Kíli huffed and plopped down once more on the edge of the cot in the medical tent. Dammit, where was Óin? He had insisted Kíli meet him here after the noon meal so that Kíli could get the dressings on his back changed and the wound cleaned. Yet Kíli had been here nearly a quarter of an hour without sight nor sign of the deaf old medic. Meanwhile, he was missing out on all the excitement as his uncle and Fíli and Daín began the preliminary treaty talks with the men of Dale under Bard's command and with Thranduil of Mirkwood.

Kíli would have simply left the tent already and come back later except that he knew he would get a severe tongue lashing for not having his injury tended. Honestly, it was a small cut, requiring only three stitches, but apparently everyone thought he might puff up and die if he wasn't utterly coddled.

He sighed and pushed up restlessly from the cot, and at the same moment, the tent flap behind him was drawn open and someone stepped in.

"You crusty old goblin, where've—" Kíli nearly choked when he saw it was not Óin, but Thranduil's lovely red-haired captain who stood looking at him, her eyes bright with something that might have been laughter.

"Tauriel! I'm sorry! I thought you were Óin."

"I know." She smiled then. "Fíli said your healer was delayed, and asked if I'd look to you instead." She had a basin of steaming water in her hand.

"Oh." So Fíli wasn't trying to discourage his little brother's attachment to an elf. Interesting. "Thanks. I hope it's not too much trouble."

Tauriel's eyes registered slight surprise. "This is no trouble at all. You should know that by now."

He nodded, warmed at her unspoken acknowledgment of all she had already done for him.

She set the basin on the table by the bed, glanced over the clean bandages and salves arranged there, and gave a little nod to herself before looking back to him.

"Off with your shirt," she said with the easy authority of one used to issuing orders.

Kíli grasped the hem of his shirt and then looked up at her, his cheeks burning. It wasn't that he disliked the idea of allowing her such a personal glimpse of him. He wanted to let her close, both figuratively and literally. But he was keenly aware that she might not find him very attractive, at least not yet.

He'd seen a number of elves in the healing tents over the past few days and was fully aware that, physically, he differed quite a bit from their slender grace. Not to mention elves' whole bodies were apparently as smooth-skinned as their faces. What would she think of his own shaggy hide?

Oh, he was optimistic that the more time he spent with Tauriel, the less she would care that he looked nothing like an elf, but he felt that it was surely too early in their acquaintance to show her quite how different he was.

The corner of Tauriel's lip twitched up. "Kíli, I have seen naked men before," she said, a hint of amusement coloring her tone. "I am in the king's guard, you know."

"Right." Kíli gave her a sheepish smile. "I'm not used to being around—" He paused awkwardly. He had been about to say girls, but that word certainly did not do Tauriel justice. What were female elves called? he wondered.

He finally did as she had asked. As he shook mussed hair back from his eyes, he looked up to Tauriel with a self-conscious grin, only to see that she stared at him, eyes wide and lips slightly parted. He thought she looked alarmed, and it took all his self-control not to draw his discarded shirt back over himself. Mahal, was he really that unappealing to her?

"Kíli, what—" Her brows were narrowed now in what appeared to be...sympathy? "What happened to you?" she asked tentatively.

"Wha—?" This was not at all the response he had expected. He had some bruises, yes, but the bandages wrapped about his waist were clean and tidy, and his only real wound was out of sight, on his back.

"Those markings. On your skin." She gestured weakly at his shoulder, and Kíli suddenly realized she meant the angular knotwork tattoos that wound around his right upper arm and halfway across his chest.

"Um... I got those when I came of age," he said. Clearly elves didn't wear such markings. Did she think them hideous? "It's something a lot of dwarves do."

"Then... You weren't tortured?" she ventured weakly.

"What? Of course not."

"Ah." She paused, her eyes flitting nervously from his tattoos to his face. "I've only ever seen orcs mark their bodies like that."

"But surely you've noticed Dwalin's tattoos."

She nodded. "I thought perhaps he had once been the orcs' prisoner."

"Oh," Kíli said slowly, hoping his disappointment was not painfully obvious to her. He dropped his eyes. So she found him unlovely, marred like some savage orc.

After a long, embarrassing silence, Tauriel said softly, "I— I can see now; these designs are far too intricate and thoughtful to be made by orcs." Her voice trembled slightly, and looking up, Kíli saw her face was as red as his own. "I am not used to such ornaments, but I do think they suit you. I mean, they convey both the warrior's strength and grace."

Kíli's face relaxed into a smile. "Oh. Um, thanks."

She gave him a self-conscious smile in return and settled on the cot beside him. "Now, let me see your back."

Kíli turned, and Tauriel proceeded to unwind his bandages and then bathed his cut with the hot water. At first, she seemed very cautious to touch him, her fingertips barely skimming his skin as she worked. Yet necessity seemed to wear off her shyness, and by the time she had bound him up with a fresh bandage, her hands lingered over him in a gentle caress that felt far more soothing and medicinal than any salve from Óin's medical chest.

When he shifted back to face her, Tauriel regarded him with a curious, shy look.

"May I?" she asked, her fingers hovering over the lines of ink on his arm.

Kíli nodded.

She slid her fingers over his shoulder and then, lightly, began tracing the woven line of the knot as it wound over his upper arm, along his collarbone, and down over his chest. Her fingertips still on him, she looked up into his eyes. Her pretty green irises were so mysterious and deep, and he knew that he ran as much risk of getting lost in them as he had in her native forest.

With a little sigh, he leaned into her, and she returned his pressure, her hand flattening against him in an exploratory caress.

"Tauriel, may I kiss you?" he whispered.

She made a soft, affirmative sound and tilted her mouth to meet his. Her lips were sweet and just barely cool, like the touch of a flower's petals. They moved tentatively at first, and Kíli wondered if perhaps she had never kissed anyone before. He did his best to answer her gently, holding his own eager ardor in check. She was so innocent and lovely, and he was afraid to offer her more than she wished or expected.

Kíli felt her fingers close around a handful of the curling hair at his chest, and she drew her mouth from his, laughing softly.

"Kíli, you're very strange," she admitted. "But you're perfect." Then she set her mouth against his again, her lips open this time and clearly inviting fuller contact. He drew his kisses deeper, tasting her soft lips and her warm, teasing tongue. As he combed his fingers through her hair and brushed the tip of her ear with his thumb, she gave a happy moan.

"Ah, Kíli, I've never—"

"Smaug's diamond waistcoat, laddie! What in Durin's name—"

Kíli froze in terror at the sound of Óin's voice. What was the old badger doing here? Hadn't he sent Tauriel in his place? He pulled away from the elf to stare at the dwarvish physician.

"I thought you weren't coming," he stammered.

"I see that, young master." Kíli thought he saw a glint of humor in the old dwarf's eye.

"Prince Fíli asked me to look to his brother," Tauriel said, her voice even, if a little breathless. "I've redressed Kíli's wound, and I assure you it is healing well."

"Aye, I expect so." Óin's eyes swept over the discarded dressings on the side table, confirming her deeds. "Well, thank you for your help. I've had everything to do tending half the camp this morning, and I'm glad for the extra hands. Once again, it has been most instructive to witness some of your Elvish healing arts." His tone was dry, but he winked at her.

Kíli saw the stiffness go out of her back.

"Now, if you've nothing left to administer to the patient, I expect you'd best let His Highness—that's Fíli, I mean—know I appreciate his kind thought sending you to check on his brother but that next time it might be more helpful if he told me, too. It would spare me walking back across camp for no reason."


Author's note:

I've seen some great designs for dwarvish tattoos in fan art, and I like the idea that Kili would wear one. I even thought about giving him a tattoo in So Comes Snow After Fire, but a tattoo didn't fit with the way I'd developed his sense of style in that fic. Still, I really wanted to write a version of him that wears a tattoo and to show Tauriel's reaction to discovering it. So here it is. Plus another Kiliel first kiss, because I love those.