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a light to break my bones

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His people were forged from bands of iron, veins of mithril, yellow beryl for luck. The bones of the earth were their eaves, forge-fire their hearth. Yet Thorin finds himself scrying dim runes between the constellations of Men--they call that one the archer, though it's only imagination that fashions his drawn bow into an Angerthas K.

He sighs, hands still smudged with ash. What could his nephews do in Ered Luin? Fletch arrows, stitch leather, inherit his forge in a rented room and take commissions from smug Men with grasping hands. He would give them Erebor, crown them princes beneath the mountain. Fili, his heir, all bright eyes and immaculate braids. Kili in his boundless enthusiasm, all grass-stained knees with burrdocks in his hair. Kili who'd never had a home, who wore hand-me-down tunics from the washerwoman's son--Kili who always has a smile tugging at his lips, always has a smile for Thorin. Kili who took the blame for his brother's pranks, who climbed the rafters and wouldn't come down, who sighed Thorin's name in his sleep.

Thorin rubs his temples. It's greed, he thinks--Kili's easy laughter, his murmured endearments and filthy promises, his parted lips, soft breath on his neck, they pulse behind his eyelids like the mountain's heart. He should close his eyes and see his grandfather's severed head, hear the blunted crack of a warhammer on his shield, but Kili--every so often Kili replaces the nightmares. Tucks his head under Thorin's chin, climbs into his lap, though he's far too old for it. Every so often he'll awake with a start not from dreams of dragonfire, but Kili moving against him, Kili's bowed back, eyes half-lidded in the half-light. He'll wake without the ring of metal in his ears or the taste of soot in his mouth.

***

Kili can't sleep. Well, maybe can't is too strong a word. Kili won't sleep, not until his uncle is home. He pulls the blanket across his chest, breath evening as Thorin's footfalls approach. He knows their cadence, their weight.

He wishes Thorin would hold him, wishes he could fall asleep on his uncle's broad chest, Thorin stroking his hair with the exasperated fondness he saved for his sister-sons. (When they'd toppled over an antique, wooden swords clacking as they tumbled; when they'd made off with a cask of ale, or misplaced a set of whittling knives.) Thorin could wrap him in strong arms, equally capable with a battleaxe and a hammer. Drape his furs around Kili's shoulders. Could kiss his forehead, his eyelids, the corner of his mouth, and Kili would wriggle tighter in his embrace, kiss him back with all the fierceness of his youth.

He squeezes his eyes shut. It was not unheard of for Dwarves to lie with their kin, but Thorin Oakenshield is their king. A king in name only, but that was enough. It's idolatry, he tells himself. Thorin is fine figure of a Dwarf, khuzdel, melhekel, emulhekel, all the superlatives a Khuzdul suffix can make. He is the greatest Dwarf of their age, Balin says, the last true lord of Middle-earth. Someone they could follow. It's only his greatness that draws Kili's stare, only a coincidence that he's gorgeous. Gorgeous and powerful and could lift Kili so effortlessly or pin him down or--Kili shifts, dragging the blanket up to his chin. He dreams of heat from the bellows, Thorin's hands bruising his hips, arms braced and silver-streaked hair in his peripheral vision. He splits his lip in his sleep.