XIV. In which there are tears

Kili sat on the couch, laptop on his knees, and looked up when she entered the living room.

"Hey."

"Hey yourself." She sat down next to him. "What are you working on?"

"The message. The voice sounded digitally modified, so I am trying to erase the effect."

"But I returned the drive. How…?" She cursed. "You made a copy."

"Yep."

"That was not part of our agreement."

"I know. But the message was about me and my family. I reckoned that gives me the right."

"You shouldn't even know of its existence. It is a piece of evidence, for Christ's sake. In a police investigation!"

He smiled cheekily. "I might expose the speaker. Wouldn't the police like that?"

"Maybe. But at the moment the police is annoyed."

"The police is angry with me anyway." He looked at the screen again, but didn't seem to be working on anything.

She blinked. "Why do you think that?"

"Because of yesterday. Because you left without a word this morning. Because you come home very late and didn't text me the whole day."

She blinked again, rapidly. And baffled.

He thought she hadn't called because she was cross with him. In truth she had been staring at her phone more than once, wishing to call or at least text him but not knowing what to say. She still didn't. So she went for a half-truth.

"It was a very busy day. This morning I simply didn't want to wake you. You had been working on that message half of the night and I wanted you to get some sleep."

"You're not mad at me?"

"Why would I be?"

"Because of what I said. That you're not good with emotions and everything."

"Lousy," she corrected. "You said I was lousy."

He cast down his eyes and a blush crept on his cheeks. "I am sorry."

"No need to be. It is the truth after all."

"No, it's not. You're just careful."

"Maybe too much."

"Yes, maybe." He still didn't look at her.

She sneaked a little closer.

"I thought you were mad at me," she admitted. "That is the main reason that I did not text. I had no idea how to speak to you after how I behaved."

He looked at her then, and his eyes were wide with surprise. "Huh? How did you behave?"

"Bitchy."

"You didn't." His lips twitched. "Ah. Well. You did. A little. Fair enough, considering what I had said."

"I disappointed you. I couldn't tell you what you wanted to hear."

"I thought about that. A lot. And I think I understand now. Your pace is different from mine. Slower. More cautious. You guard your heart very well."

Now it was his turn to shift until their knees almost touched, and her skin began to tingle in anticipation. What was it about him that made her feel like this?

"I know I am an impatient idiot. I cannot wait for things to happen in their own time, but always want everything at once. I didn't realise that I came on too strong and that I scared you." His fingers touched her knee lightly, and it felt like a question. "I promise not to rush you into something you don't want or are not ready for. You should set the pace. I will follow."

She raised an eyebrow. "Did somebody supply you with a manual?"

He grinned. "What can I say? I am probably just perfect."

"You just may be. For me, at least."

"It's all I want." He brushed a strand of hair out of her face with his fingertips.

"How can you be so certain that I am who you want? Don't you have any doubts? Are you not scared?"

"No doubts." He kissed her. "But scared."

"You are?"

"Of course. Remember when I asked you not to break my heart? I was serious. Please don't."

She couldn't help but kiss him then. Not a light touch of lips like his kiss had been, but forcefully and intense. All her heartache, all her insecurity, her longing, her worries, and her hopes were in this kiss. And he embraced all of it, captured her tongue with his, held her face in his hands and only let go when the need to breathe was overwhelming. Her hair had come loose and caressed his chest that she had freed from his shirt. His lips, that were hungrily wandering over her neck and every inch of skin they could reach, always found hers again. Only when she impatiently got rid of her jumper, did they leave her mouth to explore the soft swell of her breasts, the ticklish navel, the delicate skin below.

Her skin was shivering where his fingers touched. Her hands wandered over his body, felt the muscles work and feasted on his erection. She longed to take in that silk-hard part of his, her legs opened greedily, but he drew back letting his fingers explore her first, gliding in the wet and finding the spot. She moved with him, she groaned full of pleasure from deep within, she moaned with loss when his fingers withdrew only to gasp sharply when his tongue took over. Her fingers curled into his hair as the wave of heat flooded her body. She ached to feel him inside her, and when he entered her with a mighty thrust, holding her hips in a tight grip and steadying her back, her eyes were feverishly taking in the sight of him, his chest, his elegant neck, his sculptured shoulders, his muscly arms. His hair was falling over his half closed eyes, ecstasy was written on his handsome features. No one could be more beautiful than him she thought – and then all thinking stopped. Her body acted on its own account, took him in even deeper, pressed against his hips, contracted around him and gave in to that white-cold lightning that raced from her hairline into her toes. She heard herself scream out loud, heard him join her in his powerful release and tightened her arms around his bulking body even more, drawing him impossibly close while stars exploded around her. She was bathing in starlight.

X

When she woke up in absolute darkness, she had no idea where she was. What time was it? What had woken her? Bedroom, she decided. Yes, they had switched the saggy couch for her queen bed after their lovemaking. Tauriel had slept soundly and peacefully until… She heard Kili whimper.

He jolted awake with a loud gasp. It sounded like a sob.

"Kili?"

"Fine. I'm fine." His voice was pressed and his breathing ragged. It still sounded as though he was sobbing.

"You had a nightmare."

"Yeah." He laughed embarrassedly. "A stupid nightmare, and I lose it."

"What was it about?"

"I don't remem… Bollocks. Of course I do. Only too vividly. " He sighed. "I dreamt about my father, of all persons. I have never known him, but there he was, talking to me. Although I knew it couldn't be, it felt so bloody real. He told me how much I disappointed him. That I didn't live up to his expectations."

"Your father would be very proud of you."

"Why? Why would he be? When we faced the Spiders in Mirkwood, I was the only one who couldn't deal with my opponent. The only one who needed help. That was how the two of us met, so I'm not complaining. But at the sluice? I managed to get shot. And I got ill. Do you know how many times Dwalin has been shot in his life? I don't think he ever even flinched, and I get an infection that knocks me out for weeks."

"You cannot be blamed for getting a sepsis."

"No? Why didn't Thorin want me to accompany him then?"

Because he is a moron, she wanted to say, but she had the feeling that it wouldn't help calming Kili down.

"He needed you for other things. Things only you can do. Finding the ark of stone, for instance."

"I haven't."

When she put her arms around him, he turned his face away, but he still leaned into her embrace. She could feel his body trembling slightly. Tauriel stroked his skin that felt cold and clammy.

"What would your mother say if you told her?"

"That she had been right, most likely. She didn't want me to go with Thorin. She feared I would get into trouble. She thought I didn't realise how dangerous his quest could be. To her I am still a child that needs to be protected."

"She loves you."

"Of course she does, whether I deserve it or not. She's my mother."

Tauriel's father had always told her how much her mother loved her. Her mother herself never had. She hadn't been at home much anyway. She had loved her work more than her daughter. And then she had left her forever.

Why was she thinking of that now, Tauriel thought angrily. Why was her heart still aching with loss and rejection? She knew what the psychiatrist would say. She knew that her mother had not abandoned her but had died; and that all the feelings that went with such a loss were normal and healthy, even the anger at her parents for leaving her alone. Still it hurt.

She buried her face into Kili's hair and thought that right now she needed this closeness just as much as he did.

"I think your mother would be very proud of you if she knew what you have done, just like your father would have been. Because of you your uncle and the rest of his company made it out of the sluice. Those orcs would have caught them, hadn't it been for you. You never once thought about what could happen to you."

He chuckled slightly. "That is the point. I never think."

"Today you've done a lot of thinking. And I am very taken with what you came up with."

"You are?"

She hummed and kissed his earlobe while she continued stroking his back until his raspy breathing slowly went back to normal and his body relaxed.

"Sleep," she whispered, "and dream about all the people who love you. Your mother, Fili…"

She.

Did she? She had never truly loved a man, had always backed out and had run as if her life depended on it. In a way it had. She couldn't allow herself to feel for someone, to be vulnerable. But whatever she felt for Kili, it was stronger than her fears. Surprisingly, that didn't scare her. On the contrary. Right now, she felt safe and warm and strangely protective.

Her fingers wiped away the last traces of tears on his face.

"I have often wondered whether my parents would be proud of me." Her voice was barely audible and dissolved in the blackness of the night. "If the person I've become is anything like they imagined me to be. My mother would be, I think. Which is strange, because she never really noticed me when she had been alive. Her work was more important to her than our family. She was a police officer in the elven squad, a true bloodhound. She worked day and night, never stopped until she solved a case. My father cared for me mostly."

Gently she disentangled Kili's hair and listened to his breathing. It was deep and regular. Was he asleep again?

"He was a scientist, you know, the most brilliant mind you could ever imagine. And he was so much fun; he taught me how to roller skate, how to swim, and he never missed a school performance. My mother hardly ever made it. My father always explained to me then how important her work was. That she was arresting bad people. I remember the weeks before they died, she was even less at home then. My father explained that it was because she was working on a very difficult case and trying to bring down a very, very dangerous man. The few times I saw her, she was with Ellerian. Her superior, Captain of the Elves. They were always talking behind closed doors, and often my father joined them although I have never understood why. They had been together, on the day they died, all three of them. They were killed in a back street, shot in the head from close distance. Like an execution. Their murderers have never been caught. When I finished police-academy, I tried to find them, but I failed."

She paused and took a deep breath. She had said it. It didn't matter that Kili was asleep.

"I've asked Thranduil over and over if he knew what Ellerian and my mother had been working on. He had been Ellerian's husband. And he had been chief constable at the time; he must have known who they had been after. But he always told me that I wouldn't gain anything by digging into that case. And he had been right, his officers had done everything in their power to catch the killers."

She petted Kili's hair, lost in memory. It had been a long time since she had thought of all that. Mostly, she tried very hard not to.

"A priest and a police officer told me that my parents were dead. But it was Thranduil who explained to me what had happened. I was a little girl then, but he told me everything. He didn't spare me, and I am still grateful. He taught me to be strong." She couldn't help but smile. Scary Thranduil, the ice-man. He had been her role model. But it had been Legolas, the teenage boy who had lost his mother and had cried himself to sleep each night, who had truly cared for her. Without him she would never have made it.

"Legolas reminded me of my father," she whispered. "He was just as warm and caring. I always wished I could be like my father, just a little. But I turned out to be just like my mother. A good cop. And lousy in any kind of relationship."

Tears were dampening Kili's skin now, and she let them fall. "I don't know what's wrong with me, why I cannot tell you what I feel. But please believe me when I tell you that you mean a lot to me. And please take it seriously when I am afraid that something will happen to you. I cannot lose anyone else I love."

His fingers closed softly around her hand.

Was he awake after all? Or had he done so unconsciously in his sleep, like so often during the nights when his hand searched for hers?

Did it matter?