It was rare that Thorin got to see his partner sleep. In fact it was more than just rare; it was one solitary occasion so far.
There’s wasn’t love at first sight, as all the old tales told of. Nor some sudden clarity that came in the form of revelation as they both stared deeply into the others eyes. There was no abrupt chord that made them realise their undying love for one another.
It was a love born from familiarity, more than anything else. Familiarity brought on from having to work together to rebuild both their lands, following the meeting of all five armies in battle. From Thranduil’s regular visits to the Dwarven encampment to make sure that Thorin would recover from the wounds received in war.
It was a warm love, and Thranduil liked that. He’d had the fiery passions of youth and the cold sincere worship from his subjects but this was somewhere between those two. As he’d had with his Elven wife all those years before.
He slept now for the first time in several years as far as he could remember. The quiet rests he occasionally indulged in, where he would lounge on sofas and beds didn’t count of course. This was real sleep. Unconsciousness.
Exhausted from weeks of planning to make sure his kingdom would survive in his absence, days of travelling to reach Erebor and an evening of slightly frantic lovemaking, the Elvenking had collapsed down into Thorin’s arms and allowed himself to rest quietly with his eyes closed. And before he could realise it, he was sleeping.
Thorin was asleep too by that point. The hour was late.
But he’d woken in the darkness to find the tall form of the Elf still pressed against him and felt the slow rise and fall of his chest. The dim starlight and the lanterns of the city through the window – naturally, Thorin always chose a room with a window to the outside whenever Thranduil visited him – served as the only illumination.
But even in this dimness, Thorin could feel it.
The raised ridges and glassy smoothness of the scar tissue on his back. He could trace the wound with his rough fingertips. It ran, an inch thick, from the middle of his spine, down to the small of his back, further than his arms could reach. A slash from a sword perhaps?
Thorin frowned and continued to touch lightly at the ridge, searching back in his memory for a time that he would’ve noticed the blemish. There were certainly many times that he’d seen that vast milky expanse of the Elvenking’s back but never had he spotted anything as striking at that. Was it new?
Thorin heard Thranduil’s whimpers and felt him tense under the touch and quickly withdrew his hands, only for them to settle on another scar, much to his surprise.
This one was by no means a sword slash. More likely a burn from what he could feel. A large smooth patch, on the side of his ribs that he wasn’t laying on. He continued to stroke at that until Thranduil whimpered again.
He shifted out of the Elf’s arms, and though that was met with a low moan of disappointment, Thranduil did not wake. Thorin leant over to the bedside table and carefully fumbled with a match until he’d lit the lamp beside the bed, providing a little more light in the chamber.
It was only then that he saw the full extent of the scars. The pink and white lines criss-crossed over almost the entirety of his skin. Small, light ones that could not be felt under fingertips and large expanses of healed burns like the one at his ribs and a much harsher one that covered most of one side of his face.
Where had they come from? A horrible moment passed as Thorin considered the idea that perhaps he could have done it. But that was soon overcome by reason. They weren’t fresh. They looked…years old in places.
Could he even see out of his left eye? Thorin wondered to himself. He’d seen the degree at which his face had been burned, before they’d retaken Erebor but he hadn’t really put a lot of thought to it.
Thranduil stirred quietly at the luminance of the candle and the loss of warmth against him, and he opened his eyes very slightly to blink at Thorin.
“What are you…?” The Elf gave a small, pained gasp and a shiver ran through his body, before he could finish speaking, as his scars covered themselves and the iris and pupil faded back into his otherwise blank, left eye. Thranduil turned quickly away from him, drawing up the sheets over himself as best he could.
“There’s no need to be embarrassed.” Thorin tried, and touched the back of his shoulder blade. “It’s not as though I don’t have scars of my own.”
“I’m not embarrassed!” He snapped. “I’m angry. How dare you?”
“How dare I?” Thorin huffed a breath of laughter. “Oh yes, how dare I look upon my One’s body after intimacy.”
Thranduil said nothing and curled his legs up close against his chest. The Dwarf blew out the candle. “You can sleep again.” Thorin muttered after a time. “If you need to of course. I can find another bed to stay in, if you’d prefer to be alone?”
“If I stay with you and sleep, will you try to look at them again?” Thranduil whispered finally, but didn’t turn away.
“If it angers you, I won’t.”
The Elvenking paused, wrapping his arms across his stomach. “Then we can stay together.” He murmured and nodded to himself.
“Can we speak of it in the morning?”
“I’d rather we didn’t.” Thranduil whispered. “Don’t touch me anymore tonight. You were touching my back, I feel it still.” He added quickly, once Thorin pressed himself close behind him.
The Dwarf shifted back again to the other side of the bed, putting another yard between them. “I didn’t realise it would hurt you, I’m sorry.”
“Of course it hurt me, it’s little more than an open wound. Would you have touched at my cheek, when you saw it?”
Thorin shook his head and mumbled another remorseful apology. “It’s a remarkable wound.” He admitted after a moment of thought but Thranduil didn’t seem to take this as Thorin would have liked him to and he tugged the sheets further up still. “Was it a sword?”
“I already told you I didn’t want to speak of it.”
“It looks like a sword.”
Thranduil huffed softly and sat up in the bed and Thorin sighed, trying to find his hand in the darkness. “Stay. I’ll stop, I’m sorry.” He mumbled and his fingers touched what was most likely the Elf’s wrist but he jerked away from the touch.
“Please stay. I swear I won’t ask again.” He begged, trying again to reach his hand but to no avail as Thranduil slipped out of the bed and began feeling around on the ground for his clothes. “It’s just these things are quite impressive to Dwarves…”
“Well I don’t want to be impressive to Dwarves!” He snapped and tugged on his robes.
Thorin frowned. “No. I suppose you wouldn’t.” He mumbled as he curled up under the covers. It stung to hear that, he couldn’t deny it, but it was in many ways to be expected. They were from two different worlds, two different creators and both valued completely different things. And perhaps that would never change.
Thranduil barely registered the hurt in his lover’s voice and began putting on his boots as best he could. The long laces were knotted and tangled from where untying them had been abandoned the night before in favour of simply tugging them off in throes of need and passion.
“You’re still a divine creature.” Thorin whispered finally, reaching out to touch at his flank in the darkness but Thranduil recoiled at this too.
The Dwarf King was silent and so was Thranduil. Thorin bit down on his lower lip and eventually lay back down in the bed and stared up into the darkness above him.
“You wouldn’t think me divine if I looked as I ought to.” The Elf murmured with a long sigh and Thorin didn’t say anything to that for fear of making things any worse. “You’d be impressed and maybe pity me but you wouldn’t treat me as you have.” He gave a weak smile to himself and shook his head though he knew Thorin couldn’t see him.
“I’d still love you.” He murmured softly.
Thranduil sat up a little straighter on the edge of the bed. “You don’t need to lie.”
“I never lie.”
“Liar.” He huffed and lay back across Thorin’s legs. “You lie all the time.”
Thorin rolled his eyes and didn’t move, despite the weight on him. “I never lie. I’m a king and my word is oath.” He muttered and wrinkled his nose. “And when I say I’d love you however you looked that’s exactly what I mean.”
With another sigh, Thranduil close his eyes and sat up again, much to Thorin’s relief. He slowly removed his boots again but left the rest of his clothes on as he wordlessly got back into bed and lay beside his lover in the darkness.
“You can’t cover your scars when you sleep.” The Dwarf stated, more for his own benefit than to pose it as a question.
Thranduil rolled onto his side, straightening the covers over himself. “Which part of what I’ve said gave you the impression I wanted to discuss this further.” He muttered but as his heart slowed from the wild thump it had adopted when he’d first awoken and he felt calmer, he gave a thick swallow and nodded. “I only sleep when I lack the strength to do anything else but breathe.” Came the whisper. “Therefore I don’t have the energy to keep my skin masked.”
With a small wince at the final word, Thorin nodded and shifted across the mattress to be back close to Thranduil where he wanted to be. He hated the idea that the beautiful form was merely a mask for what lay underneath but he knew it was something he would have to accept.
It was more than a mask though. Thorin told himself that as he gently stroked the back of Thranduil’s shoulders. It stopped the pain of the wounds and restored sight perhaps. The Elvenking considered shrugging off the touch but instead allowed it, turning over to face Thorin with a weak smile. “You swear you meant as you said?”
Thorin gave a small, pressing his tip of his nose to thin silk covering the tall Elf’s clavicle. “My word is oath.” He repeated in a low hum and put his arms around him, content that Thranduil would allow it.
“Too old to be fussy over appearances.” He whispered in reply and could feel the twitch of Thorin’s cheeks as a broad smile spread across them.
The Dwarf King shook his head. “You’re exquisite in any form.” He muttered and fingering lightly at the sheer fabric of his long trailing sleeves. “Whyfor?” Thorin inquired, pulling it down to expose his shoulder only for Thranduil to pull it back up to cover himself.
“But it’s only me here.”
“Hurts. Don’t.” He mumbled simply and turned over once more, away from Thorin.
The Dwarf nodded and traced a small circle on the silk of the sheets beneath him with his fingertip. “It still hurts after all this time?”
“You don’t even know when it happened!” Thranduil retorted before swallowing back an insult and taking a moment to calm himself again. He was much more irritable when tired. “It’s not…pain as such.” He sighed, correcting himself. “It feels…odd. I don’t like it.”
Thorin narrowed his eyes slightly but nodded, settling his hand on Thranduil’s chest instead. “Does it always feel like that?”
The Elvenking shook his head. “Only if they’re touched.” He explained softly. “It makes them tender… sensitive.”
“Would you rather sleep apart from me?” Thorin offered though he didn’t particularly like the idea.
“I already told you that wasn’t necessary.”
Thorin furrowed his brow, on edge from Thranduil’s seemingly capricious nature on this night. “Are you certain?”
The Elvenking huffed. “I don’t like repeating myself.”
There passed perhaps a quarter hour where nothing passed between the pair, so long in fact that Thorin began to believe that his lover had fallen asleep again. He lay on his back and stared up into the dark marble of the ceiling above him.
It was just as he was on the edge of slumber that Thorin was jerked from his near-trance by Thranduil’s voice again.
“I didn’t mind when it was just small ones.”
The Dwarf blinked and turned his head. “Sorry?” He asked quietly.
“It was just some small ones on my legs when I fell while hunting and they promised me that those would fade. And in all fairness most of them did.” He continued and Thorin could see that the Elvenking was simply staring into the dark as he spoke.
“Then there were a few on my chest from fights and one on my arm where I broke it badly and the bone…” Thranduil felt his lover wince in his arms and stopped himself. “See it does bother you!” He huffed.
“I don’t like the thought of you being hurt.” Thorin replied quickly, and began to become slightly insulted at the way Thranduil was insinuating. “I take no issue with how you look and I think it ought to go without saying that I am also loath to repeat myself.” But his expression quickly softened as his mind turned to how sensitive the Elf felt about the subject. “I do love you very much.” He finished with a soft sigh.
“Did you mean what you said earli-”
“Like I’ve said! My word-”
“No.” Thranduil interrupted his interruption. “Earlier than that. When you said that I was your One.”
Thorin blinked. Had he said that? Maybe Probably. “I…don’t know.” He replied truthfully, with a furrowing of his brow. “I don’t know if that…extends to Elves.”
Thranduil nodded slowly but didn’t turn back. He’d long since suspected that.
“I like to think of you as my One though.” The Dwarf added. “I can’t imagine anyone else it could be. Or that I’d want it to be.” Maybe Thranduil was right in some respect. It was too late in the day to worry about things like appearances or customs or who he was supposed to belong with. It felt right to hold him and to allow himself to be held by the Elvenking and to touch him and be touched and just to lie like this and talk about finer parts of their connection together. It felt more than right, it felt purposeful. “If you’re not my One, I’d rather have you than they.” He concluded finally.
His lover still said nothing.
“It was a sword.” He confirmed finally and heard Thorin give a small sigh of relief that at least he spoke again. “We journeyed north soon after my father departed and made camp outside the borders of Greenwood. Orcs from the mountains found us in the night and… well I’m sure you can go without details.”
Thorin nodded, knowingly and absently pushed himself close to Thranduil’s side and was pleased to find that he no longer tensed or recoiled at the touch.
“It hurt.” The Elvenking added simply and it was only then that he began to notice Thorin’s arms around his middle, holding him tightly. “We had to travel back to Mirkwood. Quickly.” He swallowed thickly. “I thought it was to prove fatal. The pain didn’t cease. Even the healers were sure I would most likely die.”
“You didn’t.” Thorin whispered, squeezing his abdomen lightly. “You lived. You’re here.”
“I’m quite aware.” He replied with a single nod. It had been eighteen days of fever and pain and fear as he’d writhed in what all expected to be his deathbed. Slipping in and out of consciousness as he’d fought for choked breaths and control over infection after infection. And finally, on the nineteenth day, he’d emerged from the fever, much to the surprise of all around him. It was perhaps another year before he’d regained his full strength and by then all that had remained of the wounds delivered by the blades of the orcs was the deep scar, stretching down from one shoulder to the opposite thigh.
He didn’t tell any of this to Thorin though. Now didn’t seem the time. He’d already shown enough weakness that night without him learning of his first serious brush with death. Instead he turned back to his lover and held him close again, the same way he had when they’d fallen asleep together.
“We can discuss it further in the morning.” Thranduil conceded finally and Thorin was content with that.
He knew it would take time.