THRANDUIL'S P.O.V


She sat there, this child of rainbows, lullabies and neglect, like a wolf pup wrangled in from the wild, still more than half-feral.

She had been bathed and dressed, her hair and skin clear and dry from the muck and mud she was first smothered in when she rode into Lothlorien on horseback with her Tîrana, Arwen. Beneath the dirt and fright, her complexion was pale, Thranduil found, nearly ghastly so, with a blistering blush to her cheeks and the very tips of her nose and pointed ears. There was something keen and sharp there, resting amongst skin and muscle and bone, a harrowed twitch, a weary squint, that spoke of a doggish sort of awareness.

The mercy of a wolf who knew famine.

Her hair had been lovingly oiled and washed, now shining ebony in the gilt morn light, but it too went against the grain, short sprigs of corkscrew rush, like the ones found on the banks of rivers, stubbornly jolting from her scalp, tumbling around like a blackened halo. If it were just the hair, you wouldn't be begrudged to believe her to be of a hobbit nature on first glance.

Deceptively fair.

She was dressed more finely than the scraps she had arrived in. With a dark, high collared, smoky grey velvet tunic tucked tight around her body, long, thin sleeves cuffed at the wrists with the elegantly embroidered hem gracefully falling to the leaflings knees. She wore thin breeches made from lighter, softer velvet, stained a delightful beige that Thranduil himself often favoured in his clothing. From one foot hung a silk slipper the colour of washed stone, the other was pinned between three pieces of wood, aligned to hold the foot in place with herbal laced linen bandages wrapped around from calf to toes, to ensure the joint remained still and the necessary healing took place.

Nevertheless, the clothes did not hide the too thin form, nor did they hide the sporadic jerk and jolt Arwen, who sat opposite her around the table in the small bed chamber they had hidden themselves away in to break fast that sunrise, got when she moved too fast or too close for the leaflings frayed nerves. Neither did they obscure the tensing of her legs now and again, as if she were preparing to bolt from the room, broken ankle be damned.

"It will take time."

Elrond's voice spoke up from behind him, from Thranduil's position at the chamber's ajar door, watching silently and invisibly. Thranduil gave a sharp nod, eyes still watching the pair in the chamber as Arwen tried, yet again, to tempt the child into eating from the plethora of platters littering the table.

She was getting nowhere, but Thranduil saw the way Harriel's eyes kept trailing back to the bowl of juicy, fat and veined gooseberries. She was a child still, drawn to the sweeter things. Yet, she was too scared to act upon that temptation.

She would learn in time, with care and nursing, to take what she was offered freely.

"If there is anything we have, my friend, it is time."

No truer words had ever passed Thranduil's lips, and yet, for once in his long, long life, time weighed heavily upon him. Elrond too, by the stern, tired look pinching at the corners of his eyes and brows.

It would take time for Harriel to open up, it would take time to stop the jaded glints and recoiling, it would take time to earn the trust and confidence of the leafling that the adults and circumstances of her life before had stripped her bare of.

It would take time.

Time had never seemed to drag as much as it did for Thranduil then. Turning his head slightly to Elrond, but keeping his eyes on the pair in the room, Thranduil addressed the elven Lord once more.

"Has she eaten at all since her arrival?"

Thranduil could not see Elrond's frown deepen, but he knew it did all the same.

"We leave the food in her room for the night. Come morn some plates are empty. Arwen believes Harriel eats when she is sure no one is watching."

Thranduil hummed, the only sound he was capable to make at the omission. Elrond likely knew the cause of such behaviour as he did. She ate when no one was watching because she feared the food would be taken away if she showed outward interest in it. That did not merely speak of neglect.

It spoke of cruelty.

Whoever had been her caretakers previously must have gained a torrid sort of sick pleasure from denying most needs to the child.

"On the talk of watching, why are you here and not in there, Thranduil? It has been nigh on a week."

To be frank, Thranduil did not fully understand the why of it all himself. When news had reached him of Arwen arriving with the leafling at her bosom encased in cloak, he had been frantic in his march to the healing wards. Determined. Unbendable. Resolute. This had been his moment, the time finally come, and he… He… He faltered.

When he saw the unconscious child laid upon the bed, so small and broken like a chick fallen from its nest, surrounded by a sodden Arwen and an unnerved and equally frantic Elrond, Elladan and Elrohir, with a dishevelled Celeborn and Galadriel quickly joining the group, Thranduil had pulled back.

It had felt wrong, so very wrong, to push himself into that moment.

To steal what was not his to steal.

That moment of fear and joy and excitement of a family united once more. He had felt disjointed, out of place, an intruder. So, Thranduil had left with a plan to return the next day. Yet, that feeling had never left and so the next day never came, and thus, a whole week had passed and all he could bring himself to do was to stand at this very door and watch.

Only watch.

This uncertainty, this feeling of not belonging, it did not sit well with him. It felt like foul oil slinking down his skin, seeping into his pores, poisoning him. He answered through gritted teeth.

"It does not do well to sequester myself into matters of kin. Especially kin not of my own."

Only then did Thranduil cut a swift glimpse to Elrond, holding it just long enough to see a shadow of pity flutter across his hooded eyes. He did not look again.

Thranduil was well acquainted with pity. Pity for when his own naneth sailed to the undying lands when he was relatively young, young for his race, that is.

Pity when his adar, Oropher, was slain in battle, and Thranduil, so young, too young to understand the true weight of the crown now upon his brow, was forced to march back to the Greenwood with a third of the army that had survived the onslaught.

Pity when his skin had remained bare and barren, while other's filled with love, and hope, and something bright like starlight at dawn.

Pity from the healers when they had feverishly tried to heal him from the dragon's breath he had taken, leaving nothing but a savage, hideous scar, knotted cheek of tendon and teeth and a withered eye they could only glamour away.

Pity for him and his son when his own wife had sailed not but a year after his injury.

Yes, pity Thranduil was used to, a poor bedfellow if there ever was one, but still he could not stomach it.

And If the feeling of not belonging did not sit well with him, the feeling of pity was barred from his table all together.

He was still here, still alive, still standing tall, he owed none of this to pity.

As Harriel, as broken and bruised as she was, would not owe her own recovery to pity.

"But you are kin, Thranduil. You share the soul mark, do you not? That mark makes you as intrinsic and as valuable to Harriel as it does me or her uncles and aunt, her grandparents, chiefly in this time of healing. If there is any time that she needs you, it would be now. I have never taken you for one to turn away from those in need."

Elrond's none too subtle prod at his character brought just a flash, a memory, a glimpse of time undulating.

He was on the mountain crest again, his men and army at his back, the wind, blistering hot and heavy fluttering past him as he watched Erebor fall. Thranduil remembered the dwarves fleeing down below, the screaming, the blaze of orange and violent red as the great worm blazed their home to ashes and dust.

He had arrived too late that day, and yes, he had turned his back to them. Unlike what the dwarves liked to believe; he had not done it out of cowardice.

He had simply been too late.

The dragon had already rooted the dwarrow out, buried itself deep and true within their golden halls, halls he had warned them of, and no army, no matter the size, could rip the beast out. Not when it began to melt the stone of the mountain to seal its entrance.

Thranduil had looked to his own people then, his own men, men and women who had served him and his kingdom for millennia, and he could not risk them for a fools folly. It would have been him seeing their grieving families, he who would have to bequeath news to their children, wives, husbands, of their death that had wrought nothing but.

Not Thorin Oakenshield.

He.

Of course, he had offered the fleeing dwarrow shelter and food within his own realm, but by then the damage had been done. The stubborn things had seen him turn his back and had cemented their own tangible hatred of not just him, a gesture he would not have minded all too much, but a loathing of his race in general, to those elves who had not been at the fall of Erebor at all.

"I feel as if I…."

So lost in his thoughts of that day and the following years since, Thranduil had not known he had begun to speak until his teeth clamped shut tightly, figuratively chomping on the words that tickled the tip of his tongue. Still, even subconsciously, the next words did not come easy.

"Do not belong."

Three simple words, and yet, they were too heavy for his mouth to bare, for his lungs to breathe life into. Indeed, he was almost sure he had snarled the words out, lips twisting and teeth tight like an Orc.

Elrond, as always, spoke calmly, almost melodiously, his hand coming up to lay upon Thranduil's shoulder like a warm, limp blanket. Reassuring, but not constrictive.

"Perhaps that is how Harriel feels. It would not be the first time there has been emotional transference between a soul-marked pair. I believe lord Celeborn and lady Galadriel have very much the same bond. If this is truth, that only means she needs you more now."

Then the comfort, as small as it was, fell away as Elrond's hand slipped from his shoulder like a leaf gets blown away in a breeze. Four breaths passed before the Imladris Lord ambled around Thranduil's taller frame, slipping in through the crack of the door, staying close, almost cloaking Thranduil's presence as he addressed the inhabitants of the room with a soft but clear voice. Everything about Elrond, from his stance to his voice, was all rivers, lakes and bubbling brooks of placidity.

It was exceedingly infuriating.

"Harriel, there is someone here to meet you. Arwen, please come with me, we must speak to the healers."

Arwen did not hesitate to comply, and although he could not see her with Elrond blocking his view of the room, she spent just enough time in there for perhaps a hesitant kiss or a tentative hug to be exchanged between her and the leafling.

Then the two where brushing out of the room with a sway of robes and dress, Arwen gliding down the hall, Elrond stalling in front of him just long enough to give him one last piece of sage advice before a promise of returning.

"Perhaps she is not the only one in need of healing. I will be back within the hour, take care of her for me."

The two were gone, trailing the winding halls and Thranduil was left just outside of the room with an injured, skittish soul-marked leafling just a few steps away. Naturally, he was more than a little humbled at Elrond's unspoken sign, leaving him alone with his young, hurt grandchild, for an elf, was no small praise on Elrond's part for what he believed Thranduil's character to be.

Sobering, indeed.

Straightening himself out, despite there being no true need to, he was merely buying time as if such a thing could be purchased, Thranduil entered, a well-rehearsed greeting dancing on the edges of his lips. It took all but a blink for her gaze to fall upon him and lock into place. Her stare was steady, bright, pupil tight. Alert.

Such a wary eye did not seem to fit on such a young face, not truly, and in its wake, Thranduil found his words deserting him in a flood of sorrow. No one so young should be so suspicious. What was there for him to say? So much, too much, and yet nothing at all.

The line he was walking was a thin rope above a gaping chasm, one wrong foot and he would tumble down into the dark, and that was the last thing he wanted to bring the leafling.

He thought, peculiarly, that they both knew the ugly parts of life a little too well already.

Thranduil would not be here, in Imladris, for long. Harriel, as much as it grieved him to know, needed time to grow up away from him, surrounded by her family, surrounded by love and hope and all those bright little moments that make life worth living, to make an existence for herself outside of himself and soul-marks, and perhaps that is what made this first meeting all the more crucial.

To set a tone, to leave a memory behind that could be thought of fondly, if nothing else.

That first memory would not be tinged with pity, but… Yes, perhaps care.

"Does your leg hurt, little dew-drop?"

She paused, studying him long and hard, and Thranduil, from that moment, knew, one day, she would be an astonishing chess competitor. He could see the wheels churning behind her eyes, as if they were hewn from green glass, picking words and thought as one delicately chose herbs for a well brewed pot of tea. Her head cocked, tilting faintly, curiosity sparking somewhere deep beneath.

"Does your face hurt?"

Unwittingly, his hand had already begun to raise to his cheek before he could control himself. The limb dropped back down to his side. He knew, without touch or sense, his cheek and brow would be clear and smooth. His glamour was still on, he could feel the magic coolly tingle against his flesh, and yet… And yet.

"You… You can see the scar?"

Her gaze slipped over the left side of his face, seeing, and although it was implausible, impossible his mind whispered, the glamour was old magic, strong magic, magic Galadriel herself spun, he knew she did long before she nodded.

His initial reaction was to turn that side of his face away, to hide the grotesque ravages of fire and fury, she had seen so much ugliness already, she did not need his own to remember, but before he could, the girl was-

Well, she was smiling, large, toothy, a little crookedly. Her hand darted up to her forehead, to the lay of curls against the skin, and pushed them back, flashing the scar beneath, a strange jagged thing of tight pink flesh, etched like a lightning bolt.

"Don't worry, I have one too."

It was unmatched, the slice against the wreck of half his face, but it was… Kind. Kinder than anything Thranduil had been afforded in a long while. I see yours, I show you mine, and we can both be a little bit devastated.

Hurt and pain often detached a person. Cut them off and let them bleed out alone. It took a sizable heart to take that same pain, their own pain tangled with a reflection on someone else's face, and instead of isolate with it, to merge and combine.

Perhaps the Valar knew what they were doing, on the long road, and perhaps, only a little, Elrond was right on healing being needed on both sides, because scars often ran deeper than the physical.

Thranduil was not so anxious then, not about opening impressions or being remembered or falling off the rope, or perhaps it was Harriel who was not so anxious if they truly were transferring emotions.

They both had scars.

They both understood.

Life was ugly, and it was unbearably callous, and could hurt much more than could ever be said, but it could be achingly beautiful too, in the way scars could be beautiful. Tangled and twisted and tying one soul to another in common grief, because a scar said one thing only.

You lived.

And what was more magnificent than that?

Harriel appeared to ease after this, an unexpected slip of her shoulder lessening, a slackening of her leg from being jittery, and, of course, the torrent of questions she surged with.

"Who are you? Are you one of my cousins? Arwen says we have a lot of family here. I haven't met them yet, but sometimes I see them outside below my window. They don't think I see, but I do."

Yes, Thranduil quite thought she did see, much more than many wished or wanted, a blessing and a curse, and in this sudden relaxed and comfortable air, an effortless breath, he found himself drifting over, ensnared, taking the seat Arwen had vacated moments prior.

"No, we do not share blood. I'm Thranduil, King of the Greenwoods. It is wonderful to finally meet you, Harriel."

She blinked over at him.

"Tandy? But you're so… Blond."

He could not help it, the chuckle broke free on its own, a noise that heated something cold, so very cold, in his chest, and he cradled that heat, that little spark of fire, close.

When was the last time he had been taken by surprised laughter?

Too long.

"And very tall… And… King? Did you say King? You're a king?"

Thranduil bowed his head, chin dipping.

"I suppose I am, both blond and tall, and I do wear a crown so I must be a King, yes?"

The small dew-drop was taken with it quickly, all signs and sense of hesitancy and uncertainty rinsed away, the promise of story and tale too great to disregard, as most young children are. She leant forward in her seat, grin growing, still heart-warmingly lopsided.

"How did you become King? Did you have to fight for the crown? Was there a big battle? Did you have to fight a dragon like King Arthur?"

Perceptive young thing, though Thranduil had no idea who this King Arthur was. Perhaps the Lord of this Lon-Don?

Another time.

Harriel was curious however, inquisitive and keen, and that trait would see her well, Thranduil knew.

"There was no fighting, I am afraid. The crown came to me because my adar and naneth were King and Queen before me. When they passed, the throne fell to me."

Harriel, at this admittance, drooped right before his eyes, a little frown puckering between her brows.

"So… You didn't become King because you wanted to be King, but because you were born? That doesn't seem fair."

No… No it was not, but hardly anything was.

"Life is not always fair, dew-drop."

Her answer was immediate, a sorrowful paltry thing of autumn, brittle, raw.

"I know."

And she did, he saw, in the scar upon her brow, in the way her velvets hung off her frame, in the disenchanted, doggish sense she had, in the way she folded in on herself, so small, even here, even with him, surrounded by platters of food she would not touch in fear of being cheated one last kindness.

This was not what he wished to give her, the notion of injustice, not firstly, not secondly, not ever. Life may not be fair, not always, but that did not mean people themselves could not be, if only they tried.

Slowly, gently, Thranduil edged his chair closer, stooped down deep to look at her eye to eye, and smiled, as softly as he could.

"I'll tell you a secret. When I was younger, much as you are now, I wished to be a farmer."

The spark came flaring back.

"A farmer? What would you grow?"

Thranduil waved a flippant hand over the spread before them.

"Everything. Pumpkins, turnips, carrots, lettuce, sprouts, beetroot. When I was very, very young, I used to creep into the kitchens and pilfer food. I'd take it outside, in the moonlight, and plant them in the Greenwoods, hoping they would grow."

Harriel slipped further to the edge of her own seat, careful of the bandaged leg propped in front of her on plush cushion and chair.

"Did they grow?"

Once Again, he chuckled.

"No they did not, despite my best efforts. You have to have seeds to grow crops, half eaten, or half cooked carrots, do not make a good harvest I discovered."

She took a while to puzzle over this, eyeing the food before her.

"If I were a farmer, I'd plant berries. Strawberries. Blackberries. Raspberries. All of them. I'd plant so many they would stain my skin purple and you wouldn't know I had bruise-"

She clammed up; mouth jarring shut with a snap as fierce as the clamp of a dragons jaw.

The spasm of a word spoken when not intended.

This, too, Thranduil understood. Understood all too well, and yet, it hurt.

The need, the wish, to hide the ugly in something pretty, like a field of berries, as he hid his scar in the glamour, if only so you could pretend, even but for a little while, not to see it yourself.

That was not an urge, Thranduil knew personally, that could be defeated in a day.

It would take time, and care, and understanding.

"And if you were not a farmer, what would you be?"

She took the offered diversion gladly, cheerfully, and for the first time since Thranduil had come trailing in, she sat up tall, proud.

"I want to be a pirate."

A brow cocked high on his forehead.

"And what is this Pie-rat?"

She came alive, like Mithrandir's blasted fireworks, the ones the grey wizard enjoyed setting off in the dead of night outside Thranduil's own window back in the Greenwood as he passed through his lands. Thranduil still had a scorch mark on his chamber wall where one had slipped accidentally, or so the wizard said, and came racing in, nearly blinding him in a hailstorm of bright pink.

"They're outlaws! They have eye-patches, and big beards, with special hats and they sail on the sea. Some of them have hooks for hands, or wooden legs. You know they're pirates because their sails are black. They have big swords too, and drink lots of rum, and they fight and sing. They board ships and steal all the money and goods inside. Or, sometimes, they take the ship itself."

Thranduil hummed.

"That doesn't sound very kind, does it?"

Harriel looked positively affronted.

"But I'd be a good pirate!"

Her arms crisscrossed over her chest, steadfast in her assertion, stubborn, and it was wonderful to see, to find she was willing to argue at all, disagree, to stand her ground despite, evidently, being beaten down so viciously at such a tender age.

There was a storm in her ocean, a storm that would see her roar loudly, Thranduil thought.

The dew-drop that would come to be a typhoon, in time, with the right love, and the right hope, and the right treatment.

Now that was a story to be told.

But first, and foremost, she must eat.

"And how would you be a good Pie-Rat?"

The frown on her face beached itself to a grimace.

"I'd only steal from the rich, and then I'd give the money to the poor. And I wouldn't hurt anyone. I'd ask before I took anything."

The innocence of a child was charming, truly. Nonsensical, as a thief who asked permission to thieve was, but endearing.

"A just motive, undeniably. You would make a fearsome Pie-Rat, I am sure."

Harriel hardened, stiffening like dried roots, gaze drifting somewhere far away, somewhere bleak.

"Yeah! And no one picks on a pirate! No one hits a pirate, or kicks a pirate! You-… Y-y-y-… You can't lock a pirate up because they.. They just sail away and they don't get scared, and they don't cry… You can't hurt a pirate…"

And there it was.

The truth.

The tragic, sad, miserable truth.

Harriel was a child in a prison, not built by tarnished metal or weeping stone, with no bars or doors, but a cage made of nightmare, of memory, of people who should have cared, should have loved, but had not.

It was the worst kind of prison, made from malice and rejection, if only because the freedom sought could not be found by swinging open a door or turning a measly key. It could only be taken by those caged themselves, by taking that first step, alone, achingly alone, but braver than any warrior could be.

"Do you still wish to sail away?"

Her voice was small, as small as she, driftwood crashing against soft sand.

"Sometimes…"

This time, Thranduil abandoned his chair all together, slipping in a pleat of silk and velvet, almost prostrate on one knee before the leafling. She cowered, he crooked, and together a tiny crumb complete.

"Do you want to know another secret?"

She did not speak. Harriel possibly did not trust her voice, for voices could bend and break in ways pride would not allow, and when you had nothing, pride became sore, but she did nod, a little up and down slant of chin, and it was the pure sincerity, honesty that those ten times her age could not bear, that saw Thranduil say what he dared not to any other.

"Sometimes, when days grow dark and long, I want to sail away too."

A squeak.

"You do?"

Thranduil hummed again, a soft sound. That was all that was needed here. No crown or kingdom, just softness and sincerity.

"But I never do. The best of sailors are never born on smooth seas. Fear is natural, Harriel. To be brave, one must first feel fear, and to feel fear, one must feel, even when it hurts to."

She truly was a clever child, made shrewd from her own pain and hurts and bruises, plucking up the metaphor swiftly.

"When the sea becomes choppy, you should ride the waves and not jump ship?"

The urge to run away, to hide, was possibly, as depressing as it was, what saw Harriel reach this age at all. Yet, a life of a runaway was no true life at all, only survival, and one could not always hide, especially from their past.

History had the horrible ability to catch up with a man.

It was not going to be easy, not for Harriel. Being here, learning elven culture, learning of them, their ways, their people, it was all foreign, strange, frightening, to a child. It was a long, hard journey ahead of them, and the only one to walk that path, truly walk it, was Harriel herself.

She must take the first step herself.

"Yes, because sometimes when we ride through the storm, we find an island green and rich with life. A home. And we find it was worth going through the storm to reach it. Rough winds make strong oaks, my adar once told me. It can be scary, and it can hurt, but soon the tree can be higher than them all."

Coming to a stand, Thranduil reached for the platter on the table, silver and gleaming.

"And, I hear, sometimes, if the sailor is very special, the island is filled with juicy, sweet, gooseberries."

Plucking a gooseberry free from its little nest of fellows, he plopped one into his mouth and chewed. Tart, fresh, sweet. Gently, he held the bowl out for Harriel.

The first step.

Just one of many, but, perhaps, the greatest of all.

The hardest too.

Thranduil wished he could take it for her, bear the weight, but he could not.

He could only hold his hand out, and swear to walk the path at her side, come what may.

Her hand lifted, wavered, hovered, pale knuckled and trembling and-

And she snatched one, a fat little berry, and shoved it into her mouth, popping in her cheek.

She took another too, and another, and one after that, and one after that one, until she had the bowl in her lap, juice dribbling down her chin, grinning and eating and laughing, as Thranduil joined her on the sweet feast of berries, and jams, and honey tarts.

Arwen and Elrond found them an hour later, Harriel perched on the arching head frame of her bed, mouth stained purple with berry juice, a piece of parchment rolled into a long cylinder pressed to her one eye, another piece of parchment folded peculiarly into some sort of bizarre, pointed hat balanced upon her head.

"I see the scurvy dogs! Raise the sails and fly the black!"

Thranduil was sitting upon the bed itself, in front of Harriel, the same strange parchment hat laying uneasily upon his head, sans his outer robes. From his side, he raised a shaft, a curtain pole if Arwen was not mistaken, his missing outer robes tied to the end to flutter as he waved it.

"Oh, oh Captain."

Harriel giggled, a bubbling noise from a creek.

The plates and platters were empty on the table.

"It's aye, aye, captain, ye Jelly-boned scallywag. Don't make me force ye to walk the plank 'gain, First mate Tandy."

With more zest, Thranduil answered.

"Aye, aye Captain!"


A.N/ So, I may have (definitely) slipped into crack at the end, but once the idea of first mate Tandy and little berry stained Harriel playing pirates got into my head… How could I not write it up? Moreover, with all the heavy dealings with emotional and mental abuse we have going on, I wanted something a bit lighter, fluffy, to sweeten things up a little and give a bit of balance to the story. In doing so, I may have assassinated Thranduil's character, but, I think, the image of Thranduil in a paper pirate hat more than makes up for it lmao.

Also, it's a head canon of mine that Gandalf utterly terrorizes anyone that annoys him, and lets be honest Thranduil would have frustrated Gandalf more than once, with random fireworks.

No, but really, I am a bit concerned with Thranduil this chapter, and hope I haven't completely annihilated his character for anyone. I wanted his and Harriel's meeting to be a little bitter, tough, but ending on a happy note to show there's hope. And… Goddammit, Thranduil in a paper pirate hat!

It's been over two years since I last updated this fic, and I really don't have any excuses for that. I had this chapter written, the bare bones of it at least, for nearly all that time. However, I kept scraping it. I just… Really wasn't happy with how things were turning out. I kept writing thinking I needed to get to point B and anything less would be useless and pointless and absolutely horrible.

The problem with that type of thinking, especially in concern to creative pursuits, is it sort of makes it useless, and pointless, and absolutely horrible. So I stopped writing, thinking all this needed to happen, and all these characters needed to do and be this or that, and I just… Wrote. And so, here it is! I had fun with it, I hope you all had a bit of fun with it too, and hopefully, now that I am well and truly out of my funk with this fic, I will be updating it more regularly.

Thank you all! Your reviews really do keep me coming back to this fic, tweaking this, pondering that, and all the good stuff. As always, have a thought? Have a question? Have a spare moment? Drop it all in a review! And until next time, stay beautiful! ~AlwaysEatTheRude21