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Nowhere Near the Straightedge

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Kili sucked in a sharp breath and winced as he felt the edge of the blade bite more skin than rough stubble. He fumbled for the bowl of warm water on the table in front of him and brought a damp cloth to the cut under his chin. From the far end of the home he shared with his mother and brother there came a familiar shout.

"In here," Kili hollered in response, still pressing the cloth firmly to the aggravating little cut.

Thorin trudged into the room and without preamble said, "Where's your brother?"

"Don't know. Haven't seen him since near dawn. Think I'd be doing this myself if I did?" he said, nodding to the small blade and bowl of water. Normally Kili handed over his shaving kit to Fili who had become quite a master barber. He'd laugh and joke, and if Kili didn't already trust him with his life he'd be concerned at his brother's tendency to wave around the sharp blade to illustrate the finer points of the tale he was spinning. But it was easier and quicker for Kili to let Fili shave off the stubborn growths of his beard every few days. Kili removed the cloth and felt at the nicked skin, satisfied that the bleeding seemed to have stopped.

"What do you need with him?" he asked.

Thorin watched Kili wet the small blade and bring it up to neck and, pressing gently, begin scraping his stubble away in short, even strokes upwards. The glint of the dwarf-forged steel glinted against his dark hair and tanned skin.

Clearing his throat, Thorin said, "Dwalin wanted a word. Something about Fili keeping up with his training."

Kili huffed a laugh. "Is that why he slipped out of the house, nary a good morning to our mother? Trying to evade Mister Dwalin's training regime."

Thorin hummed something noncommital, transfixed instead by the edge of the blade Kili was holding dragging along his skin. It wasn't that dwarves never shaved, proper beards were always kept neat, but Kili was in that stage of youthful rebellion, insisting that a clean jaw improved the aim of his archery. And his aim was unquestionably one of the best in the Blue Mountains, if not among the entirety of Durin's folk, so Thorin let it be.

"Shouldn't you be using soap at least?" Thorin asked.

"Ran out," Kili said simply. "It's not too bad without it, really. But normally I get Fili to help. I always make a mess of it."

"Give it here," Thorin said.

Kili paused before putting the blade, hilt-first, into his uncle's out-stretched palm. It'd be foolish to refuse; he'd end up with more cuts than if someone who could actually see what they were doing helped. Leaning back against the table, Thorin crowding into him, Kili suddenly felt unsure about this. One of Thorin's large, calloused hands came up and gripped his neck firmly, tilting it to the side.

"You ought to—" Thorin said, stopping and clearing his throat again.

"I should what?" Kili asked quietly turning his head against the weight of Thorin's hand. He realized their awkward positions with an, "Ah," of recognition and moved to sit properly on the table. Feeling unreasonably flushed, Kili spread his legs and Thorin stepped into the offered space. Swallowing thickly, Kili felt Thorin's thumb press against his windpipe. A pressure not wholly unwelcome it turned out.

Tortuously slowly, Thorin dipped the blade into the bowl of water and brought it up to Kili's neck. Kili tried to calm his heart by breathing in deeply through his nose. He was thankful Thorin's intense gaze was solely upon following the movement of the blade Kili could feel against his skin. His uncle's hand that steadied him was warm and large and so very different than Fili's. When his brother shaved Kili's beard he would chatter away and constantly pull back and rarely had to tell Kili which way to turn his head. But Kili found himself unable to talk and Thorin did not break his concentration away from removing swaths of dark stubble in even stripes.

Swishing the blade around in the now tepid water, Thorin unceremoniously angled Kili's head in the other direction and began again. The only sounds in the room were of the constant scratching of coarse stubble falling to the knife in Thorin's hand and their quiet breathing. Kili couldn't say if he preferred this or his brother's boisterous retellings of his previous night at the inn's common room. Suddenly Thorin's warm hand was replaced by the cool damp cloth that perfunctorily cleaned any stray whiskers from Kili's skin. Stepping away, and clearly finished, Thorin was inspecting the edge of the blade rather than looking at Kili when he asked, "Good?"

Kili brought a hand up to feel his jaw and neck. It was warm and his palm a little sweaty, and felt oddly nice against the newly-smooth skin.

"Yeah. Thanks," he breathed. Thorin looked up, his face inscrutable, before moving slowly to lay the small knife on the table next to where Kili sat.

Thorin seemed to hesitate a moment, but the looking directly at Kili said, "Make sure your brother finds Dwalin before too long."

Kili nodded and replied, "Yes, Uncle Thorin." And Thorin was gone just as abruptly as he had come. Kili spent longer than he'd dare admit staring into space, brushing his fingers lightly against his freshly shaven cheek, and thinking of his uncle's wide calloused hands around his throat.

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