Chapter 3, the last chapter, everyone!

I know, this chapter is a bit late, but it is up now and I hope it will be worth the wait!

Congratulations to the guest who guessed the right p.o.v for this chapter: it is Thranduil's!

Sorry, ElvesRule, who hoped for it to be Legolas's p.o.v. I hope you'll like it anyway :)

Lucien: This chapter will not contain much of the Captain, but as to why he was thanking Tauriel in the previous chapter: it was partly because of her returning (he had missed her since he had practically raised her) and because of her having taught him some things about life; about following your heart sometimes instead of the actual order (the Captain disobeyed Thranduil's orders when letting Tauriel into the castle) and doing what feels like the right thing and not letting others tell you otherwise. Hope this answers your thoughts, since I did not write more about Tauriel and the Captain!

*Thank you-notes at the bottom*

. . = "big time jump"

. . . . = "short time jump"

I do not own any characters or places; J.R.R Tolkien or Peter Jackson and Co do.

Elvish's in italics.


Chapter 3

"There has been word from Lady Galadriel", said the Captain importantly. "Dol Guldur is free from darkness once more."

Thranduil's face did not show any indication of what he was feeling, but his insides were sagging with relief and his heart soared with all the emotions he managed to keep out of his face. Many months had passed and now the forest had turned even sicker and twisted, so dark that Thranduil could barely seem to recall when it had been green and thriving. He had led armies through the forest, determined to wipe out the filth that had nestled itself there. He had sent warriors to aid the Men and dwarves of the North, but few of them had returned. Dol Guldur was beyond the borders of his Realm and thus the Lady of Light had offered to deal with the darkness that festered there, a sinister malice beyond the Elvenking's power to destroy.

"That is indeed joyous news", said Thranduil and allowed his lips to twitch into a smile for a brief moment. "Let the news be spread and tell everyone to light the fires and bring out the wine. The war is over; tonight we shall feast!"

"Certainly, my Lord."

The Captain bowed and when he straightened up, his green eyes were twinkling mischievously and Thranduil thought he looked years younger. Tauriel had not spoken a word since entering the King's chambers. When he announced that a feast should be held, her expression was neither happy nor sad. She followed the Captain's example – bowing – before turning to follow him. Thranduil did not like to see her face so closed, so different from how it had been before. He wanted to congratulate her on the victory against the goblin army coming down from the North, because he had been told various times that she was the reason they had won that particular battle. Long ago, Tauriel would have worn a proud smile of such an achievement and Legolas would have been there to sing her praises. Now Legolas was not there, gone and might not return. At the same time, Tauriel was miserable, despite trying to hide it. She was not the little elleth he had met so many years ago with such a bright and promising future ahead of her.

He refused to feel guilt. It was not in his nature to do so and while he might have driven Tauriel away, driven her to exile, she had brought that upon herself when she chose a dwarf over her own kin. Yet he did not want her to leave with such a hopeless look upon her face.

"Tauriel, dartha!" he called and the red-haired woman paused. She turned and her expression was uncertain, as if she tried to figure out what she had done wrong. Thranduil nearly smiled. "A word, if you please."

Tauriel glanced back at the Captain and Thranduil saw how his lips formed into a comforting smile and there was fondness in his eyes. Thranduil had almost forgotten that he had been her mentor, the closest to a father figure she had ever had. Tauriel seemed to be assured by the Captain's smile and stayed while he left and closed the doors behind him. They shut with a soft 'thud' and left an uncomfortable silence behind. Words that had seemed so obvious moments before caught in his throat and would not come.

"How are you feeling?" he blurted out suddenly, his heart twisting slightly at her surprised look.

Tauriel blinked, looking unsure. Thranduil tried to compose himself into his usual detached expression, not wanting her to see what was on his mind, the worry and tiredness he felt.

"I am doing well, my Lord", she replied, her voice laced with wonder at why he would ask such a question.

He could not help but think that she might not be entirely truthful. Her uniform was stained with dirt and it looked as if she had outgrown it. Pale was her skin, her cheeks hollow and her eyes did not shine with the same light it had done so many years ago. Tauriel was more serious now, not the same free spirit, and Thranduil wondered if it really did her any good to have come back.

"You have changed", he said and he could not completely hide his dismay and sadness.

Tauriel responded with a tired smile that made her eyes appear dark and sad.

"So have you", she said and Thranduil wondered if she might be right.

. .

It appeared that many things had changed. When Legolas returned, Thranduil barely recognized his son. It was not that his appearance was different, but more subtle changes in the way he held himself, the way he spoke and the way his eyes had gotten a new look to them. In a way, it unnerved Thranduil and with a sinking feeling he realized that he had not lived up to his fatherly duties. He had relied so much on Legolas in the past; always pushing him to do more than his best because he knew Legolas could handle it. Looking back, he thought he might have been too hard on his son and that his actions had been one of the reasons to why Legolas had turned cold over the years and Thranduil was certain that Tauriel's banishment had caused Legolas misery during the sixty years that had passed. He wondered if he should feel some kind of regret and he told Legolas all this the night of his return.

"You are a better man then I ever was and I am so proud of you."

A simple sentence, but Thranduil had not been much for emotions since his wife's passing. Legolas looked at him funnily, one dark brow arched.

"How much have you been drinking?" he wondered incredulously and Thranduil felt offended.

"Not as much as I used to do. Wartime demanded me to stay sharp and alert and my appetite for sweet liquids has lessened drastically." He frowned. "You think me to speak untrue?"

Legolas shrugged. The action caused Thranduil's heart to clench. The King turned his face away to hide the momentarily crack in his façade. He found the intricate patterns in the walls frightfully fascinating.

"It brings me no joy that you have so little faith in me", he said heavily. "But I suppose that it is my own fault." Thranduil sighed, feeling suddenly very tired. He turned back to face Legolas. "I have perhaps not been the father to you that you needed after your mother's passing. I have realized that now. Many times I left you to your own when I should have guided you and not have let you rely on others."

He paused, but Legolas did not speak in his stead. His son's expression was neutral, blank and it caused his heart a bittersweet feeling of pride. When it became painfully obvious that Legolas was not going to speak, Thranduil continued:

"During your journey, I was worried that I was never going to see you again", he confessed. "Noble quests do not always end well. It pained me that I had perhaps seen you for the last time without telling you the truth; that I have wronged you and that is a debt I will not manage to pay off."

Legolas remained silent and for once, Thranduil did not see himself in him. Instead, he saw his wife within Legolas's eyes. He could not put a finger on why or what it was that made him think of her, but it was something. Thranduil suddenly wished for a glass of wine nearby.

Legolas got to his feet and Thranduil hung his head, awaiting his son's judgment. He did not know if he should have been surprised when Legolas knelt in front of him, grasping one of his father's hands with his. The Prince placed a soft kiss upon one of Thranduil's many rings, a sign of respect and loyalty. Thranduil did not quite feel that he deserved it.

"Vanwië vi ah in rohta anaië wanwa", said Legolas softly and there was no anger or hard feelings in his eyes. They were bright, like the sun reflecting on the sea. "Lavdh Tauriel an dartha ah neië far an si."

Legolas might have thought it was enough, but Thranduil did not agree whole-heartedly. Yet he did not want to ruin their moment by arguing. He rested his chin against his son's pale head and vowed that he would make up to him somehow.

. . . .

Later, Thranduil sat on his balcony and looked out over the forest, but more specifically the garden he could glimpse through the crowns of the trees. His wife had loved that garden, tended to it by herself. He was ashamed to say that he might have let it decay after her death.

Like any other elf, Thranduil was proud, perhaps prouder than most. Therefore, he would not lower himself to say that he was spying on his son and his ward as they were sitting down in the garden, under trees that had started to become green again. No, Thranduil would prefer to say that he was 'looking out for the two of them'. They had caused each other more sorrows than Thranduil ever had wanted them to.

He could hear parts of their conversation, but he tried not to. It was enough to watch them, read their faces and body language. A weak breeze made the leaves flutter, a strange song and Thranduil was reminded of his wife, as if it was her spirit that flew through the leaves, watching over their son with him.

"…. changed", he heard Legolas say and there were more emotions in his voice than he had heard his son use in a long time. "When I last saw you, you seemed to have aged. Something troubled you and prevented you from finding peace. Yet now, I do not believe I have ever seen you smile so bright."

"You are back", replied Tauriel with a simplicity only she could manage. She angled her face so that Thranduil got a glimpse of that bright, lovely smile of hers that had become so rare. "The war is over. What is there not to be happy for?"

Thranduil believed her to be right. Birds were once again singing and the leaves of the trees were slowly becoming green again. The world was healing and his people could once again thrive, should they not chose to leave the shores of this land to journey across the sea. Deep in his heart, Thranduil felt that tugging, that longing to travel to the Grey Havens and then sail to reunite with his long lost kin. That desire had been there since the day his wife died, but he had managed to repress it before and he would ignore it for a while longer. His time had not come yet.

"True", came Legolas answer floating with the gentle breeze. "The war is over and it causes for celebration. But I sense that there is more to your happiness than that." Thranduil imagined his lips to form a wry smile. "You were never too difficult to read, Tauriel."

There was a brief moment of silence before Tauriel spoke:

"The King has been kind", she said cautiously and Thranduil's heart was once again attacked by a feeling similar to guilt. "And the Captain has been even kinder. With his help, I have managed to win back the respect of many and restoring my honor."

"You cared for him", spoke Legolas and it took Thranduil a couple of seconds to realize that he was referring to the dwarf. "You should not have to restore your honor for something like that."

It amazed Thranduil that Legolas could speak of it without sounding pained when he knew how much Tauriel's feelings for the dwarf had hurt his son. From what he could see, Legolas face held nothing but tenderness as he spoke with Tauriel and she responded with a small smile of her own, a former shadow of her bright smile. Thranduil frowned. He felt as if he was missing something. The breeze ruffled through his blond tresses and he took it as a sign that he should leave them to their own device. He flattened his hair with an annoyed expression, but decided to go inside. And he would have done so, had Tauriel's next words not caught his interest.

"Many years have passed since then. I have told you that before. While the embers are still there, the flame has gone out."

"I know."

Then there was a long moment of silence, so long that Thranduil thought their conversation was over. Neither of them moved down in the garden and Thranduil could feel the tension even up on the balcony. It was thick with anticipation and things unspoken. He wondered how he could have been blind to it many, many years ago. Or perhaps he had not been blind, only it had not been this strong. Tauriel caved in first.

"Will you give me another chance?" she asked and her tone was vulnerable as was her expression.

Legolas did not reply right away and Thranduil found himself joining Tauriel in holding his breath. Legolas cupped her face with one hand, leaning in so that their foreheads touched. Even at this distance, Thranduil could make out Tauriel's eyes to be gleaming and her shoulders tense.

"You will always have a part of my heart", mumbled Legolas gently. "You need not to ask for a chance that will always be given to you."

Tauriel let out what sounded like a breathy chuckle.

"Thank you", she whispered and her voice was as soft as the breeze.

They fell into each other's arms, becoming a tangle of green-clad, thin limbs and hair of silver and of fire. Many years before, such a gesture would have provoked a different reaction – he would have frowned disapprovingly and his face contorting into a scowl – but now he smiled. It was a small smile, barely visible if one did not know what to look for. His other so frosty eyes shone with affection as he gazed down at the two elves still embracing. Silently, Thranduil rose to his feet and quietly slipped back inside, not wanting to disturb the young ones down in the garden. Giving them one last glance, he closed the doors with hope in his heart, hope for a brighter future.

Dartha - Wait

Vanwië vi ah in rohta anaië wanwa. Lavdh Tauriel an dartha ah neië far an si - It is in the past and the debt has been lost (gone). You allow(ed) Tauriel to stay and that is enough for now.

So, that was the last chapter from the point of our (well, mine at least) favourite Elvenking. Feel free to leave a review on your thoughts of the chapter or the story in general!

I would like to thank all of you that have given this story a chance by reading, those of you that have decided to follow it and those of you who have deemed it good enough to favourite. I really appreciate it all as it means that there are people enjoying my writing! :) Also, a big 'thank you' to those of you who have taken time to leave a comment (especially those of you without accounts that I can't respond directly to). They are wonderful to read and it means a lot to me to hear such supportive words of my work :)

Diola lle, i mellyn!