Actions

Work Header

I Have Seen the Moment of My Greatness Flicker

Chapter Text

Bard is going to die.

Thranduil, the Elvenking, sits atop his stag and stares at the man before him, unblinking. Bard survived the dragon’s fire, and he lets that thought warm him, however briefly.

Bard blinks. He does nothing but blink six times in a row, and then nods before he speaks. “My lord Thranduil, we did not think to see you here.”

The way he says ‘my lord’ carries throughout the open hall, but it holds a meaning only the Elvenking knows in the deepest, darkest places of his heart.

My lord. Please.

It holds memories of nude flesh and slick, wet tongues. The heat of a touch and the rich scent of sweat and wine. It holds passion. Perhaps even love.

Bard stands still, though his fingers hover above the sword at his hip. He keeps his chin tilted up and his eyes steady. Brown eyes. Warm as the wood whence Thranduil came. His hair is the same deep brown, wavy and tied back from his face, which is smudged with dirt and ash from the dragon’s fire. But for a scrape on his cheek, he is uninjured. Bard is dressed like any other of his station in a dirty tunic with a leather coat thrown over the top to keep out the chill. The tunic is blue and the coat brown. Like always, Bard is lightly bearded.

Snow littered the ground on the ride to Dale but none falls now.

That Bard speaks says volumes, as all the other men and women do nothing but gawk. It does not surprise Thranduil in the least.

“I heard you needed aid, bargeman,” Thranduil says and casts a sideways glance from Bard to the cart of supplies Thranduil’s elves brought. “Laketown has fallen and so has Smaug. The mountain is free. You are in charge?”

Bard gives a brief nod of his head. Then he eyes the wagon of supplies as most men would a bag of gold. He smiles – the smile that pinches the corners of his eyes and shows his age. However, his expression remains guarded. He is not the sort of man who would carelessly grasp at treasure. Bard understands, as does the Elvenking, that all things come at a price.

“You have saved us. I do not know how to thank you,” Bard says, his voice raspy with cold but grateful nonetheless.

Thranduil watches Bard slip closer to his stag as the crowd converges upon the cart. Gasps of joy ring hollow in Thranduil’s ears. It matters not that they are fed for this day or a month. Those supplies will not outlast the winter the way most men eat. And these people have no shelter save the ruined city of Dale.

They will freeze without Thorin Oakenshield’s aid, Bard among them.

Such is the way of mortals. A pity that this very moral looks straight into Thranduil’s grey eyes without a hint of fear. Uncertainty, perhaps, but no fear. It’s how Bard always looks at him, from the time he was a boy who wandered into the forest realm on accident.

Bard may have died if Thranduil had not found him. Bard’s boat had become tangled in the roots of Mirkwood’s great black trees, and Bard climbed out to free it. He did not know of the nest of spiders in the darkness above his head, and the vermin descended on him, all skittering legs and clacking fangs.

Bard, then a youth of seventeen, fought bravely for a child of man. His dagger served him well enough to pierce two of the creature’s bellies, but there were too many of them for one man to kill.

Thranduil left his palace that day on a whim, though now it feels less like a whim and more like part of a grander design. The twisted halls weighed on him, and Legolas hounded him with questions of his mother – questions Thranduil did not wish to answer.

A walk in the woods beyond his gates was all the respite he had.

The evil in the forest fled before each step of his grey leather boots. Then he heard the scuffle of movement by the waters edge. A cry and yelp. The hissing of the spiders.

He had not seen combat in hundreds of years, but Thranduil moved toward it. He sprinted over the tangled roots, his sword in his hand, and burst into the clearing as a spider descended on Bard, fangs ready to bite.

Thranduil sliced the monster into two neat pieces, and his very presence was enough to frighten off the others. They scuttled back into the trees. At that moment, Thranduil made a note to remind his captain to rid the forest of them sooner rather than later.

Bard gawked at him. Even then, his cheeks were rough with patchy stubble. His hair was shorter so the curls framed his jaw. “My lord elf. I do not know how to thank you,” he breathed and stood. He was only slightly shorter then, but thinner by far. He did not bow, and the way he jutted his chin out and up, as if he were greater than most men, should have itched at Thranduil’s nerves. That it did not struck him.

“Wherefore do you wander into my woods, boy?” Thranduil asked and frowned at the mess on his blade.

Bard pointed at his boat and smiled sheepishly. “Sorry about that. I’m a bargeman from Laketown and I came too deep into the forest. Before I knew it, I was stuck.”

“Free yourself and be gone lest the spiders will eat well this night,” Thranduil said and turned, gracefully, away.

“Of course,” Bard said and stepped back into the water. It rushed around his thighs, and he grunted as he pushed and pulled to free his boat.

The sound thumped on Thranduil’s skull until he was far too fed up with it to do anything but help. He swept back to Bard’s side, heaved the boat free and pushed.

Unfortunately, Thranduil pushed at the same instance that Bard pulled, and the sudden displacement of the boat upset Thranduil’s impeccable balance and sent him tumbling into the water.

The chill of it shocked him, and the next thing he knew was the sensation of hands. On his person. Hands grasping and helping and the muttered apologies of the youth whom he decided (foolishly) to aid!

“I am so sorry, my lord. So very sorry. I may have a dry blanket in the boat,” Bard said, and when Thranduil brushed the wet hair from his face he noticed the smile threatening Bard’s delicate lips.

His silver robe dripped into the water, the golden trim curling at the edges. For once, Thranduil’s carefully crafted control faltered, and he breathed in a great gasp of air. “You would laugh?”

“No! Never!” Bard said, but his mouth betrayed him as a chuckle spilled out and rang through the wood.

It tingled over Thranduil’s skin like a song, sweeter than any he’d heard, and he let it pull his lips up as well.

And now they’ve come to this.

“Why come all this way for our plight?” Bard asks. His voice is low, and his eyes dart from Thranduil’s to the cart. If one person took more than the others, Thranduil is sure Bard would stop them.

The question is a fair one, and Bard is not a stupid man.

Thranduil knows this, and he sees the urgency in Bard’s expression. The need. And Thranduil has only to say a few words to shatter Bard’s faith in him into pieces like a cheap trinket dashed on the rocks. “Your gratitude is misplaced. I did not come on your behalf. I came to reclaim something of mine.”

Bard’s eyes widen, their depth and warmth fill with hurt. It is not the cruelest thing Thranduil has ever said, but perhaps the cruelest to this man.

“There are gems in the mountain that I deeply desire. White gems of pure starlight.” He turns his stag away so he does not have to see Bard’s expression. He knows it all too well. The furrow of his brow and the way those delicately bowed lips thin into a line. Thranduil knows that Bard will be disappointed beyond measure at this answer – hurt even.

Looking upon him will do neither of them good.

“Wait! Please wait,” Bard calls, his voice thick with desperation.

Thranduil stops, his back straight and tall.

“You would go to war over a handful of gems?” Bard’s tone holds notes of accusation that should not sting coming from a man. A mere mortal. But they prick at Thranduil’s armor like slivers made of iron and sharp as a warg’s claws. They always do.

“The heirlooms of my people are not so easily surrendered.”

“We are allies in this.”

Allies in many ways – ways he does not need to explain.

“My people also have claim upon the riches in that mountain. Let me speak with Thorin.” It is less of a question. More a command.

When Thranduil turns, Bard’s hands are no longer near his weapon. They rest on his hips instead. He stares into Thranduil’s eyes. All hurt fled and only the bright fire of anger burns in his expression.

“You would try to reason with a dwarf?” Thranduil says, his voice as biting as the cold air.

“To avoid war? Yes.” Bard does not flinch, though he blinks. His face crumples at the edges. Enough that Thranduil knows he will have to seek forgiveness or forgo Bard’s company.

One of those things is not possible.

“I will have what is my right,” Thranduil says and turns his stag from Bard’s accusatory eyes. Very few of his own people, Silvan or Sindarin, cast that glance at their king. Yet Bard casts it as if it has no consequence.

“Let me speak with him!” Bard calls after him. His voice is hitched. Holds an air of urgency only possessed by mortals.

Thranduil pulls on the reins. Tilts his head just so. A smile twists at the side of his mouth. “Very well. But I will have what I came for if you fail, bargeman.”

Despite his better judgment, Thranduil’s chest swells and something stirs that much lower.

The negotiations fail, as Thranduil knows they will. However, Bard earnestly tries to convince Thorin Oakenshield to stand by his honor. The stubborn dwarf won’t hear it, and the disappointment paints itself across Bard’s fair brow as he turns to face Thranduil upon the bridge.

“He will give us nothing!” Bard spits into the cold air, puffs of fog come out of his mouth with it.

“Such a pity. But still you tried.” Thranduil offers a smile – a token, now that they are alone.

Bard’s shoulders bunch. “I don’t understand. Why would he risk war?”

“It is fruitless to reason with them. They understand only one thing.” Thranduil frees his sword, the same blade that saved Bard nearly twenty years before.

Bard eyes the blade, his chest heaving, and his tongue flits over his lips.

The same hunger rages in Thranduil’s groin no matter how he fights to contain it. That weapon is a symbol of their relationship, strange though it may be.

“We ride at dawn,” he says, for the benefit of the elves behind him. Then Thranduil’s eyes fall to Bard alone. “Come to my tent.”

Bard nods and rubs a hand over his rough cheeks. “And you will explain yourself?”

Thranduil’s hands itch to touch Bard’s hair. Feel it against his cheek. His mouth twitches into a smile. “Perhaps. At the very least, I offer you a drink with an old friend.”

“Is that what we are? Friends?” Bard asks.

So direct. He never learned to hold anything back.

“What more would you have?” Thranduil asks softly enough that none but Bard can hear. That he asks such a question at all, in this ruined land under the shadow of the mountain with an army at his back, is pure foolishness. Everything he wants is within his grasp if only he reaches for it, and yet he does nothing.

Bard is a man. A mortal.

“You know what I desire, my lord elf,” Bard says. Then he spurs his white horse to a trot and rides past the stag.

It reminds Thranduil of their first parting. When the youth climbed into the boat and carelessly gave away his name.

Bard.

Then he waved and grinned. “Will I see you again, my lord elf?”

“I very much hope not,” Thranduil said under his breath.

He watched the boat disappear into the shadows before he returned to his palace.

Now, he follows.

Chapter Text

Thranduil lounges in the makeshift throne, his legs crossed and his elegant chin resting on his curled fist. He still wears the white gold crown upon his brow and the riding gown is draped over his shoulders, though his attendants removed the armor some time ago. The tent, while it looks like fine silk, is enchanted with an ancient magic from the First Age. It emits enough heat to make the room comfortable without the torches, yet those still burn for light.

Bard paces. He’s done nothing but pace since the halfling arrived with the Arkenstone. Even before, Bard could not sit still. It is such a human trait.

With all the comings and goings of elves, men and the hobbit, Thranduil has yet to explain his actions. The people of Dale, Bard among them, had to ready their arms. Thorin will not see reason, even with the stone, Thranduil is certain, but he does not broach that. It will lead to another argument, and that is not why he came.

Not in the least.

“How are the younglings?” Thranduil asks. He keeps his voice low. Quiet.

For once, Bard stops moving. He stills entirely and his shoulders, which have been bunched and knotted with tension since Thranduil arrived slump. “Alive. Well enough.”

For now.

He does not say that, but it hangs in the air between them because both the Elvenking and this new leader of Dale know what war brings – death. And death does not spare the young or the innocent. It does not spare women or children. That lesson Thranduil has learned time and time again.

“They will be as safe as I can make them. You have my word,” Thranduil says.

Bard’s eyes flick to his. “You will do so yourself or rally one of your kinsmen for the duty?” His voice holds a note of surprise.

Thranduil pours himself a fresh goblet of wine. He’s finished one already, but it has yet to lighten his head. “A kinsmen would suit us both best. Does that serve you?”

“Aye,” Bard says, and his expression softens.

“You defeated Smaug. Some see that as the act of a hero. Shall I call you Dragon-slayer in place of bargeman?” Thranduil asks and shifts in his throne. It is not high enough for him to look down on others. However, he never truly wishes to look down on Bard, unless the man is on his knees.

Bard’s eyes widen, and his gaze drops to his hands in their filthy knit gloves. “Aye, but Bain brought me the black arrow. I only fired it.”

Thranduil smiles and takes a sip of his wine. “You have not changed much in all this time. No matter what deed you accomplish, it is tucked away as something small and insignificant. Killing a dragon is nothing to take lightly. I know.” His hand trails to his cheek – the cheek marred by a firedrake from the north. He showed Bard that scar once in the light of a gibbous moon. The expression on Bard’s face is much like it was then. His lips part, and his breath catches in his throat. The torchlight reflects the strands of gray in his hair.

Bard is nearly forty. Middle-aged for a man.

So close to death.

Then Bard moves toward him. His hands twitch and his jaw tightens. “Is this what you wanted to speak of, my lord elf? The killing of dragons and my children? How is Legolas?”

He does not mean it to sting, but Thranduil flinches nonetheless. “I know not. He tracked the party of elves this far. Do you have news of him?”

Bard flicks his tongue over his lips. “Aye. He came to Laketown and departed. That’s all I know.”

The spiked lump in Thranduil’s throat shrinks at that revelation. Legolas is well. Could he chide his only son for chasing a Silvan elf when he sits before a man, itching to touch him? Yes, but it spoke of all sorts of hypocrisy.

“With that settled, what shall we speak of, Dragon-slayer?” Thranduil asks and tilts the goblet in his hand. The wine, as pale as his own silvery hair, swishes in it. The strong scent dances across his nose, and Bard lifts it from his hand and holds it to Thranduil’s lips.

A rush of heat rages in his groin as the wine fills his mouth. When Thranduil’s had his full, Bard pulls the goblet back.

Then Bard’s lips kiss the rim. He has his own goblet, half full, but he drinks the Elvenking’s instead. Then he sets the goblet on the table next to the throne and leans in. His brow furrows with a plea. “Did you come only for your gems?”

“I did not come for the people of Laketown. They concern me not,” Thranduil says and swipes his hand over Bard’s cheek. His fingers trail over the stubble and into those brown waves. The hair is soft though rough with grit and ash. He remembers a time when those lines did not crinkle the sides of Bard’s eyes.

Bard’s fingers snag at the top of Thranduil’s riding gown. Over the years he’s become adept at undressing the Elvenking. His hands undo the snaps and fastenings with ease, brown eyes locked on grey.

“Do I concern you, my lord elf?” he asks with a bite as sharp as Smaug’s fangs.

Melamin , what would you have me say?” Thranduil breathes and tilts Bard’s lips to meet his. Actions have always been so much simpler than words in Thranduil’s mind. They are simpler here and now as well.

He inhales Bard’s scent as their mouths brush. Bard’s beard tickles Thranduil’s nose and chin, but as Bard’s tongue brushes his, it does things that wake the need singing through his nerves. Each inch of his body comes alive in this moment.

There is nothing delicate about their kiss. As hot as dragon’s fire, it burns across Thranduil’s flesh. Bard grasps his shoulders and shoves the finely crafted gown aside. It falls open to reveal Thranduil’s chest, slender and muscled, which heaves with every breath.

A smile flits over Bard’s lips, as if this is the first time they’ve undressed each other, though it is far from it.

Thranduil remembers that instance as well. It was over ten years after they first met on that fateful day in the wood. Bard returned on a weekly basis to ferry supplies from the woodland realm to Laketown. He spent more time than needed rowing the narrow streams of the dangerous forest, searching for something.

Though he never spoke, Thranduil knew what Bard sought. Another meeting with the elf lord, but Thranduil did not grant it. Not until Bard sat at his gates, his head in his hands, and a bottle of mead at his side.

When the guards brought word of a drunken human at the borders, Thranduil thought nothing of it. The man could flee or the spiders would eat him. However, a prick at the back of his mind made him say something. He ordered the man brought before him.

Thranduil sat on his throne when Bard approached that day. His eyes were much too clear to be drunk, and Thranduil noticed the bottle of mead was corked and full, though Bard’s eyes were red and three green leaves stuck in his hair.

“Wherefore did you come to my gate, bargeman? Have we not completed our trade?” Thranduil asked, eyes downcast.

Bard tilted his chin up as he had when he was merely a youth. “I come bearing a gift of thanks for your aid all these years hence, my lord elf.”

“I am Thranduil the Elvenking, Bard the bargeman,” Thranduil said and waved his hands at the guards. They obeyed the command and slipped away. That left the great hall empty. Thranduil leaned back in his throne, as would a cat in a patch of morning sun. “Approach and tell me why you have wandered my borders all these years only to bother me now?”

Bard’s fingers tightened on the bottle in his hands. His shoulders trembled, and the sensation of loss was so palpable Thranduil felt it leak off the man and soak into him.

Bard stepped up to the throne, climbed the first two steps and stopped. “This mead was a wedding present. My wife– we planned to save it for the tenth year. She died this spring of an illness. I did not wish to drink it alone.”

There are many things Thranduil may have said at that moment. He may have turned his back on the man before him. He may have taken the bottle with a polite nod of his head and given Bard a bag of gold. He did neither.

Thranduil descended his throne and lifted the bottle in his hand. The sweet scent of mead and memories stirred something that slept far too long. “We shall drink in my chambers, bargeman. Have you younglings?”

“Three. Two daughters and a son,” Bard said, and seemed not the least surprised the Elvenking deigned to drink with him.

That interested Thranduil as much as anything else Bard did. “I also have a son. His mother was lost long ago.”

Thus, after a bottle of mead in Thranduil’s chambers, Bard’s scruffy cheeks turned pink with warmth and liquor. They sang songs of their people. Bard started with a bawdy tavern tune that involved much swearing.

Thranduil smiled at the exuberance in Bard’s raspy voice. While not beautiful, he sang in tune and the gruffness caused no offense. Then Thranduil sang a Sindarin ballad of lost lovers in his deep, clear voice, which brought tears to Bard’s eyes.

Lastly, Bard fell to his knees and took Thranduil’s hand between his palms. The touch was warm, if unwelcome. Thranduil allowed it on the grounds that Bard was drunk and not harmful.

Bard began another song of love. It told the tale of a man besotted with a beautiful elf he could not have. There was an awful lot of nonsense about starlight locks and eyes as grey as the sea. But Bard sang it earnestly, and he kept his gaze on Thranduil, even when his voice faltered and faded to nothing but a breath of air.

“I preferred the bawdy one,” Thranduil said, though he found his hand on Bard’s face. The stubble tickled his palm, and the man leaned forward. Up and over, until his hips pressed between Thranduil’s thighs, which spread for the intrusion upon his personal space.

How much mead had they drank?

“So do I,” Bard said as their lips smashed together.

That kiss brought them here. To Bard’s mouth lapping at Thranduil’s neck, ever careful not to leave marks that the Elvenking could not explain to his kin.

Thranduil’s ringed fingers tangle in Bard’s hair and snag on the curls, but Bard only grunts in response. His hot breath and hungry tongue flits over the Elvenking’s smooth chest. His teeth bite and pull at Thranduil’s pert pink nipples until the Elvenking hisses with satisfaction. The bulge in Thranduil’s leggings throbs, and his hips thrust into Bard’s chest for the attention his cock craves.

Bard’s glorious mouth kisses Thranduil’s stomach as his fingers make quick work of the legging’s laces.

He should have more composure than this under the touch of a mortal, but he has none in these moments. The idea of eternity fades to the ever important now. The sensation of a bearded cheek on his thigh, and the puff of hot breath on his weeping cock consumes his world.

Yet Bard will die, and this moment will only live on in Thranduil’s memory.

However, mortality matters little with an erection as hard as an elven blade. Bard’s hands clamp on Thranduil’s thighs, and his tongue presses into the slit.

“Aiya,” Thranduil moans. The crown tilts dangerously on his head as he throws it back, his hips ready to thrust into Bard’s wet and willing mouth.

Bard watches with hooded eyes, rich with lust and a need that burrows under Thranduil’s skin and into his bones. A need he recognizes within himself, but one that is nonetheless fruitless.

Bard will be gone in the blink of an eye. This man will turn to dust while Thranduil lives on.

Yet Bard is here now. And that strand of grey hair is caught in his golden ring, so Thranduil keeps that hand still as not to pull.

Bard’s lips squeeze over the weeping head of his cock, cheeks sucking as he inhales the Elvenking. His brown eyes only leave Thranduil’s to blink. He has learned to take as well as he gives. Bard swallows Thranduil to the hilt, and his tongue swirls around the shaft as his lips hum. His throat squeezes the buried tip. However, he does not move his head. He keeps still and waits, as if his patience were a match for Thranduil’s.

At this point, Thranduil has no patience left. The need claws at his insides, and his hand holds Bard’s head steady while he pulls out, slowly, and Bard sucks him back in.

The give and take. That is what this moment is about. Not the lust pounding in his gut and the honey-sweet ball of release that builds with every sweep of Bard’s tongue or the look in his scorching eyes. Any lover can wrap his mouth around Thranduil’s cock and bring him pleasure. It is the squirming desire for more than pleasure that Bard elicits, and this has worried Thranduil for many moons.

Bard’s fingers bruise as they grip. His head bobs to meet every thrust of Thranduil’s hips. He makes sounds – sounds that stab the Elvenking’s heart. Thranduil makes a note to remember them always.

At the height of it all, Thranduil closes his eyes and lets the pleasure flow through him. His body jerks once as the seed spills into Bard’s mouth. Then Bard moves back, still on his knees, and wipes his lips, swollen and pink.

“Your tangled round my ring,” Thranduil says as he catches his breath and leans forward. He slips off the throne and picks the grey and brown strands free.

“I hoped to be tangled round more than your ring,” Bard says, voice gruff.

In truth, Bard is tangled round all of Thranduil, heart and soul, but such a sentiment would not (could not) last.

When the final strand comes free, Thranduil pulls his hand away and kisses Bard softly. His fingers slip over the dirty tunic and toward what lies beneath. If he could sprawl Bard on one of the great dining tables in his palace and show him what these moments mean, he would. But a mortal would never understand.

Bard stands as Thranduil’s hands ghost over his strained bulge. “I must make further arrangements for tomorrow.”

“In that state?” Thranduil says with a raised brow. That Bard is not his to command never grates on him, but that Bard would leave without his passion fulfilled does.

“Tell me if you came for the gems or for me and you can do as you will with me, my lord elf,” Bard says in a breathy whisper.

Thranduil does not answer. For a mere man will not force the hand of a king, no matter who he is or what he has done.

A long silence stretches between them. Finally, Bard kisses him one last time and slips toward the tent’s flap, but Thranduil catches his arm. Squeezes. With his free hand, he motions at the pile of neatly arranged mithril chainmail.

Melamin , take it. I brought enough for you and your kin,” Thranduil says evenly, keeping his annoyance in check. “Wear them under your garments so they do not show.”

One chainmail shirt alone is worth more than Bard could make in two lifetimes, and his fingers flit over them. “You brought only four. Not enough for all my people.”

“No.” It seems no matter how often Thranduil speaks the truth of his feelings toward the other men of Laketown, Bard never quite believes him. The Dragon-slayer will now. “But if you want to survive a war, you will take what I offer.”

Thranduil does not say ‘please,’ although the word sits stubbornly on the tip of his tongue.

“For my children’s sake,” Bard breathes, as if it is a curse. Then he gathers the shimmering white mithril in his arms, bundles them into his coat, and slips into the night.

Thranduil watches Bard go and licks his lips. They taste of his own semen and fleetingly of wine.