids felt exceedingly heavy and he could not gather the strength to move.
"Elrond always made me tea when I was sick..."
"Yes, but elves do not get sick."
But Legolas heard the voices. They sounded fuzzy and far away though he couldn't imagine how he could hear them if they were beyond his bedchambers.
"If he isn't sick, then why did he pass out? I had to grab him or he might have fallen over the side of the platform!"
"Yes, you've said that twice now, Laddie. I understand he was badly off but-"
The voices, which had grown louder and filled with a bit of animosity, stopped abruptly. Two sets of footsteps sounded and a smallish but familiar hand touched his cheek. "Right here, Love."
Legolas had never heard Gimli sound quite so... soft and comforting. It made him want to draw together all his energy and open his eyes and survey his surroundings. He was indeed in his bed, and both Aragorn and Gimli were hovering over him. He tried to remember what had transpired, but thinking only made his head hurt more. There was no reason why it should have been hurting at all, let alone why he had felt so strangely earlier. Every bit of this was a complete mystery to him. He looked up at Aragorn, utterly confused. "Why... how did I come to be here?"
"I carried you," Aragorn said, with the same sort of kindness in his voice as Gimli sported. "You passed out for whatever reason." Legolas saw him glance quickly at Gimli. "Legolas, how do you feel right now?"
"I am well," Legolas told them instinctively. So far as he knew, he hadn't fallen a hundred feet from a tree or frozen underground. There had been no battle, no injuries, and he was safe in bed, accompanied by his two most dear friends. So, truly, he was well by his own evaluation. He had certainly seen far worse times in his life.
That strange prickly feeling was back in his nose, however, and this time Legolas could be sure it was not from dust. He felt the urge building slowly and closed his eyes again. Gimli and Aragorn moved closer, noticing how his breath had changed. Then Legolas pitched forward, rising up off the pillows and bed with a sneeze. "Hey-Chahhhh!" He opened his eyes, blinking up at his friends, then collapsed back upon the bed.
"You most certainly are not well," said Aragorn immediately. He leaned forward, one hand on the bed and the other reaching over. He placed his palm against Legolas' forehead and left it there for only a moment before pulling back. "Burning with fever."
"Fever?" Legolas repeated incredulously, sniffling. "I do not understand..."
From one of his pockets, Gimli withdrew a handkerchief. Not wanting to waste any time, he rubbed Legolas' nose for him. Then he sighed. "We were just discussing this... but we believe you are ill," he explained. "Except that elves don't fall ill."
Remembering the book, Legolas' heart sunk as he shook his head. "I hadn't wanted to believe it either but I recently read that apparently it is possible."
"Moreover, it has happened," Aragorn stated.
Legolas shook his head, forgetting about his headache until it was too late. He winced and put his hand to his head until the brief burst of pain subsided. His forehead did not feel especially warm so he could not imagine how Aragorn had come to the conclusion of a fever. Surely this was all just a mistake and there was a better explanation to be had.
"ihhhh..." His face fell and breath caught. Gimli quickly held his handkerchief to Legolas' face. "ehhhhShhfff! IHChfff!" He shook his head in protest, and Gimli grunted with annoyance as he tried to tend to Legolas' nose at the same time.
"Elf!" he finally proclaimed and Legolas froze. Gimli rubbed his nose dry, then leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. He sighed and kissed Legolas' forehead. "You are correct, Aragorn. He is feverish. He must be ill."
Legolas struggled to remember something of what he'd read, something that might explain how this had happened or what this was. Or, more importantly, how to make it go away. But he hadn't read that part too closely and could not remember anything in the way of treatments being mentioned. If he hadn't already felt somewhat strange and confused he wouldn't have even given that portion of the book a glance in the first place. But now it was clear what he had to do.
With a deep breath, Legolas tried his best to sit up. Alarm registered in Gimli's face at once. "And just where do you think you're going?" he asked, placing a hand on Legolas' chest.
The dwarf was not holding Legolas down, nor using much force at all. But Legolas found it impossible to sit up all the way and fell back again with a flop, his blond hair fanning out on the rich red pillow beneath his head. "Just to do some reading," he explained. "I need to find out..." All the talking seemed to have hurt his throat, and his body was suddenly overtaken by coughs. He lifted a fist to his mouth, coughing harshly into it as his whole body shook. When it passed, he sighed and shook his head. "So confused."
"All you need to know is that you are ill and need to stay in bed," Aragorn told him. Gimli nodded in agreement, pulling up a blanket and tucking it in around Legolas.
Legolas smiled weakly back at them. "I understand now," he said finally. "This is all just an elaborate scheme to get me into bed." Gimli chuckled as he continued to tuck Legolas in. "But truly I-" Legolas made to get up again but was quickly stopped, both by Gimli's hand and by the sight before him.
From somewhere on his person, Aragorn had withdrawn Andúril. The gleam of the blade and the look in Aragorn's eye told the elf the matter was serious. "You're to remain in bed until we tell you," he said. "Gimli and I might be long-lived but we're mortals and we can't take any more scares right now. You shall stay in bed and until you are well again."
Legolas sighed silently. "But I need to find out how to..." His voice trailed off, giving way to another intense tickle in his nose. "ihhh..." He exhaled, closing his eyes. This time he tried to fight it. "hehh... heh-ihhhhh..." His eyes fluttered closed despite his best intentions. He pressed several fingers to his nose, but it was no use. His nostrils twitched and upper lip trembled. And he snapped upwards with two more sneezes. "YihhShoo! IhhhCheoo!"
"Bless," said Gimli, moving to tuck the covers back in around Legolas.
When Aragorn said, "Galu," almost automatically, Gimli gave him a look of light warning not to go into elvish and exclude Gimli from the conversation. Aragorn had no intention of doing so. "I will go make some tea. There are a few common herbs I can add," Aragorn told them. "It will help." He reached down and squeezed Legolas' shoulder tightly, reassuringly.
Legolas looked up, nodding in appreciation. Then Aragorn left and Legolas was left with Gimli, who looked worried. The dwarf climbed up onto the bed and sat down against the pillows. His arm curved around Legolas' head and gripped the elf's far shoulder, pulling him over so that Legolas' head was partially upon the pillow and partially upon Gimli. He placed his palm upon Legolas' forehead and the elf sighed. "How long have you felt like this?" Gimli asked him. "And why did you not tell us about it?"
"I am not entirely certain," Legolas said as an answer to both. "When I woke today I felt something was different but I've never been ill before so I did not know what it was." He sniffed a few times, trying to get used to the tickly, runny sensation therein. "At first I thought I was simply a little tired. Then I thought I might be imagining it was something more than it was." He coughed a little. "When it turns out what I am is sick... and a bit confused still."
Gimli stroked his head soothingly. He tucked hair behind the elf's ear and then stroked again. "There's no need to be any longer. I will stay by your side and look after you until you are well again," he promised, his voice so soft and tender that it was almost a whisper.
If Legolas had not been waiting for tea that had been promised to help him, the elf might have fallen to sleep immediately under the dwarf's care. "I just cannot understand how I became ill," he said, his eyes slowly closing. "I know of no one else who-" He broke off suddenly, eyes flying open again. "I need to go find out if any of the others are ill." He tried to sit up, but did not make it that time either. "ehhh-IHHTChoo!"
"What part of 'stay in bed' did not make it in through those pointy ears of yours?" He pressed the handkerchief into Legolas' hand and kissed the top of the elf's head.
Legolas turned onto his side, using Gimli as a pillow exclusively now. Gimli continued to stroke his head, petting his hair into place. "You'll take care of it, then? Checking up on my elves?"
"Aragorn and I shall handle it," Gimli nodded. "However, at the moment, there is but one elf I'm concerned about: my elf." He slid his arm down and wrapped it around Legolas' shoulders.
Legolas smiled. "I don't remember being quite this sweet to you when you were last sick. I'll have to remember this."
Gimli chuckled, which shook Legolas a bit, but he did not mind. "Hopefully after this it will be a long time before either of us is sick again."
Nodding. "A couple hundreds years at least, I hope. I don't like feeling like this." At least, as Legolas closed his eyes to wait for the tea and keep his headache from pounding so badly, he did not feel confused. Warm and comforted and sick, yes, but no longer confused.
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