All rights, except for my OC go to Tolkien.


CHAPTER ONE

UNEXPECTED AID

The bitter, howling wind cut through every layer of fur, fabric, and metal that Kili had stacked over his skin. His cloak caught at the wind much like a sail, trying to pull him backwards. Flecks of snow and ice stung at his near-numb face, melting and refreezing on his nose and cheeks. His toes ached with cold. Snow-melt had begun to seep through the leather of his boots an hour or two ago, making his feet feel even more leaden as he thrashed through the knee-deep snow. His back was stiff from being hunched over so long, but he was afraid to straighten it, lest the blizzard find a new way to his skin. He could hardly see clearly more than a few inches in front of him, but he could feel his brother tromping through the snow behind him, and see the imposing silhouette of Thorin in front of him.

Time had long since blurred into mindless effort. Just placing one foot in front of the other took all the energy he could summon. His muscles burned and ached from the exertion. Cursed mountains, was the only thought he could summon as the wind swiped a lock of hair in front of his eyes, temporarily blinding him. He stumbled a little, boot catching on what was probably a little out crop of rock from the ground. Were they even on a bloody path anymore? Didn't feel like it. He reached up too try and remove the dark strands of hair from his face, but only succeeded in smearing a glove-ful of ice and frost over his cheeks.

He was interrupted from a bout of rather colorful cursing by the wind suddenly cutting off. Well, not completely, but at that point, anything was better than the blizzard they had been staggering through. He nearly slipped at the sudden feel of stepping on something smooth and relatively level... paving stones perhaps? Had they found shelter at last?

Kili craned his neck up, with no small amount of effort, to see a tall building, a heavy shadow against the whiteness of the darkening sky behind it. It seemed stable against the harsh winter winds blowing at it. Its windows glowed gold and wonderfully warm, and a sign hanging over the door, though blurred by snow and age, identified it as an inn. He felt himself break into a trot, longing to run towards the door.

Mahal, it was about time. He was very much in need of a fire, some warm ale, and a good bed.

Soon enough, he was spilling through the doorway. The warm air seemed to scorch his frosty cheeks and nose, but he welcomed the feeling, nearly gasping with joy. Someone behind him gave him a shove, and he stumbled from the spot where he had stopped in the door. He staggered to a chair at one of the round tables in the center of the room, sitting heavily. His sodden, woolen mittens were tugged off, then dropped on the floor between his knees. Then came his thick leather gloves, which quickly joined his mittens. He allowed his stiff fingers a moment to flex the blood back into them before reaching to his neck, to unfasten his cloak, not bothering to check where it slid off to. He pulled the icy scarf away from his nose, then scrubbed his hands over his face, trying to rub the feeling back into his features.

"I thought we might die out there," his brother said, to his left.

Kili grunted in agreement. They all had likely been thinking that. The blizzard had come up on them quickly. They had only just cleared up from their lunch when the temperature had begun to plummet, the wind picking up speed and skies turning gray. He snorted into his palms. A fitting welcome to the Misty Mountains.

"No, not in a while," Fili spoke again, and Kili glanced up to see Ori standing there, wringing his hands anxiously, his cheeks flushed from the cold and worry.

"What's that?" Kili asked, voice gravelly to his own ears.

"Seems our Mr. Boggins hasn't been seen yet in the inn," his brother replied.

Kili blinked for a moment, then huffed, gritting his teeth. "Don't tell me he's lost."

"It seems the only plausible option," Ori said.

Kili swore, clenching his fists. The weather would probably have spelled the end of one of them if they had been out for too much longer. The hobbit, being so soft and unworked, would probably freeze to death even sooner.

His brother voiced his thoughts. "He'll die if he's left out there."

Guilt immediately began to fester in Kili's gut. Sure, it was mostly the hobbit's fault that he had gotten lost, but they were the reason he had been dragged out on this journey in the first place, and one of them probably should have thought to keep an eye on him, especially in weather such as this. Though his frozen bones groaned at him in annoyance, he forced the words out of his throat. "We should track back. See if we can find him."

Fili looked just as conflicted as him. "D'you think there's even a chance he's still alive?"

Kili shrugged, his heart heavy at the thought of having to leave the warm comfort of the tavern. "Maybe. We only have to go back half an hour or so."

The rest was left unspoken. If he had gotten lost any further back than that, hope for his survival was near non-existent.

"I'll go with you, to help. I just feel so awful for having lost him in the first place..." Ori began.

Not a chance. The dwarf, though older than both Kili and Fili by a year of two, was near as delicate as a flower. More suited towards writing than fighting. Even if he did go back out, he wouldn't be of much help. That was, if they didn't end up having to carry him back to the inn, unconscious.

Fili seemed to agree. "No, Kili and I will go out."

Ori stuttered out a protest, but the brothers ignored him, somewhat reluctantly pulling their cold, damp clothes back on. Kili shivered as he stood. Nearly every muscle in his body protested him going back out into the blizzard, but a nagging voice in the back of his head pushed him onwards. As they neared the door, Thorin caught their attention. "What are you doing?"

Fili sighed. "The burglar's still out there. We're off to try and find him."

His uncle stared at him for a moment. They were all aware of Thorin's distaste for Bilbo. However weak the little fellow seemed though, Kili couldn't help but harbor a bit of respect after the troll incident. He may not have been a battle-hardened warrior like most of the party, but he was definitely an asset. The older dwarf growled and turned away, waving a hand. "Risk your lives if you see it fit."

Taking that as approval, Kili stepped out the door, his brother following closely.

He regretted leaving the door instantly. It seemed the storm had actually worsened, the snow nearly a solid barrier in front of him, the drift reaching halfway up his thighs. The frost that had melted on his cheeks began to freeze, his hair whipping even more maddeningly into his vision. A look from Fili, though, his blue eyes strong and determined, renewed Kili's spirit. He followed his brother back the way they had come. Their heavily trodden path from only a few minutes before were already being wiped away.

Time had blurred, but his exhausted mind figured that it might have been twenty minutes. Or ten. The minutes seemed to drag by terribly slow. Kili was considering suggesting they turn about. His legs were losing energy with every step and it took all of his concentration not to stumble and fall into the deep banks around them. His stomach was beginning to burn with hunger, and his eyelids were drooping. He raised his head, about to speak to his brother, but found Fili had stopped, shouting through the wind at another figure standing a few feet away.

He was tall, probably human, as his footsteps sunk into the snow, unlike the fairy-steps of an elf. He stood hunched, and wrapped in many layers of winter clothing, face half covered with a scarf, and blurred by the snow.

He could only make out some of his brother's words. "Seen...one of our own..."

The stranger's response was completely unintelligible to Kili, but Fili turned to him soon after. "Come brother, they've found Bilbo!"

His heart lifted. Maybe the Hobbit wasn't a goner after all. Kili took a few steps closer, and was able to hear the tall man's words. "Go to the inn, and prepare things to warm him. I'll carry him back, just be ready!"

Kili might have protested, had he been a little more lucid, but instead, he just nodded, then turned to track their steps through the snow, back to the inn.

They arrived at the inn fairly quickly, both panting a little from exertion. They had barely sat, when Ori approached, looking quite a bit warmer and healthier than before, but no less concerned. "What...Did..." his eyes shot wide in horror. "You couldn't find him."

"We did," Fili corrected. "Some fellow out on the road picked him up, and is bringing him back this very moment."

"Really!?" Ori squeaked, sounding terribly pleased.

Kili would have grinned, had his face been less frozen. "Of course. You shouldn't have doubted us, Ori."

The dwarf was practically beaming then. "Oh, that's brilliant! Even Balin had lost hope! We were just thinking that we should go out to try and find you two when you walked in, and then, when you came in without Bilbo, well, I assumed the worst. But now... Oh, this really is good news!"

Kili chuckled at his obvious relief. "Good. Now, I need you to get some blankets or something from the innkeeper, and stoke the fire. The hobbit's due to be a little frozen when he gets back."

Ori nodded hurriedly, and bustled off.

The brothers quickly set to work, shedding cloaks, gloves, scarves, and coats at a remarkable speed. When he was free of most of his sodden layers, Kili made his way to the fire, where he sat himself on the hearth. Ori had indeed stoked it. It blazed merrily, sending delicious heat curling over his damp skin. He shivered. Mahal, if anyone else had gotten lost, he would not be going out to find them, even if it was his own mother. All he wanted was to curl up in a warm bed in warm clothes and warm blankets, with a good dinner in his stomach and a few mugs of ale down his throat. Perhaps he'd be able to get a hot bath. Though they had been able to bathe in Rivendell, it could very well be weeks until they had the chance again, and he always had been rather fond of a good, fresh drawn bath.

He shivered unhappily as a gust of cold air swept past him. A moment later, his eyes snapped open as he realized that that had been the door opening. He looked up in time to see it slam closed, a flurry of snowflakes blowing in. Kili stood, despite his creaking joints and hobbled over to help Fili and Ori, who were tossing aside the man's cloak, to reveal a tiny-looking Bilbo Baggins laid across his back. He arrived in time to help Fili in lowering Bilbo, setting the hobbit on the floor for a moment. With a nod, the brothers picked the hobbit back up off the floor, lifting him over to the fire. Ori hurried ahead of them, pulling a bench away from the wall to face the fire.

Once Bilbo had been set on the seat, Kili was able to get a good look at him. His face was a disturbingly pale shade, his lips a purplish-blue color, and his hair and clothing had a good coat of frost over them. His brother spoke beside him, in a low voice. "You'd think him dead, if you couldn't see his breathing."

Kili hummed in agreement.

"And he will be dead, if you don't get those frozen layers off of him and start trying to warm him up." Kili nearly jumped, upon hearing this voice. It was the man, sounding irritated. Now that the snow was gone, Kili could see a sliver of his face. He had pale skin, and near-black, almond shaped eyes.

The man went to pull off a glove, and Kili frowned in confusion. With the glove gone, the hand revealed, though calloused, and reddening from cold, was rather slender, almost...feminine. His brain moved sluggishly to a conclusion, and it wasn't until the stranger had unwound the scarf from their face that Kili realized that this newcomer was, in fact...female.

She seemed to be barely in adulthood, by human standards. Her pale, high features were surrounded by a mane of dark, loose curls, her pinkish lips set in an unhappy line. Definitely female. He blamed most of his astonishment on his cold-addled mind, as his jaw nearly dropped. She caught his eye, and arched a brow. "Are you going to gawk at me, or are you going to save the halfling's life? We haven't all evening, Master Dwarf."

Kili shook his head to snap out of his shock, then moved to do as she had demanded. He exchanged a look with Fili, who seemed just as surprised as him. He wouldn't usually have been this struck simply by the sight of a girl, but his exhausted mind had simply assumed the tall, dark figure to be a man. This was, of course, only adding to the fact that he hadn't seen a human female in more than a month up close, and though this girl wasn't too particularly stunning, she was remarkably different than any of his traveling companions. Humans had always fascinated him.

He and his brother removed most of the hobbit's clothes, until he was dressed only in his trousers and a light shirt that would dry soon enough. The girl spoke again. "You two should take off your clothes as well."

Kili's eyes widened fractionally, and his flirtatious instinct kicked in, although playfully. "Ah, well, you're pretty enough, I suppose, but don't you think we ought to get to know each other a little more first?"

She sighed heavily, undoing the buttons of her heavy coat. "So you're going to be like that?"

Kili shrugged, and she shook her head as she worked on a particularly stubborn one. "Body heat's the best way to warm him right now, short of actually roasting him over the fire, and dwarves have a high body temperature. So, if you wouldn't mind..."

Fili sat and began to undo one of his boots. "Are you really sure it's just that?"

Kili fought back a snort, and looked up at her with a smirk. "I know quite a few lassies who'd love to get an eyeful of this."

His brother punctuated this by sending her a wink as he pulled his outer shirt off over his head, instead of undoing the laces.

She rolled her eyes, but Kili noticed, with a bit of pride, a dusting of pink across her cheeks. This had been a common game Fili and Kili had played back at home. There were few things more amusing than watching girls stumble and stutter over their own feet due only to a wink and a sly word from a handsome dwarf such as himself. She didn't seem to be at the stuttering stage yet, though. "Once you've done that, get on either side of him." She looked about for a moment. "We'll need a blanket."

"We sent someone to fetch one a minute or two ago," Fili told her, settling himself beside the cold hobbit.

Kili joined him after a moment. It was a little awkward, but he found that as long as he didn't think about who it was that he was wrapping himself about, it wasn't too bad. But if Bilbo woke up any time soon, he was going to have the surprise of a lifetime. The girl settled herself at Bilbo's feet, pulling them onto her lap, then gently rubbing them, in an effort to stave off the cold. She glanced up at Fili and Kili for a moment, but looked away quickly, seeming as if she was trying to suppress a smile.

Kili smirked. "Like what you see?"

Fili followed this up smoothly. "I can tell you're wishing you were in the hobbit's position right now."

"Oh, aye," she drawled, sitting back a little to meet their eyes. "Half frozen to death and unconscious with two hairy dwarves wrapped about me. Exactly how I like to spend my evenings."

"Well, it seems you're in luck then," Kili said, raising a brow and patting the space next to him. "I imagine I could use some warming up as well."

A sharp, low voice spoke then. "What was that, Kili?"

Kili winced. No one could make him feel like a scolded fifteen year old like Thorin. "Nothing, uncle."

Thorin huffed, but turned to the girl. "Will the hobbit live?"

"Probably," she replied. "I'm no sort of doctor, but it doesn't seem like the frost's gotten to him too badly."

He merely grunted in response, before returning his gaze to Kili. "And Kili?"

He glanced up. "Yes?"

"I would appreciate it if you would stop trying to seduce the entire local population."

Kili watched him go, any response dead on his lips. When he turned back around, both Fili and the girl were trying to suppress laughter. Kili frowned. "How come I'm always the one who gets scolded?"

His brother collected himself enough to chuckle, "Because I'm the oldest, so I'm never to blame."

The girl meanwhile, smirked. "It amuses me, master dwarf, how one so confident goes speechless so quickly at a stern word from his uncle."

Kili almost made a face at her, but instead, let a lopsided smile onto his face. "That just means I have a sensitive side." After a moment's thought, he added, "I've heard the ladies like that."

"Ah," she looked up. "And have you also heard that they like it when they're flirted with constantly?"

Kili shrugged. "It's seemed to work with you well enough."

She lifted a brow. "Because I am so obviously smitten with you?"

"I'd say so." He looked over Bilbo's head at his brother. "Wouldn't you say so?"

Fili shook his head and shrugged. "Not really my place to be saying anything so."

"Well, it is my place," she said. "And I don't think it's really working. You'll have to try a different tactic."

Kili sighed, sitting back in the bench. This girl wasn't afraid to talk back.

As Kili watched her, he had to admit that she was, perhaps a little prettier than he has first assumed. The firelight cast flickering shadows across the high planes of her cheeks, and the color had begun to return to her skin, making it a nice shade of peach. Her hair fell to her elbows in wavy curls of sorts, the warm light bringing out soft golden and copper hues from the thick brown locks. She wasn't anythin compared to the voluptuous lasses back at home, but for a human, she certainly wasn't terrible looking. He thought back to Rivendell, when he had mentioned not liking maids with high cheek bones, or creamy, smooth skin. That had been a lie then, and it seemed it was still a lie.

A flicker of movement caught his attention, and he glanced up to see Ori, looking a bit daft, nervously wringing his fingers in the blanket in his arms. The young dwarf spoke up, his voice quiet and shy. "Um, I just wanted to check and see how Bilbo was doing."

The girl looked up, then smiled softly. "I should think he'll be quite alright."

A bit of a nervous half smile came upon his lips. "Um, er...I have a blanket. For Bilbo. And, oh," he hurriedly bowed. "Ori, at your service, I suppose."

She took the blanket from him, then bowed as well, amusement in her voice. "And Gwen, at yours." She smiled at him cheekily before adding, "I suppose."

Gwen. Her name was short and sweet. Rolled easily off the tongue. Terribly plain, but nice enough.

Ori blinked, a slight blush on his cheeks, before he muttered some excuse and scuttled off.

Kili looked up at her as she shook the blanket out. "You should be grateful not all of us are as socially awkward as Ori."

"I'd have awkward over sickeningly flirtatious any day," she replied, settling the blanket over the hobbit, so that it covered him from neck to toe.

Fili's stomach suddenly let out an astonishingly loud growl. He winced a little. "And I believe that's the cue for me to go get something to eat." He looked up at Gwen. "Do I have your permission to leave the hobbit's side?"

She shrugged. "If you'd like." She stopped him before he could stand. "Of course, on the condition that you fetch me something as well."

Fili raised a brow. "Are you trying to get a free meal out of me?"

"Yes," she deadpanned. "I had to carry your halfling an hour in this blizzard, and although he seems small, I assure you he weighs quite a bit. Surely, that's deserving of a plate of food."

Fili looked to his brother for help, but Kili merely shrugged. "Can't really argue with that one."

Fili stood, rolling his eyes. "Can I not catch a break around here?"

Gwen smirked. "It seems not."

With one last huff, the dwarf was gone off to speak to the innkeep.

She slid into Fili's spot at the hobbit's side, slumping in the seat to lean into him a little. Kili turned and settled his chin atop Bilbo's mop of curls, looking the few inches up at her and grinning. His smile was one of his specialties. Usually had most lasses melting and falling over him. "So, Gwen," he paused for a moment. "I can just call you Gwen, right?"

She tilted her head, smiling slightly back at him. "Seems you already have."

"Good. So Gwen, tell me about yourself."

She sighed then leaned her head back to stare at the ceiling. "Well, my name's Gwen."

When she paused, Kili raised a brow. "Really? I had no idea. How fascinating."

She flicked her eyes over to give him a glare, but there was no real fire behind it. "Thanks. Now, how about you tell me something about you?" After a moment, she added, "Or perhaps your brother? I haven't heard his name yet."

"Ah, well he's called Fili."

He looked over when she started making a curious noise. It seemed as if Gwen was laughing, though trying to suppress it. She was leaning forward, and looking away from him, her hand pressed over her lips, frame shaking a little. Kili frowned. He knew his brother was a bit daft sometimes, but it didn't seem that the mere mention of his name should warrant such a reaction. "What?"

She looked up at him, still trying not to giggle. "Fili? And Kili?'

His brow furrowed further. "What about it?"

"It's just..." She chuckled a little, shaking her head. "Dwarves are a creative folk."

Kili was a little upset, not seeing what she found so amusing. "You're a strange girl."

She merely grinned in reply.

That was the first time Kili saw her grin. And Mahal, he would always remember that moment. His heart did a funny thing in his chest that made him sort of feel like he couldn't breathe. Every though was banished from his head. Her smile was practically radiant, lighting up her entire face. And anything he could do to make her smile like that again would be well worth it.

But soon, the smile had faded from her face, and it seemed her attention had gone to the fire, her eyes reflecting the flickering flames. Kili leaned back in his seat with a sigh. As miserable as he had been earlier, with the hobbit safe, and a smile on his face, he couldn't help but feel a little lighter. He was still dead tired though. His legs felt heavy, his eyelids aching to droop closed.

He was shaken from his weary thoughts by a soft groan from beside him, as well as a twitch of movement. A glance showed that Gwen was also a little alarmed, but Kili soon pinpointed the source of this disturbance as Bilbo Baggins, who stirred slightly, his eyelids flickering open. Gwen regained her composure, and smiled down at him. "Good evening, Master hobbit."

Bilbo rubbed at his eyes blearily, then squinted up at her, brow furrowed. Within another moment, a look of shock and realization came upon him, and he jerked back. "Oh, ah, hello there."

Kili patted him firmly on the shoulder, grinning. After thinking him quite possibly dead, it was good to hear the little fellow's voice again. "Nice to see you alive and kicking, Mister Boggins."

He turned frantically about to see who spoke. When he saw who it had been, he relaxed a little, but looked no less frazzled. "Thank you. I-" a look of horror crossed his face. "Alive and-excuse me, but, do you mean to imply that I was ever not alive and kicking?"

Kili shrugged and chuckled. "Not quite. But you did manage to give us a good bit of a scare."

"Oh," Bilbo said faintly, looking about at his surroundings. He shifted a little, then a blush came up on his cheeks. "Where have-" he paused, glanced at Gwen, then leaned in closer to Kili, to whisper, "Where on earth have my clothes gone?"

"Relax," Kili said, rolling his eyes. "They weren't doing any good on you."

"What does that even mean!?" the hobbit squeaked, his face turning even redder. "I'd say they were doing quite a bit of good!"

"They were soaking wet," Kili sighed. "You would've been even worse off if we'd left them on."

"You might've died," Gwen added.

Bilbo seemed only then to remember Gwen's presence, and turned about to face her, bowing his head a little. "I am very sorry for any inappropriate-ness, miss, my companions can be...rough at times."

Kili frowned, muttering to himself, "Rough? What's that supposed to mean?"

Gwen, meanwhile, only chuckled. "Worry not. I've already figured that one out."

"Well, I do apologize, Miss-" he turned back to Kili, saying under his breath, "Who is she again?"

"Gwen," Kili told him. "She found you napping out in that blizzard and carried you back here."

The hobbit's eyes went wide. "Ah, well, thanks are in order then, I suppose, Miss Gwen..."

She shook her head. "Not necessary. I'm getting a meal in payment. Speaking of which," She frowned, looking around for a moment. "Where is your brother? I'm actually quite hungry."

Kili shrugged. "Perhaps you've scared him away."

"I do tend to have that effect on people." She looked down, frowning for a moment, before pinning Bilbo with a curious look. "Master hobbit, I have yet to learn your name...?"

He flustered quickly. "Oh, well I'm Bilbo Baggins of Bag End of the Shire."

She smiled fondly. "The Shire...I was there once, a while ago."

Bilbo brightened, seeming to think this a much more suitable subject of conversation. "Really? It is quite a lovely place, even if not the best for visitors. I can't think of a place I'd rather be right now."

Gwen sent a pointed look to the door, where the blizzard was undoubtedly still raging. "I'm tempted to agree with that. I'd be very much agreeable to some sunshine and grass right now."

"Yes," he sighed, nodding. "It feels like I haven't seen a friendly sky or well kempt garden in weeks."

"That's because you haven't," Kili contributed. "Gardens tend to be few and far between in the Misty Mountains."

"It makes sense," huffed Bilbo, shivering slightly. "I can't imagine why anyone would want to be up here."

"Ah, Mr. Boggins!"

Bilbo sighed heavily at that and turned to look up at Fili, who had just come over. "You know, I've told you that that's not-"

Fili disregarded his words. "How are you feeling then?"

With a huff, it seemed that Bilbo had reluctantly accepted that nickname, at least for a while. "Cold, tired, hungry, sore and a little damp, but considering what I've been through, alright, I suppose."

Gwen stood. "You can sit here again, Fili."

He seemed taken aback. "What? No, don't be ridiculous! I'll never see the day when I take a lass' seat and make her sit on the floor!"

She knelt back where she had been before. "Well, then you'd best close your eyes, because I believe that day's arrived." Seeing that Fili was determined to remain stubborn, she continued. "Go on, I feel ridiculously tall around you all, unless I'm on the floor."

"You are rather tall," Kili informed her as his brother, grumbling, settled himself back down.

She raised a brow, sarcasm touching at her tone. "Thank you. I hadn't really noticed that."

Kili ignored that comment, leaning forward to place his chin in his palm, staring seriously at her legs, folded underneath her. "I'll never understand how you tall folk keep your balance."

"It requires a certain amount of natural grace," she explained. "You wouldn't understand."

"I am graceful." He smirked, raising his brows suggestively. "Where it counts, anyway."

Gwen paused, staring at him for a moment. She shook her head, sighing. "I think I should've gone to a different inn than this one."

Kili chuckled. "Don't say that. You know you're better off having seen my face."

She rolled her eyes, then turned, looking up at Fili, who was speaking with Bilbo. "Fili?" When she didn't get a response, she plucked her sodden glove off the ground, slinging it at him.

It seemed she missed though, and the bit of leather smacked into the side of the hobbit's head. He flinched away, curling up on himself. Gwen winced. "Sorry, Mr. Bilbo. I was aiming for Fili, really."

Kili snickered. "That was a terrible shot!"

"Oh, don't start with that," she snapped at him.

"But it was awful! You were at least a foot off!"

She gritted her teeth, cheeks turning a little pink. "Well, that's because I'm trained in hitting things with a sword, not a glove!"

"Did you want me?" Fili cut in.

With a huff, Gwen turned her attention to him. "I wanted to know where dinner had gone off to."

"Innkeep should be over with it in just a minute or two."

She nodded. "Good news. I think I could eat a bear."

Kili snorted, crossing his arms over his chest. "You already have, by the looks of it."

She threw another glove, and this time, it would have hit its mark, had Kili not dodged out of its way.

"I'm joking!" he called out, putting out his hands in defense. "Calm down, woman, I'm just teasing you."

Fili choked out a laugh. "Brother, you'd best just be quiet."

Kili shot a glare at him, before turning back to Gwen, who had propped her chin on her palm and was looking up at him coldly. He gave her his most sincere look. "Really, Gwen. You could never be called too heavy." Then came his most boyishly-charming grin. "You're too lovely for that."

She merely rolled her eyes, but Kili noticed a definite pink flush running up her cheeks and into her hair.

The innkeep arrived then, balancing a few steaming wood bowls. He nodded, as he handed a bowl and spoon to each of them. "I've brought some for the halfling too." He glanced at the little fellow, who was still pale and shivering, his hair damp. "On the house."

Fili grinned, as he settled the bowl in his lap. "You're far too kind to us."

The man glanced out the small window above the door. "That storm's downright nasty. I've sympathy for anyone who's had to be out in it." With another nod, he was off, promising to be back with some ale.

Bilbo held his bowl close up to his face, as he carefully stirred though it, squinting down at its contents. "I honestly have no idea what sort of meat this could possibly be."

"Does it really matter?" Kili mumbled, already with a mouthful of said meat.

"No, I suppose not," the hobbit replied distractedly, still peering skeptically at a small chunk balanced on his spoon.

Fili elbowed him, swallowing his third bite. "Just eat it."

Gwen, from the floor, shrugged. "It's not bad, if you don't think about it too much."

Bilbo made a doubtful sound of agreement, putting a small spoonful in his mouth.

By the time the innkeep had returned with four tankards gripped in his fingers, they were all eating in silence, happy just to be filling their aching stomachs. He gave Gwen her mug last. "And some of our finest honey mead for the lady."

She smiled sweetly up at him, accepting it gratefully. "I'm terribly flattered."

"The least I can do," he replied, smiling warmly back.

When he was gone, the expression fell from her face, to be replaced with one of faint annoyance. "Why's it always assumed that I can't handle ale?"

Kili snorted, taking a gulp from his drink. The ale burned his throat pleasantly on the way down, setting a pleasant tingle in his belly. "You're a lass. Your type usually likes sweet little drinks like that."

She grumbled something unintelligible, though lifted the mug to take a deep swig of it down.

Once his belly was full, Kili found himself a little sleepy. He took occasional sips of his drink, half watching Gwen as she chased a bit of carrot about her bowl. He chuckled as she finally set her dish down in front of her, huffing. "Has the food won?" he mumbled.

She looked up in surprise for a moment, but quickly wrinkled her nose at him a little. "You wish."

Kili raised a brow, but she silenced him with a wave of her hand. "I know that didn't really make sense."

It seemed that Fili was poised to comment, but the deep sound of Thorin's voice silenced him.

"We can't travel anymore tonight. We head out as soon as the weather will permit it." He cast a stern look about, seeming rather tall and imposing from a few steps up the staircase. "While we're here, rest and regain your strength. We'll need to make good speed once we're travelling again, if we're to reach our goal in time." With one last sweep of the room, he was trodding heavily up the rest of the stairs.

Kili looked to his brother. "A night's rest under a roof, at least."

Fili smiled.

"You'll get more than a night, by the looks of it," Gwen said, eyes on the window. "The blizzard's just getting started."

Bilbo furrowed his brow a little. "Lady Gwen, will you be staying here as well?"

"I should hope," she sighed, settling back beside the hearth, her cup gripped between her hands. "It's nasty out there. You'd be risking your life, trying to get anywhere proper."

Kili grinned. "So we might be seeing a bit more of you?"

She sighed. "Unfortunately, yes."

Fili snorted. "Oh, we're not that terrible of company."

Gwen smiled to herself. "No, not too terrible, I suppose."

Kili and Fili had ordered another two mugs of ale, and Bilbo had nearly fallen asleep twice by the time Gwen got to her feet. "Well, it's getting to be late. I'm off to bed."

Kili looked up at her with wide, innocent eyes. "Shall I join you?"

She snorted un-gracefully, gathering her things from the floor. "You wish, dwarf."

He grinned cheekily. "Are you sure that's not you doing the wishing?"

Gwen chuckled, but did not reply, waving to them as she made her way towards the innkeep. "Good night, then."

"Night," Fili called after her.

Kili merely smirked.

Bilbo jerked suddenly awake, his eyes shooting wide. "I'm here!"

"Glad to hear it, Master Boggins," Fili chuckled.

The hobbit slumped back down into his seat, yawning. "Oh, sorry. I must have drifted off." After a moment, he added, "I think I ought to go up soon."

Kili nodded distractedly. He should go up to sleep, but now, there was nearly two mugs of ale buzzing in his head, and he wasn't feeling too tired. It had been ages since he'd been able to drink properly, what with the quest and all, and he was quite probably going to take full advantages of this kitchen.

Fili called over the innkeep for another drink, and the two brothers exchanged a grin. It seemed they were both thinking the same thing.


I hope you enjoyed that! I would love to get some constructive criticism, if you have the time. The second chapter will be up next Friday. Have a great week!

Next chapter: A Battle of Wits and Steel

UPDATE AS OF 8/1/18

Hello, friend! If you're reading this, I figure you may be interested in knowing that this story is in the process of being completely rewritten from the ground up. I'm rewriting for a number of reasons, but mostly because what I have coming is going to be miles better than this story in plot, characterization, writing quality; basically everything. It's up right now, titled "A Path of Stone." You should hop over and read that because while it is a similar tale to this, it's a very different, and much improved read. If you have any questions, feel free to PM me, I'd love to tell you more about it. Thank you for reading, and I'll see you over at "A Path of Stone!"

-Mutterings