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All for Them

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It is not until he sees Fili and Kili block the blow meant for him that his head clears. His nephews - his flesh and blood, raised not only by Dis, but by Thorin, as well - are defending him with their lives, working in perfect synchronization to shield him. When had he driven them into the fray? When had the three of them separated from the others, their allies? Thorin can only vaguely recall joining the battle, and he is too busy trying to survive to pick through the hazy details. All he knows is that two young Dwarves, children that are his to protect, are instead trying to protect him.

There is nothing he can do about it now, except end this battle as quickly as possible. He forces himself through the ranks, praying to every Valar out there that his sister-sons will be protected until he can accomplish his mission. Finally, Azog stands before him, lips curled in a sadistic sneer. This time, Thorin will not fail.

Perhaps, he thinks, he had gloated too long over the Pale Orc's death. Certainly long enough for one of the ugly creatures around him to pierce him in the precise weak link of his armor. He had stumbled, surprised by the sudden pain, and his momentary lapse had been his downfall. Now he lies on the ground, trying to breathe without it feeling as though a thousand knives spear his lungs. He cannot see Fili and Kili, though he knows that they are nearby, keeping Orcs away from him. He wants to tell them to leave and find safety among their allies; that it is too late for him, anyway, and that they should not waste their lives trying to save his. He has had many years, and many failings, he knows now. There is no need to make them suffer for it. But there is no air in his lungs, and his voice will not work. His mouth opens and closes with no sound, and he feels like a gaping fish, idiotic and helpless.

An Orc falls next to him, dead. The movement jostles him and sends a wave of pain through his body, so intense that he only holds on for a few seconds before darkness overwhelms him.

The pain is dull, now, and Thorin knows it is not due to the poultice the healer had given him. He does not have long; he can feel it in the sluggish movement of his blood, the haze over his brain, and the shallow gasps that pass through his lips. Balin watches him, the expression on his face unreadable to most, though Thorin recognizes resignation and grief. Dwalin is outside, guarding the tent - a pointless endeavor, but Thorin will not argue it. They had knocked heads gently only a few minutes ago before Dwalin had stepped out, and Thorin knows he will not come back in. They have said their goodbyes.

"Balin," he rasps, the slight movement causing a small stab of pain at each of his injuries. "Fili and Kili - are they alright?" He needs to know, needs to make sure they had survived this terrible battle. Everything he had done was for them, and it would amount to nothing, nothing at all, if they would not live to see their new home restored to its former glory.

A flicker of something passes through Balin's eyes, a shadow that disappears as soon as it arrives. Balin bows his head. "They were injured, Thorin...but they will live." When his advisor raises his head again, they shine with tears. "They are sleeping now."

"Good," Thorin manages to choke out. He wants to see them one last time - wants to tell them how proud of them he is, and what wonderful leaders they will become. He wants to apologize for his actions and thank them for being willing to stand up to him in his madness. But it is better that they will not witness his death, and that they can rest peacefully until they are recovered. Perhaps, if they are lucky, they will not learn of his death until they are physically prepared to deal with it.

He hears Dwalin speak with someone outside, and a second later, Bilbo's head ducks in from behind the tent flap. He is dirty and bloody, and looks far too grieved for a child of the West, but he is alive all the same. Balin nods to Bilbo before leaving, and Thorin gestures for the Hobbit to come closer. If there is anyone he must apologize to, it is Master Baggins.

Stone pillars rise all around him: an unfamiliar yet recognizable setting, a home of Dwarves. He realizes, quite quickly, that he is in Mahal's Halls. He can hear laughter and merriment from somewhere up ahead of him, and he strides towards a lowered area from which warm light is cast on the floor. Standing on the top of the staircase and looking down, he feels as he has come home. Dwarves line a large table covered in platters of meat and mugs of ale - a true Dwarven meal.

He slowly descends the steps, recognizing many loved ones - Thror, and Thrain, his mother and grandmother, and countless others of the Line of Durin. A hand on his shoulder makes him jump and spin around, only to see the laughing eyes of Frerin. "Welcome home, brother!" The golden-haired Dwarf laughs and slaps Thorin on the back. Frerin is lighthearted and grinning, his mood infectious, and despite the gloom of being dead, Thorin finds his mouth turning up against his will. He follows Frerin, watching the Dwarves at the table even as he listens to his brother's incessant chatter.

"...and I've got to say, two fine young nephews Dis managed to give us. Perhaps a little more world-experience would have been nice, but here they'll never know the burden of Kingship! Oh, you have no idea how boring it has been without someone to make mischief with - I can't wait to teach them the ropes—" Thorin stares at his brother, guilt rising in his stomach. No, Balin had told him that Fili and Kili had survived. But then he hears "Uncle" in a familiar voice, and turns to see two young Dwarves making their way towards him.

Fili and Kili are dressed in splendor. They look...well, they look like princes. But they should not be here, Thorin knows they should not be here, Balin had told him...

"It's alright, Uncle," Fili says gently, clasping Thorin's shoulder. Kili, a terribly somber expression on his face, gives Thorin a quick smile, though it does not quite reach his eyes. Thorin shakes his head, stumbling away from his nephews. Supposed to protect them, supposed to keep them safe, supposed to give them Erebor...supposed to bring them home to Dis.

"I'm sorry," he says, tears forming in his eyes. He does not know to whom he speaks - to Fili and Kili? To Dis? But he repeats himself, over and over, staring at them and mouthing the words for an uncountable amount of time. I'm sorry, he thinks, again and again. I failed you.