(I suppose you could call this my, “why Kíli/Tauriel doesn't invalidate the importance of Legolas & Gimli’s epic friendship” story. It’s also something of a companion to Every Light Must Fade; they’re well-matched in melodrama if nothing else. Also, while book-verse Aragorn is about 10 at the time of the Hobbit, if you do the math movie-verse Aragorn should be about 24 instead).
Title: As Time Goes By
Fandom: the Hobbit/LotR
Pairings: one-sided Legolas/Tauriel, Kíli/Tauriel, Arwen/Aragorn
Warnings: pining, jealousy, hatred, prejudice
Word Count: 4312
Disclaimer: If I owned the hobbit, there would be even more angst
Summary: Legolas spends sixty years lying to himself.
Legolas spends sixty years hating Kíli with every fiber of his being. He had never spared much thought for dwarves before that, his rare dealings with Erebor on strictly business terms and his sympathy an abstract thing when Smaug attacked. Mirkwood had its own problems and Legolas had never shared his father’s obsession with the gems beneath the mountain or the bargain Thrór had broken in his greed.
He had been perfectly happy to slaughter spiders and befriend his father’s fair new captain, a friendship that turned toward courting as the years went by. Legolas loved Tauriel; perhaps not with the all-consuming passion that had destroyed his father, but he could think of no one else with whom he wished to spend his life.
While Tauriel herself seemed hesitant, Legolas was sure that was due in part to his position and he would be able to sway her to him over time. The elf could afford to wait for decades when his life spanned millennia.
But then Thorin’s company wanders into Mirkwood on their way to kill a dragon and Kíli ruins everything.
It shouldn't have mattered. The dwarf is young and short and foolish and nowhere close to good enough for Tauriel. He should have been nothing more than a brief aberration, his entire life only a blink of an eye compared to the elfine’s long centuries. Tauriel should have rejected Kíli's advances without question and yet she seems intrigued instead.
Tauriel is interested when she should have been indifferent and Legolas can only watch as her heart turns toward the dwarf prince, watch and burn with bitter jealousy.
Because his friend risks everything for Kíli: her heart, her life and her place in Thranduil's kingdom, and Legolas isn't sure that she would still have a home in Mirkwood when the day is done. His father is not known for forgiveness after all.
So the elf tries to warn Tauriel against the road that she is walking and every time she will not listen, the seeds of hate grow stronger in his heart. First she will not leave the dwarf to die. Then she accepts Kíli's gift and his intentions on the shores of Esgaroth. Yet, for all the elf's sharp jealousy, he cannot hate Tauriel.
The elfine was his dearest friend long before he had thought to court her and such emotion is not abandoned easily. Legolas truly wants Tauriel to be happy. Admittedly, he wants her to be happy with him, but if that is not an option, happy with someone else will have to do instead. Because Tauriel's heart is given; by the time that they seek Gundabad, the elf cannot deny it and so the dwarf must live.
Of course, that does not mean Legolas isn't tempted to turn a blind eye to Kíli's peril when they return to the Lonely Mountain and his father calls for a retreat. Thranduil is perfectly happy to let Gundabad's orcs destroy what remains of Thorin's army – he has lost too many elves already – and Legolas dearly wishes to obey his king's command.
But that would have lost him Tauriel. Legolas would have lost her respect and her friendship if he sided with his father and, more importantly, he knows that without Kíli, the light in her eyes will disappear.
So he fights. Legolas defies his father and throws himself into battle more fiercely than he ever has before. He fights and it is pointless because Kíli dies anyway.
The elf is not there to see it; he is busy fighting orcs until his quiver is empty and his blades run black with blood. He slaughters hundreds, kills Bolg himself in a battle for the ages, and it still is not enough.
For when the dust finally settles and the surviving orcs are routed whence they came, Legolas finds Tauriel. She is clutching Kíli's body with her face a mask of heartbreak and the elf knows that nothing will ever be the same. He has lost his dearest friend even though she is still breathing and Legolas cannot return to Mirkwood just to watch her fade. He cannot go back.
And it is here, choking on the dust and blood and bruises, that the elf prince learns to hate. Not the general disgust that all elves hold for orcs and goblins or the vague dislike that he has felt before. This is a profound and intoxicating rage. It takes hold of Legolas’ heart, burrowing deep into the sinews of his body to never be ripped out. He feels it in his bones, in his breath, in every step he takes away from the land where he was born.
Hatred keeps him warm when he begins to miss his father; hatred drives him onward when Mirkwood calls his name.
Yet even now, Legolas does not hate Tauriel. Indeed, the elf is convinced that she would have chosen him if her heart had allowed it, their lives spent in starlight instead of tragedy. Tauriel made her choices but Kíli is the only one to blame.
Kíli is the one who dared to court beyond his station; the one who dared to speak of love with an immortal and then abandon her to grief. The dwarf should have known better than to think his love could have a happy ending and maybe Legolas’ father has the right idea after all. Because dwarves are weak to greed and covetous and this is not the first time one of Aulë's children stole a treasure from the Eldar that was not his to take.
Elves and dwarves are not meant to intermingle. The Valar made their races separate and that is how their people are clearly meant to stay. No dwarf has ever sacrificed for love as Beren did for Lúthien.
Indeed, the few dwarves that Legolas encounters on his journey westward do nothing to negate the elf’s new certainty. They are crude and suspicious, slow and filthy creatures, and the elf grows to hate all dwarves nearly as much as he hates Kíli now. For if Kíli was the best amongst his kinsfolk – and Tauriel could have only loved the best – these other dwarves are barely worth the air they breathe.
However, even such rage as his cannot burn forever and by the time Legolas finds the Dúnedain, his hate has burned down to an ember in his chest. Not gone, never gone, but no longer all-consuming until a stray thought of Kíli makes it flare again.
He lives amongst the rangers for many years, introducing himself to Strider because his father had advised it and staying because he cannot think of anywhere to go. At least the man is interesting: an infant by elvish standards but wise beyond his years and when Legolas learns of his true heritage, he is not terribly surprised. The man would be a good king, elf-friend that he is, and Legolas is sure that he will see the son of Arathorn crowned one day.
No, it is not Aragorn's background that nearly destroys their friendship; it is his infatuation with Lord Elrond’s daughter that makes Legolas consider ending the line of Isildur. For Arwen Evenstar is as far beyond the ranger as Tauriel had been from Kíli and the elf will not stand by impotently as another star goes out.
Except that Legolas knows Aragorn. The ranger is a good man and an honorable one and Arwen is no inexperienced young elfine to be swayed by pretty promises. If she grants her love then Aragorn will have earned it and the man is well aware of the treasure that would be. He is prepared to sacrifice as Beren did under Elrond’s watchful eye and the blood of the Dúnedain will give the ranger centuries. So truly there is no comparison between Aragorn and that damnable dwarf prince who ruined Tauriel.
However, while the elf may be able to accept the couple’s courtship, he cannot bring himself to watch them fall in love. Instead Legolas returns to Mirkwood for the first time in decades, something in his heart longing to walk beneath those trees again.
Yet even though he still knows every stream, glade, and clearing of this forest, it does not feel like home. Not anymore.
The elf feels like a stranger in the woods that bore him, though it is good to see his father once again. Thranduil is slightly softer around the edges than Legolas remembered, the king actually smiling at his son when he arrives. Of course, only someone who knows his father well would notice the slight curve of his mouth, but Legolas notices and feels an answering smile bloom upon his face.
Mirkwood may not feel like home any longer but he has gained some peace with distance. He can look at Thranduil without the same bitter hurt rising in his chest, his need to chase the king's affection put to rest at last. Because love doesn't have to be effusive to be real and Legolas knows his father loves him; he saw it in his eyes four decades past on that bloodstained battlefield. The elf had not recognized the emotion at the time but after spending so many years with Elrond and his daughter, the truth seems obvious
Yet this newfound sense of peace turns to horror when Legolas looks around the throne room and realizes that Tauriel is nowhere to be seen. She cannot have faded. The very thought fills the elf with rage, the embers of his fury reignited into a violent blaze.
For there is only one person to blame for the elfine’s sorrow and if Tauriel passed while he was in the Westlands, Legolas will tear Erebor to its foundations piece by piece. He will break the stones with his bare hands if he has to and thus damn the sons of Durin to wander once again.
However, while the elf is entirely prepared to ride over to the Lonely Mountain and cause a diplomatic incident that won’t soon be forgotten, his father stops him on his way out of the hall.
“If you are looking for vengeance, you are acting prematurely,” Thranduil says and if Legolas didn’t know better, he’d swear his father rolled his eyes. “Tauriel is not in Mirkwood but she has not passed beyond. I sent her to Lothlórien as a trade envoy some months ago and she asked if she could stay. So you would do well to dismiss my former captain from your mind. While she may find some measure of contentment away from Mirkwood, she will never forget her dwarf prince and you have no hope of romance there.”
“I am not an idiot, father. I know she doesn’t love me,” Legolas replies a little testily. “But Tauriel is still my friend. I worry for her happiness and I don’t know how you can allow Thorin’s companions to walk in our halls unshackled after everything they did.”
“I allow it because I am king and there has been enough bloodshed over old grudges in these parts; I have no fondness for Dáin and his kindred but I am not going to turn away my allies because one elfine fell in love. Weren’t you the one who wanted me to help them? I though you would be pleased about my change of heart.”
“I will be pleased when Aulë's children finally learn to recognize their betters and never trouble us again. Their greed and insolence has cost too much already and I would not have any dwarf ensnare another elven heart.”
“For all the years that you have lived, sometimes you’re very young,” Thranduil says with a sigh. “Just remember that while you are always welcome here in Mirkwood, I will ban you from my trade meetings if you cannot keep a civil tongue. We have worked too hard for peace and Dáin's son Thorin is not as bullheaded as other members of his kin.”
“Don't worry, father. I have no plans to speak with the dwarves of Erebor at all. You may continue your trade without my interference, though such worries are unbecoming of an Eldar. We should be above such things.”
“And where do you think our weapons come from, such as the fine steel that hangs there on your belt?” the king asks, raising one eyebrow pointedly. Legolas has always felt like a fool in the face of that expression and it seems that some things have not changed at all. “Should the Eldar begin to mine our forests now? I may not like dwarves but they have their uses and with the dragon slain, our kingdoms grow more prosperous together than they would apart.”
With that Thranduil sweeps out of the throne room, Legolas watching him go with a scowl. He knows that he's right and he'll be damned before he makes nice with a dwarf just to keep trade flowing smoothly. But he also doesn't want to argue with his father anymore.
So Legolas does his duty and no more, standing with Thranduil to greet the small groups of dwarves and men who come to treat with Mirkwood and then disappearing into the deeper halls. He does not trust himself to speak with them, not when the sound of those rough accents makes him grit his teeth unto the point of pain. Every guttural laugh just reminds Legolas of Kíli and of the dwarf's damn smirk when he flirted with Tauriel.
It makes him sick, his chest burning with a knot of anger that he can't seem to escape. Legolas thought his bitterness had faded but coming home has proved him otherwise. Because he hates Kíli and all his kindred; he hates them more than he has ever hated any living creature and the emotion sometimes scares him with its strength.
Elves are not supposed to hate. Manwë's children are not meant for bitterness and Legolas' failure to put the past behind him is just another thing to despise the dwarf prince for.
He wouldn't need to hate if not for Kíli and by the time another two decades slip between his fingers, the elf can barely even stomach the sight of Erebor. Instead he keeps to the western reaches of the forest and thus when a messenger arrives from Elrond, Legolas sees the rider first.
It is Elrohir, one of the sons of Elrond, and Legolas greets the other elf with honest cheer. Elrohir and his brother had been fostered in Mirkwood for several decades and the trio had become good friends when they were young. But Elrond's sons were sent home when Angmar grew to power and their paths have only rarely crossed again.
“What brings you here to Mirkwood?” Legolas asks with a wide smile, clapping Elrohir on the shoulder. “It's been too long, my friend.”
“Yes, it has. But unfortunately it is duty and not pleasure that brings me to your door,” Elrohir answers. “My father is calling a council of war in Rivendell. There is a darkness growing in the East that worries him and he wishes his allies to send their representatives to speak. My brother has gone south to summon Gondor while I am sent to Mirkwood and then on to Erebor.”
So Legolas brings Elrohir to his father where the other elf repeats his message. Thranduil takes the news with a weary resignation that's almost more frightening than surprise would be.
“I have felt that darkness,” Mirkwood's king says softly. “It is a shadow on the edge of my awareness, a hungry evil that longs to devour everything. If your father has information that may help us fight against this enemy then we must hear it, though I cannot spare a great force for news alone. We must make safe the North as well.”
“I will go,” Legolas volunteers. “I can represent our kingdom in Elrond's council and send word of what's to come.”
“Then it is settled. Discover all that Elrond knows about our enemy and which allies we may count on when the battle comes. I do not trust the hearts of men these days. The southern lands grow weak and hopeless with despair.”
“Of course, father. With your permission, I will leave immediately. The road is long and I would not keep Elrond waiting any longer than I must.”
When Thranduil agrees, Legolas returns to his rooms to start packing. Elrohir keeps him company, the other elf offering to travel westward with Legolas if he doesn't mind a detour first.
“I still need to speak with the King Under the Mountain, but after that I'm heading home. My brother and I plan to meet in Lothlórien and then take the pass of Rohan back to Rivendell. If there's a war coming, we should be at our father's side.”
The offer is tempting since Legolas would dearly love to see Elladan but the elf cannot imagine stepping foot in Erebor. The thought alone makes his gorge rise violently.
“No, I have no love for the dwarves of the Lonely Mountain and your errand is more likely to be successful if I am not at your side. But perhaps I will see you in Lothlórien or in your father's house. I have not seen Elladan in far too many years.”
“We will hold you to that. My brother and I do not have so many friends that we can afford to lose one and you clearly need some looking after. You are much too serious these days,” the other elf replies with a slightly crooked grin. “But there's a bottle of Firewine waiting in my father's study and by the time Elladan and I are done with you, you'll be smiling again.”
“That sounds good to me. I will see you then.”
Once Legolas has finished packing, the two elves say goodbye to Thranduil before setting out, Legolas traveling west toward Rivendell with a few of his father's guards while Elrohir travels east. Although he and his companions pass through the plains of the Rhovanion unmolested, the elf feels a growing sense of unease with every league he rides.
There is something not quite right in the world, a subtle sense of wrongness like an itch beneath the skin. Indeed, Legolas does not relax until he and his company reach Lothlórien. The Lady of the Golden Wood is still strong enough to guard her home against all evil, Galadriel's magic wrapping around Legolas like a shield.
He cannot fear for his safety in Lothlórien, though the elf does fear for his heart. He wants to see Tauriel and yet he dreads the conversation; truthfully, he might have taken the coward's path if she had not sought him out.
But when Legolas leaves Galadriel's presence, Tauriel is waiting. She greets him with a smile, a true smile if not as bright as he might wish.
“It is good to see you, Legolas. I had hoped that we might talk.”
The elf has never been able to refuse her anything and so he follows where she leads. They walk in silence, Legolas watching Tauriel closely and comparing her to the elfine of his memories. Physically she has changed very little but there is something different; something almost tired about her now.
It is her eyes, he realizes when she stops and sits before him. Tauriel's eyes are old and weary and filled with endless pain. Yet she does not seem as unhappy as Legolas expected; if anything she almost seems at peace.
“I worried when you did not return to Mirkwood,” Tauriel says, taking the elf's hand between her own. “I feared that you were brooding on what happened and I need you to know that I don't blame you for anything. My heartbreak is no fault of yours.”
“Of course it's not my fault. It's Kíli's,” Legolas replies with a frown. “I should have killed him when we first captured Thorin's company in Mirkwood. Then he could not have stolen your love away.”
“Do not say that!”
Tauriel nearly shouts the words, her anger making Legolas jerk back. But before he can storm out in a righteous fury, the elfine's voice softens apologetically.
“Please, you must not say that. We are not murderers and I would not have you stain you hands for me. Indeed, your anger is misguided for you should not blame Kíli either. I offered my heart freely and while I thought we'd have more time, I have come to terms with the consequences of my choice. For I love Kíli still and I cannot regret it, no matter how deeply his loss has damaged me."
Legolas doesn't understand it. Tauriel should be angry. She should hate Kíli as much as he does for ripping her heart to pieces when he died. This calm acceptance makes no sense at all.
So the elf says nothing for fear of saying the unforgivable and yet Tauriel must read his refusal in his eyes.
“Please try to forgive him,” she murmurs. “You are my friend and I want you to be happy; this resentment is a burden that hurts you needlessly. I want you to love without reservations; when you meet someone who makes your spirit sing as mine did for Kíli, please do not let my fate turn your heart aside.”
“I promise I will try,” Legolas says. That's the best he can offer when he's pretty sure that Tauriel has gone crazy, like I could ever forgive Kíli for all the pain he's caused.
After this conversation, the elf is only too glad to leave Lothlórien again. The itch of danger between his shoulder blades is less disturbing than the elfine's haunted eyes. Her gaze reminds him of his father after his mother fell at Angmar and Legolas never wants to relive those awful days. Love can't be worth such pain.
The elf spends the remainder of his journey brooding – on Tauriel, on his father, on the tale of Lúthien – and by the time he arrives in Rivendell, Legolas has decided that he'd prefer to never love at all. He can't risk it; he won't risk it and Tauriel will just have to understand.
So Legolas puts all thoughts of love from his mind and spends the evening drinking with Elladan and Elrohir, the twins having arrived home some weeks before. Elrohir promised him a bottle of Firewine and he delivers, the three elves swapping stories and reminiscence late into the night.
Thus the elf is a little grumpy when Elrond summons him to council soon after sunrise and his mood is understandable – no one should have to get up early after drinking Firewine all night. The arrival of Gimli son of Glóin to the breakfast table only adds to his irritation and when Legolas catches the dwarf's eye, he nearly chokes upon his sneer.
But Aragorn is there to run interference and Legolas makes it to the council without insulting Elrond's guests, no matter how tempting it might be. Once there, the elf soon has more important things to think about because the One Ring has been found and Sauron will drown Middle Earth in blood in order to claim his prize again.
The Ring is an evil that cannot be contained or turned to better purpose. It can only be destroyed in the fires of Mount Doom. But the other members of Elrond's council don't seem to understand the obvious. Boromir of Gondor wants to use the Ring against its master, Gimli is actually stupid enough to think that common steel might destroy it, and while Aragorn could take charge, he's too busy pining after Arwen Evenstar.
It's enough to make Legolas sick. He should just take the Ring himself. It's not as though any of these people lead worthwhile lives. They are mortal. If they fall now or in two decades what difference does it make? No one will remember them after a couple centuries.
Besides, Gimli son of Glóin may not be Kíli, but sinking a blade into his stomach seems like a fine revenge right now.
So Legolas' hand is inching toward his blade when one of the hobbits stands up and volunteers to take the Ring to Mordor, his words cutting through the chaos like an icy wave. Suddenly the elf wonders what the hell he's doing; he may despise dwarves but Tauriel was right and he's not a murderer. Legolas does not want to cross that line.
The other members of Elrond's council appear to be coming to similar realizations, weapons sheathed and fists unclenched. Their anger has no place here and the elf cannot help but wonder if the One Ring was to blame. If it was then it is even more powerful than the legends say and when Aragorn pledges his sword to Frodo's cause, Legolas does the same. The hobbit will need all the help that he can get in order to reach Mordor safely and if the elf's bow could mean the difference between defeat and victory then he must offer it.
Of course, that doesn't mean Legolas is happy when Gimli volunteers his axe as well.
The elf doesn't know the dwarf and he doesn't want to. He doesn't trust Gimli as far as he can throw him – maybe three feet on a good day – and no matter what happens over the course of their journey, he is certain that won't change.
Because Legolas has hated Kíli and his kin for sixty years. The emotion is older than Frodo and most of his companions and while he will force himself to work with Gimli for the sake of Middle Earth, he will not do it gracefully. Indeed, Legolas intends Gimli to know exactly what he thinks of the dwarf and all his kindred and should Gimli fall in battle, the elf will not weep for him.
In my head, Legolas and Gimli proceed to have the most epic romance ever after this.