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Something Borrowed

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Bofur finds himself with a very, very sharp knife being pressed against where his ear joins his jaw one fine morning, and swallows. It's audible, and he doesn't think that's just his nerves telling him so.

“'Lo Nori,” he says cheerily, or tries to. “Fine morning isn't it?”

“Let's not mince words,” Nori replies, not very cheery at all. “If I catch you watching my dear elder brother bathe again, I'll slit you from here -,” his knife follows down, along Bofur's lips, and up across the opposite cheek to touch the other ear, “- to here. Understand?”

“Never thought I'd get to see a 'Ri bathing,” Bofur mutters, and winces, amazed by his own stupidity.

“Treasure it,” Nori hisses, and then he's gone.

Bofur relaxes a hair, and eyes his cousin beside him. Bifur has continued sharpening his blade throughout the whole ordeal, but now he glances up at Bofur and signs sarcastically, “Was it worth it?”

He thinks on it a minute, and then nods. “Yes.”

Bombur is happily married, with two children of his own, twin girls even. He's prouder than he knows how to say of that, but he keeps it to himself for now. The girls are young still, after all, and he doesn't want to give anyone the idea they'll be up for any marriages until he knows that for a fact.

Still, he thinks his wife will forgive him for this, though she had given him a stern reminder when she found out that he would be traveling with three 'Ri. He knew if he ever dared act on one thought, his beard would be on her wall before he could so much as say hello when he saw her again.

That could not come soon enough, no matter how many 'Ri there were in his company for him to look at.

He is looking, make no mistake, but Temmi would not mind looking, so long as it is only looking and nothing more.

Besides, she'd looked too, the minx. “Well,” she'd said, side-eyeing him. “If it's anyone, let it be the eldest, and I would like an invitation.”

He misses her like burning, his Temmi, and that's what makes him look away on the night Dori is combing out his lovely silver hair in the firelight. He might be a 'Ri, but he is not Bombur's wife.

Thorin is not blind.

He had known it was a mistake to bring not one, not two, but three 'Ri on this journey. Nori had volunteered though, and Thorin had wanted him at the very least. His looks were only outmatched by his skills, and Thorin badly needed those skills. Much as it pained him to admit, the Company was too small and inexperienced to go without someone of Nori's profession.

Nori had been bad enough, not only for his looks, but for the bitter history between Dwalin and him. Thorin does not pretend that he is privy to all that goes on in his friend's mind, but he does know that Dwalin loves Nori still, and that the nomad is a distraction to his right hand. He's trouble of the worst sort, and if Thorin had his way, if there was any other option, he would not have allowed it.

There hadn't been another though, and so Nori had signed on, for better or for worse.

Then Ori had signed on as well, following Fíli like Thorin had suspected he might, and his sister-son had been too grateful for it for Thorin to turn the lad away. Fíli had already sacrificed so much for Thorin, he could not bring himself to part the boy from his love. Especially when Thorin had his own suspicions about just how deep that love ran.

But then Dori had completed the set, and Thorin had been tempted to bang his head into the wall and ask the Maker what he had done to deserve this. Nori and Ori were trouble enough to have along, both so pretty, and both with such ties to those dearest to him.

Thorin has a One, and it is not Dori, no matter how many Dwarrows had wished it to be their fate. That does not mean he's blind to how lovely Dori is, did not mean his eyes did not stray towards the other Dwarf when it was most inconvenient. Even after he knew the truth of his heart, after the ride down the river, he still watched Dori. Why shouldn't he? He had no promises with Bilbo. Bilbo seems to hardly desire his company even now, even when Thorin thought they might be friends.

Then came a night in Lake Town, when Dori decides his hair needs to be brushed out in front of the fire, and Thorin watches without shame. It has been a long time since he has lain with another, and now he wonders if Dori would be unopposed to an offer. Thorin is not hard on the eyes after all, and Dori seems to enjoy his company well enough. It might be a nice reprieve for the both of them, a bit of warmth to tide them both over.

When he thinks to rise and go make his offer though, he notices Bilbo, sees the way Bilbo's eyes dart between the two of them before falling back to his own little letter-opener, and Thorin is ashamed.

Bilbo is his One, the other half of his soul, and Thorin has allowed his eyes to fall on Dori. Why? To spit in his Maker's face? To lead Bilbo to believe that there is nothing between himself and Thorin?

Thorin turns his eyes to his own sword, and concentrates on sharpening it for the days ahead.

Óin and Glóin are both married Dwarrows, both with children, and they still find themselves smirking over Dori.

“My wife would not fault me,” Glóin says, knowing it to be true. His wife and him have always agreed that as long as no children will come about and they are discreet, they are free to lay with who they will. They love each other after all, and that is never something they need to question. But sometimes his wife enjoys the company of the artist around the corner, and sometimes Glóin enjoys a night with another Dwarf.

She had laughed when she had seen the Company, and pulled him close to whisper her conditions in his ear. “Dori or Nori you may have your fun with, but if I hear so much as a whisper that you put your hands on little Ori, it shall be myself and Sani raising Gimli, while you feed the corn, yes?”

He had laughed, and pulled her close for a kiss, and thinking of that, he misses her and Gimli more than anything. It's lonely to go from a happy household to a quest with only his brother and a few others for company. “Aye, but he would be enough to chase away the chill, would he not, brother?” he asks, thinking that he might alleviate his loneliness with the eldest 'Ri.

Nori is easy on the eyes as well, of course, but he does not fancy waking to Dwalin's axe in his chest.

“That he would, little brother, that he would,” Óin agrees amiably, measuring out a few dried herbs.

A chill of a different sort descends upon them both when a hand clamps down on their shoulders, and a particularly lovely face inserts itself between them.

Nori is beautiful, in a different way than his brother, but there is something very dangerous in his beauty, especially now, with the way he smiles. Well, it could be a smile. His teeth are showing at least.

Not for the first time, Glóin thinks Nori and Dwalin are well-suited for one another.

“Keep your private thoughts private, brothers,” Nori cautions, and the pair of them fall silent in fear. The nomad is no warrior, true, but he is something more frightening entirely. “Or I shall make sure you do not have the tongues to express them, yes?”

He is gone before they might respond, not that they have much of one.

"A chill is good for strengthening the lungs," Óin says as soon as Nori is out of earshot.

Glóin nods, agreeing with his far wiser brother.

“My stars, it's like dogs in heat,” Bilbo mutters to himself when Dori comes back from his bath, his long hair over his shoulder.

Thorin chuckles, and the way his blue eyes look in the firelight make Bilbo's heart race in the most uncomfortable way.

Kíli grins when Dori passes him, and gets an elbow in his side for his trouble.

“Stop it,” Fíli cautions, and Kíli elbows him back.

“Either I look at him, or your intended, take your pick,” he warns, and Fíli frowns. Kíli makes a face back, daring Fíli to give him permission to look at Ori the way he wants to. Ori might be his beloved brother's One, but Kíli has eyes thank you very much, and his brother's One is very easy on those eyes. Not that he would touch. Kíli is still terrified of Nori. Not so much Fíli or Ori. His brother and almost-brother do love him, after all. Nori, on the other hand, has already held a knife to the parts Kíli values above all others. “I could look at Ori, if you like.”

“I will cut off your balls,” Fíli threatens through his teeth.

“Then I'm going to look at Dori,” Kíli declares. “Because Nori will -”

“Nori will cut off your balls if you look at either of his brothers,” a voice warns, and Kíli almost jumps out of his skin. “I'll give you a pass, oh golden one, but you -,” and now Nori turns to Kíli, “You keep your eyes to yourself, yes?”

Kíli nods, his terror warring with his cock, which insists that anyone as pretty as Nori is welcome in its vicinity no matter how many knives Nori has hidden about his person. Oh, Nori is very desirable, and by the Maker, Kíli needs to get his cock in line with his sanity.

“And no,” Nori says, so close that his hair is touching Kíli's skin. “You have no chance, little princeling. But I hope I'm a nice dream for you.”

“The nicest for you too, I bet,” Kíli dares, his mouth faster than his mind.

“Oh, little princeling,” Nori teases, his mouth by Kíli's ear. “You'd have no idea what to do with me.”

“I might,” he calls, even as Nori saunters away. “I do,” he says to Fíli's knowing smirk.

“I'm sure,” his brother says, in a way that makes Kíli want to punch him.

So he does.

Balin watches Dori.

There was a time he would have given Dori the Arkenstone itself.

Bifur smiles at Dori, a smile, not a leer. He was raised a bit better than that, for one, and for another, he is too damaged to be leering at anyone. Dori is beautiful, yes, but Bifur sees his kindness too, the way he cares for his younger brothers and how gentle he is with Bilbo, the soft little Hobbit. Bifur asks his cousin to be kind to the creature for his sake, and Bofur does as he asks, but Bifur never said a word to Dori. He never had to.

Dori is kind without prompting, helping Bifur gather kindling when his hands shake, interpreting for him when Bofur and Bombur are out of reach, reminding the princes not to startle him.

When Bifur spies Dori brushing out his hair in the baths in Lake Town, he tries to excuse himself with a sign of apology, but instead, Dori holds out the comb.

“I could use a hand,” he says aloud.

“I would be happy to help,” Bifur signs back. And he is. Because Dori is kind.

When Nori appears in the doorway as well, all his titian hair down, reaching past his waist like Dori's, he eyes Bifur up and then says to Dori, signing too, because Nori can be as polite as Dori when it suits him, "This one?"

"Don't be nosy," Dori sniffs in the imperious way he has around his little brothers. "No one asked you to play protector."

"No one asked me," Nori repeats mockingly. "No one had to ask me, I had to do it all on my own because you insist on walking around with your hair down like an idiot, you're just asking for them to behave like slobbering morons -" His voice fades as he stomps away, out of earshot.

Bifur sets aside the comb so he can sign, "He knows his own hair is down, yes?"

"Do not question Nori," Dori signs and says, using a different name-sign for the Dwarf than what Bifur has been using. Bifur has been using one that is similar to nomad, while Dori's uses one that means red. "He is a stubborn little creature." There is a sound of pain from the hall. "Who is perfectly capable of handling himself, most of the time."

Dwalin is only watching one 'Ri, and it is not Dori.

Nori of course chooses to comb out his hair where Dwalin can see, because if Nori is good for anything, it is tormenting Dwalin. That seems to be his sole purpose in life, after all.

His One is beautiful, and Dwalin has no right to look at him, no right to turn his eyes upon one who he has wronged so horribly. He has none, and yet he looks.

He looks.

One day in Lake Town, one day when he is restless and upset, he looks down to see Dori at his side, the eldest of the 'Ri brothers not looking at him at all. Dori has had little to say to him in the long years that he and Nori have been estranged.

Now, Dori says, “Stay away from my little brother, Dwalin.”

“Or what?” Dwalin asks, unimpressed and angry still over what he is denied.

“Or you will never look upon another thing,” Dori warns, and just like that, he is gone.

Dwalin believes him. Nori is not who he is for nothing.

He still watches Nori.