Title: Together and Theory
Author: [livejournal.com profile] empy
Pairing: Dwalin/Ori and Nori/Bilbo, respectively.
Rating: G on both counts.
Warnings: passing mention of canonical deaths/BotFA spoilers.
Disclaimer: The characters belong to the Tolkien estate and no infringement is intended.
Notes: written for [livejournal.com profile] mahmfic for the 2013 [livejournal.com profile] lotr_sesa challenge. I picked two of the single-word prompts provided, writing one ficlet for each. The title of the ficlets is the prompt used.
Thanks: many, many, many thanks to the fantastic [livejournal.com profile] caras_galadhon for invaluable help.

* * * * *


He wakes in the middle of the night, not knowing why, and the room is still and silent. Too still. He turns, snarling himself into the sheets and pelts, and finds that he is alone in the bed. When he sets his hand on the edge of the familiar indent in the mattress, he finds it cool.

Stifling a yawn, he rises, fumbling for a candle that he can light on the brazier, spreading its gentle warmth in the corner of the room. The room and the rest of the chambers beyond it are familiar enough for him to navigate even in the dark, but the winter night seems to press in on him and the guttering candle offers some faint comfort.

His feet carry him to his study, the chamber with the best view of the plains outside. No lights, neither candles nor lanterns have been lit, and the only light is the chill moonlight pouring in through the high narrow casement. It is a full moon, winter-silver in colour and echoing the snow blanketing the landscape.

The silence fills the room, and the broad-shouldered figure standing by the casement could have been carved from basalt. A draft dances along the floor, little icy curliques courtesy of the stone that surrounds them.

"Used to say the lads could smell snow. They'd be bolting out the door as soon as the first flakes fell." The voice is low and gravelly, but no more so than usual. He is, however, well used to reading each little shift in Dwalin's demeanour. The sketches he draws chart the rises and falls, but he shows the drawings to no one.

There are no names named, but he knows all too well who Dwalin is talking about. A strange shiver of sorrow twined with pain rises in his chest, and for a moment, his ears are filled with the noise of battle once more. The sound of screams. Metal on metal, shields and axes splintering.

It's been years, but it cuts no less deep. Erebor has been rebuilt and their lives are comfortable, but the battle still haunts them.

"Come back to bed," he says, knowing full well that Dwalin can go for days without sleeping if he needs or wants to. "Please," he adds, resting his forehead against Dwalin's shoulder. He wants to tell Dwalin to give up this ritual, to let the ghosts of those taken before their time settle. In the end, he does not. He only waits it out, stands patiently listening to the silence until Dwalin finally moves.

The bristly edges of Dwalin's beard brush against his chin and neck when Dwalin leans in. "Wouldn't know what to do without you," Dwalin says, the voice little more than a rumble, and settles his hands on Ori's shoulders. His forehead rests against Ori's, and Ori knows without seeing it that the tattoos on Dwalin's scalp will line up with the ones only recently picked out on his.

* * * * *


Rivendell seemed bathed in an eternal soft sunset, the light always remaining golden and feather-light. The grass was soft under his feet and the breeze mild, a welcome respite after the rocks and rough terrain they had run over in their mad escape from the Orcs. The calm seemed somewhat wasted on his rowdy travelling companions, however, and it seemed they sought each chance to cause a clamour. Excusing himself and finding his excuse entirely drowned in the singing and laughter, he slipped away to wander alone in the gardens and enjoy the silence.

It took a moment before he noticed the curious but familiar silhouette drawn against the setting sun. Nori. He was seated on the lowest step of a staircase leading up to an elegantly carved gazebo, and seemed entirely engrossed in the contents of a leathern pouch.

Bilbo crept closer, feeling the need to make a more respectful approach, and got to within only a few feet. He cleared his throat.

Nori looked up, confused for a split second, then smiled. "Mister Baggins!"

"Call me Bilbo."

"Bilbo, then." Nori squinted up at him, tilting his head a little as he seemed to appraise him. "Gandalf vouched for your skills as a burglar, but we haven't seen much of those skills yet. You're light on your feet, that I'll give you, but sneaking only gets you so far. What about locks?"

"Locks?" echoed Bilbo, confused. "Well, I imagine they'd be an obstacle, yes."

He thought he saw Nori raise an eyebrow, but the elaborate plaits running all the way from forehead to hairline made it difficult to tell.

"You can't tell a hook pick from a shallow-angle half diamond, can you?" There was a pause. "I could show you. Can't hurt."

"Is that my--"

"Yes." There was a disturbingly good-natured glint in Nori's eyes. "Don't worry, I'm only borrowing it for a bit."

"That was an heirloom!" he sputtered. "That was an antique fish-fork! You took it before we left!"

"Just borrowing it," repeated Nori, pursing his lips as he bent the tines further. "I'll give it back."

Nori tsked softly as he turned the lock over in his hands. "It's in a sorry state, but it'll have to do. Can't find any locks here, not ones to practice on, so it'll be this one instead. Made it myself when I tried to teach Ori how to pick locks, but..." He trailed off, then cleared his throat. "Better he should keep to his books." Nori held out the lock to him. "Pick this one, and I'll let you have your pickle-fork back."

"Fish-fork," Bilbo corrected without thinking as he held his hand out. "Thank you."

Nori shrugged. "Now, the first thing you need to do is count the wards..."

He could feel the pick slip past the wards one by one, but then his progress was rudely halted as his hold on the lock itself slipped, and he grimaced as he felt the pick slip. Another restart. It wasn't entirely easy to resist the urge to simply pitch the recalcitrant lock all the way across the soft lawn and into one of the well-tended flowerbeds. Somewhere in the distance, he could hear the call of a crake, and he realised with a start that the afternoon was shading into twilight.

"It's no good," he said. "You've been kind, but it seems lock-picking isn't something I have a knack for."

Nori's hands were worn but warm and surprisingly soft-skinned. "Don't force it," he said. "They're finicky little things, but get the motions right and it'll all fall into place." There was a little chuckle, and his hold on Bilbo's hands tightened just a touch. "Useful advice for more than just lock-picking, that. Now try again. Get past the wards, then try to find the locking lever."

Bilbo focused on the lock again, then started as Nori spoke.

"That's the first ward. Keep going."

He obeyed, feeling the pick slink along and pass the second ward easily.

"Second one."

Focusing on keeping his hand steady, he looked up at Nori. "How do you do that? How can you tell?"

Nori grinned. "Your face is very expressive. That wrinkle between your eyebrows disappears when you get past a ward, then it reappears before the next."

Bilbo opened his mouth, but found he couldn't think of anything to say. Focusing on the lock again, he loosened his cramped hold on the repurposed fork and tried to remember Nori's advice. A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth as he felt the pick move past the third ward, and as he met Nori's bright and amused gaze, he realized he could feel his brow smooth out and his shoulders relax.

Bilbo leaned back into Nori's warmth, letting the Dwarf's confidence flow through him.

It'll all fall into place.
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