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A Road from the Garden

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So much had to be done to ensure that Bilbo’s wedding day went perfectly that Kili barely even noticed Fili’s interruption. He was far too busy plucking rose petals for sparring practice or tea, and he told his friend as much.

“The elven king has arrived with a large entourage. We must greet him, even as he welcomed us to the Greenwood,” Fili said. “It is your duty as a prince.”

Kili rolled his eyes. “Today, I am not a prince. I am Bilbo’s brother. Give King Thranduil my regards.”

“If you do not accompany me, I shall tell your brother you are shirking your duty. Would you be responsible for adding to his cares on his wedding day?”

“You’re terrible. Even you would not go so far. Thorin would kill you. I will not go.”

“Tauriel will be there.”

Kili dropped his roses.

As expected, the greeting of the elven king was essentially just a lot of very long speeches between King Thrain, Thorin, Dis, and Thranduil. Some other elves made speeches as well. To Kili’s tremendous displeasure, Legolas was one of those. Tauriel did not speak at all, but she did catch his eye and smile once.

She was so beautiful when she smiled.

Because Fili was not, in fact, terrible, he found out which chambers Tauriel would be staying in. It was a small, single room with shared plumbing between two other rooms, but it was quite close to the suite given to the elven king. Presumably, that was what a captain of the guard cared about.

Happily, Kili already had a great number of roses which he’d procured in Dale for Bilbo’s wedding. Of course he did not dare to offer any in red, but pink was appropriate. Yellow was practically necessary after all they’d already shared. And Tauriel deserved all the white roses in the world. Putting together a small posy, Kili tied it up with a blue silk ribbon. Then, quite daringly, he changed it to a pink one. Then, he changed it back to blue.

Knocking nervously on her door, he thrust the posy forward as soon as it opened.

“For me?” Legolas asked, raising an eyebrow.

“No! Not for you. Terribly sorry. Must be mistaken. Is this your room?”

“It is not.” Folding his arms, Legolas leaned against the doorframe.

Kili cleared his throat and pointedly did not ask what he was doing in a room other than his own. “Good morning, Prince Legolas. I was hoping to call upon Tauriel. Is she in?”

Legolas looked lazily over his shoulder and said, “Tauriel. Your dwarf is here.”

Upon consideration, Kili did not object to that characterization. Tauriel was radiant in a bright green dress that looked like something Lady Arwen might wear in Rivendell. Though naturally, she was considerably more beautiful. Trying to think of the sort of compliment Bilbo might give was futile. Kili could only thrust out his posy once more and say, “Here. To brighten up your room.”

She accepted with a smile, which just proved that he was right to play it safe with a blue ribbon. “Thank you, Prince Kili. I did not think to see you until tonight. Are you not taking part in the ceremony soon?”

“I am.” Kili puffed up a bit. “And I have to help Thorin get ready. But I wanted to make sure your accommodations were to your liking.” The young dwarf was very proud of that phrasing, which Bilbo used whenever particularly finicky relatives stayed overnight at Bag End.

“The hospitality of Erebor is always ample,” Tauriel said graciously, “but these flowers are lovely.”

Kili gave her the most formal bow a Baggins could manage, which was at least rather better than anything a Took might have to offer. “Would you consider walking out with me tomorrow?” he asked. “I checked with Balin and there’s no gift opening or anything, just another dinner.”

“Walking out?” Tauriel tilted her head to the side slightly, which sent a waterfall of red hair over her shoulder. “Out of the mountain?”

“If you like,” Kili said. “We can go anywhere you like, really. There’s a pretty bit of woodland down the mountainside along the road from Dale that I have not yet explored. Or Fili tells me there are some lovely waterfalls along toward Ravenhill, but it might be getting a bit chilly for lakes and hills. Unless you like the cold? Do you like the cold? I find it much more tolerable now that I have boots.”

Tauriel’s smile grew. “I prefer springtime to winter, but I do not dislike the cold. Choose our path, Prince Kili, and I will go walking with you.”

So that went very, very well. Indeed, it could not have gone better. Kili did not like that Legolas seemed to spend time alone in Tauriel’s room, but clearly she was not promised to him. At least, she was open to the idea of other suitors. He thought he might dare the pink ribbon on his next posy. He was not, however, so overconfident that he thought it anywhere near time for the forget-me-nots he wove into Thorin’s hair.

The dwarven ceremony was beautiful. Kili did not trip or miss a word, which was all he really worried about. Bilbo was so happy. From the moment he saw Thorin, Bilbo smiled and kept on smiling. Through song, promise, and pledge, Bilbo Baggins grinned. He kept on grinning, too, even once they were out mixing with elves and men in a fancy sort of party which only very noble types were allowed to attend.

In truth, Kili sometimes missed home. He missed the subtle, daily changes in the gardens along his walk from Bag End to his smithy. He missed the smell of Bilbo’s cooking and the red of his brother’s perfectly ripe tomatoes. He missed a thousand little things from the Shire that could never exist in Erebor. But in that moment, seeing the dazed, impossible joy on his brother’s face, Kili loved the mountain like he had never loved any place before in all his life. Kili could be a prince, for that smile. Kili could do anything in the world if it made his brother that happy.

Being a prince was dead easy, anyhow. All he had to do was stand next to Fili and Dis beside Thrain accepting an endless series of congratulations from people of varying heights.

“Where is Frar?” Dis asked. “He is one of Thorin’s oldest friends. His only friend who is not a member of the Company, in fact, yet I did not see him at the ceremony.”

“I spoke to Frar this morning,” Thrain said. “He remains dedicated to the task Thorin entrusted to him. By remaining with his charge, he thought to free the other smiths to attend the greater ceremony.”

Dis frowned. “Surely some junior apprentice could have kept the thing running for an hour.” But she said no more about it, because King Bard of Dale came forward to offer his congratulations with his children.

All of them were very well turned out in red velvet, making a lovely portrait. Bain, the middle child, looked as though he enjoyed the finery as much as Kili did, which was not, it must be said very much at all. In fact, he reminded Kili a little bit of Parsifal’s eldest lad. The sort of lad who did not like to stand still for more than five minutes together. Having been that sort of lad himself, Kili sympathized greatly with the fidgeting fellow.

“What is the protocol on dancing?” he asked.

“We’re mostly done here,” Fili said. “Dance with whoever you like.”

“No more than two dances with the same partner,” Dis said at exactly the same time.

“Enjoy yourself,” Thrain added. “Someone should, and I see the head of the merchant guild coming this way for a word with me.”

Laughing, Kili skipped away to dance with Bain. They were of a height to dance very happily, and moving clearly put the young prince in a better mood. Then, because she was laughing and clapping her hands very sweetly, he danced with little Tilda. She did not know the steps as her brother did, but that was all right. Kili simply picked her up as needed and put her where she ought to be so as not to disturb the other dancers. As this made her laugh all the more, he thought it a very good solution. After, for the purposes of completion, he danced with Sigrid, the eldest. Naturally, she was the most skillful dancer of the three, but she was also very rigid and polite. In all, he preferred dance with the children.

Then, he saw Tauriel. She was wearing the same green gown, and her hair was down as usual with just the two thin braids to keep it out of her face. There was nothing out of the ordinary about her appearance at all. Except she also happened to be wearing the gold chain about her neck. The gold chain which Kili won from the trolls so very long ago. The gold chain which Kili gave to her when they parted last. She was wearing it out and about. She liked it.

In a dream, Kili crossed the room to ask for her hand. She gave it to him with a smile. Dancing with her was like walking on clouds. All the world slowed around him, fading away. There were no other dancers in the reel. Only she existed. Her laugh was the only music he needed, and he won it twice. First with an overly earnest compliment about her dress, then with a speechified request for her to grant him a second dance later in the evening that would suit the propriety of any Proudfoot.

She agreed to save him the dance, though.

Before he could claim that second dance, he had to take a breath. He shared some cake with his brother, who stared at Thorin the entire time he was eating, as though shocked that he’d managed to marry someone so incredible.

Kili understood the feeling.

He also danced with Gimli, Gloin’s son, who was as light on his feet as any elf and only a few years younger than Kili himself.

After that, he judged it was not improper to beg Tauriel for the pleasure of her company once more. Naturally, she obliged. She was a tremendously honorable warrior, and would always keep a promise, but she seemed uncomfortable. Kili had the ominous sensation of being watched, and noted more than a few eyes around the room following their dance. Almost the entirety of the elven contingent had their attention focused on the dancers in a way that it had not been before.

“Your Prince Legolas is watching us,” Kili observed. Rather neutrally, he felt.

Tauriel blushed. For once, seeing it did not send his stomach fluttering. “My king does not approve of second dances.”

“Oh! I am terribly sorry. By my own customs one may dance as much as one wishes, and I only found out from Amâd that matters were different for dwarves tonight. I should have thought to ask what the elven custom might be. Would you like to quit the dance floor?”

Tauriel’s hand tightened on Kili’s briefly, then released him to return to her own line as the dance required. “I would not,” she said firmly. “Loyal to my king as I may be, some choices are not his to make.”

“I say!” Kili tried to be serious, but he couldn’t tamp down his grin. “If you will not be limited in your dance partners by the whims of others, than neither shall I. How about a third?”

“Why would I want to do something like that?” A teasing smile flirted with the edges of Tauriel’s lips.

“Because I’m the only person here other than Bilbo who knows how to dance properly,” Kili said with no little confidence. “The dwarves all stomp too much, the elves flit about like butterflies, and the men have no grace at all. It’s either dance with me, or dance with the children, which is at least good fun.”

Tauriel laughed. “Why then would you want to dance with me? Do I not flit about like a butterfly?”

“You float like a cherry blossom on the summer wind,” Kili said. One could not live their entire life with Bilbo Baggins without occasionally happening upon a good turn of phrase.

Tauriel gave him the third dance, and a fourth, and a dozen more thereafter until the musicians put away their instruments. Even then, he would not have parted from her, save that Fili dragged him off good naturedly.

“Elves may not sleep,” the prince said, “but the sun is rising beyond the walls of the Lonely Mountain, and you must.”

“You are my least favorite brother,” Kili said, but he allowed himself to be lead away.

Fili looked unaccountably pleased.

“I could never sleep now,” Kili said. “We are to go walking, you know. Out along the waterfalls near Ravenhill, I think. Is that not a good spot?”

“It is,” Dis said. “I’ve a little gilded map in my rooms to the best place to view the falls. I shall give it to you, that you and your elf may visit without a guide, if you promise to at least try to sleep before going.”

Sighing and much put upon, Kili agreed. Following his Amâd and his least favorite brother through the halls of Erebor to her golden chambers would have been much more enjoyable had they laughed at him less. Laugh they did, however, and tease, until Kili opened her door and found his arm seized roughly. A sharp knife pressed into his throat.