They were calling him King, it was, oddly, not the strangest thing to happen to him recently, but it was difficult to compete with dwarves in fish barrels and climbing out of your toilet, dragon attacks and a legion of elves turning up out of the blue. Being called king was definitely still up there though.
It had been a bizarre few weeks.
That was probably an understatement.
Bard sighed to himself and ignored the latest person calling for the king, he was not the king, not matter what people were saying, and he continued to shovel rubble as best he could. Rebuilding this place was going to take years, but Bard couldn’t help but think that even desolated and ruined as Dale was, it was still nicer than Laketown. At least that was what he told himself to take some of the sting out of losing the place. No matter how shitty it had been, it had also been home.
Bard promised himself that this one was going to be a better one. They were beaten down and tired and had lost so much, but they were not broken, not yet, it would take time, but the people of Laketown were nothing if not resilient.
“King Bard…” A smooth, deep voice pulled Bard out of his head, making him turn around with a smile as the Elvenking rolled the title off his tongue, as if testing the title for himself. “It suits you.” He apparently decided, stood a few metres away from Bard, long silver hair perfectly straight as it always was, looking to Bard like he was dressed for a grand ball, not a ruin.
“It does no such thing.” Bard snorted in reply, tossing the piece of rubble in his hands out into the ‘unusable’ pile.
“I admit that you may want to invest in some clothes without holes before attending any important meetings, but…” Thranduil trailed off, letting his tease hang in the air along with his quick smile, the one he only ever seemed to show Bard.
“Because holes in my clothes are what concerns me right now, not all of us can afford a month's worth of pristine wardrobe. Honestly where are your clothes even coming from? You didn’t know you would be here this long.” Bard’s sarcastic reply found itself turning into genuine bewilderment, he was certain he had never seen Thranduil wear the same thing twice, and he’d been here almost a month now.
“You must allow me some mystery, King Bard.” His eye twinkled with mirth, he looked younger in that moment, not in his ageless face, but in his eyes, Bard decided it was a good look on him, one he would endeavour to illicit again and again.
“Don’t tease,” Bard admonished, the last thing he needed was the Elvenking being overheard calling him that, then there would be no talking the people out of it.
Though he was quickly learning that his new friend was nothing if not subtly mischievous. Not that anyone would believe Bard if he tried to tell him that, which only made Thranduil smirk and tease more. Not that he minded.
“I am not. The people - your people - have decided. Their will will not be denied I can sense it. You are their saviour, so they will make you their king, you had better get used to it, you are a bargeman no more.” Thranduil responded, “besides, I do not believe they could have chosen a head more fit to wear the crown.” Thranduil finished with disarming gentleness, his words shifting something in Bard, something that he wasn’t sure was entirely to do with the seemingly unavoidable prospect of becoming a king.
“Thanks.” Bard answered awkwardly, not sure what he was feeling, as if all the words had just been stolen from him by the ethereal beauty in front of him.
“I mean it sincerely, and I expect an invite to your coronation - and before the dwarves get theirs - but your impending kingship is not my reason for seeking you out.”
“I am sorry to say that must depart,”
“Oh,” Bard responded, ever eloquent, pushing down the disappointment he felt at the news, he was surprised Thranduil had stayed so long anyway, it wasn’t like they had been able to supply him with lodgings befitting his station. “When?” Bard asked, sensing the answer from Thranduil’s regretful look, though why he was regretful to leave the ruin of Dale Bard had no idea.
“Today I fear, Feren brought word this morning, there are matters that require my attention.”
“Oh,” Valar Bard really needed to stop saying ‘oh’ and start saying something more coherent, he cleared his throat determinedly, ready to bid the Elvenking a formal goodbye and thank him for his aid. “I’m sorry to see you go.”
Bard blinked at himself, that was not what he meant to say.
“And I am sorry to leave.” Thranduil’s sincere response left him tongue tied, luckily too, it was the only thing that stopped him blurting out ‘why?! ’. “In the coming days, when you find yourself in a position you know nothing of, remember you have a friend, a guiding hand should you need it.”
Thranduil raised a closed fist to his chest and then extended his arm slightly, hand opening, towards Bard, he recognised it as some kind of elven farewell. He left no more than an hour later, Bard coming away from his never ending work to see him off, being treated to one of Thranduil’s rare and real smiles when he saw him, as if he didn’t quite believe Bard would have come away from his work.
“Remember what I said, King Bard.” Thranduil said loud enough for anyone (which was everyone) to hear, as the people of Laketown had gathered to see the elves off, all grateful for their aid.
Bard glared at Thranduil, but there was no heat in it, how could there be with the impish smirk that was sent his way. Bard shook his head, unable to suppress his smile.
Thranduil had come to his coronation, though that he had visited many times before that as well. Bard was sure he would be drowning trying to be a king to Dale if he had not. Bard’s first ‘act’ as king had been to carve out a trade agreement with the Woodland Realm, one which felt more like a friendship agreement than anything else.
Tauriel had stayed in Dale, a hollow look in her eyes that Bard hoped they could somehow cure, and he did have hope, from the way she lit up a little whenever Tilda came to her, asking questions and asking politely to be taught things. Thranduil asked about her often when he came to visit, Bard always obliging and not pressing when he asked that he not tell Tauriel that he had enquired after her.
It was Thranduil’s seventh visit in as many months, unplanned as the two before hand, it surprised Bard that Thranduil had the time to visit them so often, but he was glad for it.
“I was not expecting you,” Bard said as Thranduil dismounted his great elk.
“Can I not visit my friend when I wish?” Thranduil’s eyes flicked with happiness, cheek lacing through his words, Bard had often wondered at the way the Elvenking seemed to like up for him.
“With everything you’ve told me, it seems like a king never gets a moment of peace, let alone time to go visit piteous bargemen,” Bard joked, and that had certainly been his experience thus far, but then, he was attempting to rebuild a city, a people, and he was very new to this all. Besides, elves had all the time in the world, men did not.
“ King Bard,” Thranduil pointedly emphasized the word, “I always make time to maintain my relationship with my allies, as any good king should.” He responded with exaggerated pomposity.
“Funny, I don’t see you visiting the Dwarves,” Bard teased, finding the surly look that came over Thranduil nothing short of adorable.
“They are not my allies ,” Thranduil all but spat the word out, Bard grinned.
“That’s not what the treaty you signed last month said,” He sing-songed with a sugar-sweet smile.
“I will never forgive you for that, meleth nin,” Thranduil pouted, honestly pouted, Bard did laugh at that, which only left the Elvenking looking put out. But revelled in how expressive Thranduil was with him, when he was usually so stone-faced to anyone else.
“You already have. Now stop hiding behind kingly business and just admit that you missed me,” Bard grinned roguishly, his relationship with Thranduil had long-since laxed into familiarity, something he was sure no one else was granted. He was sure Thranduil liked it though, appreciated the place where he could bring his guard down, even if only for a moment.
“Very well, though I am forgetting why,” he sniffed haughtily, Bard rolled his eyes and lead the way indoors to the partially restored great hall.
Thranduil had commented on the hall’s continuing state of disrepair last time he had visited, sending word back to his realm for workers to come, and before Bard had had a say in it, the Hall was being rebuild by skilled elves, teaching the survivors of Laketown how to raise a sturdy structure up from the ground. It had allowed Thranduil to drag out his visit for almost a fortnight, not that Bard was complaining, it had lead to many amusing, wine-filled evenings.
Thranduil did that a lot actually, Bard mused, ended up staying longer than he originally said. Bard was sure it was deliberate, thranduil actively finding ways to extend his visits, though he couldn’t fathom why. It was almost as if he was lonely.
He was lonely.
That stoic, icy exterior that he showed to everyone except for Bard, even his own people. His son had left after the battle, his wife taken from him long ago, his responsibilities keeping him from befriending anyone. Bard realised with a start that he was probably the Elvenking’s only true friend, as he was neither his subject nor an enemy. Though Bard found it hard to swallow himself, Thranduil had always treated him as if they were equal in station.
He was lonely, the Elvenking was lonely.
Bard’s heart ached wondering how long that had been true. He made a promise to himself that he would do whatever was in his power to ease Thranduil’s loneliness.
That evening, drinking wine in Thranduil’s bedroom; for he was the only guest they ever received, the rebuilt room had long since become his, Bard was the one to come up with a reason for Thranduil to stay longer than he planned. Thranduil smiled and Bard felt warm.
Years passed and the seasons changed and changed back and changed again, but other things didn’t. Thranduil’s visits never ceased, growing as frequent and long as possible for either of them, long since having lost all sense of pretence over why Thranduil came to Dale, and why Bard travelled to Mirkwood so often. Bard and the Elvenking were great friends, anyone in all of Middle Earth could have told you.
Bard smiled softly to himself as he watched Thranduil with his children, instructing each of them in various skills. He insisted whenever he was in Dale, that he take over the children’s tutelage for the duration of his stay, nothing made Bard smile more than seeing them together. Sigrid had grown to be an expert in Elven medicinal techniques, mastering all that were available to her as a mortal, Bain learnt more swordcraft from the elvenking than Bard could share with him, Thranduil able to call upon centuries of experience. And Tilda, almost fourteen now, was the fastest rider in all of the north, Bard would never forget Thranduil’s look of utter delight when she had bested the fastest rider in his own realm. Thranduil glowed whenever he was around Bard’s children, and something about it always pressed tightly around Bard’s heart as well.
“Come back with me, there is nothing pressing to do here at the moment,” to anyone else, the words may have sounded like an order, but Bard heard the pleading note beneath them, and smiled over his goblet to his friend, the fire dancing warm and soft over his beautiful face.
“Only if you allow the children to come also, you know they did not forgive me for week the last time I went without them,” Bard replied, taking a sip of wine, he had developed a taste for Thranduil’s favourite dorwinion vintages long ago.
“As if I would dream of leaving them behind,” Thranduil answered, sincerity on his fine features, face soft as it always was when they spoke of them.
“They are as much your children as mine by now,” Bard laughed, carefree and easy, thranduil had given them all so much, “I think they like you more than me.”
“Nonsense,” Thranduil dismissed, but there was a smile in his eyes that tugged at Bard’s chest.
“When you are around them, it seems like they are your whole world,” Bard smiled softly, Thranduil cocked his head to the side, as if he was trying to understand something.
“You are my world, meleth nin.” He said simply, Bard smiled again at the sentiment, he found he did little but smile around Thranduil.
“Aye, we love you also, I hope you know that,” Bard answered, and for a moment, he thought he saw a flash of resigned sadness wash over his friend’s face, but it was gone before he could be sure.
Most of the time, Thranduil did not seem so lonely any more, something which left Bard smiling and warm to his core, but then there were moments, just moments, when it felt as though the Elvenking was lonelier than he had ever been. Bard longed to know what caused it, so that he might be able to stop it entirely.
They drank and spoke for hours longer, though Thranduil seemed more reserved than he had, watching Bard with an expression akin to longing, Bard wondered if it was all the talk of the children, making him miss Legolas more fiercely than he did on any given day.
More years passed, streaks of grey appearing in Bard’s hair even though he did not feel that old yet, the stress of being a king, he supposed. They couldn’t all be visages of perfection like Thranduil, after all.
Dale prospered, of that there was no denying. Thran often scolded him for attributing it just as much to him as he did to himself, but Bard knew it was true, he had no idea where they would be without the Elvenking’s steadfast friendship. The thought of a life without Thranduil was one that left a bitter taste in his mouth and an ache in his chest, a more acute version of the ache that always seemed to be present when his friend was not.
He would be back soon though, Bard reminded himself, before he could grow melancholy. Dale would be playing host (mediator) as the three northern kingdoms came to discuss the new threats to their borders, an assault on Dol Guldur was sorely needed, but they were all reluctant to send their people into that place, they had to work together.
He had received word that Elrond would be accompanying Thranduil and Bard had tried not to be disappointed. It was not that he did not like the lord of Imladris, he did, but Bard was a selfish man when it came to his friend, and he couldn’t help but think that the half-elf’s presence would leave his time with Thranduil reduced. He wasn’t sure when he had begun hoarding Thranduil’s time and attention like a greedy dragon, but he found himself unable to stop.
The elves and their entourage arrived almost a day before the dwarves would make their way from the mountain, Bard had planned it that way as had Thranduil, to allow them some time before petty bickering between the elves and dwarves took up all of their time and energy. Bard had suggested that Thranduil could solve the issue by not being petty and needlessly argumentative with the dwarves, ‘be reasonable bard’ was the only response he had gotten.
The entourage mainly belong to Elrond, Thranduil visited so often that his room had almost everything he would need for his stay, and it was only a few doors down from Bard’s own, should he find himself in need of anything else - the only thing he ever did seem to find himself in need of was Bard’s company and more wine.
“Mae l'ovannen,” Elrond greeted him as he dismounted, looking like he had thoroughly enjoyed the bracing ride to Dale, unlike the rather disgruntled looking elf that Bard recognised as Lindir, who seemed to accompany Elrond on all of his travels.
“Well met, Lord Elrond.” Bard inclined his head respectfully, they did not know each other so well yet. “I will show you to your rooms, so that you may refresh yourself from your journey.”
“Thank you, King Bard,”
“Just Bard, please.” Bard insisted, and he saw Thranduil shake his head in a fashion akin to rolling his eyes, except apparently the elvenking never allowed himself to roll his eyes, not literally anyway.
Bard began to lead Elrond inside, noticing that Thranduil was looking out in search over the courtyard. He came back to Thranduil’s side and without thought tangled their hands together to tug him gently inside, Thranduil’s breath caught slightly, he must have been engrossed in his search, to not notice Bard approach and thus startle at his presence so.
“They’re inside, come on,” Bard told him, not giving a second thought to the way Thranduil held on to his hand just tight enough to stop it from slipping away, nor the warmth that had settled over him, nor the way Elrond observed them carefully.
“Where?” Thranduil asked, keen as ever to see the children, though they were not children any longer. Even Tilda was almost twenty, and Sigrid had a little one of her own. It all made Bard feel exceptionally old.
“Waiting to surprise you, I’m sure.” Bard snorted, not knowing the exact location of his children at this moment, but if they weren’t out to greet Thranduil, so affectionately called ada by them all, though each of them refused to tell him what it meant, then they were lying in wait for him somewhere.
Sure enough when they reached Thranduil’s chambers after having shown Elrond and his people to theirs, Bard’s three children - one cradling a baby - leapt from various hiding places and dashed forwards to engulf him in a hug. Thranduil looked about ready to cry and Bard felt his throat catch at the sight as well.
Thranduil was all but lost to Bard for almost an hour as they monopolized his time, just as excited to see him as they had been as children, still having new things they wanted to show him, always missing him when he was gone. Though Bard felt that he was likely the one who missed him the most, something was always missing when he was not with them.
Eventually the children had to run off to see to thing, promising to be back for the banquet later that evening.
“You’ve got a hanger-on.” Bard teased, seeing Thranduil cradling Sigrid’s daughter as if she were the most precious jewel in all the world, thranduil just smiled impossibly softly in response.
Bard melted as he always did, when Thranduil ran an elegant finger down Asta’s nose, booping her gently before kissing her forehead, the baby gurgling happily. He felt as though his heart was being squeezed so tightly he was surprised he was still able to stand.
When Sigrid had been only eight months along Thranduil had practically moved into Dale, bringing with him the best midwives and healers his realm had to offer. He hadn’t had been forced to leave shortly after Asta joined the world, having been gone from his realm too long, but he returned soon, he always did, reluctant to miss a single moment of her life.
Thranduil still had hold of Asta all throughout the banquet, sharing small smiles with Bard and occasionally resting his head on Bard’s shoulder, his fatigue from the journey and his contentment shining through in those moments. Bard kissed his hair and carded his hand through the silvery locks, looking down at his friend and granddaughter, sure he was a the happiest man alive.
Eventually Sigrid pried her daughter from Thranduil, kissing his cheek and scolding him from ruining Asta’s sleeping schedule by keeping her up so long already. Thranduil did not look like he regretted this at all, and neither did Sigrid.
Slowly everyone petered out from the hall, Thranduil leaving earlier than Bard had expected too.
“Are you alright Thran?” Bard asked, concern colouring his tone, catching Thranduil’s hand and rubbing his thumb soothingly over his alabaster skin without thought.
“Just tired, meleth nin, I will see you in the morning.” Thranduil smiled, it looked a little strained, Bard wondered what had exhausted him so, the journey usually did not take such a toll on him.
“If you are sure.” Bard answered reluctantly, brushing a kiss over smooth knuckles and feeling concern wash over him anew as Thranduil looked all the more tired in that moment.
Bard let Thranduil’s hand slip from his grasp and watched him leave, wishing in that moment that he had made his excuses as well, and left with him, checking again that he was alright, Thranduil infinitely more likely to be honest in private. Bard turned to Elrond, the only other member of their originally large banquet still at the table. It surprised Bard, that he had lasted this long, he hadn’t thought him to be one for late nights like this one.
Bard was about to speak, make his own excuses so that he might catch up with Thranduil before he truly retired, but he found himself pinned by an inquisitive look. It was neither friendly nor hostile. Bard waited for Elrond to speak, he tried not to squirm.
“Tell me Bard, how long have you known Thranduil now?” Elrond asked, his question was simple enough, yet it felt leading.
“Almost a decade,” Bard answered, unable to hold down his smile as fond memories assaulted him, it then occurred to him that Elrond must know how long it had been, Smaug’s attack and the battle at Erebor were hardly minor events to remember.
“Do you notice anything different about him?”
“I did not know him before.” Bard evaded, wanting to know what Elrond’s goal here was, for he surely had one, did he disapprove of their friendship? Bard didn’t think so, he’d never expressed anything of the sort in the past.
“You are not a foolish man,” Were Elrond’s words, ‘ answer the question ’ is what he said.
“He is happier, I think. I hope.” Bard answered, Elrond studying him closely throughout their conversation.
“He is, there is no doubt. He is much changed from how he was. We have you to thank for that, everyone knows this.” Elrond continued, Bard found himself flushing a little, though he was not sure why, Thranduil made him happy too, happier than he ever dared hope to be.
Elrond sighed, sad, resigned, laden. “I must issue you a caution Bard.”
“You must be more careful.”
“With what?” Bard asked, confused, the conversation seeming to have made a sharp turn.
“With Thranduil, he is not as strong as he thinks, not in matters of the heart.” Elrond said, something nagged at Bard, but he pushed it away, a more familiar sadness building inside him, a topic that he and Thranduil both avoided.
“You mean that I am mortal? That the children are too? But what would you have us do, we will not push him away, I would die first.” Bard shook his head, looking away sadly.
When silence met him, he turned back to Elrond who had him fixed with an undefinable look.
“But he calls you meleth, your children call him ada...you do not know what these words mean, do you, Bard.”
“Endearments? I always assumed, they’d never explain to me, four of them are always ganging up on me.” Bard smiled, he always smiled when he thought on his family, on Thranduil.
“How can you not know.” It was neither a question nor an accusation.
“He is in love with you. He has been for years.”
Bard forgot for a moment, how to breathe. He forgot Elrond, he forgot where he was and why he was there, if you had asked him his own name he wouldn’t have been able to tell it to you, because in that moment he was overwhelmed with one simple thought; yeah, me too .
It was like the earth tilted on it’s axis, but instead of everything falling apart, everything finally slipped into place.
He was quiet for a long time. Thinking of all the ways he loved Thranduil, clear as day, why he hadn’t seen it before even though he had known it all along. Thranduil was his family, he had loved him for years, it had taken him far too long to realise that he was in love with him too.
Bard’s throat felt dry.
“”W-what does meleth mean?” Bard asked, swallowing thickly.
“You should ask Thranduil.” Elrond said, and Bard nodded, frozen still to his seat. Elrond cocked his head to the side, watching him curiously. “You are very strange, the pair of you.” Bard would have asked what he meant, if he could make his voice work, but Elrond continued anyway. “You have confounded us all for many years, how you could be so in love, behave like a family, and yet to all reports not be together romantically, as you both clearly wished.”
Bard hadn’t known he had wanted, but god he had, every day, every month, every year. That thing that was missing, that part that was still lonely.
“Thranduil would not speak of it, unsurprising really. So I had come to the conclusion that you both had decided not to pursue a relationship due to your mortality. Fruitless, considering that Thranduil would be spared nothing by the two of you remaining apart in that final way, his heart is already yours, after all. I came today to caution you, for seeing Thranduil now I know that while he is happier than he has been in an age, he is sadder as well. I was going to ask you to either allow space between you, though I had little hope you would agree, so that Thranduil might survive this.”
“Or?” Bard managed, he wanted to go, he wanted to find Thranduil, but he felt he needed to see the conversation to it’s end.
“Or I was going to ask you not to keep away for Thranduil’s sake, because of your mortality. There is no sense in hurting him twice, and this at the moment, it is hurting him.” Again it wasn’t an accusation, it was gentle but guilt twisted in Bard’s gut regardless.
He was hurting Thranduil, his ignorance of his own feelings, unintentional or not, was hurting him.
Bard shot up out of his chair, no doubt looking a little wild, trying to stammer out some apology to Elrond when his thoughts belonged to only one person.
“Sorry. I really, I need - ”
“Go,” Elrond waved him off easily and Bard knocked his chair over in his haste.
He was outside Thranduil’s chamber door in no time, hand raised, knocking a little frantically on the door. It was only when he could hear Thranduil on the other side that he realised he had no idea what to say.
“Bard? Is that you, is everything okay?” Came through the door, no one else would be knocking this late or this informally. “Bard?” the door opened, Bard nearly drowned under the force of emotion he felt by seeing him, awash with feelings that had been there for so long but only just realised. “Bard you look half mad, what is it?” thranduil asked, worry etched into his tone, pulling Bard inside and shutting his door behind him.
He was wearing a rich red robe over what Bard assumed were his night clothes, his hair tied to one side; comfortable, relaxed, perfect.
“What does meleth mean?” Bard blurted, his words startled Thranduil, he tried to take a step back, walls that Bard had not seen since they first met coming up around his features, cutting Bard deep, he reached out before Thranduil could get away, taking on of his elegant hands. “Please.”
There was a pause, a long moment that stretched out between them, before Thranduil turned away, as if he could not look, as if he was ashamed, staring instead at the floor.
“Meleth nin; my love.” He spoke quietly, as if he expected to be rebuked, Bard gasped in a sharp breath of air, only truly believing it now that he heard it from Thranduil himself.
He tried to remember how long Thranduil had been calling him that; years.
“I love you,” Bard said, forcing himself not to rush it, to say it slowly, to make it real, but still Thranduil would not look at him.
“I know you do, I am sorry to put this upon you. I do not ask for more.”
“No, Thran, I’m in love with you.” Bard clarified, Thranduil’s eyes snapped to his own in an instant, Thranduil watching him warily, as if it was a trick, as if he did not believe it.
“You don’t need to - ”
“I’m sorry,” Bard cut in, he needed to apologise, Thranduil gave him a confused look, so Bard ploughed forward. “I’m sorry I didn’t realise sooner, I’m sorry I’ve wasted so much time being oblivious to myself, I’m sorry I’m a right foolish git that doesn’t have the good sense to realise he’s in love with his best friend. I’m sorry I’ve been hurting you, I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to know that the one thing in my life that has been just slightly out of place all these years is that you’re beside me instead of in my arms.”
“I - ”
“I love you.” Bard said it again, all of his words bleeding with honesty, his earnestness coming through with every word.
“Bard I - ” Thranduil started, visibly centering himself with a deep shaky breath, “Please, if you mean these things, put everything in it’s proper place, right now, please Bard.” It was caught between desperate and hopeful and scared and just a small amount of a nervous tease.
It took Bard a moment to realise what Thranduil meant, before it clicked, and he gathered the Elvenking into his arms, both of them collapsing heavily in something akin to relief on the floor, Bard’s arms not so much as loosening their hold.
They stayed like that for a long while, Thranduil’s head resting Bard’s shoulder, managing to tuck all of his tall frame into the cradle Bard made with his arms and legs, bracketing thranduil in, holding him tight.
“Don’t say that it was time wasted,” Thranduil said quietly, his voice raw, a damp patch on Bard’s clothes where Thranduil’s eyes had been.
“What?” Bard asked gently.
“You said you wasted time. But any moment I have been able to spend with you and the children, I could never think of it as wasted. You are my whole world.”
“No, it was not wasted,” Bard agreed, kissing the top of Thranduil’s silvery head. “I know that, whenever you are here I am happy. I only meant to say that I am sorry for all of the opportunities I had to kiss you that I wasted.”
“That is okay,” Thranduil started, pulling away from Bard just far enough to look up at him instead, beautiful blue eyes glinting the way Bard loved, the way he had always loved, “I shall let you make those up to me.” Thranduil bit his lip to hold back a smirk as Bard laughed unrestrained.
“I shall start right this moment,” Bard vowed, making good on it as he ducked his head down and pressed his lips to Thranduil’s soft, plush ones.
They were smiling to brightly and laughing too sweetly to be able to kiss well, still, it was a perfect kiss.