It all started with the little things. A few more lines around his eyes. A slight uncertainty in his footing. A subtle hunch in his posture. Forgetting where he put his favorite bow.
Then along with his hair turning white came the aching of his joints. The mottling of his now wrinkled skin. The occasional slurs in his speech. The heaviness of his breaths whenever he tried to walk without assistance.
But through it all Bard would only smile and insist that he was fine. And Thranduil believed him.
Or at least he would pretend to.
The Elvenking hardly left his side these days. He was usually found in bed curled up against the former King of Dale, his head on the man’s chest, listening to a weak but steady heartbeat. Often Thranduil would sing softly to him - songs of love and of happiness, and sometimes he sung the old songs of Elves from lands long forgotten. Other times he would just talk. Narrating the day’s events no matter how mundane, or reading Bard letters from their children in Dale, only stopping short when he would hear the man’s gentle snoring.
Every single day Thranduil would wake and hold his breath, fear suddenly taking hold of him for a moment before Bard would squeeze him tightly and nuzzle the top of his head.
“Not today, melamin.” Bard would always say in the mornings. It was a morbid greeting, but Thranduil was so accustomed to it that such a small reassurance would be enough to calm his worried heart.
The seasons came and went this way. Until one morning Thranduil awoke to nothing but silence.
Tilda had been the hardest to console among all of their children. Despite being a woman now with a family of her own, she cried much louder and harder than she ever had as a little girl. Thranduil spent hours just holding her, stroking her back and cooing into her ear, reminding her that she would always have her ada no matter what. King Bain, Sigrid, and Legolas weeping silently as they watched.
Thranduil remained calm and unreadable all throughout the funeral rites. Merely murmuring words of gratitude to those who came to him to express their sympathies. He left the eulogies to the children and Bard’s closest friends. He was too afraid of what would happen if he attempted one of his own.
Tauriel found the Elvenking standing in the gardens - in his and Bard’s favorite spot, looking up at the stars, a bottle of wine in one hand and his love’s old tattered coat in the other. She approached him carefully, moving beside him to gaze at the stars as well.
They remained like that for what seemed like hours. Until she heard Thranduil shift and she turned to see that he was now looking at her. An unspoken question in his eyes.
“It was real, my lord.” She replied, briefly clasping his shoulder as she left.
Not long after hearing those words, Thranduil finally came undone. He fell to his knees and clutched Bard’s coat tightly to his chest.
It had been exactly a year now, but to him it seemed like it was still only yesterday.
Thranduil was sure that it was forever going to seem like only yesterday.
For the first time in thousands of years, he allowed himself to cry.
Cross-posted to AO3. Feedback would be nice. :3