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Gather Wind In Your Fists, Sew The Stars Round Your Wrists

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(1)

When Dwalin sees him first, he is already bound and stripped down to his breeches, feet bare and dirty, bleeding. And yet, it only takes a moment, then another until Dwalin realises the dwarf is royalty, the upright stance, the raised chin, the determination and cold in his blue eyes giving him away easily. He must be a fighter, too, for there are scars strewn across his chest, thick and bulging ones, thin ones which look like spiders’ webs, and Dwalin catches himself wondering if the other has dealt as much damage as he has taken, catches himself wishing he had seen him fight.

“The king sends a gift”, one of the guards say, “He wishes you to be wed by the end of the week.”
And Dwalin nods.

 

(2)

His name is Thorin, son of Thror, son of Thrain, they tell him and it takes a moment until Dwalin has figured out why the name is so familiar – he’s a prince, destined for a throne and grand halls, not the tent of a soldier, and suddenly he understands why it is that they are to be married. It is one thing to defeat a king’s army, but giving his heir to a common-born warrior must feel worse still, marrying him to a male thrice as bad – for Thorin will never be able to father any children, and with the rest of his clan stomped into the ground by Dáin’s army, it means that the line of Durin is ending, centuries after Mahal has created their ancestor.
Dwalin doesn’t show the prince he knows about his heritage, thinks it might be easier like that, even if nothing about this is easy to begin with.

 

(3)

The other does not speak, and Dwalin has not expected him to, even if he sometimes wishes he would know what voice of the dwarf he will be sharing his bed and life and heart with, sounds. He imagines it to be dark and harsh, like his eyes are when Dwalin catches his gaze for a moment, collected and steady.

 

(4)

They are married four days afterwards, in Erebor’s sullen halls, in a ceremony which would put a king’s wedding to shame, and Thorin looks almost radiant in his defiance. He doesn’t say a word, doesn’t protest, and Dwalin thinks it must be his upbringing, his education, which leaves him so in control of himself, but he still cannot help but be impressed, especially when he catches the prince’s eyes wandering over to where his father and grandfather are tied to their chairs.

They are seated at the head of the hall, next to Dáin, as if guests of honour, and the sight leaves a vile taste in Dwalin’s mouth. He has never been afraid of taking another’s life, but at the same time, has never seen the sense in torture – and that is all this is.
He would tell Thorin about it, tell him he is sorry for the other to be used like this, but his words would not be appreciated, he is sure of that, and so, says nothing instead, just waits and listens and nods at the right places, and when he looks at Thorin the next time, they are married.

 

(5)

There is a feast afterwards, and Dáin has them sit next to him, mockingly bowing before Thorin when he approaches, calling him princess. The other doesn’t react, but Dwalin is sure that he is not as unaffected by the insult as he pretends to be.
Dwalin grits his teeth and sits down, silently wishing that it was not Dáin on the throne, not Dáin he had sworn his allegiance to, but another dwarf, someone better, who he could respect and love, not just tolerate. Someone like Dain used to be.

Thror and Thrain are sitting close enough by so that Dwalin can see the hatred in both their eyes and he cannot blame them for it, nor can he blame Thorin for not speaking, not touching his food, not drinking. Dwalin does enough of all of it for both of them, trying everything to give him, and them, a reason not to leave the feast; for afterwards, he will have to claim his spouse, no matter if he wants to or not.

But all efforts are for naught in the end, because Dáin gets up only minutes later, grinning in a way which makes Dwalin’s stomach churn in apprehension.
“I am afraid you will have to excuse me and our lovebirds now”, the king shouts, earning laughter and a few shouts of comments Dwalin cannot understand and is glad not to. Thorin next to him is still silent and his face blank, but Dwalin can feel his tension still.
“I, of course, will attend for Dwalin, son of Fundin”, Dáin continues, looking over to his prisoners with a terrifying pretence of a smile and a grand gesture. “And I think it should be the father who watches his pretty little girl’s deflowering, don’t you?”

It is a tradition older than all of them, and one which Dwalin still has driven out of his mind up until this moment - the consummation of a royal marriage has to be witnessed by a member of each family to truly make it legitimate. And while Thorin keeps his expression completely emotionless, Dwalin still flinches, not only appalled by the thought of taking the other not only against his will, but in front of his own father, but also because if Dáin will represent him and his kin, it means that his brother, Balin, who is the only family he has left, has agreed to let him take his place.
He tries his hardest not to feel betrayed, tries even harder not to let the anger show on his face, but it is near impossible; he has known about Balin’s political ambitions for a long time, but never thought his brother capable of using him like just another pawn in his games.

Still, he follows his king like the loyal soldier he is, only realising where they are headed when Thror in front of him, and still in chains, lets out a choked gasp, pales until Dwalin is sure he is about to keel over. It must be the king’s chambers, all decked out in gold and decorated with precious stones, the bed impossibly large and two chairs already prepared for Dáin and his prisoner.
Dáin, who turns around, raises an eyebrow. “Well then, do not keep us waiting.”

 

(6)

Dáin allows him to prepare Thorin at least superficially, the former prince naked and on his hands and knees, staring down at the mattress without once lifting his gaze. There is no time to try and make the other feel pleasure, his king’s eyes resting too impatiently on Dwalin’s form for him to dare and draw this out longer than strictly necessary.
And Dwalin wishes it would take an effort for him to get hard, but his body reacts to the sight of Thorin impaled on his fingers, to the feeling of the other clenching hot and tight around his fingers too easily; it has been months since he has lain with another.
“Don’t spoil the slut”, Dáin says, half-laughing, half-mocking, and Dwalin cannot do anything but obey.

 

(7)

The first time he hears Thorin’s voice, it’s a pained gasp falling from his lips.

 

(8)

Dáin summons them again the next day, sending a servant with a package that contains a set of formal clothes; a fine tunic and coat, a pair of breeches made from leather which is so soft, Dwalin wants to rip them off his body and burn them, a dress for his spouse, embroidered with the crest of Durin’s clan. It’s another mockery, but it hits it target with a frightening accuracy – although Thorin has hardly even blinked in his presence, Dwalin can see pain flitting over his features for more than just a moment, and it takes a moment until he realises why.
The dark blue fabric is stained with blood, which can only be Thorin’s sister’s.

For a moment, Dwalin cannot speak, too shocked by the sheer cruelty of the gesture, then wants to tell Thorin that surely, Dáin will tire soon of his games, he has seen it countless times before, but as quickly as it appeared, the pain vanishes from the other’s features, replaced by an emotionlessness which is as cold as it is frightening.
And Dwalin keeps silent after all, but turns around to give Thorin at least the pretence of privacy as he dresses.

 

(9)

Thorin watches Dáin behead his father without a sign of interest, clad in a dress he clumsily laced himself, and does not even avert his eyes when the king places Thror’s head on a plate, has a servant set it down in front of Thorin; eyes gaping wide and mouth opened as if to let out a silent scream.
Dwalin reaches out under the table without thinking, finds the other’s hand clenched around his sister’s dress.

 

(10)

Thorin does not sleep that night, just sits in the corner which is furthest away from the bed and Dwalin, the dress spread out over his lap. If the other notices he is being watched, Dwalin doesn’t know, but doesn’t care too much either; he is curious about this prince, who appears to be proud and strong, yet must have cared so much about his siblings that their death breaks his heart.
And once again, he catches himself wishing Thorin would talk, if only confirm that the other is still alive.

 

(11)

He wakes up because there is a weight pressing down on his chest, solid and warm, and when Dwalin opens his eyes, he finds Thorin on top of him, blue eyes shimmering mad even in the dim light. One hand is holding a dagger so tightly his knuckles have to hurt, and Dwalin can only just stop the other before Thorin forces the sharp blade through his eye socket. It's a good move, better than trying to reach his heart through his rib cage, and Dwalin can’t help but be impressed.
With two, quick movements, he has thrown Thorin off him, pinned him down on the mattress, one of the hands above his head still gripping the dagger and not letting go until Dwalin has pried every single of his fingers off the hilt.

It’s a good weapon, made out of fine steel and small enough to be easily concealed in a sleeve or boot, but Dwalin still lets it drop next to him carelessly, then pulls back so Thorin can sit up. His face is still blank, but there is a hint of emotion hidden in the depth his eyes, which has replaced the madness, and stays there when the other sits up on the bed, not once avoiding Dwalin’s gaze.

“I should kill you for this”, Dwalin states, a fact, nothing more, but the reaction he has expected never comes, Thorin just looks at him, motionless. He’s never been good with reading others, and yet it takes Dwalin only a few seconds to see this for what it is.
Thorin was brought up a prince, noble and unbending, so he would not take a knife to his own flesh, but there is no shame in dying at an enemy’s hand; had he succeeded, Dáin would have had his head, if failing, he had expected Dwalin to do the same.

His hand finds the dagger on the mattress and raises it, holding it closer to the small lamp at the bedside. The crest of Durin’s clan is carved into the hilt, a single sapphire gleaming above it; without having seen it before, Dwalin knows it must have belonged to Thorin’s sister, hidden somewhere in the folds of her dress.
Without another glance at Thorin, he gets up, walks across the room to find one of his axes, testing its sharpness on a finger before he uses it to separate the dagger’s hilt from the blade, leaving the broken shards of metal lying on the floor when he returns to the bed, where Thorin still has no moved. His eyes look different, though, tired and hopeless.

“I am not going to help you end your life, prince”, Dwalin says, presents Thorin the hilt of the dagger; he would not rob him of the last thing to remember his sister by. “If you want to die, you will have to take care of that yourself.”

 

(12)

They stay in Erebor for another two weeks, before they have to trade their small, warm rooms for a smaller, colder tent on the road, but Thorin does not complain, and by now, Dwalin doesn’t expect him to anymore.

 

(13)

Dwalin would like to say that he does not touch Thorin again, but he is no saint, never has been, and on the road the days are long and the nights are scarce, and Thorin is as beautiful as he is cold as he is available. So it takes only a few more nights until Dwalin walks into their tent, half-hard and his mind slightly clouded from ale and wine and lewd stories.
His spouse is already asleep, but he has no qualms about waking him, no matter how late or early it might be.

A hand on Thorin’s arm is enough to rouse the other, blue eyes looking up at him, and Dwalin does his best not to feel guilty when he opens his mouth.
“On your stomach”, he says, orders, and for a second, Thorin just stares at him, then obeys.
It’s an almost sickening mixture of power and arousal and disgust, which rushes through Dwalin as he watches the other turn kick the blanket off and turn around, his legs spread the slightest bit. He still doesn’t make a sound, not even when Dwalin sheds his clothes and kneels down on the bedroll, spreading his legs wider and wider, until he can kneel between them.

There is oil hidden underneath the pillow, meant for Dwalin’s own hand, and he reaches over Thorin to get it, feels the other tensing underneath him and it feels wrong, but doesn’t stop him. Instead, he finds the vial, uncorks it and pours far too much onto his palm.
Thorin is still in his night shirt, bunched up around his waist, and Dwalin thinks about pushing it up further, but stops his hand before he can reach out. They are not making love, and there is no need pretending they are.

Now, though, he has more time and takes more still, even if maybe still not as much as Thorin would need to completely ease the sting of penetration, but Dwalin makes sure that he has three fingers inside the other before he moves on. He slicks himself up without saying a word, is about to push into Thorin when his drunken mind spews out another idea, which could make Thorin hate this less or despise him even more.

Once more, he reaches down to find the other’s hole, stretched and slick, and slides just two of his fingers back inside of Thorin – Dwalin cannot see his face, but thinks that, if there are emotions mirrored on it, it is most likely surprise, judging by the way the muscles around his fingers clench. This time, he does not try and scissor them, doesn’t start fucking him, just crooks them upwards and strokes the tips along Thorin’s insides.
There is still no sound, but instead a breathless silence, in which Dwalin continues searching, probing, but then Thorin arches off the bedroll.

The second time he hears Thorin’s voice, it’s a moan.

It makes his cock twitch and suddenly, Dwalin cannot wait a second longer to be inside of the other; he pulls his fingers out and wipes them on Thorin’s nightshirt, before he pulls his spouse up by his hips, lines his cock up with the other’s stretched hole.
Thorin is still as tight as he can imagine him being, and Dwalin can’t help but groan once he is seated inside the other, giving him a moment to get used to the feeling before pulling out once more.

He tries his best to keep his thrusts slow at first, but it doesn’t take long for his resolve to shatter, and even shorter until he is rutting against the other without holding back. Thorin is silent and still underneath him, and Dwalin cannot stand it; reaches around the other’s body to grasp his cock, and notices, with nothing but a huge amount of delight, that his earlier touches have left Thorin’s cock a lot more interested that the other wants to let on.
The other makes a small, distressed sound and tries his best to twist out of Dwalin’s hold, but to no avail, Dwalin keeps him pinned and starts stroking his cock, feeling it harden under his touch, no matter if Thorin wants it or not.

And he comes not much later, muffling his moans by sinking his teeth into his arm and clenching around Dwalin’s cock in the most delicious way; Dwalin fucks him through it and goes on even after Thorin has gone limp in his arms.
He comes with a groan a dozen thrusts later, spending himself deep inside the other, marking him in the most intimate way he knows, and later, when he has cleaned himself and handed Thorin a washcloth, goes to sleep next to the other, his warmth and presence still feeling strange to Dwalin.

 

(14)

A sharp pain wakes Dwalin a few minutes or hours later, slicing through his neck and down his chest, and before he is even aware of his actions, he has pushed the person looming over him away, off the bed. His hand flies to the wound and finds it bleeding, a steady trickle down his chest, but it’s not quite the right place and not enough blood for his carotid to be injured.

He should be angry when he looks down at Thorin, who is sprawled on the floor, but he cannot bring himself to feel more than a faint sense of regret, even when his hands and shoulder and sheets are all stained with his blood. The other does not say a word, does not even move, so instead Dwalin shifts closer until he can see the exhaustion in his eyes.
“Your hand”, he orders and Thorin holds it out after only a moment, lets Dwalin pry back his fingers to reveal a shard of metal embedded in his skin. It must be a piece of his sister’s blade, which Thorin has somehow hidden away.

If he has cut up his hand before or after falling, Dwalin cannot tell, but he pulls the shard out of Thorin’s palm nonetheless, trying his best to cause as little damage as necessary. Still, it sends blood gushing from the deep cut, but the other does not flinch, does not make a sound, and against all odds, Dwalin is impressed. In his mind, princes have always been tiny, delicate things, not created to endure pain or hardship. His thumb strokes over Thorin’s pulse point almost gently as he puts away the sharpened shard of silver.

Without a word, he gets up, returns only a few moments later with clean bandages and a wet cloth, takes the other’s hand in his and starts cleaning the wound.

If he sees surprise in Thorin’s eyes, he is sure he does not imagine it.

 

(15)

The first thought Dwalin has in the morning is that his and Thorin’s blood are now mixed forever.

 

(16)

The next week passes quickly and without talking or fighting or fucking, until they are resting a few feet away from the road, about to pass from one kingdom to the next, and from one moment to the next, there are arrows flying at them, screams and dwarves rushing at them, axes drawn and determination written all across their faces. It’s a last, desperate attempt at saving what they love, Dwalin can see it in their eyes, but it is no reason strong enough to stop him, and within a second, his axe is heavy in his hands and he loses himself to the thrill of battle, forgets about everyone and everything which is not the blood staining his clothes, the screams of the dwarves whose skull he splits.

At least until one of them gets away before Dwalin can chop off his arms or legs or head, rushes past him with his sword raised high and his features twisted into a grotesque mask and Dwalin can only whip around, watch as he goes after Thorin, who is only a few paces behind him.
He should have left him the dagger, is the only thing Dwalin can think for a moment, but then Thorin disarms the other dwarf with one, fluid movement, hacks off one of his arms with his own weapon and slices his throat open before a scream can come out of it.

The other looks wild and feral and beautiful and when their gazes meet, Dwalin thinks he can see a glint there he has never seen before.

 

(17)

He takes Thorin again that night and hopes that the trembling of Thorin’s body is because he is holding back moans and not sobs.

 

(18)

Although it’s been several weeks by now, it is still strange for Dwalin to share his tent, to have someone there when he wakes up, when he goes to sleep. Although it’s still his belongings scattered around when they set up their camp, his clothes and weapons and furs, but mixed in them, only noticeable when you look for them, are Thorin’s belts and tunics, his nightshirt.
Before they were married, Dwalin would have thought that the other would keep his things stashed away in a corner, close to him and as far away from Dwalin as possible, but instead they are spread out everywhere, as if showing that he is not backed down that easily.

 

(19)

They are on the road again and Dwalin can feel his spouse’s tension mounting, either because he is becoming better at reading Thorin, or because the other’s mask is slipping. Whatever it is, though, it keeps Dwalin on his guard, his skin prickling whenever the other is around. He considers sleeping elsewhere, or making Thorin leave – there are enough tents around – but in the end, he doesn’t, maybe out of a misguided feeling of obligation, maybe just because he doesn’t like to back out of a challenge; Dwalin isn’t sure himself.
So he goes to sleep on his own bedroll, covered in furs of animals he has killed himself and Thorin next to him day after day.

And nothing happens for some days, he gets up in the morning and trains soldiers, listens to Dáin talk, sharpens his weapons, treads on to whatever destination his king has chosen for them until he returns to his bedroll and Thorin’s icy eyes. But then they reach a small city and Dáin allows them to rest for a few days, to stock up supplies, and in the evening, Dwalin has their tent set up again.
Even if it’s just a few flaps of leather and the most rudimentary furniture it still feels almost like home, and the second Dwalin steps inside, he can feel himself relaxing.

Some of the tension which has been building up inside leaves his muscles, but only for a few moments, because Thorin is right behind him, entering with the grace of a prince, and Dwalin feels his skin tingling again.

 

(20)

He wakes because something is pinning down his arms, because something is making it hard to breathe and even before he opens his eyes, Dwalin knows that it’s Thorin. The other is sitting on his chest, his legs pressing Dwalin’s arms down, and for a moment, their eyes lock, Thorin’s wild and desperate and bright blue.
A hand reaches out and pulls up Dwalin’s head before he can react by his hair, the second fixing something around his neck before Thorin lets go again and pulls. It’s a thin cord, a rope, and there is a moment where Dwalin admires the craftsmanship, because the other loops the ends around a small piece of wood, which Thorin twists and twists instead of just using his strength and pulling.

A sharp pain shoots through Dwalin’s neck as the rope starts cutting into his skin, and it’s all he needs to finally move. With Thorin holding him down, it is harder than it should be, but he digs his heels into the mattress, bucks up, throws Thorin off his balance. It’s not for much more than a few moments, but it’s enough for Dwalin, because the other falls forward, gives him enough time to free one arm and spin them around, press Thorin down on the ground instead.
The change of position makes the rope dig even further into Dwalin’s neck, breaking skin and causing beads of blood to form and fall, but he doesn’t care, only even notices when small drops land on Thorin’s face, staining pale skin red. Because for a moment, really just a moment, he can see a thousand emotions flitting over Thorin’s face, then watches them die, leave him completely, and for the first time since he has laid eyes on the other, Dwalin sees him giving up.

It’s strange and frightening at the same time, frustrating and depressing and making feel almost guilty; the other’s grip loosens until his hands fall down uselessly on Thorin’s sides, his eyes empty and sightless. Dwalin rolls off him without another word, without even another glance, knowing for certain that it won’t happen again, nothing like that, because after weeks and weeks, Thorin has broken.

 

(21)

He does not return to their tent this evening after his duties have ended, instead finds his brother and with him a dozen soldiers, all crowded around a fire and sharing strong wine and stories and a sense of belonging.
They are not his friends, nor will they ever be, but he still sits down and laughs with them, because he dreads to go to sleep next to a lifeless, broken copy of the dwarf he was forced to marry and chose to respect. Balin just watches from a distance as he fills his jug again and again, makes rude comments and tasteless comparisons, and Dwalin can feel his eyes burning right through him; in the flickering light of the fire, he can almost bring himself to hate the other.

 

(22)

When Dwalin finally stumbles back to the tent Thorin and he share, his thoughts are muddled by wine and ale and lewd talk and his cock is hard in his breeches; although he tried his best not to think of his spouse, the other has invaded his mind repeatedly over the past few hours, all pale skin and dark hair and cold eyes. And after all, it is his right, Dwalin reminds himself, to have Thorin, it’s his right as well as his duty, and he will have him, whether Thorin wants it or not.

The other is still awake when he pushes the flap of the tent aside, lies on their furs with his eyes open but body unmoving, and the sight only infuriates Dwalin further, quenches all thoughts he had of mercy, of affection; if Thorin is broken, catatonic, there is no need for any of those feelings, for anything tender.
He hardly makes it into the tent before he starts undoing his breeches, blue eyes watching him as he kicks them off, neither interested nor afraid.
“On your hands and knees”, Dwalin grunts, and it’s an order, no more, no less, and in front of his inner eye he can see Thorin complying, sees him push himself up and turn around, spread his legs, sees himself crawling between them and thrusting into the other, maybe even foregoing preparing him, because the thought of hurting Thorin is sweet to his mind and soul.
But although Dwalin knows exactly which way the other would move, how the thin fabric of his tunic would pool on the furs and cling to his skin, how his hair would veil his face, Thorin does not move a muscle for a long while, just looks at him.

“No.”
A couple of moments pass before Dwalin realises that his spouse has spoken, his voice soft and raspy from the lack of use, but still rich as his father once was and as deep as Erebor was delved into the mountain. It must be the first time he has heard Thorin speak, and not just groan or moan or gasp, and, and the refusal should make Dwalin’s anger burn hotter and fiercer (and Thorin must know that, must be at a point where he does not care anymore), but it’s refusal, it’s tattered and bent but not broken, and instead of making Dwalin furious, it soothes him, calms him down and quenches the flames.
And there is a hint of surprise in Thorin’s eyes when he walks the last few steps to their bed and lays down next to the other instead of on top of him.
“Have it your way, then”, he mutters and wraps a hand around his own cock, not caring if Thorin is watching or not as he strokes himself, neither biting back moans nor trying to lie still; when he comes, he thinks of blue eyes and dark hair and a deep, dark voice moaning his name.

 

(23)

 

It becomes a game, a dance between them, which Dwalin does not think he knows all the rules of; he comes back to their tent too late, too drunk, and orders Thorin to get on his hands and knees, lie on his back, ride him, and hears a clearly-uttered no as an answer, accompanied by a glance which grows more and more surprised with every time he lays down and strokes himself to completion. And it is strange, he thinks to himself, as he wrings another, mediocre orgasm out of his tired flesh, that such a small word can soothe him so much, but it does, so much that he needs to hear it again and again, just to make sure that another day still has not broken Thorin.

 

(24)

They don’t stay long in one place, and they don’t stay long here but Dwalin doesn’t mind it, even though they head north and the air has a chill to it which even his coat cannot keep out, the nights grow longer and they march in the dark, when making out their way is nearly impossible. Thorin is still silent, and in the long hours where they watch the sun rise or set, Dwalin sometimes finds himself wondering if this will be his fate, a spouse who will not talk, but just occasionally throw glances at him which Dwalin cannot decipher.
But he looks back, at pale skin and dark hair, at blue eyes which seem to be the only thing Thorin speaks with, and wonders if, had they had met in another way, another life, they would have been friends, lovers.

They spend most nights close to the fire, because there is no time to set up a tent, and Dwalin keeps an eye on the other, although he is not sure if he is trying to watch out for Thorin or everyone around him. And while the fire illuminates his spouses face, makes soft lines out of sharp angles, he thinks that he might be able to like Thorin (he does not say love, it’s too big a word, takes up too much space in his mind and heart and life), not because he is beautiful, but because he is strong and still not broken.

 

(25)

They head north and further north, and one morning, when Dwalin has to break through a thin sheen of ice before when he pulls back the flap of their tent, he walks back and leaves his thickest coat out for Thorin to find. He almost expects the other to leave it behind, not wanting to touch something his captors have given him, but when Thorin joins him, he’s rolled up in thick leather, his hair melting into the dark furs the coat is trimmed with.
No words are exchanged, no exclamation of gratitude, but Dwalin has not expected either, so he contents himself with watching Thorin trudge on between shivering dwarves, looking more like a prince than ever; the sight making the sting of icy wind on his skin worth it.

 

(26)

A fortnight passes and they are still travelling, their boots heavy and their cloaks wet and cold, and sometimes, Dwalin wonders if Dáin is leading them somewhere, or is just letting them march on to keep their mouths shut and their legs busy. He does not question it though, because it is not his place to do so, just watches his king on his wild boar, kept warm by layers upon layers of fur, and wonders how far he has to follow Dáin to consider his vow fulfilled.

 

(27)

And somewhere along the way, between short nights and long marches, warm fires and drenched clothes, something changes in Thorin’s eyes. It's subtle, because they are still blue and still cold, but when they look at him, there is a hint of curiosity hidden in their depths, as if Dwalin was a riddle he just could not solve.
Sometimes their gazes meet, over the fire or on the road or right after they have woken up, limbs stiff with cold and hearts heavy and not once does Thorin look away before Dwalin does.

 

(28)

It's by sheer luck that he finds them, and that might be what scares Dwalin the most; Thorin on his back and with a look in his eyes that is as deadly as his own axes, a dwarf's hands pinning him down and another seated between his legs. No sounds are passing his spouse's lips and Dwalin knows why; the other would never satisfy them by pleading, by screaming.
He, though, after months upon months, can see the hint of fear and the absolute disgust in his eyes, but hopes that the other dwarves cannot, because, he too, does not grant them the satisfaction.

Precious moments are wasted because he cannot seem to move, but his trance is broken as soon as one of them, the one kneeling between Thorin’s spread legs, looks up, his face twisting in shock and the beginnings of fear. It takes two steps to cross the distance between them, fury kindled in his stomach and his hands itching to feel someone else’s blood soiling them.
The other is still trying to get up, so Dwalin helps him, grabs him by the neck and holds him tightly, curls his fingers into a fist and smashes the other dwarf’s nose into his skull, the blood gushing out of it painting the white snow beneath them red.

He hits him again, to stop the ugly, pathetic whine coming from his spilt lips, and knocks out two of his teeth and flings him down, just right to whip around and bury his fist in the other’s stomach, who is coming at him, a dagger in his raised hand. The dagger falls as the dwarf doubles over, chokes on his own breath, and Dwalin loops his arm around the other’s neck in a chokehold, squeezes hard and punches him in the face once for Thorin, twice for himself.
The one who was kneeling between his spouse’s legs is crawling on the ground, trying to reach the dagger which has fallen down; Dwalin cuts him short by stepping on his hand, crushing the bones under his heavy boot.

He is breathing heavily when he turns around, the dwarf at his feet whimpering and trying to tug his hand away, and Thorin is looking at him, still on his back, his breeches unlaced and pooled around his ankles. “Shall they die?”, he asks, surprised how rough and breathless his voice sounds, that he lets the other decide, but he means every word of it.

Thorin watches them for a long moment, not talking, not moving, then, when Dwalin is grinding his heel on a ruined hand, is preparing to let them go even though he wants to watch their life leave them, then Thorin pushes himself up a little and nods.
It’s just one, small movement, but his eyes, which used to look empty, which used to look cold, look determined and unbroken, and Dwalin does not look away when he uses the chokehold he has on the one dwarf’s neck to break it. He goes limp in his arms and Dwalin drops him like the worthless piece of meat he is.

The other must have witnessed his friend’s fate, because he starts tugging on his hand even harder, until Dwalin is sure he must have dislocated his wrist; but even that does not help him get away. With Thorin’s eyes still wild and fixed on him, he reaches down and grabs the dwarf’s head, who tries to get away, tries to bite him, hit him with his other hand, but nothing works; Dwalin holds him tightly and snaps his neck just like he did with the other.
He falls down and paints more snow red, and Dwalin wants to reach down and drag Thorin to his feet, so the blood won’t be able touch him, but doesn’t.

 

(29)

He goes to Dáin and tells him a story about two dwarves who were attacking him and his spouse, threatening their lives and how they lost their own while trying to take theirs; Dáin doesn’t care much, just like Dwalin has expected him to, too busy with gold and drink and power.

 

(30)

When Dwalin comes back, it is dark outside and his feet are as tired as his heart, and Thorin is lying on their furs and staring at the ceiling, has shod his furs and coat for the first time in ever. It’s a sight he has never expected, and for a few moments, Dwalin just stares; stares until Thorin starts to move, spreads his legs and says, “Yes.”
He doesn’t understand, not immediately, but his body does, makes him take one step, then two, three until he realises that Thorin is offering himself. And Dwalin knows he should say no, say it’s alright, but although he might have changed, he is still no saint; so he sheds his clothes as he walks over to Thorin, because it has been far too long since he has lost himself in another’s body.

The other is watching him, icy blue eyes fixed on him, and his gaze is making Dwalin feel hot all over, because it’s still unwavering, still intense, and not scared at all. Thorin doesn’t look grateful, not like he is using his body to thank him, not like a spouse bidding his spouse to come to bed, but like a prince who is deeming Dwalin worthy of touching him.
If anything, it should be insulting, for Thorin has lost everything but his own life and Dwalin is the one providing for him, but it isn’t, and Dwalin wonders if he will ever stop seeing the prince in Thorin, the one he saw beneath all the scars and the blood, back then in Erebor.

Without meaning to, Dwalin stops when he is standing in front of the other, looks down and meets the other’s gaze once more, even if only for a second, before he lets his gaze travel over pale skin, coarse, dark hair. Although they are married, Dwalin hasn’t seen Thorin naked for months, ever since that night in his father’s halls, when Dáin had forced him to take his spouse against his will and without enough preparation.
Back then, Thorin had been beautiful and wild, overtaken by pain and yet collected, and he is still beautiful now, doused in the warm light of the lamp he has lit, but looks so different.
He’s still in pain, Dwalin knows that without ever having spoken more than a few words with the other, but it’s more subdued now, time having worn down the sharp edges, making it smoother, easier to handle; he’s still defiant and Dwalin would swear on his father’s grave that Thorin still bears more hate in his heart than any other dwarf he knows. But right now, spread out on the furs on the ground, he doesn’t look disgusted, doesn’t look plagued, instead looks regal and as close to relaxed as Dwalin has ever seen him.

There is no love in Thorin’s eyes, only mild curiosity and a hint of what Dwalin hopes is respect, but that is enough, is everything Dwalin could wish for, and more than he thinks he might deserve.
He lets a few more moments pass, before he lowers himself down onto the furs as well, not yet touching Thorin, because this is different, and Dwalin does not want to rush it.
If Thorin was anyone else, he would kiss him now, but although the prince has invited him to his bed, Dwalin does not love him, does not think he would appreciate sweet gestures, signs of affection, whether they’re genuine or not, so he doesn’t. Instead, he reaches out and runs his hand from Thorin’s shoulder down his arm, until he can grasp the other’s hand, bringing it up for him to look at.

What seems like an eternity ago, Thorin tried to kill him, not once but thrice, and Dwalin can still remember the look in his spouse’s eyes, can still remember their blood mixing and the splinter of metal buried in Thorin’s palm.
The scar is still there, thick and pale, and Dwalin brushes his finger over it, traces it, before he lets Thorin’s hand fall out of his grasp. His spouse is still watching, blue eyes cold and curious, and Dwalin meets them unashamedly.
“I will leave now, if you desire me to”, Dwalin says after a few moments, and he means it; if Thorin told him no now, he would accept it; if he will change his mind later, be it in a few minutes or an hour, Dwalin isn’t so sure anymore. This is the last chance, a last way out, and while Dwalin hopes that the other won’t take it, he hopes that Thorin knows he could.

There are no words, but Thorin doesn’t move away, doesn’t hide, just lies there, his eyes on Dwalin, unwavering, almost a challenge. And Dwalin takes it.

 

(31)

He opens Thorin up with his fingers like he always should have, starts with one and only stops when he has four fingers inside his spouse, until Dwalin’s cock is aching and Thorin trembles with every stroke of his fingers.
The other could have taken him with far less preparation, has done so before, but Dwalin doesn’t want him to this time, wants Thorin to want him so much his spouse can taste it on his lips and tongue when he bites back another moan.

And so Dwalin continues to fuck Thorin with his fingers until he thinks that his spouse just truly can’t take anymore; he wants to push, but doesn‘t want to ask for too much.
Thorin’s body is arching off the furs, begging for more without making a sound, when Dwalin finally pulls his fingers out the last time, wipes them on his discarded shirt and pours more oil on his hand, using it to slick up his cock. The mere touch is making Dwalin hiss; while it was easy to forget about his own desires while he was concentrated on making Thorin mewl, it is impossible now, when Thorin is looking up at him, his eyes hooded and his lips parted, fair skin flushed.

Thorin is still breathing heavily and suddenly Dwalin desperately wants to make him moan, wants to make him fall apart. He’d kiss him, but Dwalin still doesn’t want to make this more than it is, so instead he just moves in, wraps Thorin’s legs around his waist.
Had he picked out a position, he would have taken the other from behind, even if less for his sake than his spouse’s, but Thorin has shown no sign of wanting to move, so Dwalin doesn’t suggest it, even enjoys the thought of seeing the other’s face while he’s buried inside of Thorin.

Thorin is still watching him, but there is a fire burning in his eyes now, lust and hunger, and Dwalin might just love it more than he should, knowing that it was him who put it there, that he was the one to melt away the ice in those eyes, even if only for a few hours.
There is no use in waiting any longer, when both of them know just what they want, so Dwalin doesn’t, grips Thorin’s hips with one hand while he uses the other to guide his cock to his spouse’s waiting hole, giving Thorin but a moment to brace himself, before he pushes in.

It’s been such a long time for both of them, so Thorin is tight and Dwalin is desperate, and even that first thrust is enough to draw a groan from Dwalin’s lips. He could swallow it, suppress it, but doesn’t, because he wants Thorin to know just what it is he does to him.
Although it’s hard not to just fuck the other like he wants to, deep and hard, Dwalin forces himself to stay still for a few more moments, for both their sakes – for his spouse to adjust to the fullness, and for him so he won’t come embarrassingly fast. He’s breathing slowly, deeply, so he won’t lose focus, his gaze fixed on Thorin’s chest, watching every rise and fall, no sounds escaping.

By now, Dwalin is so used to the other’s silence, he doesn’t even notice it anymore, but when he looks up, there are tears in Thorin’s eyes, threatening to escape; but when Dwalin tries to pull back, horrified by the implications, his spouse’s legs lock around his waist, keeping him right where he is.
There are no words, no sounds coming from Thorin, but Dwalin understand the meaning anyway, it’s a wordless plea, even if Dwalin can’t be sure what for.
But he’s Thorin’s spouse, he’s the one to take care of the other, to make sure he lacks for nothing, so Dwalin just thrusts back into the other, forcing the smallest of sounds from the prince’s lips.

 

(32)

When he wakes up the next morning, Thorin is still asleep for the first time since they were wed, dark hair spread out on the furs like a raven’s wings and his lips slightly parted. Dwalin does not move until he can feel the other wake, pretends to still be asleep, so that he will not scare Thorin, give him time to leave, should he want to.

But when Thorin rouses, he stays right where he is, just turns slightly, causing the soft furs to tickle Dwalin’s neck and shoulder. He gives the other another two, three minutes, before he opens his eyes, not pretending to have just woken, because he is tired of lying and tired of pretending.
Thorin is looking at him, although Dwalin can’t say if the other just looked over or has been watching him the entire time, and Dwalin just looks back, remembers how Thorin looked the night before, arching off the mattress, tears running down his cheeks as he came.

 

(33)

Dáin told them there would be no need to march on, not in the next few weeks, and yet he makes them leave the town they set up camp next to, some days later. It’s still cold, because they are heading further and further north, and Dwalin can hear the other dwarves grumble and groan with every step they take.
He doesn’t mind it much; he’s used to worse than this, even if the snow and ice makes his skin burn and his fingers ache with every movement. Thorin still wears his coat, snowflakes getting caught in the fur and in the long strands of his hair, and when he strides ahead, Dwalin sometimes watches him, thinks.

Nothing has changed between them since that night, Thorin still doesn’t speak, and Dwalin sometimes wonders if the other has forgotten how his own voice sounds already. And yet, Dwalin looks at his spouse differently, watches him more intently, because Thorin is a puzzle he can’t solve, even if he wants to.

Sometimes, when they’re in front of a fire, trying to soak up enough heat to last them a day, Dwalin thinks he sees Thorin looking back.

 

(34)

Two weeks pass until they set up camp again, and Thorin works quietly beside him; at this point, they have lost enough dwarves to make it impossible for even the king’s best warrior to idly sit by while others do his work. So Thorin and he put up their own tent, and while Dwalin hammers the pegs into the hard, frozen ground, he silently wonders how much farther Dáin will take them, if his king even knows when to stop and when to let them go.

For a prince, Thorin is skilled with his hands, so it doesn’t take long until their tent is standing, still cold inside, but when Dwalin enters, he can feel his body relaxing anyway, because at least the leather and cloth protects them from the icy wind.
Thorin follows a few moments later, Dwalin hears his footsteps, but doesn’t turn around. There is the soft rustle of what Dwalin thinks, are furs being laid out to make a bedstead, and he still doesn’t look, instead busies himself with taking off all weapons apart from the long, curved knife he always keeps on his belt, just to make sure.

There is more rustling, something falls down and makes a dull sound when it hits the floor and Dwalin finally turns, almost recoils when his eyes fall on Thorin’s form. The other hasn’t just covered the floor with soft, warm furs, but has taken off his own coat, his boots and breeches, the clothes forming a pile at his feet.
He must be freezing, and yet Thorin doesn’t falter, not even when his eyes lock with Dwalin’s, just shrugs off his leather vest, then pulls the woollen tunic over his head, mussing up the black mass of curls on his head. It leaves him in only his undershirt and his smallclothes and Dwalin, although he’s still unsure what to do and how to act, can feel his cock stirring in his breeches.

Thorin can’t know but seems to anyway, even if his face stays calm and collected, even while he pushes down his smallclothes, unlaces his undershirt and lets it fall of his shoulders; still, there is a hint of hunger in Thorin’s eyes, like he doesn’t want to do this, but has to, like he needs it.
He’s shivering slightly, but apart from that, Thorin doesn’t move a muscle, and although there are no words spoken, Dwalin knows the invitation for what it is.

For a few moments, he doesn’t move, although he knows that there is no way he would ever say no to this, especially since the memories of their last night together still make Dwalin’s cock twitch. But this is something strange and important and he needs to remember it, if he ever wants to figure out what it is that makes Thorin tick.

 

(35)

Dwalin doesn’t kiss the other that night either, just fucks Thorin hard and deep, until there are soft, breathless sounds spilling even from Thorin’s lips, until the former prince scratches his back until it’s bleeding.

 

(36)

It happens again the night before they leave their camp. Dwalin is sharpening one of his axes, lost in thought, when Thorin approaches him, mute and naked except for the undershirt clinging to his body, white and sheer enough Dwalin can make out the outline of his spouse’s cock when he looks up.

Thorin’s hair is hanging down to his shoulders, wild, untamed curls, his features are unmoved, but there is a certain fire burning in his eyes, almost making them glow; Dwalin doesn’t pay attention when he sets down his axe, not even considering to turn the offer down, and the sharp blade sinks into his palm, slices it open, but Dwalin hardly even notices.

 

(37)

When he pulls out of Thorin, there are blood-red smears all over the other’s body, all over Dwalin’s chest, and for the first time, Thorin doesn’t move away as far from him as possible, before he goes to sleep.

 

(38)

If Dáin takes pity on them, if his warm, comfortable tent gets too cold at night, if there truly is some business to attend to, Dwalin doesn’t know; what he knows is that their king finally starts to lead them south again. It doesn’t get any warmer for a long, long while, and yet, the company is in better spirits, just because of the thought of warmer climates, the hope to see spring again.
Even Dwalin feels his mood lifting the first time he feels the sun warm on his face, instead of just seeing its light, and although he can’t know Thorin’s thoughts, he hopes the other feels a little lighter too.

 

(39)

The first night after they see the first green leaves, after weeks of marching, it happens again. Thorin looks wild this time, even a few flickers of emotions on his handsome face when he pulls off his clothes almost hastily. He still folds them, just like the prince he is, was, but Dwalin can see the tremble of his hands, and wonders just what has made his spouse need this so much, the dwarf who still won’t talk, won’t even touch him apart from nights like this, when Thorin seems almost desperate to have Dwalin inside of him.

He complies, of course, and wonders just how far this affection he has undoubtedly built up for Thorin goes, if he still just respects him or if it’s something more. If he still regrets that they were ever married, or if he has found his peace.
Whatever the answer is, though, what is fact is that Dwalin follows Thorin to the spread out furs without hesitation, sinks down on them and resists the urge to kiss Thorin – it might be old-fashioned to stick to his mother’s beliefs, but Dwalin still hasn’t kissed a single dwarf or dwarrowdam he didn’t cherish, and who didn’t return the sentiment.

Instead, he pushes Thorin down, by now knowing that the other won’t be satisfied with gentle touches, and rucks his nightshirts up under Thorin’s arms, roughly mouths at his spouse’s nipples. They harden, and Dwalin nips at first one, then the other, always hoping that something will make Thorin moan – although he is sure the other enjoys their trysts, Dwalin still misses the sounds of moans and pleas.
Thorin’s breath doesn’t even hitch, he just stays motionless on the furs, waits for Dwalin to grab the oil and move his fingers to where the other needs them, between his legs. He doesn’t waste any time, just presses one of them into Thorin and listens to his breathing stopping, pulls it out and pushes it back in, to hear Thorin gasp.

It’s as much noise as his spouse will make, Dwalin knows that, so he relishes in every gasp which falls from Thorin’s lips while he slowly opens him up, adding finger after finger, until the other’s hole is clenched tightly around four of them, until Thorin is shaking with need.
He hardly ever gives his spouse what he wants before that point, enjoys the teasing too much to let it go; Thorin suffers, but Dwalin doubts it’s too much to take.

Perhaps it’s cruel, but Dwalin still gives Thorin two or three more thrusts until he finally pulls his fingers out, wipes them on the other’s nightshirt so he won’t ruin the furs, then puts Thorin’s legs over his shoulders. By now, it’s a well-practiced dance, and Dwalin lets his gaze linger on Thorin’s face when he pushes in, groaning when Thorin is as tight and as slick as he remembered him to be.
Although he can almost feel how impatient his spouse is, Dwalin still waits for a few moments to let Thorin get used to the stretch, the fullness, before he starts fucking him in earnest.

Long, deep thrusts work best, Dwalin has found out, make Thorin shiver and bite his lips, a sign that he would make sounds, if he only let himself. For Dwalin, it’s enough, at least for now, and he tries to keep his pace, his force, tries to draw it out, even if every thrust feels like heaven, Thorin’s insides clutching him tightly.
His spouse beneath him is moving with him just slightly, something he just started to do the last time, and Dwalin wraps his hand around Thorin’s cock, spreads precome with a calloused thumb, before he loosens his grip to let the other fuck up into his fist.
Thorin doesn’t seem to understand for a few moments, just stares up at Dwalin with wide, blue eyes, which seem to have lost some of the cold they once held, but then Dwalin fucks into him again, forces his hips to lift up further, and Dwalin can see the pleasure sparking in Thorin’s eyes.

There is a breathless second, and then Thorin moans, a soft, quiet sound, choked and hoarse, and yet the sweetest thing Dwalin has heard in what seems like a lifetime. Without thinking, he thrusts into the other again, hopefully not too hard and not too fast, and Thorin snaps his hips upwards.
Dwalin doesn’t dare to hope for everything – after all, the other was good enough to hide every other moan and gasps from him, and there is no reason why he shouldn’t continue doing so – but Thorin makes another sound, almost a moan but not quite.

It shouldn’t matter so much, but it does, and with Thorin clenching around him, his moans and almost-moans filling the air, Dwalin can feel himself getting closer and closer, every single trust pulling some sort of groan from his lips.
Thorin is still thrusting into his fist, his muscles fluttering every time Dwalin’s palm slides across his cock, and the effect is devastating for both of them; although Dwalin can’t claim to know his spouse as well as he would like to, he can see that Thorin is close too, feel it.

He tries and fucks into Thorin harder the next time, picks up the rhythm a bit, and Thorin sucks in a sharp breath and thrusts up into Dwalin’s hand harder too, reaches up to scratch at Dwalin’s back, and comes after just a few more thrusts, coating Dwalin’s hand with his seed.
Whatever pleasure is coursing through Thorin’s veins, it makes his muscles contract harder, makes him moan and buck his hips up to let Dwalin’s fist milk even the last drops of come from him; the mixture is enough to push Dwalin over the edge as well.

His orgasm is more intense than any he can remember having in the last decades, wrecking through him and leaving no inch of skin, no fibre of flesh untouched, making it hard to breathe. He might be moaning Thorin’s name, Dwalin isn’t sure of that, while he rides his orgasm out in his spouse’s body, forgetting about everything but the two of them for a few, blissful seconds.

 

(40)

For the first time, Dwalin doesn’t roll off the other immediately, but instead stays on top of Thorin, his cock softening inside of his spouse, while Dwalin looks down, wishes he knew just what it means that he wants to kiss Thorin that much.

 

 

(41)

Dwalin has ever been good with emotions, neither with his own, nor anyone else’s, so he isn’t surprised when it takes another month or two and another three nights they spend together, like a married couple should, until he realises what it is that makes Thorin come back to his bed every time.
The other hasn’t spoken more than a few words, all of them being yes and no, hasn’t been in contact with anyone but Dwalin for so long, and although Dwalin can’t be sure, he thinks that Thorin might be lonely.
Dwalin has never been one for sentiment, but even he knows that after battle, after great losses, it is good just to know that someone else is there, someone who cares. His spouse doesn’t have the luxury of having brothers in arms around him, not even a family to fall back to – and Dwalin knows he is still grieving, might always be, for the rest of his life – so it would make sense that he’d search for that comfort through sex.

The thought makes Dwalin’s heart break a little, and he’s all too willing to give Thorin what he needs, but it doesn’t seem like enough; physical proximity is one thing, but it can’t be enough, touches can’t make up for kind words.
And so Dwalin starts talking.

It’s strange at first, because there are no answers – Thorin only looks at him with curious, blue eyes, as if he was trying to determine if his spouse had completely lost his mind now – but Dwalin still continues. He talks about the weather and about how he made their tent with his own two hands, hunted down deer and skinned them, cut the leather into pieced and sewed them together to keep them warm now, he talks about spring and that he is glad they aren’t heading north anymore.
Once, he mentions that he thinks Dáin might not know where they are going, and thinks he sees a hint of surprise in Thorin’s eyes.

 

(42)

“Do you see those mountains?” Dwalin points at a faint outline, a light grey just like the name calls them; Thorin doesn’t answer, because he never does, but he looks up, his gaze following Dwalin’s arm, and that’s enough. “Ered Mithrim. The Grey Mountains. I grew up there, even if it feels as if a century passed since then.”
Dwalin pauses, lets a few, well-chosen memories return to him, before he continues. Talking to Thorin, even if the other won’t answer, is soothing. “Me and my brother… I used to think I’d never leave there. Or at least always come back.”

By now, he doesn’t think so anymore; he doesn’t even know if he could still look his mother in the eye, thinking about all the dwarves and men and elves he killed, about all the blood he has shed. Still, sometimes Dwalin thinks about it, about the smell of his mother’s homebrewed ale and the cool mist on his face in the mornings.

He doesn’t tell Thorin any of it.

 

(43)

Two days later, battle finds them.
They passed the Grey Mountains without ever touching them, even if Dwalin can still see them whenever he turns around; he feels glad and disappointed at the same time. After all, they were home once.
It’s peaceful all around them, though, the air crisp and sweet when he breathes in, and even his ever–frowning spouse seems as if the taste of fresh water is lightening his mood. In hindsight, Dwalin thinks he should have known, because there is always war, where Dáin is.

They catch them off guard, which is hard, or should be hard, and Dwalin wakes up to screams all around. It’s a good thing, though, gives him the half of a minute he needs to grab the long, sharp dagger he keeps beside their heads.
Not a second too early, because it’s only moments until two dwarf burst through the flaps of the tent, both heavily armed and still looking clueless.
Maybe they’re from Ered Mithrim, Dwalin doesn’t know and doesn’t have time to ask, before he gets up and blocks one of the dwarves’ first attack, uses his strength to knock the axe out of his hands. It all only takes a few seconds, then Dwalin thrusts his knife up, through the intruder’s jaw, up into his skull, his brain.

Blood coats his hands before he even pulls out the blade, gushes from the wound once he has done so, and Dwalin leaves the dying, drowning dwarf behind, focusses on the other. Maybe it’s fear which makes him quicker, more dangerous, but he manages to draw his blade across Dwalin’s arm, blood seeping from the cut.
He hardly feels the burn, the adrenaline keeping everything far, far away from him, and it’s a good thing, because in one, last, desperate attempt, he tries to turn, takes half a step in Thorin’s direction, who, vulnerable like he is, has stayed on their mass of pelts.
Even while he still raises his weapon, Dwalin thrusts his knife into his side, just beneath the ribcage, thanking Mahal for letting this fool of a smith use leather for the sides of the armour. The blade slides through it smoothly, and Dwalin twists it when it’s stuck half inside the dwarf, the pushes it in the rest of the way.

Thorin still hasn’t moved, and Dwalin is almost afraid to meet his eye, knowing that, not too long ago, the former prince still wanted to die, but he does so still, letting the dying, choking, crying dwarf sink to his knees next to him.
His spouse looks at him, unmoving, and Dwalin finds no fear in his eyes, still blue in the twilight, but no disappointment either.

 

(44)

They do not go to sleep again, although the sun has not yet risen, because Thorin doesn’t break their eye contact, just pushes the blanket off his body and starts unlacing his nightshirt.

 

(45)

When Thorin comes apart underneath him for the third time, there are birds singing outside, greeting the new day, and Dwalin strokes his spouse’s cock with come-slick fingers until Thorin’s hips have stopped moving. The other is just lying there, his face turned to the side, and Dwalin is exhausted to the point where his limbs seem to be impossibly heavy, but he still reaches out with his clean hand, traces Thorin’s jaw, brushes a strand of jet-black hair away.
The other turns, his eyes hooded and distant, but not cold anymore; when Thorin doesn’t pull away, Dwalin keeps his hand right where it is for a few moments longer, before he lays down next to his spouse.

Thorin’s head turns again, in time with his movements, and for a few, long moments, they just look at each other, Thorin’s skin illuminated by the dim light coming from the torn flap of their tent. The Dwalin slowly slides his hand into the space between them, turns it so the palm is facing to the sky; if Thorin wanted to take it, he could.

He never does, but instead puts his hand right next to Dwalin’s, their fingertips touching, and for now, that is enough.

 

(46)

The next morning, Dwalin hands Thorin a knife, neither as sharp nor as well-made as his own, but enough of a weapon for the other to protect himself with. Part of him is yelling at him to take it back, because he cannot trust Thorin to this extent already, giving his spouse a weapon could mean both their deaths, but Dwalin silences it.
There is something about Thorin’s expression, something about his eyes and his eyes when they were attacked which tells him that the other is still the prince he always was, that he won’t kill himself now, just like he didn’t kill himself before. And there was something in their touches the night before, their urgency and occasional passion, the gentleness of their hands between them, brushing against each other with each of their breaths, which makes Dwalin believe the other won’t try to kill him either.

Or maybe, that is just wishful thinking, because somewhere between frenzied fucking and long, long glances and one-sided conversations and cold, blue eyes, Dwalin realises, he has grown far too fond of a dwarf who won’t even speak to him. And yet, he is willing to take that risk, if only, because Thorin’s blue, blue eyes widen slightly when Dwalin puts the knife into his hands, as if he couldn’t believe it.

 

(47)

Dáin is as unfazed by the attack as Dwalin was sure he would be, sitting in his tent, gold and treasure spread out around him. He orders them to burn the bodies, and Dwalin does what his king tells him, carries the bodies away from the camp and gives them to the flames, a few other warriors helping him.
Their king does not show his face once, and although Dwalin has always been loyal to Dáin, he can feel the disgust rising in his throat, making him feel sick.

 

(48)

They don’t go on the next day, nor the one afterwards, and Dwalin is glad for it, because he likes it here, the Grey Mountains looming over them at a distance, just far enough away for them to feel comforting, but not overwhelming.

On the third day, when there is nothing to do, Dwalin sets out into the woods, either to hunt or just look at a scenery which is almost familiar; he is about to leave when he hears quiet footsteps behind him, feels Thorin’s presence before he sees the other next to him.
“Will you join me?”, Dwalin asks and prevents any kind of emotion from seeping into his voice, not sure how Thorin would react to it. He expects a nod, maybe, most likely nothing at all, but Thorin shifts beside him, then says, “Yes.”

Thorin’s voice is hoarse, because he hardly used it, and yet it’s such a sweet sound to Dwalin’s ears, and although he maybe shouldn’t, he can’t help but turn around, look at Thorin. The other looks back at him, as if he knew that just how surprised Dwalin would be, and although he knows that it might not be what Thorin wants, needs, he can’t help but smile.
“Very well. I hope you feel getting blood on your hands today.”

 

(49)

The forest is quiet and yet thrumming with life, and Dwalin soaks it up; dwarves are made of earth and clay, and yet Dwalin has always enjoyed walking under the sun and stars. Beside him, Thorin seems to be at ease, not quiet but attentive.
For once, it’s a situation where there shouldn’t be talk, so it feels natural to just walk side by side; if Dwalin had ever thought he would get married, he might have imagined it like this.

 

(50)

They arrive back at camp a few hours later; neither of them has spoken, but Dwalin is carrying a deer twice his size over his shoulder. They found it on a meadow, and Dwalin had promised his spouse blood, so he delivered, killing it with two quick arrows to his flank.
He skins it in front of their tent, and although he hasn’t asked for help, Thorin is right beside him, cutting through skin and tissue with the knife Dwalin has given him. They do not speak, and yet they work well together, finish just before the sun is setting.

Dwalin brings the meat to the cooks, but keeps the skin to tan, ignoring Thorin’s raised eyebrow, his surprise.

 

(51)

That night, Dwalin drinks and laughs, because a whole deer makes a feast for a good number of dwarves; Thorin stays at his side just long enough to eat his share of meat, drink a cup of ale. He leaves without a word, just a glance, and Dwalin is disappointed, feels like something is wrong, and yet, he doesn’t follow.
Thorin has never spent this much time with him before, at least not by his own free will, and while Dwalin wants to push, he doesn’t. They have been moving so slowly until now, and he’d rather have them take one small step forward than two back, because he is too drunk and wants too much.

And yet, after Thorin leaves, Dwalin doesn’t stay much longer either, missing the quiet presence at his side enough he follows Thorin to their tent only half an hour later. The deer’s skin is soaking in a barrel next to the entrance, and Dwalin gives it a quick look before he pushes the tent flap aside, his eyes needing a moment to adjust to the darkness, and in hindsight, Dwalin is glad for that short moment of peace still.
Thorin is sitting on the floor, facing away from Dwalin, but he jerks when he realises he is not alone anymore, lets out a pained gasp.

A second passes.

And then Dwalin sees the blood.

 

(52)

His first thought is that he’s been wrong, that Thorin, the dwarf he has spent all day with, his spouse, thinks his life so unbearable that he would rather end it than endure it for another day. He thinks about how he thought Thorin was coming to terms with this new life, was starting to grow fond of him, just like Dwalin looked at the other with nothing but affection nowadays.

But then Thorin turns, and his eyes do not look like they are about to lose their light, and Dwalin’s eyes fall from the other’s down to his arm, which is smeared with blood, but even in the dim light of the candles Thorin has lit, Dwalin can see that those are not the cuts of someone trying to slice the life out of his body; they’re delicate, precise cuts, some of them swirls, some straight lines, some connected and some on their own.
They’re runes, which Thorin is trying to etch into his skin forever, and after a few moments, Dwalin recognises the beginnings of his father’s name, carved red onto pale skin.

Thorin does not offer an explanation, but Dwalin hasn’t expected one, doesn’t need one, because he knows that, if it was him in the other’s stead, he would do the same thing, try and honour his long lost family by making sure they won’t ever leave him.

Dwalin steps forward, gently takes hold of Thorin’s arm and inspects it, finds the cuts just deep enough to cause scars, harmless. He breathes a sigh of relief, and lets go again, leaves the knife in Thorin’s hands, even if he doesn’t want it there.
“I can mark your skin, if you want me to”, Dwalin offers, and Thorin looks at him, as if he was surprised to meet kindness, and not anger after doing such a thing.

It seems to take forever, but then, he nods.

 

(53)

Dwalin brings a bowl of water, a few clean bandages and cleans the blood from Thorin’s wounds, impossibly glad that he came here in time, didn’t let Thorin hurt himself more. The cuts are all precise and shallow, but they bleed heavily, so Dwalin has to take his time, wiping more and more red from Thorin’s arms, trying to soothe the sting from the cloth with his fingers stroking Thorin’s wrist.
It’s so strange, because they have spent night after night together and yet this feels like one of the most intimate things they have ever done.

Once the wounds have stopped bleeding, he wraps Thorin’s wrist in soft, white cloth, secures the straps safely around it, and only just stops himself from pressing a kiss to the other’s wrist as well.

 

(54)

Thorin’s back is pale, almost gleams in the light of the moon, when Dwalin pulls back the flap of their tent so he will see better. It would be the best thing to wait till the morning, but Dwalin can see the restlessness in his spouse’s eyes, knows that, should he not fulfil his promise now, Thorin would try to take a knife to his flesh again.
So Dwalin gathered his supplies, ink, the small hammer and the metal needle he would drive into the other’s flesh with it, and told the other to pick a spot, a patch of skin, because there was no way Dwalin would mark his arm, etch dark lines over the cuts there.

The other had turned his back and at first, Dwalin had thought he had offended the other; then Thorin had started to unlace his tunic, let it slip past his shoulders, and he had understood. It was a good place, enough space and a smooth surface, and yet Dwalin had hesitated, because he knew how much it would hurt, how much Thorin would want to scream.
He had asked if Thorin was sure, and the other had nodded, had hung his head so his mass of black hair cascaded down his shoulders, hiding his face, and Dwalin had put his hand on Thorin’s shoulder for a moment to let his spouse know he understood.

And yet he still hasn’t started, hasn’t put his hand on Thorin again; not because he is afraid of hurting the other, when his spouse so obviously wants to be hurt, no. But because he does not know what names to write onto Thorin’s skin and does not know just how to ask for them.
In the end, Dwalin does what he does best, doesn’t think, but instead acts, asks, “Will you tell me their names, Thorin?”
It should be his choice, like everything should have been his choice from the very beginning, and Dwalin doesn’t want to take it from him.

There is a pause, so long that the air seems to turn thick and slow, but then Thorin shifts ever so slightly, speaks with a voice Dwalin didn’t think he’d ever hear speak more than a word a time.
“Thrain. Thror. Frerin. Dís. Vìli. Fíli. Kíli.”
His voice is quiet and broken and hoarse, it’s just names he is speaking, but Mahal, it’s enough for Dwalin.

 

(55)

He starts with the names he presumes to be the ones of Thorin’s nephews, not because he knows them, but because his spouse’s voice grew a little softer, a little sadder still when he spoke them out-loud. If Thorin loved them so, then Dwalin wants them to be closest to his head and heart, puts Kíli’s name right between Thorin’s shoulder blades, the runes running down his spine, his brother’s name following just after it.
The pain has to be intense, because Dwalin does his best to even out the lines, to make them dark and sharp against Thorin’s sweet, pale skin, which means he drives the needle into the other’s flesh twice, thrice as often. It surely will be worth it in the end, but that doesn’t mean that Thorin isn’t in more pain that Dwalin wants to imagine now.

And yet, the other does not say a word, does not make a sound, just endures, even when Dwalin lets his hands trail further, finishing his sister’s name, starting with his brother’s.

By the time Dwalin has finished the last rune, there is sweat pouring down Thorin’s back, making it hard to keep the needle from slipping, so Dwalin gives the other a break, fetching a cloth and a bit of water to clean Thorin up, but taking twice as long as he would need to. Surely the other notices, knows, but neither of them comments on it; Thorin just takes the cup of water Dwalin hands him, lets him clean the blood and sweat off his skin, not even hissing at the sting.

 

(56)

When Dwalin pulls his needle out of his lover’s flesh for the last time, the sun is rising, and Thorin is trembling, his skin gleaming with sweat and blood.
“It’s all over”, Dwalin mutters softly, closing his tired eyes for a few seconds, before he starts to wipe away the blood and ink and sweat for the last time, making sure to be as gentle as he possibly can be. Thorin relaxes visibly, tightly strung muscles loosening up under Dwalin’s hands, and Dwalin can’t help but breathe a sigh of relief, stroke a hand over Thorin’s shoulders, a soft, gentle touch, which means nothing but to soothe, to comfort.

“You did well”, Dwalin adds, after a few moments, reaches for the soft, clean bandages he prepared and starts wrapping them around Thorin’s chest and back, making sure that the wounds will not get infected. Doing so brings him close, so close to Thorin that it’s impossible to resist to press a kiss to his spouse’s neck, nothing more than a touch of lips, and yet, Dwalin thinks he feels Thorin suck in a breath.
“And they would be proud, all of them.”

Thorin doesn’t answer, but he doesn’t pull away when Dwalin keeps his arms around him longer than he would have to.

 

(57)

They go to bed when everyone else rises, Dwalin on his back and Thorin on his stomach, because every touch to his back makes him hiss; he falls asleep within a few minutes, but Dwalin stays awake for much longer, watches his spouse breathe in and out, in and out.

 

(58)

When Dwalin wakes up again, eyes fluttering open, and Thorin is already awake. He’s still lying on his front, but his blue eyes are open, his gaze resting on Dwalin’s face, but his expression is unreadable, maybe a little curious.
“Good morning”, Dwalin greets, rolling onto his side to look at Thorin better, letting his hand rest close to the other’s shoulder. “How is your back, spouse?”
Thorin doesn’t speak, but his face twitches a little, slightly pained and slightly exhausted, and it’s as much answer as Dwalin needs. He feels himself smiling despite himself, brushes his fingertips over Thorin’s skin, before he sits up.

“Stay”, Dwalin doesn’t quite order, just suggests, while he gets up and starts to rummage through one of the trunks they brought with them. He finds the small jar of salve he was searching for and carries it over to Thorin, who has stayed right where he was.
“This might help”, Dwalin explains, kneels down next to his spouse and gets the jar open, gathers some on his hands. It’s the same which he used when he was marked the last time, runes running across his skull, and he can remember the cool sensation, the relief when the pain started to fade.
“I will have to touch you”, he warns, only a moment before he puts his hands on Thorin, and the other nods almost unnoticeably.

The marks, once Dwalin has uncovered them, are as black as they should be, sharp and defined, and Dwalin tries hard not to touch them too roughly, too much, and yet rubs the ointment into Thorin’s skin, tries to soothe every hiss with a soft touch.

 

(59)

Thorin spends the day in the tent, because every movement surely still hurts, and Dwalin keeps him company most of the time, sharpening knifes and axes and cleaning the skin from the deer they killed. Sometimes the other watches, sometime he doesn’t, and Dwalin likes both, likes how they can just be close to each other and how it means everything and nothing at all.

 

(60)

“I do not know their fate.”
At first, Dwalin thinks he has already asleep, but his eyes are open, and when he turns around to face Thorin, the other is looking straight ahead, as if he couldn’t bear looking at Dwalin. His voice is soft and hoarse and the most beautiful thing Dwalin has ever heard.
“They could still be alive somewhere, and I wouldn’t know because you- because they took me from them.”

There is the pain in his voice which Dwalin has always suspected to lurk inside of Thorin, intense and almost overpowering, anger and bitterness, but there is also just a hint of hope, as if the other really believed that his nephews are still alive. Dwalin doesn’t, but he stays silent, because he won’t take that hope from him.
“I hated- they were not my sons, but they could have been. They could have been.”
Dwalin doesn’t say anything, because he doesn’t know what could help his spouse, instead acts on an impulse he had so many times before, reaches out and threads a hand into Thorin’s long, dark hair and turns the other’s head around, brings their lips together.

It’s their first kiss, but does not feel like a first kiss should feel like; it’s not sweet and not tentative, but slow and deep, because they know each other to long now to still be unsure.
Thorin kisses back, although Dwalin would never have thought it possible, tilts his head a little more so he can deepen the kiss, licking into Dwalin’s mouth. He’s a good kisser, and Dwalin smiles against his lips, nips on them, and concentrates on the warmth spreading in his chest, on Thorin kissing him like he had waited just as long as Dwalin to do so.

 

(61)

They break the kiss, but hardly move, don’t speak. Dwalin’s fingers stay right where they are, brushing lightly through Thorin’s hair until he finally falls asleep.

 

(62)

Dáin summons him the next morning and Dwalin expects the worst, but it doesn’t come. The king doesn’t even mention his spouse, as if he has completely forgotten about Thorin’s existence, just asks about troop strength, about their stocks and the state of their weapons. Dwalin replies to every question honestly, even if he sees that Dáin does not like the answers he is getting.

 

(63)

Thorin is still asleep when Dwalin comes back half an hour later, and so Dwalin doesn’t enter the tent, just looks inside for a second, before he goes to bring the deer skin to a village not too far away, pays a tanner so he can soak his skin in one of the big barrels of limewash.
The man looks down at him, but there is a shadow of fear in his eyes; having Dáin’s horde of dwarves in front of their gates would make everyone fear for their lives. So Dwalin hands him another coin of gold and promises to come back in a week.

 

(64)

That night Dwalin rubs the same ointment on Thorin’s back again, the other on lying on the furs, his eyes closed. He looks relaxed and Dwalin loves it, lets his knuckles brush down Thorin’s back, just a whisper of a touch, every so often.
When he finishes, Thorin’s breathing is slow and deep, steady, and it takes Dwalin a few moments to realise that the other has fallen asleep.

 

(65)

It becomes almost a little ritual between them, and when Dwalin comes back from gathering his tanned deer skin, Thorin is already waiting for him on their furs.
“Good evening”, Dwalin greets him, and Thorin turns to look at him, doesn’t give him a smile, but Dwalin does it for him instead.

He takes off his coat, his knuckledusters, puts down the axe from his belt, and then kneels down next to is spouse. Whether Thorin has put it there already or Dwalin has forgotten to put it away the night before, the little jar of salve is still next to their bed, so Dwalin scoops some of it into his hands, starts to rub it on the princes’ names on the top of Thorin’s neck in small circles.
By now, the markings aren’t as tender as they used to be, so there is no hissing, no flinching, instead Thorin just relaxes slowly under Dwalin’s hands.

And Dwalin says something he should have said months ago.
“I’m sorry.” His voice is soft and tender, his hands keep running over the other’s skin. “For everything that has happened, for Erebor and for your family.”
Thorin doesn’t say a thing and Dwalin pauses, because the next words are more difficult to speak, almost difficult to think.
“…and I am sorry that you were married off against your will, in the way everything happened. You deserved better.”

Thorin’s muscles tense under his palms, he stops breathing, and Dwalin dares to hope, leans down to drop a kiss to the other’s shoulder, trying to soothe him.
“I do not wish that we had never been married, but I wish we had met another way.”
He hopes that the words were the right ones, said enough but not too much; Thorin relaxes, but doesn’t answer immediately, until Dwalin can feel his usually hardened and steady heart falter.

“Thank you”, his beautiful, broken, healing spouse answers, and Dwalin’s heart starts beating again. He keeps his hands on the other, even when Thorin starts to sit up, turns to face him; Dwalin’s hands end up resting on Thorin’s bare chest, and he’s mesmerised.
Thorin’s eyes have always been cold, from icy to cool, but now they are soft and they are warm, as if Dwalin has broken down some barrier he hasn’t been able to even scratch until now.
“Thank you”, Thorin repeats, and Dwalin keeps his eyes on the other the entire time, lets Thorin push him down on the soft furs, straddle him.

It has never happened before, back when it was just fucking, they it was always from behind, nowadays, Dwalin always takes him on his back, so he can watch his face, but this is different. This is Thorin taking what he wants, what he needs, and Dwalin is glad to give him everything.

 

(66)

Thorin rises and falls, rises and falls, and Dwalin’s eyes are only on him. He’s almost in a kind of trance, the rest of the world having molten away and disappeared, there is only them and the slide of skin against skin, flesh against flesh.
One of Dwalin’s hands is resting on his spouse’s hip, not guiding him, because this is about Thorin, just keeping him steady, keeping him there, and Dwalin squeezes slightly, making Thorin look down at him.

He’s beautiful, more so now than he ever was before, and Dwalin’s heart aches in the best way, almost makes him forget about the pleasure when Thorin sinks down on his cock again. The other’s eyes are wild, dazed with pleasure, but he sees Dwalin still, leans down, which makes Dwalin’s cock slide deeper inside him.
It makes both of them groan, gasp, and Thorin leans down to kiss him; by now, Dwalin has forgotten how to count the kisses they have shared.

 

(67)

Thorin pulls off him, and Dwalin keeps watching him as if he didn’t know how to look away anymore. They have never gone to sleep with more than their fingertips touching, Dwalin’s fingers stroking Thorin’s hair, but now Thorin lays down next to him, lets Dwalin pull the furs they use as cover over both of them, waits until Dwalin has settled down once more until he inches closer, slowly as if he half expected Dwalin to push him away again.
He doesn’t, of course not, and when Thorin stops moving, his head is pillowed on Dwalin’s chest, his hair spread out all around them. There are a hundred words fluttering around Dwalin’s head, but he doesn’t speak any of them out loud, just wraps an arm around Thorin and pulls him closer, feels his spouse fall asleep.

And with one of Thorin’s hands resting just above his heart, Dwalin finally, belatedly, realises he’s in love.

 

(68)

His spouse wakes like he falls asleep, slowly, and Dwalin watches him. They are not as close as they were when falling asleep anymore, but Thorin’s arm is still draped over his chest, his back and its dark marks revealed where the furs have slid down.
Eyes fluttering open, Thorin looks up at him, pulls away slightly, as if on impulse when he recognises Dwalin, but stays in the end. He does not smile, still doesn’t, but Dwalin is willing to wait.

 

(69)

The leather is as smooth and strong as Dwalin has hoped it would be, and he spends almost a week working on the sheath for Thorin’s dagger, even if he knows that he could have it finished in three days. But it’s Thorin, and although they have been married for so long, it’s the first present he will make the other; old, battered coats definitely do not count.
And so it has to be perfect.

Sometimes, he can see Thorin watching him work, but the other never asks and Dwalin never lets him see what he is doing; it should be a surprise after all.

 

(70)

When it’s finished, the sheath is a thing of beauty, a large sapphire emblazoned on the front, the crest of Durin just below it, the emblem made out of precious metals. It’s good work, and Dwalin knows that, should Thorin want to wear it, it would be a thing to last a lifetime.
He could give it to the other in person, watch Thorin’s face for signs of how he likes it, but that’s not who he is and not who Thorin is either, so Dwalin doesn’t.
Instead, he puts the sheath down on their bed when he leaves the next day and Thorin is still blissfully asleep, his face invisible underneath all his black hair.

 

(71)

Thorin never says a thing, but he wears the sheath when Dwalin sees him the next time. The dagger fits inside of it just as well as Dwalin thought it would, and Dwalin’s heart swells a little in his chest, fills him up until he thinks it will burst.

 

(72)

There are things to organise, a campaign against a town close to them to plan, because Dáin wants gold and more gold, so Dwalin only sees his spouse again in the evening. Although Thorin spends less time than he used to in their tent, he still spends almost all evenings there, reading the few books Dwalin has in his possession again and again, so Dwalin isn’t surprised to see the other perched on a stool, a thick book in his hands, bound in leather.
Thorin looks up when Dwalin enters, and Dwalin smiles, puts down his weapons and coat, sets them aside.

“Good evening, spouse”, he greets and Thorin nods, doesn’t set down his book, though, so Dwalin just gets one of his grindstones and sits down next to Thorin, starts sharpening his axes, even if they do not need it. By now, it’s mainly a ritual to end the day, to calm him down, and Dwalin easily loses himself in the rhythm, the monotony of it, until he hardly notices it anymore when Thorin gets up, puts the book away.
His joints are aching pleasantly and Dwalin knows that he could cut a man’s throat with the blade of his axe like butter, when Thorin sits down next to him once more, closer this time. It’s what makes Dwalin look up, the sudden motion, and Thorin is so close that Dwalin almost thinks he can feel his touch.

Without thinking, Dwalin puts down his axe, the grindstone and just looks at Thorin, who is looking back.
“When I was a dwarfling, my father once brought me with him on a trip somewhere not far from here”, Thorin says, and his voice is still hoarse, his words carefully pronounced and spoken clearly; Dwalin does not know what he has done to deserve this. “It was the first time I rode a pony, and I remember being so scared.”

It’s not just words, Dwalin realises after a few seconds, this is Thorin repaying kindness with kindness, giving Dwalin the one thing he still calls his own and he is still free to give, his past, his thoughts, his mind. Himself.

“My mother taught me how to sharpen axes. I used to be hopeless at it, always got the angle wrong and ruined more than I improved until she gave me a blunt axe which had belonged to my great-grandfather for my birthday. I continued trying until I managed to sharpen it.”
It’s not as significant, just a memory Dwalin thought of easiest, but Dwalin tells it to the other anyway, and Thorin watches him, his eyes soft and bright and not cold anymore, like thawed ice. He understands.

“I never knew my mother well.”
Dwalin did not expect an answer, one small memory would have been more than enough for him, but Thorin answers, adds another bit of his former life. “She died giving birth to my brother. I was only a few years old.”
It’s a sad story Thorin tells, but he doesn’t sound sad, instead speaks with a sense of wonder, as if he could not believe this is happening, as if he had forgotten the sound of his voice. “My father would keep a painting of her in our rooms nonetheless.”

Dwalin takes a moment to try and picture Thorin’s mother; in his mind, she has the same dark hair as his spouse, the same clear blue eyes.
“I have not spoken to my mother for six decades”, he says slowly after another few seconds, because it’s something so, so personal, something he is not proud of. “She did not want another of her sons joining Dáin’s army, but I was not to be swayed… so she told me, if I left the house now, I should not bother to come back. And I was still young and brash and left without thinking about it twice. I never went back.”
Maybe he expects something in Thorin’s eyes to change, but it doesn’t, the other keeps looking at him with the same steady gaze, as if he was thinking, no disgust hidden in his face.

“You chose to follow Dáin?”, he asks, and Dwalin wouldn’t be able to blame him if he left; choosing Dáin, who inflicted so much pain on the other must sound like the worst thing there is.
“I did. And I do not regret it.”
“You don’t? I have seen you and him together. You do not agree with him. You know what he did to me, what he did to so many.” There should be anger in Thorin’s voice, but Dwalin hears none, just hears disbelief, hears disappointment.
“I don’t. Dáin hasn’t always been this way, he used to be just, kind, and he showed me so many places, so many people and so many things I wouldn’t have seen without him. He used to be my friend rather than my king, and I could not ever regret following a friend.” Dwalin pauses, sends a prayer that Thorin will understand. “But you are right, we disagree. On many things, on how to wage war and why, on the treatment of troops and on the importance of treasure. We disagreed on the treatment of your family and we disagreed, disagree, on you. And if I had to choose again, now, I wouldn’t declare this Dáin as my king.”

It’s as good an explanation as Dwalin can give, and when he stops speaking, Thorin’s eyes are still on him, still blue, still clear, but more guarded now.
“I understand”, he says, and starts to get up, and Dwalin, who never meant to push, never meant to take, reaches out and stops him, pulls the other down again. His hand is wrapped around Thorin’s wrist and Dwalin keeps it there, even if he loosens his grip, strokes his fingers over his spouse’s pulse.
“You don’t”, he mutters, and Thorin looks at him in a way which makes Dwalin feel as if these next words will decide their whole future. “If I had to choose whom to follow once more, I’d follow you.”

He lets go of Thorin’s wrist, one finger at a time, leaves the choice if he wants to stay to the other.
And Thorin stays.

 

(73)

They do not sleep together that night, but instead talk until the sun rises again, and Dwalin, who had gotten so used to Thorin’s silence, realises just how much he enjoys the sound of his spouse’s voice.

 

(74)

Dwalin smells blood, feels it slick on his skin and tastes it on his parted lips, and remembers why he became a warrior in the first place.
The town Dáin wanted is in front of them, vulnerable and ready for the taking, all its men on the battlefield fighting or dying, and Dwalin shouldn’t want to kill but he does, loves the sound of metal against metal when he slices the next man’s feeble armour apart, lets his intestines spill to the ground.
This is what he was born for, what he is good at, and Dwalin swings his axe once more, cuts off he arm of one of the men around him and slices into the flank of another. It’s a thrill like nothing else, the adrenaline pumping through his veins, his heart racing, every of his sense’s sharpened, and for a few moments, it’s enough to make Dwalin forget that every day he spends at Dáin’s side makes him question his loyalty more.

 

(75)

It’s a tradition as old as their culture itself, to bring your spouse a gift you have taken from the corpse of one of your enemies, and so Dwalin brings back a ring for Thorin, with an aquamarine that has the colour of the other’s eyes, cased in gold and splinters of diamonds.
The ring is a beautiful thing, but it would be nothing fit for a king, not even a prince, but Thorin is no prince anymore, and Dwalin no king.

When they return from the battlefield, it’s dark and Dwalin is exhausted and yet still thrumming with bloodlust; Thorin is still awake and waiting in their tent. He looks weary, and Dwalin guesses that the other could hear the cries from the battlefield; he catches himself hoping that Thorin worried for his safety, for him.
“Good evening”, he greets softly, and Thorin shoots up, looking up at Dwalin with warm, blue eyes.
“You are back.”
“Yes.”
Dwalin does as he always does, puts away his axes and takes off his armour, cleans the blood off his hands and face with a tunic lying close by. His spouse does not get up, stays on the small stool he favours these days, and Dwalin doesn’t mind at all, instead just joins Thorin, kneeling down next to him.

“Have you won?”, Thorin asks, and it’s a wonder that Dwalin is so familiar with his voice already, even if the other has only just started speaking again.
“Have you ever doubted it?” Dwalin is smiling, and Thorin almost smiles back, just a hint of a curve stretching his lips.
“Of course not.” If Thorin looked weary before, he is relaxed now, if tired. On his knees, there is an open book, and Dwalin reaches over to close it, almost expecting Thorin to protest; he doesn’t. “I know by now that you are unstoppable when you have set your mind to something.”
Dwalin wants to hear affection in the other’s words, so he does, reaches out to take one of Thorin’s hands in his and holds it for a moment, before he puts the small ring on his spouse’s finger, loosening his grip so Thorin can raise his hand, look at the gift.
“I do not know who wore it before you, but I hope it will fit you better.”

There is a second where nothing happens, no one speaks, and Dwalin knows that the other is used to better, finer things than this, but this is all he has to offer, and Thorin understands that, Dwalin can see it in his eyes.
“Thank you”, Thorin says softly, slowly, and just a moment too late. “Thank you… spouse.”

 

(76)

The sky is as clear and as bright as Thorin’s eyes, and although Dwalin knows he shouldn’t, he takes Thorin to the conquered city. It’s seen better days, that is for sure, and there are fearful glances shot at them the entire time, but Dwalin ignores them and so does his spouse, who looks up at the sun as if he had forgotten how brightly its light shines.

They do not talk, but the ring twinkles on Thorin’s finger, right where he Dwalin put it a few nights ago, making Dwalin smile whenever his eyes fall on it.

 

(77)

When they come back, the sun is already setting, and Dwalin kisses Thorin as soon as they have stepped inside the tent, softly, sweetly, and Thorin kisses back.

 

(78)

Two days later, Dain summons Dwalin to his tent, and the second he steps inside, Dwalin knows something is wrong; the king is nervous, he can see that in the other’s movements, he is planning something, Dwalin can see it in his eyes.
Again, Dain asks about the sizes of their troops, almost screams when Dwalin tells him about the losses in their last battle, something which shouldn’t be a surprise but seems to be nonetheless. And yet, Dain doesn’t seem to have a clear goal in mind; asks which towns are close by, about their defences and if they could defeat them, and if so, how easily.

Dwalin does his best to satisfy his king, even if he cannot answer most his questions, and leaves Dain’s tent worried and confused.

 

(79)

Although Dain still seems to be plotting something, still sends for Dwalin every other day to talk about military manoeuvres, they do not get a marching order, instead stay right where they are for four, then five more weeks without moving. It’s the longest time Dwalin can remember being at a place ever since Ered Mithrim, and although he didn’t notice he missed it, he might have, because it feels good to know where he will sleep at night.

Of course, it’s not home – Dwalin doesn’t think any place but the Grey Mountains will ever hold that title – but their tent is becoming more cluttered with things, the furs that make their bed are starting to remember the shapes of their bodies. And Thorin seems happier too, Thorin who always knew a home until Dwalin tore him away from his.
He still feels guilty, guesses he always will, even if Thorin seems to have forgiven him, concentrates all his anger and all his pain on the dwarf Dwalin has sworn to follow and protect with his life. And Dwalin, who has always considered himself to be loyal above all, feels the same disgust he has seen in Thorin’s eyes a hundred times, rise in his throat when he looks at his king.

 

(80)

The residents of the town they raided still look at them with distrust, and Dwalin makes sure to carry his favourite axe on his back whenever he sets foot in it, just in case, but Dwalin still makes a habit out of visiting often. It seems to clear his head, the walk and the few men and many women crowding the streets, even the imminent sense of danger, and he needs that more than anything these days.

Sometimes, Thorin accompanies him, but the other still prefers to spend his time in their tent, hardly ever joining the other dwarves in the camp; if so, then only with Dwalin at his side. It’s a wise choice, for even if most of his comrades have gotten used to the idea of former prince in their midst, the son of a king Dain slayed, they still do not trust Thorin, and Dwalin doesn’t trust them around his spouse.

To make up for his absence and Thorin’s loss of sunlight and time spent away from all the dwarves he must hate, Dwalin has long since started to bring back little gifts for his spouse, everything from dried fruit to tunics, twice even a book he found at one of the small shops.
Usually, Thorin thanks him for the presents – and oh, what a long way they have come – but he does more so for the books, thanks Dwalin like he always does, and ignores him for the rest of the evening, since he is too taken by whatever knowledge they offer.

 

(81)

Dain orders all the weapons from the conquered town to be brought to him, and it worries Dwalin more than anything; he knows that a lot of their weaponry has been destroyed in the past months, by the marches and the attacks, both those on them and the ones they planned, but up until now, there was no reason to get new ones, for their owners have long since been buried too.

 

(81)

“It is told that in their beginning the Dwarves were made by Aulë in the darkness of Middle-earth; for so greatly did Aulë desire the coming of the Children, to have learners to whom he could teach his lore and his crafts, that he was unwilling to await the fulfilment of the designs of Ilúvatar. And Aulë made the Dwarves even as they still are…”

It is a strange book he has gotten Thorin, but the other seems to like it, for his voice is warm and steady, as if he is used to reading out-loud, which is a good thing – an eternity ago, Dwalin has learnt how to read, but nowadays, everything longer than road signs, than descriptions on maps are hard work. So he enjoys this, while rain hammers down on their tent, listening to Thorin read about the Valar and their deeds, about the origin of Middle-earth.

Dwalin is fixing one of the straps for his axes, since he has nothing better to do, and Thorin is sitting on their bed, close to the small gas lamp there. It’s still early in the morning, but the rain is too heavy to be outside, so they are both still only in their tunics, Thorin’s hair unbraided and flowing down his shoulders.
“…because the forms of the Children who were to come were unclear to his mind, and because the power of Melkor was yet over the Earth; and he wished therefore that they should be strong and unyielding.”

Thorin pauses, and Dwalin takes the chance when he gets it, asks, “You are used to doing this, aren’t you? I can hear it in your voice, you know how to read to someone.”
For a few seconds, there is only silence, Thorin putting the book down, but keeping his eyes on the cover, as if he couldn’t look at Dwalin right now. “I did. When they were- when they were younger, I used to read to my sister-sons. When they were sick, when they were hurt or wounded, when they couldn’t sleep or when they were anxious.”
There is so much sadness in Thorin’s voice it makes Dwalin’s heart ache, so much love for those dwarflings the other considered sons; he doesn’t get up to hug Thorin, but only because he knows the other wouldn’t appreciate it.

“I am sorry”, he still tells Thorin, and his spouse finally does look at him, and the brightness of his eyes seems diminished by the hurt inside them, the gentleness of grief.
“I still hope I will see them again one day”, Thorin admits what Dwalin has always suspected. “I will for the rest of my life.”

Dwalin still doesn’t walk over to the other, but he smiles softly. “I hope you’re right, spouse. And if there is anything I am able to do to help you find them, I will.”
A breathless silence stretches between them, and Dwalin wonders if Thorin is searching for words, just like he is doing so often. But he doesn’t answer, just nods, smiles, then continues, “…But fearing that the other Valar might blame his work, he wrought in secret: and he made first the Seven Fathers of the Dwarves in a hall under the mountains in Middle-earth…”

 

(82)

At some point, Thorin’s voice fades; Dwalin has long since finished fixing various straps and sheathes for knives and axes and daggers, and somehow, it feels like the most natural thing in the world to walk over and kiss Thorin softly on the lips. Thorin kisses back, threads a hand into Dwalin’s beard to pull him closer.

 

(83)

Thorin’s legs are still wound around his, the other’s head pillowed on Dwalin’s chest like it usually is these days, and sleep is still clinging to his mind when someone bursts into their tent. It only takes Dwalin two moments until he is upright, knife drawn even while his eyes still try to focus on what is happening.
There is a dwarf standing in the middle of their tent, his braids half undone and his eyes wide with panic; he’s breathing heavily, and it takes Dwalin a few moments to recognise him. He’s one of the more gentle dwarves around, more a merchant, a craftsman than a warrior, a son of three, and while Dwalin doesn’t think they ever shared more than superficial conversations, he values the other.

“The king!”, Dori exclaims, waving his hands around, silver rings clanking together. “He’s gone mad! My brother, he- well, yes, he did take one of Dain’s wine skins, he did, but the king wants to take Nori’s hand for it! Please, Mister Dwalin, you have to stop him!”
He looks positively panicked, and Dwalin understands why only too well; Dwalin and he have their differences, but he knows that he would be prepared to kill anyone who’d threaten to hurt his brother.

Dwalin casts a look at Thorin, who is looking back, nods, and then rises quickly, ignoring the fact that he’s naked. He pulls on a pair of breeches as quickly as he can, then turns to face Dori once more, who looks just a hint calmer now, even if still scared.
“Lead the way”, Dwalin orders, even if his voice is gentle, not wanting to scare the other dwarf more than he is already.

 

(84)

They find Dain in front of his tent, the soft light of morning making his expression look even darker in comparison. One of his servants is sharpening an axe and Dori’s brother is being held down by two guards, gagged, looking scared and still disbelieving.
Dwalin understands it, because this is not the Dain he met all those decades ago, and surely not the one Nori met as well.

“Dain!”, Dwalin bellows as soon as he sees the other dwarf, glad that Thorin is still back at their tent, as safe as he can be. “What is this nonsense?”
Maybe it is unwise to speak in this way with his king, but Dwalin cannot stop himself, not when so much is at stake. He stepping closer to Dain, who looks up at Dwalin, his eyes as cold and hard as steel.
“Punishment. This dwarf stole from his king.” He points at Nori, who shies away from the king’s gaze, would beg if his mouth wasn’t filled with cloth.
“He stole a skin of wine, Dain. Punish him, but do not take his hand.” Dwalin’s voice softens, is more the one of a friend again, but Dain’s eyes stay hard and merciless. “The punishment should fit the crime, my king, you know that as well as I do.”

For a moment, Dwalin thinks that the other will see sense, will have Nori whipped instead, but whatever understanding he saw in his king’s eyes, it’s gone a second later.
“He stole from me. I will have his hand.”

 

(85)

Dain has never been a dwarf who talks but is afraid to act, and for once, Dwalin mourns that fact, especially when he sees the youngest of Dori’s brothers cling to the other, averting his gaze when Dain brings down the axe, cuts off Nori’s hand with one, clean stroke.
It takes a few breathless moments, but then Nori’s brain catches up with his body, lets him cry out., and Dwalin refuses to look away.

 

(86)

It must have been Thorin’s doing, because Oín, one of their healers, arrives only a few seconds too late, his bags packed with herbs and salves. He’s muttering under his breath, no doubt cursing, but while it usually makes Dwalin smile, his lips don’t even twitch now.
Oín nods in his direction, but then hurries over to his patient, who is bleeding and whimpering on the floor, clutching the stump which used to be his hand.

Their king casts a last glance at Nori, and then walks back into his tent, and Dwalin feels everything inside him change.

 

(87)

Thorin is still in their tent when Dwalin comes back, feeling exhausted although he just got up; the other looks worried, and Dwalin just shakes his head, because he doesn’t know what words to use to describe this. The other understands, though, his eyes widening slightly, but unlike Dwalin, Thorin doesn’t seem surprised at all.
“He’s a cruel king”, Thorin mutters softly, darkly, and for the first time, Dwalin doesn’t disagree.

 

(88)

They sleep together again twice that day, both times slowly, passionately, Dwalin not even pulling out of his spouse in between.
When he finally does, Thorin is slick with his come, his cheeks flushed and his eyes hooded, looking dazed; Dwalin pulls him close and Thorin shifts until his cheek is resting on Dwalin’s chest, as if he was listening to Dwalin’s heartbeat.

 

(89)

Dwalin goes to see after Nori the next day, finds the dwarf unconscious and his brothers around him, Dori looking stricken with grief and young Ori as if he had been crying.
He doesn’t stay long, just enough to speak to Oín and find out that the other will most likely survive, enough to tell the other brothers a few, kind words. They seem to be appreciated, and yet, Dwalin leaves the healer’s tent with a heart even heavier than before.

 

(90)

He takes Thorin away from the camp, hikes into the nearest forests with his spouse, carrying enough water and food to last them at least a week. They can’t stay away that long, and he knows, but it feels good nonetheless, the weight on his back and the simple hunting knife on his belt, Thorin beside him.
Dwalin always enjoyed silence, it helps him think, and yet it seems that it is better still, when Thorin is next to him, being silent as well.

 

(91)

They set up their own little camp in the middle of a small clearing and Dwalin puts up traps while Thorin spreads out their bed rolls, builds a fire.
Maybe it’s because they spent so much time in silence that they don’t need many words now, but when Dwalin comes back, the fire is burning and illuminating Thorin’s sharp features, making his eyes shine gold instead of sky blue.

He sits down next to the other, takes off his knuckledusters, and looks at the flames dancing. The forest is kind to them, and Dwalin wants to stay forever, live off the woods, but he knows he cannot, not now, not ever. And yet, he can imagine it, a small hut in the shelter of the bushes, spending the day with hunting and crafting and making love.
“If they asked me today if I wanted to marry you again, I would say yes”, Dwalin says softly, a thought which he has had no time to think twice about, and yet knows to be true.
Thorin beside him stays silent, but reaches out to lace their fingers together, giving Dwalin all the answers he needs.

 

(92)

They spend too much time in the woods, hunting and hiking and talking and when they return, Dain is furious, summons Dwalin to his tent immediately.
Thorin looks livid, but Dwalin touches a hand to his arm, gives him the gentlest push into the direction of their tent, and Thorin leaves, even if surely still seething.

When Dwalin enters the tent, he can feel the tension inside; it’s not just him and Dain, instead, there are two more captains of Dain’s troops, a dwarf named Gloin and Balin, who looks nervous. It is an unusual look on his brother’s face, and does nothing to calm Dwalin’s worries, only fuels them further.
Nodding, Dwalin takes his place between them, doesn’t let his gaze falter when their king turns around, fixes angry eyes on Dwalin.

“Where were you?”, he hisses and Dwalin bows his head slightly, as a sign of respect, not submission.
“In the woods, my king. A hunting trip with my spouse.”
“Your spouse?”, Dain repeats, comes closer, and this time, Dwalin refuses to bow, because he won’t make a secret out of his beliefs, his feelings, like he never did before.
“Yes, my spouse. The one you married me to, my king.”
“I didn’t marry you to him to go hiking.”
The word sounds like an insult coming from Dain and Dwalin still doesn’t flinch, doesn’t budge, just holds his king’s gaze steadily.
“He is my spouse, it is my decision if I want to take him with me to the woods or not. My king.” He’s not ashamed and he’s not scared, and Dain sees it, has to see it, since he only glares at him.

“You should be glad that I have bigger problems than your spouse right now”, Dain spits, turns around and walks across the tent, sits down on one of the chairs, looking more regal than ever, more cruel too. “His nephews have been sighted.”

For a moment, Dwalin doesn’t think, doesn’t hear, doesn’t see, for it is impossible – every last of the Durins was slaughtered, all except for Thorin, he knows that, he was there - but Dain doesn’t joke, not anymore.
“…but you had them killed”, Dwalin still says, disbelief clinging to his voice, his hands clenching and unclenching again and again. “In Erebor, I saw-“
“Nothing”, Dain finished the sentence for him, determined and unbending. “You saw nothing. We tried to find them, the princes, but one of the servants must have hid them, smuggled them outside. There were rumours, but nothing concrete, until now.”
Dain looks murderous, as if the mere thought of the princes’ escape was enough to make him seethe with anger, and for once, Dwalin doesn’t speak up, just listens.
“One of the guards I left at Erebor came here three days ago”, Dain explains, his voice still angry, but more collected; maybe because he is talking to all of them now. “She saw them at a toymaker’s house, dressed in commoners’ clothes… hiding.”

Dwalin doesn’t need to hear the rest of Dain’s speech to know how it will end, and part of him is disgusted that it makes him sick – he has killed and maimed, and yet the thought of two dwarflings slaughtered disgusts him. And all because he allowed Thorin to take his heart.

“…We’ll march towards Erebor”, Dain orders, and there is no space, no chance to disagree. “And whoever of you brings me those little princes’ heads will stay there. As steward of Erebor.”

 

(93)

Dwalin steps out of the tent and knows there was a time when he would have died for this opportunity.

 

(94)

“You were right.” It’s his first words when Dwalin steps into the tent, his voice slightly breathless.
Thorin is sitting on their bed, his hands wrapped tightly around the edges of the strange book Dwalin brought him what feels like a hundred years ago; he looks up when Dwalin enters, confused and still almost relieved. For a second, Dwalin wonders what his spouse expected Dain to do.

“I tend to be”, Thorin replies after a second, slowly and choosing his words deliberately, as if he was knew something important was about to happen. “But about what this time?”
“They’re alive. Your sister-sons, Dain has word they were hidden somewhere, brought to safety, Thorin, they’re alive.” Dwalin has never met the dwarflings and yet, he can feel excitement thrumming through his veins, making him almost dizzy.

And yet, there is no reaction from the other.
Thorin is frozen, lips parted, but his blue, blue eyes seem sightless, as if he was far, far away, and Dwalin waits for endless moments, until Thorin finally comes back to life before his eyes. He stays like is for long moments, looking desperate, but hopeful, thrumming with life in a way which Dwalin wouldn’t have thought possible; when he gets up, his movements are slow and deliberate, as if Thorin expected to keel over any second. There is no cry for battle, no demands are made, and for a moment, Dwalin dares to hope for a kiss; what he gets is neither.

Instead of walking up to him, Thorin falls to his knees in front of Dwalin, his head bowed, his hands clasped tightly in front of his chest.
“Please”, he rasps out after a long, long moment, sounds like he’s pleading already and Dwalin feels his heart stop. “Dwalin, spouse, please…. if you meant just one of the words you said to me in those last months, just one, then help me save them. I couldn’t bear losing them again, please, don’t make me.”

The last words are not just a plea, they are almost sobs, and Dwalin doesn’t know what to do, but to pull Thorin up, into his arms. It’s a difficult choice, that is what he wants to tell the other, give me time, I would have to betray my king, but the words never pass his lips, because Dwalin realises he has made his choice long ago, in so many little ways.
“I will”, he mutters into Thorin’s long, dark hair, and feels the other go boneless against him, a soft sob finally escaping him. “I meant every word.”

 

(95)

They can’t take much with them, for their only advantage is that they are only two, that they’ll travel faster than an army of dwarves, some of them on foot, some riding a pony, so Dwalin only packs the barest of necessities.

He packs enough food to last them at least two weeks, fills two skins with water, takes a coat and a few weapons, some small valuable things in case they need money; he has never been particularly attached to things, only to places, so it doesn’t hurt much when he thinks about not ever seeing this tent again, about leaving everything he built over those last decades behind.
Thorin is still finished before him, and Dwalin is impressed – he had expected a prince to struggle more than a warrior, and yet, Thorin has only packed a small bag, the dagger Dwalin has given him hanging on his belt.

Without a word, Dwalin hands him two of his swords, thinks that the other has never looked as kingly as he does the moment he wraps his fingers around the hilt, proud and still, after all of this, unbent.

 

(96)

Dwalin goes to get the ponies, making up some excuse and ignores the other dwarves curious glances when he speaks about a mission for the king, about how they have to leave today to be back soon.
It’s not a good lie, but obviously one which is believable enough to get him the ponies they need.

He takes them back to their tent, where Thorin is already waiting, silent and hopeful and scared.

 

(97)

It is a risk, a big one, could foil their entire plan, could get them both killed, and yet, Dwalin bids Thorin to stay and goes back to Dain’s tent, every step feeling as if he had just walked a mile. He is not doing this for Thorin, Dwalin knows that, not even for his king, he is doing this for no one but himself, because he used to love Dain like a brother, because he still hopes he will be able to fix this somehow.
The guards let him pass without a question – after all, he has visited the king countless times before, so this is nothing out of the ordinary.

Dain is sitting right where Dwalin left him, still brooding on his makeshift throne; he doesn’t seem to have moved an inch and somehow, that makes Dwalin even angrier, knowing that Dain doesn’t even lift a finger, lets someone else do his work for him.
“My king”, Dwalin greets, even bows just the slightest bit; there is no reason to upset Dain before he even had a chance to say what he came here for, but Dain doesn’t move, only fixes his eyes on him. They are as cold as Thorin’s used to be, and the thought hurts more than Dwalin thought it could.
“You should be in their tent, packing. Or is your spouse doing all the work for you?” Dain spits the word out as if it was burning his tongue, and Dwalin clenches his hands, stays calm.
“He is packing, and I will help him as soon as I get back”, he answers, “But I had to speak to you, my king. About Thorin’s nephews.”

Finally, Dain moves, turns his head and glares at Dwalin; he seems to know what it is Dwalin wants to say, and he isn’t even surprised. They used to be close after all, why shouldn’t Dain be able to read him anymore?
“I walked through fire and ice with you, my king, I killed and I was wounded, I married when you told me to, and now the only thing I ask of you is to let me honour the promise you made me give.” Dwalin doesn’t once let his gaze falter, although Dain is getting angrier by the second, just says what he needs to say.
“Let me find the princes for you, my liege, let me bring them to safety. If you wish it, I’ll return and I’ll serve you for the next sixty years like I did serve you until now, longer even, if not, then let me and my spouse leave with them and I promise you, you won’t ever see us again. But then, let us part as the friends like we used to be. “

Dain just looks at him, unmoving, and Dwalin is sure this was a mistake for a split second, that he will not leave this tent alive anymore, but then the other speaks, his voice cruel and mocking.
“What has softened you so?”, he asks, one hand stroking the small dagger at his side. “Was it that princess’ cunt? Maybe I should have kept her for myself, if she’s that good in bed that she has my greatest warrior under her spell like this.”
Waiting for a reaction, Dain tilts his head, seems almost disappointed when Dwalin doesn’t grant him that satisfaction. “I will not grant you your wish. Instead, I will make you kill them yourself, in front of your spouse’s eyes.”

It seems to amuse Dain, the idea of torturing them both like that, and Dwalin can’t even be angry, just feels exhausted, weary.
“You will not”, Dwalin states, starts to turn around, because there is no reason to look at this dwarf he once called friend anymore. “For I will ride to find them nonetheless. Farewell.”
“Do not dare to turn your back on me”, Dain hisses, and he sounds dangerous, as sharp as the dagger on his belt. “I am your king.”
Dwalin could turn around, but he doesn’t, wants to keep Dain in better memory than he would deserve, so he just starts to walk out of the tent, his steps never faltering.
“You aren’t. Not anymore.”

 

(98)

The guards catch him just before his tent, and Dwalin sends a plea to Mahal to have mercy on their souls when he kills them, slices one’s throat, breaks another two’s necks.
He doesn’t want to kill them, even knows their names, and yet there is no other way.

When he finally steps inside their tent, sets eyes on Thorin, Dwalin is splattered with blood, and his spouse’s eyes soften at the sight of him, even when he doesn’t say a word, just hands Dwalin his bag. They need to hurry, and so there is no time for Dwalin to tell the other he just gave up his whole life for him, and yet, he thinks that Thorin knows.

 

(99)

The guards arrive just as they have mounted their ponies, Gloin right at the front, and Dwalin knows they could stop them, that they could kill Thorin and him within seconds, but Gloin gives the order to attack just a few moments too late, and Dwalin could swear he sees the other nod them goodbye.

 

(100)

They ride the whole night, as long as their ponies still have strength to go on, and only then they stop, Dwalin straightening his aching limbs and back before he walks over to Thorin, touches a hand to his spouse’s shoulder. The other is even more tired than he is, Dwalin can see that, leans into the touch a bit, seems to relax.
“Come, we’ll rest. Dain surely hasn’t even set out, so we have time”, Dwalin mutters, and Thorin nods after a few seconds. It’s clear that the other wants to go on, and Dwalin understands, he really does, but Thorin is wise enough to know he won’t be any use to his nephews when he is exhausted, when his pony breaks down halfway there.

They have no tent to set up, don’t dare to light a fire, so instead, they lead the ponies from the road to some undergrowth, which at least gives them the feeling of being protected from prying eyes. The sun is already painting the dark sky lighter colours and Dwalin makes Thorin eat some of their food, drink even more.
Although the days here are pleasant, the nights are cold, so Dwalin gets their bedrolls, puts them down onto the ground close to each other, even waits until Thorin has crawled under the blanket before he joins him.

Tonight, Thorin doesn’t roll closer, just stays next to Dwalin, and it’s alright, he tells himself, if the other needs space.
“Tell me about them”, Thorin says after a few minutes, when Dwalin is on the verge of falling asleep. “What did Dain tell you, where are they, are they well, is there-“
His voice goes quiet, breaks, and Dwalin reaches out without thinking, finds Thorin’s hand and squeezes it. The other squeezes back and doesn’t let go again.
“No much, I’m sorry. They are still near Erebor, at a toymaker’s house…or that is at least where they were sighted. But I’m certain they are alive, otherwise, Dain would not have gathered all his forces to wreak havoc on that town.”

Thorin stays silent, and Dwalin just waits for him to speak, brushes his thumb over his spouse’s knuckles again and again.
“I think I know where they are”, Thorin finally mutters, sounding like he can’t really believe it himself. “A toymaker, there was a cook in the palace who took a liking to my sister-sons, I think his brother was a toymaker, maybe…”
Again, his voice fades, but this time, Thorin sounded more excited than anything, hopeful, and Dwalin squeezes his hand again.
“We’ll find them, Thorin”, he says quietly, and his spouse just hums in response. “It’s your turn, tell me about them. You see to care about them so deeply and yet haven’t mentioned them in more than a few words to me.”

“I do. When their father died, they were still so young, and Dís took them back to Erebor, to live with us…I watched them grow up and I wanted to- I wanted to teach them how to hunt and how to fight, how to forge…”
The way Thorin talks is loving, sweet, and yet filled with pain, like he’s reliving all the things he tried so hard to forget.
“You will”, Dwalin reminds his spouse gently. “Once we’ve found them, you will.”

And Thorin squeezes his hand.

 

(101)

The sun wakes them only a few hours later; it is a beautiful day, bright and cheerful, and Dwalin tries to take it as a good sign.

 

(102)

They ride for another three day, taking breaks only when their limbs are too sore to keep them on a pony any longer, when the ponies need a rest, and Dwalin can tell that Thorin is growing more nervous by the second, as if every second he spends away from his nephews is torture. And it might be, so Dwalin breathes a sigh of relief when they finally leave the Greenwood behind, since it means they are nearing Erebor now, are getting closer to Dale.

Dwalin cannot remember the town anymore, only knows that Dain had it searched for weapons and supplies before they left again; Thorin, though, seems to know it well, because he describes its streets and riches in the most colourful words at night, when neither of them can sleep.

 

(103)

They see Erebor’s lonely peak for the first time, when the mist clears one moment, and Dwalin is sure he sees tears in Thorin’s blue, blue eyes.

 

(104)

They reach the town by nightfall, and although he knows that Thorin only cares about his sister-sons, Dwalin still catches his spouse’s eyes straying to Erebor’s form on the horizon more than once. It has to be hard, seeing what used to be his home, his life, so Dwalin stays silent, lets Thorin watch while they ride through the streets Thorin talked about so often.

Many of them still bear the scars of the fights, but they are only noticeable when Dwalin looks for them; the rest of them are still as rich and beautiful as they must have been before. There are merchants on every corner, offering fine silks, exotic fruit and jewellery, the streets are bustling with life and laughter.
Thorin has pulled the hood of his coat deep into his face, so no one recognises them, lets them pass, and in a town like this, filled with people of so many sizes and colours, no one takes notice of them anyway.

Thorin is leading them, doesn’t speak, but finally stops in front of a small house, his posture rigid and scared; he doesn’t say it out loud, but Dwalin knows they have arrived anyway.
“Is this it?”, Dwalin asks, although he knows, and Thorin nods, unmounts his pony with more grace than he should possess, but doesn’t wait until Dwalin has done the same before he walks towards the house in front of them, knocks at the front door.
He still looks scared, but determined, and Dwalin has never expected anything else from his spouse.

There is nothing for a long, long time, long enough that even Dwalin, who always does his best to stay calm, is starting to worry, but then the door is cracked open, a dwarf with a dark beard and a strange hat looking out at them.
“Well, how can I help you-“, the other starts, and then stops himself, staring at Thorin with wide eyes. “Y-Your Majesty?”
There is more disbelief in the other’s voice than Dwalin has ever heard before, but it makes sense – with the rest of the royal family dead, they would have presumed Thorin’s fate had been the same.

“Bofur, is it?”, Thorin asks, and Dwalin is reminded that the other was a future king once more; he’s as calm as he can be, kind, although Dwalin just knows that the other is desperate to just see the dwarflings he expected to have lost forever.
“Yes, my prince”, the other dwarf, Bofur, answers, still looking so confused. “My brother, Bombur-“
“I know, yes, I just-“, it seems to be too much, finally, after all this time, because Thorin interrupts him, even if gently. “There were rumours that you saved the princes. Did you-?”

Even if Dwalin had just met the other, he would be able to see the tenseness in his shoulders, hear the fear, the hope in his voice, and he assumes that Bofur does too, since the other dwarf doesn’t miss a beat, just nods quickly, and even Dwalin, who has never met the dwarflings, can feel a wave of relief wash over him.

“Oh Mahal.” It’s just a whisper, disbelieving and stunned, and Thorin doesn’t even move for a few moments, obviously overwhelmed, until Bofur opens the door completely, steps aside a little.
“If you want to, the lads are in the back…”, he says, and Thorin is shaken out of his reverie within a second.
“Yes! Please, if you’ll let us…”
“Of course, your Majesty… just, who is he? Your companion, I mean.” The other points at Dwalin, who is too surprised to answer himself; he had never considered that others might not know about their marriage.
But Thorin answers for him anyway, turns a little to cast a glance at him, before he replies, “Dwalin. My… spouse.”

Thorin’s voice is soft when he says the last word, steady and not at all uncertain, but Dwalin still knows that the temptation to just renounce their bond must have been there, to go back to the life the other was used to.
“Oh… Spouse? I did not know your father married you…” Bofur sounds confused, looks Dwalin up and down, as if to determine if he was a good enough match for his prince; Dwalin does his best not to look threatening, not to look mean.
“He did not. Dwalin was one of Dain’s warriors…”, Thorin starts to explain, and the toymaker takes a step back, his expression changing from curious to fearful in the matter of seconds; he must have lost someone, Dwalin catches himself thinking. “…but he isn’t anymore. I trust him, otherwise I wouldn’t have brought him here.”

The last words seem to soothe Bofur’s worries at least slightly, and Dwalin feels strangely proud to think that the other dwarf trusts Thorin, his prince, so much he would risk his life, the life of the dwarflings he saved, because of Thorin’s words.
“Alright then”, the other says after a few seconds, steps back to let them in, smiling brightly. “Come, then, they’ll be glad to see you alive.”

 

(105)

The house is tidy, if small, smells of wood and of leather, and Dwalin, who felt so out of place just seconds ago, feels himself relaxing, because it smells a little bit like home.

 

(106)

They do not look like Dwalin imagined them at all, one of them blonde and with eyes as blue as Thorin’s when he looks up, the other with the dark hair most his family seems to wear. It’s him who sees them first, his eyes going wide and for a second, he just stares, his mouth wide open, before he hits his brother on the shoulder.
“Ouch, Kíli-“ The older one, Fíli, looks up, obviously annoyed until he sees them, still standing in the doorway, because Thorin seems to have forgotten how to move.

An eternity passes, and Dwalin doesn’t know who to watch, since all three of them seem overcome with emotions, as if they expected to wake up any second and find this all to be a dream.
“U-uncle”, Fíli finally finds his voice, his words again, and yet still sounds tentative, scared. “They told us you were dead…”
“They told me the same about you.”
Thorin speaks in the softest of voices, takes half a step forwards, then hesitates again, but what Thorin seems to lack in determination, his nephews have. They both get up, as if on cue, and cross the room on small feet, throwing their arms around Thorin’s waist and hugging him close.

Surely, it’s not the way they were raised, and that makes it all the more touching, especially when Thorin puts his own arms around their shoulders. He closes his eyes for a moment, and when he opens them again, Dwalin sees them shining with tears, something he would never have expected from his strong, stoic spouse.

“We thought you were dead”, Fíli repeats, his voice muffled by Thorin’s coat, and the other pulls them both closer still, as if he couldn’t bear to have even an inch of space between them.
Kíli, on Thorin’s other side, is crying, his small shoulders shaking with sobs.
“If I had known…” Thorin’s voice breaks and fades, he swallows, closes his eyes again, before he continues. “I’m here now. And I am going to take you away, somewhere safe.”

 

(107)

Neither of the princes understands it, not really, even if Fíli tries to look older than he is, nods along when Thorin tries to explain, but they go to pack whatever belongings they have, leaving Bofur, Thorin and Dwalin alone for a few minutes to speak, to plan.
“You need to leave this town”, Thorin says softly as soon as his sister-sons are gone, “Dain will be here, we do not know when, but he will wreak havoc on Dale, I am sure of it.”
“But why? None of us has done anything to him, we gave him our weapons, our food…”
Although Dwalin tried not to speak, so he would neither frighten the princes, nor their caretaker, he steps forward now, because he knows Dain better than all of them, can maybe explain it better.
“It does not matter”, he says, keeping his voice low so the dwarflings won’t accidentally overhear. “It is enough that Thorin and I are here, it is enough that you took in the princes Dain meant to kill; it has nothing to do with your fair city. Dain wants revenge, and he will have it.”

Bofur pales, his hands shaking, but he nods. “Very well, I will get my brothers – my brother, pack a few things… and then leave.”
“Brother?”, Thorin asks, and this time, it’s him who looks stricken, his eyes sad. “Which- “
“Bifur, a- we found him with an axe in his head, just outside the house. We don’t know what happened, but I think he died fighting, just like he would have wanted to.”
“I’m so sorry”, Thorin mutters, leaving Dwalin to wonder if he knew the third brother too, or is just prince enough to always sound sincere when offering condolences. “None of you deserved this fate, and I wish there was anything I could have done to prevent it.”

There is nothing though, was nothing, and Bofur seems to know it, for he only nods, offers a weak smile.

 

(108)

“Who are you, by the way?”, Fíli asks when Dwalin lifts him up onto the pony, makes sure he sits safe and won’t fall down too easily.
“Dwalin, at your service, my prince”, he introduces himself, smiles a little to make Fíli feel at ease, even bows, like it is custom when talking to royalty, which makes the dwarfling giggle.
“No one ever bowed before me”, he says, as if he was telling Dwalin a secret, but becomes serious again far too easily for a dwarfling at this age. “Why are you travelling with Uncle Thorin? Are you his friend?”

Yes, Dwalin wants to say, and no, but Thorin saves him from having to decide.
“He’s my spouse”, he answers in Dwalin’s stead, fixes the bag with Kíli’s belongings to his pony, then hoists the little prince up as well. “Like your father was your mother’s.”
Fíli nods, seems to be satisfied with the answer, since he turns around, starts to pet the pony’s mane, but Kíli reaches out, grabs a strand of Thorin’s hair with his tiny hands, holds it tightly.
“Are you going to have children now too? Like mother had us?”, he asks, and sounds a bit sad, as bit as if he is about to cry, and Dwalin expects to hear something similar in Thorin’s voice when he answers, because surely Thorin would have wanted children, but there isn’t.
“Oh no”, the other answers, brushes a strand of hair from Kíli’s face. “Why should I? I already have you, sweetlings.”

Thorin’s voice is affectionate, sweet, and Dwalin’s heart swells a little, because this is a side he hasn’t seen of the other yet, and one he wants to see more often, because for once, his spouse looks really, truly happy.

 

(109)

Dwalin mounts the pony behind Fíli, brackets the little prince between his arms, and Fíli leans back against him. He’s never had children, never planned on having some either, and yet, Dwalin can feel a hint of affection blossoming in his heart when he looks down on a mop of golden hair.

 

(110)

They would ride all night, but the princes get tired only shortly after the sun sets, so they stop once they are far away enough to only see a faint shadow of Dale on the horizon.
Thorin looks exhausted too, so Dwalin lets him lie down with his sister-sons, while he keeps watch, even if he still takes a moment to kiss Thorin’s lips softly, stays close to them, because it feels like their proximity lessens the cold’s sting.

 

(111)

The sun has not yet risen when Dwalin sees the fires, bright beacons in a dimly lit dawn. There are many of them, spreading out quickly, and although Dwalin cannot hear the screams of the dwarves and elves and men there, he can feel them inside his chest, a deep, dull pain.
This is the sacrifice someone else has to bring for them, the prize they pay for their escape and the prince’s lives, and while Dwalin knows he can pay it without remorse, he does not know the same about his spouse.
So he does not wake him, and prays that Manwë will grant them enough wind to carry the smoke away, before Thorin wakes.

 

(112)

He doesn’t, and Thorin knows the second he sees the clouds of smoke, doesn’t make a sound, but watches for a few, long moments.
“Why did you not wake me?”, he finally asks; there is no anger in his voice, just exhaustion, regret, an overwhelming sadness. “I would have wanted to see – it would have been my duty to see.”
“But why?” Dwalin tries to be gentle, takes Thorin’s hand and squeezes it a little. “There is nothing you could have done, spouse.”
“It’s- this is our fault, my fault, I should have at least seen…”

He sounds desperate, and Dwalin can’t watch him like this, so he pulls Thorin closer, hugs Thorin to his chest.
“It is done”, he mutters, his voice low and deep. “It is over, my prince, my spouse, my love, it is over, and there is no way to change it. Dain might have lit the city on fire without us too, just because he knew that your sister-sons were there.”
Dwalin threads his hand into Thorin’s hair, scratches his nails over the other’s scalp lightly, soothingly. “You have them back, concentrate on that, and let everything else go.”

Thorin doesn’t pull back, so Dwalin doesn’t either, keeps Thorin’s eyes shielded from the smoke, the ruins of Dale before them.

 

(113)

They set off once the sun has risen completely, the two princes still both tired, munching on a small piece of bread instead of the breakfast they are used to.
Again, Fíli rides with him, and Dwalin tries to keep the prince close, is glad for every mile they put between Dain and them, and that they cannot see what is left from Dale anymore when they stop for the night again.

 

(114)

“Where do you think we should go?”, Thorin asks once the princes have fallen asleep, their chests rising and falling steadily, and they are huddled together on their own bedrolls.
Moonlight is illuminating Thorin’s face, is making his eyes look cooler, bluer, sharpens his features.
“Ered Mithrim perhaps? You were raised there, were you not?”

Thorin remembers it, although Dwalin told him about his home, his childhood when a gasp was still the only sound he would get out of the other, and now it makes him smile, makes him reach out and cup Thorin’s cheek.
“I was, yes”, Dwalin mutters, brushes his thumb over his spouse’s cheekbone. “But Dain knows that just as well as you and I, so it will be where he will look for us first.”
There is a pause, and Dwalin uses it to kiss Thorin softly, rests their foreheads together for a few, blissful moments.
“But where should we go, then, spouse?”, Thorin eventually asks, his voice quiet and almost lost between their shared breaths. “I do not know the world, not like you do…”

Dwalin draws back a little, just enough to look at the other; Thorin is beautiful, still strong, still a little broken, but Dwalin thinks he is healing, hopes he is.
“Ered Luin, maybe”, he finally answers, slowly, because he is still thinking. “The Blue Mountains. They are far away, we would have to take a detour to avoid the Greenwood, then take the Great Pass over the Misty Mountains, but we could make it, I made sure to pack a few things we could sell on the way…”
“There is no need to take the detour”, Thorin’s voice is soft, sounds as if he is still thinking, considering the risks. “I know the King of the Woodlands, Thranduil. We were never friends, but he wouldn’t touch us, if we trespassed his lands.”
“You know the Elven King?”, Dwalin asks, doesn’t quite know just why he is as surprised as he is, but it makes Thorin smile just the smallest bit.
“I do. We shared a few cups of wine together. With his son too, Legolas. “
“It would be safer, most certainly…and maybe, we could ask for food and shelter for a few days.”

This time, Thorin looks more doubtful, purses his lips. “I am not sure he would grant us anything, but we could try.”
“That is all we could ask for right now, spouse. Once we make it past the Misty Mountains, we might find shelter in the last Homely Home. The elves of Rivendell are known to help travellers in need. And past that…there is a town I have visited a few times, Bree, where they won’t turn us away either. ”

“Thank you.”
Thorin is still smiling, and Dwalin smiles back, brushes his thumb over Thorin’s cheek again, feeling lightheaded with affection all of a sudden. He has made the right decision, he knows it, choosing this over Dain, no matter what risk it bears.
“We will be safe, spouse. I will do whatever I can to assure that, you and the princes.”
“I know.” Thorin turns his head, brushes his lips over Dwalin’s palm, and it feels impossibly important for such a small touch, just a whisper of lips against skin, but is a touch Thorin wanted, Thorin gave and Dwalin did not have to take. “I would- if they asked me, I would marry you again.”
It’s a supernova, exploding deep down in his chest, flooding Dwalin with love and gratitude and trust; without thinking, he leans in and kisses Thorin once more, then again, whispers against his lips, “I would too, spouse, again and again.”