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Pain-Bearer

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"You thought you could escape me."

no no no no

"You trusted in that worthless Dwarf, yet he cannot reach you."

oh no, please no, please say it wasn't true

"Know your place, pain-bearer. It is beside me. Not in a hole, not in the light of the sun, not with any son of Durin. With me, and only me."

can't this be a dream can he wake up now please let him wake up

"Pain-bearer! Look at me."

Bilbo raised his head and looked up, following the order without even thinking about it. Azog was glaring down at him, his eyes glittering, and Bilbo tried to breathe in past the stench of death and Orcs. He thought he had been used to the smell of this place, but a taste of freedom had cleared his senses, given him fresh air --

"And what has it brought you?" Azog murmured, reaching out to grip Bilbo's curls tightly. "You know what happens to disobedient slaves. What else has your little adventure brought you, but pain?"

Bilbo glared at him, and then he spat in Azog's face, something he had only dared to do a few times in the last seven years, as it roused Azog's temper something fierce. Kill me, he thought desperately. I can make you angry enough to do it!

But Azog, who had stilled as soon as the saliva hit his cheek, merely reached up to wipe off the offending substance. Then he grabbed Bilbo's shoulder and squeezed tightly, and Bilbo let out a sharp cry. The other Orcs let him go, and Azog began stalking away, dragging Bilbo along with him.

"NO!" Bilbo yelled, grabbing onto Azog's arm and digging his nails in, but broken fingernails were no match to an Orc's thick skin. He pushed his feet against the floor but they slid in the dark mess that covered the stone ground, and though he struggled and fought, there was no stopping Azog as he pulled Bilbo out of the massive hall, to where the Dwarves had not yet breached. There were few Orcs here, nearly all of them fighting in the main hall and holding back the Dwarves, but two of the Wargs were prowling around, including Azog's Warg.

With a start Bilbo realized that they were moving closer to their bedroom, and his voice grew frantic. "No! Don't take me there again! I won't go back! I burned it anyway, there's nothing left --"

"Silence," Azog growled, and Bilbo shut his mouth immediately, nothing more than a whimper escaping him. "So it was you. I thought it had been that damn son of Durin," he said, and Bilbo could not stop him as he strode down the hall to their door. Yet when they reached it, Azog did not enter, his hand pausing in front of the ancient runes that glittered across the stone. Then Bilbo realized why -- the door was closed, and Orcs could not open closed Dwarf doors.

Usually, all of the doors were left open by rope or bricks, and even Azog had kept his door just slightly open when he wanted privacy. It was not that Azog did not know the password to open the door, for he knew a bit of Khuzdul and the password was easy enough, but that he was unwilling to speak the language of the Dwarves. Bilbo had learned this a few years ago, not long after his Dwarf friend had died.

Bilbo could see the heat rising off the door, and he realized that the fire was still burning inside. Azog must have closed it to keep the flame from spreading. He felt relieved, but only for a moment, as in the next, the pain he had expected since he was caught blossomed in his chest.

He realized a second later that Azog had pushed him up against the door, and Bilbo felt white-hot pain as the burning stone touched his chest. He screamed and struggled, and Azog relented after a moment, tugging Bilbo back and walking over to an alcove, out of sight of the rest of the Orcs. He set Bilbo down at his side, and Bilbo fell to his knees and wheezed, a few tears escaping the corners of his eyes.

"Tell me why you did it," Azog said, and Bilbo shot a watery glare at him but said nothing. Azog growled softly and reached down, gripping Bilbo's curls and tugging, forcing him to stand again. "I know you can understand me! Tell me why!"

Fed up and frustrated and in pain worse than he had felt in a long time, Bilbo hit Azog's wrist, but Azog did not let him go. "Because I hate you!" he snarled, his eyes wide and bright as he glared up at his master. "Because I hate that room, and I hate this place, and I wanted to see it all burn!"

Azog let out a soft growl, but Bilbo curled his lips in a sneer, unwilling to back down. Azog let out a short grunt and dropped him, kneeling down and laying his hand on Bilbo's neck. Bilbo stilled but did not stop glaring, twitching as Azog's thumb stroked his pointed ear. "I know that. That is not what I meant, you fool," Azog said, and Bilbo's glare faltered.

"W-what?"

Azog growled again, pressing his claw against Bilbo's ear, and Bilbo yelped when he felt the skin slice open. "Why the Dwarf? Enemy of my clan, enemy of the Defiler -- why him? You could have killed me long before now, but you waited, and now that worthless son of Durin murders my clan in my own halls. Why did you join him?" he asked, shaking Bilbo, and Bilbo realized that he recognized the odd tone in Azog's voice.

Possessiveness. Bilbo knew this, having heard it from Azog many times before, in how he said nûl-lûpûrz each night. He stared up at Azog, not answering for a moment, and Azog shook him again.

"Why?!"

Slowly Bilbo smiled, baring his teeth and feeling triumphant when Azog's eyes flashed. "Because he is your enemy," he said, and he let out a laugh as Azog's lips curled in a snarl. "Because I couldn't save my people, and he could. He took them far away, and all of your Hobbit slaves are gone. All except me, and I won't let you have me much longer," he sneered.

Azog stared down at him, and Bilbo felt the pressure on the side of his head lessen. His twisted smile abruptly faded when Azog's expression changed, a grin appearing on those scarred lips. "That is why you are my pain-bearer," Azog murmured, and something cold and heavy touched Bilbo's heart. Dread, icy and terrible, erasing the triumph he had felt but moments earlier.

"I will not let you die, my pretty little hobbit. You are mine. Nothing can take you away from me," Azog said, and he pushed Bilbo back against the wall behind him. Bilbo was frozen, but he barely heard a soft 'clunk' as his little sword hit the wall. Azog did not seem to notice it, though, as he continued, "Did you know? My allies think me weak for keeping you. But they do not see what I see."

His heart thudding in his chest, Bilbo itched to pull out his sword, but there was no way he could reach it. He stared up at Azog, his eyes wide, unable to say anything in response to the -- emotion? in Azog's voice. More than fury, stronger than hate -- the way Azog murmured the words made Bilbo tremble.

Azog slid his hand behind Bilbo's head to the back of his neck, fingers twisting in his curls, and he pulled Bilbo closer to whisper in his ear. "They do not know the true joy of you, my pain-bearer. You fight me every day, all for your kin, never for yourself. They cannot know the beauty of your agony, of your sacrifice. And they never will," he snarled, suddenly angry, and Bilbo tensed.

"You are mine. I will not give you to any Orc, or to that accursed Dwarf! You will watch as I take his head, and I will mount it in our room, to remind you every day of your failure. Now come," Azog said darkly, grabbing Bilbo by the arm and hauling him up, standing and beginning the walk back to the main hall. "Come and see his death, and the death of every Dwarf he has condemned by bringing them before the Defiler."

Bilbo was too distracted to fight him, and he stumbled along silently, numb with horror. He was imagining that room, but with Thorin's head on a pike above the door, dead blue eyes staring at him. Those blue, blue eyes, empty of fire and life -- and then Bilbo knew he could not let it happen.

His wide gaze flitted up to Azog's face. His master, so possessive of him, and jealous to a fault. So many times Bilbo had been hidden away when Azog's allies from other clans came to visit. Sometimes, the morning after a particularly vicious night, Azog would leave him in the Hobbits' hall and order him not to leave, and no Orcs would be allowed to see the Hobbits that day. The constant touches, the murmurs of his name, even how he would sometimes be the first to see the heads of whatever enemies Azog had slaughtered that day... All of these small things swirled together in Bilbo's mind, along with countless other bits of memories of his master -- facts of Bilbo's life that he had never questioned until now.

The sword on his back felt cold even through the shirt he wore. His chest hurt fiercely, beyond the pain of being burned, and Bilbo could not focus on why. He realized that there were tears in his eyes, and he hated himself then.

He knew why Azog was so possessive of him. He knew why it hurt so much to think about Azog's conviction in taking Thorin's head. Slowly, he reached up to grip Azog's wrist, and the touch made the tall Orc look down at him. Something in Bilbo's expression must have eased his rage a bit, because Azog let him go and continued walking, confident that Bilbo would follow.

Bilbo did follow, all the while feeling the weight of the sword on his back, knowing that he was walking toward an execution.

~

The moments that he could not see the Hobbit stretched like years, but Thorin still pushed forward, until at last he could reach the place where Azog had stood. Azog and Bilbo were gone, though, and in frustration he drove his sword into the next Orc he saw. "Forward!" he shouted in Khuzdul, and the Dwarves around him gave an answering bellow. "Axes of the Dwarves! Defeat the Orcs!"

So onward they fought, and the battle was so intense that Thorin did not notice for several minutes that the Orcs coming at him did not attempt deadly blows, instead seeking only to injure him. His guard was strong, though, and he defended himself well from the Orcs' weapons, slaying the foul creatures that dared to approach him.

And then, ahead -- deep in the hall past where the Orcs held them off -- he could see Azog walking toward him. As the Defiler strode forward, the Orcs parted for him, and behind him walked the tiny figure of Bilbo, head bowed as he followed Azog.

Master and slave, reunited.

The fury took Thorin by surprise. To see Azog standing there with such an expression, as if he had already won, with the poor Hobbit looking so defeated... but then, Bilbo looked up and caught his gaze. Those dark eyes showed no defeat -- no, they glittered with determination and a fire that had Thorin gripping his axe with the desire to surge forward and drive it into Azog's skull.

"So Thorin son of Thrain invades my halls," Azog said, coming to stand before Thorin, and the Dwarf King could see Bilbo several paces behind him, blocked by the Warg that prowled behind the Defiler. "Will you plead as your father did? Will you beg me to spare your life?"

"Azog," Thorin breathed, not understanding the words but feeling a shiver run up his spine in response. He hated how Azog said his name, and somehow he knew -- he knew that Azog was taunting him about his father. "This is the last day you haunt the halls of my forefathers. For the glory of the Dwarves!" he shouted in Khuzdul, hearing his brethren shout in response.

Azog sneered at him, and the great Orc picked up a heavy mace that one of the Orcs nearby handed to him. "Your head will fit perfectly on my wall," he said, and behind him, Bilbo twitched. Thorin glanced briefly at Bilbo and felt his temper rise, remembering all of the terrified Hobbits they saved, the skeletons and corpses they found, the dead looks on the Hobbits' faces.

"You will pay for what you have done," Thorin snarled, and Azog hefted his mace and began stalking toward him. "For my father! For my grandfather! For the Dwarves!" he roared, lifting his axe. "And for the Hobbits you defiled!" he finished with a growl, and he began to run toward Azog, striking at the Defiler with all of the strength in his arms.

His axe caught Azog across the stomach, and the great Orc gave a roar and knocked Thorin back with his mace. Thorin grunted as he hit the ground, but fury and hatred had him rising again. His shield of oak -- the piece of wood that had saved his life so long ago -- blocked Azog's mace from destroying his chest, but the blows still threw him back several feet.

Every time he fought Azog, it was always a test of endurance between them. Dwarves had strength superior to all other races, but Azog had strength above all beings that Thorin had witnessed. They had fought face-to-face four times before: once, the very first time, when Thorin had come seeking revenge for his father, and he had saved himself with a stray branch of oak.

The second time had been years later, when Thorin had been on an expedition to meet the Dwarf leaders from other clans, and Azog had attacked them. Thorin had gained respect and notoriety for his battle against Azog that day, but still the Defiler had slunk away to live, both of them nursing wounds and fury for each other. The third time had been on a hunting trip in Mirkwood, except Thorin had killed three of Azog's generals, and Azog's rage had given Thorin a great scar across his chest.

The last had been just two years ago. Azog had come to an ally's aid further north, and in the middle of the battle, Thorin had met him axe to mace, just as he did today. It was on that day that Thorin scored a victory against Azog: he had taken Azog's hand, slicing it off his arm and causing the Defiler to fall. The Orcs had taken Azog away, and Thorin had heard later that Azog had lived, which had made him furious. Now, the Defiler had an awkward metal hook to replace his hand, and the sight of it made Thorin ill.

So now they fought, Dwarf axe to Orc mace, and despite his rage, despite the desperate drive to avenge his kin and the victims of Azog's cruelty, Thorin could feel himself losing. Azog was more than angry -- he was furious, and though that pale blue gaze was bright and it seemed that he smiled, Thorin could tell that Azog was angrier than he had ever been before in any of their fights. He could see it in the fast, somewhat unsteady movements, feel it in the blows that Azog tried to land on him -- Azog was livid.

Past Azog, Thorin caught glimpses of Bilbo staring at them in horror, while the Orcs that were not fighting jeered and shrieked around them. Some of his Dwarves had stopped to watch, too, and Thorin wanted to tell them to fight, to continue, to push ever forward -- but he was too fixed on fighting Azog.

Then one of Azog's blows hit him in the face, and pain exploded in his senses. He felt himself hit the floor, but the pain in his face had him dizzy, and he could barely focus for a moment. He gasped and opened his eyes, to see Azog standing over him, blue eyes fire-bright as he gazed down at Thorin. Leaning down, Azog took his axe and flexed his fingers around it.

"You will pay for taking my pain-bearer," Azog murmured, setting the axe to Thorin's neck. Thorin stared at him in horror and reached blindly for the Elvish sword, but he could not feel it -- it had fallen away, landed too far away for him to reach.

No, he thought desperately. He could not die here -- he could not lose this battle, not when so much depended on him. His people, the Hobbits -- everything he had fought for -- he could not lose --

But Azog was raising the axe, and Thorin felt the world freeze around him, the cries of his men, of Dwalin screaming his name fading, but he could do nothing --

But then there was color and sound again, bursting into his senses, and Thorin realized that he was not dead, and that Azog stood still above him, expression twisted in surprise. Then Thorin saw it.

Jutting from Azog's chest was the tip of a blade that glowed blue beneath the black blood dripping from it. Behind him stood the tiny figure of Bilbo Baggins, his cheeks wet, shaking fingers gripping the sword tightly. Bilbo let go of the blade and stumbled back, and around them, everybody stared.