Dalbo snorted and the blade pressed into the flesh of his neck dangerously.

"Nori?" He asked flatly, and Nori indeed, chuckled. "Glad to see I'm still well-known," He replied, "Now…let Bo go…or I'll go ahead an open your throat."

"Where are Falbo and Kiler?" Dalbo demanded without dropping his blade or releasing Bofur, "What did you do to them?"

"I gave them an offer they couldn't refuse," Nori spat quickly, "The same offer I'm giving you at the moment. Let-him-go!"

"Why?" Dalbo teased, "Is this thing…anything important to you?"

Nori sniffed; "Jealous?" He asked, "Either way He's my friend and I won't let some ignorant git hurt him. Release him. Or shall I call for Dwalin? He's not far from here and being that I've got to avoid him, presently, I've come to know his habits and he should pass by in about fifteen minutes. On his way to the tavern and even I know he hates it if he's delayed in enjoying his first mug of ale for the evening."

Dalbo, looking deeply into Bofur's worried and exhausted eyes, snorted and finally stowed his dagger.

"I'll get him," He declared softly as he turned to face Nori, "When you're not around."

"Doubtful," Nori pointed out as he sheathed his own dagger, "Being that I've got some friends who owe me favors. All it takes is me asking them to watch over my friend here."

Dalbo sniffed, looked from Nori to Bofur whom wiped fresh blood off his face, and as he made to leave uttered: "Fags."

When he'd disappeared around the corner Nori looked at Bofur and smirked; "You alright there?" He asked, pulling a handkerchief from his trouser pocket, "You're not to badly hurt are you?"

Bofur took the offered rag and pressed it to the gash on his forehead; "Thanks," He said with a shaky sigh, "No tellin' what they woulda done to me if ye hadn't shown up."

"Oh I think that's obvious," Nori sighed, "Come on. I'll take you to Dori that gash needs stitching."

As Bofur followed Nori he dared to ask: "What's Dwalin on ye fer this time?"

The taller dwarf chuckled and waved his hands dismissively; "This and that," He confessed, "but mainly it's about some ponies. Mysteriously vanished out of Thorin's stables the other night." "Nori," Bofur started to say cautiously, but was cut off by Nori's smooth laughter.

"No worries if there's no evidence," He explained, "I made sure of that!"

For the first time that day, Bofur grinned and joined in with his friend's free laugher.

"Best to hold still lad, I know it hurts, but I'm almost finished."

Dori continued to suture Bofur's wound while Nori, with little Ori in his lap, watched with a calming expression as all four of them sat in the oldest Ri brother's restaurant.

The restaurant had finally closed for the day not long after Nori and Bofur had arrived and, like he always was, Dori instantly jumped at the chance to help Nori's wounded best friend.

"So that silly oaf Dalbo did this?" Dori asked, "Well I'm not surprised. His whole family is nothing but a bunch of drunks and disappointments."

"I thought you said it's not nice to demean people who have less than us," Nori teased as he guided Ori's hand over the parchment laid out upon the table, "Or does that only apply to other people?"

"Oh hush your smart mouth!" Dori spat as he finished the final stitch, "any ways…I'm proud of you brother. It's not often I can say that. I'd forgotten how protective you are of the people you've a soft spot for. Why did Dalbo attack you any ways Bofur?"

Bofur, letting Dori smear some salve over his throbbing wound, hesitated and look at Nori who once again waved a hand absently.

"Like you said," Nori pointed out, "Disappointments and drunks."

"Looky!" Ori announced with a wide grin, "I did it!"

The little dwarf held up the parchment to display the sloppy tracing he'd completed of Nori's finely drawn rabbit and awaited much praise which each older dwarf gave in turn.

As Dori applied a thin layer of gauze he announced he was done just before rising.

"Come on then Ori; let's get you washed up for supper. Nori, will you be staying, or do you have one of those errands you usually do at this time?"

Nori huffed and rolled his eyes at his elder brother; "I'm staying in, believe it or not, hopefully supper won't be too displeasing?"

Dori sniffed and shrugged. "If it's good enough for the dog it'll suit you just fine I suppose," He quipped as little Ori grasped his extended hand, "Bofur you're more than welcome to stay if you like."

When they'd gone Bofur poked the bandaged area and exhaled a very heavy sigh; "Thanks," He said letting his hand drop with a thud atop the table, "fer all yer help."

Nori shrugged and slouched in his chair. "You would have done the same for me," he pointed out, then after a moment added: "You would've gotten your arse beaten but you still would've done what you could."

Bofur smirked and finally took a sip of tea Dori had brought him earlier. "I messed up. Terribly, there's no tellin' what they're gonna do, once the dust has settled."

"Dalbo's a git and a coward," Nori groaned, picking his teeth with a small dagger pulled from his sleeve, "Falbo? Eh! He'll avoid you now more than ever. Not out of hatred but out of humiliation and guilt."

That's when Nori saw the deep sadness return to his best friends eyes and he set the dagger down upon the table and eyed him with nothing but compassion.

"Dalbo's wrong you know," He explained, "It's not wrong for you to be the way you are."

Bofur smirked again and lowered his head; "If it wasn't," He argued softly, "Why can't I…why did they have it in mind to hack me jewels off? I don't know…maybe I should just…try?"

Nori leaned his head to the side and grinned widely. "You're no more straight than I am honest!" He laughed, "Stop your wallowing! I had an uncle like you…long time ago and I can't remember a lot. But he was like you…had a male for a lover and all. He was probably one of the greatest fellows I ever knew. Besides, were you trying to be homosexual from the start?"

Bofur lowered his eyes and slowly shook his head.

"So you didn't choose to be the way you are?" Nori inquired, and when Bofur shook his head again Nori explained:

"It's not like you chose to be the way you are. But its part of who you are and there's nothing wrong with that. Plenty of chaps-and ladies-just like you around here and in every race-Thorin thinks so of most elves-but I don't recommend you pretend to fancy the ladies if you think that'll keep dangers away. Honestly? I think it will have the opposite affect."

Bofur sniffed and finally looked up at Nori whom observed him with a patient and friendly expression.

"I can't believe…I can't believe Falbo just stood there," He confessed, "I thought I'd finally found someone~"

"He's probably more afraid than you," Nori interrupted, "My uncle told me he went through a great deal of lads before getting his husband-he called him his husband-and I'm sure that'll happen for you. If you can have so many girls pining for you, at the moment, imagine the guys that secretly fancy you!"

"Oh, girls don't fancy me!" Bofur laughed at last, sitting up and leaning his chair back, "Their all about me baby brother and that beard of his!"

"Uh-uh!" Nori declared, "Remember that one girl? That pretty lass I had my eyes on for months?"

"Oooooh! Don't ye start that now!" Bofur warned with a smile, "That wasn't me fault!"

"Start what?" Nori laughed, "I was obsessed with Sisra but all she ever want to do, when she was with me, was go and see sweet and gentle Bofur at the toy shop!"

"I turned her down!" Bofur laughed, ignoring the pain the jovial conversation caused his wound, and "I told 'er you liked her!

"And even a queer dwarf can best a handsome rogue like my self!" Nori declared thumping his fist upon the table playfully, "so you see? You're better off than I am!"

"What's all this noise?" Dori demanded as he reentered the restaurant, "Why don't the two of you knock of all the noise and help set the table in the back?"

Nori told Dori they'd be along shortly and, when his brother eyed them with an uncharacteristic soft smile as he left, finally rose from his chair with Bofur imitating him quickly.

"Oh!" Nori said suddenly, "Here take this. Just in case."

Bofur tentatively took the small dagger and looked at it for a moment then at his closest comrade.

"Unfortunately," Nori sighed, "Dalbo's not the only fool in these parts and, much as I'd like to be, I can't always be watching over you."

Bofur smirked and nodded in understanding as he stowed the blade in his belt purse and followed Nori to the back room of the restaurant.

"By the way," Nori said as he took a stack of plates from Dori, "Ori loved his birthday present."

"Yes!" Dori added as He smoothed the wrinkles from the table cloth as Nori began to set the plates, "He carries it around with him every chance he can. Fine craftsmanship Bo, I see Bifur's teachings are not wasted on you!"

Bofur smiled shyly and waved his hand; "It was nothin'…just a sling shot is all."

"Don't be modest," Nori urged as he grabbed some forks from the china hutch, "Who knows? Might come in handy one day."