They have never spoken of love; they are not sentimental fools, and some things go without saying. But they have shared their longing for friendship and the warmth of another body, and for their lost home, and many a long night they huddled together by the fire and shared their dreams of their mountain, of great halls and deep caverns and unimaginable treasures and beauty that the dwarven craftsmen of old created. On those occasions the daily worries and the weight of responsibility left the exiled king, and his face was alight with passion and longing and life.
Now they are once again wandering the stone-carved pathways and magnificent halls of their ancestors, surrounded by riches in abundance and wonders beyond imagination, and Thorin’s face is contorted by fury and hatred.
“I do not recall that I asked for your opinion on the matter,” he bellows, and he strides through the great lower hall so quickly that Dwalin can hardly keep up with his pace without breaking into a run. They are walking through one of the remote sections near the side entrance where they found a few habitable rooms, and Thorin is now disappearing into the small chamber that he has claimed as his private quarters.
“You never minded it before.” Dwalin shoves a heavy boot in the door before Thorin can slam it in his face, then kicks it shut behind himself. “And I will give you a piece of my mind right now, whether you like it or not.”
“I do not, and you are overstepping your boundaries, Cousin.” Thorin glares at him and crosses his arms, presenting the very picture of dwarvish obstinacy. “Now leave me alone and mind your own business before I throw you out by your collar.”
“You are welcome to try.”
Dwalin is not entirely sure that his actions are wise, because while Thorin has been his dearest friend for over a century and the trust between the two of them runs deeper than the gold veins in Erebor, he can feel that something is not right with his king. It has not been right ever since they got close to the mountain. He almost did not realize it at first, dismissed it as a laughable fancy in the mad euphoria that overwhelmed them all at the sight of the ancient riches. Then the dragon was slain, and he should have been ecstatic like his brother and his friends, but their king had eyes for naught but the treasure, looking upon the gold with greed and craving, and Dwalin felt a chill spreading in his heart.
He has seen that look before, but not on Thorin.
And he is not the only one who noticed. When he looked away, he caught sight of their little burglar, and the halfling was the only one in their company who did not wear a smile on his face. Instead he was watching Thorin with a look of deep concern.
Now Bilbo Baggins is gone, and everything is going to shambles.
“I’m not saying it’s right, what he did,” Dwalin argues. “He’s a damn fool. But he was our friend, and he deserved better of you.”
“Better?” Thorin demands hotly. “He is a traitor, Dwalin! He sold me out to our enemies. The fact that I counted him as my friend makes his crimes even worse!”
“He’s a fool, but what if he was trying to save our hides? Got it all wrong, but he’s not a dwarf, is he? I bet he didn’t even understand.”
“What in Durin’s name is there to understand?”
Thorin is screaming at him now, and Dwalin can see in his eyes the same murderous rage that very nearly led the hobbit to a gruesome end. This is not the strong, responsible leader who used to take care of his people when all the Gods were against them, the one who worked at human forges for a humiliating payment and forewent his meals so that his nephews would not go to bed hungry. Instead he is facing a maddened creature whose whole being has been twisted by darkness and greed, and he recognizes in its features the reflection of another king whose mind was destroyed by Erebor’s treasures.
There used to be very few things that could frighten Thorin Oakenshield. The possibility that he might share his grandfather’s fate had once been among them.
There will be no more use for diplomacy, for Thorin is beyond listening. Just as well, Dwalin thinks, for he is a soldier, not a diplomat, and now the fear he will never admit to himself is turning into fury.
“You owe him your life, Thorin, over and over again!” he throws at his friend, well aware that their argument is about to blow up in their faces. “Now look how you’ve repaid him. That’s unworthy of a king!”
“How dare you!” Thorin spits, and there is a gleam in his eyes that clearly tells Dwalin to back off now if he cares for his health at all.
But Dwalin is far too angry by now to rein his temper. “Aye, your Majesty, I dare!” he shouts back. “Why don’t you silence me, if you don’t like it? Cast me out, as you have done with our burglar? Perhaps you wouldn’t be too soft to throw me over the gate?”
He knows he has gone too far as soon as he has spoken the words, and he expects the blow when it comes; still, he notes bitterly, it is not like Thorin to strike at his face with a closed fist. He dodges the blow, twists the other’s arm behind his back and slams him into the wall so hard that Thorin gasps in pain.
“You’re getting slow, old man,” he hisses into Thorin’s ear as he pins his friend’s body against the flat surface with his own weight. It’s not only that, though, he thinks; Thorin is a tremendously efficient fighter, but now his fury and lack of restraint have made him imprecise and vulnerable. He’s not supposed to be beaten that easily.
Thorin growls something unintelligible and Dwalin suddenly feels like he is holding a wild beast, not the dwarf he loves and trusts. He buries his face in the long dark hair, feels the strength of the muscular body that is pressed against his own and the inevitable desire that is coursing through his veins, and tries not to let his heart break.
“This is wrong,” he mutters in despair. “It’s all wrong. I don’t know you anymore.”
“You’re a fool, Dwalin.” His friend’s voice is dripping with contempt. “A fool and a weakling. I thought I knew you, as well. In more than one way.” The latter is clearly phrased as a challenge, as is the look he shoots at Dwalin over his shoulder.
Dwalin knows what Thorin is suggesting. This is what they do when there are no more words to be found.
In the ensuing silence their breathing rings loud in his ear.
He knows deep down that he should refuse, because this doesn’t settle anything, nor have they ever argued so viciously, yet he can’t find it in himself to care. It has been far too long, and he is seething with anger, and he feels the darkness rising within his own soul, for all he wants is to make this arrogant creature scream and shatter beneath him and reduce him to a sobbing, apologetic mess, even if he knows damn well that the latter is not going to happen, ever.
Thorin squirms in his grip and lands a bruising kick on his shin, but Dwalin can tell that he is not struggling in earnest. They are equally matched in strength, and he knows from experience that he would never be able to subdue his friend for more than a few seconds if the latter chose to put up a serious fight. Certainly not long enough to tear away their clothing as Dwalin is doing now, and to move a spit-slicked hand between muscular buttocks for a quick and rough preparation. Thorin snarls an unspeakable curse in Khuzdul, and Dwalin shoves him harder against the cold stone and bites his neck as he takes him roughly.
They have never been gentle with each other - neither of them are gentle souls, and more often than not their encounters have been driven by anger and desperation – but seldom has Dwalin felt such a raw fury mingling with his lust. His hands are twisted in Thorin’s thick hair, and Thorin is panting underneath him as Dwalin uses him roughly.
He moves one hand to grope Thorin’s groin, works him in the same rhythm as he is moving inside him, and it is only moments before the body underneath him tenses and his friend’s handsome face twists in a silent scream. Dwalin presses his free hand against it to stifle any sounds that may betray them, then jerks it away as Thorin bites down hard, and the surge of pain finally pushes him over the edge so that he finishes with a few deep thrusts.
They are both left gasping for breath, and for a moment their bodies remain slumped together, flushed and slick with sweat and come.
“I should have your head for this,” Thorin grinds out when their breathing has slowed, and he turns slightly in Dwalin’s grip to glare at the other. There is blood on his lips, and Dwalin wonders whose it is.
“But you won’t,” he says bluntly, although he wouldn’t swear on it any longer, but he is not in the mood for any of their usual games of baits and taunts; not now, not after everything that has happened. Instead he allows himself to hold Thorin for a moment, and his king leans into his arms, and just for that moment Dwalin can pretend to himself that nothing has changed. Then Thorin pushes himself away from the wall, and the spell is broken.
“Get some sleep,” he orders coldly. “You need to be ready for action tomorrow.”
There is no recognition in his eyes, nothing that recalls the century of rough intimacy and brotherly affection they have shared, and Dwalin feels sickness rise in his throat. He is a seasoned warrior who has faced death a thousand times, has witnessed the tragedies that were Erebor and Azanulbizar, but nothing quite compares to the cold horror that threatens to suffocate him as he looks into the blank face of his closest friend.
Thorin straightens his clothes and walks out of the room without another word. Dwalin watches him go, and for a moment he wishes fiercely that he could follow the halfling’s example, that he could leave and never look back and bring as much distance as possible between himself and the murderous stranger who is wearing his best friend’s skin. He wonders what it would do to Thorin if he went, wonders if it would shock the king out of his madness or push him even deeper into it. He indulges in his fantasy just for a moment, and then he calls himself a fool, because he knows perfectly well that he is never going to do it. He might as well decide to drive a dagger through Thorin’s heart – and why not, coming to think of it, this would be a perfectly reasonable solution and would probably even meet the approval of the young dwarf prince who was terrified by his grandfather’s descent into madness – but it is a waste of time to even consider it, because Dwalin knows well enough what he is capable of doing and what he is not.
They have never spoken of love, but they have shared their passion and their dreams, and they were closer than brothers. Now their dreams have come true, but the dark things that lurk in the depths of the mountain have claimed Thorin’s soul as they did his ancestor’s, and Dwalin realizes that all too soon there will be not enough left of Thorin to fight them. There is another battle to wage, and that is something the warrior can understand: It is a battle against the demons in his friend’s mind, and his place is to stand beside his king right to the end, if need be.
This, he knows, is something he can do.