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Headcanon/Deleted Scenes/Spare Parts from the Lay of Dwalin 'verse

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            “And what craft do you practice, my good dwarf?” Dwalin rumbled, hardly looking up from his list.  Their makeshift table was scattered with paper.  Dwarves had been visiting the inn all day to put their names down; already there were more than two hundred for the journey back to Erebor.

            “I –”  Enna flashed Bofur a helpless look.

            Bofur, standing behind Dwalin, dropped a hand on his friend’s shoulder.  “I can vouch for him,” he said.

            Dwalin frowned up at him, then at Enna – but acquiesced.  “Very well, Mister Enna.  Any family?”

            Enna looked relieved.  “A brother, Onna.  Still a lad.”

            “Pony or wagon?”

            “I don’t know yet.”

            “We won’t have many chances to restock, so be sure to bring supplies for a six-week journey.  A wagon is best if you can come by one.”

            When Enna had gone, Dwalin raised an eyebrow at Bofur, asking for an explanation.

            “He’s a good dwarf,” Bofur said.  “He works the upstairs at Alís’s tavern.”  When Dwalin still looked blank, Bofur coughed and said, “Er, he provides services of a… discreet nature.”

            “Oh!” said Dwalin.  “He’s a whore then?”

            Bofur paused, blinking at him.

            “I made use of one once, if you’ll remember,” Dwalin grumbled.  “I know it’s not just humans who do such things.”  He scratched out a note on the manifest.  “Dori will be pleased.”

            “Dori?”

            Dwalin tilted his head at Bofur thoughtfully.  “Sometimes I forget you weren’t born in Erebor,” he grunted.

            Bofur waited patiently.

            “Before Erebor fell, Dori was a courtesan for the royal court.”

            Bofur stared at him.  “Dori?

            “He was considered quite handsome in his youth,” Dwalin said, shrugging.  “Still is, to some.”

            “Dori?!” Bofur sputtered.

            Dwalin grinned.  “You do not agree?”

            “I – he’s lovely, of course he is – I just can’t imagine –”  Bofur paused.  “You said he’d be pleased,” he said suspiciously.

            “Yes.  He keeps getting propositions and turning them down, and I heard him say to Nori that he wished some of the dwarves who came back to Erebor were interested in that line of work.”

            “Well bless my beard,” Bofur said, shaking his head in amazement.  “I’d never have guessed.”  But he furrowed his brow, finally putting some things together in his head, and he turned wide eyes on Dwalin.  “King Dain?!” he demanded.

            Dwalin looked surprised, but then his eyes twinkled.  “Of course, I can neither confirm nor deny who the King takes to his bed.  But I can tell you he doesn’t share those that he does.”

            “By Mahal!” Bofur murmured.  Dori…

            “I think Dori’s quite pleased with the arrangement, actually,” said Dwalin.  “Of course, Dain will have to marry soon and that will put an end to it.”

            “But Dori – he’s so proper – so fussy –”

            Dwalin shrugged.  “Maybe the King likes to be fussed over.  In any case, Dori will be glad to have somewhere to send his unwanted suitors.”

            “Uh, I don’t think Enna is quite what you might call a courtesan,” Bofur warned.  “He’s, er, served a very different class of people here in Ered Luin.”

            “If he’d like to move up in the world, the position is open.  He’s pretty enough, isn’t he?”

            Bofur raised an eyebrow.  “You’re a better judge of what the upper classes think is pretty,” he teased.

            “You think him pretty,” Dwalin said gently, and Bofur blushed.  Trust Dwalin to notice that he hadn’t returned to the inn last night, and to go looking for him.

            “I think he reminds me of Bombur,” said Bofur.  When Dwalin blanched, he chuckled and added, “And I didn’t take him to bed, so you needn’t look so appalled.”

            Dwalin gave him a smile that was pure sunshine, leaving Bofur reeling a bit.

            He thought of declaring then – of dragging Dwalin somewhere private and asking permission to kiss him senseless – but another family of dwarves was approaching their table, and within two days they’d be on the road.  Dwalin deserved a proper courtship, not one conducted in snatched moments between duties to the caravan.

            And, well, if Dwalin refused… Bofur would rather be home and have a place to hide and nurse his wounds.

 

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Neither of them slept well that night, bedded down on opposite sides of the fire as if they needed the buffer between them. When he finally slept, Bofur had nightmares. He was a child again, and he was hiding in the cupboard in the two-room flat they’d grown up in. Bombur, quiet and wide-eyed, clung to him in shared terror as they waited for discovery and the inevitable aftermath. He could heard Bifur’s voice outside, arguing –

He came awake with a start, soaked through with sweat. Across the fire, Dwalin’s eyes were open too. The big dwarf was half-way to his feet.

“I wasn’t sure if I should wake you,” Dwalin said.

Bofur glanced at his mattock, sword, and knives, all within reach. Aye, he’d not like to disturb himself during a nightmare, either. He lay back down and didn’t respond.

Chapter Text

After The Incident With The Elf, Thorin decided it was best to marry Kili off as fast as possible to save his honor. After all, he'd slept with an Elf and was pretty much soiled goods.

He asked Dwalin first. It was awkward for both of them, but Dwalin gave it some serious thought. As long as he didn't have to actually have sex with Kili, it would help both his friend and the lad he'd helped raise, and would protect his own secret from discovery. Dwalin eventually said no when he realized that neither Thorin nor Kili would ever forgive him if he agreed.

Balin was right out; he needed to marry a female to secure his lineage. He was a Lord Under the Mountain, and Dwalin wasn't going to produce any heirs, so it was up to Balin.

When Thorin asked Bofur, Bofur honestly didn't understand that he was being offered the chance to marry a prince. It didn't occur to him that Thorin would ever think a commoner worthy of his nephew. He thought Thorin was asking for advice, and he gave it: "You can't stand in the way of true love. You've an heir already; let Kili be happy." Thorin stormed off and didn't speak to him again until Durin's Day.

Dori wasn't interested; he was still contemplating returning to his former profession if Erebor was restored. And he flatly refused to let Ori even hear about the possibility. Nori, ruled out as unfit due to his history, breathed a sigh of relief. He'd never be able to get up to his usual tricks if he were husband to a prince of Erebor.

About the time that Oin was making a face and saying that if he must, he must, Bifur cut in. He made a handsome offer in the traditional manner, even offering a marriage price for Kili befitting his station. He seemed unconcerned about the loss of Kili's honor and genuinely interested in marrying the boy.

Dwalin said afterward that this was what made Thorin come to his senses. Years later, when Bofur told him why Bifur had offered, Dwalin would feel ashamed for his words.

Bifur told his cousin that he knew he'd never be marriage material, not with an axe in his head, but that he'd turn a blind eye if Kili wanted them to settle near the Greenwood and spend weeks hunting in the forest. Bifur was a romantic at heart who had given up on his own chances; if he could let the prince have a little happiness, he would be content.

In the end, it didn't matter. Kili never wed, and never saw his Elf again.

 

 

 

 

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It was no easy matter, the King taking up with a courtesan.  If his bodyguards could have prevented it, they would have.  When Dain married, his queen would have her own bodyguards assigned, but it was out of the question to put a guard on Dori.  He wouldn't stand for it.  Dwalin suspected Nori had some irregulars assigned to the duty anyways, but Dori either didn't know or chose not to know.

The most awkward bit, of course, was leaving the King with enough privacy to conduct his trysts and still be close enough in the event of real danger.  After the second assassination attempt - in the King's private baths, where he'd been sharing a meal with Dori while the bodyguard waited outside - Dwalin had taken the unpleasant task of informing ruler and courtesan that they would be accompanied at all times.  Dori, still disgruntled at having to dispatch the assassin with a bread knife, rolled his eyes and muttered about incompetent guardsmen letting murderers slip through their fingers.  Dain, white around the gills, just nodded numbly though, so Dwalin reported the change to Balin and Nori.  Dain didn't stop staring at Dori for several days, as if trying to reconcile his fastidious lover with the warrior who'd thrown a burly Man halfway across a room.

Dori apologized for the slight on the bodyguards a few days later - after Dwalin made sure the dwarves on duty during the attack were removed from the King's service.

Then there had been an awful, awkward few weeks when at least one guard had to be present at all times.  The King was not pleased.  Dori was not pleased.  The guards were pleased least of all.  Dwalin got an unwanted tutorial on the mechanics of male-on-male sex.

Dori went cold and furious the day Dain tried to fuck him across the breakfast table, where Dwalin would have to watch, instead of safe in the bedchamber under a pile of furs where he could tune them out.

Dori, who understood exactly what Dain meant by it - probably better than the King did - told him in no uncertain terms where he could step off, and stalked out of the King's chambers wearing nothing but a scowl.

Weeks passed, Dain growing frantic as his gifts and messages went unanswered.  Dori joined Gloin in the forges, bending all his attention to the creation of an exquisite set of bronze daggers.  He forged sixteen of them, twelve going to the members of Thorin's company, and the rest became highly sought after for a time at court.  Dain tried - and failed - to purcase one at an exorbitant sum.  Dwalin wasn't sure if this was what caused Dori to relent, but Dain wore the dagger Dori gave him at his hip from that day forward.

Dwalin, Balin, and Nori met to discuss the matter of safety.  Nori was inclined to keep his brother safe above all other concerns, but he went silent for a long moment when Dwalin explained the privacy issue.

"Couldn't he have taken up with somebody easier?" Nori groaned.  "There's half a dozen lords I'd prefer over the King.  You, even," he said to Balin.

Balin reddened, but he said gently, "It's up to Dori who he takes up with, lad.  He can look after himself.  The King can't."

So it was decided that, having only one door, the King's bedchamber was a safe enough place for the bodyguards to leave him alone with his courtesan.  Dain pushed his luck every once in a while, and Dori just as firmly held his ground - and eventually Dwalin understood that Dain found this comforting.  Dori was the only person in Erebor who would tell him no to his face.  What Dori got out of it, Dwalin would never know, but perhaps he liked being able to say no to a king.

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            The day that Bofur lost everything was the day his sister-in-law went into labor.  Bofur knew things were bad by the look on Bifur’s face when he came home to the flat after a strategy meeting with his mining crew.  The door of Bombur and Merced’s bedchamber was shut, but Bofur could hear raised voices inside.  Bombur sounded terrified.

            Bifur didn’t even try to stop him entering.  Bofur burst in, saw the grief in Alís’s eyes and the fear in Merced’s, and ran.

            It couldn’t have taken more than fifteen minutes to get to the rich quarter of town, but those were minutes Merced might not have.  It was late evening, and he received more than a few strange looks as he raced across Ered Luin.  Bofur pounded on the door of the dwelling of Oin son of Groin, panting.  When a dour servant answered, Bofur began to speak, but the door was shut immediately in his face.

            Bofur didn’t hesitate.  “Tell him I’ll exempt the silver mines from the new contract!” he shouted through the door.  “Tell him I’ll stop the strike!”

            For a long minute, he thought it hadn’t worked, but finally the door was yanked open by Oin himself.

            “My sister is in labor and taken badly,” Bofur said before the other dwarf could speak.  “I’ll do anything.”

            Oin stared at him for a long moment, his eyes flickering almost red in the lamplight.  Then he nodded abruptly.  “Come in,” he said.

            “She can’t wait!” Bofur shouted, frustration overwhelming him.  “I’ll sign anything you want, just hurry.”

            Oin rolled his eyes.  “I will take your word as your contract.  I’ll need my supplies, however.  Where do you live?”

            Bofur told him, and a short time later found himself seated behind the old warrior on a shaggy pony, clinging desperately as they galloped through the streets.

            Oin didn’t even secure the pony, running up the rickety steps with his bag in hand.  “How is she doing, old friend?” Bofur heard the healer ask as he tied the pony’s reins with shaking fingers, and the low rumble of Bifur’s Khuzdul came in return.

            When Bofur entered the flat, he found Havlin pacing the room with Bifur.  “Thank Mahal,” Havlin said, moving to take Bofur in his arms, but Bofur pushed past him into the bedchamber.

            Merced was very white, her face covered in sweat, and there was more blood than Bofur had seen since the awful night they’d brought Bifur home.  His stomach churned.  His sister-in-law was beyond screaming, he could see it in her eyes.  Alís was crying.  Bombur was trembling, but his mouth moved as he murmured words of comfort to the woman he loved, her small hand clasped between his two thick ones.

            Oin spooned entirely too much tincture of poppy between Merced’s lips, and reached for his scalpels.  Bofur backed out of the room immediately.

            He sat on the ottoman between Bifur and Havlin, clutching both of them, unable to look.  Hours must have gone by, but time meant nothing.

            When he heard Alís’s sob, he knew it was over.

            Oin appeared in the doorway, hands all over blood.  Bofur tried to concentrate on the words he was speaking, but he couldn’t hear anything over the roaring in his ears.  He pushed past the older dwarf into the bedchamber.

            They had covered Merced and closed her eyes, but Bombur was still stroking her hair, still whispering words of love and promise through the tears pouring down his cheeks.

            And Alís, the dead child wrapped in a blanket in her arms, looked at Bofur with such hate that he took a step back.  Alís, who had loved them like a mother when their own died, who had only yelled a little when Bombur got her only child pregnant before even asking permission to court her – Bofur realized that they had lost three loved ones today, not two.

            And he’d sold out his miners.  Bofur felt dizzy and the roaring returned.

            But he was a dwarf of his word.  He returned to the front room in time to hear Havlin murmur, “I will cover any fees required if you call on me at my father’s house tomorrow.”

            “That will not be necessary,” Oin said, and left.

            Havlin wanted to stay with him that night, but Bofur sent him home.  Bifur and Alís made arrangements for the bodies while Bofur coaxed his brother away from his wife.  Bombur wasn’t crying, though his cheeks were soaked with tears.  Bofur had to pry his brother’s fingers away from the cold body he was clutching, and lead him to the other bedchamber.  Silenty, Bofur stripped off Bombur’s blood-flecked tunic and pushed him toward the cot.  He clambered in after and wrapped himself around his brother, trying to offer comfort when there was none.

            “I’m sorry,” Bofur whispered in the darkness.  I wish I could trade places with her, be the one you weep for as you clutch her for comfort.  “I love you.”

            Bombur let out a high, keening sound and he was suddenly shaking, his thick body wracked with sobs.  They clung to each other through the long night.


 

            “The shareholders have asked to speak with just me,” Bofur lied to the little group of miners who’d helped him organize the strike.  “We’ll finalize the contract and the Council will vote to adopt this afternoon.”

            “Well done!”  Jahreh clapped Bofur on the back with a friendly smile.  “We know you’ll get us the best deal possible.”

            Bofur smiled weakly.  He wanted to throw up.

            “Are you all right?”  Little Kiri looked at him worriedly.  “You’ve just lost kin, Bofur – you should be home.  Even the Council would understand that.”

            “Aye, lass, I’ll be fine,” Bofur told her, voice hoarse.  He had to get this over with.  Betraying his friends was bad enough; the waiting was unbearable.  Eight months it had taken to put together this contract, and one night to see it all undone.

            Bofur felt his ears burning as he took his chair across the table from the two dwarves acting as representatives for the mine shareholders, Balin of the Longbeards and Grur of the Firebeards.

            “The miners have authorized me to make any changes necessary,” Bofur said.  His voice rang in the large room.

            Balin and Grur exchanged confused looks.  “We’ve spent a long time hammering out this deal, lad,” Balin said.  “Are you sure you want to upset everybody by reopening negotiations?”

            Bofur’s eyes widened.  Reopening negotiations would mean months of working to get to this point.  He’d have to throw the vote instead, he realized.  It was a better solution anyways; they would have to start at the beginning again, but Bofur wouldn’t have to directly betray his friends by introducing a clause to exempt the silver mines altogether.

            “No,” he said hastily.  “I withdraw the offer.”

            Balin walked them through the contract.  Bofur knew it well by now, and did not have to ask questions often, as he had for the contract five years ago, and the one three years before that.  He signed on behalf of the miners, and Balin and Grur signed on behalf of the shareholders.

            “Do you think you have the votes, lad?” Balin asked as he gathered his materials to leave.

            “Perhaps.  If nothing changes by this afternoon,” Bofur said cautiously.  Yesterday, he had had the eight Council votes necessary; otherwise, he wouldn’t have pushed for the Council to ratify the contract.

            Eight months of hard work.  Each of the Councilmen had to be approached differently, concessions offered and pressure brought to bear in exactly the right doses.

            Balur’s was the only vote Bofur could ever count on – not because of personal loyalty, but because his uncle hated the Council and shareholders who had banned him from the mines.  Havlin and Khrevlin’s father, whose clan was largely miners, could usually be convinced to vote their way if he wasn’t angry with Bofur – which happened often enough that Bofur sometimes despaired of what would happen if Havlin ever did ask for his hand in marriage.  The Firebeards and the Longbeards would vote against the miners every time; their clans represented the principal shareholders.

            The other ten clan heads were wildcards.  Bofur had secured six of them, giving the miners the total of eight they needed.

            The Council Hall was crowded, the miners ebullient.  The shareholders were scowling; they had realized their careful maneuvering had failed.  The bookies in the crowd were even taking bets, and Bofur gave his compatriots a wan smile when he heard that the miners were the odds-on favorite.

            Havlin appeared at his elbow, looking worried.  “Are you all right?” he whispered, slipping his hand surreptitiously into Bofur’s to give it a brief squeeze.

            Bofur nodded, grateful for a friendly face, but he didn’t take his eyes off the tall clock on the far wall.

            At three o’clock, the Council took their seats, and a murmur of horror ran through the crowd.  One of the Councilmen was missing.

            Bofur closed his eyes.  All that work, and he hadn’t even hesitated.  He’d put his kin’s happiness before the livelihood of two thousand-odd miners, and he’d do it again.  He’d do it again even knowing the outcome, just for the glimmer of hope that Merced and her son could be saved.

            Balin, usually the Longbeard Councilman, had recused himself for these negotiations to act for the shareholders instead.  His kinsman Gloin had taken his place for the past months, but Oin was there today, no doubt to make sure that Bofur kept his end of the bargain.

            The Ironclaw clan head, acting as master of ceremonies, looked nervously at the clock.  After a brief consultation with the Redbeard patriarch, he reluctantly banged his gavel.  “Might we hear a motion to delay the proceedings until the full Council has gathered?” he asked, voice querulous.

            “Nay!” shouted the Firebeard head, quivering with righteous indignation.  “Only a quorum is required to vote on matters not pertaining to war.  We proceed!”

            “Somebody can fetch the old bastard from whatever pub he’s buried himself in,” someone in the crowd suggested, and four or five miners ran for the door.

            Bofur smiled grimly.  Even if they could find his uncle, he’d be in no shape to vote on anything.  In the end, it was easy enough to throw the vote.  Bofur had visited Balur that morning to tell him of the loss of Merced and to gift him with a very large bottle of liquor.

            He followed Balin to the floor to present the contract.  Anything affecting so many in Ered Luin had to be approved by the governing body, but that governing body was made up only of the most well-off dwarves.  Proposals that would really change things, that would help the poorest dwarves, were never entertained.  Bofur had spent eight months fighting for a modest salary increase and some safety measures; sometimes he wondered why he even bothered.

            A murmur ran through the room when the voting began and Balur had still not appeared.  The bookies smirked, anticipating an upset.  Beside Bofur, Balin looked pensive.  Bofur glanced back at Havlin.  His lover’s fists were clenched by his sides, helpless fury in his eyes.

            Poor Havlin, Bofur thought.  He would take this defeat harder than the miners, even.  Havlin, whose only duty was to train as a warrior and diplomatist and future second-in-command of his clan, had thrown himself whole-heartedly behind Bofur’s work negotiating for the miners.  Usually it made Bofur smile, the passion in his lover’s voice when he talked about justice and fairness for those who worked the mines.  Right now though, Bofur just felt tired.

            “The proposal is to adopt the contract without amendment,” the Ironclaw said, glancing again at the door as if he hoped salvation would magically appear there.  “Ironclaw votes for.”

            The Councilmen voted one by one, starting at the far end of the Hall.  “Firebeard votes against.”  “Redbeard votes for.”  “Blacklock votes for.”  “Bluebeard votes against.”

            Next to Bofur, Balin was silent and tense.  They were both counting.  Six for, six against, and just the Longbeard vote left to cast.  It was over.

            Bofur met Oin’s eyes and nodded, acknowledging his defeat.

            Oin scowled, his eyes fierce.  “Longbeard votes for.”

            “What – ” Bofur stuttered in the absolute silence.  Oin glared at him, daring him to challenge it.

            The Ironclaw collected himself first.  “Seven votes for.  The contract is ratified!”  He banged the gavel over the roar that broke out in the crowd.

            Balin turned to him and bowed slightly.  “Mister Bofur.”  If he weren’t such a dignified figure, Bofur would say that the old dwarf almost ran from the Hall.

            Bofur was surrounded by his friends and Havlin, all shouting and pounding him on the back.  “You’re amazing, love,” Havlin murmured in his ear.

            “How on earth did you get the Longbeards on board?” Kiri asked, her eyes wide with admiration.  “Balin looked like he’d choked on a lemon!”

            But Bofur’s attention was on Oin, who was ignoring the shouted questions of his former allies, collecting his cloak and donning it with the utmost of solemnity.  He swept toward the Councilmen’s private meetingroom at the back of the Hall.

            “’Scuse me, lads,” Bofur murmured and ran after him.  He ignored the sputtering of the dwarf set to guard the entrance and pushed through the door.

            The room was done in marble and mahogany, every bit as ceremonious as the public part of the Council Hall.  Oin turned to face him, only the briefest flicker of surprise on his face before he went impassive, glaring haughtily at Bofur.

            “How dare you.”  The words caught them both by surprise.  Bofur felt tears start in his eyes, the tears he’d squashed when he realized how bad Merced was and where his duty lay.  He hadn’t realized how angry he was.  “How dare you make me betray my friends then throw it back in my face!”

            Shock stood briefly in Oin’s eyes, but he shook it off easily.  “I did not keep my part of the bargain,” he growled.  His teeth bared in a fierce scowl.  “I would not be so dishonorable as to ask you to keep yours.”  Then his face softened a little, and he said, “I’m sorry I couldn’t save them.”

            “I would have kept my word,” Bofur said hotly.  “I did keep my word.  You didn’t have to – ”

            I broke my word to the miners, and now you won’t even let me keep my word to you.

            “Do you think I would have refused to treat her just because you couldn’t pay?” Oin asked sharply.  He shook his head sadly when Bofur did not reply.  “A person’s life cannot be measured in gold.”

            Bofur didn’t understand.  People died in the mines because their lives weighed against the gold it would take to ensure their safety.  He stared at the old warrior.  Oin was one of the principal shareholders in the silver mines; did he really not understand that the contracts Bofur worked on were not just livelihood but also life and death?

            He almost said so, but Oin had just given him back his entire life, and Bofur wasn’t going to risk him taking it back again.

            Oin, looking uncomfortable, put a hand on Bofur’s shoulder.  “Lad,” he said quietly, “for what it’s worth, I think your kin would be proud of the decision you made.”  He left the room.

            Bofur thought of Bombur and Bifur, who had both left off mining the instant something better became an option.  They knew how bad things got down there.  He didn’t think they’d be proud that he’d chosen kin over their friends.

            He was glad they’d never know.

 

Chapter Text

Bombur is the best dwarf. I love him to pieces. I kind of really wish this story wasn't a journey story, because I want to write all the other characters too -- but they're not there. Bofur always goes to Bombur for advice or just someone to listen, so he's really hurting right now without his brother.

After the clusterfuck that was the first few times Merced and Bombur fought, they worked out something that worked for both of them. Merced had a temper and needed to yell to let off steam, so she would yell. But then she had to leave Bombur alone for an hour, and after he'd gotten past the panic that always came (not as strongly after they married, but still there) he would figure out how to respond. Sometimes he would write it down if he was afraid he'd panic again. She would come back and by this time mostly her temper would have blown over. Bombur would say (or read) his response, and then she would go away for fifteen minutes again to make sure that she wouldn't yell. After that they could usually talk things out like rational adults.

Merced was quieter than her mother, but just as tenacious. Bombur went out of his way not to be noticed -- people often don't deal well with his need to think about everything he says before he says it -- but she knew early on that he was the dwarf for her. It took her a long time to convince him of it, so really they had a decently long courtship; just nobody else knew about it, and the first people heard of it was when they had to marry really suddenly because she was pregnant. Usually dwarven women have a difficult time conceiving, so they hadn't been all that careful. Even after they got married, they were determined to give each other the proper courting gifts. Merced was a metalworker and she made Bombur's battlespoon. Bombur gave her the only thing of value his mother had left them: a sapphire ring that had come down through the Broadbeam line (and hidden from Balur when they realized he'd probably sell it to feed his sickness).

Part of the trouble that Bofur had with Havlin was that he kept comparing his relationship to his brother's, and especially after Merced and Bombur married Bofur started to be more and more upset that Havlin didn't seem interested in marriage at all.

I am sure that there were little things that drove Merced and Bombur crazy about each other because there always are. But I'm not sure what they are.

In short: most perfect couple ever, and I am a terrible person for killing her off.

Chapter Text

Dwalin woke before dawn from long habit.  Most dwarves lived underground where time didn’t matter as much, but Dwalin had long years of travel behind him, and found the sun as logical an entity as any to hitch his day to.

We’re so ruled by clocks and times, but when there’s no daylight I wonder how that would be affected?  I have a theory that pretty much dwarves don’t pay attention to 24-hour cycles.  I did put clocks in because they have to keep track somehow of time passing, but it doesn’t really mean that anyone goes to bed regularly at ten-thirty at night.  I imagine the Lonely Mountain pretty much being awake 24/7; people sleep as they need to, and work as they need to, and eat as they need to, and it’s only things like guards’ rounds that require a clock.

He’d slept better than expected in the small bed.  When he opened his eyes, he discovered why.  Sometime in the night he had turned in his sleep, and now he was wrapped around his companion, Bofur’s back flush against Dwalin’s chest.  It felt nice, so he didn’t move.  He hadn’t slept so close to someone since before he’d grown his first beard.

And this is pure wish-fulfillment, because Dwalin hasn’t shared a bed much in his life, and I know from experience that getting used to having someone on the other side of the bed after years alone can be really hard.  They’ve already got enough going against them; I decided to make this one detail easy.  Yes, it is the only detail I’ve ever made easy for them.

He watched as the first fingers of morning light trickled through the window, just enough that he could make out Bofur’s face only inches from his own.  From the rhythm of his breathing, Bofur was still asleep.  Dwalin didn’t want to disturb him, so he decided not to move until Bofur woke.

Sometimes he looked at Bofur and thought he couldn’t possibly be real – someone so kind and easy, who never questioned Dwalin’s need to be male.  Dwalin himself had questioned it – at great length – but nobody else’s opinion on the subject had ever mattered, not really.  But during the long night in Rivendell, if Bofur had come out and asked him not to do it, had asked him to forget the whole thing – well, Dwalin might have decided differently.

“need to be male.”  This phrase still bugs me.  It was originally “need to live as a man” and that was even worse because Dwalin is a man, but I did not come up with better wording.  I wanted to show that Dwalin had wrestled with the matter, but unlike most trans* folk he never had to face down everybody else’s objections to what he wanted to do.  Bofur was the first person whose opinion he might have listened to on the matter.

But Bofur wouldn’t, Dwalin knew: Bofur wouldn’t ever ask him to choose.  And knowing that sparked something in a small, soft place in his heart.

As the early morning sun chased away the shadows in the room, Dwalin became aware of something on a quite different level than his heart.  Bofur had thrown off the blankets sometime in the night, and now there was light enough that Dwalin could see the outline of his body.  Under the nightclothes, Bofur was hard.

Up until this point, Dwalin has not really thought much farther than knowing Bofur likes him and kind of wanting to reciprocate.  When he realizes Bofur has an erection, it’s really threatening because he’d not thought about the sexual aspect, and for all intents and purposes he’s pretty much a virgin.  Later, he might break it down into why it’s threatening, but for the moment he’s just freaking out.  At the same time, he’s also kind of intrigued.

Dwalin’s immediate reaction was to close his eyes, like a dwarfling hoping it would stop.  That worked about as well as expected.

He lay there, still curled around his friend, trying to will the panic away.  The only thing worse than Bofur waking now would be Bofur waking to find him panicking.

He shut his eyes again and forced himself to breathe evenly.  He calmed down a little.

Maybe if he went to sleep again, it would go away.  Bofur would wake, get dressed, and they would never speak of it.

Never speak of it…  Unbidden, his mind drifted to Thorin.  He could remember that night, the sharp gleam in his friend’s eye as they played dice and drank ale, both knowing there’d be a skirmish in the morning.  They were the only two trained fighters at the inn; around them, everyone was preparing as if for a siege.  Thorin remained calm, an example for his men, but there was a leonine tension about his body.

Dwalin ignored the tension; Thorin could brood with the best, and Dwalin didn’t have much patience for it.  When he said goodnight, Thorin rose too.  They’d climbed the stairs in silence, helped each other with their armor.  When Dwalin was down to just shirt and trousers, Thorin stepped in swiftly and pressed his lips to Dwalin’s.  At the same time, he took Dwalin’s hand and pressed it between his legs, curling his fingers around the hardness there.

Dwalin must have frozen.  Part of him had thought very clearly, He’s my King; I can’t strike my King.  Another part knew that Thorin had no interest in unwilling bed partners – indeed, until now, he’d shown little interest in bed partners at all.

In my universe, I’d say a good 30-40% of dwarves are asexual.  Balin and Oin are definitely ace (Balin is going to have to get married for the sake of the title later in the timeline and it will be as much of a clusterfuck as it sounds like, but they will work it out).  Dwalin considered himself ace and part of falling in love with Bofur is dealing with all this stuff he thought he’d never have to think about, like sex and intimacy and love and the threat of pregnancy.  Dwalin always assumed Thorin was ace until this point, and it was one of the reasons he let Thorin get close to him in spite of Thorin’s proposal of marriage early in their acquaintance.

Tangentially, asexuality is a completely valid lifestyle choice for dwarves.  So are male-male relationships and male-female relationships, but the gender balance thing and recent population shocks make female-female relationships taboo.  Which really sucks for the lesbian dwarves.

It’s not been made explicit (yet), but while it’s very accepted for male dwarves to be attracted only to women or to women and men, it’s less accepted for them to be only attracted to men.  Part of Havlin’s struggle with his father was that Havlin is gay and his father wanted to marry him to a dwarrowdam because females always join their husband’s family/clan, but when men marry men it depends on rank and marriage price and a whole lot of negotiation who is going to join whose clan.  If/when Bofur and Dwalin ever get around to talking about marriage, the negotiation part of who joins whose clan is going to be a big deal; Dwalin is a noble but Bofur’s clan can’t afford to lose anybody.

When he got no response, Thorin retreated as if struck.  “My apologies,” he said, and left the room.

Thorin respecting consent was super-important to me.

In the morning, when Thorin tried to apologize again, Dwalin said the words he’d rehearsed all night: “You had too much ale and imagined an invitation that wasn’t offered.  We’ll not speak of it again.”

Thorin had avoided his eyes.  “Aye.  If that’s the way you’d like it, that’s the way it will be.”  He nodded, and things returned to the way they’d always been.

In the years that followed, Dwalin found himself thinking rather too often of that kiss.  Between the space of one breath and the next, he’d found himself tempted.  He’d been tempted to bed his King, had yearned to tell Thorin the truth and have his friend say it didn’t matter.

Thorin was gone, and Dwalin was sure Thorin would not have been able to say such a thing.

A few people have asked me what Thorin’s reaction would be to finding out Dwalin is trans*.  I want to leave it up to the reader to decide.  For myself, I think Thorin would not have reacted well, but with time he would have come around.  (This is assuming that Thorin didn’t know already, and I’m not spoiling that plot point for the moment!)

Dwalin looked at the outline of Bofur’s cock under his shirt, and wondered what it would feel like in his hand.

When he glanced back up, Bofur’s eyes were open.

Not letting himself think too closely about it, Dwalin framed Bofur’s face with his hands and leaned in to kiss him.

As soon as he’d fitted his mouth to Bofur’s, he realized he didn’t have the first clue what to do next.  But that was all right, because Bofur’s lips were moving under his, kissing him, teaching him.

The first time I kiss someone, I always feel like I have to learn kissing all over again.  I don’t know if this is just me.  People kiss really differently and I always revert for just a moment to that clueless teenager getting her first kiss.

For a few glorious seconds, it felt like the entire world slotted into place.  Bofur’s hands came up to thread through his beard, caressing his neck, and Dwalin felt a fierce sweet ache in his gut.  He gasped when Bofur slipped his tongue into his mouth.

And then fate mocked him, because Bofur went still, and Dwalin felt the sinking feeling Thorin must have felt all those years ago.  He opened his eyes.  When he realized that he was holding Bofur almost pinned, he snatched his hands away as if scalded.

Dwalin has a serious phobia of being trapped.  He would never willingly trap Bofur, and he’s afraid that just by being bigger and heavier he’ll do it inadvertently.  It may take Bofur a long time to convince him that this is not a rational fear.  (It may take Bofur even longer to convince Dwalin that sometimes he likes being manhandled.)

Bofur’s eyes came open then, and Dwalin retreated to the far side of the tiny bed because it was all wrong again.  Bofur had looked at him that way in Rivendell, and Dwalin had sworn he’d never have reason to look so again.  “Bofur –”

Bofur was on his feet, putting distance – an entire room – between them.  Having shouted down his panic only an hour before, Dwalin recognized the terror Bofur was trying to hide.  “Bofur,” he tried again.

Bofur flinched.  His eyes were wide.  Dwalin could see him trying to calm himself; watched as he modulated his breathing, as he put on a mask, as his posture changed.  Bofur, before his eyes, relaxed into the person Dwalin saw every day, open and easy – almost.

And that hurt.  It hurt that Bofur’s openness and friendliness was a mask.  It made Dwalin wonder who his friend really was, and why Bofur couldn’t be just Bofur, why he had to be someone else.

I think this is the first time that I mention Bofur’s masks.  I think he really is a cheerful, happy dwarf a lot of the time.  But I think some of the cheerfulness was also trained in as a defense mechanism against a really grim childhood.  It was never safe to show emotion at home after his uncle moved in, and the only way to “win” was to not let his hurt show on his face.  Bofur is almost always aware of just what emotions he’s letting people see.  He sometimes uses it to manipulate a little, even, with people he feels safe with.  This all may tell you rather more about my own childhood than I’m entirely comfortable with… 

“Bofur –”

“No.”  And now Bofur was looking at him with warmth and sorrow and compassion, but his eyes still weren’t right.  It made Dwalin want to hit something.  “Dwalin, this – I – that was never what this journey was about.”

Dwalin didn’t follow.  “What?”

Bofur blushed red.  “I didn’t – everything with Elrond, and surgery – that was foryou.  I didn’t do it for me.  I didn’t do it so you’d be grateful and offer – because that would be sick –”

“Bofur, what on –”

“You don’t owe me anything, Dwalin,” Bofur said earnestly.

Okay, this is what I didn’t want my story to be.  I didn’t want Dwalin to go on this journey of transition and magically be “fixed” and fall in love with Bofur just because Bofur was the first one who had reacted well to knowing about his trans* status.  Just because someone is kind and decent and does nice things for you does not mean that you owe them anything more than gratitude!  Bofur didn’t do this to win Dwalin’s love – he gave up on that long ago.  But he is very fearful that Dwalin doesn’t know enough about love to make the distinction.

Dwalin was beginning to understand, and he was beginning to be angry.  “Can’t you trust me to know my own mind?” he roared.  Too late, he remembered the Hobbit.  Hopefully sound didn’t carry in the hobbit-hole.

Bofur flinched again at the roar, face tight, and realization settled low and awful in Dwalin’s stomach.

And sometimes Bofur can’t control the mask and Dwalin sees what’s really there.

“No,” Bofur whispered, “I can’t.”

Dwalin shook his head, tired of lies.  He caught Bofur’s anguished eyes and held the gaze.  “Tell me,” he said, maybe even pleaded, “Tell me you still would have stopped just now if I hadn’t assaulted you at Rivendell.”

Bofur trembled.  He tore his eyes away, looked about him wildly, grabbed his shirt and trousers, and fled.

And… yeah.  Violence doesn’t just go away, no matter how much Bofur would like to ignore it.  If you’d asked him, he would have said he was beyond it, that it didn’t matter.  But yelling and the threat of physical violence was already triggering to Bofur even before Dwalin came on the scene, and the actual violence in Rivendell made it worse.

Bofur does in fact run from conflict at several points in the narrative.  He judges himself pretty harshly for it; he thinks it makes him a coward.  I think it’s possibly the wisest thing he could do in the circumstances most of the time.

——————-


There is also amazing fanart of this chapter!  That continues to make me a happy happy dwarfling.

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Oh god, I can't pick. Will you choose a random and/or favored section of your Hobbit fic and commentate it? Anything would make me happy!

Anonymous

Sure!  Some of my favorite bits are little throwaway things that no one remembers because they aren’t plot points.  I generally don’t plan them ahead of time; they just get written in.  This one I especially like; it’s from Chapter 12 of The Secret, when Dwalin is trying to convince himself that he really can find Bofur and apologize.

—-

He took a deep breath and steeled himself.  Unbidden, an image of Thorin came to him from many years past.  Thorin and Dwalin had taken Kili out to track and kill his first warg.  Kili was too young, much too young: not even any fuzz on his upper lip.  But they’d taken Fili last year when his beard began to come in, and Kili had pleaded and begged and whined and pouted and Dis had eventually told them they would either take him or they would have to foster him, because otherwise she was going to strangle her youngest.

I wrote this long before I started fleshing out Dis as a character, but I was absolutely certain that Thorin and Dwalin had acted as parent figures to the boys.  Also that Kili would be impossible all his adolescence because Fili always got to do things first.

Killing a warg as a rite of passage seems apt to me in terms of dwarves.  They cherish their children because they’re rare, but this is also a race whose own creator tried to kill them; they have to be tough to survive.

Even Dwalin had been impressed with Kili’s seriousness and purpose once they were in the forest.  He listened to everything they taught him, and he learned quickly.  But he’d gone very quiet and rather white as they closed in on the warg.  Thorin wasn’t unaffected, either, and if it weren’t for Dis he would have dragged his nephew back to Ered Luin and safety.

When it came the moment to step out and challenge the warg, Kili hesitated.  Dwalin and Thorin exchanged worried looks.  They would understand if Kili wasn’t ready to make his first kill – but Kili would never forgive himself.

I think this came out of teaching at a boarding highschool.  Judging when teenagers are ready for the next emotional challenge is so difficult.  If you do it too soon, you can do a lot of damage.  If you wait too long, you didn’t trust them and they know it.

Kili had looked up at his uncle with tears in his eyes.  “Am I a coward?” he asked.  “I know I should have no fear in my heart, but I can’t make it stop.”

Thorin clasped his nephew tightly in a hug.  “No, mine own,” he’d said in a thick voice.  “We all have fear in our hearts.  Fear is a very sensible thing to feel when you’re in danger.  Courage is when you can reach through the fear.”

Those two paragraphs are my favorite because it took me years to learn that.  Bravery is all very well, but I admire people who can overcome fear more than people who don’t feel fear.

Kili nodded, straightened, took a deep breath, and plunged into the darkness.  Dwalin and Thorin plunged after him, because it was one thing to let Kili face his fears and quite another to let a boy face a warg alone.  But Kili’s had been the killing blow, and he’d worn that warg pelt until it was falling apart.

Kili strikes me as the kind of kid who blossoms under the right kind of attention; neglect or oppress him and he’ll go dreadfully wrong (this is why I hate a lot of Thorin-being-a-bastard-to-Fili-and-Kili fic).  There was never any question in my mind that he would find the courage, but he needed his uncle’s love to help him find it.

Courage, thought Dwalin, and tried the doorknob.  It was unlocked.

I mention earlier in the chapter that Dwalin doesn’t understand fear in other people, because he’s always had one foot out the door so nothing is so precious that his death is a terrible alternative.  Faced with the prospect of losing Bofur, he finally understands fear, and thus he understands courage.  Also it’s important to me that it’s a lesson that Thorin can teach him, even years after his death.

Bofur’s room was empty.

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Chapter 3 of the deleted scenes/spare parts? I always like to hear headcanons for Bifur.

Sure!  Original story here.  I have lots more headcanons for Bifur but they’re in a separate story universe that is currently only in my head.  Gotta write this one first…

—-

After The Incident With The Elf, Thorin decided it was best to marry Kili off as fast as possible to save his honor. After all, he’d slept with an Elf and was pretty much soiled goods.

I made the decision to follow some spoilers/speculation about the plot of the second movie and Kili and Tauriel having a romance.  Up until that point, I’d been thinking I’d mostly stick to book canon with some movie references. But then I thought of this subplot, and for a while it was a really big subplot with lots of complicated threads.  Then I realized that it would be very difficult to accomplish it with just Dwalin and Bofur’s voices.

I can just see Thorin, in his first rage at losing everything to an Elf again, completely going overboard to correct it.  And once he’d made this proclamation that Kili had lost his honor, he really couldn’t go back on it.

He asked Dwalin first. It was awkward for both of them, but Dwalin gave it some serious thought. As long as he didn’t have to actually have sex with Kili, it would help both his friend and the lad he’d helped raise, and would protect his own secret from discovery. Dwalin eventually said no when he realized that neither Thorin nor Kili would ever forgive him if he agreed.

Most.  Awkward.  Conversation.  Ever.  But Thorin turned to the person he trusted the most first.  From his point of view, it would be best to match Kili with one of the asexual dwarves if the prince really was in love with Tauriel. Thorin also knew that Dwalin would take care of Kili and never hold the incident over his head.  In short, Dwalin was his best solution to a bad situation.

Balin was right out; he needed to marry a female to secure his lineage. He was a Lord Under the Mountain, and Dwalin wasn’t going to produce any heirs, so it was up to Balin.

This will come into play about the time Dori gets married (so, many years in the future).  Balin is asexual and has avoided marriage because of that.  But he really does need to have kids for the sake of the title.

When Thorin asked Bofur, Bofur honestly didn’t understand that he was being offered the chance to marry a prince. It didn’t occur to him that Thorin would ever think a commoner worthy of his nephew. He thought Thorin was asking for advice, and he gave it: “You can’t stand in the way of true love. You’ve an heir already; let Kili be happy.” Thorin stormed off and didn’t speak to him again until Durin’s Day.

Bofur would never dream that as a commoner, he’d be judged worthy to marry a prince.  That doesn’t fit in his worldview.  Thorin came to him second, so clearly it wasn’t really an issue for Thorin – he thought that of all the available options, Bofur would be kindest to Kili.

Dori wasn’t interested; he was still contemplating returning to his former profession if Erebor was restored. And he flatly refused to let Ori even hear about the possibility. Nori, ruled out as unfit due to his history, breathed a sigh of relief. He’d never be able to get up to his usual tricks if he were husband to a prince of Erebor.

Dori would not have said so, but he already had charge of one troublesome youngster, and he and Kili were about as far from a fit as you could get.  Ori would not have said yes because he is too romantic to keep Kili from his true love.  Nori, as we will see in Book IV, knows that he would make terrible partner material and does not get into lasting emotional relationships if he can avoid it.

About the time that Oin was making a face and saying that if he must, he must, Bifur cut in. He made a handsome offer in the traditional manner, even offering a marriage price for Kili befitting his station. He seemed unconcerned about the loss of Kili’s honor and genuinely interested in marrying the boy.

Oin would have bitched for the rest of his life about having to marry, but he would have done his very best to make Kili comfortable if not happy.  Oin has a soft spot for the Durin boys, and he would have insisted that everybody treat the prince with the respect of his title even though the boy had lost his honor.

Dwalin said afterward that this was what made Thorin come to his senses. Years later, when Bofur told him why Bifur had offered, Dwalin would feel ashamed for his words.

Bifur told his cousin that he knew he’d never be marriage material, not with an axe in his head, but that he’d turn a blind eye if Kili wanted them to settle near the Greenwood and spend weeks hunting in the forest. Bifur was a romantic at heart who had given up on his own chances; if he could let the prince have a little happiness, he would be content.

In my ‘verse, Bifur’s injury is less than ten years old.  At the time of the journey, he was still at a place that was very dark; he believed that no one could ever love him because of the axe in his head.  And it’s not like anyone besides his cousins said anything to disabuse him of the notion.  Ableism is just as bad amongst dwarves (possibly worse, in a culture that values physical strength) as it is amongst Men, and Bifur had been a warrior. Dwalin and several other dwarves assumed Bifur’s injury made his marrying Kili out of the question.  Further complicating things, Balur was very abusive in his grief after the injury – saying that Bifur would be better off dead, that the Broadbeam clan was sure to die out now, etc.  It didn’t help that Bifur couldn’t work for quite some time and contribute to the family’s finances. Bifur made the best of it, but at that point he couldn’t see that anyone would ever want to marry him for himself.

I want to stress that that’s a phase he was going through at that point in time.  William Kirchner has talked about the quest being very healing for the character, and a substantial increase in wealth and social position are going to help as well.  Bifur’s in a more stable emotional place (and away from his toxic father) and can start to build a new life where once he didn’t see options.  I don’t think he’d offer up his own happiness so readily now.

In the end, it didn’t matter. Kili never wed, and never saw his Elf again.

…And I assume that this will be Jossed by the third movie.  I have to say, I will be pissed if Kili dies to protect Tauriel instead of dying to protect Thorin.  I don’t have any problem with the addition of Tauriel, but if Kili’s motivations are changed then I will not be happy with Peter Jackson.  I am very attached to the Durin boys dying for their uncle.

Author’s note: This was going to be a whole subplot, but I’m glad I decided not to.

It wasn’t actually a subplot that had much to do with Kili at all; it was about Bifur and his kin’s reaction to his injury.

Bofur assumed that Thorin refused Bifur’s suit because he was a commoner. Dwalin assumed it was because of the axe. Thorin just wanted someone to tell him that Kili hadn’t lost his honor.

I didn’t include much about Bofur’s reaction in this particular snippet.  He didn’t handle the injury well (for reasons that will be revealed in the next chapter or the one after) and was so determined about telling Bifur that nothing had changed that it really drove home to Bifur just how much everything had changed.

The author’s note is actually the part that I found the most interesting, and I didn’t write it into the story.  :\  Really, Thorin was hoping that someone would say “you’re being too hard on the boy; nobody really cares if he slept with an Elf,” so that Thorin could shout a bit and then they’d be over it.

In conclusion: Bifur is the best and more people should write about him.  Only they should write happy stories about him because Bifur should get a happy ending.  *nods*

Chapter Text

Would you mind doing the scene in which Bofur takes comfort with Enna in Chapter 16? It might be my favorite, though it's hard to choose.

Anonymous

—-

 

I have a confession to make…  This entire thing started with the pun.  I was trying to think of names for female dwarves and we’ve really only got the one: Dís.  I decided to use Alís, and I knew she kept a tavern.  I posted something on Tumblr about how she should have a restaurant.  Somebody replied and asked if the guard’s name would be Obie?  And would there be shovels and rakes and implements of destruction?

You may (or may not) have noticed that the bouncer is Obi, her husband is Rae, and there is a wolf named Facho.  Sadly, I found no good place to shoehorn in the shovels and rakes.  Also, you can get anything you want at Alís’s restaurant (excepting Alís) – even an Elf if you are so inclined.  Oh, but no female dwarves, but that is a societal thing because of the scarcity of females.  Only the very rich back in Erebor could afford a female courtesan. Alís herself did work for a while as a courtesan, and is the only one in Ered Luin.

There’s a passage in the book Cunt about how originally the Whore was this very empowered woman whose purpose is to bring you exactly what you need in terms of love and emotional comfort and sex when you contract with her, and deserving of worship and Mary Magdalene and etc.  I don’t actually think that replacing one myth with another is useful beyond a certain point, but that’s a discussion for another day.  What it did do for me was to get me thinking about what sex work would look like if it wasn’t stigmatized.

Sex work is not stigmatized by dwarves traditionally (in my ‘verse), but in Ered Luin they live close at hand with Men and that’s served to marginalize it.  Alís would like to establish a guild – she has established a guild; it’s just not recognized.

The courtesan closed the door and turned to Bofur with a gentle smile on his face.  “What can I do for you tonight?” he asked.  His voice was not sultry, but it was husky in a way that made Bofur think of home and comfort.

“I – ” Bofur began.  I can’t do this.  You look too much like my brother.  He cleared his throat.  He’d just have to explain that he’d changed his mind.  “I couldn’t sleep,” he began and stopped, mortified at how stupid that sounded.

Enna didn’t appear to notice the awkwardness.  “It can be difficult to sleep when you’re used to sharing,” he said, a faint question at the end of his sentence.  After a pause during which Bofur tried to summon words – any words – Enna added, “Is that what you’d like tonight?”

Bofur blinked at him.  “Sleeping?” he blurted, confused.  Was this a euphemism for some sex act he wasn’t familiar with?

Enna chuckled at the look on his face.  “It’s not so unusual,” he said, his smile radiating a welcoming warmth that must be very popular with his clientele.  “Sometimes customers just want to talk, or hold someone in their arms for an hour or so.”  He touched Bofur’s shoulder briefly.  “Which is not to say that I’m not up for the usual fare as well.”  The look he gave Bofur then was wickedly flirtatious.

Dwarf culture is pretty much antithetical to therapists or counselors.  I’ve put the courtesans in this role somewhat; their job is to provide for both the physical and emotional needs of their clients.

“I – ” Bofur said again, and stopped again.  “Could I – ”  He stopped again, because he still didn’t know what he wanted.

Part of him wished desperately that he could block out all thoughts of Dwalin by losing himself in Enna’s rich curves, and part of him was screaming at him to bolt now before things got even more awkward.

Headcanon is that stouter = more attractive in dwarf culture.

Enna took both of Bofur’s hands in his and tugged him gently over to the bed.  He lay down on it but didn’t remove any clothing, for which Bofur felt obscurely grateful.  When the dwarf patted the bed next to him, Bofur lay down, appreciating the fine feather mattress and soft sheets.  He hadn’t realized he missed those little luxuries that he had back home.

Enna shifted closer, and reached out to touch his hair.  Bofur had braided it properly for the visit to Dis, but he was sure it was a fright now.  “May I take out your braids?” Enna asked, his fingers tenderly combing an escaped strand back into place behind Bofur’s ear.

If this was a seduction, it was unlike any Bofur had ever experienced.  But then, it had never taken much to coax him into bed.  He liked sex, he reminded himself, and it had been more than three years.  He should be raring to go.

“Yes,” Bofur acquiesced, and Enna oh-so-carefully began to comb the snarls out of Bofur’s hair with his fingers.  The dwarf nestled close, and continued stroking Bofur’s hair even once all the tangles were gone.  It was relaxing, almost hypnotic, and Bofur gave in and let himself enjoy the oddly tender motion.

I am torn.  I love dwarf fic about hair.  I really do.  At the same time there’s so many of them that I don’t want to write a cliché.  So I don’t mention hair a lot.  Dwalin will in future have a huge thing for Bofur’s hair when it’s out of its terribly messy braids and I seriously wibble about whether to even include it.  …A lot of my writing process is me wibbling about “can I really write that?”  Don’t even get me started on trigger warnings…

He closed his eyes and curled forward so that his body was flush against Enna’s.  He breathed in and let sense memory wash through him.  After Merced’s death, Bofur had crawled into bed with Bombur each night and held him just like this.  Sometimes there were sobs or nightmares to sooth away, but most nights it was simple comfort.

For eight months, Bofur had slept beside his brother, curled into the warm reassurance of his bulk.  Finally, one day Bombur had smiled at him and said Bofur had a lover he’d been neglecting, and it was time for Bombur to learn to sleep alone.

Bofur never told him, because he felt guilty even at the thought, how much he loved those months.  Of course he wished with all his heart that Merced had not died, but he’d never felt so close to Bombur as he did then, not even when they were dwarflings.

People tell me that the stuff I write is sad, but this is the only thing I’ve written that’s made me tear up.  Bofur was being a wonderful brother during a terrible time, but half of what he remembers of it is guilt.  :(

Bofur put his arms around the dwarf lying next to him, and felt Enna wrap strong arms around him in return.  He kept his eyes closed and laid his head on Enna’s shoulder, breathing in deep.  Enna didn’t smell like Bombur, of course, but he did carry the scent of this place the way Bombur used to.  It was enough.

He’d tried not to dwell on how much he missed Bombur and Bifur.  It couldn’t be helped, the empty ache of their absence.  But things wouldn’t be truly right until he was back in Erebor again.

This ties in with a scene in The Secret just after they leave Erebor and Bofur is homesick for his kin.  This journey is the first time Bofur’s ever been truly on his own, and he’s completely lost without the touchstone of his brother and cousin.

Bofur wished fiercely that Bombur were here now.  Bombur might not talk much, but he knew Bofur often better than Bofur did himself.

Bofur often felt like a bit of a failure when it came to his younger brother.  Usually he got on well with shy people, because he could talk enough to put them at ease and then gently draw them out.  A liberal dose of humor had been known to break through the strongest walls.

But Bombur wasn’t like that.  He would speak, yes – quite a lot, even – but only when given sufficient silence and space in a conversation to put his thoughts into words, check the words before speaking them, and feel heard once he’d said them.  For Bofur, whose instinct was to fill any available silence with talk and laughter, his brother had always been a bit of a conundrum.  More often than not, Bofur just forgot and chattered away, not minding Bombur’s silence until he thought about it later.

I wrote this and it seriously took me three days to look at it and be like, holy crap, that’s me and my brother.  To a “T.”

Whereas Bofur rarely ever said anything of import, Bombur saved his words for when they really mattered.  Bombur might go days without a single word, but he told his kin at least once a month that he loved them, either by word or by deed.  And when Bofur remembered to keep his mouth closed and his ears open, Bombur could give the best advice he’d ever gotten.

Bombur had urged him once to talk frankly with Havlin about marriage.  He’d said that if Bofur let the matter fester, he might be unable to be happy even if Havlin ever did propose.

Bofur wished his brother were here now, that they were curled together here in the safety of Alís’s home and it was Bombur stroking his hair instead of Enna.  Maybe Bombur could tell him how to sort out this mess he’d gotten himself into.

“I don’t want to be in love with him,” Bofur whispered into the solid chest beneath his cheek, and Bombur patted his back soothingly.

“Why not?”

It wasn’t Enna who said it, so it must have been his imagination.  Nonetheless, Bofur answered, though silently this time.

I realized at some point that Bofur was never going to be self-aware enough to realize that he needed to forgive Dwalin.  Bofur would have said that he’d already forgiven Dwalin, when really he’d just stuffed the emotions away and didn’t deal, the way he always did.  I needed Bombur because Bofur would listen to Bombur.  But Bombur was a continent away!  Instead we get Bofur talking to Bombur in his head, because Bombur is the only person whose opinion he trusts unreservedly.  Of course, Bombur in his head is actually Bofur himself, so Bofur has learned a trick to take care of and trust himself, and that sort of thing is catnip to me.

“Because I can never have him!”

“Why not?” Bombur asked again, impossibly gentle.  In Bofur’s mind’s eye, his brother’s eyes gleamed in the lamplight.

“Because – because – ”  Bofur faltered.  “Because he hates me now.”

He could hear the smile in Bombur’s voice.  “He doesn’t hate you.  He’s hurt and he’s angry.  He hurt you and you don’t hate him; why should he be any different?”

In some ways, this is a lot like therapy: question the dominant narrative.  “Is this true?  Really?  Are you sure?”

Bofur hid his face against his brother’s chest.  Aye, he’d done something as unforgiveable as what Dwalin had done to him.  In an awful way, it righted the imbalance between them, and Bofur was a little horrified to realize that he’d likedthe imbalance.  It had tied Dwalin to him, trying to make amends, and let Bofur be the magnanimous one holding forgiveness like a prize to be bestowed at his leisure.

The imbalance made Bofur feel safe.  If he forgives Dwalin, he’s flying without a net.

I don’t hate him, Bofur realized.  But I haven’t forgiven him either.

“Do you think you can?” his brother asked.

“I don’t know.”

Bombur smiled his wide smile.  “Yes you do.”

Bofur had tried for weeks not to remember the terror he’d felt back in Elrond’s study, when he wasn’t sure if Dwalin was going to kill him or not.  He clutched Bombur’s reassuring bulk for comfort.  “It’s just – if I forgive him, how do I know he won’t do it again?  It’s like… giving him permission.  It’s saying it doesn’t matter.”

Bombur petted his hair as if he were a little dwarfling.  “Was everything you told him last night a lie, then?” he murmured.  “Do you think he’d do it again?”

I hate the narrative of forgiveness righting everything.  That isn’t what forgiveness means to me.  I see the concept of forgiveness abused a lot, and women especially are pressured to forgive when maybe they shouldn’t. Maybe the hurt they’re holding on to is teaching them something (like get the fuck away from this person who’s hurting you).  There’s a point where holding onto the pain is not useful and is actively harmful, and that’s the point to encourage forgiveness, but not before.  I don’t know if I made that point clear in the narrative.

This afternoon in Dis’s sitting room, he had seen Dwalin lose control again.  And then he’d seen Dwalin master himself in the space of a second, the rage transmuting to guilt and horror.  It had been actually tremendously reassuring to see.  A moment later, Bofur had realized just how unforgiveable it was to demand that Dwalin risk everything he had by leaving, and that he stood a very good chance of losing Dwalin altogether for it.  Of course he’d run – what else could he do?

I’ve mentioned elsewhere that Bofur runs when he’s in emotional danger.  In a warrior culture, he looks on this as cowardice.  I think it’s good sense.

Also, I am fascinated by how two people can experience the same events completely differently.  Dwalin thought Bofur was horrified at his loss of control, but Bofur was actually horrified to understand that he’d done something unforgiveable.

Bombur tugged on his sleeve, pulling his attention back to the conversation.  “Do you think he’d do it again?” he repeated.

“No,” Bofur admitted.  This morning, he’d not have been able to say that; this morning, there had been only hope and a tentative trust.  But he’d seen Dwalin yank himself back from the brink after provocation today.

Most people don’t get this sort of assurance.  Most people would have to forgive on faith alone.  I’m not capable of doing that, which is part of the reason I couldn’t have Bofur do it.

“Then you know what to do,” Bombur said, his gentle smile saying he was sure his brother would do the right thing.  It was impossible not to want to be a better person in Bombur’s presence.

Aye, Bofur knew what he had to do.  The anger that he was clinging to was hurting him more than it was hurting anyone else.  In some ways, forgiving Dwalin was taking the easiest path; it was exhausting to mistrust his friend constantly.  Still, Bofur wasn’t sure he had the courage for it.

“You always say you’re a coward,” Bombur said, laughing, “but you’re the only one who dared stand up to the Council and the shareholders back in the beginning.”

That was true.  Bombur, Bifur, and several of his miners had taken to escorting him everywhere that first year, after the threats.  Dwarves wouldn’t kill or maim each other – but a lot could be done short of that.

But really, Bofur hadn’t had to take the brunt of it, he thought.  Havlin’s cousin Alar was foreman and refused to fire him; he was the one whose life was really made miserable over the five years it took to organize and push through the first contract.  Alar couldn’t be removed without grave insult to Havlin’s clan, but he’d come in for as much harassment as Bofur or more so.  Bofur was very much aware that the miners owed all their progress to Alar’s quiet stubbornness.

Bombur rolled his eyes; this was an old argument between them.  “Aye, but he’d not have had anything to be stubborn about if you’d not risked anything.”

Bofur had expected to get fired as soon as it got out who was organizing the strikes.  Enough dwarves were striking that they couldn’t fire everybody, but the leaders were singled out.  Without Alar, Bofur would probably be an unsuccessful toy merchant these days.

Do I have headcanons about Alar?  Yes.  But even I have to leave some details out.  Still, it would have been very easy for the organizers of the strikes to get fired right out of the gate.  In the US, modern laws protect unionizers from being fired (not that it doesn’t happen, but when it does happen it’s illegal) but dwarves don’t have that protection.  Alar being a stubborn bastard is part of why they weren’t fired.  …I did not write an accurate picture of unionization/labor struggle here.  The real thing is much more bloody and fatal.  You have no idea how heavily I’ve had to lean on this idea I have that dwarves killing dwarves is the ultimate taboo.

“My point,” Bombur said dryly, “is that if you’re brave enough to face down the Council – or the dragon – or an army of Orcs – I think you can probably manage to be brave and forgive the man you love.”

Trust Bombur to be unflinchingly honest in his assessment.  Bofur wanted to pout and say, “Don’t want to!” like a dwarfling, but Bombur would just tell him that he didn’t have to then, but he’d best stop whining if he wasn’t going to do anything to change the situation.  Bombur could be maddeningly practical when Bofur just wanted to sulk.

“If I do forgive him,” Bofur said instead, cautiously tasting the idea, “that doesn’t mean he’ll forgive me.”

Bombur let his skeptical look speak for him.  “You already know he will.”

“Yes, well maybe he shouldn’t.”  The more he thought about it, the worse his behavior was in retrospect.  How could he not have realized that he was asking Dwalin to offer up his throat to that madwoman?

Bombur combed comforting fingers through his hair again.  “It’s easy to forget that he lives with danger every day,” he murmured.  “One wrong move and he’s discovered, and it’s all over.”

Part of Bofur wanted to say that surely it wouldn’t be so bad, that dwarves did not kill other dwarves – but that was probably wishful thinking.  Bofur had seen dwarves shunned, stripped of family and clan, and it was worse than killing them.  In the very best case, if Dwalin’s secret were discovered, he would be stripped of his place in Dain’s court and forbidden to be a warrior.  The King was not so close that that he would stand for Dwalin.  Balin would, but he’d lose everything by it.  Whispers and insults would follow Dwalin everywhere if he stayed.  Even if they didn’t kill Dwalin outright upon discovery, it would just delay things: eventually they’d provoke him enough to have an excuse to kill him.

“By Mahal, Bom, I’m putting him in danger every time I drag him to the baths!” Bofur realized.  “Did I make everything worse with this whole blasted idea of the surgery?”

This is the thing about being an ally: your reality is not their reality.  It just isn’t. 

Bombur flicked his ear and made a huffing sound that told Bofur he was being ridiculous.  He could almost hear his brother rolling his eyes.  “Right.  Because you forced him to it at knifepoint, brother.  He’s perfectly capable of saying no, you know.  He demonstrated that today.”

Bofur’s eyes burned a little in shame, but also thankfulness for Dwalin’s stubbornness.  Saying no to those he loved was Bofur’s particular demon, not Dwalin’s.

He buried his face deeper against Bombur’s chest, thinking of Havlin, and how he’d been able to say no today.  He didn’t know if it was the right decision, but he’d been able to say it.

His brother and his cousin had followed him unhesitatingly the last time he’d said no to Havlin, too.  Bombur had even whispered one night early on when they were sharing a bedroll for warmth that he was proud of Bofur for not staying after Havlin hurt him.

“How is this different?” Bofur whispered now, returning to the matter of forgiveness.  He couldn’t just snap his fingers and magically forgive Dwalin.  He didn’t know how to move from holding the anger dagger-sharp in his breast to letting it flow away like water.  “Dwalin hurt me.  Shouldn’t I leave?”

Bombur was right: Bofur didn’t think Dwalin would hurt him again.  But how could he know?

“He will hurt you,” Bombur said, and Bofur started in surprise.  A protest rose on his lips, but Bombur put a finger over them.  He needed time to sort out what he would say.  “And you’ll hurt him, like you did today.  Even if no one was ever stupid or thoughtless, there will be things you’ll do or say to each other that will hurt.”

Bofur had been both stupid and thoughtless this afternoon, and he’d been trying so hard, and it hurt to know that he’d failed Dwalin.  It hurt to know he hadn’t listened.

“You’ll hurt him again, no matter how careful you are,” Bombur said.  “It’s not something you can understand, what he lives with – just like he won’t ever understand what it’s like to be rich when you weren’t before.  This won’t be the last time you make a mistake about it.”

Bofur flinched.  He hated the alkaline spread of guilt through his belly; he didn’t ever want to feel it again.

This is another thing about being an ally: you’re going to fuck up.  It will suck.  But you know?  That truth holds true for life in general as well.

Bombur tapped Bofur’s shoulder to get his attention again.  “It can’t be like it was with Havlin, Bofur, when you were only willing to fight about the things that weren’t important.  You’ll have to tell him when he makes mistakes and hurts you, too.  You know that.”

Bofur stifled a whimper.  “You’re asking me to be braver than I’ve ever been, and you’re asking me to do it every day of my life.”

Bombur smiled gently.  “You’re asking you to do it,” he said.  “That’s what being in love is, Bofur.  It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do.  And the most worthwhile.”

Yep.  That’s my definition of love.  I am not actually interested in happily ever after, because as far as I can tell it will always be a lot of work and it will always be hard, and people have this idea that love is sunshine and puppydogs and then bail when they’re asked to do the work.

Bofur remembered how Merced and Bombur had had to create a whole new way to fight, because Bombur couldn’t fight in the way most couples could; he couldn’t summon words in time.

My ex and I had to do this.  We had to have our fights over IM or Skype because yelling triggers me so badly we could never make any progress. And fights are essential to healthy relationships, so.

Bofur clung to his brother.  “Even if he’ll have me – even if we can work out all the sex stuff – how do I know it’ll be worth the hurt?”  That was the worst bit: the thought that they might try and try and never make it work.

“You don’t,” Bombur said bluntly.  “You have to decide ahead of time that if you don’t get enough back, you’ll take care of yourself and leave.”  He tugged on Bofur’s hair until he looked up and met Bombur’s eyes.  They were very serious.  “And if he ever loses control and hurts you again, you have to decide now what you’re going to do.”  Bombur bared his teeth a little, and Bofur was reminded that if the real Bombur – or Bifur – ever found out what Dwalin had done in Rivendell, Dwalin was not likely to survive the fallout.  The Broadbeam lads looked out for their own.

Seriously, don’t hurt Bombur’s brother.  Bombur is a happy and peace-loving dwarf, but he will be your worst fucking nightmare if you mess with his family.

“He won’t,” Bofur retorted, and hid his face again to close the subject.

“Then why can’t you forgive him?”

Bofur tried to think about what it would be like after he forgave Dwalin.  It would take a while to convince Dwalin of the fact – his friend, he was realizing, was as good at guilt as he was at killing Orcs – but once he did…

Once he did, there would be no pulling back from the next kiss.  And there would be a next kiss, Bofur was sure of it.  He had avoided this as he always did, for too long, hoping the growing closeness didn’t mean what he knew it meant.  He’d been avoiding acknowledging it, and he would have continued to avoid it if Havlin hadn’t demanded some sort of choice.  Bofur loved Dwalin, and Dwalin… Dwalin was hardly indifferent to him.  There would be more kisses.

But eventually, Bofur would want more than just kisses.  “If I forgive him, one day I’m going to have to hear him tell me that he loves me but he can’t share my bed,” he said.  And that was going to hurt.  Even if Dwalin didn’t mean it as a rejection, it was still going to hurt.

“How’s that any different than what you have right now?” Bombur grumbled, sounding exasperated.

That surprised a laugh out of Bofur.  His brother was right.  Apparently Bofur was unwilling to look elsewhere for bed partners.  If he asked, he would at least get kisses… and comfort… and Dwalin.

He’s not a cruel man, Bofur told himself.  He might be willing to bring you off with his hands once in a while.  He wouldn’t hate you for asking.  He loves you.  And if that wasn’t something Dwalin could give, they would work something out.  A discreet arrangement to take care of Bofur’s needs, or perhaps the courtesans had started up a guild in Erebor while Bofur wasn’t paying attention.  They would make it work.

Bofur suddenly felt breathless, more excited than he’d felt in years.  He had knocked out the very last pillar of “No” in the fortress he’d built between him and what he wanted.  He hadn’t let himself want for so long that to do so now was a heady rush; he was wide awake and grinning happily.  It was like having his old self back – only happier.  It had taken a lot of energy to fight with himself for so long, he realized.

Bombur tugged affectionately on a lock of hair.  “You’re forgetting something,” he said, but his face was wreathed in smiles.

Honestly, how could Bofur have thought that forgiving Dwalin would be difficult?

Bofur took a deep breath, summoning his courage –

climbed to the top of the precipice –

teetered one more instant on the edge –

smiled –

and let himself fall.

I’m really glad to hear that you liked this bit.  I was worried because I was not sure I could pull off having the emotional turning point of the story be all in Bofur’s head.

I have lots of plans for Enna.  :)  We have not seen the last of him!

Chapter Text

            Dwalin found himself dragged away from the hubbub. Looking back, he saw Bofur introducing Enna to Dori. Bofur’s eyes met Dwalin’s briefly and then he looked away, distracted by that miserable little man Cantrell who helped him in the mines.

            Dwalin felt the panic creep into his throat again. Now that they were back in their normal lives, was there even a place for the fragile new understanding between them?

            He fretted about it all through his debrief with Balin and Nori, as they formulated for him what words to say after tomorrow’s formal welcoming ceremony, when Dwalin would need to deliver a report on relations with Ered Luin.

            “Bofur should do it,” he tried to say.

            Nori and Balin exchanged uneasy glances. “Best if it comes from a noble,” Balin said.

            Dwalin narrowed his eyes. “What’s going on?” Why wouldn’t Bofur be able to give a simple report to the King?

            “We’ll talk about it later,” Balin said, just as Nori said, “Dain’s given management of Bofur’s mines over to a crony.”

            “What?” Dwalin roared, jumping to his feet.

            “Sit down,” Balin said testily. “They’re the King’s mines, Nori, not Bofur’s.”

            “Dain presumes to insult a member of Thorin’s Company?” Dwalin shouted. How dare the King take away Bofur’s mines?

            “We will deal with this in an appropriate manner,” Balin snapped, but Dwalin saw the lines of frustration etched on his brother’s face, and his heart sank. Balin had been trying to rectify this, it seemed – and he’d failed.

            “We will deal with it right now,” Dwalin growled, looking his brother square in the eye. Balin never liked to confront problems head on; he was much more one for meddling behind the scenes.

            And to Balin, it would just be a battle in the overall war; might he sacrifice Bofur’s interests to gain an advantage over Dain? Dwalin didn’t like to think so, wanted to think that Balin saw the Broadbeams as kin same as he did – but faced with his brother’s exasperated expression, he couldn’t be sure.

            “Sit down and think for a moment,” Balin snapped, shoving at Dwalin’s shoulder hard enough that he sat, mostly in sheer surprise. Balin didn’t usually make a habit of showing his strength. “If you go storming in to the King making demands, how do you think that will look? Dain’s tetchy about disrespect at the best of times. And for the last nine months, people have been dripping poison in his ear about the foremost dwarven warrior of our time going off to collude with the mother of the true heirs of Erebor!”

            Dwalin paused in the act of opening his mouth to protest, shocked into silence. It took him a good minute to process that information, convince himself that fury was not a productive response just now no matter how much he wanted to explode, and ask, “Dain thinks I’m plotting against him?”

            Balin sighed. “I don’t think he does, not really. But it’s easy to gain an advantage with the King by throwing suspicion on someone who’s not there to defend himself, and you’ve been gone a long time. And…”

            When he didn’t go on, Nori took over. “There’s been another attempt on the King’s life. Poison, this time. A coward’s weapon.”

            “How could it be me?” Dwalin asked, wondering for a terrible moment if Balin might even suspect him. A mysterious journey, arranged by Bofur with no explanation… “I was in Ered Luin!”

            “The miscreants left a note in the King’s own bed,” Balin said, his voice shaking with anger. “They say they are acting for…” His voice trailed off and he looked away.

            “…For the true heirs of Erebor,” Nori finished.

            Realization felt like a sword through the gullet. “Fili and Kili?” Dwalin demanded. “Those clanless bastards used Fili and Kili’s NAMES TO DO THEIR DIRTY WORK?”

            He would kill them. He would kill them with his own bare hands. Dwalin jumped to his feet, upending the heavy stone table and sending everything on it to the floor with a satisfying crash.

            How dare they use the names of Durin’s dead scions for their blasphemy?! A haze of red rage set in behind Dwalin’s eyes. He would break them, break their bones while they begged for mercy and blood flowed over his fingers –

            Dwalin went very still.

            No.

            He would not.

            He’d done that once before. He’d become a monster, a murderer, and the reverberations of that violence had shaped his entire adult life.

            He was not going to let that happen again. He wasn’t going to let the rage unleash and grow more powerful than himself.

            Not even for these dwarves who were desecrating the names of Dwalin’s sons

            No.

            If he gave rein to that anger, someday there would come a day when Bofur would get hurt by it.

            That was not an option. Neither, though, was letting the insult to the House of Durin stand.

            Dwalin abruptly focused on Nori, who looked as if he were making his mind up whether to flee from the raging madman. Balin too looked wary, but was angling himself to protect Nori if Dwalin went berserk.

            Dwalin’s eyes met Nori’s. Nori was a creature of the shadows, half a dozen tricks up any of his sleeves…

            “How do we find them?” he demanded, making sure to modulate his voice so that they could both tell he was no longer on the brink. “Your spies must have infiltrated all the known suspects’ households…” Dis had had a list, and Nori another, and Dwalin was too well-known to infiltrate anywhere – but Mahal, the bastards had made it personal and he had to do something…

            Balin eyed him sharply. “There is a theory,” he said slowly, “that Lady Dis is behind these attacks.”

            Dwalin laughed aloud. “The Lady Dis is not one to hide behind cowards and poison,” he said. “If this were her play, she’d claim it in her own name.”

            Balin nodded slowly, looking grim. “Aye, I’d say the same – but how do you come to know her so well?”

            The question cut uncomfortably close. “You can’t live with someone for years, share the rearing of her children, without getting to know her at least that well,” Dwalin said – in spite of the fact that, in all contradiction of common sense, he had. He’d never bothered to look at Dis closely enough to see a person instead of a mother and a sister.

            He’d been blind to a lot of things, for a very long time.

            He didn’t like to think on that, so instead he said, “She has no interest in killing Dain. She thinks the throne is cursed, and that it wouldn’t be worth the effort to hold it for herself. She does have some ideas of who might be behind it, though.”

            Nori and Balin exchanged a look. “She might be trying to put you off the scent by throwing suspicion on someone else,” Nori suggested.

            “You think I didn’t think of such a thing for myself?” Dwalin snarled, annoyed. Politics might not be his native soil, but he had eyes that saw and a brain that could reason.

            “No, brother. Just surprised that she would take you into her confidence,” Balin said, calm as always in the face of Dwalin’s emotion.

            Dwalin picked up the table and righted in, then caught a stray piece of paper from the mess on the floor. He looked around for ink; Balin fetched him some.

            General Gremai, Dwalin wrote. He looked up to see a flash of surprise on Nori’s usually-impassive face. “Underappreciated, and has unexplained funds,” he said briefly.

            “He’s not on my list,” Nori said, sounding more intrigued than put out. “At least it’s somewhere new to look, even if it doesn’t pan out.”

            Thranduil, he wrote next, then crossed it out. “Dis doesn’t believe Thranduil is really a suspect.”

            “Well, I do,” Nori said. “The bastard locked us up!”

            “That doesn’t make him a murderer,” Dwalin pointed out.

            “We’d all rather believe that it isn’t a dwarf plotting this,” Balin put in, but the tone of his voice said that this was a mistake.

            Nori. “I think we can discard that one,” Dwalin said when Nori went very still in the way he sometimes did when he wasn’t sure what the best way to react would be. “Because after all, the next one is…” Balin. He crossed this one out as well, and Nori hissed a little, but otherwise did not say anything.

            “She doesn’t believe that I’m a suspect?” Balin asked, sounding almost surprised.

            “No.” She thinks you recognize your own limitations, Dwalin did not say, because it would not be kind even if it were true.

            Dale. From the way Nori’s and Balin’s eyes met, this was on their list as well. “I won’t believe King Bard is involved,” Dwalin said. “But the Men have their own politics same as we do. Someone could be jockeying for position.”

            Nori nodded. “We think the Master might not be dead after all, more’s the pity. Bard’s having a hard time of it, though no one will forget anytime soon that he’s the one who brought down the dragon.”

            Firebeard.

            “Aye,” Nori sighed. “And a right pain in the arse they are, too.”

            “One of them will likely be our future Queen, so I’d thank you not to say that too loudly,” Balin reprimanded him.

            Nori gave a theatrical shudder. “Poor Dain.”

            “It’s your brother who deserved your pity,” Balin said, and it came out sharper than he’d meant it to, Dwalin could tell. Balin was more rattled by this conversation than he was letting on.

            Nori just scowled, and rapped on the table with his knuckles. “How many more?” he asked.

            “Two.” Fardald. “Have to admit, I hope it’s not him. We’re screwed if it is,” Dwalin said. Fardald was as trusted an advisor as Balin was, and held as much power.

            Balin chewed on his lip meditatively. “It’s difficult to believe. He has too much to lose to move against Dain. He couldn’t possibly hope for the throne.”

            A flash of insight broke over Dwalin. “But if he implicated you…” He tested the idea out, tasting the possibilities. “If he could manage to pin an attack on you, the way they tried last time – ” Both Nori and Balin blanched at the mention of this. “We have no idea whether the assassination attempts were meant to fail. Fardald could consolidate a lot of power with you out of the way.”

            Nori’s eyes gleamed. “That has definite possibilities…” he mused.

            Balin’s distaste showed on his face. “Who’s the last suspect?” he asked.

            Dwalin smiled. He didn’t think he was one for dramatics, but he was rather looking forward to seeing their reactions to the last one.

            Lady Sogere.

            “What?” Nori scoffed. “The King’s own sister? What nonsense is Dis talking? She’s trying to deflect suspicion from herself, that’s all!”

            But horror was dawning across Balin’s face, and Dwalin could tell that he at least wasn’t going to dismiss Sogere as a suspect just because she was a dwarrowdam. “Dis was very close to Sogere, once upon a time. They had a falling out years ago, but if she thinks that the King’s sister might do such a thing, we need to get agents into the Redbeard court immediately.” He frowned, tugging on his beard. “Do we have any female agents? Sogere wouldn’t take a man into her confidence, but perhaps a lady’s maid…”

            “You can’t be serious…” Nori began, but Dwalin could see that already, Nori was beginning to rethink things and see that he’d only been looking at the male players in the game.

            “Dis says you’ve two more suspects,” Dwalin said, hoping to head off hearing about a whole campaign of infiltration being planned when really all he wanted was to go find Bofur and make sure he was all right now that he’d lost his mines.

            Something shifty moved at the back of Nori’s eyes, and Dwalin’s heart sank. For some reason, Nori didn’t trust him. Why? Did Nori think Balin really was a threat to Dain?

            …Did Nori suspect Dwalin himself?

            But the next moment the look was gone, and Dwalin wondered if he’d imagined it. Surely Nori was too good at what he did to let such a thing slip?

            “We mentioned the True Heirs of Erebor,” Nori said, and perhaps that look had been nervousness after all.

            Dwalin commanded his anger to stay put so that he could hear. Somewhat to his surprise, it only gave a token protest before subsiding to seethe quietly beneath the surface. “Who are they?”

            “They claim to be followers of Durin,” Balin said.

            Dwalin frowned. “We’re Longbeards. We’re all followers of Durin.”

            Balin sighed. “They claim to be followers of Durin Reborn.”

            Durin had been reborn six times in the lineage of Longbeard. No one quite dared hope for a seventh, for that would be the last.

            “Is someone claiming Thorin fathered a child out of wedlock?” Dwalin demanded, fury surging to the fore once again. Thorin was the most honorable dwarf he knew! He would never risk begetting a child – but if he did, he would not leave it to be raised a bastard. It wasn’t decent.

            “Ah. No. At least, not yet.” Balin pursed his lips. “People are saying that Thorin is Durin reborn.”

            Dwalin blinked. Then he blinked again. “…What?”

            “People are saying he was the seventh incarnation of Durin the Deathless,” Nori explained. “Even some priests are saying it. Which means – ”

            “We’re living in end times,” Dwalin realized. The last of the Durins spelled the decline of the entire dwarven race.

            “Hogwash, of course,” Balin said. “And then on top of it you have this True Heirs nonsense. Unfortunately, it’s kept people squabbling so much about the theology that it’s hard to find who’s putting out the lies in the first place.”

            “What are they saying about Fili and Kili?” Dwalin demanded.

            Balin snorted. “What don’t they say? It’s all rumor, Dwalin, based on nothing more than speculation. There are those who say that the True Heirs aren’t the princes at all, but a group chosen by Mahal. Based on their lousy portents, there are any number of people they claim.”

            “What are they saying about my boys?” Dwalin repeated through gritted teeth.

            Balin let out a long breath and his shoulders slumped. “That they’re not dead. That Kili was stolen away by Elves; that Dain keeps Fili locked away in a dungeon. That the Wizard spirited them away to Mahal-knows-where for some purpose of his own. Anything you can think of, someone has suggested it. The rumor mill is endless.”

            “As you can imagine,” Nori put in, “the King is… not happy.” He grimaced. “I’m sure that the claim was started by whoever tried to kill Dain, so that he would demand that I follow up each and every rumor. It’s worked, too. Half my agents are chasing fairy stories.”

            “How can people believe it?” Dwalin demanded. “We all saw the princes buried beneath the stone.”

            “Aye,” Balin said, his voice tired. “We all saw it – those of us in Thorin’s Company saw it, and Dain’s soldiers who are loyal to him and who didn’t know the princes. The way the story goes, we in the Company were all paid handsomely to keep our mouths shut, given key positions and gold.”

            “That makes no sense!” Dwalin shouted. “We each have a fourteenth of the entire mountain. How could gold sway us to sell out our own kin?”

            “It’s not supposed to make sense,” Balin snapped. “It’s rumors; it’s conspiracy. It’s jealousy and power-grubbing. Its only purpose it to destabilize the King, and it’s doing that very nicely all on its own!”

            Dwalin sat down, because there was nothing here he could fight. This was a disaster. He’d thought things were bad in Ered Luin, but now…

            “Damn,” he said. “Damn damn damn.”

            A silence settled over the three of them for a little while. Finally Dwalin sighed and said, “Who’s the last suspect? And don’t give me any nonsense about Dis. No one’s that good a liar, not when they’re grieving and not over the course of weeks.”

            Nori made a face. “If you say so…”

            “I do.”

            Nori shrugged. “The last on my list is Geron Firebeard.”

            “I thought you already had the Firebeards on your list?”

            “The clan, yes. Deron Firebeard rules his clan with an iron fist, and he resents that the Longbeards have a throne again while he does not. But Geron might be working against the family interest.”

            “How so?”

            “Geron came to Court shortly after the Mountain was recaptured,” Balin put in. “He’s made himself indispensible to Dain.”

            “It’s not like a Firebeard to be subservient to anyone, even a king,” Nori said.

            Balin sighed. “He’s the one who’s been given the western mines.”

            “Bofur’s mines,” Dwalin growled.

            “On the face of it, he’s got a lot to lose with Dain dead,” Nori said. “And there’s bad blood between Geron and Deron. Geron won’t do his brother’s bidding.”

            “Other than being a Firebeard, what do you have on him?” Dwalin asked.

            Nori shook his head. “Nothing… Other than a really bad feeling. You learn to trust your gut, in my line of work. And my gut won’t shut up about him.”

            “Well, I certainly don’t like the man,” Balin said testily, “but I don’t see why you keep throwing resources at him when no one ever finds anything.” It was clearly an old argument between the two of them.

            Balin turned back to his brother. “Gloin’s having a welcome home party for the two of you tonight. I’m afraid I’d better go see the King now; he was upset about housing for the immigrants earlier. I’ll see you later, brother.” He exited, leaving Nori and Dwalin alone.

            Nori gave Dwalin a sidelong look. “Are you quite sure about Lady Dis?” he asked.

            “Entirely. She doesn’t want the throne,” Dwalin said. If he had to say it again, he was going to have to get angry.

            “Your brother agrees with you,” Nori said. “And for all she has an entire network of spies here in Erebor on her payroll, I was inclined to think he was right. Thranduil has spies, too, and Dale. We have spies in their courts, and in Ered Luin.”

            “You were inclined to think Balin was right?” Dwalin asked. “No longer?”

            Nori shook his head. “He’s got a blind spot when it comes to that woman.”

            Dwalin wondered if the blindness came from guilt. They’d none of them done right by Dis, not since the beginning.

            “I understand needing to trust kin,” Nori said. “But she’d got a motive to want to hurt every one of us who profited from her family’s loss.”

            Dwalin flinched inwardly, but held his face impassive.

            “I’m surprised she let you escape unscathed,” Nori added.

            Not entirely unscathed. Dis had opened his eyes to a whole lot of things he had been happier not knowing about.

            But he couldn’t say that to Nori. Instead, he said, “We know her better than you do,” even as he wondered if it were true.

            “Yes,” Nori said. “But the thing is…”

            Dwalin had no patience for these hedges. “The thing is what?” he demanded.

            There was a haunted look in Nori’s eye. “The thing is that I’ve got a dwarf in my dungeon who’s willing to testify that another dwarf, a known agent of the princess, paid him to kill Dain,” he said all in a rush.

            Dwalin considered this. “He’s lying,” he decided.

            “Maybe so,” Nori said. “But Balin refuses to let me question him.

Chapter Text

Bofur’s office was open, not that a closed door would have deterred Dwalin.  He made enough noise coming in to catch his lover’s attention, but Bofur was wrestling with sums and seemed lost in the accounting ledger.  Studying his partner, Dwalin’s face softened from its usual scowl.  Bofur was looking a bit strained around the eyes.  He’d been working too hard as usual.  Dwalin had just the thing to relax him.

His lips curved in a rather predatory smile.

He rapped the top of Bofur’s desk with his knuckledusters, and was gratified to see Bofur’s face break out in a wide smile at seeing him.

“Dwalin!  What brings you down to the mines?”  His eyes widened in sudden concern.  “Everything’s all right, isn’t it?  Did something happen?”

“Everything is fine,” Dwalin assured him, coming around the desk to drop a kiss on Bofur’s lips.  “I can visit my lover at work without it being an emergency, I hope.”

Bofur stood to kiss him properly, winding fingers into Dwalin’s beard and nipping at his lower lip before settling into a languid kiss.  Dwalin felt his breath coming short and heavy as their tongues tangled together, and pulled away earlier than he’d have liked.  “How much more do you need to do tonight?” he growled in Bofur’s ear.

Bofur gave him a cheeky smile.  “Depends,” he whispered, eyes twinkling.  Then he turned back to his desk, and the smile faded at the sight of the paperwork left to do.  “Too much,” he admitted ruefully.  “I’m sorry, love.”

Dwalin rubbed his shoulders to comfort him.  “Have you eaten at least?”  Sometimes Bofur forgot and came home ravenous, and they had to rouse Bombur to unlock the kitchens.  Dwalin moved in closer, wrapping strong arms around Bofur from behind and giving the paperwork a dirty look over his lover’s shoulder.

“Yes,” Bofur said, sorting through the papers absently.  “Cantrell brought me some stew at the end of second shift.”

Dwalin nuzzled the side of Bofur’s neck.  “Good.”  He stepped in closer, flush against Bofur’s back, and pulled Bofur’s hips back against his own.  He nipped at the place under Bofur’s ear that was guaranteed to make his lover moan, and was not disappointed.

Bofur shifted back against him, hand coming back to grope Dwalin's thigh — and turned in Dwalin’s arms, looking startled. “Is that…?” he asked.

Dwalin grinned. He reached for the lacings on his trousers, but Bofur’s hand got there first. Nimble fingers undid the laces and drew the material down, revealing the leather buckles of Dwalin’s favorite strap-on. A moment later, in Dwalin's pocket Bofur found the shaft that could be fitted into the harness.

Bofur’s cheeks went quite pink, and he pulled Dwalin in, kissing him deep and desperate.  His cock surged into hardness against Dwalin’s thigh.

Dwalin chuckled, gentling the kiss.  He backed Bofur against the desk and settled one hand against Bofur’s erection, just enough to tease.  With his other hand, he tugged at Bofur’s braids, pulling his head back so that Dwalin could nibble at his neck.

Usually their agreement was to leave no visible marks.  When they’d first started, Dwalin had sucked huge bruises into Bofur’s neck, revelling in the sounds his lover made when the sensitive skin was kissed and bitten.  But two months of a scarf worn in the heat of summer — and their friends’ teasing — had eventually yielded to prudence.  Dwalin gave in to temptation now only on special occasions, or when he wanted to get Bofur very hot, very fast.

Sure enough, Bofur whimpered, a shudder running through him when Dwalin bit down gently.  The whimper turned to a moan when sharp teeth worried at the same spot, and then a hot tongue both soothed and inflamed the hurt.  “Dwalin…” he groaned.  His hips stuttered upward, trying to rut against Dwalin’s hand, but he was effectively pinned to the desk.

“Shh.”  Dwalin captured Bofur’s lips with his own again, and rubbed a thumb over the reddened bruise on his neck, swallowing the moan his lover let out.  He kissed Bofur languidly as he fumbled to get the phallus into place in the harness. When it was secure, he pulled Bofur's body flush against him, rubbing the shaft of the strap-on against the bulge in Bofur’s trousers.

Bofur brought one hand up to bury itself in Dwalin’s hair at the the nape of his neck; the other rubbed at a nipple through the heavy linen tunic, making Dwalin buck against him involuntarily.

Dwalin laughed a little through the moan that was torn from his lips, and he rested his forehead against his lover’s, trying to regain control of his body.  It felt as though it had been turned to molten rock.  Bofur wasn’t helping, moving his hips restlessly against Dwalin, making the strap-on shift and grind against his sex.  And the sounds Bofur was making — hot needy noises it had taken Dwalin years to coax to full volume — were almost obscene in the small room.

Bofur ran his tongue along the shell of Dwalin’s ragged ear, tugging at the lobe with his teeth, and hissed, “Take me home and fuck me, love.”

Dwalin shuddered and almost came; it still got him right in the heart to hear Bofur call him “love” in a voice ragged with pleasure.  He breathed deeply to steady himself enough to say, “Is the ‘home’ part necessary?”

Bofur made a raw sound deep in his throat even as he stiffened in surprise.  His head jerked up and he stared at Dwalin, his breath coming quicker.  Something warm and satisfied uncurled in Dwalin’s belly, and lower.

Holding Dwalin’s gaze, Bofur said slowly, “I’ll just get the door, then,” but he made no movement.  His breath came in deep gulps; Dwalin knew he was trying to calm himself.

Dwalin remembered extracting this fantasy from his lover a few months ago, bringing Bofur almost to peak with his mouth again and again, only to pull off and wait until the other dwarf babbled his daydream along with curses and pleas for more.  It wasn’t often that Dwalin got to wreck Bofur entirely, but he had that night.  It still made him throb to think of Bofur whispering his fantasy in a hoarse voice, cheeks stained a brilliant red, and the full-body shudder that went through him when Dwalin sucked him down in reward.

I want — I want — Mahal, Dwalin, please.  W-When I touch myself… I imagine…  nnnnnng — I imagine you’re taking me across my desk down in the mines, where anybody can see if they pass by…  Gods, Dwalin, please.  I need you —

Dwalin blinked away the memory, gazing back into Bofur’s pleasure-glazed eyes.  He swept his thumb gently across the dwarf’s lower lip, and leaned in to growl, “As you wish — but don’t shut the door on my account.”

Bofur moaned, low and urgent, and Dwalin felt desire spike through his core.  He waited for Bofur’s nod; then he spun the smaller dwarf around, pinning him again to the desk.  The desk faced the door; between the angle and the cloak that Dwalin still wore, it wasn't likely that any passersby would be able to see the leather straps that held the phallus in place.  He wrapped an arm around Bofur to hold him still for a moment and growled in his ear, “If you change your mind, you tell me and I’ll close the door.  This is for you and I want you to enjoy it.”

Bofur’s reply was unambiguous; he nodded decisively and tugged Dwalin’s hand to his mouth, pulling in two fingers.  He laved them with his hot tongue, getting them thoroughly wet and leaving no doubt what he wanted Dwalin to do with them.

They both scrabbled to undo the lacings of Bofur’s trousers.  With his free hand, Dwalin shoved them down around Bofur’s knees, too impatient to remove them entirely.  He caught his breath, as always, at the sight of Bofur’s cock.  Full and red, it bobbed a few inches above the forgotten paperwork.

“Don’t.”  Bofur caught his wrist when Dwalin reached for it, his voice strained.  “I’m too close already.”

Fire lanced again through Dwalin at the words, and he draped himself against Bofur’s back, just holding him close for a long moment.  He could hear Bofur trying to control his ragged breathing, calm himself again.

Dwalin had no intention of letting that happen.

He gave Bofur a little warning, tracing spit-slickened fingers down between his buttocks.  The dwarf obligingly leaned forward, bracing his arms against the desk and widening his stance.  Dwalin teased the sensitive pucker and nipped at the darkening bruise on Bofur’s neck at the same time.  His lover whined.

Dwalin fumbled with the jar of mallorn nut oil and opened it with shaking fingers.  He wished he could take the time to calm himself too, but this was for Bofur, and Bofur’s back was rigid with anticipation.  He scooped a bit of the oil out of the jar, waiting just long enough for the paste to begin to melt in the warmth of his hand, and slicked Bofur open with two fingers.  He always made sure to prepare Bofur carefully when they did this — once in the early days, he had hurt his lover with a less-than-thorough preparation.  Thought Bofur claimed the incident had hurt Dwalin more than it hurt him, Dwalin took it as a lesson.

…A lesson that was hard to remember when Bofur was rocking himself back onto his fingers and cursing at him to get on with it.

Hmm.  Bofur was still coherent enough to speak.  That would have to be remedied.

Indeed, Bofur babbled something incomprehensible when Dwalin removed his fingers, slicked up the strap-on, and pressed the tip between his lover’s nether cheeks.  The slow press in was accompanied by a long moan from Bofur and a growl of satisfaction from Dwalin.

When his hips were flush against Bofur’s buttocks, Dwalin stilled.  He waited for the tension to ease from Bofur’s back and shoulders, and for the other dwarf to give a sharp nod of permission.

In reply, Dwalin abruptly thrust three times in quick succession, short staccato jabs.  Bofur’s knuckles went white where his hands clenched into fists on the desk.  “Dwalin…” he hissed.

Mahal, Dwalin was so close, just listening to the sounds Bofur was making.  The next thrusts were slower, longer; torture for both of them.

He leaned over Bofur, chest to back, and braced his own fists on the desk next to Bofur’s.  Then he buried his face in Bofur’s hair and inhaled deeply as he fucked his lover steadily.

Bofur shifted his stance slightly, and the next thrust went suddenly deeper; a broken, ecstatic moan was torn from his lips.  Dwalin’s hips stuttered as the moan undid him, and he came with a harsh groan.  The rhythm faltered as he rode out the wave of pleasure, and he entwined his fingers with Bofur’s against the desk.

When Dwalin was breathing evenly again, Bofur tilted his head back just enough to snatch a quick kiss before bending forward over the desk.  Dwalin thrust again, the base of the strap-on sending shocks of pleasure through his already sated body where it rubbed against his nub, and beneath him Bofur shivered.  “Brace yourself,” Dwalin warned, and set a hard, punishing pace that Bofur would be feeling tomorrow.

Now that he’d come, he could spare the attention to properly listen to the sound of Bofur being fucked.  It was the most beautiful sound in the world.  In the beginning Bofur had been shy about being vocal in bed, but he’d come around when he realized that nothing could get Dwalin aroused faster than the sound of Bofur’s enjoyment.

Bofur was close, Dwalin could tell; another minute or two and he’d be undone.  Already Dwalin could feel the trembling in Bofur’s strong arms that spoke to overstimulated nerve endings, and he’d stopped cursing.  If Dwalin could see his face, he knew that Bofur would be glassy-eyed with pleasure, that he would reach up for one last kiss before he went over the edge.

It was at that moment that movement caught Dwalin’s attention out of the corner of his eye.  Just outside the door, Cantrell stood frozen, a look of horror on his face as he realized what he’d walked in on.

Dwalin didn’t let himself react; didn’t stop fucking the moaning dwarf beneath him; didn’t do anything that could alert Bofur that they’d been interrupted.  The fantasy had been about the possibility of discovery, not discovery itself, and the difference might be disastrous.  He glared at Cantrell and bared his teeth, trying to will the dwarf away by sheer force of intimidation.  But Cantrell was staring at Bofur open-mouthed.  Something dark and insidious moved in Dwalin’s chest; he was seized by a sudden urge to snarl Mine! at the offending dwarf.

“Dwalin…” Bofur keened, and that was just as good.  Cantrell’s eyes flicked to Dwalin’s, and Dwalin smiled at him, a dangerous smile.  Cantrell went white, started, and fled.  A very different satisfaction than orgasm spread through Dwalin’s body. 

He pushed gently but firmly at Bofur’s torso until the other dwarf was leaning back against him, his head resting against Dwalin’s chest.  The thrusts were short and shallow now, but Bofur was too overstimulated to do much more than moan.  Dwalin wrapped a gentle hand around his cock and stroked.  He nipped one last time at the impressive bruise on Bofur’s throat before whispering, “Come for me, my own.”

It took only a few strokes before Bofur was coming, crying out with it.  Dwalin stroked him through the trembling, stopping only when Bofur whimpered a little.  He supported his lover when his knees gave out, cradling the beloved body in his arms.  Murmuring soothing love words in Bofur’s ear, he stroked the mussed hair and kissed every bit of skin he could reach.

Still cradling Bofur against his chest, he unbuckled the thick leather bands of the strap-on.  Bofur had recovered enough to stand again and hum happily at the kisses, but his eyes were still closed, enjoying letting Dwalin take care of him.  Easing the leather straps from around his thighs, Dwalin was able to move to Bofur’s front and embrace him properly.  Bofur’s arms came around Dwalin and he buried his face against Dwalin’s shoulder, hissing a little when he slowly pulled the shaft of the strap-on from his body.

They stayed like that for a long time, just leaning against each other and embracing.  Finally, Bofur let out a sigh of contentment and reached up to kiss Dwalin’s cheek.

“Good?” Dwalin rumbled, tugging one of Bofur’s braids affectionately.

Bofur smiled up at him.  “Better than good.”  He pulled Dwalin’s head down so that their foreheads rested together, and hummed in satisfaction.  “Next time, you’ll have to let me make one of your fantasies real.”