A/N: Initially, it was supposed to be a oneshot with the purpose of just writing this one position that I couldn't get out of my mind (it'll be at the end, and it's very risque, consider yourselves warned, me lovelies :D), but I can never just write a drabble, can I? So, it turned out to be about 9K words, and I chopped it in two parts. And remember, the more reviews, the faster the updates ;)

Love you all, my darling readers!


Sometimes Wren wonders what it is like to be married to a Man, and most of the time she is resolute that it would be endlessly more difficult. Dwarves are predictable, their values and their convictions are as if packed in those crates Wren keeps her dried herbs in. Quite quickly after her wedding to the Dwarven King, Wren understood the working of his mind. There are of course misunderstandings, but she has concluded that most of them happen when she lacks certain knowledge. Once another facet of his personality is known to her, she can address his vexations and arrange so that none of those tense moments repeat themselves.

Unlike many Dwarven women - and Wren has learnt of it quite quickly from her many friends and acquaintances, whom she meticulously acquired among those surrounding her - Wren does not find her husband's character aggravating. She knows of course that Dwarven women complain of many qualities characteristic to the males among the Khazad, but as soon as Wren is aware of a certain trait of the King, she just treats it as an ingredient in a potion - it has to either be carefully counteracted, or reinforced.

Wren does not think she is being submissive or meek. She loves her husband dearly, and she is madly in love with him, but she also knew whom she was marrying. The Dwarven King has temper, and he had seen two hundred Springs before he married her. He is also of the Khazad, and she was prepared for the rage, and the possessiveness, and the stubbornness.

All and all, Wren thinks these days that as long as she understands a reason for a certain predicament, she will be able to handle it.

Except for the last three weeks all she feels is a panicked confusion.

The King is uneasy, and irritated, and brooding. And she does not understand the reason. More so, he is not talking. His everyday behaviour does not indicate any trouble either, and Wren knows that for most he seems his usual self. But Wren is not 'most,' she is his wife. She has always had a talent for sensing the tiniest nuances in people's attitudes, and she knows something is off in how the King Under the Mountain bears himself these days.

He talks less, there is more frown. His movements are fractually more harsh, the doors are closed behind him with just slightly more force, the quills snap in his fingers, the fork often scrapes at the plate.

Wren is starting to worry, to observe harder, to try to catch the changes.

Their intimacy has changed as well, and it worries her most. When with others, he seems to forget his agitation, or suppress it better. He seems almost as he was before whatever frustrates him took hold of his mind, but when they are alone in their bedchambers Wren is almost fearful. Sometimes he turns away from her on their bed and goes to sleep without touching her. That has happened so rarely before, so it is the first alarm that tolls in her head making her brace herself in terror.

Sometimes everything seems to be just like before, and he pulls her to his lips, and there is an instant when she hopes that - whatever it was - it has passed, and his hands wander her body, and she arches welcoming the heat of his skin, and they intertwine on the sheets, and then suddenly she catches his eyes on her.

He is watching her. Attentively. With every opportunity he has. Soon, she understands that is the root of what is different. She catches him study her during meals, and when she is working in the library, and he passes through to the Armoury Wing, she feels his burning eyes on herself. And he watches her face when his body is weighing on her, and his hips thrust in her, and these unsettling inquisitive looks makes her blush, and that overwhelming pleasure she has always enjoyed in their loving - the feeling of being his, of melting into him, and possessing him, and that rightful claim she feels over him when their bodies come together - the love she feels in their intimacy feels lacking.

And then he stops looking at her. Not only the unnerving studying is gone, he seems to hide his eyes, and purposefully avoid looking at her.

She starts watching him herself. And soon she understands that he is fighting an internal battle. There is something worrying him, and sometimes he manages to shake it off, and he is seemingly trying to return to their previous accord, but then he loses the next fight, and he is dark, and cold, and almost angry with her. She asks a question, and he barks a snide remark back, and then he hurriedly adds a few more words, to soften the previous answer. They are bussing in the bed, and then he stops, and while she is still moving, rubbing her body to his, kissing his jaw, she notices he is rigid, and his hands are fisted on the sheets.

Wren decides to take the matter to her hands. She is anxious, almost fearful. This grave cloud over her marriage terrifies her. But she has watched, and has examined, and she now knows that this distress the King is experiencing is indeed originating in their association. And now, with time it seems to affect his other matters, but only consequentially. Nothing but his marriage disquiets the King, and Wren spends an evening sitting in her study, making a decision.

She concludes that it is her duty as his wife to solve it. She is fearful for herself, she wonders if she has done something unforgivable. She cannot think of anything, but again, she lives among the Khazad, there is much she still does not know.

She eventually wonders if the King has just grown tired of her. Somehow in all her insecurity, in all her doubts of self-worth, never has she thought such day can come. When he came for her in Bree, she gleefully agreed to be his. Even before he proposed marriage, she knew she would go with him, wherever he asked her, as his mistress, as his concubine, even for one night - she would agree and give him anything. When he offered her to be his Queen, she could not believe her happiness. And for some inconceivable reason - and now, that she is wracked with doubts and fears, she cannot even summon why it never came to her mind - she never assumed he could change his mind.

Perhaps, now he has. With surprise Wren notices a drop of water fall on the polished surface of her desk. She lifts her hand and wipes the tears she has not realised were running down her cheeks.

She spends another hour pondering and arrives to the decision that she needs to help the King. One thought thrashes in her mind. It is not quite a common one, and Wren would probably refrain from sharing it with any other woman around her, but it lies in the very core of her love for the King. He is her friend. Besides being her lover, and her husband, he is also a man she admires, and who showed her nothing but respect and admiration. She wants all the best for the man who has always been noble, honourable, and brave. He is the King of the Khazad, and he is Thorin, son of Thrain, son of Thror. She loves him and only wishes well upon him. If he is distressed, she needs to help him.

She does not blame herself, after a long consideration she is almost certain she did everything right. She has been a good wife to him, and a good Queen. They have done right by each other. And he owes her nothing, he has been generous and fair. Just as her, he shared himself, and gave himself without restrictions.

Something is awry in their marriage now, and Wren decides that her duty is to address it, even if it means a heartbreak for her.

She jumps on her feet and marches to the King's study where she knows he is. They had dinner several hours ago. It was in the company of his nephews and Dis, and the King was especially dark faced and quiet. Wren tried to sustain conversation with their relatives, but it died out quite quickly. Kili in his usual perceptiveness excused himself earlier, leaving the uncomfortable atmosphere, Fili threw him a confused look, and Dis was moving food on her plate.

Wren feels that in the last few days the King's state has worsened. He has been spending his evenings in his study, and Wren is well aware there is not much for him to do there. She has just received a letter from King Thranduil discussing how well the trade is going and how peaceful the times are. It is midwinter and no restoration is happening in Erebor. Everything has slowed down, and the Khazad are enjoying the prosperity in the warmth and comfort of their homes.

Last night the King came to their bed just a few hours before the dawn, and Wren suspects it was done to spend as little time with her as possible. He knows she gets up with the first light, many errands awaiting her, and indeed she rose from the bed, and left the bedroom. She now wonders if he was even asleep. His back was turned to her, and she gave him a frustrated look over. The ebony and silver strands were scattered on their pillows but he was on the other side of the bed.

Wren misses him painfully. They have always slept intertwined, and although for some it could feel suffocated, she adored being pressed into him, encircled in his strong arms.

She has also grown accustomed to copious amount of carnal pleasures that a marriage to a Dwarf entitles. The past week they lay together twice. She wonders if that is what a marriage to a Man would be like. Wren cannot say she finds it at all satisfying.

She pushes the door to his study and finds him by the window. He is staring into the darkness behind the glass, his arms are folded on his chest, in his habitual gesture. The brows are drawn together, storm raging in the blue eyes. The lips are twisted in an irked grimace. Wren closes the door softly behind her.

"Thorin?" she calls him, and he jerks and turns, surprise and immediate irritation on his face. "Could I speak to you?" His lips twitch, and she could almost imagine that he was going to snark back something akin to 'Why do you even ask permission?' but then he reins his temper and nods. He gestures towards the armchair, but once she sits he remains standing. He is now looming over her, and she feels suffocated although he keeps distance between them.

"My lord," she starts. "I can see you are distressed. Something concerns you, and I now think it is I who caused it. I would like to address it," she speaks in a calm firm voice. He is my friend, he is my comrade, I need to assist him, her mind whirs again and again.

She has of course thought of the worst. He is bored with her, he regrets marrying her, he feels trapped, but being a Dwarf he would never question the sacred nature of marriage.

She of course imagined how irritated he is, with her, with her presence. She imagined in greatest details how irked he feels when he sees the smallest details, the traces of her presence: her belongings, her voice, her smell. He bedded her, and she wonders if it was only out of sense of duty. She gives him credit, she doubts he would do it out of pure lust, just to satisfy his urges. And he was tender and considerate. A week ago he was still sometimes rough, seemingly losing his composure, and then reining it again, and covering the places he squeezed too hard with soft kisses. Two night ago he was almost melancholic, as if apologetic, and Wren cannot take it anymore.

Right now, the King is studying her face, frowning, and she returns his gaze directly.

"I hoped I was hiding it well," he speaks in a low voice, and her hearts sinks. Before he answered, there was still a small chance she was wrong, and imagined all of this unrest, and now it cannot be denied.

"What worries you, Thorin?" she asks, her body aching. She has not realised how tense every muscle in it is, but she is as if bracing herself before a blow. To think of it, it is exactly what is happening. He is likely now to inflict a mortal wound upon her.

I am his friend, his wife, even if he does not desire me anymore. I need to help him. We can find a solution. It is still him, still Thorin, he will do everything in his power to bring least damage to me. She repeats these words like a prayer in her mind, reassuring herself, but her eyes prickle, and she squeezes her jaws, to take her nervous tremours under control.

He studies her some more, and then his face wavers, and he turns away, pretending to be preoccupied with pouring some mead into a glass.

"It is nothing… I am just exhausted." His voice is lifeless, and Wren sighs. He is not even looking at her.

"My lord, I feel we should speak openly. Do not underestimate me, be so kind. I see your agitation, it is impossible to ignore. I do not wish to continue this way."

Wren wonders where this firmness and this composure come from. Perhaps, she thinks, it is because she has spent the last moon imagining all the worst possible things, and anything is better than the torture she has experienced.

He throws a look at her, from under frowned brow.

"It is indeed of no importance, Wren. I apologise if I showed my foul mood. But there is nothing to discuss."

"Do you wish our marriage to annul?" she blurts out. Some part of her mind is surprised that her uncontrollable habit of blabbering the most unfortunate of lines has not shown itself before.

He twirls on one spot and gawks at her aghast.


"Do you wish our marriage to annul?" she repeats, and then with a sigh she drops her head. She is more drained that she thought. She thought she could come and have a reserved conversation with him, but all she feels now is pain and fear, and she locks her hands to find some anchor in the dizzying panic that makes her head spin. "I know it is not done among the Khazad, but we could find a way if you do not wish to stay my husband. I could abide elsewhere, or..."

"Wren, have you hit your head?" His low, raspy answer makes her lift her face, and it is her turn to stare at him. "Why would I want to separate from you?"

"You are clearly unhappy in our marriage. And I do not want to force you into it if that is what our marriage is going to be like."

"I am quite happy in our marriage," he answers haughtily, and Wren feels a minuscule stir of irritation. She wonders if he thinks her dim.

"You clearly are not," she answers, keeping their gaze locked. "You are irritated, you are unpleasant, and you bang things." That does not come out as a reasonable argument, and to confirm how unfortunate her wording was the King narrows his eyes at her. Wren rushes to amend, "Thorin, let us speak openly. You are distressed, and it is our marriage that causes it. You have just said you hoped you hid it better. Stop hiding it, and just speak already!" Her voice rises, and he gives her a glare, tilting his head back. That is the disdainful look down his long nose she had seen him give to others. She is momentarily wounded, she does not deserve this treatment, but then she thinks that it is nothing but a defensive move from him.

"Thorin, what is it? I am certain I have done nothing wrong, but you are clearly displeased. I cannot see how we can continue the way it is now. It has been going on for a moon. You are avoiding me, your mood swings. Others are starting to notice. Last week at the training you lost composure, and Fili paid the price..."

"So that is what worries you? Fili's well-being?!" the King hisses through his gritted teeth, his face suddenly enraged, lips white, and Wren freezes with her words stuck in her throat. She does not understand his reaction.

The incident she has referred to took place a week after she started noticing the changes in the King's behaviour. During a swording practice the King lost his temper, and his training sword inflicted real damage. Fili still has his arm in a sling. Wren's daily training sessions with him have been cancelled. The healers give him another two weeks until he will have full possession of his arm.

"Of course, I care about Fili's well-being. I do not understand why it surprises you, after all..." she does not get a chance to finish her statement when the King emits a raspy furious half growl, half scream, and hurls his goblet into the wall. Wren jumps up in her chair, pressing her hands over her mouth.

"You.. you… you do not get to..." he mutters, his face twisting in one expression over another, rage, pain, and more rage replacing each other, and Wren is watching him in terror. She is paralysed in her chair, and then he fists his hands, and sneers through clenched teeth, "You need to leave now, Wren. I do not control myself… Let me… think it over..."

And that is when Wren feels livid.

"You had had a moon to think it over!" she spits the words into his face, in almost a scream, and then she rises slowly and takes a step towards him, pointing her finger into his face. "You clearly are troubled, and you have been brewing in your own frustration for a moon, and I am tired of it!" The more she speaks, the easier it gets, as if she is gaining strength from the sound of her own enraged voice.

"Wren, I can handle..."

"You clearly cannot!" It is her turn to hiss. "You are not allowed anymore! You are not to turn my life into another string of days and nights of nightmare, of waiting for you to snap, and for second guessing everything I do and say. Speak now!" she shouts at him, and for the good measure she takes a step towards him, intending to poke him with her finger if he does not start talking that very instant.

"I am jealous!" he roars, and she winces away from him, from the sheer volume of his voice, and from the shock of the meaning of his words. She cannot gather enough wits to even ask 'What?'

The King then presses his lips together, and glares at her. Wren's mind thrashes.

"Of what? Of whom? Who are you jealous of?" She truly does not understand. She wonders whether he is jealous of sharing the rule with her, but the thought is preposterous. Is he jealous of his kin accepting her? That is even more absurd.

"I told you it was of no importance," he snarls. "There is nothing to discuss. There is no blame on you, and I just… We will just forget about it," he deadpans, ordering, not asking. Wren feels rebellious.

"Forget about it?! I do not even understand it, how am I to forget it?"

"Wren, just leave!" he growls. "I kept it under control for a moon, I can continue..."

"You have been torturing me for a moon, damn you! Just speak up already!" That is when she finally reaches the limit of her composure. "I am very, very displeased with you right now!" She understand she is using a tone more suitable for scolding a child, but the King suddenly stops in his tracks and stares at her. Wren is taking sharp spasmodic breaths in. "Talk right now, or sleep in forges in the next fortnight!" His jaw drops, and Wren goes as far as stomp her foot. "Aye, that is how it is going to be. Either we solve this aggravation now, or no more comfortable sleep in our bed for you."

Somewhere at the back of her mind she knows this is ridiculous. She cannot make him do anything, she has no power over him. But her nerves are overtaxed, and then she tells herself she is his wife and the Queen. She has every right to do whatever she wants, among other things kick her stubborn husband out of their bedchambers.

"Threats do not work on me," he bites back, but his tone lacks confidence. She narrows her eyes at him.

"Then enjoy your night in the forges!" she sneers, and stomps to the door. He is silent behind her, and she does not turn around. She knows one thing: there is no shorter path to a defeat that an empty threat. She is not going to waver.

She marches through the passages, enters their halls, and closes the door being her with a bang. And then she exhales sharply and locks it. The gesture is purely symbolic, there are two more entrances in the halls, and he would need to come here even if he does not sleep with her. Their bath chambers, wardrobes, and private dining hall is here, but she feels she needs to send a clear message.

She plops on the bed and pulls covers over her head. The night of course ends up being sleepless, and at the morning Wren has an excruciating headache. She takes medicinal herbs and goes about her day.

And then two more.

They do not see each other. She has meals either in her study, or in their rooms, and he does not come. In the evening of the third night she thinks she can hear him move in the parlour adjoint to their bedchambers, but he does not enter. She is lying unmoving in the bed, staring into the dark. The entrance door bangs, and she exhales. She is not sure what she is feeling, but it surely is at least fractionally relief. She is indeed very displeased with him.

She rolls on her side and ponders. He clearly had imagined something, there was some aggravation that was weighing on him, and he himself knows it is unfounded. Which means that he was mistreating her and punishing her for a moon without having a reason for it. He has not lost his love for her, he invented some ridiculous trouble, and instead of talking to her about it he is brooding and wallowing in it. Wren considers such behaviour dim, childish, and harmful towards others. She does not feel sorry for him.

Except the sheets carry the smell of his skin, and she is cold. Even with his neglectful behaviour of the last moon, sleeping in the same bed with him was a bliss. And then she wonders where he sleeps this night, and whether he is comfortable. There is the old wound in his right leg, and his lower back aches in the days of snowstorms, and she always makes sure to add the right herbs in his baths and rub balms in his joints to alleviate the pain.

Wren tosses and turns, trying to stay angry, but with the first rays of dawn light she has half a mind to find him. She was ready to take care of him when she thought he wanted to abandon her. Even less so, she is capable of ignoring his needs now, in the midst of a small marital tiff.

She is also worried what it looks like. Surely, some already noticed that the King did not sleep in his bedchambers, and rumours will start soon. She wonders what is the wise thing to do. Perhaps, she should talk to him. Invite him back to their halls, and then she herself can sleep in her study. There is a large comfortable divan there. This way she does not give up her positions, but the illusion of propriety is established.

But then Wren remembers advice she once received from a woman in Bree, long time ago, when Wren had no hope to even have a husband. The woman had to stay in the infirmary because of a large laceration on her thigh. She was a wife of a baker, round and merry, and she told Wren that in case of marital unrest the man had to be made to leave, and never the woman. Leaving, banging the door behind herself was very unwise, the woman said. This way the man would stay home, in comfort, and peace, without constant nagging, and with each day he would enjoy his comfort more and more, and he would think he was right to start with. 'Make him suffer, in cold and hunger, make him remember how good it was in your bed, how delicious your cooking was. It is best if he has to stay in stables, or in his shop, where it is dirty, and cold. It is best if it is Winter. They do not appreciate us until they lose it. He will think of clean sheets, and warm food. And when he crawls back, make sure there is his favourite food on the stove, and wear something soft and pretty, and let it smell nice in the house.'

Wren sighs and makes herself go to sleep alone in the spacious bed.

The fourth night comes, and there is a knock at the bedchamber door.

To be continued...

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Renee Miller is a reclusive web designer who, after several hours of delirium from flu, wakes up to find a stranger in boxer briefs standing in her bathroom.

John is an archaeologist who finds himself stuck in a stranger's flat in a snowstorm.

Frozen in her neat and clean world of highly functional anxieties and her history of childhood trauma, Renee is perhaps the worst possible host for her flatmate's boyfriend's colleague. Yet, while the fervent gush of life that is John Greaves disrupts her carefully guarded existence, Renee finds herself gradually yearning for more.

Is John the first breath of Spring in her frigid world?