Dwalin had seen some sights. He'd been there when Thorin had received the news of his brother's death – the sound Thorin had let loose had made Dwalin's teeth hurt. He'd seen Erebor grow and change but still somehow stay essentially the same, sheltering them that needed it beneath dark glittering wings. He'd met Thorin and Dis' aunts, who'd remembered what Erebor had been like when such places had been illegal. They'd worn sensible shoes and fussy blouses, but their eyes had been bright and fierce as they'd talked about police busts and the press's infernal attitude. Some things never changed.
Still, despite all of that, and much more besides, Dwalin had never expected to see young Ori, so quiet and studious, jabbing a punter with a knitting needle. True, the punter in question had been halfway through grabbing hold of Ori in a way clearly not to his liking. But Ori had always been the quietest soul in the group, with his knitting and books and fiercely overprotective brothers who were nowhere to be seen at that moment. When no one else had noticed his plight, Ori had taken care of himself. Dwalin signalled to a couple of his security crew to turf the punter out while he drew Ori off to the side before people started staring.
Ori looked apologetic, suddenly much more his familiar soft and quiet self again. Dwalin searched his expression for something else, some sign of that sudden spark of fire. But the only indicator he could spy was the knitting needle still clenched tightly in Ori’s hand.
“I’m sorry, Mister Dwalin. Don’t tell Dori or Nori, please? They’ll only worry.”
Dwalin chuckled despite himself. “I doubt yer’ll be seeing more trouble after that little display. Handy with a needle, aren’t yer?”
Ori blushed and tucked the needle carefully back into his bag. He usually liked to spend his time in Erebor with his brothers, or diligently sketching the scenes around him. He’d designed the website and a lot of the artwork in Thorin’s office as well as the expansive pieces that hung on the club’s walls. He had talent, Dwalin had always known that.
Now though, now he knew that Ori also had fire. And wasn’t that interesting?
Ori almost always had knitting needles somewhere on his person. He'd knitted warm winter sweaters for the entire group; they were good pieces of work too. Dwalin found himself rubbing a thumb over the sleeve of his darkest navy blue jumper, admiring the stitching, thinking about Ori's hard work in creating it. Balin smiled knowingly at him. Dwalin glared back.
“I didn't say anything.”
“Aye, and what yer didn’t say was enough.”
Balin laughed and clapped a hand to his brother's shoulder – loving and teasing, a gesture filled with meaning. Dwalin was good at those too.
He left a large mug of tea at Ori's elbow and touched his back to let him know that it was there. Ori tended to disappear into his own head when he was working; it was very interesting to watch. Dwalin wasn't ashamed to admit that lately he'd been doing a lot of Ori-watching. Naturally Dori and Nori had noticed and had begun teasing him with violent threats that probably sounded like cause for summoning the police to most outsiders. But it was the silent looks Ori’s brothers sent Dwalin that he took the most note of. If anyone made a move towards Balin, even now, Dwalin would be watching them closely. A brother was a brother after all.
Kili and Fili certainly knew that. Dwalin grinned as Fili slipped a hand beneath the translucent fabric of his brother’s draped top, most likely aiming to tweak one of Kili’s sensitive pierced nipples seeing as it made Kili squawk so. One day they’d start a fire that they wouldn’t be able to put out by themselves, and they’d deserve the burning they'd receive, though naturally the group would always have their backs. Another thing that never changed.
A soft hand touched his arm. “Mister Dwalin?” Ori smiled at him, less nervous than expected. “Thank you, for the tea. It’s exactly the way I like it.”
Dwalin’s mouth twitched in a pleased smile, one gesture had landed solidly, so it was time for another. He let a couple of fingers settle affectionately under Ori’s chin and against his jaw. The skin there rasped surprisingly with faint stubble and Ori flushed beautifully. What a sight he was. And he kept surprising Dwalin, something Dwalin liked a lot. Had Ori’s claws always been there? Or were they only now growing in?
Dwalin held Ori’s gaze, keeping his own open and heated, every bit of his intrigued want displayed for Ori to see. Dwalin was too old to play games and Ori was too young to be fooled with. Protective possessive fire licked through Dwalin at the thought of anyone thoughtlessly toying with Ori.
Ori bit his lip and then gently nuzzled into Dwalin's touch, his eyes determined. Well, well, well. Dwalin licked his lips, but remembered just in time that Ori’s brothers were in the near vicinity.
He let his hand fall from Ori’s face reluctantly, and sat down next to the artist. He had to get into his own work anyway; those security reports weren’t going to get sorted by themselves. He started paging through them as Ori picked up his pencils. Their thighs pressed together. Dwalin didn’t need to look to know that Balin was smiling very smugly at them.
“This isn't just...” Ori’s voice suddenly split the darkness.
Dwalin looked over sharply to where Ori stood frozen in place as though struck by a sudden thought, sketch books tucked under one arm and the strap of a laptop bag slung over a shoulder. There was a cold bite in the air so the younger man was wrapped up in homemade knits, his eyes bright and exposed and the streetlights dripping patterns across his body. He looked like something that would inspire his own drawings. And he thought that…?
Dwalin snorted. “If I only wanted a fuck, I’d have grabbed the nearest cock.”
Ori didn’t flinch at the language. “So this is…more?”
There was a vivid thread of heat in his delighted tone that made the blood in Dwalin’s veins sizzle. He wrapped an arm around Ori’s waist, locking them together. Ori leaned in trustingly. It made the sizzle smoulder into something else.
“More,” Dwalin agreed, his voice dropping lower. “Now question time’s done, let's get that drink.”
Ori was definitely smiling behind his scarf. “Only if it comes with dessert after.”
Dwalin’s surprised laughter was what shattered the night this time.
Ori kissed like he was fighting, scratching and biting like a wildcat. Dwalin held him careful but firm and smiled as Ori groaned and scrabbled at his shoulders – Ori liked his size and his tattoos. Dwalin liked his fire. He stoked the flames, his fingers playing across Ori’s fine bone-structure and smooth skin. He enjoyed the feel of familiar knitwear.
Ori made an incredible sound and without warning, pushed himself up and wrapped supple legs around Dwalin’s waist. Dwalin snarled and tugged aside clothing and buttons and expectations. They were both animals really.
Ori’s artwork was changing. There were still the same flowing lines and the same abstract storytelling in the figures and shapes, but Dwalin could see something different there now too. The colours were twisting into different shades, Ori had always favoured earth tones before, and the way the scenes moved in his latest piece made something flicker hard in Dwalin's gut.
Gloin blinked at him, amused as he thumbed through messages on his phone, always keeping an eye on his son. “Think you've been staring at those pictures too long. They look the same to me.”
Dwalin shook his head, looking at the canvas that hung directly over the bar – there was definitely something strange and new happening there. He poured himself another whiskey, offering the bottle to his brother. Balin smiled as he spoke.
“Maybe you're the only one meant to see the changes.”
Dwalin's gaze immediately found Ori. He was chatting to his brothers, his hands stained with paint. He caught sight of Dwalin and started to redden around the edges. It was a shade Dwalin had seen in a lot of Ori's recent pieces.
He drained the rest of his whiskey, that flicker inside of him growing stronger.
“What do they all mean?” Ori asked, running his hand down Dwalin's arm and over the tattoos that intricately patterned it.
Dwalin's chest rumbled with a low laugh, making Ori's body shake. He fitted perfectly on top of the older man. Dwalin pointed to one of the simpler shapes etched onto his skin, a sentimental favourite.
“This one's for Balin, he's got the same one elsewhere. Raffa needed someone to practice on and he drew what we wanted well enough. We got them done on the same day.”
Ori waited, clearly expecting more. But Dwalin shook his head. “Can't spend them all at once.”
“You'll never run out of stories,” Ori retorted decisively, as though he'd seen the future. “Neither of us will.”
Dwalin watched Ori yawn, totally comfortable and relaxed. He imagined Ori designing his next tattoo; he imagined Ori's brush-strokes on his skin. He knew the exact colours he'd choose.
Thorin had taken to looking at Dwalin in a way that made Dwalin's skin itch. He waited until they were alone in Thorin's office to demand why.
“You're sure?” Thorin asked, his meaning clear from the way he glanced at the framed drawing on his wall.
Dwalin snorted; he should have expected this. Ever since that fucking Smaug-employed incident, Thorin had worried more than usual about the personal lives of everybody around him, even if who they fucked was trusted. He gave Thorin a look, as he had done many times before. Dis was right; Thorin needed a kick up the arse.
“If yer're looking for surety, yer'll never get anywhere, with anyone.”
Thorin looked like he'd been hit but he didn't push further, turning instead to the latest security files from Bifur. Dwalin wasn't sure when it came to Ori, he didn't need to be.