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Beneath the Moon, Beneath the Sun

Chapter Text

Rivendell, it turned out, did actually have a proper bathhouse.  Tauriel had found the place quite easily on the second day of their visit, and from then on she and Kíli often spent the mornings there.  Kíli supposed such frequent washing was not strictly necessary, though elves, he was discovering, liked to bath often, and did so as much for pleasure as for cleanliness.

Tauriel always began with a plunge in the cold pool.  Fed by a waterfall that poured through an opening in the roof at one end and emptying down into the valley below from the other, the water here was constantly refreshed, and, Tauriel claimed, very alive.  You could still feel, she said, where the water had been, slipping over rocks beneath sun and stars on its journey down from the Misty Mountains; bathing here woke up your skin.  Privately, Kíli suspected this was more the effect of chilly water and goose-bumps than any communing with the river (at least, on his part), but he was not inclined to complain.  

He liked to watch Tauriel glide through the clear pool amidst the dance of early morning sunlight off wavelets and blue-green tile.  She moved as gracefully through water as she did on land, and Kíli guessed she must often have visited those cold springs and pools under the Elvenking’s palace. With her flame-bright hair fanned out about her shoulders in the water and then coiling close against glistening pale skin when she rose above the surface, she seemed some improbable creature formed of both water and fire.  

Of course, it was far too cold in the pool to remain still and watch her for long.  To stay warm, Kíli would chase her as she swam, though with her longer limbs, she easily out-paced him.  He might have complained about the unfairness of this, had she not generally let him catch her under the cascade.  Here, out of sight of anyone else sharing the pool, he might pin her against the smooth, water-washed stone and kiss her soundly.  

They usually only stayed in the cold pool for a quarter of an hour, and then, limbs trembling with the chill, moved to the heated pools in the other half of the bath house.  This was Kíli’s favorite part of the morning, for they could usually claim one of the smaller, private pools set half outdoors under a flowering arbor, and then he would nestle against Tauriel and wait for his skin to stop tingling from the shock of shifting from cold to hot water.  

They stayed longest here, occasionally full hours, and Kíli supposed he would have been embarrassed by such indulgence except that no-one in Elrond’s household seemed to notice or care how one visitor (be he prince or no) chose to spend mornings with his new wife.  

Tauriel usually tired of the heat before Kíli did, and would retreat to the edge of the pool, where Kíli would come sit between her knees and let her braid his drying hair.  Braids were more bother than he went to for himself, but he was happy to let her put them in for him.  She, in turn, seemed to know that what he really wanted was simply to feel her fingers in his hair, for she spent as much time combing through the damp waves as she did plaiting them.  

“You have very handsome dark hair,” she remarked this morning as she finished off a first braid and began gathering hair for another.  “I’ve always admired it.  It shines like polished dark wood, the sort my people value as much as yours do gold.”

Kíli chuckled.

“You think I’m teasing!” she scolded, giving his hair a light tug.

“Never.”

“Well?” she prompted, clearly not satisfied with this simple assurance.  

“It’s just that no-one’s ever compared my hair to gold in any way.  Fíli, of course—  You can be sure everyone noted what a happy sign it was that the eldest prince was born already crowned with gold.”

“But aren’t the Durins dark like you?” Tauriel asked, catching up another strand of hair for the braid, and Kíli shivered as her nail grazed his scalp.

“Yes.  But Fíli is a Durin and he has those regal locks, as if he’s been favored twice over.  It’s quite enough to make a little brother feel inadequate.  Golden hair, as you can imagine, is quite prized among my folk.”  

“I’ve never favored blonds,” Tauriel admitted after a moment.

“Not even your elvish prince?” he returned, somewhat surprised.  Of course he knew better than to be jealous now, when Tauriel had definitively chosen him over an erstwhile rival, but he still could not quite believe she had not admired her own people’s golden prince.

“No!”  She gave a few more twists to the braid.  “Of course, he’s handsome, but in that distant, untouchable way of the Sindar.  We Sylvans lingered untutored in the woods east of the mountains, never venturing to the light and wealth of the West, and our colors reflect this choice.  You’ll find few gold or silver heads among us; we’re all the colors of shaded woodland, brown and black and auburn.”

“And copper,” Kíli added, reaching back up over his shoulder to catch a handful of her hair.  His fingers grazed her ribs and then her breast, and she yelped softly at the unexpected touch.

“Copper,” she mused, “is not considered a kingly metal, so I thought.”

“Maybe not by some,” he agreed, fanning the strands of her hair between his fingers and holding them up to catch the sunlight slanting through the leaves; they glinted like no true copper ever did.  “But I consider myself far more wealthy in the possession of my copper-haired elf lass than if I had treasure troves of gold.”

“Kíli, you do have whole rooms of it in Erebor,” she noted, amused, yet Kíli did not miss the warm appreciation in her tone.

“But I’m not in Erebor right now, am I?  I’m halfway across the world with someone I deem much more precious.”  

He felt her hair fall against his shoulders as she leaned down over him.  “So you are, hadhodeg,” she said, her nose and then her lips brushing the rim of his ear.  But when he turned to catch her mouth in a kiss, she sat back out of his reach.  From the glimpse he caught of her face, Kíli knew she was smiling.

“Given the depth of my devotion—and I might add you couldn’t ask for stronger proof of love from a dwarf than that he forsake his gold—I don’t think you should tease me like that,” he said in a tone of mock disappointment.  Reaching under the water at his side, he found her foot, and Tauriel wriggled her toes as he tried to clasp them.

“Does that mean you agree?” he said, squeezing her foot momentarily.  “I’m afraid I’ve yet to comprehend all of your strange elvish manners.”

“It means you are distracting me,” she corrected archly, nudging him in the ribs with her heel.

She tied off the second braid, but before she could begin a third, Kíli kissed her knee, which rested at his shoulder.  

Tauriel leaned down once more, her hands straying over his shoulders and onto his chest.  Kíli took the opportunity to draw his rough cheek over the tender skin at the inside of her arm, making her shiver.  For a moment, he felt her nails.

“At luncheon, you will look very foolish with only two braids at the back of your head,” she whispered against his ear.  “I suggest you let me finish.”  

“And if I don’t?” Kíli asked mischievously, drawing his thumbnail up the arch of her foot so that she jumped involuntarily and truly did kick him in the ribs.  

“All right, my lady, since you argue so persuasively,” he conceded with a laugh, and giving her toes a final tweak, he settled back against the edge of the pool so she could continue braiding.

Chapter Text

Kíli, Tauriel discovered, did not like trees. That is, he liked them perfectly well when they were above him.  But he did not like to be above them, as he was now, standing on a platform nestled in the highest branches of Tauriel’s tree home, above the roof of the Greenwood. 

As the tree swayed in the light breeze, and the platform with it, Kíli caught Tauriel's arm tightly.  His palm was damp.

“We are quite safe,” she assured him.  “The talan is built to move with the tree, but it will not fall, even in far stronger winds than these.”

He nodded uncertainly and sank down to sit on the low cushions in the center of the platform, drawing her with him.  

“I still feel better down here,” Kíli said as she settled next to him.  He spread his hands on the smooth planks of the floor, as if grounding himself.  

“Kíli, you’ve flown on the backs of eagles, and you liked that,” Tauriel said, tucking an arm through his.  “I should think my little tree should hardly trouble you after you have been among the clouds.”  She spoke gently, not wanting to embarrass him.  

He flashed her an uneasy grin.  “I know, but those eagles plucked us from mid air after, I remind you, we fell out of some trees.  I knew my mount would catch me if I tumbled off his back, so I wasn’t worried.”

Tauriel stared at him wonderingly, feeling once more the admiration of the sheltered guard captain peering through bars at the young dwarf who had lived with more enthusiasm and ready fearlessness than she had known in her own long youth.  

Kíli chuckled appreciatively at her look.  “Trees don’t care about you after they’ve unseated you,” he said teasingly.  He tightened his arm over hers as their own tree rocked lightly.

“No, I suppose they don’t,” Tauriel conceded.  “If you prefer, we can go back down to a lower talan.  It will sway less.”

Kíli shook his head.  “No, I’ll try it up here, since you like it.”  He shifted closer to her and tucked his arm around her waist.  With his sleeves rolled on this warm summer’s eve, she could feel the heat of his skin on her own through her light gown.

“I don’t doubt your courage,” Tauriel told him after a few moments.  “How you can be comfortable with all those endless drops, unguarded by wall or rail, in Erebor, I don’t know!  They still unsettle me.”

“Oh, those!” he returned, dismissive.  “I can sort of feel the living stone through my soles; I know where it ends, and I won’t step off.  It’s a sense we dwarves have.”  He gazed off over the sun-gilded treetops below them, and a breeze, too light to shift the tree, lifted his dark hair from his eyes.  “But up here, I feel sort of...disconnected.  Untethered, like a boat that might go drifting off in the wind without knowing or meaning to.”  

He shrugged against her.  “They say when Durin ruled, and Khazad-dûm was in its glory, so many of my people were born and died without ever setting foot outside the mountain.  It was even a point of pride to say you’d never seen the sky.”  He shook his head wonderingly.   “I don’t mind being above ground.  In fact, I quite like it: the wind on your face, the sun on your back.  It does make you feel so alive.  But I’m still not sure I’m ready to live truly above the ground in a tree,” he finished with a confessional glance at Tauriel’s face.

As if to help make his point, at that moment the tree gave an especially wide sway, and Kíli stiffened somewhat beside her.

“Kíli, there’s nothing you need to prove to me by remaining up here,” she said.

“I know,” he said lightly.  “I want to see what you see up here among the leaves.”

“Look.”  Tauriel pointed to the horizon, beyond the last dark swell of the forest.  Rising against the sky was Erebor’s lone peak, shining gold in the setting sun.  “I used to gaze on your mountain and wonder what it would be like to stand on its shoulders, so close to the sky, or to wander other halls than my own.  I was sorry to think its people had been driven out, in your great-grandfather’s day.  It looked truly lonely then.”

“And yet if they hadn’t left, you’d never have got me,” Kíli mused.  His father had been a dwarf from Ered Luin.

“No, indeed.  Fate is quite wonderful and strange.”  Quite as wonderful and strange as the fact that the mate with whom she shared her treetop home was this dwarf, someone more comfortable with his feet on the ground, but ready to try what was new and different for the adventure of it.  And for love of her.

Kíli drew her head toward him for a kiss, and then as Tauriel shifted to face him better, he pulled her down into the cushions atop him.  

“Less chance of being knocked off this way,” he said, grinning, before he kissed her again.

“I promise, I will not let you fall to your death.”  Pressed against him, Tauriel could feel his pulse hammering fast, but she no longer thought his discomfort at being in a tree was the cause.  Kíli’s hands moved over her back, seeking and then finding the laces to her gown.  

“When I was a lad,” he said as he worked the laces free, “Mum always told me not to climb trees.  I used to think she was worried I’d fall.  But maybe she said that because of the bewitching elf maids who live up here.”

Tauriel laughed even as she returned his kiss.  “I’m certain she thought of no such thing.  You are surely the first dwarf to run any danger of bedding an elf in a tree.”

“Oh, it’s clearly less of a danger and more of a certainty at this point,” he observed as she tugged his belt loose and slipped her hands up under his shirt.  

“Then I’m afraid you’re quite doomed,” she agreed, and so he was.

“You know,” Kíli said when she had finished with him, “I can’t tell anymore if it’s the tree moving or my head spinning.”

“And that’s better or worse?” Tauriel asked, trailing her fingertips over him.

“Oh, much better,” he affirmed, contented.  “If I fall off now, at least I’ll die happy.”

Chapter Text

“I’m hungry.”

Tauriel lifted her head from Kíli’s bare chest and stared wonderingly at him.  “How can you say that at such a time?”

“What do you mean, at such a time?” he returned, smoothing tangled copper hair back off her shoulders.  “Dinner was some hours ago.  Since then, we have listened to the elves sing poetry, danced in the garden, and after that, I believe it was you who insisted we go horseback riding in the vale since the moon was up.  I, at least, need restoring if I’m not to expire instantly.”

“Restoring?”  Tauriel dragged herself up till she was in a better position to lean down over him and press her mouth to his.  Kíli kissed her back languidly, as if intent on savoring the full taste of her lips.  

“You are delicious,” he said when she finished.  “But even the richest of wines can’t make a whole meal.”  He pushed himself up on his elbows.  “Surely the larder is still open.”

“At this hour?”  Tauriel glanced up at the moon through the open roof of their bedroom.  It must be almost two.  

“I don’t see why not,” Kíli said as he moved to the edge of the bed.  “Lord Elrond’s hospitality is very free, and you elves keep odd hours, anyway.  I’m sure we can find something.”

“Kíli—” Tauriel protested half-heartedly and reached for him, but he stood and her fingers barely grazed him.  

“You don’t have to come.  I won’t be gone long.  Have a doze and you won’t even miss me.”  He stooped to pick up his shirt and belt, then stood staring at the moon-washed floor, his back to her.  “What did you do with my trousers, love?” he demanded good naturedly.  “You didn’t hide them so I couldn’t run off, I hope?”

Tauriel chuckled as she lay watching him.  “No, but considering the view from here, perhaps I will.”

He glanced over his shoulder, a teasing smile on his lips, then stepped forward and shifted her discarded gown with his foot.  “Ha!” he exclaimed, catching up the sought-for garment.  

“I imagine the larders must be just beyond the kitchen off the main dining hall,” he said as he pulled on shirt and trousers.  

“Yes, but Kíli—”  Tauriel eased herself up after him.  “If you go alone, the stewards may well think you are intent on unprincipled plunder.  I’m sure they haven’t yet forgotten your last stay.”

“And so you mean to be my charming diplomat.”  He came to stand before her and placing his hands on her waist, kissed her where his height made it most practical to do, just below her breasts.  

“I am perhaps rather hungry myself,” she admitted, stepping past him for her dress.

The garden walks of Rivendell were bright in the full moonlight, and Tauriel and Kíli crept along with exaggerated stealth, though their effort was somewhat marred by their barely repressed laughter.  

“You know, I think we make a very good team,” Kíli whispered loudly after he tripped on a root at the side of the path and caught himself by falling into her.

“Hush, Kíli,” she warned him, no more quiet for her giggles.  “You’ll wake the whole house.”

They did not, however, wake anyone by the time they had reached the door to the kitchens.  It was much darker inside, after the bright moonlight, though there was one lamp still burning invitingly upon the stove, and beside it, a neat stack of plates and napkins, clearly placed there in anticipation of the occasional midnight diner.  Kíli, it seemed, had been right about the seasonless hospitality of the house.

In the lamplight, the kitchen truly seemed some odd, enchanted chamber.  Tauriel and Kíli fell truly silent now as they moved between the stark, looming outlines of ovens and hanging pans and pots while shadows danced on the walls in strange and unfamiliar shapes.  At the back of the kitchen they found a pair of doors whose prominent latch, without lock, clearly invited the entrance of the hungry guest.

While Tauriel turned back for the lamp and a napkin, Kíli drew open the door, and the fragrance of cured meats, buttery pastry, and ripe fruit drifted out to them.

Kíli inhaled deeply as he followed Tauriel into the larder.  “You elves do know how to cook,” he said appreciatively.  “Do you know, when we first visited, we thought you were vegetarians, living off bread and greens like rabbits?”  He chuckled.  “Turns out it was a feast day for Ivann, and nobody hunts or eats meat then.  I was quite relieved to see ham on the table for breakfast the next day, I promise you.”

Tauriel surveyed a shelf laden with hand-sized pastries with various fillings.  “I don’t suppose I need to assure you that my people enjoy a hearty meal as well as yours do,” she said.  She selected several pastries which, according to the markings on the crust, promised to hold venison, and then tucked them into the napkin.  

“Oh, no,” he agreed.  “I was quite won over the first time I saw you could eat as enthusiastically as any dwarf.  Or hobbit.”  He crumbled a corner off a wedge of cheese and tasted it meditatively, then nodded and cut off a hunk.  “I’d never seen anyone tuck into a slab of wild boar in a way that was both ravenous and refined.  And then you drank at least three mugs of wassail.”

She chuckled.  “It’s true, I was hungry when you saved me from that snowstorm.  Though you mustn’t think that’s why I followed you.”

“I know.  Fí said it wasn’t, either,” he concurred, handing her the cheese to add to their spoils.  “Though on the whole, you don’t eat nearly as much as a dwarf.  No wonder you’re slim as a sapling.”  He poked her gently in the stomach, and she yelped.

“I eat as much as I need!  Elves can take more nourishment from their food than you; we have greater control over our bodies than mortals do.”

“I see.”  Kíli added several handfuls of berries to Tauriel’s napkin, and then paused to look at her.  “Elves don’t ever go plump, do they?  I haven’t seen any who were.”

Tauriel considered.  “No, not as I have seen humans do, though of course our figures vary among us as much as our other features do.”

Kíli grinned.  “That’s why it’s hard to sort you elves out sometimes,” he said.  “Our dwarven girls tend to be plump.  If you elf women were the same way, it would be easier to tell your maids from men, especially when you all dress alike in those long flowing robes.”

Tauriel only half succeeded in holding back her own smile.  “Yes, I see how that might be confusing.”   

She turned to look over a rack of wines, and Kíli admired the graceful curve of her back as she bent forward, murmuring the names on the labels to herself.   He could still not quite believe that any real woman could be as lithe and slender as she, even though he had taken her in his arms often enough to know she was no dream.  

“Ah!” She exclaimed, straightening.  “I think you will like this.”  She drew a bottle from the rack and turned back to meet Kíli’s appraising eyes.  “And would you prefer me to be plump?” she asked him teasingly, guessing the direction of his thought.

“Oh, Valar, no!” he cried.  “You’re perfect as you are.”  He grinned.  “Fíli may have thought I was crazy to fall for a girl who was all waist and arms and legs—not enough to fill your arms, he’d say—but I think you’re wonderful.  Holding you is like catching a shooting star.”

“A shooting star?” Tauriel eyed him curiously as he added a slice of cake to the now bulging napkin and took it from her to carry.

“Yes, you’re all tall and aflame and make me feel like I’m falling.  Or maybe flying.”  

The larder doors closed behind them with a click.

“Kíli, you’re talking nonsense,” Tauriel told him fondly and kissed him before returning the lamp and making towards the moonlit door that led from the kitchens.  

They ate on a small lawn under the spray of a waterfall.  Between the two of them, the food disappeared completely.

After handing Tauriel the last of the wine to finish, Kíli sighed and lay back on the grass.

“I’m quite revived,” he said, and then he yawned.

After some minutes, filled only by the rush of the falls and the song of the crickets, Tauriel nudged him.  

“Kíli?”

Leaning down over him, she found his eyes were closed and his breathing slow.  He was, it truly seemed, fast asleep.

Tauriel briefly considered lying down beside him; she could sleep quite comfortably here on the grass.  However, with the mist from the falls, they would have been quite damp come morning.  

Kneeling beside him, she scooped one arm under his knees and another beneath his shoulders.  Kíli might be heavy despite his size, but Tauriel was strong for all her slimness, and it was not much trouble for her to hoist him into her arms and stand.  

Kíli murmured something indistinctly then in Khuzdul—she caught only the word Thatrûna, his name for her—and tucked an arm round her neck.  

She smiled, though he could not see her.  “Meleth, you must never stop being exactly as much trouble as you are worth,” she whispered tenderly.  

Then she carried him back to their rooms.

Chapter Text

Kíli awoke, as he did often enough, to Tauriel's touch. He paid little direct attention at first, content simply in the awareness that she was near.

Her fingers drifted over him, brushing his ribs, tracing an arm, sweeping the hair back from his brow. Some time later she prodded his leg, and then, carefully, tugged the bed linens off his feet. He felt her hands on first one foot, then the other.

"What are you doing?" he said at last, still not opening his eyes yet.

"Taking an inventory of your scars," Tauriel replied, her voice matter of fact.

"How many have you found?" he asked, wiggling his toes at her.

"Seven."

"Only seven?" He yawned and rubbed his face before finally opening his eyes to find her leaning over him, her own vibrant green eyes very intent and serious upon him.

"You're very interesting, Kíli," she said, with the solemn air which he knew was very near to laughter for her. In these brief few weeks of marriage to her, he had found she approached their intimacy with equal amounts of humor and reverence, sometimes both at once.

"So, what have you found?"

"There is one here." She touched his right elbow.

"Ah." Kíli yawned again. "Fíli clipped me with a shield during sparring. Damned thing had an iron rim."

Tauriel took up his left hand. "And here?" She touched a mark on the back of his hand, just below his thumb. "This looks like a burn."

"That was the day I learned to be more careful casting with the centrifuge."

"The what?"

"Ahh, the device you use when you're casting with a closed mold. It spins around an axis and drives the metal into the hollow mold. I forgot to make sure I had the mold secure, and it flung molten silver all over the shop. I was afraid Rúni, my teacher, was going to yell at me, but after he'd made sure I was all right, he just looked at me very hard for a few moments, then said, 'I don't suppose you'll be making that mistake again, will you?' and went on with our lesson as if nothing had happened." He chuckled. "Old Rúni was a good match for me. He never got flustered, even when I was frustrated because something hadn't turned out right. 'Well, you've learned one way to do it,' he'd say when I complained."

"And how old were you then?" Tauriel asked.

"When I got the burn?" Kíli hummed, thinking. "Sixteen, maybe? Uncle started me learning combat when I was nearly thirteen. It was a few more years after that when he engaged Rúni to teach me jeweler's work."

Tauriel nodded and considered him for a moment, as if trying to imagine the shape of that young dwarfling's face.

She then pressed a finger to his side, tracing the line of an old cut that ran low along his ribs. "This?"

"Oh, that..." Kíli smiled, inadvertently coloring slightly. "With all your centuries in the guard, I'm sure I don't need to tell you why it's important to wear armor when sparring with steel." Even the blunted practice blades could deal a not-insignificant injury. "But there were some girls watching, and Fíli especially wanted to impress this one lass. So we didn't wear armor. Or shirts, either, as I recall."

Tauriel pressed her lips together to suppress a smile. "So you've always been reckless."

"For a pretty lass? Of course." Kíli reached up and tweaked her chin. "I believe Dwalin was entirely serious when he told me that if I'd got myself gutted, I'd have deserved it."

"Then let us be glad you don't receive everything you deserve," Tauriel returned archly.

"Oh? And just what else do I deserve?"

"Maybe I'll show you. But I haven't finished my count."

"You were only up to three."

"Yes. Now, this one, I would say," she laid a hand against his thigh, "looks to have been tended by an expert healer. Or, no—" She studied the mark, tracing its outline with her thumb. "Perhaps not so much an expert as someone who cared very much that you lived and did all in her power to save you."

"I've always believed that was it."

Tauriel smiled warmly at him before removing her hand from his leg with a light caress.

"There's this one," she went on, taking his left foot between her hands and indicating a pale line alongside his arch.

"When Thorin first told my mother he was planning the quest, she stormed at him. She'd already lost so much, and she didn't believe Fíli and I were ready. She and Uncle had a dreadful row, and she even threw one of her own pottery dishes at him. I'd just come in from the bath (it was out behind the forge, for the hot water) when I heard the crash and the shouting, and I ran in to the kitchen to check on Mum and stepped right on a great pottery shard with my bare foot. You can imagine that made Mum even more furious. I don't think she so much as spoke to Thorin for at least two days after that."

"Hmm..." Tauriel rubbed thoughtfully at the scar that was evidence of that still-recent family quarrel. "But she decided to let you go in the end."

"She saw she could not keep us," Kíli said. "Fíli and I were eager to go, and we'd trained all our lives for it. What would we have been saving ourselves for, if we passed up the quest? And if we failed, well, it came to the same thing. What was there for us beyond Erebor?"

He shrugged against the soft linens of Tauriel's bed. "But it hurt, knowing Mum was so sorry to watch us leave. Fí and I both thought she worried too much. But I remember standing on the wall inside the entrance to Erebor, with the battle raging below us, and knowing that she was probably right: we'd come halfway across the world just to die."

Tauriel smiled softly. "Thank the Valar they had other plans for you. And you haven't even a mark from that battle..."

"None that stayed. I had a fair number of scrapes and bruises, and I might have cracked a rib. Funny, isn't it, that Mum's crockery left more of a mark than even old Azog and his men?"

In response, Tauriel lay down against him, gathering him into her arms, and kissed him.

"I'm very grateful for you, meleth nín," she said.

"As I am for you." He settled her more comfortably atop him. "Now, you were only at five."

"Well, I needn't ask about this scar." She traced the line, fine but distinct, that ran back along his right cheekbone. "While we were apart, I sometimes forgot that the injury on your face was not merely a reflection of your wounded heart on the night we said our farewells. Now it's healed to a sign of how lucky we are to have one another again."

"Tell me, do I look a little more like Mister Dwalin with a scar on my face?"

Tauriel snorted, then pressed her face against his chest to hide her laughter.

"What? I aspired to be just like him when I was a lad. He looked so fearsome with his scars and tattoos, and I wanted some myself."

Tauriel raised her face then, and with a half-smile still quirking her lips asked, "Scars or tattoos?"

"Both, I think. I imagined you sort of magically got them when you'd proved you were strong enough. But I found scars you have to earn, and tattoos are much the same way. If I'd worn a tattoo, it would have meant "prince" and I already was that, so what was the point in proclaiming it again? Besides, my uncle and my brother didn't wear their rank written on their skin, so why should I, when I merely followed them? Nah, I wanted Dwalin's warrior marks, and I wasn't that, yet."

"You are now."

"True!" Kíli laughed. "Though I don't think I really want them. It'd be like wearing braids you could never take out or a crown that would never come off."

"No, I don't suppose that would please you," Tauriel agreed.

She swept the hair back from his forehead, and then Kíli felt her fingernail trace the thin, straight line that split the outer edge of his right eyebrow. "This is a scar, too, yes?"

"That was my first pub fight."

Tauriel raised her own brows in silent inquiry.

"So, the barman of the best pub in our dûm had a pretty daughter named Frídha—"

"Then it was over a girl," Tauriel said with a knowing smile.

"No, it was over my cousin's beard. You must let me finish."

"All right, so the barman's pretty daughter, Frídha..."

Kíli linked his hands comfortably over the small of Tauriel's back. "She was friendly to me, so naturally I was friendly in return. We flirted through my first few pints; meanwhile my cousin Onar across the table kept glaring at me like he wanted to push me down the next open mine shaft. And so I said I couldn't help it if I was more worth looking at than anyone else there. Of course I should have known better, when he'd fancied her for ages. But I couldn't resist."

"Kíli!" Tauriel's eyes went wide.

"Now you see, Onar had been growing his beard for months, hoping to catch her eye, and he was obnoxiously proud of how full and glossy it was. His beard would have meant nothing to me, except that he had been telling me just that morning that the girls would never look at me if I'd nought but a bit of scrub on my chin. It was quite a lie on his part, and he knew it. So I took my chance to get back at him." Kíli grinned at her. "I remember two things very distinctly before all hell broke loose: Fíli's horrified face after I'd spoken, and the pewtersmith's mark—a star and a crown—on the bottom of Onar's ale mug right before the rim connected with my eye."

"I'm trying to decide whether you deserved it," Tauriel said, the edge of her mouth turned up and her eyes glimmering with mischief.

"Don't tell me."

Kíli drew his hands up her back and she sank down against him again, sighing happily. He spent the next few minutes tracing the lines of her ribs and shoulders while she hummed in contentment.

"Anyway," he went on at last, "I had a glorious black eye for days, and Fíli took far too much pleasure reminding me that with such a face, the girls would only be looking at me in horror."

"Mmm. I suppose that was the only time in your life they ever did," Tauriel mused.

He chuckled. "Actually, I found that girls tend to feel a great deal of sympathy and interest for you when you're injured."

"Indeed," she returned from his shoulder. "And then they do very foolish things, such as run away from home and defy kings."

"You're the only one who has ever done either for me."

"I'm glad. I should be very jealous, otherwise."

Tauriel pushed herself up from him once more. "Thank you, Kíli," she said, "for teaching me to read the stories written on your skin."

Kíli regarded her thoughtfully. "I'd ask to read yours, but save for one little spider's bite behind your knee, I've never found a single blemish on your fair body."

She smiled softly. "I've scars, meleth; I simply do not wear them as openly as you."

"Oh?" Kíli sat up at last.

"Yes." Tauriel took his hands, and pressing her palms to his, wound their fingers together. "My hands... I was afraid these hands knew only how to deal death. They have been covered in orc blood and spider's ichor; they have held bow and blade. Sometimes I thought they were tainted by such violence, never meant to heal or mend. But when I saved you, I didn't stop to think that I was no healer; I knew only that you needed me. You looked at me with such hope and belief on your face, and you mended under my touch, as if I were the Vala Îdh herself."

"Not a Vala. My Thatrûna." Kíli pressed his lips to the back of her left hand, then her right.

Tauriel then laid his hands one atop each of her feet. "And here is another scar: when my parents died, I ran away. I fled. Even though I had obeyed their command, it was still many years before I forgave myself for leaving them when they were in need." She sighed, her face clouded by the memory of pain. "When I lost them, I was hardly eighteen and therefore considered far too young to choose a warrior's role. Yet I insisted upon being given a bow. Like you, Kíli, I took up arms at a very tender age. But I was resolved I would never again be helpless. I would not leave others to fight my battles for me, and I would not run away."

"You ran towards quite a few fights for my sake," Kíli said gently.

"Yes; that wound, too, is finally healed," she agreed.

"I'm glad." Lifting one of her feet, he kissed it. Tauriel watched him very seriously for a moment and then she smiled.

"And where else do you bear a scar?" he asked.

"Well..." She gazed at him quite teasingly, then took his hand. "Here." She laid it over her ear.

Drawing her close, he kissed her ear once and then very gently took its peak between his teeth. Tauriel squeaked slightly in pretended protest, though Kíli now understood her well enough to know she was teasing as much as he was.

"And what injury was done to your ears?" he asked.

"They are why Thranduil never would have permitted me to marry his son. You remember he ordered me to tell Legolas there was no chance I could love him. I was quite incensed. Did the king really think he had any right to command my love like that? Never mind that I did not want to love his son. I was a leaf-eared Silvan, and that was all Thranduil saw; not that I had long been his son's faithful friend."

"Leaf-eared...?" Kíli wondered, giving her another soft nip.

"Ah! Surely you've noticed my ears are somewhat less... dainty than those of my king and prince."

"I've noticed they're prettier."

"We Silvans tend to have bigger ears than our Sindarin kin," Tauriel explained, trying not to giggle as Kíli pressed his rough cheek against her own ear. "Growing up in the palace, I always found my looks somewhat embarrassing: long ears and this unusual hair. It wasn't till I was somewhat older that I found my hair, at least, made me rather admired. But still, there was no hiding my ears."

"I think you've the loveliest ears I've ever seen on an elf maid. And I wouldn't wish them any smaller." He gently traced the outline of her ear with his finger. "I've big ears too, you know. Tauriel, our children will have such ears."

"Yes, our children," she said happily. "I never even knew I wanted children till I imagined they might be yours. When you told me you would have to take a dwarven bride, those words left a wound, as well..." She drew his hand over her navel, indicating what would surely have remained an empty womb, had he never returned to her. "Though we've yet to prove that I can bear your child, we have no lost chance to regret."

"You are very wonderful, amrâlimê, and I have complete faith in you," he said, caressing her.

"My Kíli," she returned fondly. "Telling you farewell left me yet other scars. I have never had to speak words that pained me so much as I did that night. My mouth played traitor to my heart, and both were injured."

He drew his thumb gently over her lips. "You've said much sweeter things since then. That you'd marry me." He kissed her mouth. "Our wedding vows." He pressed his lips to her breast, above her heart. "Certain other things that I hesitate to repeat now when we are both quite composed, lest they lose something of their original spontaneous charm."

Tauriel smiled, surely recalling declarations made the previous night in an unguarded moment. One of Kíli's favorite discoveries in these past weeks was finding that when they were alone, she shed her elvish reserve and could express her love for him quite as impulsively as he had ever done for her. He knew that such openness on her part was proof of how sure she now was of him.

"I am very happy to share myself with you," she said, linking her arms about his waist. "You have written yourself on me, on my hands and feet, my lips, my heart."

"I have much more for you to take down, my love," Kíli said, tracing a finger over the flawless skin of her breast as if he truly might inscribe his thoughts there.

She sighed and leaned into him.

"Tell me."

Chapter Text

Tauriel liked watching Kíli shave. It was an interesting ritual, one she had never seen performed before she had married him. He bathed his face in hot water, and then with a brush, methodically spread lather from chin to ear and all the way down his throat to his collarbone. Finally with the aid of a comb, he trimmed all his beard to an even length with strokes from a very long, very sharp razor. And he did it all so fast, with swift, expert movements that bespoke years of practice. Truly it was mesmerizing.

"Kíli," she said this morning as he flicked open his razor. "They say that if you cut off a dwarf's beard, he can die of shame."

"Oh?" He turned aside to look at her, the beginning of a smile drawing at his mouth.

She shifted in her bath, crossing her arms on the rim of the marble tub and propping her chin atop them. "Is it true? Or is that just a story for rustic elf maids who have never left their forest?"

He finished a razor stroke before letting his face relax into a grin. "You're thinking that if it's true, I must be the most shameless dwarf in Arda."

"Oh, I know you're shameless. We'd barely just met, and you were inviting me to search your trousers."

Kíli laughed. "Right." He paused for a moment, trimming over a cheekbone. "Well, my beard, at any rate, is still entirely honorable. It's not in the Old Kingdom fashion—that was the last Durin's reign, when beards were very long—but nowadays short beards are common enough. There's obviously no question that I can grow one, and that's what matters." He smirked at her as he swished lather from the razor. "It's short, but it has excellent coverage."

"Indeed," Tauriel said. Kíli's cheeks and neck were shaded with dark stubble that clearly promised a full dwarven beard. "Besides, speaking of coverage—" Tauriel's eyes dropped from his face, following the curls of hair swirling from collarbone to pectoral and plunging in a dark line to his navel. "You have plenty of hair everywhere else."

"Mm-hm. Most who aren't dwarves usually assume it's only about the facial hair. But it's definitely not." He winked at her—it was no secret she had been delighted by his furry skin from the first—and resumed his shaving.

"I see." Tauriel laughed softly. "A handsome shaggy chest makes up for a trimmed face. Is that why you never button your shirt collars?"

"Nah." He chuckled. "Well, only a little."

Tauriel splashed her feet in the water. "So, is it true or not about shaving a dwarf's beard?"

"Oh, absolutely true." He paused for a few moments, intent on trimming his upper lip. "I take my life in my hands each time I shave."

She giggled against her arms. "I don't believe you."

"Don't you see? This stubble proves how brave I am. Most dwarves don't have the courage to trim their beards so short. No margin for error, you know. Take off just a quarter of an inch more, and—phtt!—you're dead."

"Kíli!"

He shot her an amused glance in the mirror as he flicked the razor once, twice up his throat. Then he set it aside and splashed his face in the basin. After toweling face and neck, he came to Tauriel at the edge of the tub. She wrapped her arms around his waist and gazed up at him, her chin against his middle.

He put his hands about her face. "Yes, the story is true, as far as it goes. Mind you, it's not the actual shaving that can kill a dwarf. But you know how stubborn we are. A dwarf who has been deeply disgraced can break his heart and die."

"I see." She could believe this, having seen how Kíli himself had suffered a bodily change from his heartbreak over nearly losing her.

"But it's not common, either. Can you imagine even trying to shave a dwarf against his will? You'd be lucky if you lived to tell the tale."

She kissed him, nuzzling against the flat of his belly while her hands crept up his muscular back. Rough hair scrubbed her cheek, though his skin was smooth beneath her palms.

"Come up here to kiss me, lass," he said, the words rumbling sweetly through her.

Tauriel obeyed, rising up on her knees and wrapping her arms around his neck. He smelled of shaving soap, and his stubble pricked her lips.

"I'll tell you a secret," Kíli murmured at her ear. "When it comes to a dwarf's beard, the only opinion that really matters is that of his wife."

"Well then." She stroked his scratchy cheek. "I think you're perfect."

 

Chapter Text

One of Tauriel's favorite things, in these few weeks since she had been married, was waking to Kíli beside her each day. Some mornings she found him sleeping composed and serene, a dreamer no artist would have objected to painting just as he was; other days she couldn't help but laugh at his disheveled hair and comical, oblivious face. Yet either way, he was irresistible.

Today, however, Tauriel opened her eyes to find herself facing only a mound of blankets—blankets that had surely not been on the bed last night. Beneath them, all that was visible of Kíli was a tumble of loose dark hair spilling over the pillow.

Had he taken a chill in the night? But it was midsummer, and the night had been warm. Besides, Kíli had been perfectly well when they had gone to bed.

Just to be sure she slid a hand beneath the covers and pressed it to his chest. His skin was hot and damp: could he really have a fever? She knew little about the ailments of mortals. Gently but firmly she pulled the heavy blankets away from his shoulders.

Kíli moaned unhappily, and reaching blindly, pulled the covers back up over his face.

"My love, what's wrong?" Tauriel said.

He mumbled something incoherent.

"Kíli!" She laid a hand on his cheek. "Tell me, how do you feel?"

"Mmm?" His eyes opened at last; then he reached and pulled her to him. Her body warmed from the contact, sweat pricking over her skin.

"Kíli, you're afire. You should have told me you had a fever."

"Thought it was obvious…"

"I didn't know!" Truly concerned now, she tried to extricate herself from his embrace. "Let me get you some medicine." She didn't think she had any fever bane, rarely needing it herself, but she would find something in her herb chest to soothe him.

"Ah, there's only one cure for what's burning me." He nuzzled against her throat, his kisses a ticklish blend of scratchy whiskers and teasing lips.

"Kíli," she said through a laugh. She could see now there was nothing ailing him. "I thought you meant it!"

"I do. Maker, there's an utterly ravishing elleth in bed with me. If I weren't a bit feverish, then you might have cause for concern."

"I see." Tauriel smiled and leaned down to kiss him. "But that doesn't explain what all these extra blankets are for." She shoved them off the bed so she could lie more comfortably at Kíli's side. "You dwarves are naturally so warm-bodied that I thought you must be ill to need them."

"Sorry; were you too hot? The truth is, I don't know how you can sleep with just this wispy little sheet over you." He picked at the fine linen sheet and airy crocheted blanket that were all that had covered Tauriel's bed since they'd arrived in her treetop home. "Don't you feel all…wrong? I can't tell where my arms and legs are when there's nothing holding them down. It's so much more snug with a nice heavy blanket."

Tauriel giggled. "It must be because you're a dwarf. You need to burrow."

"Maybe!"

"Don't you get too warm in the summer, sleeping like that?"

"Not under a mountain. But I don't mind being a little warm. It's better than feeling all exposed and unprotected." His brows narrowed into a serious look. "Anything can attack you through just a sheet, you know. Thick blankets are much safer."

"Really."

He rolled his eyes. "Every dwarfling knows that. Monsters can't get through blankets."

She threw her head back and laughed.

"Don't tell me that as an elfling, you never spent a night huddled under your blankets because of a scary story?" he asked.

Tauriel shook her head. "I didn't have anyone to tell me scary stories," she said, wistful.

"No? Well, I know quite a few. I'll tell you one some night, when we're around a campfire all alone. Maybe the one about the haunted mines. Or the werewolf of Emyn Uial." He grinned. "No, the owl-bear!"

"The what?"

"It was a monster Nori made up to scare us. Worked, too."

She smiled.

"You should have heard him in the woods behind the forge, bellowing whoo whoo into an old metal drum. It was terrifying."

"Oh dear!"

"I'm pretty sure Mum gave him a round scolding the next morning. At any rate, it never happened again. But once was enough. Fí and I were scared to run errands to the forge at night for months."

"I wish I could have seen you and your brother as dwarflings. I'm sure you were darling," Tauriel said.

"But could you have loved me now if you'd seen me as a bairn? You'd think me far too young for you."

"Oh yes, I'd still love you." She combed her fingers through the soft hair at his temple. "You're very lovable, Kíli."

"Well…" A sly smile crossed Kíli's lips. "I do know how to get you a dwarfling who looks just like me."

"Do you?"

"Yes. It starts like this." He put his hands about her face and drew her down for a slow, full kiss. "Shall I go on?"

"Mmm." She folded her arms about his neck. "Please do."