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Winter in the mountain, Fíli found, was turning out to be rather cold.

This shouldn't have been such a surprise, really; after all, he had lived most of his life in a mountain. However, while Thorin's Halls had not exactly been Erebor's equal in wealth and splendour, they had still hosted a living, working dwarf community. Dwarves meant forges, and forges meant warmth. Perhaps Ered Luin had not been quite as well designed in that aspect as Erebor, and certainly there had been plenty of nights when they had huddled in front of a fireplace for more warmth, but at least it had always been warmer inside the mountain than outside it during the winter.

Erebor, for all its ingenious design, was ill equipped to deal with such complicated problems as not having enough dwarves and fuel to keep the large forges going. Perhaps it might have been worthwhile if the mountain had held more people, but with the handful of dwarves that remained after the battle it was more efficient to save their dwindling fuel supplies for private fireplaces. Even Bard's people had only made use of Thorin's offer of shelter after the battle for just long enough to build themselves adequate shelter in the less ruined parts of Dale. Fíli could understand the wish to have their own home, really he did, but that decision did leave Erebor all the more empty and cold.

The funny thing was, the cold wasn't at it worst at night, as he might have expected. He shared a small set of rooms with his brother, Thorin, and Bilbo, who had taken it upon himself to make sure Thorin didn't break himself further by ignoring the healers' instructions before he had recovered fully. For the sake of conserving fuel they all made their beds in one room just big enough for them all, and one fireplace combined with the body heat of three grown dwarves and one hobbit made for rather warm, cosy nights. Which just made it all the worse when they had to venture out of their rooms into the cold mountain in the morning.

Walking at a brisker pace, Fíli brought his hands close to his face and blew warm air over them. It helped, if only for a moment, and he quickly tucked his hands inside his sleeves afterwards. He'd have loved to sit in their rooms and waste away time, but even with so few people there were still various errands to be run, and apparently that fell to Fíli more often than not. Thorin was still too weak, Bilbo barely let him walk to the dining room where they shared dinner with the rest of the Company most days, while Kíli had taken over a corner to craft his courtship gifts. Not that Fíli begrudged him his task, he wanted nothing but happiness for his brother and it seemed clear Tauriel would give him that, but it did sometimes get annoying that he was always the first choice to be sent out in the cold.

Yes, yes, he knew he was the heir and it was important for him to learn his duties so he would be more effective at helping Thorin once the mountain got full again. He still reserved the right to grumble a bit about having to brave the cold mountain all on his own. At least now he was on his way back, every step bringing him closer to the promise of warmth. Once he did get back he was not going to sit down in front of the fireplace and not move an inch until dinnertime.

As he got to the corridor leading to their rooms, however, he found he was not alone. A very familiar figure was walking along ahead of him with some purpose on their step. A grin rose to his face as he hurried forward.

"Ori!" The little scribe came to a halt and spun around, blinking at him. "Are you looking for Bilbo? He's probably not here right now, I think he should be meeting with Óin around this time."

"Ah, no, I'm not." Ori fidgeted a bit, though Fíli wasn't quite sure why. "I, ah. Actually, I was looking for you."

"For me?" Fíli blinked. "Why would you want me?" He hadn't done anything to offend Ori or cause him trouble recently, had he? That was most often the reason why someone would seek him out, at least someone who knew him well enough to be on personal business. Official matters were quite different, but then he doubted Ori would have any reason to find him for such things.

"I have something for you." A slight flush rose to Ori's cheeks, and he ducked his head as he dug around in a little bag he had hanging by his side. Fíli caught sight of a couple of rolls of parchment and what looked like knitting needles before Ori took out something and thrust it toward him. "Here."

"What's this?" He took the offered object — the pair of them, as it turned out — and turned them over in his hands. "Gloves?" They were gloves, no doubt, knitted from soft wool in a grayish blue colour. There was a design on the back of each one, the first rune of his name reaching above the rest of the glove in raised lines.

"I, ah, I heard you complaining about being cold some time ago." Ori was squirming now as though he had just done something horribly embarrassing. "And, well, I'm really not sure how warm your leather gloves are, but they're clearly too heavy to be worn indoors. I thought you could wear these when you need more dexterity, or under your usual gloves for warmth. If you want to, that is."

"Did you make these yourself?" It was a stupid question, really. Of course Ori would have made them himself. How else would he have come across a pair with Fíli's rune on them, and in such a perfect size, too? Not that he had any idea how Ori would know what size gloves he wore.

"Yes, I did." Ori nodded, a quick bop of his head up and down. He kept his eyes downcast, though, almost hidden behind his red bangs. "I hoped you might accept them."

"Of course I will." Fíli couldn't contain his grin as he pulled the gloves on. They were indeed nice and warm, sitting snugly over his poor frozen hands. "Thank you, Ori. These are brilliant."

At least Ori looked up at him properly, giving him a smile that almost made Fíli feel warmer than the gloves did. "I'm glad you like them, then." Then, before Fíli could say anything in response, Ori brushed past him and hurried down the corridor. Fíli considered calling after him, but decided against it. Ori probably had somewhere to be, or he wouldn't have been in such an awful hurry. It would have been quite rude of Fíli to keep him any longer.

The gloves stayed with him, though, and he kept them on even as he got into their rooms and the relative warmth therein. Ori had been right, they were much more flexible than his heavy leather gauntlets, and allowed him to move the crude pieces on a game board as he played against his uncle to keep Thorin occupied until Bilbo returned. Thorin lifted his eyebrows, but didn't ask anything, which was just as well. It wasn't like Fíli could have offered much of an explanation, anyway, not knowing much about Ori's motivations. Perhaps he had just needed something to knit. Mahal knew Fíli was sometimes itching for a good blacksmithing project.

All that mattered to Fíli was that the gloves were soft and warm around his hands, like slender fingers holding onto his hands all through the day.

*

Few people actually realised that knitting was Ori's craft.

To be fair, this was in part because few people gave him much consideration at all. It was easy to ignore a scribe, and often Ori preferred it that way. When people did notice him it tended to be for his writing or art, and he preferred that, too. However, while he took great pride in his trade, it was not much of a craft in the dwarven sense, and even an accomplished scribe sometimes got struck by the urge to create something he could hold in his hands. For Ori, he did this by knitting.

He had been taught by Dori, who in turn had learnt from their mother, but Ori had long since surpassed them both. Most dwarves could knit at least a little, much like most knew the basics of sewing and repair, that was simply sensible after all. When weather grew cold it was nice to be able to take some wool and a few idle hours and turn them into a scarf or a pair of rough mittens. Such basic skills, however, could not help when one wanted a well fitted pair of gloves, or a sweater that was neither baggy nor restricting, or even something with a more decorative pattern. That was where Ori excelled, and it was something he rather enjoyed getting back into now that they were not stuck on the road with no free time and no materials anymore.

As it turned out, this lead to him producing a collection of knitwear all designed for Fíli.

He started with the gloves, following them with a scarf when it seemed Fíli enjoyed wearing them. Then came a hat, and a hood, and a pair of socks. Fíli accepted each gift with obvious gratitude, and could be seen wearing them frequently. Ori rather enjoyed seeing his grin at each new offering, and that was more than enough reason for Ori to spend his free time designing and knitting ever more gifts.

Of course, the thought of keeping Fíli warm with the fruits of his labour was even more reason, but there was no reason to focus on that too much.

*

"Do you think he's ever going to catch on?"

Kíli blinked, looking up from the hair clasp he was making for Tauriel. "What do you mean?"

"Thorin." Fíli nodded towards the door that led to the bedroom. For all that it had been months after the battle, Thorin still wasn't quite back to his usual strength, and often retired for rest long before the princes were ready for bed. Not that Thorin himself was about to admit such weakness, of course, but he did have Bilbo, who was quite happy to shepherd him into bed soon after dinner only to join Fíli and Kíli for a quiet pipe or a chat afterwards, once the protesting king had fallen asleep in no time at all. "About Bilbo."

"What about Bilbo?" Kíli frowned, though Fíli supposed it was directed at his little gift and not at the conversation. He certainly hoped so; it would have been rather unfortunate to think two of his closest relatives were quite so blind as to utterly miss what was going on in front of their noses.

"You know. That he's all but courting Thorin." Fíli took out his pipe, though he didn't stuff it quite yet, twirling it in his hands instead. The new fingerless gloves Ori had recently given him were rather brilliant, allowing for free use of his hands while also providing some extra warmth when it wasn't quite cold enough for the regular gloves. "Bilbo spends almost every waking moment with him, makes sure that he eats and doesn't break himself and everything, and uncle still seems to think he's only doing it for the chance to boss him around."

"Well, it's not quite traditional courtship, is it?" Kíli shrugged. "Maybe he would figure it out faster if Bilbo was offering him some gifts and not just fussing about him all the time."

"That might help, yes. Uncle's kind of traditional like that." Fíli grinned as he watched his brother continuing to fiddle with the clasp. "What about you, then? You have any luck with your pursuit?"

"Tauriel's accepted all of my gifts, if that's what you mean." Kíli gave him a slightly dreamy grin, much the same he always wore when the subject turned to his beloved elf. "Though then, I also made sure to tell her that I'm interested. After all, she's not a dwarf, so she might not know that repeated gifts are a common way of courtship."

"Seems strange someone wouldn't know about it, but I suppose elves would have different ways. Not that I would know, or care for that matter. No offence to your lady love, obviously, but she's a bit too tall for my tastes." Much too tall, really. He couldn't really imagine being with someone taller than him, which really wasn't much of a requirement on his part, considering he was quite a bit taller than the average dwarf.

"Oh, aye, I know your tastes. You like them small and spirited, don't you?" Kíli chuckled. "Look out, maybe Thorin will realise his feelings if he thinks you might try and steal Bilbo from him."

It was a good thing he was still only playing with his pipe and not smoking it, as he would surely have choked on the smoke at hearing such a comment. As it was, he was only left spluttering. "Bilbo? I'm not interested in Bilbo! I mean, he's nice and all, but even if it wasn't clear he's utterly besotted with Thorin, he doesn't even have the slightest sprinkling of a beard!"

"Ah, yes. Of course you'd have to have someone with a beard." Kíli looked far too amused for some odd reason. "Anyone in particular you've got in mind, then? Since you sure seem to have a clear picture of what you want."

"Nah, I've no time for stuff like that." Fíli shrugged. "I mean, if someone tried to pursue me I might be interested, but I'm not going out of my way to find anyone right now. The mountain's still almost empty, anyway."

"And you think you'll have more time when everyone gets here? Because there's a stupid thought if I ever heard one." Kíli nudged him. "What if someone was interested in you but you didn't notice, like Thorin with Bilbo?"

"Oh, please. I wouldn't be that blind." Fíli snorted at that. "Maybe I already had my heart broken. You ever think of that? There you're sitting all happy and in love and poking me with all sorts of hurtful questions!" It was ridiculous, of course. To get his heart broken, he would have had to pursue someone and be turned down. But why would he do that? He already had all the people he needed around him, with the exception of his mother who was surely already on her way. He had his brother and uncle, and all his various cousins, and Bilbo who was basically another uncle by now. And Ori, of course, when he needed a moment with someone who wasn't related to him and was actually pleasant to spend time with.

"Except that'd require you to have actually gotten off your arse and done something about it." Kíli rolled his eyes, and, really? That was so disrespectful of his only older brother, it was just shameful. "One day you're going to figure all this out and I'm going to laugh in your face."

"Right. And I'll tell Tauriel you're only interested in her because her chest is level with your face." Which was obviously untrue, listening to Kíli wafting on about how brave and great and strong and wonderful she was, but if Kíli was going to tease him he felt justified in doing the same.

"You say that like she doesn't get to enjoy the benefits as well." Kíli smirked and stood up. "But since you reminded me, I think I'll go see if I can find her before it's too late in the day. This is more or less done anyway." He paused before adding, "Be careful with those pretty gloves of yours, you know Ori's going to be upset if you try to light your pipe and end up burning your gloves instead."

"You're just jealous Tauriel never knits you anything." Which was an entirely different thing, obviously, since Tauriel and Kíli were in love, and in any case Kíli was the one making her gifts because Kíli was a dwarf and Tauriel wasn't.

"Yeah, sure, that's precisely it." Kíli laughed for some unfathomable reason, then hurried out of their rooms. Somehow Fíli didn't need to be told he shouldn't wait up.

Clearly Kíli was jealous.

*

"Are you knitting for the idiot princeling again?"

Ori didn't dignify Nori's question with an answer, focusing on his work instead. Of course, this being Nori, his brother took this as an invitation to sit down next to him and poke at his knitting. "Please don't do that." He didn't specify whether he wanted Nori to stop interfering with his work or to stop calling Fili names. It applied to both, anyway.

"I just don't see what you see in him." Nori ignored him, tugging at his work again. "What are you making him this time?"

"Socks, if you must know." He held the socks away from Nori's reach, huffing in annoyance. "I don't come to annoy you when you're working on something, do I?"

"I thought you already made him a pair, though." Nori sighed. "You do realise he probably doesn't even know why you're doing this, right?"

"I did, but I figured I should make another pair or he'll wear through them in no time. Bilbo told me he's wearing them all the time." Which made Ori smile just thinking about it.

"You didn't answer my question." Nori nudged him with an elbow a bit more sharply than was strictly necessary. "Seriously, you're wasting your time. You could have just about anyone, and you choose to pine after an idiot who doesn't even understand you're courting him."

"At least he understands I'm doing something for him. Thorin still doesn't seem to have caught on to the fact that Bilbo isn't actually required to keep him happy and healthy but he chooses to do so."

"You're not exactly arguing against me there, baby brother." Nori ruffled his hair, which Ori had always found very annoying, and he rather suspected that was precisely why Nori did it so often. Brothers. "Seriously, why him? Is it just because he's a prince? It has to be that, doesn't it, it's the only thing he's got going for him. It's not like you need to concern yourself with finding a wealthy spouse, not with all the gold we now have claim to."

"My interest in Fíli has nothing to do with his position." Had that been the only thing he was concerned with, he would have stayed well away from such hassle. Becoming a prince consort seemed like so much trouble.

"Why, then? Why would you try to get him to notice you?"

Ori paused, looking at his knitting. He was halfway through the first sock, now, and it was starting to take shape. He could almost see all the time poured into every last stitch, all the feelings he was trying to knit into the fabric to perhaps make it that little bit warmer. "Because he makes me smile." It was true enough. Fíli's grins never failed to coax an answering smile onto his face. "Because when I'm around him, I feel warm no matter what the weather."

"Huh." Nori nodded slowly. "I suppose there's worse reasons."

"So you'll stop bugging me, then?" Oh, he so hoped Nori would stop bugging him. He did actually want to finish the socks sometime this month.

"I suppose I have no choice, do I?" Nori stood up, shaking his head. "You always were a stubborn one when you get your mind set on something. I swear, you make Dori seem reasonable in comparison." He then turned and swept away before Ori could come up with an appropriately snappy response.

Well. At least he was leaving Ori in peace for now.

As for what Nori did beyond that, he really didn't care.

*

All in all, it was a good thing Bilbo had insisted Fíli should not be fully armed while walking around the mountain.

Of course, this didn't mean he was entirely without weapons; he knew better than to be so foolish. He was Thorin's first heir, and that meant there would always be people who wished him ill. There was a reason he had so many weapons on his person most of the time. However, while he still had a few knives tucked away here and there, and his trusty throwing axes of course, at least he didn't have swords at hand. If he had, he might have ended up swinging them when he heard someone approaching him from behind, and while he wasn't too keen on contemplating which one of them would have come out on top, someone would have been bleeding for sure.

As it was, he spun around and danced away from the presumed threat, only to realise said threat was, in fact, Nori. He was fairly sure he didn't want to stick a knife in Nori. Well, not unless he was given a very good reason to do so.

"So." Nori tilted his head to the side in a casual manner, as though he hadn't just crept up to Fíli like the sneaky thief he was. Well. At least so Dwalin claimed, though Fíli still wasn't entirely certain that wasn't just Dwalin's idea of a sappy endearment. "Tell me, my prince, are you an actual idiot?"

"What?" Fíli blinked. That… wasn't what he had expected. He wasn't sure what he had expected, but this definitely wasn't it. "An idiot? Me?"

"Well, it's either that or you're a cruel little prick, but you seem jovial enough that I'd rather give you the benefit of doubt in this matter and believe you an idiot instead. Which is in your advantage, mind, as I'm not in the habit of stabbing idiots unless they wave their weapons at me first."

"If you don't want people waving weapons at you, maybe you shouldn't sneak up on them." Because indeed, he had been very close to pulling a knife on Nori for his sneaky ways. "And what do you mean, I'm either an idiot or cruel?"

"I'd say you know perfectly well what I mean, but I'm starting to realise it's entirely possible you do not." Nori snorted, looking all too relaxed for someone who had just implied he might stab Fíli if he turned out not to be an idiot. Fíli liked to think his odds didn't look too good, there. "So, since apparently you indeed have no idea what you're doing, I decided to take it upon myself to spell it out for you."

"And why would you do that?" Not that he had any idea what Nori was going on about. It might have been easier to figure out why he was taking such a duty if he'd had the faintest inkling.

"An idiot might still be taught. In my experience there's only one cure to wanton cruelty, and for all my past crimes I'd rather hate to stoop to regicide."

"I'm not king yet." Which… wasn't the best defence, he knew that, for all that he wasn't aware what crime he was being accused of.

Nori snorted as though amused by this. "It's cute how you think that's going to hold. I give Thorin until spring thaw to announce his abdication, and that's a damn generous estimate."

"Don't be absurd." Fíli frowned. "Why would Thorin do that?" It made no sense whatsoever. This, ruling Erebor, was what Thorin had been born to do, what he had dreamed of ever since that destiny had been wrenched away from him by dragonfire. There was no way he was going to give that up so easily.

"You want the itemised list?" Nori lifted his eyebrows, which for him was quite the spectacle. "He's seen his weakness to gold, has seen what it might cost him, and he won't want to repeat Thrór's mistakes. He wants the hobbit, but knows our burglar is hardly fit for life in the court. Bilbo will want to go back to his Shire, to visit if not otherwise, and a king cannot just traipse off for the better part of a year or more just to follow his love. On top of all that, he's spent most of his life worrying about everyone else. Maybe he'll decide that winning back the mountain is enough of an accomplishment for him."

"I don't think that's what you wanted to talk to me about." Though he wondered if Nori's actual subject was any less ridiculous.

"Indeed not." Nori dug out a knife and started to clean his nails with its tip, wearing the kind of uninterested look that only ever appeared on people who held a very deep interest indeed in the matter at hand. "I'd say I want you to stay away from Ori, but really, I suppose the problem is that Ori won't stay away from you. And in any case, he is a grown dwarf, however much I dislike the idea, so either way that's not actually any of my business, even though clearly it should be. However." His expression turned hard as he pointed the knife at Fíli, not quite in a threat but making a point. "Whether you're being an idiot or a prick, I want you to stop playing around."

"What do you mean?" Clearly there had been a mistake, because Nori was not making any sense whatsoever.

"I'm giving you two choices." Nori's expression was entirely serious, still. "You can either actually reject his advances, or you can return them. I won't have you leading him on without an actual answer any longer."

"Advances? What advances?"

"You thinks he knits things for just everyone?" Nori rolled his eyes. "Even Dori and I don't get anything unless he's feeling particularly amenable. And yet he's showering you with one gift after another, just because you haven't clearly rejected him yet. I'd rather think you're just stupid enough not to realise he's been courting you, because if you actually were playing with his feelings just for fun I would get in serious trouble for all the stab wounds I'd leave on you."

"…Ori's been courting me?" That couldn't be right. Ori wasn't interested in him, not like that. They were friends, yes, but why would Ori ever want him? Ori was pretty and sweet and intelligent, he could have his pick of suitors especially now that he was rich as well. Sure, Fíli knew he wasn't too bad himself, he had a decent beard and plenty of hair even if he wasn't exactly the epitome of dwarven beauty, but not everyone counted the whole inheriting the throne as an advantage and those who did were generally not the sort of people he preferred to associate with.

"Of course he has, all bloody winter! And every time he gives you something you nod and smile and thank him nicely, but he never gets anything in return, because apparently you're too stupid to see when you're being offered something that should be well out of your league." Nori twirled his knife between his fingers one last time before it disappeared so quickly that even Fíli, who had some experience with hidden knives himself, was hard pressed to say where it had gone. "Two weeks, princeling. I give you two weeks to either give him something in return, or to let him know you're not interested. After that, if you've done nothing, I'm going to tell him I spoke with you and you don't return his feelings, because he's been hung on you more than long enough without anything to show for it. You're going to bring him grief either way, I'd rather see it nipped in the bud if I can."

Clearly there was no easy response to that. Nori did not seem to mind much that he had left Fíli gaping without response, as he simply nodded, then turned and walked away, leaving Fíli alone in the empty corridor.

Ori liked him. Ori had been courting him. All those gifts that had made Fíli feel warm in more than one way had been courtship gifts.

Well. At least it explained why Kíli had seemed so exasperated lately.

*

Ori had hardly seen Fíli in more than a week.

He kept telling himself this was hardly a cause for concern. The mountain was growing busier as more dwarves wandered in and the approach of spring prompted them all to start working harder to clean up and fix everything the dragon had destroyed. While Thorin could at least walk about now, though still not for very long distances without worrying Bilbo, a lot of the work directing their still limited work force fell to other people, which often meant Fíli. Clearly Fíli was just busy dealing with all that.

Except he couldn't seem to find Fíli even when he should have been free, such as in the evening when there clearly wasn't any duties he could be attending to, yet no matter how close Ori came to skirting the line of an impolite hour to call, Fíli didn't seem to be present. He wasn't even at dinner some days, and left as soon as he had eaten when he was. Ori tried to ask Kíli and Bilbo about it, as surreptitiously as he could of course, but they either couldn't or wouldn't tell him anything. Whatever had Fíli so busy, clearly nobody was going to tell Ori.

Assuming he was actually busy and not just avoiding Ori. Which, well, was entirely possible, much though he hated to entertain the thought. And with every passing day, this possibility seemed to grow likelier and likelier.

Of course, it was just about when he was starting to give up hope that Fíli would give him the time of day ever again that he walked into the rooms he shared with his brothers and found the prince standing there.

Dori and Nori were nowhere to be seen, which was rather suspicious; Ori had been in the library for a while, and they should have both been home by now, if only to sneak off again later in Nori's case. He could only assume they were hiding behind the door leading to their shared bedroom, listening in. That was the only explanation for how Fíli could be standing right there, in their rooms, apparently waiting for Ori.

"Ori." Fíli cleared his throat, taking a moment to find the words. "I, ah. It's been brought to my attention I may have been… less than observant."

"Oh?" Ori tried not to sound too wary as he closed the door behind himself, setting down the book he had been carrying. "About what?"

"You. And, well, what you have been doing." Fíli shook his head. "Really, I have no excuse. I've spent so much time these past months snickering at how oblivious my uncle is being, and how he would surely have caught on if Bilbo had been giving him gifts like Kíli's doing with Tauriel. And at the same time I was just happy about each new gift from you and never stopped to think why you were giving them to me."

"Right." Well, he supposed it could have been worse. Fíli could have been trying to let him down easy by not responding. Now he knew the lack of response hadn't been through any intent at all.

Of course, that meant he couldn't be sure anymore that Fíli actually liked his gifts, if he was only now realising what they meant.

"So, after it was made clear to me just how much of a fool I'd been, I figured you deserved a proper response." Fíli walked closer, now, and a part of Ori wanted to back away, but he stood his ground. "Just to make sure, though… have you, or have you not, been courting me with your gifts?"

"Ah." Ori swallowed. "I have. Well. I thought I was, but clearly I wasn't doing it very well if you didn't even realise."

"I promise you, the fault is entirely mine." Fíli closed the rest of the distance, standing barely a pace away from me. "In that case… I hope you will accept my response."

Fíli was holding something, Ori realised, or more specifically holding something out to him. It was a small wooden box, not of particularly special make, neat but not too ornate. After a moment's hesitation, he opened the box.

What he found inside were beautiful beads, two each in silver and gold, with runes of love and devotion and other fine things carved into their surface.

"I thought of making you knitting needles, to show off my blacksmith skills and everything, but I decided against it in the end. I don't know your tool preferences well enough for that, and mother's always told me it's bad form to give a craftsman tools as a gift if you don't know precisely what they want." Fíli paused. "That, and I didn't want to make it look like I'm just vying for more knitted things."

Ori couldn't help but smile, now. "I'll knit anything you'd like, as long as you promise to wear it." He took Fíli's free hand in his own, the one that wasn't still holding out the box, and squeezed it. "Thank you, though. Not many people even consider knitting to be a craft, since it's something most people know at least a bit."

"Then they're fools and don't deserve to ever have anything warm ever." Fíli made use of their joined hands, quickly bringing Ori's hand up to press a kiss on the back of it. "So. Ah. Do you approve?"

"Of course I do." His smile grew even wider, now, as he was rather sure he was going to burst from happiness. "I've been trying to get a response out of you for months. You think I'd turn you down now?"

"Well, you might have come to your senses in the meantime. You know, decide you'd rather not have someone who's so hopelessly unobservant or something." Fíli gave a deep sigh. "Also, there's the whole crown prince thing, and all the hassle that comes with that. I certainly wouldn't complain if you changed your mind."

"Not likely." Feeling somewhat bolder, he took the box from Fíli, then leaned up to steal a kiss from him. "Now perhaps we should have my brothers come out from wherever they're hiding so I can make it clear they're not to threaten you with any unfortunate things?"

As it turned out, Dori was rather too busy crying happy tears to do much threatening, while Nori was smirking at Fíli in a way that made Ori suspect he knew precisely who had decided to inform Fíli of what was going on. His suspicions only grew stronger when they told Fíli's family in turn, and Kíli wondered aloud just how Fíli had finally caught on to Ori's intentions. From the teasing the poor prince endured in the following weeks it seemed clear everyone but Fíli had been aware of Ori's efforts, yet nobody would admit to cluing him in. It had clearly been Nori, Ori was convinced of that even before Nori cornered him one night to remind him he could do much better indeed, and just because Fíli had finally seen the light after a friendly ultimatum didn't mean he wasn't going to disappoint Ori again in the future.

He even had the gall to say Ori still had time to change his mind. As though he'd ever had any choice in the matter.

Of course, then Thorin decided to mark the beginning of spring by announcing not only his engagement to Bilbo but also his plan to step down from the throne by the following Durin's Day in Fíli's favour, which made Ori rather tempted to run off. But then, it wasn't like he could claim not to have known that it would happen some day, even though he was fairly sure nobody but Nori with his ever-present eyes and ears and possibly Dwalin had foreseen it coming so soon, as was evident by the amount of gold changing hands among the Company that day. Ori wasn't sure why anyone would have bet against the spymaster and the captain of the royal guard on a matter concerning the king in the first place, but then he also didn't understand the point of gambling in the first place when all involved had more gold than they knew what to do with.

He didn't run in the end, of course. As Nori had said, he could be stubborn when it counted, and being married to a king sooner than he had expected was hardly worse than going off to meet a dragon. Besides, clearly Fíli needed him now more than ever, given the way he was all but panicking over the news.

Really, he could only blame himself.

*

"Remind me again why I'm not supposed to be lopping off heads while the court is in session."

"I really don't think that would give the right impression of you as a fair and reasonable ruler, Your Majesty." Ori didn't even look up from whatever he was working on as Fíli stomped in. "Long day, I take it?"

"What should have been a fairly simple matter of assigning lodgings to new arrivals somehow turned into another argument between the brewers' guild and the bakers' guild. The new dwarves didn't even belong to either one!"

"You do realise they're not going to stop trying to wrestle each other until you put your foot down once and for all." Ori clicked his tongue. "I still say you should just threaten to invite more trade on ale and baked goods from Dale, just to see how they deal with that."

"Actually I'm counting on Kíli and Tauriel managing to secure us some trade for good elven wine so I can throw that in their faces. Not literally, though. Probably. Unless they get even more annoying."

"I do like how you have a plan." Ori still didn't look up as Fíli cast aside his cloak and crown with somewhat less care than was probably appropriate. "You could just unleash your mother on them, of course. I'm sure she'd get them sorted out in no time."

"Oh, I'm sure, and she'd enjoy it, too. I want to at least try getting them to behave on my own, though." He walked closer to get a look at whatever it was Ori was working on. "So what's got your interest so completely, you won't even look at your dear husband?"

"Just weaving in some ends." Ori snorted. "Besides, I see plenty of you every day. You can wait until I've got this one secured."

"Oh, you're done with your sweater project?" He nodded toward the bundle of wool in Ori's lap. "Or are you just weaving the ends in to make it neater?" Not like he knew how a big project was done. He could just about manage to make a very sad scarf, if that. His mother had rather despaired at teaching him anything that didn't involve sharp edges.

"All done with this, well, aside from the finishing touches." Ori reached for his tiny yet frighteningly sharp pair of scissors to snip the end off a tail of yarn before threading another through his needle. "Which means I get to pick my next project, too."

"Actually, I was just thinking about that earlier." Fíli sidled up to the chair Ori was curled up in, leaning over the back to wrap his arms around his husband. "Would you consider a suggestion?"

"Depends on what it is." He could hear the smile in Ori's voice, could feel it in the way Ori leaned his head against one of Fíli's arms.

"Really, I was going to ask this anyway, but this gives me the perfect excuse." He grinned, enjoying the moment of impatience that he knew Ori was doing his best to hide. "What is your stance on baby clothes?"

He wasn't entirely sure what the "throw half-finished knitting project on the floor" part of Ori's response signified, but for all his past record in reading Ori's actions, he was going to take the "turn around and scramble up for a deep, hot kiss" part as a good sign, anyway.