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Beneath the Mountains Music Woke

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At Thorin’s command, Bilbo’s sword fighting lessons began the very next day.

It had been an easy enough task to convince his nephews to take on the additional responsibility. Thorin had approached the two of them in the early hours of the morning, when the chill air and dew-soaked grass made their fireside conversation seem like little more than a half-dreamt memory.

 Both Kili and Fili had accepted the task gladly, as he had suspected they would. Both of them were their mother’s sons: Dis had always been a hearty woman, but she possessed an affable and kindly nature that both of her sons had inherited. Young and reckless and occasionally foolish though they might be, he had never known the two of them to shy away from hard work. They were growing into capable young warriors, and Thorin felt a rush of pride when they happily accepted their new task. He did not doubt they would prove to be excellent tutors.

The fact that Bilbo seemed friendly enough towards him the next morning – a little restrained, perhaps, but not overtly angry, and Thorin still couldn’t seem to figure out where their conversation by the fire had gone so wrong – helped to reassure Thorin more than ever that he’d made the right choice.

The company continued at a slow but determined pace, building up their stockpiles of supplies as they trudged along the ever-widening streams. And other than Gandalf declaring his intention to foray alone for a few days, the only real alteration to their routine came in the evenings; when Kili or Fili would tap Bilbo on the shoulder, tug him aside, and begin teaching him the rudiments of swordsmanship.

The first of Bilbo’s lessons were highly conceptual in nature, as Thorin had advised. His assumption that the halfling had never received a single fighting lesson in his life was soon proven correct by Bilbo’s own admission, and Kili and Fili spent the first few evenings working on the very basics of stance, grip, the names of different techniques. One evening’s lesson seemed to entail his nephews physically demonstrating methods for stalling an enemy just long enough to scramble to safety. In another, Fili even set out all of his personal weapons that he had managed to reclaim from the goblins – the most extensive selection of their entirely company, including two swords, two daggers, a regular-sized axe, and a pair of throwing axes – and had patiently explained how each was used and how best to defend against them on the battlefield.

These initial lessons were so basic, in fact, that the novelty of their resident hobbit learning to fight wore off quicker than Thorin had expected. The rest of the company seemed quite content to either watch the proceedings with one eye or let them have privacy altogether.

Thorin’s interest, however, did not wane quite so quickly.

It was almost like a sickness; as though Bilbo had been seared onto his brain and simply could not be ignored any longer. Taking his eyes off of the halfling was almost physically painful, and even though he trusted Fili and Kili to conduct themselves with safety and integrity he could not seem to resist declaring his intentions to sit on in the first few lessons. He observed in stoic silence, only making a quiet comment here or there. His heart seemed to clench whenever Bilbo glanced nervously up at him. Any lesson he did not overtly shadow was always spent wondering how the proceedings were going in frustration.

Even though Bilbo had reacted so badly to the idea of being instructed, Thorin was quietly pleased to note that he took to the lessons rather well. He discovered that Bilbo was both an excellent student as well as a quick learner, and the speed with which he was able to grasp ideas and techniques made a raw pride swell in Thorin’s chest. It helped, he told himself, that Kili and Fili were the ones doing the teaching. As with most things in life, the two of them approached the task with good humour and high energy, and Bilbo seemed to enjoy learning from them.

And if his eyes lingered a little too long over the way Bilbo’s hands wrapped around the sword hilt, or the way the exertion made Bilbo’s cheeks flush and his sweet curls dampen with sweat...

He berated himself firmly whenever such ideas began to edge along the corners of his mind, roughly shoving such thoughts away with the bitter taste of shame at the back of his throat.




Because of an unexpected encounter with a rogue band of orcs that caused a rather unpleasant detour, it took the company an extra three days to make their way back onto their path. By that point, Kili and Fili had apparently decided that their pupil had gained enough confidence to begin drilling techniques in earnest.

This was, of course, the exact moment that the rest of the company decided to start taking an interest.

The day’s lesson was taking place a good few hundred paces away from their camp site, right up against the banks of the stream they had been following. Thorin arrived from a meeting with Oin and Gloin to discover that a small cluster of assorted dwarves had gathered to watch. His nephews, seemingly at a bit of a loss at what to do, half-heartedly demonstrated thrusts and parries for Bilbo to copy as the throng of onlookers nattered and commentated and cheered in turn. Bilbo himself seemed to be growing more and more flustered by the second.

 “A hobbit fightin’ a dwarf,” snorted Dwalin in amusement, though not with any real spite. “Had to see this for myself.”

“Hey now,” Bilbo exclaimed, giving his sword a decidedly distracted swipe. “I don’t think –”

“You can do it, Mr. Bilbo!” shouted Ori excitedly, his knitted hood bouncing up and down as he jumped in place.

“I – well. Thank you,” Bilbo finished awkwardly, missing the next move he was supposed to be imitating entirely. “But it’s really not –”

“A lot of rough things can happen during a sword practice,” Bofur interjected in a wise tone, cocking his head and smiling earnestly. “You could have your fingers chopped off, just like that! Or perhaps a little poke with the pointy end. Bloody little messes, stab wounds.”

Bofur.” Bilbo’s voice dripped with frustration, but he seemed to grow ever-so-slightly paler at the mention of chopped fingers. He jabbed his sword forward angrily, as though he was imagining someone being impaled on its point. “Can you not, really, I’m trying to –”

But the babble only got louder, drowning out Bilbo’s protests as well as any tips or pointers that Kili and Fili might have been attempting to bestow on him. It was funny – it should have been funny, at least, and most of the company seemed to be treating an angry Bilbo in much the same way they would a hissing kitten. Only Fili and Kili were looking increasingly disheartened, and Bilbo’s whole body seemed to be tensed with frustration and embarrassment, and Bilbo was trying. He was, he was trying to learn something that might save all of their lives one day, and all his companions could do was point and mock and stare.

Thorin could feel his fists clenching at his sides, the sound of his own heart pounding louder and louder in his ears until –


Everyone froze, and it took Thorin half a moment to fully realize that it was he who had shouted – roared – at the cluster of gathered dwarves, the word imbued with every bit of authority he could muster. Everyone was turning to him in surprise, now, and Thorin was shocked to realize that he could feel himself vibrating with anger. He took a deep breath, then another, before glaring at the onlookers.

“Did any of you have a crowd of spectators on your very first day learning to wield a blade?” Thorin asked slowly, his voice was full of ice and order. Several of the dwarves at least had the decency to look guilty, either gazing down at their feet or off into the trees. Even Dwalin looked apologetic, and Bofur was wringing his hands in front of him. “Go about your business and leave him be. I’m sure the hobbit will be happy to demonstrate his skills once he’s had a chance to hold a sword for longer than a few moments.” 

Disappointed and well-reprimanded, the troupe of would-be spectators turned on their heels and headed back toward the campgrounds. Only somewhat shamed, Thorin felt a rather unnecessary amount of pleasure at the sight of Bofur’s retreating back. He stifled a smile.

 “On your way, then!” shouted Kili cheekily, and Fili cuffed him gently on the head even as he sent the retreating dwarves a gleeful wave. Their enjoyment at being included when others were not was palpable, and Thorin sent them an amused look.

He shook his head, turned – and was unexpectedly confronted with a very scattered-looking Bilbo less than a foot away. He almost jumped, but managed to control himself at the very last second even though the startled energy pounded like drums in his veins.

Perhaps Gandalf is right about hobbits being light on their feet, he thought distractedly before Bilbo began to speak. 

“Thank you for that,” Bilbo exhaled, looking very relieved. He reached up and ran a hand through his curls, shaking his head. “Really. I know they meant well, but I barely know how to hold this thing let alone impress anyone with it.”

“You’re learning quickly,” said Thorin, his voice sounding awkward to his own ears, but Bilbo looked up at him sharply. His eyes were wide and surprised, as though the small compliment was the best thing he had ever heard. Emboldened, Thorin continued. “It takes commitment to learn a new weapon in adulthood; most of my men learned their own when they were but boys. You’re doing well.”

There was a pause – before a wide, genuine grin spread across Bilbo’s face. “Thanks,” he said, before letting out a startled laugh. At Thorin’s quizzical eyebrow-raise, he explained. “If the Sackville-Bagginses could see me now, they’d probably drop dead from horror.”

The thought seemed to cheer him rather than make him sad, so Thorin gave him a small smile in return. He took a quick look around – but Fili and Kili seemed to have run off somewhere. How strange. He glanced down at Bilbo’s hands, frowning as he remembered something about Bilbo’s practice strokes that he had witnessed before ordering the onlookers away.

“Your stance is good,” Thorin began, “but your strokes are too heavy for such a little blade. My nephews forget that your weapon is elvish steel: it’s light and quick, not the heavy swords they themselves learned on.” He hesitated, gesturing at Bilbo’s sword. “May I show you?”

Bilbo swallowed, blinking at him. “All right,” he said after a moment, handing the blade over so that Thorin could demonstrate. It felt so light in Thorin’s hand, his fingers thick and large around the slimness of the hilt. He moved a few paces back, then gave the air a few experimental strikes.

“I went through the same transition when I claimed Orcrist,” Thorin explained, his eyes trained on Bilbo even as Bilbo was looking at the sword. “When you learn to fight a certain way, removing that training from your mind can often prove a challenge.”

Bilbo nodded in understanding, and the movement made one of his curls – which had grown longer and slightly untamed since they left the Shire – shift so that it was just barely grazing his eyelash. Thorin’s fingers twitched with the sudden urge to reach up and nudge it back into place, but instead he took another step back. He coughed, raised the little sword in the air – and demonstrated a common practice set in the air. Sideswipe, sideswipe, thrust, upwards cut, and all the while the little blade felt as light as a feather in his grasp. He felt close to preening from the pleasure of having Bilbo’s eyes on him, intense and focused, but caught himself just in time.

“Focus on the movements of your wrists,” said Thorin, emphasizing his movement accordingly. “You don’t need strength to wield a blade like this, and there’s no point in hurling it around like you’re using a greatsword. See?”

He lowered the blade before taking a step forward and handing it back to Bilbo, who seemed to be slightly flushed.  “Thank you,” said Bilbo, turning quickly away from Thorin to give the sword an experimental swipe of his own.

The sight of him – back turned, dressed in his soft-looking maroon jacket that had once been so luxurious but was now world-won by many smudges and tears – was more than Thorin could resist. Without even thinking about it, without even stopping to consider how incredibly stupid he was being, Thorin stepped forward and right into Bilbo’s personal space, his chest pressed right against Bilbo’s back.

Bilbo startled against him, almost dropping the sword as he tensed up violently. Thorin quickly reached up, resting his hand against Bilbo’s sword arm in a guiding, soothing gesture.

“May I show you?” he asked softly after a moment, an echo of his previous question. The roughness of his own voice surprised him. Bilbo hesitated – before nodding in acquiescence.

“All right,” said Bilbo, the words almost a whisper. For a mad moment, Thorin almost imagined that he could feel Bilbo shiver against him. He reached up and laid his other hand against Bilbo’s shoulder – to calm him just in case he was nervous.

There was a long, heavy pause – until Bilbo slowly raised his arm in the air and gave his sword a cautious, testing swipe. Thorin’s hand guided his arm, focusing intently on the way Bilbo’s hand arced.

“That’s it,” he said, squeezing Bilbo’s shoulder. “Feel the blade curve with the air. Let its speed and sharpness do the damage for you.”

“It did once impale a warg’s skull without much trouble,” said Bilbo, laughing shakily. Thorin hummed a small laugh behind him, trying to feel guilty for the way he was reveling in the feel of Bilbo’s back pressed up against his chest. He felt so small against him, narrow and delicate where Thorin was rough and broad. He wondered how it would feel to rest his chin atop Bilbo’s curls; if Bilbo would pull away if Thorin wrapped his arms around his chest, holding him tight from behind and just breathing in the green, fresh smell of him.

It occurred to him that the incident with the wargs could have ended far worse for Bilbo than it had, and Thorin felt a sudden clenching in his chest at the idea of Bilbo being hurt. At him bleeding, or in pain, or clutching at a wound that Thorin never should have allowed to happen in the first place. In front of him, Bilbo seemed completely oblivious to Thorin’s unease as he continued to practice his sword strokes.

It gives me great anxiety that he wears no body armour, thought Thorin distractedly, his mind drifting to the light linen shirts Bilbo tended to wear. Such clothes tended to reveal a distracting patch of skin right below his neck, and there was never any mail or leather peeking out beneath them. Once again, the notion of hiding the halfing away came treacherously into his mind: of keeping him where no one could ever see or touch, of locked doors and guards to keep him safe, of covering him from head to toe in mithril just to be sure.

“Thank you,” came Bilbo’s voice, the sound stilted and awkward and sudden. Thorin jerked out of his reverie, his heart pounding so hard that he could only hope and pray that Bilbo did not notice. He felt rather than saw Bilbo shrug his shoulders. “For, um. Helping me with this; for making me less useless. I really do appreciate it, you know.”

For a second, Thorin faltered. The words were laden with a kind of peculiar heaviness, and Thorin felt something twist uncomfortably in the base of his stomach. He wished very much that he knew the right combination of words to make Bilbo’s doubts go away, but the memory of their conversation by firelight a few nights ago burned brightly in his mind. Somehow, his reassurances always seemed to turn sour as soon as they left his lips.

“Don’t say such things,” he said gruffly, feeling uncomfortable and tight in his chest. “You are not a burden, I told you as much.”

It seemed as though there was more he should say, but Thorin could feel Bilbo tensing up – before relaxing heavily, as though Thorin had finally managed to say something right. Thorin stepped back quickly, feeling suddenly uncomfortable with their close proximity, and Bilbo turned to face him. There was a small smile on his lips that made his laugh lines more pronounced, and the very tips of his slightly-pointed ears were just visible through his curls. His linen shirt that had begun their journey so crisp and white was nearly grey and fraying along the edges, but he seemed to almost glow with a calm contentedness nonetheless.

He looked very beautiful. 

If they were in Erebor – Erebor as it used to be, not the devastated shell it had become – Thorin would have given Bilbo his weight in gold and more as a gift to win his favour. He realized that, now; the stirrings in his chest could no longer be denied, and Bilbo was special. So special, so small, so much courage and strength hiding behind that sweet smile.

He wanted Bilbo; wanted the hobbit to wear rings branded with the insignia of Durin, to clad himself in only the finest clothes that gold could buy, to let Thorin call him his in every conceivable way so that everyone who looked would know exactly who he belonged to. Thorin would have draped him in fine golden chains and glittering gems – green and yellow, perhaps, the colours of the Shire – just to see him smile. Just for the chance that Bilbo might forgive him for past wrongs; for the mere possibility that he would stay by Thorin’s side and help him rebuild a shattered kingdom.

But this was not Erebor.

In front of him, Bilbo was smiling – but all Thorin could feel was a growing cold gathering in his chest. He gave a small bow, nodding back towards their camp.

“You had best find my nephews,” said Thorin, the words coming out more abrupt than he had intended. He gave his head a shake. “To finish your lesson. And be careful: Gandalf says these lands may be home to shapeshifters.”

“I will be,” said Bilbo, blinking, but Thorin was already turning and heading into the woods. He needed a moment – needed to think – and that meant heading away from the camp, away from his companions. Away from Bilbo, whose eyes Thorin pretended not to feel on his back as he fled.




As far as Thorin could tell from the darkening sky, it was almost an hour later when Balin and Dwalin found him. He did not look up as they stepped through the trees, although he had heard them long before they came into sight. Hushed words and heavy footsteps they made no effort to conceal, and the rustling sound of walking through foliage that meant they wanted their presence to be known.

It was a good little glade. Full of soft, tall grass and the tops of the trees far enough apart for the moon’s light to shine through the canopies. Too small for all fourteen of them to make camp, but more than adequate for a single dwarf. Fireflies had started to come out a little while ago.

After leaving Bilbo, Thorin had made the decision that his weapons required immediate cleaning and sharpening. Orcrist never seemed to grow dull, the Elvish craftsmanship frustratingly flawless, but it had been too long since his broadsword and main axe had received proper attention. He was attacking his axe with a whetstone and considerable fervour when Balin cleared his throat.

“Dinner’s ready, laddie,” said Balin, his voice full of warmth and welcome.

“You still pouting?” Dwalin grunted, and Thorin finally wrenched his eyes away from his weaponry long enough to look up at them.

The two of them were such a funny sight together, as always. Snowy white hair bright in the moonlight, Balin stood with a look of gentle sternness on his face. He seemed positively tiny next to Dwalin, whose imposing stature coupled with his crossed arms made him look as though he was gearing up for a fight. Although the two were brothers, they were so radically different in appearance and the age gap between them so vast that many did not realize their familial relationship.  What they shared, however, was countless years in Thorin’s closest confidence. With Balin as a mentor and Dwalin as a companion-in-arms, he had never wanted for friendship.

Now, however, their familiarity did not feel like a boon. Thorin scowled.

“I do not pout,” Thorin muttered, giving the blade of his axe a forceful  stroke with the whetstone and glaring at Dwalin.

“Could’ve fooled me,” said Dwalin, looking at Thorin with unconvinced eyes and raising a single thick eyebrow. Thorin just managed to stop himself from growling, and for a moment he seriously contemplated whether or not getting into a quick scrap with his friend would make him feel better or worse.

“What my brother means to say,” Balin piped up, sending Dwalin a reproachful glance that his brother merely shrugged off, “is that we’ve both known you for a very long time.” He walked over to Thorin and then lowered himself to the ground slowly, taking a moment to straighten his long brown coat. Dwalin followed carelessly, flumping down onto the grass with considerably less gentleness. They sat like that amongst the tall grass in a makeshift circle: Balin with his back straight and legs crossed, Dwalin a sprawl of limbs, and Thorin coiled like a spring with his back against a tree.

Across from him, Balin gave Thorin a look over the bridge of his nose. “The others might not have noticed, Thorin, but don’t think for a second that we haven’t.”

“You want to bugger the burglar,” said Dwalin bluntly, nodding in understanding, and Thorin nearly brained himself on the tree trunk he was leaning against as he shot back in shock. There was a muted thump as Thorin’s axe fell from his limp fingers and landed on the ground, and the choked-off spluttering noise that escaped his gaping mouth was completely involuntary. Dwalin gave him a pat on the arm, and Thorin could see Balin closing his eyes and rubbing his temple in a long-suffering expression.

“I don’t – I mean, that’s not –” Thorin blurted in a strangled voice, and Dwalin threw back his head in laughter. Horrified, Thorin thought he could feel heat spreading across his cheeks.

It was completely unfair, he thought, that after all he had been through – all the enemies faced, all the battles lost and won – that his two closest friends could still make him feel about forty years old without barely even trying.

“Oh, come on!” said Dwalin, shrugging his shoulders. “You’re hardly subtle about it, you great royal lump.” He shook his head. “I don’t know why you don’t just take him, if you want him so badly. I don’t imagine he’d object.”

Something contracted frantically in Thorin’s chest, but he shoved the feeling aside and sent Dwalin a hard stare.

“You know not of what you speak,” said Thorin, looking determinedly into Dwalin’s blue eyes and forcing his voice to be as level as possible. Even so, a hint of unsteadiness lingered in his words nonetheless. “It is... not as simple as that.”

Dwalin snorted. “I doubt that,” he said. “I’ve seen you two together.”

At that, Thorin gave a hard wince. Just think about how horrendously transparent he must have been since the day they escaped from the goblins was enough to make him never want to look any of his companions in the eye again. Balin gave him a sympathetic look that did nothing to make him feel better.

“Can’t say I’m not surprised,” Dwalin rumbled, moving his head from side to side so that his neck cracked noisily. He straightened after a moment, shooting Thorin a little grin. “I mean, he’s comely enough in his own way, I suppose. Guess I just never took you for the type to go searching for a bit of fun.”

The words were meant as a tease, as a jibe. Instead, Thorin swallowed hard and looked away.

When Thorin was young – only twenty, barely old enough for the memories to be solid in his mind – his mother had passed away during a great sickness. The memories he had of her death were so fleeting and foggy that he sometimes could not discern if they were real or imagined: the heavy wool of the blankets they had wrapped her in when she sweated and sweated and couldn’t get warm, the way she had held his hand and whispered his secret name in Khuzdul over and over until his hand was stiff but he could not care, how small she had looked in her sickbed without her ever-present jewelry.   

But more than anything else, Thorin remembered the utter devastation that had engulfed his father once she passed. It had been as though he had lost mother and father both, in those first few months. Thrain locked himself in his room and barely ate, and the raw wailing of his sobs had echoed in the halls of Erebor every day for a long time. When he finally emerged, it had been like a piece of him had been carved away with a dull knife: he lived, but a part of him had been lost forever. He went about his life, but he would never be the same.

That was how most of their kind loved: with all their minds and all their hearts, a deeply personal adoration that was all-consuming in its intensity. It had not been until his years in exile in the towns of men that Thorin had even realized that the utter dedication and love that persisted long after death was not necessarily customary in other races. For men, marriages were many but few of them were truly happy. For dwarves, there were few marriages – few women, few whose hearts beat for one another – but almost all of them lasted a lifetime.

There were some exceptions, of course. There were those who never met anyone to make their heart stir, and some of them chose lives of variety. Every so often widowed dwarves were able to find a new spouse to spend their lives with, and even more rare were the dwarves who chose to break their marital vows.

Those were the exceptions. Overall, however, devotion was the rule.

Thorin swallowed, looking down at his lap. It was almost fully dark out, now, although the moonlight still shone bright above them. He took a deep breath.

“That would be because I am not.” said Thorin, the words very slow and very quiet. It had been hard enough, he thought, to accept his fascination with the halfling within the confines of his own mind. Confessing it out loud made him feel incredibly exposed; as though not only his clothing but his very skin had been peeled back for all the world to see.

When he glanced back up at his friends, he saw that Dwalin’s mouth was slightly open in a gobsmacked expression that made him look decidedly less fearsome.

“Oh,” said Dwalin dumbly. He grunted; Balin had elbowed him sharply in the ribs and muttered something that sounded very much like I told you so under his breath. Afterwards, Balin turned and gave Thorin a look that made him feel very much like a dwarfling small enough to hide behind his father’s cloak.

“So you intend to...?” asked Balin, but Thorin cut him off with a shake of his head.

“I don’t know. I don’t –” he swallowed hard, feeling lost. There was a long pause. “I can’t,” Thorin said eventually, and the realization made him feel like something was fragmenting inside of him. “I can’t,” he said again, unnecessarily, and closed his eyes. 

“Is it about the succession?” asked Balin after a moment, sounding uncertain.

“What?” Thorin asked, eyes flying open. He scrubbed a hand, shoving his long hair out of his eyes. “No, of course not. I have my sister-sons as heirs, the succession is not a concern. It’s just...”

Thorin thought about the soft comforts of Bag End, with its tidy little front garden and squashy armchairs and wide rounded doorways that had seemed polished to within an inch of their lives. The dawn light had poured through the windows the morning they left. There had been a brass kettle on the fireplace and doubtless a closet full of embroidered vests and velvet smoking jackets, and all of it so homely and quaint and foreign to him. His mind flashed to the cold, damp places that he’d had to make do with during his time in exile: hostile human towns and the heat of the forge that had blistered his skin, scrounging for enough gold just to feed himself and the dwarves in his care.

He thought about the cool stone of Erebor’s halls; of how much he had adored growing up there, in a kingdom of wealth and majesty where the tunnels never seemed to end. The very idea of those beautiful halls and the treasure they held made his very fingers itch with the desire to take it back, to reclaim it – but he knew that Bilbo was not like him.

Because Bilbo was a hobbit, and the Shire was his home. He belonged there; he had said as much. And when this adventure was complete, no matter what Thorin might do, Bilbo would leave him and return there. Even if he could convince Bilbo of his own worth, there was small chance the halfling would have any desire to stay with him even if they did manage to recapture Erebor.

His only hope, Thorin knew, was to win his heart with gold and gifts – and he had neither to his name. He owned nothing but the clothes on his back and the steel in his hand, no better than a common peasant. If he could defeat Smaug, reclaim his family’s treasure – or the Arkenstone, perhaps, and what a gift that would be – then perhaps he could stand a chance. But until then...

“I have nothing to offer him,” said Thorin simply. Across from him, Dwalin scoffed.

“You’re a king,” he said dismissively, as though Thorin had somehowforgotten.

“A king without land!” Thorin barked back, anger and hopelessness flaring inside him like a spark that caught alight. He glared at Balin and Dwalin, challenging them to contradict him. “A king without a people, a king without a kingdom. A suitor without gold or gifts?” Thorin asked in disdain, giving a hollow laugh. Dwalin winced, and Balin looked down at his the ground with a carefully neutral expression. “You know better than that. You both know better than that.”

“Thorin –” protested Balin, but Thorin just shook his head.

“No,” said Thorin, his voice brooking absolutely no opposition. Balin fell silent. Thorin took a long, deep breath; he took a moment to collect himself, trying to gather all of his melancholy and anger and force it somewhere deep inside where he could not look upon it. Both of his companions were very, very silent. Thorin let out a sigh. “Do not speak of this to him, or to anyone,” he said quietly. “That is a command.”

 He got to his feet and picked up his weaponry, sliding it back into its various sheathes and places of concealment without looking either of his friends in the eye. Once all of his possessions were in place, he turned to leave – but only got a few paces away before he halted, lingering. He could feel both Balin and Dwalin’s eyes on his back.

“Thank you for your concern,” he said, stiff but polite. “You two... you are my dearest and oldest friends, and I have not forgotten that. I know you meant well tonight.” He paused. “We will speak of this again once we have recaptured Erebor.”

And with that, Thorin left the glade.