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And What Do We Say to Death?

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Thorin was unsurprised to find Dwalin standing guard at his bedside, when he woke. Well, sitting guard; sharpening his weapons threateningly and glaring at the tent flap as if it had personally wronged him.

"Umlak," he croaked, and the word stuck in his throat.

Dwalin's eyes were suspiciously wet when they caught on his, and his gruff voice cracked a little on his reply. "Done napping, then? There's a kingdom to rule and a whole army of Dain's to order about, not to mention all these bloody elves to yell at."

Thorin managed a weak smile. "Boys?"

"Resting. Still alive." Not exactly reassuring, but Dwalin never lied to him, not about something so important...they were alive, that was what mattered.

"I need - burglar, Bilbo, I need to apologize - "

"You need to rest," Dwalin growled.

"Dwalin," Thorin said, voice flat. "I know I'm dying. I heard the healers. I must do this, and it must be now, before I lose what strength I have left."

This time, the growl was wordless, but Dwalin stomped over to the entrance of the tent to snap orders at someone, and soon enough, the little hobbit was brought in, head bandaged and eyes unfocused.

Thorin spoke his piece, Dwalin standing guard as ever, and Bilbo lingered until their leader was dozing from the poppymilk.

He gained weak consciousness again, some time later, and still Dwalin was at his side.

"Umlak," he said again, and this time Dwalin did not hesitate, did not cling to pretense; his grip on Thorin's hand was crushing and painful, even through the poppymilk haze.

"Don't go," Dwalin ordered. "You have your kingdom back."

"But I miss my brother, and my father and grandfather, and my mother," Thorin said softly. "And I have failed, to keep my mind when sense was most needed. I am a flawed dwarf, umlak. Very flawed. Another will rule in my stead...will do better than I could possibly..."

"I will bow to no king but you," Dwalin snarled. "And I have lost my own father and mother, my grandparents and my sister. Don't steal my heart away."

Thorin squeezed his hand back, distantly annoyed at how weak he had grown. "You know I never had much patience for any orders aside from my own."

"Well then you just do your level best to get lost on the way to the Halls, shouldn't be too much trouble."

"You'd have your last words...be a taunt...about my poor sense of direction?" Thorin huffed, though a smile lingered in his eyes. His breathing grew labored and he felt his hold on consciousness slipping.

"No. I've many, many more words to say to you, and you will have many, many more years to hear them," Dwalin said stubbornly.

"Don't think...that's how...it works." His eyes closed.

It was somewhat surprising for him to wake once more, Dwalin still beside him, but maybe it was a dream - certainly he didn't stay conscious long enough to speak. He saw many who he had lost, after the last vision of his faithful guard. But they spoke as though underwater, and seemed unable to touch him. Frerin kept trying, though, speaking muddled curses as he attempted a hand-clasp, or an embrace, or to knock heads or shoulders with Thorin.

Then he felt a pinch, hard and biting, on his inner arm, and he smelled something pungent and foul. He jolted awake, nearly ramming his skull against Oin's. The older healer pushed him back down easily, pinning him in place with one hand.

Thorin felt like he'd been scraped raw, gutted like a fresh kill and dressed for tanning. Everything ached or itched and he couldn't take a full breath without discovering a new pain.

He rasped a few very colorful words, none of them particularly complimentary to Oin or his heritage.

"Watch what you say about my aunt," Dwalin grumbled - from the chair at Thorin's bedside, as he sharpened a very well-edged knife.

"N'dead yet?" Thorin asked, since he was beginning to wish he was, if only so the pain would stop.

"Our Master Oin says never trust an elf to do a dwarf's job," Dwalin sniffed with disdain. "As if we didn't know that already. Thranduil himself bandaged you up the first time, did you know? He was the one who said you'd probably not last the night, the bastard." Thorin stared at him with no real comprehension, because the concept of Thranduil tending to his dying body simply made no sense and was thus discarded as rubbish.

Dwalin laced darkly inked fingers with Thorin's and said, "You're going to live, and that's not just wishful thinking, that's a godsdamned promise, because if you die, it'll only prove Thranduil right."

Thorin considered this. Durin pride and stubbornness were legendary, and the opportunity to buck a prediction by that sneering woodland king was sorely tempting.

"Hurts," Thorin murmured, closing his eyes. He opened them wide, remembering suddenly - "My boys...?"

Dwalin's smile was sad. "I'll tell them you called them that. They'll never again be quite so pretty as they were, but they made it through with all major limbs in tact. Oin's not sure he'll be able to say the same for you - your left leg took a goblin arrow or some such, it's been turning all manner of nasty colors."

"Good...boys..." Thorin drifted off to Dwalin's chuckling. It was nice, to hear him laugh. It felt like it had been so long since they had reason for joy.

When next he woke, only most of his body hurt instead of all of it, though he was still weak as a newly whelped pup. He carefully moved every finger and then his toes, checking that he hadn't had any lopped off while he was out of it. All seemed to be in attached, though his left calf violently protested any movement of his foot and he didn't quite dare move more than one of those toes.

He wondered if it was bandages or swelling that made it seem so massive in contrast to his largely uninjured right leg.

"He's not taken it yet," Dwalin said, cleaning and oiling a sword sheath that had seen better days. "Though he probably should. I can smell it from here."

"Did you sharpen your axes until the blades wore out?" Thorin asked grumpily.

Dwalin actually got a little pink. "I, uh. I didn't want Oin to take your leg without your permission. Balin said I couldn't come back to the healers' tents if I was lugging my whole armory along."

"You threatened Oin?"

Dwalin made a very surly noise of agreement.

"I thought he was your favorite cousin?"

"You're mine, my heart, my âzyungâl - but you deserve to know in advance, if possible, when a limb is to be taken. My mother almost didn't forgive Father for making that decision for her, when she was under the knife."

"It doesn't sound like there's much of a choice to be made," Thorin said blankly. He still wasn't entirely sure he believed that he would live, and part of him wanted to meet his Maker in one piece, but...the pain was worst in that leg, and if he wasn't dead yet, he would like to hurt a little less.

He nodded slowly. "If Oin thinks it best, I suppose - better a leg than a hand. Above or below the knee?"

"Below, he hopes. It depends how bad the wound has gotten." Another might have apologized for the delay if nothing else, but Thorin and Dwalin did not hold with empty condolences.

Thorin half-smirked. "I suppose I'll start a tomb, then? Fill it one piece at a time." His bitter laugh turned into a wretched cough, and Dwalin pressed a cup to his lips and forced him to drink the concoction - some healing tea of Oin's, likely, and foul as ever.

"Morbid bastard. May the bone turn to dust before the rest of you joins it," Dwalin said, voice rough.

"Umlak, ghivashel, my Dwalin," Thorin sighed, holding out his hand. Dwalin gripped it tightly. "I'm still here."

"And here you will stay, if I must fight Death itself to keep you," Dwalin said. "Though not in this tent for much longer, I hope. They are clearing the mountain quickly, and some of the lesser wings of the palace were preserved quite well. The chambers of the royal family must have had too much gold in them. Smaug clawed them open and scattered the contents."

Thorin sighed. "I would like to sleep inside Erebor once more, without dragon-sickness clouding my mind. Which room matters little."

"You'll wake there when Oin finishes," Dwalin promised, stroking Thorin's hair with his free hand. "Sleep well."

Thorin wanted to protest that he wasn't tired, he'd only just woken - but his eyes were heavy and he sank into slumber once more.

The pain was much, much less when he came around again, in a real bed now and with Dwalin pressed carefully to his side. The bigger dwarf was snoring into Thorin's neck, which would not be endearing from anyone else but seemed almost sweet to Thorin, since it was Dwalin. He wondered if his faithful guard had slept at all, between Thorin being injured and Oin taking the leg. He knew it was gone because it no longer throbbed in pain, but he wanted to see, to know how much Oin had been able to save.

So he shifted carefully, reaching under the blankets with one arm and gingerly feeling out his thigh, finding a bandage that began a few inches above his knee and following the rough-spun cloth until his leg curved sharply inward and even the gentlest pressure had him gasping.

Below the knee, but only barely. And he didn't dare bend it, not that he could. The bandages were lined with metal rods to splint it straight.

Dwalin snuffled and grabbed Thorin's hand, tugging it to his own body and away from the injured leg. "Don't play with it. Oin gave me permission to chain you to the bed if necessary."

"I thought I had a kingdom to run?" Thorin asked, more amused than alarmed by the threat. If Dwalin chained him to the bed, he was fairly sure he wouldn't be thinking about his leg for very long.

"Mm, Dain and Fili have taken care of it so far. They can manage while you heal." Dwalin's eyes opened, finally. "Dain is going to want repayment."

"He can get in the fucking line," Thorin growled. "Everyone wants payment now for services grudgingly rendered." Dwalin's expression was carefully blank. Thorin sighed. "We'll pay, of course. Not that zurmkurdâl elf-king, not unless somedwarf presents a very compelling argument, but the rest. Though I'm still unimpressed with Bard's efforts at smuggling us into Laketown."

"Well, Laketown is a smouldering ruin, and I don't think Bard's very impressed with that," Dwalin said pointedly. "He's the one who slew it, you know. I'm not sure how much got through to you, after we had the mountain back, but Smaug fell to Bard's arrow. The men of the lake have a home to rebuild, just as we do, and if we mean to have them as neighbors, it might be nice to be friendly ones."

"Balin's been talking to you too much while I was sleeping," Thorin sighed. "Yes, yes. Has Fili already begun...?" Dwalin nodded. "Then he can continue the negotiations, and the payments. I imagine he's taking it from his own share, the little fool. Make sure the Men don't bleed him dry."

"Actually, Gloin offered to finance the rebuilding of Esgaroth - and oversee it," Dwalin said, a distinctly amused grin settling on his face. "Seems Bard's wee one, Tilda, has him fair wrapped around her finger. But the rest are all pitching some in. We've more coin than we know what to do with, to be frank. And yes, so far we're only paying coin out. When we come across anything else, it gets catalogued and studied...things of dwarf-make remain with us, elf-made things are researched further, man-made ones are usually sent right to Bard, who distributes them as he sees fit. When we're sure the elf-things are not part of Thror's hoard, they go to Prince Legolas and Captain Tauriel, who have been malingering about lately, supposedly as ambassadors. Such items generally are sent on to Mirkwood. Nothing of consequence, nor whatever white gems he'd most coveted, as we've not yet found them. But the slow trickle of trinkets seems to pacify him for now."

Thorin hummed in thought. "What manner of false leg best befits a king, do you think? Gold is much too heavy and mithril much too dear. Perhaps gold plating on a wooden piece. The weight is going to throw off my sparring whether it's too light or too heavy."

"I think our King Oakenshield should have an oaken leg, don't you?" Dwalin suggested. "With the gold inlaid instead. You know Fili has a clever hand for it. Though really, you could have a different leg for every day of the year, all from different materials. Make one out of Smaug's bone if we can dredge him up from the lake. Just don't go Azog's route and make a mace of it, it'll never stay sharp and I'd forever be cutting myself on it."

Thorin rolled his eyes. "You just want the damn thing to take long enough that I'll let you carry me like a maiden." Dwalin grinned lecherously. "It's not going to work."

"I'm afraid it will, unless you want to be stuck abed a full month. That's how long Oin says you must heal, at the very least, before he'll let one be fit to you. The end was cauterized, but I imagine it hurts fiercely still."

Thorin's silence was answer enough.

"You are allowed to hop about the room under supervision, though," Dwalin smirked. "Oin figured even if you were allowed to hop further your dignity wouldn't permit it."

"I think a hollow leg, one I can fill with mead for when my overbearing consort annoys me too much," Thorin sniffed.

Dwalin kissed his neck. "Is that what I will be, then? King's Consort?"

"You are mine, and you will be mine forever," Thorin said with bone-deep certainty. "Let Balin decide titles. Where are my sister-sons?"

"In their own beds, I expect. It's past midnight," Dwalin said, nuzzling Thorin's shoulder and pressing more kisses to his skin, where the nightshirt gaped open. Thorin stroked his tattooed crown tenderly.

"I'd take my next meal with them, if possible. They are recovered?"

"Nicely so. Fili lost some ear much the same way I did, and Kili blocked a blade with his face, acquiring a terribly rakish scar through the eyebrow, and from cheek to chin below the socket, the lucky bastard. By all rights he should have lost an eye. It took him a long time to wake, but once he did, he was fine within a day, except for lingering weakness."

Thorin frowned. "How long?"

"Oin had your leg off by then, but only just," Dwalin admitted. "Fili organized most of the rebuilding efforts from Kili's bedside; they remain inseparable as always."

"I want to see them," Thorin said, more firmly this time. "And everyone else, but them first."

"Of course, âzyungâl. In the morning."

"Mmright. Morning." Thorin nuzzled Dwalin's chest and drifted back to sleep.