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On the Courting Habits of Dwarves and Elves

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“Your uncle will kill us both when he finds out, lovely archer.”

 

“You, maybe.  But not me.  He needs me for a strong political marriage.”  Kili stretched out on the grass of their cozy bower and blinked up at the moonlight.  “And since Fili is his true heir, he doesn’t need me to marry some snobby princess.”

 

Thranduil chuckled.  “Arrow dodged there, princeling.  Believe me.”

 

“I know it.  He has to marry from a bunch of cowards who refused to help us, but come into our mountain feeling all proud of themselves and making demands like they actually did something.”  He scowled.  “Me?  All I have to do is marry someone with influence who can help defend Erebor if needed.   Perhaps I’ll be lucky enough to marry one of Bard’s daughters.  They seem nice, and once upon a time, Dale and Erebor were like this.”  He held up a pair of crossed fingers.  “I cannot imagine Uncle and Bard not wanting to rebuild that alliance.”

 

“True enough,” his elven lover agreed.  “But I can foresee two problems.  First, you will out-live your lovely wife by a hundred years at least, and possibly even your children, though the likelihood of you having children to outlive would be slim, which leads me to my second point.  You, my beauty, have absolutely no interest in a woman’s soft curves.”  He gestured down to Kili’s currently sated member.  “This would never cooperate, and your marriage would remain unconsummated.”

 

“It would to work!  I’m not impotent, I would make it work!”

 

Thranduil snorted.  “And you would do that how?  Lie back and think of Erebor?”

 

“Well I could, but I’d rather think of you instead.” Kili leered.

 

The king’s laughter echoed through the glen. 

 

 

~~<@  ~~<@ 

 

 

It was not until several months later that they were able to meet again.  Right away, Thranduil could tell that Kili was not his normal, cheerful self.  Clearly something had happened.

 

“Fair evening, my archer.” The king leaned in for a kiss, soon finding his lover’s attention was clearly elsewhere.  “What troubles you?”

 

“What makes you think anything?”

 

Thrandul tilted his head.  “Come now, dear Kili, give me SOME credit.  You are miles away tonight.”

 

Kili sighed.  “You’re right, I…shouldn’t be here if I am not going to BE here.  I’m sorry.”

 

The elf king smiled and shook his head, taking Kili’s hand and leading him over to the small fire.  “There is no need to apologize.”  He tugged his dwarf down to sit between his legs, pulled his tunic off, and began to rub his shoulders, working at the tight knots of tension.  “Is this official business, or is it something you can talk about?”

 

“For the last month, Erebor has been hosting delegations from Ered Luin and the Iron Hills.  Representatives from Orocarni are supposed to arrive next week, all of them looking for a chance to be Fili’s Queen.”

 

“Or have you as their Consort.”  Thranduil regretted saying it immediately, mentally kicking himself when the tension knots he had worked so hard to relieve came back with a vengeance.

 

Kili nodded.  “Or that.  Which is why I’ve done my best to stay least in sight.  There have only been a few times when they needed me for official functions.  Dinners, welcomings…”  He shrugged.  “Things like that.  Lucky for me, their focus has been on Fili and you would NOT believe how brazen some of these supposed ‘Ladies’ are!”  He turned.  “They hound him relentlessly!  All day long they flaunt themselves at him, flirting outrageously.  Even his rooms are not safe from them!  I have had to drag more than one of the strumpets out of his bed by her beard, just so he can sleep in peace.”

 

Thranduil recalled his own youth, when he’d returned to his rooms to find an ambitious elleth in his bed, looking to snare herself a Prince.  He hadn’t really minded that much, not at all.

 

Though one look at Kili had him thinking he should probably keep that to himself.

 

He smiled and kissed his dwarf’s neck.  “Then it is good that he has you to protect his sanity.  I cannot imagine having their ladies dragged about by the beard has gone over well, however.”

 

Kili pulled a face.  “Well…alright, I do feel bad about that.  Balin and Uncle have had to do a lot of…damage control, I think Balin called it.”

 

“I can only imagine.  Have any of those brazen ladies pinned their hopes on you?  Or perhaps a handsome warrior with a taste for archer?”

 

The dwarf prince shrugged.  “Not that I saw, but like I said, I kept myself busy elsewhere.”  He sighed.  “I hope not.”

 

So did Thranduil, though likely for different reasons.  “Are you really so against marriage, my archer?”

 

“I should think you would be against me being married too, since it means an end to THIS.” Kili gestured to their haven.  “Unless you have grown tired of your steady diet of dwarf?”

 

“Not just yet.”

 

“Well then,” Kili huffed.  “Yes, I am against it, especially if it means I have to move to some far distant land where I know no one.  I’ve never been away for family for longer than a few weeks.  And even if I somehow married one of Dain’s dwarves, I would still have to live somewhere it would take WEEKS of travel to visit from.  And what if I ended up marrying someone from the Red Mountains to the East?  I would never see Fili or Mum or Uncle again!  I would be miserable.”

 

“So would we, Kili mine.”  An idea began to brew in the depths of the Elven King’s mind.

 

~~<@  ~~<@

 

When the knock to his door came, Balin didn’t bother to look up.  It was seven o’clock.  He knew who it was.  “Come in, Brother.”

 

“How’d ye know it was me?” Dwalin asked, closing the door behind him.

 

“Tis always you at seven o’clock.”

 

“Didn’t realize I was becoming that predictable.”  He walked over to the desk, noticing the weary slump of Balin’s shoulders and the way he rubbed at his eyes.  “Did Kili drag another woman out of Fili’s chambers?”

 

“Well, aye, he did, but that’s not what has me ready to pull out my beard.”  Balin gestured to a piece of parchment on the edge of his desk.  “See for yourself.”

 

Dwalin scanned the document, then read it five more times, certain he’d misread.  “Please tell me you’re not actually taking this seriously.  This is a joke, Balin, and not even a particularly clever one.  This is-“

 

“The third proposal in two months.”

 

Well that certainly changed things, didn’t it?  Dwalin walked over to a chair.  “Let me see them.”

 

Two more parchments were shoved at him.  He started with the earliest and read through them.  They were indeed marriage proposals from the Woodland King, each more politely worded and ardent than the last.  Dwalin could feel the headache blooming behind his eyes.  “This is… are we taking this seriously, then?”

 

“I cannot see where we have a choice, Brother.”  Balin sat back in his chair.  “If I keep dismissing them, he will just get more insistent, you know that.  He might even come to ask personally, and we do NOT want that.”

 

Dwalin rather thought it was an excellent idea.  He’d been dying to return the Elf King’s hospitality, and the moment Thranduil stepped foot in Erebor’s halls, he’d be clapped in irons and hauled off to cool his ardor in a dungeon cell.  Assuming Thorin didn’t kill him outright.  Which, Dwalin admitted, was a distinct possibility.  “I suppose it is too late to change our names and become beet farmers in Rohan.  So how do we handle this?”

 

Balin sighed.

 

~~<@  ~~<@

 

Thorin looked from the three proposals to his Chief Advisor and the Captain of his guard.  The Sons of Fundin had served him well through the long years of their exile from Erebor.  They were wise, skilled warriors, and among his dearest friends.  And only they could get away with bringing him something this absurd.  He watched Dwalin shift his weight for the hundredth time.  “You have verified that these petitions are legitimate?”

 

A slight hint of irritation pinched the corners of Balin’s lips at the implication that he might be less than thorough in his duties.  “Of course.  Several reliable sources confirmed the arrivals of elven couriers bearing the Woodland realm’s livery when these were received.  I thought it a joke at first, Majesty, but this is the third in two months.”

 

“A bit far for a joke, even one the likes of which my nephews are known for.”  Thorin gestured.  “Sit down, both of you.  You act like you’re waiting to be executed.”

 

“A possibility, given the nature of those missives.”  Balin took a seat in the plush old chair, Dwalin choosing to lean against the wall beside it.

 

“Indeed.”  The King Under the Mountain leaned back in his own chair.  “So the question is, what does Thranduil want with Kili, and why now?”

 

“The why now is obvious enough,” Dwalin commented.  “With as many visitors as we’ve gotten from the other Homes, I’m sure it hasn’t gone unnoticed.  He’ll assume you’re looking to shore up your power base with a couple of strategic marriages.  He knows he can’t expect you to allow your heir to marry and move, any more than he would allow his own heir to do it.  But Kili…he WOULD be expected to follow his new spouse home.”

 

“And tis not like he needs to worry about the line of succession,” Balin added.  “He’s got his heir already in place.”  He leaned forward.  “My guess is, whatever’s happening to the south has him looking to cover his hide, even if it means sacrificing himself for a hundred years or so.  Not all that long for an elf.  You know, Bard has a pretty enough daughter of marrying age.  I’ll bet he’s sent similar proposals to Dale as well.”

 

Thorin stared at the parchments on his desk.  “Find out.  I want to know what the sneaky bastard is up to.”  He stood.  “Now if you will excuse me, I have to speak with Dain’s advisor about the attachment his ladies seem to have with Fili’s chambers.  Dismissed.”

 

~~<@  ~~<@

 

Kili slipped out the secret entrance to Erebor’s lower halls, adjusted his pack, and picked his way down the trail.

 

His thoughts were already in the glen with his elf lover, enjoying his secret romance.  He never noticed the dwarf sneaking up behind him.  Not until the sweet-smelling cloth covered his nose and mouth.  He struggled, trying to break the hold and not breathe…and failing at both. 

 

He thrashed a few more times before finally going limp. 

 

~~<@  ~~<@

 

Kili stirred, his eyes cracking open.  He hissed as sunlight stabbed into his brain.  “My head…”

 

“Sorry about that.”  The sound of fabric rustling brought with it blessed relief.  “I told him not to use too much.”

 

“Who’re you?” Kili slurred.

 

“It is not my name, but you may call me Rabu.  Are you thirsty?”

 

“Nnn-“ Kili swallowed.  “No.  Why’re you doin’ this?  They will not pay ransom for me.  Others have tried, and they all ended up dead.  In fact, you’re already dead.  Your body just doesn’t realize it yet.”

 

“Not dead yet, but I am dying, and I owe a debt.”

 

“A debt.  A DEBT?  You kidnap a prince of Erebor and hold him against his will to repay a debt!”  He squirmed and thrashed against his bonds.

 

Rabu chuckled.  “Yes, I know, it makes little sense, and if I thought you were to come to true harm, I would take my debt to my grave.  But you will be released soon.  In a week, perhaps two if the young Prince is particularly stubborn.”

 

Kili stilled.  “What does this have to do with Fili?”

 

His captor sighed.  “To be so young again.  Master Dwarf, this has everything to do with him.  Open season has all but been declared on his heart, and you have been a thorn in many sides, I am told.  Dragging the poor ladies out by the beard!”  He cackled.  “You have spirit, Kili of Erebor, and if your brother has even half so much, then the Lonely Mountain is in good hands.”

 

“So all of this…drugging me, kidnapping me and tying me up, is to get me out of the way so some tart can seduce my brother?  They spend all day trying to do that!  They strut around acting like queens, dressed in what I can only describe as having no business being worn outside the bedchamber.  The only relief he gets is when he retires for the night, and some of them even follow him there.”

 

Rabu stoked the fire.  “More than one alliance has been gained through bedroom politics, lad.”

 

“Not Fili.  He knows his duty too much to be led around by the stones.  So what happens in two weeks when she doesn’t get him?”

 

“Then you go free.”  Rabu shrugged.  “Whether she manages to seduce him or no is not my concern.  I agreed to shelter you for two weeks.  No longer.”

 

Kili sighed, letting his head fall back onto the mattress.  Two whole weeks.  Who knew what Thranduil would think when he failed to appear.

 

~~<@  ~~<@

 

Thranduil paced the confines of their glen, wondering if he’d gotten the date wrong.  Unlikely, but he supposed there was a first time for everything, even for an elf as old as he.

 

He looked up at the sky.  A waxing grass moon, as they had agreed.  One of his favorites, when the first hints of green returned to the trees and filled his forest with fresh, clean life.  A moon he’d hoped to share with his beautiful young lover. 

 

Particularly since he wasn’t going to be sharing it with is beautiful young Consort-to-be.  Thranduil supposed he could not blame Thorin for not taking his proposals seriously.  Given their history, or lack thereof in Kili’s case, he would have been skeptical if such unexpected proposals had arrived for Legolas, too.  But that did not mean he was any less frustrated when they remained unanswered.  Three marriage proposals in two months, and NONE of them had been answered.  He’d told Thorin that he was patient.  That he could wait.  He was regretting that now, since it seemed as though the King Under the Mountain planned to see just how patient an elf could be.  Meanwhile, his poor Kili grew ever more anxious over his fate.

 

Well, the only dwarf’s tune this elf would dance to was the one Kili played.  He would wait here for the agreed upon three days.  If his archer did not appear by then, the King of the Northern Forest would go knocking, Thorin’s irrational hostility be damned!

 

~~<@  ~~<@

 

Fili trudged toward his chambers, exhausted after yet another day of trade negotiations with the new Master of Laketown, made even more difficult by the constant fawning from the visiting Ladies.  Not that he necessarily objected to all the attention being paid to him.  He was a healthy, red-blooded male, and after decades of being all but ignored as an heir to a kingdom in name only, having a number of eligible ladies vying for his attention was gratifying.

 

But as gratifying as it was, the Crown Prince was quickly reaching the end of his tolerance.  None of the ladies throwing themselves at him were marriage material, and tempting as it was to accept the many flirtatious offers whispered in his ear or smiled at him from his bed, they were not the actions of a queen.  His duty to his people was too well ingrained, and growing up in his mother’s care had shown him how a proper Queen should act.

 

Very few of the assembled ladies had shown the type of grace and dignity he wanted in a wife.  Of those few, only one made him want to know her better and hope she’d be enough of a lady to make him work for her favor.

 

It was with thoughts of a lovely Broadbeam lass with a wicked smile and a beard to drive a dwarf to his knees that Fili opened the door to his bedchamber to find it already occupied.  And NOT by the one he secretly wanted to be there.  “Lady Asta.”

 

“Fili!  Just the dwarf I wanted to see!”  She leaned back on his bed.

 

The prince ground his teeth at her omission of his title.  While he was hardly one to stand on ceremony outside of official functions, her familiarity grated on his nerves.  None of their guests had been given leave to call him by name only, and she certainly wasn’t someone he could ever see himself considering a friend.  “Well, Erebor is rather large, and given your state of…dress, I thought perhaps you had lost your way and believed these to be your chambers.  But it seems you are right where you want to be if you wanted to see me.  How may I help you?”

 

Asta’s smile was bright and toothy, like a crocodile.  She rolled to her feet and sauntered over, hips swaying.  “Oh no, that’s not it at all!  The question, my dearest Fili, is how can I help YOU?”  Her tone left no doubt as to how she wanted to help him as she reached to close the door.

 

Suddenly, Fili was…done.  Tired of the games and the uninvited guests in his bed.  He pushed the door back open.  “Leave.”

 

The lady squawked.  “What?!”

 

He grabbed her dress and threw it at her.  “Get out.”

 

“But…but Fili…” Her eyes misted.

 

“It’s ‘Your Highness’,” he gritted, “and you have exactly five seconds to get out of my chambers before I toss you out.”

 

“Well then!” Asta huffed and pulled her dress on.  “How insulting!  I thought it was the younger one who treated ladies like this!”

 

Fili’s eyes narrowed.  “You won’t be here to find out.  There is a caravan leaving for the Iron Hills in the morning.  I suggest you be on it.”

 

“Everything alright, Yer Highness?”

 

Fili looked over at his new favorite dwarf.  “Master Dwalin!”  He glanced past him, seeing both Balin and Thorin standing nearby.  He cleared his throat and smiled.  “Yes, of course.  It appears as though Lady Asta has become disoriented by our many corridors and has lost her way.  Would you mind seeing to it that she arrives at her chamber safely?”

 

Dwalin took in the lady’s humiliated blush, her hastily buttoned dress, and the strain in Fili’s smile.  “Ah, of course.  Happens to the best of us.”  He took her arm and led her away.

 

“Fili?” his uncle asked.

 

“Nothing to worry about, Uncle.  A small misunderstanding is all.  Now if you will excuse me, there’s a stench in my room.  If you need me, I’ll be in Kili’s room until it has aired out.”  He headed down the hallway at as close to a run as dignity would allow.

 

Thorin looked to his companion, eyes wide. ‘Stench?’ he mouthed silently.

 

Balin shook his head and continued his report.  Honestly, these boys would be the death of him one day.

 

~~<@  ~~<@

 

Fili flopped down on Kili’s bed with a groan.  “You are SO lucky you were born second,” he grumbled, not for the first time.

 

He smiled as Kili’s usual cheeky response floated into his mind. *Poor little golden prince, having everyone bow to your whims and jump to do your bidding!*

 

Brat.

 

He burrowed under the blankets and sighed.  “Wherever you’ve run off to, I hope you’re having more fun than I am.”

 

~~<@  ~~<@

 

Kili was, in fact, NOT having more fun than Fili.  This was possibly the LEAST fun he had ever had, and that included cooling his heels in Thranduil’s dungeons AND his recovery after the goblin armies had been defeated.  At least then he’d had various members of the Company checking up on him.  This was…definitely the most bored he’d ever been.  “Come on, hasn’t it been two weeks YET?”

 

Rabu chuckled and boiled water for tea.  “You have only been here five days, your grace.  Have patience.”

 

Kili rolled his eyes and looked over.  “Do I look like someone with a lot of patience?”

 

“I thought you were an archer.  Is that not required?”

 

The young prince huffed.  “YES, it’s required, but when I am lining up a shot, I have something to FOCUS on.  But this is just…long hours of nothing, followed by another hour of nothing, and then more hours of nothing after that.”

 

This time his captor’s chuckles ended in harsh, wheezing coughs.  Kili frowned and waited for Rabu to catch his breath.  “Oi, Rabu?”

 

“Yes?” He wheezed.

 

Kili looked over.  “When I first woke up here, you said you were dyin’ anyway.”

 

“So I did.  What of it?”

 

“Why?”

 

“Black lung.”  Rabu poured himself tea, then another cup for Kili.  “Once upon a time, I was coal miner.  Afraid I’m not quite as built for it as a dwarf.  Forty years of breathing it in has my lungs full of grit.  I’ve maybe a month before they finally quit on me.”

 

Figuring he’d be worse than useless if he were too dehydrated to make his escape (as soon as he managed to plan one.  He wasn’t a Burglar Hobbit after all!), Kili finally surrendered to his thirst, drinking the offered tea.  “You know, I still hate you.  I despise you, actually, and will probably kill you myself when I get free.  But for what it’s worth, I’m sorry you’re dying from something like that.  It sounds painful.”

 

“Some days more than others.”  Rabu puttered around the cabin, then finally banked the fire for the night.  “Good night, Master Dwarf.  May your freedom be swift in coming, for both our sakes.”

 

~~<@  ~~<@

 

Two days later, Kili woke to the sounds of an argument. (Dammit, he KNEW he shouldn’t have trusted the tea!).  He strained his ears to hear the muffled conversation, wondering who his captor was so angry with and if they might be able to set him free.

 

“You owe me, Old Man.”

 

Not a savior, that’s for sure.  The voice was definitely a dwarf, though the accent took Kili several minutes to place as being from the Red Mountains.

 

“This was not part of our agreement, dwarf!” Rabu argued.  “I was to keep him here while your girl did her best to find his brother’s bed.  That was all.  THAT was our deal!”

 

“I WOULD NOT HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THAT WRETCH!” cried a female’s voice.  “As far as I am concerned, the entire mountain can rot!”

 

Rabu sighed.  “My Lord Terald, there is no need to kill him.  I have been drugging his food and drink since he was brought here.  There is enough in his system to keep him out for three days, by which time you and your daughter will be long gone back to wherever you came from.”

 

Kili snapped his eyes shut as he heard footsteps approach the nearby window.

 

“He’s out, just like the old man told us!” the female said.  “Looks to be bound pretty tight, too!”  Her footsteps trailed off.

 

“I do know how to tie a decent knot,” Rabu grumbled.  “He has been trying for days and hasn’t gotten close to wiggling free.”

 

There was a thump, and then the sound of a body hitting the ground.  “Well then, no need for you now, is there?”

 

 “What about the boy?”

 

“Even if he does wake up earlier than the old man said, he’ll be too weak to escape.”

 

 “Mahal’s bones, how did I raise such a vicious child,” her father growled, disgusted.

 

“YOU didn’t.  Now hurry up, I want to be home.”

 

Kili waited until long after he could no longer hear the two dwarves.  “Rabu?”  He pulled at his bonds, cursing.  “Rabu!”

 

Rightly assuming he was now on his own, Kili thrashed around until he wore himself out.  He stared up at the ceiling, wondering just what he was to do next.

 

~~<@  ~~<@

 

A young guard sprinted into the Royal Advisor’s office.  “My Lord Balin!  My Lord Dwalin!” he gasped.

 

Dwalin groaned.  “What now?”

 

“Catch your breath, lad,” Balin soothed, lifting a hand.  “And then give us your message.”

 

The young dwarf panted.  “There are elves at the gate, my Lords.  They are demanding to see the King.”

 

“Well, that did not take as long as I thought.”  Dwalin heaved himself to his feet.  “We’ll handle it from here, Hod.  Dismissed.”

 

“Thank you, Sir!”  Hod bowed and left.

 

“Well, best we get to it, then.”  Grabbing the proposals from his desk, Balin led the way.  Once at the gate, he nodded at the guard.  “Let them in.”

 

As the massive doors creaked open, Dwalin cursed softly.  “Well if it isn’t the damned head tree shagger himself…”

 

Balin sighed and stepped forward.  “Greetings, Thranduil, King of the Northern Forest.  May your trees be ever green.”

 

Thranduil bowed his head in acknowledgement.  “And your blades always sharp, Balin, son of Fundin.  I desire an audience with your esteemed self and your king.  At your earliest convenience, of course.”

 

“Of course.” Balin’s smile was thin.  “If you will follow me, rooms will be made ready for your entourage.”  He nodded to Dwalin, who disappeared through a side door.

 

The elf king fell into step beside the advisor.  “I assume you know why I am here.”

 

“I may have some idea, but I am sure I could not guess the thoughts of a king.”

 

Thranduil smiled.  “Good to know time has not dulled your wit, Master Dwarf.”

 

“I aim to please.”  Balin pushed open the door to a meeting chamber.  “Apologies for doing away with the niceties, but you did say earliest convenience.”

 

“So I did.”  He looked around the room, noting the presence of the King and his golden heir, Dwalin the royal bodyguard…and the absence of the dwarf he most wanted to see.  “Greetings, Thorin Oakenshield.  Son of Thrain, Son of Thror, Ki-“

 

“What does Thranduil want with my nephew?”

 

Fascinating how Thorin could manage to turn a simple name into the vilest of curses.  Getting down to it, then.  “I want what any other wants when proposing marriage.  A Consort.  A Companion.”

 

“If you want a companion, get a dog and leave my nephew alone.”

 

“Speaking of, where is Kili?  I looked forward to gazing upon his loveliness again.”

 

Oh, now wasn’t THAT an interesting shade of purple Thorin’s face was turning.  He was so prickly, it was hard to resist needling him.  The King Under the Mountain looked ready to explode and die of stroke, or toss him out on his backside.  The golden haired prince, though… clever dwarf.  He knew something.

 

Thranduil’s brow arched at him.

 

“You are the one he’s been meeting.”

 

Shocked silence from the gathered dwarves.  The elf king smiled.  “How came you to that conclusion?”

 

Fili gestured.  “The berry.  There was one caught in the hood of his cloak when he returned home last, and I have been trying to place where I had seen it last.  It is the same berry woven into your crown.”

 

Observant little prince.  Very well then.  “I am the one he has been meeting.”

 

“Elf,” Thorin snarled, lunging.  “I will KILL you if you have done something to him!”

 

“Then he is with you?” Fili asked.

 

Time froze for a moment, his pulse roaring in the elf king’s ears.  They didn’t know where his Kili was either.   “No,” he said quietly.  “He is not with me.  We were to meet nine days ago, but he never arrived.”

 

“We have not seen him since he left.”

 

“Balin, find a map!  Dwalin!  Gather our best trackers!” Thorin barked out.

 

Thranduil looked up.  “Legolas.”

 

Thorin glared.  “We do not need –“

 

“He knows the area,” Thranduil interrupted.  “And the surrounding villages know him.  If anyone has seen something, he has the best chance of finding out.”

 

“Fine,” Thorin gritted.  “But when he is back safe, we WILL have words.”

 

“I would expect no less.”

 

The dwarf king nodded, then gestured Fili over.  “Alright, the two of you need to start talking.  Everything you know from the time he left.”

 

~~<@  ~~<@

 

In the end, it was easy enough to find the cottage where Kili was being held.  The drag marks led them all the way from the tree-line to the cottage doorway.  Poor Fili had nearly had a heart attack upon seeing the corpse there, until Legolas had pointed out it was entirely too big to be a dwarf, even a tall dwarf.

 

Kili woke once during the journey.  He frowned up at his brother.  “F’li?”

 

Fili smiled.  “Who else drags you out of the trouble you get into?”

 

Kili’s mouth worked.  “Rd.”  He licked at his lips and tried again.  “Ruh.  Rd.”

 

Legolas reached for the water skin at his hip, patiently waiting for the younger dwarf to stop fighting.  “Just water, I promise.  Nothing else.”

 

Kili blinked up at him, breaking into the brightest smile Fili had ever seen him wear.  “Thndl.  Luff.”

 

Mirkwood’s prince smiled and reached out, brushing his fingers over Kili’s eyes.  “Later.  Rest for now.”

 

Fili felt his brother grow heavy with sleep.  He sighed and looked over at Legolas.  “So.  Somehow, we need to keep my uncle and your father from murdering each other long enough to work this out.”

 

“I say we lock them in an empty room, take away their weapons, and let them brawl it out.”

 

~~<@  ~~<@

 

Much to both heir’s dismay (and not a little relief on Fili’s part, because he suspected Thranduil had a mean punch) they did not need Legolas’ idea.  If Thorin needed any proof of Thranduil’s sincerity, he needed only to peek into the infirmary.  The elf was a near constant presence at Kili’s bedside, fetching water, talking, at times even singing softly. 

 

Any chance at separating them was lost when Kili smiled.  It was the same smile Dis had worn for her husband when she thought no one was looking. 

 

Damn.

 

Thorin stepped away from the door, walking in quietly.  “Ahh, sister-son, what am I to do with you?”

 

Kili’s expression flipped immediately from joy to guilt.  “Uncle…”

 

He held up his hand to stop him.  “Kili…is this what you want?  Truly?”

 

Kili met his eye.  “It is.  More than anything.”

 

The King Under the Mountain glanced over at Thranduil.  “And you.  You have asked for his hand three times now.  If I were to tell you that the only way I would say yes is if you were to leave your kingdom and live here, what would you say?”

 

Thranduil straightened.  “Legolas has already been ruling in my stead on and off for decades.”

 

Thorin stared at them, arms crossed.  He finally sighed and reached down, smoothing the worried crease from Kili’s brow.  “Rest.”  He headed for the door.

 

“Thorin,” Thranduil objected.

 

“That goes for you too, elf.  Negotiations begin tomorrow.”

 

~~<@ End @>~~