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The Elvenking and The Girl Behind the Scenes

Chapter Text

Tania finished sewing the final stitches of Thranduil’s metallic-green robe, the last piece of his wardrobe. As she held the kingly and grandiose garment out in front of her, she sighed in satisfaction and pride.

 

Despite the fact that she was fresh out of college and was a brand-new addition to the Art Department for the second and third installment of the highly anticipated The Hobbit trilogy, her innate artistic talents and genuine social connection with every other member of the crew granted her a position to work alongside Ann Maskrey, Richard Taylor and Bob Buck. These costume directors adored Tania and her work, and delegated her roles of importance on the set, whereas usually someone in her position would begin as a mere intern.

 

It had been a few weeks since production has begun. Sets were being built, equipment installed, cameras prepared, and so on and so forth. Tania and her team had been quite busy with conceptualizing and manufacturing the right vision and ideal outfits for the previous characters, as well as those of the new cast members and added extras.

 

The real challenge for them was achieving the right design and look for the Elvenking, the view that would make him into the superior and cold character that Peter Jackson and other conceptors wanted to portray. After months of exploring and designing multiple ideas for Thranduil, they have finally found the perfect balance of beauty and power to the overall appearance of the character and transformed it into the garb that she was now holding in her hands, along with a vast array of innumerable outfits to compliment his style. He really had the most extensive wardrobe in all of Middle Earth, which made the other actors jealous.

 

Today was a rather big day. It was actor Lee Pace’s fitting tests for his role. Tania smiled to herself as she contemplated the fruits of her and the Department’s labor. She then gathered all of the final attires and hung them carefully on her left arm, and grabbed the wood carven crown with her right hand, just in time as Ann called her out of the workshop and into the dressing room.

 

Lee Pace already had his blonde wig and pointy ears on, and sky blue contacts in. He was walking back and forth on the ceramic floor, practicing his Elvish movements. Peter Jackson, Richard and Bob were discussing in one corner and other designers were finishing off the final touches on the character’s props, notably his intricately dazzling aluminium sword. Ann walked in first and headed towards the actor.

Tania arrived shortly after and suddenly, all heads turned towards her. She was slightly startled by the unexpected attention, but rapidly acknowledged that it was because they were drawn to the costumes swaying on her arm. Only, she noticed that Lee was looking at her, and not his vestments, like everyone else. She quickly averted her eyes from him, but soon gazed back, only to find that he was still staring at her. She could not read his expression, however. Fearing that she would seem impolite or unfriendly, she smiled a little and nodded her head at him in a greeting manner, which he returned with a wide grin, replacing his previously perceived coldness.

 

Ann called the young lady to her, asking her to hand the apparel. Tania did so, always being cautious not to make direct eye contact with Lee, who was standing only a few steps away from her, still eyeing her coyly.

 

“Thank you,” he said in his deep-toned voice as he smiled at her once again.

 

“Sure, no problem, sir,” Tania responded shyly with her head bowed to the ground before walking away.

 

This was the first time she had ever interacted with Lee Pace, if she could even call that an interaction, and it was also the first time someone looked at her the way he did; a sort of curious manner, entranced even. And for Lee, it was the first time that he had ever felt drawn to someone, as if an unexplained magnetic force was pulling him towards her.

 

The costume designers snapped Lee out of his marvel by humorously ordering him to change into his first gown. A few minutes later he was out of the dressing cabin and back onto the floor. Peter Swords King, one of the hair and makeup artists, kindly asked for Tania to hand him the thorn crown, then dashed towards Lee. He placed it on top of the actor’s golden head and arranged every strand of misplaced hair back into position.

 

The outfit designers also marched up to him and fixed his garments, making them fall perfectly on the floor, adjusting any unwanted folds, and opening the collar of the robe so that it revealed the actor’s slick neckline. Daniel Falconer, a member of the Weta Workshop and concept designer, handed the sword to Lee, and Richard inserted four crafted rings into his slender fingers. Bob then finished up the look by wrapping a long and shiny dark orange sash around the movie star’s back and positioned equal sides of the fancy cloth on each of his arms.

 

“This orange is just… Bold!” The actor exclaimed in a satisfied growl, his eyes squinting in utter admiration and head bobbing up and down in immediate love for the design, which was received with a choir of laughter by the production staff.

 

Once they were pleased with every little detail, the conceptors pulled back and cherished their work. Lee Pace was no longer Lee Pace. It was now the Elvenking of Wood and Stone standing before them, and he was stunning. Every piece of clothing, from the arctic grey knee-length leather boots to his silvery green gown with complex patterns imitating the bark of trees, suited him perfectly, as if they were part of him.

 

Instead of holding his sword aloft or across his body, Lee immediately turned sideways, lifted his head and closed his eyes, and dropped the tip of the weapon towards the ground. This overall appearance gave him the allure of superiority, fierceness and elegance of a great king, a frightening leader.

 

The movie director, as well as every single member of the crew, were astonished at the entertainer’s presence and performance, but Tania was beyond words for how completely fascinated she was. To her, “handsome” was a total understatement.

 

She quickly seized a camera on a table beside her and snapped a photo of Thranduil. The click of the shutter and the flash from the lens instantly brought everyone back to reality, and all eyes were glued on her once again. She immediately apologized for her impulsivity, set the gadget back on the table and excused herself out of the room. A slight awkwardness reigned, but was soon dispersed by Peter Jackson letting out a relieved laugh.

 

“Wow, that was some move right there,” he giggled as he walked towards the camera. “I hope she got that shot because Lee, you were truly amazing.”

 

The crew cheered and high-fived each other while the Elf lord made his way beside the director and glanced at his image in the screen. He smirked cockily, admitting silently that he did in fact look awesome.

 

“Hey, Pete, what’s the name of that girl though?” He asked Peter in a low whisper. The smaller man gandered at him with question marks in his eyes and a playful smile on his lips, as if eager to know why Lee would even ask such a question. But before he could confirm any suspicious motive for that demand, Lee hastily justified “I just want to thank her for the photo, that’s all.”

 

Peter reviewed the actor’s expression, which he tried to mask with a poker face, and chuckled. “Yeah, sure you do,” he jokingly replied as he nudged the taller man with his elbow. Then staring pensively at the wall, as if thinking hard to retrieve an information stored far away in his memory, he answered “Tania, her name is Tania.”

 

Lee grinned to himself and kept that precious detail in the safety of his mind.

 

“Okay everybody, let’s get to the other outfits and carry on with principal photography with the other actors afterwards,” Peter voiced towards the rest of the group. “Then we’re all off to Block B for rehearsals. We’ve got a lot of work to do so come on, chop chop,” he ordered merrily as he clapped his hands to emphasize his point.

Chapter Text

Two days later, filming for the scenes of Thranduil officially began. Tania was very pleased to know that the director and other Department leaders were extremely satisfied with all of the Elvenking’s vestments. She now had the honor to watch them being exhibited on the big screen in all of their elegance and beauty. After all, Philippa Boyens, one of the co-writers of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, was right about Lee Pace as the chosen actor for Thranduil: they got exactly what they wanted physically, as he was tall and handsome, and had a nice and perfect set of shoulders to hang a costume on.

 

On set, green screens were omnipresent, covering the walls and floors that were fabricated to represent the halls of the Woodland Realm. It did not look like much now, but with the skill and expertise of the Special Effects team during post-production, it would be eventually turned into the breathtaking palace that it was meant to be. The Elf king’s throne stood above the ground in power and greatness, giving the fictional character an advantage over everyone in the entire room just by its position.

 

Lee Pace, already clad from head to toe in all of his royal garbs and props for the scene, was lounging on his big wooden dais with one leg crossed above the other, one hand on his lap and the other placed relaxedly on the manchette. Hair dressers and makeup artists were fixing him up and finishing the last touches of his look.

 

Enjoying the strokes of a soft makeup brush on his porcelain skin, he noticed the young Tania in a far corner of the set sipping a cup of coffee, under the shadows of where the lights could not reach in the background. She looked so cute, with her hair tied up in a messy bun and dressed in a baggy sweater, probably from the lack of preparation time due to fatigue caused by the overload of work she put herself into even during the night, and the wee hours of morning that the filming was scheduled.

 

“Tania, could you please go and take a few shots of Lee Pace? The still photographers have not arrived yet,” Richard requested as he passed her an autofocus Canon camera.

 

Intrigued, the young lady looked at him quizzically with her mouth moderately open. As if Richard read the clueless expression on her face, he instructed “Just go up to him and take as many pictures as you can, in all the possible angles. You know, for production purposes.” Then taking the camera and placing it in Tania’s hands as if it was the first time she was handling such a device, he showed her the buttons to click for proper zooming or adjusting the filter.

 

When she felt comfortable enough to carry out the oh-so-simple task, the costume director nudged Tania softly towards the set. She took a deep breath and walked hesitantly up to the throne.

 

Lee caught her eyes and smiled brightly, as if illuminating the whole set. Tania’s heart picked up its pace, making a small string of cold sweat run down her back. She quickly regained her composure and continued her hike up to the Elf lord. He ran his crystal blue eyes up and down her figure, taking in all of her simple gorgeousness, and nodded in approval as she reached the platform of his throne.

 

“Good morning, Tania, how do you do?” The actor greeted gleefully, almost sounding like the chirp of a bird in the early hours of daylight.

 

“Fine, my Lord Thranduil,” she answered, but taken aback by her own formality and reference to his character’s title, let out a timid laugh. Lee joined her in and broke out into an even bigger smile, revealing his perfectly-aligned and pearly white teeth.

 

“I actually like the sound of that,” he swooned, still giggling, “especially when it comes from you.” And with that, he winked. Tania fell in love for half a second, as she had a weakness for men, especially one as handsome as Lee Pace, winking at her. However, she was more concerned about how he even knew her name.

 

“Oh, I make sure to always at least know the names of the people I work with… Like the people who dress me,” Thranduil mentioned, making sure to convince her that it was completely normal for him to do so.

 

The girl looked at him with a hint of skepticism. “But, we’ve never really talked…”

 

Lee Pace leaned forward and cocked an eyebrow. “Perhaps we can change that.”

 

Tania was rendered speechless. Did the actor of the Elvenking just flirt with her? No, it could not be, of course not, she thought. They both had to keep their conversations rather professional and work-related because of specific agendas and a reputation of their own to uphold. Maybe he was just being nice, and charming as he was. She confidently shrugged those ideas from her cloudy mind and held the camera up, turning it on.

 

“Uhm actually, I just needed to take a few pictures of you before the cameras start rolling…” She voiced as she played around with the gadget, and before putting the viewfinder up to her eye “would you pose for me?”

 

The Elf lord acquiesced and chuckled, making that same deep tone that rendered his voice so enchanting and pleasant to hear. “I would do anything for you.”

 

Tania was able to catch a dozen pictures, each of them looking absolutely breathtaking. Forget about Photoshopping any of them, it would only take away their already enhanced and natural splendor. The actor really knew how to work his trousers to the maximum. He shuffled in his seat gracefully, striking various poses and adjusting each of his facial expressions accordingly to achieve a different look between each take. The beginner photographer tried her best to remain calm, but it was an arduous task when she always felt his powerful gaze peering through her soul from the camera lens.

 

“I actually noticed you many times before, you know,” Lee stated between poses. “I’ve seen you work with the Dwarves and Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman…”

 

“Really?” Tania questioned from behind the camera, still focused on clicking for pictures.

 

“Mhm, and I think you’re quite good at what you do,” he complimented her, his voice sounding airy.

 

“Alright everyone, get ready for rolling!” The director called out into a megaphone. All the crew members shuffled around and hurried to their assigned positions and behind their respective booths. Film cameras were pointed towards Lee and overhead set lights were dimmed down a little, creating a murky and mysterious shade above the throne.

 

Tania turned her device off and bowed slightly at the actor for his cooperation. He flashed her another frisky smile followed by another knee-weakening wink, and before she could reach the steps leading down to the set, he called out “Thank you for the picture yesterday, by the way, and we should get some coffee together sometime!”

 

Tania merely turned her head, acknowledging that she had heard him, but jogged off of the platform and found her way back into the same corner she was before. As she watched the filmmakers execute their tasks and the scene roll, Tania submerged herself into the profound quietness of the room to ponder around with the events she had just experienced.

 

Her racing heart finally settled back to normal and her quivering body released all tension. Was she smitten by Lee Pace’s relatively obvious attempt to seduce her, or was she dying to escape the situation?

 

But one thing was certain, she did like him… too.

Chapter Text

A few days have gone by since that episode. The young costume designer and the acclaimed actor did not see each other since then. Lee was anticipating her sight every time he came on set for rehearsals or principal photography. He longingly scoured the crowd of production staff during his call time and stand by moments, but without success. Maybe she was busy at the workshop designing some other character’s garbs or perfecting his own? Or perhaps she was avoiding him by hiding behind racks of uncountable vestments? No, of course not. Lee laughed at his own clumsy worries and redirected his attention towards repeating his lines as his co-star, Evangeline Lilly, was busy going over her dagger choreographies.

 

“Such is the nature of evil…” he practiced, emphasising on his developed British accent and pacing the marked floor slowly, ensuring that his steps were light-footed and body poised, “… a shadow that grows in the dark, a sleepless malice as black as the on-coming wall of night… In time, all foul things come forth…”

 

The royal Elf, content with his delivery, soon lifted his head from the ground. What he saw next ticked him off. There was his crush, Tania, but she was not alone. She came strolling onto the set with a visibly very flirty Orlando Bloom lightly holding her by the arm. Both convulsed with a hysterical laughter that made Lee wonder how Orlando could have managed to get such a reaction from Tania.

 

His eyes narrowed in a sliver of jealousy as the British actor kissed her on the cheek before they parted ways, Tania heading up to her fellow Department teammates and him strolling towards the Elven platform.

 

“Hello, dad,” the Elfling greeted gleefully as he walked up to his father.

 

Lee stayed silent for a long second before replying indifferently “Hello, son.” He turned his eyes towards his favored dresser and saw her still smiling, which made his lips press flat. “So, what were you and Tania laughing about, huh? Did I miss something?”

 

Orlando, who was being suited into his gray armor by a team of other costumiers for the upcoming scene, answered “We just came back from Block A and I showed her my fan made hit song, you know, ‘They’re Taking the Hobbits to Isengard’”. He cackled once again and continued “Tania actually challenged me to cover the song, so she held the iPad up to my face and I had to sing the exact part of the song whenever she put the screen down. It was pretty hilarious. I wonder how she contained her laughter while other crew members were losing it, but had to stay silent because they were filming me for fan service.” Then shifting his body in her direction, pointed out “But look, it seems that she’s still letting it all out right now.”

 

Thranduil followed Legolas’ finger. He has not seen her in a shorter delay than his liking, and the fact that her bright smile and joyful energy were caused by someone else made his blood boil a few degrees higher than its original temperature.

 

“Well it’s nice that you both get along,” the king muttered flatly, and placing a notifying hand on his co-star’s shoulder, “but beware, son, you’re married already. So, looking is for free; touching is gonna cost you something.”

 

With those last words, Lee granted Orlando a sly glare. The latter actor had horizontal wrinkles form across his forehead, as a sign that he had understood what the former said. It meant that Lee had his eyes set on Tania, and consequently Orlando had to keep his hands to himself. But that did not matter to him. Like Lee said, he was married to a very beautiful brown-haired and blue-eyed woman of his own anyway. Orlando simply smiled and nodded in agreement.

 

“Okay everybody, get into position! Let’s lock it up!” Peter Jackson hollered from his uncomfortable high-backed director’s chair, his voice resonating from the megaphone and reaching all ears around the set. The three actors and two Elvish guard extras located themselves to their respective marks. Silence fell into the large room, with only the subtle sounds of technical equipment beeping in the background. “Roll sound, roll camera, and… Action!”

 

Tania stood quietly behind a screen showing the scene being filmed. She admired the stars’ performances and simpered at how magnificent they looked dressed as their characters. She thanked Peter Jackson in her head for always getting the casting spot on, as she thought that nobody else would be able to pull off the unique feel and distinct personality that the selected actors portrayed to their roles.

 

As she observed them, she could not help but notice on the B-roll screen that Lee’s gaze seemed to be deviating from where he was supposed to be looking. It almost felt like he was staring at the crew, searching fervently for someone, or intrigued by something in the distance instead of focusing on staying in character and following his co-stars’ lines.

 

“I would not antagonize her,” Legolas warned the Orc as he clenched its hair tightly with one hand and held a knife against its neck with the other.

 

“You like killing things, Orc,” Tauriel voiced towards the disguised creature with hatred fuming in her eyes. “You like death… Then let me give it to you!” She spat furiously as she jotted forward in a swift motion, with her dagger ready to impale the horrid enemy.

 

An awkward silence soon followed. Orlando and Evangeline darted their eyes towards Lee, eagerly waiting for him to deliver his line. Somehow, he did not even blink or flinch. His attention was centered towards Tania, who was completely clueless that he could see her from where he was standing, even if it was only from her shoulders up.

 

A few more seconds which felt like interminable minutes of quietness reigned over them before Tania decided to trace where his stare was pointing at. It led her to around the corner of the set where she was watching the scene. Curious to know what the halt was all about, Tania stepped from behind the TV and observed the throne. It was then that she locked eyes with Lee, and that he finally appeared to have regained his senses.

 

“Oh, crap… It was my turn to speak…” He cursed under his breath, thankfully not loud enough for the boom mic to have capted.

 

“Cut!” The director ordered, and the whole crew obeyed. “Actors, stand by, please. Lee, are you okay?” The master filmmaker questioned with a hint of worry in his tone.

 

“Yeah, yeah. Sorry about that, I just got… Distracted,” the royal Elf replied, reddening from a little embarrassment, and also excused himself towards his companions.

 

“Okay good, but focus please. We’re so close to wrapping this scene up… Now, let’s pick that up, right where you guys are currently positioned, because everything before that was spotless,” Peter Jackson inquired as he sat deeper into his chair.

 

Tania detected a smirk dedicated to her on Lee’s lips, but it disappeared as quickly as it formed. His eyes lingered on her frozen face a little longer before his expression turned devoid of all emotion as he set himself back into character for the cameras to capture.

 

The sequence advanced slowly but steadily towards the end. More cuts had to be done due to slight dialogue or movement mistakes here and there, but at least it was not because Lee’s mind was cogitated on Tania. Deep inside her, she felt somewhat guilty for causing such distraction towards him, even if she knows she had not done anything wrong per say.

 

She knew how time was precious in moments like this and how much money was lost even for a few seconds of cuts. Tania therefore studied the Elvenking on the elevated platform and caught him sometimes glancing at her between exchanges with the other characters. She then snuck past a few staff mates stealthily and made her way to the exit doors.

 

“… No one enters this kingdom,” Thranduil commanded in an intimidating manner towards his son and for all the palace to hear, “and no one leaves it…”

 

Ironically, as he said those lines and right after Peter Jackson yelled out “cut!”, the last thing he saw was Tania heading out of the set, and the white doors silently closing behind her.

Chapter Text

“Wow, excellent work everybody,” the filmmaker cheered as he stood up from his seat and stretched his sore muscles. “Let’s take a minute for checks before we run the scene again. Let’s get Thranduil’s hair back in place, please. There’s a strand at the back of his head that kept sticking out. We also need more color on Tauriel’s cheeks. She looks pretty pale on camera…”

 

With their hairbrush and makeup kits in hand, the titled designers rushed to the actors and catered to Peter Jackson’s desires. If it were not for this interruption, Lee would have stripped off of his velvet burgundy cape and bolted towards the exit doors to follow after Tania. He ruminated in his mind, hoping he did not cause any disturbing action to scare her away.

 

They shot the scene from beginning to end once more, but Tania still has not returned. When it was finally completed, they were permitted to descend onto the plateau and take a breather.

 

Suddenly, to Lee’s surprise, a sweet and delicate voice resonated from behind him followed by a light tap on his shoulder. He spun on his heels and saw a smiling Tania holding two cups of coffee in her hands.

 

“Hi, I hope I didn’t startle you,” she said, her cheeks flushing in a glow of rosy pink. Actually, it was Lee who hoped that it was him who did not creep her out. “But uhm, here, I brought you some coffee…”

 

The tall Elf was amused by the very fact that she remembered his coffee proposition to her from last time. He beamed with mirthfulness, gratefully accepting the cup she offered him.

 

“You remembered,” he confessed, looking like a contented kitten.

 

“Well actually, you looked tired on set, so I took the liberty to fetch some,” Tania asserted, avoiding Lee’s playful remark. “I didn’t know how you like your coffee, so I put milk and sugar…”

 

The actor managed to repress a budding frown on his face from the overwhelming sweetness of the drink that his taste buds had never been accustomed to. He had always drunk his coffee black, but this time was obviously an exception. A meaningful one.

 

“So, how did I do?” The actor inquired about his performance.

 

“Pretty well I’d say, except from when you looked like you strayed into a dream that one time,” Tania pointed out as she playfully hit the Elf lord on the arm.

 

“Only ‘pretty well’, huh?” Lee scoffed. “It’s not my fault that I kept catching the glimpse of an angel every two seconds.”

 

The only response that Tania’s body could muster was a bashful smile and even redder cheeks, making her face burn unintentionally.

 

Satisfied with his tantalizing effect on her, Lee smirked to himself and took a triumphant step towards the girl, whose stomach started fluttering uncontrollably due to the butterflies that have been suddenly awoken.

 

“I have the day off the day after tomorrow. Let’s go out for supper during the evening,” he proposed in an unfazed, assertive tone.

 

As if to elude the obvious date advancement and in a pathetic attempt to mask her growing nervousness, Tania retorted “Sure that sounds great! Let’s invite some people. I’m sure Orlando would like to come too.”

 

The stoic Thranduil’s face then dropped. He chuckled and awkwardly shifted from one foot to the other.

 

Clearing his throat and brushing a hand in his wig, said “No no, I’m sorry. I wasn’t clear enough. I meant dinner together, just you and me.” He emphasized on the word ‘together’ and motioned a finger towards himself and her back and forth for added support for his point. “Anyways, Orlando is busy over the weekend until next week,” he continued, loud enough for his co-star to hear, who first looked confused as to what Lee was implying, but soon grasped and responded with a mysterious smile.

 

Lee turned to face Tania again. “I could teach you how I like my coffee and show you other things about me, and you can do the same for me. So, what do you think?”

 

There was no answer from the woman. Her heart leaped at the words she had just heard, but did comprehend. That was all she needed as confirmation that Lee Pace was truly interested in her. A famous figure and award-winning actor wanted to have some alone time with her, an ordinary person working behind the scenes, on his day off from a multitude of cameras and lights, and reciting lines over and over again. She swore that any other fangirl, or any other woman for that matter, would have jumped at this opportunity, one so easily offered to her, but was desperately debating whether to seize like the day, or let slip through her fingers like water on rock.

 

Long minutes of tense silence passed as Lee anticipated her response, eyeing her with burning curiosity and heightening restlessness. On the other end, Tania’s brain still scrambled to make sense of it all. She merely stood there as if paralyzed and temporarily incapacitated, her mouth opening and shutting like a goldfish with no sound coming out and her eyes unblinking.

 

“Lee, stop flirting with my designers!” Richard Taylor hollered jokingly from the star wagon, and instructing the actor to head over to him. “Come on, let’s get you out of that costume.”

 

The royal fictional character acquiesced with a nod of the head, and facing his still bewildered crush one last time, whispered, “It’s alright, take your time to decide. I’m in no particular rush.” Then inserting one of his distinguished lines, fitting perfectly into the situation as if it were written for outside the confines of the movie as well, “A hundred years is a mere blink in the life of an Elf. I am patient. I can wait.”

 

And with those last words, he granted Tania with a heart-melting wink. She finally blinked, but he had already walked away.

 

Chapter Text

It was another typical evening, but the very day that Lee Pace had asked Tania out for dinner with him. Only, she made herself busy at the workshop, tackling Thorin Oakenshield’s costume manual and stitching up pieces of expensive quilts and dainty furs to form kingly outfits. She liked to think of herself as a workaholic, feeling compelled to her job, as a dragon was drawn to gold.

 

Beyond the rattling sound of the old sewing machine, Tania heard the door of the small atelier open, and entered an unsuspecting Richard Taylor. They smiled at each other.

 

“Ah, I thought I’d find you here,” the main dresser stated as he walked beside Tania and looked at what she was confecting. “You know, you work too much, lass. It’s good to have a head start on things, but it’s even better to take a break sometimes too, you know?”

 

Tania hummed at his remark as a sign that she acknowledged what he said. “So how about you Richard, what are your plans on this Friday night then, huh?” She demanded with a teasing ring to her tone.

 

“My plan is to take over the stitching so that you can go have some rest,” the costume director replied as he imposed himself between the seamstress and the machine. “Go on, go have some fun tonight.”

 

Tania sighed towards Richard’s insisting command and removed her step from the foot pedal. Little did she know that this was part of Lee’s plan to get her to go out.

 

“Do me a favor and don’t ask anyone else if they’ve got work for you to do, ‘cause you’ll be turned away,” Richard warned. “Just get out of the studio and breathe some new air. I need you renewed and rested tomorrow, ready to work, capiche?” He then motioned with a subtle gesture of the head towards the door, and once Tania has left the room, he laughed to himself.

 

Tania looked back at her reflection in the mirror of her dresser. She contemplated the clock resting on top of the small wooden furniture at the corner of her cozy trailer on location. If that meant being closer to her work, she much rather preferred the simple comfort of a room rather than the luxury of a hotel.

 

The clock had just struck 7h30pm. It was rather early for a Friday night. Night is a fun and wonderful time, but Tania considered what Richard had told her earlier on and decided against her usual routine of reading books, journaling or drawing.

 

After all, it just occurred to her that after staying for around a month in New Zealand, she still has not gone further than the perimeters of the filming locations. There was so much for Wellington to offer, and she was not going to waste any time sitting around and missing opportunities to see its beauty under the moonlight.

 

She then clothed herself in a silky black dress that showed off the perfect shape of her long legs and hugged her curves like a hand fit a glove. Due to the subtle wind blowing outside proving that during the hours of absence of the sun, February summers in New Zealand can get relatively chilly, Tania made sure to layer her attire with a cardigan stopping just above her waistline. She then slipped a gorgeous pair of black low-heeled sandals that zipped at the heels and surrounded the skin around the ankles, and covered the top of her toes and closed into a pointy tip.

 

The young artist then focused on her face. Watching the professionals do it on movie stars really paid off. She applied her makeup flawlessly without overdoing it, which accentuated her features and gave her an alluring look. Finally, she grabbed her curling iron and wrapped random strands of her naturally straight hair around it to create some much-needed volume.

 

After a few more girly touch ups and multiple checks in front of the mirror, as if preoccupied about every single aspect of her appearance before a first date, she finally took a deep breath, seized her small leather purse and headed out to greet the Kiwi evening.

 

Chapter Text

New Zealand’s capital was dynamic as it was beautiful. A pleasant flowery perfume emanating from the many botanic gardens scented the air. The contrast between historic and modern designs was stark, giving the city both a groovy yet rustic feel. Women in tight skirts strutting around and raucous men drinking straight from the bottle despite the night still being young were overflowing in the streets like bubbles from a champagne glass. Multiple fancy restaurants, friendly pubs and booming clubs were lined up after the other, presenting a hive of activity which made sure that locals and tourists alike spent a night out like no other.

 

Tania strolled along the vibrant sidewalks and smiled at the lively atmosphere. The delicious smell of culinary delicacies emerging from the dinnerware of happy families and groups of friends sitting on the terraces filled her nostrils, and in turn made her stomach grumble and mouth salivate.

 

She continued along the same path and scanned restaurant names, hoping that they might spark up a desire in her to try out foods unknown to her American heritage. As she peered into the glass window of a local pub, looking fancy enough, but not too pricy, a familiar figure sitting on a high stool at the bar side caught her attention. She then entered the bistro and approached the classily suited man. The sudden recognition of who the person was then struck her like lightning was drawn to the ground. It was him: Lee Pace. He was by himself, looking at the menu spread wide open in front of him.

 

“I’ll start with a glass of red wine, please,” he responded to the waiter, dressed in a fancy white tunic, who stood in front of him and assented.

 

As he began to pour the dark burgundy liquid into a transparent chalice, Tania called out “Please make that two, thank you.”

 

For one second, the actor eyed the young woman widely, looking like a scared rabbit in a foxhole. His fright soon died faster than wisps of smoke dissipating after a candle flame has been snuffed out.

 

“Tania! I was half expecting you,” he exclaimed, standing up and embracing her gently. A curve in his mouth’s corner and a youthful confidence worn in a light raise of the eyebrow above an intrigued and bubbly eye betrayed his attempt to control his apparent burst of bliss. He thanked Richard silently for having subtly convinced her out of work.

 

“Well if I remember correctly, you did invite me for dinner tonight, didn’t you, Mister Pace?” The costume designer giggled musically as she returned his hug.

 

“I did indeed,” Lee confirmed, “but how did you even find me?”

 

“I stalked you…” Tania replied with a straight face, which made Lee’s expression transform into a light grimace, his eyes and mouth forming the shape of a large circle. “I’m messing with you, Mister Pace,” she shot back as she burst into a loud cackle and patted his arm whimsically. “I do have some tricks up my sleeve sometimes. I just recognized you from outside the restaurant.”

 

“Well, I’m more than glad that you could join me,” the celebrity confessed, his voice sounding like a baby’s giggle, but as deep as the ocean, as he led his date to the stool beside his, “and please, lose the formalities. I am just me, and titles make me feel so old.”

 

“Sorry, Mister P-… I mean uh, Lee,” Tania quacked, internally facepalming herself, her face feeling like a hot oven. “I mean, you are much older than me, that’s for sure.”

 

Lee’s forehead and nose crinkled as a result of the comment. “Oh c’mon, I’m only a few years older than you. I’m actually 25, you know?” He asserted with a poker face, devoid of all emotion.

 

Tania pouted and replied “No, that’s my age,” followed by a timid laugh.

 

“It’s fine, age never really mattered to me anyway,” the entertainer pointed out with a Herculean confidence.

 

“So, what good meals are here to eat?” The smitten woman said, not only to change the subject, but because her stomach grumbled audibly, slowly eating itself. “What do Elves normally eat on their day off, my Lord Thranduil?”

 

Both stared at each other as fast as an eagle through the air, bewildered at how Tania had addressed him yet again, as if the Elvenking was now infinitely and undeniably part of him. Before they knew it, they guffawed as incessantly as a bird sings, but sounding like the screech of a rusty hinge.

 

“King Thranduil in his human disguise would like to try something typical of New Zealand,” he answered, still red from laughter. “What about you, my dear? Are you brave enough to try a risky dish?”

 

“I accept your challenge, sire,” she replied assuredly, whipping her hair back and repositioning a fictional tie onto her neck. She grabbed the menu and scoured for the most peculiar-looking plate. After all, for Tania, serious artists like her were as competitive as athletes practicing for the Olympic games. “Crayfish? Oh, lobster! That’s pretty common… Kiwi Burger, but I’m not too fond of burgers…” Tania muttered as she examined the recipe names, then stumbling upon an image that looked delicious yet unfamiliar, “Hangi! That looks good! What do you think?”

 

“What is that anyway?” Lee asked in curiosity as he leaned in towards her.

 

“It says ‘long processed tender, off-the-bone meat and delicious vegetables, all infused with a smoky, earthy fragrance’. That sounds pretty appealing, doesn’t it?”

 

“That’s a wise choice, my lass,” Lee approved in his Elvish speech, admiring the dish. “As for me, I’ll be taking Paua fritters.”

 

Not long after, the coworkers addressed their orders to the waiter. He seemed content with their food choices as he scribbled them on his notepad and proposed an entrée on the house, which of course was accepted whole-heartedly by the famished couple.

 

“Excellent, thank you. It should not take too long.” He inclined his upper torso slightly before leaving the whole bottle of wine in front of them and hasting away to the kitchen.

 

The restaurant was full, all the tables busy. An elderly couple ate side by side, one glass of wine each, studiously bent over their meals. A group of young ladies in their thirties collapsed with helpless chuckles, while a stern woman dining alone beside them looked on and frowned. Businessmen in their grey suits clung their glasses against one another’s to celebrate the success of a financial project. American tourists tried to decipher the menu. Parents and their toddlers helped themselves with hot bread and cold butter.

 

The room was loud, but that did not stop them from being absorbed into a conversation. First it started off as typical shallow small talk, somewhat interview-like interaction that teens would ask each other on a first date, then slowly developed into more serious questions responded with equally deeper answers.

 

There was more to Lee’s irresistible charm and God-sculpted handsomeness that made Tania grow more attracted to him. There was a warm authenticity and genuine kindness that emanated from the depth of his eyes to the gentle expressions of his voice. She was always under the impression that Hollywood stars were arrogantly conceited, thinking highly and acting full of themselves, but there was a trueness and humility in Lee that was beyond compare. After all, he did admit that he favored spending quality time with his pets at home to attending extravagant paparazzi-filled afterparties.

 

Most of all, she was amazed and grateful about how comfortable she felt with him. Their personalities meshed together like birds of a feather flocked together, and a list of aspects and traits they had in common only grew longer with each interaction. Both felt like they have known each other for years, yet always wanted to discover more. 

 

It is true what they say about time flying by when in good company. Before they even knew it, their waiter came gliding in, balancing their meals on a silver platter better than a circus seal, and placed them neatly on their table. He added a few more millimeters of wine into their untouched glasses and divulged politely to enjoy their meals before scurrying away to cater to other diners.

 

“Here’s a toast to the success of the Hobbit movies,” Lee mused, raising his glass into the air and looking straight into Tania’s eyes, “and may I add, the beginning of our friendship.”

 

“Cheers,” she replied as she hit the rim of her glass against his. “May the movies get the credit and attention they deserve,” she finished off as they took sips of the fruit-flavored wine.

 

“Indeed,” Lee proceeded as he winked at her. “Let’s dig into our food now, shall we? I’m starving.”

 

Both picked up their expertly crafted silver utensils and proceeded to cut into their food. Tania delectably guzzled the savory meat, enjoying the harmony of brackish and herby tastes that invaded her tongue in a delicious mix.

 

“Oh my… Gosh!” she exclaimed merrily between munches. “This is amazing, oh my gosh!”

 

Lee looked at her in awe. She literally ripped the meat off the bone, and it pleased him, as he fancied women with a large appetite. On his side of the bench, he contemplated his fritters and had yet to take a bite. As he motioned his fork towards his mouth, a strong zesty and saline aroma oozed from the food, filling his nostrils and bringing a few droplets of moisture into his eyes. Blinking the involuntary tears away rapidly, he placed the fork between his teeth and started chewing. At first, the soft taste of coconut and leafy seasoning was dulcet. However, that did not last long. An acridity, a torrid flavor of fiery spiciness and acerbic fishiness perfused his tongue and caused his throat to burn like a thousand torches.

 

Struck with panic and to Tania’s fearful reaction, Lee agitatedly searched for something to quench his scorching thirst and grabbed the first object he could lay hands on. Since water was not yet provided, he quaffed his glass of wine, drinking it completely dry. Although, the acidity and added bitterness of the alcohol caused more damage than repair.

 

“Lee, Mister Pace! Are you alright?” Tania hollered in alarm as she patted the back of a vigorously coughing Lee. “Waiter! Waiter! Help us! Please bring some water!” She yelled even louder as she caught sight of the employee, who immediately spun on his heels and bolted into the kitchen.

 

The people in the tables nearby were now looking over at them in curiosity and dismay. The father of the family a few tables away quickly sat up and seized a cup in front of his son’s plate.

 

“He needs some milk!” The man shouted, making his way towards them in a flash, holding the cup in the air and somehow managing to not let a single drop fall out of it.

 

The scruggy man held the rim of the cup to the actor’s mouth and helped him drink it, like how he trained his young boy to drink for the first time. The streaming sweat and tears alike overflowing from Lee’s body now seemed to decelerate, and the redness from his blazing face lightened.

 

“Thank you… So much, sir,” Lee gasped between uneven breaths of air, his eyes and tone exuding much gratitude. The waiter has finally arrived with a jug of icy water and placed a filled to the brim glass on the table in front of him.

 

“Yeah, sweet as, bro,” he replied laxly in a thick Kiwi accent. “Gotta be careful with ‘em fritters, aye. ‘Tis a piece of piss for us, but an unusual feed to the days for them foreigners.”

 

Tania and Lee marvelled at his words, both unaware and clueless about New Zealand expressions and slangs. They simply nodded and smiled, and the hero bid them farewell before heading back to his family.

 

The celebrity secretly appreciated that he did not recognize him, nor did anyone else in the room. It was embarrassing enough to have disrupted people’s suppers with his unfortunate choice of meal that facing humiliation from the media if he were to appear in the headlines would be even worse.

 

“Well, that was not so Elf-like of me, was it?” Lee muttered as he suppressed a cracking laughter.

 

“No, not Elf-like at all, my Lord,” Tania answered back giggling, handing him a white napkin to wipe his forehead with.

 

“I really don’t do well with hot foods. I guess since you won this first challenge, I’ll have to challenge you to a next one,” Lee dared his companion with an engaging twinkle in his eye. Tania anticipated his next words. “I challenge you to a dance-off.”

 

“You’re on,” Tania responded, sounding eager and confident as she redressed her posture with conviction.

 

The rest of the evening was spent with Lee nit-picking at his food, carefully chewing quantities in which he was able to bare the spiciness, and gulping down massive amounts of water over the amount of food in his fork. He would even catch Tania observing him, but quickly glancing away and sipping her wine slowly. As for the production staff member, after finishing her second glass and ensuring that he was still busy with his food, she subtly called their waiter over and leaned forward to him.

 

“I’ll take care of the bill,” she whispered, and gazing over at the actor to make sure that she was going unnoticed, “I will pay for the both of us.”

 

The young man smiled and murmured, “Yes madam, payment will be at the counter,” and motioned lightly with the head towards the register.

 

“I’m heading to the bathroom real quick, I’ll be right back,” Tania told Lee as she picked up her purse and stood from her stool.

 

“Take your time,” Lee answered with droplets of sweat forming in his temples, still bent over his plate.

 

A few large gulps of water and strength-sucking swallows of Paua fritters later, the actor signed to the waiter to head over to him.

 

“I’ll take the bill, please. Put her meal on it too,” he inquired as he reached into his slick suit jacket’s pocket and took his wallet out.

 

“There is no need, sir,” the employee said, “your girlfriend took care of it.”

 

Lee’s head slowly turned up from his fresh-out-of-the-bank Kiwi bills and administered a rather confused look to the waiter, who was smiling ear to ear.

 

“What?” Was all that Lee could pronounce.

 

At the same time, Tania’s voice rose from behind him, shaking him to the realization that she had hogged the bill before he could.

 

“You evil little thing,” Lee jokingly mused as he smiled at her.

 

“You’re welcome,” she chirped, also beaming. “Now, let’s go dancing!”

Chapter Text

The trendy music in the upscale nightclub was so uplifting that Tania could feel every beat from the roots of her hair to the tip of her toes. The love in the air hyped up the mood and ensured good vibes, ready to give her a good time.

 

At the bar, hundreds of conversations were told in loud voices, all of them competing with the music that dominated the atmosphere. The crowd was young, university students for the most part, clubbing like it was their last night on Earth. All bodies were moving in tune with the music and fed off of smiles and joy like shots of adrenaline under the disco ball reflecting an array of blues, acid greens, hot pinks and glittery gold into the darkness. Heads were mashing so hard to the songs, like a drug, with eyes on fire and souls shining so bright that their skins started to glow. It was simply electrifying.

 

“Let’s start with a couple of shots!” Tania shouted to Lee as she held him by the arm and led him through the swarm of warm bodies to get to the bar.

 

“We’ll get six shots of Tequila, please,” Lee called out to the server, who then trotted to the enormous wall of alcohol, the bottles’ colors muted due to the hazy smoke that twisted in an artistic way, forming curls in the gloom.

 

“Cheers!” Both exclaimed as they held their shooters above their heads and drank the alcohol pure, one after the other. The burning sensation did not last long. Instead the liquid flowed into their veins like it was on IV drip.

 

They ordered another batch of six and downed three each, this time feeling every scorching sensation left by the alcohol down their throats.

 

“May the best dancer win,” Tania pondered, stepping onto the dance floor and slipping in among the crowd.

 

“Don’t try to challenge me, Tania. You know I’m gonna win,” Lee scoffed mockingly, joining her into the mass.

 

“That remains to be seen.”

 

The brown-haired girl started to groove to the beat. She moved to the 2000s music like a puppet on strings. She advanced, retreated, her arms waving from side to side above her head and her head swaying. She then paused and posed like a supermodel exhibiting her sexy lingerie on the runway, and waited.

 

It was Lee’s turn. He was impressed by her improvised moves, but he knew he could turn his up a notch. Making his entrance onto the floor with a clap of his hands and a confident step to the beat, he jiggled and shimmied. Lee electrified the air with his raging energy like a hundred thousand fireflies igniting the atmosphere. He burst into flames with every bob of his head, every jiggle of his shoulders, and every gyration of his hips. He sparkled on the dance floor, and he was proud of it. He then struck a pose himself and gratified Tania with a challenging look.

 

She smiled confidently and took a step towards her opponent as the music changed pace and grew even louder. Her arms left her body as she danced her inhibitions away. Her fingers clicked to the right and clicked to the left. Her elbows gracefully tore through the air, in perfect rhyme with her feet. She moved in her dress like her hips were made to sway. As one arm was outstretched, her waist jerked outward vivaciously. The other arm followed suit with yet another jerk of her slim waist. Then taking that same arm and swooping it forcefully in a circle around and back into her body allowed her to rotate at brisk velocity and speed. After completing a few turns, Tania closed up her routine by posing like a majestic ballerina concluding her performance, and faced Lee, awaiting his next moves.

 

By then, the other people in the club have cleared sufficient space for the couple and watched their dance-off eagerly, cheering and shouting words of stupefaction and amazement for their favorite dancer.

 

“You’re good,” Lee publicized towards Tania as he clapped his hands. “But, this is not over yet.”

 

Kicking his right leg forward with pointed toes and flexed calf muscles, the dark-haired actor pivoted in a revolving whirl of sharp precision and accurate grace. The entirety of his being began advancing in movement with purposeful clarity and absolute control. With each poised stride he took, the crowd’s cheers grew even more tumultuous, feeding Lee’s energy like oil fed fire. He turned elegantly, with the same debonair aura and might that he channelled when portraying the King of the Woodland Realm.

 

Between soft yet harsh movements resembling that of a professional hip-hop dancer, Lee always allowed a small, flirty smile to trace onto his lips whenever he locked his eyes with Tania’s as she contemplated him in astounded admiration. His dancing somehow matched the beating of her heart, and that’s when she knew that he had won this challenge.

 

The roaring thunder of applause from the audience proved so and stripped her off of her trance. She in turn clapped, but all she could muster was a blank stare before Lee walked up to her and met her at eye level.

 

“Wow, I gotta hand it to you, Lee,” she said, gawking at him. “I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say that you dominated this challenge after all.”

 

The performer flashed a broad grin, his laughter sweet and soft, like the sound of tinkling bells among the boisterous noise banging around the room from wall to wall.

 

“Thank you,” he gratefully stated, bowing his head. “Would you like a drink? It’s getting quite hot in here.”

 

“Sure thanks. Anything sweet will do,” the lady responded, setting the straps of her dress back on her shoulders.

 

“Alright, wait right here,” Lee said before disappearing into the crowd.

 

Tania continued to dance the night away, jiving and boogieing to the rave music like it was thirty years previously, every move a throwback to an era that had belonged to her grandparents.

 

Suddenly, she felt someone melting their body to hers from behind and flicking a hair over her shoulder so that it fell in front of her chest. Turning around in a swift rotation, her face hung loose, and eyes narrowed at the sight of a random stranger, wolfishly grinning at her.

 

“Hey there, pretty lady,” he crooned, uncomfortably close to her face, his breath reeking of alcohol. “I saw you dancing a while ago, and boy, you’ve got a very sexy body.” He laughed devilishly, running his eyes hungrily on every inch of her body.

 

“Uhm, please get away from me,” the young designer stuttered, pushing herself away from him, but he followed her every move.

 

“Oh c’mon, girl. Dance with me.” The man, a young drunken boy around her age, did find her absolutely gorgeous. The clear indication of his physical interest towards her reflected in his body language and lustful eyes, and conveyed only one thing.

 

“No, thank you. I don’t want to be bothered,” Tania insisted, attempting to sound authoritarive.

 

“Pfff, broad. I don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Now come here!” The guy yelled as he trudged violently towards her.

 

“Ouch! Let go of me!” Tania screeched as she started to shake herself from his brusque grip on her forearm, and with her other hand shoving him away from her.

 

Lee, arriving on the scene, immediately took notice of this unpleasing inquiry and let the two drinks he was holding shatter on the already sticky and broken glass filled floor. He marched up to the bully, his steps leaving marks of terror behind him, placed himself between the man and Tania, and seized his shoulder strenuously enough that it made him entirely release his grasp from her.

 

“Hey, pal, let her go,” the Elvenking in his human form fumed with angered irritation, a sort of impetuousness about how adamantly firm and cold he sounded.

 

“Why don’t you mind your own business,” the bully spat and shook Lee’s hand off of his shoulder, then turned back to Tania.

 

“You shouldn’t be harassing women like that,” Lee continued, now seeing red, clutching him once again.

 

“And who the hell are you supposed to be, huh?” The stranger demanded, getting all up in Lee’s face.

 

“He’s my boyfriend!” Tania projected as she spun Lee around, stepped on the tip of her toes and held onto his neck. Before he could process what was going on, Lee felt her lips crash onto his into a forceful kiss, but kept his eyes wide open in shock.

 

He suddenly felt himself getting violently snatched by the collar of his tux, and was faced with the wrathful thug. He swore he could have seen steam fuming from his nostrils and ears simultaneously. He threw a punch at the actor’s face, but he managed to duck and cover himself by gripping the shorter man’s fist and pushing him forward, making him stumble a few steps backwards.

 

“I’ll kill you!” The drunkard howled in total furry as he bolted in Lee’s direction.

 

The celebrity was quicker than him. His Elvish instincts and supernatural agility acquired through intense training with movement choreographer Terry Notary really came in handy in situations like this. He skillfully swerved away from another hit and bent over as he tackled the guy like a football player disposed an opponent of the ball. The stranger fell on the ground in a thud covered by the roaring music and was helped up by a bystander who thought he had merely lost his footing.

 

“I think you better leave,” Lee commanded in his deep, intimidating voice, the same one Thranduil would use to give orders to his army.

 

The opponent, his face now mottled crimson, eyes popped, and tree trunk neck strained, let out a snarl barely more human than a growl and rushed back towards him, but was momentarily halted by Lee’s daunting stature towering over him and imposing stance screaming power and menace, a force to not be tampered with.

 

“I will not say it again. Leave us alone.” Lee never argued with his fists, but his words packed a powerful punch. Carefully spoken, without drama, they had an air of finality to them and no matter how hard he railed against them, nothing would change his mind.

 

The brute simply steamed on his spot, unable to suppress his violent impulses. Other boys, his friends, rushed towards him after many minutes of searching for him. They apologized sincerely to Lee with regret and shame in their voices, and dragged their troublesome companion out of the club.

 

Tania finally relaxed, breathing the tension away from her body and smirked, feeling flattered at the protective and brave interception that Lee has made to her regard. For him, this instinct simply came naturally. No woman should be vexed, especially not his special lady. Not under his watch.

 

“Are you okay?” He questioned her, placing his hands delicately on her shoulders.

 

“I’m fine. Thank you so much. But ugh, I feel so bad…” She replied vaguely, looking down in humiliation.

 

“Don’t feel bad, I beg you. Now, let’s get out of here.” Lee intertwined her arm into his and led her by the waist out of the club and into the night.

 

They had burst through the doors and into the artificial glow of street-lamps, staggering, not knowing which direction to go. The city took Tania in like a warm blanket despite the chilly breeze that blew right through her cardigan. Perhaps it was because of her drunkenness that she did not entirely feel the harshness of the wind. Her hair fell loose around her face, tousled, tangled. She stumbled and faltered, the tip of her sandals catching between the cracks of the stony pathway. Lee held her up, keeping a firm grip on her side and resting her arm on his shoulders.

 

He walked them down the calm, yet somehow fast-paced streets of Wellington, letting his primary senses guide their journey. He started to get a sense of where they were by recognizing the street names, intersections, buildings and how they fit into the whole of the city. They finally emerged onto the main boulevard. Lee looked left and right, hailing for the rare cabs that passed by, but ultimately failing as they were already occupied by late party-goers as well.

 

They continued onto the wooden belvedere, the street lamps’ reflections in the otherwise black river stretched out like flaming stilts, ruffled by the cool breeze. The gentleman searched for a bench, sensing that his female companion was gradually losing stableness with each step.

 

“Here, here, Tania,” he gasped, setting her down on the bench beside him. “Sit. Rest for a bit.”

 

“Th-thank y-you,” she sluggishly muttered, flopping down and leaning her whole back against the cool back rest.

 

“Well, that was quite a night, wasn’t it?” The actor tittered as he looked at the distance, mesmerized by the enchanting panoramic view of the capital. “I had a lot of fun, actually. How about you?”

 

“Mhm… Same same,” the production staff member mumbled, closing her eyes, feeling the effect of the mixture of red wine and Tequila rising up to her brain, clouding her vision.

 

“Uhm… Are you okay?” Lee probed, concern filling his eyes and voice, sensing the uneasy feeling of an incoming problem.

“I… I think I’m gonna… Be… Sick…!”

 

The wave of nausea overtook Tania and clawed at her throat. She tried to force down the acidic bile, but it was too late. Her stomach contracted violently and forced everything up and out, projecting brownish purple vomit out of her mouth. As if bad luck was not already present enough, the pungent puke crashed onto the concrete and splashed all over Lee’s polished black dress shoes and the whole bottom of his clean cut trousers. He jotted upwards like a frightened kitten reacts to a scary sight, and disgust was written all over his face.

 

Tania’s face was white and dripping bile, sweat, and tears. She lurched forward and sunk to her knees. She surveyed the mess with watery eyes and nostrils filled with sour stench. She began apologizing, but her stomach dry-heaved again and emptied out its last contents in a croaky cough. Lee hastily turned away, the sound, sight and smell altogether threatening his stomach to churn as well, and his controlled tipsiness not being of much help either. He covered his mouth and held his breath, and waited.

 

A few moments under a sky of perfect velvet dazzled with a bright starry night passed before subtle whimpering moans coming from Tania reached Lee’s ears. He crouched down to her and helped her sit back up on the bench. He removed his own vest and enveloped her trembling and exhausted body into it, and let her head rest in the comfort of his broad shoulder before wrapping a secure arm around her.

 

“Hush, it’s okay, you’re going to be okay,” he murmured gently, rubbing his hand against her arm to create some warmth. “I’m going to call Philippa Boyens to come pick us up.”

 

He grabbed a hold of his phone from his back pocket and searched for the screenwriter’s number in his contacts. After his phone call with a lethargic yet distressed Philippa, Lee noticed that Tania had already drifted off into a deep slumber, one that made her senseless to the world outside of her.

 

He simply took a deep breath and stared far ahead into the twinkling bay under a crescent moon, content to be in her company even after the string of unfortunate events, then carefully rested his head on her brown locks and closed his eyes in a brief respite as he waited patiently for their ride to arrive.

 

Chapter Text

The next morning, Tania awakened suddenly, every thought in high definition. Her eyes took in every ray of light streaming from the spaces between her blinds, and the realization that she had not set her alarm clock the night before without a doubt made her know she had slept too long.

The noises of day were in full swing. She shot up from her bed and stumbled a little, drowsiness still dominating her limbs, numbing them. She bolted to the little shower room and washed in the speed of lightning. She then dressed and fixed herself up in a fraction of the time it usually took, but ensured to wipe off any streak of leftover makeup and scented herself with a sweet vanilla aroma to mask the sticky odour of alcohol and foul vomit that water had not washed away. Once she evaluated that her appearance was at least half decently presentable, she stormed out of her trailer.

 

She hurried towards the main set building and dashed through the doors. She sighed in relief as the crew was still readying the equipment and actors were still getting prepped, the usual morning routine only having begun about an hour prior.

 

“Ah, Tania, there you are,” Richard Taylor called out from behind her with his arms wide open, taking her in for a friendly hug. “Did you have fun last night? I heard you went out with Lee Pace, how was it? Were you able to rest well, though?” He asked, a wide grin tracing on his lips.

 

She was surprised at how interested he was in knowing about her late-night adventures, as if he was clueless about what had actually happened. “Oh, yeah, it was something,” Tania laughed, a hint of nervousness peeping through her voice. “Is there anything I can do to help?” She inquired, looking around the set, hoping she would be sent away so she can clear her own mind.

 

“Yes, actually. I need you to bring all of the Dwarves’ costumes for the ‘Barrels Out of Bond’ scene. Peter had to move the schedule around for filming in the Pelorus River… Anyway, I’ll need those brought on set for blocking and rehearsals later on today,” Richard informed.

 

“No problem, I’ll bring them in a bit,” Tania vowed and turned around, heading towards the Wardrobe Department.

 

The clothing vault was like a treasure hoard for costume designers. Racks overflowed with thoroughly stitched tops, grandiosely designed capes and fancily embroided gowns fabricated for each character, each one occupying a designated area of the large room. Shelves and tablets kept any other necessary tools and machines, as well as props and kits needed for sewing or piecing cloth together.

 

Tania made her way into the Dwarven section and searched through the numerous vestments for the appropriate label. She found the “Barrel Out of Bonds” category a few minutes later and picked an empty gondola and skip leaning against the wall. With precise and quick hands, she gathered the apparels character by character. The clothes were simple and large, consisting of oversized unicolored shirts and pants, looking like a bunch of unfashionable, battered hand-me-downs worn by peasants in the olden days. The garbs were justly styled this way, as the Dwarves were literally stripped off of their original costumes and left with only their underclothes for the scene.

 

Nori, Dori, Ori, Bifur, Bombur, Bofur, Balin, Dwalin, Gloin, Oin… Their costumes were neatly hung on the metal bar of the rack and their props expertly packed into the wheeled basket. Only three more characters to go. Once Kili, Fili and Thorin’s clothes were safely tucked away with the rest, Tania rolled the rail with one hand and dragged the skip with the other, making her way towards the exit doors.

 

She suddenly thought about bringing extra hair brushes and hair dryers for her fellow hairstylists, knowing full-well that all the work done in the water would require major touch-ups and endless retakes. She marched towards the hair-products shelf and stood on her tiptoes, reaching for the kit. Her forceful stretch was in vain, she was too little to grasp the box.

 

Before she could get a hold of a chair or some other stool to give her some leverage, she felt a breath near her neck and saw a long arm reach out from beside her. An instant adrenaline rush flooded her system, causing her hands to clam up, her face to drain each ounce of its color and her heart to thump against her throat.

 

Almost a split second later, she suddenly relaxed, feeling all tense and coiled up energy from her body melt away and evaporate into the unknown as the sight of Lee Pace filled her widened eyes. Even in normal clothes, makeupless face and wigless head he looked enchantingly handsome.

 

“Here, let me get this for you,” he said, staring directly into the windows of her soul as he easily stretched out his hands to seize the box containing styling brushes and quality dryers. He made it look so simple, especially in all of his glorious 196 centimeters of height.

 

“Lee!” Tania gasped merrily. She was happy to see him, but memories from the previous night popped back into her mind, making her slightly ashamed, causing her cheeks to grow hot and red. “Thank you very much.” She took the kit from him and set it atop the skip basket. “How did you find me?”

 

“You’re a costume designer, where else would you be?” Thranduil’s actor mocked as he winked at her in a joking manner. “I’m kidding. Richard told me you’d be here.”

 

“Ah, right, yes,” Tania approved. “I’m surprised he didn’t send me back home after our big night yesterday,” she proceeded, turning to Lee with a quizzical expression.

 

“Don’t worry, I didn’t tell him anything major. I just told him we went out for drinks and that you’d be a little late this morning, but no one else knows about you getting sick or anything too dramatic. Even Philippa said she wouldn’t say anything. We didn’t want you to get in trouble with your boss,” Lee assured her, laughing uneasily and scratching the back of his head.

 

The lady smiled approvingly for his honest disclosure. “Thank you, I appreciate it. I would have felt really bad for missing a day’s work. I guess my alcohol tolerance has dropped since my younger days,” she cackled shyly, and Lee sharing the laugh.

 

“You should’ve gotten the day off today, like me. I mean, it’s Saturday, after all. But anyway, the job’s not gonna get itself done, is it?” He observed, and Tania nodded as she shrugged her shoulders groggily. “I got you some water and Advil in case you were still feeling hungover,” he continued, handing her a bottle of Avian and a pill capsule. “How are you feeling right now? Did you sleep well?”

 

She smiled at how caring and attentive he was, the way his eyes scanned her for any signs of pain or discomfort.

 

Tania took an Advil and gulped a large sip of water due to a slim sensation of weariness from her sudden awakening not even an hour ago.

 

“I’m actually feeling alright, just a little dizzy still,” she answered. “But listen, I am so incredibly, sincerely sorry about my puking all over you. I really didn’t mean it. I’ll make it up to you, I promise,” the young lady pledged, bowing a few degrees lower and bringing her hands into a prayer like a servant demanding compassion from her master.

 

Lee snickered, his giggle rolling about the room like a child's spinning top, vibrant and heart-warming.

 

“I’m so glad you said that,” he swooned, smiling a seductive smile. “Actually, apart from wanting to check up on you, I’m here to talk to you for two other reasons.”

 

Tania gawked at him and cocked her head to the side in curiosity. “Yes? What can I do for you?”

 

Lee took a step towards her and looked down for a second before setting his dark grey eyes upon her pale blue ones once more.

 

“For one, I want to ask you something important, which I think is a good deal if you want to make it up to me. And for two, I came to reclaim something of mine,” he spoke, the baritone of his husky voice reverberating through her bones like soft, rolling thunder that billows across the dark skies on a stormy night.

 

Tania froze in her spot, glancing at him. “Yes?” Her voice tumbled out softly.

 

“I know it’s still far away from today, but for the movie Premiere, I would like you to come with me. It’s not only because it will get us even for yesterday, but,” he paused, eyes falling to his feet once again and biting his lower lip, “it’s because I want you to be my date.”

 

Lee Pace was always known to be a very private man, someone who kept elements of his personal life under the radar, away from drama and publicity. But this time, he was asking her to be the lucky woman accompanying him on the red carpet, suggesting that he did not mind going public with her. At all.

 

Tania remained speechless, not having moved a single inch from her initial position. She simply did not have the right mind to come up with an intelligent answer to that proposition at the moment. Thoughts in her mind tumbled like helpless leaves twirling away in an endless autumn wind and her spirit shook like the foundations of the earth during a violent earthquake.

 

“And… Uh, what… I mean… So, what was that that you have come to retake?” She questioned, sounding like she had strayed into a dream, not even sure if her voice was the least bit audible.

 

“Well, you did steal a kiss from me last night,” Lee asserted in an attempt to remind her of the events. His facial expression resembled that of a satisfied child after having pulled a smart stunt, eyes twinkling in subtle mockery and lips curving up in a flirtatious smile.

 

Like a great rush of water, memories from her drunken night came back to her. She remembered the voices and laughter from families and friends in the restaurant. She remembered Lee’s reaction to eating the unexpectedly hot and spicy chili peppers grinded seamlessly into his Paua fritters. She remembered their intensely heated and competitive dance-off in the middle of the night club. She remembered the haggard boy trying to harass her not too long after, in Lee’s absence.

 

Then… She remembered the kiss. The way she jumped at him out of the blue, the way his body jerked back a little in astonishment, the way the kiss felt spontaneous, yet dry and emotionless. The rest was hazy, but that moment she remembered perfectly.

 

Then suddenly, Tania walked up to him in a lifeless strut, as if being controlled by an outside force and staring at him, but not really. She stopped dangerously close to Lee, their bodies merely inches from each other. Being the gentleman that he was, he tried to cover his surprised excitement through steady breaths as deep as the murmurs of a falling flood. He wanted to be extra careful with his next moves, but with the way the pieces were moving, he somehow had the impression that he would not be the one engaging first.

 

“I did indeed, didn’t I?” Tania spoke in a velvety whisper, sounding more like a statement than a question.

 

This time, it was Lee who felt overtaken by her intense gaze, like a spear piercing through his soul and a vortex hypnotizing him in an entrancing blend of affection and desire. She stood staring as though she was assessing him, and he simply watched her because she was the most beautiful girl in the world to him.

 

Something about her in that moment was mysterious, like unexplored caves, questions unanswered… Until she met her face with his by wrapping her hands around his neck for support and standing at the tip of her toes for extra height, although she remained considerably shorter than him.

 

Lee felt his quivering lips rendered stable as Tania took them into hers in an unannounced kiss, although he knew it was coming. He kept his eyes half open from his slight awe and intense excitement, but surveyed her reaction, in the unlikely case that she had made a mistake. But judging from the passion that emanated from the warmth of her kiss and the comforting way she roamed her hands through his hair were signs enough for him to invite himself to pull her in closer by the waist and sink into her hold. Their breaths mingled and heartbeats matched, savoring every moment in which nothing else seemed to matter.

 

Tania longed to create better memories than the previous with this kiss, one that would be like preserved flowers in saffron pages, the gentle reminder of joy brushing through their subconscious and acting like a glimmering light that brought out the deepest spark of nostalgia from their souls.

 

After pulling apart, both remained with eyes closed, still taking in the heady trance that they have just engaged in and leaned their foreheads against each other. Their mouths parted to gather some much needed oxygen.

 

“Lee, what’s the Elvish word for ‘yes’?” Tania asked, her voice a faint murmur.

 

“Ná”, the king of the Elves replied tenderly as he opened his eyes and took her sight in. “Why?”

 

Tania rested her hand right below Lee’s ear and caressed his crimson cheek as she locked her eyes with his. “Because I don’t want to make you wait forever anymore.” She leaned in closer to him once more, until he felt the heat of her body through his shirt and each of her curves against his perfectly outlined crevasses. “So, I say ná for your invitation. It would be my greatest honor to escort you to the movie Premiere.

 

With that, Lee Pace smiled a smile that he had never given anyone before. He picked Tania up, wrapping his strong arms around her hips and grabbing her tightly, twirled them around like a couple after having announced some terrific news to each other.

 

“Oh, and that kiss was to uhm, make up for the one last night,” she purred timidly as he set her back down.

 

“Why don’t we seal our deal with another one then?” the overjoyed actor beamed, pulling her in and tilting his head to the side.

 

Tania smiled back a smile brighter than the rays of sunlight and the silveriest hues of moonlight.

 

Their kiss was not at all the same as those in movies, sloppy and wet, hungry and demanding, but one steeped in a passion that ignites, flooding their senses and seducing their desires, with the sensation of realness, sincerity and primal need for love that lived in us all.

 

That was the kiss that marked a beginning, a promising token for much more to come between the Elvenking and the girl behind the scenes.

 

 

 

 

THE END