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Choices

By xxx_wow_xxx

Fantasy / Romance

Chapter 1

The hand, resting lifelessly in hers, was already cold. In its palms she touched rough skin, calluses exactly where this hand had been used to hold a sword or maybe an axe. The fingers were short, much shorter than hers. It had been a strong hand. And now this hand would never hold a sword or an axe again. This hand would never fight again.

This hand would never again hold her hand.

Her tears fell upon already colorless cheeks, fell upon closed eyes which would open nevermore, fell upon pale lips which would never talk to her again.

The body, which had been full of life mere minutes ago, rested calm and still now. It would never feel again.

But she felt.

She felt pain she had never felt before.

Measured by the immortal life of elves, the moments she had shared with Kili had only been blinks of an eye. She had hardly known him. But every moment, every word, every gesture had been engraved indelibly in her memory. She would never forget. She would never forget Kili. She was going to live forever without any chance of forgetting.

She remembered the spark in his brown eyes, the warmth in his voice. She remembered the feeling of his warm hand touching hers. She remembered his soundless words in the moment of his death, the tear shed in the knowledge that everything was over before it even began. Did he know about her feelings in his moment of death? Or did he pass away without knowing that she loved him? She hoped with all her might that he had known. That he had known she had come back for him.

She took the stone, Kili had given to her and she had carried with her ever since, in her hand and closed her fingers around it.

If she had stayed with him the moment he had begged her to – would they have fought side by side? Would they have protected and looked after each other? Would he still be alive? She had not been provided with the gift of prevision and was thankful for that. She could not stand the knowledge that there could in fact have been a future for them.

With tears in her eyes she placed the stone in Kilis hand and closed his lifeless fingers around it. He had given the stone to her as his promise. Now it was her turn to give it back to him with her silent promise to never forget him.

She heard the quiet steps of an elf approaching her and looked up. She had expected Legolas whose feelings for her she knew but could not reciprocate, and was surprised to see Thranduil instead, who looked at her calmly, nearly pityingly. With a certainty, she didn`t comprehend, she knew that Thranduil understood her because once in his life he had felt the same pain she felt now. And she knew, that he could give her answers to questions she dreaded to ask.

"Why does it hurt so much?"

"Because your feelings for him are real."

Thranduil's words sealed what she had already known deep in her heart and brought new pain. She lowered her head. Her tears dripped down at the dwarfish leather armor.

Soon the dwarfs would take away Kili''s body. They would bury him, with his uncle and brother, probably under the cold mountain they called their home. This thought was beyond all bearing. As if she could hold him by her side forever with that simple gesture, she took his hand once again and pressed it to her cheeks.

"Tauriel."

She looked up, looked at Thranduil, who still stood on the same spot, motionless and proud, but with a softness in his eyes, she had never seen before in the often vain, strict and cruel king.

"We firstborns own the privilege of immortality. We are capable of saving a mortal life by relinquishing this privilege for them. It's your decision to make if this dwarf is worth a sacrifice like that. But do not make your decision airily. Bereft of your immortality you will be mortal yourself. The way to Aman and Mandos' Halls will be barred forever as will be the way back to your people. You will have to live among the mortals. And soon you will die and sink down to the black depth, where there will be no way back. Choose your fate. But choose carefully."

She stared at him, almost certain she had misunderstood him. But Thranduil watched her, his face severe and his words seemed to dance around him like little lights of hope in the shadows of the night.

Her thoughts and feelings ran wild. Thranduil's words opened a path before her eyes she never knew existed. And now this path coerced her to make a choice – not less than the choice between the love for her people and the love for the dwarf, laying dead at her feet. The choice between the life that had been meant for her and a life of uncertainties and of death.

But maybe a life full of possibilities aswell.

It was the choice between her life and Kili's life.

The immortality of elves had always been part of her life, part of her education, part of her upbringing. It made the race of elves different from all the other mortal races in Middle Earth. Elves lived seclusively among each other. What sense would there be in building friendships with mortal creatures? Immortality had made them lonely. Immortality had even made her people become suspicious of other races, especially the dwarfs. In the past she had also often asked herself the question of how the mortals could conquer their fear of death every day anew, how they could sing and dance and celebrate and enter a battlefield in contemplation of the finiteness of their lives to rescue the ones they loved or to defend their ideals. For a long time she had found no answers to her questions.

But in this moment everything seemed to fall in place.

The thought of a life without Kili, especially an immortal life, tortured her. There was no worth in immortality in the face of a dark and desolate future. The thought of immortality could be just as fearful as the thought of death and in this moment she became aware of that. There was a possibility to save Kili. There was a possibility of sharing a whole, dwarflong life with Kili. And after that they would make their last journey into the eternal shadows together, hand in hand in life and death. No one would have to stay behind. She wouldn't fear a mortal life as long as she shared it with Kili.

She had already made her decision.

Thranduil, still standing on the same spot and watching her, nodded as if reading her thoughts.

"Farewell, daughter of the forest."

With these words, Thranduil turned around and went away. She knew that she would never see him again, that there would be no way back once she had done what she had to do, but she didn't care. Instead she let her head fall onto Kili's breast, breathed in the smell of leather, while closing her eyes and soundlessly calling to Eru Ilúvatar, the creator of everything.

"Eru Ilúvatar, please answer to my pleads. I thank you for the gift of immortality you gave me. But this gift turned out a burden, an eternity of loneliness and pain. I offer you this gift in exchange for Kili's life and choose a mortal life by his side. I beg you to accept my present and to bring Kili, son of Dis, back to the world of the living."

Her forehead still rested upon Kili's breast and she couldn't bring herself to look up. In spite of her pleas, the breast under her forehead remained still, motionless. There was no breathing, no heartbeat. Desperation wanted to take possession of her again but then there was pain, set her body on fire, made it writhe in agony an fear. Her heartbeat was loud and booming in her ears, her limbs went weak and heavy as if held down with weight. The next moment the pain was gone. She could still feel the unknown weight of her limbs, her heart, beating life through her veins and she knew that her pleas had been answered. Her people's spark had left her body. She had become mortal.

At the same moment she heard another heartbeat in accord with her own, loudly and clearly and her own heart missed a beat. Her breath caught in her throat and she had to gather all her bravery to lift her head, slowly and cautiously and with conflicting emotions – fear and hope at the same time.

Kili breathed.

Her eyes caught sight of the deadly wound, which had pervaded Kili's armor. The blood was still there. But the wound itself was healed. She could see perfectly undamaged skin. But nevertheless it reminded her of the deadly blow and the thought of it made her shudder. She turned away, lifted her head instead until she could see Kili's face again. A healthy color had banished the paleness of death. Kili's eyes moved under closed eyelids. The next moment he opened his eyes slowly and looked around disorientatedly.

She felt beside herself with joy, straightened herself up and laid her hand on Kili's cheekbone. She looked him in the eyes, relished in the warmth of his skin, the feeling of his rough beard under her fingertips.

"You are alive."

She had had to say it out loud to make herself believe it. Her voice was a whisper and it broke with the third word. New tears came to her eyes but this time they were tears of gratitude and relief

Kili's brown eyes looked into hers.

"Tauriel?"

Her thumb caressed his cheek.

"I am here."

"I was dead."

Those words made her shudder again but she nodded.

"Yes."

His hand found hers, which still caressed his cheeks and rested upon hers.

"How is that possible?"

"It was an exchange. My immortality for your life."

She saw Kili's eyes going wide with her words and laid three fingers of her other hand on his lips.

"Don't. It was my decision and I would make it time and time again."

She caressed Kili's lips before she removed her fingers. Kili's eyes were still upon her.

"You saved me for the second time."

She thought back a few days ago when she had healed Kili in Laketown, remembered Kili's words on the verge of unconsciousness and replied:

"Walking in the most beautiful starlight couldn't banish the darkness of a lonesome life without you."

Kili enlaced his fingers with hers, still resting upon his cheek.

"So you could love me?"

She laughed while new tears ran down her cheeks.

"I do."

Kili's eyes beamed brighter than every star and left no doubt about is feelings. Finally following her own heart she bent down and kissed him, kissed warm lips full of life which kissed her back. Kili kissed as if their first kiss could also be their last one. He kissed with passion and lust for live, no elf would ever know or understand in face of eternity.

This would now be her life as well. She would make good use of the time she would have at Kili's side. She would not hesitate, she would not wait and she would not regret.

She would live.

And she would love.

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