It is not something that Thorin is unaware of. He knows that it will come one day, as all things do.
Thorin knows that Bilbo Baggins will leave him, one day, as much as he knows the feel of hewn rock under his hands. He knows that Bilbo leaving him will not be of his own accord, that Bilbo will not leave him purposefully, or because something has drawn between them, not after everything they had been through together.
Death is inevitable, and there were few differences between the free people of Arda, but perhaps the most significant was their gaps in lifespan.
There is nothing to be done.
Thorin, stubborn as he has ever been, pushes the inevitable to the back of his mind, and watches their handfasting, his chest full of love, and of hope .
He remembers learning the vastness of the expanse between their lifespans, Mahal, even between their ages.
After the battle, after everything, after Thorin had been near certain that he’d not survive Ravenhill, that his last words would be to Bilbo, that his last sight of the living realm would be Bilbo’s tear-filled eyes, he’d asked. Because he had to know. Because, by that point, Thorin had made a decision, foolish as it might be, and there was no going back, not for him.
“How long do hobbits live?” Thorin had asked, watching Bilbo as he silently whittled at an indeterminate shape of wood in his hands. A habit picked up from the road, from time spent with Bofur and Bifur.
It had made his heart warm, watching Bilbo take to dwarvish habits, with no to-do about it.
So, he rested there and watched as Bilbo carved whatever it was he was carving, watching Bilbo craft, as if it were nothing more than something to occupy his hands with. Thorin could watch Bilbo craft, no matter what it was, no matter what he might make, for a lifetime, and he knew that it would not be enough.
“Oh,” Bilbo said, and his eyes darted up briefly, studying Thorin’s expressions before his eyes dropped back down to his task at hand. “Let’s see… most Hobbits live to be at least one hundred, barring any… unforeseen circumstances. There are plenty of hobbits that live longer than that, by a few years, I suppose, or less than that by a few years, but most hobbits that I know of only passed away from old age when they rounded that number.”
To Thorin, it is such a small number. He traced the movements of Bilbo’s hands with his eyes, trying to will away the dread filling his chest. The plans he had been forming since he’d woken from the battle were shattering in his mind. They had no time for the long courtship that would befit the king and his chosen, his consort, his hobbit.
“How old are you?” His voice cracks, but it does not draw Bilbo’s attention in the way it might have, if he hadn’t been yet recovering from a hard-won battle.
Instead, Bilbo sets his work aside and stands, shuffling over to where a pitcher of water sits. He comes back with a mug of water and Thorin takes it gladly, his thirst not realized until Bilbo has handed him the mug.
Thorin drinks and Bilbo crosses his arms.
“It is rather rude to ask someone their age, you know,” Bilbo states, but his expression betrays that he does not truly care. The amused smile, mostly, gives it away. “But if you feel that you simply must know, I have turned fifty-one…”
Thorin chokes, sputtering on the water.
“...well, while we were in Lake-town, if my calculations are correct. Or not, I do admit that I’d rather not have had to celebrate my birthday in a place like that. Oh! Are you quite alright?”
“Fifty-one?” Thorin rasps, staring at Bilbo.
In truth, his face does not look youthful. There are worn lines, worry lines from years of life as an adult, that Thorin sees. Neither Fili nor Killi have them. He has to remind himself that if Bilbo is only meant to live a hundred years, then his fifty-one years of life put him smack in the midst. Middle aged.
Not a child.
“Well, yes,” Bilbo says, a frown worming its way onto his face. “How old are you, then? Turnabout’s fair play, you know.”
“I am one hundred and ninety five,” Thorin says. He cannot help the twitch of his lips into a smile as Bilbo gapes at him.
“You… you’re almost… two hundred?”
“Aye,” Thorin grins. “Worry not, Bilbo. If I am lucky, I shall have another hundred years. Dwarves can live up to three hundred years, barring any unforeseen circumstances, as you so say. Though I will admit that many dwarves do not live out their full years. Battle takes many, and many of the rest, heartbreak.”
“Heartbreak?” Bilbo raises a brow.
“Perhaps it sounds silly to you, but we dwarves love fiercely. Wholly. With our entire beings,” Thorin says, and he dares not meet Bilbo’s eyes. Like I love you. “Much of the time, when a dwarf’s mate dies, they are unable to go on. The grief tears them apart.”
“Oh,” Bilbo’s voice is quiet. Thorin dares a peek at him. “I don’t find it silly, Thorin. It is… romantic, if sad. I… well. My mother was never the same after my father passed from an illness.”
Their conversation grows quiet after that. Bilbo returns to his position, vigil over Thorin as he carves. Thorin closes his eyes.
No matter what little time they have together, even if it is only a mere fifty years, Thorin will cherish it.
“I am not sure this is a wise idea, Thorin.”
Thorin ignores Balin, his eyes moving about his office instead. Erebor has been stable in the last few months, as winter takes hold. They’ve settled where they can, making do with what has been undisturbed in Erebor as they repair its infrastructure and begin the arduous process of restoration.
It had taken a week of planning to draw up a reasonable plan for the restoration to be completed in a year's time, but Thorin had.
With a restored kingdom, and a year of ruling under his belt, Thorin would marry Bilbo.
Though Bilbo had been rather despondent about the idea of a winter wedding.
“It simply isn’t a marriage season, Thorin,” Bilbo had muttered, as he brewed a fresh pot of tea. He’d been cooking, baking, brewing, anything in the kitchen from the moment they’d set up a kitchen proper. Thorin thought he might sleep there if they did not have a bedroom for themselves. “Nothing grows in winter!”
“It will be a testament to my position if we are married on Durin’s day,” Thorin had said, his hands covering Bilbo’s to still his hands from the beginning of another batter.
“I do not think anyone is questioning your position, Thorin. You’ve shown them ten times over that you’re worthy of being Erebor’s king.”
“Then, take it that I am selfish, and I do not wish to wait more than necessary to marry you,” Thorin had backed Bilbo into the counter then, cupping his jaw and kissing Bilbo breathless.
Balin clears his throat, drawing Thorin back into the present and away from the pleasant memory of ruining his hobbit against the kitchen counters.
“What is it that you protest, Balin?” Thorin scowls, drawing up his shoulders defensively.
Thorin knows well enough the various protests his court of Bilbo has brought about, he’d heard it enough in whispered tones, dwarves that thought they were being subtle. Even if he hadn’t, nothing happened in Erebor without the king finding out. It was the benefit of having a Spymaster like Nori at his disposal, no matter what Dwalin said about the other dwarf. Thorin was blessed to have the companions that he did.
Else, he might not have known about the words said under breath when he wasn’t around. The unrest drumming up in his kingdom, over the court of their king to a hobbit.
He should have a political match, a marriage to tie in the dwarven kingdoms and secure allies. Perhaps, as he knew it was the ideal, a match that might result in children, whether or not they took place on the throne one day.
Balin holds his hands up. “You know that I love Bilbo as we all do, Thorin. As family.”
“Thorin… you know as well as I do that you… that Bilbo will die much sooner than you will,” Balin says, sighing in the put upon way that Thorin hasn’t seen in a century. The way he sighs when he catches Fili and Kili doing something unbefitting of the princes. “And we both know what will happen to you when that does happen.”
“It will happen no matter what--”
“No,” Balin stops him with a narrowing of his brow. “What will happen if you do not go through with this? Bilbo will return to the Shire, to his home, and you will continue the life of a king, undisturbed. If you do marry Bilbo, live the rest of his - your - life with him, when he dies, Thorin, when he dies in some fifty years, you will be ruined!”
“And I will be glad for it!” Thorin snaps, his hands slamming onto the desk.
“Mahal be damned, Balin. I have spent two centuries of my life searching for what I thought would fill this hole in my soul, and I have found it. I have found him.” Thorin presses his fist over his chest, breathing heavily.
Balin bows his head.
“If this is what you wish…”
“Very well,” Balin straightens up, his mouth set in a resigned line. “Does Bilbo understand that?”
“I have told him as much, before I ever told him how I felt, Balin.”
“At least you have your head set somewhat straight,” Balin mutters, shaking his head.
Matters of the heart do not necessarily come easily to Thorin, least of all when it came to his affections for Bilbo Baggins.
How could he put it into words?
That was the dilemma he found himself in, pacing back and forth in front of the doors to Bilbo’s rooms. They were closed and the guards he’d stationed there watched their king with a nervous air, but he ignored it as he tapped his fingers against the inside of his palms.
“I am sure he will be out in a moment, your majesty,” says one of the dwarves, and when Thorin glances at her, her gaze is set straight ahead.
“Aye,” Thorin sighs, and he runs a hand through his hair, nerves alight as he waits, waits, waits for Bilbo to answer the door.
He has done a lifetime of waiting, and he is done with waiting.
Thorin swallows the nerves down and moves quickly before the guards can react, pushing the doors into Bilbo’s rooms open and sweeping into the room in all his royal attire and presence. It is not as if the guards can protest him, after all. They wouldn’t dare at least, but he knows that he will be facing the wrath of an annoyed hobbit.
It is one of the things that Thorin has found himself endeared to, when it comes to Bilbo.
Just so, when Thorin turns from closing the door, he finds himself face to face with an underdressed Hobbit. A very underdressed Hobbit.
“Oh, what- you-!” Bilbo looks rightly horrified, his cheeks turning red as he tugs the towel against his waist tighter. “What in the good Green Lady’s name are you doing, Thorin Oakenshield?!”
“My apologies, Bilbo, I--”
A pillow smacks into his face and temporarily blinds Thorin. When he opens his eyes, Bilbo still stands there, his mouth turned down in a scowl.
“You explain yourself.”
“I wished to speak with you,” Thorin starts.
“Oh, yes? Well, you could have waited! It is rather rude to invite yourself into someone's home uninvited, you know, and-and…”
“Bilbo,” Thorin clears his throat. “I am sincerely sorry, but I could wait no longer. There is something I wish to discuss with you. That I wish to… confess.”
Bilbo crosses his arms over his chest, raising a brow. It is enough of a permission for Thorin to continue. Admittedly, he had not quite prepared for the picture before him. The image Bilbo makes, wearing nothing but a towel, his hair wet and sticking to his forehead and ears, is something that leaves his mouth dry. If he were a braver dwarf, he might rush forward and take the hobbit into his arms, press their mouths together, until he understood everything that Thorin felt for him.
Thorin was not that dwarf.
Nor was Bilbo the hobbit that would let that occur.
Knowing Bilbo, if Thorin were to try and sweep him up into his arms, it would only earn him the ire of the hobbit.
Better to be direct, with words.
“Bilbo Baggins, of the Shire, I, Thorin, son of Thrain, King under the Mountain, would like to present my intention to court you,” Thorin says, pressing a fist over his heart as he meets Bilbo’s eyes. “I confess that I have long ago found myself… frankly, disastrously in love with you, perhaps from the moment you stepped foot out of the Shire after me. While this is not ideal, I would prefer that we not entertain a drawn out court, as that span of time would be better spent together, or not, if that is your wish. I know that you have no family here, but I will do my best to ensure you are--”
“Wait, wait, wait,” Bilbo manages, interrupting Thorin. His eyes are wide, his mouth fallen open. He wishes, desperately, to kiss that surprised look off of Bilbo’s face. “You.. want to marry me?”
“Aye. Have I not made my intentions clear?” Thorin rises up.
Bilbo holds up his free hand.
“No, you… ah, you have been very clear.” Bilbo says, his eyes remaining on Thorin’s. His cheeks are dusted pink. “You’re in love with me, though? Me?”
“Do you think I jest?”
“No, you wouldn’t do that…” Bilbo says, a small smile working its way onto his mouth. “Yes, Thorin, I… I would like to marry you.”
Thorin loses his breath, staring at Bilbo in shock. He had hoped, yes, for the permission to court Bilbo and prove his worth as a husband, but he hadn’t even expected that he might say yes. Yet, here Bilbo was, agreeing to marry him. Thorin hadn’t even presented him with the courting gift to initiate their court!
“You would?” Thorin breathes out softly. “Even though I have yet had a chance to prove myself?”
“Prove yourself?” Bilbo frowns at him, his brows drawing together in a beautiful confusion. “Thorin, you do not need to prove yourself. To be honest, you have done that a thousand times over throughout the quest, if you really believe that is a necessary admission of mine.”
“I do not know what I have done to deserve you,” Thorin murmurs, stepping closer to Bilbo. He wishes to sweep him up in his arms now, but he is certain that Bilbo would not allow it. “I will thank Mahal for what time we do have together.”
“Why do you stay?” Thorin asks, one day, when Erebor’s restoration is still new, when he has only recovered and his thoughts swarm with asking Bilbo to marry him.
But he has not figured out how to.
Bilbo deserves much more than a broken king with a broken kingdom, in the midst of a terrible winter. Thorin endeavors to become more for him, even if it takes more time than they have. In this moment, though, Thorin watches Bilbo as he pores over housing plans, over what areas Erebor has available that were not decimated by Smaug over the years.
Thorin had attempted to employ the skills he’d thought Bilbo must have, in agriculture, as dwarves knew very little of the softer earth. Bilbo had sighed, hands on his hips, narrowing his eyes at Thorin.
“Do you think that all hobbits can grow plants so easily? Do all dwarves know how to… how to mine?”
“All dwarves are blessed with stonesense,” Thorin had replied.
Bilbo had huffed, rolling his eyes. “Be that as it may. I am afraid if you wanted a gardener, you have employed the wrong hobbit.”
“I did not want for a gardener, I wanted for a burglar, to which you have done a fine job of.”
Thus, they had come to where they were now, with Bilbo aiding Balin in placing the dwarves in suitable areas while reconstruction and restoration went underway. Apparently, as it went, Bilbo had a good mind and handle of land affairs and living arrangements, of tenants. Dwaves were their own beast when it came to that, but Thorin had seen a light in Bilbo’s eyes that he hadn’t seen before, when he had stumbled across Bilbo and Dori arguing about the trade halls.
A spark that only drew Thorin further in.
He was desperately in love.
Bilbo’s mouth turns down, his eyes flicking up from the sketchy maps of Erebor’s levels. “You all ask me that. Do you wish for me to leave?”
“No,” Thorin says hurriedly. “You are always welcome here. Always. I simply thought that you’d wish to return home, to the Shire…”
“Perhaps one day,” Bilbo muses, sheafing through the layout of Erebor.
It causes an ache in Thorin’s chest.
The Shire is half a year away from Erebor, and though it is little time, in his eye, when compared to the short years they might have together, Thorin dreads that they might be so far from each other.
Sickness is not something that dwarves have to endure. Mahal carved them from the very stone itself, and they are not stricken with the weaker constitution of the younger races, of the men and, as Thorin has discovered, of the hobbits.
When Bilbo grows sick after their bout in the river, during their stay in Laketown, Thorin learns of that fact.
Though Bilbo does not seem much bothered by it, besides his clear irritation at having to blow his nose every so often and attempting to not cough up his lungs.
So, he knows that hobbits can suffer from sickness.
It does not keep him from worrying when Bilbo comes down with a cold.
Erebor has been restored, many years on, and Thorin has been successful in returning Erebor to her former glory. She is filled with her dwarves, the old market booming, much more than it ever had, and far more diverse than it had even been in Thror’s days. That had been due, mostly, to Bilbo’s influence. Thorin would not say much on it, but he supposes it does benefit the dwarves to have both Mannish and Elven goods peddled in Erebor’s market next to the dwarven wares.
But no, he would not say that to his hobbit husband, else he might never hear the end of it.
Instead, Thorin finds himself content to have Bilbo grace his arm, his eyes bright as they browse the market. It is a good Sunday afternoon activity for them, for Bilbo to pick out what he might like to prepare for their dinner.
When Bilbo coughs, the cough wracking his entire body, Thorin worries.
“Do you fare well?” Thorin asks, his hand tightening on Bilbo’s arm.
Bilbo waves him off, even as he continues to cough. Thorin draws them to a stop, motioning their guards away a few feet so that he can sit Bilbo down on a bench without overcrowding them. It is a minute before Bilbo stops coughing.
“We did not have to stop,” Bilbo mutters, his voice hoarse. Thorin draws a handkerchief from his pockets and Bilbo takes it quietly, sighing softly. “I’m sorry, Thorin. I think I need to go rest.”
“Whatever you need,” Thorin says softly, drawing Bilbo back to his feet and escorting him back to their rooms.
He’d do anything for Bilbo. He tries not to let the little years they have ahead of them linger over his head. They have time, they do, they have all the time they could possibly, and he will not squander it away, hoping.
Thirty years into their marriage, Bilbo receives a letter from the Shire. It is not an odd occurrence, as Bilbo has continued correspondence with some of his cousins over the years.
Thorin pauses in the door to Bilbo’s study, frowning, when he sees the haunted look in Bilbo’s eyes. It is not the look that he should have when reading letters from his family, no matter how rude some of them might be.
“What is it?” Thorin asks. “Bilbo?”
Slowly, Bilbo raises his head, his mouth turned down, his eyes lost. “My cousins… you remember, Primula and Drogo?”
Bilbo has many relations, but Thorin has done a good job of parsing out the kinder ones and sorting them away as the ones he cares about enough to remember more. “Aye. They were married a few years ago, weren’t they? Didn’t they have a son, recently?”
“Yes,” Bilbo says, looking down at the letter. He is quiet for a long time before he says anything else. “Yes, they did… they do. I… Primula’s mother wrote to me.”
“She… she wanted me to know that Primula and Drogo…”
“Bilbo, what is it?” Thorin moves from his spot in the doorway, coming over to his husband’s side and settling his hands on Bilbo’s shoulders for reassurance. Bilbo is not the type to be easily lost for words.
“They drowned,” Bilbo says, his voice barely a whisper. “They drowned in the Brandywine. Their son… he’s all alone.”
“Well, he has the rest of the Brandybucks, doesn’t he?” Thorin furrows his brow. He wants to reassure Bilbo, much as he wants to mourn the loss of Bilbo’s favored cousins with him. He is torn.
“Oh, yes, but… they have so many faunts underfoot already. They…” And when Bilbo looks up at Thorin, he knows what he must do. “They hardly have the space for Frodo to grow, he’ll be lost.”
In a matter of a week, Thorin finds himself seeing Bilbo off at the front gates. They will be apart for a year, while Bilbo travels to the Shire to collect the young Baggins, and then return back to Erebor. It is a year that tears at Thorin’s heart, but the expression on Bilbo’s face when he looked up from that letter…
It tore him apart far worse than being away from Bilbo for a year.
Thorin has seen older hobbits, when he had passed through the Shire beforehand. He knows that as hobbits reach closer to one hundred, their hair greys, their skin wrinkles, and they show their age.
He expects as much from Bilbo.
But when Bilbo is one hundred, his hair has only started to fade in color, and his skin is as smooth of wrinkles as it had been when they had met. Part of Thorin knows that this is not normal, that something is drawing out Bilbo’s life, but he is far too hesitant to question it. To the question the blessing that he might have more than the measly fifty years he’d thought he would have with Bilbo.
It is selfish of him, but he doesn’t question it.
Thorin is glad for however many more years that they might have together.
When everything is said and done, when Frodo returns to Erebor, Thorin has noticed the changes far too quickly.
Bilbo’s hair had greyed in the weeks after Frodo had departed to destroy the ring. A month after, his hair was as white as Balin’s.
“Are you feeling well?” Thorin asks, standing in the garden with Bilbo.
“I think I’d like to sit,” Bilbo says, staring at the oak tree in the midst of his garden. It has grown tall above them, and Thorin knows that it will continue to for many, many years. Likely far beyond the years they have together.
Thorin leads Bilbo over to sit down on the bench, drawing Bilbo’s hand between his own gently. He sighs and closes his eyes, leaning his head against Thorin’s shoulder as they bask in the sun. It is simple, and nice, to be here with Bilbo, to simply relax again, now that the ring no longer plagues his husband.
Bilbo sighs and opens his eyes. “Say, Thorin…”
“Do you know where my ring is?” Thorin’s hands go still on Bilbo’s. “You know, the one that I picked up during the Quest? Oh, I swore I had it but I don’t know where…”
“No, love,” Thorin says softly, drawing his fingers against the inside of Bilbo’s wrist. “I’m afraid not.”
“Ah, well,” Bilbo murmurs, closing his eyes again.
Thorin remains quiet, feeling the delicate thrum of Bilbo’s pulse against his fingers.
It happens all at once, and suddenly.
Thorin has been making plans. They have been in Erebor far too long, and he thinks that Bilbo should return to the Shire, where they might relax and live out the rest of their days. They’d have thirty years more than he’d expected, and Thorin is beginning to show more grey in his hair than the darker strands.
He is old, of course, and not a single dwarf would blame him for retiring.
Fili is well prepared to take over Erebor’s throne.
Frodo is helping him, drawing up the best route to journey back to the Shire. They’d like to take a few stops to old familiar places, like Beorn’s and Rivendell, as it might be a nice surprise for Bilbo to remember spots of their quest before they settled back in the Shire.
It is not only Bilbo that Thorin thinks of now.
He thinks of Frodo as much of a son as he does Fili and Kili. The trauma wrought in Frodo by the events of the ring, the changes… they make Thorin ache deep down. He knows there is nothing he can do to repair the damage, but he hopes that the Shire might offer a reprieve Erebor has been unable to.
They are in the midst of finalizing their journey path when Dwalin bursts into the council chambers. “Thorin!”
“Dwalin?” Thorin stands, frowning. Frodo straightens up next to him. “What is it?”
Thorin sprints out of the room before Dwalin can finish, and he is down the hall, heading to the royal chambers as fast as he can go. Thank Mahal that they were built for speed and not endurance when it came to running. He is there only a few minutes after Dwalin’s intrusion into the council chambers.
Fili stands in their receiving room, with Kili and Tauriel.
Thorin pushes past him and into his bedroom.
Dis sits by their bedside, her hands clutching Bilbo’s as he breathes shallowly, something that Thorin can see even from the doorway.
He must have let out some kind of sound, because Dis looks up and then she stands, coming over to him. Her hand, gentle as it is on his arm, spurs Thorin back into action. He presses past his sister and to Bilbo’s side, grabbing for his hands.
It is a strangely familiar feeling, and Thorin remembers when he’d almost died, Bilbo clutching at his hands and telling him no.
There is no no here.
“Thorin--” Bilbo says, and Thorin feels his hand clutch weakly against his.
“Don’t,” Thorin chokes out.
He doesn’t know if he means don’t leave me, or if he means don’t say it.
“It’s okay,” Thorin says instead, his voice cracking as he strokes carefully against the back of Bilbo’s hands. “It’s okay, I’m here, Bilbo. I’m here.”
Bilbo smiles, and he looks so tired.
“I know,” Bilbo says, weakly tugging Thorin closer by his hands.
Thorin leans in, and he knows that Bilbo can feel him shaking, but Bilbo only moves his hand to stroke Thorin’s cheek, threading his fingers into the dwarf’s beard and tugging him down as hard as he can manage. Thorin presses their lips together gently, before he presses their foreheads together.
“I love you, Bilbo,” Thorin whispers. “Men lananubuhks menu, Bilbo, amralime… you do not have to wait for me. I will not make you wait…”
When he pulls away, Bilbo’s eyes are closed, but his hand on Thorin’s holds on, tighter. Thorin swallows and shifts, pressing closer to Bilbo, before he opens his mouth and sings softly, slowly and low, a song that only Bilbo can hear.
He feels as Bilbo’s hand loosens on his, as it falls from his grasp, and he hears the deep exhale that Bilbo lets out.
Thorin doesn’t move.
He cannot move.
He sobs, pressing his forehead against Bilbo’s gently even as he wails.
Thorin doesn’t hear the door open, he doesn’t hear his sister’s voice, or his nephews, he doesn’t hear anything until he is wrenched away from Bilbo. He finds himself, then, on the floor of their bedroom, sobbing as Fili and Kili hold him back. Dis sweeps around them in her skirts, lingering for a moment at the side of the bed before she turns away.
“I know,” Thorin says quietly, staring at the figure on the bed. He feels the loosening of his nephews’ grip on his arms. “I know.”
Thorin knows what will come, one day, when they are much older.
But now, in this moment, as their hands are tied together, as Bilbo smiles brightly at him, a flush on his cheeks, Thorin cannot deny himself this one selfish want.
He will bear it, when the time comes, if it means he can have this happiness.