A/N: Hey guys! I'm back! Sorry it's been so long but I hope you all like this chapter and I would like to think of this chapter as my Christmas present to all of you. I hope you all have a great holiday! And I will try to be back in the new year as soon as I can. Enjoy :)
Thorin was smoldering on the inside. That elf rubbed him the wrong way, as most did, especially with the familiar way the man regarded Annora. Finding the young woman with the elf was the last thing he had wanted to find once his meeting with Lord Elrond was finished.
The information Elrond had revealed to Thorin and his companions was nothing short of exciting. It had lifted his spirits to know that they now had a way inside the mountain and their quest still had a chance of being fruitful. He had left the meeting with such a great feeling of glee and lightness despite the fact Lord Elrond had no intention of allowing Thorin's company to continue their journey without talking with the White council first. The call of his long lost homeland kept his heart lit with determination and no elf lord would keep him from his goal. With a spring in his step and excitement in his eyes, Thorin accepted an invitation from Bilbo to accompany him on a walk to the gardens, without a second thought. Bilbo had chatted away excitedly about the wonders of Rivendell, never really noticing that the dwarf was not following the flow of his words. Thorin had been off in his own little world imagining what it was going to be like standing in the halls of his long lost home. His happy fantasies were interrupted and vanished when he had laid his eyes upon Annora and the elf. Now he stood in the gardens with a beaming Annora and a delighted hobbit, keeping his eyes on the flowers of the garden and not on the young woman in front of him.
Annora gave a delighted smile to her cousin and Thorin, "Cousin have you seen all the fascinating critters running around? They are nothing I've ever seen before! Aranel must have thought I was being ridiculous, acting like a thrilled child seeing her first Gandalf firework show!"
"Oh I doubt that very much my dear," Bilbo said with a knowing grin on his face. His cousin was clever in many ways but knowing the intentions of a man attracted to her was not one of them. In the topic of attraction and love, she was very much a novice.
"Well in any case I'm having a great time here in the gardens, everything is so pretty", she dismissed the topic of Aranel quickly. It truthfully didn't matter to her much what the elf thought of her, she wasn't ashamed of who she was and she wasn't about to change if someone didn't like it.
"I'm going to stay here for a while longer, maybe sit and look at the valley below, would you two care to join me?" she inquired.
Bilbo shook his head, "No thank you, I was planning on exploring a little more of Rivendell, I imagine we wont be staying here much longer." With a quick farewell he turned around and headed back up the path Aranel had taken back to the city above only minutes before.
Annora watched her cousin go then turned her eyes to the Dwarf King, who had been silent the entire conversation. "How was your meeting with Lord Elrond?" she asked softly, suddenly feeling awkward being left alone with the dwarf. Thorin was being very quiet, which she realized wasn't overly unusual for the dwarf, but this silence felt heavier and left her heart fluttering with nervousness.
With arms crossed and lips set in a stubborn grimace, Thorin finally turned his head towards Annora. "The Lord Elf has informed us that our map points our way to a hidden door high on the Lonely Mountain. We must make it to the door by Durin's Day. It will only be visible on that day and that day only."
Annora let that little bit of information sink in and nodded to herself, "I suppose that means we will be leaving soon?"
Thorin gave the slightest of nods and moved his line of sight to the night sky, as far away from the pair of curious grey eyes he could feel on his face, as possible. His heated mood had not diminished and he did not wish to show it to the young woman.
Once again a long silence fell on the garden and its two occupants, leaving Annora fidgeting with the hem of her dress sleeve. When Thorin continued to remain silent staring off into the night sky after several minutes, Annora could take no more and strode closer to the dwarf. "You're clearly brooding about something important," Annora huffed in frustration, planting herself in front of Thorin. "Now I don't know why and you do not have to tell me but the least you can do is sit with me and admire the view, instead of standing there awkwardly."
Before Thorin could even attempt a reply that would deny her observations, Annora slipped her small hand around his larger one and proceeded to pull him through the garden towards a small white tone bench.
"Hush. Sit with me and sort through your thoughts if you must," Annora demanded in a tone that left no argument. Coming around the front of the elegant stone bench Annora released her hold upon the dwarf's hand, surprising Thorin with how disappointed he felt when she did, and plopped down onto the bench in a less than lady-like manner.
"Ahhh that is much better! All this walking has left my leg rather tired. Never thought six days of napping would be enough for my muscles to get so lazy!" she grinned widely, internally congratulating herself for her wittiness while rubbing her sore leg vigorously. She looked up at Thorin and gave him a puzzled looked, "Well sit down already." She patted the spot next to her encouraging, the smile never leaving her face.
Sometimes Thorin reminded her of stray dog, wanting of companionship and closeness to another living being but cautious and skittish of the possibility of negative outcomes. Annora was starting to understand that when it came to Thorin Oakenshield, moving slowly and building trust was the road towards getting to know him and possibly becoming friends. She giggled silently to herself; hopefully the Dwarf King wasn't looking for a belly rub!
Finally the stubborn man sat down next to her and they sat in silence, scanning the heavens above and the valley below.
"The moon is beautiful tonight," Annora whispered as she gazed up at it. She didn't know what else to say. She did not know how to make the dwarf feel better about whatever bothered him or if he would take any attempt she made well. He was silent and made no effort to fill it.
Now Annora found this situation uncomfortable, it was nothing like the companionable silence she had experienced outside Bilbo's home with Ori. It was hard to relax when she could feel the tension rolling off this dwarf in waves. She searched her brain for something to say, anything to lift the tension in the cool night air, to make the dwarf king speak.
"Do dwarf women really have beards?" She heard herself ask. She regretted the question as soon as it left her mouth and was worried that Thorin would take insult by the question. Relief washed over her body when instead of an angry reply, Thorin's deep voice was calm when he answered her.
"Yes they do. Nothing akin to the men's of course but they do have beards, small ones. They are thinner and softer," he replied.
Annora was so relieved that she couldn't help the childish look of disbelief that lit her face when she looked at him. "Really?" She couldn't imagine what a woman would want with a beard.
Thorin chuckled at her expression, "Yes really. Dwarves are very proud of their beards, including the women. You act as if it is a surprise."
She was quiet for a moment, had he actually laughed? She smiled brightly. She was happy that she had lifted his somber mood, even if it was only a small amount.
"Up until now the only person I had ever seen with a beard was Gandalf. Hobbits cannot grow facial hair", she stated as she studied his. She remembered the curious wonder she felt when she had first laid her eyes on this group of dwarves and all the varying beards they possessed. She felt like a child, discovering something new and very different from what she was used to.
"I am unaccustomed to seeing them, are they rough?" Without thinking she had reached out a hand towards his face. Thorin's rough hand darted out and snatched her wrist, startling Annora and stopping her hand's progression. She never expected he would be so fast in his movements; he had moved much faster in this moment than she had seen when he was in battle. She cast her eyes down in embarrassment, her face burning, "I…I'm sorry, I wasn't thinking." They sat like that for what felt to Annora like an eternity before he moved her hand slowly to his face. When her hand made contact he released her wrist and she finally looked at him.
There was no anger in his face as she searched his eyes. Her heart accelerated, nervousness settling in and she couldn't keep her mind off of how close her face was to his. She warily turned her attention from his stormy eyes to her hand. She slowly moved her slender fingers through the coarse hair along his jaw line. It was a peculiar feeling; it felt coarse but also kind of smooth. A smile broke across her face. "Its softer than I thought it would be," she whispered as she removed her hand from his face. "Thank you for putting up with my curiosity," she smiled, cheeks red as she looked him in the eyes.
Thorin surprised himself when he replied, "You're welcome." Then he was on his feet and walking out of the gardens back towards the sleeping quarters of their companions.
Annora let out a deep breath and ran her fingers through her hair, pulling up her legs to her chest. Why did she have to touch? Why always with the touching, she saw something fascinating and had to touch it! That could have gone terribly and the last thing anyone in this company wanted was an angry leader and she did not want him to avoid her. She glanced over her shoulder at the dark figure walking away from her and noticed two figures casually lounging against the railings of a nearby balcony.
She caught Fili and Kili grinning widely at her. She scowled up at them in turn, throwing a rude gesture at them and huffed to herself, those two were never going to let her live this down.
Please let me know what you guys think of this chapter. I wish I had spent a little more time on it but I wanted to get out another chapter to you guys.