Fili strode across one of the many bridges of Laketown, his boots drumming on the wood. Behind him, light and music blazed from the hall where half their company were still feasting with the people of Laketown. But Fili had had enough - in every sense. Now that he was out of that hubbub, his ears were buzzing slightly, the cool air of the night making him wonder just how much he'd had to drink in there. Not that the drinking had any bearing on the matter in hand, of course not. He'd been wronged and nobody understood him, least of all his uncle. He was going to his bed.

He couldn't remember what the quarrel had been about. Him and Kili, some teasing banter which had got out of hand, become angry words, so that Thorin had to step in. But Fili remembered all too clearly what Thorin had said to him, after, an arm about his shoulder as if he were dispensing fatherly advice instead of the cruellest blow Fili had suffered in his life.

"I expect more from you, Boy, because Kili is my nephew and I love him dearly. You are my Heir."

It was too much. Fili knew Thorin had always loved Kili best. Durin's Beard, who wouldn't? Everyone loved Kili, Fili most of all. But for his Uncle to tell him so to his face, to come right out and say that he viewed Kili as his beloved kin and Fili as... as a role? A political convenience ... And that only temporarily, since everyone knew Thorin would take a bride when he recaptured the Mountain, and get Heirs who were his sons rather than... Fili ground his teeth... nephews, acknowledged or not.

He swung to an abrupt halt in the middle of the bridge. It was an elaborate construction, this bridge. The parapet was covered in carvings of vines and flowers, and at intervals along it there were seats with prettily carved roofs where the people of Laketown could sit out of the elements to gossip or do business or simply watch the world go by. Here in the centre was a larger, more ornate shelter with intricately carved walls, very dark inside with the lanterns at either end of the bridge casting their striped shadows - and on a whim Fili stepped into it, leaning his elbows on the parapet as he gazed moodily down into the water and nursed his grievance.

He was turning to leave when Thorin stepped into the pool of light beneath one of the lanterns. Fili swore and shrank back into the darkness of his alcove, waiting til Thorin had crossed the bridge. He was in no mood to meet with his uncle just yet - and by the looks of things, Thorin would not welcome his company either. The dwarf leader already had someone with him, a red-headed someone in a flowered dress, who walked with her hand on Thorin's arm...

Bella? Bella? In a dress ?? Well, of course, Fili told himself logically, her own clothes were soaked. She must have borrowed it from a woman of Laketown. But that didn't explain why she had Thorin's fur-lined coat about her shoulders, or... Durin's Beard, his Uncle and Bella ?! Fili pressed himself further into the shadows and willed them to hurry past.

They didn't. Just outside Fili's shelter Bella too stopped and turned to look out over the lake. It was, as Fili himself had noted, a romantic bridge. There were stars in the September sky above them, and lanterns reflected in the dark water beneath. And Bella was wearing a dress. She had borrowed it not from a woman of Laketown but from the woman's half-grown daughter, because Bella, after all, was short. That meant the bodice was tight, and she was flushed and breathless, her eyes shining partly with the beer and partly with the beginnings of what would later be a feverish cold. For the first time, too, Thorin noticed that the hair she had cropped off short - to disguise herself as a boy; Durin's Beard, how could be have been so blind? - was beginning to grow back, tufty as a moulting pony. Thorin thought she looked adorable.

She was so utterly unlike any Dwarf woman he had ever known, so small and round, more so in some places than others thanks to the bodice, and laughing in delight because the night was so pretty... So Thorin did had what he wanted to do since The Carrock - since before The Carrock if he was honest - stepped up behind her, took one of those soft swellings of the Laketown dress in each of his large hands, and buried his face in her hair. Bella sighed.

Oh great. Fili could feel himself blushing furiously. Just great. He sank silently onto the bench, leaning back against the side of the alcove. If they found him he would just have to pretend to be asleep. He shut his eyes and immediately wished he'd been able to shut his ears as well, when his uncle did something which made the Hobbit squeal. Then giggle.

Fili, desperate now not to notice them, began racking his brains for what little he could remember of Balin's ancient history lessons, reciting the key dates of Dwarvish kings in his head back to Durin the Deathless... He still heard the seams rip.