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Can't Break the Habit

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Every day he could take away from his duties, Dwalin liked to spend in the markets.  They were always full of life and dwarves who were finally coming home.  No matter the day, it always felt like a celebration. Sometimes Dwalin needed to see that joy; today was good but sometimes.

He passed a little cart; it was only a little thing but it was fresh and new and the leather work it displayed was beautiful. Dwalin paused in his stroll. He had pockets heavy with gold that would do a craftsperson much more good than him.

"Welcome, my lord! Is anything catching your eye?"

A moment passed and the silence stretched before Dwalin glanced up. Too many years as a sell-sword, a blacksmith, a guard and other common jobs for Dwalin to remember that 'my lord' was him. The dwarf was still smiling at him but the smile was shrinking.

"Yes!" Dwalin held back a wince at his slightly too loud reply.

Despite the wait, the smile was fully back, "It's an honor to have caught your eye.”  The dwarf tossed their thick dark braid over their shoulder and Dwalin did his best not to notice how he was being looked at through thick lashes.

"I was admiring your designs." Dwalin reached out to brush his fingers across embossed leather patterns he hadn't seen since childhood. "These are traditional Ereborian."

"My uncle taught me." The craftsperson replied, nodding.  Their dark eyes were distant with memories and Dwalin glanced back down. "He couldn't keep me out of his workshop. I thought they'd be appreciated here."

"Aye, I'm sure they will."  Nostalgia would earn the dwarf many customers, Dwalin was sure, but their work was also very well done.

Dwalin was just turning back to take a closer look at the belts, bracers and other wears when he saw the dwarf's face harden. Their smile left and they glared at the space beside him. They put on such a frown that Dwalin was going to look over his shoulder to see what could possibly change their attitude so drastically when a hand slipped into his.

He smiled warm and indulgent at Nori who had come up to his side. The thief didn't smile back the same way, he wasn’t even looking at him, but he did give Dwalin's fingers a brief squeeze.

"Don't think you can get away with anything, I won't be taking an eye off you." The dwarf hissed at Nori. Dwalin had stopped being surprised when people in the market already knew and disliked Nori. As long as nobody did anything harmful he made a point of ignoring it. Nori stayed at his side despite the way the dwarf was clearly trying to glare him away.  After that didn’t work, they sighed and turned back to Dwalin, “Deepest apologies, my lord.  I know this one to be a pickpocket and a thief.”

“Then how fortunate that Erebor is a fresh start for everyone.”  Dwalin could see that he’d thrown the dwarf but they recovered well.  There were still more glances than necessary at Nori but they were back to pleasant exchanges.

Dwalin decided on a couple a couple of pieces and Nori handed him his purse before he could reach for it.  This earned Nori another suspicious glare but that was it.  The dwarf accepted the coins Dwalin was happy to share with the people of Erebor and wrapped his purchases in a scrap of colourful cloth.  Perhaps the farewell and invitation to come again were a touch strained but they were still polite even when they needed to include someone considered a thief.

The pair walked on.  It was a lazy day and they simply explored the market and the new merchants that had arrived since the last time they’d been there.  Nori looked with him, though the smaller dwarf never seemed surprised by what they saw.  Given the secrets Nori always seemed to know, he probably knew who was going to come to Erebor before they even made the decision themselves.

But what Nori knew wasn’t Dwalin’s problem unless he was told.  Dwalin was just pleased to have the other dwarf beside him.  He also kept to the more crowded parts of the market so Nori would lean into him to keep from getting too jostled.

The day crept by and Dwalin bought a few other things, he didn’t know what he’d do with them but they were pretty.  Nori was mostly quiet; he greeted dwarves that called out to him and smiled like he knew a secret at any merchants that would accuse him of stealing.  What Nori didn’t do was let go of Dwalin’s hand.  The relative silence was fine because the company was enough.

When the crowds started to thin as dwarves found dinner, Dwalin started leading them to nice little tavern.  Nori tugged them off course.  The thief brought them to a popular bakery and Dwalin wasn’t quite sure how they jumped the line.  It wasn’t long before they were walking away with a generous basket full of all sorts of pies.  

No ale wasn’t a loss at all if Nori had a quiet night together in mind.  When Nori was about to lead them down a different road than the one that led to the nice little house they often shared, Dwalin stopped.  Nori was strong but would never be strong enough to move Dwalin if he didn't want to be moved and the smaller dwarf stopped too, turning to look at him like he hadn't for much of the day.

"I don't want to eat in one of your precarious hiding spots today."

His fingers were squeezed and Nori smiled apologetically, "I forget sometimes that I don't have any tails to lose here."

Dwalin huffed a low laugh.  He brought up his arm, intending to wrap it around Nori's shoulders, but Nori still hadn't let go. He still wanted to hold Nori so he lifted their clasped hands over the smaller dwarf's head before pulling him in closer with the arm that was now around his neck. It left Nori a bit tangled in their arms but he didn’t seem to mind.

The house was dark when they got there but it wasn’t cold, the mountain’s heating was finally working properly.  Nori twisted out from under his arm and locked the door behind them.  Dwalin patiently followed behind the smaller dwarf as he lit a few lamps and collected a couple thick blankets and furs.  Purchases were dropped on a table as they passed but the basket of pies came with them to their comfortable couch.

Once there, they both sat down side by side, Nori’s legs were over one of Dwalin’s so he was half in Dwalin’s lap.  The thief lifted Dwalin’s hand and pressed gentle kisses to the big knuckles before smiling.

“Those merchants aren’t wrong to suspect me like that.”

Dwalin stifled his sigh the best he could.  He knew that Nori was trying.  One time Nori had explained how stealing little things had become a habit he was having difficulty breaking.

His hand was squeezed again before Nori let go and leaned over to take off his boots.  Holding nothing was strange after having the thief’s hand in his for most of the day.  Nori was still there though and rubbed his palm across his shoulders, small but strong.

With his boots removed, Nori brought his knees up after picking two meat pastries out of the basket and tucked his toes underneath Dwalin’s other leg.  He was handed one of the pastries over and laced the fingers of their spare hands together again.

Nori’s shoulder nudged his, “I know you want to ask.”

He wasn’t wrong.  Dwalin did want to what Nori’s sticky fingers had picked up this time but the smile on his face was so smug that he wondered if asking was a good idea.

“Will you tell me if I do?”

“I took the best thing in that marketplace.” Nori answered with a laugh in his eyes.

While not quite what they were before the dragon, Erebor already had rich marketplaces.  There were any number of things that could be termed the best.  Nori looked too pleased with himself for it to be anything simple.

He must've been frowning as he thought and Nori chuckled at him, “You’re thinking too hard”

Dwalin looked down at the other dwarf.  Nori was looking up at him, a fond smile on his narrow face, and between them fingers press a little firmer into his hand.  

The touch pulled his eyes further down.  If he was thinking too hard it must be something right in front of him and all that there was in front of him was Nori’s fingers wrapped around his big hand.

“You stole my hand?”

The thief didn’t meet his eyes anymore when he looked back up.  His hand was pressed into Nori’s chest and held there as the other shifted closer to his side.

“You are the best things I ever took.”

Nori had already turned his face into Dwalin’s neck, nuzzling a bit into his beard.  All Dwalin could do was smile, big and warm.  His thief would rarely tell him in words but his actions always said louder than anything what he felt.

“I guess it’s alright if it’s me you’re stealing.”

The pleased voice came from under his chin, “Good.”