Thorin reached the corridor outside of the healing wing. It was the furthest he had managed to get. He didn't get any further.
"Where do you think you are going, your Majesty?" a frustrated and resigned voice said, and he looked up to see the most recent bane of his existence.
The dwarf woman stood a short way up the hall, blocking his exit with her feet firmly planted and arms folded across her chest. One wouldn't think she was staring down the King Under the Mountain based on the defiance and command in her expression. It wasn't the first time she had found Thorin slinking into the hall in an attempt to escape. Though what he was trying to escape, she couldn't really fathom.
"I'm going to get a drink" Thorin said, drawing himself up to his full height. It was usually intimidating for other dwarves when he displayed his regal power, but this woman didn't even blink.
"There are things to drink in your room. That would be situated right behind you" she answered, gesturing to the open door he had just come out of.
Thorin cleared his throat to buy himself time to think of an answer. "Different things to drink" was all he came up with in the end.
She arched an eyebrow at him. "Different things?"
"I'm not sure what different things I could get you. You have a pitcher of every different kind of liquid we could find in your room. The only thing left would be river water. If that is really what you want, I can go and fetch you some."
Thorin clenched his jaw, the muscle in the corner pulsing. "That won't be necessary."
"Then back to bed with you."
He glared at her, knowing she had won yet again. They stared each other down for a few more moments before he finally surrendered and trudged but into the room. It was difficult to be dignified while trudging, but it matched his mood too well. In any case, the woman had seen him in far worse tempers.
He considered the bed only briefly before deliberately choosing to sit in the chair instead. His head was throbbing again but he wasn't going to lay down like an invalid. Never mind that he was one. Thorin watched as the healer woman moved about the room, checking things as she always did. She always performed the checks in the exact same order. First she would look at the water, then the cleanliness of the sheets and then the fire. As he observed her, he wondered if he should know her name so he could think of her some way besides "that woman." She had just finished her checks when he had decided that if she wasn't prepared to offer the information herself, he wasn't going to ask.
The woman came to a stop in the center of the room, her hands resting lightly on her hips as she observed him. Thorin became aware all at once that she knew he was watching her. For reasons unknown to him, he felt an awkward embarrassment at that. His cheeks threatened to turn a deep red, and in a hasty move to hide it, he quickly got to his feet.
That was a mistake.
A roaring rush washed over his ears and blurred over his eyes. Thorin felt himself falling but then as soon as he was aware of the sensation, it was gone. As the dizziness cleared from his head, he realised that the woman had moved to catch him and was supporting him.
"I wouldn't recommend trying that again" she said, directing him so that he half fell back into the chair.
"Noted" he said, though the word was more like a grunt. The only comfort he found was that there was no possibility of blushing with all the blood rushed from his head.
"Let me see your eyes" she said.
"I need to see your eyes. Your eyes will tell me if you have a head injury."
"Of course I have a bloody head injury. I was in battle."
"I would prefer it if you didn't take that tone with me."
"Noted" Thorin said again.
"Tilt your head up and kept your eyes open" she instructed and he decided it would be simpler to just obey. She leant uncomfortably close – for him – and looked into his eyes. After several moments and tests that made him feel ridiculous, she seemed satisfied and moved away.
"It's mild. You will be fine in a day or two. If you stay in bed and rest."
"Thank you" he said, not knowing how else to respond without complaining in some way. None of his complaints had worked before and there was no reason to think they would start working now.
"That's my name. If you're going to thank someone, you should always use their name. That's what my grandfather always said" she said. As she spoke, she took one of his arms, rolling up the sleeve to reveal an old bandage. He didn't fight her, knowing it had to be changed in order to prevent infection. If he could, he would have done it himself, but the injury was in too awkward a place.
"Then thank you, Corran" Thorin corrected himself. He couldn't even win an argument with her so he wasn't going to attempt to start one with her grandfather.
"You're welcome, your Majesty."
A silence settled over them as she unwound the bandage. It stuck in a few places where blood had stuck skin to the fabric. Corran pulled it away mercilessly, making him wince and the muscles in his arm twitch.
"I thought healers were supposed to be gentle."
"It hurts more when you do it slowly" Corran said. "Have you never heard the phrase 'rip it off fast like a bandage?'"
"I have not. More wisdom from your grandfather?" Thorin said, a slight sarcastic tone sneaking in.
Corran gave him a look. "Yes."
There was something in her tone that would have indicated to anyone else that such a comment was not kindly received, but Thorin didn't pick up on it. Her tone sounded as normal as ever to him.
"Is your grandfather in Erebor with you?"
"And your parents?" Thorin asked, not sure why he cared to ask.
Corran started to carefully clean the gash on his arm. It was healing well, but she was still concerned about infection. Orc weapons were never clean and half were rusted. Every scratch and gash had to be regularly cleaned just to be safe. She considered his question as she wrung out the wet cloth in a basin and started wiping at the scarring skin.
"My parents are dead and have been for a long time."
"Oh. My condolences" he said, regretting asking the question. He never knew what to say after discovering someone had lost family members – despite having lost many himself.
"Have you any siblings?"
"Younger or older?"
Thorin nodded, running out of questions to ask. There were no others to ask without seeming to press into her private life. She didn't seem the person to take kindly to that, based on her short answers to all prior questions about her family. And it wasn't his business, he reminded himself. She was just a healer who would plague him for several more days and then it was unlikely he would ever see her again. Erebor was very large.
But the silence fell too heavy and Thorin felt compelled to speak again.
"I have a younger sister, myself. I did have a younger brother but he passed away some time ago."
He wanted to kick himself as soon as he had said it. The chances of Corran already knowing that about his family was very high. Her next words confirmed that.
"I know. Your sister and I know each other fairly well."
"You do?" he asked. Dis had never mentioned anyone by the name of Corran to him.
"Yes. We attended lessons together as children and I saw her often enough after she had her two sons."
"She has never mentioned you."
"Perhaps you just weren't listening."
"I listen when my sister speaks to me."
Corran arched an eyebrow at him, and Thorin knew exactly what she would say before she said it.
"That isn't what she says."
"Dis says plenty of things and much of it isn't of consequence."
"I'll be sure to tell her that."
Corran smiled slightly at the slight fear that passed through his eyes. Clearly, much like many other people in Erebor, Thorin feared the temper of his younger sister. It was very legendary and no one wanted to cross her. Thorin had experienced it often.
"How are your nephews?" Corran asked. "I haven't seen them since they were quite a bit younger."
"Fili spends most of his time making jewellery and Kili is busy exploring the depths of the mines with Balin's youngest daughter."
"His youngest one was the one who ran away from the Blue Mountains, wasn't it?"
"Yes. I don't imagine her mother was happy about it."
"Oh she most certainly was not. It took Dis almost an hour to stop her from immediately chasing after her and then a further two to calm her down."
Thorin pulled a slight face at the idea of such a meltdown. Dis had always been so level headed and rational so he was unfamiliar with dealing with such feminine fits of temper. Even the mention of them made him feel uncomfortable and like heading for the nearest exit.
"So you know Balin's wife well?"
Corran tilted her head as if to say so-so. "I know her but I wouldn't say were friends. We have don't have many common interests."
Thorin nodded as she wrapped a tight bandage securely about his arm and pinned it in place. The white fabric looked so pale next to his skin stained by the sun.
"I will need to check the injury to your foot as well and then I can leave you in your peaceful solitary confinement."
"I don't think peaceful and solitary confinement go together."
"When you know for certain, let me know."
"I know for certain" Thorin said, frustrated at the way she was able to triumph over him so easily. "It is not peaceful. It is boring. Mind numbingly so."
"Perhaps you should try reading one of the books that haven't been touched on that bookshelf."
"I have no interest in reading."
"And that is why you are bored."
Thorin scoffed, looked over at the bookshelf. Truth be told, he hadn't given it much thought before. He had never been much of a reader. There were always other concerns. For much of his life, the only things he read were the things he was required to either for his education or for the care of his people. Perhaps he should consider it. It would be a way to pass the time until the infernal woman would let him get more than ten paces from his bedchamber door.
"I need to check your foot" Corran reminded him.
Pulled out of his thoughts, Thorin sat up a bit straighter, feeling the muscles in his torso stiffen as she lifted his foot into her lap. Suddenly he found himself wishing he could have a male healer rather than a frustratingly attractive and intelligent female one. He couldn't decide whether the intelligent wit or the attractiveness annoyed him more. Both worked against him in similarly terrible ways. Thorin was all too aware of her movements as she removed his shoe and sock to expose the bandage. Azog's blade had gone right through his foot. He was lucky not to have lost chunks of his foot or several toes. Corran had to keep a careful watch over it to make sure its progress didn't take a turn for the worse.
"This bandage has seen better days. How long has it been since it was changed?" Corran asked, carefully unwinding it.
It took Thorin several moments to realise he had to answer, all of his attention going into making sure he didn't move his foot at all. He felt compelled to keep it completely still. Not even a single toe could be allowed to twitch.
"Several days" he finally replied.
"It should be daily."
"Isn't that your job?" Thorin asked, feeling a small triumph in his chest as he scored a point in their conversation. He had to stop himself from smiling slightly.
Corran raised her eyebrow at him again but could only huff in response because he was right. With the high numbers of injured soldiers and other victims of collapsing tunnels as they explored deeper into the forgotten paths of Erebor, she had been run off her feet. It would appear that in her constant moving about, she had neglected arguably the most important patient she was responsible for.
A small part of her worried at what she might find as she removed the last of the bandage. Corran breathed a slight sigh of relief when the injury was no worse than one would expect. There were no signs on infection or blood poisoning. The skin wasn't warped or festering in any way. No smell came from it and it seemed to be progressing nicely.
"Fortunately, there don't seem to be any problems with the healing, but you must remember that the bandage has to be changed every day. It's mandatory."
"As I said before, that is your job."
"Noted" Corran said, mimicking his tone from when he had said the exact same thing.
Thorin gave her a flat look, trying to muster up the energy to scold her for speaking to her king in such a way. Unfortunately, any attempts to do so were interrupted by her touching his ankle in her inspection of the injury. He would never get used to healers touching him in all sorts of places. Absently, he wondered if there was any possibility of outlawing it, but eventually decided that it probably wouldn't be possible.
"Do not walk on this until it has healed more" Corran said, cleaning it gently before wrapping a fresh bandage around it.
Thorin nodded, not really listening. He was distracted by the way the water from the cloth was dropping onto her skirts. That could hardly be comfortable, especially once it started to seep through all of the layers. But she didn't seem to be bothered by it though. Perhaps women's skirts were thicker than he had thought.
"No arguments?" Corran asked, catching his attention.
"You weren't listening to me, were you?" she said with a slight exasperated sigh. That was somehow more annoying than when he constantly disagreed with everything she said. "I said you need to keep your weight off of this foot which means you will have to stay mostly in bed until it has healed more."
"I suppose I don't have a choice."
"No. Not while I'm here."
Thorin knew that to be all too true. Whenever he left his bedchambers, she always seemed to be right there. It was almost as though she was just waiting for him to try and escape. Perhaps she was.
Corran replaced his sock and shoe before lowering his foot again. Dabbing at the water on her skirt to dry it off a bit, she got to her feet.
"And with that I will leave you" she said, giving a bit of a curtsey. It seemed rather sarcastic.
"Thank you" he said, then remember what she had said about her grandfather and corrected himself. "Thank you, Corran."
She gave him a slight smile and a polite bow of the head before heading out of the chambers. The heavy oak door swung silently shut on its hinges, the lock clicking shut dully deep within it. She was tempted to actually lock it, and eyed the key there thoughtfully.
"Tempted to lock him in?"
Corran looked around to see Dis coming down the hallway. Her dark blue skirts rustled against the floor, clicking slightly with jewels sewn into the hemline. Her black hair, streaked with grey just like her brother's, was arranged neatly in a style befitting the princess of Erebor. She smiled at her old friend.
"Very tempted" Corran replied. "He simply won't stay put."
"He was never very good at following instructions."
"I'm beginning to see that. How are you?"
"I am well. I don't think I have seen either of my sons in several weeks though. I suppose they have many more interesting things to do at the moment than visit their mother."
"Your brother mentioned that Kili has been exploring."
"He has. Some nights he doesn't find his way back till the early morning. Occasionally I wake up when he comes it. He always manages to trip over the same rug every single time."
"Why don't you move the rug?"
"I like to know when he gets home."
Corran laughed a little. "I can understand that. He always was your reckless child."
"One of them was bound to be reckless. You knew their father. The only reason the reckless one isn't Fili is because he has to keep watch of his little brother."
"He does do a very good job of it. They may have been a little beaten up but they both came out of the war alive."
"Something I am very relieved about. I already buried a husband, I don't need to bury my sons as well" Dis said, her disposition still sunny despite the sad nature of her words.
"They will be safe in Erebor, I'm sure. I hear Fili is making a lot of jewellery again."
"He is. He made me this bracelet" Dis said, proudly displaying the delicately linked chains of gold and silver all woven together. It glistened in the light and moved in a very pleasing way, reminding one of molten rivers of precious metals.
"Oh that is lovely!" Corran said, inspecting it in amazement. "He has a gift."
"He does" Dis said very proudly, running her fingers over the bracelet.
"Are you visiting your brother?"
"Yes, I hope he is in a better mood than he usually is."
"I hope so too, though I imagine it's nothing you can't handle."
Dis smiled, flashing her teeth in an almost grin. "Of course."
Corran smiled and gave her a polite nod before heading on her way down the hall. Behind her, Dis knocked on the door then pushed it open without even waiting for an answer.
"Brother, are you decent?"
"Would it matter if I weren't? You would still come in" Thorin said from where he was still sitting in his chair.
"It's nothing I haven't seen before."
"Don't talk about that. And yes it is. We haven't washed together since you were little more than an infant."
"How different can it really be?" Dis said, sitting down with a flourish and arranging her skirts.
Thorin watched her. "How easily does water get through your skirts?"
"What?" Dis asked in confusion. "What kind of question is that?"
"I was just wondering."
"It hardly gets through at all. The fabric is thick and there are multiple layers."
"That's good" Thorin said, leaning on one hand and rubbing at his beard lightly. It was getting longer now but he wouldn't have the chance to trim it while he was on bed rest.
"Why are you asking?"
"It doesn't matter."
"And if I insist on knowing?"
"I still wouldn't tell you" Thorin said, giving her a look. The look never worked on Dis.
She just shrugged and drummed her fingers against the wooden armrests of her chair. "Are you feeling better?"
"Better. The healer is determined that I will stay in here though. She doesn't seem to realise that I have a kingdom or oversee."
"Oh the kingdom can manage without you for a few days more" Dis said with a dismissive wave of the hand.
"Let me guess, you are handling things by yourself?" Thorin said, raising an eyebrow slightly at his younger sister.
"Actually no. Well, not entirely. Fili has been helping me. I thought he should get some experience seeing as he is still your heir until you have a child of your own."
"I think he will remain my heir forever" Thorin said.
"Oh don't be so pessimistic. I am sure you will find your One."
"I'm not exactly looking."
"Maybe she will find you then" Dis said. "And she will be just as stubborn as you and pursue you relentlessly."
Thorin chuckled a little in his throat. "Yes, all I want is to be relentlessly pursued by some horrifying woman who can't take no for an answer."
"It worked for me."
"Are you telling me that you followed Fain about like some sort of madwoman?"
"It wasn't like a madwoman. And I was very charming. He was just as interested."
Thorin rolled his eyes fondly. "I disagree. You were about as subtle as a collapsing tunnel."
Dis opened her mouth to protest but then thought the better of it and nodded with a shrug. "It runs in the family, brother dear."
"You don't know that. I have never attempted to court anyone and neither did Frerin."
"That's because you're both useless. I am holding down the line of Durin all by myself. And you've met my sons. You know how difficult it was keeping those two accident prone adventurers alive through childhood."
Thorin couldn't help but laugh at that, remembering the various misadventures his nephews had gotten into in the Blue Mountains. Many times he had walked in on them about to do something absolutely catastrophic – and likely to kill them. It certainly kept things interesting. Not always in a good way.
"And I appreciate your ability to do that."
"It was sheer force of willpower."
"Trust me, I know. I had to keep them alive while we travelled to Erebor. That was harder than I ever thought it would be."
Dis raised a hand to stop him from speaking. "I don't want to know. I don't ever want to know about how close my little sons came to dying."
"They aren't so little anymore."
"Yes they are and you can't convince me otherwise."
"They are adults."
Dis turned to look away, well imbedded in her denial. "No. I will not consider them adults until they are married and have children of their own."
"Fortunately for you, that will probably be a while away. Neither seem to have an interest in that yet" Thorin said.
Dis didn't offer an argument to that, but she had the infuriating expression of someone who knew something that he didn't. He didn't have the energy to get it out of her. He wasn't even sure he wanted to know.
"I assume you're kept busy enough with things" he said.
"Oh of course. There is plenty to set up and organise" Dis said. "It's nice to have something to do. But don't worry, brother, I'm leaving all the big and difficult decisions for you."
"That is greatly appreciated, little sister" Thorin said, grumbling slightly. Of course she left the hard things for him.
"Then you're very welcome" Dis said, getting to her feet. "I had better get back to things. They're going to try and open one of the blocked tunnels and see what's behind it. I'm curious about what's there. And of course, you'll want a report about it."
"Stay clear of any falling rocks" Thorin said.
"I'm not a child. I can keep myself safe."
"See that you do."
"Yes, yes. Stop worrying" Dis said dismissively and made her way back to the door. She never visited long. There was always something else to rush off to.
"See you later" he said as she disappeared through the door.
Once she was gone, Thorin leant his head back against the armchair and closed his eyes. Slowly, his mind emptied of its constant thoughts and he was able to drift into a half-sleep.
To his surprise, it was Corran who seemed to come to his mind in its quiet state. With her raised eyebrow and lips twitched up at the side in her amusement at something he had done. He never knew what he had done to amuse her so much, but it was obviously something. A small part of him wondered if she should be on his mind, but it was quickly overruled by the rest. It felt normal and right so he just let it be. Just for that moment.