Afterwards, Thorin didn’t remember most of the battle. He was there, in theory, dodging weapons and orcs along with the rest of his companions. But whatever memories he did have fell in comparison to watching Bilbo bleeding on the ice. Even in those moments the hobbit cracked a wry smile, trying to reassure Thorin that he would be fine, he was just so very tired.
“You shouldn’t have been here.” Thorin growled. He sat with Bilbo, the hobbit’s head resting on his lap. Kili lay nearby, having been knocked out in the fight but ultimately unharmed. Thorin had checked him in a panic, but he was used to battles and quickly determined that he would be fine.
Bilbo looked up at him, and wheezed.
“If I hadn’t, you all would have died.” He shifted, and his face contorted with pain. Thorin raised a hand uncertainly. He wanted to help, truly, but beyond sending Fili to get Oin he knew not what to do. He hesitantly rested his hand on Bilbo’s head. The hobbit’s face relaxed, and he began to thread his fingers through Bilbo’s hair.
He had learned early in life that moving an injured dwarf would likely only make things worse, and while Bilbo was a hobbit, the logic still applied. So instead he could only watch while the hastily tied fabric around Bilbo’s leg- or what was left of it, turned a deep red.
“Hey- look at me.” Bilbo tugged one of Thorin’s braids, drawing his attention back to Bilbo’s pale face. He began to cough, and Thorin watched in silent horror as blood began to dribble down the hobbit’s chin. After a moment of staring, Thorin gently wiped away the stream with his sleeve.
“If- If I don’t make it, I want you to to tell Gan-” Bilbo started, but was interrupted by another raucous cough. He tried again, wincing as he did.
“I want you to tell Gandalf that my home should go to Drogo, no one else-”
“You’re going to be fine.” Thorin said shortly. He winced. This could be the last time they ever spoke and he was going to be rude? Thorin knew better. Even if it reminded him of another battle field, with someone else’s head in his lap. He shook his head. Now was not the time. Damn dwarven propriety. He gently stroked Bilbo’s hair again.
“Bilbo, I’m sorry. For everything, and I would have us part in peace and friendship-” He was interrupted again by Bilbo’s coughing. Bilbo’s face had gained a sheen of sweat, and he began to shiver. Thorin wiped away another stream of blood. He had to look away, quickly blinking back tears. They stung in his eyes, the cold wind howling in his ears.
“That’s nice Thorin...I….I love you too.” Bilbo managed through his coughing. Again he smiled his wry smile at Thorin. The dwarf blinked in shock, but he had no time to process before Bilbo collapsed completely. Thorin let out a stream of curses that would’ve made Dwalin blush. Damn Fili, why couldn’t he come any faster. He couldn’t hear the battle anymore, and part of him began to fear what had caused his nephew’s delay.
Thorin gathered Bilbo into his arms, and to his horror the hobbit’s body was freezing cold. Panic began to sink in. I can’t do this, Thorin thought, not again. Mahal, please, please help me. He pressed his head to Bilbo’s chest, hoping for something, anything. He nearly collapsed when he heard a heartbeat. Faint, but it was there. He sat curled around Bilbo, and let his tears flow free.
Then the eagles came. A shadow quickly covered both Thorin and his hobbit, and when he glanced up Fili was sitting on top of an eagle.
“Look Uncle! I found an eagle!.” He scampered down, quickly going to his brother’s side.
“Oin said we’ll have to move them, further injuries be damned.” Fili quickly explained, taking his brother into his arms. His gaze quickly fell on who Thorin was carrying.
“Is he…” His voice trailed off and cracked. Thorin could feel his own throat constrict, and hot tears sliding down his face. He didn’t respond, opting to climb onto the eagle’s back.
Thorin was kept from the tent for two days as Oin fought for their burglar’s life. He sat outside, barely eating and didn’t speak. No one would tell him anything and it was driving him nuts. On that icy ledge, he was certain he had heard a heartbeat. Now….now he wasn’t so sure.
But on the third day, Oin let him in. After that, he never left Bilbo’s side. He watched as Oin looked him over and tutted, his anxiety growing worse by the second.
Oin soon turned to Thorin, his eyes focused on anything but him.
“He’s still with us, but wouldn’t have been if it had been any longer. We barely got him breathing properly over the last few days. I don’t know if he will wake again, considering his injuries. The blood you saw earlier was from a large bruise along his ribcage and stomach. It may heal but I have done all I can.”
Thorin’s face twisted along with his gut. He knew that the injuries were bad, he had even considered Bilbo’s possible death, but suddenly it was all too much. He gulped, trying to regain control of his voice. Oin looked on.
“And...and his leg?”
Oin sighed and rested his hand on Thorin’s shoulder. He had been the royal healer since Thorin was young, and if he couldn’t heal something, no one could.
“I had to remove a good bit of his muscle. I don’t know if he’ll be able to walk on it when he wakes, but he’ll likely need a cane for the rest of his life.”
Thorin nodded, but his mind began to float away. How could he have let this happen. Words of another age range through his head.
”I cannot guarantee his safety, nor will I be responsible for his fate.”
Thorin laughed bitterly to himself. Oin cast him an odd look from Kili’s bed, but Thorin couldn’t care. The old healer had seen him beaten and bloody, he had seen him the night Frerin died. There was nothing Thorin could hide from him, even if he wanted to.
Thorin sat by Bilbo’s side for the rest of the evening. His own wounds were minimal, and he wrapped them when Oin wasn’t watching. There would be nothing to distract from Bilbo and Kili’s care, he would be sure of it.
His nephew lay in the cot next to Bilbo. He was pale, but his only injury a knock to the head he had sustained helping defeat the pale orc. Oin was more optimistic about him, but had requested that the elves come and help. Thorin burned at the thought of leaving his family to the will of elves, and nearly ordered them out of the camp. But Fili’s face had lit up at the thought, and Thorin’s will quickly fell away. His nephews had already lost too much to risk Kili’s life against an old man’s grudge.
He eventually fell asleep next to Bilbo’s cot, and when he woke someone had left food and drink nearby. Someone had also placed a blanket around his shoulders, and in the cool morning air he was grateful. The food was basic gruel and mead. But it was fuel and that was all that mattered. Bilbo was still asleep, and his breathing was labored. He was more bandage than hobbit. His skin was tinged an icy blue. Thorin was struck at how very small he appeared, thin and bundled up in a cot made for a man.
He took a new spot between both cots, where he could prop up and see them both. Thorin didn’t know the fate of the rest of his company, but he would not leave his family alone. Not when Bilbo’s breath sounded as if it would stop at any moment. Not when Kili could wake at any moment. Someone would tell him, he was sure, if something terrible had happened. The fact the Fili could still smile meant that likely nothing else had befell them.
Thorin sat up at the sound of his name. Balin was standing in the entrance of the tent. And he had his pity face on. Thorin groaned to himself, he had enough grief without everyone else treating him like he could break. He was a dwarf, and nearly 200 years old. He could control when he had breakdowns.
“The elves are here to help.” Balin explained. He watched Thorin for a moment, likely waiting for a growl or a glare. But Thorin didn’t have the energy. So Balin disappeared and reappeared with a redheaded elf, who looked vaguely familiar but he couldn’t place.
To his surprise, they bowed to him before speaking. Hm. Perhaps there was hope for the tree-buggers after all.
“My name's Tauriel, and I- I met your nephew in Mirkwood. I would like to help, if I can.”
He nodded, waving a hand towards Kili’s cot. But they were still an elf, and he didn’t move from his spot next to the cot. The elf took it in stride and joined at the other side, and began to gently examine Kili.
“She’s a nice one. Kili had a bit of a crush on her, actually.” Balin said from behind him. Thorin jumped, and his hand instinctively went to his sword. Which he then realized was not on his side anymore along with the armor he had worn the day before. He cursed silently. Dwalin had definitely taken his stuff. He was always very adamant about proper care for armor and swords and things.
The elf glanced up at the two of them, but didn’t comment. She continued to work, and began to mutter and wave her hands around Kili’s head. Soon another elf came in, who Balin introduced but Thorin didn’t really care to remember the name off, and examined Bilbo.
“Fili is standing in for you with Bard and Thranduil right now.” Balin said by Thorin’s side. The older dwarf watched intently as Tauriel worked.
“Cleaning up my mess, you mean.” Thorin snorted. He should’ve known that's where Fili was. Only his duty would keep him away from his brother.
Balin didn’t comment, still watching Tauriel work. Thorin sighed and sat back down, and watched the other elf working on Bilbo. Balin soon joined him, pulling over a small stool and sitting by his side.
“Tell Fili that he can make whatever decisions he likes, as long as he runs it by you.” Thorin said. Fili, for all his youth, was much more level headed than Thorin and had fewer grudges. If he could fix their relationship with both the Men and Elves, who was Thorin to stop him.
If Balin was surprised he didn’t show it. He only made a noise of agreement, and patted Thorin on the shoulder.
Balin left with the elves. Both had promised they would come back over the next week and work until either Bilbo and Kili were fine or…. Thorin didn’t let himself even think about it. He would not loose either of them. Mahal knew he wouldn't be able to handle it.
He had seen too much, and as he sat and watched Bilbo breath, he felt very old. His bones were weary, his hands gnarled from years at the forge. Youth had been quickly stolen from him, and Thorin had never tried to regain it. He rested his elbows on Bilbo's cot and his chin in his hands. In these quiet moments, he could stare. Bilbo’s face, despite all its creases and age, was at the most peace Thorin had ever seen. The wry smile he had given Thorin was still there.
“I suppose we’re just two old fools, aren’t we.” Thorin whispered. His breath ruffled Bilbo’s hair. Peace was handsome on Bilbo and quiet suited him.
“You’re not allowed to die, by the way. You can’t tell me you love me and then die.” He said. He reached up and very gently moved Bilbo’s hair out of his face, where it had plastered itself the day before.
There was a small bowl of water and washcloth on a little table in the corner, and Thorin rose to get it. He brought it back, gently dipping the cloth into the water. Sweat and dirt were streaked across Bilbo’s face. Thorin gently began to wipe it all away.
“I love you too, you know.” Thorin whispered. He paused, as if waiting for a response.
“Nonsense, I know plenty about you. Despite what you think, I was listening all those evenings you sat up with me and talked. I know that you enjoy reading, and quiet evenings, and that you love your friends but need time to yourself just as much.”
He lapsed back into silence as he cleaned. He finished cleaning Bilbo’s face, and took a new bowl of water to his hobbit’s hair. Bilbo’s hair lightened, and the red and gold tones that Thorin remembered from the beginning of the journey began to show again.
“I’m sorry I never responded much. But I’ll make up for it. You just have to wake up. Bilbo-,” Thorin’s voice began to catch. “You have to wake up. There's so much I want to show you. And…”
The same treacherous tears appeared again, trickling down his face. He leaned in closer, as if someone could overhear him.
“I love you and I need you to be awake to hear that.”
He held his breath and waited. It was a fool's errand, hoping mere words would wake his hobbit. Bilbo’s face remained unchanged, his breath as labored as before.
Thorin soon fell into a pattern. He ate one meal with the other dwarves, at Balin’s pleading that no one would know he was alive otherwise. He would clean Bilbo’s face and hair, and when he felt very daring, he would braid it as it had grown nearly shoulder length. He would talk to Bilbo, tell him of whatever he could think of. And at the end of every evening, he would lean over and kiss Bilbo on the forehead, whispering words of love and pleading. And every night he slept in the space between the two cots.
Sometimes one or two of the company would stop by to check on Kili and Bilbo. And to check on him, though they would never admit it. But every time they would approach him with the same pity as Balin, and he hated it. Even Dwalin had tones of pity, although he hid it better than the rest. Thorin could tolerate him for a while, until he could feel that Dwalin had something important to say and he would kick him back out of the tent.
Fili, at least, seemed to understand. He sat with his brother mostly, and spoke little. He often fell asleep next to Kili in his cot. He barely got to see him in daylight, as he still stood in for Thorin most days. Thorin felt pangs of guilt occasionally, but both uncle and nephew had agreed that Fili was the more stable of the two, and his pride in his heir often overrode any guilt.
Days passed into a week and a week passed into two. Bilbo’s breathing slowly returned to normal, a sign that he was healing. The same bruise still bloomed across his chest, but his leg had stopped bleeding. And still Thorin sat there in hope.
Kili woke one week after the battle. He was groggy, and occasionally couldn’t remember a word or responded slowly, but he was recovering.The red-headed elf came to visit often after that, and Thorin watched as Kili fell in love. Soon Kili moved out of the sick tent and into his brother’s, leaving Thorin alone with the sleeping hobbit.
Then, two and a half weeks after the battle for Erebor, Bilbo woke up.
Thorin had fallen asleep leaning on Bilbo’s cot, and had fallen into an almost peaceful sleep when he was poked very aggressively.
He cracked his eyes open. “Wa’dya want” he grumbled, blinking slowly. What he didn’t expect was for Bilbo’s dry voice to say,
“Thorin, what happened?”
Thorin nearly leapt from his spot. He was certainly awake now.
“Bilbo.” He gasped, and to his frustration, his eyes began to well up again. Thorin hastily wiped at his face, and handed Bilbo a glass of water.
“Here, drink.” He said softly. He watched intently as Bilbo drained the entire glass in one go. Thorin sat on the cot, just in reach of Bilbo but far enough back to give him space.
“I thought I died.” Bilbo said, his voice less cracked than before. He still had great shadows under his eyes, and moved stiffly, but he took in the whole tent and Thorin.
Thorin gave up and let his tears fall, and smiled at his hobbit. He took Bilbo’s thin hand. Bilbo glanced at him in surprise, but didn’t take his hand back.
“I told you that you weren’t allowed to die.” Thorin choked out. He brought his other hand up to Bilbo’s face, and the hobbit rested his cheek against Thorin’s hand. He was warm, and alive, and flush began to return to his cheeks.
“You’re very demanding, you know.” Bilbo said softly. Thorin glanced at his face, a new fear in his heart, but the hobbit was smiling at him. Not the smile that had been stuck to his face, but a soft, kind one. Thorin stored it away into his mind. He would always remember this, no matter the outcome.
“When you were dying, you said something.” Thorin smiled again, his tears still running down his face. But Bilbo seemed to freeze, and began to pull his hand back. But Thorin held on tight. He would not let them separate in misunderstanding. He began to gently trace the lines of his hobbit’s palm.
“Bilbo, I love you too.” He spoke fiercely, his tone even and easy to understand. He relaxed his grip on Bilbo’s hand, to give him the choice. But Bilbo’s hand stayed, and with his other hand he reached up and placed it over Thorin’s, where it rested along his cheek.
Bilbo’s eyes danced, and a blinding smile broke out of his tired face. It filled Thorin’s heart with joy, after staring at his still face for so long. This was the one he loved.
“You love me? After everything?” He said. His face glowed but he spoke hesitantly, and Thorin’s heart clenched. They would surely have another conversation, later, about...everything, but now he only wished to convey everything good in his heart.
“Not even my own foolishness could stop me from loving you.” Thorin said, and Bilbo laughed. It was loud and rang in Thorin’s ears, and it was beautiful.
“Come here, you silly dwarf.” Bilbo pulled Thorin’s hand and he moved up until they sat face to face, flushed and smiling. Bilbo leaned in, hesitantly pressing his lips to Thorin’s. They were warm, and dry, and cracked, and Thorin wouldn’t have it any other way. He kissed his hobbit back, and the world fell away.