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There were worse duties, Dwalin knew, than playing bodyguard to the heir. Sentry duty for one was dull as hammering nails, particularly at night. Even more so in the winter, cold and sleepy and miserable, and lowest ranked soldiers weren't the only ones on such a task, for if that were so they might well send any enemies a winter invitation to a midnight raid.

Worse duties, aye, there were worse. As far as frustration went, though, Dwalin thought that staring at the heir's stiff back as they rode in rainy, hostile silence, well, that was enough to grind the teeth of the stoutest of their kind to dust.

Being named bodyguard to the prince had not precisely been a surprise to him. When Dwalin had been called in for a meeting with the Crown Prince, he'd had a suspicion something very like this was on the table, and why not. He'd proven his mettle as a guardsman and a warrior, and he'd not needed a single pulled string from his brother's influence to get him the advancements he richly deserved. Thrain had requested to speak with him personally and Dwalin had been so puffed with pride that day that Balin had dryly suggested he take time to have his shirt let out, lest he sent a button flying into Thrain's good eye.

At the time, he'd suspected he'd been tapped as another set of eyes for young Frerin. Mahal knew that lad could use as many eyes upon him as could be spared and despite knowing he'd be tasked with the charge of a mischievous lad, Dwalin had been very much on his mettle for such a duty. Certainly there was bound to be a chuckle or two from it by the end of the day, make no mistakes about that.

To learn it was Thorin he was being tasked with had pricked his bubble of pride and great honor though it was, Dwalin hadn't quite been able to hide his disappointment that it was Thrain's eldest he was meant to guard.

Dwalin suspected Thorin still had yet to forgive him for that.

Hindsight lent perspective and looking back on it, Dwalin could see he was precisely the sort of guardian that Frerin did not need. They were far too much alike and Dwalin did not need much imagination to know that soon enough that lad would have embroiled him in some scheme or another. Such a thing would be poor for his health and his career both, and in the end, he was better for not getting what he'd wanted.

Thorin, on the other hand---

Dwalin frowned at Thorin's back, clucking to his pony to urge him into a trot. He'd been Thorin's personal guard for close to a year now and in that time he'd learned a great many things about the prince. Far too serious, for one; he was nothing at all like his younger brother. Thorin was busy with matters of state and throne and was not given to easy laughter or ridiculous schemes. Oh, he was easy enough on feast days and never one to turn aside an ale at the evening meal. But he had none of Frerin's youthful exuberance or his sweet disposition. Thorin had the bearing of one who was meant to be King and while that was all well and good, unless Thror and Thrain both perished as one in some mishap, it was not to happen soon.

To Dwalin's mind, he was due some amusements and while Dwalin wasn't as keen as his brother, even he could see that Thrain felt the same. More than once, he'd seen the Crown Prince's frustrations over his son's refusal to simply enjoy a little of life's gifts, instead of constantly pouring over treaties and battle training.

That, no doubt, was what had led to Thrain choosing Dwalin for his son; a terrible choice in guardsman for Frerin made him the perfect one for Thorin and while Dwalin could not properly call himself Thorin's friend, he had managed to be a partner in mischief from time to time.

To Dwalin's knowledge, no one yet knew about the time the two of them had snuck out in the wee hours to Dale, despite the damage wrought to the Dancing Rogue Tavern. None knew that it was the grandson of the King who'd tossed that loose-tongued Man through the front window and his companions alongside him, and if the damages had been covered later by a bewildered messenger from Erebor, why, at least they had been paid.

Certainly there was plenty of gossip about who had left Frór snoring and drunk, as well as missing his trousers, on the King's throne, but none had suspected that Dwalin had been the one urging that braggart to have yet another pint and less than none knew that stealing his clothes had been Thorin's idea.

Perhaps he'd been wrong thinking he could not call Thorin a friend, Dwalin mused, wincing as his pony's jostling trot brought him up next to him. Likely he knew Thorin better than any but his closest family; Dwalin knew a few secrets, he did, a few things about Thorin.

For one, he well knew that Thorin never appreciated an 'I told you so'.

"You can sulk all you want, but I was right, was I not?" Dwalin told him, bluntly. "We were going the wrong way."

Ah, it was just as well that the magics of the Dwarves were meant for crafting and not showy wizardry; otherwise the glare Thorin cast his way might have seared straight through him. Dwalin only gave him a toothy grin, whistling cheerily for the road was straight and the sun was rising high after the rain, and they were on their way home to Erebor after a particularly dull meeting with the councilman of the southernmost trading post.

Dwalin was not mindful of just what Thorin had been doing, only in that there was a great deal of bowing and manners and what have you. Treaties, he supposed, though none so important for the King or his son to travel away from Erebor. The grandson was of import enough for these folk and they'd all been properly appreciative of his presence. All it all, it had been a visit of far too much chatter and far too little food and ale, and now they were finally on their way home.

Mind, they'd be a couple of hours later than they were meant to be. Fog had risen high from the late morning rain and left them unable to see much past their noses and the road was not one they knew well. Without the sight of the mountain to lead them, they'd been left with only the roads of Men and Thorin's rain-drenched map.

They should have gone right, not left, at the fork in the road and Dwalin argued the point fiercely. Only to be ignored and in the end, Dwalin had followed Thorin, grumbling beneath his breath. Oh, aye, Thorin was a Dwarf and his sense of direction was impeccable, as he'd said with princely disdain. Never mind that Dwalin was no less Dwarf than he was and more to the point, he could see clearly enough that what little Sun was making its way through the clouds and fog was meant to set in the west, something that Thorin seemed to have forgotten.

An hour later and a nicely wrought sign had pointed out the error of their way and while Thorin could dismiss Dwalin, he could not argue with wood and iron. Unless he was meaning to visit the Elves, they were going the wrong way. They'd turned around in stony silence and Dwalin had allowed Thorin his foul temper for more than long enough, for the mountain was now in their sight.

Words had gotten him nothing but a glare and so his next choice was to kick Thorin, lightly, in the calf. Then harder when that did not even get him a scathing look. Next time, he aimed for the knee and missed when Thorin guided his pony away, still not offering Dwalin so much as a stink eye for his childishness. Sitting atop his fine grey pony with the braids for the line of Durin woven into its mane, Thorin had his head held high, his own braids swaying lightly in the breeze. His hair was pulled back from his face with a heavy clip that allowed the rest of it to spill over his shoulders in a shiny mass and his clothes and cloak all spoke of his lineage, down to the engraved buckles on his boots.

And Dwalin paid not one whit of attention to any of it when he leapt from his pony and knocked Thorin to the ground, into what was surely the largest mud puddle on the road to Erebor.

That he landed in the murky water himself was of no consequence, not when he had the supreme pleasure of seeing Thorin splattered from forehead to boots. He watched dirty water drip from the tip of Thorin's nose, his princely expression one of pure shock, and Dwalin howled laughter to the skies, slapping a hand in the mud, heedless of the splatter that struck them both.

Shock was turning quickly into heated anger and still Dwalin laughed, cackling up to the Sun while water soaked through his trousers and the grandson of the King slowly stood, streams of water falling from his clothes. At that moment, Dwalin would not have been at all surprised if Thorin had drawn steel on him and if he was to be murdered today, Dwalin could only hope that his brother took the news well.

Instead of handing him his own head, Thorin shifted into a crouch and whatever blow Dwalin braced himself for, he never expected a handful of mud to suddenly be smeared across his face, firmly ground into his beard and his laughter turned to spitting both mud and curses. Thorin's smirk was equal halves smug and wicked, and Dwalin only offered a quick one of his own before he tackled the prince to the muddy ground and the battle was on.

The ponies were too well-trained to do anything but trot out of the way of such ridiculousness, plodding over to a grassy knoll and ignoring two young Dwarves who were covered in mud, and fighting for all they were worth. They were equally matched in both skill and size and by the time Dwalin finally had Thorin pinned by one wrist and his hair, the pair of them might have been mistaken for being borne of the earth like those fool Men sometimes whispered. Dwalin could not even claim winner, for Thorin's other hand was clenched tight into his own hair, and he did not seem keen on crying surrender.

It was only when Thorin bucked up fiercely against him, still fighting for his freedom, that the implication of their position dawned on Dwalin. He was sprawled muddily on top of Thorin, right between his hard muscled thighs and Mahal have mercy, the way Thorin was squirming against him was giving Dwalin ideas that no Dwarf should be having about the King's grandson.

Thorin had yet to notice past the fact that he was losing a wrestling match, still fighting and writhing and Dwalin might have been happy to let him struggle loose, let the length of his tunic hide his growing problem until they'd returned to the ponies. Only the legs he was between abruptly wrapped around him, knees high and thighs tight against his hips, heels drumming in the small of his back.

"Stop," Dwalin blurted, a touch desperately and through blurry mud he could see the triumph on Thorin's face. Any other day it would have put him on his mettle; not this day, not when he could barely stifle a gasp as Thorin's hips lifted against his own, ah, Durin's blood this was—

"Yielding so soon?" Thorin panted, "You must be spending more time in the taverns and less on the training….grounds…" His voice dwindled and Dwalin slumped down in despair, noting the very moment Thorin realized by how still he became.

With trepidation, Dwalin raised his head enough to look guardedly down at him, knowing that he was betrayed by his own body. Thorin's face was splattered with mud, a long streak of it down his nose and matting his beard, crusting his eyelashes which surrounded wide, blue eyes. Thorin suddenly looked terribly young, younger than he has been in years. Like the lad Dwalin first met before he'd ever become a bodyguard, all full of temper and swagger, and biting words

Dwalin was not so much older than Thorin but he well knew he was more worldly. Their little acts of mischief aside, Thorin was the grandson any King would be proud to claim while Dwalin had been garnering eye rolls and rueful head shakes from his brother since he'd been able to braid his beard. He was well-versed in the ways of playful barmaids and shield brothers alike whereas Thorin was…not.

There were no words now, only those wide, wide eyes, thin lips parted as Thorin drew in a sharp breath and as Dwalin watched, the tip of a pink tongue flicked out, dampening Thorin's mouth to glistening temptation.

And Dwalin had never been much good at resisting temptation.

No so much at thinking, either. Thinking was Balin's territory, Dwalin would much rather do something than say it, and he thought not a bit as he lowered his head and took those soft, inviting lips, shoving his tongue between them to wrestle with the one inside it.

Thorin tasted heavily of mud and faintly of blood, his tongue too lax and his mouth too wet, spit-slick and their lips slid together much too readily. Not been bedded, surely and now Dwalin suspected he'd never been kissed either. Ah, Mahal save him from virgin Royals. The proper thing to do would be to withdraw, mutter his apologies and forget the entire matter.

Only Thorin's legs still gripped his waist, his wrist taut in Dwalin's grip, and his tongue was coming slowly to life, flicking against Dwalin's almost shyly and it was that uncertainty, that innocent clumsiness that dragged a low, harsh moan from Dwalin's chest to rumble in his throat.

Thorin was as sweet and untouched as a ripe summer fruit and this kiss was Dwalin's first taste of it, shyness melting into reckless boldness and his hand was painful in Dwalin's hair, dragging him down so that their mouths jarred apart and then together again, the bright, fresh iron tang of blood blooming within the kiss yet again.

Oh, this was dangerous, Dwalin thought desperately, even as he caught up a handful of that glorious, princely hair and yanked, forcing Thorin's head back so that he might bite at his throat, and the urge was there to mark him, leave a sign for all to see that the pretty young prince had been debauched, dragged down into the mud and earth with the common folk.

A suicidal urge, that, for his own brother would want his bollocks as a trophy, never mind the king, the kingdom; he doubted there would be a sympathetic ear in Erebor when he protested he'd simply had to fuck their heir to the throne in a puddle of mud, filthy him up a bit and remove that layer of him that screamed 'untouchable'.

Royalty was supposed to be untouchable, they were. That was the whole point of it.

So his teeth left not a mark and Dwalin was already drawing away, pushing up on his elbows even as Thorin's mud-flecked eyelashes swept up and already there was a tangle of emotion in those blue eyes, a complex puzzle of disbelief and betrayal, hurt and rising, humiliated anger.

And what was there to do? He'd heated the forge, now there was only to hone the blade. He only hoped that he'd be allowed to choose his own form of execution; Dwalin had always been partial to a nice, quick beheading.

The first angry word had yet to fall from Thorin's mouth by the time Dwalin reached down and palmed him roughly through his breeches, measured the stone-hard length beneath the fine fabric of his trousers against his own palm and any words were lost in his sudden, startled huff of breath

"Oh!" Thorin moaned, swollen lips parting as he cried out and there it was again, that lovely, wide-eyed look of startlement, as though he'd no idea such pleasure could come from such a simple act. Dwalin squeezed him again, on the edge of too-hard and Thorin only bucked up, his ankles sliding down to catch at the backs of Dwalin's knees to hold him in. Clever, always.

This was wrong, so wrong, obscenely so. Thorin was a prince, prince of Erebor, Dwalin's very own prince to whom he owed vows, and his first coupling was going to be a tumble in the mud because neither honor nor guilt, nor the faint, furious imaginings of his brother's face were enough to keep Dwalin from scrabbling with their trouser ties, loosening them until he could gasp in relief, his own cock rising hard and painful. Thorin bleated out a startled yelp as Dwalin repeated it on him, his cry melting into a sharp, eager growl as Dwalin gathered the both of them in his large palm, hot, hard lengths wrapped in his strong fingers and he stroked them together viciously, friction burning gloriously and Thorin's pleading even moreso.

"That's it, lad," Dwalin grunted, shoving his hips forward into his own grip and snarling his approval when Thorin mimicked him, hips rising with clumsy, rhythmless eagerness. "That's it, pretty thing, take it, take what you want."

"Do not call me--" Thorin's desperate indignance was lost in his stuttering cry, his hips arching fiercely enough to lift them both from the ground as he groaned brokenly and came, spilling in hot, wet spurts over the clench of Dwalin's fist. The sudden slickness of his palm, the knowledge that he was jerking his own cock with his prince's seed slicking his hand was enough to tip him over the edge as though he were a green lad himself, his own seed another layer of glorious slipperiness to ride against.

It was only when Thorin's breath edged into a whine that Dwalin gentled, slowing until he was only holding them together in a tender grip, his fingers dripping with seed, rubbing it into their softening shafts.

"All right there, lad?" Dwalin asked gruffly. With reason less crowded by the overwhelming distraction of lust, he was a bit more aware that he'd just roughly tumbled a virgin in the muddiest bit of ground in the land. The mud was starting to dry, prickling and itchy on his face and beard and he could only imagine Thorin had the worst of it, his backside resting square atop it.

That question earned him a baleful glare and another faceful of mud that left him sputtering, swiping at it uselessly with a shirtsleeve that was just as filthy.

Thorin squirmed away somewhere between his sputtered curses and swiping mud from his befouled eyes and by the time he was able to cast a glare of his own, Thorin had straightened his clothes and risen to his feet, as regal and haughty as a bedraggled, muddy prince could hope to be.

"You can keep your concern," Thorin told him, with cool, familiar arrogance and Dwalin snorted it aloud to see it on someone who was coated with enough earth to be mistaken for a small mountain of his own.

"Oh, aye, pardon one of us for having manners," Dwalin muttered and Thorin's mouth twisted.

"If I'd wanted a mannerly companion, I would have asked my father for one a year ago," Thorin said and he did not pause to watch Dwalin's mouth drop open, wading from the mud and muttering curses of his own as he swiped uselessly at his dripping clothes. The ride back would not be a pleasant one, Dwalin thought, but the mud was a blessing of its own, for it hid the more egregious sins they'd done to those very clothes.

He could only imagine the look on Thrain's face when his son returned, filthier than the deepest end miners. Better than it would be if he knew how his son had come to his dirty end and Dwalin groaned, flopping back into the puddle with a splash. The cold water was eye-opening to say the least, soaking quickly through armor and shirt and wetting him to the skin. His trousers were still undone, though he'd managed to draw them up at least, and tonight it was terribly likely he was going to be murdered.

"Are you going to swim in it?" Thorin called over impatiently. "Come now, I can already feel this drying to a crust."

"No, I'm trying to drown myself," Dwalin said miserably. "Before your father hangs me. D'you think it'll be hanging? I'd prefer beheading, myself, but p'rhaps he'd hang me just to be contrary."

A sudden weight dropping into his lap sent a wave of water splashing up and over his head and Dwalin pushed up on his elbows, spluttering and choking on filthy water, glaring at Thorin who was atop him and utterly unsympathetic to his pain. "You whine like a babe in arms," Thorin told him bluntly. "And you've no need to worry about hanging." His mouth, that pretty mouth that had caused all this trouble to begin with, twisted into a smirk. "From what I can tell, you're more than hung enough for my tastes."

"As if you'd even know," Dwalin said, weaker than he would have liked and eloquence was never his skill, less so when a pert, royal arse was squirming in his lap.

"I know plenty," Thorin said with airy insolence and he was on his feet again before Dwalin could do more than grab at him, a growl rising in his throat even though he knew better than that. Bastard, little bastard always knew where to jab a knife and knew even better how to twist it, how to make it bleed.

Thorin was seated on his pony while Dwalin was still struggling with his trouser lacings, that lazy smirk still quirking his lips as he watched with hooded eyes, and Dwalin tangled the lacings into a knot when Thorin traced his own mouth with a thick finger, as if testing the swollen tenderness of it.

"Come on!" Thorin called impatiently, and his sudden, furious scratching of the dried mud in his beard was less than seductive. "I'd like a bath, one with hot, clean water instead of muddy slush!"

"Aye, aye," Dwalin muttered irritably. He called his trousers good enough, they'd at least not fall down, and climbed up on his own pony, and it obeyed the tug of the reins reluctantly, straying from the patch of grass it'd been cropping to following Thorin's pony back down the road. They rode in silence for a time, only the clop of the pony's hooves and their own uncomfortable scratching to keep them company.

"You've nothing to fear from my father," Thorin said abruptly. "He'll not be hanging you or beheading you, or whatever other gruesome death you must believe he plans in his spare hours."

"You'll pardon me if I'm less sure than you," Dwalin said grumpily, "I'm a right twat at keeping a secret, he'll know in a day. In an hour if my luck runs sour."

"Considering he told me just yesterday that we should work harder at keeping our affair discreet, I think you can have some faith," Thorin said dryly. "You'll surely be pleased to know I told him on no uncertain terms that there was no affair and certainly not a flagrant one. Naturally, he didn't believe a word and only reminded me that a prince should be prudent in his…I believe he used the word activities. You'll excuse my poor memory; I was distracted at the time trying to die of humiliation."

That left Dwalin blinking at Thorin's sodden back. Thrain, crown prince of Erebor and Thorin's father, not only thought they were bedding one another but that they had been for some time? He thought that his son, his eldest, had been…perhaps their sneaking about had been noticed more than Dwalin had believed, though apparently not the reasons for it.

"Ah," Dwalin said weakly, stupidly. His gaze drifted lower without his permission, lingering. He'd been riding behind Thorin for the past days, from Erebor to the southern post and back. How he'd managed to avoid noticing the way Thorin's hips shifted as he rode, the barely visible curve of his backside, Dwalin would never know.

"Ah, indeed," Thorin said, wryly. He flicked a look over his shoulder, all filth and drying mud, and even Dwalin was not so foolish as to miss the edge of flirtation to it. Not a day ago he would never had suspected Thorin capable of such subtlety, never mind having it sent his way. It was quick, almost to be missed, and then Thorin was setting his heels to his pony's sides, urging him on. "Come on, we're not far now and this itch is maddening."

"Maddening itch, aye," Dwalin muttered, giving his own pony a light kick, his eyes never leaving Thorin's arse. "You've a bath in your rooms," he called, louder, "Seems you might be able to settle your itch there."

Laughter greeted that and if it was not as bright nor as playful as Frerin's, to Dwalin's ear it had a great deal of its own appeal. "I may!" Thorin shouted back to him, "Perhaps you'd care to help me scratch it!" The words were barely spoken when he urged his pony into a gallop, leaving Dwalin to gape after him.

"Hie!" Dwalin grunted, goading his pony to follow. Perhaps Thrain had had more on his mind than Dwalin had first thought when he'd been picked for this duty.

He knew that Thrain had wanted his son to enjoy life. Seemed only proper Dwalin help Thorin indulge. At the end of this muddy ride there might well be a hot bath in a private room and a bare prince to join him, and while Frerin might have a sweet laugh and a playful smile, it was Thorin and the memory of his kisses that made Dwalin catch his breath.

Playing bodyguard to the heir to the throne was the best of all duties, Dwalin was certain. The very best of all.