Thranduil harboured a secret. It was not uncommon for those of his ilk to have secrets. In all his years he had been the confidant of the forests, a witness to the slow shift of the earth beneath his feet, privy to the hum of the heavens above. Not everything was to be shared; some things were to be protected. Thranduil was a cautious elf, with no strong inclination to believe that knowledge should be disseminated without discrimination. Some creatures were simply not worthy.

But this particular secret was less external and more personal. A clandestine revelation he hoarded out of habit and mild bewilderment. Thranduil knew he was not like his kin in the other realms. He was not as liberal and tolerant as the Lord Elrond, neither was he as interfering as the Lady Galadriel. What he was, was weary of the outside world. Thranduil was jaded. He would not consider himself ancient but neither was he young, not even by the reckoning of his own folk. He had been alive enough years to see history repeat itself, again and again. He was not so naive to think there was a battle between good and evil that could be fought and won and done with. It was more circular than that. It was a sequence of events, (predestined maybe not so much by fate but by the fact that most living beings could think, feel and act), that would recur indefinitely.

It was nature.

Thranduil knew a great much about nature. Misunderstood by his own kind, disdainful of everyone else, Thranduil's only solace was the forest and the starlight. When he was younger, he had participated in these escapades, had cared about their outcome, their impact on elf, man and dwarf alike. His passion had faded. His self righteousness had bled away on the battlefield, replicating so much the spirit of war. The dwarves' greed had called something terrible out of the dark and Thranduil's advice had not been heeded. The stupidity of other races bothered him. He retreated into his Greenwood. His Greenwood. Don't think he does not know that it has been reappropriated as the Mirkwood. He feels fiercely protective and territorial of his land, sentiments he can extend to cover his subjects but plunge into invalidity when they reach the borders of his kingdom.

It feels like a lifetime ago (to some animals, it would be several) that he was invested in the future of other races but he left the last war scarred. Because he was an elf; the damage to his outer facade wasn't lasting. It was his soul that was ravaged. And because he was an elf, the physical was intrinsically linked to the spiritual and when his patience waned, the disfigurement would sometimes cross the barrier from imperceptible to actual, blighting his face like a hideous token of the days when he cared too much.

He was not a fool or blind to the permanent changes the war had wrought on him. The enemy had been defeated but it had not been without cost and Thranduil never thought the peace could last indefinitely. And when it ended, he and his own would be safe within the sanctuary he had created. Thranduil had shed a part of himself that had kept him on par with his kin. A diminutive shard of refinery discarded. Some days he was more instinct than sentient. He'd always been lethal but now he was unpredictable. Thranduil knew that being mercurial was not a highly sought out quality in a king but had he not earned his place? Proven his ability to protect his own? He was under no obligation to continue to bleed for the folly of others, no need to add another scar, mental or otherwise.

He was safe in his forest, safe within his own mind, lord of a kingdom. And as much as he loved the forest, he was not of it. For Thranduil was not like a flesh and blood creature, he was elemental, all the temperament of the sky. Calm and remote but also the terrifying fury of a storm.

He was glass and ice and starlight and lightening.

He was king and above earthly binds that the humans embraced and his own kin seemed to fall victim to.

And so this secret, locked away in the darkest vault of his being, was kept with shame and in direct contradiction to everything he was. Because Thranduil had succumbed to madness. He had fallen in love.

Thranduil was not weak, he did not allow himself to get infected easily, but he'd been exposed for centuries, bearing it as best he could while the greedy fingers of emotion curled their way inside. So small and inconsequential at first that he barely noticed them.

Tauriel.

The elves had never put the same stock in partitioning their people up into class and storing them in neat little boxes. However there was a divide. He was king. She was the captain of the guard.

Thranduil can remember every moment of his life but he recalls certain memories of Tauriel with an almost aching precision. Painful because he can't forget even if he would long to. When Legolas first broached the subject of Tauriel joining the guard, Thranduil had to be prodded to recall her face, even though she and his son were friends, before sighing and granting his permission. Inside his curiosity had been piqued. Elleth were so rarely warriors; charged with the responsibility for bringing life into the world they were more given to becoming wonderful healers, but this youngling had expressed a desire to take up arms and defend her people.

Thranduil expected that topic to be done but Tauriel so far exceeded any expectations that her name was soon whispered with reverence and awe. Frequently enough that even Thranduil paid heed. For one hundred years she trained and her prowess with blades became legendary amongst the Greenwood. Thranduil finally succumbed to inquisitiveness, a state that had become almost foreign to him, and deigned to attend one of their practices. His presence was unexpected and deliberately unannounced, because no one could detect his movements unless he so allowed. Blending in seamlessly, he watched and judged the rumours to be correct.

Tauriel was better with a blade than even his own heir. She was as accomplished with her sword as Legolas was with his bow. She was almost unrivalled in the woodland kingdom. Almost. And she knew her own skill.

"You have grown cocky, Tauriel. I find that trait so... human."

Tauriel stiffened and her jaw clenched. "My apologies, my Lord." All her emotions still so transparent on her face, as simple to read as a book. Thranduil was left marvelling at the differences age wrought.

"Perhaps I am remiss for allowing you to remain insufficiently challenged?" Thranduil mused, his question inviting no answer.

"Perhaps so, my Lord," Tauriel replied anyway. Thranduil's eyes flashed, unaccustomed to the contrary nature of her retort. The words were polite, her intentions were not. This hĂȘn, this elfling, had grown bold beyond her station. All too likely encouraged by her unequal friendship with his son. But even Legolas would not speak to him in such a fashion.

"Would you consider me an acceptable challenger?" His question is not sincere, it had poison and bite and she recoiled from the question like she had been struck by lightning. His own face revealed nothing beyond his displeasure which was no guarded secret.

Tauriel was conflicted. She could not refuse a request from the King's own mouth and yet it would be treasonous to afflict violence on his person. He was gratified by the confusion written on her face. So, so very easy to read.

"My Lord, you honour me with your interest but I must decline. I do not wish to do something regrettable."

"You think you would so quickly best me?" Thranduil asked flatly, reminding her of the dangerous territory she was navigating.

"No, my Lord." Tauriel looked aghast, turning to Legolas but she would find no help in the quarter. He had raised an obedient son and, more so, a respectful subject.

"Consider, there will be no punishment to follow if by chance you land a blow," Thranduil decreed, well aware of his hushed and tense audience. "My word as your king."

Tauriel's lips pursed fractionally. She desired this fight, he realised. This maid was as reckless as he was unpredictable. "I accept graciously, my king."

"To the death then, my Lady." The title is not accurate; it is a nicety but a subtle flush sprung up in Tauriel's cheeks. Whether it is from embarrassment or a suspicion she was being mocked, Thranduil cared not. To the death is symbolic. The elves would never take a life lightly and Thranduil wants to reprimand Tauriel, not murder her.

Thranduil gracefully peeled off his outer robe, knowing without looking that an attendant would be there to claim it. And then his hand wraps around the hilt of his sword. The contact brings with it a host of memories, all of them bloody but not all of them horrific. Let it not be said that Thranduil took no pleasure on the battlefield. His preference is to fight with two blades so that none may escape his fury but today, in lieu of it being sport, he would settle for one.

He drew his blade, unique even amongst his brethren for the lack of curve. It had a long reach and was comfortable in his grip. Tauriel had a century of practice but Thranduil had eons of experience.

She struck first and Thranduil had expected no different from the blushing, feisty she-warrior. She was fast, he acknowledged, and her blade was an extension of her body. But Thranduil was the weapon in of himself. He parried effortlessly, seeming not to move but having already shifted across the space. Tauriel realised her mistake at that moment but instead of faltering, she gritted her teeth. Her next blow was well thought out and strategic. She feinted first to Thranduil's left before carving the blade down towards his chest. Thranduil did not react to the ruse and waited until she attacked in earnest.

The beginning of a fight is like a courtship. One must get the feel for their opponent; learn their preferences and their weaknesses before engaging whole heartedly. Tauriel was rash and if pushed, if thrown off balance, she would waver.

Tauriel's swiftness increased as did Thranduil's and it was clear that she was hopelessly inferior to his skill. Tauriel gasped for breath but Thranduil was silent, moving as smoothly as silk. That said, Tauriel was an excellent swordsman. A hundred years were not enough to have the same mastery Thranduil could boast of but it had made her supremely proficient.

Thranduil's intention had been to humble her but even from within the duel he could see Tauriel was fighting better than anyone had ever seen. To the outside they were merely a blur of bodies and steel and Tauriel's occasional grunt of exertion.

Thranduil skill was inspiring greatness from Tauriel and her growing confidence as she endured on against the king of the Greenwood forced Thranduil to take the fight seriously. He side stepped neatly, with all the precision and grace of a dancer. They moved so perfectly in tandem that one might believe they had choreographed this little battle. Thranduil fought without flourishes, with striking simplicity and complete efficiency. Tauriel's style had more blood, more passion.

Thranduil's toyed with the idea of going for Tauriel's exposed throat, he deliberately forsook an opportunity to end the duel not once but twice. He was finding himself relishing having a, perhaps not worthy, but moderately competent opponent. Besides, his lesson was not over.

His taunting had brought him in too close. A gasp from the crowd and a stinging sensation along his jaw informed him that the very sin he was punishing Tauriel for had become his own. His pride had made him foolish and she had caused first blood.

Anger welled up inside his chest, turning forth like the fury from a storm.

Enough.

If Thranduil was talented before, he was magnificent now. The true embodiment of everything ethereal and alien of the elves. Thranduil could have closed his eyes and defeated Tauriel and as it was he did not even turn around. He knew where she would be and where his sword must land. The tip rested just below her breast bone. With a flick of his wrist it would slide through flesh and blood, but he held it steady. Thranduil knew comprehensively the pressure needed to kill someone. Tauriel had lost.

"I yield."

Still not looking at his conquest, he raised a hand to his face. The tips of his fingers came back ruddy, the ruby red of his blood there for all to see.

"It has been a long while since anyone has made me bleed," he noted with detachment, the fire from his combat seeping away like morning fog.

"My Lord, I'm sorry," Tauriel spoke lowly and urgently. That extension of regret infuriated him more than then cut had, after all it would require nothing to heal. Now he faced Tauriel, rounding on her and drawing up to his full height.

"Does my word mean nothing that you would cower like that?" he demanded, words icy but controlled. "I said there would be no consequence for any harm inflicted and I stand by that."

Tauriel did not flinch away from his curt words, instead mirroring him, standing straighter and eyeing him steadily. Insubordinate to the bone.

"You won, my Lord. You are without question the greatest swordsman I have ever seen. A true artist."

Thranduil eyed her sternly; close enough to see the thoughts in her eyes, searching for mockery or derision. He could find none. It was a compliment. A compliment from a child who had seen naught but he found himself pleased.

"And I consider it a great privilege to have wounded you."

Ah, now she was being brazen but Thranduil couldn't find in himself the desire to chide her.

"Shall I tend to it?" she asked and she had returned to sincerity, wide eyes made greener by the tumble of red hair that framed her face. She was too young to understand the impropriety of the offer but ludicrously that made it all the more endearing to Thranduil. It had been a long time since someone offered to tend to a simple injury purely because he was hurt and not because of who he was.

Thranduil did not have the chance to decline the offer before her fingers lightly brushed his jaw, just under the shallow wound. The barest touch but Thranduil felt it through the length of his body. It lasted next to no time before Tauriel realised she had overstepped and snatched her hand back. She took a hasty step backwards while Thranduil composed his face. His body had shielded her actions from their avid audience and Thranduil was glad. He did not need or want the scandal.

"It is not your place," he hissed before stalking away, his skin still burning from the chaste touch. That night he decided he found Tauriel distasteful and would avoid her company as much as was possible.

The next day he made her captain of the guard, in complete contradiction to his previous mandate.

Tauriel slipped easily from his mind after that day and for many years after. He was, after all, King and if he was distant, he was never lax. After the anomaly that was their fight, Thranduil quickly established a more proper relationship with boundaries. Most of his orders were delivered through his son and when he had to communicate in person with his captain, there was nothing untoward in their manner. Thranduil had convinced himself he imagined that nothing of a moment.

Better still, Tauriel proved to be exceptionally well suited for the position, further justifying Thranduil's decision to name her so. She was obedient to his wishes even if he could see that fire of recklessness and rebellion in her green eyes when he cared to look. At the end of it, all was well.

It was an illusion.

The pretty delusion began to splinter one evening as the elves of the Greenwood celebrated Mereth Nuin Giliath. Thranduil had a goblet of wine in his hand. Say what one might about the quality of person one might find in Lake Town, they had the ability to provide an excellent vintage.

Thranduil was bored; this was not how he wanted to celebrate the feast of starlight, not anymore. Once he would have enjoyed the festivities but now he found the exchange of words and the over indulgence of the wine banal. Would that he were outside, immersed in the silver light of the stars, appreciating them in blessed silence.

Thranduil was actually contemplating a dramatic exit, leaving his subjects to their merry making when there was a ripple of surprise amongst the crowd. Despite the horde, Thranduil's keen eyes found the cause almost instantly. Tauriel. His eyebrows rose just fractionally at her entrance. He had come so used to seeing her in her warrior garb that he had half forgotten that she was a maid. Had made himself forget, a traitorous whisper slithered in the back corners of his mind.

And now here she was, in quite a lovely gown that was not as lavish as some of the other dresses present but still had the ability to transform the captain of the guard into something more. Tauriel fidgeted under the new scrutiny. Still so young, not yet possessed with the self control that those older than her had attained. Thranduil could himself be a statue if he so desired, no matter what thoughts were flitting in his head. And ah, she blushed. Thranduil had to admit that it was becoming, even if another symbol of her youth.

She was rescued by his son, breaking the awkward pause with ease. Watching them talk, Thranduil realised that Tauriel and his son were closer than he had first suspected. It had all the bearing of an innocent friendship, for now. Thranduil felt something sour open inside his chest. He chose to ignore it because he was king and that was his right. He languidly returned his attention to the cluster of elves at his side.

All night he could hear Tauriel's name, an infuriating drone of repetition, she was constantly examined with surprise. If she did not understand the why of it then she was aware of it. Her shoulders were tense as she found herself conversing with elves visiting from Rivendell. She was uncomfortable, he noticed because he was just as guilty of watching Tauriel as every other in the room. What a novel concept. Tauriel was normally brimming with life, bold to the point of troublesome and now she had been all but rendered mute. Fascinated by this transformation from warrior to meekness, Thranduil pushed himself to his feet. The helpless quality in her eyes had stirred him from his lethargy.

He strode across the room, carving a path with his tall, imposing figure. Tomorrow, maybe he'd regret his actions, blame that cursed strong wine, but tonight he was Thranduil of impulse.

"Forgive me for the interruption," he began courteously enough, a required pleasantry because Thranduil was less than worried about manners. Still the relationship with Rivendell must be maintained. His prickly nature warded off most allies but Lord Elrond was harder to offend and wiser than most. Still Thranduil would not give undue offense to his representatives unless they truly irked him.

The ambassadors murmured their acceptance of his (false) apology and he promptly ignored them. His freezing eyes were all for Tauriel who was looking quite determinedly at the ground.

"Captain, you will have this next dance with me." It was a command. Not a request, never a request. Tauriel's eyes returned to him sharply and for a brief second Thranduil felt a stab of worry. But he shook it off. There was nothing inappropriate about this. She was the captain of the guard, an important position in his household and efficient at her role as well. She was due a display of respect and thanks from the king.

Thranduil held out a confident hand, never doubting that Tauriel would comply. Her hand hesitated before slipping into his. It was much smaller than his own and daintier than one might have expected from a swordstress. It had been a long time since Thranduil had danced; he had lost the inclination for it sometime after Legolas' mother had passed.

For the second time he found himself having to match his body around Tauriel's, except to dance was so very different from the thrill of a fight. He was still the lead and he found himself just as focused on Tauriel now as when she had a blade in her hand but there was no singing adrenaline in his veins.

"Are you not well, Tauriel?" he asked, his face an unreadable mask.

Tauriel was startled. "Quite well, my Lord," she answered swiftly and if it was untrue than what concern was it of Thranduil's?

"Except-" Tauriel did not finish vocalising whatever was to follow. She bit her lip.

Thranduil tilted his head. "Except?"

"Except I cannot quite determine why they are staring so." Her cheeks were stained red as if the confession caused her embarrassment.

"They stare because that gown suits you satisfactorily and you look particularly appealing this evening." Thranduil elucidated on the mystery with no intonation.

She made a chocked sound in the back of her throat, causing Thranduil to glance down with alarm. The flush in her cheeks increased and now she looked back at her admirers with new understanding. Thranduil himself cast his eyes around to see that they had attracted quite an audience. He knew they were being watched even if the elves strove to be more subtle than open gawking. Attracted by the unusual sight of their king dancing combined with the sudden discovery that Tauriel was actually quite... fetching.

Thranduil shook his head with irritation. "Silly fools, the way they are behaving you would think they had never seen a beautiful woman before."

He was aware that Tauriel was rigid once more. "You think I'm beautiful, my Lord?"

Thranduil blinked owlishly at her. "Did I not just say as much?" he asked with genuine bewilderment, not comprehending the question. It wasn't until a shy smile crossed her face that Thranduil realised the importance of her emphasising him specifically. Somehow his opinion meant more to her than the others in this room. And so it should as her overlord. But he grudgingly acknowledged internally that was not the all of it.

Thranduil should have corrected her, made his comment less a compliment, less personal. But there was a gleam in her eyes as she looked up at him that sealed his mouth and kept his silence. She was content to be there with him, as strained and as detached as he was. When had the last person simply desired his company?

"I'm sure they're not all fools. I'm certain they serve a purpose," Tauriel contradicted lightly, somewhat more at ease now.

"Such as?" Thranduil inquired, humouring her.

"Why as a lovely stand to hang your robes from," Tauriel suggested, tone innocent but her eyes were now wicked. Thranduil chuckled quietly, the action strangely unfamiliar on his throat and jaw. Her audacity had returned as she comfortably teased those of a higher station than herself. Thranduil had no interest in reprimanding her. She had made him laugh and that was a rare thing. No one had inspired a sincere laugh from him in what felt like centuries.

His breathing was too heavy and now the bare skin of her palm felt too hot against his. Thranduil tried to observe all these reactions with disconnected interest but he could not manage it.

The song ended too quickly and he drew away from Tauriel as if she was dangerous. He was very skilled at hiding his confusion and doubts because Tauriel sensed nothing remiss in his behaviour, her smile still reflecting her gratitude at his rescue.

Thranduil did make his escape then, his expression turned murderous as soon as there was no one there to witness it. He could not understand what was wrong with him and he could not explain why Tauriel made him feel lighter. Perhaps it was because she was so different to the others in his kingdom. Whatever Tauriel was, she was not afraid of him. Where that would have infuriated once, he found that he was pleased. And his lack of anger in turn made him livid, furious with her and himself.

From then on Thranduil started to summon Legolas less and Tauriel more to receive his orders pertaining to security while something began to unfurl in his belly that was closely akin to shame. While she was in his presence, he never regretted the decision. She was polite with maybe an edge of irreverence and even if she was, she did as he asked her. It was only when she left and he had privacy that he would question his motives. If he was feeling obstinate he would tell himself that Legolas was too important to be used as a mere messenger, he had better things to be doing as the prince. If Thranduil was inclined to be honest then he could admit that he had grown treacherously fond of Tauriel.

That she had his favour was no secret. But the depth of it, Thranduil kept closely guarded. Even though he knew he was descending into perilous territory, he did not desist in playing this game. He found it refreshing that Tauriel treated him like an actual person and not some relic of power. He was contrary though because he would not have tolerated it from anyone else.

It did not take him long to ascertain that he was not the only member of his family to develop a partiality for Tauriel. On the many occasions he dined with his father, Legolas talked of her constantly and he was not so cautious about concealing his regard. Legolas had learnt from his father but still had not mastered the art of making his face the blank mask that Thranduil's could be if necessary and his eyes would light up at the mention of the captain. His son had romantic notions on Tauriel, Thranduil knew without question and that broke open a hornet nest of problems.

Not least was the matter of station. Thranduil's own guilty weakness for the woman notwithstanding, the prince of Greenwood could not be pledged to the captain of the guard. More importantly, more selfishly, Thranduil was jealous. The dawning realisation hit him like a physical blow. He had no inkling as to whether the sentiment was reciprocated by Tauriel but there was no question that their friendship was close. All the potential was there and Thranduil hated it. He was disgusted with himself. How ludicrous was it that he and his son both desired the same woman? That night, after he'd been left alone, he'd flown into a rage. His horror at his own personal infection exploded outward in a steely display of striking power and destruction and no one was any the wiser for it.

He couldn't let Legolas have her, just as he himself could not. Both father and son would lose in this. Thranduil sent Tauriel out to patrol the borders of the forest and dispatched Legolas in the opposite direction to visit the villages under their control. In their absence Thranduil worked at convincing himself that his inclination towards her had been a passing fancy, a temporary brand of insanity.

And it almost worked. Time passed and with Tauriel out of sight he began to forget the way her eyes had sparked when she'd been amused, how that light had made his chest tighten. Yes, almost.

Some years had passed and Mereth Nuin Giliath had come upon them once more. Legolas was still away on his business and he has expected Tauriel's nonattendance also. But there she was, his gaze drawn instantly and his skin felt cold. She was not unsure of herself now, bearing herself with confidence and elegance. Thranduil clamped down on his emotions with the iron will he'd forged over the centuries.

He did not speak to her, did not look at her but he could feel that she watched him through the night and it was disconcerting. He made his excuses early and retreated to where he truly wanted to be. Thranduil waved his guards away as he escaped outside. There was no threat in these woods that he could not deal with personally. Thranduil scaled the tree with sinuous grace. He knew these woods better than his own body, he was a welcome and old friend of the trees here and he could feel their greeting seeping out and into him.

Thranduil felt more at home here than in his own halls, surrounded by people. Up and up, he climbed higher. When he burst through the canopy, the wind whistled around his ears, branches affectionately grabbed at his clothes.

Thranduil closed his eyes and inhaled the sweet night air and basked in the silver glow of the stars. His stance was as steady as if he stood on the ground.

"Beautiful, are they not?"

Thranduil's jaw clenched discreetly. He had heard the elf in the tree and half of him had hoped it was Tauriel as the other half hoped it would be a stranger merely crossing his path.

He opened his eyes and wished he hadn't. Tauriel was illuminated, her skin turned silver and her hair ran like fire. She swayed with the rhythm of the tree, as comfortable in the branches as he was. She was close, too close to him but his pride would not let him back away.

His Tauriel. His in the sense that everything in the realm belonged to him and nothing more.

He did not answer her. He could smell the spice of wine on her breath, knew he'd be able to taste it on her lips if he was so inclined.

"They remind me of you sometimes," Tauriel noted, turning her gaze upward. The Elven king could only stare. "Distant and yet beautiful."

She had taken too much of the wine. Not enough to steal her equilibrium but certainly enough to rob her of her inhibitions. At a loss for words, Thranduil looked to extradite himself from this mess of his own making.

"I wish you a pleasant evening, Tauriel." He bowed his head and made to take his leave. A hand on the centre of his chest stopped him. The impropriety of the gesture shocked him but not as much as the thrill of being touched by Tauriel.

"What happened to you?" she asked him very seriously.

Thranduil couldn't think through her impertinent hold on him. What had happened to him? A great many things, he had lived through ages.

He cleared his throat, hoping that she would take the hint and remove her hand. She did not.

Her palm rested where his heart is. Was. Is?

And she must be able to feel it beating because he certainly can. Like a dwarf drum in his chest.

"What broke you?" the question is a hiss and it makes much more sense, though Thranduil is no better equipped to answer.

"Sometimes I half imagine I can see inside your soul and there is a terrifying strength there but also something so fragile." Tauriel's eyes are narrowed and she'd no longer watching his face but studying his chest under her splayed fingers. Examining like she might suddenly unlock the truth of his very being.

It had gone too far and his hand curled around her wrist, ready to pluck her hand away from his person. But she spoke again.

"It is beautiful but shattered, like a dropped mirror. What broke you, Thranduil?"

The sound of his name falling from her mouth makes his fingers clench and bite into her skin but if she feels pain, she doesn't show it. By the stars, he wished he could answer her. He finally summons the strength to fling her hand away, his eyes wide and his mouth a thin line.

"You are not like us, my Lord," she summarised simply and there is sympathy in those green eyes. His title is back and Thranduil does not truly know if he's relieved or saddened. There is one unspoken question. Tauriel is silently asking if he can be repaired, if he can be healed.

"I am beyond anyone's help," Thranduil breathed, voice uneven and ragged. It sounded like a stranger's voice. He left her then, movements still controlled but not disguising the fact he was fleeing from Tauriel and her uncomfortably true words. His cheek ached and he knew that the ghost of his old injury was flaring up and he could curse her for that.

He is enraged and unhinged but there is no mistaking the irregular thud of his heart. He was unable to recognise it before but he knew he loved her now. Against logic and reason and all his efforts, that stupid child had wriggled her way into his affections. Despite all her flaws or maybe because of them. Tauriel had not even tried, this was an unforseen, unplanned accident.

There was nothing to be done. He wanted her but could not take her and Thranduil resented anyone who got in the way of what he wanted, even if it was his own forsaken self.

Tauriel did not mention that night again, behaving as if it had never happened and maybe she had forgotten. She might have, it wasn't impossible. Wine affected the young elves differently than it did him. Regardless, Thranduil did the unthinkable and took his lead from her. He should have punished her for her unseemliness but that meant addressing the issue again and he did not want to look closely at the fractured pieces of his insides.

Instead of sending Tauriel away again, he kept her close, bringing Legolas back as a distraction. It made him feel ill, using his son, who he did cherish, to distract the woman he loved. And all the while he watched and analysed and tried to determine if what she felt for him was more than camaraderie. His blood was laced with venom that flared whenever Legolas' eyes lingered or her smile was too warm in response.

Thranduil stood on the sidelines and a darkness brewed inside him, a frightening storm roiled in his chest.

He had never had so much difficulty figuring one person out but Tauriel, for all her wondrous openness, was a puzzle to him. His exact opposite and perhaps that was why he struggled. Thranduil cannot resist mentioning his son to her, mentioning his attachment to her. His temper was running hot from the encounter with the dwarf Thorin. He has the same arrogance his forefathers possessed and the same blindness too. Thranduil can already predict the ruin that will be unleashed if they are allowed to proceed. His wild anger is turned on Tauriel. He wants to see her reaction and to his dismay there is affection and hope. He would not go so far as to call it love but is near enough to hurt like a dagger in his stomach.

Thranduil kept a smug smile on his face and while he spoke mildly, he was stinging and cruel as he dismissed the possibility of a union. He can't watch her face as he does, knowing that he is being hurtful and that she won't be able to conceal her reaction. He instructed her not to give him hope. Not like you have given to me, is left unspoken.

When the dwarves escaped and the jealousy is festering unchecked, Thranduil takes another blow. Questioning the filthy orc hostage revealed new and unwelcome information. Tauriel's eyes glittered with fury as the orc taunted her of the young dwarf's inevitable death. Her hackles rose and Thranduil could only stare in disbelief before sending her from the room. Insult to injury. He could just barely stand having his own son as an unknowing rival but a dwarf? Tauriel was not wrong to call him different but she had not informed him that she was just as singular.

Thranduil tasted something bitter on the back of his throat and he believed it to be irony. He'd been waging a private war, railing against feeling something for an unacceptable candidate and Tauriel looked to be in the same position. He could have laughed if it did not ache so.

Thranduil was not overly surprised when the guards told him she had left, defying his orders. That she had been so obedient thus far was itself a miracle, considering what he knew about her fiery nature. She had lectured him, not outright of course, for not being concerned about the fate of the other lands in the world. He could remember feeling that same fierce passion himself once upon a time. If that was her only reason for leaving then he'd be inclined to forgive her, because he'd forgiven her every other transgression. But he also knew she had gone to save the dwarf, or avenge him, and he could not overlook that. As unwitting as she was about his feelings for her, he irrationally perceived it as a personal affront.

Then he had been told that Legolas had joined her.

The guards had left the room, knowing their king well enough to make a hasty retreat and leave him alone. He'd flung his glass against the wall and watched as it cracked and sprinkled across the floor like fallen stars. They caught the light like jewels and he wondered if this is what Tauriel had meant about his soul being shattered but beautiful. There was no way to put the glass back together and likewise himself.

Why could people not leave well enough alone and be content with what they had? Even if they weren't then they should learn to pretend as competently as he had.

Thranduil's hand touched the hilt of his sword, and he recalled the sensation of Tauriel's warm hand on his heart. There was a fight coming and if his son was involved than so shall he be. Only the two people he cared about most could rouse his involvement and his retribution would indeed be terrible once they were back in his realm. They could not possibly know what they had awakened inside him or the consequences to have Thranduil return into the world as a warrior king. There would be blood and no mercy. There never was in war.

AN: After seeing the Desolation of Smaug, I quickly became infatuated with Thranduil. And not just because he was beautiful, there was certainly no end of pretty in the most recent movies. I had to indulge him by writing this one shot, because Thranduil is a demanding muse. I've read the book but this is mostly based on the movie incarnation. I would quite like everyone's opinion as I've tried to do something quite different to what I'm used to. Additionally, I like Tauriel with Kili AND Legolas, so many avenues to explore in both of those pairings, but Thranduil is the one that fascinates me and hence this whole unrequited (mostly) story.