We’re so ruled by clocks and times, but when there’s no daylight I wonder how that would be affected? I have a theory that pretty much dwarves don’t pay attention to 24-hour cycles. I did put clocks in because they have to keep track somehow of time passing, but it doesn’t really mean that anyone goes to bed regularly at ten-thirty at night. I imagine the Lonely Mountain pretty much being awake 24/7; people sleep as they need to, and work as they need to, and eat as they need to, and it’s only things like guards’ rounds that require a clock.
He’d slept better than expected in the small bed. When he opened his eyes, he discovered why. Sometime in the night he had turned in his sleep, and now he was wrapped around his companion, Bofur’s back flush against Dwalin’s chest. It felt nice, so he didn’t move. He hadn’t slept so close to someone since before he’d grown his first beard.
And this is pure wish-fulfillment, because Dwalin hasn’t shared a bed much in his life, and I know from experience that getting used to having someone on the other side of the bed after years alone can be really hard. They’ve already got enough going against them; I decided to make this one detail easy. Yes, it is the only detail I’ve ever made easy for them.
He watched as the first fingers of morning light trickled through the window, just enough that he could make out Bofur’s face only inches from his own. From the rhythm of his breathing, Bofur was still asleep. Dwalin didn’t want to disturb him, so he decided not to move until Bofur woke.
Sometimes he looked at Bofur and thought he couldn’t possibly be real – someone so kind and easy, who never questioned Dwalin’s need to be male. Dwalin himself had questioned it – at great length – but nobody else’s opinion on the subject had ever mattered, not really. But during the long night in Rivendell, if Bofur had come out and asked him not to do it, had asked him to forget the whole thing – well, Dwalin might have decided differently.
“need to be male.” This phrase still bugs me. It was originally “need to live as a man” and that was even worse because Dwalin is a man, but I did not come up with better wording. I wanted to show that Dwalin had wrestled with the matter, but unlike most trans* folk he never had to face down everybody else’s objections to what he wanted to do. Bofur was the first person whose opinion he might have listened to on the matter.
But Bofur wouldn’t, Dwalin knew: Bofur wouldn’t ever ask him to choose. And knowing that sparked something in a small, soft place in his heart.
As the early morning sun chased away the shadows in the room, Dwalin became aware of something on a quite different level than his heart. Bofur had thrown off the blankets sometime in the night, and now there was light enough that Dwalin could see the outline of his body. Under the nightclothes, Bofur was hard.
Up until this point, Dwalin has not really thought much farther than knowing Bofur likes him and kind of wanting to reciprocate. When he realizes Bofur has an erection, it’s really threatening because he’d not thought about the sexual aspect, and for all intents and purposes he’s pretty much a virgin. Later, he might break it down into why it’s threatening, but for the moment he’s just freaking out. At the same time, he’s also kind of intrigued.
Dwalin’s immediate reaction was to close his eyes, like a dwarfling hoping it would stop. That worked about as well as expected.
He lay there, still curled around his friend, trying to will the panic away. The only thing worse than Bofur waking now would be Bofur waking to find him panicking.
He shut his eyes again and forced himself to breathe evenly. He calmed down a little.
Maybe if he went to sleep again, it would go away. Bofur would wake, get dressed, and they would never speak of it.
Never speak of it… Unbidden, his mind drifted to Thorin. He could remember that night, the sharp gleam in his friend’s eye as they played dice and drank ale, both knowing there’d be a skirmish in the morning. They were the only two trained fighters at the inn; around them, everyone was preparing as if for a siege. Thorin remained calm, an example for his men, but there was a leonine tension about his body.
Dwalin ignored the tension; Thorin could brood with the best, and Dwalin didn’t have much patience for it. When he said goodnight, Thorin rose too. They’d climbed the stairs in silence, helped each other with their armor. When Dwalin was down to just shirt and trousers, Thorin stepped in swiftly and pressed his lips to Dwalin’s. At the same time, he took Dwalin’s hand and pressed it between his legs, curling his fingers around the hardness there.
Dwalin must have frozen. Part of him had thought very clearly, He’s my King; I can’t strike my King. Another part knew that Thorin had no interest in unwilling bed partners – indeed, until now, he’d shown little interest in bed partners at all.
In my universe, I’d say a good 30-40% of dwarves are asexual. Balin and Oin are definitely ace (Balin is going to have to get married for the sake of the title later in the timeline and it will be as much of a clusterfuck as it sounds like, but they will work it out). Dwalin considered himself ace and part of falling in love with Bofur is dealing with all this stuff he thought he’d never have to think about, like sex and intimacy and love and the threat of pregnancy. Dwalin always assumed Thorin was ace until this point, and it was one of the reasons he let Thorin get close to him in spite of Thorin’s proposal of marriage early in their acquaintance.
Tangentially, asexuality is a completely valid lifestyle choice for dwarves. So are male-male relationships and male-female relationships, but the gender balance thing and recent population shocks make female-female relationships taboo. Which really sucks for the lesbian dwarves.
It’s not been made explicit (yet), but while it’s very accepted for male dwarves to be attracted only to women or to women and men, it’s less accepted for them to be only attracted to men. Part of Havlin’s struggle with his father was that Havlin is gay and his father wanted to marry him to a dwarrowdam because females always join their husband’s family/clan, but when men marry men it depends on rank and marriage price and a whole lot of negotiation who is going to join whose clan. If/when Bofur and Dwalin ever get around to talking about marriage, the negotiation part of who joins whose clan is going to be a big deal; Dwalin is a noble but Bofur’s clan can’t afford to lose anybody.
When he got no response, Thorin retreated as if struck. “My apologies,” he said, and left the room.
Thorin respecting consent was super-important to me.
In the morning, when Thorin tried to apologize again, Dwalin said the words he’d rehearsed all night: “You had too much ale and imagined an invitation that wasn’t offered. We’ll not speak of it again.”
Thorin had avoided his eyes. “Aye. If that’s the way you’d like it, that’s the way it will be.” He nodded, and things returned to the way they’d always been.
In the years that followed, Dwalin found himself thinking rather too often of that kiss. Between the space of one breath and the next, he’d found himself tempted. He’d been tempted to bed his King, had yearned to tell Thorin the truth and have his friend say it didn’t matter.
Thorin was gone, and Dwalin was sure Thorin would not have been able to say such a thing.
A few people have asked me what Thorin’s reaction would be to finding out Dwalin is trans*. I want to leave it up to the reader to decide. For myself, I think Thorin would not have reacted well, but with time he would have come around. (This is assuming that Thorin didn’t know already, and I’m not spoiling that plot point for the moment!)
Dwalin looked at the outline of Bofur’s cock under his shirt, and wondered what it would feel like in his hand.
When he glanced back up, Bofur’s eyes were open.
Not letting himself think too closely about it, Dwalin framed Bofur’s face with his hands and leaned in to kiss him.
As soon as he’d fitted his mouth to Bofur’s, he realized he didn’t have the first clue what to do next. But that was all right, because Bofur’s lips were moving under his, kissing him, teaching him.
The first time I kiss someone, I always feel like I have to learn kissing all over again. I don’t know if this is just me. People kiss really differently and I always revert for just a moment to that clueless teenager getting her first kiss.
For a few glorious seconds, it felt like the entire world slotted into place. Bofur’s hands came up to thread through his beard, caressing his neck, and Dwalin felt a fierce sweet ache in his gut. He gasped when Bofur slipped his tongue into his mouth.
And then fate mocked him, because Bofur went still, and Dwalin felt the sinking feeling Thorin must have felt all those years ago. He opened his eyes. When he realized that he was holding Bofur almost pinned, he snatched his hands away as if scalded.
Dwalin has a serious phobia of being trapped. He would never willingly trap Bofur, and he’s afraid that just by being bigger and heavier he’ll do it inadvertently. It may take Bofur a long time to convince him that this is not a rational fear. (It may take Bofur even longer to convince Dwalin that sometimes he likes being manhandled.)
Bofur’s eyes came open then, and Dwalin retreated to the far side of the tiny bed because it was all wrong again. Bofur had looked at him that way in Rivendell, and Dwalin had sworn he’d never have reason to look so again. “Bofur –”
Bofur was on his feet, putting distance – an entire room – between them. Having shouted down his panic only an hour before, Dwalin recognized the terror Bofur was trying to hide. “Bofur,” he tried again.
Bofur flinched. His eyes were wide. Dwalin could see him trying to calm himself; watched as he modulated his breathing, as he put on a mask, as his posture changed. Bofur, before his eyes, relaxed into the person Dwalin saw every day, open and easy – almost.
And that hurt. It hurt that Bofur’s openness and friendliness was a mask. It made Dwalin wonder who his friend really was, and why Bofur couldn’t be just Bofur, why he had to be someone else.
I think this is the first time that I mention Bofur’s masks. I think he really is a cheerful, happy dwarf a lot of the time. But I think some of the cheerfulness was also trained in as a defense mechanism against a really grim childhood. It was never safe to show emotion at home after his uncle moved in, and the only way to “win” was to not let his hurt show on his face. Bofur is almost always aware of just what emotions he’s letting people see. He sometimes uses it to manipulate a little, even, with people he feels safe with. This all may tell you rather more about my own childhood than I’m entirely comfortable with…
“No.” And now Bofur was looking at him with warmth and sorrow and compassion, but his eyes still weren’t right. It made Dwalin want to hit something. “Dwalin, this – I – that was never what this journey was about.”
Dwalin didn’t follow. “What?”
Bofur blushed red. “I didn’t – everything with Elrond, and surgery – that was foryou. I didn’t do it for me. I didn’t do it so you’d be grateful and offer – because that would be sick –”
“Bofur, what on –”
“You don’t owe me anything, Dwalin,” Bofur said earnestly.
Okay, this is what I didn’t want my story to be. I didn’t want Dwalin to go on this journey of transition and magically be “fixed” and fall in love with Bofur just because Bofur was the first one who had reacted well to knowing about his trans* status. Just because someone is kind and decent and does nice things for you does not mean that you owe them anything more than gratitude! Bofur didn’t do this to win Dwalin’s love – he gave up on that long ago. But he is very fearful that Dwalin doesn’t know enough about love to make the distinction.
Dwalin was beginning to understand, and he was beginning to be angry. “Can’t you trust me to know my own mind?” he roared. Too late, he remembered the Hobbit. Hopefully sound didn’t carry in the hobbit-hole.
Bofur flinched again at the roar, face tight, and realization settled low and awful in Dwalin’s stomach.
And sometimes Bofur can’t control the mask and Dwalin sees what’s really there.
“No,” Bofur whispered, “I can’t.”
Dwalin shook his head, tired of lies. He caught Bofur’s anguished eyes and held the gaze. “Tell me,” he said, maybe even pleaded, “Tell me you still would have stopped just now if I hadn’t assaulted you at Rivendell.”
Bofur trembled. He tore his eyes away, looked about him wildly, grabbed his shirt and trousers, and fled.
And… yeah. Violence doesn’t just go away, no matter how much Bofur would like to ignore it. If you’d asked him, he would have said he was beyond it, that it didn’t matter. But yelling and the threat of physical violence was already triggering to Bofur even before Dwalin came on the scene, and the actual violence in Rivendell made it worse.
Bofur does in fact run from conflict at several points in the narrative. He judges himself pretty harshly for it; he thinks it makes him a coward. I think it’s possibly the wisest thing he could do in the circumstances most of the time.
There is also amazing fanart of this chapter! That continues to make me a happy happy dwarfling.