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Can This Be Now

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It was just another day, like all the other days before. Every day always seemed to go the same way; you’d sequester yourself in a warm, sweet-smelling bakery from the moment you awoke until mid-day. You’d fold mountains of dough, kneading and flouring, flouring and kneading. Hours of covering yourself in the white powder as your arms were wrist deep in the stuff, the kitchen an odd mixture of dry and wet ingredients in various states of preparation. Some setting aside, ready to be assembled, others in piles on the counter, still more covered with damp cloth, waiting to rise, and others filling the warm room with their buttery, yeasty aroma.
When midday came you switched to pies; dessert and dinner pies, as they were fast and filling and many of the miners, smiths and artisans enjoyed them after a long day’s heavy labour. Often they would complement you with a smile, a gentle “Thanks lass,” or, for the more bawdy males, a wink and a slap on the arse that often earned a back-slap of the hand.

There was one, however, that you always looked forward to seeing in the evenings. He was soft, quiet, thoughtful, and though he rarely acknowledged you in the way you wished, you always looked for him as the evening rush of workers trickled their way through. He knew he would come, and you anticipated it.

What it was that struck you about him was difficult to describe, and often when speaking to some of your friends you were never quiet able to articulate it for them. It had nothing to do with his rank, or so you told yourself, though there was always that part of you that wondered if that was indeed true. After all, how could you possibly separate who he was from what he was? Still, the first few times he’d come into your bakery, you didn’t know who he was. All you knew was that he had the most striking, piercing blue eyes you had seen in an age, and that he had a soft spot in his heart for his nephews. An evening was not complete until he had purchased a small treat for each of them as a way to make up for his absence that had lasted an entire day. He’d told you as much.

Your hands cleaned and your kitchen swept and arranged, you waited patiently for him to arrive, knowing full well that he would, though had he come earlier you would have closed up a long time ago. Still, you could not go one day without at least seeing his face – proud, stern, though often sad – and the subtle way the thought of bringing joy to his young nephews made him.

A ringing bell at the door and you looked up, meeting the piercing gaze that you had come to recognize so well. “I was beginning to wonder if you’d gotten lost again,” you teased him gently, and when he offered a small half-smile at you, you responded in full. “My lord Thorin,” you added after a moment’s thought.

“Would it surprise you to know that perhaps I had?” he responded and the small smile, though subdued, reflected genuine amusement.

“That makes twice, you know,” you joked in a playful tone.

“Unfortunately my mind was occupied with other thoughts,” he replied, as his expression fell gradually and he made his way to the counter to survey what was left of your goods. As if anticipating him, you pulled out a basket of tarts and cookies that you had set aside for him, knowing that it was this he sought.

“Oh?” you answered casually. You tried not to appear too curious about what troubled him, though you longed for any chance to have a real conversation. After all, there was something so mysterious and evocative about him, so kindly and yet so sad that you couldn’t help but feel drawn to him. You wanted to comfort him; to ease some of the pain.

Thorin said nothing as he looked through the sweets, trying to decide, though he didn’t acknowledge your question right away. When he hesitated, you spoke again;
“I recall the young one prefers the berry tart;” you indicated, pulling out one from the basket and setting it before him. “And the elder…ginger cookies, I believe?” And these too you placed before him. It brought a gentle if amused smile to his face.

“I see that I spoil them far too often,” he replied in a voice that was both present and yet detached.

“But it’s out of love,” you told him kindly, and you turn to get a little package from the back before you put them in the small box. “And is it not the very nature of children to be spoiled by their caretakers?”

“Indeed,” he spoke in a thoughtful voice, and as he received the package from you and handed you a small bag of coins, his eyes met yours directly, and that piercing gaze seemed to bore its way through your eyes and into your soul. You shuddered a bit. “Though I have no children of my own.”

“It seems you do, in fact,” you correctly him gently, though your voice had lost some of its strength as his eyes locked on you. “Sons or no they are your children all the same, I think.”

He nodded as if understanding what you meant, then asked, “And you?”

“And I what?”

“Have you any children?”

The question caught you off guard and your eyes dropped from the gaze as you looked at the counter. For a moment you weren’t able to say anything as memories bled through your mind. You had wanted children. Mahal knew you had wanted children for a long time, and that nothing would have given you more pleasure than a tiny hand wrapped around your finger, a bright and cheery giggle when you walked through the door, shining eyes that looked a bit like yours or perhaps like your husbands. But that was not to be.

Whether or not he noticed the change in you was not something you could sense at that time, but he spoke first. “What is it?”

“I don’t,” you answered shortly, and you can hardly keep the tears from the corners of your eyes.

“I…I’m sorry,” he spoke after a moment’s ponderance, and though you did not lift your gaze to him, you could feel his eyes on your face. “I did not mean to upset you.”

You shook your head and were finally able to bring your gaze up to meet his and when you did, you saw a level of infinite compassion in his eyes that you had never seen before, and certainly not directed at you. In that moment you had felt touched somewhere inside you, like this dwarf had finally seen you for the first time.

“No…you didn’t,” you told him in a soft voice, though the pain in your tone was still evident. “You didn’t know. And…it’s not that I didn’t want children. It just…never happened.”

Before long, you found yourself spilling to him all the things you had envisioned for your life when you were a dwarfling – this bakery, a husband, a family, perhaps the chance to travel to some of the other great cities of your people – and how you had some time ago been courted by a dwarf man who had since been killed in an orc raid. His loss had taken with it your dreams of a future life and fulfilling all those young wishes. All this in a moment of vulnerability you spilled to Thorin as he listened to you thoughtfully, his eyes never once leaving your face. “It was a childish dream, my lord,” you admitted with a sense of sadness. When you finished speaking, you were surprised to find that there was a level of empathy and understanding in his eyes you never expected to find there.

“There is a reason,” he began after the silence had been given plenty of time to settle, “that I spoil my nephews, I suppose.” And you let your own gaze lock on his face as he spoke now in his own vulnerability.

His story had echoes of your own, though where you lost your love, he never sought one. The burden of his family name, and his responsibility to the family he already had was foremost on his mind. Had he wanted family of his own? Quietly he admitted that he had, but that his life had taken opportunity from him. He felt he had run out of time. Instead, he spent much of time and energy when he was not working caring for his young nephews. A burden he was glad to bear. All the while, you were quite content to listen to his words, your eyes intently locked on his tired face. You had lost track of time; your bakery should have closed hours before, but the pair of you had found a point of connection at that time, and the truth in his words, the pain in his eyes, meant more to you than returning home. When his voice finally went quiet, you couldn’t help yourself and reached out to rest your hand on top of his own. Perhaps it was forward of you to do so, knowing just who he was and what his rank was, but the action didn’t bother him, because his eyes had ventured up to meet your gaze and there was a silent exchange of understanding that passed between the pair of you.

“I fear perhaps I cannot be the uncle they need me to be,” he admitted to you then, and you felt his hand move underneath yours so that he might be able to hold your hand and lace his fingers with your own. Your face darkened slightly at the action, but you pretended as if you didn’t know, thinking perhaps he wouldn’t notice. Though he didn’t acknowledge it, the way his eyes strayed to your cheeks that were likely flushed with colour indicated that he noticed. The little tug of a smile at the sides of his mouth said that he enjoyed it somewhat.

“Why do you fear it?” you asked him, your tone ever gentle and calm. Your hands clasped together, you gave his a small squeeze of reassurance.

“They have lost so much, still so young,” he continued openly.

You sensed somehow that he might have blamed himself for whatever the young dwarflings’ misfortunes were, so you gave him a small smile as you leaned a bit closer to him. “Tell me what it’s like then, when you come home to them.”

The smile that lit up his features as you spoke those words were the truest sign of his success. The deep love, admiration, even a hint of humour, showed just how much he had done for the young ones. What they had done for him. What they continued to do as a family for each other. “They seem to know I’m coming before I arrive, for their always waiting for me at the door,” he spoke, swelling with pride. “Sleep is heavy on their eyes but they cannot wait to throw their arms around me.” He stopped and glanced down at the packaged treats you had boxed up so neatly for him. “I tease them; tell them they only wait up for the treats.” He sighed lightly and gave a small chuckle; the closest thing to a laugh you’d heard him utter. “But they just say that they missed me.”

You could not fight your own smile, a bright, contended expression to mirror his own, and you have his hand another squeeze. “You should get home to them,” you pressed him, and releasing his hand you pushed the package into it.

His posture dropped when your hand released his, but he took the package and was able to force a bright, contented expression as he locked his eyes with yours. “I owe you much thanks…it’s not many who I can speak so freely with.”

You laughed and shook your head. “Why you chose a simple baker like myself is beyond me, my lord,” you answered with a smile.

Softly he replied, “You are far from simple, my lady.” And after a moment, he added, “please, call me Thorin.”

When he left your shop all went quiet, and though your heart longed to have just one more moment with him, to be able to listen to him, hold his hand, let him pour out his soul on you. But you thank Mahal for the moment the pair of you shared and close up, heading to your small home in silence.

That was when the gifts started to come.

They were always small, but beautiful. Painstakingly crafted and lovely. Little earnings with precious gems, a chain necklace adorned with pearls, delicate bracelets made a woven metal knots. Though you suspected you knew the source of these gifts, you were afraid to ask, for when Thorin would make his evening visits to your shop, he was strangely removed, almost shy with you.

Then came the day where he came in earlier than usual and asked you if you would be interested in getting an ale some evening after work. He asked you with what could be considered nervousness, had it been anyone else. The quality didn’t seem like one you often associated with him, lord that he was. Still, you happily agreed, and the date was arranged. He would come as he always did to your shop in the evening, but instead of walking away with a package for his young nephews, he would walk away with you to a nearby pub.

On the evening in question you had dressed nicer than you normally would have; you brought a spare frock which you kept in the back, and after you had finished most of your work and cleaned up the flour, you changed into it. It was made of some of the finest fabrics, and you made a point to adorn yourself with the beautiful trinkets you were certain had come from Thorin. A few customers came in to purchase your goods and eyed you strangely, aware of the change in your appearance and the way you had cleaned yourself up.

You paid them no mind. You weren’t dressed nicely for them, after all. You were dressed for Thorin. His eyes were the only eyes you’d dressed for.

And when he arrived he seemed suitably impressed, though his eyes strayed to you for a moment only before he glanced quickly at the floor. “Are you ready, my lady?”

“I am indeed,” you answered him, putting away the last few things that needed to be taken care off before meeting him in the front of the shop. He offered you his arm and you felt your face growing hot again as you took it, letting him lead you outside. You locked up as per your usual routine, and then together you walked in a pleasant, not-uncomfortable silence to a nearby pub.

The place he brought you to was dim with a dense fog of pipe-smoke that hung around the room as dwarves mulled over their mead and shared tales of the day’s work. Leading you to a table in the back, he pulled out a chair for you to sit in before he made his way to the bartender to get each of you a drink.

You watched him go and wondered to yourself just how you had managed to garner the attention of an heir to the line of Durin?

When he had returned, he brought you each a tankard of spiced mead, and you gladly accepted yours. It was difficult for you to keep your eyes on his face because there was something very exciting about being together in a different context. Seeing him in your shop had been something to look forward to every evening, but this was something you never expected. When he took his seat opposite you, you offered him a soft, “It’s very kind of you, my lord.”

He chuckled once, a light sound that had a quality similar to music. “I’ve told you, call me Thorin.” You wanted to but it made you nervous, so instead you decided not to call him anything if you didn’t have to. “I see you found my gifts,” he added with a sweeping gesture to your visage, though the majority of the flourish was focused on the delicate necklace around your neck.

“I did, and I thank you for them; you are far too kind,” you answered him briefly, but he shook his head.

“I don’t think you realize,” he began, but then he swallowed his words and took a moment to ponder how best to state what it was that was on his mind. All the while you watched him curiously, uncertain whether to aid him in any way. When he was finally able to speak, what he said was, “I value your friendship, my lady.”

Your face must have darkened at that point, though you were grateful to have it hidden by the dimness of the room and the heavy cloud of smoke.

Only a few tankards of mead in and the pair of you were soon speaking of your many hopes, dreams and aspirations. It was just like the night that had changed your relationship in the bakery, only this time it was far more intimate. The combination of your heightened emotions and the heady feeling the mead gave you allowed you to be frank with him, and before you realized what you were saying, you had confessed just how you looked forward to his company, when he’d come into your bakery. The words seemed to strike him funny because he had glanced down at his own lap uncomfortably. “Indeed?” he asked you, and you nodded before turning your attention to the bottom of your tankard.

“I apologize; it seems the mead is affecting me.”

“No, don’t apologize,” he spoke softly, and reached across to take your hand in his own. As he took your hand in his own, it felt warm and comfortable, and you laced your fingers with his just like the night the pair of you had spoken in your shop. Then, with his other hand, he reached across the table to take your cheek in his hand. Brushing a few of your hairs aside from obscuring your eyes, he then locked his gaze with you. The piercing nature of his gaze made you shiver, but you didn’t look away. “I thought perhaps your kindness was simply your nature; that your eye would not stray to me.”

The words surprised you and you chuffed at him. “My lord, you are the heir to the line of Durin. What might a great dwarf lord like you see in a mild baker like myself?”

“My lady, you are anything but mild,” he assured you, and you dropped your eyes to the table. “Do not sell yourself short.”

You didn’t know how to respond so you swallowed meekly, trying to understand what he saw in you or whether this was truly happening. You felt him run his thumb along your lower lip and tentatively your eyes glanced back up at him then, locking on the penetrating gaze that had a need to it that you hadn’t noticed before. Again he gently teased your lower lip and leaned in tentatively to press a soft kiss to your lips. You leaned in to meet his kiss and let your eyes slip closed and was surprised at how natural and perfect it felt. When you finally pulled away, the pair of you kept your faces close; his hand still resting on your cheek and you pressing your forehead against his, before you chanced to open your eyes. His remained closed.

“Well,” you began softly, “that was not something I expected to happen tonight.”

He opened his eyes slowly to look into yours and a half-smile crossed his face. “Do you mind terribly?”

You laughed and shook your head. “Not at all.”

“Might I again?” he asked you and caressed your cheek tenderly.

“Perhaps…it might be best,” you began, and you felt your face growing hot under his fingers. You took a moment to think, before you finally forced out, “perhaps it might be best if we had some privacy?”

The implication of your words registered with him before you had entirely realized what you were saying, but once they had been said there was no taking them back. And even if you could, you doubted you would want to.

For a moment he just watched your face as if trying to read the honesty behind the words through your very skin, before he asked you in a voice quite low, hardly audible over the clamour and din of the pub, “is that what you want?”

You didn’t hesitate before you nodded to him, and gave his hand a small, encouraging squeeze. The pair of you glanced around the pub briefly before he dropped his hand from your cheek and helped you out of your seat, your hands still laced together as they had been before. Then tentatively you pulled him along behind you through the pub and out into the street. Your home was close. That would suit you just fine, you were certain.

As you walked into the street, you hesitated for a moment, realization suddenly dawning on you just who you were planning to take into your home. Your home was pleasant, to be certain. You had decorated it well, though sparingly. Would it be suitable for a kingly dwarf such as this?

He had noticed your hesitation, though he interpreted it differently. “If you have changed your mind – ” he began.

“No, I just,” you started, and you sighed softly. “I don’t want you to be disappointed. After all, my home is not so grand as you’re used to, I deem.”

He stopped you and looked at you deeply, though you did not meet his gaze right away out of your own sense of unworthiness. “I am certain I won’t be disappointed,” he said quite plainly, before adding, “unless you would rather I take you to my home.” He seemed genuinely satisfied with this option. “Though it will have to wait…until my nephews have gone to sleep. And my sister.”

You shook your head fiercely. No, your house would do just fine. No need to disturb his pleasant household with your presence. Though the thought of meeting his family burrowed its way into your heart, like a little lump of joyous expectation for future meetings with him. He had been content to let you into his home. There was something to that.

“No, my home will do just fine,” he answered after a moment. “It’s small…” you apologized, but he was unfazed.

“It’s yours.”

The pair of you walked in silence until you reached your home, and you dropped his hand long enough to open the door and lead the way inside. He came in surely after you and as you closed the door, he let his hands rest firmly and securely on your shoulders. You shivered under his touch and hesitated a moment before turning to meet his gaze.

“It’s lovely,” he said to you after a moment’s pause, and it brought a light, bubbling laugh from your lips.

“You’ve only seen the door,” you answered through your nervous laughter, but he cut the laughter off as he leaned in to kiss you again, and now behind the privacy of your tightly closed door he was able to put more passion into the kiss. Pressing into your body ever so slightly with his own mass, he backed you into the door and the kiss that enveloped your mouth was deep, firm, and just a bit hungrier than the previous one. His tongue played at your lips and you allowed it entrance, giving him a satisfying whimper as he tasted the inside of your mouth. When he finally pulled back, you were breathless. “Would you…like to see my room?” you were able to pant out as you tried to press him away from you. He stepped back but kept his strong hands resting on your arms, allowing you the space to pivot and lead him back. As you walked down the hall, his hands slipped, though he took your hand into his own again, and you laced your fingers with his automatically. It seemed to fit.

As you lead him through the house, you glanced back at him a few times to see what he thought, though his expression was difficult to read. Once you made it to the kitchen you stopped briefly to light a candle, though you would have hardly done so if you’d been alone; you knew every hall, every centimetre like the back of your hand. Still, you didn’t want him to stumble or stagger, and you let the light guide the pair of you. He said very little as he followed you, but when you finally pulled him into your bedroom, he halted and pulled you close to him, so your bodies were gently pressing into each other. You had to look up to meet his gaze but there was a fire in his eyes that alighted something in your own body.

“You are certain this is what you want?” he asked, first taking the candle from you and placing it on your bedside table, then reaching up to brush your cheek once more, and leaving behind your skin hot where he had touched it. Again you nodded and pressing yourself up you let your lips play against his, this time taking the initiative upon yourself as you pulled him back with you towards the bed. He obliged your mouth and followed suit until you reached your bed before letting one hand rest in the middle of your back while the other gripped your waist as he lowered you onto the bed. You let him manoeuvre you, all fear of insufficiency forgotten as you were overpowered by the passion of his kisses and the gentle way he used his hands. He pulled back in order to properly lower you without fear of you being hurt. Once settled onto your back on the bed, he crawled over the top of you and straddled your waist for a moment, looking down at your face. You were anxious, and it likely showed. He sensed this, and said to you, “As yet, I am far from disappointed.”

You laughed and covered your face for a brief moment such that he had to pry your hands back to look at you.

“Why do you hide from me?”

You shook your head and gave him a small smile before craning your neck to give him a brief peck on the lips. “Don’t stop?”

He took the hint and crawled back so that he could ease your skirts up, pulling your frock up and around your head before casting it on the floor. His fluid motions were enchanting to watch, and your eyes never once looked away from the shape of his muscles working under his clothes.

You were unfrocked before you realized it and he sat back for a moment to take in your body. You shivered under his gaze and he noticed, taking the time to run a rough, calloused hand down your torso between your breasts. This caused another shiver to run through you and a smile spread across his face as he watched you. “Still not disappointed,” he assured you as he started to ease off his own layers one by one. You laid idly by, just watching him work the fabric off his skin. Even in the dim light of your home you could make out the firm, muscular curves of his chest, the dark mane of hair that fell over his shoulders and back, and a pleasantly surprising glint of metal that caught your eye; a silver hoop through his left nipple. Amused, you reached up to give it a little tug, which brought a little groan from him as his attention came back down to your face.

You seemed to encourage him because he finished disrobing briskly after that, and you were both surprised and extremely aroused by his erect length, which was already swollen and leaking when he was finally naked above you. The need to feel him overwhelmed you as you started rocking your hips in anticipation. This amused him, for he laughed once, lightly, and shifted so both hands were on your hips, holding you secure, though he still knelt above you. “Patience, my lady,” he teased as he let the hands that gripped your hips slip around to spread your legs delicately so they were splayed on either side of him. Then, leaning down, he blew cool air between them on your already moist entrance. A shudder rocked through your body as the air seemed to tickle your wetness, the chill reaching inside of you. You wanted to scold him, but only a moment later you felt his fingers gently slip through your folds until he found your clit, and then slowly began to stroke it in small circles. Little spikes of pleasure shot through you and you squirmed on the bed, wanting to feel so much more and yet content for what he was giving you. His fingers were a new sensation on your body; quite different from your own, and they seemed to intensify the pleasure you felt. Tiny whimpers of delight left your lips as you rocked your hips into his hand, seeking him. Meanwhile, his lips still wet from your kisses, he leaned down and began to kiss the skin of your thighs, your pelvic bone, every so often nipping at the tender flesh and earning a well-met yip of simultaneous pain and pleasure from your mouth.

“Please,” you begged him when you were finally able to get words to form, and you felt his hand stop teasing you and readied yourself for what was to come. Murmuring under your breath, you suddenly groaned when you felt his girth fill you completely, and found that he was now above you again, his breathing ragged as he panted. You wrapped your arms around his shoulders to press a frenzied, need-filled kiss to his mouth and taking that as his cue, he began to thrust, in and out, as you angled your hips to meet his thrusts. After several tries he let his hands grip your pelvis tightly and with one forceful thrust he sent a burst of pleasure through you such that your vision went white-hot for a moment and the groan that left your lips was so loud all your neighbours were likely to have heard it. He seemed to enjoy this, because he continued as before, making sure to strike you at the same angle, with the same intensity, so that the same low groan might leave your lips. Your voice grew in intensity, crying out his name as his own moans of pleasure joined yours. Leaning down to nip at your earlobe, he moaned your name into your ear, the sound of it raspy and beautiful on his tongue. Your hands explored the contours of his back, feeling the muscles expand and contract as he thrust into you. Your bodies brushed against each other as you moved, the hair of his chest and his now-hard nipples brushing the skin of your chest and setting your senses on fire.

Both of you increased the pace, and he finally released your hips with one hand to slip it between you so that he could stroke your clit, adding dual spikes of pleasure through your body as he filled you and took you to the edge of ecstasy.

You felt the pleasure building between your thighs and when you finally tipped over the edge, it was with his name on your lips, and your body was rocked with spasms as your orgasm overtook you, sending wave after wave of pleasure through you. He continued to move, letting you ride out your orgasm completely, before he finally let go and you felt him fill you over and over with his seed, your own name a beautiful sound on his lips. Wasted, spent, and completely satisfied, the pair of you laid back on your bed and he desperately tried to catch his breath as you rolled onto your side, feeling some of his seed spilling out of you and onto the bedspread, but too sated to care. Leaning your head on his shoulder, you kissed whatever bits of skin you could as you felt his heart hammering in his chest.

When he was finally able to speak, he murmured, “I did not plan on this evening ending in quite this way.”

You laughed and turned his face towards you so you could kiss him fully on the lips. “And who says it has to end?” Which brought him a small but quenched, and he leaned in to kiss you again.