Nori is trained to notice the small things. You can’t be a good thief without seeing the things people don’t want you to see.
Do they brush their fingers against their left coat pocket when their coin purse seems to be on their left hip? A decoy. Go for the coat.
Do they glance at the female selling rolls of bread with too much familiarity and guilty glances at their wife? Knowledge of a mistress makes for excellent blackmail. Use that.
Do they always seem to be fidgeting around money during the day but can’t wait to slip away to the taverns at night? A chronic gambler who can’t resist somethin’ shiny. They’ve got a tell too, the idiot. Fold here. Raise there. Now take your winnings and get the hell outta dodge.
Nori is good at his job. He likes seeing what others don’t want him to see. He especially likes seeing the shit they don’t let themselves see.
He sees Bilbo give his sad little puppy dog eyes to Thorin’s back. He sees Bofur watch the hobbit stare at the king and doesn't do jack shit. He even sees his little brother look at both the princes in longing (he pretends he doesn’t see that one).
He tucks away the little signs that could mean some of them are Soulmates. That’s not usually somethin’ he messes around with. Too messy. Too emotional. Too vomit-inducing.
But he sees Bilbo hiss when Thorin swipes his thumb across a too sharp blade. He sees how it makes Bofur wince every time he gets hurt and Bilbo doesn’t react. He sees Dori curse when Balin gets a paper cut between two fingers. He sees the weird unprecedented triple flinch when either of the princes or Ori gets a cut and valiantly pretends he doesn’t know what it means.
He sees the Company wallow in all the little snits they do nothing about or are too blind to see in the first place and keeps his lips shut. Cause that’s what a good thief does. He waits in the shadows until it’s time to use his precious information.
It’s when they're in Mirkwood that he gets one of the best little tidbits he’s gotten in awhile.
He’s hopped up on spider venom and weak as fuck but he’s still got his hands to toss out blades and eyes to seek out secrets.
Some fuckin’ elves have them surrounded and there’s a silly little scuffle that’s so unfair it ain’t even funny. But Nori catches Gloin’s kid Gimli take what would’ve been a lethal arrow to his shield and the fancy blonde elf barely hides a wince. He watches with greedy eyes as he flings a knife straight for the prancing tree shagger’s arm and waits for Gimli to clap a hand over the new wound on his shoulder.
Nori can’t stop his cackles after that. Can’t even catch a damn breath until they’re all being marched before the elf King’s throne. Everyone’s looking at him like he’s gone off the rails and fuck he absolutely has but this is a treat! Especially when he hears the word prince when used to address the blonde. This is fuckin’ priceless.
He gets up close behind Gimli to take full advantage of this because they’re obviously in a bind and this’ll get them out easy as pie. He waits for Thorin and Thrandu-fuck to hash out whatever grievances have got their panties in a twist before he calls attention to himself.
“Pretty sure you’re gonna let us go so let’s just get the damn show on the road, hm?” He drawls.
“Nori, be quiet.” Dori snaps from somewhere behind him.
The King’s eyes are on him now. All icy and privileged and lookin’ at Nori like he’s scum on his boots. It makes him so fucking excited to use this secret to wipe that look off his pointy fuckin’ face.
“And why, pray tell, would you think I’ll be letting any of you go when I should have you all locked away in my dungeons and conveniently lose the key?”
Nori snorts and readies his muscles to move but he stays calm and collected and doesn’t give it away yet. “Cause your kid’s gonna beg for you to let us on our way and daddy’s gonna give his spoiled little prince whatever he wants.”
“How dare you?!” The king is angry now like he wasn’t before. He surges from his chair and starts forward and it’s only his son’s hand against his chest that stops him.
The prince is Not. Amused. His face is still impassive but his jaw clenches and Nori knows he’s at least annoyed. Which just makes his manic grin that much wider. Really, you shouldn’t encourage the crazy guy.
“Why would I ever ask for anything that would benefit dwarves?”
Nori shrugs. “Oh you know. Soulmates and all that shit.” He surges forward and has his arms locked around Gimli and a knife to his face before anyone can stop him. “Sorry lad. Just tryin’ to prove a point.” And he slashes across Gimli’s cheek leaving an inch long bright red line that is perfectly mirrored on the prince’s hairless face.
There is dead silence as he pulls away and the only other movement is the elf’s hand as he slowly reaches up to touch the bleeding wound, eyes locked on Gimli’s the whole time. Nori’s still close enough to hear the slight stumble in the young dwarf’s breathing as they continue to stare at each other.
“So.” He breaks the silence with a loud clap that startles everyone. “You gonna send us on our way now? Ohh maybe with some food? I’m fuckin’ starving.”
A lot of eyes turn and stare at him but he ignores them all. He just picks at his nails with the knife and starts thinking about whether or not he actually wants the subpar food the elves have but his growling stomach makes him think yes, he’ll take whatever he can get. There better be some damn meat though or he’s gonna throw a fit.
“You.” The King’s growlin’ or somethin’ so he looks up. He’s shaking in his knee high leather boots and it’s honestly kinda funny. “You just harmed my son’s Soulmate in my halls. I should have you executed.”
“You’re kidding me right? Cause that guy,” he points at one of the elves who brought them in, “shot an arrow at Gimli intending to, I don’t even know, fucking kill him or somethin’.” King and Prince whip around to glare at the now pale elf and Nori chokes on his snort of laughter. “And you were gonna throw us in jail and throw away the key. You should be thanking me for noticing and bringing this to your attention. Would you have fed us in your dungeons? Would you have let your son’s Soulmate starve to death and he never would’ve known? What about the venom in Gimli’s system? Were you gonna treat that or did you not even care? I did you a favor and I’d like a damn thank you at least.” He finishes and he’s fucking short on breath and he’s kinda pissed he let himself get so worked up but whatever it’s fine. He made his point.
At least the king is frozen with his mouth hanging open and Nori knows he’s won. He probably would’ve just forgotten about them until they either died or he sent them on their way without the two ever finding each other. By the prince’s horrified eyes he knows it too.
Nori cocks his braided eyebrow up and waits for the king to unfreeze himself. “Ah- uh yes, food will be prepared for your stay. We’ll set up some guest quarters so you may rest and will send for a healer immediately. If there’s anything else…?”
Nori is fucking tickled pink that the elf king is looking at him for orders. It’s too damn priceless. He doesn’t let his shit eating grin spread onto his face though. He lets Dori’s fancy manners take over and he sweeps forward like one of the nobles his family should’ve been if not for the stupidity and cowardice of kings and bows before the elf.
“We greatly appreciate your hospitality Your Majesty. Perhaps some supplies could also be gathered for the rest of our journey though?” He takes on the nob voice he’s heard a million times and bites his tongue against the acid it feels like in his mouth.
Thrandu-fuck looks downright bewildered but still very pleased at Nori’s manners. He can practically hear his thoughts Oh those nasty manners were just fright, the poor stupid thing. Oakenshield’s hideous attitude must have also rubbed off on him. At least he’s got some respect and good breeding. And he knows who’s actually in charge here. I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to reward the one who brought my son his Soulmate. And it doesn’t hurt to have one of the false Dwarf King’s own kin bowing before my throne.
“Of course. Some supplies shall be prepared. In the meantime let’s get you all looked at and fed.” He claps his hands and the elves scurry into motion around them.
One runs off to supposedly get their food ready while some start handing their weapons back. Nori avoids Gloin’s glare and reattaches all the knives they’d taken (not even half of what he still has on him.) He laughs as Fili insists one small dagger is his. He lets the lad have it even though it’s sister blade is tucked into the sole of his boot. He doesn’t need to go flashing his hiding places. Besides he thinks it’s fucking hilarious that the honorable prince is now toting around a blade that gutted some poor bastard from neck to navel.
When they’re all ready, the remaining elves lead them to the guest quarters and Nori starts smelling the sweet call of meat before they even arrive. The prince stays by Gimli’s side the whole way and even though they aren’t talking, they do stare at one another in a bit of awe. Nori thinks it’s disgustingly sappy and tries to push the image out of his mind before it ruins his appetite.
Nori is aware that Gloin is biding his time to get one over on Nori but he doesn’t care. The food is good enough, the elvish wine is sweet, and he’s got a fucking elf king sorta in his debt. It’s a good day all things considered.
Eventually Blondie parts from Gimli’s side and they’re free of all elves. Gloin is already stalking over and Nori just gives him a sharp toothed smile.
“C’mon Banker give me your best shot! Promise I’ll let you have the first punch!” He taunts. He taps his cheek and throws a wink at the angry father.
“Oh I’ll give you a punch you weasel! Taking a knife to my boy’s face and throwing him to the elves! You’ll be lucky if I don’t punch your teeth out.”
Nori laughs as Gloin steps up to him and winds back his arm. It’s been awhile since he’s been in a fight and he’s fucking itching for it!
“Wait no, Gloin don’t-” he sees Dwalin’s frantic eyes as he rushes forward the second before Gloin’s fist makes contact with his face.
Nori’s head whips to the side but he’s still got instinct so he dashes out of Gloin’s reach while he regains his composure. It was a fucking good hit and he can’t help but grin manically at the banker.
That is until he sees Dwalin next to him. The guard had been running up to stop Gloin but is now frozen and staring right at Nori. The face that he’d seen just a handful of seconds ago, completely fine without a scratch on it, now has a cut on his cheek and a big bruise is already forming in a nice black eye for the brute’s face. He imagines his own face looks identical.
Dwalin isn’t surprised though. He’s staring like a secret he didn’t mean to get out just leaked all over the damn floors.
“Huh.” Nori says like the clueless fucking buffoon he is. “Guess I missed that.”
Nori’s shock lasts for ten more seconds before he starts laughing like a madman. This is fucking great! Nori who is always watching. Who knows every damn secret amongst these people. Who has never missed something this big in his entire life! He actually fuckin’ missed the fact that his Soulmate’s been in front of him for months.
He’d be mad that Dwalin caught it before him but how could he be? This dwarf is fucking made for him. He’s been living his whole life to avoid this very thing. Nori is an ace at not getting visibly hurt in battles and was trained by the best torturers in Ered Luin not to show a reaction to pain and Dwalin had still made the connection. Fucking brilliant.
He knows everyone’s waiting for him to snap. He sees Thorin and Balin step closer to Dwalin and his own brother’s are edging closer on either side of him. Dwalin is looking at him with something kinda fragile that Nori would usually gag at but he’s actually stupidly delighted at the idea that Dwalin is worrying about his reaction.
He eventually chokes down his laughter at that fragile little look and puts on his favorite grin. All sharp teeth and sharper knives and he’s so fucking thrilled that everyone gets even more tense but Dwalin loosens up. The big guy flexes those damn knuckle dusters and a challenge sparks to life in his eyes. Like he knows. Like he’s ready.
Because Nori’s gonna tear him apart.
And his Soulmate. His Soulmate is gonna love it.