A/N: You will need the right visual for this one. Seriously, google "ox stance in swording" and imagine our dashing King in it. You will not regret it! :)

You wake up couple hours later from boisterous cheering under your window. You try to hide into the King's shoulder but the noise is growing louder. He stirs and sits up, rubbing his eyes with the heel of his palm. "We fell asleep." You pull the blanket over your head and grumble, "And I would prefer to stay that way." He chuckles, "We missed breakfast. And it is rather unbecoming of the royal couple to stay in their chambers so late. Our subjects might think we are up for something improper." You giggle into the pillow. "Swording practice?" "Minx," he pulls the blanket off you and kisses your shoulder blade. "Time to start the day. And I will begin with putting an end to this treacherous commotion," he gets up and looks out of the window and freezes. "What in the name of Mahal and the Seven Fathers?.."

He dresses up hastily and disappears from the chambers. You stretch and drag yourself out of the bed. You wrap a sheet around you and peek through the window. The inner yard is full of activity. Training dummies are scattered on the open part of the court, several Dwarves attacking them with axes and swords. On the covered balconies opposite to your window you see many others, both male and female, gesticulating vividly, ale and food are being served, servants scurrying around, young squires carrying weapons and shields. You shake your head and start getting ready.

After a quick bath and finally dressed you leave your chambers and go to the yard. The pandemonium seems to have reached its peak, everywhere you hear roaring laughter and loud conversations. Female Dwarves are chatting and pointing at especially zealous trainees. Older Dwarves are seated on tall chairs, probably gathered from nearby houses, and mannerly stroking their beards and smoking their pipes they discuss the younger ones practicing. Younglings are comparing weaponry, you see Kili at the back, he is swirling a short wide sword in his left hand. A young squire dashes by you, dragging an archery target.

In the middle of the covered balcony that you could not see from your window you find Thea, sitting on a short stool, but still towering over a group of giggling Dwarven maidens. They are delicately chewing pieces of apple tart and pepper cake, sip cider and whisper into each others' ears. You see Naina, your closest friend, on Thea's left. She is chewing an apple and strokes her round stomach. Her first born is a girl, she is expected by the summer solstice.

You approach and the maidens greet you gleefully and respectfully. There is an empty chair left for you to the right from Thea. "Wren!" She is wildly waving with a piece of a cake. Then she remembers where she is and corrects herself, "My Queen." "I am not yet a Queen," you chuckle and take your seat. She gestures dismissively at your humility with the treat in her hand. "Try this spicy cake, it is remarkable!" The cake is indeed delectable, especially since you are starving. "You missed breakfast, my Queen," she looks at you pointedly. "Royal affairs to attend." "Oh? And how were the affairs?" "Exceptionally good." You smirk into a goblet of cider. "Uh-huh," she is wiggling her eyebrows. A few of maiden giggle, including Naina, and you wonder what people say about your relationships with the King behind your back. You do tend to sleep in a lot these days.

"What is going on here, Thea?" You attempt a stern look but fail. "It is not my fault," she whines and some of the girls giggle again. "I met this wonderfully courteous Dwarf this morning, when I was looking for the dining hall, and we just started chatting. He told me he was one of the King's best warriors and had actually been on the quest with the King to reclaim Erebor and kill the dragon. It sounded very romantic, and I asked to see his sword." You choke on cider. "You asked what?" "I wanted to see if they are shorter and wider than a sword of a Man." You need to give her credit. Not a single muscle on her face twitches while she is smoothly pouring out these innuendos. Naina is suddenly coughing, seemingly having choked on her water. She is happily married and apparently familiar with the metaphors. You rub her back and give Thea a glare. "So he started telling me all these remarkable things about Dwarven warfare, and then he decided it is easier to show. On the way to the armoury we met his friend and he decided to join us." You feel a bit unwell and brace yourself for the continuation of her story. "And?" "Then they started arguing, who was a better warrior, who made himself distinguished in what battle, all this boring male talk, and then they decided to compare their skills on a dummy. One led to another and a few more people joined." "A few more people?! Thea, all of Erebor is here."

Then you realize that the last time you saw the King was when he was heading to cease this ruckus. You wonder what happened to him and survey the yard. Then you see Bofur passionately arguing with some older Dwarf, and he is gesturing at the balcony you sit on. He catches your eyes and gives a low bow. You give him a gracious wave and laugh. "Is that the Dwarf you were talking about?" "Yes," Thea throws him a glance from under her lashes, "Beautiful eyes, don't you think?" Girls giggle, and you bite your lip suppressing a smile. "I think it is hardly becoming of the future Queen to look at any other Dwarf's eyes except those of her King." "Indeed, forgive me," she presses her palm on top of her magnificent breasts. "I sometimes forget that you already got yourself a looker of a Dwarf." Some girls freeze, their eyes wide open, such insolence unheard of. You feel light and giddy and nod, "He is quite that, isn't he?" Naina squeals in delight, and the girls burst in laughter.

"What are you, ladies, chatting about in here?" the flirtatious drawl of your older soon-to-be nephew is coming from the behind the balcony rails. Thea's ears prick up, and she licks her lips. The positively criminal raspiness of Fili's voice is stroking just the right cords in her heart. Or other organs. The temptress and the charmer, what can possibly go wrong? You shake your head predicting chaos. Half of the girls blush and snicker, including to your disbelief Naina. "Thea, allow me to introduce Fili, King Thorin's sister-son, the hero of the Battle of Five Armies, the oldest heir in the line of Durin." By your long introduction and a meaningful stare you are sending Thea a clear "hands off!" message. She stretches her hand towards the golden-maned Dwarf, and when he lowers his head to kiss her knuckles she gives you a pitiful look. "Please, can I have this one? Please," her eyes are begging. You draw your brows together and slightly shake your head.

Mahal forgive, you understand, he is as delectable as it gets. He has Thorin's confidence and regal bearing but his eyes are always gleaming with laughter, the world is his playground and nothing ever brings him down. You have a soft spot for the merry sportive Dwarf. You also know that he is the worst choice for Thea's glorious vacation adventure. These two will set Erebor on fire.

At that moment the crowd starts cheering wildly. You see a few Dwarves clad in light armour coming out in the middle of yard. "Oh, sparring, wonderful!" Fili's attention is instantly distracted from the girls, and you breath out in relief. "I have to see that," he bestows a hasty bow and disappears. Thea is pouting. You pat her hand reassuringly and say quietly, "They are Dwarves, Thea, nothing is more important that weaponry and the noble art of smithery."

The opponents take different sides of the yard and then with a deafening roar they rush towards each other. Thea jumps up, never previously having heard the terrifying and magnificent Dwarven battle screams. The bodies clash and sparkles fly from under the blades of two wide swords. Thea gasps and presses her palms onto her mouth. Heavy blows and sturdy blocks follow, the fighters circling the yard, thundering thuds of massive colliding bodies clad in metal armour echoing between the stone walls. One of the fighter binds his opponent's sword and lunges. The other swiftly spins his large body and a heavy blow of his elbow sends his opponent flying. The crowd roars, and Thea is clapping in delight. "I confirm everything I ever said, Wren, about approving of your choice. That is delightful! The strength, the thrust, the stamina!" You roll up your eyes and sip your cider.

Archers step out, and Kili is victorious. With the new addition of a smooth black beard and heavy beads in his hair, he looks dashing, and the girls near you start fervourously murmuring among themselves. "And that is?.." Thea turns to you. "My other soon-to-be nephew. Do not even think about it," you whisper into her ear. "And believe me, as desirable as you are for any male of any race, you are not to his liking." "Too delicate?" She is appraising the dark haired Dwarf. "Surprisingly, probably not enough." She looks at you sideways, but you are already staring at the yard.

Thorin Oakenshield steps in the middle, a jousting sword in his hand, and your breathing hitches. He is majestic, his upper body clad only in a tunic and a vest, his usual brigandine omitted. You feel suddenly very, very hot. Thea turns giant shining eyes to you. "Is this?.." "Uh-huh," you sound breathy. "Is he going to?..." "Uh-huh." "His sword is longer and wider than others'." You know that Thea does not require an explanation. She is just stating the fact, lacing her usual innuendo into her observation. "Because he is taller than most. And because he yields Orcrist, the Goblin Cleaver, an Elven blade forged by Ecthelion, Lord of the Fountain Court." You sound like a fawning youngling. You cannot help it, the King turns you into a quivering puddle of adoration. Especially, when he takes the ox stance, drawing the weapon up and his elbow to the outside. He beckons the Dwarves standing on the verges of the yard, and four armour-clad warriors step ahead.

In a swift spiral of fluid movements he blocks and beats the attacks of all four of them, in a terrifying spin, his wide body moving with menacing grace of a mountain lion. The ebony strands swirl like a raven wing, his tightly coiled body and the heavy sword gain a devastating momentum. He slashes three of the fighters across their breastplates. They tumble, and the fourth receives a calamitous thrust to the chest. He is thrown back, and the King lowers the sword.

The crowd goes mad, and you jump up on your feet clapping. The blue eyes are blazing, his chest heaving, and you have to press your thighs together. A delicious shiver runs through your spine, and you painfully bite your bottom lip. He turns to you and bestows you a low deliberate bow. When he is straightening up, he pins you with his stare, scorching and full of lecherous promises. You fall back into your chair, knees trembling and hands clammy.

"Wren," Thea's eyes are wild. She leans in and hotly whispers in your ear. "If you ever were my friend, Maiar help me, you will find me one." You are still dazy, but then reason prevails and you turn to her. "Thea, we both know that it will not happen. Remember four years ago, we had exactly the same conversation but the roles were reverse. You touch, you buy, Thea. Once you reap this fruit, you are to marry your new pet and stay in Erebor. Are you ready for that?" She hesitates. She looks at Dwarves, exuberantly surrounding the King and clapping him on his shoulders, Fili taking the sword out of his hands. "But they are so…" she is looking for the right word, "appetizing!" "Yes, they are, but are you ready to pick up a stray cat?" The memories of four years ago come back, and you both burst out laughing. Others girls look at you in confusion, since all your previous conversation was conducted in whispers. Thea concedes, "You are right. I'll restrain myself. It will be very hard, but I will be as chaste as a spring flower." You just cannot help it, "Too late for that, Thea." She nudges you with an elbow. "You are such a prude, Wren. And a hypocrite." You chuckle. "That I am."

"Can I at least find myself a companion for my stay here? Nothing improper, just to accompany me to feasts, just a bit of hand holding," she asks innocently. You look at her askew. "We are talking about hands holding hands here, right?" She gasps in feigned shock. "Oh Valar, Wren, I cannot believe it! When have you gotten so corrupted?" "Have you seen the King?" you whisper conspiratorially into her ear. "I have, and I'm surprised you even walk out of your bedchambers. Or walk at all for that matter." "Well, it does hurt a bit to sit on my buttocks today," your thoughtful innocent expression is acted out perfectly, and you take a sip from your mug. This time the shock on Thea's face is genuine. All she can do is gape at you, and then glance down at where the King is conversing with Balin in the yard.

"You can have a companion for this trip, Thea," you permit regally, and add in firm whisper, "but only one. And you will be as demure as I was in Dale until the night I spent with the certain Dwarf." She nods, her mouth still half-open. "Pick one," she opens her mouth, "and stay away from the King's nephews." She pouts, but nods again.

At that moment you see a familiar figure of Bombur stepping ahead, with a mace and an axe in his hands. Thea turns to you, a brow lifted in doubt. "Will he be all right? He looks like a jolly round pumpkin. They should probably go easy on him," she looks sincerely concerned. You hide a smile in your mug, and let her have a pleasant surprise.

You have seen Bombur in a battle, and you are not at all worried about him. You recall the most terrifying spectacle you had seen in your life, when in your first winter in Erebor you saw Bombur, a long-handled battle ax in each hand, spinning in the middle of a horde of Orcs, their heads flying off their shoulders, dark blood splaying on the cold stone of the court of Ravenhill. You owe Bombur your life, both you and Dwalin could hardly stand on your feet by then, having been fighting for four hours straight in the narrow passage between two watchtowers. You remember collapsing on your knees, supporting yourself on your sword, and his surprisingly tender hands picking you up. "My lady?" he looked into your eyes and a warm smile played on his face.

You fondly remember his frolics at your betrothal feast and his voracious appetite. Though a constant source of merriment for other Dwarves, you sometimes think that there so much more in the joyful, gluttonous Dwarf. You recall escaping the feast for a gulp of fresh air and leaning on the wall of a tall balcony. You remember him stepping at the same balcony and jumping away from you startled, a roasted rabbit leg in his hand. You smiled to him and asked whether he was enjoying the celebration. You expected the praise for the wine and the food, but he nodded and said, "It is a pleasure to see the King in such high spirits, Khazad Bahinh. He was ever such a Dwarf with a stiff neck before," and he returned to the hall to drink and eat for many more hours.

Right now he steps on the stone of the yard. Kili runs up to him and shoves a giant mug, which looks more like a bucket with a handle than a cup, into his hands and he empties in without taking a breath. "Oh my, that's quite a vigour!" Thea exclaims. "Finally the famous ravenousness of Dwarves! The round fellow knows how to enjoy life!" At that moment five fighters step towards him and balancing their swords and axes in their hands they start circling him. "I am worried about the bulbous fellow," Thea is pulling your sleeve. "Should you not interfere?"

And then, Bombur lurches ahead, plunging his axe on the shoulder of one of the fighters with an astonishing speed and ferocity. The Dwarf collapses on the ground under the crushing blade, and his body transfers the inertia into Bombur's frame, adding a curve into his pounce. He starts spinning with an increasing velocity, the axes in a horrifying blur and his movements graceful and unrelenting. All his opponents on the ground, he comes to a dexterous stop and loudly demands more ale.

"I pick this one," Thea is resolute and you lift you brows. "This one," she nods affirmingly, and then suddenly shy, a blush that you have never seen on Thea's cheeks blooming, she says, "If he chooses to have me." You pick up her hands and smile, "Thea, any man will be beyond exultant and honoured to be your companion. You are life and fire, Thea, and who can appreciate it better than Bombur?"

A/N#2: I feel extremely hesitant to confess but... a thought of a modern AU has come to me. Do not judge me! I am endlessly apprehensive, have been trying to shake it out of my head for three days, but it is buzzing and demanding attention. Is it too cliche? I have enough on my plate, besides. I have my external responsibilities, plus new chapters do not let me sleep at night, I am fighting with flooding passages of text in my head when I brush my teeth. But then, think about it, Thorin in Starbucks, his long hair in a pony tail, sunglasses on his nose… An arrogant, cantankerous chef in a restaurant… Or a conceited, self-assured heart surgeon… Wren (I am not ready to let her go), a smart and ruthless lawyer… Or a social worker, disappointed in men… Gah, save me! What to do?

A/N#3: Or a series of modern AU one-shots based on one word prompts? *wink wink nudge nudge*