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Acquainted With the Night

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The rumble of Thorin's voice is not like thunder. It is not like rocks tumbling down a mountain, or like the crash of great bells. His voice has been called all of these things, but Dwalin knows it best, and he knows that Thorin's voice is a dark river churning over rocks, bubbling with promise, wearing away everything in its path. On this particular night, it takes Dwalin a moment to recognize his words because he speaks softly, like foam pushing against the riverbank, hoping that the rest of the company will not hear. But Dwalin lies close, and he listens.

"... as good a king as my grandfather was. Thror the Restorer, they called him." Thorin pauses, and the words that follow are bitter, biting, icy cold. "Until the madness took him. I heard the words murmured in secret behind cupped hands. Thror the Gold-Mad, Thror the Dragon-Baiter. Thror the Destroyer. That will not be my legacy. I will take back Erebor, take back the honor of my line... or I will die."

Dwalin's heart begins to pound. He sits up and looks at Thorin, who lies beside him with his eyes closed.

"Thorin?" he asks, and Thorin's looks at him, his face blank.

"What?"

Dwalin hesitates. He wonders if he is dreaming. Most of what Thorin has said is no surprise; he could recreate such monologues in his sleep, easily, and the edge of resignation in his voice towards the end of it could certainly be the product of a nightmare.

"You were talking to me," he says warily.

"I was speaking to myself."

Thorin closes his eyes again, and Dwalin lies down. He closes his eyes tightly and lets Thorin's voice wash over him.

"I will not lose sight of myself," he murmurs after a pause. "I will not bring shame to my line and peril to my family. If I am weak enough to let the madness take me, someone must be strong enough to kill me. Someone I trust."

"Thorin," Dwalin says again, but this time the word tears itself from his throat, the plea of a drowning man.

"Someone who loves me," Thorin says, the merest whisper. "Who knows how hard I have struggled to be all that I must be, and could not bear to see that lost. Someone I love."

Dwalin does not try to argue with him for a third time. He reaches out, blind in the darkness, and takes Thorin's hand, threading their fingers together. His hands are so cold. Thorin sighs and squeezes his hand. Probably he thinks that this touch is a promise that Dwalin will do as he asks. Dwalin knows it is a promise that he will never do such a thing. He could never let Thorin slip through his fingers so easily.

The night stretches on and he listens, sleepless, to the ripple of Thorin's breath in the air.