--
And so they meet
--

It was just another day; it always was. The sun had risen from the East and was shining, as usual. The birds were chirping, as usual. Elves bustled through the hallways, as usual. The notorious twins – Elladan and Elrohir, of course – were planning their next attack on Estel, as usual.

And Estel was ill, as usual.

"I told you, we wouldn't have to think of anything," Elladan said rather smugly as they walked out of Estel's room.

"He sure ruined the fun," Elrohir almost pouted, "Splashing in the rain and getting a cold? We didn't even have a chance to try the cold water bucket."

"What cold water bucket?" It was a menacing, low voice.

Elladan turned around and said innocently, "Ada, we were just planning to train Estel's endurance so he would be prepared when he joins the dúnedain."

Elrond raised a sceptical eyebrow. "Yes, I am sure."

Elrohir cringed at the sarcasm and made to leave.

"Where do you think you're going?" Elrond was definitely enjoying their discomfort.

Elladan sighed.

--

Meanwhile, Estel was… bored. The drug had not taken effect yet and the boy, with all the energy of a ten-year-old was busying himself with turning over and over in bed. He rather liked that creak of wood when he threw himself a little harder against the mattress…

After all, he was forbidden from leaving his room – no one was supposed to come in without ada's permission – and even rubbing his eyes was wrong. There just did not seem as though there was anything he could do. To make things worse, they said that there was an important guest coming soon, so of course, Estel decided that he must recover by the evening. He sneezed again. That was proving quite difficult.

Perhaps it would be easier to try to stay awake and hope to sneak out, then.

He rubbed his nose vigorously and tried to cover his mouth as he went into another coughing fit.

Then the drug finally started to take its effect.

--

"Do you think ada even likes us?"

"At least he kept us both in the same room."

"That's true."

Silence.

"I think Glorfy incited him to do this."

"We did make him rather angry."

"I told you we should have given him a wooden blade instead of that dummy."

"Wouldn't make much of a difference. He just could not accept that he lost to us in a fair fight."

"That's true."

Silence.

"How long do you think we'd be here?"

"Probably till the guests leave."

"That might take 3 days at least – and that's after they've arrived."

Silence.

"Do you think anyone would miss us?"

Pause.

"Probably not."

--

What could be worse than this, Estel thought. Being confined to his room all for a minor cold, cough, fever and some rashes on his forehead, while everyone else was busy preparing for the guests. He would have loved to meet them all and especially Gandalf. The Elves had been telling him many tales about the Grey Pilgrim, and there was one nagging question that he had always wanted to ask him.

"Estel, your fever's getting worse."

This was just perfect.

--

Glorfindel was clearly in a cheerful mood. The other elves could see that when he led them all to sing that foolish song of those dwarves and the hobbit a few days ago. Everyone guessed at once that it must have had been because he was temporarily spared the torture of training the twin sons of Elrond.

But Glorfindel knew better.

Two weeks! The twins would be kept in the cellar for two weeks! Glorfindel finally had his revenge.

--

"Time for your medicine, Estel," Elrond helped the boy up kindly.

Estel shook his heavy head stubbornly, but Elrond gave him a Look. Those rashes had spread to his feet now, and there was no convincing ada otherwise – even if the coughs and sneezes seemed to be subsiding. He could only pout as Elrond tipped the drug through his lips. There was probably ginger in it.

--

"How long has it been?"

"20 meals' long."

"About a week then, unless we're talking about Hobbit meals. The guests aren't gone yet?"

"Apparently not."

A sigh.

"You did say 3 days, didn't you?"

"Apparently it's longer than that."

Another sigh.

--

Estel was feeling rather confused. Usually, one of the twins would tell him which day – or night – it was, but till now, they had not come to see him. At least the fever was going down and the rashes were disappearing. Probably the mushrooms helped.

He fell asleep again.

--

Gandalf and Elrond finally found themselves free to converse one evening. As was only expected, they found their steps guided towards Estel's room.

"He bears a heavy burden," Gandalf said.

"Not least of all, recovering from the measles," Elrond added dryly.

--

One of the healers had told him that Gandalf did come in to see him. Estel wondered why no one had woken him up so he could ask the wizard that question.

After eating his lunch, he fell asleep again.

--

"We're usually more serious than this."

"Estel's a kid, we've to make him feel at home."

"That's true, but still…"

Silence.

"What do you think Estel's doing?"

"Who knows? Being ill?"

"Probably."

Silence.

"Should we visit him?"

"We're not supposed to leave this cellar."

"Why? Ada didn't even lock the door, did he?"

"But he and Glorfy gave us one of those Looks."

"Well, that was all…"

"No, we'd better not or we'd be blamed for everything that goes wrong."

--

It was late at night. Estel awoke suddenly. There were voices outside his room. Ada and some other person were speaking of him falling sick because he had gone to the village about a month ago.

The other person was Gandalf! Estel realised with excitement.

They were now speaking of Gandalf's sword. Estel crawled to his ajar door and peeked out. Glamdring was a fine blade and glowed beautifully in the moonlight.

"Estel, what are you doing here? You should be resting!"

Estel flinched. How had ada spotted him? He had not even made a single noise.

Gandalf laughed merrily at his discomfort.

Estel's face reddened. "I–I wanted to ask Gandalf a question?" he ventured hesitantly.

"What is it, my boy?" Gandalf bent over.

Estel looked rather worriedly into those shining eyes. And sneezed awkwardly.

The other two were trying to hold their laughter, waiting as patiently as they could for him.

Estel sniffed in hard. "Why is your cloak always dirty?" he finally asked.

Elrond burst out into laughter even as Gandalf stared in incomprehension. Elrond whispered something to the wizard and he too chortled heartily.

Estel could only think of one thing to do. He ran back into his room, pulled the door shut and hid under the covers.

He was getting rather angry; how could they be so mean! And Gandalf – Gandalf did not even answer him. And he knew just what to do: The twins had left the dummy sword from their last prank in his room and conveniently forgot about it…

--

The next morning, Estel awoke to find an enchanting silver brooch in the shape of a star beside his bed, along with a little note:

"Estel,
May the stars ever shine on your path.
Gandalf
P.S. My cloak isn't dirty. It's supposed to be grey."

The healer came to give him his final dose of medicine. Estel finished it rather cheerfully. Gandalf had come to see him again and answered his question and had even given him a gift!

Then his face suddenly fell.

Oh no, he thought, he'd better return Gandalf his sword!

Then, the soothing drug took its effect.

--

Gandalf thought his sword felt rather light. Perhaps the time at Rivendell had truly revitalised him. He shrugged and rode off with the others.

--

The guests had left. Elrond leaned back and took a deep breath. It had been wise to keep the twins in the cellar; it would have been disastrous if they had decided to swap Gandalf's Glamdring for a dummy weapon, even if the wizard had not seemed certain of the origins of his famous blade.

A nagging feeling grew on him and he hurried to Estel's room.

Within seconds, Glorfindel was riding hard after the party.

--

Many years later, it was now T.A. 2956. On this particular night, Aragorn was resting against a tree trunk. Finally, a well-deserved break! He had taken leave of the dúnedain after several exhausting patrols and had thought to return to Imladris for a brief reprieve.

He sneezed.

Not again, he groaned. It'd better not be as bad as that rather major incident over ten years ago.

He pulled out his spare cloak and wrapped it tightly around him, tying it in place with a silver star he always carried with him – a memory of friendship and childish folly. He leaned his head back, closed his eyes in rest then suddenly sat up and stared straight ahead. In the gloom, he made out a tall grey-cloaked figure making his way over and a rather familiar-looking sword at his side.

"Well-met, my friend," the man – no, Gandalf – it was Gandalf! – raised a hand in greeting.

Aragorn's only response was an awkwardly-familiar sneeze.