A/N - Normally, I *hate* posting chapters less than 3000 words, but this one really stands on it's own. Reviews and feedback were low last chapter, but the few that came in were absolutely heartfelt and greatly appreciated. You are the *best*.

x

She sat staring out at the rushing waters of the river, watching the flecks of sunlight bounce and shimmer off the wakes and eddies of the fast moving surface. Turbulent, like her thoughts and emotions of late. She feared that she had made a mistake by following the man with the long chestnut hair and dark, laughing eyes. Eyes that displayed every depth of emotion in his soul. He was so open, and she was not.

She'd always been restrained with her feelings, which was completely normal for most of her race. Elves guarded their hearts carefully. Restraint was necessary when forging relationships that lasted for centuries, sometimes millennia. Sharing thoughts and feelings could have adverse consequences – a risk that was best not taken and, when taken, done only with the utmost care.

Yet, this dark-haired man had emotions that poured forth with the force of a dwarven hammer and she could do little to resist.

"You are troubled," said a familiar, warm voice.

She turned to see her dearest friend, settling in to sit beside her and gave him a warm smile. She said nothing for several minutes, as she turned her gaze thoughtfully back to the water. He waited patiently, and she found herself soothed by his presence. She trusted him implicitly, and that was what allowed her to finally speak. "I fear this journey may have been a mistake."

Legolas gave a thoughtful pause before responding. "He seems to be of similar mind," he replied. "He is terrorizing the camp. I felt it best to leave him to Gimli."

She chuckled, although there was a sadness tightening her eyes. "Terrorizing?"

Legolas smiled in return. "He is being a bit abrupt when assigning tasks and overseeing preparations."

She nodded in understanding. In elven society, such behavior could be deemed as 'terrorizing'. For humans, such emotions passed like a spring rain.

"He has upset you," he said, his tone turning from light humor to accusation.

Again she smiled sadly, looking out over the water as she replied. "Do not blame him. It is my fault I am upset."

He said nothing, although he did raise a speculative eyebrow and waited for her to speak further.

Several minutes later, she finally seemed to come to a conclusion. "I fear the outcome of this journey, mellon nin. More than I've ever feared any creature, or battle, or even the anger of your father."

She could feel the surprise in his response, although his voice was, as always, measured and calm. "I have never known you to fear anything."

For a moment, she reconsidered sharing her feelings, but the door to her heart had been opened, and she did not have the emotional strength nor the desire to close it. She'd borne the burden of her grief alone for eight decades, and holding the weight of this new discovery was something she could not do alone. Again he waited while she struggled for her response, and she loved him all the more for it.

"I fear what I see in him," she said finally. "I have tried to deny it, but he is here, reincarnated as another. I thought that this journey would convince me otherwise and I could leave him behind."

Legolas appeared sad. "Isn't he what you wanted? Isn't he the reason you chose not to sail?"

She nodded, her eyes becoming bright with unshed tears. "I lost him," she said referring to the dwarf she'd known so many decades past. "I grieved beyond measure. It was your father who pulled be back to the living, by giving me purpose, otherwise I would have faded."

"I am forever grateful to him for that."

She reached out and grasped the hand of her friend. "As am I." She paused, taking a deep breath, her gaze returning to the shimmering light on the water. "I could not survive such a loss a second time. He is mortal. Even if it is truly him, I would only have him for a short time - even in the best of circumstances, only a few decades."

Legolas nodded, looking down at their joined hands. "I am sorry, Tauriel. I should not have brought him to you. I should have let it be."

She turned back to him, giving him a gentle smile. "You did the right thing, mellon. It is something that I needed to know. Regardless of who he is, it called me back. My journey here in Arda is not yet complete, and I am grateful that this has helped me to understand that."

"Not yet complete?"

"He has returned, and that is no small thing. It is not something that can be ignored."

"You need to know why," he stated knowingly.

She smiled again, and a light sparkle lit her eyes – a sparkle of hope and determination. "I do not know yet what I need to do, nor what I will learn in these travels, but it is not yet time for me to sail."

He gave a sigh of relief. "You always were the stronger, the more fearless of us," he said with affection. "Your will to fight against evil inspired me, made me see beyond what I thought possible. Arda would be a poorer place without you."

"Was it me that inspired you to become friends with a dwarf?" she asked cheekily, referring to Gimli.

He chuckled. "You gave me reason to try to understand them better. It was mere chance that a good friendship came from that."

She gripped his hand with more strength. "I miss our days together in the Mirkwood. It seems so long ago, where our purpose was so easily defined."

He released a breath. "Things were much more simple then."

"Indeed. I was so young."

He smiled at her. "You are still young."

"I do not feel so."

"If I could take away your pain, I would do so in a moment. I do not understand."

"I don't understand it myself. If I did, maybe it would be different," she said, although sorrow now clouded the sparkle in her eyes. "I knew him only a short time, yet my heart is tied to him. It makes no sense."

"Such things rarely do," he replied with a wisdom that he didn't fully comprehend. Then, he looked down, clearly uncomfortable about speaking. "I have asked before, and you said no, but I need to ask again." He then looked up into her eyes. "Even if things do not turn out well between you and him. Would you consider staying in Arda, for me?"

She smiled, so sadly that it broke his heart. "I already have, mellon. I already have."

"Then why the sorrow? I would not have you so sad. It is not my Tauriel."

"He does not know me. I am nothing to him except some far away dream, an ideal that he uses to compare to others of his kind."

The blond elf stiffened, angry. "You are far more than that. I will not have you consider yourself as anything lesser. If he considers you anything less, then he is a fool."

She smiled. "I doubt he is a so much a fool, but he is lost and he has others of his kind who would have him. I do not have a place by his side. Perhaps I never did."

The male elf scowled in disagreement over her assessment of herself. "You could tell him what you remember of him."

She stiffened and shook her head, her face tight with her conflicting feelings. "No. I cannot. He has a new life, and that is the memory he seeks. He is not ready to accept such a past – not yet. It would be cruel to try to force him into who he was, not without giving him a chance to find out about his current life."

"Is that what you fear?"

This time, she smiled, giving no hesitation. "No. If that were so, it would be easier. If that were so, I could leave him to his life. He would marry that human girl and forget me, and I would travel this world with you, and we would both be at peace for it."

Legolas swallowed, not wanting to ask the next question, but knowing that he must. "Then what is it, Tauriel?"

She paused, and she looked out over the water, her expression distant, but strong, as if she'd realized her purpose to remain in Arda. "I am afraid that I must stay with him, to help him remember. There is something greater to be gained."

He chuckled softly. "You have not changed, Tauriel. Once before, you led me on a journey because there was something greater in this world, and I found you were right. I would never doubt you on such matters."

She tilted her head and lifted an eyebrow, contemplating his . "Except that this time, the purpose is not so clear."

His voice was gentle and kind as he responded, "If you wish, I will accompany you on your journey, as long as you need me."

She smiled gratefully. "Yes, I would like that."

When they returned to the camp, together, Tauriel did not miss the raw emotion emanating from the leader of their expedition. His dark eyes smoldered with anger and more than a hint of jealousy as Legolas gave her a polite nod before moving toward his horse to prepare for his day of scouting the path ahead. For a moment, she wanted to go to him, to try to repair the damage that had been caused, but the camp was now busy and such a conversation was not something meant for others to overhear. She took a deep breath and focused on her duties, because if she didn't she knew her emotions toward her dark-haired love would be visible for all to see, and that was far, far to personal for an elf to allow. At least for now, she needed to wait.

x x x

The blond's look toward Kili was nothing more than the usual overly calm, confident, almost dismissive glance, but it only heightened the dark-haired man's anger. Anger at himself, for his reckless actions. Anger at this journey north, because it kept him from his quest. Anger at the blond elf, because he was handsome and immortal, like she was, and how he held a friendship with her that was totally out of Kili's reach.

He looked away from her, in a barely successful attempt to ignore her and continued on his task of getting the company packed securely for the journey ahead. He did not see Callid's look of amusement, Janis' look of concern, nor Aligrine's look of longing.

x xx

A/N - so, now we know *something* of what Tauriel thinks and why she's so reserved Hope that clears it up for those of you who asked. :)