Summary: When the prince decides you're coming with him for the day, it doesn't take long to figure out you're in over your head.
Twisting your hair up off of your neck, a deep sigh left you. The weather had jumped drastically today, the heat soaring to insane levels, and no one in the mountain had been prepared for it. All of the vents in Belegost had been opened to help, but the forges had been running all week and the heat from them was only making it worse.
Most had stopped working for the day, unless absolutely necessary. Your father's forge was silent and that was completely foreign to you. The sound of hammer on steel was such a part of your life that the absence was strange, but you were glad for it. If you'd been forced to help in the forge today, you would have just thrown yourself off of the mountain instead. It would have been an easier death.
Letting your hair fall, you went through your house to find your father. "Yes?"
He was sunk deep into his chair, a large tankard of ale beside him. "You're not going to rattle around the house today, are you?"
You frowned. "Where else would I be?"
"I heard rumours of a group heading down to the lake."
"With the princes in the lead no doubt," you muttered.
"You would do well to join them."
"Papa, no, I'll stay here and-"
"What? Melt with the rest of us? No, you will go."
You stared at him, knowing what he was getting at. Your father had never known what to do with a daughter, never sure what to encourage. Your two older brothers were easy enough, the eldest learning the forge and the second going the route of the warrior. It hadn't been until the princes of Durin had come over for dinner one night that your father had realised what he wanted for you.
You were going to marry Fíli. As far as he was concerned, it was set in stone. It didn't matter that you barely talked to the prince. You father had decided and it was going to happen.
Forcing yourself to smile, you murmured, "Yes, Papa."
He waved you off and you took the hint, leaving the room.
Go to the lake? With Fíli and his friends?
Your heart gave a hard thump at the thought. You would love to go and spend the day with the golden prince. But not with others around to see what a fool you were for him.
Chewing on your lower lip, you tried not to think about Fíli but it was nearly impossible. Even before he had come over with your brother, you had been very aware of the older prince. You had fallen completely for him years ago like so many other females, but it wasn't his title or his appearance that drew you to him.
Grumbling under your breath, you crouched down to pick up the books and boxes you had dropped. The young idiots who had run into you and caused this mess had kept going, snickering and laughing meanly. They were old enough to know better so it had been done on purpose.
You let out a sigh as you wondered how you were going to get all of this piled properly and picked back up. It had been hard before and now-
"Need a hand, buttercup?"
Jerking in surprise, you knocked over what you had piled as you looked at the speaker. "Oh," you squeaked. "N-no, Prince Fíli, I'm fine."
He crouched down beside you, his lips curling into a smile. "It's just Fíli, buttercup, and the correct answer is yes."
You shook your head, trying to keep your panic under control. "I know my manners, Prince," you insisted.
"And I know mine."
You stared in horror as he started collecting your things. "Please it's alright! You don't have to!"
Fíli caught your hand as you tried to take the boxes away and smiled again. "Just let me do this, buttercup," he murmured. 'You'll get home faster and I won't feel like a cad for leaving you to it."
Feeling cornered, you watched as he gathered everything and stood easily. When he held a hand out to you, you stared at it.
Fíli wiggled his fingers. "Come on, buttercup. Let's get you home so you can study.
You sighed and twisted your hair up again. It was such a simple thing, but his offer to help had sent you over. You had only heard whispers about the royals before and you were ashamed that his kindness had surprised you. But you had learned that it was actually just who he was and it had simply sealed the deal for you.
Pinning your hair with a silver clasp, you blew at the few strands that escaped it and considered your options. You could just leave the house and pretend to have gone, but where would you go? Or you could go without being invited and not knowing who else was going to be there.
You rubbed at your face and tried not to groan. This wasn't good. If the princes were going to the lake, surely your brother would be going. If you didn't go but said you had, he would point out the lie to your father. How were you supposed to-
Jumping when someone knocked at the door, you hurried to it. Who would be visiting now? All knew the forge was closed and your mother had made no mention of guests. You yarded it open before they could knock again and stared.
Fíli stood on the other side, grinning at you. "Ready, buttercup?"
You blinked. "What?"
"You're ready," he confirmed, grabbing your hand and tugging you out.
"-what are you doing?" you squeaked, pulling the door closed as you didn't let go of it.
"You're going to have to let go if you're coming with us to the lake," he said dryly.
"I'm not ready to go to the lake," you protested.
"Are you wearing underwear?"
You gasped and sputtered, "Of course I'm wearing underwear!"
"Then you're ready."
"That makes no sense!" you protested as he tugged you away from the door.
"Sure it does," he said, wrapping an arm around your waist so you couldn't get away. "There's sure to be extra towels so you don't have to worry about that."
"Sure to be? Prince-"
"Stop that! You're a prince and I have to call you that."
"Technically you're supposed to call me whatever I tell you to call me, buttercup," he rumbled. "So unless you start calling me Fíli, I might have to punish you for disobedience."
Your eyes widened in shock. "Punish?"
He gave you a grin. "For that kind of crime? A spanking would be appropriate."
You could only stare as he led you to a group of dwarves. You recognized most of them as friends of the princes and not so much friends of yours. But your brother was strangely absent.
"Got her," Fíli said, barely stopping. "Let's go."
You heard Kíli respond but Fíli kept going and you heard the others scrambling to grab everything. "Uhm, Prince Fíli?"
"No," he said firmly.
Biting your lip, you fell silent but your heart was pounding. Why was he holding onto you? Yes, you were considering running but how could he know that? And what was with the threat of a spanking? You had never called him by name and yet now he took offence to it?
"You tensed," he said as he led you out of the gates. "What is it, buttercup?"
Then there was that name. It was harmless enough because truly it was meaningless. You had heard him use endearments with other girls so you had tried not to read into it too much. And it should have been degrading. Buttercup? You'd found pictures of the small flower and wondered what on earth Fíli had seen in you to make him call you by its name. It could have been offensive. But your heart still soared whenever he said it, despite everything. "Will you let go?" you asked softly.
"So you can run off? No."
You chewed on your lip again. "I promise I won't run. Please…Fíli," you added softly, blushing.
Hand tightened on you, but you didn't look at him.
You almost missed his arm when it left you, but you kept silent and kept walking. This was almost surreal. You never spent this much time around him; you knew better because you knew you'd put your foot in your mouth at some point. Whenever he came to the house, you made yourself scarce. There was always something to do when he was there, something to keep you away from him.
When the lake came into view, cheers rose up behind you before the others were running past. You looked away as clothing was tossed and dwarves went splashing into the water.
"Swimming doesn't work unless you get in the water, buttercup," Fíli pointed out.
Your nose scrunched. Swimming wasn't going to work either way. Looking around, you saw a rock nearby and started over to it.
"You go ahead," you called, settling on the rock. The damn thing was hot, but you didn't care. You weren't getting in the water.
"You aren't going to just sit there are you?"
You looked at him and immediately wished you hadn't. He had pulled his tunic off already and was working on his pants. "I never said I wanted to come here," you said thickly.
He studied you for a second. "Fine, but you aren't going to stay out here the whole time," he warned, pushing his pants down.
Jerking your gaze away, you felt heat fill your cheeks. What were you doing gawking at him while he stripped? You had manners and decency and-Your eyes went back to him as he went into the water. You licked your lips as you watched the muscles in his back move and tense as he walked into the lake and you couldn't stop the low noise you made as he dove into the water. "Stop it," you muttered, trying to look away.
But it was impossible as he surfaced. All you could do was stare as he slicked his hair back and water ran down his body. Your jaw dropped slightly and you made another low noise. How could he look so good? It wasn't fair. Why had he brought you along? This wasn't what you wanted to be doing. Why had you opened the door?
Tearing your eyes away, you glared at the ground. This was a disaster or would be if you stayed. You could hear the others splashing and laughing and it just made it worse. Blowing out a harsh breath, you made up your mind. A quick glance showed everyone was caught up in their game so it was perfect.
You pushed off the rock and turned your back on the lake. It would be sweltering, but you were going to the archive. You felt at home among the stacks of paper, not with the other dwarves your age. No one would miss you here since you didn't belong there.
Walking back along the path, you plucked at the front of your dress. It was sticking to you already and it would have been nice to go into the water. But you weren't going to make a fool of yourself in front of that group. No, this was better and-
A sharp gasp left you as the world spun and you were pressed against a thick tree, staring at a dripping wet prince. "P-Fíli?" you squeaked, unsure of where to look.
"Where were you going?" he rumbled.
"Back to the city," you whispered.
He clucked his tongue. "You lied to me."
"I wasn't running," you felt compelled to point out.
Fíli chuckled and caught your chin in his hand so you'd meet his eyes. "True, buttercup, so no spanking this time."
"Just let me go back to the city," you whispered. "No one will notice or care if I'm gone."
"I did and do."
Staring at him, you barely had time to think about what that meant before his hands moved down. "Fíli, what-" You squealed when he bent down and tossed you over his shoulder. "Fíli!"
"No. I gave you a chance, buttercup," he said, holding your legs as he carried you to the lake. "You ruined it."
You bit down on your lip, staring at the ground. This wasn't fair. This was the most he'd ever spoken to you and yet it was playing out like this? What were you supposed to do? Stare at the water trailing down his back to the cloth around his hips? Damn it! You were looking! You weren't supposed to be looking!
Your eyes widened when he walked into the water. Oh, Mahal, no!
"Easy, buttercup," he warned. "Or I'll drop you."
You froze, but you weren't sure if it was because of his words or the water up to his waist. "Fíli," you whispered.
He stopped and pulled you off his shoulder.
Making a face as you were plunked into the water, you muttered, "You got my boots wet."
"Then take them off."
And put them where? He was between you and the bank. Looking around, you saw the others were playing some kind of game that involved a lot of splashing and dunking each other beneath the water.
"Come on, buttercup," Fíli said, catching your hands to lead you further out.
"No, please, don't."
He gave you a heart-stopping smile. "It's not deep."
To him! He was only a few inches taller than you, but he could swim. You couldn't. When the water started to cover your breasts and you felt yourself starting to float, your panic took over. Jerking back, you tried to get away but he didn't let go and you lost your footing.
Your head went under and panic spiked. You tried not to inhale, but it was all you wanted to do. Surprise filled you when his hands tightened on yours and hauled you up. Coughing, you clung to him as he caught you up in his arms, cradling you against him.
"Shh, just breathe, buttercup," he murmured. "Breathe for me."
You coughed and sputtered and tried to breathe, but it was hard. He slowly rubbed your back and that helped. When you could finally breathe, you whispered, "I want out."
"You're already soaked. You may as well stay."
"Fíli, I can't swim," you said in a small voice.
He tensed before a deep sigh left him. "Why didn't you mention that?"
You shrugged as he set you down. Was he going to let you get out? You'd really like to get out and not have to think about water going over your head or anything like that.
Fíli gave you a look. "Arms up."
"Arms up, buttercup," he repeated, grabbing your dress.
"Because we're going to swim."
You gaped at him and it allowed him to pull the dress off of you. Blushing like mad, you sank down in the water, crossing your arms over your chest.
"That is not swimming," he said dryly as he tossed your dress at the bank.
"I don't want to."
"I'm not going to let you drown."
"Don't even say that word!" you gasped, completely horrified at the mere thought.
"Buttercup," he groaned, crouching down so you were at eye level and not talking to his navel. "It's not that bad."
"You can swim!"
"Listen to me," Fíli said softly. "I would never let you get hurt."
You stared at him. Why would he say that? What did it even mean?
Smiling, he held out his hands. "Come on, buttercup. Trust me."
Hesitantly pulling your hands in his, you blushed as he stood up and brought you with him. His gaze dipped to your bound breasts before coming back to your eyes. Didn't stop you from blushing madly since you could see that his gaze kept straying a little.
"Just hold on, buttercup. I'll keep you safe."
You were safe on the bank. Why couldn't you be on the bank? Your hands tightened on him as the water rose.
"Shush, it's okay."
No, it was not. This was not okay. This-A breathless shriek left you when something brushed against your leg and you launched yourself at him.
Fíli grunted as you wrapped arms and legs around him. His arms wrapped around you and kept you tight to him. "Buttercup," he groaned, "you're killing me."
You trembled against him, your heart pounding. You felt him rub his cheek against your neck, his stubble rasping on your skin. When he did it again, confusion filled you. What was he doing? When you calmed, you tried to let go but he wouldn't. "F-Fíli?"
He pulled back to meet your gaze and your breath caught at how dark his were. You didn't even think to move when he leaned in to kiss you gently. "Buttercup," he murmured, "kiss me."
Colour filled your cheeks but you did. How could you not when this was what you wanted? You were hesitant at first, lacking experience but it didn't take much to have you melting. Your fingers tangled in his hair and you pressed closer. A low protest came when he broke the kiss. "Fíli," you sighed.
"Let me teach you," he said softly, "and I'll keep kissing you."
You weren't sure about swimming but that was a good bribe he had there.
His lips curved upwards as if he was reading your thoughts again and it made you blush. "Come on, let go and we'll start the lesson."
You shook your head. "No! Something touched me!"
"I'm touching you," he smirked.
You smacked his shoulder and stared down at the water. "That isn't what I meant, damn it!"
"Well, that's a first," Fíli said in surprise.
"What?" you muttered.
"You just hit me and swore."
You gave him a little look and slowly let him go. You weren't sure what had brushed against you and honestly, you didn't really want to know. Your imagination was having a fun time coming up with all sorts of hideous monsters that were lurking just beneath the surface, waiting to pull you under. Shuddering, you turned back to Fíli and didn't miss the look on his face. "What was that?"
"Mm?" he asked, meeting your gaze.
Your eyes narrowed but you didn't push the matter. How could you when you had no idea what that even was.
He caught your hands again and gave you a smile. "Come on, buttercup," he murmured. "Let's see if we can teach you to swim."
You were only going to do this if he kissed you more…but you weren't going to say that out loud even if he had offered to do it.
A/N: So how long's it been since I've written fluff? Long enough to forget how to do it. Oh well. This was requested as lead up to the next chapter of At Your Service so there will be another part following this. It isn't necessary to read both, but if you want the full story you'll kind of need to. But yes, the request was finding out that unrequited love wasn't so unrequited and there's only hints of it here that the reader doesn't really seem to see. But isn't that always the way of it? Hope you enjoyed and thanks for reading!