Thorin rubbed his beard anxiously as they walked through the corridors of Erebor. Nori smirked. “That’s a huge tell, you know.”
Glaring at him, the King Under the Mountain ignored the deflection. “The Master is plotting something.”
“The Master of Lake-Town is always plotting something; it’s how he’s held onto his position for so long.” Thorin started to respond, but a faint sound caught their attention. Nori frowned. “Is that… singing?” They moved toward the sound and Nori raised an eyebrow when it was confirmed that yes, it was singing, drunken female singing at that. Thorin rubbed a hand over his face, and Nori looked at him askance.
The King met his Spymaster’s eyes fatalistically. “I may have asked the Burglar to keep my nephews out of trouble while the Master was here.” Nori blinked at him, then chuckled. The chuckles only grew into a full laugh as Thorin growled and swept forward. “Oh, shut up and help me with the damage control.”
Nori couldn’t quite stop laughing completely, but did frown as they neared the door. The singing was the only sound coming from the room. It was possible that the boys had gotten her drunk for their own amusement, but then they’d be either laughing or drunk along with her. She wouldn’t have let them escape; even at her worst, Bilba had kept the Company in line. The woman was like a ferret; once she latched on to something, she let go in her own time and no one else’s. It was one of the things Nori loved most about her, along with her compassion and intelligence. Not that she knew that. She may have been their Burglar, but she was a Baggins. Too proper, too respectable, and too lovely to ever return the feelings of a common-born thief.
Thorin pushed open the door, and the first thing Nori saw as they entered was an extremely long-suffering Guard standing just inside. As Thorin moved, the rest of the room became visible, and Nori stopped dead in his tracks. Fíli, Kíli, Bofur, Dori, Gloin, and Tauriel were scattered around the table, unconscious, with empty bottles and mugs strewn about the room, while Bilba, rosy-cheeked and slurring as she sang, was dancing merrily on the table in a surefooted, though slightly careening jig.
“…falls from hill t’ plain. Bett’r than rain or a rippling brook is a mug of beer inshide thiz Took!” She laughed, and opened her eyes. It took a heartbeat longer than usual for her to recognize them, but she grinned when she did. “Hey! You miss’d all the fun!” She made her way to the end of the table with exaggerated care, but stayed standing while she talked. “I won, a lot o’ bets. I think I won all the bets.” She swung her head to the guard, swaying dangerously as she did and nearly falling. “Oi, you, how many bets I win?”
The guard responded with an exhausted sigh, and Nori wondered how many times he’d been asked that tonight. “So far, eight.”
She grinned. “Tha’s right, ‘cause,” her expression turned confiding, and she gestured to the other occupants of the table as she spoke, her eyes flicking between Thorin and himself. “Kíli bet I couldn’t outdrink ‘im, an’ so did th’other Dwarrow, an’ Bof’r bet I couldn’t dance while I’m drunk, an’ I bet Tauri I couldn’t keep up with ‘er.” She stopped, looking at Tauriel. “You know, I thought I’d lose tha’ one, or at least have a hard time winnin’ it, but for ’n Elf, she’s a lightweight!” With an accusing expression, she pointed at Thorin and Nori. “An’ all your booze is weak! I’d heard legends about Dwarven alcohol, but the only hard stuff you have is moonshine, and that’s still half as good as the stuff in the Shire.”
She’d stopped slurring halfway through her sentence, and now seemed to realize it. “Aw, I’m sober again.” She scanned the table behind her, and found a half-empty bottle that she drained like it was nothing. “In th’ Shire, we don’ have ‘lmost ‘nythin’ t’ do durin’ winter ‘cept get drunk, ’n’ we sob’r up so fast th’t we gotta make th’ booze strong ‘nough t’ peel paint off th’ walls. See,” she wagged a finger at them conspiringly, “Th’ tr’ck is, you gotta dr’nk ’t slow, no’ chuggin’ it like you all do.”
Nori turned to the guard behind them. “How much has she had?”
He sighed again, and answered as though he were reciting it from memory. “As of now, four casks of Dwarven Ale, three bottles of Elvish wine, fourteen mugs of Mountain Grog, and twenty-one and a half bottles of rotgut.” Nori’s eyes bugged, and he examined the tiny woman with a newfound respect, and saw Thorin doing the same out of the corner of his eye.
She was grinning again, and sat on the edge of the table with her feet swinging, the raised surface putting her at the same eye-level as Nori. “Yup. Th’ Elvish stuff was pretty good, but ev’rythin’ else but th’ rotgut-moonshine-whatever-’s called was weak.” She motioned to all three of them reproachingly in a wide, sweeping gesture that almost tipped her over, though she caught herself. “You ought t’ be ashamed of yourselves, callin’ that alcohol.” Her gaze landed on Nori, and she crooked a finger at him, mock-whispering, “Come ‘ere, I need to tell you somethin’.”
Nori raised an eyebrow, but did as she asked, stopped a foot or so away. She shook her head and motioned him forward again; he inched closer until he was half a foot from her. “Alright, what did you need to tell me?” She grinned, lightning-quick, before grabbing his collar and yanking him forward and then… then she was kissing him, harsh and fast and better than he had ever imagined. She drew away, and he barely knew what he was doing when he growled, “Where do you think you’re going,” and desperately recaptured her lips in his.
He pulled her flush against him, his hands on her waist, and she snaked her arms around his neck to pull him even closer. She arched toward him and he ran his fingers through her hair, accidentally brushing her ear as he did. She gasped, moaning, and he deepened the kiss, which she returned fervently. He could actually taste the alcohol fading from her breath, and she only embraced him more tightly as it did. After not nearly long enough, he had to pull away before he passed out, and leaned his forehead against hers.
“I’ve been wanting to do that since Beorn’s.” His voice was huskier than usual, and he felt a jolt of proud satisfaction when she shivered against him.
Even more so when she spoke, her voice low and breathless. “I’ve been wanting to do that since Mirkwood. Would have been sooner, but the beards took some getting used to.” He laughed, and she drew away just enough to call over his shoulder, “What’s the count now?”
The guard spoke, weary as ever, “Ten bets won, and three hundred gold owed to you.”
She cackled, and smiled at Nori impishly while her thumbs stroked extremely distracting circles on his neck. “Bofur bet fifty gold I wouldn’t kiss you, and Thorin bet sixty ages ago that you wouldn’t kiss me back.”
He chuckled, eyes dropping to her lips. “Idiot.” In what universe would he ever refuse to kiss her? He frowned. “But why would you want to kiss me?”
She raised an eyebrow. “Because you’re clever, funny, passionate, and I’m in love with you?” He stared at her for a moment, processing her words, before surging forward and kissing her again, and wasn’t exactly sure how long they stayed like that before his hands found their way to her hips and she pulled back.
“Ah-ah.” She was flushed, chest rising and falling as she caught her breath, eyes dilated and half-lidded, but she grinned at him and gently pulled his hands away. “Marriage beads first, then the real fun.” She pushed lightly at his chest until he backed dazedly away from the table, then hopped down, looking distinctly pleased with herself, and swept out of the room, hips swaying hypnotically.
Nori stared at the door, faintly aware that he was smiling dopily. “Did she just propose?”
Thorin, looking so uncomfortable that Nori was surprised he was still in the room, sounded shell-shocked. “Oh, Mahal, I've created a monster.” He shook his head and went to the door, glancing pleadingly back at Nori as he did. “Just promise you two won’t take over the mountain until after the honeymoon, at least.”
Nori grinned as he realized one of his beard beads was gone, and gleefully started thinking up ways to distract her enough to get it back. “I think we’ll be a little too busy.” Thorin just shook his head again and left.
The wedding was barely three weeks later, and the honeymoon lasted almost four months. The two of them did eventually end up being right about so much of how the mountain should be run that they had as much sway over Erebor as Thorin did, at least, but Thorin shouldn’t have been so worried. Nori was right. For those four months, they were much too busy.