«I was the one who found Tauriel in the woods, many years ago. She was the lone survivor of an orc-attack of a company of elves traveling west. Her mother had hidden her in a hollow log, and I heard the cries one day when I was out riding with my father. I was a young elf, but she was an infant, and the moment I saw her and took her in my arms she stopped crying and looked at me with those big, green eyes of hers. I was enthralled, and even if my father never approved I always loved her. I gave her all the greatest gifts; her home, her life, her position. Had I not asked my father for his kindness, she would have died in that forest when she was a child. All I ever did for her, I did out of love. Do you see now that I love her, that she belongs with me?»
Fíli was surprised by what the elf told him. He touched his beard and took a step forward in a haze of information and new things to consider.
«Now?» Legolas looked as if he was anxious to hear what Fíli thought, as if he was trying to impress him. His voice was had an ironic tone when he then said: «Tell me your grand scheme. I am curious to hear what sort of ideas you have for my problem.»
«Why did you never tell her?» Fíli asked, ignoring Legolas' attempted mockery.
«You do not understand, do you?» Legolas pressed his lips together in sudden anger, and turned away from Fíli, trying to control his emotions. His fierce passion was surprising even to him. «Tauriel and I… we grew up side by side. Since she had no parents, my father allowed her to spend more time with me and also him, and I expect he grew to love her in his own way, as he does me. Yet still he would never allow me to marry her, and I knew this from the first moment I saw her. So I kept my love for her hidden away, giving her only the appreciation of a brother, as was expected of me.»
Legolas stopped for a moment, his breath heavy, and his eyes squeezed shut as he spoke of such sensitive subjects. It dawned on him that he had never spoken about this to anyone, and it was even more surprising that it was a dwarven prince that had managed to pry it out of him. He turned his head and looked at the dwarf as if in shock.
Fíli had a curious expression on his face, as he watched Legolas go through the emotions. It was highly enlightening to listen to him speak, and Fíli began to understand more and more of the situation.
«I always imagined she returned my love, but I realize now I've been foolish. I never gave her the opportunity to love me, so why would she? I had her love and respect as an older brother, and I accepted that in the hope that she too kept her true feelings hidden. How naive I've been.» Legolas exhaled and held his hand in front of his eyes. «And now I do not know what I will do, because I can't live without her, but I cannot bear the pain of my unreturned love.»
Fíli tilted his head as he wrinkled his eyebrows and pursed his lips in thoughtfulness. «I do not know much about love, I admit it. The only love story I have ever witnessed was my parents', and that too ended in a tragedy, as they so often do. But I am curious; what has changed so that you cannot live peacefully with the love that she gives you, even if it may not be what you wished for? If you lived with her for so many years while hiding your true feelings, I cannot see the problem with continue coexisting, like the two of you have done so far already. Why do you wish to cause both of you so much pain?»
Legolas felt his mouth fall open and he was silent, for he did not know how to respond. His situation sounded so childish to his ears when spoken aloud by the dwarf. He felt shame color his cheeks as he lowered his eyes upon the marbled floor. Fíli's reflection in the tiles looked grand and mighty, and Legolas felt small and foolish. He tightened and released his hands in a moment of uncertainty.
«I am simply asking why you must leave, never to return?» Fíli surprised himself as he opened his mouth. These words were very much unintended, and it was uncertain where they might lead. «I… I am sure it would make Tauriel happy if you chose to return, to see her again. If nothing, you are like brother and sister, and I know by my own heart that I would never want to leave Kíli behind, no matter the obstacles.»
«What exactly are you suggesting? Choose your words wisely, Prince.» Legolas stared at Fíli, his brows creased and his eyes disbelieving. He was afraid to assume, and so wished to hear him say the words out right.
«What I say is… what if you were to come back? Would you take the invitation and return to her with the joy and love she is missing? Can you love her like your sister, and forgive Kíli like your brother, selflessly? That is the only way you can both maintain some form of happiness.» Fíli said, slightly raising his voice, though keeping it steady. His heart beat like a drum in his chest. These were dangerous waters to wade, yet he knew it to be the right choice. If he ever were to be a righteous king, this was the defining moment of his fate.
«'Can I love her and forgive Kíli'? Do you mean that I will have free passage to visit her, to come and go as I choose?» Legolas was astounded, and he took a step back to balance himself of his suddenly light head.
«That is what I say. Will you take the invitation?» Fíli kept his face straight, as he wanted to seem strong, yet inside he felt like dancing. It was a huge relief, knowing he had single handedly found the solution to all of their problems. The only issue would now be to get Thorin to approve of this new arrangement. He would save that worry for later.
Fíli took a couple steps forward so they now stood only a few feet apart. Legolas kept his gaze, as to make sure he would keep his word. After all that had happened between them, he couldn't help but trust the prince, and it frightened him as well as it gave him comfort.
«I do not understand the hospitality of dwarves; first they want you to leave, then they want you to stay.» Legolas smiled as his gaze wavered from Fíli's. For a moment he looked around the grand hall; he looked at the colors; the vibrant tapestries depicting fighting and mining dwarves through all the ages of the world; he looked at the statues and the great fire casting light upon their faces of stone.
«As I look upon this room, this palace, I cannot believe that dwarves are primitive beasts, as are my teachings. You have a sense of beauty, balance and serenity I would never have imagined.» He gestured around the room, his slender and graceful hands dancing through the light and play of color. «And you have such great, unexpected honor.»
«You are quite the surprise yourself, my Prince. Never have I been more pleasured by welcoming an enemy as my friend.» Fíli smiled kindly. He raised his hand towards Legolas, and the elf took his firmly in his own as they for the first time treated each other as equals.
«Yes,» Legolas said, his voice firm and confident. «And I will honor your terms.»
Tauriel awoke abruptly and sat up in the bed. She heaved for breath and clenched the covers with her hands in panic. She had dreamt of Legolas, of his pained and angry words, his hateful eyes and rejections. The tears began again to stream down her cheeks, and she lowered her head upon her knees. The pain in her heart was unbearable. She did not know what she would do without the man she had loved as a brother her whole life. It was selfish, she knew it was, but she needed him in her life, and she did not know how she would go on without him.
At this moment she realized she was not alone in the room, that she had been awakened by the sound of the door opening and closing. She slowly raised her head and tried to see who had entered her room. The room was gloomy and the only light source was that of a nearly burnt-down candle by her bedside. The fires in the hearth had died down, and the embers were simply red outlines on the charcoals.
However, what she did see was a long, light hair shimmering in the dark by the door, and two ice-blue eyes which gazed back at her. Tauriel stopped breathing that instant, but her heart beat like a wood-pecker in the spring, as her eyes pierced the darkness to recognize the face she so longed to see.
«Legolas,» she breathed inaudibly. This was the cue for her tears to come again, and she cringed back into the bed sobbing, with her hands in front of her face.
Legolas took a few quick steps to the bed and hugged her tightly in his arms, as he had done when he saw her for the first time in that forest so many years ago.
«I am sorry, I am sorry, I am sorry,» she mumbled into his neck as he rocked her back and forth and kissed her forehead affectionately.
«Shush.» Legolas breathed softly into her hair. He took her face in his hands and dried her tears with his thumbs while trying to soothe her. Their eyes met for a moment, then she put both hands around his neck and hugged him tightly; like a lost child she held on to him, as if he was the only thing keeping her from drowning.
It was in this moment that Legolas felt the intense love she had for him, and he knew that her happiness was all that mattered to him, even if it was not his doing. He had found her in that forest, and she would always be his responsibility.
«I am here, and I will never abandon you again. Can you forgive me, my dear sister?» Legolas kissed her head and hugged her tightly. Her entire body shook from crying and exhaustion, and he knew she needed to rest. He hoped he would be able to bring her peace now.
«I love you, nín gwador,» was all she managed before she fell asleep in his arms as he held her. Legolas lowered her onto the pillows in the bed, and tucked the pelts securely around her. He smiled faintly for her reaction was more than enough for him to realize the importance behind this arrangement. She needed to stay here with Kíli, but she also needed Legolas to be happy. It warmed his heart that he was still such a big part of her life. He leaned down to kiss her forehead again.
Legolas removed some hair covering her face, and he took her hand and squeezed it lightly. Tauriel turned towards him in the bed and took hold of his hand with her other hand as well. Then her lips curled into a sweet smile, and Legolas knew he had done the right thing.