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Finding Your Place

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After reclaiming Erebor, Bilbo had been so sure that he’d immediately return home, to his cozy hole in the ground, surrounded by his books, his armchair, and his garden. But the battle had fallen right before the fall of winter and now, he and his Company of thirteen dwarves and the few dwarves from the Iron Hills that had stayed, were being snowed into the mountain. The gates were open to the elves and humans who remained behind, but few took them up on their offer, preferring the comfort of their own to see through the winter as the smell of dragon had yet to fade from the large, cold halls of the mountain.

Bilbo sits with Balin and Ori in the Great Library they had unearthed a few days prior, sifting through the many documents to see how much damage had been done by time and dragon fire.

“So, you’re still planning on returning to the Shire come spring, then?” Balin asks.

Bilbo nods, “Yes, that is still the plan. It seems like you dwarves will have your hands full as more and more dwarves make their way back to the mountain and others hear of its rebuilding. Making the city function again will be a full-time job and there’ll be no place for a gentlehobbit such as myself amongst the chaos. Besides, I’m sure Thorin will be glad to be rid of me since I seem to be in his way any time he comes around.”

Bilbo grimaces, remembering the foul glares Thorin has been casting him since they’d all returned from battle. Even though he’d broken through the gold sickness and had returned to his proper self, he hasn’t forgotten the betrayal Bilbo had dealt him by keeping the Arkenstone from him and then giving it to his enemies. No, Bilbo is sure that the King Under the Mountain is merely tolerating his continued presence due to his inability to leave.

“Now, come laddie, Thorin’s always been a bit gruff, but I’m sure he wants you to stick around just as much as the rest of us.” Balin tries but even Bilbo can hear the strain in his words.

“Besides, the mountain is big enough for the both of you that it’d be easy to avoid him if need be.” Ori speaks up.

Bilbo just shakes his head. “That’d be no way for us to live. I’d be in constant worry that I’d accidentally run into him. I’d be hiding and worrying for the rest of my days and that’s absolutely no way to enjoy one’s life. No, I’ll make my way back come spring and we’ll both be much happier knowing I won’t be bothering him from then on. There’s nothing for a someone as small as I am here anyways. I can’t work in the mines, I can’t craft or smith, and I certainly can’t work on the political aspects of this place. The Shire is where I belong.”

There’s silence for a moment before Ori, quietly, said, “But you’ll be alone again.”

And, yeah, there is that. Leaving here would mean leaving the first true friends he’d had in probably all his life, behind.

Bilbo gave the gentle dwarf a small but sad smile, “That’s alright, Ori. I’m used to it. Who knows, maybe I’ll find someone, or someone will find me, like you lot did.”

But the hope falls flat since adventures and friends like this only come once in a lifetime, and his tale was already done. Bilbo lets the subject drop and continues to sort through maps of Middle Earth that had been pulled from a fallen shelf. He’d been the task to sort the visual documents since he can’t read Khuzdul, and luckily for him, they weren’t in short supply of those, so his days have been filled with endless sorting to keep him busy.

Later that evening, in the great dining hall that had been restored enough to host the few of them in Erebor, Bilbo sat next to Fili and Kili who were almost completely healed from their wounds at the battle not two weeks hence. Tauriel had joined their little band and was seated on Kili’s other side, the two deep in conversation and pointedly ignoring the glares being cast their way by the dwarven king.

“You could always pick up a new profession!” Fili was saying between bites. “You’re young enough that you can learn practically anything you put your mind to!”

“Oh, my dear boy, hobbit years don’t work the same as dwarf years. I’ll be lucky to live to a hundred and I’m already fifty years old. Half of my life is already gone.”

There’s a startling silence around the table as eyes alight on him in shock and no little bit of horror. Bilbo’s eyebrows meet his hairline.

“I’d assumed you all knew this. After all, all the different being in Middle Earth have different lifespans. Elves live the longest, man lives the shortest. Hobbits are barely above mankind in years. You dwarves can live double that of my life. I’m sure most of you are far older in years than I am, but that does not mean I am by any means young.”

“We’d never come across any hobbits before you, Bilbo.” Bofur speaks up, “In fact, I’m sure most of the world doesn’t know much or anything about you folk. We didn’t know you age faster than us.”

“Yes, we hobbits do like our comforts of home. Most of us never make it past Bree even in our most curious ages. I’m not exactly your typical hobbit. I’ve always been the odd one out, liking adventures far too much for far longer than any other hobbit. But even I, as I got older, became more mellow and preferred my armchair and books, to fireflies and mud.” Bilbo gives a chortle, “And then you lot come stomping into my house with your swords and muddy boots, emptying my entire larder and filling the space with noise. It only took one night to be reminded of everything I missed and longed for when I was younger. And now here I am. In the great halls of the mighty dwarves, eating a fine dinner amongst many friends. It’s odd what life can throw at you.”

Everyone finally broke into smiles and began recounting stories of their times together and Bilbo basked in the fondness. Even Thorin seemed to thaw a little bit in the happiness and Bilbo took just the smallest of moments to look upon that face of fondness before returning to the merriment.

It was only three days later that Bilbo began to notice something weird amongst the dwarves. They were all treating him far more gently than they every had, not letting him carry heavy loads of books, opening doors, bringing him tea and snacks even when he didn’t ask for them. It wasn’t unwelcomed in the beginning, just odd. Then, things seemed to pick up. His things being picked up and cleaned in his room, being refused entry to places under construction lest he get hurt, and a constant reminder to be careful or don’t wander too far, don’t get lost, don’t this, don’t that, until finally, after ten solid days of this he turned to the only dwarf who had yet to caution him.

Banging on the door to Thorin’s chambers the evening of the tenth day, Bilbo was fuming. When Thorin answered with a confused frown Bilbo doesn’t even wait for an invitation before pushing past the king into the room.

“Bilbo? What…”

“You need to tell the others to stop their coddling, it’s gone too far!” Bilbo burst out, not waiting for whatever it is Thorin was about to say. “They refuse to let me do anything, bar me from walking through the mountain alone, even if it’s just to the main hall, and now they’re invading my privacy. No matter what I say, they do not stop!”

Thorin frowned and crossed his arms. “And what do you expect me to do about it?”

Bilbo threw his arms up, “I don’t know! Something! Anything! You have been the only one not treating me like an invalid and you also happen to be the actual, literal king, so I figured you’d be the only one able to get those confounding dwarves to stop whatever it is they’re doing!”

“How is this my probably, exactly?”

Bilbo blanches, because, oh yeah, Thorin was probably the only one not to bother him because he’s also the only one that actively hates him. And now here he was, bothering him, in his own chambers when he was undoubtedly tired from the long day’s work and was getting ready for bed before Bilbo rudely interrupted him. The anger drains out of him, replaced by an anxious sadness that settles low in his heart.

“Oh, right. Sorry, I forgot. I’ll, uh, just… You don’t have to do anything, sorry I bothered you.”

There’s a look of startled confusion settled over Thorin’s face as Bilbo rushes past him and out into the hallway but Bilbo can’t linger or he’s afraid he’ll either cry or yell and he doesn’t want to push Thorin even further than he has tonight.

Over the next few days, he sequesters himself in the little closet room attached to his chambers he’s transformed into a reading room with a small chair and the few books in Westron he could find in the library. A few times he can hear a couple of dwarves calling his name, but he can’t bring himself to answer, frustrated and more than a little sad at the treatment he’s been receiving. And there’s still at least three months before he can leave the mountain.

The next week it’s Tauriel that finds his little hiding spot and startles him into almost spilling tea all over the book he’s holding. Luckily, it lands on his shirt and not the pages.

“Tauriel! You startled me.”

She smiles and apologizes, “Sorry Master hobbit, if I’d known I would startle you, I’d have knocked louder but I feared you’d run and hide like you’ve been doing all week. The dwarves are worried for you. You’ve stopped eating with the company and if it weren’t for the constantly lit brazier, they’d worry that you’d left despite the heavy snow outside.”

“Just Bilbo is fine, and how did you find me?”

“I listened. You turn pages quite often and it tends to echo upon the stone walls.”

Bilbo sighs, because, yes, that would be the thing that gives him away. “Was there something you needed from me?”

“Not exactly. I was more wondering if you’d like to walk with me outside for a moment. There’s something I need your opinion on.”

Bilbo thinks for a moment before setting the book aside and blowing out the multitude of candles keeping the area lit.

“Very well. It’s been a while since I’ve done anything, I might as well take a walk with one of the only people not to treat me like an invalid and that can stand my presence as well.”

Tauriel frowns but Bilbo simply steps around her into his chambers and grabs his heavy cloak from its rack.

“So, where are we going?”

“I’ll take you there, it’s not too far. I was wondering, though, why it is that you’ve been avoiding everyone. However, I can see now that you’re quite bitter about something. Might I ask what’s on your mind?”

Bilbo huffs and follows Tauriel who sets a sedate pace for his shorter stride. “The dwarves have gotten on my last nerve with their coddling and cautioning and constant vigilance and refusal to allow me to make decisions for myself that I have given up for the time being and am simply keeping to myself.”

“The others are very worried about you, especially since they haven’t seen hide or hair of you for nearly a week now.”

“Well too bad! I refuse to be treated this way and they refuse to listen to anything I say.”

“Have you been eating alright?”

“Yes, quite fine. I’m close to the kitchens and I’ve asked Bombur to simply leave me food to make myself seeing as I am better left on my own. I think that, perhaps, they wish me to leave. Afterall, what good is a hobbit who can’t do anything in a mountain where everything needs doing?”

Tauriel stops short and looks at Bilbo, bewildered. “I don’t think that’s what it is at all. They’re constantly asking after you, searching for you. They’re only reassured that you’re still here because book are constantly moving around in the library that Ori has denied moving and Bombur has said that food is being eaten.”

Bilbo sighs and waves his hand to try and banish the conversation. “There’s nothing going to be resolved unless they can properly talk to me, but they have already proven over the last couple weeks that they aren’t willing to listen. Now, what was it that you wanted to show me?”

Tauriel picks up the pace a little and it’s not long before they’re standing next to a stone door that almost completely blends into the stone wall around it. Bilbo’s probably walked by it once or twice in his time there since it’s not all that far from his chambers. Tauriel pushes a little and it gives with the smallest of creaks and opens wide. A rush of cold air and bright, white light sweeps over them, making them both squint and shiver.

“I found this a few days ago and was wondering if you’d like to help me restore it.” Tauriel says and leads the way outside.

Or, rather, into a huge domed room made of glass that’s shattered in a few places, but mostly intact. The ground isn’t the same stony, grey surface as the rest of the surrounding mountain, but a deep brown and only covered in snow where the glass had broken. There were stone pathways leading from one side of the room to the other every few feet and Bilbo leans down to run his hand over the dirt, taking in the smell and feel of it.

“These used to be a garden. This is extremely fertile soil.”

“It is, but nothing’s been growing here for close to sixty years because of the dragon’s presence. I was wondering if you’d want to help me fix up the room, section it out, and make it a proper garden once more. Because it’s usually enclosed and it’s closer to the base of the mountain, crops should grow even in the winter. I’ve already checked, and the watering system is still intact. It just needs the waterways to be opened up once again.”

Bilbo can feel his heart warm as he feels the soil under his feet and smell it in the air. He can practically picture all the things he can grow in this vast room.

“Oh goodness, there’s so much room. There are so many things you can grow in a short amount of time as well as others that can take longer, but I can get a number of vegetables and herbs and tea leaves to grow and harvest before I leave in three months.”

“So, what shall we do first?” Tauriel asks, allowing him to take the lead on this project, for which he is immeasurably grateful.

“First, we must fix the glass. Can you ask around to see if any of the dwarves are good at glass blowing and can repair the room to seal against the elements? After that we can get the aqueducts to work once more. Then it’s only a matter of retrieving the seeds to plant, which I’m sure I can get plenty from the kitchen. What I can’t get from there I can ask a trader for in Dale since I’m sure there’s plenty who’ve heard of the great opportunities due to the recapture of both Erebor and Dale.”

Bilbo was almost giddy as he hopped down the pathways. Scoot dirt into proper piles as he went. He was careful to avoid the fallen and broken glass, but otherwise he was practically skipping for the first time in weeks!

“I’ll get started asking for glassmakers then!” Tauriel smiled broadly and left Bilbo to wander around the room full of rich soil.

Bilbo took another hour in there, simply basking in the presence of the dirt and in the prospect of a project he could actually do and control before he made his way down to the kitchen. If he started now, the seeds would be ready for planting by the time the glass was repaired.

Bombur was surprised to see him when he made his way into the kitchen but immediately dropped what he was doing and swept the small hobbit into a large hug against his enormous frame.

“Bilbo! It’s good to see you. I was getting worried there for a while. Can I get you anything? Make you any food?”

“Thank you, Bombur, but no. I’m in need of any vegetable seeds you don’t need, as well as clippings from herbs and tea leaves if you have them.”

Bombur frowned as he puttered about the kitchen, pulling various things from barrels, boxes, and cold store boxes. He came back with only a small armful of scraps.

“I’m afraid we don’t have much in way of greens. We much prefer our meats to our veggies, as you know.”

“As I do indeed. Do you know of any traders coming from Dale any time soon? I would prefer to get my hands on them as soon as possible.”

“Hmm, I’m expecting a delivery of some animals within the week, but I’m not too sure about herbs or vegetables. Maybe you can ask the trader once he comes if he knows of any.”

“That would be wonderful. Thank you Bombur. For now, I’ll go through these scraps and see what I can use.”

“Might I ask what this is all for, Master Bilbo?”

“Just Bilbo is fine, as I’ve always said Bombur. And, I’ll let you know as soon as I know if any of this ends up working.”

He’s about to leave when a thought occurs to him.

“Bombur, why are the other treating me like an invalid?”

Bombur looks surprised at the question but Bilbo can also see the edge of guilt in the expression too.

“Oh, uh, I don’t know… uh.”

“Bombur, please.” Bilbo sighs and hangs his head a little. “I just want to know why everyone has been treating me like this and won’t listen to a word I say. If there’s something I’ve done to anger them or put them off, I just want to know.”

The guilt now overrides the surprise. “Oh, Bilbo, no. You haven’t done anything wrong. Just… it’s hard to explain properly.”

“I would very much like it if you tried. I am worried and more than a little upset about how they’ve been treating me, but no matter what I say they will not stop. I know I am just a hobbit, smaller and far less capable than you lot, but you’ve relied on me before, and I would very much like if you relied on me again, even if it’s just for small things.”

“Bilbo…” Bombur whispers but doesn’t continue so Bilbo just nods his head and presses his lips together before quickly taking his leave.

If the dwarves don’t want him there, then he’ll make himself scarce until he can leave. The thought makes his heart clench and ache, but it also makes him more determined. He can at least prove his worth in a small way of leaving them with a plentiful garden before he leaves.

In the garden are empty barrels and wooden boxes that had probably once held produce that he now deposited his armful of scraps into to begin preparing seeds and root vegetables. There were a few small potatoes, an old radish, the remains of a couple tomatoes, and sprigs of various discarded herbs. The seeds of the tomatoes and the herbs could be dried so they can be planted later, but the root vegetables themselves could be planted immediately in the soil farthest from the open elements. The rest of the scraps could be placed into a composter to become fertilizer later.

It takes a couple of days before Tauriel can find a proficient glassmaker who can replace the broken windows and by that time Bilbo has spoken to the trader Bombur had told him to and learned that there’s an herb, spice, and seed vendor that’s taken up residence at the marketplace in the new beginning of Dale who restocks every two weeks with fresh produce. Then, together, they’ve managed to get a handle on the grow bed placement, getting stones and wood to separate the different types of produce and section out the garden so that one type of plant won’t overtake another.

“I’d like you to come to dinner this evening in the great dining hall.” Tauriel says one day, both of them wrist deep in soil.

“Now why would I do that?” Bilbo asks, patting some of the dirt into place neatly against a solid rock.

“Because I think the others need to see you with their own eyes to believe that you’re truly alright and that I’m not just making it up. Kili has become rather distressed lately at your absence and I think he’s starting to blame himself and others for your continued seclusion.”

“Well good because he’s also part of what brought this on. He is not blameless in this, nor are the others. Actually, I would say Bombur and Ori are the least to blame for all this. You as well, but I’m mainly talking about the dwarves.”

“I think they would like a chance to explain themselves. Just come to dinner, and if you don’t like what they say then you can live out the rest of your stay here in the garden and in your rooms. How about that?”

Bilbo purses his lips as he thinks about it before nodding. “Sounds fair, I guess. As long as I also get to explain myself because I am sick of being talked over as if I’m not there and that my words are less than those of a child.”

“I think that would be fair.” Tauriel acquiesced.

So, that evening, with apprehension, and no small bit of courage, Bilbo made his way into the great dining hall tentatively, trying his best not to draw attention until he’d managed to slip into the last seat at the edge of the table while the others all ate and talked amongst themselves.

“Bilbo.” Thorin’s voice cut through the noise although it was no louder than his normal speech.

Immediately all noise ceased and all eyes turned on him and Bilbo blushed and tried to make himself smaller, anxiety welling up in his chest.

“It’s nice to finally see you.” Thorin continued.

“Yes, well, I figured I might as well come since Tauriel asked so nicely. It’d be rude to refuse.” Bilbo nodded and wondered if he should cut his losses and just leave now. They’d seen his face, they knew he was alive, that’s all that was needed, right?

“Bilbo,” Bombur was seated across from him and Bilbo was actually glad to see him, “I think there’s some things that need to be addressed.”

Bombur’s eyes went to Thorin who gave a small nod.

“It seems that some of us have been falling a little to heavily on dwarven customs to remember that you are not a dwarf. In our culture, we treat those who are younger than us with specific care. It is not until they hit seventy that we leave them to their own devices completely. At thirty they are considered grown, but that’s not to say they are not to be looked after. When it was revealed that you were a mere fifty, many of us instinctively treated you as if you were a fifty-year-old dwarf. I hope this explains some things.”

Bilbo let out a huge, heaving sigh of relief and before anyone else could have a chance to speak he began laughing. Small, almost quiet chuckles, which would have turned to sobs had he not stopped himself.

“You absolute, baffling dwarves. I thought…” he sucks in a breath, “I thought you had no more use of me, that you wished me gone. I thought, that because I had brought attention to our differences, that you’d realized how little you truly needed me. Acting as if I was in the way or could do nothing myself, it was awful.”

There was a sudden cacophony of sound as nearly all the dwarves rushed to assure him that that was not the case, that they were sorry and that he was absolutely needed. The only ones not rushing to ask for forgiveness were Thorin, Dwalin, and Bombur, even Bifur was offering words in Khuzdul. Bilbo was jostled as those closest to him pulled him into hugs or patted him to reassure him, and it felt like there was a weight being lifted from his chest. Not to say that all his fears had been assuaged, but it was a great deal better knowing the cause of all this torment.

“So, we’re all in agreeance to stop treating me like an infant, yes?” There was a great yell of agreement across the table, “And we’ll all agree to go back to treating me as before?” Another yell. “Good, because I’m just a simple, middle-aged hobbit who has no need of being treated like a child just out of infanthood.”

The rest of the evening went smoothly, conversation flowing like it had before, and Bilbo cast Tauriel a grateful smile halfway through and was given a nod and smile in return. The food was amazing, better than he’d been making for himself in the confines of his room with his small fireplace to heat the food and he told Bombur as much who beamed with pride.

He learned that many of the dwarves had taken up major roles in the beginning of the new city. Dwalin was lead guard of the new dwarven army being put together by the dwarves who decided to stay from the Iron Hills and those who would be coming from Ered Luin. Nori was the Spymaster of the crown, Oin was set up as a head healer, and Ori was a scribe in the library, set with the task of recounting the great journey and battle of Thorin Oakenshield. Bombur was one of the many chefs in the kitchens, and Dori was setting up a shop of fine arts such as cheeses and wines, Balin was advisor to the king, Gloin was appointed head treasurer, and Bifur and Bofur had decided to take up to take up jobs in the mines, directing the flow of work where needed to get the mining system back up again.

Fili and Kili were as of yet to be appointed to any one part of the mountain and were instead learning bits of everything. Fili was mainly watching Thorin since he was the heir to the throne which entailed knowing every aspect of the mountain and Kili was loathed to be without his brother, so he tagged along when he wasn’t with Tauriel.

“Why don’t you set up a team of archers to add to the military force? Or hunting force?” Bilbo suggested when he learned that Kili wasn’t settled anywhere.

“Dwarves are more suited to direct fighting. I only took up the bow as a hobby and it became useful in our quest.” Kili said in way of an answer.

“So? I think having an archery squad would do your military a world of good. It was so incredibly useful during the quest, then when the elves used archery on the orcs during the battle. If you lead even a small force of archers, you’d already have a more complete military force. I’m sure there are some dwarves just as good or willing to learn the bow as you.” Bilbo suggested, finishing the last remaining bits on his plates, and sighing with content.

Kili looked unsure and Bilbo held up a hand to stop any more denials before they left his mouth.

“It is not a demand, merely a suggestion. If you do not want to, all you have to say is no and that’ll be that. I’m just saying, it’s something to think about. You are incredibly skilled with a bow and it has saved our hides on more than one occasion. It would also give you something to look forward to and give you a small modicum of responsibility. Now, I am going to retire to my rooms as I also have much to think about and I am quite tired.”

Others bid him good night and he returned each one, even casting a glance toward Thorin, startling just a bit when those blue eyes gazed intensely at him, but he simply gave a small wave and shuffled his feet before taking off back to his rooms.

Getting ready for bed that night, he was distracted greatly as he thought about that piercing gaze that had seemed to burn for the three seconds it had alighted on him and Bilbo couldn’t help but wonder what that was all about. It didn’t look as if the king had been mad, it didn’t even seem like he’d been irritated. Bilbo simply could not place that look and went to bed not so much troubled as puzzled.

The following evening, after dinner had concluded, Bilbo was almost to his rooms when he heard feet behind him and turned to see Thorin trailing after him. He paused, one hand on his door and looked at the king in question as he approached and then stood a meager foot from him.

When Thorin didn’t say anything Bilbo gave a small cough and asked, “Yes? Did you need something?”

“I wanted to discuss something with you, if you don’t mind.”

“Sure. What’s on your mind?”

Thorin looked a touch uncomfortable and gestured to Bilbo’s door, “Inside if you please.”

“Oh, um, alright, if you’d like.” Bilbo said awkwardly and allowed both him and Thorin to enter before shutting the door behind him.

Thorin stood just inside his door looking for all the world uncomfortable while Bilbo set about to restoking the fireplace.

“Do come in, have a seat. I’ll put the kettle on if you’d like.”

“No thank you, that’s alright.” Thorin did take up his offer of the chair, but still looked exceedingly uncomfortable, like he was sitting on a bed of nails and not a plush armchair.

“Is something the matter?” Bilbo asked from the other chair set across from Thorin. “Are you alright?”

“Yes, I’m fine. I just wanted to discuss something with you, but I am unsure on how to start.”

“That’s alright, take your time. I’ll start reading this book, and you can start talking whenever you’re ready. That sound alright?”

Thorin nodded and Bilbo picked up his book, flipping to his marked page and beginning to read. It took all of three pages before Thorin finally spoke.

“Why are you not cross with me?”

Bilbo startled and looked up at the king in bewilderment. “Cross? Why would I be cross with you? You weren’t one of the ones treating me like an infant and that was already resolved. I’m not cross at anyone.”

“No, I mean about the Arkenstone. About how I treated you.”

Understanding dawns on Bilbo, “Oh, Thorin, why would I be cross about that? I have no reason to be. What you did and said while under the influence of dragon sickness has absolutely no baring at all of the kind of person you are. I know that you did not mean what you did and said because you were not in your right mind. I forgave you the instant you snapped out of it.”

Thorin frowned deeply, still perturbed, “How can you forgive so easily, I tried to throw you from the wall, the things I said to you…” he trailed off, obviously angry and hurt by what he himself had done.

Bilbo got up from his chair and walked over to Thorin’s side, kneeling so that he could see the downturned face of the king.

“Thorin, I want you to listen to me very carefully.” Once Thorin’s eyes were fixed solely on him he continued, “You are one of the bravest, kindest, most stubborn dwarves I’ve ever met. Sure, you can be gruff and say some things that hurt me, but so does everyone. What you did and said while under the influence of a sickness you could not control is in absolutely no way your fault and I hold none of what you did against you, nor will I ever. Even if you happen to fall to it again, which you won’t,” he said hastily at the look of horror and fear on the king’s face, “I will never, ever think less of you for it. I know you are upset with me, whether for my lack of ability or my overall demeanor, but I have not once been cross with you for your actions with the gold or Arkenstone. I’m simply glad that you came back to us in time.”

Thorin looks surprised and displeased, “I am not upset with you at all Master Baggins. What would make you think that?”

“Just Bilbo, please, I’m done with the whole Master thing. And, the whole angry death glare you keep giving me. The not talking to me and generally seeming like I’m just an ant under your boot would give me the feeling that you do not like me. I thought you were still upset at me for not giving you the Arkenstone and that I didn’t listen when you said not to come back.”

Thorin’s frown crumbles into understanding and hurt, “No, Bilbo, I have not thought that even once. I did not mean to glare at you, I’ve been upset that you are not mad at me. I thought you’ve been avoiding me and rightly so. It must have shown on my face more than I thought.”

“So, to be clear, you’re not mad at me?” Bilbo asks to clarify.

“Not even a little bit. You were right not to give me the Arkenstone. I would never have recovered if I’d gotten my hands on it. I was so blinded by greed that it would have made me insatiable. You’re the one that saved me from my madness.”

Bilbo gave a small chuckle, “No, I’m pretty sure you did that yourself. You are one of the strongest dwarves I know, and I know Dwalin, so that’s saying something.”

Thorin finally cracks a smile. “That’s quite a compliment then.”

Bilbo rolls his eyes with a smile and gets back up to sit back on his chair once more.

“Now that that misunderstanding is out of the way, is there anything else you’d like to discuss?”

“Actually, yes. I wanted to ask you about the idea you proposed to Kili the other night about forming a group of archers. I think it might be a good idea to incorporate that into our military. It’ll make it more complete and allow us to fight at a greater distance even though I definitely agree with Kili that we’re more suited to close range attacks.”

Bilbo nodded, “Yes, I think you’re also more suited to close range attacks, but the fewer enemies there are when they reach you, the lower the chance of losing a lot of warriors in battle. Even a small force of archers would make a huge difference if they had the skills that Kili has. Even Kili himself could continue learning. Tauriel herself is an even better archer and could teach alongside Kili if you’d be willing. You’d have to have some openminded dwarves though, which can be hard to come by.”

“Sometimes, yes, but I think with the younger dwarves, they’re more open to suggestion than the older ones.”

“Our hopes lie with the next generation after all. I know you don’t like elves, and for some good reasons, but not every dwarf has to live by that same hate. The better relations you have with neighboring lands, the longer peace you’ll have, the better trade and opportunities you’ll receive. War brings little but bitterness and death, even when it’s necessary.”

Thorin raises an eyebrow, “You’re very opinionated for a peace dwelling hobbit.” He says without heat.

“Well, considering I’ve already been in a war, I can say with full confidence, that war is horrible and should be avoided at all costs.”

“As someone who has now been in many, I can agree with you, but sometimes just because peace is wanted doesn’t mean peace will come or stay. There are many dwarves more bitter than I am who would see every elf and man civilization burned to the ground before peace becomes an option.”

“Well thank goodness you’re king and not them.” Bilbo pretends to wipe his brow and Thorin smiles. “Truly, I am glad that you are king. Already your rule has been magnificent, and the mountain is already beginning to thrive under your reign. I think you’ll have many peaceful years to come.”

Thorin is surprised by the high praise and feels warmth curl in his stomach. “Thank you, Bilbo. Your words mean a lot to me.”

It’s Bilbo’s turn to startle and the blush that flushes his face is unexpected. “Oh, uh, you’re welcome. After all, you’ve led us through the worst of it, hopefully there’s only better things to come from your leadership. Now, it is late, and I must sleep, or I’ll never wake up in the morning.”

“Right, of course. Sorry to keep you awake.” Thorin stands quickly, surprised by how much he was hoping to continue speaking with the little hobbit.

“It is no trouble. If you ever want to talk again, my door is always open. Although, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the greenhouse so you can also find me there during the day if you’d like.”

“Greenhouse? I didn’t know we had one of those. Where is it?”

Bilbo laughs, “I thought you knew every part of your kingdom. The garden area is a simple five-minute walk from my rooms, down towards the base of the mountain where it’s slightly warmer. I’ll show you tomorrow if you’d like.”

“That sounds good. I’ll see you tomorrow then, burglar. Have a good night.”

“You as well, oh great king.” Bilbo chuckles at being called burglar though he is a burglar no more.

Bilbo stands dazed in the middle of his room once Thorin has left, feeling warmer and giddier than he has in weeks. That final weight that had been dragging down his mood has finally lifted, and he feels light and happy as he crawls into bed. He sleeps like a baby and wakes in the morning feeling more rested than he can remember.

There’s a knock on his door that morning as he pulls on his clothes. He hurriedly pulls his trousers up his legs and answers the door so whoever it is doesn’t get impatient. He blanches when he sees that it’s none other than Thorin Oakenshield, King Under the Mountain standing on the other side of the door looking as regal and majestic as ever while he stands with his suspenders hanging at his sides and his shirt untucked.

“Oh! Thorin! You’re up early. I wasn’t expecting, sorry about the state of my undress. Come in, I’m almost done.”

Thorin just stands there for another moment, staring at the hobbit almost in confusion, before stepping into the room and shutting the door behind him a little harder than he meant.

“Sorry, Master Baggins, I didn’t mean to interrupt you. I was simply wondering if now was a good time to show me where the gardens are. I can come back later if now’s not a good time.”

“Nonsense, it’s perfectly fine, it’s not like I’m in the nude. And please, for the hundredth time, just Bilbo will do. I’ll be finished in a moment. I slept longer than I thought I would if the light outside my window is to be believed. Which, I’m ever so grateful for, just so you know. I’m sure there aren’t a great many rooms in the mountain with windows. Feels a little bit more like home.”

“Yes, I figured you’d want your natural light, seeing as you’re a creature of the sun. Although these are considered servants quarters, I couldn’t find a bigger one that wasn’t destroyed with a window.”

“No, this is perfectly fine, I have no need for bigger quarters, although I thank you for your thoughtfulness. Now, let me just finish putting on my coat and we’ll be on our way.”

“Would you like breakfast first? I can send someone to the kitchens to bring your breakfast here so we can go straight after.” Thorin asks as he reaches for his coat.

Bilbo’s stomach gives a timely rumble at the mention of food and he thinks for a second. “As long as I’m not keeping you from your duties, then alright.”

“You are most certainly not keeping me from my duties. I’ll send for your breakfast immediately.”

Thorin takes all of two minutes to find someone to send for food and in that time, Bilbo has already got a pot of water in the kettle over the fire and tea leaves at the ready.

“Would you like some tea today?” Bilbo asks, holding up a second cup.

“Sure, sounds good.”

“Have you already had breakfast then?”

Thorin takes a seat in the same chair as the night before. “No, I was hoping to join you, if that’s alright.”

“Of course. I would’ve offered you some of mine even if you had.”

“And I would have declined because I know what you’re like when it comes to food.” Thorin chuckles.

Bilbo smiles as well because he can’t deny it. Hobbits are, after all, incredibly fond of good food, a warm hearth, and the other comforts of home. They make small talk for the next fifteen minutes until their meals arrive with a knock on the door. Thorin insists on bringing the food to him as it’s because of him that they’re eating in the room at all, and the quickly dig into the steaming, delicious food.

“So, what are you planning on making of this garden area?”

“I was mainly thinking of planting vegetables, herbs, and tea leaves. I don’t think there’s enough room for an orchard and those take a very long time to come to fruition.” Bilbo gives a small snicker, “If I can get my hands onto some spices as well, I can create a good arsenal for the kitchens before I head back to the Shire. Tauriel has also been helping me mend the garden area and can continue where I leave off if need be. It’ll save you a lot of money in the long run to use home grown food instead of buying it.”

At the mention of the Shire Thorin goes quiet, realizing that this means the mountain will be losing its sole hobbit once spring comes. It’s a strangely disquieting thought that settles like a stone in his stomach, but he doesn’t bring it up, not wanting to bring the conversation down.

Once the meal and tea has been thoroughly consumed, they leave the dishes with one of the staff on standby and head off towards the gardens. Along the way Bilbo enthusiastically details his plans for the gardens until they reach the near hidden door in the wall.

“I’ve already started a composting area so you can have the kitchens bring any scraps up here and toss them into the compost heap. It’ll break down and eventually turn into good soil to be used on the crops. It also minimizes waste and allows for a good heating source as composts can become quite hot. Although, the smell can sometimes leave much to be desired. No matter. The windows are built to allow fresh air in when it’s not too chilly, but we’re still waiting to get the broken ones fixed. I’ve found where the aqueduct valves are and can redirect water as need to the plants, so they stay watered but don’t drown. It’s quite an amazing system you dwarves have managed to rig up.”

“I’m glad you’ve found a hobby that suits you. I thought you’d take to the library, honestly.”

“I would have loved to be in the library, but sadly, I can read very few of the books, and those few that I can read are mostly about politics that I know nothing about and have very little care for.”

“Maybe once the rest of the library has been uncovered and reorganized, you can find something that suits your tastes. It’s a great loss that so many books have fallen into decay.”

“Yes, that really is a tragedy. So much history and knowledge lost to time and damage. Maybe there are still some that can be salvaged and rewritten, but for the ones that are forever lost,” Bilbo sighs, “such a shame.”

“So, have you already started planting?”

Bilbo’s eyes light up once more. “Oh yes! I’ve made some headway with some root vegetables such as potatoes and radishes. Unfortunately, the kitchen doesn’t have very many and I’ve been drying the seeds of plants that I need to plant once the windows are fixed. I spoke to the meat merchant who was here this past week and he told me of the vendor in the Dale marketplace and was hoping to visit once I knew exactly what I can plant and where.”

“Would you like an escort for the journey?”

“Oh, I don’t think that would be necessary, I’ve made the trip from Erebor to Dale on my own before and I’m sure I can do it again. The circumstance are far more favorable this time.”

“I’d still prefer if you took at least one or two of the others with you, just to be safe. It can get dangerous with this much snow about.” Thorin said seriously and Bilbo gave him a small, questioning look but didn’t argue.

“If you’re really that concerned then I’ll take someone with me. I’ll also need a couple of coins to buy the produce if that’s alright.”

“Absolutely, anything you want, it’s yours.”

Bilbo’s eyebrows met his hairline, “That’s an awfully big statement your highness. What if I wanted something that wasn’t available?”

At the intense look Thorin gives him Bilbo rethinks what he just said and is hit by the double meaning it could have.

“Oh, uh, I didn’t…” Bilbo sighs and shakes his head, shocked at the bold words that’d come, unintentionally, out of his mouth.

But Thorin steps just a bit closer, into the hobbit’s space and his voice is a deep rumble as he quietly says, “Like I said, Bilbo, whatever you want, it’s yours.”

Bilbo looks up into Thorin’s face, deeply aware of his proximity and not sure what to do about it.

Swallowing thickly, he nods and sucks in a breath, “Thank you. I-I’ll definitely think on exactly what it is that I want, and I will let you know as soon as I’ve figured it out.”

Thorin smiles faintly and nods, stepping back once more. Bilbo is left slightly shaken but pulls himself together to finish showing Thorin around the large garden area.

“I’ve sectioned it out so that the plants that need the most light will be nearest the windows and those that need little to no light will be placed against the mountain and I was thinking of writing them on little nameplates but I’d need someone to translate it into Khuzdul for whoever took over once I left.”

Again, with the talk of leaving, Thorin couldn’t help but feel that sinking stone in his stomach. Without mentioning it he finished up his tour of the garden and stood at the door with Bilbo.

“Anything else you need for the garden?”

“I have many ideas but only so much room, you know? It would’ve been nice to have a greenhouse for barley and a room for fermentation. You’d have endless ale with that.”

“Hmm, I’m pretty sure we had a system like that a long time ago, but anything we had is probably already rotted, only the unopened, undamaged barrels would be left.”

“If you had any stored sugar, that’d definitely still be good since, technically, sugar never goes bad. You’d only have to check for moisture and bugs.”

“Interesting, I did not know that. You have some very useful information and interesting ideas. This mountain will be far poorer when you leave come spring.”

Unbeknownst to Thorin, his words had a similar effect on Bilbo at hearing of his leaving. A coldness, the same sinking feeling, the rock at the bottom of his stomach. But, like Thorin, he doesn’t mention it and instead moves back through the door, into the warmth of the mountain.

“So, what are your kingly duties today? Some exciting politics to handle I assume?”

“You assume correctly although ‘exciting’ might be severely overstating it.” Thorin smiles and walks with Bilbo in the direction of the main hall where the council chambers await with mound upon mounds of paperwork for him to finish.

“Well, if you ever need anything, feel free to ask, I’ll try to do what I can to help.”

Thorin gives him a warm smile and his hand raises almost without his permission to brush against Bilbo’s arm.

“Thank you, Bilbo. I will see you later at dinner.”

Startled by the touch Bilbo stammers out a short, “Oh, yes, of course. See you then,” as Thorin walks away.

Bilbo heads back to his chambers quickly, ducking around the few dwarves he sees swiftly until he makes it back to his rooms and shuts the doors tightly. His heart is beating a frantic dance in his chest and he places a hand there as if to keep it from leaping out of his ribcage completely. There was so much that happened in the course of an hour that he can’t properly organize his thoughts. Thorin, whom just days ago he’d thought absolutely hated him and wanted him gone, was now showing signs of attentiveness and intensity towards the hobbit that had completely caught him off guard. And for Bilbo, it’s not like his feelings had always been innocent towards the dwarf, but it’d never been as present as it was last night and this hour.

Bilbo started pacing as he thought. Thorin had come to him to talk about the misgivings between them, had shared his burdens with him, and had spoken of challenges that he would like to undertake with the mountain. Then, he’d listened to something the hobbit was passionate about and actively engaged him in meaningful conversation. And, on top of all that, he’d suggested to things far beyond friendship that Bilbo had then suggested to thoroughly think about in prospect of taking said friendship to another level.

However, in the back of his mind, was the niggling thought that Thorin might simply be jesting with him, that he was becoming comfortable with him enough to joke with him about such things, as some friends tended to do. If that were the case then he was severely overthinking things, and all of this would be a bunch of wasted time, effort, and feelings.

But, if it wasn’t all in jest, and he truly meant those underlying words, then thinking about it was absolutely not a waste of any of those things. And those underlying words were wreaking havoc on Bilbo’s poor heart.

Later that night, at dinner, the seating had changed ever so slightly to where the dwarves were moved down by one on one side so the seat next to Thorin was the last one available for Bilbo to take and all those thoughts came rushing back to front and center. But that didn’t stop him from enthusiastically claiming his seat with a smile and a greeting to all the gathered dwarves.

Throughout dinner, Thorin spoke to him warmly, discussing his garden and his thoughts on different subjects he’d been dealing with throughout the day. Bilbo happily gave his opinions and lamented the lack of space for an orchard but said he’d be happy enough if there was space in front of the mountain to plant trees and flowers once the last of winter had melted away and left the fertile land that was awakening from the slumber it’d been under for so long.

“But aren’t you leaving in the spring Mister Bilbo?” Ori asked from two seats over.

The smile on Bilbo’s face dropped a little as he nodded. “Yes, of course. How could I have forgotten.” He gave a stressed chuckle, “I guess someone else will have to plant them in my stead, then.”

The conversation stalled for a moment before picking up a little quieter and gloomier than before. Nobody mentioned Bilbo’s leaving again for which he was thankful.

It was two weeks later as Tauriel was joining him in the garden having finally finished putting up the last of the windows that the subject of his leaving was brought up again.

“Why do you insist on leaving if it leaves you with that face at the mere mention of it?”

Bilbo’s face straightened out from the grimace it had automatically scrunched up into, “I must leave because my place is amongst the calm, rolling green grass of the Shire, surrounded by my books and hearth in my warm hole in the ground. That’s my place, it’s where I belong.”

“Why are you so sure that you belong there? Do you not have a warm hearth, good books, and an armchair here? In the spring will come green grass and sprouting trees and flowers that you’d never see in the Shire. And here, you’ll always be surrounded by friends and people who love you. From what I’ve heard from your time in the Shire, you’ve been alone since you lost your parents. Why would you willingly choose that loneliness?”

“When you lived in the Greenwood, you had your huge trees and brightly lit, star-filled skies, did you not? Do you not miss that? The feeling of home, of familiar ground beneath your feet, and all the comforts that come with a home? Do you not want to go back so much that an ache fills your heart every time you think of it?”

“Of course I do, but not so much as the ache that fills my entire soul at the thought of being away from the one I love. You live much farther away from Erebor, it’d be more likely that you’d never see any of them again were you to leave. I live less than half as far away as you do, I’ve seen the maps. Would your empty hold in the ground be worth losing the warmth of your friends?”

Bilbo hangs his head, hands covered in soil, kneeling on the pathway, and trying to take in her words as they war with his heart.

“It’s not that simple. I had dropped everything when I’d left to join them on the adventure, but every adventure has to come to an end. They have their home now, whereas mine lay hundreds of miles away. You have your heart to tie you here, but I haven’t got anything. Nothing here is mine to own, I have no place amongst them. The things that call to my heart aren’t possible here.”

“Nor there from what I’ve heard. You’ll never marry, you said. I’m sure the others thought nothing of it because even here it is rare to marry, but I’ve heard your tales of the Shire, where the pastures are overflowing with fauntlings. You don’t marry for another reason, I’m sure.”

Bilbo stops messing with the soil and looks up at Tauriel as she kneels beside him, eyes serious but far from judging.

“No, I’ll never marry. In the Shire, I’ll never find one that loves me as I wish to be loved, and I’m alright with that. I made peace with it long ago.”

“But here you don’t have to! You’ve seen Dwalin and Ori, and me and Kili! You know that they’re far more accepting here. You don’t have to be alone forever.”

Bilbo’s heart weighs heavily in his chest, wanting to hope, but really, how could there be hope? Dwarves, well, one dwarf, might go for those who are as mighty as this she elf, but to go for one as small and diminutive as Bilbo? It was a nice dream and fair sentiment, but it was far from realistic. Sure, there were unspoken words between him and Thorin, and while he wishes with so much of his heart for there to be something there he could grasp and hold onto, Thorin is a king and he is a simple hobbit who is far from home in this vast world.

“Thank you, Tauriel, for caring so much, but it is not meant to be. Now, I’d like very much not to discuss this any further and get back to the task at hand.”

Tauriel looks like she wants to push the subject but drops it like he asks.

Grateful, Bilbo changes the subject. “I’ll be going to Dale tomorrow to pick up some things for the garden if you’d like to come with me. I’ll be taking Bombur with me as well so he may browse the market for anything he’d like in the kitchen. Eating so much dwarven food has given me some insight into what would be best to plant so they may use it freely in the kitchens. They’re not so much into green food as I’ve found out, but root vegetables seem to be fine such as potatoes, some radishes, onion, and so on. They also use a lot of herbs and spices for seasoning as well, so I’ll be picking up some of those to plant. I think I might even attempt a lemon tree right in the middle here since it goes so well with every kind of meat.”

“Those are some fine ideas you have, Bilbo, and I’d love to come with you to the market. I’ll be able to see how things are coming along with the rebuilding as well as peruse the market.”

The change in subject didn’t stop the words from swirling around Bilbo’s head for the rest of the day and into dinner where Thorin quietly inquired as to what was on the hobbit’s mind since he was so distracted. Bilbo simply stated that he was tired and ended up retiring early from dinner even though he had not eaten his usual amount. Which led to Thorin knocking quietly on Bilbo’s door only a couple hours later once the meal had concluded and he’d finished his duties for the night.

“Sorry to disturb you, Bilbo, I know you are tired, but I was concerned with your silence and brought you some left over food from the meal in case you were hungry.”

Bilbo’s heart swelled in his chest at the thoughtfulness and beckoned Thorin beyond the door so he could shut it against the cold. Thorin sat the platter onto the small table near the hearth and took the seat that Bilbo had already labeled in his mind as Thorin’s.

“Sorry to be so out of sorts, I had a rather long talk with Tauriel today and it’s been on my mind ever since. I did not mean to disturb you.”

“No, not disturbed, simply concerned for your wellbeing. Now come, sit and eat and you can tell me what’s on your mind if you’d like.”

Bilbo sighed and took his seat and took several bites since he really was quite hungry still.

“Thank you, for this. It’s incredibly thoughtful. Tauriel had brought up my leaving and it’d left me more distressed than I would have liked. See now, in my head, the Shire is my home and always will be. But my heart has begun to change in ways that I did not expect when I’d set out on our adventure. And, since I’ve always been one to think with my head and not my heart, it’s begun a sort of unbalanced war inside myself. Tauriel brought up a really good argument for staying that was hard for me to argue, but despite that, I still feel the need to leave. I do not belong here.”

Thorin leans forward quickly enough that it startles Bilbo into dropping his next bite back onto his plate.

“Why do you think you do not belong here? Have any of us ever given you any reason to doubt that you are more than welcome amongst us? What else can we, or I, do that would help you decide to stay?”

The questions poured out of Thorin quickly and almost desperately.

“Well, I, no, you’ve all been quite welcoming, despite that little stint with treating me like a toddler. However, there will be more dwarves coming, ones who can actually do the work here in the mountain, those strong enough to lift stone and clever enough to mend lacework of metal. I have no use here, and I’m more likely to get stepped on than to be relied on.”

“That is not true!” Thorin surprised him with his vehemence, “You have one of the quickest, cleverest minds I have ever seen. You can read through a book, map, or document faster than I have seen from even the most skilled scribe, and you have a gift for understanding that many dwarves seem to lack. Your skill for thinking fast and acting on your choices makes you an invaluable asset. You have already helped make this kingdom better and safer with seemingly simple inputs into serious matters. If I had you at my side at all times, this mountain would be a thousand times more efficient, and a thousand times warmer than it’s ever been since it’s creation. You underestimate your value here Master Bilbo Baggins and I would greatly like to provide you the chance to see it.”

Bilbo looks at him in awe, not quite sure what to say in the wake of so many compliments and intensity from the somber spoken Thorin. So, he nods his head and finishes the rest of the food in front of him before speaking again.

“There’s a lot to think about, and I’m not sure how I would ever be able to prove valuable to you when you have such magnificent dwarves such as Balin, Fili, Dwalin, and Ori.”

“I would make you an advisor next to Balin. I’d have you by my side as council for what needs doing in Erebor. Your opinion and unique insight into these matters has been incredibly useful and helpful so far and having continuous feedback would get matters sorted quickly and efficiently. But I understand your need to think on things and am willing to give you as long as you need to reach a decision.”

Bilbo nodded and sits back in his chair to think. “I’m to go to the marketplace in Dale tomorrow. How about, you give me tomorrow to think things over, give me a little space, and I will come to you with my decision either when I get back or the morning after. Is that alright?”

“Of course, however long you need. Have you decided on the ones you are taking with you to the market?”

“I’ll be taking Bombur and Tauriel. Bombur can take a look at the other produce he might need in the kitchen and Tauriel has been helping me in the garden, so it is wise to bring her along.”

“Good choices, both of them. See? This is what I mean about your useful thinking.”

Bilbo smiles at the compliment and is finally able to rest his mind as they move on to far less important things such as the different kinds of hobbit dishes he likes and would like to introduce to the kitchen staff if they’d let him. Once he begins yawning, Thorin takes that as his que to leave.

“I will have three ponies and a cart waiting for you at dawn.”

“Thank you, I’ll be sure to let the others know that our transport is taken care of.”

“Oh, I’ll also give you a bag of coins to go with you.”

Bilbo smiles warmly and thanks him once again before bidding the king good night and shutting the door after his departure. Bilbo leans his forehead against the door for a moment, thinking back on Thorin’s deep voice as it shook through him after every word earlier. The more people he spoke to about his leaving, the more reasons he was given to stay. At this rate, he wouldn’t be leaving when spring came, and he wasn’t sure what that’d mean to him in the long run. For now, though, he simply went to bed with his head filled with Thorin’s words and the warmth they brought to his belly.

The next morning was brighter than it had been all month, the sun peaking blindingly through his fingers as he stood next to the ponies at the gate to the mountain. The other two were already preparing to mount up when Thorin came up beside him with a bag held out to him.

“I’m not sure what the prices are like in Dale yet as we’ve only traded with a few for what was necessary. I hope this is enough to cover anything you wish to buy.”

Bilbo took the bag from his grasp and promptly dropped it on his foot. “Sweet Yavanna, what is in that bag, rocks?”

“Yes, some. Mostly gold coins, and a few precious gems and metals. I don’t know what merchants want these days.” Thorin smiled and bent to retrieve the bag as Bilbo hopped on one foot to soothe the ache where the bag had landed.

“You make holding it look so easy.” Bilbo scowled at him with no real heat as he took the bag much more carefully with both hands this time.

“It would appear that I am far stronger than you, little hobbit. But that does not matter, I’m not expecting you to be hefting anything any time soon. Your mind is quick enough for the both of us. Now, you should set off soon before it begins snowing once again and take care not to look directly at the snow while the sun’s still out or you can lose your sight.”

“I do know what snow blindness is, Thorin, I have been around snow before.”

“It’s still important to have a reminder. I’ll see you when you return. Travel safely.”

“I will, don’t you worry. Now go and do your kingly duties. We’ll be back before you know it.”

Bilbo clambers onto his pony with an ease that comes from having done so many times over the last year that would’ve been impossible any other year before. Bombur’s already a short length ahead and Tauriel’s horse is the one pulling the cart beside Bilbo as they set off. Once they’re a distance away from the gate Tauriel turns to look at him, a sly smile on her face.

“So how long has that been going on?”

Bilbo looks at her, confused. “How long as what been going on?”

“That. That thing between you and Thorin.”

Bilbo frowns, “There is no thing between me and Thorin.”

Tauriel rolls her eyes, “Uh huh, I don’t think so. That was the departing of two newly wed folk, not two merely friends folk.”

“But we are merely friends folk, er, just friends. We’re friends!”

“Oh, my dear Bilbo, you think too much with your head and not enough with your heart. That farewell is on the same level as the one Kili gave me, and he is my One. Although, yours had far less kissing and hugging than ours did.”

Bilbo gawps at her, absolutely scandalized. “Wha… bu… no. That’s not… I don’t think… Thorin’s not…” he can’t even finish a sentence!

“Bilbo, you are many things, but slow is not one of them. Maybe oblivious and a little more self-defacing than you should be, but definitely not slow. It’s incredibly obvious to anyone looking. Although, in your defense, it’s always harder to see love when it’s directed towards you.”

“Love?! No, Thorin does not love me. There’s been no discussion whatsoever about love or feelings between us.” Bilbo sputters, but was that entirely true? What about what happened in the garden?

“I think you’re deliberately being obtuse, but I’ll drop it. For now. You should start looking from another perspective and start considering that, perhaps, your dwarf king is a little sweeter on you than on any other.”

Yes, please drop it. It’s completely insane and out of the question. If he were to fall in love it’d be will a lovely dwarrowdam who’d be able to take her proper place by his side and bear him lovely children.”

“He already has Fili as his heir, he has no need for such a thing. There are no excuses for you left, Mr. Bilbo Baggins, except that you protest far too strongly who feels the same way for his dwarven king.”

Bilbo can’t seem to reconnect his jaw from where it’s hanging open at her brazen words, so he simply forces his pony into a slightly faster trot, leaving a laughing Tauriel behind to catch up to a much quieter Bombur. The rest of the hour and a half it takes for their ponies to trot to Dale is met with gentle, easy talk back and forth with a silent, but content Tauriel pulling the cart behind them.

As they reach the newly rebuilt gates of Dale, the hobbit is in awe once more at the resilience of man. The entire town is bustling with activity. Many of the houses have been rebuilt, the roads cleared of debris, and many of the fountains working once more. There are kites flying and people singing, laughing, and yelling all around them from the very moment they step through the gates. The road to the market is easy and wide with people parting easily to make their way around their ponies and cart. Bilbo keeps a tight hold on his heavy satchel of gold because while he admires these creatures, he doesn’t exactly trust most of them.

The market is filled with people and vendors of all types selling everything from pottery and jewelry to produce and tools. Bilbo’s eyes zero in on the food stalls, as do Bombur’s, while Tauriel is swayed towards the weaponry being sold at the opposite end.

“I’ll leave you with the cart and horse while I quickly browse through the bows over there. I won’t be long.” Tauriel says and is gone before either of them can get a word in.

“At least we’re going to the same place.” Bombur mutters and heads over to the meat vendor while Bilbo heads two stalls over to the spice and seed vendor.

There he finds a wonderful array of seeds to plant along with different herbs he’s wanted to try out for a while. In the next stall over he finds an assortment of tea leaves and tea supplies and spends a long while picking and choosing more than he probably needs but definitely not as many as he wants. He’d end up buying out the vendor’s entire stock and he’s not that greedy. Barely. He picks up a few vegetables and fruits from another vendor and a few curious eats from another before he suddenly finds himself out of the food stalls and in front of the jewelry stalls that are right beside it. He’s about to turn to head back, but his eyes alight on a curious glint another stall down and can’t help but wander over to see what had caught his eye.

It’s a simple thing really, a dark stone set into a silver ring. At first, he can’t figure out what flash of color had caught his eye until he picks it up and turns it and all of a sudden, the inside of it flashes to life like lightning through a black sky. The vendor is busy talking to another potential buyer, so he turns and waves at Bombur who’s no more than two stalls away now and he comes wandering over as well.

“Bombur, what is this stone?”

Bombur takes the stone and holds it up to the sun, rubs over it a few times and his eyebrows raise little by little.

“To be honest, I’m not quite sure. I mean, it looks like a type of opal, but I don’t think I’ve seen one in our mines before. Or that of any other mountain I’ve been in.” Bombur says in a hushed tone.

“Oh my, now you fellas wouldn’t be interested in that little, ol’ thing.” The vendor finally turns his attention towards the two of them. “I’ve got some real interesting gems here, ones that shine like the brightest star in the sky.”

“Actually, I was wondering, if I might ask, what this stone is?” Bilbo asks carefully.

“It’s an individual piece made by a crafter in the East, but it’s just a common rock really, not that interesting to look at. But these right here were made by the high elves in…”

“I would like to buy this piece, if you please.” Bilbo says, not wanted to hear anything about the common pieces of crystal the merchant was trying to pass off as the rarest of diamonds.

The merchant frowns but tells him the price and Bilbo hands over the coins with no further fuss as another prospective buyer takes the vendor’s attention.

Bilbo turns to Bombur and in a hushed voice asks, “Do you know of any dwarves who can polish this until the stone shines?”

“I’m sure I do. Why? What are you planning on doing with it?”

“I, uh, I’ll let you know when I know.” Bilbo says, but he already knows what he’s going to do with it and which finger it would fit on.

Bilbo slipped the ring into his pocket for safety, thinking for the first time in a long while about the other ring that he’d done the same thing to a while back, before heading back with his gains to the cart which was already laden with goodies. Tauriel was already back with a new bow and a few new wicked looking short knives strapped to her being. The bought some lunch from a food vendor and enjoyed the merriment around them while they ate. Then Tauriel and Bilbo returned to a few more stalls to look through things that might be good for the garden.

“Anything else either of you would like to look at before heading back? I’ve already gotten everything I would like.” Tauriel asked once the sky began dipping lower into the sky and the winds picked up.

“No, I’m all set.” Bilbo confirmed and Bombur agreed and the all began making their way through the crowd, both shorter ones already on their ponies to avoid being trampled by people and Tauriel keeping an eye on their cart to make sure no one stole anything as they left the city.

The wind picked up fast as they left the confines of the city and Bilbo huddled into his heavy coat to keep warm. Tauriel stopped briefly to throw a cover over the cart and tightened it down with ropes to keep everything from either getting blown away or sodden by snow. An hour in, the sky had darkened with heavy clouds and the wind was whipping around them as they rode quicker. It hadn’t started snowing yet but it was only a matter of time. They could see Erebor’s gates in the distance, but there was still a good half hour before they reached the huge mountain when the snow finally hit.

“We need to ride faster!” Tauriel yelled over the wind and snow and the other two agreed, kicking their ponies into a faster pace, trying to outrun the storm they were suddenly caught in.

Bilbo was afraid they weren’t going to make it when the gates finally loomed before them, their lights dim in the heavy, fierce snow. The gates were already open and as they rode closer, Bilbo could see a lone figure standing just inside the gates, out of the driving snow but definitely close enough to feel its mighty chill. And Bilbo knew, he just knew, it was Thorin, even before he could see the thick, royal furs and crown sat upon his brow.

“Hurry! We must close the gates!” Thorin’s yell was barely heard over the din and Bilbo pushed his pony just a little bit faster and they sped through the gates.

Not thirty seconds later the gates had slammed shut behind them and they were all panting and shivering, covered in ice, snow, and frigid water that’d melted against their skin. Bilbo was pulled from his saddle by strong, warm hands and he was pulled against what felt like a furnace.

“Get the ponies to their stables and take care of them and take the cart to the holding room to dry out.” Thorin shouted orders to dwarrows standing by as he herded Bilbo towards his rooms.

Bilbo shuddered as his voice thundered through him with every syllable and even though it could’ve been passed off by the cold, he knew that it wasn’t. His teeth chattered too hard to protest the rough treatment as he was more pulled through the halls than led, but he was ever so grateful to see a roaring fire in his hearth as Thorin slammed the door behind them.

“Take off your wet clothes and get beneath the blankets. They’ve already been warmed. I’ll get you some tea.”

Bilbo was placed next to the fire to disrobe and Thorin went about getting water into the kettle and placed on the fire, but by the time two cups had been set out with leaves prepared for steeping, Bilbo had barely managed to shove his sodden coat from his body, his limbs too cold to function properly and his lips already blue.

“Mahal, you’re worse than I thought. Bilbo, we’ve got to get your clothes off, do I have permission to disrobe you?” Thorin’s voice was threaded with worry but still held that deep undercurrent of warmth that spun around Bilbo like a song.

Bilbo nodded as best he could and Thorin took what he could, immediately shoving his hands beneath his outer shirt and sending it to the ground so he could work on the buttons of his undershirt. He pulled Bilbo’s suspenders from his shoulders and didn’t bother undoing them properly before carefully pulling on the hem of his trousers and letting them puddle in a sopping heap at his feet. His small clothes were as sodden as the rest of them and Thorin left those for last once he’d gotten the last of his shirts off.

“This was not how I imagined undressing you the first time.” Thorin said quietly in the space between them and Bilbo couldn’t help the smile that overcame his frozen lips.

“N-nor I.” he chattered out.

Bilbo had to grasp onto Thorin’s shoulders with numb fingers as Thorin slipped his small clothes down his legs and urged them off foot by foot until he stood there naked. Thorin stalled for a second, eyes half-lidded as they took in the shivering hobbit before him before his mind caught up with him and he shook himself, guiding Bilbo to the warm blankets and immediately tucking him in tightly so only his face peeked out from the mass of bedding.

Bilbo would’ve been flushed from head to toe had be been warmer at the look Thorin had given him, from the way those blue eyes dilated, and mouth parted when he’d looked at his naked body for the first time. And, true, it’s not how he’d imagined baring himself to Thorin for the first time, but the fact that he’d imagined it at all or that he now had bared himself was unbelievable, nigh unspeakable to the little, frozen hobbit.

The kettle whistled and drew Bilbo out of his downward spiral of embarrassment and drew Thorin’s gaze away from the huddled hobbit but only to fix the tea before returning his gaze to Bilbo.

“I’ll let it cool just a bit before handing it to you, because while you should be warmed, you shouldn’t be burned.” Thorin said as he set the tea on the bedside table.

“I’m s-still q-quite cold.” Bilbo chattered, feeling as if he’d drained all the heat from the blankets and simply left it cold.

Thorin lifted a hand to Bilbo’s face and swore under his breath. He started shedding his outer coats without a second thought, pulling off his boots and trousers swiftly to leave him in his undershirt and small clothes. Bilbo gave a small squeak and shut his eyes, shocked to see his king in such a state of undress. Even during their journey he’d made sure to keep his back to the others while bathing so he wouldn’t invade their privacy with his wandering eyes.

“It’s alright Bilbo. It’s only fair you see me in a state of undress as I’ve seen you. Although, I can leave my small clothes on if that would make you comfortable.”

“N-no, it’s alright,” Bilbo said almost too quickly, “I’m cold.”

He didn’t open his eyes, but he could hear Thorin shed the last of his clothes and then there was a tug on the blankets around him as Thorin moved him over and slid into the space between the room and Bilbo. Thorin cursed at the feeling of such frigid skin as he gathered Bilbo into his lap sitting upright to start with and covered the both of them tightly with the blanket.

“I h-hope the other t-two are alright.” Bilbo said breathlessly as he felt his cold skin slide smoothly over Thorin’s blazing hot, bare skin.

Bilbo couldn’t help but bask in the comfort of Thorin’s body, feeling, for the first time, the feeling of bare skin against bare skin, of the roughness of coarse body hair against his soft, smooth skin. He was lucky his fingers were numb otherwise he’d be far more than tempted to run his fingertips over every inch of skin provided to him. Thankfully, before he could embarrass himself by touching Thorin without consent, Thorin distracted him with his cup of tea.

“They should be fine. Bombur is practically built for the cold and Tauriel has someone to look after her should she need it. I’m far more concerned about you. Now drink to help warm you up from the inside.”

Bilbo’s breath stuttered out of him as his mind was immediately thought of another way to warm up from the inside and instantly shut that thought down and strangled it with his cold, bare hands so that he wouldn’t embarrass both himself and Thorin with inappropriate thoughts in a situation that was built on trust. So, with shaky hands, he accepted the cup that was so hot it felt like branding irons on his fingertips.

He hissed in pain and the put was immediately pulled from his grasp.

“S-sorry. My hands are s-so cold, it f-feels like molten metal.” Bilbo stammered, embarrassed.

“No need to apologize, I didn’t think about it. Press your hands against me and I’ll help you sip from the cup.”

Bilbo wanted to protest but felt it far too much effort to argue and simply followed directions. Tentatively he pressed his hands to the thighs bracketing his body and felt Thorin shudder behind him. Thorin wrapped an arm around him and pulled him slightly closer, getting more skin contact to try and warm him up. The thighs under his palms were so, so strong, like wrought iron under silky smooth skin covered in coarse hair and he wanted to stroke the skin, explore the body but instead held himself as still as possible.

“Be careful when you drink, I don’t want to hurt you by spilling it on you.”  

Thorin’s voice rumbled against his back and he struggled to contain himself and focused on the cup that was brought to his lips, carefully taking several scalding sips before leaning back. The tea burned all the way down but thankfully wasn’t so hot it injured him.

“Thank you.” He mumbled, feeling more exhausted than he had since the end of the battle for the mountain.

“You’re very welcome. Drink again.”

Thorin continued to feed him small sips until the cup was empty and feeling was coming back to his body, but by that point he was mostly gone to slumber. Thorin scooted them down the bed until they were horizontal and tugged the blankets over them tightly, holding onto the hobbit closely so every part between then was touching. It was a deeply intimate hold, but they were both too tired to really notice it, the two dozing off within minutes of each other.

Bilbo woke the next morning sweating, practically sweltering, but so insanely comfortable he was loathed to move. Behind him, pressed tightly against his back, even tighter than the evening before, Thorin was breathing deeply in his sleep, an arm tucked tightly around his middle and the other draped loosely over him, their legs threaded between each other’s. It was the most intimate he’d ever been with another living being and he wasn’t sure if there was some sort of etiquette to this that he had no idea about. Was he allowed to bask in the feeling of hot, solid skin brushing against his own? Was he allowed to feel the heat that pooled low in his belly at the overload of sensations every breath brought?

Cautiously, not wanting to jostle Thorin, Bilbo withdrew his arm from the tight circle of Thorin’s grasp and pushed the blankets away from his face so he could see. The room was barely lit by the dim glow of the early morning sun, so he knew it was early yet. The fire in the hearth had dimmed overnight to a low glow, so much of the warmth he was feeling was all Thorin. While he was immeasurably grateful, he was also embarrassed, self-conscious, and, above all, wanting. That want that was forbidden in the Shire, the one he felt when he saw all the handsome lads dressed to the nines in their summer bests for the festivals, the one he felt when his eyes subconsciously followed the dip of a handsome fella’s head as he kissed his lass, and, yes, the one he felt every time of late that he laid his eyes upon the imposing figure this mighty dwarf king cut against any background.

Thorin shifted behind him, burying his head further against the back of Bilbo’s head, snuffling into his curls as his arm tightened impossibly around his middle, shoving the hobbit’s backside thoroughly against the dwarf’s front and Bilbo had to bite at his hand to keep the gasp from escaping past his teeth. The king’s silhouette wasn’t the only impressive thing about him, Bilbo discovered quickly as the cock nestled against his backside shifted with his hips.

The squirming that followed was unintentional as Bilbo fought to figure out what exactly he was supposed to do in this situation. His own cock was half-mast and thickening by the second as he tried to think of what to do that wouldn’t offend Thorin when he finally awoke. Then, on one solid shift, trying to squirm out from beneath the heavy arms, that cock nestled right between his cheeks, nudging so close to Bilbo’s intimates and he froze, because that cock was now definitely harder than when he’d started trying to free himself.

Bilbo’s breath was coming fast, and his hips were giving aborted twitches, wanting the stimulation, but terrified to take it. There’d been no consent or even discussion of a situation like this and Bilbo felt he was now taking advantage of the kindness Thorin had given him last night. The guilt did nothing to dissuade his cock, but it definitely helped him get a reign on his body movements.

Finally, he decided that the humiliation that came with waking Thorin was worth it to keep from causing undo harm to their… friendship? He hoped they were at least friends at this point. So, carefully, not wanting to startle the dwarf, he gently patted his arm at first.

“Thorin, I need you to wake up.” Bilbo whispered.

There wasn’t even a twitch of consciousness. Bilbo tried again with a firmer hand and a stronger voice. Nothing.

“Thorin, please, I would like for you to wake up now!” Bilbo said, far louder now, worried he’d be trapped under the dwarf longer than his yearning body could handle.

The next smack to the arm was followed by a push against Thorin’s face which finally got a response, but not the one Bilbo was hoping for. Thorin rolled onto his back, dragging Bilbo with him so all of his weight was now on the dwarf and his thick cock was pressed so hard, so deliciously against Bilbo’s own tender bits. Bilbo gasped, arching a little as his hips thrust down without his permission but he stilled again with difficulty.

His voice was thready when he again tried to wake Thorin, a little more urgently this time. “Thorin Oakenshield, if you are doing this on purpose, it isn’t funny. There needs to be a long conversation about consent and, and… oh whatever else it is that people do during these situations!”

This got a bit more of a reaction but that might have been due to the pressure against his cock that was so tightly pressed between Bilbo’s thighs. Thorin’s hips thrust upwards, canting against Bilbo’s body and Bilbo couldn’t hold the groan that clawed its way up his throat.

“This isn’t fair! I want…” Bilbo panted, “I want this with you, not when you’re asleep, not when we haven’t talked about it! I need to know I’m not going to mess everything up, please!”

The high-pitched, frantic plea was what finally did it and Thorin inhaled deeply behind him and his arms tightened briefly before loosening just enough that Bilbo could pull in a full breath.

“Bilbo? Are you alright?”

Thorin’s deep, sleep graveled voice had a moan squeezing past his teeth despite trying to strangle it, and Thorin’s hips gave another jolt before his awareness finally trickled through to full consciousness.

“Bilbo!” Thorin rolled to the side and scooted away from Bilbo’s body. “I’m very sorry, Bilbo, I didn’t realize what I was doing. Did I hurt you? Are you alright?”

Bilbo took in a deep breath but kept one hand on Thorin’s arm to keep him from completely detaching himself. He didn’t know if he’d be able to handle that much rejection at once.

“I’m alright, Thorin. Just a little startled is all. I didn’t quite expect to wake up like that, but I can’t say it was altogether unpleasant. Just, a moment, please. To let things, settle down.”

Bilbo’s speech was stuttered, as was his heart as he tried to calm down enough to have a proper conversation without coming frightfully hard at the sound of Thorin’s voice after the feel of his body so tightly pressed against his own.

“Of course, my apologies.”

“Mine as well. I probably could have stopped you, but, well…” Bilbo cleared his throat and tried to stem the full-body blush to no avail.

“Are you cross?” Thorin’s voice was quieter, gentle, and most definitely guilty.

Bilbo twisted sharply, turning his entire body towards Thorin before he could say more.

“No!” Bilbo grasped Thorin’s hands before he could pull them back until none of them was touching. “Not at all! Not even the smallest bit cross with you! In fact, I’m most grateful to you. Last night you kept me from freezing and most likely ending up with a dreadful cold that would’ve taken ages to recover from. I’m the one who should apologize. I should have woken you up sooner, but, well, I…” Bilbo trailed off, feeling guilty, “I’m afraid I was enjoying it far too much to immediately stop. Please forgive me, Thorin, I’m afraid I took advantage of you while you were asleep, and I feel horrible for it.”

Thorin’s voice was quiet and full of awe when he spoke again, “Oh, Bilbo. There’s nothing to forgive. I suppose we should have a talk about this, shouldn’t we?’

“I suppose we should.” Bilbo felt like there was a pit in his stomach, “After all, you’re a dwarf king, I’m just a hobbit. What I did was highly inappropriate, especially when we hadn’t even spoken about it first.”

“Bilbo, if you’ll recall, I was the one to undress the both of us last night without much conversation to be had.”

“That was due to necessity and absolutely nothing I hold against you. I gave permission anyway. Using body heat to warm up and then using someone’s body for other purposes is completely different.”

“Bilbo, what I’m trying to say is…” Thorin looked constipated for a second, as if there were a war in his mind as he tried to figure out exactly what he was trying to say, “Bilbo… will you allow me to court you?”

Well, that was definitely not what Bilbo had expected him to say and he could only clutch Thorin’s hand tighter and stare at him with an open mouth for several seconds while Thorin stared on with careful, near blank hopefulness.

Before it could get to the point of discomfort Bilbo surged forward with a breathless, “Yes! Thorin, oh my heavens, yes! Are you sure you want to court me?! I mean, yes, I want to court, be courted, court you, oh goodness, what am I saying?!”

Thorin grinned in bemusement at Bilbo’s excitement, relief a budding blossom under his skin.

“I’m glad I didn’t read things wrongly again. I was worried we were simply on the path of friends, but the moment in the garden some weeks ago gave me hope. Sorry it took me so long to ask you.”

“Oh definitely, definitely lots of hope.” Bilbo felt giddiness beyond any he’d felt before.

Thorin’s smile broadened and he used the hand still in Bilbo’s grip to pull the little hobbit closer and back into the circle of his arms.

“I want you to tell me whenever I’m going to fast, when you’re uncomfortable, or even if you want me to go faster. I’ll let you know what I’m comfortable with as well.” Thorin said warmly, only a few inches from Bilbo’s beaming face.

“Yes, absolutely, and I’ll do the same. I want you to feel comfortable with me. Now, would it be too much to ask for a kiss?”

“Not at all.” Thorin smirked and bent down that short distance to slot his lips against Bilbo’s, relishing in the soft, plush give of his lips.

Bilbo made a noise of surprise in the back of his throat at the feel of Thorin’s lips against his. It was magnificent and far different than he expected. Thorin’s lips were a firm, reassuring pressure and he could feel the tickle of whiskers against his own smooth cheeks, something he’s never experienced before and hadn’t given any thought to. Enthusiastically, he wrapped his arms around Thorin’s neck, pushing his fingers into the dark, surprisingly soft hair at the nape of his neck. He gave a groan into the kiss when Thorin’s arms threaded around his waist, his hands pressing into the middle and small of his back and resting there like burning hot promises. Bilbo didn’t push for anything more as he wasn’t even sure if he was ready for that yet despite the protest that yes, he was his body was trying to tell him.

“Thorin, you’re magnificent, but anymore and I’ll make a fool of myself.”

Thorn gave him one more soft, lingering kiss, “Alright, whatever you need, Bilbo. Let’s get up for the day, then, shall we?”

“Sounds good. I’m starving. I skipped supper last night.” He said with a grimace as they pulled away from each other but kept one hand grasped in the other’s grip.

“Do you think the others will approve?” Bilbo couldn’t help but ask after they’d gotten up and dressed.

“Many of them already do. I hope you don’t mind but I’ve already told a few of the company about my intentions.”

“Oh, I don’t mind at all! I just wanted to be sure since, I mean, we’re different races and I know how much many of you dislike several of the other races, and the whole thing with Tauriel and Kili…well, I was unsure.”

Thorin gave him a small kiss on the head, smoothing down his rowdy curls. “We are only intolerant of those who have wronged us. You’ve done nothing of the sort, in fact, you’ve been a blessing to us since you joined us.”

Bilbo snorted, “And to think, you despised me on sight the first we met.”

Thorin grimaced but nodded, “And that was my mistake. The many years wandering with less than friendly beings had left me far less trusting of new faces than was appropriate. I hope you do forgive me for the awful first impression I made.”

“Nonsense,” Bilbo waved away his apology, “I’ve known you for just shy of a year now and all I’ve done is grown fonder of you, there’s nothing to forgive. I’ve learned where your gruffness comes from and I fully accept who you are, even if I don’t agree with your reasonings sometimes.”

“You are one of the most interesting creatures I’ve come across in my many years.” Thorin smiled and Bilbo can’t help the answering smile that stretched across his face.

“Now, breakfast. I’m starving.”

And that was that. The two of them walked, hand in hand down to the banquet hall where the rest of the dwarves were already sat, waiting for breakfast, and talking animatedly amongst themselves. When the two of them walked in together, there was a loud yell and exclamation of congratulations echoing from all around them. Bilbo flushed from ear to ear but couldn’t stop the small, pleased smile that spread across his face.

At the table, seated next to Thorin of course, Ori, who was on the other side leaned in and whispered, “Congratulations, Bilbo.”

Bilbo gave Ori a grateful smile, “Thanks Ori. Don’t know what I did to deserve being courted by a king, but I’m glad nonetheless.”

“Oh, he’s been trying to figure out how to ask you since before we got to the mountain but could never work up the nerve. Then, after what happened with the gold sickness, he didn’t think he deserved to court you. I don’t know how you finally got through to him, but I’m glad you did.”

Bilbo was surprised to hear about how long the dwarf king had wanted to court him, “Since that long ago?! Goodness, and I thought I was patient.”

“Well, it’s said that dwarves only love once, it’s called their One, so we’ve become very patient when it comes to relationships.” Ori said matter of factly.

“Only once?! Then what happens if you fall in love, but they don’t love you back?!”

“That’s why we court for so long, so that we can tell if it’s true love or just a passing fancy. Sometimes courtships can last for decades, sometimes they only last a few months. When you know, you know.”

“I see. That’s vastly different from how it’s done in the Shire. Oftentimes marriages are done simply to further a specific line, arranged marriages are most common. You don’t even have to like the other hobbit to get married, as long as you can have children.”

The look on Ori’s face was one of horror, as if he couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

“That must be dreadful! How do you live your entire lives without love?! Don’t you feel incomplete, like a piece of you is missing? Don’t you want to be in love with the person you’re married to for the rest of your life?” Ori looked like he was going to cry, and Bilbo quickly held up his hands.

“No, no! Almost always, once they’re together long enough, the do fall in love. Just, in the Shire, it’s extremely unbecoming to court in public, to let others see what is generally a private matter, so a lot of that is done after marriage in the confines and comfort of their home. If there’s truly a problem where the two are more likely to murder each other than produce fauntlings, then there will be a discreet divorce and the two will be moved to other marriages.”

“That’s still so sad that they don’t get to choose. Is that why you never married, Bilbo?”

The table had grown quieter as the food had begun to arrive and now the question had been thrown out into the air for all to hear and Bilbo grew red.

“Uh, well, that’s one of the many reasons that I never married. There was no one that would’ve married me even if they wanted to, simply because I was always too odd for the Shire, I was an undesirable. Too much Took in my blood, they said.”

There were calls of outrage from around the table, several comments about the desirability of Bilbo that had him blushing, and finally a hushing remark from Thorin.

“Bilbo, you don’t have to worry about those other hobbits anymore. You’re here now, and you’ll be able to court and marry for love, not for business or family lines.”

Another few calls of agreement followed Thorin and Bilbo smiled, wondering how he could’ve lived all those years without this kind of support. Looking over, Bilbo saw Tauriel give him a gentle smile from beside Kili and Bilbo was flooded with happiness at the support and friendship he saw. He tucked into his own food with gusto and ate until he felt fit to burst.

“How in the world do you not burst with how much food you put into your little body?” Dwalin wondered as he stared at the equal amounts of plates the hobbit had emptied as him, who was not only physically larger, but moved a fair bit more than the hobbit as well.

“Oh, we hobbits have large stomachs and are always hungry. We typically have six meals a day, seven if we’re lucky to get a second breakfast.”

“Seven meals?!” Kili cried, trying to think about how much food that would be. “How did you last on our journey if you usually have seven meals?!”

Bilbo chuckled, “It was a close one there for a while where I thought I was going to starve to death in the first month. But then we hit Rivendell where I practically ate them out of house and home and couldn’t help but think about how you all raided my larder.” There were laughs all around the table. “I was able to ration a little better after that. I put food in my pockets for small snacks to simulate mealtimes to try and trick my body into thinking it was getting the same meals as usual. Lost a lot of weight on the trip, I did.”

“Thank goodness you made it, though. I’d have felt terrible if you’d starved to death on the trip. One of the only things we overlooked as a cause of death.” Bofur mumbled around on of the last mouthfuls of food on the table.

Bilbo shrugged, “I’d have warned you if I were getting too close to starvation. It’s pretty easy to spot a starving hobbit. They lose all their padding very quickly, can hardly stand or muster the energy to move. I saw it happen only once to a very sick hobbit years and years ago. It was a truly terrible thing to witness.”

“I can’t imagine. But I’m glad you retained some of your padding.” Fili laughed and Bilbo couldn’t help but blush and roll his eyes with his own smile.

After breakfast Thorin left with a kiss to do his kingly duties and Bilbo returned to his garden where all the supplies they’d gathered yesterday were waiting for him. Tauriel turned up shortly after he did.

“I see things are going well with the king. How did you manage that? I thought you didn’t deal with matters of the heart.”

Bilbo nodded and grabbed a new trowel to begin digging grooves in the soil to plant his seeds. “It was a very unexpected turn of events. Not that I’m not happy, I truly am, it was just… unexpected!”

Tauriel began helping him prepare the soil for seeding as she said, “Have you spoken with him about what this will mean for you if you still intend to return to the Shire come spring? What will that do to him as well if you end up being his One?”

Bilbo froze as his heart squeezed in his chest painfully. “I hadn’t actually given that much thought. I was too caught up in the happiness of the moment. I do suppose it wouldn’t be a good idea to start this if I am to leave in less than two months now.”

Tauriel was quiet for a moment before saying, “Why don’t you start thinking about the positives and negatives about leaving. What is a positive that you can think of for leaving back to the Shire in spring?”

“I’ll be going back to my books.”

“Ok, now a negative.”

“I’ll have to leave behind Thorin.”

“Positive?”

“I’ll see the Shire again with it’s green, green grass.”

“Negative.”

“I’ll be leaving all the other dwarves and you behind. All my friends.”

“Positive.”

“The taste of home from the foods gathered in the Shire.”

“Negative.”

“I’ll never see any of you again.”

“Positive.”

“I’ll see my neighbors and relatives again.”

“Negative.”

“I’ll see my neighbors and relatives again.”

They both laughed and they continued with the positive and negative as they went through the garden soil section by section to prepare it. By the end of the day Bilbo was truly struggling to find the positives of going back to the Shire that would outweigh the negatives. Many of the positives were easily transferrable to Erebor when it came to gardening, filling it with the things he loved such as books and a comfy armchair. He could still plant his acorn here and watch it grow into a magnificent oak. Sure, he’d never see the familiar folks in the Shire, but like he’d pointed out at breakfast, he’d always been the odd one out, the shunned hobbit. The only ones he’d really miss were Primula and her husband, his cousin, Drogo. His neighbors, the Gamgee’s were also quite gentle and weren’t as bad as the others, but he’s sure they wouldn’t miss him, their landlord.  

“Although, I’m sure there’s quite a few who will miss me simply because I’m a Baggins, but there are plenty of other Baggins left, just not as many with my direct genetics.” Bilbo gives a mean snicker.

“Why would it matter that you’re a Baggins?”

“Oh, we’re the second wealthy family, right below the Took’s, and I have both bloodlines in me. There have been many families quite upset and more than a little offended that I denied their marriage proposals of their daughters, although, I suspect those daughters are incredibly relieved I refused.”

Tauriel looked at him in surprise, “You come from wealth? I couldn’t help but think you came from humble beginnings.”

“Oh, I’m quite humble,” Bilbo said ironically, “I was brought up well by my parents who were the most improper hobbits.” Bilbo laughed. “At least the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

“It’s very interesting that you come from wealth and yet, claim to have nothing.”

“Well, once I left Bag End, what all did I have? I came with very little, not even a handkerchief, and lost what little I’d brought along the way. Now, everything I have is courtesy of those around me, effectively making me quite poor. Not that it bothers me much. It’s probably why I miss Bag End so much because there I was self-sufficient; I didn’t need to rely on anyone to get by as I was always quite well off. Now, I’m not even able to do any job around here because I am simply not suited to dwarf work.”

“You’ve just prepared an entire garden for planting that will help the dwarvish kingdom thrive, all practically on your own.”

“I had your help.” Bilbo interrupted and got a roll of her eyes in response.

“What I’m saying is, you have your own qualities that are useful to this empire. Even if your people couldn’t see your value back in the Shire, the people here can and already do appreciate you and everything you’ve done for them. I mean, you fought a dragon, Bilbo. You stood, face to face, with a dragon, stalled it, practically played with fire for these dwarves. You and thirteen dwarves won back this mountain and now you are all rebuilding it beautifully. The part you play is far larger than I think you realize.”

Bilbo gave a small smile as he rinsed his hands in the frigid water provided by melted snow from the mountain, scrubbing the dirt from his short nails to finish off the day.

“We could never have done it without the help of so many along the way.”

“Take credit where credit is due, Bilbo.” Tauriel laughed and Bilbo chuckled as well, because, yes, he could see her point.

And so, the days went, Tauriel helping in the garden and also providing much guidance with his dilemmas of the heart. Thorin gave him the sweetest kisses and the most passionate of hugs although they had yet to move beyond that. Ori was a balm on his nerves when some days he was overwhelmed and finding the scribe in the library helped to calm him. Fili and Kili were still joined at the hips most of the days, except Kili had seriously taken Bilbo’s suggestions of an archery team into consideration and was tentatively reaching out to other younger dwarves to see if it was plausible to form a squad.

One day, out of the blue, while Bilbo was walking through the halls of Erebor towards the library to exchange the books he’d already read for new ones, Oin caught up with him and fell into step.

“Bilbo, my lad, I was wondering if, after you’re done with whatever it is that you’re doing, you’d join me in the infirmary for a moment.”

“Of course, Oin. Might I ask why?” Bilbo said, perplexed at the odd request.

“It’s best to show you rather than take the lengthy time to discuss it.”

“Sure. You can come with me to the library if you’d like. I’m only picking up the new books Ori set aside for me that he found. Many of your books are in Khuzdul and I cannot read them, but there have been a few in Westron and I had been learning Quenya as best I could without a tutor, so he’s been looking for any starter books in that, but I highly doubt a dwarven library would have such books. Still, it’d be nice to learn a new thing or two.”

“Of course, learning is one of life’s joy. You could start learning medicine as well if that ever interested you. Even you could learn the profession as it’s not something that requires swinging heavy tools or weapons around.”

“Thank you, Oin. That does sound like a rather good idea. I’ve always been good at telling the different herbs and spices apart when it comes to cooking, maybe that would be useful for medicine as well.”

“It’s a bit different from cooking, but aye, I can see some similarities.” Oin laughed.

The trip to the library was a quick one as Ori had already set out many books aside for him in a small pushcart that was easy to navigate through the stone halls of Erebor. No Elvish books, but he vowed to keep looking until he’d searched the entire library. Bilbo thanked him for his dedication and efforts and left with the healer towards the infirmary. Once there, Oin led him into the back to one of the private rooms.

“Now, laddie, I don’t want you getting embarrassed by anything I have to discuss with you, you understand? Nothing I say is meant to belittle or demean you.”

Confused Bilbo nodded, “Alright.”

Oin nodded as well and reached into one of the cupboards beside a stone sink and pulled out objects Bilbo couldn’t identify. Oin brought them over to the table beside the bed and chair in the room and set them down, eyes watching for Bilbo’s reaction. When he got very little he sighed and nodded towards the chair.

“How about you have a seat lad.”

Bilbo took the proffered seat and waited for some sort of explanation as he examined the objects placed before him.

“I know you’ve decided to court Thorin, and while I don’t know your history with courtships or their dealings, I can make a good guess that you haven’t had sex before with a male. Am I correct?”

Bilbo’s face blazed with a blush as he nodded.

Oin gave a small nod in understanding and gestured to the objects. “Well, between males, there needs to be a lot of preparation before penetration or things can become quite unpleasant and even dangerous. Have you had intercourse with a female, then?”

Lowering his head, Bilbo gave a shake of denial.

“That’s alright, lad. As I said, I’m not here to judge you or hurt you in any way. I just want you prepared for the courting of dwarves which, later on, will become incredibly intimate. Now, with females, their intimates become wet to the point that lubrication is generally unnecessary, but males use the rear, which, as you know, does not have anything of the sort. Oil needs to be used.”

Oin picked up the bottle of oil and gave it a little shake, sending Bilbo’s cheeks ablaze. He can’t believe he’s getting the sex talk from a dwarf.

“I’ve gotten the, uh, the talk from my parents when I was a fauntlings. I don’t exactly think I need another one.”

“Then you are aware of how sex works then, good. Dwarves, however, are a lot bigger than hobbits, meaning preparation is a necessity. I know without a doubt that if Thorin ever hurt you in his passion, he would never forgive himself and might never make another attempt should that happen. So, to prevent that from happening, here are a few tools to help you get used to being penetrated.”

Bilbo gave a choked squeak as he realized exactly what these objects are. The shape is sort of phallic if he has that sort of mindset, but the entire thing is smooth, and a uniform shape save for a slightly flared, flat base.

“Those are for… in my…” Bilbo can’t even strangle the words out.

“Yes, and I’m sorry, I know this is embarrassing for you, but it needs saying. I’ll give you instructions on how to keep them clean. You can either use them by yourself or have Thorin help you. I’m sure he’d be more than willing to help.”

Bilbo buried his face in his hands, trying not to think of exactly how Thorin could help him with those.

“Why are there three of them?” he couldn’t help but ask.

“Each one is bigger than the other. Start smallest and finish largest.”

Bilbo frowned, “But Thorin is far bigger… uhhh.”

Oin’s eyebrows raised and a small smirk lifted his lips. “I’m sure Thorin can think of other ways to prepare you too, not to worry. If it’s still an issue we can find a larger one. Now, I have an inconspicuous bag you can use to carry them back to your room.”

Bilbo sat in shock while Oin gathered the…tools, into the bag.

“Th-thank you, Oin, for your help.” Bilbo finally gathered his courage to say.

Oin inclined his head, “Of course, Bilbo. Take care now and come to me if you need anything.”

“I-I will.”

Bilbo scurried away with his books and his bag and hardly remembered the trip back to his room so intent on keeping the bag as hidden as possible lest anyone else know what was in it. It felt both forbidden and exciting to think of what he was going to do with that bag of toys and ended up sitting in his chair staring at the bag for the better part of the evening until it was time for supper in which he shoved the bag into his closet beneath his hanging clothes and promptly pushed it from his mind.

He didn’t remember about the bag until nearly a week later as he sat in his chamber with Thorin chatting idly away about nothing important.

“Was that kiss we shared the first one you’ve had?” Thorin asked seemingly out of nowhere.

Startled, Bilbo sits a little straighter. “No, I’ve had a few kisses in my life.”

“But I thought laying with another male was forbidden in your land.”

“It is, but, in secret, sometimes curious hobbit lads kiss one another beneath the azalea shrubs. It’s also how I knew I wasn’t attracted to the lasses of the Shire. A few questioning kisses and the lack of any sort of feeling that eventually turned to one of distaste and disgust, and, well, I knew.”

“So you’ve never lain with another hobbit.”

“I’ve never lain with anybody. The first time I felt the naked skin of another was with you.” Bilbo blushed.

Thorin seemed to swell with pride at being his hobbit’s first, his shoulders back, chest out, and head held high. Bilbo couldn’t help but chuckle and feel warm at the reaction, until he remembered the forgotten bag of toys still hidden in his closet.

“What is it, Bilbo?”

The look of embarrassment and a little bit of longing must have shown on his face and Bilbo shook his head, “Nothing bad. It’s just that, uh, Oin gave me something a week ago that I’d forgotten about until now. It’s uh…embarrassing.”

“Something like what?”

Instead of answering outright, Bilbo stood and retrieved the bag from the closet, setting it on the small table in front of Thorin for him to inspect. Pulling it open, Thorin brought out the first one and understand lit upon his face.

“Ah, very thoughtful of Master Oin. I was wondering how we were going to go about this with how small you are. Not to say that’s a bad thing,” Thorin quickly reassured Bilbo, “Just that, I would never forgive myself if I hurt you.”

Bilbo gave a small laugh, “Oin said that exact same thing, that you’d never forgive yourself and would probably never attempt a physical relationship ever again if you ever hurt me. But, before I get too embarrassed, let me just say that, even if you did hurt me, which it could very well happen, I am much stronger than I look, and would deeply, deeply regret it if you never tried again. Besides, I’m absolutely positive you’d never hurt me. You’re too attentive and self-sacrificing. You’d make absolute certain that I was ready before doing anything.”

There’s a look of awe on Thorin’s face when he answers, “Your faith in me has me longing for you all the more. And, while I wish I shared the same certainty as you, I have to say that sometimes, when I am overcome with passion, it is increasingly difficult to hold onto reason. Sometimes, when you make those sounds into my mouth as we share a kiss, it is so hard for me to keep from tossing you onto your bed and having my way with you.”

Bilbo’s eyes widened at such as bold statement, but he can’t say anything as he’s often had similar thoughts. “You are not alone in your sentiment. If I had not been so educated by Oin of the dangers I’d have you take me as you wish to, without holding back.”

They both stared at each other, a flush upon their cheeks and a glint in their eyes.

“Would you care to try now?” Thorin asked, holding up the bag.

Bilbo felt a little breathless as he replied, “Oh yes please.”

And that’s all Thorin needed to sweep Bilbo into his arms, pressing their lips together in a sweet, passionate kiss. Bilbo groaned into his mouth when he was set upon the bed oh so gently, Thorin’s hands squeezing every few inches as he touched every part of the hobbit he could reach. The rasp of the beard against Bilbo’s own hairless cheek gave him a thrill every single time.

Thorin’s large, hot hands impatiently removed each button from their clasp so he could run his fingers over his hobbit’s soft skin, loving the feeling of the gentle give of his flesh, so different from any other he’d known. The power was intoxicating, and Bilbo had to agree, being at the mercy of one so much stronger and larger than himself made him feel owned in the best of ways. The shirt was pulled from his body, his pants following swiftly after to puddle on the ground. Thorin disrobed roughly and without a second thought, wanted to feel the press of Bilbo’s body against his own, bare.

“Bilbo,” Thorin groaned between nipping kisses.

“Thorin, hurry,” Bilbo panted into his mouth, nervous but ready for the next step.

Thorin upturned the bag onto the bed and grabbed the smallest toy, hardly larger than one of his fingers, and the bottle of oil. He had to pull back to pull the stopper from the oil and pour a generous amount on his fingers without spilling and placed the opened bottle on the bedside table for later use.

“Tell me you’re ready.” Thorin pleaded and Bilbo panted out his assent.

Thorin pushed aside Bilbo’s legs, spreading them beautifully for him so he could fit between, and caught sight of his flushed, red cock, resting on his pale belly and groaned, wanting it in his mouth but not wanting to overwhelm his burglar. He trailed his fingers gently down the crease of his thigh and under, to the hidden space between where his hole was furled and clenching when he brushed his finger over it for the first time.

“Mahal, you are so small here.” Thorin cursed, his cock weeping at the thought of how tight Bilbo would be around him.

“Please,” Bilbo begged, not caring for propriety in this intense moment.

Thorin ran his fingers over him, again and again, apply small amounts of pressure every time he passed over until he was able to press one finger in to the very first knuckle, barely inside the clenching heat of his hobbit. Bilbo gasped loudly, shocked at the penetration despite the strokes to prepare him.

“Alright?” Thorin asked calmly.

Bilbo nodded, feeling no pain, just the oddest feeling of slight discomfort at the unusual intrusion.

“I’ll go slowly, not to worry.” Thorin kissed him as he pressed gently inward a fraction then retreated, doing so several times without pushing farther.

It was slow going, but Bilbo felt no pain even when his body finally opened enough for Thorin’s entire finger to enter. There was a slight sheen of sweat along his back and neck, but he wasn’t uncomfortable. Then Thorin began crooking his finger as he pushed, stroking his insides, and it was weird until, on the fourth or fifth stroke, his pad skittered across one spot in him that lit up like the sun.

“Oh! Thorin!”

Thorin grinned in triumph and gently pushed on that spot every few thrusts, pulling gasps, whines, and moans from Bilbo’s throat. Bilbo’s legs jolted and his cock pulsed as he was struck again and again by that unexpected pleasure.

“More! Please!”

Instead, Thorin withdrew and Bilbo whined loudly at the loss. Thorin was quick to pick up the nearly forgotten toy that lay at his calf and hurriedly slicked it with oil to return to Bilbo before he was missed. Carefully, and slowly once more, he pressed the rounded tip against Bilbo’s soft opening and gently prodded it in, taking his time like he had with his finger. It slid smoother than his finger had, no knuckles to catch on, and before he knew it, the body beneath him had sucked it in to the hilt.

“Oh, Bilbo, you look so good.” Thorin groaned, pressing kisses to the leg he was kneeling over. “You took it so well.” He pressed against it, nudging it as best he could towards that spot that lit up his hobbit like a gem.

Bilbo jolted and his hands came up from clutching at the sheets to wrap around his weeping, flushed cock, pulling at it. Thorin covered it with his own hand as he continued to nudge the toy buried in his body and watched as the hobbit became undone and clenched up tight as he came, streaking his body with his come and shuddering through his orgasm.

Bilbo hadn’t realized he’d shut his eyes until he started coming down from his high. Thorin was still on his knees between his legs, watching him and panting with an open mouth, his cock jutting thickly between his furred thighs. He reached for it greedily, unable to really sit up as his lax muscles didn’t seem to cooperate after such an intense release. Thorin obliged and pushed his hips forward so they were pressed against the back of Bilbo’s thighs and his cock could reach Bilbo’s small grasp.

The cock was impressive in girth and in length compared to Bilbo’s own and he would’ve felt apprehension had he not so much trust in his dwarf and his ironclad self-control. Thorin thrust against him roughly at the first touch and Bilbo gasped, feeling the head weep over his fingers. Bilbo grasped him tightly, using his thumbs to swipe over the head, drawing wetness over it before running his fingers through his own fresh release and using it to slick the way. Thorin groaned loudly above him and began shoving his hips against Bilbo, moving him against the bed with each push.

It took only a dozen or so pulls for Thorin to start stuttering in his thrusts, already so close to the edge from bringing his hobbit to pleasure. Bilbo watched in delight as Thorin’s bollocks tightened up and his girth seemed to increase ever so slightly before Thorin pushed against him roughly and finally jerked to a halt as he came in waves over Bilbo’s own release on his belly and chest and all over his arms and hands. It wasn’t an enormous amount, but it was enough to drip down his side and onto the sheets below.

Thorin heaved a shuddering sigh and finally Bilbo released him so he could tumble to the bed beside him. It took several long seconds before Thorin opened his eyes again and smiled at his gentlehobbit. 

“You are beautiful, my love.” Thorin whispered and nudged the hobbit’s face with his own for a gentle kiss.

“You are wonderful.” Bilbo said back with ease, feeling for all the world like the luckiest hobbit who ever lived.

They lay together until the stickiness on Bilbo’s skin became too much to bear and he groaned. He shifted his legs to get ready to get up and then gave a breathless yelp when the toy, still wedged within him, pressed uncomfortably against his sensitive insides. It would’ve been pleasant had he not just come.

“Thorin, it’s still inside.” He murmured and Thorin gave a rumble of approval, his fingers finding the base and giving it a press.

Bilbo smacked at him and Thorin finally grasped the base and gently withdrew it from his body. There was a hot, stuttering moment when Bilbo felt his body gape and Thorin’s finger easily pressed inside before he clenched and Thorin kissed him once more before leaving his sore hole alone.

“I’ll bring you to the bath.”

Bilbo hummed in approval and let Thorin swaddle him in the ruined sheet and pulled a blanket over his own naked form to travel the short thirty seconds it took to get to the baths. Bilbo heaved a sigh in bliss as the warm waters soothed away any aches and pains he had and added to his sleepiness. By the time he’d been wiped down and soothed by Thorin’s careful hands, he was nearly asleep and barely registered when he was dried and carried back to his room where Thorin cleaned up the mess, laid down clean sheets, and laid them both to rest that night.

The days slid by in blissful ease, the sun rose upon the two of them and they shared their short time in the morning bringing pleasure and happiness to one another, then they’d go their separate ways, Thorin to the council halls and Bilbo to the gardens or library, and their evenings after supper were spent holding each other, exploring and loving one another. Tauriel was incredibly supportive, as was the rest of the company, and Bilbo tended to ignore the looks the other dwarves of the mountain tended to give him in passing.

A month later, they lay together, sated and happy, when Bilbo asked, “What…what if I just went back to the Shire in spring, packed up my most important things, sold off the rest, gave the property to my cousin and his wife, and came back? It’d take a good few months, but then I’d be here for good.”

Thorin held him close and Bilbo could hear his heart beating hard in his chest.

“Is that something you would want? To stay in this cold mountain for the rest of your life?”

“As long as I can stay with you where it’s warm, I think I’d do just about anything.” Bilbo confessed embarrassingly.

“Bilbo,” Thorin breathed his name like a blessing and a prayer and it made Bilbo melt against him, “I would like nothing more than to have you here for as long as I can keep you.”

And just like that, Bilbo’s heart and mind settled, the turmoil whittling down to nothing as he felt whole and decided.

The next two weeks were spent getting ready for the trip, making sure that the garden would be taken care of properly under Tauriel’s supervision and a few helping hands. Thorin demanded that Dwalin be sent with him and Ori begged to tag along so Bilbo would have his own mini version of the company for both protection and companionship along the long road. Once Bofur heard that the other two were going he refused to take no for an answer and packed his own belongings for the journey in a jiffy.

By the time spring rolled around, Bilbo was apprehensive but full of excitement for the trip, ready to finally settle his life at the mountain once and for all. Thorin wanted to go with him, but, being the king, there was no way for the mountain to run without him since they were still so unsettled. Three nights before his departure, Thorin joined him in his room carrying a small box and looking for all the world more worried and shiftier than Bilbo had ever seen him.

“Is everything alright Thorin?”

“Huh? Yes, of course Bilbo. I’m quite alright.”

Bilbo scoffed, “You look like you’ve seen a ghost. If you’re going to insist once more on coming, I’m going to have to disappoint you once again and absolutely forbid it. You can’t leave the mountain during such uncertain times.”

Thorin shook his head, “No, that’s not… I was…” he trailed off, face scrunching in frustration as words seemed to abandon him.

Bilbo set aside the book in his grasp and turned his full attention to his love.

“Alright, there’s no rush. Whatever it is you need to tell me, I can wait. At least take a seat, though.”

Thorin immediately plunked into the chair but didn’t look any less brooding, so Bilbo just let him stew for a bit, going back to his book, until Thorin shifted forward, on the edge of his seat and held out the box in his hand as if it were going to let loose a dragon in his chambers.

“I… Bilbo, I would like to ask you something, and you don’t have to say yes. It’s just, I would like to do this before you depart. Sort of, mm, insurance, that you will come back to me.”

Startled, Bilbo tossed the book aside carelessly onto the table. “Oh Thorin, you don’t have to bribe me to come back. I’d come back to you even if the world were ending and a chasm opened up between the two sides of Middle Earth.”

That finally brought a smile to Thorin’s face, relaxing him just a tad. “Bilbo,” he said softly, “Will you do me the greatest honor of becoming my Consort? To rule with me under the mountain and rule the people of Erebor at my side?”

There’s a half second where Bilbo doesn’t fully understand what Thorin’s saying, then he looked between the box and Thorin’s face and replayed the words in his head a couple of times.

“Thorin,” Bilbo breathed and launched himself out of his chair and into Thorin’s arms, careful of the box that he clutched along with Thorin’s hand. “Oh yes, please, yes. I would love nothing more than to see the rest of my days with you, here.”

The cry of happiness that bubbled from Thorin is near deafening and it’s a sound that Bilbo would like to hear every day, forever. Thorin held Bilbo tight, whispering sweetness into his ear and rocking them gently.

“So, what’s in the box?” Bilbo sniffed, trying to reign in his emotions enough to find out what Thorin’s offering.

Carefully, Thorin unwound their clutched fingers and held the box between them and pulled the lid back to reveal a single silver bead nestled carefully on a small pillow. The metal shone brilliantly in the firelight and Bilbo could see the intricate carvings that swirled around and converged on a single solitary green gem inlaid into the pattern.

“It is the marriage bead I made for you. It’s meant to be woven into an engagement braid upon proposal, and once we’re married it will be used as the clasp to hold it together.” Thorin caressed his face and ran his fingers through the hair that had grown out behind his ear.

“Oh Thorin, that’s a beautiful tradition. I can’t believe you made something so delicate, it’s absolutely stunning.” Bilbo carefully took the bead and examined it more closely. “There are leaves and acorns engraved in this! However did you manage that?!”

“Dwarves are exceedingly good at jewel crafting, and I spent a lot of time on it. You don’t want to see how many attempts I made. I wanted it perfect and chose what I thought would suit you best, all the things that would remind you of home.”

“Silly dwarf, I am home now, but yes, this is possibly the most beautiful thing that has ever been given to me and I will wear it with pride. Would you like to braid it in now?”

Thorin enthusiastically tucked into his hair, separating out the strands of hair so he could weave a complicated plait into the locks, slipping the bead halfway up the braid before finishing it off with a small tie.

“It’s perfect.” Thorin murmured breathlessly, drawing his fingers over the braid and bead endlessly.

“Thorin, I would have you now if I could. Please.” Bilbo breathed, overwhelmed by the intense emotions flooding through him.

A growl of a groan was pulled from Thorin’s throat and he buried his face into Bilbo’s neck, clutching his hips with rough hands and pulling him into his body, canting his hips upward to meet Bilbo’s.

“I’ll grab the bag.” Thorin said, voice muffled against his skin.

Bilbo grabbed his hair in tight fists and held him there, “No! I mean, I want you, all of you, right now, inside of me.”

The hips underneath him still and Thorin pulled back, eyes clouded with desire but said, “Are you sure Bilbo? I don’t want to hurt you.”

“Silly dwarf,” Bilbo nuzzled his nose against Thorin’s, “there’s no way you can hurt me, not now, not ever. Now, if you’d be so kind, I want you buried inside of me ten minutes ago.”

Thorin’s hands gripped him tight and his powerful thighs flex beneath them as he stood him, Bilbo immediately grasping onto his broad shoulders and wrapping his legs around him to keep from falling. Thorin’s hands grabbed his cheeks, squeezing tightly as he walked to the bed and gently deposited his hobbit amongst the sheets, kissing him within an inch of his life.

“Clothes, off, now.” Bilbo gasped between nipping kisses.

It’s difficult to oblige when Bilbo couldn’t help but grab at every bit of Thorin as he tried to move, but, eventually, they manage to tear their clothes off, leaving them heaped beside the bed. The bag of supplies had been stored in the bedside table’s small cubby hole, and it was an easy thing for Thorin to reach over and into the bag for the familiar bottle of oil they’ve had to refill twice so far.

“Tell me if you need me to slow down or stop, if you feel even the slightest bit of pain, I want to know.”

“Don’t worry so much and trust me, I’m a hobbit of comforts, you’ll definitely know if I’m uncomfortable. Now hurry up and get this inside of me,” Bilbo huffed, reaching down to grab at the cock that throbbed between his thighs.

Thorin gave an aborted jerk and kissed his hobbit thoroughly before uncorking the bottle and beginning his preparations. Bilbo keened as he felt the first few tentative touches against his hole, loving the gentle pressure but impatient for the deep press of Thorin’s fingers inside of him. His cock gave a solid twitch and he presses the heel of his palm against it, not wanting to stimulate himself too much but needing some sort of pressure to keep from going insane as pleasure pounded through him.

The sweeping, gentle touches became presses until finally Thorin sunk one finger in slowly, not stopping until his finger was pressed completely inside and Bilbo gasped in, groaning long and loud on his exhale.

“Yes, just like that. I need more,” Bilbo groaned with a grind of his hips down onto Thorin’s hand.

“So beautiful, know exactly what you want. I’ll give you everything.” Thorin said with kisses peppered all over his body, everywhere he can reach as he begins thrusting with his fingers.

It’s only a few minutes later that had Bilbo begging for more and Thorin slid his finger out only to thrust back in with two, bringing a cry to Bilbo’s mouth. Bilbo’s body easily stretched around two of his fingers now after the months working up to this, and the third finger is still a bit of a stretch but it’s one that Bilbo begged for, one he pleaded wantonly for until finally Thorin was screwing his hand quickly into Bilbo’s soft, giving body.

“Bilbo, I think you’re ready.” Thorin panted against the hobbit’s cheek, kissing, and sucking down his neck in need, “Please, tell me I can have you.”

“Yes! Please, need you Thorin,” Bilbo gasped, opening his legs even wider and wrapping them around Thorin’s hips to try and drive that cock that’s been dripping against his thigh into the place he wanted it most.

Cursing in Khuzdul, Thorin gently removed his fingers and grabbed the bottle once more, slicking himself up with a perfunctory sweep of his hand so as not to come before he was buried as deep as he could go within the smooth, hot body beneath him. The first touch of his cock head against the opening had him groaning and he’s gentle and only gave small thrusts until the hole opened wide around the flared head, drawing it into the sucking depths of Bilbo’s arse.

“Bilbo,” Thorin cursed gently as he tried not to thrust, “you feel so good.”

Bilbo gave Thorin’s shoulders a squeeze, carefully keeping himself relaxed as he felt the true stretch of Thorin’s cock for the first time. It was just like that first stretch of a finger the first time they did this, slightly uncomfortable with its size, but not painful. There’d be a lot of preparation and the anticipation, excitement, and pleasure kept any sort of pain from Bilbo’s mind.

The slow drag of the cock inside him had his own cock twitching, spilling more than a little slick from the tip as the dwarf worked himself inside his body. Thorin was big enough that when the tip finally reached that one glorious spot inside of him, he jerked and moaned loudly, hips twitching downward and drawing him in another inch without meaning to.

“Please, Thorin, faster, I need you all the way inside. I need you to have your way with me, don’t hold back.”

Cursing again, Thorin shoved his hips forward those last inches until he was pressed as deep as he could go, both of them groaning loudly at all the sensations sparking behind their eyelids. Bilbo didn’t let Thorin rest, grinding his hips shamelessly, stimulating them both until Thorin pulled out an inch and slammed back in, pushing Bilbo’s body up the bed an inch. And again, he slammed deeply until he worked his hips into a rough pace, trying to keep from hurting his hobbit but emboldened by the loud sounds of pleasure absolutely pouring from Bilbo’s mouth.

Bilbo couldn’t have held in his sounds if he tried. It was like every breath was forced from his lungs in a gasp, groan, or moan. The glorious cock inside of him was hitting all of his best spots without even trying and each impact Thorin’s hips made against his own jolted his cock and bollocks sending rippling pleasure throughout his entirety. It wasn’t long before he could feel the pressure growing inside him that had been at a constant simmer the whole time.

“Th-Thorin, I’m going to come!” Bilbo gasped, his hand reaching down once more to grasp at his cock.

“Yes! I want to see you come on my cock. I want to feel you clench around me.” Thorin thundered above him, driving his pace in a little harder, a little wilder at seeing Bilbo pleasure himself and take so much joy from his body.

It took only a few more powerful thrusts for Bilbo to clamp down on him, milking his cock in rhythmic spasm as he cried out loudly, whole body flushed and sweating as he tightened and climaxed in waves. Thorin roared in triumph, pushing hard into Bilbo only a few more times before roughly thrusting as far as he could go and stilling, spilling his seed as deeply as he could into the accepting hole.

They stayed like that, shuddering in the aftershocks of such an intense orgasm until the high dropped just enough for Thorin to pull out gently and lay beside his satisfied hobbit. Carefully, he gathered the smaller creature into his arms and pressed kiss after kiss across his face until he reached his mouth and kissed him slowly and passionately, letting his fingers drift over the engagement braid.

“You are absolutely divine.” Thorin rasped, voice gone to gravel with happiness and bliss.

“I love you.” Bilbo whispered into his mouth, trying to pour every ounce of his feelings into the words.

The arms around him pull him in so tight and Thorin breathed roughly into his hair. “And I love you,” he answered back.

It’s the most blissful, perfect evening they have shared so far, and they touch each other gently, bringing the other off once more before letting sleep take them.

On the day of his departure the sun is shining brightly, and the snow was already giving way to the new beginnings of greenery that the mountain hadn’t seen in the better half of a century. The ponies are stocked with everything they’ll need for their journey and there have already been tearful goodbyes from the rest of the dwarves even though they know Bilbo will be returning in half a year’s time.

“I’ll miss you,” Thorin whispered against his mouth as he held him as tight as he could without hurting him.

“I know, and I’ll miss you. But I’ll be back before you know it. Get Tauriel to gather some grass seeds from the forest and sprinkle them around the mountain while I’m gone so that I’ll return to fields as green as the Shire.” Bilbo said around kisses.

“Anything you want, my love.”

It took slightly longer than had been planned to depart since the king simply refused to let go until Dwalin made several rude comments that allowed for Bilbo’s departure. His heart felt heavy in his chest at having to leave for such a long time, but he’d gotten Ori to draw him an incredibly accurate portrait of his king for their journey.

And just like that, they were off on another, hopefully less exciting, adventure. This time they met far fewer enemies, only a stray orc or two, and thankfully no trolls. The goblins had retreated back into their mountain to try and rekindle their numbers and the mini company avoided that mountain completely, finding a slightly longer route around it. Lord Elrond was happy to house them for a time to rest before making the final part of their journey to the Shire, even providing Bilbo with multiple books on the Elvish language.

When the Shire finally came into view Bilbo’s heart sang. The familiar smells and sounds rushed through him, beckoning him in. The dwarves followed at a more sedate pace as they passed through the rolling hills and past by the small smials full of judgmental hobbit glares. Bilbo was shocked, however, to find much of the town gathered around his own abode, an auctioneer selling off his possessions one by one to the greedy hobbits around him.

“Hey! What do you think you’re doing?! That’s my great grandmother’s dresser!” Bilbo cried as he passed a cart full of his belongings being hauled off by several hobbits.

All eyes turned to him in shock as the three dwarves rode up beside him.

“Master Bilbo! Wha… You’ve been gone for over a year, we’d assumed you was dead!” came a cry from one of the hobbits.

“Well, as you can see, I am very much alive and not dead. Now, if you’d be so kind as to leave at once! And put that back! Lobelia Sackville-Baggins! Those are my spoons and you had best return them from where you found them.”

It took several hours to finally convince the other hobbits that he was, indeed, alive, and that, no, they could absolutely not take whatever they wanted. The dwarves had to wrangle a few of the last stubborn hobbits out of his living space before he finally shut the door on the chaos. He sat heavily on one of the few remaining chairs in his front hall and looked around at the pillaged insides of his smial.

“Do hobbits usually act like that?” Ori asked, concerned about the lack of care they’d shown their dear Bilbo.

“Oh, well, yes, I suppose so. It’s not their fault they thought I was dead. If I were them, I’d have thought the same thing. After all, adventures are just not things that hobbits partake in. Now, lets get settled as best we can so we can take inventory of what’s left.”

The next two days were spent sorting out his affairs, but they hit a snag when they went to find Primula and Drogo Baggins, as they should’ve been married by now. What they found was an empty smial, as desecrated as his own had been when he’d returned but now covered in a fine layer of dust. Next door, Lobelia was yelling something awful and there was the sound of high-pitched crying.

Quickly, Bilbo knocked on her door, dreading having to speak to the vile hobbit, but needing to nonetheless to find out what happened to his cousins. The door swung open to reveal the despicable female holding a squealing, red-faced infant.

“Finally, you’re here. Now take this wretch and leave, I am done with him. He was supposed to go to you anyways and was shoved onto me when you didn’t come back.”

The infant was pushed into his hands and she was about to slam the door when he placed his foot against the wood and kicked it back open.

“I beg your pardon, but what, exactly, is going on? Where are Primula and Drogo and who does this baby belong to?”

“Get your filthy foot off my door Bilbo Baggins! Your cousins are dead, drowned in a boating accident and they dumped their spawn on me. That’s what happens to irresponsible, unhobbit-like adventurers like you and those two. Should’ve stayed put and took care of their child like good parents, but no, they just had to go and have some fun like a pair of lunatics,” Lobelia spat and Bilbo gaped at her, his temper flaring with each word.

“Now shove off and take that squalling thing with you.”

Before he could say even a single word, the door was slammed with finality in his face and he stood there gently rocking the still crying child in his arms. It took several minutes before he could force himself to move, not looking at the empty smial that had held his cousins and heading back towards his own home at a sluggish pace. The three dwarves were there, still sorting through the unnecessary possessions and they all froze when they saw Bilbo with the baby.

“Uh, is there something we should know about Bilbo?” Bofur asked, squinting at the babe.

“My, uh, cousins, Primula and Drogo… they were in an accident and…” Bilbo looked down at his nephew with sad eyes, “they drowned, leaving him behind. He was supposed to go to me after their death but ended up with Lobelia. I can’t imagine what she’s done to him.”

He gently hushed and soothed the hiccupping child, calming his red face and wiping his tears.

“I don’t even know his name.”

“Oh, Bilbo. I’m so sorry.” Ori said quietly, sadness on all of their faces.

“Are you going to bring him with you?” Bofur asked.

Bilbo clutched the babe closer and looked up at him, “Of course! There’s no way I’m going to leave him here with her! She’s just as likely to drown him as well! He’s a Baggins and a Took like myself, and he was born to odd hobbits, nobody would take care of him if I left him here.”

“Alright, lad, I was just wondering.” Bofur soothed and Bilbo relaxed a little, glad they weren’t going to make him give him up. “We’ll have to make some extra accommodations, but it shouldn’t be too hard.”

“Thorin’s really in for a big surprise,” Dwalin laughed and the rest of the dwarves cracked smiles.

“Oh, oh dear. You’re right.” Bilbo felt a flare of panic but was quickly assuaged by Bofur’s quick words.

“Hey now, don’t worry. Thorin will love him as his own, of that I’m sure. Babe are a blessing in the mountain, and he will be well cared for.”

Bilbo nodded and went about figure out exactly what to do with this brand-new piece of his life. He didn’t have to wait too long to find out about his nephew as papers were delivered to his door the next morning stating his responsibilities in adopting Frodo Baggins and all he had to do was sign a piece of paper and the boy was his for good. Turns out Frodo was only born two months ago. He’d just missed his family by two months.

After that it’s slightly slower going, having to buy things for the baby and figure out a slightly safer road back to Erebor. They receive a raven from Erebor at the end of their first week back in the Shire, and they ask it to make a detour to first Beorn and then to Legolas in Mirkwood before going back to Erebor. They let the raven rest and eat, and it sets out the next day with the messages.

They bequeath most of his possessions to various Took’s and Baggins’s as well as the Gamgee’s next door. But, instead of selling or giving away the smial, Bilbo decides to keep it so that if Frodo wants to return to the Shire one day, he’ll have a place of his own to live. They depart shortly after that with only a couple of carts to pull and several full pack ponies.

Elrond once again allows them to rest and even bestows a blessing upon Frodo for safety and happiness, giving Bilbo books for child-rearing as well as a few others for academic research and relaxed reading. It takes longer to leave than Bilbo would’ve liked, eager to return to the mountain, but he’s exceedingly grateful for the elves’ help.

Beorn, when they had finally made it to him, is a much more gracious host, loving on Frodo and regaling tales of when there used to be many skinchangers in the world. Frodo had grown quite a bit since their departure from the Shire, big enough to hold himself up when he needed to and reacting to the others happily when they engaged him. A few weeks later saw them at the entrance of Mirkwood where Legolas was already waiting to guide them through. It was funny to watch the elf hold the teeny tiny hobbit in his hands, looking for all the world lost that something this small and lively could actually exist.

It takes a month to finally reach the edges of the lake and Bilbo is beyond relieved to see a few boats waiting for them, manned by a human male. Bilbo thanks Legolas profusely and can see the struggle in the tall elf as he hands Frodo back for the last time.

“Bard sends his regards.” The man said briefly and that was the end of conversation as they loaded the boats down with all their possession.

Once they had crossed the lake, Bilbo could finally see Dale, and beyond that, the entrance to the great kingdom of Erebor, and his heart fluttered in his chest.

“Only another day or so now, laddie.” Dwalin said, clapping him on the shoulder as they unloaded their possessions and ponies.

That night in Dale, Bilbo can scarcely sleep, too excited for sleep to come easily. Frodo was an incredibly good sleeper and usually slept through the night, only waking when he was hungry or had made a mess in his nappy. Just the thought that he’d be back in Thorin’s arms had him so giddy it was difficult to suppress the manic laughter that bubbled up. He managed only a few hours by the time the sun was on the rise and the others had come to fetch him to begin the last few bits of their long journey.

Bard graced them with a few gifts as well such as more clothes for Frodo and some easy food for the babe to get used to as he finally began teething. Bilbo thanked him for his kindness as the dwarves all mumbled their own thanks and they set out for Erebor.

The great mountain sprawled before them and as Bilbo got closer, he could see, swaying in the autumn breeze, the tall blades of grass that littered the mountain and Bilbo was moved nearly to tears. Thorin had taken his advice and planted grass for him, and now much of the base of the mountain was growing in patches of green. As they continued closer, Bilbo could even see that some trees had been relocated and planted to try and get some more greenery on the otherwise barren land of rocks and dirt.

Then, finally, there in the distance, standing once more in the mouth of the great entrance of Erebor, stood a mighty figure surrounded by his company of dwarves, stood his King Under the Mountain, Thorin Oakenshield, to welcome his family back home.