“The poor laddie could not believe that not a single one of his plates and cups had been chipped at the very least!” Bofur thought with a grin. “He had looked under the tables and rugs as though it was all some trickery by us dwarves and he would find some remnants of a former cup or bowl! Ai, if only there was a way to replay that moment!”
Shaken out of his reverie, Bofur sat straight and turned to the source of the voice. Spotting Thorin by the archway he gave a bow. Thorin spoke nothing else, but he motioned for him to follow. He pointed to the hall leading towards the bathroom, and as Bofur made his way he heard Thorin call out for Kíli his nephew.
“What may we do for you?” Bofur asked happily.
He gave a polite nod to Kíli, who was bouncing on the balls of his feet. The night’s events had pumped him up; the looming adventure was an event he was really looking forward to. But merry though Kíli was, Thorin remained serious as he addressed Bofur.
“I called you to discuss the promise I had made to you for your deeds at Erebor during Smaug’s attack,” Thorin said.
“Ay, you need not do this,” Bofur laughed with a shrug. “I was simply around that day for business matters. I’m merely miner and toymaker on the side.”
“A mere miner who selflessly protected the line of Durin,” Thorin said. “And for this you must be awarded. It is our custom, as you well know.” Bofur nodded his agreement solemnly. “And as such I took great time considering my options, for I do not have any children of my own. I cannot offer you Fíli’s hand for he would be my heir after my passing.”
It appeared Kíli had been half-listening this entire time. At the sound of his brother’s name, Kíli turned his full attention to them, beaming. Bofur wondered how much the dwarf had to drink this evening, but he kept his thoughts to himself for this wasn’t the time to joke around.
“Fíli has a ladyfriend back in the Blue Mountains!” Kíli blurted out happily. “And a most intricately does she braid her beard! Her mustache too matches Fíli’s!”
Thorin hushed him, and Bofur chuckled before stopping himself short by plopping the mouthpiece of his pipe back between his lips. Thorin turned back to Bofur.
“And since I cannot offer you Fíli’s hand,” Thorin continued, slightly irate, “I have Kíli to offer.”
Bofur inhaled sharply from his pipe and spluttered but spoke nothing. Neither spoke for the longest while. Bofur’s eyes went from Kíli to Thorin and back. Kíli was staring at his uncle, and his grin faded into utter confusion. “Excuse me?”
“Well, this is awkward,” Bofur said, chuckling softly.
Kíli, jaw open, stared at his uncle. Thorin turned him, ignoring the rudeness in his voice from his earlier comment. Thorin loved Kíli too much to ever be angry at him for long. “As per the customs of the dwarves you are to wed Master Bofur for the honorable deeds he has done during the attack on Erebor.”
“Marriage?” Kíli said disbelievingly.
“It is not your decision,” Thorin said. “I owe Bofur for saving my life. He is a good dwarf, and I daresay you would enjoy each other’s company from what I know about both of you. Give me your hand.”
With reluctance Kíli followed orders. Bofur, who Kíli thought had witnessed a marriage union before (and he had, for his brother Bombur), knew what to expect. He seemed like he wanted to give Kíli a smile in comfort, but Kíli would not even meet Bofur’s eyes. But he was neither angry nor embarrassed; he was simply too dazed at the sudden turn of events, and he hoped Bofur understood that.
Thorin spoke in the harsh dwarven tongue the oath which would declare them bonded. Bofur focused on the words, though Kíli was certain he wished Bombur and Bifur at least would witness as they had done for Bombur’s wedding. But dwarven unions, as was everything else in their culture, were seldom a public affair even for the closest families. Before he knew it, Bofur and Kíli were declared wed to each other. When Thorin ceased speaking, Kíli looked up, his expression unreadable.
“You are vowed to one another now,” Thorin told them, “but this current bond is only a promise. This bond will be declared a marriage upon the first physical union.”
Kíli’s eyes widened for a moment before he forced his expression back into one unreadable, but Bofur was certain the flush across his face was no longer from the alcohol.
“There is nothing else for me to add,” Thorin said. He gave a bow to Bofur. “I thank you again for your deeds, as I am also thankful for your coming on this journey. Kíli, I will give you the wedding-token to give to your husband at a later time.”
Kíli nodded but said nothing until Thorin was well out of earshot. Bofur and Kíli turned to each other, both unable to find any proper words to speak at this moment.
“Well, that was interesting, wasn’t it, laddie?” Bofur said, hoping the lightness in his tone would comfort Kíli. “And just like that, we are wed - or engaged, rather.” They continued to stare at each other in silence until laughter finally surfaced for them both. Feeling like he had accomplished something, Bofur added, “We need not, uh, have a physical union until you are ready. I still need to give you my wedding-token, and it is generally considered proper to do that before any adventures are to be had in the bedroom.”
Kíli stopped laughing then, and that was when they became aware that they were still holding hands. They let go, both pretending they hadn’t noticed this little fact, and another strained silence followed. Kíli braved a peek up at Bofur.
“I - I think Thorin is asking for us all to sing,” Bofur said, and without another word he left to find Thorin.
Kíli sought out his brother and told the entire story in a hush lest the others heard. Fíli could barely get a word out for they were required for the song. The humming from the dwarves drew them to a room with a warm fireplace. Kíli stood where he could study his soon-to-be husband. Bofur’s mind was far away, captured in Thorin’s song. His eyes shown with memories of time passed and a passion for their journey, though he was not originally from Erebor. Yet the sight gave Kíli a strange power, and he joined in with the song.
It was only towards the end of the song that Bofur finally noticed Kíli again, and he gave him a great smile that stretched from ear to ear, and Kíli felt something stir inside him. Amidst the other dwarves and the pipe-smoke and the dimness lit only by the firelight, Kíli shyly smiled back.
Kíli thought nothing more of it as the discussion of sleeping arrangements was soon brought up. There was a hustle and bustle, at times mingled with Bilbo’s needless panicking over where the dwarves could sleep. In the end Kíli was to sleep on the sofa, and right below him on the floor (on Thorin’s orders, he presumed) Bofur settled. He offered Bofur to switch out of respect for the older dwarf, but Bofur refused with another one of his damned sweet smiles, bidding Kíli a good night full of wondrous dreams before tucking in under the blankets and falling straight asleep.
Kíli tried to sleep, but the evening’s turn of events kept him wide awake. Never did he think that he would find himself vowed to another, here inside a warm hobbit hole. Never did he think he would ever wed, for the thought of love or marriage was not a subject matter he cared anything for. But here he was, now vowed while his own elder brother was still in courting of fair Fann back in the Blue Mountain.
He stretched his neck out, studying the sleeping Bofur below him. Even in slumber his lips were curled into a most beautiful smile that he found contagious.
“This is the face of my husband,” he thought, amusing himself. Then the thought of their eventually union came to his mind, and with a bit of an shudder he buried himself back under the blanket, willing himself to sleep.
Kíli stuck by his brother for most of the first day’s journey, though for what exact reason he could not explain. It was steadily dawning on him the reality of the previous evening. He eyed Bofur on occasion, who did not seem as bothered as he was, but it wasn’t very apparent. As they made their way out of the Shire, Kíli and Fíli rode in the back for a chance to talk. Bofur was ahead, and Kíli could not keep his eyes off him as his mind reeled wildly, almost comically, with the full realization of last night.
“I am bonded to him,” he thought. “He is my husband. I have a husband. I am his husband. We must sleep in the same bed, see each other nude. We must become intimate with each other, and whenever the other desires it. We must consummate this marriage during this journey - we must consummate - by Mahal!” He simply never contemplated on the issue of his own sexuality, for never did he have any inkling for such desires. Yet the thought made him light-headed and overwhelmed. He was simply not prepared to face this, and to avoid thinking about it any further he quickly turned to his brother.
“I didn’t think I would be wed to someone on this journey,” he said.
“It happens sometimes,” Fíli replied. “Dwarves will wed at any time, although normally they make a promise to wed at the end of their journey.”
“Is that the promise you made with Fann?” Kíli asked, grinning, hoping this was the distraction he needed.
Fíli grinned back, then silence followed.
The effect wore off Kíli sooner than he would have liked as he found himself suddenly jealous of Fíli’s luck. “I would we promised for a later time. I barely know him.”
Fíli sighed. “Thorin’s promise was long overdue. He needed to find someone, and he considered his options carefully.” Then after falling into silence for a few moments, he added, “I rather like the idea of being related to that folk. You understand that Bombur is part of our family now too, right?”
And the brothers shared a laughed, thinking of how much fun they had with Bombur the evening before at supper. This, to Kíli’s relief, was the distraction he needed. It settled his mind for the time being, allowing him to silently observe Bofur with each opportunity that he had. They had a chance to speak very little, and when Kíli thought they had a chance he would instead see Bofur busying himself with a small block of wood, his cutting knife chipping away, intent on his work. He respected the dwarf’s desire to focus on his craft, but it irked him nonetheless that Bofur wasn’t paying attention to him. But the moment Bofur would look up and meet his eyes, his smile would more than make up for it.
It drove Kíli mad, this silent game. Anxiety then giddiness came over him in waves. He was filled with love listening to Bofur’s foolish jokes and basking in his bottomless optimism, but any thought of the ordeal they were to engage in would pop the bubble of content, and gloom and anxiety would settle in instead.
It made matters worse that he himself was acting foolish, and it wasn’t always in ways which made him popular in the traveling party. After taunting the hobbit about night raids with orcs, he immediately regretted his foolishness after upsetting his uncle. And though Balin sought to comfort him, Kíli’s sense of guilt didn’t leave him. He admired Thorin deeply and didn’t wish for anything to get between them. The only comforting distraction he had that night was listening to Bofur chip away at the block of wood for the rest of that night.
The following morning Thorin took Kíli aside, and before he could apologize, Thorin placed a small black box in his hand. The seal of Durin’s royal line was etched into the beautiful dark surface.
“What is this?” Kíli asked.
“The marriage-token to give to your husband,” Thorin said simply before leaving him. Kíli felt his heart crack from his uncle’s cold tone.
“You all right there, laddie?” Bofur’s voice startled Kíli. He quickly pocketed the box and turned to Bofur. The dwarf offered him another one of his warm smiles, but his eyes searched his for any clues to how he was feeling.
Kíli nodded while internally debating whether to give the token to him or not. “I am well, Master Bofur,” he said, rather coldly himself he thought. He quickly corrected himself. “I am well, honestly. Just…tired.”
“There will be many mornings yet when we will awake tired,” Bofur said. “If you need to rest, my pony can take on another. I’ll hold you up so you don’t drop.”
Kíli grinned at the mental image and nodded, and he silently wished Bofur would continue speaking with him, and indeed Bofur looked he was about to say something more, but he just nodded and indicated for them to join the others. “Just call for me if you need anything,” he said.
“Yes, of course,” Kíli replied, hiding the small yearning for Bofur as best he could from his voice.
To Kíli’s relief, Thorin was slowly warming up to him again, though he wondered how much of it was Bofur’s doing. The simple dwarf seemed to have taken a liking to sharing meals alongside Thorin and cracking up jokes till a tension seemed to, no matter how temporarily, have lifted off Thorin’s shoulders.
“He’s a mighty tough one to lighten,” Bofur commented in a whisper to Kíli a few days later. They had just stopped for a rest and Gandalf had stormed off after a feud with their leader.
“My uncle never forgave the elves,” Kíli said, “and not even Gandalf could convince him.”
“It is understandable, of course, after what he’s been through,” Bofur said.
Kíli nodded and made to leave, wishing to follow his uncle’s orders in effort to redeem himself, but Bofur called out to him.
“I didn’t want to give this to you while it was raining,” Bofur said as he produced from his satchel a small object. He motioned for Kíli to extend out his hand, which Kíli complied.
It was a small wooden figure of a dwarven warrior, and Kíli instantly became engrossed with the details. He had toys like these before when he was younger, though they were painted in brilliant beautiful colors that somehow never withered with time. But it mattered not that this doll had no colors, for he had never seen such an expertly crafted doll. Even the smallest dwarven child could hold this without fear of splinters (which Kíli unfortunately had from some lesser-quality dolls he so foolishly had bought one time when he was a small dwarfling.)
It gave him a little pang in his heart when he realized all this time Bofur had been making the figure for him.
“Thank you,” Kíli said. “But why?”
“It is my marriage-token to you,” Bofur said happily, bowing slightly. “Just for now at least, until I can gift you with something more precious than a little doll.”
“Oh, but this one is beautiful! I cannot ask for anything more!”
But Bofur shook his head. “I would adorn this - and you - in gold for you, my prince. You deserve nothing but the best.”
Kíli beamed. “Do you normally carry wood with you everywhere?”
Bofur nodded. “A small amount. Just in case I need to make a toy for someone. Mostly children, or someone who’s captured my heart.”
Kíli felt his face glow warmer, and he suddenly found it difficult to speak with Bofur then. He thanked him before rushing off to help Fíli with the ponies. But his mind could not leave the scene that had taken place, and distracted as he was he had completely forgotten about giving Bofur the wedding-token Thorin had given him.
“You are oddly cheerful right now, considering we just lost our wizard,” Fíli said with a smile. Kíli told him of all that had just transpired, and by the end there was a mischievous glint in Fíli’s eyes.
“And so the bond is soon upon you,” Fíli said with a nod of his head. “I wish you well and for not to be in any pain.”
“Has no one told you?” Fíli said, his expression of one of utter disbelief. “The dwarven body undergoes…changes…during the union. His and your…you know…will grow, about triple the current size.”
“It will?” Kíli said as he felt a cold dead weight settle in his stomach.
Fíli nodded gravely. “I wouldn’t like to be in your position, brother.”
“Well, you will have to be the one penetrated.”
A long silence followed. “Penetrated? Where?”
Fíli rolled his eyes. “Use your imagination, brother.”
“And why does it have to be me?”
“That is the custom. As the younger you will have to be marked by the elder. There will be a lot of blood.”
“I don’t want to be marked!” Kíli said quickly as his mind offered him the most horrific images. I don’t want it to hurt! I never asked for this!” And on and on he went. But Fíli wasn’t listening, who was suddenly checking the ground while his shoulders quivered.
“You are lying!” Kíli finally yelled out as it dawned on him. He chastised himself for falling victim to his brother’s prank, but in his humiliation anger also was born. He made to attack Fíli, and the two briefly wrestled until finally his brother pushed him back.
“Wait, Kíli - how many ponies were there?”
Bofur wished to give Kíli as much time as he needed in getting used to their arranged bonding. He had utterly forgotten his deeds during Smaug’s attack. Such a simple act it was, saving Thorin; Bofur had spotted a dwarf in trouble, and he came to his aid. He never knew it was Thorin until afterwards. He was well aware of the custom, but the years had slipped the promise from his mind, and he was just as surprised as Kíli upon hearing the news, though he presumed he was taking things better than the younger dwarf.
He did not complain, of course. Kíli was rather handsome, Bofur thought, and possessed the sort of spirit Bofur personally cherished in friends. And Bofur had grown an affection for Kíli upon meeting him. “But you always have an affection towards everyone you meet,” Bofur reminded himself with a chuckle.
But he was willing to let Kíli go if the other dwarf wished it, as much as he knew it would upset Thorin. Bofur supposed he cared enough for Kíli’s happiness to let the other dictate the direction their relationship would go. But Kíli had not shown any indication that he didn’t want to be with him. If anything, Bofur sensed him watching and at times looking like he wanted to speak with him. But nothing was certain for the longest while, and Bofur took the time to make a wedding token for Kíli, regardless if he chose to remain with him or not. He had, after all, grown fond of the dwarf after just one evening, and he felt a gift worthy of a young prince was much required from him.
As Bofur helped with preparing the stew for the evening, he thought back to Kíli’s reaction to the token he gave him. He could not prevent the smile from showing as he helped Bombur. Seeing the light in Kíli’s eyes had brightened something inside Bofur in return, and he would have asked Kíli to remain beside him if the situation permitted. Bofur was certain Kíli had left with a definite spring in his steps.
“Bless the energy of the youth,” Bofur thought as he scooped out the remaining stewing for Bombur. The others had eaten to their content, but Bofur was certain his brother was still hungry though he had snuck plenty of food for himself. “And bless the bottomless pit that is my brother!”
“Kíli? Fíli?” someone yelled.
Bofur stopped as the brothers suddenly appeared, both out of breath. Stew drenched the front of their jerkin and coat; from the empty bowls they carried Bofur deduced they had drowned as much as they could while running back here.
Fíli ran past them to find Thorin. Other dwarves jumped to their feet to listen to what was happening, but Bombur and Bifur remained beside Bofur, for Kíli halted before them in that moment. Kíli’s wide eyes met Bofur’s.
“What is happening?” Bofur asked. “Where is Bilbo?”
“Trolls.” Kíli told Bofur everything as Fíli did the same with Thorin and the rest. Bombur took the last bowl from Bofur’s hands and gulped down as he listened to Kili’s fervent and rapid story. Bifur twitched, at any moment ready to charge into battle.
“How could you let the ponies disappear by monstrous trolls when you were right beside them!” Thorin raged behind them. “You have fared better with more complicated tasks!”
“We were distracted!” Fíli cried out, and in his tone it was clear he was hurt his uncle would question his ability to take on tasks.
“Distracted? And what distracted you?” Bofur asked Kíli.
Kíli hesitated. “I was thinking of you,” he said in a voice low, hoping it was enough for Bofur to hear, but by the sudden spluttering from Bombur it was obvious others had also heard.
“Ai, you must have been distracted indeed!” Bofur said. “My token must have really -” Kíli flashed him a look. “Uum, well-” He nodded, his face darkening. Bofur took the cue to turn the discussion just as the other dwarves scattered to pick up their axes, swords, and spears. “Come on, lads - take your weapons!”
He gave Kíli a slight disproving look as others passed them. “Please focus more,” he wished to say, but decided against it. It was he, after all, who had excited Kíli with just one gift, and he made a mental note to himself not to do anything like that when Kíli’s concentration was much required by the party.
“I am a fool,” Kíli lamented. “The hobbit may be dead now thanks to me!”
“You were distracted,” Bofur said. “You’ve learned from this and won’t do it again.”
“Learn from it, yes, but I don’t want to live with the memory, especially if something happens to Bilbo!”
Bofur placed a hand on Kíli’s shoulder. “Nothing will happen! Compose yourself, laddie! You cannot engage in battle if your thoughts are going in a hundred directions!”
Kíli brought a hand over Bofur’s hand as he met his eyes. “It’s you. You distract me too much.”
And he rushed off, leaving Bofur alone at the campsite.