Actions

Work Header

Rough Flowers

Chapter Text

You would think – when you die – that there'd be a fanfare and off you go, floating up and clutching at the grass like a cartoon character until the stalk snaps and you're sent rocketing into heaven. Or, y'know; swallowed up by the ground in a blaze of fire and plummeting down to live with the Big D. No, that's not a euphemism. But when I died, it was more like a little vacuum cleaner descended on my thoroughly disturbed spirit and zapped it up and into a big waiting room. Said big-ass waiting room shining white - like beyond serious hospital bleached white - and filled with figures dressed in everything from togas to turtlenecks. This could not be happening. Maybe if I bit my tongue and screwed up my eyes real tight then I'd still be on the motorway.

I did the aforementioned steps, but when it didn't work, straightened up. Behind me, others were doing the same. Maybe if I just went back through the light at the back of the room - maybe I could just get back...

A women with the kind of nasal voice you only get in call centers and elevators shouted my name. Perhaps shouted wasn't the right kind of word. More like a dull, painful screech. And yet somehow the voice was compelling, making me want to go forwards. After scanning the faces of those around me and finding that no others were going up, I lifted my bag onto my shoulder and padded forwards. The reassuring bump of the bag I'd worn since 6th form was the only thing that made me realize that this was real. Oh mother of god and hallelujah on high. Oh joy.

"Take your sweet time darlin'." Her sarcastic whine had turned to a voice from my past – my homeroom teacher, Mrs Betsridge. I shuddered, and blinked, and suddenly I was back in my prep school and being sent off to the principal's office for doing something bad. I moved around the booth, screwed over by the same compulsion, and selected door number 532. I don't even know what made me do it, I just know that I did it.

The room was even more spotless than the first one. So white that it hurt your eyes. A woman with sleek blonde hair pulled back into a severe bun was sitting behind a desk, watching me. A wave of buttons of all colors and sizes covered the desk, bar a space close to an empty chair which was covered in plastic. It was the only object other than the two chairs in front and behind the desk in the room. So I took my seat.

In the movies you watch, nothing bad ever happens to those who just go by the rules and do the obvious things. Those people who use a little common sense. But who was to know if this even was common sense; what was to stop me throwing my bag at her perfect face and scarpering?

"They pump emotions in through the grates to stop you from doing that, that's what." She smiled, perfect white teeth. I honestly couldn't say which was more blinding; the room or her teeth. Kind of like when Ross in that friends episode got his teeth whitened and couldn't open his mouth for fear of dazzling someone. But to the point - she'd just answered the question that I'd asked in my head not even spoken out loud. What the hell was going on here. Wait- was it rude to say hell here? Like; what if this was hell and a processing unit? Did I even believe in hell!?

"This is the secondary recycling unit." Her voice was like a peal of bells - did this woman have a pretty everything!? "Those souls who were taken from life at an untimely date are given another chance." Well great. Now she'd just made me sound like trash. I pulled my bag onto my lap and wrapped my arms around it, comforted some by it's weight. But she'd also affirmed that I was well and truly dead. Oh hell. Oh hell hell hell hell hell. What would Will do!? He'd be broken when he found out - my little brother was the only relative I'd kept contact with. And James... I didn't even want to think about James.

I wasn't really one for crying, but I suddenly found myself rocketing through all kinds of crazy despair in my head. Perfect blonde pressed a button on her switchboard, and the plastic area in front of me parted to reveal a selection of tissues. I reached for a packet of Kleenex, got distracted by the Balsam, and grabbed a handful out of the tray. So yes, I may have surreptitiously shoved them into my bag, but no one can have too many tissues, right? Turns out perfect blonde really was a saint - oh god what if she actually was a saint - as she sat there and made comforting noises as I sobbed. For at least two hours. Apparently it was standard practice for the recently deceased.

When I had dried the last tear off my face and blown my nose a few times for good measure, the plastic snapped shut and the blonde pushed a pamphlet of options across the table towards me. "Ok; here are your basic three options." She shot me another smile - goddamnit, where were my sunglasses - and opened the paper to page one.

"Option one consists of rebirth into a new human body. However, as you can see-" here she motioned towards the waiting room area from whence I'd come "it's a little oversubscribed." As much as I'd love to be reborn, by the time I'd have gotten out of that waiting room, I don't think even my great-great-great granddaughter would be around. But I'd keep my options open. Just not choose this one. Yep; keeping it real.

"Option two is that you actually just die and are done with your life and go on to the judgement unit. If you've done good in your lifetime, this is filled with happiness. If you've done bad.. well." She frowned, wrinkling her nose at this option. I decided to go with her on that one and throw option number two metaphorically in the trashcan. Keeping my options open, of course.

"Option three... it's a new one. We're still working on it; ironing out the kinks." So that'd basically leave one and two for me to decide. God, did they know about that time I parked in a disabled car parking space? Oh fuck. Or what about the time that I put thumbtacks on my teachers chair? Said teacher being Mrs Betsridge, of course. Perfect blonde leant in, suddenly the image of confidentiality. I almost felt a little compelled to lean in too, but that just seemed a bit awkward, so I kept my cool. "Essentially, we take you as your are now, and plant you in a parallel universe - changing you to fit, obviously." Hold the fucking phone. What the hell was this woman on?

"A parallel universe?" I was surprised that my voice held out and didn't break or dissolve into fits of laughter.

Perfect blonde was not amused. She leant back in her chair, folding her arms and looking a little disgruntled. I almost felt bad for not being excited. Almost. Perfect blonde quirked a perfect eyebrow. "Do you want to hear more or not?"

I nodded, more to humor her than anything else - hey, I was dead. Let's have a ball.

"Ok. So, I believe you read fiction?" I nodded - who didn't? "Well, everytime someone writes a fictional book that is based in a world outside of earth or beyond the time parameters-" yes I lost her there for a little while "-a new parallel world is created. What we do is we take you in body and essence, altering it only to fit the given race of people, and put you in a storyline of one of those worlds, where you are free to live it out. Currently we only offer a few, but they're very sought after, and most-"

"I'll take it." I still, to this day, do not understand what made me speak those words, but perfect blonde's face lit up and she began pressing buttons across her keyboard. Three parcels dropped down from the ceiling; two big, one very small. She slid out from behind her desk, and gathered them up, before dropping them across the plastic part of the desk.

"Right. That's just perfect." She beamed at me - cue sunglasses - before holding up a medium sized package. "This is your outfit package; open it once you arrive and change immediately. It would not do for you to be seen in Modern Earth clothes. Plus," she murmured, scrutinizing me, "your clothes will disintegrate within the hour." I nodded and accepted the package. It was not as soft as I'd expected clothes to be, with something flat and hard. I frowned a little.

"Second package is your bag for the journey. Photos with memorabilia have been transferred to a small pocket - do not allow these to be seen. Also in here are guidebooks in tablet form." She looked so proud for a moment that it almost made me feel a little uncomfortable. "After my personal suggestion, tablets which contain the relevant information can be swallowed, allowing for faster integration into the relevant society." Ok so I was pretty impressed. Perfect blonde was sure living up to perfection. She loaded that package into my arms and I almost groaned. Not fun at all.

"This last package is only to be used at times of great trouble." Her voice went all ominous and dark then, and she practically glared daggers as she set it atop the pile I was holding. "It's the GA device; also known as a guardian angel. They manifest in trinkets of that universe, and we can use them to contact you. They can also be used once to save a life in direst need."

Here I had to interrupt. "You said they? As in, there's more than just one?" I frowned; what was I meant to do with two of them? Save my own skin twice? That didn't really have the same ring as saving your life once in the worst case scenario.

She smirked; I expect if she'd been on earth, that single look would've got hundred of men crowding to her feet. As it was, it was just me, trying desperately hard not to drop or throw anything by accident. "That's in case you encounter a partner who you want to save." I could practically feel my face burning off, and I nodded, trying to keep nonchalant. Yeah. Cool. Whatever. No biggie. As if my first boyfriend hadn't been enough of a miracle.

The thought of boyfriend - or rather, James, with his spectacles and his games and his over-enthusiasm made my throat ache. I was dead. I would never, ever see him again. He'd be at home, and they'd break the news and- I was welling up again, and I gazed at the clean white to try and force back the tears. It worked, to some degree. Now I just had a really bad afterimage of that desk. Perfect blonde rolled her eyes, forced a fake smile, and waved me through to the door on my left. I paused, turned back to her, and was about to murmur a thank you, when she smiled and wished me good luck. Damn. Now no amount of clinical eye-burning white could stop the tears as I made my way through to a-

London taxi?

Hold up.

I dropped into the back seat, thoroughly quizical. And then the world started whirring and whizzing and all of a sudden everything was just gone and I was screaming, holding onto the three packages and trying not to hurl.

Hell's bells.

Chapter Text

I landed with a thump on a carpet of pine needles. Sweet Jesus my poor ass. I rolled onto all fours, slowly pushing myself up. Which I really shouldn't have been able to do if I'd been holding the three packages I'd been given. With a little exclamation, I noticed them lying haphazardly on the ground. I grabbed for them, tucked them under an arm, and went to hide inside a useful thicket to change. I really hoped to god my underwear didn't end up disappearing - but she'd said that it would, hadn't she. And then I paused.

Hell's bells. I was actually here. Like. In another parallel universe or whatever. Not that I recognized it in the slightest. Oh god. What if it was like the Hunger Games, and any second now a poisonous gas was going to kill me. I opened the smaller package, finding two amulets. They were pretty, cast in amber and royal blue respectively, inscribed with a rune that I didn't have the patience to admire as I tossed them over my head.

And then I paused again. Mother of God. Since when had I had so much hair!? I pushed the amulets down and onto my neck, running my hands through the thick waves. There was enough to carpet a house. The worst part was, I wasn't even kidding. Perhaps it was part of the transition - so far, everything felt normal though. I mean, my skin wasn't green. It was just the thicker hair. I threw it in a quick bun - here's to dying with hairbands on your wrist - and opened the middle package. I was really not prepared for what fell out. Was this some kind of a joke?

So I put it on. I had to. What else was I going to do - my clothes were going to disintegrate in under an hour, and I couldn't do an Adam and Eve and run around the forest with only leaves covering my y'know. That was a little too out there for me. I stepped out from behind the bush.

Leather leggings, which laced around my waist. And not like normal, fashionable leggings of the 21st century. Oh no. Leather leggings designed to stop arrows and knives and whatever. Crazy shit. Underneath this however, I had this cosier than cosier soft 'underwear' which covered from my shoulders to my ankles. Toasty. It had a glimmer of a silver sheen, that when I scraped my nails across became hard as rock. Sweet. And with a built in support system, so I'd ditched anything from the 21st century. The boots that went over those were also cut from leather, but they had some serious metal work going on in the toes. Straps wove to my mid calf, interspersed with green felt. Fuck; was I going to look like something out of Legend of Zelda? ...What if this was LoZ!? Hell.

The top only got worse. A green woven hooded, long-sleeved tunic that brushed the top of my thighs - that I didn't mind. What I did mind was the leather over shirt that laced a little too tightly to not be sexist. But hey, this padded bra thing did wonders. They needed them in the 21st century- a rush of homesickness swelled in my throat, and I paused in lacing up the bracers for my wrists. What would Will and James be doing at home? Would they know yet? Would they have found my body yet? I pushed down the swell of nausea. It would sort itself out; meanwhile, I had to survive.

I finished lacing the bracers and scrutinized myself. There was only one more thing; another leather gauntlet type that laced around my lower throat, and an overcoat. I say overcoat; the hem was slashed, whilst the waist was drawn in, so that it looked like I was a ringmaster. Perfect. I stashed the paper with my old clothes, and sat down to undo the last package. A rucksack fell out, far smaller than I'd expected it to be. Pretty manageable, really. A bed roll was curled up atop it, and it was bulging for it's small girth. I did a quick inventory. The tablets, a guide-pamphlet and the memorabilia as promised, along with some small biscuity cakes - I took a bite and instantly felt full - and holy crap; who knew how many swords this thing could hold!? My examinations revealed at least four daggers with places in the pack, and another five to be deposited around my person. I tucked two into my boots, feeling dangerous. From the side hung a sword. I didn't even know how to use this crap. Well, that'd be embarrassing in a fight. Hey, lookie here! Armed to the teeth and more likely to kill herself than you!

I lifted the tub of tablets, staring at it dubiously. One a day was recommended, in a specific order - thank god they were color-coded. I took the pink one - that was meant to be the first tablet to take, and bit into it before swallowing. Almost instantly, a guidebook started prattling off in my head.

"Hello there, and welcome to Middle Earth intrepid traveler! You have been transmuted into the body of a dwarf, all ready to begin the quest to reclaim Erebor with the company, who you will soon encounter!" Hold the fucking phone. What. A dwarf. As in little short fat bearded people. My hands flew to my face. No beard. But - the hair was a little further past my ears than I'd recalled. If I was getting sideburns I was going to stab something. And the company? Who the fuck were they? And Middle Earth - like Tolkein!? 'Cause y'know, my brother was crazy into it and I'd picked up a lot of crap and spoilers but I really didn't get this. From London to the Shire? With the Hobbits? And Gandalf- behind me, a twig cracked. The little guidebook trailed off, apparently off to rewrite part of my brain so I understood Dwarvish. Great. Perfection.

I crouched a little, looking for an escape route, eyes frantically searching for the cracky-twig person. Great. Not even day one of my new life and I was already on the menu for someone. Perfection.

Chapter Text

He was tall. With the traditional pointy hat. Well. Not so pointy. Like the hat had had just a little too much to drink, and was just about to collapse in the nearest gutter. Maybe they didn't have London drunks in Middle Earth, but this guy's hat would sure be one fine candidate for it. He frowned down at me. Stooped, even, as if to get a closer look. Hell, he was really tall. Back home in London, I'd been brushing 6ft tall. Maybe this was fate being a bitch. From 6ft to barely 4'6". Well. I didn't know that. I just needed to find a tape measure - but they didn't even do those; did they?

"My good lady dwarf! Are you lost?" The frown didn't go away, and just the hint of that gruff, slightly over-smoked voice brought who he was slamming back into my face. It was freaking Gandalf. As in bad-ass wizard; you shall not pass and all that crap. I blinked, gazing up at him and probably looking like the most gormless dwarf..ette? Was that even a thing? Dimly I registered perfect blonde's voice, hissing into my ear that dwarf ladies didn't really get out that much. Oh. So that'd explain the surprise. And also, it was pretty cool that she could contact me. It was probably because this was a new thing, right.

"Erm." I paused - that wasn't really very Middle-Earthian at all. And my little internal dialogue had probably convinced him that I was utterly mad. So, in true form, I started spewing a load of crap. "Not lost, Gandalf. Very much aware of where I am and what I should be doing." Oh fuck, now I sounded either like a madman or some cryptic little shit.

The wizard laughed, leaning against his stick. I did not enjoy being laughed at, and I folded my arms over my chest, almost performing a mastectomy with the dagger I'd slid up my sleeve. Smooth. "And what is it that you should be doing." I winced internally. Why did he have to call me out on my crap? I was doing so well on the bullshitting front.

"What I should be doing is accompanying you to the company of Thorin Oakenshield." Ok, so no, I had not repeated what perfect blonde had hissed in my brain. Sweet Jesus; was I going mad? Voices in my head, stripping in the woods - it really didn't look that positive.

Gandalf's face grew serious, and he straightened up a little. Oh. That seemed to have hit a nerve. I just hoped he wouldn't take me out and leave me in the woods to die. I hadn't even chewed my weapons training pill yet. "And how would you know of that?"

"Well..." I cleared my throat, shifting a little and trying ever so hard not to look as uncomfortable as I felt. "I descend from an ancient tribe of Amazons, who have sent me on this quest as a gesture of goodwill to the Durin's folk." I didn't really think about what I was saying, just repeated perfect blonde. Only when I'd finished did I realize what I'd said, and had to try my hardest to keep a straight face. Great. Amazons. Really? Nothing more creative?

"I see." He hit me with the best poker face I'd seen in a long time, expressionless and guarded. I wondered idly if he actually knew my plight as he scrutinized me. "Well. It's fortuitous that we met - I'm on my way to meet with the company now." Still the guarded expression, even though his body language had relaxed a little and he wasn't glaring. "May I inquire as to your name?"

Oh crap - should I give my real name, or some fancy-pants dwarvish name? Perfect blonde had gone silent in my ear, and so I stood there for more than a few moments thinking. In hindsight, this must have really affirmed that I was utterly off-my-rocker, so to speak. "My name is..." think think think think think "Astrid. But it's Asta for short." No, silly girl. Not your human name. Goddammit. I wanted to crawl in a hole and die. At least it sounded vaguely Germanic. I really hoped it translated.

But Gandalf was almost smiling, with that twinkle in his eye. I tried to recall if Gandalf could read minds. Oh god. That would be humiliating. Not to mention dangerous. I mean; what if he found out about the recycling unit- I did my best to shut my rampant thoughts down and smile innocently at him. It'd be best if I kept a lid on those thoughts - in fact, any thoughts before I fell into Middle-Earth. For now I was just Astrid of the Amazons.

"I'd advise you to put your hood up, m'lady dwarf." Gandalf's voice shook me out of my thoughts. And so help me, if he called me dwarf one more time- "These roads are dangerous for the best of us. And we've got a mile or two more before we get there." His voice was mild, equal parts amused and bemused. The way I remembered it from that film. And hot dwarfs ugh. I daydreamed as I pulled the hood up over my hair, tugging the hairtie out and letting it fall loose around my shoulders. One of those dwarf guys had to know how to braid, right?

A mile or so my ass. It felt like there were a hundred. So yeah, we got lucky at one point when a farmer hitched us a lift, but Gandalf was a crappy travel companion and simply smoked the whole way there. And he was smoking some serious stuff. I began to feel woozy from breathing in his secondhand smoke on it's own. But it was nice to see Hobbiton. And yes, I may have gawked like a tourist, oblivious to Gandalf's amusement, but it was so beautiful. Especially with the tiny little cottages. Which were alarmingly not so tiny as I would've liked. Stupid Dwarf form. Maybe I could buy one.

That was the last coherent thought I really had before I reclined onto the hay wagon, gazing up at the stars above. Different constellations, but no less beautiful. And then I guess I just drifted off to the rocking of the hay wagon and the smell of Gandalf's pipe.

Chapter Text

To say I was gently awoken in a bed made of roses with sunlight dappling my face would be a lie. And I'll admit, I kinda had been expecting it when I awoke in Middle Earth. I mean, they had Elves and Hobbits and Dwarves. Fantastical creatures. Surely I would awake n a fantastical setting. But no. Although I did wake in comfort. The comfort of a hobbit bed, to be precise. I was a little too long for it, but otherwise it was a reasonable fit. Someone had thoughtfully removed my coat and my boots, and I wiggled my toes idly. My first night in Middle Earth. But wait- there was a raucous coming from outside my closed door. And it was still evening time when I peered out of the circular window. I pulled on my boots, left my coat on the chair and rifled through my pack. It sounded like joviality, but I couldn't be sure.

I found the purple pill and bit into it.

So apparently this one was meant to make me more dwarvish. I really hoped that didn't mean physically. I'd retained the slender form from London, and I really did not want to suddenly grow three dress sizes in the space of as many seconds. And I really didn't want anymore of the sideburns than I already had. Not cool. Not cool at all. It turned out that it wasn't that; a little electronic voice told me that it was downloading the weapons and dwarvish language software to my brain. And then it hit me. Mahal - my body started shuddering violently as it processed. I had to bite down to prevent myself from shouting random words that I didn't think I'd known before but somehow understood.

To cut to the chase, when it ended, I was a shivering little mess on the floor. What a great start. But I had to pick myself up and sort it all out. I started by opening the door to my bedroom. A carrot whizzed inches from my face, and if not for my suddenly lightning fast reflexes, I'd be looking a little too much like Olaf from Frozen for my liking. I shit you not, the carrot embedded itself in the wood of the far wall across from me and stayed there, quivering. I stepped into the hallway, glanced around-

And found myself confronted by a table of dwarves. Well hell.

Naturally, due to my ridiculous chemistry, my body would choose that time to send all available blood to my face, and I have no doubt that in that moment, there was nothing redder in the house. Not even the tomatoes which had been left, discarded in a bowl by the side. Apparently dwarves aren't fans of their vegetables. But back to the table of dwarves.

It would've been quite comical if it hadn't been incredibly intimidating. Slowly, one by one, they each stopped talking and turned to stare at me. I really began to wish that my bodice-thing hadn't been tied so tight because the looks I was getting were not good oh no no no. I crossed my arms over my chest, cleared my throat a little, and in my attempt at my best Dwarvish - a language I'd known for exactly five and a half seconds - greeted the company.

You could've dropped a pin and it would've been heard in that silence. I heard an awkward chuckle as someone shifted to look more presentable, saw the dwarves shifting and murmuring amongst themselves about how it was not right to have a Dwarvish lady in society and that someone should take her back to somewhere safe.

Needless to say, I took a deep breath and recited the same spiel that I'd told Gandalf. "My name is Astrid - known as Asta among companions. I come from the tribe of the Amazons to show our support for Thorin Oakenshield and his quest to reclaim the lonely mountain." No, I do not know what I was on. Told you Gandalf's secondary smoke was potent. "I have travelled far, but am proficient in blades and am willing to do whatever I can to aid the quest." And blah; you get the picture. Perfect blonde was really working overtime on me. What I didn't really realize, until a Hobbit shot me a bemused look, was that I'd been speaking fluent Dwarvish. Well, my grandmother had always wanted me to learn another language. It's never too late to start, kids.

A slowly building murmur of questions began, culminated when Gandalf raised his voice to be heard and explained that yes, I was a new companion for the quest. And well, then I had this ridiculously long roll of paper thrust at me. Maybe I should've read it, maybe I shouldn't have. Either way, I scribbled down my signature and handed it back. I didn't read it, for the record. Nothing quite like the thrill of signing an unknown document. Gandalf waved me over to a chair beside him, and I scooted in.

My cheeks were still burning.

Stares followed me from around the table - I tried to remain nonchalant as I filled my plate, but it was hard with a shit-ton of dwarves assessing your every move and only an old wizard to whack the one who ogled your tits. Maybe I should've gotten a scarf.

The silence was only broken when a blonde headed dwarf leapt onto the table with a tray full of mugs and started handing them out. Protestations followed, and gradually the company settled back to their normal atmosphere. I was glad for the presence of Gandalf then; he kept me mostly hidden for the rest of them. So hidden, that when I leant out to snatch a bread roll, the blonde dwarf turned to me. "Mahal; who's she?"

Again, the dwarves shut up as one. It was pretty comical really. I felt like the new kid on the playground; the shiny new toy.

So I shot him my best smile, whipped out the mental Dwarvish phrasebook and rattled off the same crap that I'd told the rest of them. But this one wasn't bought. Or his brother, the dark-haired, fairly beardless one beside him. Peach fuzz came to mind as a nickname for that one. Maybe it was just the suspicious youths. Well. They looked younger than everyone else at the table. And a great deal finer too; no bulbous nose or hideous hairstyles. Kind of like 'waiter, I'll have chips and a slice of that'- I cut myself off mid-thought. Beside me, Gandalf chuckled, and I glared at him. Stupid brain-stalker wizard. He butted me with his stick and I went back to eating, trying to think of anything but the fact that the two dwarves were staring at me.

Perfect blonde took that opportunity to fill me in with her little mental dialogue. Firstly, I had no beard, except for the barest shimmer of dark sideburns. That just ostracized me in dwarvish society. Secondly, I wasn't dwarf-like in build - but perfect blonde assured me that I didn't want to be. I didn't really mind that. Thirdly, I had no braids at all. Apparently some of the braids meant something. I wasn't really listening to her at that point. Cue what must have been the mental equivalent of a slap. I winced. And fourthly, she announced, with some vigor, Dwarf ladies weren't really seen outside their homes. Like... ever. To have me in battle-gear and rattling off about an adventure was quite a commodity. Most dwarves saw women as needing to be protected and prized. Not that I minded that too much. That blonde one could- I cut myself off again. No. No thinking like that. Perfect blonde smirked in my head, before fluttering off back to her stupid desk with the stupid buttons. I glared as she went.

"Astrid, perhaps you'd like to refresh yourself before the journey?" Gandalf gave me the most unsubtle of meaningful looks. I deadpanned. Did he want me naked in a bath now? Lord. "It'll be an early start, and we may not encounter baths for a long while." I was off my chair by the word baths, trotting through to the room that I'd slept it. It had a screen in the corner, with a large bathtub just behind that I could fill. I tried my best to ignore the stares of the dwarves on my back as I ambled off.

The bath was divinely hot. I imagined every pore just opening and letting go of all the crap from my day. My dark hair hung loose over the back of the tub, and I relaxed, eyes drifting shut. This was just perfection...

The noise of the door opening jerked me back to my sense, and I sat up, wet hair slapping against my skin and shielding me, at least partially. So far, longer and thicker hair was definitely a good thing. "Hello?" I called out. Stupid dwarves and their stupid curiosity. Tucking my arms around me and covering all inappropriate areas, I peeked around the corner of the screen and nearly headbutted the blonde's abdomen. And he had the audacity to look crossly bemused!

"What're you doing?" His voice was low, husky. It made me want to leap up and- No. I pushed those thoughts back to the dark recesses of my mind. Where they could delightfully fester and mellow with age.

"I could ask you the same question." So I may have sputtered it because bath water was running down my face, but at least I got it across indignantly. "I'm taking a bath - you're not meant to walk in."

He frowned, unlacing the leather top over his tunic. Ok. So now I was a little worried because yeah he was gorgeous but I'd known him for all of an hour. "I'm Fili. My brother told me to come and braid your hair for you. It's too long." He yanked the leather top off and over his head, sending his hair flying and exposing a little strip of golden skin which I tried so hard not to stare at and failed miserably. Anyways, what was with his lame-ass excuse?

"Couldn't you braid it at another time? When I'm clothed, for example?" Well this was awkward. And then suddenly it all fell into place and I realized what was going on. Rather attractive young dwarf did not understand that he'd been set up by his brother but was proceeding anyways. Poor guy. I lowered myself back into the bath, arms still hiding everything from view.

"Why then? Now's as good a time as ever." I didn't really have anything to say to that, so I nodded, muttering a fine. He pulled up a stool behind the bath, guiding my head back. His hands were warm, fingertips rough on my skin. I shuddered, and hoped to Mahal that he hadn't felt it.

The feel of his hands in my hair was indescribable. Intense. I shivered and squirmed and kept my hands wrapped around me because by Mahal he was not getting a look at anything. I pulled my knees up to my chest, letting my head fall back and into his touch. Now I was just behaving a little wantonly. Oh hell. I tried to just sit there but ugh.

Gently, he twisted my hair together, clipping it in place with small little beads that I hadn't seen him holding. It was braided back from just beneath my temple at either side, drawing back into one long, intricate braid that slithered down my back. Beads were interspersed along each braid. It was incredible, and he pushed it over one shoulder so that I could look at it. Yes, my hair was that ridiculously long.

I turned my head to face him, to express some gratitude, and realized that he was inches away. I inhaled a little too sharply, blinking. Maybe ruining the tension thing going on between us. Again, intense. His eyes; his nose; his lips. So close. Almost as soon as it'd happened, he moved back and away, reaching for his leather shirt and pulling it on over the blue tunic. I turned back, facing away from him, feeling my cheeks heat. Stupid stupid stupid. Mahal knew I couldn't reprimand myself enough. I didn't even know him. He was just part of the company. Just part of the second chance at life. I'd complete the story, and then live out my days in happiness. Sorted.

I remained in that position until the door closed quietly.

Mahal.

Chapter Text

I eventually managed to drag myself out the bath, wrapping myself in a sheet and falling onto the bed. So yes, dear reader, I did just lie there obsessing over a certain blonde dwarf like a hormonal teenager. Sigh. I'd known him for an hour and a half and already I was hearing wedding bells. What was wrong with me? I blamed it on the dwarf-juice. All those pills had to have a side-effect, right?

My hair was still damp, and I ran my fingers across the interlocked braids, admiring the beads. I couldn't quite make out the runes yet - apparently I hadn't crunched the right pill yet, according to a very satisfied perfect blonde, who was lurking in my conscience with the biggest smirk this side of wonderland. Maybe she was the Cheshire cat reincarnate.

Exhaling heavily, I reached for the soft underwear, slipping it on before pulling on the leggings and the tunic and the leather vest thing. God, it took a lot of patience to put the whole ensemble on. Especially when I was going to be taking it of for bed. What did the Dwarves even wear for bed? Their outfits? I shuddered, tossing the braid back over my shoulder and examining myself in the small looking glass close to the bed. The laced leather top made me look damn fine, if I could say so myself. The sideburns were just ugh. But Fili hadn't commented. Maybe he liked them.

Either way I didn't care, right? He was just a stupid dwarf who meant nothing. Complete the quest, live out my days, happy. A complete life. The life I should've had on Earth. I shivered suddenly, wrapping my arms around myself. But it was such a lonely life. And, as perfect blonde whispered in my subconscious, I had two amulets. And one hot dwarf. I was reaching for my coat when I heard low undertones from the hall, and I padded out curiously, peering around one of the central beams of the house. My braid swung over my shoulder, and I toyed idly with the damp ends as I walked through to the room where they'd all congregated.

I stopped - there was a new dwarf sitting there, who turned to face me as I approached. Apparently I hadn't mastered the whole light on my feet thing yet. Ok so yes I stomped like an elephant. But hey, I'd only been a dwarf for a day. Even if I hadn't really changed in physique. Hell; dwarves could be nimble, right? I'd master it in time, I was sure.

As I got closer, the new dwarf - and the rest of the company for that matter - moved to look at Fili in one simultaneous action. Dwarf in question was toying with a knife that'd been hidden in his sleeve, avoiding eye contact. His brother was leaning back with the biggest shit-eating grin plastered across his face. What the hell was that meant to mean - that look? I frowned softly, tossing my braid back from my shoulder and slipping onto the stool beside Gandalf. He eyed the braid in my hair, then looked from Fili to me and back again. Ok; someone seriously needed to fill me in on this joke, or whatever was going on. And yes, I did refrain from a witty pun on the word fill. I'm kili-ing it enough already thanks.

The new dwarf wasn't exactly warm, but he greeted me as one of his own, even though there was suspicion, unmasked in his eyes. I wasn't that stupid to not notice. By the time I'd repeated my name and purpose, I was beginning to feel like a wind-up toy. At least it seemed that I was done now with the whole talking parrot act. He nodded, and seemed as if he would've asked more, had not the hobbit - who I learnt was called Bilbo - fainted. I'll admit, by the time I'd heard what the quest entailed, I felt like doing the same. Fire breathing machine with wings and legs? Perfection.

At that point I snagged Gandalf's mostly untouched mug of ale and downed it in one. Nothing quite like a little liquid courage. The fiery kick almost made me cough, but I wasn't going to show any weakness and so at that point I took myself off to bed, helping to settle a passed out Bilbo in his. So we'd lost our burglar. As if he'd have even made it there in the first place.

I was settling down to read up on dwarf-lore when I heard a soft knock. Well, at least someone knew how to knock in this world. I'd been severely doubting the abilities of all and any dwarves after my bath-intrusion. I'd changed into a light flannel shirt that brushed my mid-thigh - I'd found it in the pack and it seemed the best thing going in terms of sleepwear. Plus, it was super soft. Reminded me of the fluffy throw we'd had on the back of the sofa at home- No. Those were the painful memories. I swung my legs out of bed and padded over to the door, opening it slowly.

Kili and Fili stood there holding sleeping rolls. Mahal. I pushed the door opened wider and waved them in with my free hand, padding back to the large bed to hide my bare legs from their stares. For all their charms, the two brothers were not subtle in the slightest. "Can I help?" This being said from the comfort and safety of my own bed.

Kili glanced at his brother, who was gazing at me with those lion eyes. Fuck. "We're bedding down in here tonight." The younger dwarf spoke, and whilst he had the audacity to appear a little embarrassed, his words were essentially rather final. They moved in, closing the door behind themselves and spreading the rolls upon the floor. That looked pretty freaking uncomfortable. I'd have to savor the warmth and comfort of a bed whilst I had the chance.

I sighed as they settled in, listening to their grumbling. I really couldn't put up with their complaints all night if I was going to manage living with it. A girl needs just one night of peace every so often, right? I hopped out of bed, taking care not to step on Fili, who had chosen to position himself as close to me as possible - without actually being on the bed - and over to a cabinet in the corner of the room. I'd found it earlier on my explorations of the room - it was overflowing with thick blankets and coverlets. To kinship and company, right?

"Fili, Kili.. will you help me get these?" The word help had barely left my mouth before they were taking them from me, bundling them up and barely allowing me to lift more than a finger. Not that I was complaining massively. It was just as I was lighting a candle to see better by that I realized the state of undress my companions were in.

Mahal.

So I tried not to stare, but when confronted by such a magnificent specimen of the dwarvish body one almost feels obliged to. Ok, I'll admit, I stared intensely. They were built so differently from the men back home. Stockier, differently proportioned. And freaking muscular. I felt like I would snap like a twig in comparison to their build. So we were all meant to be dwarves but they were tall too. And with a lack of clothes from the waist up that wasn't really necessary at all and certainly contributed to my flaming cheeks but - I passed another quilt to Kili, who was making his own mountain at the foot of my bed - it was more the way that Fili watched me, sitting on the edge of the bed.

We'd known each other for one day. One sweet bloody day.

I was swearing a whole lot more than I used to since I'd met the company and entered Middle Earth.

I closed the cabinet, tugged the shirt a little lower on my legs and then padded over to my bed. Fili stood as I approached, and there was a moment when we were so painfully close. Kili cleared his throat, I turned scarlet, and Fili stepped back to allow me to climb into bed. Gods; what was happening to me!?

The covers were soft on my legs as I pulled them up, settling down. Fili reached over to blow out the candle, and the last image I saw was his hair hanging around his face like a golden halo and the intensity of his eyes before sleep claimed me.

To say that I was not a morning person would be the understatement of the year. I woke with the sheets tangled round my legs, the shirt hitched up to my stomach and thanking Mahal that I'd worn the pants that had been in the pack. I also awoke to two dwarves leaning over me. Ok, that was a little terrifying. Especially because they were already dressed and covered in weapons. And why were they staring at my body sweet jesus I hated dwarves.

"We're gathering in the main hall. Get dressed and come." Fili's tone was brusque, and as he turned to walk to the door Kili shot me a look which I totally understood. Not. Eesh, dwarf men and their hormonal difficulties. I slipped from the covers shivering in the cold air. The blonde haired dwarf turned to look at me - I was in the process of straightening my bed, before the pair walked out.

The room was surprisingly neat, considering that only last night Kili'd been king under the pillow-mountain. The coverlets were folded in a pile by the cabinet. 'Eh, maybe the dwarves could be useful at times. I'd have to remember their room cleaning skills in case of future emergency.

I dressed, a little quicker than the previous times I'd done so, putting my sleeping garments into the pack and shouldering it lightly. Whilst my braids were a little mussed, they were essentially still perfect, and I tugged the braid over a shoulder. The last thing I needed was to get it trapped between my body and the pack and have it yanked every time I moved. Fili and Kili, for all their charm, had snored all night, and I had enough of a headache without ripping my hair out.

It turned out that Bilbo was still in bed and wouldn't be coming, as I found out when I joined up with the rest of the company. The dwarves were still looking at my hair, and I resolved to confront Kili exactly what he'd told his brother to do once we were travelling. Stupid dwarves and stupid braids and stupid world.

Chapter Text

We were halfway to Bree by the time that our burglar caught up with us. It was actually kind of sweet - he came hurtling along with those little hairy feet and his arms outstretched as if he'd been trying to fly. We'd already stopped off for ponies and supplies - I'd kept my pack, but had somehow been weighed down with a ridiculous amount of items. Poor pony. I patted the side of her neck gently, and she chuffed back in reply. Such a cutie.

I'd been doing riding lessons since I was a little girl - riding horses, that is. The last time I'd rode a pony was when I was under thirteen. A long time ago. I frowned then; dwarves didn't age the same as humans did, so did that mean I was ridiculously old? By ridiculous, I meant in my 70's. I mean, Kili and Fili were meant to be around that age, and they were the only ones who bore any similarities age wise. I surreptitiously poked the skin at the edge of my eye. So I couldn't feel any wrinkles.

I gently tugged the pony round; so yes, I may have been slightly in love with an equine. But she was so beautiful - shaggy dappled fur, with little stumpy legs and a barrel belly. And those liquid eyes made me want to melt. And no, I hadn't fed her the apple Bombur had begrudgingly given me.

That was a lie.

I had to bite my tongue to keep myself from laughing at Bilbo's riding tactic. The poor hobbit looked like he was going to re-enact his fainting scene every time the horse moved it's head, so I paced up level with him, trying to draw him into conversation. When he asked for a handkerchief, I rummaged through my pack, finding the selection of packets I'd stolen on my visit to the recycling unit. I tried to hide the package as I slipped him a balsam, but he wrinkled his nose at the fabric and the smell, so I blathered some nonsense about it being a substance used to aid a cold on a fabric found only where I was from. To say it worked would be another lie to add to the list. Tapping my pony with my heels, I moved forwards - when something whipped past my head. My hand snapped up of it's own accord and caught it.

I turned my head to look at my hand, fingers curled around a pouch. What the hell? How had my fingers - normal, plain, sometimes a little arthritic even though I was still young fingers - caught the pouch? I'd barely registered it.

I learnt what the pouch was when Kili trotted forwards, marveling at my reflexes. I don't know who was more shocked - the company or my poor little brain who really understood fuck all about this situation. It was when more pouches began whistling through the air that I realized what was going on. They'd placed bets on the burglar showing or not showing. Damn, I should've had in on that action. I already had no money to begin with. And I knew Bilbo would turn up. A little precognition, one could say. Insert shared inner smirk between self and perfect blonde.

Kili laughed as I realized, pushing the pouch back into my hand as I offered it to him. "Keep it." I wasn't one to really deny gifts of money, so I tucked it into my pack. He dug his heels as if to move on, but in a thoroughly impetuous and utterly unlike me I reached out, grabbing his reins and pulling his pony back to pace with mine.

"You need to explain something to me. Asap." I'm not sure what confused him more; the fact that a woman had just stopped him from sauntering off with the 'swagjesty' that members of the line of Durin seemed to be imbued with, or that I'd just used a thoroughly Modern English abbreviation. Poor guy. But I still didn't feel bad enough to let him go gallivanting off, even with the confused puppy look. Hell; that really worked for him.

But I wasn't going to let him off the hook just because he pulled a face. And he totally looked like he knew exactly what I was referring to.

Bastard. Or rather, cute puppy bastard.

With a ridiculous sigh, he shrugged, and I slowed my horse to lag a little behind the rest of the train. He followed suite, albeit begrudgingly. I saw a couple of members look back over to us. Bofur - or at least, I thought it was Bofur - leveled out with Fili, nudging the blonde and waggling his head in our direction. Oh yes. Promote me as toying between two brothers. Exactly how I wanted to complete this journey. The company broke out in raucous laughter and I wanted to bury my head in a hole and disappear. But this was important.

Ok. So here it went. Inhaled; deep breath in, deep breath out. I had a mental image of perfect blonde's smug little grin, threatening to break into laughter herself.

"Why did you send Fili to braid my hair?" I cut to the chase - no faffing around crap; I'd had it up to there of double meanings and whispers.

"He's better than me at braiding hair and yours wasn't braided." He met my gaze, feigning curiosity at the source of my outburst, but I'd spent too much time at a girl's school not to recognize when I was being played. I raised an eyebrow.

"Ok. Sorry for asking." I waved him off, giving him my brightest fake smile. Girl's schools do wonders for your skills of backstabbing and lying to people's faces. Trust me. Kili frowned, before returning the smile and oh god he had dimples and I wanted to- No. I really did have to put a rating system on my thoughts or something. Besides, whilst Kili made me go all gooey and mushy because he was just that cute, it was Fili's eyes I craved. That look. Those eyes.

The dwarf began to trot off, catching up with the others. I hadn't even got into round two - there's nothing like a healthy guilt trip every so often. "It's just... Well, I'm not from around these parts, and I was worrying because the company seemed to think something of it." I looked down onto the leather of my saddle, consciously lowering my voice. It was the perfect mix between coy and nervous.

And it worked.

Kili turned his head, frowning again. I really didn't like to see those little lines appear on his forehead, but I needed to understand the deal with the hair situation. Mahal, I never envisioned myself arguing with a dwarf over the importance of braids whilst riding a pony through a forest. But then I'd never envisioned looking like Zelda the warrior princess, either.

I tilted my head at Kili, shooting with my best puppydog eyes. Two could play at that game, good sir. He'd paused, slowing his pony down in his indecision. "I'm not really in keeping with your company, and I'd not want to think I was being laughed at." A healthy dose of quavering, added to my voice, removed any threatening undertones. His move.

He pulled back towards me, still looking troubled. No, I was not totally playing the whole 'Dwarvish women are meant to be treasured' to my advantage. No no no. "Braids mean different things..." He fumbled with his reins, earning an annoyed head toss from his mount. "The one Fili gave you is one that means he will always be there to protect you. Like a claim."

Hold the fucking phone. A claim!?

No words.

I opened my mouth, and then shut it again. So many emotions were flowing through me that I didn't know whether to be grateful, screech and dismember the dwarf or do another similar action. Perfect blonde, for the record, was practically pissing herself in my head. Rolling on the brain laughing came to mind.

"He claimed me!? Like his possession!?" So I was kind of debating the idea internally - I had to remember that the blonde-haired dwarf was a seasoned warrior. Dangerous even. It could be a good thing that he protected me. But at the same time, in following with the whole Jane Eyre thing I am no bird and no net ensnares me, I am free independent woman - or maybe that second part was Beyonce - generally, I felt kind of pissed off. Even though his brother had told him to, how could Fili think that he could waltz in and proclaim himself defender? I thought suddenly of James, my boyfriend of six months, sitting alone in the little flat we shared, and hot tears rushed to my eyes.

Fuck. I hated crying in front of people. Especially little dwarf-puppies who looked like I'd just told him his mother was dead or something. In a word; horrified.

"A-astrid?" I held out a hand in such a dramatic move that I instantly berated myself. With my other, I brought my pony sharply around to face away from the group, feeling a little bad when she whinnied in complaint. My throat ached suddenly, and I was doing my utmost to choke back the saltwater that threatened to overflow and ruin any little respect that the dwarves may've had for me.

Memories sucked sometimes.

I heard Kili awkwardly moving on, calling out to the company. Great work. Let all of them see me having a little meltdown. Especially stupid lioneyes. Murmured whispers rose behind my back; Gandalf cleared his throat noisily and they all hushed. It was wondrous how he could bring a company of dwarves to complete silence. I'd have to learn that trick for myself when possible.

The soft shuffle of approaching hooves against the carpet of leaves made me dash the tears from my eyes with my spare hand.

"Astrid?" Oh god. I turned my head away, forcing myself to retain some composure, even though the way he said my name sent delicious little shivers down my spine and- No. Cut it out. Dwarf with responsibilities and not-even-really-a-dwarf-ette just having a second go at life. "Are you well?"

So I tried really really hard to be angry at him. To turn around and swear at him as only sailors or those who've grown up in London can. But there was nothing. Even as I looked at him I was so freaking lost that it was just unreal.

I cleared my throat, sending a silent prayer to whoever that my voice didn't quiver or break. I wasn't a damsel in distress. Although I could be his damsel- No. "Why didn't you tell me about the braid?" So my voice came out pathetic. All soft and whimpery. Abso-freaking-lutely pathetic.

He didn't answer for a moment, toying with the tufted fur on his ponies' withers. "I thought you knew." Hearing the uncertainty in his voice felt more than a little wrong; every moment between leaving Bilbo's until now he'd had that same cocky self-confidence that the others had. Not in a bad way, just assertively sure of himself. Teasing when I'd fangirled over this particular pony and demanded that we swap. He'd obliged. "You are a lady, to be protected."

As if that made everything all better. If my hands had been free, maybe I would've folded my arms and pouted. As if was, I could simply frown a little. Whilst I had no idea to handle a sword - according to perfect blonde I had a whole other weapons pill to crunch - I didn't want to be a burden that needed to be protected on the journey. I didn't want to be a distraction. Or baggage.

I suddenly felt like apologizing, but I nodded, giving the blonde haired dwarf a weary smile. I lowered my voice, murmuring in Dwarvish as I tilted my head to look over and up at him. "I'm sorry. I miss home. It's difficult to adjust to the customs here." Or some crap like that.

His smile in return made my heart hurt. It was cocky and self-assured and satisfied and all of those things that I usually hated in men. But it was so warm. And maybe I stared at his mouth for a little too long. But he didn't seem to be complaining.

We stayed silent for a long moment then, before he reached out, fingers grazing the braid lightly. "I'll take it out for you when we get to Bree, if you'd like." And now my throat ached. I didn't want him to take it out.

I shook my head, amused when he seemed surprised. "I like it." My own fingers curled around the lower half of the braid. And then he moved his hand down and cupped my fingers and I turned all sorts of red and hot and melted. His hands were rough from work; the motion of his thumb stroking the inside of my wrist sent shudders down my back. Bastard. He was driving me all kinds of crazy.

He took my hand, bringing the fingers to his lips. "I think we should join the others."

Fuck fuck fuck.

That would be the time my voice gave out on me. I nodded again, ears burning as he waited for me to bring my pony round, accompanying me back to the group. My fingers were on fire, and I pulled my gloves on slowly, trying not to smile like an idiot.

Fuck.

Chapter Text

So I loved the countryside of Hobbitland. Or the Shire. Whatever you wanted to call it. The sweeping views, the rolling curves of hill broken occasionally split by seams of rock. And I loved my pony, who trotted on tirelessly, her little feet clipping the grassy verges. She was so reliable. But she was also bloody painful to ride for three days straight. So my days were spent wishing that I'd ridden a whole lot more back before I arrived on Middle Earth. Its a good skill to have, kiddies.

My nights were a whole other deal. The first night had been simple; I'd laid down, curled up, and fallen asleep with relative ease. Yes, it was as uncomfortable as fuck, but the endless pack I'd been given contained a thoroughly squashed down blanket that I put to work as a pillow. I don't really remember what I dreamt of.

But I do know that I'd woken up to find a certain blonde haired dwarf with his arm wrapped around me, face pressed into my hair. On the other side, Dwalin was standing with his back to us, tending something over the fire.

Oh shit. I shuffled forwards a little, trying to wriggle out of Fili's hold.

To no avail; the dwarf tightened his hold, pulling me back and close into his chest. I could barely prevent the squeak that bubbled from my chest. Movement from behind Dwalin made me freeze, and Nori peered round. Oh royal shit. I screwed up my eyes tight. Maybe if I did the whole screwy eye biting tongue thing, then I'd wake up and it'd just be a dream. But no.

I kept my eyes screwed up as I groaned softly. I'd become the teddy bear of a thoroughly gorgeous, warm, attractive, hot as fuck- No. Just Dwarf.

Fili murmured something in his sleep, rubbing his face into the side of my neck. Butterflies seriously had to chill the fuck out in my stomach. I kept my eyes closed. I could hear murmuring around me. Great. Just great. And now the company was waking up.

I wriggled a little, attempting to dig my elbow into the male. I might as well tried elbowing a brick wall. The guy was solid muscle. I'd thought that maybe if I could dislodge him a little, then I could slip out his grasp and shuffle away. But no. And the wiggling didn't seem to help. He let out a soft, rasping noise in the back of his throat, pulling my hips flush against his. Oh fuck. Whilst I wanted to wake Fili up, I really didn't want to rouse little Fili. That'd be awkward.

Mahal.

I opened my eyes, about to exhale in annoyance before coming up with a plan B. What actually happened was I choked on my breath. Ori, Nori, Dori, Bwalin and Bofur were gathered around us. Bofur grinned, raising an eyebrow at me. "Y'alright, lassie?" I could honestly have stabbed him with the dagger that I didn't really know how to handle. He should've been glad that I was being held down by a hunk of dwarf muscle.

And naturally, Fili would choose that time to wake up, pulling me in as he stretched, before groggily opening his eyes. Sweet Jesus he was cute when he'd just woken up and his mussed braids-

He blinked at me, seeming unsure as to exactly how he'd got into this position or quite why I was pulled so closely to his chest. He released me slowly, tentatively. The dwarves still hadn't stopped their hovering and crowding. Bofur was humming a truly awful rendition of what I'd later learn to be a dwarven love song. Some of the dwarves were making crude gestures, whilst Ori just looked a little confused. Bless. Fili scowled at the attention, murmuring a dwarven curse that hadn't been on my little pill of learning.

And then I heard Thorin. Moving around the campfire space and demanding breakfast.

The dwarves dispersed in a flash, disappearing off back to their hobbies. Fili released me, moving away from me quickly. I sat up, shivering a little. It was a lot colder without his arms around me. I hadn't realized how broad his shoulders were - how warm he was. More than a little part of me wanted to be wrapped up in his arms again. Of course, I mentally kicked this part and sent it to the naughty corner of my brain. Perfect blonde was stuck there too.

He sat up a few minutes later, pulling on the leather garments he'd forgone in the night. I followed suit, but my fingers were shaking so much that my laces were just an effort. I'd finished with my leggings and was struggling with my shirt when Fili moved closer.

"Let me." He brushed my fingers out the way, fingers ghosting around the laces as he pulled them tighter, bringing them to the top to tie them off. When his knuckle grazed my breast, I honestly had to use every skill I'd ever gained in my entire life not to stop hyperventilating. An 80-something year old dwarf was reducing me to a mushy schoolgirl. Even I found that a little creepy, and I shuddered. "You're still cold." He leant back, picking up his fur lined jacket and wrapping it around me.

Oh god oh god oh god.

"Thanks." I curled my fingers into the fur, pulling it close around me. It smelt like him. And no, not romantic like chocolate and dark passionate things. Like musk and wood ash and sweat that made my stomach flip-flop. Murmurs drifted over from the campfire, and I felt hot stares burning into my side. When I turned to look, the dwarves stopped their conversation doing in such union that it would've made my choral master jump for joy. Fili stood and walked over to them, and I could only admire the healthy dose of swagjesty.

That walk did terrible things to me.

It was only after we'd eaten our lunch for the day that I decided to take the crunch. The weapons and secondary half of my dwarven language lessons pill was a bright, terrifying blue. Terrifying in the fact that it reminded me of my youth when I got high on smarties. No, not a code name for a drug. Just those chocolate buttons in a candy shell that were pumped with all kinds of shit.

Anyways, I popped the pill in and chewed. Perfect blonde began to ask if it was such a good idea that I took it whilst riding. But it was too late. The drug crashed into my system with the power of a locomotive. My whole body shuddered, back almost arching off the pony, and that was how I ended up sprawled on the ground. Goodbye saddle, hello floor! My pony stopped, turned round, and neighed at me, as if to say 'Why the fuck are you down there?'. The other dwarves seemed to ask much the same question. Not my most graceful dismount so far.

It was only when Ori mentioned that I was bleeding and dismounted to hurry over and check on me did I freak the fuck out. Bleeding as in half my head was hanging off? What constituted an injury for dwarves? I raised a hand, touched the patch of soreness on my cheek. Ow. Ori reached into his bag, bringing out a little pot of salve that he proceeded to pat onto the sore area. I'm sure that he meant it with the best intent, but dwarves are not the most gentle of all folk, and it felt rather like he was swatting me over and over. After he must have patted half the pot into my face, I heard Fili.

"Enough, Ori. She's fine." Well thanks for being a hero to my damsel. Didn't he make a thing about protecting me? That should really include protection over roots and rocks.

I tried my hardest not to scowl and glare at Fili, instead beaming at Ori and fluttering my lashes. If you've got 'em, use 'em. "Thanks for your kindness, Ori. I appreciate it." So I might have leant in a little too close, but it was amusing to hear Fili's barely disguised growl behind me and to know that Ori could always beat me for the reddest face of the company.

To my utter surprise, Fili gripped me by the upper arm - yes, the one I fell on, ow - and spun me round to face him. I heard the rest of the company mounting back up after an angry bellow from Thorin, which Fili watched over the top of my head. His eyes returned to my face, and it surprised me to see a hint of anger. "You are well, aren't you? Not sick, or feeling the strain?" I shook my head, a little bewildered over his mood changes, and his eyes softened a little. "Your keeping of my braid means that I must protect you. You make it hard to when you throw yourself off your mount." I didn't really understand what I wanted them - to throw myself over him as a mount, or curse him for his weird-ass mood changes. He laughed - sweet mother of god - and gripped the reins of my pony, bringing her round for me to remount.

Dearest reader, I can't lie when I say that when he lifted me to mount my pony, my whole body twitched a little awkwardly and he ended up with his hand on my butt, face close to mine. Fuck - he had such strong, masculine hands. Rough and gentle and ugh. God this fangirling had to stop.

He mounted up himself then - I stared shamelessly at his backside as he did so - and waited for me to close the gap between our ponies before he continued.

We spent the rest of the journey talking about his life in the Blue Mountains.

I hadn't been so relaxed in a long time.

Chapter Text

When we eventually arrived at Bree, I'd endured three out of three nights with Fili's arms around me. I say endured - if I'm utterly honest with myself, I had to admit that more than a little part of me enjoyed it. Even if it was awkward as hell in the morning when the others woke up and gave each other those looks. Cue fumbling and awkward smile and violent elbow into Fili's side. Said elbow ached for the rest of the day; the guy was built like a mountain. I only thanked Mahal that Thorin, for all his pride, woke up late, as did Kili. I'd never hear the last of it from either of them. Kili was already bad enough. Instead, it was either Bofur or Dwalin who woke first. For all their supposed gruffness, and ridiculously testosterone fueled actions, were total softies at heart. They'd usually nudge me awake - Dwalin didn't understand the concept of nudging; I had bruises - before the others could gather around us like we were circus freaks.

But waking wrapped in his arms, his breathing soft and regular against my cheek, mustache hanging so adorably that I just couldn't - it made me feel both guilty and, in some ways, special. As if any of this meant something. Which it probably didn't. He didn't really talk about it, and neither did I. We'd wake, he'd wrap me in his coat, and then swagger off to fetch breakfast or do whatever a dwarf does in the morning. Cough hint. After that, once we mounted up he'd hang behind with me on my little pony and we'd talk about everything - I'd adapt tales of Earth to tell him; we'd been through Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, and he'd tell me about his life; his mother, the halls they lived in, how many knives he had at that moment.

Mahal. I was falling so fucking hard that a little part of me just knew the crash-landing would be horrific, as would the fallout.

And yet somehow, as I was plummeting down into this ridiculous abyss caused by strange dwarven hormones and those lion eyes, I knew I had to stop myself. It was like clawing at the air when you'd forgotten your parachute and willing yourself to stop. To just hold on and have a minute to think.

The reason was simple; James.

Stupid little James. Just thinking about my dilemma made me snort. This was not some trashy romance novel where the main plot line was my deep rooted love for someone who I could never be with whilst harboring an illicit crush on my protector. I wanted to laugh out loud, to scream at the moon. I wanted space, to mourn everyone that I'd left - when you die, and live through it, so to speak, it feels a little like all of your family have died instead. Everyone I'd known, gone. I would never see my brother or my boyfriend again.

Perfect blonde brushed up against my mind, soothing and comforting. As much as I hated her for her knowledge of everything and her flawless perfection, I had to admit, I liked having her there. She was so freaking useful. Whilst being almost a little - and I could feel her disapproval radiating over everything - like a mother. She hissed and retreated into my mind.

Our arrival in Bree was tense; Bilbo wanted to spend the night in the comforts of a hostel, whilst Thorin wanted to spend the night beneath the stars. Whilst I didn't openly object, I needed a night in civilization. Fili was comfortable, but my back ached and I had a crick in my neck that wouldn't go. You wouldn't believe the wonders that a tired dwarf lady can do.

Nevertheless, one can imagine everyone's surprise when Thorin relented, on the condition that we all shared rooms. Thank Mahal. Civilized sleeping areas.

I was pitched in - you may have guessed - with Fili and Kili. And Bilbo too, clutching a nightgown that he'd brought from home and looking a little anxious. Only Bilbo.

I slid into the room, eyeing up one of the thoroughly comfortable looking beds - perks of being a Dwarven Lady was that I'd get one - and was more than a little shocked when Fili took my bag and carried it to the twin bed in the room. There were three beds in total; two smaller and one larger. I'd thought perhaps Kili and Fili would've shared the latter, and then Bilbo and I would've slept on the other two. Ok, so I confess that I had totally hoped otherwise, but it seemed a little unrealistic. But then maybe Fili was influenced by our nightly routine. Mahal, I needed a censor on my thoughts, and I ran my fingers across my temples lightly. When Bilbo hesitantly walked over to the single furthest away from the others, before practically throwing himself onto it, I was amused. When Kili hurtled past me to one of the singles and boarded it like it was a rodeo horse, sprawling wildly, I tried not to let my jaw drop. That left only the double, where Fili had placed our packs.

Sleeping situation what.

Needless to say, I turned scarlet when Fili frowned, a playful glint in his eyes. "You're choosing to shun me now?" Play it cool, play it cool, I willed myself. It didn't work. I stood there sputtering like an idiot, before my feet, entirely of their own accord, escorted me to the opposite side from him. God it was terrifying when it was a conscious decision.

"I'll go get us some dinner-" Fili began, but was cut off when Kili stood. God, that infamous shit-eating grin. I seriously could've slapped him.

"No worries brother; Bilbo and I are just on our way to get some." They exchanged a look, the likes of which I'd used with my brother many times - translating rough to 'I'ma leave you alone with this chick and you're going to love it' and the response 'oh fuck i can't even'. I'll admit was a little reassuring to see Fili's lack of comfort in this situation. The dark haired dwarf practically dragged the hobbit from the room, who was copying my sputtering tactic, interspersed with little exclamations.

The door closed and we were alone.

Fuck. The cute puppy bastard had struck again. One of these days, I was really going to have to get some payback.

"Would you like to bathe first, or should I?" His voice, soft and low, shook me out of my little thought train. I blinked, looking across the bed at him and nodded slowly.

"If I could use it.." I smiled wanly, reaching down to pick up one of the linen sheets that they supplied for bathing purposes. On the way to pick them up, I slipped my jacket from my shoulders, unlacing the throat piece and my leather vest. And tried to ignore his eyes on me. Hungry eyes. My fingers were almost shaking as I undid my boots, tucking them into a niche beside the bed. I set the garments on the covers with one hand, lifting my towels.

The bath was separated from the main bedroom by a thin wall and a door. The door I locked. No more bath incidents this time around.

I set about filling the bath, unlacing my leggings and slipping the tunic over my head. There was a stool by the bath, and I folded it over the stool. My soft undergarment followed, and I wrapped a towel around my body as I waited for the bath to fill. Absentmindedly, I gazed in the looking glass across the wall from me. My plait was mussed and bedraggled; I teased it out, placing the beads in a cup so that Fili could braid it again. Dark hair fell in a lank veil around my shoulders. My complexion seemed to have lightened - two rosy spots sat high on my cheekbones. On the other hand, my eyebrows had darkened - they were more defined, whilst my eyelashes were thicker and blacker than I'd seen them before. Above and to the sides of my ears, dark hair tufted in a thin strip. Freaking sideburns. Amidst all of this, my eyes, a startling gray, looked tired.

But at least no wrinkles.

I ran both hands through my hair, pushing it off my face as I dropped my towel and stepped into the bath. I could barely prevent myself sighing noisily in pleasure. I'd forgotten how good a hot bath could be. I allowed myself to simply soak, watching the grime of a few days hard riding peel away. The loss of modern technology had hit me hard. Bath bombs. Shampoo. Conditioner. Razors. Toothbrushes. Ugh; the list was endless.

Reclining, I dipped my hair into the water, washing the dirt out of that too. By the time I got out, the water had darkened, and was cold. I let the drainage system run it out, and wrapped a cloth around my hair. It was sodden almost instantly; damned thick hair. Around my body I wrapped the second, bigger towel. It trailed by my feet, so I hoisted it up and grabbed my clothes with my free hand. Then I pushed open the door and made my way back through to the bedroom.

Mahal. Fili had taken his upper layers off, and was sitting on the bed shirtless, waiting for his shower. So that was what I'd elbowed every morning. Not even a bruise. All that effort for nothing. He turned as I entered, his eyes lingering a little too long on my attire - the bare sweep of my shoulders and neck. I flushed, feeling color gather at the base of my neck, and he smirked. Mentally, I called him every single rude name I could think of on the spot whilst feeling flustered. Perfect blonde said that I'd done quite well, but later I thought of so many more.

"I hope you've left me some water." He stood, moving over to me, still grinning. Ugh. He leaned in, and my heart practically stopped as he lifted a loose strand of my hair, wrapping it around his finger. "And I see you've decided to reject my protection. Unless..." His eyes were all dark and yet golden and so intense. "You'd like me to braid it again?"

Being the skilled conversational master that I am, I nodded gormlessly. His reduction of me to a quivering mess of hormones was getting ridiculous. I need to grow some fucking balls and face up. Not literally - dwarven women were normal down there, weren't they? Oh fuck. What if dwarven women were different? What about my freaking time of the month? Perfect blonde, in between crying with laughter, affirmed that no further changes would be made. Thank Mahal. I couldn't deal with more uproar at the moment.

"Open the door to none, bar Kili and Bilbo, or members of the company." And with that final, almost threatening remark, he swaggered off to go take a bath. I turned back to the bed, utterly bemused. There was a screen in the corner, which I slipped behind, taking the shorts and tunic combination I had for sleeping in when my other clothes were wet. Said tunic and underwear had been plunged into a basket of hot, soapy water, which I would attend to presently.

I began to sing softly as I worked - I didn't know the tune; something on my crazy dwarven custom pill that I'd taken on day 2 - scrubbing the tunic clean in the water, along with the underwear. The feel, soft and slimy beneath my fingertips, was almost relaxing as I scrubbed it against the ridged board set aside for the purpose, and I reached up to wipe a hand across my forehead and push some hair out of the way.

So far, so good.

Until Fili came out with little more than a towel clinging to him and I almost had a heart attack. "You sing well." Color flooded my face - this was happening far too much - and I smiled, a little too awkwardly.

"Thanks." I ceased in my motions as he approached, leaving the underwear and tunic forgotten as he reached down and- Ran a thumb across my forehead. Apparently I'd been doing the Lion King opening scene with bubbles. Praise the Lord. "You kept your braids in?" I'd noticed it as he walked in; the way his hair hung damp and golden down his back, just brushing the flat muscle of his chest- No.

"Yes. Every braid has a meaning." He smiled, and reached down to grip my hand, hoisting me up. Sweet Jesus someone save me before my heart prematurely exploded. "I will give you the same braid as before." He moved, still holding my hand, to seat me on the bed, before climbing onto the other side and pulling me flush against him, legs splayed around me. Dear reader; I tried my hardest not to wriggle, but it was damned difficult. I had a vague, hazy mental image of Perfect Blonde eating popcorn. Pervert.

His hands burrowed into the thick expanse of my hair as he began. It was strange; I'd have thought it to have been a female role to braid hair. Not the man's. At one point, he tugged a little too hard to free a knot and I overbalanced, grabbing the only thing closest. Hello, Fili's thigh. His hands paused what they were doing for a lingering moment, before he continued, murmuring an apology into my ear.

So, my hand lingered on his thigh a little too long. Hey; bite me.

His hands glided quickly and efficiently over my hair, picking up strands and letting braids fall gently. I shivered. When he was coming close to being done, he picked up all the braids and began to entwine them into one singular plait, which hung down my back, as before. It's weight was almost comforting.

"It is done." I reached back, eagerly to feel it, could not find it and turned, craning my neck - and he fucking kissed me.

His hands slipped around my waist, lifting me closer. My own hands, unbidden, curled into his hair, a ragged breath escaping as I knelt between his legs. He slung an arm roughly around my waist, fingers working at the skin he'd exposed, letting out a gruff little groan as I fell into him. Fuck. My body was on fire. My lips parted involuntarily - a fact that I hadn't quite registered, and he took full advantage of that. Fuck fuck fuck.

But then James flashed through my head. I'd known Fili for less than a week. I'd known James for most of my life.

And so I pulled away, slipping off the bed and running to the bathroom. Fili at least, did not follow, but I couldn't shake the image of him sitting on the bed, looking confused.

It was only once I had bolted the bathroom door that I let myself sink to the floor. A little dramatic, but so was the situation. Mahal. I curled my arms around knees, shivering in my thin tunic.

I sat there on the cold floor for about half an hour, whilst I mulled over thoughts in my head. It would not take me such a short time to come to a decision, but with the comforting murmurings of Perfect blonde, I was able to resolve myself.

I had to accept that I was dead to James. It would not be an immediate transition - no one can turn their feelings on and off like light-switches.

My hands, trembling a little from being in one position for so long, unbolted the door. I had no idea where Kili and Bilbo had disappeared to; Fili was lying in bed, back to the bathroom. In the little light, I could not tell if he was awake or asleep, so I padded across the room, strung up my clothes to dry and slipped in behind him. The intimacy of the situation struck me at once - under the covers, it felt so much more intense than being beneath the stars.

I felt Fili shift; he turned to me, eyes impassive on my face before I offered him a weak little smile. He snatched it up, and slipped an arm around my waist tentatively. "I apologize for any discomfort I caused you, Astrid."

I wrinkled my nose a little, half smiling as I cut him off. "It was my fault." I paused, feeling a little guilty in myself as I cleared my throat, focusing on one of the braids that had fallen across his throat. "Where I come from, there was a man." I felt him stiffen, and still could not meet his eyes. "But... I think it is over." My words made my throat ache with emotion, and I was surprised as hell when he pulled me close to him.

"I'm sorry for my actions, without knowing." Strong fingers tilted my chin up, to meet his eyes. "I will not share you, Astrid." His eyes were dark and unreadable, and as he leaned in, my breath hitched. He kissed my forehead gently, before settling back down.

Mahal, what was going on now?

Chapter Text

It was only when I woke up, my stomach grumbling, that I realized we'd missed dinner. That was literally the first thought that popped into my head. Dinner. Ugh. I thought it was hobbits that were obsessed with their food. But then, I guess Bombur... Behind me, a low groan came from the sleeping dwarf with his arm curled around my waist, one of my legs tangled haphazardly between his. I almost died at the contact. Not even kidding; the intimacy. Eesh. I rolled over a little; Fili's head was pressed into my hair, and he was apparently rather blissfully dead to the world.

In the new and golden light of day that peeped through the thin material of our curtains - if you could call them curtains - I could just lay there with him and forget anything that had gone, or was going on, or was to be. We were just two dwarves, alone and peaceful. Poetic, right?

I stretched, yawning, and wriggled over a little so that I could watch Fili whilst he slept. A little odd, I'll admit, but pretty comforting.

So you could say that I was startled when, with his eyes so closed, he grinned. "You're not meant to be awake yet." His voice was still thick with sleep, and in spite of myself, I smiled.

"And why not?" Freeing my hand from beneath me, I traced the line of one of his dangling mustache pieces. I wondered, in my just coming out of sleep state, if they stood for anything. He nipped at my fingertips and rolled onto his back, pulling my upper body with him. I was supported on my elbows against his chest. Hell, that escalated quickly. I guess he'd really taken last night's conversation to heart.

"No one's come to wake us yet." With his free hand, he eased the covers up and over my shoulders. It was cold in the room, and I shivered slightly. Well, that and the fact that I was lying against the chest of a guy I'd known for under a week. Hey, if girls could do one night flings and continue it, I could do this. Or that was my reasoning, anyways. "That means we don't have to get up yet." I laughed and let my head drop, moving my arms so that they folded as a pillow against his chest beneath my head.

Dwarf guys were pretty hairy; his chest was covered in a fine, golden down, that I scraped my nails through absentmindedly before I could quite process just what I was doing. A soft little noise, almost like a growl, came from the back of his throat, and as I looked up, his eyes caught mine. Intense as ever. Oh fuck.

I bit my lip, before he leant down tentatively, stomach muscles curling by my elbow, and kissed me. It was sweet and pure and I wanted to cry. I didn't. I let him kiss me. Because I wanted that as well. I just didn't want the overwhelming guilt that rose up. Less than a week.

It was over too soon; he drew back, knuckles running down my spine softly, cautiously. I think more than a small part of him worried that I would bolt.

"I'm moving too quickly." His words, usually so imbued with his little cocky tones when he told me stories of the many battles he'd won, or the villainous orcs he'd fought off escorting trade caravans, were instead hesitant. More of a question than a statement. A question which I couldn't agree or disagree with. The time scale just still confounded me. It wasn't really in my own nature to be so rash - or as Kili would later affirm, Fili's, either.

"A little." He stiffened beneath me - fuck, his abdominals were impressive when he moved - but I flattened a palm against his chest. Not that it could've stopped him at all if he'd actually wanted to move. "I just need some time." I murmured against his skin, feeling his body relax a little; obviously he'd interpreted my not running and hiding in the bathroom as a good sign.

I lifted my head; rested my chin on my hands. His knuckles ran up and down my spine quicker, sending delicious little shivers to the butterflies in my stomach. Fuck. All this excitement was not good for me at all.

"I can give you as much time as you need." His other hand, the one not tracing the line of my back and driving me wild, rested against the sweep of my neck, thumb rough on my jawline. He leaned in again, I inhaled in anticipation, and just as his lips met mine, the door barged open. I jerked back, and would've fallen off the bed if he hadn't reached out and caught me by my arm at the last moment.

Thorin stood in the doorway, looking thunderous. Behind him, Kili was caught between gawping and laughing, supporting a slightly greenish Bilbo. Thorin moved into the room, allowing Kili to take Bilbo and drop him unceremoniously on the bed. Poor guy. He looked like he was hanging. Unfortunately, I was slightly more perturbed by Thorin's presence.

"Fili. I would have a word with you. Now." With that, he stepped out into the corridor. Fili slipped out of bed, shot a look at his brother, and slipped on his tunic, disappearing after Thorin and closing the door behind him

Even then, we could still hear them.

"You must not allow her as a distraction - you are my heir!" Fili murmured something in reply, too low for me to quite make out. I looked over to Kili, who seemed as intent as I was on listening. "You cannot drop everything at the first blonde-haired wench that you see. Did I not teach you more than that?" I ran a hand across my braided hair, bringing the end up for inspection. Definitely still brown. Across the room, I heard Kili stifle a chuckle, and I shot him a wan smile. Fili again replied in a low voice.

Goddammit; how was I meant to eavesdrop when blonde-haired dwarf was being so quiet. Mahal.

I padded across the room - Bilbo was looking terrible, so I fetched a bucket from the bathroom and told Kili to bring me a cold flannel and some water. I set the bucket next to the bed, on a stool. Kili brought me a dry flannel and lukewarm water. I wanted to sigh in exasperation, but thanked him anyways. The flannel I dipped into the water, and laid across Bilbo's forehead, whilst I offered him the rest to drink. I hoped he was just dehydrated and his body was slowly recovering. After living on the London nightclub scene, you get used to dealing with hangovers. And pacing yourself. I sighed as the Hobbit sipped the water, pushing the sweaty curls of his hair off his face.

"He'll be fine." Kili was hovering like an anxious mother - I suspected it was his fault that Bilbo had gotten so drunk in the first place. Well, at least we hadn't lost him.

Raised voices were heard outside, speaking rapidly in Khuzdul, but my brain couldn't really follow fast enough to translate. From the look on Kili's face, it seemed pretty bad. I moved over to the door, to go and see if there was any way I could resolve the argument - in hindsight this was pretty stupid.

The door slammed open; pain blossomed in my cheekbone. The last thing I remember was the ground rushing up to meet me as I fell, and the overwhelming blackness.

Mahal.

When I woke up for the second time that morning, I was on the bed, the company clustered around me. Well, bar Thorin, who's absence was duly noted. Ok, I'll admit that I felt more than a little like Snow White when she awoke from her glass coffin. Especially when I saw Fili sitting by my head, his mouth set in a hard line. But wasn't he meant to be smiling and kissing me? I struggled to my elbows; his hands pushed me firmly back down.

"Lie still." It was Gandalf's voice that spoke, and as I turned my head to look up, I saw his kindly face through a waft of smoke. "You had us quite worried there, m'lady dwarf."

It was then that I noticed the aching pain; the soft throbbing beneath my cheek. I winced, reaching up, but it was normal skin. No swelling, no apparent abrasions. Just a slight radiating ache. "What happened?"

Fili opened his mouth, his face hard and cold, but Gandalf got to it first. "You got in the way of a door, m'lady. Cracked your cheek clean open. But thankfully I heard Fili shouting from the privy." I blinked. Too much information.

Bofur pushed forwards through the throng of dwarves. "We all came running; saw this one holding you in a little lake of blood." He grinned, far too cheerily to match his words, nudging Fili. The blonde haired dwarf didn't respond, his gaze still hard. "Surprised you still have any left - you bled out fast!" The grin was still there - yes, thanks Bofur for reiterating the point.

Gandalf gave a good puff on his pipe - I spluttered - and he nodded. "Ah yes, I'd think she's quite well enough to continue on now." This time, when I moved to sit up, no one stopped me. "Well, I think we should leave Astrid here to get suitably attired, and sort out the ponies." I could've hugged Gandalf at that moment. What a legend. But I couldn't say that, and shot him a slightly painful smile as the dwarves began to filter out.

When they were all gone, Fili stood up, pacing away. I hadn't seen him so aggravated; worry curled in my stomach. I slipped off the bed, picking up my clothes and pulling them on whilst his back was turned. Kili had gone with the others, but Bilbo was still there, happily asleep and recovering. Once I had slipped on my undergarments, legging and tunic, I approached Fili. "Fili..?"

The blonde haired dwarf turned - his braids spun as he did so. "This was my fault, Astrid." I frowned, opening my mouth to shush him - how could it be his fault? Stupid Thorin and his stupid temper and his stupid ideas of distractions. Fili's fingers traced the air by my cheek, not quite touching it, and when I leant my hand into his touched, he pulled it away as if burned. "I was the one who hit you with the door. I hurt you." He stormed away, pacing to the window, holding onto the frame. I was a little worried that he'd snap it - we'd already paid enough for the inn. "I'm meant to protect you, and I split your face open."

I reached for my vest, pulling it on as I moved over to him. "Fili." He didn't respond, facing away and out the window. Stubborn bastard. "Fili." My tone was more insistent, and I pulled on the arm closest to me. He turned, begrudgingly. "I'm fine. Look at me." He didn't. Ugh. "Look at me." His eyes eventually fell to meet mine, and I didn't miss them scanning my cheek for signs of an injury. We were lucky to have Gandalf on hand. "See. All fine." I rubbed his arm in an awkward attempt to make him feel better, before returning to lacing my shirt. We'd lost enough time already.

He moved back across the room, picking up my coat and pack, along with my leather neck-piece. Pushing my braid out of the way, he laced up the neck thingy - ok, so I totally didn't have a name for it yet; neck bracer? - and helped me get my coat on, handing me my pack to sling over a shoulder.

"Does it hurt?" I frowned, a little unsure of what Fili was on about. I thought we'd been getting me dressed and ready? He rolled his eyes and pointed to my cheek, still apparently reluctant to go within a five inch radius.

Oh. "There is no pain - stop worrying." A slight lie, but it'd have to do. The pain was soft, throbbing and insistent, but bearable.

He raised an eyebrow, as if he could see my lies, before taking my hand - I did a once over, checking we'd not left anything, before we headed to the stables.

Onwards and upwards.

Chapter Text

It was two days after the incident - my pill for that day was a little scary to see the least. If you've ever seen one of the pear/bogey flavored jelly beans, you'll understand. It was a light green, with darker flecks of green inside it. I was a little reluctant on popping it, but I bit into it and swallowed. Cue little electronic voice rattling away that it was going to update my brain with healing methods and the medicinal properties of herbs. Gee; thanks. Time to learn about the flora; I'll admit, I scanned the area around my pony with more than a little dose of disdain. Surely I'd learnt more than enough from those boring-ass plant documentaries that James used to watch. Stupid ecologists. As soon as I'd had the thought, the oh-too-familiar throat ache came in, and I sighed heavily.

At least Fili and I were over the week milestone. Mahal.

My blossoming - who am I kidding - relationship with Thorin was horrific. Literally hideous. I was pretty sure that he saw me as wholly dependent on Fili, his golden child, and therefore an utter waste of space. I just tried to stay out of their way and not 'distract' Fili from his duties that much. Whatever they were - Thorin insisted that Fili rode with him most of the time, so that they could discuss tactics. Bastard.

At least I had Bilbo to keep me company - even though he still didn't seem quite right after his night of drinking and was complaining of a constant stomach ache. Maybe I could find some herbs or something with this new pill of mine to make him better.

"We're stopping here for the night." The 'here' in statement was a fairly well protected little outcrop. A forest bordered one side, which we'd came from, along with a little brook where I could bathe and clean my clothes. Fili had taken to using me as his laundry lady. Also a bastard. It'd be Kili next, mark my words.

The company dismounted, exhaling in relief as they set about readying up a camp. We'd only been able to buy a few supplies in Bree, and so everyone was on relatively low humor. It was the same ill temper that made none of them want to go hunting and do something about it. Ridiculous dwarven men.

As soon as Fili had set up our blankets together in a little secret section away from the rest of the group - but not too far, we didn't want anything to snatch us away in the dead of the night - I set my pack down and went to look for herbs. Fili raised an eyebrow when I told him where I was going, but did little more than give me a dagger and tell me to scream if I was in trouble. Great advice. Thanks.

And so I set off at my own little leisurely pace into the forest.

The problem with the pill I'd crunched was less that it wasn't exactly specific unless you were utterly fluent in dwarvish - I'd been practicing but was still a little rusty - but it was more that you only got a vague sketch. When I took it up with Perfect Blonde, she'd shrugged and muttered something about only using available resources. Thankfully this seemed to be a relatively well stocked forest - I found most of what I was looking for within the first half an hour, or so I estimated.

I was setting off back to camp when I heard the rustle.

There was something out there in those trees by the other edge of the stream. I froze.

And then suddenly a shape burst forwards and I flung a knife and it crumpled in midair, crash-landed on the bank of the stream in front of me and everything was still again.

Ok, so I'm not saying that it was a fucking huge stag, but it was freaking impressive. Of course, I didn't register that because I was screaming my head off because I'd just thrown a dagger into Bambi. The deer was already glassy eyed, the dagger quivering between said eyes.

Great head-shot, for all of you guys who think girls are bad at CoD.

True to their word, a few minutes later, Fili and Kili came storming through the trees, louder than the rustle I'd heard. More like a duo of elephants, actually. So Fili looked really hot hefting both of his swords, whilst I will happily admit that Kili looked dangerous in a totally damnfine way of his own. They stopped abruptly when they saw the deer corpse. I was still, at that point, sobbing incoherently about Bambi, on my knees in front of it.

When I'd stopped sobbing a little and turned towards them, Kili let out a long, low whistle. "Impressive, m'lady." He mock bowed, grinning. I could've seriously swatted at him but I was pretending to be traumatized and clutching at Fili. Of course he responded, wrapping me in his arms as he raised his voice to call the others.

They all came running with weapons from the trees as well, and stopped when they saw the deer corpse. By that point I had grown some freaking balls and stopped sobbing over Bambi, and moved forwards to pull the dagger out from the deer's skull. It slid out with a sickening pop. Of course, I didn't really hear it that well - I wiped the dagger on Kili's sleeve - because the dwarves were already clapping me on the back - ow - and moving forwards to grab the deer and haul it off. Fili threw an arm around my shoulder as I padded back and offered the knife.

"Keep it. You earned it." He was grinning; the awful, arrogant grin that did terrible things to the butterflies in my stomach.

We headed back to the camp; I went immediately to fetch the water and make tea for Bilbo. Don't ask me how I knew; I can't tell you. The other's were butchering the deer and singing about it, whilst I brewed the herbs over the campfire, tasting it every so often to check that I'd done it right. Don't ask me how I knew if it was right, either. I still can't tell you. I just don't know. But eventually it was ready, and I poured it into a little tumbler for Bilbo, padding over to where he was sitting.

The Hobbit was facing the cooking fire; the first few strips of meat were just beginning to go on as I approached. He looked up as I drew close; his skin was pale, with dark circles under his eyes. I sat down beside him, noting the few tissues I'd given him crumpled in his lap. I'd have to find some more for him.

I smiled. "I fixed you a brew." The modern words were out my mouth before I could quite stop them, but he didn't seem to notice, and I passed him the cup. "Careful, it's hot." He took the cup, staring glumly into the fire, and we sat in a companionable silence for a while as he sipped away. "I'll get us some dinner." I stood, walking over to where Fili was carving away.

He looked up as I approached, and I lunged forwards to stop his hair from swinging into the meat and getting all bloodied. I had to sleep with that later. The hair, not the meat. Ew. I ended up with my arms around his neck, faces inches apart, and he grinned one of his lazy grins. "M'lady."I grinned back in the same manner. He leaned in, grazing my lips lightly with his own. Someone whooped behind us. I didn't see or care who.

I heard, rather than saw, someone approaching us. Fili pulled away, tucking his hair into his collar with a little glare at me that I wrinkled my nose at. When I turned around, it was Kili, holding his bow and a quiver, full of arrows. "You're meant to be good at targets, right?"

I was on the verge of refusing when I realized that everyone was looking. Even Fili, behind me, had turned to look at us. Fabulous. "Unless.. that was a potshot?" There was a small commotion at his words, and he grinned with that little shit-eating- Ugh.

And so I nodded, taking the bow gingerly. I sent a silent prayer to Mahal that the weapons pill covered archery as I took the quiver too. In my head, Perfect Blonde stretched and smiled. "You'll enjoy this." I sincerely hoped she was right.

Whilst the others had been carving, Kili had set some small torches around the camp; little more than a piece of bark on fire, hammered into a tree. I wondered where he'd got the nails as I slung the quiver onto my shoulder.

"I don't really do this much..." Kili grinned, folding his arms and motioned for me to step up to take the shots.

As then everything just went apart from those arrows and the strip of bark. The routine; arrow, nock, steady, loose. The endless routine. It was harder to miss than to hit; just a thin tunnel with only one destination.

Indescribable.

I came to for the last shot when Kili bumped me on the hip and I staggered, losing my balance. The arrow flew, but I was turning as it flew through the air, the dwarves jeering at Kili as Fili playfully leapt at him, tussling on the ground. "I suppose she can't handle the pressure?" Kili laughed, and the dwarves began to chant as the two wrestled, Fili roaring something about protecting my honor. Pssh. Maybe I should place a bet? Totally on Fili winning. Mahal.

It was only when Thorin cleared his throat that I turned and actually looked at the targets that the laughter died in my throat. How was that even possible? Perfect Blonde had her smug face on. "So, we gave you the super advanced pills. We usually only save those for the important ones." I blinked, a little shellshocked. That explained a lot. And they told me now.

Clean shots through all of them. Even the last one.

"I believe, nephew, that she can handle the pressure." The dwarves slowly silenced, looking at the targets. Even Kili and Fili stopped, their gazes turning to the objects of everyone's bemusement as well. I wondered if I had the same expression on my face.

And then Thorin snarled low in his throat, unsheathed his sword, and slashed down in the air towards me. Perfect Blonde swore, and I could just see her at her desk pressing buttons. I unsheathed the daggers in my sleeves, stepping neatly out the way of Thorin's sword as it fell. Thorin continued on with the momentum, and I was more than surprised to see my boot on his back, sending him on his way. Holy fuck. I heard Fili move forwards; Kili held him back at one arm.

Thorin spun as he charged, and when he looked at me again, his eyes made the normal me literally die on the spot in fear. The other, weapons pill me, grinned savagely. I have no shame in admitting that I let her do all the work. She ducked, parried, slashed, dodged and swiped at Thorin with a speed I'd never attributed to my body before. I felt like I was just in for the ride - weapons pill girl snarled in Thorin's face as his sword caught her cheek in a shallow cut. Normal me could only think that an inch higher and I'd have lost an eye.

Perfect.

But weapons pill me was beginning to wind down - Perfect Blonde swore, muttering about how I needed more stamina. Pfft. Rude.

I had plenty of stamina - why, I could go on all day and all night.

But then weapons pill girl was fading and suddenly I was getting closer and closer to being the one taking the attacks. I stumbled back, falling rather inelegantly. I remember Thorin's blade sweeping in a silver, downwards arc, and then suddenly, with her last bit of effort, weapons pill girl raised both daggers, brought them around the sword, and flipped it clean out of Thorin's hand. It buried itself in the ground, amidst silence.

My chest was heaving, I was sweating like a pig, and I was gratified to find when I looked at Thorin that he was too. For a moment, neither of us moved, catching our breaths. But then he stepped forwards, offered me a hand and pulled me up.

Once I was steady, he dropped my hand, hoisted his sword out of the earth, and went to sit by the fire, taking off some of the meat.

I just stood there swaying, until Fili came over, touching my shoulder hesitantly, as if I were about to grab him and throw him across the campsite. Ok, so that imagery made me laugh mentally, and I gave him a wan smile. He traced the cut on my cheek, glowering at his uncle over my head, before he wrapped his arms around me. "That was incredible."

Ugh. I rubbed my not-bloodied cheek against the rough material of his tunic, exhaling heavily. Bilbo-healing, deer-killing, Thorin-beating, archery-winning. What a day. "M' tired." I mumbled into the fabric of his jacket; it was true, my head and eyelids felt heavier than they'd ever done before. Mahal; I wanted to collapse in a heap on the floor. Unfortunately I had to trudge to the exact spot to collapse in a heap on, and so I padded over to the bedrolls, with promises of dinner from Fili. I'd heard that from his brother before. Hmph.

Fili returned after a little while with two plates of stew; I was curled up in our little blanket nest, having stripped down to my tunic. He climbed in, nestling down beside me as he handed me a plate, kicking off his boots. I practically inhaled the stew, snuggling into him as sleep eventually tipped my eyelids. He wrapped an arm around me, pulled one of the blankets up and kissed my forehead softly.

And we fell asleep like that.

Chapter Text

For once, Fili woke up before me. So that when I eventually rolled over and opened my eyes, yawning and grumbling about the lack of decent feather beds in the middle of the countryside, Fili was sitting beside me, half grinning. Maybe he thought I was going to whip out weapons pill girl if he laughed openly. Yeah. Who was the ass-kicking bad-ass now? Insert mental smirk whilst Perfect Blonde rolled her eyes.

No, my small victory had not inflated my ego at all.

Ha; shameless lies.

I sat up, scooting up the bedroll so I could lean on Fili and snooze as he passed me a bowl of breakfast. I was not nearly awake enough. Apparently someone had gotten lucky with a bird's nest - we had eggs. I tried not to inhale these in the same manner that I'd done with last night's dinner. Tried being the oh-so-crucial key word. But beside me, Fili was busy doing the same. When in Rome.

It was a blustery day - I shivered, almost a little inadvertently, and Fili was instantly wrapping his coat - and an arm - around my shoulders. Such a gentleman. I didn't want to tell him that the hollow he'd picked out was actually mostly sheltered from the wind at that I'd only been shivering at the prospect of a days worth of riding on pony.

If I told him that maybe he'd let me ride with him.

Another internal smirk; imagining a scenario where we rode a horse together. Cantering across the landscape of middle earth. I was in front; Fili's fingers curled around my hips and pulled me flush- No.

I realized then that I had been drifting off - drooling on Fili's shoulder didn't seem to be the best way to woo his attention. Perfect Blonde had been filling me on ways to do such; apparently my lack of beard was a severe turn off for dwarves, but she was working on it. Fuck. And then there was the more confusing aspects of dwarf relationships. As I understood, less than a third of the population were female. Out of the males, a portion chose to marry, and a larger portion chose to devote their life to their skill or craft. Which made a lot of sense; the reason that dwarven guys were such raging balls of testosterone was because they needed to get laid. Likewise with the dragon ladies. And then I was informed by fount of knowledge, Perfect Blonde, that this would mean the beginning of an engagement contraction. Talk about confusing rules of dwarf society.

Anyways, back to courtship.

Apparently all the dwarves were matched; the original seven dwarves made by Aule were given companions suited to them, bar Durin. Ok, so I'll admit that even I was pretty impressed by the dwarf lore I'd picked up. Current heir of Durin, ignoring Thorin, had his arm around me. Mahal, I was sidetracked easily - back to the point; all dwarfs were matched up, more or less. Sometimes there would be a female who'd ask a man to marry her who was already devoted to his craft, and she'd just end up alone. Like, forever. No remarriages, nothing. The same if your dwarf-husband died. Marriage was actually and genuinely for life. Because your husband was your One.

So yeah, as Perfect Blonde was teaching Dwarf History and Lore 101, I was laughing a little.

The whole idea of having The One?

A little ridiculous.

I blocked out Perfect Blonde as I shifted a little, sighing softly. Thorin would be along soon, and then it would be bye-bye Fili and hello battle strategy and keeping you away from that conniving she-dwarf. The fight would put me in higher stead with Thorin, I was sure. But I couldn't really explain that it wasn't me, and that I could actually only fight because I'd died and in an odd turn of events been placed here, and taken a pill which made me able to do the moves. Perfect Blonde had gone on to explain it like mana - the warrior pill worked off my stamina; if I built it, I could go longer and harder.

Fili turned his head in response to my sigh, his chin resting against my forehead. One of the beads on his mustache was cold against my temple. "What worries you?" He murmured more to my hair than to me, but I smiled wistfully.

"Anticipating another day with Bilbo in the wind, is all." I felt the low rumble of laughter in his chest at my words. "I wonder if he'll have realized that he doesn't have to hold the reins up like a standard yet." The hobbit was certainly improving in his riding technique, but his hands were still miles off where they should've been, and he looked as if he would have a heart attack every time his pony so much as tossed her mane.

I couldn't wait to watch him steal from a dragon.

The familiar noises of the dwarves setting up camp drifted back to us, and I shrugged Fili's coat off, slipping my travelling clothes on hastily. Without the thick fur of the collar of his coat around my neck, it was cold. Fili laced up his own vest, shrugging his layers on over the top of it. I pulled my coat on, wrenched my braid free from where it had become caught, and then, after looking up at the ominous sky, pulled my hood up as well. I turned to Fili, who'd done the same.

Mahal, how could anyone look so good in a hood?

He caught eye contact and grinned. Not a good time, butterflies. But I duly returned the smile, leaving him to roll up the beds as I took the plates to be packed. The deer carcass was on the ground; it was astonishing what a company of dwarves could do to an entire deer. I knelt by the ground, balancing with one hand on the floor by Bambi's head. Poor Bambi. With one fingertip, I slid his liquid eyes shut.

As I pushed myself up from the ground, I noticed a small primrose that'd been growing under my fingertips. Well, growing before I leant on it. I brushed the petals lightly, sprucing it back to life. Just fine.

I moved over, putting the plates into their correct little compartment on one of the ponies.

I turned around, and almost collided with Thorin Oakenshield, who had materialized from wherever he disappeared off to when he brooded. "I would ask your company, for today's journey." I frowned. What? Last night he jumped me with a sword and now suddenly he wanted to be buddies? Next thing we'd be making daisy chains, baking cakes, braiding each others hair - or not. I don't think Fili would be too amused at all. "And tell Fili that he will accompany us as well."

I blinked. Oh fuck. Was this where he spoke to both us and told us that we'd never to speak to each other again? A ten foot mile radius? Polite conversation between the hours of 6-7 in the evening and no physical contact? A distance of 2 meters to be maintained at all times and communications to be made most vocally, so that everyone could know our perfectly innocent conversation topics? Perfect Blonde snorted in my head, and I resisted the urge to smile. "Of course."

Thorin wasn't about to move, so I stepped around him, padding over to tell Fili the news. He looked worried, but covered it up quickly with one of his easy, confident smiles.

"It'll be fine, Astrid. He was impressed by your performance last night." He murmured, packing up our little area. I deadpanned him, and he laughed, moving over to press his lips haphazardly against my temple. No, butterflies. Goddammit. "Have a little faith in me." His voice was husky and low in my ear, and did rather delicious things to my body. Almost without any real thought, I moved closer, my fingers curling into the fur of his jacket. He gazed down at me, those intense lion eyes glinting.

Fuck me and call me a whore - I was behaving enough like one.

One of his hands curled around my jawline, thumb tracing the hollow beneath my eye; the other hand he used to move my free arm around his neck. My fingers tangled in his hair, and I'm not quite sure who I surprised more when I tugged his head down. A wanton noise slipped from my mouth as our lips met - he brought his other arm around my waist, pulling our bodies flush together. Another noise. My other hand ensnared itself in his hair; my lips parted and I was just in fucking heaven.

My body was on fire.

Well, I was rubbing up against him enough. No wonder. His fingers on my waist slipped up and beneath my coat and tunic; they felt like little searing bands where they touched the skin. He groaned into my mouth, a rough little noise that made me want to do utterly terrible things to him, and could tell from his intensity that he was at least on the same wave length.

Reassuring.

He pulled back a little, resting his forehead against mine. His eyes, dark and hazy, flitted between my eyes and my lips. I only assumed that I could be in a similar state. I assure you, I was most hot and bothered. Mahal.

And then there was a distinct throat-clearing noise that was definitely not either of us.

The whole fucking company.

Ori, Nori, Dori, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Dwalin and Balin, Oin and Gloin, and Kili and Thorin stood there. Gandalf stepped out from a cloud of smoke, and Bilbo peeped around the tree that had been our main cover.

Excellent.

And then just when it couldn't get any better, Kili piped up. "When's the wedding, brother?" Nervous little titters arose from certain individuals - Bofur - and Thorin practically snarled.

Fili shot his brother a look that I'd never want to receive - but I was, from Thorin - and lifted up our bags, slinging them over his shoulder. I could only really trail after him and pray to god that I wasn't doing the boiled lobster look. Unfortunately, Fili was moving quickly, and so it was less of a dignified saunter than a awkward half-jog. It wasn't until we got to the horses that he stopped, turning around.

"I must apologize for my behaviour." I frowned. If that was behaviour he felt the need to apologize for, I'd like to see the behaviour he didn't. He began to open his mouth, maybe to say something else that was utterly ridiculous.

I cut him off. "I don't understand... That was-" I lowered my voice and glanced around for eavesdroppers "-fucking amazing." I realized a little too late that I probably shouldn't have sworn - lady dwarf and all that - but he grinned.

"I agree." The grin faded a little, and he reached out to tuck a few strands of my hair back. "But acting in such a way is ruining your reputation. I cannot, and will not tarnish you, Astrid, if you do not wish to ask me to pledge myself." Fuck. Dwarves and bombshells were becoming pretty frequent during my time in Middle Earth. Talk about a sudden escalation in conversation. Had he just effectively asked me to propose to him if I wanted to get with him?

God, and I thought Thorin would be the cock-block.

I nodded slowly. So he was ditching me unless I wanted to take it further. And for my own freaking sake. Ugh. "I understand." I forced a small smile. Utterly at a loss what to do. "The customs we have back home are different to your folk." As in a guy got with a girl, they had wild sex and then maybe settled down, maybe went their own ways.

Fili had turned to my horse, tightening the girth on her saddle so that I could mount up. And then turned back to me, offering me his hand so he could give me a leg up. I noted his attempts to avoid eye contact. Apparently that was it; he'd closed off. What a way to get a girl into you.

Mentally, I went through every insult I had and flung it at him. So he'd decided that a week or two of playing on the whole 'The One' dwarven ideology was enough? Like he could screw around for as long as he wanted but as soon as he was done, roll out the ultimatum? Had enough cuddles and warm little bodies next to his? I shoved past him, slinging my leg over and for once mounting on my own. Aside from the rolling nausea and anger, pretty damn proud.

"Astrid-" Ignoring him, I tapped the mare with my heels lightly; she obliged, moving briskly past Fili and into the main area where most of the dwarves were. I dropped the reins as I waited for the dwarves to mount up, letting my pony move to a grassy crop to graze. Whilst I sat there, I took the plait out, strip by strip, tucking the beads away into my rucksack. My hair hung thick and loose around my shoulders, and I tugged my hood up, ignoring the looks from the dwarves. My throat ached. A little part of me regretted storming off. I shot both parts of me back down.

I'd needed the space away from Fili. Maybe this was just his true colors. I couldn't quite tell if he was being serious or if he'd just enjoyed the road and was letting me drop. The latter didn't sound too much like him. But pledging my life away to someone for over a hundred years, and having know said someone for a week or so?

Marriage. That was a big fucking deal. No matter even if you thought that your God had set you up to be with the chick. Dwarven lifetimes spanned a quarter of a millenium for fucks sake; how the hell would we cope? And then that was it - I was bound to him forever. That didn't really seem like a terrible thing - I glared at Perfect Blonde and sent her to a corner.

She could sit there with her 'he's a prince', and 'he'll protect you', and 'think of the sex'. Ok so maybe that later one was me. That wasn't the point.

I stayed in my corner with my pony grazing before Thorin called for everyone to mount up.

Just as we set off, the heavens opened.

Perfect.

Chapter Text

To say that the ride with Thorin was as awkward as fuck would be an under-exaggeration. I rode on one side of our leader, next to Dwalin, with Fili and Kili on his other side. I communicated with Thorin in clipped, practical tones, trying to ignore the purposeful eyes on my loose hair. It didn't help that it was too long to tuck in my hood, or that we'd ridden at speed for a moment, when my hood had flown down. Mahal.

"Mister Dwalin will act as the tutor of your learning, whilst you will spar with Fili and take archery from Kili." Dwarf ladies, needing to be protected and prized? Apparently not. Thorin wanted to install me as his own little weapons machine. Another little pawn to join the ranks. I shivered inadvertently, and felt Fili's eyes on me. "This will take place during the time when we camp."

"Of course." I nodded, turning to Thorin and fixing him with my best serious gaze. Anyone who knew me well - glare at certain blonde haired dwarf who obviously didn't despite the days I'd spent talking about myself and listening to him natter on in return - would've laughed. As it was, they all followed suit, nodding and murmuring confirmations alongside my own.

So basically getting to the location, and then everyone relaxing while I learned how to get my ass kicked, professionally.

I couldn't think of anything more educational.

Thorin nodded, impassive. He was ridiculously majestic, in his own way. Like a bear crossed with a wolf. With a hint of an eagle. I tried to imagine the amalgamation, and only came up with the image of that bear in the tutu from the Madagascar movie. I flexed my jaw rather than laugh. Somehow, I didn't think noble Thorin would take my laughter as a positive thing at all.

He nodded back once - Thorin was a man of few and pointed words - and I drew my pony around and away, trotting off to maybe go seek company with Bilbo. The hobbit had been on fine form since the potion that I made, and had readily leapt into the saddle that morning. I'd never seen him in such high spirits. Ok; maybe when he came running up with the contract on the first day, but certainly not before or after then.

I drew level with the hobbit, who looked up from whatever he'd been doing as I approached.

Bilbo was frowning, pulling at the hem of his jacket sleeve, which was coming undone. "My jacket's certainly seen better days, I can tell you that."

I smiled, reaching out and touching the frayed edge. A simple cross-stitch would repair it, and I voiced as much. "Do you have any thread? I'm sure I could take care of it." I didn't really expect him to be carrying any, but it made me smile when he reached into his pack and extracted a slim needle and a spool of thread, both of which I took. Looking as if he would die at any moment, the Hobbit wriggled out of his jacket, and I took it, holding the reins with one hand as I examined it.

Up ahead, Fili had turned around and was watching us - when I looked, he turned to talk to Kili, and the both of them turned and stared. I ducked my head to inspect the fabric, giving the pony free rein.

Fabulous.

Bilbo eyed me. "Are you really just going to let her go like that?" Well, it didn't seem as if anyone here had a particular problem with letting ladies go. His eyes, most doubtful, were focused on my lack of reins. "She could do anything - run off."

I laughed softly; running my fingers through her mane gently. "She's sweet-natured and a herd creature. I don't think she will." Besides, I had a gentle heel on her outside to keep her in line.I picked up the sleeve of Bilbo's jacket, threading a needle and beginning to cross-stitch gently. Who knew that a compulsory subject I'd done at school would be so useful. I decided against telling Bilbo that I'd failed. The teachers just didn't understand my artistic license. Or something like that. I continued to stitch, chatting to Bilbo about life in the Shire.

It seemed a pretty happy place to be; I was almost jealous. Maybe when we were done with the quest, I could travel back with the Hobbit for a while and spend some time there. I didn't have any other places for the next 200 years - pointed glare at Fili, who was turning to look back at us - that I had any great longing to see.

Cue awkward eye contact.

I tied off the rows of stitches, bit off the thread and stretched the sleeve out a little. Well, it held, and with that amount of thread, it probably would for a while. I handed the needle and thread back to Bilbo, who tucked it into his pack, and then passed him the fixed jacket.

I was just asking him about what a day in Shire life was like - a little boring, I'll admit - when Ori drew level with my pony.

"I'm sorry to bother you, but I've got a tear on my hood, and I was wondering if you could fix it."

Mahal.

By the end of the day, it felt like every dwarf, bar Fili and Thorin, had come to me with tears or loose seams or hems.

When we stopped for the day, it felt odd not to have Fili take my packs and set up our little bed area. Instead, he walked away with Kili, humoring some joke of his brother's. At the other end of the camp, I dismounted awkwardly; my fingers were sore and pricked too many times from stitching up the company's clothes, and I struggled to undo the simple straps of my jacket. Eventually I managed to wriggle out of it, laying my bedroll down, and I'd just collapsed onto it, closing my eyes, when I felt something hit the ground near my feet.

Dwalin loomed above me. "You ready, lassie?" Literally no more than two inches away from my foot, one of his axes were embedded in the ground. I flinched. Why the fuck had I agreed to do training sessions with him? It was like signing a death warrant. I nodded, sniffing weakly as I pushed myself up.

The day had been long and cold and wet; in true English fashion, I was coming down with something. Perfect Blonde brushed against the edges of my mind, warning me not to push myself too hard. There were no antibiotics or true medicines to combat fevers in this world. If I were to fall ill, that was it, until I recovered or died.

Keeping it real.

I pushed myself up, swaying a little as I rubbed one side of my temples with my free hand. "Will I need a sword?"

The dwarf was watching me with what must have been a worried look, and I forced out a chipper smile. "No need; we'll be working with axes." Ok, so to say my chipper smile got a little less chipper would be an understatement - my face dropped. I had little stamina, so no chance of an appearance from weapon girl, and we were going to be swinging battle-axes around. Excellent.

I followed Dwalin as he headed to a more secluded area - it was a small relief that I wouldn't get beaten to a pulp publicly - and threw me an axe. I caught it without dismembering myself, which was quite an achievement in my books.

The dwarf came and stood beside me. "Plant yourself a little more." He patted - more like thumped - my hip with a fist, and then seemed to remember that I was a girl and snatched his hand back. I almost laughed, but my head was muggy. That was before we started the reps.

Slash to the left, step, swing to the right, step, high, low, hack down, twist, other hand, repeat.

I didn't realize how tired I was until my left knee gave in. I dropped the axe - it went skittering along the floor. My chest ached; as if I was breathing sandpaper in and out. The floor spun and rushed up to meet me. There was a violet by the knee I'd fallen to originally.

The last image I had was Dwalin thundering out for Oin and moving towards me before I could hit the ground.

Fuck.

I woke to a bowl of broth being offered and the warmth of the fire on my face. My eyes made out vague figures in the darkness - when I turned my face away from the fire, cold air hit me, making me simultaneously shiver and sober up, so to speak. I was swaddled in heavy blankets, some of which weren't even mine - my little pitch had been moved closer to the fire. And my head was pounding. Balin smiled kindly down at me, and I pushed myself up. I heard a small swell in the quiet murmurs as I did so.

And yeah, instantly wished I hadn't. My head felt like it was going to burst, and I laid back down. Talk about the mother of all headaches. I blinked, trying to clear the fuzzy haze from my vision. And then I remembered the training session and my dramatic collapse - it all came hurtling back to hit me around the face. Wince. Dwalin was sitting across the fire, and I forced a weak smile as I looked over to him. It was probably pathetic, but he returned it with one of his own.

"Ah, the sleeping beauty's awoken lads." Bifur moved over, crouching by my head as he grinned down at me. "You had us all quite worried, lassie."

So everyone knew about my little fainting fit. Perfect.

I tried to sit up again, only then noticing the fur lining of the blanket wrapped around me. It wasn't a heap of blankets - it was my blanket, and then Fili's blanket and jacket on top. The soft fur, along with that smell, rubbed up against my face.

Mahal.

I succeeded in pushing myself up to my elbows, and inhaled slowly, before attempting to sit up fully. My head rushed, and I shuddered, wrapping Fili's coat around me and instantly hating myself, but I stayed upright. That was something. Bifur passed me a bowl, which I gratefully took, curling my fingers around the radiating warmth. "How long did I..?"

It was Balin who answered, procuring a spoon. "You missed a rather spectacular sunset." And the answer to my question was..? I forced another little pathetic smile at him, and took the spoon, poking at the broth. I hadn't thought I was that hungry, but as soon as it touched my lips, I was practically wolfing it down. I wondered if Oin had put something in it - I could almost feel my strength growing a little.

I handed the bowl over to Bifur absentmindedly, a little surprised when he refilled it. "Got to keep your strength up." He winked, and I grinned. It was nice to sit around the fire and talk - the Ori brothers came over and sat down too, and Balin started telling an old Dwarven legend; mainly for my benefit.

As I sat there, gazing around the little company of dwarves, I felt the whole warm gooey family feeling. It was funny how our relationship had built. And they were like a new family, to replace the ones I'd lost.

Oh god. Throat aching feels.

I stared at the fire - the light pushed back the emotion, and I begun to eat my second bowl of broth, Fili's coat around my shoulders, Bifur, Balin, Oin, the Ori brothers and Dwalin around me, and the rest of my little family gathered elsewhere. Balin's voice droned on into the night.

I was content.

Now I just had to resolve my stamina and Fili.

Perfect.

Chapter Text

My little family didn't drop the pace the next morning. So much for kinship. Stupid Dwarves. But then, why would they? Apparently, according to Thorin, even though I was a dwarven lady, and thereby meant to be 'prized' and 'protected', I had little value unless I was swinging a sword around. No innuendo meant. But the majority of my morning was spent dashing off in the bushes to violently hurl everywhere, or trying to weakly glare - whilst hurling - at a certain dwarven prince who swept the hair out of my face and rubbed my back, murmuring dwarven comforts. At least I thought that was what they were. I wasn't really focusing enough to understand.

Two faced wankering dickhead son of a-...

Perfect Blonde was in the process of teaching me dwarven insults, so it was amusing, at best, to be able to hurl mental insults at his back whilst trying not to fall off my horse and pass out on the floor. She was also explaining some of the modes I entered - like the whole fight or flight conundrum, but more enhanced. I literally got taken over by instinct. As in, more of my brain worked. Pretty freaking awesome.

Now why couldn't it just make me feel better?

I groaned, wrapping my arms around my stomach. Aside from Bilbo and Fili, everyone was giving me a wide berth. Even Gandalf would only waggle his fingers in my direction.

But then I had almost puked all over him when he'd trotted over. I had to find out what he was smoking. That shit was serious.

When we'd stop I'd go find some herbs or something to concoct one of the various potions that I really knew very little about. Maybe that'd help me stop spewing my guts everywhere. In the meantime, I'd resume the insulting.

We stopped briefly at luncheon to find something to eat - I wandered off and managed to root out some herbs. I brewed them up with a little water, mashing it into a paste of congealing green gunge. Nevertheless, I swallowed it like a good girl. Mahal.

Perfect Blonde assured me that I just needed to rest for a while, and so when Thorin suggested that we set up camp early, I dropped to the ground amidst my camping stuff and fell off to sleep, ignoring the fact that Gandalf had buggered off.

He was a big boy. He could take care of himself.

I closed my eyes, burrowed my head under my coverlet and fell asleep at the drop of a hat.

The last thought that brushed against my mind as I did so was a question. Could we take care of ourselves?

I woke to darkness. And cold. I sat up, groggily pawing at my face. Hello, sideburns. The fire had gone out - what I didn't quite realize was why someone hadn't started it up again. I was seriously considering just going and taking up Fili's offer just so I wouldn't freeze my butt off at night. Goddamned dwarves. Jamming my fingers under my arms, I shuffled over to it. At least I was feeling marginally better. And that's when I realized that I was utterly alone. It was like the dwarves had all trotted off to go for some big communal gathering, leaving their crap - and me - behind. Perfection.

I pushed myself up - I hadn't removed any of my clothing, not even my coat when I'd collapsed onto my bedroll, and so all I had to do was pull on my boots. Cue dwarf tracking.

On second thoughts, I slipped two daggers into my sleeves, to match the pair in my boots.

Feeling freaking badass.

Thankfully a whole lot of dwarves weren't that hard to track down at all. The tracks were huge. Like they'd rolled Bombur on a space hopper in front of them. But by the time I got there, I was kind of wishing they had been. Or more that I hadn't had to track them down and that they'd just been all sitting around the fire and singing or something when I woke up.

So, when Perfect Blonde had briefed me about the dangers I could encounter on Middle Earth, she hadn't warned me about trolls.

Freaking pug-ugly trolls.

Freaking pug-ugly trolls who wanted to eat my friends.

Mine would be the only mouth ever to touch Fili - the thought had barely burst into bloom when I squashed it. No. Bad Astrid. Somewhere, hiding from the trolls in the back of my mind - later she'd assured me she was coming up with a plan - Perfect Blonde smirked.

I crouched behind a bush and listened.

Poor sweet darling Bilbo. I will love him to the end of time. I listened to his ramblings about worms. And then - just when it seemed as if he'd won them over. Goddammit Bilbo. If there was one thing I'd learnt from scary kidnapping movies, it was always that you should pretend to be into your kidnappers. Do not even mention escape. Trolls weren't that stupid.

I'd like to say that the next part of my plan was utterly of my own invention. That I was both clever and fool enough to think of something. But in reality, it was Perfect Blonde who had me lug the trunks onto the lower half of my feet and tie them on with a knot that I will never ever be able to replicate. It felt like something came over me; as with weapons pill girl. I almost blinked and regained my senses as two sheepskins were hastily tied around the trunks. Where the fuck had they come from!?

Oh god that was blood on it wasn't it. Poor sheepie.

I appraised myself from my lofty perch, clinging onto a particularly long branch for dear life, which I christened my Gandalf-walking stick.. Thank god for oversized trees. And dwarf strength. Each step felt like I was lugging a small child along. A freaky ugly small child. But apparently the trolls had bad eyesight. I hoped so. The sheepskin wrapped around trunks with me balancing my butt off look was really... interesting.

Damn - was this A/W couture, dwarf style?

Just as long as it'd get me out of this situation.

And then quite without warning, I - or rather, whatever Perfect Blonde was doing - strode into the clearing.

The trolls cleared their throats and looked at me.

Fuck.

Thank Mahal that I'd actually paid attention at that godforsaken summer camp I'd been sent to when I was 13. I knew that playing Nancy from Oliver would come off useful one day. I put on my brightest grin and my cockney accent - did I mention that Perfect Blonde had had me smear berries around my mouth and mush mud into my cheeks? Bitch.

"Ah - just in time for dinner!" I clapped my hands together, rubbing the palms. The dwarves looked almost as confused as the trolls. Well, it was nice to know that my sheepskin-trunk-berry-mud look was turning heads. And I wasn't sure that it was mud, actually.

Just quite how I'd ever be able to look at Fili again I had no idea.

"What you on?" One of the trolls grunted in my direction, and I honestly wished I was on something because this was not going well at all oh no. But my body, which seemed to be refusing to obey, strolled over and plonked itself on one of the trunks that the trolls were sitting on. I tried to ignore the smell. Sweet Jesus.

"Don't you recognize a lady troll when you see one?" I folded my arms and frowned. Or my body/mouth did. The sections that I was no longer in control of. Otherwise I'd be running away at the sight of the trolls and screaming.

"A lady troll? I haven't seen one of those." One of the other trolls looked so utterly dimwitted that I almost felt pity. Almost. But the other two were leering and Perfect Blonde was busy doing her thing with my brains.

"Of course not." I exclaimed triumphantly, lowering my voice and fixing the gathered trolls with what I hoped was a look worthy of a conspiracy. "That's because us lady trolls..." here for good measure I glared at the dwarves. Bad move. Thorin glared right on back. "Us lady trolls is shapeshifters." Cue sitting back with a triumphant look.

"Shapeshifters? Oo-er, I've never heard of them before." Little dimwitted troll glanced at the others, who were frowning.

I rolled my eyes and snorted. Blase. Mahal. "That's because we hides." Ok so maybe the extra s was a little Smeagol, but that didn't matter. The trolls seemed essentially sold.

Until one of them pointed with a victorious sneer. "You smell like a dwarf! I think you're trying to trick us!"

Sweet lord - that thing could think!?

I rolled my eyes as only those who have endured girl's school can. "Of course I smell like a dwarf. I disguised myself with the dinner. And I would've gotten away with it, if it weren't for you meddling kids." Ok, thanks Scooby Doo.

"Oh. We're most sorry, lady-troll." I feigned annoyance, waving a hand at them. I noticed vaguely how it stretched out of proportion in the firelight against the far rock wall. Perfect Blonde lit up like a fucking christmas tree.

Thank god she'd finally had a plan - much as I'd said I wanted to devour Fili, it hadn't quite been in that way.

"Would you like to see me change?" The dwarves, who had been murmuring in Khuzdul, all fell silent. As did the trolls, eyeing me up. But then, curiosity always killed the cat, and they mumbled affirmations, and I pointed where to sit themselves. Their movements made the ground shake, and I was suddenly very aware of just how ridiculously dangerous they were.

But then I realized what her plan was as they sat with their backs to the fire, in front of the rock wall. If I could've sworn at her, I would've, but she was dragging my body to behind the trolls.

"Whatever you see now, you must not turn around. Else the spell will be broken." A sudden, sharp rustling to my left made me turn my head - beyond the dwarves I saw a glimpse of grey.

Gandalf.

About fucking time.

Ok so that made me feel marginally better, and I lowered my voice, pretending to chant. In reality, I was reeling off some random insults in Khuzdul. I heard a concealed laugh behind me, and flapped my hand in that direction.

The shadow of my hand flapped against the stone - and then suddenly I was making the little dogs-head shadow puppet I had done when I was a child. The firelight flickered, and I was a stag. And then a bunny, and a snake, and a unicorn and - how long did it take Gandalf to climb a fucking stone?

I took a step back as one of the trolls flinched; the vines on my trunk came undone and snapped and I was plummeting through the air. I let out an undignified noise between a shriek and a squawk, just as I landed heavily on the ground. My other branch rolled away haphazardly.

The trolls turned and snarled, and just as they did so Gandalf screamed something and then suddenly there was a stone troll's face inches from my foot.

And then, quite on cue, I promptly fainted.

Chapter Text

I came to to the noise of what can only be described as pillaging and plundering. I had been propped up against a rock, and Balin was facing me, puffing away on his pipe. I winced, ready for the wave of nausea as the smoke hit me. But aside from the slight lightheadedness - serious shit they were smoking - I felt fine. Better than fine. I pushed myself up and stretched out, yawning. Ouch; a serious crick in my back snapped softly as I did so. I reclined back into the rock, wriggling into the warmth - warm rocks? And holy fuck since when did rocks have arms!?

They wrapped around me, pulling me flush back to what I had totally thought was a boulder of some description. So obviously I'd hit my head pretty hard when I'd fainted. Rocks did not have little mustache braids and a smile that made my stomach writhe.

His voice was low and husky in my ear. "You should not move." It was rich, velvety when he spoke. And did I mention that it did deliciously terrible things to me? I shuddered, what I hoped was imperceptibly. His resonating chuckle told me that it hadn't been so subtle. Fuck.

Fingertips skimmed my side, exploring the expanse of my clothed hip. He sketched idle patterns that I was unable to recognize.

So admittedly I was a little surprised; I'd expected anger at the minimum. But then maybe this was simply an example of his weird-ass behavior. One minute he was valiant defender, the next erratic angry dwarf. Maybe after that, he'd turn to overly-affectionate sex on legs. I blew out a sigh, shifting uncomfortably. His mood changes were giving me whiplash.

Mahal.

"They've all gone to the troll cave." He stretched beneath me, fingers toying with my hair. I became idly aware that his legs were longer than mine. That almost made me laugh. I'd shrunk so much that I was shorter than a dwarf.

He wrapped a stray strand of my hair around his fingers. I watched his hands as he did so. They were different from mine, broader and blunter. Used to handling sword and stone. I wanted to push them away, but a little part of me was enjoying it far too much. "We're alone together." He dipped his head into the crook of my neck. For fucks was just plain unfair. Balin had turned his back, but was still rather obviously eavesdropping. I could've bet money on the fact that Thorin had sent him.

Ah, cute. Babysitter.

But the conversation couldn't really wait until later. I needed to set everything straight. Mainly because I couldn't really survive another awkward as hell pony ride.

I gritted my teeth, trying my best to square my shoulders as I turned awkwardly to face him. "Fili, we need to talk."

He stiffened then. Yeah; damn right.

I moved out of his lap - not an easy feat when I was trying to avoid accidentally groping the subject in question, and sat down opposite him, a little further away from Balin. He frowned, fixing me with his intense stare. Holy fuck.

"I don't understand your behavior. At all." That was a good weight to get off my chest, even if I had folded my arms and said it in the most petulant way known to mankind. Or, on second thoughts, dwarfkind. Perfection. Top marks for Astrid.

His frown remained, and he licked his lips before speaking. Obviously an attention diverting tactic. And you know what - it worked. My eyes totally followed it. "I apologize if my actions have misled or confused you - that was not my intent..."

I was watching the movement of his mouth as he spoke - I wanted those lips on mine. And then suddenly I realized what he was saying, eyes shooting up to his.

Not his intent!?

Oh hell no. He was not getting away with playing me like a fiddle. Nuh-uh.

I tossed my hair back and tried not to glare. As with many of my actions, I failed miserably. And to make matters worse, I felt word vomit rearing it's ugly head in the depths of my throat. I can't even lie that I held it back. "Misled or confused!? Not your intent?! Every single time I see you, you've changed moods. One moment you act affectionate, the next aloof, the next you want nothing to do with me unless I-"

Unfortunately Fili never got to find out what I was going to do.

In the movies, I'd always thought it was truly and utterly cringe-worthy when a guy silenced a girl by kissing her. But at that moment, as Fili curled his fingers into my hair and pulled me close, I could only really think oh fuck.

His lips met mine in a hot mess of teeth and tongues and little quiet sighs. There was almost an ounce of hesitation before I yielded - but what else could I have done?

It was over too soon; he retreated, his face inches from my own. Those lion eyes burned holes in my soul, dark and hazy. "I want you, Astrid. As mine."

No beating about the bush then.

Possessiveness duly noted.

And no, I did not romantically fling my arms around his neck before riding into the sunset on a white pony. Nor did I murmur in sultry tones that I reciprocated before having hot tree sex - I don't even.

"What the actual fuck?"

Fili blinked and looked utterly bemused. There was the queen of awkward silences as he simply looked at me. Obviously well-raised dwarven ladies did not curse that often. Or with nearly such extensive expletives. He cleared his throat before he spoke next, in quiet, urgent tones. "Astrid, I want you to choose me as yours."

Ok, so I totally understood the notions of Dwarven marriages and such - blatant lies on my part - but wasn't this a little... soon? Normal people from my world waited and got to know potential partners before even proposing. And here, dwarves lived way longer that men. So surely the whole dating process should've been extended?

Not to mention holy fuck marriage.

And that was the perfect time for my very own crazy head voice, Perfect Blonde, to chip in with her little speech about how most dwarves know who they want to spend their lives with upon seeing them. And that I should probably choose him or remain forever single. Like, never marry again.

So basically I was insulting Fili horrifically by not asking.

As in Fili, heir to Erebor.

Fili, badass prince.

Fili, who could kill me in more ways than I could dream.

Fili, redoubtable possessor of swagjesty.

Perfection.

It had all become far too intense far too quickly.

I ran a hand through my hair, rubbing my forehead with the other. Christ. Could I really picture myself being with Fili for the next two hundred years? Yeah, he was attractive, and a prince, and he made me laugh. He had always been there for me originally, before the mood changes, most chivalrous. But then on the other hand, we'd known each other for all of a few weeks and he was ultimately bipolar. I got whiplash from his mood changes.

"Ok." My voice was small, muffled.

"What?" His voice was soft, urgent.

"Fine. Let's do it."

Chapter Text

Dear reader, I have never received such an utterly mind-screwingly intense kiss. His hands tangled in my loose hair as he pulled my body flush against his - I was very glad that Balin had his back to us. Fili paused a moment, eyes appraising and dark. The kiss that followed was so unexpectedly sweet that I almost gaped like a school girl. I didn't. Instead I shuddered, pushing onto my knees so my body could have more of that delicious contact. His fingers were searing against the nape of my neck; twisting the curls around his hand so that he could tug my head backwards and pepper kisses against my throat.

Mind Blown.

His free hand curved around my hip, fingers teasing the fabric of my leggings. I bit my lip, really unable to do anything more than dissolve in his hands. Fili shifted me into his lap, and all of a sudden I could feel his need, hard against my thigh. I looked down, hands tentative at best as they trailed down the leather and hard muscle of his torso, toying with the laces of his breeches.

He groaned, a hard, primal noise in his throat, and I could hear the reluctance in his voice as he spoke. His eyes flit between the hand on his laces and my face. "Astrid... not here..." His breathing was almost as ragged as mine, and I lowered myself back onto my heels slowly. His thumb ran down the line of my throat, and I inhaled sharply, inadvertently. His words were a promise I couldn't resist, and I nodded.

For once, it seemed like my own words were unsuitable.

Mahal.

"I'll be needing to braid your hair again." The hand curled in my hair relinquished, running through the mess. "With your permission, of course." The fiendish grin he gave me was enough to make my stomach jitter.

Well, at least now he'd actually asked for permission.

That was certainly a first.

"Sure..." My voice was soft and wobbly, even to my own ears. Well, Fili's kiss had just turned me into a little pile of Astrid-jelly.

The braid was different this time. It took longer - Fili's hands seemed uncertain, and I heard him swear softly in Khuzdul a few times as he had to redo a section. That in itself, combined with the weighty significance of the braid, sent little butterflies spiraling into my stomach, and I shivered.

Naturally, being the ridiculously caring dwarf that he was - oh god I was marrying a dwarf prince - he paused, holding the braid in one hand as he pulled me closer, nudging me with his leg so I shifted fully into his lap. He was totally hot. In both ways. Correction to my statement - I was marrying a dwarf prince shaped heater who happened to be utterly gorgeous. I could totally wake up to this every morning.

Oh fuck.

I would.

For the next two freaking hundred years.

Fili continued his braiding, oblivious to my miniature breakdown in my thoughts. To distract myself from the weight of the decision I'd just made, I toyed with the pendant. It was cold and smooth. And had to be given to Fili - as soon as he'd finished with my hair.

So yeah, Perfect Blonde had been right - I had to squash the self-satisfied smirk she gave me, mingled with more than a healthy dose of pride - I had found someone to give the pendant to. My other. Ugh that sounded so corny. Someone put me in a romcom already.

I was only aware that Fili had finished when he'd stopped tugging at my hair, and was fastening a bead on the end. I hadn't seen anything so beautiful - it glittered in a myriad of pearlescent shades, as if lit from within.

I turned my head - Fili's fingers gently grazed my jawline, and he pressed his lips against the hollow of my cheekbone.

Whoa.

Talk about being screwed over by feels.

My blonde headed dwarf's arms crept around my abdomen, sending delightful little thrills down my backbone. I relaxed, surprisingly, exhaling softly. So yeah, it was totally that romantic moment where my head fitted perfectly into the gap beneath his chin against his pectoral. Maybe I could sneak another little nap whilst the dwarves were occupied with treasure hunting.

Fili'd already found his booty.

No pun intended.

Ok, so totally a pun intended. I was just drifting off quite happily when Fili nuzzled me. Like, cat style. I blinked, looking up to him.

"You need to braid my hair."

Oh holy mother of- As if I was any good at braiding hair. Aside from a simple little plait that I'd practiced on my barbies as a child, I was well and truly awful. Maybe it helped that Fili was blonde. I could channel said barbie-braiding skills into his hair.

He shifted me around, moving his legs so that I was kneeling between them as he turned his head. Naturally my mind came up with the most lecherous and vile thoughts. I'm only dwarf, dear reader. He turned his head to the left, so that I could reach the hair behind his ear on the right side of his head.

My hands were shaking like nobodies business.

His hair felt different from mine. Thicker, coarser. If anything could be thicker than my own little rat's nest. Well, now very neat little rat's nest, thanks to Fili. I smoothed a few sections away, and just as I was about to start ruining his hair, he began to speak, instructing me. His voice was soft and smooth and low and it did terrible things to me.

By the end, he had a passably good braid. There were a few sections where I'd completely fucked up and had to go back over, but it was decent, even by dwarven standards. Owing, of course, to his instructive ability. Otherwise he'd probably be looking like that time I gave my barbie cornrows. Not good.

Not good at all.

I was finishing off the braid when Fili pushed a matching bead to my own into my hand. I curled my fingers around it - lighter than I'd expected, but with the same constellation of colours. Beautiful.

I snagged it onto his braid and pushed it up, releasing the complicated hairpiece and letting it fall. To say I was surprised that it held was a huge understatement.

"Now we are one and the same." His fingers caught my chin, and he stole my reply in a kiss. I laughed, twining an arm around his neck, and for a moment it was just his arms wrapped around my body and our foreheads pressed together. If only we could've stayed in that position forever.

I reached into my tunic, pulling out the stone on the cord. His eyes were curious, but he let me pull it over my head and onto his. It got caught on one of his mustaches, and there was a moment when I was laughing far too hard to do anything but stare and crack up all over again.

He was not so amused - he nestled the stone into his tunic after disengaging it from his mustache - and flicked me softly on the nose.

Ok, I'll admit. I totally feigned an expression of hurt and pouted like a fish.

Fili laughed, leant in and kissed the tip of my nose better.

Ah, the wonders of kiss-magic. I felt better already.

Too soon, I felt him shifting, moving to his feet and pulling me along with him. I could've happily stayed there for the rest of my two hundred years. He smoothed my hair back, tucked one of my swords back into it's sheath, and offered his arm.

Hot damn.

I took it, feeling a little too much like one of those ladies in the old films, turning to lift up my pack. For once in my life, I managed to shrug it on over my coat without making an utter fool of myself, and lifted my head to Fili, curling my hand around his arm. His grin was enough to provoke the stomach butterflies. "Onwards."

Balin looked up at we passed, and I was most satisfied when he inhaled sharply at the sight of our braids and choked on the consequent smoke. Smoking is bad, kids. Don't start. Once he had quite recovered from spluttering, he offered an over-enthusiastic congratulations - his handshake made me feel like he was trying to maul my arm out of it's socket.

"Our thanks to your blessing." I was glad that Fili had the brains to actually accept it rather than stand there giggling like a fool - obviously I did the latter. And our thanks were combined - ugh, we were a pair. Miracles can happen. I tried not to fangirl too hard, and cut Perfect Blonde off as she started throwing in ship name ideas. Astrili was not my cup of tea. Nor was Filid.

They sounded like pasta. Or a new variety of barnacle.

"Have you told Thorin yet, lad?" Balin became serious, eyes on Fili. My heart skipped painfully - did dwarf-uncle-king-in-law have the power to split us apart? God, I'd beat the Kardashian record for shortest marriage. Or engagement that meant the same as marriage and wasn't quite- Whatever.

"No." Fili's voice was clipped, tone short, and his gaze switched from Balin to myself. "Astrid wished to affirm it quickly. Dangerous times." His elbow was practically slicing my rib cage in half, so I smiled vaguely at Balin, nodding. Fili owed me.

"Oh, she's with child?" Balin beamed at me, and it was my turn to splutter. No no no no no.

No babies here thank you.

Not yet, at least.

Perfect Blonde cut to her usual antics of posting little golden haired children with beards in my thoughts. Oh god - was that a baby with a mustache..!?

"No, not with child." Fili had turned an alarming shade of red - make that tomato skinned golden haired children with beards - and turned to look at me for confirmation. I wanted to die. Poor thing.

"Not with child." Balin nodded at my words, but there was a little suspicious in his eyes. Stupid dwarves and their stupid suspicious natures. "I just knew that he was the one." Someone fetch me a puke bucket. Ugh. Talk about cheesy romcom lines. Needless to say, Perfect Blonde was in heaven, throwing love hearts and sonnets at my head. A mental glare sent her scurrying to the hills. "An Amazon's intuition, of course. And in these times..." I shook my head and sighed, earning a sympathetic sound from Fili.

Balin's happy face returned, and he nodded. "That's very good - have you decided on the means with which to seal your relationship?" I blanched - honestly, hadn't the braids been enough? What would I have to do now - get a tattoo, compose a sonnet, make a whole new rune!?

"No, we haven't discussed that as of yet." I could have kissed Fili at that moment. And I would, presently. "As you can see, we have exchanged tokens-" my fingers went to the pendant around my neck "-and the traditional braids and beads."

The elder dwarf nodded, satisfied. Who would've known that Balin was the nosy neighbor housedwarf of the group? I returned his smile, and Fili tugged me off.

Yeah, I felt more than a little like a show dog being paraded.

Every single dwarf we passed on our way to find Thorin and Kili offered us a congratulations, pumping my hand with the power of a steam train. By the end, I was surprised I had any hand left to shake. Or ears for that matter - I had to sit and smile as I was told the stories of various loves or wives.

Until Thorin, who was admiring a sword. And no, that was not a euphemism. It was just a big-ass elven sword - don't ask about the whole elven thing, I'd taken my elven pills the day before.

Perfect Blonde's murmured mental comment of "Overcompensating" had me doing my utmost not to break down into peals of laughter.

The best I could manage was a reedy smile as Fili explained the situation, but I could feel his body tense next to my own. Idly, I rubbed his forearm softly, and he paused for a moment to turn his head and smile at me.

It made my heart melt.

Thorin folded his arms, an action so terrifying in itself that I could barely smile back at Fili, who wrapped an arm around my waist. The elder dwarves eyes were dark and expressionless as he stared me down.

"As my nephew, I give you my blessing." Beside me, I felt Fili relax a little. This was comforting. "But as my heir, I ask you to remember your duties." Thorin's voice was scary sometimes, and at that moment, I wanted to be huddled in my bedroll beside Fili. Said dwarf who had tensed straight back up, fingers curled into the leather of my coat. The dark haired dwarf continued to gaze at us, as if he was having an internal argument. "I will not be made to regret this decision to accept you. You will not serve as a distraction."

I nodded, wetting my lips. My mouth was suddenly dry. So we'd got the ok, but Thorin hated my guts. Maybe it'd been the fight. Maybe my inability to not go longer than a day without fainting.

The dark haired dwarf turned to walk away, before fixing his gaze on Fili. It was really quite predatory, in it's own way. At least I knew the intense eyes were a Durin feature. "We will discuss this later."

Intense-eyed tomato-cheeked blonde-bearded babies.

I saw the muscle in Fili's jaw flex as he nodded, dipping his head as Thorin walked away. I heard the leader of our little company bark out orders, and watched as the dwarves scuttled after him, until it was just Fili and myself. The blonde smiled wanly at me, and I traced the line of one of his dimples softly.

Goddamned rush of tenderness.

He cupped a hand around my chin, fingers rather delectably rough against my cheek. "All will be well, Asta." Fili pressed his lips briefly to my forehead, before commotion outside had him tensing straight back up again. All this stress really had to have his adrenalin working overtime.

"Get behind me." He wrapped an arm around my waist, moving his body to the fore of mine, so that when he moved, I was all tucked away. My inner feminist grumbled mutinously, but I shut her up with a mental glare. Fili was a good fighter. It was only natural that he'd want to protect me. And dwarves were most protective of their women-folk.

Or something like that.

He continued to pull me to the entrance in that same, awkward manner. It was like a freaking three legged race gone wrong. He paused at the entrance, moving to unsheathe one of his various weapons - armored hedgehog - when he actually looked into the sunlight. Then we realized that the others were running full tilt. Holy mother of- Fili released my waist, only to curl his fingers around my wrist and drag me along.

Ugh.

Chapter Text

So after running a freaking dwarven marathon, we managed somehow to stumble into a clearing. And then the closest thing to a weed-junkie or London-drunk I could ever think Middle Earth would have to offer raced into the clearing and almost barreled us over. Consider Gandalf thoroughly outdone for the crazies. As if we weren't all on edge already. Naturally Fili decided to go all caveman-honor-defender, tearing his sword from his sheath and practically snarling. Whilst curling his arm around my waist and managing to use his body as a shield.

Ok. So that was kind of hot.

I, proud owner of many weapons and munch-er of weapons pill, sat back gormlessly and just stared. Kind of missing the point that all around me, dwarves were crouched in variants of their own little battle stances. I shifted uneasily, blinking between the back of Fili's head and- sweet mother of god, were those bunnies? From where the what-I-could-now-see-to-be-a sleigh had stopped, a bunny hopped over, all liquid eyes and fluffy cotton tail.

I practically swooned all over it, offering a hand for it to sniff. When it accepted, I totally went in for the ear scratch. It closed it's eyes, shoved it's head into my hand, and thumped the ground with it's back leg. Needless to say, as a happy Disney addict, I had one thought... Middle-freaking-Earthian Thumper!

Behind me, I heard Fili huff, and half turned. In that moment, he gripped me round the waist all over again, and pulled my whole body crashing back into his. I was rather surprised that I didn't impale him with my knee blades or the swords in my pack. I tried to not look too satisfied as he curled an arm around my waist, holding a blade aloft with the other, face pressed partially against my head.

Tried. And promptly failed.

Regrettably, the sudden change in direction coupled with Fili's possessiveness meant that I overbalanced. And not in a divinely elegant way, like Audrey Hepburn. More like Bambi on Ice. I wavered for a few moments, teetering on the edge of my feet before tipping sideways.

Obviously, dear reader, when one finds themselves prone to collapsing on their butt in front of the family of one's recently proposed-to, one attempts to salvage the situation. However, most find a way to do so other than grabbing their significant others crotch area as leverage. Even as my fingers fisted in the material, I felt Fili wince, barking out an expletive. I released my grip, plummeting to my knees.

And then Fili would perfect the situation by grabbing for me and instead curling his fingers into my hair.

To reiterate, dear reader, I was on my knees in front of my betrothed with his fingers in my hair. In the face of a potential threat.

Thorin's growl was like distant thunder. "Get up."

Oh, you thought I'd been talking about the intruder as the potential threat?

Frankly, I'd rather face a thousand screaming orcs than Thorin Oakenshield on a bad hair day.

No joke.

Make that ten thousand with the look he was giving me.

You'd think he'd found another grey hair or something.

Quite sure that my cheeks were redder than a slapped backside, I straightened up, brushing debris off my knees. Fili followed suite, coughing. And still wincing. It was an accident. Eesh. Grow some balls.

Or maybe regrow?

Golden haired dwarflings floated away and out of the possibilities.

Whilst this had been going on, Gandalf had been conversing with the stranger, and I watched with mild bemusement as he gave him a hit of his pipe. I knew there was something strong in there. I felt like I was behind the bikesheds in high school all over. Not that I was a junkie type back in the real world. Just. Y'know. Fiction broadens your mindset and horizons. Or something like that.

The wizards continued to bicker - I crossed between thoroughly confused, dying of Thorin's death glare, and tending to Fili. Blonde mustache babies, according to Perfect Blonde, were certainly a thing now. It didn't even faze me.

I was so done with her shit.

And seemingly so was Radagast, who quipped back at Gandalf with a rather wonderful one liner. "These are Rhosgobel Rabbits. I'd like to see them try." Whatever he was smoking, if it let me put someone down like that, I'd take a shit-tonne for Thorin.

Before I could hear any more, Fili gripped me by the hand, spinning me to face him.

I thought he'd have got that I wasn't very good with sudden changes of attention. Or direction, for that matter.

"Astrid, whatever happens, stay beside me." He curled his fingers around my chin, kissing me quickly on the forehead and almost taking an eye out when a mustache bead swung along for the ride.

I forced a smile, scraping my thumbnail lightly over his cheek. "Forever and always." Ugh. I could be so freaking sappy when I wanted to.

The smile he returned was so forced it made my heart hurt, and it soon left his face. His eyes were dark with worry. He murmured softly in Khuzdul into my ear, and it was only when he'd straightened up and gone to speak to Thorin that my mind caught up.

Be careful with my heart-jewel for it is you and yours.

His eyes caught mine from across the clearing, and far too inadvertantly, I sucked my lower lip in.

I'd developed a severe habit of worrying my lower lip, apparently.

"Sister!" My heart ached all of a sudden, filled with concern for the brother I'd left. It was like a mental slap in the face; one moment I was in a clearing surrounded by dwarves, and the next, I was throwing popcorn down my brother's shirt, watching Avengers.

I wasn't aware that I'd staggered until Kili caught up, cupping his hands around my elbow and keeping me standing. A gracious smile forced it's way onto my face, and I shook my head to relieve myself of the visions of home that had danced through my brain.

I really didn't need a breakdown in the middle of a tense situation, especially when we were going to have to run.

Perfect Blonde - I'd have to actually ask for her name sometime - brushed against my mind, feather soft. "Little one?" Her voice was mothering; soothing, with just the right hint of carefree teasing. I braced myself, straightening up. At least this time I'd managed to do it without grabbing anyone's crotch. Somehow I doubted that my betrothed would be especially delighted if I stuck my hand down his brother's trousers. Even if his brother was really rather attractive.

"I'm fine." The dismissal was more to Perfect Blonde, but Kili backed off like a scolded puppy, and I massaged my temples, trying to regain some semblance of normality. "Sorry."

The last thing I needed was another Durin hating on me.

Kili trotted back over, dismissal already forgotten. "Thorin sent me to give you this." He had in his hands a bow similar to his, yet constructed of a lighter material. More slender; suited better to a woman, I supposed. And I guess it wasn't really the ideal location or century to start harping on about gender equality and the fact that I'd do perfectly well with the same instrument as Kili.

Oh no, I'd save those rants for when I was on my period.

Damn, that'd be good.

My mental shadow cackled and rubbed her hands together.

"We're going to run across the plains whilst that guy distracts the orcs with his sleigh." Kili's tone was so chipper that had I been drinking anything, he'd be drenched. Because I would've spat it out in disbelief. Of all the stupid plans that the dwarves devised - including my lady troll - this had to be right up there with the worse moments. Kili must've read the disbelief on my face, because he gave me one of those boyish, crooked grins, which would've sent fangirls sprawling at his feet.

Thank god Middle Earth had no fangirls.

"It'll be perfectly safe; Fili and I will look after you." I'll admit that I was the teeniest bit surprised that he had the proper grammar to say 'Fili and I', but I nodded.

The amount of smiles that I'd forced today did not bode well.

"Company." Thorin's gruff shout from the center of the clearing drew everyone's attention, and as one, they shuffled over to him. I was surprised how many weapons had emerged from each of them.

I coined it the puffer fish effect.

"Our plan is this; Radagast will distract the orcs through this passage. We will take this one." So I'll admit that I was pretty impressed by his map drawing in the dirt skills, especially with the end of his sword. The blade itself was of dwarvish design, naturally fairly hefty, so I was surprised he had such control.

No pun intended.

Bofur stepped forwards, looking a little uneasy. "Forgive me for saying this, but a few of the fellows are concerned that it may be a wee bit..." he cast a look at the dwarves around him, all who were avoiding eye contact, "risky."

Thorin moved forwards, all swagjesty and intense eyes. I blanched, flinching back into the solid comfort of Fili. At least this time, he wasn't going Durin-line on me.

"We are on a quest to slay a dragon and reclaim a homeland, and yet you shirk in the face of a few orcs?" Bofur shook his head, plastering on a smile, almost before Thorin had finished his sentence. "Good."

He raised his voice against, extending the sword to point in the direction of Radagast, who was making last minute adjustments to the sleigh.

"When he goes, we go."

Chapter Text

Out of the many, many ways that I could be described, long distance runner was certainly not one of them. Not even close, as I hurtled vaguely in whatever direction the dwarves were going. It was like the nature channel; the flock of birds migrating as a unit and it always looks so freaking pretty - that is, until one obviously doesn't get the memo and goes careening off in an opposite direction. Let's just say that every time I could've run the wrong way, I did.

And honestly, if Fili or Kili hadn't grabbed me by the hood and tugged me back into the group every time that the dwarves stopped and I continued off on my own little tangent, I'd have been doggy breakfast ten times over. I pondered idly, after one particularly close encounter, how well the pendant could bring me back if I'd been torn to mincemeat.

Thankfully my betrothed didn't seem to want to write me off; each movement away from him was marked by a very definite tug back in his direction.

Perhaps it would've been romantic; the girl is tugged into the guy's chest where she waits, breathless, and then they kiss before she slays a dragon... Thoughts of my brother left me cold for a moment, flooding the back of my throat with regret. He was a hapless fantasy and romance fan. Not the most conventional of genres, but he'd never really been the most conventional of people. Even the thought of him was a dull ache in my chest. The thought of the paperbacks piled up around his room like a secondary wallpaper.

Mahal.

I fisted my hand in the closest part of Fili available; thankfully this time it was only his arm. Nothing that Thorin could reprimand me too heavily for. Or Fili could spend his time wincing away at. I needed him pulling me along in his wake like a speedboat, not limping around because I'd once again successfully castrated him.

"Amrâlimê?" Rough fingers smoothed across my head, and he tucked my body more closely against his. Radagast pushed onward in the distance, and really, I was more surprised than not that the stupid wargs hadn't realized that those were bunnies and not dwarves with floppy ears.

Trying to imagine Thorin with huge bunny ears gave me a cross between a playboy centerfold and the Easter Bunny from Guardians of the Galaxy. And the giggles. It also gave me a seriously bad case of the giggles that no amount of glaring would quiet.

That was when the growl from above us came.

The hairs on the back of my neck rose out of instinct, a deep, purely primal thing that told me to prepare for fight or flight. I wasn't really that good at either. The growl reverberated again, and a thrill of fear shot down my spine. Slowly, methodically, the dwarves flattened themselves against the rock wall of the overhang. In one movement, Fili had my body wedged into the tiny space between his own and the rock wall. i could feel his heartbeat, steady as ever through the thick leather of his tunic.

It was ridiculously reassuring.

The growl reverberated again, and Thorin swore softly in guttural Khuzdul, almost unheard were it not for his lips positioned right next to my ear. His face was inches away.

Needless to say, neither of us particularly enjoyed the family bonding experience.

Thorin nodded to Kili, a swift sharp motion that was authoritative in itself, almost headbutting me in the process. The youngest Durin nocked his bow, but there was fear in his eyes and I'd never wanted to hug anyone as badly as that moment.

I felt Fili stiffen beside me as Kili stepped out from the overhang; it was the first time I truly appreciated the bond between the two brothers. I'd had Fili for a few weeks; Kili had been his friend, ally, battle partner and conker opponent long before I'd come along. Fili eased the sword silently from his sheath; hoisted the blade as he watched his younger brother quickly aim up.

And no, the whole sword and sheath thing was not an innuendo.

He was aiming into the sun; it was an unfair shot even for a talented archer. My fingers fisted into the vine snaking up alongside my back. I hadn't really noticed it there - but then, I hadn't had time to. A surge of adrenalin caught me off guard, washing through my body.

The arrow sung through the air; there was a yelp, and for a moment nothing else. And then the warg came sliding off the rock, grating noises echoing out of it's throat. Thorin headed for the orc; he was by far the more talented swordsman, and it was dispatched quickly. The warg continued to yelp, even as Dwalin battered at it, and I squeezed my eyes shut.

Back home, I'd volunteered at the local wildlife shelter. The dwarves seemed to have their own way of euthanizing pests.

Fili curled his fingers around my wrist, practically hauling me out of the gap. I tried not to wince as, for a moment, my arm felt like it'd removed itself from it's socket.

He was fast; faster than me, and he dragged me across the rocky ground, hardly giving me enough time to stumble, let alone pause for breath. By the time we reached where Gandalf had popped up, he shoved me down beside him.

My pride was more hurt than anything as I tumbled down the sandy slope and came to rest on all fours. Perfect Blonde chimed in with her complimentary warning about my stamina, and spots swum in my vision as I shook my head and tried to stop the world from spinning quite so fast. It worked only marginally; I pushed back to sit on my heels, still feeling nauseous.

A hand on my back made me look up; Bifur crouched beside me, frowning. He muttered something that I didn't understand, and that was when Fili slid down.

I attempted to shake back my hair and shoot a trademark grin in his direction, but the tiny people hammering against the edges of my skull were having none of it. I winced, hissing in pain as I tipped forwards.

Ok.

Just to clarify, dear reader; I am not usually a shrinking violet. Usually I don't wither and faint after a jog across a field.

At that moment, however, I was having trouble breathing, let alone figuring out whether exactly I was going to faint. Pressure built inside my head until I wanted to scream. I didn't. There was an orc pack out there. And whilst I've had my finer moments, I'm honestly not that stupid. My nails curled into my palms as a distraction; my body began to fold in. I keeled forwards.

Fili was beside me in a moment, swatting Bifur away and curling an arm around my waist. It was the little support I needed to stop collapsing there and then.

But not enough.

"Asta?" His lips were beside my ear; I vaguely registered Kili and Thorin slipping down into the tunnel before darkness descended. I really hadn't wanted Thorin to see one of my little fits. They weren't exactly what you wanted in a potential candidate for your heir's wife.

In the blackness, a pair of luminous lion eyes twined within vines, blinked, and went out.

I woke up to the comfort of a proper bed. And by proper bed, I meant one that wasn't Fili's arm under my head and his coat wrapped around my shoulders. Not that I protested very much to that one though.

Bird song filtered in through arching windows; sunlight spilled in from behind arches that my brain vaguely distinguished as elvish. Quite how I'd figured that out, I left to the drugs. And exactly why we were in what seemed to be an elvish settlement I left to better things unknown.

I yawned, stretching out on the pillow and rolling over onto my side.

And straight into the arms of my favorite Durin heir.

Sweet mother of God those eyes.

And that smile.

Defibrillator in the Dwarf-lady isle, please.

"How do you feel?" His voice was soft; husky with the edge of sleep. And it made me want to pounce on him in a movement that I wasn't even sure I could've accomplished. He grinned, curling his fingers round my jaw and tracing stray hairs back from my face. His thumb swept the line of my cheekbone, and in a sudden, unexpected - but not protested - action, he rolled me onto my back, crooking a forearm to support himself above me.

Mahal; color rose to my cheeks and I curled an arm lazily around the back of his neck, tugging his head closer to mine.

His breath ghosted across my lips, and a stray mustache braid rested briefly against my cheek before he leant in, eyes flickering between the expanse of my lips and eyes. Inadvertantly, I began to squirm under the heat of his gaze. My lioneyes.

"Better." Understatement of the year. Frankly, I was surprised I could even murmur that in the space between us; as soon as I'd spoken his lips were against mine.

All that doubt about however many years by his side?

Totally and utterly eradicated.

His lips were soft; I gasped a sigh into his mouth as he withdrew, tugging him back down with the hand fisted in his hair

He obliged with a low laugh, smirking as our mouths met in a delicious tangle of tongue and lips and teeth. Hot and demanding and insistent, he rolled his hips down and against mine, lips still crushing my own in an embrace that I could barely wrap my head around, let alone breathe through.

Where had my good little Durin's heir learnt to kiss like that?

His free hand roamed down from cupping my neck, tracing the valley of a collarbone absentmindedly before descending further. The places his fingers roamed across burned with a delicious fire, and there was just too much for my brain to process. My stomach twisted in a delicious knot of anticipation, and I was suddenly hypersensitive of the barest scrap of silky slip that covered my body. Apparently the elves had taken it upon themselves to redress me in my sleep.

Not that I was complaining.

Fili's hand slipped around the curve of my breast; thumb grazing the flushed nub. The sensation of fabric and pressure was too much against the tender skin, and a low keening noise slipped from my throat unbidden. His response was a rumbling growl in the back of his throat, and my neck arched, hips bucking wantonly into his, as his lips sought the unmarked skin, claiming it as his. The hand left my breast - a soft exhale of disappointment left me - before tugging my leg up to hitch around his hip.

Mahal.

His hips surged against mine in a sudden moment of delicious, delicious friction, and a gasp came unbidden, my hands curling into his hair and pulling his face back down to mine.

He'd be the death of me. Not that I'd want to die any other way.

In the space between us, his fingers hesitated on his laces; I nodded softly, and he leaned in to capture my lips, mouth scorching. There was the quick hiss of fabric against leather as his fingers made quick work of his trousers-

And that was when the knock against the door came.

I deflated into the pillow like a pufferfish.

I despised elves.

Chapter Text

Of all the many wonders I'd experienced during my time in Middle Earth, I'd somehow peaked.

Hopefully not too soon.

The knock was followed by a sudden yelp from Fili - his trousers had apparently fallen too low, and he'd practically hopped, skipped and jumped off the bed. Or rather, attempted to do one of those impressive little sideways dodges that I'd seen him do approximately three times before - the most famous being my forehead's exploration of his crotch when we'd encountered Radagast earlier today. Needless to say, he'd failed, and I watched the slow-mo realisation that he was going to land like a sack of potatoes cross his face.

He hit the floor, and as I pressed up onto my forearms to cast a worried glance down with the kind of amusement only an old married couple should really be able to manage. The door flew inwards. Or not flew - because it was an elf, and despite this being my first actual living breathing regular elf - for which I was horrendously excited - so the door just kind of ended up whooshing inwards. As if a sudden breath of wind had caught the hinges, and like a willow branch it'd gracefully bent and permitted-

Hold the fuck up.

I'd been in elfland for a hot minute and this was happening. 

Maybe they'd infected me with 'the poetry'. Or worse, 'culture'.

Was that even a thing?

The elf in question remained in the doorway, one brow arched. I noticed, admittedly with a twinge of pure and utter hatred, that the brow was perfect - all smooth lines and instagrammable 'full brow goals'.

Bastards.

Mutinously, I rose, very much Dracula style, until I was sitting fully upright and trying to remain what little poise I had. Fili still being on the floor wrestling with his laces.

"Welcome." The words were like music; like a soft breeze that floated across a winding spring and eventually came to rest in-

Christ.

"Thanks, I guess." For the welcome, certainly. Maybe not the whole barging through the door just when things were finally getting interesting with my Durin's heir.

Damn, I hadn't realised this universe was so old that knocking hadn't been invented.

I also hadn't realised exactly what'd happened until Fili had rose from his position beside the bed, moustache beads all haywire and his hair knotted in some great lion's mane.

"'Eh?" 

It was one of the moments, dear reader, where one imagines that they've been dropped into a sitcom - not that I hadn't from the moment I landed.

This exact moment was the moment where the long suffering protagonist breaks the fourth wall and stares at the camera with a look so utterly done that it's like they're in the room.

What I'm saying, is imagine that I'm staring into this camera, because the first word my potential husband - Mahal, that's scary to think about - had said in front of this impressive as hell elf who could probably behead an oliphaunt with a butter knife, was 'Eh'. 

"Whatdoyoumean'eh." It wasn't really a sentence, mainly because I'd plastered on one of those award winning, killer watt Trophy Wife style smiles, and had spat the words out the corner of my mouth in a hushed undertone as I'd turned to face the elf.

"I mean-" Obviously Fili didn't understand the concept of subtlety; it took me a few, rather desperate moments to realise he was speaking Khuzdul, and I relaxed slightly. "I mean how did you understand the elf and answer it?"

"'Eh?" Oh sweet ironic death, strike me now.

Fili snorted, straightening up and patting down his hair. He'd managed to retie his trousers, and looked as regal as a rather dishevelled dwarf heir could. 

I was proud.

I'd never met someone who rocked post-make out hair that well.

 "You're requested in the dining hall, to meet with your kinfolk and attend dinner." This time, I was a solid 90% sure he'd spoke in regular whatever-we-spoke - Mahal, I was terrible at this - and a quick peek at Fili affirmed it. I watched his jaw relax, shoulders unwinding, and glanced back at the door just in time to see it shut.

As if a bastard elf had finally, sensing the turn of the hour like the sparrows wheeling in a... sky? --Like a true cockblock, decided that his time had come and he was to bid the lady and her prince goodbye.

I couldn't help but smirk, rolling my legs off the bed, perching on the edge.

"Requested at dinner." He was pensive all of a sudden, rolling a braided bead between his fingers. 

"Mahal, they're totally up themselves." I couldn't help the grumble, and flushed, suddenly expecting the door to burst back open - I did sneak a quick look over my shoulder, only to be drawn back by the sound of Fili's laughter. It was a belly laugh, the infectious kind that could crack a smile on even the most high and mighty of the elves, and I was unable to stop myself from joining in.

"Well," he bent down in front of me, voice low and amused. "Let us hope they don't cross you, little lady, lest they find themselves at your displeasure." His hands caught my face, pulling me forwards to press his lips to my forehead.

"They'll find I'm a lady not easily pleased." I tried to lower my voice the way that he did, all husky and low and goddamn sexual, but honestly, I'm pretty sure it sounded like I had a cold. He laughed anyways into the space between us, muttering something about 'doing his best' before he leaned in and captured my mouth against his.

He tilted me back, tongue flickering against my lips to beg entrance - it wasn't like I was in any state to deny, and besides, the sudden weight of his body between my legs sent a white rush of pleasure tingling through my bones.

"Fili--" His name sounded downright dirty from my mouth, and his lips trailed lowering, teeth grazing my jawline, nipping at my jugular as I tipped my head back and arched my body from the sheets. I could feel him - a different weight, hard and insistent against my thigh, and I whined, fingers twirling through the soft mass of his hair. His mouth moved lower - open mouthed kisses across my clavicle, then a sudden, flicker of a tongue that wound round my breast but never met it's mark. 

Fucking arse-

I hissed behind my teeth, but the tongue was gone, lips working down my abdomen and I felt everything suddenly tighten in anticipation, fingers twisting in the bed sheets and breath coming out in short little pants that were frankly obscene. He drew a path around my navel, his eyes briefly flashing up at me, so dark and different-- so intense.

I sobbed a moan, lost behind a hand that I pressed to my mouth as he skipped to my right hip, fingers joining tongue as he worked his thumb across the ridge.

His body had slipped past from my thighs, and they tightened in a quick, reflexive motion, and I watched as my body writhed to receive any friction - any at all, just something.

"Behave." The growl itself would've been enough to all but send me over the edge, and he raised his mouth from where it'd been, hand cupping my thighs and prising them open. 

I almost died at the sight.

Watched as his eyes traced every mark, every part of my body until they settled there, between my legs.

"Fili, please-"

He cut me off with a soft 'hush', kneeling, even as his arm came around my thighs and held them against his shoulders. I pressed the ball of my foot to his back and wriggled down, further towards him; he laughed, and I couldn't stop the tremble that shook my body as I felt the cold wash of his breath against my inner thighs. 

I was hypersensitive, every nerve ending reaching for him, even as his face drew closer and closer and closer-

His bottom lip grazed across my clit, and my body arched like a goddamn bucking bronco.

The damn bastard laughed, head retreating, and I whined again in the back of my throat, torn between the most intense need I'd ever felt and the total and utter embarrassment of this situation.

We already knew that the elves didn't knock.

I hardly expected a wayward dwarf to do better, if people came looking.

His fingers slid over my thighs, pushing up the end of the silken slip I'd been wearing.

The rasp of calloused fingers against my thighs was too much - my body rolled, uselessly--

And then all of a sudden he'd slid a finger inside of me, his mouth fastening over my sensitive nub.

The noise I made would've made a pornstar proud, and I half turned upwards towards him, even as he curled the finger within me and a sudden bolt of liquid pleasure weakened any resolve to leave the room.

He hummed against me in quiet satisfaction, even as the initial finger was joined by a second, slick and expert as they curled inwards and his tongue flickered over my clit.

I was up now - as upright as I could manage to be, trembling on one elbow as my free hand fisted in his hair and my hips rolled against his face. 

"Fili, please--" They weren't words so much as sobs, my teeth sinking into my lip as another hot stab of pleasure brought me dangerously close to the edge. "Fili please- Mahal, please, just--"

At my words he sat up, and something warm and dark burnt inside of me at the feeling of his fingers still within me - the dampness on his face. 

"What do you want, Astrid?" He'd never looked more leonine; more dark and desiring and dangerous.

I pulled his head forwards, and our mouths clashed in teeth and tongue and lips and the faint taint of my core. A whimpered plea broke from my throat as his fingers slipped from my body- and then all of a sudden he was pushing me back, further up onto the bed, laces undone and trousers left behind.

An elbow bore his weight above my body, hips clashing together as I felt the full length of his groin press against my core - and then gone, as he rose onto his knees to pull off his shirt. My arms found him, hands grasping onto him before I felt I'd even thought for it to happen, tugging him back into the space between my legs, against my body. Fili paused, eyes critical for a moment, before one hand fisted in the silk and lace concoction that hardly served a purpose and ripped it off. 

And that was it - his eyes ran down my body like a prize-- not that I was much different; Mahal, even in my pleasure induced haze I could appreciate the lines of his muscles; the plateau of his pectorals, running into the ridges of his ribs and his abdominals, and then down, into the dip that resembled a 'V', to... there.

Holy motherfucking shit balls.

"Do you..." I wanted to laugh, and would've, had it not been for the concern in his eyes that'd cause him to tilt my chin up. The fingers that pressed my gaze up to his and trailed wisps of hair away from my face. I wondered briefly how inappropriate it was in these times to be this desperate, but I murmured consent into the space between us, arms slipping around his neck. 

His expression melted, shifted into something else that was lost as he pressed his forehead to the side of my face.

I felt, rather than saw, his hands fumbled, the sudden twitch that ran through his shoulders as he fisted himself-- and then the sudden pressure at my entrance, the white hot lick of pleasure as he ran himself upwards and then back, and then once more.

Impatient as I was, I wriggled, and it was then that I felt his hips flex and the full length of him slide home.

My eyes were shut - I wasn't quite sure how or when, but my legs had tightened around his hips, fingernails driving into the flesh at his back as I shuddered. 

Fili was motionless.

"F-Fili?" My voice quivered, and I felt the muscle in his jaw work against my face as his hips retreated an inch--

"Fuck." I'd never heard him swear like that before; not in Khuzdul, and the soft groan caused a slick droplet to slide from my core, cool against my heated skin. He mouthed against the side of my neck briefly, even as his hips rocked back into my body - the bed squealing in complaint at the sudden shift.

"Please-" I was breathless, even as he continued, drawing himself all the way out only to crash back into me with an intensity that sent my vision spinning. 

I was full - almost to the point of discomfort, but it was a perfect fullness, and I felt my inner muscles tighten and spasm around the intruding length, tugging him back, even as he drew out for another stroke. He continued, hard, slow, strong thrusts that sent me into momentary lapses of everything. I couldn't think to meet them - couldn't think to do anything as he lowered his hand and drew lazy circles around my clit in time with his thrusts.

And then he rolled his hips upward, one hand on my thigh realigning my body, and his hips tightened and snapped, rushing against mine with a speed that sent my whole body arching and spiralling up the bed, hands scrabbling fruitlessly at the pillows, his hair, his back, anything.

Dimly, I was aware of a sudden rush in my pelvis, something curling and tightening and twisting and then popping open, rushing back upwards like a dam broken. It rose to the forefront of my consciousness, to my being, until there was nothing but the fiercest rush of pleasure I'd ever felt, even as it glided through every nerve ending, into my fingertips and my toes and back up, bursting behind my eyes like camera flashes.

I heard his name, somehow, falling from my mouth in a way that was obscene and completely and utterly right; felt the slick of his forehead press against mine, the wrinkle of his brow as his eyes shuttered and he growled my name, thrusts wild and timing forgotten.

Somewhere, I felt the sudden heavenly rush of warmth within me, and it was almost better than what I'd experienced.

We lay together in the afterglow, the full weight of his body a comfort against mine, even as my fingers played idly across the skin of his shoulders and he whispered to me in Khuzdul.

At some point, we flipped, my body moulding to his as he settled on his back, tucking the sheet around my body with the same tenderness that he'd stroked my hair back with.

"Hey guys!" I blanched.

"Mahal." Fili blinked.

"Dinner's almost ready!" Kili burst through the door.